• How to Build a Future Scientist

    Here’s an ad that Vodafone is running on billboards around here:

    I’m not trying to pick on Vodafone, but I sure see a lot of ads like this. I wish instead that I saw a few more ads like this:

    I know, I know. It’s just an ad, and the future doesn’t look all that exciting in mine. I’m just a little weary of endless ads telling us that inspiring children to become scientsts is all a matter of fun and games. That’s part of it, for sure, but our future scientists better become proficient in math and research too. Proficient enough that they don’t get scared away the first time they take a real science class, anyway. That means getting used to a bit of routine drudgery.

    Yeah, I’m just griping. Get off my lawn blah blah blah. Still.

  • The War Against ISIS Is All But Over. Thanks, Obama.

    From the Wall Street Journal:

    U.S.-backed forces said Tuesday they have captured Islamic State’s de facto capital of Raqqa, Syria, wrenching away the terror group’s last major urban stronghold in the Middle East. The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, backed by U.S. airstrikes and American special forces on the ground, said they had completed their four-month battle for the city Islamic State used as a nerve center to plan and stage attacks on the West.

    ….Preparations for the recapture began nearly a year ago, with the SDF and U.S. special forces on the ground—supported by American airstrikes—taking the hinterlands of Raqqa to inch towards the city.

    The war against ISIS isn’t completely over, but it’s pretty close. As you can see in the latest map from the Institute for the Study of War, ISIS still controls some territory, but it’s mostly lightly occupied and nonstrategic:

    ISW is already talking about the “War After ISIS,” which currently pits Iraqi Kurds against the Iraqi central government.

    ISIS is hardly Barack Obama’s finest moment. He was late to understand what was happening and slow to do anything about it. But in the end he did do something about it, and he did the right thing: he kept the US footprint light; he avoided rules of engagement that would inflame the very people we were trying to liberate; and he understood that the only route to victory lay in a slow but steady campaign. It wasn’t sexy, but it worked.

    In a few weeks or months, Donald Trump will announce that we’ve won the war against ISIS. Will he give Obama any recognition for this? Of course not. So that means the rest of us will have to do it for him.

  • Lunchtime Photo

    This is the ceiling of the Cupola Room at Kensington Palace. If you’re interested, you can rent it: “The Cupola Room can hold a reception with un-amplified music for up to 90 guests. Or, if you prefer, you can host up to 70 guests for the wedding supper in this historic room.”

  • Donald Trump Saves the Coal Industry!

    The LA Times tells the story today of a coal-fired power plant in Homer City, Pennsylvania:

    “Everyone gets concerned when they wake up and don’t see smoke coming out,” said Rob Nymick, manager of the 1,700-resident borough that he says will be economically “crushed” if the plant goes dark.

    ….The plant remains an albatross to investors, and a source of increasing anxiety to the hundreds of Pennsylvanians who rely on it for their livelihood. It is likely to remain a loser financially no matter how far Trump goes in rolling back regulations.

    “I’m not sold on the fact that the war on coal is putting that power plant out of business,” said Nymick, pointing to struggles to compete with cheaper natural gas, solar and wind energy. “You don’t know what to believe or who to believe.”

    This is all true. And yet, oddly enough, Trump has missed a chance to boast about what he’s done for the coal industry. Check out this chart:

    In reality, this blip is meaningless. Coal mining employment has experienced four substantial upward bounces since 2000 even as overall employment stayed flat during the whole period. But that’s never stopped Trump before, so what’s the problem this time? The proposal of the Clean Power Plan in 2014 really does seem to be associated with a big drop in coal employment, and that drop stopped in mid-2016 and then turned around when Trump was elected: employment in the coal mining industry has risen from 50,000 to 52,000 since November.

    Coincidence? Who cares! Given all the other nonsense Trump brags about, how is it that he’s missed bragging about this?

  • Progressives Should Be Fighting Back on Obamacare

    Albin Lohr-Jones/Pacific Press via ZUMA

    Donald Trump a few minutes ago:

    Obamacare is finished. It’s dead. It’s gone. You shouldn’t even mention it. It’s gone. There is no such thing as Obamacare anymore.

    Needless to say, this is just the latest part of Trump’s campaign to prevent people from signing up for Obamacare. Cut the signup period in half. Eliminate outreach. Eliminate advertising. Shut down the website periodically on weekends. Cut CSR subsidies in a way that makes people think benefits have been cut. Tell everyone Obamacare is dead.

    When Republicans started passing photo ID laws, progressives fought back with campaigns to get people registered to vote. Because of this, ID laws probably had only a very small effect on the election. Are progressives doing the same thing for Obamacare? It sure seems like there ought to be a huge campaign to publicize the Obamacare signup period and help people get through it. This might help fight some of Trump’s doomsaying and keep signups high. This in turn will keep Obamacare healthy despite Trump’s best efforts.

    Is this happening anywhere?

  • Lunchtime Photo

    ATTENTION! Our previously scheduled lunchtime photo has been postponed to bring you breaking news. EXCLUSIVE MUST CREDIT MOTHER JONES. Armageddon hit London today as the skies turned brown and the sun blazed a sullen orange at midday!

    The Gherkin was so brown it looked like a cigar!

    The Monument looked as if the city were on fire again!

    The view from Earl’s Court tube station was Satanic!

