July 2016, Part 3

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

Many Lichen Are 3-In-1 Symbiotes, Not 2-In-1:   Lichen are extraordinary, anyway, and this just makes them more so.
Biology textbooks tell us that lichens are alliances between two organisms—a fungus and an alga.  They are wrong.
In many (most?) species, it's two fungi and one alga.

It seems likely, just thinking about it, that this three-way partnership formed in two stages, likely that it began with two, and added another later.

(If somehow you have missed just how tough lichen are, you should read the Wikipedia article.   According to the article, some lichen have both algae and cyanobacteria, which would imply that there are some four-way partnerships.)
- 4:49 PM, 24 July 2016   [link]

Black Lamb And Grey Falcon Reminds Me Too Much Of Today's Problems:  I have been re-reading Rebecca West's masterpiece, and need to take a break from it.

If I want to read about ethnic and religious conflicts, terrorist attacks, and leaders who are not up to the problems they face, all I have to do is check the news regularly; I don't have to read a book about the problems of 1937 Yugoslavia — although we can learn from those problems, if we are willing.
- 1:58 PM, 24 July 2016   [link]

Guido Fawkes Is Shameless For The Picture He Used To Illustrate This Tiny Welsh Scandal:  And I'm shameless for linking to it.

But I do wonder what they were buying at Victoria's Secret.

(Most nations would be delighted if their scandals were that small.)
- 11:10 AM, 24 July 2016   [link]

If You Are Feeling Too Cheerful, this cartoon should fix you up.
- 10: AM, 24 July 2016   [link]

Two Kangaroo Tickets:  Two tickets in which the vice presidential candidates would make better presidents than the presidential candidates.

That was my reaction to Hillary Clinton's choice of Tim Kaine as her running mate.

I take it nearly everyone understands why Mike Pence would be better than Donald Trump.  With Tim Kaine it's less obvious, but he is more moderate, and has more and better experience as an executive than Hillary Clinton.  Even better, he isn't surrounded by a cloud of scandals, unlike Hillary "Pig-Pen" Clinton.

(If "kangaroo ticket" is unfamiliar, here's an explanation.)
- 4:31 PM, 23 July 2016   [link]

Here's The BBC Story on the Munich shootings.

I have nothing to add, other than the usual reminder that early reports often have errors.
- 3:23 PM, 22 July 2016   [link]

Josh Barro Speculates That Trump Made A Deal With Cruz:  A really stupid deal.
Trump agreed to let Cruz give a prime-time speech without having to promise an endorsement.  I don't know for sure what Trump got in exchange for that, but I have a guess.

Cruz won enough states that he was entitled to have his name entered for nomination, which would have forced a formal floor contest on Tuesday that Trump wished to avoid, even though Trump would have won it.  Cruz didn't enter his name, and Trump gave him a speaking slot without requiring an endorsement.
That's possible, I suppose, though I think a formal floor vote would actually have been to Trump's advantage, since it would have demonstrated the breadth of his support.
- 10:39 AM, 22 July 2016   [link]

Even Funnier Than That Cartoon is this line from Donald Trump:  "Good news is Melania’s speech got more publicity than any in the history of politics especially if you believe that all press is good press!"

Kevin Williamson treats the line seriously, a mistake in my opinion, and so misses the best part of the joke — the stolen lines were about the importance of teaching the values of honesty and hard work.
- 10:14 AM, 22 July 2016   [link]

Yesterday's "Pepper and Salt" is pretty funny.
- 6:53 AM, 22 July 2016   [link]

Stephen Breyer:  A few days ago, a friend and I were trying to remember the eight justices of the Supreme Court   We got up to seven and then neither of us could remember the eighth, although I recalled that he had been appointed by Bill Clinton and that he was a relatively moderate member of the court's liberal wing.

An hour or so later, his name popped into my head, while I was thinking of something else entirely.

This sort of thing happens to all of us from time to time, but we seldom take even a minute to think about how strange it is.

A programmer might say that I had started a background search process, and then, when it completed, it sent an interrupt with the answer.

And if our brains were more like computers, that answer might be roughly right.

But, even in this little example, we can see problems with that analogy.  Unless we consciously train ourselves, most of our memories are not organized in simple, searchable structures.  (We have a few, of course, such as the letters of the alphabet, and memory experts can teach us how to create many others.)

So how did that search operate?  Why did it take so long?  And, did it interrupt as soon as it found the answer, or did it wait for a "good" time?

