September 2016, Part 2

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

Life Expectancies For Clinton And Trump:  Glenn Kessler has the numbers.
Both Donald Trump, 70, and Hillary Clinton, who turns 69 on Oct. 26, are among the oldest major-party candidates ever to seek the presidency. But actuarial calculations show that both have an excellent chance of completing a second term in good health, though Trump has a slightly higher chance of dying in office, according to an Atlanta actuarial company that specializes in estimates of life and health expectancy.

By the end of an eighth year of a two-term presidency, Trump has a 1 in 12 (8.43 percent) chance of dying in office, compared to a 1 in 17 chance (5.89 percent) for Clinton, according to calculations done for The Fact Checker by Bragg Associates.
The odds are 3.88 percent and 2.55 percent, respectively, that Trump and Clinton would die in their first terms.

(By way of an exceptionally bitter Nicholas Kristof column, "When a Crackpot Runs for President".)
- 9:45 AM, 16 September 2016   [link]

This Cartoon is almost too timely.

So I'll balance it with one that will not remind you of the latest headlines.
- 9:01 AM, 16 September 2016   [link]

Worth Reading:  In fact, if you are at all interested in policy questions, almost required reading.  Vaughan Bell's Atlantic article, "The Mystery of Urban Psychosis".
[James] Kirkbride’s work is but one in more than a century of studies that have found higher rates of psychosis in cities and which have sparked an intense debate over whether—to put it in its original terms —‘cities cause madness’ or whether those affected by ‘madness’ just tend to end up in cities.
It doesn't have to be one or the other, of course; causality can flow both ways.  Cities can drive people nuts, and attract people who are already nuts.

If it is mostly the first, then our urbanists, who are in love with diversity and density, need to re-think the costs of their policies.

(I've discussed this issue before, for example, in this post.)  
- 3:46 PM, 15 September 2016   [link]

Good News Or Bad News?  You can interpret these Gallup findings either way.
Americans' trust and confidence in the mass media "to report the news fully, accurately and fairly" has dropped to its lowest level in Gallup polling history, with 32% saying they have a great deal or fair amount of trust in the media.  This is down eight percentage points from last year.
. . .
Republicans who say they have trust in the media has plummeted to 14% from 32% a year ago.  This is easily the lowest confidence among Republicans in 20 years.
It's good news, if you think that Americans, especially Republicans, are catching on to the problems in our news organizations; it's bad news if you think our news organizations aren't that bad.

There is a fascinating pattern in their first graph:  Confidence in the media declined in these years: 2000, 2004, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014, and 2016.  All, of course, are election years.  (Gallup did not ask the question in 2006.)  In non-election years, confidence usually increased.

During that time, 2000 to the present, the proportion of Republicans in our news rooms declined, significantly.

(How would I answer that question?  I would drive the pollster nuts by saying:  "It depends."  And, if they asked me to elaborate, I'd say that it depends on the journalist and the subject.  And I plan to go on telling you which pieces I think you can trust — and which you can't.)
- 10:34 AM, 15 September 2016   [link]

American Lawyers Can Be Ungrateful:  That's one of the many conclusions you can draw from this Wall Street Journal analysis of donations to the Clinton and Trump campaigns.
From agriculture to Wall Street, employees in most business sectors are backing the Democratic presidential candidate over the Republican, a reversal from the 2012 election, according to an analysis of comparable fundraising receipts.
Clinton is raising more money in two industries, Wall Street and real estate, where you would expect many people to know more about Trump than the average voter does.

The lack of enthusiasm for Trump in the real estate industry is especially striking, because he is proposing — surprise, surprise — big tax breaks for real estate investors.

And she is raising way more money ($6.1 million versus $0.3 million) from lawyers and law firms, in spite of the enormous amounts of business Trump has created for them, over the years.

Clinton's top firms won't surprise many, but I will admit to never having heard of these Trump top firms: "a five-acre hog farm in Riverdale, Calif., a garlic producer in Gilroy, Calif., and an Anchorage, Alaska-based clothing and home-furnishings retailer called Snow Leopard".

