Archive:

March 2016, Part 2

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Will We Get A Pure Example Of The Cretan Paradox From Donald Trump During This Campaign?  That's not the kind of question I wonder about during every campaign, but I have started wondering about it during this one.

First, a review, for anyone who needs it.

A pure example would be Trump saying something like this: "Everything I say is a lie."   Which should leave you wondering whether he is lying in that statement.  But not wondering too long, unless you want to spend some time exploring a difficult problem in logic.

You can see how close Trump sometimes comes to the paradox, if you consider something he says in his book, The Art of the Steal.  (I improved the title.)

Trump says that he sells "fantasies".  But suppose that claim is one of the fantasies he sells, which would imply that he doesn't sell fantasies.  That doesn't take us into the paradox, but it gets us uncomfortably close to that neighborhood.

I mention this because Trump has been surprisingly frank about his lack of veracity, for instance, admitting, under oath, that he exaggerates in order to make sales.  But you still find Trump sympathizers and supporters who take what he says, seriously, because, I suppose, they want to believe some of the things he says.

My advice to them:  Ignore what he says and look at what he has done, over the years.
- 3:41 PM, 16 March 2016   [link]


Want To Look At Some Numbers On The Presidential Races?   Wikipedia has them for Democrats.

And for Republicans.

One oddity:  Whoever is updating the Democratic article isn't giving popular vote totals, but you will find them in the Republican article.

(Technical quibble:  As something of a purist, I wouldn't add the votes in caucuses with the votes in primaries, except, possibly, for the Iowa Republican caucuses, which have become a kind of primary.)
- 1:52 PM, 16 March 2016   [link]


The Glass Is More Than 90 Percent Empty:  According to British bettors.  I guess that makes them pessimists.

Or, if you prefer, realists.  As I write, three candidates, all unqualified, have, together, more than a 90 percent chance of becoming our next president:  Hillary Clinton (67.3%), Donald Trump (21.1%), and Bernie Sanders (2.6%).

Perhaps I am a cockeyed optimist, but I think our chances are better than the British bettors do; I think we have at least a 20 percent chance to avoid a catastrophe.

However, I should admit that I have not been a very good prognosticator, so far, during this election campaign.  So don't bet any money on what I just wrote — unless you get really great odds, for instance, 100-1 against Kasich.
- 12:44 PM, 16 March 2016   [link]


This Pepper And Salt Cartoon Is Funny because it's true.
- 5:51 AM, 16 March 2016   [link]


We Don't Like Anybody Very Much:  (Except for John Kasich.)

Here's more on something I noticed months ago.  The leading candidates are also the least popular.
Chuck Todd, Mark Murray and Carrie Dann:   "Almost a year since the first Democrats and Republicans announced their presidential bid and another eight months until the general election, it's striking how unpopular the remaining candidates are, especially compared with past presidential field.  Trump's -39 score -- the lowest in the history of the NBC/WSJ poll for a major presidential candidate -- is a drop of eight points from a month ago; Rubio declined from -3 in February to -11 now; and Clinton's numbers have been stuck in the mud since last summer, when the email controversy became a big story.
Hillary Clinton is at -13, and Ted Cruz at -18.  (Kasich is at +19.)

This makes a weird kind of sense if you assume voters are voting against more than for.  For many of their supporters, that Clinton, Cruz, and Trump are unpopular with others is more evidence that they are the best choices to be president.   So, yes. it's weird, but there is a weird internal logic to the pattern, too.

(It's been years since I looked at the numbers but I recall that in 1952 both presidential candidates, Adlai Stevenson II and Dwight D. Eisenhower, were popular with the voters, who were pleased to have a choice, as most voters saw it, between two good men.)
- 6:02 PM, 15 March 2016   [link]


Remember Troy Kelley?  (No reason you should, unless you happen to live here in Washington state.)

He's the elected state auditor who has been indicted by the federal government for stealing small sums from thousands of home buyers.

Kelley's trial just began.
A jury has been selected in federal court in Tacoma to hear the trial of indicted Washington State Auditor Troy Kelley.

Kelley, the first Washington state official to be indicted in 35 years, faces a range of charges stemming from conduct that began before he was elected in 2012, when he ran a real-estate services firm.

Prosecutors say he kept at least $1.4 million in fees he should have refunded to homeowners, evaded taxes and lied under oath in an effort to hide his actions.
I quoted the entire brief article, because of something it left out — and by now almost all of you will have guessed what that is:  That's right, Kelley is a Democrat.

