March 2018, Part 4

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

Too Funny Not to share.
In a move that shockingly did not go over well on Twitter, President Donald Trump announced on Friday he had named April ‘National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.’

The president, who has been accused of sexual assault or harassment by at least 19 women, said in a statement his administration remains “steadfast in our efforts to stop crimes of sexual violence, provide care for victims, enforce the law, prosecute offenders, and raise awareness about the many forms of sexual assault.”
Some people won't get the joke, as you can see from the comments, here.

(Are all those comments from real people?  Dunno.  But I have begun to wonder.)
- 9:50 AM, 31 March 2018   [link]

For the Opening Of Baseball Season, a baseball cartoon.
- 8:39 AM, 31 March 2018   [link]

Why Don't We Have Better Predictions On The Fall Of The Chinese Space Station, Tiangong-1?  All the uncertainty puzzled me, because I thought it was just a ballistics problem, of the kind artillery experts solve every day.

Kenneth Chang told me what I had missed.
It’s difficult to make exact predictions; the atmosphere puffs up and deflates depending on the barrage of particles in the solar wind and how that phenomenon speeds or slows the rate of falling.  If a calculation is off by half an hour, the predicted impact site could be on the other side of the planet. Earlier this month, a solar storm appears to have moved up the timetable for the crash by a few hours.
So a more accurate prediction would require knowing how to predict the weather — on the sun.
- 12:29 PM, 30 March 2018   [link]

From 80-82 to 82-80:  When I read yesterday that FiveThirtyEight was updating their predictions after every major league baseball game, I had to check that out.

And, sure enough, their prediction for the Seattle Mariners season record improved slightly after the Mariners win last night.

Though not enough for Mariners fans to start making plans for the World Series.

(Real fans may want to keep track of these changes for their team or teams.)
- 8:43 AM, 30 March 2018   [link]

This Week's Collection Of Cartoons from Politico.

My favorites:  Michael Ramirez's rhino and Signe Wilkinson's privacy settings.
- 8:25 AM, 30 March 2018   [link]

FiveThirtyEight has published their major league baseball predictions for 2018.

They will be updating them "after every game".
- 4:04 PM, 29 March 2018   [link]

"Hubble Telescope Discovers A Galaxy With No Dark Matter"  Another big surprise.
Galaxies and dark matter go together like peanut butter and jelly.  You typically don’t find one without the other.

Therefore, researchers were surprised when they uncovered a galaxy that is missing most, if not all, of its dark matter.  An invisible substance, dark matter is the underlying scaffolding upon which galaxies are built.  It’s the glue that holds the visible matter in galaxies — stars and gas — together.
I understand the arguments for dark matter — at a basic level — but I find the idea frustrating, since there is no direct evidence for it, and no generally-accepted theory explaining what it might be composed of.

Just possibly, researchers will find some clues to dark matter in this unusual galaxy.
- 3:51 PM, 29 March 2018   [link]

Worth Reading:  Bret Stephens' indictment of Jeremy Corbyn.
If you take Jeremy Corbyn at his word, then the leader of Britain’s Labour Party is no anti-Semite.  It’s just that, like the Wild West preacher who keeps accidentally wandering into Fannie Porter’s house of ill repute, Corbyn has an odd knack for stumbling into the arms of the Hebraically disinclined.

Corbyn is facing public protests and scathing criticism again this week after it emerged that in 2012 he had questioned the removal of a London mural by the artist Kalen Ockerman that looks like a scene drawn from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. He now claims, unconvincingly, that he regrets not looking “more closely at the image.”
Stephens is appealing mostly to the left, as you can see in his final paragraph.

(The mural wasn't subtle.)
- 10:18 AM, 29 March 2018   [link]

This May Disgust You:  But it is unlikely to surprise you.
Mass murderer Nikolas Cruz is getting stacks of fan mail and love letters sent to the Broward County jail, along with hundreds of dollars in contributions to his commissary account.

Teenage girls, women and even older men are writing to the Parkland school shooter and sending photographs — some suggestive — tucked inside cute greeting cards and attached to notebook paper with offers of friendship and encouragement.   Groupies also are joining Facebook communities to talk about how to help the killer.
I know psychologists have studied this phenomena; I don't know whether they have found any explanations for it.
- 9:59 AM, 29 March 2018   [link]

Spiritual Help can take many forms.

(There are 40 bonus cartoons.  I like the next one, and you may, too.)
- 9:29 AM, 29 March 2018   [link]

Troubling, If True:  And it probably is.

