March 2016, Part 4

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

Reminder On Michael Ramirez:  I haven't linked to a specific Ramirez cartoon for a while — but that's partly because almost all of his have been so good, most of them brutal, but almost all of them good.

My current favorites?  Probably this one and this one.
- 2:58 PM, 31 March 2016   [link]

Today, The British Bettors Definitely Feel Inspired:  As I write, they have been dumping Trump, so that he has gone down to a 55.5 per cent chance of winning the nomination, having lost 9.5 per cent in the last 24 hours.

For the general election, the Hillary Clinton Democrat (Hillary) has a 66.4 per cent chance, and the Bill Clinton Democrat (Donald) has a 14.7 per cent chance of becoming president.  The socialist (Bernie) has a 6.3 per cent chance.

As has been true for weeks now, British bettors think that, of the Republicans, John Kasich would have the the best chance of winning the general election — if he could be nominated.

(Reminder:  Those odds are updated every five minutes, and when they are changing this fast, are almost certain to be different by the time you read this post.).
- 2:12 PM, 31 March 2016   [link]

Today, I Don't Feel Inspired, so here's the Sidney Harris collection again; today you can choose your own cartoon (or cartoons_.

(The "explicit" cartoon has been one of my favorites, for years and years.)
- 1:43 PM, 31 March 2016   [link]

Mt. St. Helens Camera Links Fixed:  Finally.

It's a beautiful day, which reminded me to fix the links to the Mt. St Helens web cams,   Click on the picture or "Camera 2" for some lovely views.

As usual, I would expect the best views to be around sunset or sunrise, and I may capture one for you in the next few days.  Or you can capture one yourself; it's easy enough.

(Here's the Forest Service page describing the cameras.) .
- 3:40 PM, 30 March 2016   [link]

Bernie Sanders Won The Washington State Democratic Caucuses., as I predicted — but I wouldn't call it a successful prediction because I had no idea his victory would be that large, roughly 73 to 27 percent.  (Roughly, because this is just the first stage in picking the delegates, for the Washington state Democrats; the final delegate selection will be made at a state convention.)

That last link takes you to the big Wikipedia article and table for he Democrats; here's the link to the parallel article for the Republicans.

And here's what the British bettors are thinking, right now.

(For caucuses, I suppose I would count it a successful prediction if I were within 2-5 percent of the margin, and I wouldn't have been even close to that, if I had put a number on the result.)
- 10:00 AM, 30 March 2016   [link]

Too Funny Not to pass on.

(Except for the stripper, of course.  This reminds me that Donald Trump once sued a Miss USA contestant for saying something about the contest he didn't like.

What kind of MAN sues a beauty contestant for something she said?

He won, but I think we all suspect that Trump may have had more legal talent on his side.)
- 7:18 AM, 30 March 2016   [link]

If All Goes Well, You Won't Face This Problem at lunch time (link fixed).
- 6:20 AM, 30 March 2016   [link]

FBI Tells Apple, "Never Mind!"  Here's the lead paragraph.
The government said Monday it had cracked a terrorist’s iPhone without Apple Inc.’s help and is seeking to drop its legal case to force the tech giant to unlock the device.
(You can find the rest in today's Wall Street Journal.  Or in today's New York Times, which also made it their lead story)

As I said in December, I think the battle against encryption was lost in 1991, when PGP was released — and I think our government agencies should recognize that.  (Not so incidentally, some of the common encryption tools were developed by the government, and released to the public.)  We can no more stop terrorists from using them than we can stop them from using publicly available recipes for nitroglycerin and their new favorite, TATP.

That said, it is also true that Apple and other tech companies can make lots of money without making it impossible for courts to see their phone records, without making it easy for terrorists and other criminals to use those phones to hide their criminal acts.

What I'd like to see is a national debate on these matters, a debate on the right balance between national security and law enforcement on one side, and privacy and commercial advantage on the other.  It doesn't seem right to me that a single company, however wealthy, should be setting national policy on this complex issue.

(Until fairly recently, Apple was cooperating with court orders.  As I understand it,what changed was the replacement of Steve Jobs by Tim Cook, and the Snowden revelations.   Since those two events, Apple has been making it harder and harder for law enforcement to see data on their phones.  Syed Farook's phone was an older model, and so it didn't have as strong encryption as the current models.