But I don't expect our local journalists will emphasize that fact in their coverage of this trial.

(For Republicans, the timing of this trial is close to ideal, coming as it does early in an election year.

For a time after his indictment, Kelley took a leave of absence from his office, but then officially came back to work.  I believe he's been collecting his pay for some months now, though I am not sure what he has been doing to earn it.)
- 3:06 PM, 15 March 2016   [link]


Ever Wonder What Our Two Leading Candidates Would Look Like Without The Plastic Surgery, The Hair Dye, And The Make-Up?  I do, very occasionally, and since I am likely to see them on TV tonight, I started wondering about that, again.

I suspect Hillary Clinton would look something like Janet Yellen.  (Yellen was born in August 1946, Clinton in October 1947.)

A good plastic surgeon could probably make some shrewd guesses about what the Donald has had done so that he doesn't look his age — 70 in June.

(FWIW, I find Yellen's appearance more reassuring than either Clinton's or Trump's.)
- 9:13 AM, 15 March 2016   [link]


There's No Good News From British Bettors this morning.

As I write, the three candidates most likely to be president are a sneaky compulsive liar, Hillary Clinton (63.5%), a blatant compulsive liar, Donald Trump (19.8%), and a man deluded by crackpot ideas from the 19th century, Bernie Sanders (6.9%).

One interesting tidbit:  The bettors agree with me that Ted Cruz is more likely to win the Republican nomination than John Kasich (14.7-9.8%), but less likely to win the presidency (3.7-3.1%).
- 8:18 AM, 15 March 2016   [link]


So Far, So Good With Michael Hayden's Book:  On Sunday evening I broke down and downloaded Michael Hayden's Playing to the Edge: American Intelligence in the Age of Terror.
An unprecedented high-level master narrative of America's intelligence wars, from the only person ever to helm both CIA and NSA, at a time of heinous new threats and wrenching change
Warning:  I haven't even finished the first chapter, which is about a massive computer failure at the National Security Agency.

But I have read enough to say that there's a good chance I'll be recommending it to most of you.  (And, if any of you have already read it, I'd be interested in your reactions to the book.)

Let's review:  Our wars against terrorists are, more than anything else, intelligence wars.  If we know where they are and what they are doing, we can defeat them, often with little loss to ourselves,  So any responsible citizen will want to know how well the NSA, the CIA, and the rest, are performing.

But that, for very obvious reasons, is exactly what they can't tell us.

So something like Hayden's book — which I assume has been very carefully vetted — is about the best we can hope for, and so far I'm impressed.  And will let you know if I change my mind as I get further into the book.

I perhaps should add that, so far, the book is not at all pompous, unlike that Amazon summary, and that, so far, I don't think you will lose much by getting it in the Kindle edition.

(Why "broke down"?  Because I have so much on my to-read stack, including some just for fun like Benford and Niven's Bowl of Heaven.

You may be amused to learn that one of the reasons I broke down is because I saw a negative review in the New York Times.  I'm not quite ready to see their negative reviews on political books as recommendations, but I am heading in that direction.)
- 7:35 AM, 15 March 2016
More:  I finished the first chapter, "THE SYSTEM IS DOWN", and have some reactions.  Computer folks will like what Hayden did after the crash; he stood back and let the techies tackle the problem, and computer folks will be annoyed that he does not mention even a single technical detail.  Security folks will be pleased that he made a special warning about keeping the crash secret, but not surprised that it leaked out, anyway
- 1:07 PM, 16 March 2016   [link]


Pepper And Salt is mildly funny. this morning.
- 6:46 AM, 15 March 2016   [link]


Professor Volokh Answers Two Qustions About Poltical Rallies:   (Questions that are, alas, timely.)

First: "Is it a crime to heckle at a campaign rally?"

Second: "Is it a crime to encourage an audience to physically attack hecklers?"

. (His answers are brief, so I am not quoting even small parts of them.)
- 4:13 PM, 14 March 2016   [link]


President Obama And The NYT Versus Guantánamo Facts:   A week ago, the New York Times published this "analysis", "G.O.P. Goes Astray on Guantánamo.  So Does Obama."
Even by the standards of an epically polarized Washington, the political talk about President Obama’s effort to close the Guantánamo Bay prison is starkly divorced from facts.   On both sides of the debate, many claims collapse under scrutiny.