Facebook may have contributed to the Rohingya crisis.
UN investigators have said the use of Facebook played a "determining role" in stirring up hatred against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.

One of the team probing allegations of genocide in Myanmar said Facebook had "turned into a beast."
I am beginning to wonder whether there is a general tendency for social media to exacerbate differences between groups.

(This story from Kenya may sound eerily familiar.)
- 4:30 PM, 28 March 2018   [link]

Some Kind Words For Short — And Long — News Stories:  Almost every morning, I zip through Axios, just to make sure I am not missing any important American news stories.

It takes me just a few minutes, and I learn more than I would watching network news for a half hour.  The Axios folks are good at compressing stories down to their essentials.

But I also enjoy, from time to time, reading longer stories, such as this one about an Arizona lawyer who was running a large business in performance-enhancing drugs.

This detail amused me:
(The head of Switzerland’s antidoping organization told me that his agency’s tests have shown that 80 percent of the peptides advertised on the web are adulterated or outright fakes.)
As did some of the other details in the article.

(Axios is able to keep its stories short in part by omitting the individual examples that most newspapers like to use to begin their stories.  Instead they go straight to the main point.  I usually prefer that approach, but can understand why others wouldn't.

- 8:21 AM, 28 March 2018   [link]

Foodies May Like the current "Pepper . . . and Salt" cartoon.
- 7:47 AM, 28 March 2018   [link]

Empirical Evidence For "Stop And Frisk" Reducing Gun Deaths:  In October 2015, I speculated that "stop and frisk" policies could reduce gun deaths.

And explained why it would not be an attractive policy for politicians like Barack Obama.

As I was careful to say in the post, I had no data to offer in support of my speculation.

Now Professors Paul Cassell and Richard Fowles are claiming they have data supporting my speculation, thanks to a "natural experiment" in Chicago.
. . . University of Utah Economics Professor Richard Fowles and I have just completed an important article on the 2016 Chicago homicide spike.  Through multiple regression analysis and other tools, we conclude that an ACLU consent decree trigged a sharp reduction in stop and frisks by the Chicago Police Department, which in turn caused homicides to spike.  Sadly, what Chicago police officers dubbed the "ACLU effect" was real—and more homicides and shootings were the consequence.

The analysis is relatively straightforward.  It is well known that homicides increased dramatically in Chicago in 2016.  In 2015, 480 Chicago residents were killed.  The next year, 754 were killed—274 more homicide victims, tragically producing an extraordinary 58% increase in a single year.  What happened?
As described in the post, their approach seems reasonable to me.
- 2:18 PM, 27 March 2018   [link]

Too Funny Not To Share:  This poll result.
Stormy Daniels 2020 probably won’t catch on.  But Stephanie Clifford 2020 just might.

According to new data from Public Policy Polling, the porn start alleging an affair with President Donald Trump would beat him in a match-up for the next election, but only if she runs using her real name.

PPP is a left-leaning firm, so the numbers should be taken with a grain of salt.
And Clifford only beats him by 1 point, 42-41.

But it is still funny.
- 1:02 PM, 27 March 2018   [link]

Worth Reading:  Ben Shapiro's piece, "Swedish Pre-School Tries to Erase Gender Differences".

An attempt that the New York Times — or at least one of its journalists — is all in favor of.

(Ben Shapiro)
- 9:21 AM, 27 March 2018   [link]

We Need More Cartoons that make fun of the Taliban.

Bonus:  If you are a sucker for alien cartoons, you may like this cartoon — even though it is blatantly political.
- 8:57 AM, 27 March 2018   [link]

Some Of Jeremy Corbyn's Best Allies Are Anti-Semites:  And the Labour Leader has a long history of not noticing* their anti-Semitism.
Current Labour chief Jeremy Corbyn is a fierce critic of Israel. Since his nomination as the party leader, he has been forced to defend himself against accusations that some of his supporters are anti-Semitic.  Earlier this month, Corbyn acknowledged that he had been a member of a Facebook group that has posted anti-Semitic views, though he said he had never seen the messages.
Now Jewish groups are calling him on it:
In response to the resurfaced Corbyn post, an array of Jewish groups gathered outside Parliament on Monday.  The Labour Party, they said, has shown a “repeated institutional failure” to address prejudice against Jews.

“We have had enough of hearing that Jeremy Corbyn ‘opposes anti-Semitism,’ whilst the mainstream majority of British Jews, and their concerns, are ignored by him and those he leads,” they wrote in an open letter.
(I believe that British Jews tend to be on the left, though I can't recall seeing any numbers.)