Trump opponents will see that pattern as showing his lack of support among real successes; Trumpistas will see it as showing how much closer he is to ordinary people.

(In general, I think the donation patterns show less self interest than many fear, show that many of these donors are not just contributing in hopes of favors from an elected official.)
- 7:33 AM, 15 September 2016   [link]

Yesterday's New Yorker Cartoons Are Political:  But mildly funny, anyway.

(The cartoonists there can draw funny political cartoons this year; they just have trouble drawing funny cartoons about either of the presidential candidates.)
- 6:43 AM, 15 September 2016   [link]

Why Did North Korea Test A Nuclear Bomb, Now?  Here's Gordon Chang's theory:
The North Koreans had been ready to test this device since May.   So why did they wait until now?  Some are suggesting the detonation celebrated North Korea’s Foundation Day, marking the 68th anniversary of the establishment of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  But from all indications, the Kim regime tested at this time because it realized China would not impose costs for the detonation.

The test took place three days after Pyongyang’s nuclear envoy traveled to Beijing.   Choe Son Hui, deputy director general of the Foreign Ministry’s U.S. affairs bureau, arrived in the Chinese capital on Tuesday.
The timing of that visit makes his theory seem plausible, though I should add that I am no China expert.

And you should know that Chang's predictions about China have not always been accurate.

(Here's a longer piece by Chang, which sketches our recent efforts to control North Korea's nuclear program, diplomatically.)
- 4:24 PM, 13 September 2016   [link]

Worth Reading:  Kenneth Chang's article on searching for organisms that could live on Mars — in earth's deep mines and hot springs.

Here's how he begins:
WITWATERSRAND BASIN, South Africa — A mile down in an unused mine tunnel, scientists guided by helmet lamps trudged through darkness and the muck of a flooded, uneven floor.

In the subterranean world of the Beatrix gold mine, they shed their backpacks, taking out tools and meticulously prepared test tubes to collect samples.
That may seem like an odd place to look for clues to life on Mars, but it actually makes sense; the conditions in that gold mine are something like the conditions underground on Mars — and, for now, much less expensive to get to.
- 2:03 PM, 13 September 2016   [link]

Election Administrators Can Fail In Many Ways:  But this one is new to me.
A rerun of Austria’s presidential election has been postponed after the adhesive seals on postal votes were found to have come unstuck.

The rerun, which was ordered after complaints of anomalies in the counting of postal votes from the rightwing Freedom party (FPÖ), had been due to take place on 2 October.  It will now be held on 4 December.
The Guardian says this postponement is "acutely embarrassing" to the government.

As it should be.
- 10:14 AM, 13 September 2016   [link]

How Serious Is Walking Pneumonia?  Not very, according to the BBC.
Walking pneumonia is so mild that it can often be mistaken for a cold.   Sufferers, although unwell, may feel healthy enough to continue to work.  It rarely requires hospitalisation and can be cured in as little as a week.
To which I would add, usually.

The health of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton doesn't interest me much, with one exception.  Whichever one is elected, the nation will be better off if they are sick much of the time, for somewhat the same reasons we are better off when President Obama is on a golf course, rather than in the Oval Office.

For instance, I would rather have the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff making military decisions than Clinton or Trump.

The exception?  I'd like to see the results of psychiatric examinations of both candidates, since neither behaves as rationally as I would prefer.

(For the record:  As far as I can tell, neither Trump nor Clinton is in great health, but neither is likely to die tomorrow.

That absurd note from Trump's cartoonish doctor makes me suspicious, but I don't know anything about Trump's health, other than the obvious:  He does not campaign vigorously, he is overweight, and he does not exercise regularly.

(The BBC reminds us of three famous examples of presidents hiding health problems.)
- 8:57 AM, 13 September 2016   [link]

Another In The Unfair But Funny Category:  Yesterday's New Yorker cartoon.

