March 2018, Part 3

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

Worth Buying, Possibly:  This weekend's Wall Street Journal, if only for Greg Ip's analysis, "China Started the Trade War, Not Trump ".
If there’s a trade war between the U.S. and China, don’t blame Donald Trump:  China started it long before he became president.
You can, however, be skeptical about Trump's tactics in this war.

I would have liked the analysis even better had it been at least several times longer.  Perhaps he'll come back to the subject.

(Greg Ip)
- 3:40 PM, 24 March 2018   [link]

It's Not A New Idea:  From time to time I warn about the danger of accepting something as true, because we want it to be true.  (That warning is as much to me as to you, since I know I fall into that trap from time to time, despite my best efforts to avoid it.)

So I was amused, reading through my Oxford Dictionary of Quotations (Third edition), to see that Francis Bacon had made that point:
Quod enim mavult homo verum esse, id potius credit.
For what a man would like to be true, that he most readily believes. (p. 28)
At the end of the entry was a pointer to a similar quotation — by Julius Caesar.

Thinking about it, I decided that the idea is at least as old as humanity — and perhaps much older if you include the non-verbal ways animals deceive each other.

(Francis Bacon)
- 3:12 PM, 24 March 2018   [link]

If You Are A Basketball Fan, you'll find this cartoon timely.
- 2:41 PM, 24 March 2018   [link]

Troubling:  Ironman's post, "Rising homelessness among working Californians".

There is, I believe, a similar trend in the greater Seattle area.

One large part of the problem here (and probably in the affected areas of California, too) is our growth management act.  It is intended to force most development inside Seattle and the older suburbs; it has resulted in a declining supply of moderately priced housing.

(It may also have made country "estates" less expensive for the very rich.)
- 4:10 PM, 23 March 2018   [link]

Turnover Isn't A Perfect Measure Of Bosses:   But it is a good start.

For a discussion of the numbers, see this Politico article.
The office of Texas Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee topped the list in the House, with an annual turnover rate of 62 percent, according to LegiStorm.  Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.) came in behind her with 60 percent annual turnover, followed by Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) with 54 percent.

In the Senate, Minnesota Democrat Amy Klobuchar led the pack with an annual turnover rate of 36 percent, followed by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) with 30 percent and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) with 28 percent.
The gentle lady from Houston has won a lot of these contests over the years.
- 2:19 PM, 23 March 2018   [link]

This Week's Collection Of Cartoons from Politico.

My favorites:  Jeff Danziger's Russian election returns, Michael Ramirez's phone call, and Clay Bennett's pink slip.

Neither is in the collection, but I also like Peter Kuper's briefing and Andy Marlette's coincidence.
- 10:05 AM, 23 March 2018   [link]

Worth Reading:  (If you are interested in climate change.)

Judith Curry's post, "What are the main sources of heat that account for the incremental rise in temperature on Earth?"

The observed warming prior to 1940, the slight decline of temperatures from 1940-1975, and the slowdown in warming from 1998-2014 obviously are not explained by fossil fuel emissions.
As I am sure you know, there are many — some as well-informed as Professor Curry — who would disagree with that, or at least want to add many qualifications.

Nonetheless, the timing problem she calls our attention to is real; the temperature of our atmosphere has not risen in lockstep with the increase in carbon dioxide.
- 3:07 PM, 22 March 2018   [link]

The Choices A Few Brazilian Women Are Making will surprise some American men, and please a few.
Brazilian women want to be impregnated from the sperm of white American men, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal Thursday.

Wealthy Brazilian women and lesbian couples are requesting white male sperm from the U.S. so their kids will have more Caucasian features, the Wall Street Journal reported.

At least 50 percent of Brazil’s population is black or mixed-race, but women are selecting young sperm donors who will more likely produce children with blond hair and blue eyes.  The number of American sperm donors to Brazil surged at least 3,000 percent in the past seven years. It is also illegal to pay men for their sperm in Brazil, which allows American donors more opportunity in the market.
Despite that 3,000 percent, you should recognize that this is still a small story, since Brazil has a population of more than 208 million, very few of whom are wealthy enough to afford this, even if they wanted to.

