October 2016, Part 2

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

Bill Mauldin's Willie And Joe on "locker room talk".

(Here's Mauldin's Wikipedia biography.)  
- 8:06 AM, 16 October 2016   [link]

Dark Matter May Not Exist, After All?  That's one interpretation of the findings in a recent study.
Dark matter was proposed to help explain a variety of cosmic puzzles, such as why galaxies can spin as fast as they are observed to without being ripped apart.   However, the nature of dark matter remains a puzzle in itself.  Now scientists analyzing more than 150 galaxies find that dark matter might not explain their new observations, which they say hints that dark matter might not exist and that a new law of nature might be needed to solve all these mysteries.
The rest is complex enough so that it defies easy summary — by me, anyway — so I'll just say I hope they are right, since dark matter always seemed like an inelegant solution to the problem of explaining those motions.

(The ambitious may want to follow up by learning more about "Moti" Milgrom and his alternative theory.

I first wrote about this problem, way back in October 2003.)  
- 4:50 PM, 15 October 2016   [link]

We Are Losing The War In Afghanistan:  That's how I would summarize this grim New York Times article.
KABUL, Afghanistan — Outgunned and surrounded by Taliban fighters in a chronic combat zone of southern Afghanistan, the police officers and soldiers thought they had negotiated passage to safety.  They had walked into a trap.

In what appears to be one of the worst massacres of Afghan forces in a protracted and forgotten war, at least 100 were killed when the Taliban fighters opened fire on them from all directions as they tried to flee through the agreed-upon retreat route, Afghan officials said Wednesday.
There's much more, none of it pleasant.

This is what I have been expecting*, ever since President Obama announced his new strategy for Afghanistan: a temporary reinforcement, with a strict, announced-in-advance, time limit.

You didn't need to be a strategic genius to see that the Taliban could just wait us out.

(Obama also erred by sending fewer troops than his generals thought necessary to do the job.)

You may think Afghanistan is of no great strategic importance to the United States — and you would be absolutely right for most of our history.  But 9/11 should have taught us the dangers of allowing a nation to harbor terrorists intent on killing Americans.

You may wonder why this article received so little attention.  That's because it appeared the same day the Times ran a front-page article on how a failed businessman (though a brilliant promoter) had, allegedly, molested two women some years ago.  And people haven't stopped talking about that, since.

(*Of course, I wish I had been wrong.)
- 3:41 PM, 15 October 2016   [link]

The Obama Administration Wasn't Intending This To Be Funny:  But it is.
The Obama administration is contemplating an unprecedented cyber covert action against Russia in retaliation for alleged Russian interference in the American presidential election, U.S. intelligence officials told NBC News.

Current and former officials with direct knowledge of the situation say the CIA has been asked to deliver options to the White House for a wide-ranging "clandestine" cyber operation designed to harass and "embarrass" the Kremlin leadership.
There is something charming about announcing, in advance, a "covert" operation.

Incompetent, but still, in a childish way, charming.

(Here's a serious take on the problem from Max Boot.)  
- 12:42 PM, 15 October 2016   [link]

For Today, A Political Cartoon by Dr. Seuss.

Didn't know Dr. Seuss did political cartoons?  Neither did I, until I ran across that cartoon in a collection.  (You can find other political cartoons by him with a simple search.   For example.)

(No guarantees on how long those links will last.)
- 11:14 AM, 15 October 2016   [link]

Hillary Clinton Up, Senate Democratic Candidates Down:  Harry Enten seems mildly surprised.
In recent elections, more and more voters have been choosing candidates from the same party for president and Senate. That trend appeared to be holding true this year too, even with Donald Trump, unusual as he is, on the ballot. So as Hillary Clinton jumped out to a bigger lead in the polls starting after the first presidential debate in late September, we might have expected Democratic Senate candidates to poll better as well. That hasn’t happened — the chance of Democrats controlling the Senate is only 54 percent in our polls-only model and 56 percent in our polls-plus model.
(Links omitted.)

Enten explores some of the reasons for this split in the trends, and provides enough data and links so you can make up your own mind.

I'll just add a hypothesis of my own:  Everything else being equal, Republican candidates are likely to gain in swing states and districts, during the campaigns.  I believe this happens because they get a chance to get their messages to the voters, messages that are often filtered out, before the campaigns, by our partisan press.

This is only a hypothesis; although there are ways to test it, they are beyond my means.  But I think it plausible enough so that it deserves a test.  (If you want an example that illustrates my argument, look at the rise of Rob Portman in this year's Senate race in Ohio.)