Even the BBC can't ignore the charges against Corbyn.

(*It is possible, of course, that he was aware of the anti-Semitism, but didn't consider it important, given their support for his causes.

You can find some useful background here and here, though neither source is what I would call unbiased.)
- 4:34 PM, 26 March 2018   [link]

Stormy Weather:  Last night, like millions of other Americans, I watched the Stormy Daniels interview.  Or most of it, anyway.  I had dozed off before the program began, and missed the first part.

In the part that I did watch, I saw three striking claims:
  1. Daniels claims she was physically threatened by someone she believes was working for Trump.  There is no independent evidence for the claim.
  2. Daniels was threatened with legal actions, and is still being threatened.   All, according to Trump, for saying something happened, which he says didn't happen.
  3. Trump's lawyer, Michael Cohen (or even Trump himself), may have broken election laws by that $130,000 payment to Daniels.
So, should we believe the president or the porn star?  Or neither?

I don't see any way to answer that question for the first claim, that Daniels was physically threatened — and I really, really wish we didn't have to ask it.

The second is true, and we may get an answer on the third from the courts.

Finally, to end this post on a lighter note, more evidence that Donald Trump is a very weird guy.
In July 2007 -- a year after they met -- Daniels says Mr. Trump asked to meet with her privately at his bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles to discuss a development regarding her possible appearance on Celebrity Apprentice.

Stormy Daniels:  I remember arriving, and he was watching Shark Week. He made me sit and watch an entire documentary about shark attacks.

Anderson Cooper:  It wasn't at that point a business meeting, it was just watching Shark Week.
Daniels is a beautiful woman, she and Trump had been friendly before — and instead of wining and dining her, he has her watch Shark Week?

That is not normal male behavior.

(For more thoughts, some of them skeptical, see this John Ziegler post.)
- 2:13 PM, 26 March 2018   [link]

Should You Be Getting Ready To Duck When The Chinese Space Lab Tiangong-1 Falls To Earth?  Not if you live far enough north or south and probably not, even if you don't.
Based on Tiangong-1's orbital details, that will happen somewhere between 43 degrees north latitude and 43 degrees south — a huge swath of the globe that stretches from the South Dakota-Nebraska border all the way down to Tasmania.
. . .
And don't worry about death from above:  The chances that a piece of Tiangong-1 will hit you are less than 1 in 1 trillion, according to an FAQ published by The Aerospace Corporation.
I assume they will be getting more specific as the fall approaches.

(Fun fact:  " . . . . the Australian town of Esperance famously sued NASA $400 for littering" after pieces of America's Skylab fell there.)
- 9:31 AM, 26 March 2018   [link]

If You're In The Mood For A Mild, Non-Political Joke, you'll probably like the current "Pepper . . . and Salt".
- 8:59 AM, 26 March 2018   [link]

Orange Snow?!  It's all over Eastern Europe.
Pictures of the snow have been posted on social media from Russia, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Romania and Moldova.

Meteorologists say the phenomenon is caused by sand from Sahara desert storms mixing with snow and rain.

It occurs roughly once every five years but concentrations of sand are higher than usual this time.  People have complained of sand in their mouths.
I know sand from the Sahara affects our weather here in the Americas, but I have never heard of it causing orange snow on this side of the Atlantic.
- 6:46 PM, 25 March 2018   [link]

Worth Reading:  Jay Nordlinger's piece, "Donald Trump & Vladimir Putin: A Thing That Makes You Go Hmmm".

Briefly, Nordlinger suspects that Trump admires Putin — for many of the same reasons that make most of us detest the Russian leader.

(For the record:  I have referred to Putin as a fox.  By that I mean that he is often tactically clever, not that he is a wise leader who is making Russia a better place.  What that country needs now is not Putin's adventurism, but a long period of peace to heal the many wounds left by decades of Communist rule.

Jay Nordlinger)
- 2:28 PM, 25 March 2018   [link]

Crocodiles can be delicate.
SAVAGES ISLAND, Australia—In his latest attempt to satisfy the world’s snappiest dressers, Adam Lever recently found himself coaxing yard-long live crocodiles into “travel pods” made of pipes purchased from a plumbing shop.  Mr. Lever needed to move the crocodiles without getting a scratch—on them.
Because those scratches can reduce the value of a hide by 40 percent.

(Unless fashions change; it occurs to me that some designer might be able to sell scratched handbags and boots as more "authentic".)
- 2:04 PM, 25 March 2018   [link]