September 2018, Part 4

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

Is A 27,000 Percent Return So Far This Year A Good Result?  Maybe, maybe not, because I am talking about Venezuela's stock exchange index, Caracas General.

And, as you have heard, that nation has more than a little inflation.

(At one time, I was wondering why anyone would be playing the Venezuelan stock market, but then I came up with a tentative explanation:  The "investors" might have many Bolivars, but no way to convert them into actual money.  And, stocks are, traditionally, a hedge against inflation.

Caracas Stock Exchange)
- 8:30 PM, 30 September 2018   [link]

Appalling — And Hilarious:  Donald Trump's love affair with Kim Jong-un.
“I was really being tough and so was he,” he continued, referring to the harsh words the two leaders exchanged before their make-up.  “And we would go back and forth.”

“And then we fell in love,” Trump said.  The crowd laughed.  “No really,” Trump said.  “He wrote me beautiful letters.  They were great letters.  And then we fell in love.”
Perhaps the two should get a room.

(Kim Jong-un)
- 7:56 PM, 30 September 2018   [link]

Whip Count?  According to Axios, Republicans now have 49 votes to confirm Brett Kavanuagh.  Here's my guess at who those 49 are:

Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

All of the Republicans except Susan Collins of Maine, Jeff Flake of Arizona, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

If any of those three decide to support Kavanaugh, he will have 50 votes, allowing Vice President Mike Pence to break the tie.

Would any of the three gain politically from a vote for Kavanaugh?  Jeff Flake probably would, but he is retiring, and is unlikely to run for office again any time soon.  Susan Collins would lose.  Lisa Murkowski would probably gain in primary contests and lose in general elections — but Alaska politics can be so wild that I should remind you that I am guessing.
- 9:49 AM, 29 September 2018   [link]

"Pepper . . . And Salt" Gets Political:  In a nonpartisan way, of course.  The current cartoon surprised me, and made me laugh out loud.
- 8:41 AM, 29 September 2018   [link]

British Bettors Now Think Kavanaugh Will Be Confirmed:  When I looked a few minutes ago, they were giving him a 76.5 percent chance, quite a change from yesterday.

Most likely they have seen the vague claims that Republican leaders now have the votes.

(George W. Bush is standing by his man, which may help with a few senators.)
- 9:53 AM, 28 September 2018   [link]

Anyone Who Has Attended A Meaningless Meeting will appreciate this cartoon.
- 9:07 AM, 28 September 2018   [link]

Longish, But Worth Reading:  This "edited extract" from Michael Lewis's forthcoming book, The Fifth Risk.

You'll learn that Trump's transition was even crazier than you may have thought.

And you will meet an impressive man:
By the autumn of 2016, [Max] Stier might have been the American with the greatest understanding of how the US government worked.  Oddly, for an American of his age and status, he had romanticised public service since he was a child.  He had gone through Yale in the mid-80s and Stanford law school in the early 90s without ever being tempted by money or anything else.  He thought the US government was the single most important and interesting institution in the history of the planet and could not imagine doing anything but working to improve it
That those beliefs survived both Yale and Stanford is, I think you will agree, impressive.
- 5:11 PM, 27 September 2018   [link]

If You Want To Watch Some News, But Prefer to skip the Ford/Kavanaugh show, you might try watching Japan's NHK World.

When last I looked, their lead story was a typhoon approaching Japan.

No doubt they will have something on the hearings later, but it is likely to be mercifully brief.
- 12:53 PM, 27 September 2018   [link]

Political Betting Has Gambling Odds on Kavanaugh's confirmation.

When I looked earlier this morning, he was at 38 percent.
- 12:16 PM, 27 September 2018   [link]

According To The Article in A-hed, face recognition programs don't always recognize familiar faces.
Changing styles and makeup (or lack of it) can throw off the increasingly popular facial-recognition technology on phones and computers, leading users to wonder what’s so wrong with how they look; . . .
It would be interesting to know what the error rates are, and when the programs are most likely to fail.  When a woman changes her makeup?  When a man grows a beard or mustache?
- 11:27 AM, 27 September 2018   [link]

"China Censors Banned Winnie The Pooh"  It's true.

And it even makes a kind of sense — to a dictator
The blocking of Winnie the Pooh might seem like a bizarre move by the Chinese authorities but it is part of a struggle to restrict clever bloggers from getting around their country's censorship.
If you look at the picture at the top of the article, you'll understand what's going on.

And you'll probably wish those clever bloggers luck (which they will need).
- 7:15 PM, 26 September 2018   [link]

Predicting Mid-Terms In Light Of Trump's Losses:   Recently, I have been thinking about an odd problem in predicting the House elections in November:  Trump's losses in 2016.

This is not unprecedented for a winning presidential candidate; Republicans lost two seats in 2000, when George W. Bush won the presidency.

But it is unusual.  And I have been wondering how it might affect the results — and the models.

One possibility — and I am not saying it is any more than a possibility — is that Trump has already suffered some of the losses he would have, had 2016 been a conventional election, with gains for the winning president's party.

(As I have said before, I think that Senator Kelly Ayotte would have won her race in 2016 with a stronger candidate at the top of the ticket.

So far, Trump has not been good for the Republican Party, net.)
- 2:03 PM, 26 September 2018   [link]

Statisticians will like the current "Pepper . . . And Salt" cartoon.

(Theologians, perhaps not.)
- 1:18 PM, 26 September 2018   [link]

Worth Reading:  This front page New York Times article, "With Vatican Talks and Bulldozers, China Aims to Control Christianity".

Ian Johnson begins by describing the much-criticized Vatican deal, which allows "Emperor" Xi to control the appointment of Catholic bishops in China.  From there Johnson goes on to describe the persecution of churches in China, and the way Xi is trying to co-opt two religions he sees as native, Taoism and Buddhism.

(Johnson says there are about 60 million Christians in China (most Protestants), and says that the faith is growing rapidly.  His total is higher than some I have seen, lower than others.)
- 8:33 PM, 25 September 2018   [link]

The UN liked Donald Trump's joke.
President Trump had barely begun his address to the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday when he claimed his tenure had “accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country,” the kind of over-the-top boast he usually reserves for his campaign rallies.

Around the cavernous hall, diplomats and world leaders broke into what even the official White House transcript described as laughter.

“Didn’t expect that reaction, but that’s OK,” Trump said, momentarily startled.   That prompted more guffaws and applause.
The joke was unintentional, apparently, but it is still a pretty good joke.

(I wonder whether the Russian delegation joined in the laughter.)
- 1:25 PM, 25 September 2018   [link]

Pelosi's Potential Problem:  Like most observers, I think the odds favor a Democratic takeover of the House this November.  (The FiveThirtyEight estimates, an 80 percent chance and an expected gain for the Democrats of 37 seats, seem about right to me.)

If the Democrats do win, the size of their majority may determine whether Nancy Pelosi again goes from Minority Leader to Speaker.  If it is a narrow margin, a few Democrats may refuse to vote for Pelosi, forcing the choice of a different Democrat.

(United States House of Representatives elections, 2018)
- 12:52 PM, 25 September 2018   [link]

Forgiveness May Not be cheap.
- 10:36 AM, 25 September 2018   [link]