November 2017, Part 1

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

What The Virginia Exit Poll Tells Us:  You can look at the poll, itself.

Which is more work, but more fun for election nerds like me.  (For instance, I learned that there was little difference in the vote by income group — which is not necessarily what one would expect, when the president is a self-proclaimed billionaire.)

Or you can look at analyses from, for instance, the National Review.
The coming weeks will feature a lot of Trump-friendly Republicans insisting he has nothing to do with last night’s top-to-bottom shellacking of the GOP in Virginia, and a lot of not-so-Trump-friendly Republicans he’s got everything to do with the electoral disaster.

If last night had brought a routine disappointment for Republicans – say, the statewide candidates losing by a few points and only a handful of state assembly seats flipping to the Democrats – the “blame Trump” argument would be weaker.  But last night was the worst night for Republicans in Virginia in a long time.  Gillespie lost by the worst margin for a Republican gubernatorial candidate in the state since 1985.  No GOP statewide candidate hit 48 percent. Perhaps more significantly, Republicans entered Election Day with a 17-seat margin in the state assembly and lost at least 13, with seven seats too close to call this morning.
Or Politico.
Trump’s approval rating in Virginia was just 40 percent, according to the exit poll.  Among the 57 percent of voters who disapproved of Trump’s job performance, Democrat Ralph Northam beat Republican Ed Gillespie, 87 percent to 11 percent.

The intensity gap strongly favored Northam, too. Nearly half of Virginia voters, 47 percent, strongly disapproved of Trump — and Northam won 95 percent of that vote.  In other words, nearly 45 percent of the votes cast on Tuesday were from strong Trump disapprovers who voted for Northam.

Half of Virginia voters said Trump was a reason for their vote — with twice as many saying they were voting to oppose Trump (34 percent) as to support him (17 percent).  Northam won 97 percent of voters for whom opposing Trump was a factor.
You'll notice that the two are in broad agreement.

(I suppose I should look for a Trump-friendly analysis, too, just for completeness — but I won't promise to do so.)
- 2:19 PM, 8 November 2017   [link]

"Wolves Beat Dogs in Teamwork Test"  Specifically, at this test.
Wolves are known to cooperate in hunting and even in raising one another’s pups, but they can seem pretty intolerant of one another when they are snapping and growling around a kill.

So researchers at the Wolf Science Center at the University of Vienna decided to compare the performance of wolves and dogs on a classic behavioral test.

To get a food treat, two animals have to pull ropes attached to different ends of a tray.  The trick is that they have to pull both ropes at the same time.   Chimps, parrots, rooks and elephants have all succeeded at the task.
The wolves mostly succeeded in this test; the dogs mostly failed.

However:  "In a previous study, dogs that had been highly trained — not at the rope pull test, but for other tasks — were much better able to succeed at the rope pull."

If you are like me, you will immediately think of some human analogies — and wonder how good very young children are at that task.

(I noticed, as you probably will, that James Gorman is inconsistent in his reporting of the results.  It looks to me as if a careless editor cut out some of the original article.

Here's a video showing the test.)
- 7:39 AM, 8 November 2017   [link]

Will Trumpistas Recognize That Donald Trump Is Partly Responsible For Yesterday's Republican Defeats?  No.

Instead, they will say that Republican candidates would have done better had they been more loyal to Trump.

I suppose that, at some point, all his losses will break through some Trumpistas' psychological defenses, but I don't think we are anywhere near that point, yet.

(Trump is encouraging them to come to that false conclusion.)
- 7:00 AM, 8 November 2017   [link]

It's A Grumpy Cartoon:  Which suits my mood, this morning.

(Yesterday's election results were more or less what I have been expecting ever since it became obvious that Donald Trump was gong to win the Republican nomination.  I sure do wish I had been wrong.)
- 6:39 AM, 8 November 2017   [link]

What Most Stories Left Out Of Their Descriptions Of Devin Patrick Kelley:  His militant atheism.
The Texas church shooter who shot dead 26 people and injured 24 others was an outcast' who 'preached his atheism' online.
What the stories almost never mention in similar cases:  Whether the man grew up with a father in his life.  (Usually he didn't, as far as I can tell.)
- 3:51 PM, 6 November 2017   [link]

In Washington State's 45th District Special Election, Democrat Manka Dhingra Is Running Against Donald Trump:  Which may be a better strategy than running against her actual opponent, Jinyoung Englund.
It's true.  Democrat Dhingra has used Donald Trump to attack Englund.

One her Dhingra’s ads says, “Republican Jinyoung Englund said she really respects Donald Trump as president.”
Dhingra also says that it was Trump's election that motivated her to run in this special election, and that she is a "tough" prosecutor, and an Eastside "soccer mom".

Jinyoung Englund was running against Seattle, but in recent ads has been campaigning as the heir to the late, and much respected, Andy Hill.