The county did put stronger protections on some of its phones, but only those where private information might be stored.  Since his work was entirely public, his phone just had a simple 4-digit pass code.)
- 22:09 PM:09 PM, 29 March 2016   [link]

Chocolate Can Be Good For You:  If you are an endurance athlete.
Adding a little dark chocolate to a training regime may effortlessly improve endurance performance, according to a new study of sports nutritio.
And perhaps for the rest of us, too, since what is good for endurance athletes is often good for the rest of us, too.
- 9:26 AM, 29 March 2016   [link]

From What I've Heard, It's Not A Very Good Movie — but it inspired a pretty good cartoon.
- 8:55 AM, 29 March 2016   [link]

Donald Trump Has Received About $2 billion In Campaign Contributions From Large Corporations:  Large media corporations, that is.

(Some journalists appear to be pleased by what they have done, because of the damage Trump has done to the Republican Party, others appear to be embarrassed, or even worried.)
- 4:01 PM, 28 March 2016   [link]

Those Banana-Eating Jobs Pay Even Better than I would have guessed.
The hope is that fortified superbananas could help prevent such malnutrition.  To test their efficacy, Iowa State students were offered $900 to eat the bananas for four days during three trial periods, then have their blood tested to measure vitamin absorption.  The research is led by ISU professor Wendy White, an expert on vitamin A-enriched crops.
That's good pay for the average college student — and the students may be helping millions if the modification succeeds in raising vitamin levels in poor kids elsewhere in the world.

Naturally, some Greens are objecting.

(Here's more about Professor White.

I'd pay extra just to try some of those superbananas, if they were available locally.)
- 2:53 PM, 28 March 2016   [link]

"The More People Pay Attention To The 2016 Campaign, The More It Bums Them Out"  Philip Bump's conclusion won't surprise many readers.
At long last, concrete evidence of what we already assumed to be the case:  The more people are paying attention to this crazy, endless, bizarre, ridiculous, tacky, plodding, unpredictable, exhausting, demoralizing, angry, infuriating, weirdly hilarious 2016 campaign, the less excited they are about voting.
Especially Republicans, which won't surprise you, either.
- 7:48 AM, 28 March 2016   [link]

Here's A Powerful Critique of the student loan program.
- 7:14 AM, 28 March 2016   [link]

Two Worth Reading:  In Friday's Wall Street Journal, Zalmay Khalilzad's op-ed, "Iraq Isn’t Lost to Iran".
The conventional wisdom in Washington, D.C., seems to be that Iraq is hopelessly lost to Iran.   The best that the U.S. can do, this view suggests, is to destroy Islamic State there and develop a special relationship with an independent or semi-independent Iraqi Kurdistan.

Washington should do those things.  But it also should not abandon the rest of Iraq.   Based on recent meetings in Baghdad with Iraqi leaders, including Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, I believe that the country is not lost.
You'd expect a diplomat like Khalilzad to believe in diplomacy, perhaps even more than he should.  But his details are interesting — and the fact that the meetings took place, even more interesting.

Are some Iraqi leaders looking forward to the next American administration?  Almost certainly, and they aren't being secretive about it.

And in Saturday's New York Times, Alan Kuperman's op-ed, "Obama: The Anti-Anti-Nuke President". Here's the key quote:
It is the Republican-controlled Congress that is pushing the most ambitious arms control project in recent memory.  Inexplicably, President Obama is the one resisting.
It doesn't seem inexplicable to me nor, entirely, to Kuperman, who has some ideas about why Obama is blocking this initiative,

The initiative looks like a good idea to me, though I am not expert on the details of nuclear controls, a complex and difficult subject.

Kuperman has some credentials; for example, he's "coordinator of the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Project" at the University of Texas.
- 7:41 PM, 27 March 2016   [link]

Happy Easter!   To all those who celebrate it today.

Easter flowers, 2008

Which is most Western Christians, this year.  (Orthodox Christians will celebrate it on 1 May.)
- 12:46 PM, 27 March 2016   [link]

There Are, From Time To Time, Funny Aspects to Europe's migrant crisis.

Assuming you aren't a truck driver, that is.
- 9:17 AM, 26 March 2016   [link]

Save The Whales, Ignore The Yazidis And The Middle East Christians:  Eight days ago, John Kerry said, officially, what everyone who wanted to know already knew:  ISIS has been committing genocide against Yazidis and Middle East Christians.  (And other groups, too.)
My purpose in appearing before you today is to assert that, in my judgment, Daesh is responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control, including Yezidis, Christians, and Shia Muslims.  Daesh is genocidal by self-proclamation, by ideology, and by actions – in what it says, what it believes, and what it does.  Daesh is also responsible for crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing directed at these same groups and in some cases also against Sunni Muslims, Kurds, and other minorities.

