October 2016, Part 1

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

Reading Mostly For Fun (2):  You don't have to be a science fiction fan to enjoy the Hoka stories by Gordon Dickson and Poul Anderson.

The Hokas are an intelligent race, looking something like large teddy bears.   When they are first contacted by explorers from Earth, they have a bronze age culture.

They are fantastically adaptable.  When the captain of the first ship to contact them shows them a Western movie and leaves them some Western novels, they become cowboys.

When they see Mozart's Don Giovanni, they begin acting it out.

And so on.

If you look at the titles of the episodes in this collection, you can probably guess the literary inspirations for most of them.

If you like gentle spoofs, you'll almost certainly like the Hoka stories.
- 5:09 PM, 8 October 2016   [link]

720,000,000 RPM:  Now, that's a motor.

It's just one of the molecular machines constructed by the three chemists who just won the Nobel Prize.
Three pioneers in the development of nanomachines, made of moving molecules, were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry on Wednesday.

Molecular machines, the world’s smallest mechanical devices, may eventually be used to create new materials, sensors and energy storage systems, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said in announcing the prize.

“In terms of development, the molecular motor is at the same stage as the electric motor was in the 1830s, when scientists displayed various spinning cranks and wheels, unaware that they would lead to electric trains, washing machines, fans and food processors,” the academy said.
(Links omitted.)

These accomplishments are so neat, it seems almost crude to ask when we'll see the first applications using these tiny machines.  Not next year, apparently, but certainly within the next hundred years.  So, perhaps within the next ten years?

(If you are like me, you may need an explanation of rotaxanes.)
- 3:03 PM, 8 October 2016   [link]

When I Suggested That We Might Refer To Donald Trump as the Erymanthian Boar, I was calling him a big pig.

So I am hardly surprised by what he said on that sex talk tape that's in the news.  And, no, all men don't talk that way, and that's especially true of married men as old as he was in 2005.

Moreover, if he did what he said he did — and I suspect he may have — he would be guilty of assault.

(Wouldn't it be nice if the country could discuss important issues, rather than which man, Bill Clinton or Donald Trump, behaved worse toward women, years ago?)
- 8:35 AM, 8 October 2016   [link]

This Wedding Toast may be supplying too much information.
- 7:46 AM, 8 October 2016   [link]

UKIP Has Entertaining Leaders:  Possibly too entertaining, at times.

I have read several articles on the incident, and still don't know what happened.

(Here's the Wikipedia article on the UK Independence Party.)
- 3:59 PM, 7 October 2016   [link]

Time To Recycle This Ancient Joke:
"When I die, I want to be buried in Virginia."


"So I can stay active in politics."
(Told about many places, but, most often, in my experience, about Chicago.)
- 2:24 PM, 7 October 2016   [link]

"If My Candidate Is Behind, The Poll Must Be Biased"   Here's another experiment showing us, again, how we tend to fool ourselves.
At least some people apparently believe that surveys are biased against their side.

That’s part of a general human tendency to reject uncomfortable information or facts that don’t fit one’s view of the world.  There’s evidence that political partisans, like sports fans, discount or dismiss information that challenges their favored candidates or ideas, and even accept conspiracy theories that support their views.

In a survey, we found evidence that ordinary citizens are more likely to believe in the accuracy of polls that show their favored candidate winning.
(Links omitted.)

All too often, we believe what we want to believe.

I have fought against this tendency in myself, for decades — and still get caught by it from time to time.
- 4:04 PM, 6 October 2016   [link]

For President, I Plan To Cast A Write-In Vote For Mitt Romney: That protest vote is my small way of telling our two major parties that a president should be of good character, unlike Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.  Mitt Romney, I believe, is the best example to illustrate my point.  He has the kind of character that most of us admire, and all of us should admire.

Unlike Clinton and Trump, he is neither a strategic liar, nor a pathological liar.

It doesn't seem like that's too much to ask for in a president.

This is a personal choice, not one I am recommending anyone else follow.  (Though I certainly won't mind if you do.)

It is an easy choice for me, since Washington has voted Democratic in presidential elections since 1988, so the chances that even 1,000 votes for Mitt Romney would make a difference here are infinitesimal.

If, on the other hand, you live in a swing state where that many votes might make a difference, you might prefer to vote for Clinton if you are a national interest conservative, for Trump if you are a social conservative, or for Johnson if you are a fiscal conservative.  I wouldn't criticize any of those choices.  (I tried to think of a reason for voting for Jill Stein, but failed.)