As far as I know, even now, our brain scientists couldn't answer any of those simple questions, definitively.
- 3:50 PM, 21 July 2016   [link]

Another Trump Scandal: Or, possibly, "scandal".  These accusations could be false.
A woman at the centre of sexual assault allegations against Donald Trump has spoken for the first time in detail about her personal experience with the billionaire tycoon who this week became the Republican nominee for president.

Jill Harth, a makeup artist, has stayed quiet for almost 20 years about the way Trump pursued her, and – according to a lawsuit she instigated – cornered her and groped her in his daughter’s bedroom.

After Trump mounted his campaign for the White House, details emerged of the 1997 complaint, in which Harth accused him of “attempted ‘rape’”.
Having read the article, I see no way to determine which of them is telling the truth, especially at this late date.  But I do have to add that the accusations don't seem implausible.

However, I can make two, tentative predictions:  We are likely to see more new scandal stories about Trump than about Clinton during this campaign, because he hasn't been a public figures in the same way she has.

And we can expect the Trump campaign to fight back by recycling old Clinton scandals for the benefit of younger voters.
- 2:38 PM, 21 July 2016   [link]

What Were Donald Trump And Paul Manafort Thinking?  Why did they invite Ted Cruz to speak, knowing that Cruz was not going to endorse Trump?

I can think of two possible explanations.  First, Trump is so fond of himself that he may have thought that Cruz would finally see how wonderful he is and endorse Trump even though Cruz hadn't promised that he would.

Second, Trump and Manafort liked the idea of provoking a fight, and thought they could injure a rival, thought that it might even help them in the general election.

That isn't how conventional political operatives and politicians would think, but Trump has shown us that the conventional thinking has often been wrong during this election.  Many Trumpistas admire Trump because he appears willing to pick a fight with anyone, any time.

(Here's an interview with Manafort.   I can't say I found it illuminating, but you may have better luck than I did.)
- 10:18 AM, 21 July 2016   [link]

Some Will Admire The Honesty in this cartoon.
- 7:56 AM, 21 July 2016   [link]

Today's "Prickly City" Reminds Us how hard it will be for many voters to judge our Democratic and Republican presidential candidates:   We can't rely on what either of them say, though for different reasons.

As I said in May, I think neo-neocon is roughly right when she says that Clinton is a strategic liar, and Trump is a pathological liar.

So, to judge what Clinton says, we have to think strategically, and ask ourselves whether she thinks she might gain from what she is saying, even if it is false.

For Trump, it's more complicated, because he is not only a pathological liar, but also remarkably ignorant.  He probably wasn't lying when he said the Constitution has twelve articles, and he may not have been lying when he said Saddam Hussein was good at killing terrorists.

But both are still false.

Most voters probably won't go far wrong with this simple rule:  Assume what Trump says is false, unless you have absolute proof, otherwise.

Here's my own set of rules for understanding the man:
  1. Pay almost no attention to what he says now.  (Unless it is really funny.)
  2. Pay a little attention to what he said before he was running for president.
  3. Pay a lot of attention to what he did before he was running for president.
  4. To the extent possible, try to determine his underlying philosophy.   As I said two weeks ago, I think Peter Wehner's op-ed is probably basically correct.
For both candidates, I am using "say" in a very broad way, to include the party platforms, and even symbolic gestures, like picking Mike Pence as a running mate.

(The party platforms probably do give some guide to how members of Congress will act.)
- 2:48 PM, 20 July 2016   [link]

What If The Nominating Rules Were Different (2)?  As I said in my first post, this is mostly for fun.  And because we can learn something from playing with hypothetical scenarios.

This time, suppose both parties used only caucuses to select delegates to the national conventions.  Who would the parties have nominated?  As I said at the end of May, possibly Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz.

We can see that if we look at who won the states where delegates were selected by caucuses, conventions, or some combination of the two.  A quick check on the Republican side shows that Ted Cruz won Iowa, Alaska, Kansas, Maine, Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado, while Donald Trump won Kentucky, Hawaii, and North Dakota.  (Marco Rubio won Minnesota.)

A quick check shows a similar pattern on the Democratic side.  Bernie Sanders won Colorado, Minnesota, Kansas, Nebraska, Maine, Idaho, Utah, Alaska, Hawaii, Washington, Wyoming, and North Dakota, while Hillary Clinton won Iowa and Nevada.

