June 2016, Part 2

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

What If The Nominating Rules Were Different (1):  Mostly for fun, I'm going to do a few posts speculating on who would have won if the rules were different.

Right at the start, let me say that I am doing this for fun, and will not take the next, essential step in a serious analysis: speculating on how the candidates would have changed their strategies in response to the different rules.

So this is mostly play, though it may be instructive play.  (And you are free to take it the next step if you wish, though I warn you that it will not be an easy step,.)

Having said that, here's the first:  What if the two parties had switched rules. so that the Republicans had many "super" delegates and allocated the other delegates proportionately, and the Democrats had many more winner-take-all contests?

My speculative answer:  Hillary Clinton would have won the nomination much sooner; Donald Trump might have gone to an open convention.  The first I assume is obvious; the second will be when you realize that Republican "super" delegates would support anyone but Trump.
- 4:18 PM, 16 June 2016   [link]

Henninger Is Half Right:  Daniel Henninger makes an argument about the Democratic Party, that it is weak on terrorism, and security issues generally.
There are indeed serious constitutional issues raised by these disputes, but Democrats always end up on the same side of any policy affecting domestic or national security—conveying unmistakably that they find these functions morally distasteful, rather than morally necessary.

Two weeks ago, Mr. Obama told the Air Force Academy’s graduating cadets he had “put aside 50 years of failed policies” by using “diplomacy, not war.” That Air Force commencement was the 10% mind-set reflected in those exit polls.
Exit polls that show that Democratic voters are less concerned about terrorism than Republican voters.

Henninger sees Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton as having similar, and weak, positions on national security.

He's right about Obama, wrong about Clinton.  On issue after issue, she's been more hawkish than he.

Two samples from an extended argument:
-- At the State Department, Hillary was consistently more willing to use military force than Barack Obama.  She wanted to send more troops into Afghanistan than the president did, supported leaving a residual force behind in Iraq before the rise of the Islamic State, pushed for more aggressive intervention in Libya and backed proposals to arm the Syrian rebels.
. . .
-- Hillary’s hawkishness goes back much farther than Foggy Bottom.   Clinton made a strategic decision when she arrived in the Senate after her husband’s administration ended to get a seat on the Armed Services Committee.  She voted for the Iraq war and sat on an emerging threats subcommittee, all with her sights set on seeking the presidency in 2008.
In April, Mark Landler, a reporter for the New York Times, called her "the last true hawk left in the race".

If you read further on in the Post article, you'll find evidence that voters have noticed.

Unlike Henninger, I see the Democratic Party as split on national security issues, split as it happens between Barack Obama and the woman who hopes to succeed him.   I haven't read Mark Landler's book, but the title makes me think he agrees with me.

(It is ironic that her hawkishness, which may have cost her the nomination in 2008, may give her an essential edge in this year's general election.)
- 3:41 PM, 16 June 2016   [link]

Gondolas For Rapid Transit?  No, not the water kind, the ski-lift kind.  I've been wondering about this for years, and now I have learned that there are a number of demonstration projects, with others on the way.

Two of them have an amazing characteristic:
To help generate public enthusiasm, Mr. Davis sought to design a “gossamer” system that echoes Chicago’s architectural history. After all, he said, the city was home of Modernist architectural master Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, of Daniel Burnham’s “White City” and the original Ferris wheel.

Chicago’s system, an estimated $250 million project, has been proposed entirely with private financing, as has the East River Skyway from Brooklyn’s waterfront to Manhattan.
(Emphasis added.)

I don't know of any other large transit projects in the United States that aren't subsidized by the taxpayers.

According to the Wall Street Journal, one of the biggest obstacles to these gondola projects is what you might call the giggle factor; far too many people see them as jokes, at first.  (And others are nervous about zooming through the air.)