(For what it's worth, the British bettors think the Democrats have a 66.0 percent chance to control the Senate.)  
- 10:27 AM, 14 October 2016   [link]

A Hard Rain's A-Fallin'  And an even harder one is predicted for tomorrow.
But now, lets talk about what you REALLY want to know about.  The Saturday storm, which potentially can be much stronger, representing the remnants of Typhoon Songda.  The confidence in earlier forecasts were lessened by the different solutions of the US model (GFS) and the vaunted European (ECMWF) model--a classic situation for forecasts.  The GFS was going for a historic storm with a central pressure in the 950s mb that hit Vancouver Island, while the ECMWF solution was weaker (960s) and farther south (passing over Seattle!).
The power here "bounced" a few minutes ago, making the lights blink, and my computer reboot.

So you shouldn't be surprised if there are few, or even no, posts for the next few days.

(I have a zillion other things to do inside the apartment; unfortunately, most of them require electricity.)
- 7:45 AM, 14 October 2016   [link]

Children's Cancer Deaths Down:  By about 20 percent.
Children are dying less often from cancer, with substantial declines in all races and age groups, according to a new report from the National Center for Health Statistics.

From 1999 to 2014, the overall deaths from childhood cancer fell by 20 percent.   The rate among 1- to 19-year-olds went down to 2.28 per 100,000 population, from 2.85.  Adolescents 15 to 19 were the most likely to die, but their rate fell by 22 percent.

There were no significant differences in the death rates of white and black children with cancer.  Among whites, the rate declined 17 percent; among blacks, 23 percent.  The death rate for boys was about 30 percent higher than that for girls.
Good news, definitely.

The link will take you to an eight-page "data brief", with charts, more numbers, and a brief explanation of the methodology.

The higher death rate for boys surprised me.  Neither the article, nor the data brief, offer any explanation for the difference.
- 7:06 AM, 14 October 2016   [link]

If You Dislike Paperwork As Much As I Do, you may want to skip this cartoon.

(But it did make me think.)
- 6:29 AM, 14 October 2016   [link]

Hypocrisy Squared:  (Or cubed, or perhaps even to some higher power.)

Does anyone think that Donald Trump actually disapproves of Bill Clinton's behavior toward women?  (He didn't at the time.)

Does anyone think that Trump's critics would be as hard on him if he were a pro-choice Democrat?

Does anyone think that Trump's religious supporters would be making excuses for him, if he were a pro-choice Democrat?

Does anyone think that Barack Obama is really bothered by Trump's language?   (If so, you haven't been paying enough attention to the performers he admires.)

My answers to all four questions are no, no, no, and no.

And I could have made that list much longer, but saw no reason to.
- 2:01 PM, 13 October 2016   [link]

Washington State Democrat Came Out For Tearing Down Grand Coulee Dam:  Accidentally, and she retracted it the next day.  Her opponent, also a Democrat, thanks to our "top-two" primary, didn't understand the issue, either.
Does Pramila Jayapal want to demolish the Grand Coulee Dam?  Does Brady Walkinshaw know enough about hydroelectric power in Washington state?   What were the 7th Congressional District candidates thinking this week when they discussed it?
. . .
The confusion began when moderator Lynda Mapes, a Seattle Times reporter, asked Jayapal to clarify a remark the Democratic state senator had made about getting rid of dams.

“You said we need to get rid of our dams.  Did you mean all dams?  Or just the Lower Snake River dams?” Mapes asked.

“The Columbia and Snake River, I should have said.  Columbia and Snake River,” Jayapal replied, seemingly calling for the destruction of the massive dams that generate most of Washington’s hydropower, a valuable renewable resource largely responsible for the state’s low ranking in per capita carbon-dioxide emissions.
. . .
Walkinshaw was less sweeping in his answer, telling the crowd he supports keeping some dams.
It does make you wonder how much they know about the state, outside Seattle.

Not so incidentally, both are currently in the state legislature.

(There's a discussion of the issues in the Wikipedia article on the Snake River.)
- 10:03 AM, 13 October 2016   [link]

Yesterday's "Incredible Hulk" Cartoon made me chuckle.
- 8:43 AM, 13 October 2016   [link]

This University of Tennessee Story Sounds Too Absurd To Be True:  And if the source were less reliable than FIRE, I'd spend some time checking it, before posting.

Here's the headline:  "University of Tennessee Investigating Student Accused of Sexual Harassment for Writing Wrong Name on Quiz".

After you read the article, you may wonder whether the UT officials have mistaken Franz Kafka novels for "How-To" manuals.
- 7:17 AM, 12 October 2016   [link]

Logicians May Like this cartoon.
- 6:39 AM, 12 October 2016   [link]

What Kind Of Moderators Do We Need For These Presidential "Debates"?  A couple of weeks ago, I suggested that, if we must have these "debates", we ought to have real rules, with penalties, including possible ejection, for violators.