(Just in case you are unfamiliar with the movie.)
- 7:02 AM, 13 September 2016   [link]

What Was The Lead Story In The Seattle Times, Yesterday?  The 15th anniversary of 9/11?  The Seahawks game, which is what locals were talking about?

No, and no.

The lead story was about our feelings about Colin Kaepernick's stand up by sitting down demonstration.  (No link, because I don't want to encourage them.)

It is possible, I suppose, that this second-string quarterback has something interesting to say about race.  I haven't seen it, but I haven't looked for it, either.

But it's unlikely.  Almost certainly, he is just a a foolish young man who has been misled by the incredibly biased coverage of the "Black Lives Matter" movement.

Almost certainly, journalists would be doing him — and the rest of us — a favor if they simply ignored him from now on.

(The 9/11 anniversary did make the front page of the Times — in an article about how "relics" of the attack could be found in many places.  And, no, I can't explain that choice, either.)
- 3:45 PM, 12 September 2016   [link]

Election Scorecard, 9/12:  Donald Trump gained a little more this last week, if you judge by the poll model, where Hillary Clinton's lead declined from 5.4 percent to 5.0 percent, and by the betting market, where her probability of winning declined from 69.7 percent to 62.3 percent.

On the other hand, Harry Enten thinks that "Polls Show Trump’s Momentum Has Stalled — For Now ", and has some graphs to back up that claim.

On the third hand, Scott Adams says "The Race for President is (Probably) Over", and that Clinton is "unelectable", because of her health.

My view is probably closest to Harry Enten's, so much so that I see no reason to change last week's odds; I still think Clinton has at least a 70 percent chance to win.

(I've been using the HuffPost model for weeks now; here's a moderately technical explanation of how it is calculated.
The HuffPost Pollster charts for this year’s general election contests estimate the “average” of publicly available polls that meet our criteria for quality polling.  HuffPost uses a Bayesian Kalman filter model, which we initially introduced in 2010 and have modified since to reflect the changing polling environment.
(Links omitted.)

They explain all that, just in case you are not familiar with, for instance, Kalman filters.  I should add this point, just in case you don't feel like following all the links:  Their "quality" requirement would exclude some of the polls that excite people like Matt Drudge.  I would do something similar, were I constructing my own model.)
- 11:18 AM, 12 September 2016   [link]

Worth Reading:  Joseph Lieberman's op-ed, "Remember Iran’s Role in 9/11".
‘Never forget” is the commitment the American people made after Sept. 11, 2001.  Yet sometimes our leaders seem to have forgotten Iran’s role in that worst terror attack on American soil, and Iran’s continuing assistance to terror organizations and operations around the world.
As Lieberman explains, the Iranian regime has been willing to work with almost any group or regime, regardless of ideological or theological differences — as long as they are hostile to the United States and Israel.

This is not a secret, but it does seem to have escaped President Obama.
- 9:11 AM, 12 September 2016   [link]

Unfair, but funny.
"Yesterday, in China, President Obama had a meeting with Vladimir Putin.

And before they started, Obama texted Michelle:   'Going into a meeting, love you.'  While Putin texted the same thing to Donald Trump." –Jimmy Fallon
(Not sure how long that link will last.)
- 8:48 AM, 12 September 2016   [link]

9/11 Jumper:   The New York Times will not show you this picture today, so I will.

9/11 jumper

This man jumped from one of the World Trade Center towers, rather than burn to death.  From the picture we can see that he was a young black man, probably American though he might have been an immigrant, and that he worked in a kitchen.

We can not know whether he knew why he was about to die, though I think it unlikely.  Few Americans then understood how much the fanatics who planned the 9/11 attack hated us, and how little they cared for innocent life.  Whether this victim knew or not, I hope that he rests in peace.

He, and nearly three thousand others, died in order to create a propaganda poster for Al Qaeda.

(I scanned the picture from a New York Times book, Nation Challenged.   I believe this to be fair use because I am criticizing the Times, and most other "mainstream" news organizations, for suppressing this picture, and similar pictures, in the years since 9/11.)

Reposted from 2008.)