But a little bit of thought will show you that they would have real advantages, especially in areas with hills and water crossings.
- 10:19 AM, 16 June 2016   [link]

Today's New Yorker Calendar Cartoon shows three Easter Island statues — decorated as if they were cocktails in a restaurant with a South Seas theme.
- 9:14 AM, 16 June 2016   [link]

Did President Obama's Policy Changes Aid Islamic Terrorists?  That's what Bret Stephens believes.

Here's how Stephens begins and concludes:
In the spring of 2013 Barack Obama delivered the defining speech of his presidency on the subject of terrorism.  Its premise was wrong, as was its thesis, as were its predictions and recommendations.  We are now paying the price for this cascade of folly.
. . . .
It would require more humility than Mr. Obama is capable of mustering to admit that what happened in Orlando is also a consequence of his decisions—of allowing Iraq and Syria to descend to chaos; of pretending that we could call off the war on terror because fighting it didn’t fit a political narrative; of failing to defeat ISIS swiftly and utterly; of refusing to recognize the religious roots of terror; of treating the massacre in San Bernardino as an opportunity to lecture Americans about Islamophobia, and Orlando as another argument for gun control.
Oh, and don't miss the prediction in the very last sentence.

Is Stephens right?  It's impossible to tell, since we can't re-run history, trying out a different policy.  Having conceded that, I'll just say that in my opinion Stephens is almost certainly right about Iraq, and may be right about Syria.

For some possible insight from an Obama supporter, you might want to look at Jeffrey Goldberg's "What Obama Actually Thinks About Radical Islam".   You may want to read it with some skepticism, since the Obama administration has used Goldberg as a conduit, in the past.

(Stephens' Canute metaphor is so enjoyable that I am almost embarrassed to note that the common interpretation of the "tide" story is the opposite of the original.  The story illustrates Canute's humility, not his pride,)
- 3:17 PM, 15 June 2016   [link]

Beach Body Banned In Britain:  Not everywhere in Britain.  So far, just in parts of London.
The young, thin model wore a bright yellow bikini and stared seductively at passers-by.

“Are you beach body ready?” asked the ad for Protein World, a maker of dietary supplements.  The ad was defaced in subway stations across London when it appeared in April 2015, and it drew strong protests.

On Monday, London’s new mayor, Sadiq Khan, announced a ban on such ads — which critics call “fat-shaming” — from London’s public transportation system starting in July, saying the messages encourage unhealthy body images for young women.
She looks healthy enough to me.

(I assume the New York Times omitted the picture because they agree with the mayor's policy.  Even so, it's an odd decision, since the picture is the subject of the story.)
- 11:36 AM, 15 June 2016   [link]

This New Yorker Calendar Cartoon is timely.
- 10:38 AM, 15 June 2016   [link]

"Foreign Students Seen Cheating More Than Domestic Ones"  The headline tells the story.
Public universities in the U.S. recorded 5.1 reports of alleged cheating for every 100 international students, versus one report per 100 domestic students, in a Wall Street Journal analysis
You can assume, safely, that both those numbers are underestimates, since many cheaters don't get caught.

The universities like the money the foreign students bring, but aren't sure how to handle this problem.

That's a great article — on a delicate subject.

(You will naturally wonder whether there are similar problems with cheating in China.   Judging by the penalties, yes.
As Chinese high school graduates work to prepare for the college entry exams crucial to their futures, they also must be wary of following new rules – or face up to seven years in prison.

Near the completion of high school, millions of students in China typically ready for the National Higher Education Entrance Examination, commonly called the gaokao, whose results grant admission into undergraduate programs based on performance.  Many Chinese families view the test as a road to opportunity, despite its infamous stress.  Students in rural areas or who belong to ethnic minorities may come into the gaokao with an educational disadvantage, but the test now provides some of them with an affirmative action bonus.
It is a serious error, in my opinion, to centralize admissions so completely, especially in a nation as large and diverse as China.)
- 7:26 PM, 14 June 2016   [link]

Two Pieces In Today's NYT Everyone In The Obama White House Will Ignore:  First, a brief article on the health benefits of church attendance.  (And, by extrapolation, most likely synagogue.attendance, too.)