(For the record:  My hair is now mostly white, and has never been blond.)
- 12:59 PM, 22 March 2018   [link]

Facebook Exists To Sell User Data:   John Podhoretz understands that.
You’ve likely spent a thousand hours or more on Facebook over the past decade.  Did you think that the energy-sucking servers holding your photos and hosting the groups dedicated to your high school class and your neighborhood ran on good wishes?

Did you think the company that has allowed you to consume news and opinion at no cost whatsoever to you was doing so out of the goodness of its collective heart?

Did you think . . . it was free?
But he — and I — wonder how many users understand that.
- 12:05 PM, 22 March 2018   [link]

The Current "Pepper . . . And Salt" made me smile.
- 10:27 AM, 22 March 2018   [link]

President Legal Troubles (3):  In July 2016, I said that both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump would have legal problems, if either were elected president.

At that time, and in follow-up posts (here and here), I assumed that Trump's legal problems would be financial, and that we could see many court challenges to his business practices.  And we have seen some of those and will, I expect, see more.

But I was not expecting the sex scandals, and the fights over these non-disclosure agreements For example:
President Trump faced new legal and political jeopardy Tuesday as a former Playboy Playmate and alleged paramour sued to break a confidentiality agreement and a judge rejected his move to quash a lawsuit stemming from a charge of sexual assault.

The developments, coming on opposite coasts, promised many more months — if not years — of legal skirmishing, keeping Trump's personal conduct at the fore of this election season and complicating GOP efforts to protect their congressional majorities in November.
But I should have been, as I see now.

(In 2017, the Atlantic attempted to catalog Trump's most important scandals.  If you are feeling ambitious, you may want to try to determine which of those are active, and which could be revived.)
- 4:09 PM, 21 March 2018   [link]

Two Squeakers, And One Easy Win:  Those were the three most important results in yesterday's Illinois primary.

Incumbent Republican Governor Bruce Rauner edged out social conservative Jeanne Ives, 51.4 to 48.6 percent (361,301 to 341,836 votes).

Pro-life Democratic Congressman Dan Lipinski edged out pro-abortion challenger Marie Newman 51.2 to 48.8 percent (47,116 to 44,992 votes).

And billionaire JB Pritzker swept to an easy victory in the Democratic primary for governor, winning 45.2 percent of the vote (573,679 votes) against 5 opponents.

The two main conclusions are, I assume, obvious:  Bruce Rauner is in trouble, as he has been ever since he was first elected, and a Democratic congressman in the right district can be pro-life, with, perhaps, a little help from Republicans.

For a more extensive discussion, see this Politico article, "Top takeaways from the Illinois primary".

(Dan Lipinski first got his seat in a common way for a Chicago machine politician; he inherited it:
In 2004, Lipinski's father ran for re-nomination in the Democratic primary.  After easily winning the nomination, the elder Lipinski announced his retirement.  As the Democratic committeeman for Chicago's 23rd Ward—which is virtually coextensive with the Chicago portion of the 3rd—he was able to persuade the state Democratic Party to select his son to replace him on the ballot.  The move was somewhat controversial; not only had the younger Lipinski not lived regularly in Illinois since 1989 and never run for elected office before, but it allowed him to sidestep the Democratic primary—the real contest in this heavily Democratic district.[3][4]   As expected, Lipinski defeated his Republican challenger, Ryan Chlada, in the general election.
And then, as an incumbent, won the primary in 2006.)
- 2:44 PM, 21 March 2018   [link]

American Men Are Leading Australians, Britons, Dutch, And Germans:  Unfortunately, it's in obesity.

It's a strange world we live in; there are still places where famine strikes — though far fewer than there were just a few decades ago — but now much of the world has the opposite problem.

The "champion" in obesity is often said to be the nation of Tonga.  It is certainly a big enough problem there so that we should study the Tongans — and try to help them if we can.

(Yes, the Dutch really are the tallest in that group; in fact, I have read that they are the tallest in Europe.)
- 11:15 AM, 21 March 2018   [link]

Perhaps I Have Starting Grading On A Curve, but this New Yorker daily cartoon passes my funny test — barely.
- 9:01 AM, 21 March 2018   [link]

Grim, But Worth Reading:  Joanne Jacobs' post, "Black boys, but not girls, earn less than whites".
“Even when children grow up next to each other with parents who earn similar incomes, black boys fare worse than white boys,” concludes a new study by Stanford, Harvard and Census Bureau researchers.  However, there is no earnings gap for black girls.
. . .
Researchers found only a few neighborhoods where the gaps were small for black and white males.  Most had low poverty rates; surveys showed less racial bias.  These pockets “were the places where many lower-income black children had fathers at home,” reports the Times.   “Poor black boys did well in such places, whether their own fathers were present or not.”
(Emphasis added.)

