Photo of the day

From the Telegraph pictures of the day:

A common kingfisher catches a fish while in flight in Guri, Gyeonggi province, South Korea

A common kingfisher catches a fish while in flight in Guri, Gyeonggi province, South Korea.  KIM JAE-SUN/EPA

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Quick hits (part I)

1) This is a terrific piece on the strengths and weaknesses of Hillary Clinton as a politician by Ezra Klein.  I’ve been meaning to write a post about it. Just read it.  Really.

2) As long as I am quick-hitting stuff I meant to give their own post… this Dara Lind piece on sex offender registries is a pretty much perfect case study in how good intentions can lead to bad policy.

3) Biblical literalism and the new Noah’s Ark reconstruction.

4) Trump’s message to NC is increasingly less relevant.

5) The right-wing lies and myths about Hillary’s health are just plain wrong.  And the mainstream media should call them out on this.

6) A liberal professor with his take on why all the liberal professors.

7) A teacher shared her evidence-based policy on homework (that is, there’s little evidence it helps) and it went viral.  There’s actually nothing new here, but presumably good that people are starting to pay attention.

8) I’m so with Drum… if you’ve got something more than one simple thought to say, write a damn blog post!  Enough with the tweetstorms!

9) John McWhorter (by the way, I love how he has gone full-bore on being a public intellectual– I’ve loved pretty much everything I have read by him) on the changing language of race.  I especially like this part:

Notably, black has persisted robustly alongside African-American—note how clumsy “African American Lives Matter” would seem. The reason is that despite the persistence of racism after the early ’70s, few could say that black people since then have lived under the bluntly discriminatory, life-stunting conditions that blighted all black lives then. As such, African-Americandidn’t have as much ugly thought to replace, which is why it always had a slight air of the stunt about it, always felt as a bit in quotation marks. Black never connoted the ugly-newsreel/segregated water-fountain pain of Negro and colored, and African-American was created not because black had become especially freighted with negative associations, but because the hyphenated conception of identity had become so attractive and in vogue at the time. I personally have always found African-American clumsy, confusing, and implying that black history since 1600 was somehow not worthy of founding an identity upon, and I only use it when necessary. Yet I would never have ventured this relatively idiosyncratic position about Negro and colored.

10) Find out how well Facebook knows your politics (and actually very handy advice for modifying the ads you see).

11) Harry Enten on house effects among various pollsters.  As long as you analytically take these into account, the poll can still be useful.

12) I’m pretty good with delay of gratification, but the idea of putting something aside for 72 hours before buying it sounds like a good one.

13) Sensible password rules.  Enough with one special character, one upper-case, etc.

14) Interesting take on how Gawker was done in (shared by pretty much every journalist I know on social media).

15) Jonathan Ladd thinks Trump’s epically bad campaign means he has a lot of potential upside.  Definitely the right idea, but I honestly think, too late:

Yet as you may have noticed, things are different this year. The Trump campaign is so weak that it appears to be affecting the race. Political science models predicting the 2016 election based on various fundamentals (i.e., variables that ignore the two candidates and their campaigns) mostly predict a very close election or a Republican victory. Trump is vastly underperforming these fundamentals. He is currently somewhere between 5 and 10 points behind in pollingaverages.

The reason is that his campaign is weaker than any in the modern media era. There is arguably a bigger mismatch relative to the opposing campaign than in any presidential election in American history. The many errors of messaging by Trump and his campaign staff are too numerous to list here.

The bottom line is that he has presented himself in ways that have little appeal beyond the Republican base, some of whom will vote for him because they like his message and others out of partisan loyalty. But many other Americans who would be willing to vote Republican this year are repelled by Trump.

The strange thing is that this means the details of Trump’s campaign tactics matter a lot. Normally, both campaigns are competent enough that they are deep into the diminishing marginal returns for campaign communication. But this year, the Trump campaign has been so weak, I don’t think diminishing returns have really kicked in yet. Trump could improve his fortunes a lot if he managed to run a weak but essentially normal presidential campaign.

16) Money is all good for college athletes when it comes to gold medals.  Just another example of the NCAA’s epic hypocrisy.

17) Face transplant a year later– impressive progress.

18) Social science approaches to improving voter turnout.

19) Are private prisons highly problematic?  Indeed.  But in terms of what’s wrong with our criminal justice system, they are probably not even in the top 10 problems.  That’s because, they are not nearly as widespread as their critics believe.  

20) Speaking of prisons, it’s pretty shameful Ramen seems to have replaced cigarettes as black market currency because we can’t even seem to feed prisoners enough decent food.

21) Melania Trump’s “diary.”  Good stuff.

22) The hundred best films of the 21st century.  I’ve seen a few.  Not enough.  I would say the Angry Birds movie is one of the 10 worst I’ve seen this century.

 

23) A new book says ADHD is over-diagnosed and medication is over-prescribed.  I don’t dispute that.  That said, I’ll go on record as saying a correct diagnosis and stimulant medication has made a huge difference for my son:

Influential patient-advocacy groups insist that only now is the true prevalence of A.D.H.D. finally being recognized after being drastically underestimated — akin to the spike in autism diagnoses once the narrowly defined condition was broadened into a spectrum in the 1990s. But Schwarz makes a convincing case that the radical expansion and promotion of A.D.H.D. has resulted in the label being applied in ways that are far beyond the needs of a historically underserved community, while nonpharmaceutical methods of treatment like cognitive behavioral therapy (which have been proved to complement the effectiveness of medication) are overlooked.

24) Toobin on how Ted Cruz is still running for president.