Although I think it appropriate to remember the victims of 9/11, including this man, I have come to believe that we make a mistake when we call this a "tragedy", as so many now do.  It was an attack, like Pearl Harbor in 1941, and that's what we should call it.
- 6:54 AM, 11 September 2016   [link]

Osiris-Rex Is Off To Bennu:  The spacecraft was launched, and will arrive at the asteroid in about two years.

The best description of the mission I've seen is in this New York Times article.
The premise of the mission for the spacecraft, Osiris-Rex, is simple:  Fly to an asteroid, grab some of the rock and bring it back to Earth, where scientists will study some of the pristine ingredients that went into the making of the solar system, including possibly the building blocks of life.
The way they hope to "grab some of the rock" is novel.

What is trivial for a field geologist — collecting rock samples — turns out to be tricky for a robot spacecraft.
- 4:11 PM, 10 September 2016   [link]

Some Lead Paragraphs Are So Good that you read them:
WEST YELLOWSTONE, Mont.—The first time the bears steal human food, they are relocated 30 miles away.  The second time, it’s 60 miles, and the third time it’s 100.  After that, they become consumer product consultants.
And then read the paragraphs over again, just to admire the writing.

(Incidentally, that looks like a useful government program.)
- 7:59 AM, 10 September 2016   [link]

Vladimir Putin Is Tactically Shrewd, And Strategically Foolish:  Many have admired how Putin out-maneuvered President Obama in Syria — despite the terrible costs to the Syrian people.  Some even admire how he re-took Crimea, and has been feeding the civil war in Ukraine.

He is, they say, a "strong" leader.

That may be true, but there is a question those people should ask themselves:  Is Russia better off because of those moves?

The answer is obvious:  No.  (And the world as a whole is worse off, too.)

So Putin may be a strong leader, but he is leading his people in the wrong direction, into absolutely unnecessary conflicts with the United States, and other Western nations.

What should he be doing instead?  Concentrating on domestic reform, doing more to repair the terrible damage caused by decades of Communist rule.

And, of course, doing more to develop and populate Siberia, which is bound to tempt China.

(Putin's recent visit to Japan, where he discussed joint ventures in Siberia, suggests to me that he understands that last point.)
- 3:17 PM, 9 September 2016   [link]

Vladimir Putin's Syrian Veto:  When the Syrian civil war began, I observed, as anyone could have, that the Russian leader could counter any small, or moderate, actions we might take — and that Putin appeared to be loyal to the Assad regime.

That did not mean that we could do nothing, but it did mean that, if we were not prepared to make a big commitment, we could act effectively only with the tacit support of Russia.

Or, and this might have been possible, we might have gotten a better outcome by giving Russia our tacit support, with us urging them to make their client, Bashar al-Assad, behave better.

What we should not have done is what Obama did, make Assad's removal a precondition for negotiations.

(There were claims that, had we armed and supported the "moderate" rebels, they might have overthrown Assad.  I had my doubts about that at the time, but have seen no hard evidence on their potential strength.)
- 9:38 AM, 9 September 2016   [link]

The New York Times Published a useful summary of North Korea's slow, but steady, progress in nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.
North Korea said it conducted its fifth underground nuclear test on Friday. Since the first test, almost a decade ago, the size of the resulting earthquakes from the country’s test site have increased, indicating that the devices are becoming increasingly powerful.
(Links omitted.)

Americans in Guam, Honolulu, Anchorage, and, of course, Seattle, may want to study their similar gains in ballistic missile technology.

It may be a bit tedious for those who have been reading this site for years — but I'll repeat that China has the power to rein in the North Korean regime.  The Chinese government has chosen not to do so because, I believe, they like North Korea's disruptive actions — within limits.

If that causes you to boycott Chinese products, that's fine with me.
- 9:01 AM, 9 September 2016   [link]

If You Like Weird Cartoons, you may like yesterday's "Pepper and Salt".

(I don't claim that it makes any sense, even in the cartoon world.)
- 7:09 AM, 9 September 2016   [link]