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The wife and I the other day went down to Mt. St Helen’s. This is about a 3-hour drive from where we live.

The city of Seattle is heavily Democratic (capital D). Yet once you get out of the city and drive in any direction for an hour, the political orientation changes. There are lots of Trump supporters.

Along the way down, we saw a big billboard (privately owned, I think) that said “Higher taxes create jobs how?” The unstated argument is that raising taxes is bad for the economy and doesn’t create jobs, and lower taxes is a good idea and creates prosperity.

So I thought I’d take a stab at answering this question.

First of all, nobody who wants higher taxes wants them at 100%

So let’s throw that away. Everyone knows that if the tax rate is too high, the economy stops because no one will work.

Second, it’s a matter of who is being targeted with the higher taxes

In any economy, there is the poor, the working class, the professional class, and the rich. We’re not just talking about the 1% who have incomes starting over $450,000, but the highest sliver of that whose incomes are over $5 million per year. That’s usually who is being targeted for higher taxes although typically it applies to earners over $450,000.

Third, it has to do with increasing consumer spending

The United States’ economy, and most western economies, is built upon consumer spending. Someone has to sell stuff, and someone has to buy the stuff that’s being made. If I build 10,000 widgets, but nobody buys them, that’s bad. It puts no more money in my pocket, and if nobody can afford my widgets, then they can’t take advantage of my widgets’ awesomeness.

The theory behind tax increases

The idea being tax increases is that you take some money from the wealthy and give it to the poor, working class, and professional class. This could be in the form of a direct transfer payment, but usually it’s in the form of services. So, a government might take the additional revenue from taxes and spend it on improving public transit, or on roads, or on daycare, or on health care.

The result is that a poor, working class, or professional class person that normally would have spent an extra $5 on a subway ride, or $1000/month on day care, has extra money in their pocket. They decide to spend it on something else, be it goods that are necessary (household items) or luxury goods (mid-to-upper end vehicles).

The net result is that because people are spending less on one area because the government is subsidizing it, they get to spend more on another area. That means the people that sell stuff have more customers to buy their stuff.

The theory behind tax cuts

Tax cuts have to go to the wealthiest people. The belief is that a wealthy person will take the money they receive in tax cuts and invest it to start new business and generate more wealth for everyone – new jobs, new innovation, new spending on business.

A poor, working class, or professional person doesn’t get enough back in taxes to be able to invest it. For the poor and working class, any new additional income is likely to be spent on consumer goods and services. For a professional person, the money will either be spent, saved, or invested in the markets depending their financial situation. This is similar to a tax increase on the rich in that both are intended to be stimulative. But in these cases, the tax cut money has not gone to creating more wealth in the economy by starting a new business.

No, only a wealthy person who gets a big tax cut can take it and invest directly in the economy. For you see, a wealthy person already has all (or nearly all) of their needs and luxury items. This is because of the decreasing utility of money. All of us need a certain amount of money to buy food, shelter, transportation, cat food, and other requirements. Then we all buy some luxury items. But eventually that tapers off and additional money doesn’t make us happier, that is, we don’t spend it. But given enough additional money, and then maybe a wealthy person decides to take a risk and start a business to grow the economy. It takes a certain amount of money to get started, running a business isn’t cheap. It’s difficult and requires a cushion.

That’s why you have to give tax cuts to the rich if you want them to grow the economy.

Which one is better?

Economists have measured both of these. Both are intended to stimulate the economy. A tax cut does put additional money into everyone’s pocket, and they spend it – but not equally.

The poor and working class spend their extra money. The professional class frequently does, and the wealthy sometimes do, but sometimes they save it. If someone wants to save their extra money, that’s fine. It’s a smart thing to do, Americans don’t save enough. But from macro-economic perspective, it’s bad. Our economy is built on consumer spending, not consumer saving.

If the government now suffers a reduction in revenue, it either has to cut services or run deficits. If it cuts services, then the poor and working class who were using them now have to use the small bit of money from tax cuts to spend on those cut services whose fees have increased. They have no additional money. So the government has to run a deficit and sells bonds in order to finance itself, but as the deficit grows, it can increase inflation. That, too, can erode the buying power of consumers whose incomes have to grow fast enough to keep up with inflation. In 2017, that’s happening for the professional class, but not the poor and working class.