There are no good choices on the ballot, so I wouldn't criticize anyone for voting for the person they see as the least bad candidate.
- 3:21 PM, 6 October 2016   [link]

"Whatever It Takes"  Politicians often say unintentionally funny things.

Right now, for instance, Washington state's senior senator, Patty Murray, is running a campaign commercial that ends with her saying that she'll work to get agreements to get things done, "whatever it takes".

Which brings to my mind scenarios like this one:  "We can make an agreement on the budget, Patty, if you give your campaign war chest to Republican candidates.."

You don't need to use a lot of your imagination to think of other scenarios, even, perhaps, some crude ones.

President Obama did something similar, some time ago, when. in one of these unending Middle East crises, he said that all our military options were on the table.  Including nuclear weapons, I immediately asked, sarcastically.

(I may get around to analyzing that commercial because, read correctly, it's a catalog of her failures.)
- 8:41 AM, 6 October 2016   [link]

It Took Me A Moment To Catch On to this cartoon, but when I did, I liked it.

Yesterday's "Pepper & Salt" is bitter, but funny.
- 8:14 AM, 6 October 2016   [link]

Gary Johnson's Argument is partly novel.
Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson on Tuesday defended his lack of knowledge of world affairs, suggesting on MSNBC that foreign policy expertise, or even an understanding of where international leaders are from, is what leads to military conflict.

“You know what?  The fact that somebody can dot the i’s and cross the t’s on a foreign leader’s geographic location then allows them to put our military in harm’s way,” Johnson told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell.
And partly not.
Johnson, like most Libertarians, supports noninterventionist foreign and military policies.  He suggested that U.S. involvement has almost always made international conflicts worse, not better.  Under a President Gary Johnson, the United States would use its military might only to retaliate when attacked, he indicated.
Those arguments are common in parts of the Left in this country, and describe the policies the United States followed, outside the Western Hemisphere, through much of the 1920s and 1930s.  The result was World War II.

(The arguments were common on the right, too, prior to World War II, notably in America First.)
- 9:06 AM, 5 October 2016   [link]

Yesterday Morning's New Yorker Cartoon is timely.
- 7:45 AM, 5 October 2016   [link]

The Best Article I've Seen on Donald Trump's 1995 federal income tax return is by Timothy O'Brien, who probably knows more about Trump's finances than anyone, other than, possibly, Trump's accountants.

(More than Trump?  Yes, as you'll see, if you read the article.)
Most of the $916 million loss that Trump claimed for 1995 is probably derived from about $900 million in bank loans taken out in the mid- to late 1980s that he had personally guaranteed and that he used to wildly overpay for hotels, airlines, yachts, barren land and other trinkets.  Trump couldn’t afford to buy any of this with his own money, he lacked the good judgment and foresight to pay the right price for almost everything he bought, and once he bought all of it, the interest payments on the loans quickly became unmanageable.  Corporate bankruptcy ensued.

None of these things are hallmarks of a great business operator or dealmaker, two of the central themes that Trump, Giuliani and the rest of Trump’s supporters have gestured toward when flogging Trump's resume and suitability to occupy the Oval Office.
Note, please, that O'Brien says "claimed" and "probably".

In spite of many claims to the contrary, we don't know whether the IRS allowed all of those losses, or, if they did, whether they should have.

So we don't know whether what he did was legal — and probably won't know before election day.

We do know, almost certainly, that he isn't a very good businesman, or deal maker.

(Here's O'Brien's book on Trump, for those who want to go further.)
- 6:17 PM, 4 October 2016   [link]

These Chickens Don't Appeal To Me:  But they might to a certain kind of person.
- 3:52 PM, 4 October 2016   [link]

Nick Gillespie Thinks We Should Be Discussing our long-term budget problems.  (I don't disagree, but do recognize that he and I are losing this fight.)
And consider this: According to the latest numbers from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, Hillary Clinton would hike spending and taxes over the next decade from its already-upward trajectory and historically high levels, while Trump would reduce expected increases in spending but slash tax revenues by far more (thus resulting in yet-bigger deficits).  If you care about this sort of thing, only Libertarian Gary Johnson has pledged to submit a balanced budget in his first year while reducing spending and simplifying taxes.  Both major-party candidates have signed on to a host of new federal programs (such as paid family leave) and Clinton is pushing for free in-state tuition at public colleges and a doubling of the federal minimum wage.  Where Clinton says she wants to expand Social Security and Medicare, two of the largest federal spending programs, Trump has said that he would leave benefits untouched.  Neither bothers to offer credible ways to pay for such stuff.
We are going downhill toward a nasty debt trap.  Clinton wants to continue at our present speed; Trump wants to step on the gas.
- 3:23 PM, 3 October 2016   [link]

Surprise result In Colombian Referendum:  The BBC is surprised.   (And so are all the other news organizations I've seen.)
Voters in Colombia have rejected a landmark peace deal with Farc rebels in a shock referendum result, with 50.2% voting against it.