Republicans who want to keep the prison open say only the worst of the worst are left, yet dozens of low-level detainees were approved for transfer years ago and stranded for geopolitical reasons.  Republicans insist Guantánamo’s military commissions offer tough justice, but those tribunals have been largely dysfunctional.  And they cite Bush-era data to say that freed prisoners will join terrorist groups, but the Obama administration has performed more thorough reviews and those it released have been far less likely to cause problems.

Yet a key argument Mr. Obama makes for shuttering the prison in Cuba — that its continued operation is contrary to “our values” — crumbles upon examination, too.  His plan for closing it would not eliminate the main human rights complaints, because the United States would still be holding several dozen prisoners in perpetual detention without trial and force-feeding those who go on a hunger strike.  It would just do that in a prison on American soil.
As you can see, Charlie Savage and Scott Shane were trying to write one of those both-parties-are-wrong pieces that some journalists like to do.

But they can't quite bring themselves to admit that Republicans are right on this issue, and that Obama should have accepted what his own task force found:
In January 2009, the newly inaugurated President Obama ordered his administration to close the prison within a year.  Of the nearly 800 detainees held there under President Bush, all but 242 had been transferred overseas.  But his task force soon reported bad news: It was likely to designate several dozen detainees as impossible to prosecute for various reasons, but too dangerous to release.

Bowing to pragmatism, Mr. Obama decided those detainees would have to remain locked up without trial for the time being.  He also accepted the principle that some detainees would be tried by military commission, not in civilian court, in part because the looser military rules of evidence would allow trials for more of those held.
In short, some of the detainees had to be treated as Americans have usually treated prisoners of war.  Obama could have learned these facts before the 2008 election — if he had wanted to

Hoping for a tiny symbolic victory, President Obama now wants these detainees treated as prisoners of war on American soil, rather than where they are now, but he would not really be happy, even with that.  Nor, as you can tell from the analysis, would the two reporters.

Like Obama, they prefer not to even think about the "detainees" as prisoners of war.   And to someone who sees only through the eyes of lawyers, I suppose that makes a certain strange kind of sense.

Fortunately for us, Mitch McConnell is more in contact with the real world, and is in a position to block any last-minute efforts by Obama.

(Savage and Shane think it meant of Republicans to point out Obama's fundamental error, though the two might agree, if pressed, that it was an error.

A day later, the Times published this article by Savage, about more released detainees going back to terrorism.

Finally, for comic relief, you'll want to look the end of the analysis for Trump's claim that he would put many more in the prison — and cut its costs to "peanuts".)
- 2:57 PM, 14 March 2016   [link]


This Local Story Is Of No Great National Importance:  But it is the kind of dramatic story that news organizations generally love.
An early morning at a Washington 7-Eleven almost turned tragic when a masked man with an ax came charging through the door and started swinging without a word.

But just as he managed to slice the clerk in the stomach, a 60-year-old customer who was having a cup of coffee pulled out his gun and shot the attacker dead at the Burien store.

Kuldeep Singh, 58, believes he would have died had it not been for his regular customer, who had a concealed carry permit for his pistol and is being called a hero by police.
Most news organizations, anyway.  I didn't notice it when I skimmed the New York Times this morning, so I did site searches with Bing and Google, and concluded that, so far, the Times doesn't think the story is fit to print.

And I think we all know why:  It's a positive story on individual gun ownership.

(Burien is a suburb of Seattle.)
- 11:02 AM, 14 March 2016   [link]


"Trump's Last-Minute Slipping"  Ron Faucheux thinks he sees a pattern.

(Faucheux has enough credentials, experience, and, best of all, success with election predictions that I read his pieces with interest whenever I run across one.)
- 9:24 AM, 14 March 2016   [link]


Today's New Yorker Cartoon will bring a rueful smile to many commuters.
- 9:00 AM, 14 March 2016   [link]


"Why You Might Just Miss Old-Time Political Bosses"  Robert Samuelson makes an argument that will shock some people.
Although the new system is more democratic than the old, it hasn't produced better results. By reducing the influence of party leaders, it favors campaigning skills over governing skills.  Relatively inexperienced candidates benefit.  This helped elect Presidents Carter and Obama, but once in Washington, they had trouble governing.   Trump's bombastic campaign rhetoric is an extreme example of the same tendency.   Entrepreneurial politics has not elevated the level of debate or the quality of candidates.
(Emphasis added.)