Neither campaign is short of cash.
The contest between Democrat Manka Dhingra and Republican Jinyoung Lee Englund is by far the most expensive legislative race in Washington state history.  More than $8.5 million total already has been raised by the two candidates or spent by independent political committees supporting or opposing their campaigns.

The outcome of Tuesday’s vote is expected to determine which party controls the state Senate.  A Republican-led coalition currently holds a one-vote majority in the Senate, while Democrats control the state House and the governor’s office.

Combined, the Englund and Dhingra campaigns have spent nearly twice as much as the previous record-holder — the 2014 race for the same seat.  That year, Sen. Andy Hill, R-Redmond, fended off a Democratic challenger.
It will be interesting to see which strategy works in that Democratic-leaning district.

(I can't vote in that election, since I am in the neighboring 48th district.

Local journalists (and Democratic operatives) are saying that, if Dhingra wins, Democrats will have full control of the West Coast, all three governorships, and all six houses of the legislatures.  They are forgetting that little state up north, where there is an independent governor and the Republicans control the state senate.   Alaska Republicans — a fractious bunch — would control the state house, too, if they hadn't split.

Jinyoung Englund and Manka Dhingra)
- 10:30 AM, 6 November 2017   [link]

It's A Pigovian Tax, Professor Mankiw:  That's my frivolous answer to his serious question.

(But not entirely frivolous.  I do think there are departments at almost every university that "generate negative externalities" so large that a Pigovian tax on them would be appropriate.)
- 7:54 AM, 6 November 2017   [link]

Most Of Us have felt this way from time to time, whether we admit it, or not.
- 7:32 AM, 6 November 2017   [link]

This Week's Collection Of Political Cartoons from RealClearPolitics.

My favorites:  Steve Breen's Internet troll, Chip Bok's swamp creature, and Michael Ramirez's nightstand.
- 3:05 PM, 4 November 2017   [link]

Worth Reading:  Bernard Goldberg's column, "The War Between Trump and the Media: Good for Them; Bad for Us".
In a way - not a good way — both sides get something out of this turmoil: Donald Trump gets to give his base the red meat they crave, which draws them even closer to their savior.  And journalists get to unload on a man many of them believe is unfit for office — and at the same time, make money.  Bashing Donald Trump is very good for business.  Ask Stephen Colbert or the folks at Saturday Night Live or the commentators at MSNBC if you don't believe me.
Goldberg ends by hoping journalists and Trump will behave better.  I hope so, too, but I don't expect Trump to change — or most journalists.

(Bernard Goldberg)
- 10:24 AM, 3 November 2017   [link]

Dueling Protests — Both Organized By Russian Agents:  Here's the story.
Federal lawmakers on Wednesday released samples of 3,000 Facebook ads purchased by Russian operatives during the 2016 presidential campaign.  The ads conveyed the wide range of influence Russian-linked groups tried to enact on Americans – but one set of ads in particular hit close to home.

Last year, two Russian Facebook pages organized dueling rallies in front of the Islamic Da’wah Center of Houston, according to information released by U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican.

Heart of Texas, a Russian-controlled Facebook group that promoted Texas secession, leaned into an image of the state as a land of guns and barbecue and amassed hundreds of thousands of followers.  One of their ads on Facebook announced a noon rally on May 21, 2016 to “Stop Islamification of Texas.”

A separate Russian-sponsored group, United Muslims of America, advertised a “Save Islamic Knowledge” rally for the same place and time.
Would the protesters from each side admit, even now, that they had been duped by the Russians?  I fear that most wouldn't, that some on each side would see this story as "fake news".

Vladimir Putin would much rather have us fighting each other, than fighting him.

(The old Soviet Union often used front groups in Western democracies, but I can't recall any examples of them using dueling front groups.)
- 9:19 AM, 3 November 2017   [link]

This New Yorker Cartoon made me smile.

(Partly because the dog looks so happy.)
- 8:32 AM, 3 November 2017   [link]

To Know Us Isn't Necessarily To Love Us:   As the confessed terrorist, Sayfullo Saipov, just reminded us.

If the accounts I have been reading are correct, Saipov became radicalized after he came to the United States.
Those who knew Mr. Saipov said he had been turning toward extremism for years since arriving in the United States in 2010.

Mirrakhmat Muminov, a truck driver and community activist in Stow, Ohio, said Mr. Saipov became aggressive and grew out his beard during his three years there.  Mr. Muminov said he grew concerned about Mr. Saipov’s temper, including how heated he became when he discussed American policies regarding Israel.
It is possible, of course, that Saipov was a "sleeper", that he hid his beliefs when he first came here, but I think it more likely that his changes in appearance and behavior reflected his changing beliefs, and that the more he saw of us, the less he liked us.

Americans, even Americans who should know better, tend to think we are just so darn lovable that everyone will like us, if only they get to know us.  That explains all those people-to-people programs, and our tendency to believe we can assimilate immigrants from everywhere, regardless of how different their cultures are from our own.

Sadly, that isn't always true, and we ought to recognize that fact.