So, if you compare the two:

  • A tax increase on the wealthy that results in the government providing more services for the middle class gives us more consumers who can spend money. Because of the marginal utility of money, the wealthy don’t experience a noticeable degradation of their lifestyle
  • A tax cut on the wealthy does not necessarily result in the wealthy creating more jobs. Much of the time, they save it which is good for them but not for the economy as a whole. The middle class does notice a degradation of their lifestyle as they now have to spend more money on services that they previously didn’t have to spend on

Therefore, as long as it is done right and the rates are not too high, a tax increase on the wealthy does more to stimulate the economy than a tax cut for the wealthy.

And that’s how I would answer the billboard’s question.

 

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I had a surprising experience the other day.

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about politics, no doubt due to my alarm about the current US administration. But I also want to be non-partisan, as I’ve written on numerous blog posts.

I’d heard that a lot of US political appointee positions had not been filled, so on a whim I decided to see if the US ambassadorship to France is currently open. It is.

I joke to people that my goal is to become the US ambassador to France (it could be any country, but I picked France). Even though I’m not qualified for this, let’s just assume that somehow I get the job. I then plan to serve out my term, and then since I hold dual citizenship, apply to become the Canadian ambassador to France. When they ask me for my relevant job experience, I can answer “Was previously the ambassador for France.”

I checked out the current ambassador to France’s resume as of course they would have relevant experience, and she does. I also saw that she’s on the Council of Foreign Relations. I hadn’t heard of this before but it did sort of ring a bell. It turns out to be a non-partisan group of fairly famous people who are a think-tank based in Washington, D.C. whose focus is US foreign affairs. I went through the site, browsed its contents, subscribed to the daily newsletter, and subscribed to the podcast. I also started looking through the membership, as for some reason I have this idea in my head that I want to join the US Council of Foreign Relations. After all, I’ve always had an interest in geopolitics.

I started going through the membership list of the CFR, and it’s big. I recognize a large chunk of the names, but none of them are people who I know personally (e.g., Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the former head of the Democratic National Convention; Colin Powell, former US Secretary of State). But then I recognized one name on the list for whom I did have a quasi-relationship – my member of Congress.

My congressman has a common name and I wondered if it was him. I went to his webpage and browsed his bio but I didn’t see his membership on the CFR. So, I filled out the “Contact Me” page (it has a lot of screening on it, they make sure you’re in his district before he’ll respond) and I asked him “Are you the same guy that’s on the membership of the CFR?” I left my contact information and basically forgot about it, not really expecting a response.

A few days later, I got a phone call from an unknown number. I let it go to voice mail because I get so much unsolicited spam on my cell phone now (some idiot organization or two clearly leaked my phone number). I was surprised to see they left a message (so few spammers do), and I was even more surprised to hear it was a staff member of my congressman!

He did, indeed, confirm that my congressman was the same person listed on the CFR! So I was right, I kind of figured he was. But I was suitably impressed that he took the time to get back to me on this rather obscure question.

I wonder if anyone’s every asked him that before?

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I’ve loosely been tracking the trial of Bill Cosby – the TV star from the 1980’s and 1990’s. He’s had a whole stack of sexual harassment allegations spanning multiple decades, and his accusers have accused him of giving them drugs and engaging in unwanted sexual acts with them. There’s not just one or two women accusing him of this, but dozens.

Cosby’s on trial, but because so many of the cases are so old, he can’t be prosecuted for them due to the statute of limitations (or so I’ve heard). Instead, he’s being tried for one incident that occurred in 2004.

The prosecution brought multiple witnesses, whereas the defense wrapped up their case in a few minutes, only bringing in one witness (a police detective). They went to closing arguments, and the jury went into deliberations. That was last Monday or Tuesday (it’s the following Sunday as I write this).

There’s still no verdict, and the jury has asked to review lots of the evidence presented at trial.

I’ve read some commentary by so-called jury experts who say that it’s not indicative of it being either good or bad (for Cosby). But in my view, I think it’s bad news for the prosecution and good news for Cosby.

Now, personally, I think Bill Cosby is guilty. I know he has a wholesome image, but he’s had dozens of accusers come forward and say more or less the same thing. Why he would ever feel the need to give these women drugs – relaxants – to get them to agree to have sex with him is beyond me. He’s a rich and famous celebrity, I would think he wouldn’t have had that much difficulty in finding willing participants. And the circumstances of the story being told is suspicious.

I think he did it.

But I don’t think he’ll be convicted.