I hope I won't shock too many of you if I say that I agree with the essentials of his argument.

And that I was pleased to see him recommend a book that greatly influenced my thinking, Alan Ehrenhalt's The United States of Ambition.

(An example might help some understand my thinking.  In 1944, under pressure from party leaders, FDR replaced his vice president, Henry Wallace, with Harry S Truman.  Anyone familiar with the two men will be grateful that the party leaders did that, knowing, as few voters did, that FDR was unlikely to survive his fourth term.)
- 5:18 PM, 13 March 2016   [link]


Here's Steven Hayward's Weekly Collection of pictures (link fixed).

My favorite was the "wall" cartoon.
- 12:57 PM, 13 March 2016   [link]


It Isn't Hard To Understand Why This Businessman prefers that "approach to management".

(He isn't the only one.)
- 7:30 AM, 13 March 2016   [link]


Grim, But Worth Reading:  (in fact, worth buying, though you won't find Commentary magazine on every news stand.)

Heather MacDonald's article, "Obama’s Assault on the Police".
There is no precedent for Barack Obama’s relentless attacks on the nation’s police officers and criminal-justice system.  Simply put, the man twice elected to the country’s highest office routinely and repeatedly charges that cops and the courts are awash in systematic racial bias.  “Too many young men of color,” the president told the Congressional Black Caucus in September 2014, “feel targeted by law enforcement, guilty of walking while black, or driving while black, judged by stereotypes that fuel fear and resentment and hopelessness.  We know that, statistically, in everything from enforcing drug policy to applying the death penalty to pulling people over, there are significant racial disparities.”
That assault has deepened racial divisions, demoralized police in large cities, and contributed to crime increases in those cities.  The "Ferguson Effect' is real, and has done, and will continue to do, serious damage to the innocents who live in those cities, particularly those who live in poor, minority neighborhoods,

In my opinion it is unlikely that President Obama understands the damage that he, and his Justice Department, have done, unlikely that he would even listen to anyone who brought him those conclusions, and the facts that support them.

(As you will notice if you read the article, Obama often says that black men "feel" the police and courts are unfair to them.  No doubt that is true for many, but by putting the argument in terms of feelings, Obama is able to avoid the question of whether they are right to feel that way.)
- 4:59 PM, 12 March 2016   [link]


Donald Trump Would Lose Head-To-Head Contests Against Ted Cruz And Marco Rubio:  That makes Trump a "Condorcet loser".

(Would he also lose a head-to-head contest against John Kasich?  Probably, but the pollsters didn't ask that question.

Here's the Wikipedia biography of the Marquis, who did important and highly original work before he was executed in the French Revolution.)
- 3:23 PM, 12 March 2016   [link]


If You Like Gangster Cartoons, And Remember A Little History, you'll like Thursday's New Yorker cartoon.

(Puzzled?  You can find the explanation here.)
- 3:06 PM, 12 March 2016   [link]


Did Donald Trump Violate Contracts With Members Of A Private Golf Resort?  That's what the members suing him are claiming, and Joe Nocera has evidence to support their claims.
In this dispute, members say Trump, who in 2012 bought what is now called Trump National Jupiter from Marriott Vacations Worldwide, basically stiffed them out of their refundable deposits, many of which were in the range of $200,000.  Some of the members had to swallow the loss (in return for some paltry benefits) because they had bought time shares or homes that were part of the resort development.  Others negotiated settlements.  Still others sued.  One suit has gained class-action status, and if a federal judge doesn’t dismiss the case between now and June (unlikely), it will go to trial.
(I believe the big Trump University trial is also scheduled for June.)

Nocera says this is typical Trump behavior:
What was taking place in Jupiter was an essential part of Trump’s modus operandi.   In every deal, he has to win and you have to lose.  He is notorious for refusing to pay full price to contractors and vendors after they’ve completed work for him.   And he basically dares the people he has stiffed to sue him, knowing that his deep pockets and bevy of lawyers give him a big advantage over those who feel wronged by him.
Did Trump benefit from his actions?  Probably not.  The resort was losing money when he bought it, and is probably losing more money, now.