I say this even though the ongoing conflict and lack of access to key areas has made it impossible to develop a fully detailed and comprehensive picture of all that Daesh is doing and all that it has done.  We have not been able to compile a complete record.  I think that’s obvious on its face; we don’t have access to everywhere.  But over the past months, we have conducted a review of the vast amount of information gathered by the State Department, by our intelligence community, by outside groups.  And my conclusion is based on that information and on the nature of the acts reported.

We know, for example, that in August of 2014 Daesh killed hundreds of Yezidi men and older women in the town of Kocho and trapped tens of thousands of Yezidis on Mount Sinjar without allowing access to food, water, or medical care.  Without our intervention, it was clear those people would have been slaughtered.  Rescue efforts aided by coalition airstrikes ultimately saved many, but not before Daesh captured and enslaved thousands of Yezidi women and girls – selling them at auction, raping them at will, and destroying the communities in which they had lived for countless generations.
(Here's the video, if you prefer that to the transcript.)

What happened next?  Almost nothing.

That evening BBC America made his declaration their lead story — and were skeptical that there would be any changes in Obama administration policies.

PBS Newshour did not mention the story that evening, to my amazement.  (It is possible that the story appeared in other areas.  The local PBS station, KCTS, was doing fund raising, and so the show was shorter than usual.  (PBS did link to this AP story.)

The next day the New York Times carried a solid article on Kerry's announcement.  The reporter, Matthew Rosenberg, even included this:   Kerry's announcement was not a result of an administration initiative, but was "made in response to a deadline set last year by Congress".

To its credit, the Times ran an editorial on the announcement; to its debit, the editorial ended with a call for admitting more Syrian refugees, but said nothing about swifter and more effective military action against ISIS.

Still amazed at PBS ignoring this story, I watched part of the program the next evening, including Judy Woodruff's interview with Susan Rice.  Surely, I thought, Woodruff would ask Rice about Kerry's statement, especially given Rice's part in covering up the Rwandan genocide.  I was wrong.

The evening of Kerry's announcement, PBS did run a story, a long story, on another unhappy group, SeaWorld's orcas, which are being phased out.

PBS wasn't alone in thinking that story more important than the genocide story.  I just did two Bing searches on the last seven days of news stories.  The search on "SeaWorld" yielded almost 38,000 hits; the search on "genocide + Yazidis" yielded almost 5400 hits.

Save the whales, ignore the Yazidis and the Middle East Christians.
- 2:06 PM, 25 March 2016   [link]

Anything Special Happening In The Seattle Area This Weekend?  Judging by the local TV stations, yes.

No, not that.

The big story — and I watched portions of morning news on all four stations, is this.
Drivers trying to get into and out of the downtown Seattle corridor should be prepared for delays Friday afternoon ahead of the Bernie Sanders rally at Safeco Field.  Your best bet if you're not going to the rally: leave early if you can.

Doors for the event open at 4 p.m. with Sanders expected to speak around 7 p.m.   Gridlock is expected and parking will be
(Most of the stories I saw emphasized the rally, not the gridlock.)

There is something else going on here in this area, and all across the world, something to do, from the vague hints I saw, with a rabbit and chocolate.

We can make a rough estimate of how many people will be celebrating that event, here in the Seattle area.  The metropolitan population of the area is about 3.6 million.  If we assume that 2 million of them are at least nominally Christian (excluding Eastern Christians) and that half of them will be observing today, celebrating Sunday, or both, then about a million people in this area alone will be doing something special this weekend — something our news organizations don't want to mention by name.

Regardless of your religious beliefs, when 1 million people do something in this area, it should be a big story here, should be something that our journalists would at least mention.

(For the record:  I saw one anchor sign off with a "Happy Easter", and I saw a commercial from the Fred Meyer chain wishing us a Happy Easter, and offering to sell us some ham.

Safeco Field is a large place, but it doesn't have space for anywhere near a million people.)
- 8:47 AM, 25 March 2016   [link]

Grimly Funny:  Sometimes I look for jokes; sometimes jokes come to me.

By now, this is a joke that we all have heard, but it is worth repeating, because there are so many people who still don't get it.

Two days ago I was listening to our local NPR station and heard an interview with a young American Muslim.  She told the interviewer, with some emotion, that when Muslims heard nasty things about Muslims — for instance I suppose that too many Muslims were prone to violence — that inspired some Muslims to commit violence.

Now that's funny, grimly funny, but still funny.

But the young woman didn't realize it was funny — and, as far as I could tell, neither did the interviewer.

(My apologies for the vagueness.  I was driving at the time, and not in a good position to take notes.

For the record:  Many Muslims, especially in the United States, would realize that was funny.  It's too bad none of them have explained the joke to her.)
- 7:17 AM, 25 March 2016   [link]