For you see, a couple of months ago I was on a jury, and it was a sexual assault case. In the case, it resulted in a guilty verdict. But I feel like the case was really obvious that the guy did it. There was evidence that was too strong to ignore.

In this case, there are a bunch of complicating factors:

First, it comes down to he said, she said

This is unfair, but this ultimately comes down to a he said, she said debate, and which one has more credibility. There isn’t any physical evidence, so the jury has to decide which one they want to believe. Both agree that there was a sexual encounter, and both agree that there was relaxant drugs involved. But one says it was consensual while the other says it wasn’t.

Secondthe prosecution has to prove that Cosby is guilty; the defense doesn’t have to prove he is innocent

This is a high bar to clear in a case like this where there is no physical evidence. As a jury, you can’t just say “Well, she said it so it must be true.” The jury has to find that Cosby is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This doesn’t mean that there can be zero doubt, but rather that a reasonable person would find the defendant guilty given the evidence and that alternative explanations are simply implausible.

Third, I suspect that the jury does not know that much about Cosby or the other allegations against him

When I was on the jury, there is a pre-trial process where the lawyers will weed out any juror who they think should not be on the jury. This includes people who have heard about the case on the news, and you are given strict instructions to not read about the case in any way, shape, or form; or to discuss it with anyone in any detail. When you go home for the evening, you can’t discuss what case it is or even what it’s about.

During the trial I was on, we were only given the facts of the case in isolation. I had heard that Cosby had numerous sexual complaints against him, but this probably didn’t come into the trial because it’s not part of this particular case. I say that because the defendant in the case I was on had a long criminal history. That didn’t come up during the trial since it was outside of the context of the case, and I’m sure the defense lawyer argued that it shouldn’t be part of the evidence the prosecution could bring up (and he succeeded).

Cosby’s lawyer would have argued the same thing (if he didn’t, he’s a bad lawyer and there’s no way Cosby would have gotten a bad one). That means that the trial jury would most likely be made up of people who weren’t that familiar with Bill Cosby (celebrities are not universally known) and were unfamiliar with all the other complaints against him. Or, if they did know about Cosby, would have been instructed to put all of their biases aside. But anyone familiar with Cosby’s other sexual misconduct allegations would probably have been excluded from the trial jury.


So with that out of the way, why do I think Cosby will not get convicted?

Guilt beyond a reasonable doubt is hard to define, but it can be attained with the word of a credible witness. That’s the one thing this entire case likely rests on. Is Cosby’s accuser credible?

There will be some on the jury who think she is, but some who don’t. The reason the jury is asking to review her testimony is because they are trying to see if there were any inconsistencies in it. Did all the facts line up? Do they contradict at any point? Because if they do, that will undermine her credibility. There are going to be some on the jury that don’t think her testimony is credible enough to secure guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

I say that because it’s what happened in my jury room. I’d say between 1/2 to 2/3 of us believe the defendant was guilty, even though the accuser had some minor gaps in the testimony. But the jurors who were unsure were not that willing to find a guilty verdict because they knew the implications, and believed that there was room for reasonable doubt. Reasonable doubt differs from person to person.

In the trial I was on, there was physical evidence on the victim, and there was security footage that caught the two on camera about a half hour after the incident took place. And, there was testimony from friends of the victim. But, the friends’ testimony was not enough to convince the jury, only the physical evidence on the victim and the video camera footage. Had it not been for that, I don’t think we could have gotten a unanimous verdict.

And that’s what I think is happening here. I think that 1/2 to 2/3 of the jurors think Cosby is guilty, and the rest do not – at least not beyond a reasonable doubt. Those jurors will want more than he said it was consensual, she says it was not, in order to say guilty unless they find the accuser credible.

There will be an internal debate going – why would she make it up? The defense argued that it is grandstanding, or trying to get revenge after a consensual sexual encounter, or something like that. And some jurors will hold out that possibility even though it’s not that plausible. It’s true that some men will be falsely accused of sexual assault, but it happens far less than they actually commit sexual assault, and far less than they are accused of it but are acquitted.

So I think that the jury will probably come back as a hung jury, or return a verdict of not guilty, and that’s why it has taken so long. The jury I was on took about 5 hours, and this one is now at least four days (maybe three). They will review the testimony, but you can take notes during the trial and everyone can discuss it. You can bring your own personal experience into the trial, too.

But I think Cosby is, unfortunately, going to get away with it.