As one of the commenters notes, these kinds of findings can not be discussed in much of the United States.

(Daniel Patrick Moynihan would not be surprised by these findings.)
- 4:09 PM, 20 March 2018   [link]

Ralph Peters Is Mad As Hell At Fox:  And he's not going to be there any more.
Fox News Strategic Analyst Ralph Peters — a longtime contributor to the network who frequently appeared across various programs to discuss matters of national security — sent an email announcing his departure from the network.

And in it, he absolutely scorched the earth.

As reported by Buzzfeed, Peters railed against the network — calling it a “propaganda machine” for President Donald Trump‘s “ethically ruinous” administration.
And he had more to say, if that isn't enough for you.

I haven't always agreed with Peters, but I have always considered him an intelligent and honorable man, with much to say on national security questions.

(Ralph Peters)
- 3:41 PM, 20 March 2018   [link]

Is Nicolas Sarkozy In Serious Legal Trouble?  It appears so, though he hasn't been formally charged, yet.
Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy has been taken into police custody for questioning over allegations that he received campaign funding from the late Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi.

Police are investigating alleged irregularities over the financing of his 2007 presidential campaign.

Police have questioned him previously as part of the probe.  Mr Sarkozy has denied any wrongdoing.
The charges are sensational, and, for me, a bit surprising if true.

I would have thought Sarkozy is too clever to get into anything so crude, and so risky.

(Nicolas Sarkozy and Muammar Gaddafi)
- 12:32 PM, 20 March 2018   [link]

Another Attack On Science, this one at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

There are, to say the least, some odd aspects to this story.  If I have time, I may search for some follow-ups in a month or so.

- 10:32 AM, 20 March 2018   [link]

Science Fiction Fans May Like this cartoon.
- 10:11 AM, 20 March 2018   [link]

More Civilian Deaths, Too:  Last October, I said that more aggressive tactics had helped in the fight against ISIS, but that there was a probable price for those successes:
So Tobin is wrong to speak of a "stalemate" before the change in tactics, but right, in my opinion, to say that the campaign has gone faster thanks to Trump's more aggressive tactics.

Some critics would probably argue that the change in tactics has meant more civilian casualties.   I would agree, as long as they add this qualifier: in the short run.
Sadly, there have been more civilian deaths.
2017 was the deadliest year for civilian casualties in Iraq and Syria, with as many as 6,000 people killed in strikes conducted by the U.S.-led coalition, according to the watchdog group Airwars.

That is an increase of more than 200 percent over the previous year.
Note that Sullivan is counting only deaths from US bombing, and that she does not discuss the culpability of the terrorists, who often deliberately put civilian lives at risk, to protect themselves.

Nor dos she discuss my point, that our more aggressive tactics may save lives in the long run, by preventing civilian deaths — caused, directly and indirectly, by ISIS.

Her kind of thinking is common on what you might call the soft left, and is, in my opinion, morally flawed,

(I am not familiar with her source, but assume it is left wing, and would not be surprised to learn that its numbers are not exact.)
- 2:32 PM, 19 March 2018   [link]

Probably Donald Trump Is Just Worried About All The Nice Things They Would Say About Him:  That's a pleasant explanation for his unusual non-disclosure agreements.
Reader, it happened.  In the early months of the administration, at the behest of now-President Trump, who was furious over leaks from within the White House, senior White House staff members were asked to, and did, sign nondisclosure agreements vowing not to reveal confidential information and exposing them to damages for any violation.  Some balked at first but, pressed by then-Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and the White House Counsel’s Office, ultimately complied, concluding that the agreements would likely not be enforceable in any event.
. . .
This is extraordinary.  Every president inveighs against leakers and bemoans the kiss-and-tell books; no president, to my knowledge, has attempted to impose such a pledge.  And while White House staffers have various confidentiality obligations — maintaining the secrecy of classified information or attorney-client privilege, for instance — the notion of imposing a side agreement, supposedly enforceable even after the president leaves office, is not only oppressive but constitutionally repugnant.
The agreement even forbids them from "the publication of works of fiction that contain any mention of the operations of the White House, federal agencies, foreign governments, or other entities interacting with the United States Government that is based on confidential information".