If so, it's been a lose-lose deal for everyone involved — except the lawyers, of course,
- 4:26 AM, 11 March 2016   [link]


Some Of The Best Places In The Ocean For Plants And Animals are oil rigs.
Eight miles off the coast of Long Beach, Calif., the oil rig Eureka, which has stood here for 40 years, is a study in contrasts.  From a distance, it looks like just another offshore platform, an artifact of the modern industrial landscape.

But beneath the waves, the Eureka and other rigs like it in the area are home to a vast and thriving community of sea life that some scientists say is one of the richest marine ecosystems on the planet.

“They are more productive than coral reefs, more productive than estuaries,” said Milton Love, a professor of marine biology at the University of California Santa Barbara.   “It just turns out by chance that platforms have a lot of animals that are growing really quickly.”
. As you would expect, environmentalists aren't pleased with these scientific findings — but sports fisherman and divers are.

(The articles includes some lovely pictures and video.)
- 11:07 AM, 11 March 2016   [link]


Songs For Barack Obama — And Donald Trump:  Over the years, I've thought three popular songs captured much about Barack Obama:  Carly Simon's "You're So Vain", Sam Cooke's "Wonderful World", and Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller's "Hound Dog" (best known in the version sung by Elvis Presley).

A week or so ago, I realized that all three songs fit Donald Trump, too.  I assume everyone will see why "You're So Vain" fits Trump, but what about the other two?   "Wonderful World" works because there is so much that both men don't know, though neither seems to realize how much he doesn't know.  "Hound Dog" works because neither man is "high class", and neither is much good at catching rabbits, or even being a friend.  (And, though the song doesn't mention it, hound dogs are well known for the noises they make.)

Two thoughts about that similarity, one sour and one sweet:  It does seem that, as a nation, we aren't learning from our mistakes as quickly as we ought to — and I can't help smiling when I think of how annoyed both men would be by this post.
- 7:31 AM, 11 March 2016   [link]


The Pleasant Lives Of People On A Small French Island Are Being Spoiled By Newcomers:  Who are insisting that everyone wear clothes, in public.
ILE DU LEVANT, France—On a blustery morning on this Mediterranean island, dozens of naked men and women marched arm-in-arm in defense of their right to bare bottoms.

The target of their protest was Jean-Yves Gacon, who is wielding his authority as head of the island’s homeowners association to force people to wear clothing.  The coverup has the backing of the mayor’s office as well as local police who are stopping anyone who dares stroll through the village square without clothes.
Local traditions are on the side of the protesters; the law is on the side of the mayor.

I suppose I'd be on the side of the traditions, though I wouldn't join in the protests, or move to a place with those customs.

(Here's the island.)
- 6:35 AM, 11 March 2016   [link]


Right Now, Who Would Win, Hillary Clinton Or Donald Trump?   If you believe the polls, Clinton.
In the lead with 34.9% of the votes cast so far, The Donald is increasingly talking about the general election, claiming he’s “won many polls, as you know, against Hillary Clinton.”  That’s not true.  In the Real Clear Politics average of national head- to-head matchups, Mrs. Clinton leads Mr. Trump by 6.3 percentage points, winning 47.3% to his 41%.  In the 49 national polls since the beginning of last May, he led her in five, was tied in two, and lost 42.

Mr. Trump is the only remaining GOP candidate who has never led Mrs. Clinton in the Real Clear average.  By comparison, Mr. Kasich is ahead by 7.4 points, 47.7% to 40.3%; Sen. Marco Rubio is up by four points, 48% to 44%; and Sen. Ted Cruz leads by 0.8 points, 46.2% to 45.4%.
(Emphasis added.)

If you are wondering what the state polls say, Karl Rove has them, too.  And they tell a similar story.

It is true that the polls are sometimes wrong, and that candidates do sometimes overcome big deficits — but that's not the way to bet, especially when there are stronger alternative candidates.

(Kasich's margin is almost twice as large as the margin Obama had in the 2012 election.)
- 3:44 PM, 10 March 2016   [link]


Gerry Downing Wants To Be A Member Of Britain's Labour Party:  The Labour Party disagrees, and has expelled him, for a second time.
A hard-left activist who was readmitted by Jeremy Corbyn's Labour party in November has made a remarkable call to support Isis against air strikes.

Gerry Downing defended a blog post by his Trotskyist revolutionary group Socialist Fight in which it argued for 'critical support and tactical military assistance' to be given to Islamic terrorists fighting 'US-led world imperialism'.