Update – June 20, 2017: I found out on CNN today that the result was a mistrial, just like I predicted.

 

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Last month, I wrote that for the first time ever, I was angry at the US government for their restrictive travel ban. The ban was overturned by various federal courts in the days following, so that crisis has been averted.

But in the weeks since then, I have been amused at the number of leaks coming out the White House. These are not related to national security, but rather, about the personalities in the White House and how things are in disarray.

One of my favorites is the Twitter account RoguePOTUSstaff. This is a Twitter account run by a handful of low-to-mid-level employees in the White House that are unhappy with the administration’s incompetence. In it, they talk about the inner workings of the Oval Office, and how personality clashes and chaos is reigning over there. We get to hear about how Trump and Bannon are raging egomaniacs who have their own view on things that are out of touch with reality.

RoguePOTUSstaff is populated mostly by Republicans unhappy with the state of things. They are passive-aggressive and their intent is to #resist the current administration by leaking how incompetent they are.

Another source of leaks is the intelligence community. When Trump’s NSA advisor Michael Flynn was forced to resign, the White House tried to deflect the issue by saying the real outrage is that the phone calls by Flynn were leaked. Indeed, we’ve been seeing leak after leak by the intelligence community and it is distracting the Trump administration. That’s what happens when you go to war with your nation’s spies; they get back at you in all sorts of ways. It’s surprising to me that Trump couldn’t predict this when he took Russia’s word for it that they didn’t hack the election over the word of 17 different intelligence agencies.

However, the big reason I am enjoying this schadenfreude is because during the election campaign, President Trump reveled in the difficulties his opponent had with her political opponents (Russia) leaking her own team’s sensitive emails. Trump couldn’t say enough good words about Wikileaks. My criticism back then was that we had to take the foreign interference seriously because while Trump was benefitting from it at the time, eventually the shoe would be on the other foot and he would be negatively impacted when the leakers turned on him. He ignored this sage advice at his own peril. It never occurred to him (or his supporters) that he, too, could suffer the wrath of the leakers.

And now they have turned on him. That was fast.

So, to see a little bit of poetic justice being done fills me with warm fuzzies.

I know that’s not being mature.

But I am enjoying it nonetheless.

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If you’ve been following the news the past couple of days, one of the big headlines is that the United States’ intelligence agencies asserted that the Russian government interfered in the recent Presidential election, and that they attempted to tilt it in Trump’s favor.

Donald Trump shot back, casting doubt on the agencies’ competency – “These are the same ones that said Iraq had weapons of mass destruction”, meaning that since they had no credibility in the past, why should we believe them now? He also said that hacking is too hard to verify after the fact.

Well, for one thing, those two things aren’t the same. For another, it’s quite obvious that the Russian government was involved in the attacks; hacking can be hard to verify but not always. Sometimes the trail is clear, and it is in this case.

The underlying accusation is this:

  1. Trump has been friendly with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the past 12 months, far friendlier than any past President

  2. Putin is a lifelong intelligence agent, and knows how to manipulate Trump. He did it during the campaign, and is still doing it

  3. Trump fell for Putin’s manipulations, mistaking Putin’s praise as genuine statements of admirations (Trump does this – he praises those whom praise him first, and attacks those who insult him)

  4. Putin only praises Trump in order to manipulate Trump into reversing US foreign policy. This will give Putin and Russia a free hand to operate within their sphere of influence, since there is no other power strong enough to stand up to Russia

  5. Trump pushes back on this because, first, he doesn’t believe (or want to believe) that he could be manipulated.

    Second, by consenting that Russia did hack the election, it undermines his victory – the only reason he won is because a foreign power interfered on his behalf, and he wouldn’t have done it on his own. This undercuts the Trump brand of winning.

That’s roughly the argument for why the hacking matters, and why Trump doesn’t believe it.

But that’s not what I want to talk about.

Instead, I want to look at Trump’s statement after the intelligence briefing on Friday, Jan 6, 2016.

Leading up to it, Trump was fighting with the intel agencies, a fight I think is a terrible idea. Even as media pressure began to swirl, Trump said things like this:

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He issued denial after denial that Russia was involved in any capacity.

But after the briefing, he said this in a statement:

“While Russia, China, other countries, outside groups and people are consistently trying to break through the cyber infrastructure of our governmental institutions, businesses and organizations, including the Democrat National Committee, there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election, including the fact that there was no tampering whatsoever with voting machines”

CNN went on to say :

“Trump also tried to defuse controversy over his criticism of the intelligence community and continued refusal to accept Moscow’s actions, calling the Friday meeting "constructive" and offering praise for the senior intel officials. He said he will appoint a team within 90 days to figure out ways to stop foreign hacking.”