Second, a column by Jane Brody, "Being Transgender as a Fact of Nature".

Near the end of the column are these troublesome findings:
A Swedish team from the Karolinska Institute and the University of Gothenberg followed 324 people who underwent sex reassignment surgery and compared them with matched controls in the general population.  After an average follow-up of 11.4 years, men and women who had sex reassignments had death rates three times higher from all causes.  Suicide rates were especially high, suggesting “the need for continued psychiatric follow-up” among those undergoing sex change, the authors wrote.  Cancer deaths were doubled in the surgical group, though the cancers appeared to be unrelated to hormone treatments.

The recent Danish study, by researchers in Copenhagen, investigated postoperative diseases and deaths among 104 men and women representing 98 percent of those who underwent sex reassignment surgery in Denmark from 1978 through 2010.  One person in three had developed an ailment, most often cardiovascular disease, and one in 10 had died, with deaths occurring at an average age of 53.5.
So, church attendance is probably good for you, and sex reassignment surgery is probably bad for you.

Let me repeat, probably.

If the Obama White House accepted those scientific findings, they would encourage the first — if only by setting an example — and discourage the second.

The Obama White House is following the opposite policy.

(Brody does not mention any studies of psychiatric treatment of "transgender" people, but it is hard to see how such treatment could have worse results than the results from surgery.)

When Dwight D. Eisenhower became president, he began attending church more regularly.  You can see this as a cynical effort to win support, or as an effort to set a good example.)
- 5:03 AM, 14 June 2016   [link]

Whatever Your Opinions Of "Brexit" Are, you'll probably admire this clever front page.

By the way, Brexit has been gaining in the polls, and in the betting markets, which are now giving the "Leave" alternative a 39 percent chance of winning.

(The Sun has a much higher readership, proportionately, than any American newspaper.  The equivalent here would be roughly 27 million.)
- 3:38 PM, 14 June 2016   [link]

Trump's News Blacklist Is Growing:  The latest addition is the Washington Post, but I don't think it will be the last, judging by how the list has grown.
The Washington Post is not the first. Donald Trump has been denying press credentials to news outlets for nearly a year.

It's become known in media circles as "the blacklist" -- a running catalog of newsrooms deemed by Trump to be unfair and banned from his campaign events accordingly.

The list includes an assortment of digital outlets, the largest Spanish-language broadcaster in the country, a premiere local newspaper and -- now, with The Post -- one of the most prestigious news organizations in the world.
Ever get the feeling that the Donald is not a big fan of the 1st Amendment?

Three observations:

First, I can not recall any other modern presidential candidate doing anything like this, though many have had reason to be unhappy with the press.

Second, this will probably play well with Trumpistas, who may feel, with some justice, that the press is often unfair to Republicans.

Third, this reminds me, more than a little, of the way campus leftists — who also have thin skins — try to ban speech they don't like.

Finally, a prediction:  The reality TV star will not ban any additional TV news organizations.  He needs them, and he knows it.
- 10:58 AM, 14 June 2016   [link]

Dog Lovers Will Like today's Pepper and Salt cartoon.
- 10:20 AM, 14 June 2016   [link]

LeBron James Versus Stephen Curry, The Natural Versus The Striver:  Here's a fun discussion of the contrasting NBA stars.
LeBron James and Stephen Curry are the best basketball players on the planet.   They’re also so radically different they might as well belong to separate solar systems.
With a little psychology thrown in.
- 6:00 PM, 13 June 2016   [link]

Why Does President Obama Want To Give Away American Control Over The Internet?  (If you aren't familiar with the issue, read L. Gordon Crovitz's latest column on the subject.  (Or one of his many earlier columns.))

There's no obvious gain to the United States, and there is some risk to free speech, especially in nations like China and Russia.  Obama doesn't seem to be getting anything in return for giving up control.  There isn't even any obvious political gain for Obama and the Democrats.