Labour said it had expelled him from the party last night after David Cameron used Prime Minister's Questions to ask Mr Corbyn why he had been re-instated . . . after an appeal.
(Here's a milder version of the story from the BBC.)

I can understand why the Labour Party might want this embarrassment outside, rather than inside, but it isn't quite as obvious why Downing thought he would fit into Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party.  (Which is turning out to be rather different from Tony Blair's Labour Party.)

Downing's anti-Americanism is no surprise, nor, sadly, is his flirtation with anti-Semitism.

Here's his group's web site, which even has a hammer-and-sickle.)
- 3:02 PM, 10 March 2016   [link]


German Intelligence Coup:  The best account I've found, so far, is in the Daily Mail.
A cache of documents containing the personal information of 22,000 ISIS jihadists in Syria and Iraq has been seized today in the 'biggest counter-terrorism breakthrough in years'.

The treasure trove of data for security services battling the terror group contains the names, nationalities, addresses, telephone numbers, family contacts and the fighter's personal recruiter.

The leak by a disgruntled jihadi contains the details of at least 16 British fighters, including Birmingham hacker Junaid Hussain and Cardiff-born Reyaad Khan, who were both killed by a US drone last year.
(And just four Americans, if you were wondering.)

This is very good news.

(Apparently, the documents were first obtained by a German newspaper, Süddeutsche Zeitung, which has been sharing them with other news organizations, and some intelligence organizations.)
- 9:01 AM, 10 March 2016
More:  A BBC security correspondent, Gordon Corera, says the data "looks to be a snapshot from late 2013 or early 2014", so it isn't as current as one would like, but will still be very useful.
- 9:50 AM, 10 March 2016   [link]


Speaking Of Jokes, Sometimes I Suspect The Headline Writers at our local monopoly newspaper, the Seattle Times, are deliberately joking.   Two days ago, for instance, their lead story had this headline:  "Scant listings broil home prices".  And just below that story there was this headline:  "Cherry blossoms giving winter the boot".

The first left me wondering how you could broil anything with a few pieces of paper, and then wondering how you could broil a set of numbers, even with better fuel.

The second had me trying to visualize cherry blossoms with boots, which was difficult.

Both would be good examples for a class in how not to write headlines.  But I am fairly certain they weren't intentional jokes.  But not completely certain.

(To be fair, headline writers often have to work with space constraints that make it difficult to come up with good headlines — but I do wish they would try to visualize their headlines more often than they do.)
- 8:06 AM, 10 March 2016   [link]


Andrew Malcolm's Weekly Collection of jokes.

Malcolm took this Conan joke:
Conan: Hillary Clinton says that, several times a day, she speaks to God. But never for less than $100,000.
And improved it in his headline "Hillary says she speaks to God daily, but won’t reveal her fee".

I also like this joke, for its sheer absurdity:
Meyers: An Ohio farm has “NO TRUMP” written so large in cow manure that it can be seen by planes overhead.  The crazy part is no one asked the cow to do that.
This is the best Bernie Sanders joke I've seen:
Conan: Bernie Sanders says, “I am so proud to bring Vermont values all across this country.”  Then Sanders said, “Now, who wants to go antiquing?”
(So far, the late night comics have mostly been trying to make age jokes about Sanders.   But he isn't that much older than the other two leading candidates; Donald Trump will be 70 this year, and Clinton will be 70 next year.  From what I can tell, Sanders is the healthiest of the three, in spite of being 5 years older than Trump, and 6 years older than Clinton.)
- 6:54 AM, 10 March 2016   [link]


"Pundits In Diapers"  After the gloomy post just below, it's a pleasure to tell you about more rational behavior.
Andrew Scott Baron and colleagues at the University of British Columbia studied some surprisingly sophisticated political observers and prognosticators.  It turns out that even 6-month-old babies predict that the guy with more allies will prevail in a struggle.  They are pundits in diapers.

How could we possibly know this? Babies will look longer at something that is unexpected or surprising.  Developmental researchers have exploited this fact in very clever ways to figure out what babies think.
(I've heard of studies using that longer-attention-to-surprising-events effect to guess what babies are thinking.  As far as I know it is accepted in that field and, I have to admit, seems plausible,) .
- 7:12 PM, 9 March 2016   [link]


Thinking, Fast And Slow, With Walter Bagehot:  In this post, I am going to try to put ideas from two famous thinkers together, and I am not sure either Walter Bagehot or Daniel Kahneman would approve.