 

I think there’s a clear concession from Donald Trump:

  • He used to say Russia wasn’t involved. And now after seeing the evidence he still can’t say they were. But he did mention them in conjunction with China hacking (which is true), other countries (also true), and other groups of people (still true) as trying to break into the US’s cyber infrastructure.

    By mentioning Russia alongside others who are also known to hack the US, he is effectively conceding “Okay, you’re right” to the US intel agencies.

  • He concedes that Russia hacked the Democratic National Committee, but he also buffers that by saying that it didn’t affect the election… which implies that his victory is not undermined, and therefore cannot be delegitimized. It also doesn’t undercut his brand.

    In other words “Yes, they may have been hacked, but I still won fair and square.”

  • He called for a plan to be done in 90 days to combat hacking. Why do this if it wasn’t a big problem?

  • He didn’t make this statement on Twitter. That’s key; Trump uses Twitter to drum up support for his followers as an unfiltered source straight from The Donald. He would never use the mainstream media to issue a message that undercuts his brand

The words are coded, but still clear. Trump lost this fight, but still is good at manipulating the media, and Twitter, to come out ahead. Look at what he said after the report was leaked to NBC news right after he was briefed on the matter:

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I can’t tell if Trump is being genuine or not. If he is, that is why it is a bad idea to pick fights with intelligence agencies. They don’t fight back directly, they do it passive-aggressively. The leak documents to reporters who whip up the public and distract you from your message as you spend time having to deflect from media circuses.

Yet Trump is not that naïve (I’m pretty sure he isn’t). If he didn’t know that’s how the game is played, he does now. He went to Twitter to distract from his concession, and instead tried to flip it as fake outrage that the report even leaked at all.

Trump is good at that – using Twitter to distract others in order to cover weaknesses. That’s why he started ranting about the new Celebrity Apprentice with Arnold Schwarzenegger having lower ratings. People would chase that instead of his concession.

Then, look at how he uses his concession (a loss) into a weapon against his opponents, the Democrats:

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His side was strong, the other side was weak. Yet, even in spite of that, he makes this misleading Tweet:

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That’s not what the intelligence agencies said, they didn’t say that the hacking had no effect, they said they don’t know how much it affected it – from no effect whatsoever to giving the election to Trump (in such a close election, especially in 3 mid-western states, small things matter).

So while Trump is saying there was no effect on the outcome, the intelligence agencies are saying “We can’t measure it because it requires asking people whether or not the revelations from the hack affected their votes – switching to Trump, or staying home and not voting for Hillary, or voting third party. And even if we asked people, they may not tell the truth. And even if they think they are telling the truth, they may be confused by their own motivations.”

Thus, while I don’t agree with anything Trump has said recently about hacking, and not trusting the intelligence agencies, and I am not comfortable with his cozy relationship with Russia, there is no doubt that he is fantastic at public relations and turning weakness into strength.

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Okay, so now it has been a week and a half since Donald Trump won the presidency. I accepted it a while ago (about 72 hours after), and now I’m ready to move on. The 2016 election is done.


First, I don’t have that much sympathy for the protestors

I get that people are upset about the election, it was stunning to me, too. So, there’s some lash out. While some protested, in the following week, a lot of charities like Planned Parenthood raised record amounts of donations.

But I think those will fade away as people start to come to acceptance of what just happened.

The time to come out and organize against the election of Donald Trump was during the campaign. The campaign is now finished, your side (and mine) lost. The next goal are the 2018 mid-terms and the 2020 elections.

Yet I see these protests as drumming up sympathy for Donald Trump. He hasn’t even done anything yet and people are organizing against them. That’s not going to pull the far-right (who always vote conservative) and the middle-ground centrists (who flip/flop) onto your side. If anything, it will drive a wedge against the Democratic party and prevent people from flipping sides next time.

I think that if these protests don’t fade away, they will generate a backlash effect where people will vote for Trump again just to spite the protestors.

Remember, I’m tired of people crying wolf, and people are still crying wolf!

Speaking of which, I am tired of the 2016 campaign and I’m not in favoring of the Electoral College changing their votes

Donald Trump is one of those uncommon situations where he lost the popular vote (currently trailing by 1.6 million votes) but won enough states individually to take the Electoral College.