What I didn't think of at the time was that we would need different, tougher moderators for those kind of debates.  Joe Queenan, in his column in the weekend's Wall Street Journal, also argued for changes in the debates, and suggested several moderators who might be able to enforce real rules.

Of those, my favorite would be retired Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis.

Wouldn't it be fun to see him dragging Donald Trump off the stage — or politely escorting Hillary Clinton away from the spotlights?

(No link to the Queenan column, but you should be able to find it easily enough.)
- 3:38 PM, 11 October 2016   [link]

I Like Yesterday Afternoon's And This Morning's New Yorker Cartoons:  And I am still thinking about this afternoon's.
- 3:04 PM, 11 October 2016   [link]

Maduro's Nephews' Friend:  Sometimes a small story can be revealing.
A rags-to-riches shipping magnate is fronting the legal fees for two of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s nephews who are facing jail time in the United States for allegedly conspiring to import 800 kilograms of cocaine into the U.S.

Wilmer Ruperti, a businessman who made a fortune in shipping thanks to close ties to Venezuela’s Chavista government, told the Wall Street Journal that he will be paying the legal bills of Efraín Antonio Campo Flores and Franqui Francisco Flores de Freitas.  The two nephews of Maduro’s wife, Cilia Flores, were arrested by police in Haiti in November 2015 and transported to New York, where they have pleaded not guilty to the conspiracy charges.

Ruperti believes the charges levelled against Maduro’s nephews are part of a plot by opposition politicians and the U.S. government to destabilize Venezuela.   In the past few years, U.S. authorities have indicted or blacklisted more than half a dozen top Venezuelan officials for alleged drug trafficking ties.
Most of you have probably already made the obvious inferences from those three paragraphs, so I won't bore you with them.

But I would like to speculate on a question you may not have thought of:  Why were two men so close to the Venezuelan president involved in such a risky business?  Why couldn't Maduro just have arranged for them to have no show jobs in the state petroleum monopoly?  (Or something similar.)

There are many possible answers to that question, but I will mention just one:   Perhaps so many in the regime have posts that allow them to steal, that it is hard to find new ones, even for nephews.
- 3:07 PM, 10 October 2016   [link]

Election Scorecard, 10/10:  In the last week, Hillary Clinton again gained on Donald Trump.

In the poll model, her margin went from 5.4 to 6.3 percent.   In the betting market, her probability of winning went from 72.7 to 81.0 percent.   (I expect both numbers to change, slightly, in the next 24 hours.)

At this point, I believe there are at least as many possible events that might hurt Trump as might hurt Clinton.  Moreover, I have seen enough to conclude that Trump is a better campaigner, and Clinton is running a better campaign.  Those two roughly balance each other out.  (Trump's willingness to lie, shamelessly, has been an advantage to him, and will continue to be, I believe, in spite of all the fact checkers.)

With everything else roughly equal, we should expect the side with the most partisans to win.  Right now, the Democrats have a 7.0 percent edge in party identification (35.3-28.3).  In the past, however, Republicans have been a little more likely to vote.

Putting all that together lets me make my first, tentative prediction:  Hillary Clinton will defeat Donald Trump, by a margin of about 6.0 percent.

(Here's the latest from Harry Enten.  His conclusions are generally consistent with mine, but he includes many more details.)
- 1:55 PM, 10 October 2016   [link]

Fans Of Bill And Hillary may not like this cartoon.

But they may be comforted by the fact that many other politicians, of both parties, are guilty of the same sin, though none to the same extent.
- 9:47 AM, 10 October 2016   [link]

Odd Ads:  In most presidential campaigns, we don't see many ads for the presidential candidates.

Washington has not been a swing state in presidential elections for many years, so both sides ignore us.

Recently, however, I have been seeing an ad for Donald Trump, an ad that attacks Clinton, and I have also seen a positive ad for him, though not recently.

No ads from the Clinton campaign, as expected.

Why is he running these ads here, rather than in, for instance, Florida or Ohio?  The only thing I can think of would be to keep a promise to backers here, but that doesn't sound like the Donald.

(It is possible, I suppose, that the Trump campaign has a private poll that makes them think they have a chance here.  And sometimes campaigns deliberately try to fake each other out.)
- 6:03 PM, 9 October 2016   [link]

Somehow, It Seems Appropriate that the latest "A-Hed" article is about how "creepy clowns" are ruining it for real clowns.
- 5:21 PM, 9 October 2016   [link]