    These photos are unretouched, and no, I did not forget to reset the white balance on my camera. So what was going on? Apparently it was due to Britain catching the edge of Hurricane Ophelia:

    According to the Met Office, the red sun is caused by winds pulling up Saharan dust….BBC weather presenter Simon King said: “Ophelia originated in the Azores where it was a hurricane and as it tracked its way northwards it dragged in tropical air from the Sahara….Because the dust is so high, light from the sun is scattered in the longer wavelengths, which is more the red part of the spectrum, so it appears red to our eyes.”

    Ophelia has pulled in unseasonably warm air up from Spain and North Africa, bringing temperatures in the early 20s over the weekend….The air is safe to breathe, according to the Met Office, as the particles are high up in the atmosphere.

    So there you have it. From London, I’m Kevin Drum reporting.

  • London Meetup on Thursday

    My birthday is on Thursday, and I’m meeting up for drinks with a reader who was also born on the 19th. But everyone is invited! If you’re in London and want to get together, we’ll be at the Coal Hole at about 5 pm. The Coal Hole is at 91-92 The Strand, a few hundred yards east of Trafalgar Square. Feel free to drop by whenever you can. We’ll probably be there for a couple of hours or so.

  • Modern Etiquette: Two Questions

    I had two odd encounters yesterday, and they’ve both made me curious. What would be your reaction in situations like these?

    #1: Someone’s in the way of my picture.

    Exiting the tube in Little Venice, I came across a restored cabman’s shelter. I stepped around to take a picture, but there was a bikeshare stand nearby and a guy came up to get a bike. So I lowered my phone. He got his bike and started walking off, so I raised my phone. Then he decided the seat wasn’t quite right, so he worked on that. I lowered my phone. He finished up, and I raised my phone. Then he stopped to make sure his water bottle was secure. I lowered my phone. Finally he began walking off, so I raised my phone again. Then he stopped to chat with a friend, so I put my phone down. He turned around:

    “Do you want to take a picture?”

    I nodded.

    “You just have to ask. Say you want to take a picture and I’ll get out of the way.”

    I didn’t react at all because I was sort of gobsmacked at the whole idea. I take thousands of pictures, and I can’t remember ever asking someone to move. As a photographer, you don’t get to order the world around. You just have to make do, either by moving or waiting patiently for the right moment. I would consider it extremely rude to ask someone to move (or hurry up and adjust your damn seat!) just because I wanted to take a picture. Is this still the case? Or are smartphone photos now so ubiquitous that no one takes offense at being asked to move?

    (That said, I will note that most people are polite enough to notice when someone is taking a picture and will voluntarily stay out of the way if they can.)

    #2: A dog barks at me.

    I was eating a piece of cake in Regent’s Park. A dog wandered up to me and I put out my hand. The dog sniffed my fingers and then barked. I pulled my fingers away and then put them back out. The dog appeared (to me) to settle down, so I stroked it a bit.

    Then its owner looked up and yelled at me, “No, no, don’t touch her.” Then he came running over. “She sees so many different people, she gets scared. But she won’t bite you.”

    This was an area of the park where dogs were allowed to be kept off-lead (I think), so no rules were broken. And the owner wasn’t mad, just worried. Still, if he’s worried about people touching his dog and alarming her, he should keep her on a lead, shouldn’t he?

    By the way, here’s the cabman’s shelter:

  • A Quick Look at the Economy Over the Past Four Years

    I don’t quite remember what got me going on this, but I thought I’d start off the week with a quick look at how the economy has been doing over the past few years.

    First, here are two measures of core inflation (i.e., excluding food and energy), the Fed’s favored instrument for gauging price movements. Inflation hasn’t reached the Fed’s goal of 2 percent the entire time, and shows no signs of acceleration:

    Here’s labor force participation. Its long-term decline has stopped for both men and women and has been basically flat for the past four years:

    And here are weekly wages for production and nonsupervisory workers, adjusted for inflation. There’s been slow but steady growth for four years:

    So inflation is subdued and shows signs of staying subdued. Labor force participation is flat. And wages of ordinary workers have been growing at about 1 percent per year.

    There’s nothing really new here: these charts just show that the economy is in good shape. Not great, not bad, but pretty decent. You can tell a lot of different stories with data like this, so be just as wary of folks peddling doomsday scenarios as you are of presidents pretending that the economy is booming.

  • A Walk Along Regent’s Canal and Regent’s Park

    Marian spent the day at a knitting and quilting show with some friends, so I headed off by myself. There aren’t a lot of obvious tourist attractions in London that I haven’t been to, but I’ve never been to Little Venice and I’ve never walked along Regent’s Canal. For that matter, I’ve never really been to Regent’s Park either. So that’s where I went. Here’s what I saw.

    The start of all things for us is either the #9 bus or the Earl’s Court tube station. For this trip, it was the tube:

    The District Line gets a lot of grief, but it has nice new cars with bright yellow poles that are open along the length of the whole train. I like watching the poles slide back and forth into a straight line as the train enters and exits curves:

    Here’s a view of Regent’s Canal from Edgeware Road:

    The houseboats apparently have a tradition of being decorated with knickknacks and doodads. Here are a few of them:

    This is near the Regent’s Park exit from the towpath. It’s a little hard to believe that stained glass manages to last long in a secluded public place like this. Maybe it’s actually stained cast acrylic?

    The London central mosque, right on the border of Regent’s Park:

    The boating lake at Regent’s Park. It was a warm, sunny day, and lots of people were out in the blue pedalos (pedal boats to us):

    Baby geese:

    This little girl’s family had been taking pictures of her in the park for hours. “When will it end?” she wonders. I had no answer for her, but my day was over. I hopped on the tube, picked up some Chinese takeout, and headed home.