Moreover, this is consistent with what we know about the activists who dominate party caucuses:  They tend to be extreme, even within their own parties, on the far left in the Democratic Party and the far right in the Republican Party.

So, everything else being the same, if the nominations had been decided by caucuses, we might be looking at a Ted Cruz-Bernie Sanders race.

(Would that be better than our current choice?  Tough question.  On the Democratic side, I'm not sure I wouldn't prefer the crook (Hillary) to the fool (Sanders); on the Republican side, there is no doubt that Cruz is better than Trump — but so are at least 90 percent of eligible Americans.

If you are wondering why I am not more positive about Cruz, let me put it this way:   The inability to play well with others is as fatal a defect for a politician as the inability to run is for a sprinter.)
- 8:21 AM, 20 July 2016   [link]

Yesterday's Donald Trump Nomination Was A Disaster For The Republican Party, And The Nation:  But it is a disaster with, so far, many funny aspects.

In yesterday's column, Bret Stephens made a powerful argument against Trump, an argument that I agree with, entirely.  As part of his argument, Stephens quoted these lines:
This week, the same party will nominate as its presidential candidate a man who on Saturday introduced his running mate as follows:

“The turnaround and the strength of Indiana has been incredible, and I learned that when I campaigned there.  And I learned that when I won that state in a landslide.  And I learned that when Gov. Pence, under tremendous pressure from establishment people, endorsed somebody else, but it was more of an endorsement for me, if you remember.  He talked about Trump, then he talked about Ted—who’s a good guy, by the way, who’s going to be speaking at the convention,  Ted Cruz, good guy—but he talked about Trump, Ted, then he went back to Trump. I said, ‘who did he endorse?’ ”
If those were lines delivered by an actor making fun of scatter-brained, narcissistic politicians, you'd smile, maybe even laugh.

Well, even though they were delivered by the Republican nominee, they are still funny, grimly funny in context perhaps, but funny.
- 7:33 AM, 20 July 2016   [link]

Disguises Can Be Useful in many situations.
- 6:21 AM, 20 July 2016   [link]

Worth Reading:  Nat Hentoff's indictment of Paul Manafort:

I linked to this in April, but I was reminded of it today, and urge you to read it, if you missed it earlier, and re-read it, even if you have already seen it.

Trump's campaign manager is neither Mr. Clean, nor Mr. Outsider.

(Early in the column, Hentoff makes a point that should be shared:  Trump is a brilliant marketer, but he is not a good manager.)
- 3:20 PM, 19 July 2016   [link]

"Al Sharpton Sued For Allegedly Swiping $16K From Arizona Man"  If you wonder why I am so cynical about President Obama's ally, Al Sharpton, read this article:
Shakedown Sharpton has struck again, according to an Arizona trucker, who says in a new federal lawsuit that the good reverend promised to help him, then took him for $16,000.

“He’s a crook, he’s a fraud, and that’s all he is,” complains Reggie Anders Sr., who sought out the Rev. Al Sharpton for help resolving a 2009 discrimination dispute with Verizon.
It's just "allegedly" before the trial, but nothing in the story will surprise anyone who has followed Sharpton's career.

(Why cash?  Probably because of Sharpton's tax problems.  Possibly because of other legal problems.)
- 8:51 AM, 19 July 2016   [link]

Political Campaigns Often Borrow From Other, Successful Campaigns:  But usually not to the extent of plagiarism.

A few cynics may think that neither lady's husband has set a great example of the values of hard work and honesty.

(You may get a chuckle out of Paul Manaforrt's explanation for the plagiarism.)
- 8:07 AM, 19 July 2016   [link]

A Wife Explains Female Competition to her husband.
- 7:26 AM, 19 July 2016   [link]

"Donald Trump Doesn’t Read Much"  By now, this article shouldn't surprise you:
NEW YORK — As he has prepared to be named the Republican nominee for president, Donald Trump has not read any biographies of presidents.  He said he would like to someday.

He has no time to read, he said: “I never have.  I’m always busy doing a lot. Now I’m more busy, I guess, than ever before.”

Trump’s desk is piled high with magazines, nearly all of them with himself on their covers, and each morning, he reviews a pile of printouts of news articles about himself that his secretary delivers to his desk. But there are no shelves of books in his office, no computer on his desk.
(Emphasis added.)

So, not only has Trump never done anything as a political executive, he has never even read anything recently about those who have.

I suppose you have to give him a small credit for honesty, along with an enormous debit for being so unprepared for the job he is seeking.