(Bagehot is no longer in a position to criticize, and if Kahneman wanted, by some odd chance, to tell me I am wrong, I'd be delighted to hear his thinking.)

In today's Wall Street Journal, editorial writer Allysia Finley gives us an explanation of how voters should decide, straight out of economics:
According to rational choice theory—a model used to explain economic behavior and outcomes—people make logical decisions that optimize their interests after considering the costs and benefits.  This may help explain voting behavior:  Trump supporters seem to consider his pugnacity a positive attribute and view the other Republican candidates as inferior.
Way back in the 19th century, Bagehot said that kind of decision making is too difficult for many voters because they don't have the knowledge they need to make decisions in representative democracies.
The best reason why Monarchy is a strong government is, that it is an intelligible government.   The mass of mankind understand it, and they hardly anywhere in the world understand any other.   It is often said that men are ruled by their imaginations; but it would be truer to say they are governed by the weakness of their imaginations.   The nature of a constitution, the action of an assembly, the play of parties, the unseen formation of a guiding opinion, are complex facts, difficult to know and easy to mistake.   But the action of a single will, the fiat of a single mind, are easy ideas: anybody can make them out, and no one can ever forget them.
And so they choose something they do understand, one-man rule.

As it happens, I think most voters can understand the principles of representative democracies, but not without considerable "slow", rational thinking.  And so many will be tempted by the kind of shortcut that Kahneman categorizes as "fast", non-rational thinking; and one of the most common shortcuts is to choose a man — and it is almost always a man — to do what those voters want done.

They will not — and this is a critical point — ask themselves whether the man they have chosen can achieve what they want him to achieve.  Because to answer that question would require much slow, rational thinking.  If you ask them how their man will do all that he promises, they will be unable to give you a rational answer, but will tell you about his great abilities.

(Using the one-man "fast" way to decide does not always give you wrong decisions.   Sometimes that way of deciding gives you a George Washington — but more often you get half-comical, half-dangerous men like Georges Boulanger.)
- 4:09 PM, 9 March 2016   [link]


Comrade Sanders Stunned The Pollsters in Michigan.
HuffPollster: "After a run of relative successes, polls missed in a big way Tuesday in Michigan's Democratic primary.  Surveys showed Hillary Clinton a heavy favorite in the state, with those conducted in March giving her margins of between 11 and 37 points over Sanders.  HuffPost Pollster, which includes all publicly available polling, gave Clinton an 18-point lead.   Instead, Sanders pulled off a narrow victory, marking what could be a historic polling misfire.
Sanders won in Michigan, 595,073-576,723 (49.8-48.3%).

As of now, the pollsters don't know how they erred, but they do know this is one of their biggest mistakes, ever.

(I stared at the graph in that Pollster compilation for several minutes, and saw few clues to the upset.  Sanders did appear to be gaining at the end, but not fast enough to make a race of it. )
- 10:03 AM, 9 March 2016   [link]


Worse Than I Expected:  I expected that Trump would win Mississippi — but that it would be closer than it was, that Trump would probably win Michigan — but that it would be closer than it was, and that he would definitely lose Hawaii — which he won.

The Hawaii result was especially surprising; I was not expecting the state that elected Linda Lingle, twice, to vote for someone so opposite in character and achievements.  It is true that the turnout in Hawaii was tiny; Trump won with just 5,677 votes, but a win is still a win.  (Lingle received 197,009 votes in her general election victory in 2002, and 215,313 votes in her 2006 victory.)

British bettors agree with my gloomy conclusion; Trump is at a 65.6 percent chance of winning the nomination, as I write.

The less bad news is that Trump did not win a majority in any of the three states.

(Michael Ramirez's cartoon, drawn before yesterday's results, is appropriate today.)
- 6:55 AM, 9 March 2016   [link]


Churchill Knew What Attracts A Crowd:  Another story from Bob Dole's collection:
One evening, when Churchill was addressing an audience in America, a gushing woman asked him, "Doesn't it thrill you, Mr. Churchill, to know that every time you make a speech, the hall is packed to overflowing?"

"It's quite flattering," Churchill replied,"but whenever I feel this way I always remember that if instead of making a political speech, I was being hanged, the crowd would be twice as big." (p. 13)
. (You may want to apply that to some of our current candidates.)
- 6:04 AM, 9 March 2016   [link]