Most American leaders would follow that useful old rule:  "If it ain;t broke, don't fix it."

I think Obama is trying to do this because of a motive that can be seen as noble, foolish, or some mixture of the two.

You may recall that during the 2008 campaign, Obama was questioned by a journalist on why he wanted to raise taxes on capital gains — even though lower rates brought in more money.

Some thought Obama's position inexplicable, but I didn't.

I don't recall how he answered the question, but a perfectly good argument can be made that the higher rates would be more just.  That isn't my argument, but I can understand it.

Similarly, I can see him believing that American control over the Internet is unfair to other nations.

And in some ideal world, I might even agree with him.  In this world, I see his position as more foolish than noble.
- 4:14 PM, 13 June 2016   [link]

We Are Slow Learners On Islamic Terrorism:  By we, I mean Western societies as a whole, and particularly many of our leaders and journalists, especially those on the left.

That's one of the conclusions I draw from this 2008 Bruce Bawer post, "First They Came for the Gays".
The reason for the rise in gay bashings in Europe is clear -- and it's the same reason for the rise in rape.  As the number of Muslims in Europe grows, and as the proportion of those Muslims who were born and bred in Europe also grows, many Muslim men are more inclined to see Europe as a part of the umma (or Muslim world), to believe that they have the right and duty to enforce sharia law in the cities where they live, and to recognize that any aggression on their part will likely go unpunished.
So many on the left still see these Muslim men as victims, especially of "racism", and so are unwilling to look at what the men actually believe.

It isn't hard to understand why so many refuse to look at those beliefs; if you have grown up in a secular society, you may find it almost impossible to understand how strong religious beliefs can be, in other people.

(There is one area where I think we have made progress in the last decade:  We are seeing far fewer of the "depraved because they're deprived" arguments, fewer arguments that the fanatics would stop trying to kill us, if only they had more stuff.)
- 3:23 PM, 13 June 2016   [link]

Worth Reading:  Ruchir Sharma's opinion piece on China's threat to the world economy.

Two samples:
Four key forces have been shaping the rise and fall of nations since the 2008 financial crisis, and none of them bode well for China.  Debts have risen dangerously fast in the emerging world, especially in China.  Trade growth has collapsed everywhere, a sharp blow to leading exporters, again led by China.  Many countries are reverting to autocratic rule in an effort to fight the global slowdown, none more self-destructively than China.  And, for reasons unrelated to the 2008 collapse, growth in the world’s working-age population is slowing, and turned negative last year in China, depleting the work force.
. . .
The sputtering global economy is one shock away from slipping into recession.  In the postwar period, every previous global recession started with a downturn in the United States, but the next one is likely to begin with a shock in China.
(The "one child" policy has caught up to China, as demographers warned that it would.)

That's a cheerful conclusion.

My take, for what it is worth (very little):  His argument seems both plausible, and disturbing.

You'll want to study his graphs to see how much you agree with him.

(If you want to learn more about his thinking, look for his recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, or read his book.)
- 3:15 PM, 12 June 2016   [link]

Rope 'Em, Cowboy!  This story cheered me up, yesterday.
A bike thief in Eagle Point, Oregon got some old-fashioned frontier justice Friday when a passing cowboy chased him on horseback across a Wal-Mart car park and brought him down with a lasso.

In a scene that could have come out of a Roy Rogers movie - or more likely Blazing Saddles - Victorino Arellano-Sanchez, 23, found himself pursued by Robert Borba, 28, who was nicknamed 'The Lone Ranger' by spectators.
Yesterday, I heard Borda say that it is just wrong to steal someone's bike, because they might need it to get around.  That's a refreshing attitude — and very cowboy.

(Here's Eagle Point.)
- 1:54 PM, 12 June 2016   [link]

The Orlando Terror Attack makes this an inappropriate day for jokes.
- 9:19 AM, 12 June 2016   [link]