(Sometimes I fantasize about replacing those idiotic campaign debates, with a simultaneous quiz, starting, perhaps, with this question:  "Read any good books, lately?")
- 3:38 PM, 18 July 2016   [link]

The Weakened Turkish Army:  In October 2014, I speculated that, because of Erdogan's purges and prosecutions, the Turkish army was weaker than it once was.

Last Friday's failed coup supports that speculation.

Before then, the modern Turkish army had compiled a 4-0 record; they had succeeded every time they attempted a coup.

In contrast, this coup seems to have been a mistake from the start.  The officers planning it underestimated Erdogan's strength and support — and failed to capture or kill him in the first strike.

And now, it is nearly certain that they have made things far worse for their nation.

(At Politico, Michael Crowley asks:   "Did Obama get Erdogan wrong?"  Apparently.

Fun fact:  The Turkish army traces its history back to 209 BC.)
- 10:45 AM, 18 July 2016   [link]

Election Scorecard, 7/18:  This week, there has been a change in the standings of the two candidates.

The poll model now shows Hillary Clinton's lead down from 5.8 percent to 3.6 percent, and the British bettors now believe Trump has a 29 percent chance of winning the general election, up from 22 percent.

One recent indicator looks better for Clinton.
Donald Trump has recently been gaining ground in the latest polls at both the national and state level, suggesting that the email scandal plaguing Hillary Clinton has not left her unscathed. However, when polls ask voters who they think will win the election rather than whom they plan to vote for, people overwhelmingly believe Clinton will prevail.

If the predictive capacity of the “expectations question” is as accurate as it has been in previous years, Clinton is poised to win this election.  In fact, she currently polls better than President Barack Obama did against Mitt Romney and John McCain at this point in 2012 and 2008, on both whom voters expect to win and whom they plan to cast their ballot for.
(Links omitted.)

It's been an unusual election so far, so this indicator, like others, may not be telling us anything — but that still isn't the way to bet.  Probably.

(I plan to continue to do these weekly scorecards, but I'll remind you that polls tend to "bounce" during conventions, usually giving the candidate just nominated a temporary gain, that usually is gone in a week or so.)
- 8:17 AM, 18 July 2016   [link]

Entertaining And, Possibly, Informative:  Dan Neil's review of Honda's mid-size pickup, the Ridgeline:

Here's how he begins:
You can’t say Honda isn’t listening to its customers.  More like stalking them, cornering them like animals in brightly lighted classrooms in the back of dealerships, battering them with clipboards, begging them for feedback.  “Dear God, please, just tell us what you want and we’ll build it.”
What the customers want, Honda and Neil believe, is a pickup that looks more like a traditional pickup.  (And less like a family sedan, I would add.)

(Caveat:  Not being a car guy, I can't say how accurate Neil's reviews are but they are always fun to read.)
- 7:30 AM, 18 July 2016   [link]

"Clinton Calls For 'Intelligence Surge' After France Attack"   This could be a very good idea.
"What is happening is terrorist groups are seeing that they have opportunities inside France for homegrown terrorism and supporting terrorists," Clinton said in a phone interview on CNN Thursday evening.

Clinton called for the strengthening of NATO and collaboration with the European Union and other allies to share intel on potential terrorist attacks and for an "intelligence surge."  She also said that the U.S. has to work with allies to combat online radicalization.
Why the conditional?

Because I don't know much about what we are doing now (and couldn't tell you if I did), have only vague ideas of what we could be doing, and haven't seen any specific proposals from Clinton.

Nonetheless, it remains true that, if we know what a terrorist is about to do, we can almost always stop him, usually with few, if any, losses to ourselves.

So we should always be thinking about ways to improve our intelligence.

(Fans of political language will note that Clinton is using "surge" positively, and will guess that she is referring to Bush's successful Iraq surge, not Obama's failed Afghanistan surge.)
- 7:15 PM, 17 July 2016   [link]

Can't Anyone In These Campaigns Get Basic Symbols Right?  Last year, I surprised to see the Hillary campaign logo saying go right (and saying something else, if you have a dirty mind).

Now the Trump campaign has come up with a logo that is even more suggestive, as you can see in the crude comments.

That may have been fun, but now back to more serious stuff.
- 4:04 PM, 17 July 2016   [link]

A Modern Mother Keeps a promise.
- 10:39 AM, 17 July 2016   [link]