Donald Trump is a modest man, but this seems to go a little too far in preventing top aides from saying nice things about him.

Cynics may suspect he wants these non-disclosure agreements because he has something to hide.

It won't satisfy such people, but the White House should release a copy of the agreement.  It will leak eventually, anyway.

(Some think the agreements may be unconstitutional; others wonder why Steve Bannon has not been hit with a lawsuit.)
- 1:10 PM, 19 March 2018   [link]

Working With Our Hands Makes Our Brains Happy?  That's what some researchers are claiming.
Are you the kind of person who actually likes washing dishes?  How about folding laundry?  Yardwork?

What all these have in common, of course, is they occupy our hands.  And as it turns out, some researchers think that may be key to making our brains very happy.

"I made up this term called 'behaviorceuticals,' instead of pharmaceuticals, in the sense that when we move and when we engage in activities, we change the neurochemistry of our brain in ways that a drug can change the neurochemistry of our brain," said Kelly Lambert, a neuroscientist at the University of Richmond.
My immediate reaction to this claim is that it would depend on the work, having done manual jobs that stimulated my brain, and others that had the opposite effect.

But I would like to see more research on this question, and not just on rats.
- 10:45 AM, 19 March 2018   [link]

The Current "Pepper . . . And Salt" Is Obvious, but still mildly funny.
- 9:46 AM, 19 March 2018   [link]

In Honor Of Russia's "Election", here's a Russian version of the elephant joke, a joke I first mentioned in 2002.
There was an international competition for the best book about elephants.
France submitted a lavishly illustrated volume titled "Love triangles in the elephants' families"
England presented a treatise "Elephants and the World Trade"
Germany submitted 24 volumes under the title "Introduction into elephantology"
The USA submitted one million copies of a leaflet announcing "Win an Elephant.   No purchase necessary."
Russia sent three volumes, with the following titles,
Vol. 1. Role of elephants in the Great October Socialist Revolution.
Vol. 2. The happy life of elephants under the sun of the most progressive in the world Russian Constitution.
Vol. 3. Russia — the motherland of elephants.
The joke is from the Tobi Okk book.   I didn't correct the English, because I think it's more interesting this way.

(You can find other versions of the joke here and here.

Sometimes I think the best punch line is an alternate I mentioned in 2002:  "The Elephant and the Polish Question", though you have to explain Poland's pre-World War I division, before you tell it to most people.)
- 4:08 PM, 18 March 2018   [link]

Worth Buying, Possibly:  This weekend's Wall Street Journal, for Peggy Noonan's column, "Deliverance From Hillary Clinton".

Noonan's discussion of Clinton's disastrous talk in Mumbai is devastating.  For example:
Mrs. Clinton's comments provoke an essential question:  To the extent those in the deindustrialized Midwest need help and support, isn't that what the Democratic Party is for?  Doesn't it exist to help the little guy, the marginalized, the left-behind?  That's what it always said!
And for Rebecca Newberger Goldstein's essay, "Truth Isn’t the Problem—We Are".  (In the print edition, the title is "Our Moment of Truth".)
Politics has warped facts since the days of Pericles, but our ‘post-truth’ era offers a destructive new twist: defying facts as a badge of tribal allegiance.
(It's a pleasure to see a philosopher tackle this difficult problem.)

It occurred to me, after reading both, that Noonan's column explained why we shouldn't have elected Hillary Clinton — and that Goldstein's essay explained why we shouldn't have elected Donald Trump.
- 11:49 AM, 18 March 2018   [link]

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

And if you would like to go beyond the green beer, the pinches for those not wearing green, the rivers dyed green, and the complaints that those who celebrate particular kinds of sins are not allowed in all the parades, you may want to read this Wikipedia biography of the saint.  We know little about the man for certain, but what little we do know is fascinating.

(Recycled from 2008, and if you still haven't read that article on St. Patrick, let me urge you to do so.)
- 3:24 PM, 17 March 2018   [link]