There is a movement afoot for the Electoral College in states that Trump won to instead vote for Hillary. This extends the 2016 election even more.

I’m against this. It’s done.

First, this is the way the situation is set up and we all understood it. It’s not like we didn’t know this could happen. If you want to get rid of the Electoral College, then you should do it when your party has power, not because your side lost. We all had fair warning that this is how it worked.

Second, the Electoral College prevents highly-concentrated votes from getting too much power. Yes, Trump won without winning the popular vote. But if the popular vote wins, then it gives too much power to New York and California while not enough to North Dakota and Mississippi. You may say “Yeah, well, so what? The majority says this is what we want and so the most votes means your team gets its way!”

Except that Constitution is set up explicitly to prevent exactly that. It tries to ensure that one section doesn’t get too much power. So, New York and California would have a lot of voting power without the Electoral College, because the more rural states are losing a lot of their affluent people to the coasts, causing an economic Matthew-Effect. Yet there are still people left behind who live in those states that didn’t leave.

In order to counterbalance this, the framers of the Constitution try to prevent one side taking too much power, and the Electoral College means that you have to be aware of all the US states, even ones that proportionally have “too much” power. In reality, they are a smaller economic bloc and have much less sway in public opinion, but their political power makes up for that gap. The whole point of the US Constitution is the separation of powers and setting up a system of checks and balances. The writers were influenced by the Enlightenment and the need to constrain the power of governments, but also of the majority.

It’s fine to complain about the Electoral College when it goes against you. But you’re certainly thankful for it when the system works in your favor, and one day it just might.

Third, my day-to-day life is going on as before

I currently pay attention to who Trump is putting in his Cabinet. I was holding my breath when I saw some undesirables get nominated, but some of the potential ones look interesting.

For example, I see the possibility of Mitt Romney being nominated for Secretary of State. That’s hopeful, because even though I was for Obama in 2012, I thought Mitt Romney was capable of being President. He’d be fifth in line to the Presidency (after the VP, Speaker of the House, and longest-serving Senator).

But for the most part, I get up, go to work, come home, make food, and go to bed (and talk to the wife, and bug my cats, of course). I still have plenty of things to do during the day and they didn’t change at all the day or week after the election.

I understand that there are some people who’s live may change for the worse after Trump assume the Presidency in January; with massive increases in deficit spending and repeals in public health care, that will be potentially bad for some. There may even be a recession brought on by some of Trump’s tax policy (i.e., putting 35-45% tariffs on imports from China or Mexico).

But I will deal with that when the time comes. For now, I am watching, and going about my life. I have more important things to worry about.

Fourth, about the “party of science”…

A year ago, I wrote a book review about Sapiens, a book I loved. Here’s an excerpt from that blog post:

The fact is that we don’t care about other people’s plights as much as our own absent of some underlying influence…

This is so because we humans are innately inward-focused, that’s how natural selection designed us (accounting for natural selection, kin selection, and reciprocal altruism).

The fact is that we don’t care about other people’s plights as much as our own absent of some underlying influence… That’s not the way it should be, but it is the way our species works.

And I didn’t say it in the blog post, but the book also says that natural selection didn’t make other species altruistic, and humans are no exception.

I say this because I see people on Facebook posting memes (with some of my own paraphrasing):

So you say voted for Trump but you’re not a racist.

But he said racist things, so that’s obviously not a deal breaker for you.

The sentiment is that while people voted Trump out of their own self-interest due economic concerns, they should have seen that Trump’s racism was a disqualifying factor and they should have instead acted against their own (perceived, real or not) self-interest by voting against him.

During the Democratic National Convention, Hillary Clinton said she believed in science, that is, she accepted the reality of human-caused climate change. And her followers cheered.

Yet the science says that people act in their own self-interests most of the time, and now we are surprised that they did not?

Come on, now. That’s not how people act in real life.

To be sure, people do act against their own self-interest, but their motivations are complex. Shaming people into doing it doesn’t work.

And remember, I’m saying this as a guy who voted for Hillary Clinton and got others to vote for her, too.

* * * * * * * * *

So that’s what I’m thinking right now.

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It has now been over a week since Trump beat Clinton in the 2016 election, and my views, while still fuzzy, are getting clearer.

And the main thing I am is this – disillusioned.

What do I mean by that?