The deal was signed last week by President Juan Manuel Santos and Farc leader Timoleon Jimenez after nearly four years of negotiations.

But it needed to be ratified by Colombians in order to come into force in Colombia.
Turnout was low, just 38 percent, which would help explain why the polls were wrong.

The referendum probably failed because enough voters thought it was too generous to the FARC.
Under the agreement, negotiated and signed in Havana, the FARC will also get unelected seats in Congress and special welfare benefits.  It will be given dozens of radio stations—so that it can disseminate its propaganda, a privilege no other political party has.

The agreement does not require the FARC to pay any financial reparations to its victims, even though the narco-terrorist kingpins have wealth estimated in the billions.  Reparations will be paid by law-abiding citizens via sharp tax increases.  The FARC says it will not disarm until it’s good and ready to.   Meanwhile it will be given weapons and training to enforce the agreement.

What could possibly go wrong?
Some Colombians may also think that it was not necessary to be so generous, since the government was gaining against the FARC.
Military offensives carried out under former President Álvaro Uribe and President Juan Manuel Santos have been able to reduce the number of FARC combattants to 7,000, which is much lower than the 20,000 combattants FARC employed in the early 2000s.  This military offensive has also been able to reduce FARC territorial control and push guerillas to more remote and sparsely populated regions, often close to territorial or internal borders.[148]
(I assume you all know that those numbers should be treated with caution.)

As I understand it, the Bush administration gave effective help to the Colombians.   I assume that continued under President Obama, but don't know for sure.
- 2:34 PM, 3 October 2016   [link]

Today's "Prickly City" is funny.

(It's a pleasant change.  Scott Stantis has been awfully bitter, recently.)
- 1:40 PM, 3 October 2016   [link]

Election Scorecard, 10/3:  Last week, Hillary Clinton regained the ground she had lost since 5 September.

Then, she had a 5.4 percent lead in the poll model; now it is at 5.4 percent, again.  Then, the British bettors gave her a 69.7 percent chance of winning; now they give her a 72.7 percent chance.   (As usual, both numbers may have changed slightly, by the time you read this post.)

Right now, I am comfortable with saying that Clinton has at least a 70 percent chance of winning, even though Roger Stone is promising us a big event on Wednesday.  (I don't consider Stone an exceptionally reliable source.)

Nate Silver raises an interesting, though very unlikely, possibility:  If Gary Johnson were to win New Mexico, he could, possibly, prevent both Clinton and Trump from winning a majority of the electoral votes.  
- 9:41 AM, 3 October 2016   [link]

Starbucks Patrons will like this cartoon.
- 8:16 AM, 3 October 2016   [link]

Oops!  Here's a correction you may not have seen.
UPDATE: KING 5 learned Thursday that Arcan Cetin, the 20-year-old who killed five people at Cascade Mall on Sept. 23, is in fact a U.S. citizen.

For days after the shooting, Cetin was described by local and federal law enforcement as being a permanent U.S. resident.  He immigrated to the U.S. from Turkey when he was a child, after his mother married an American citizen.

On Thursday, a federal official told KING that further investigation revealed that Cetin is a naturalized U.S. citizen.  That means he was legally registered to vote.

KING's initial story on Sept. 28 questioned state officials about how Cetin could register and vote without being a citizen.
Because the original story was just too perfect for some purposes.

(The news stories on Cetin's background have been thin, but this one gives us a little more than most.  Probably his biological father is back in Turkey.   Probably his stepfather is that anonymous American citizen.

Although the story turned out to be wrong, Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman is using the fuss generated by it, anyway.)
- 7:26 PM, 2 October 2016   [link]

Giant Pandas Don't Make War:  And make love only once a year.
Pandas are cuddly, but not to each other.  They muster about as much enthusiasm for sex as a human does for a root canal.

In part because of those lousy libidos, the world’s giant panda population is disturbingly small.  A sign at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in Sichuan Province says that “saving the giant panda from extinction is of the utmost urgency” — but the urgency isn’t felt by the pandas.
(Links omitted.)

Once a year in the wild, but much less often in captivity, though researchers are beginning to figure out what conditions make them more amorous.

(For more details, here's the Wikipedia article.)
- 6:56 PM, 2 October 2016   [link]