(This process can work both ways.  In my experience, it is common for Americans who visit foreign countries to come back, not necessarily hostile to those countries, but definitely more appreciative of their own.)
- 6:25 PM, 2 November 2017   [link]

Congratulations To The Houston Astros:  For their win in a very entertaining World Series.

Neil Paine says:  "The Astros Tanked Their Way To The Top".

Other teams may be able to follow a similar strategy.
By now, the Astros’ story is well known.  To get to their current perch atop MLB, the team lost a ton of games — nearly 600 from 2009 to 2014 — and bottomed out in the manner of the NBA’s most notorious cellar-dwellers.  Once GM Jeff Luhnow took over in 2011, the plan was for those rebuilding seasons to yield highly drafted prospects who would either blossom into stars themselves or serve as trade chips for veterans who could help the team as it took shape.  The team lost at least 106 games in each season from 2011 through 2013, but the plan worked out brilliantly.  The Astros’ 2013, ‘14 and ‘15 farm systems contained some of the best collections of young players any team has developed in recent memory, and almost all of them played a major role in this championship run.
If those teams are patient.
- 9:23 AM, 2 November 2017   [link]

I Can't Stop You, If You Decide to interpret this cartoon politically, but I don't think that is what Gahan Wilson intended.
- 9:02 AM, 2 November 2017   [link]

The Manafort Mysteries:  There are two sets of mysteries.

First, why did Donald Trump ask Paul Manafort to join his campaign, and serve as his campaign chairman for months?

It is true that Manafort is supposed to be really good at rounding up delegates.  But it is also true that Manafort has serious ethical problems, problems that would lead almost anyone to suspect, as I did, that he had legal problems, too.

These problems were not a secret; anyone could find out about some of them with a few minutes search on the net.  And any well-informed journalist or Washington politician would not have needed to do even that, because they would have known about the problems, already.

As is true far too often with Trump, we have to list possible answers, rather than answering the question:
  • Trump did not know about Manafort's problems.
  • Trump knew about Manafort's problems, but did not consider them serious.
  • Trump knew about Manafort's problems, but did not think they would come up during the campaign.
  • Trump knew about Manafort's problems, but thought he could bluster his way through them if they came up during the campaign.
  • Trump knew about Manafort's problems, but thought it was worth gambling on them coming up, because of Manafort's potential links to Putin.
(No doubt there are other possibilities, but those are the ones that have occurred to me so far.)

As of now, I would say that somewhere between the first and the second seems most likely.

If so, that would make Trump's choice of Manafort incompetent, not evil.

There is one thing I am fairly certain about:  Manafort's ethical problems would not, in themselves, bother Trump.  In his book, men are good if they like and support Trump, bad if they dislike and oppose Trump.

Second, there are two mysteries about Manafort himself.  Has he always been corrupt?  After all, in the past he worked for some pretty good guys.  And did he realize that taking the job with Trump would expose him to more scrutiny?   (I do not know whether Manafort knew that he was already under investigation.)

(Sadly, thee is almost no point in reporters asking Trump or Manafort to explain their decisions, since we wouldn't know whether to believe their answers.)
- 9:29 PM, 1 November 2017   [link]

Worth Watching, Possibly:  The Frontline two-part program, "Putin's Revenge".

I watched the first and thought it worthwhile — as long as you keep in mind that the experts they rely on mostly come from the Obama administration, and its allies.  I do plan to watch the second part.

(Here's a CNN review, and here's an older Politico article that covers much of the same material.)
- 2:22 PM, 1 November 2017   [link]

A Very Ecumenical Prize:  And one that may bring practical benefits to those the recipients serve.
Christian missionary hospitals in Africa, which provide much of the continent’s medical care but are often desperately short of both cash and doctors, are now competing for a major award: a $500,000 prize created specifically for them by a Jewish businessman-philanthropist and his wife, a rabbi.

The L’Chaim Prize for Outstanding Christian Medical Missionary Service was founded last year by Mark and Erica Gerson.
. . .
Mr. Gerson began raising money in 2002 when a college friend, Dr. Jon Fielder, worked in a missionary hospital in Kenya and described an overwhelming dilemma: “Faith-based” institutions provide 20 to 50 percent of all medical care in Africa — estimates vary — but the American and European congregations that once supported mission hospitals have shrunk.

The doctors who staff these facilities struggle to buy modern equipment, but every day they spend away raising money means dozens of patients go unseen.
Many of the patients in those hospitals would not be Christians, of course.

What an excellent idea!
- 10:33 AM, 1 November 2017   [link]

Yesterday's NYC Terror Attack provides more evidence — not that more was needed — that the fight against Islamic terror will not end soon.

In the past I have said we should expect this war to last one hundred years.  I see no reason to shorten that guesstimate.

And I really, really hope that I will be proved wrong.

(If you want more details on the attack, you can probably find them in this Daily Mail article.)
- 6:41 AM, 1 November 2017   [link]