First, I am disillusioned with pollsters and Big Data.

I followed this election really closely by tracking RealClearPolitics and 538.com. RealClearPolitics had a running average of several polls, and so did 538. Even on the day of the election, 538 gave Clinton a 71% chance of winning the election:

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At no point during the campaign was Trump winning except in July when he temporarily spiked during the Republican National Convention. He briefly closed the gap after Clinton’s “basket of deplorables” comment and Sept 11 fainting spell due to pneumonia, but he never led.

 

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Then, on Nov 8, he won.

That’s why it hit me like a sack of potatoes, I was expecting a Clinton victory because this came out of no where.

All of the big data models, simulations, polling… all worthless! None of them foresaw a Trump victory.

538’s forecast was better than most, it gave Trump a 29% chance of winning, and it was the most optimistic. The others gave Clinton a 80-99% chance of victory.

But you know who did forecast it?

Michael Moore, back a few months ago in his article 5 reasons why Donald Trump will win. And all of his reasons were right!

You know who else?

Alan Lichtman, a professor at American University who uses 13 keys in a True/False fashion to make a prediction about who will take or keep the White House, and it has nothing to do with polls. He ignores them because he says they aren’t predictive of anything.

I read through his 13 questions, and only two of them have something to do with the candidates themselves. The rest are all easily answerable based upon the previous 4 years.

Now, I heard both of these predictions during the campaign because I said “These are not based upon data, they are projecting their beliefs onto the campaign and they may be right or may be wrong, but it will be by accident.” Anyone can fit data to a curve.

But all the Big Data we had proved to be wrong, and conjecture and insight turned out to be right!

When I realized that, I became disgusted with data analysis. Whenever anyone says “data-backed evidence” or “evidence-based decisions”, I snort and roll my eyes. “Evidence-based data” said Hillary would win. Look how that turned out.

What a con.

Second, I am disillusioned with the media

The media did everything in their power to discredit Donald Trump. For nearly every newspaper in the country, to economists, to websites, to late night comedians, they all attacked and criticized and jumped on the Trump Bandwagon-of-Doom (except Fox News and some far-right websites).

They threw everything they had at him… and missed it completely.

Even this week, Donald Trump has:

  • Walked back his statements about building a wall along the Mexico border
  • Walked back his statements about repealing all of Obamacare
  • Walked back some of his possible nominations to key cabinet posts (i.e., basically firing Chris Christie)
  • Hired Reince Priebus as his Chief of Staff, a well-connected insider that people seem to like

Yet do we hear any of that on late night comedy? No! We hear rant after rant after rant of him hiring Steve Bannon, the former chief of right-wing Breitbart News.

Now, it’s starting to look to me that Donald Trump may not be an ideologue, he just may be an opportunist that jumps on a movement only to abandon it later. As a businessman (of questionable skill, it turns out), that’s what you have to do.

I know nothing of Steve Bannon, but he may be the same. After all, he’s in the entertainment industry. I have no idea.

It’s entirely possible that Bannon is a crazy person… but the press and late night comedy has burned all of their credibility in trying to shoot down Trump and completely missed the people who supported him; they whiffed on any of the critical insight necessary to foresee a Trump victory.

This is heightened more because…

Third, I am disillusioned with my friends on Facebook

I wrote a few months ago that if you have 100 friends on Facebook with opinions on politics, maybe 2 of them have opinions worth listening to. I am probably not one of those two.

Nearly everyone on my Facebook feed was anti-Trump (which tells you something of the circles I run in). Well, maybe closer to 80%.

Yet these people shouted “Racist! Xenophobe!” at Trump… but said the same thing about Mitt Romney in 2012. And John McCain in 2008. And George Bush for 8 years.

So when Donald Trump came along who really did espouse racist rhetoric, it didn’t work because they had exhausted their credibility on people who didn’t show those signs, such that now when we had people do show it, we don’t believe them.

That goes hand-in-hand with my above disillusionment with the media.

These same people who cried “Xenophobe!” during the campaign are shouting it now at Steve Bannon. Did you really learn nothing at all? This is covered in this blog post over at the excellent blog Slate Star Codex: You are still crying wolf.

The first 24-48 hours I was sympathetic to people who were worried about Trump’s extremism. But that’s because I was similarly distraught. But now… I am rolling my eyes because I don’t trust my left-wing friends to be able to tell the difference between true prejudice and showmanship.

Ugh.

And neither can I.

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