25) Love this xkcd:

Linear Regression

 

Mika Brzezinski’s anti-Trump statement tells us everything that is wrong with journalistic norms

In response to Trump referring to Hillary Clinton as a “bigot” (seriously??!!  Please!), Mika Brzeinski had the following to say:

“You have no idea. You have no idea what your words mean,” Brzezinski said.

“And I can’t pretend and sort of try and cover this fairly and put it in the objectivity. [emphasis mine] You have no idea what your words mean and what you’re doing to this country.”

Got that?  Brzezinski is so clearly wedded to the “both sides” idea of objectivity and fairness in journalism that simply coming out and calling a (by any rational standards whatsoever) completely false and disprovable (if not dangerous) statement for what is is violates “fairness” and “objectivity” to her.  So hard to call out Trump without saying, “but Hillary Clinton says mean things!” or some such.  But in truth, there’s simply nothing nearly equivalent from Hillary Clinton and Brzezinski just has to admit as much.  But, oh my how that burns for a journalist who is so committed to the idea of “both sides” objectivity.

Economists for Trump!

Ummm, keep looking.  From James Fallows:

Today Ben Leubsdorf, Eric Morath, and Josh Zumbrun of the WSJ published theresults of a survey of all living former members of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers, with service dating back to the time of Richard Nixon. Not one of them expressed support for Donald Trump. All of the Republicans who expressed a preference opposed him.

The story quoted a post by Gregory Mankiw, chairman of the CEA under George W. Bush:

“I have Republican friends who think that things couldn’t be worse than doubling down on Obama policies under Hillary Clinton. And, like them, I am no fan of the left’s agenda of large government and high taxes,” Mr. Mankiw wrote. “But they are wrong: Things could be worse. And I fear they would be under Mr. Trump.”

I’m not aware of anything like this having happened before. Noted for the record, with 74 days to go until the election, and with no tax returns or plausible health report yet on public offer.

 

 

Hillary and Trump’s racism

So, Hillary had a big speech today on Trump’s racism, etc.  One of the questions is “why?”  What is she hoping to accomplish with this speech.  Other than the obvious, of course, of making the case that Trump is horrible and should not be president.  Lots of ways to look at this, but I think Drum gets it just right:

Why did she do this? The most popular explanation is that she was giving “permission” for moderate Republicans to stay home in November. Donald Trump, she said, isn’t a traditional Republican. He’s a hate-monger who’s hijacked the party as a vehicle for his loathsome brand of racism and xenophobia. Even if you’re a loyal Republican, you don’t have to support that.

But I’ll propose a different explanation: she was giving the press permission to talk about Donald Trump’s racism. So far, they’ve tiptoed around it. But once the candidate herself calls it out, it invites a thousand think pieces about Breitbart, the alt-right, the GOP’s history of tolerating bigotry, Trump’s troubling background, and dozens of other related topics. Surrogates can blather all they want about this, but it doesn’t truly become a mainstream subject until the actual candidate for president makes it one. [emphasis mine]

This is part of the agenda-setting power that presidential candidates have. Donald Trump has used it endlessly, and now Hillary Clinton is using it too. Trump has made his bed, and Hillary is making sure he has to lie in it.

Yes, this is agenda setting, because the media is talking about it– at least for a day or two, but I think a better way to think about it is “indexing,” a topic I was just addressing in my Media and politics class.  This is the idea that newsmedia look to major newsmaking figures to essentially decide what is news and how to cover the news.   More important than just getting on the agenda, by Hillary Clinton making these statements it can powerfully shape news coverage in the ways Drum has described.

Hillary Clinton, email, and media bias

This Yglesias post on the “big” AP story about Hillary Clinton’s email was so good.  I didn’t pay that much attention to this story because the first thing I saw about it was a reference like this:

Ummm, something about that denominator should seem more than a little off for somebody who spent four years serving as secretary of state.  Right there it is telling you that AP is coming into this story with very much of an agenda.  And Yglesias gets into and it’s even worse:

The basic allegation here, that the majority of the people Clinton met with as secretary of state were Clinton Foundation donors, is remarkable. And the implication that the investigation that unearthed this striking fact has also revealed “ethics challenges” is important. The many Americans who already have a negative view of Clinton will see these facts ricocheting through their feeds and appearing on Fox chyrons and will further entrench their negative views.

Only a relatively small handful of people will actually read the story from beginning to end and see that there’s no there there…

the AP’s social media claims are simply false — ignoring well over 1,000 official meetings with foreign leaders and an unknown number of meetings with domestic US officials…

As the AP puts it: “[T]he frequency of the overlaps shows the intermingling of access and donations, and fuels perceptions that giving the foundation money was a price of admission for face time with Clinton.”

With that lead-in, one is naturally primed to read some scandalous material — a case of someone with a legitimately crucial need to sit down with the secretary of state whose meeting is held up until he can produce cash, or a person with no business getting face time with the secretary nevertheless receiving privileged access in exchange for money. Instead, the most extensively discussed case the AP could come up with is this:

Muhammad Yunus, a Bangladeshi economist who won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for pioneering low-interest “microcredit” for poor business owners, met with Clinton three times and talked with her by phone during a period when Bangladeshi government authorities investigated his oversight of a nonprofit bank and ultimately pressured him to resign from the bank’s board. Throughout the process, he pleaded for help in messages routed to Clinton, and she ordered aides to find ways to assist him.

I have no particular knowledge of Yunus, Grameen Bank, or the general prospects of microcredit as a philanthropic venture. I can tell you, however, that Yunus not only won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize but has also been honored with a Presidential Medal of Freedom and a Congressional Gold Medal. In 2008 he was No. 2 on Foreign Policy’s list of the “top 100 global thinkers,” and Ted Turner put him on the board of the UN Foundation. He’s received the World Food Prize, the International Simon Bolivar Prize, and thePrince of Asturias Award for Concord

The State Department doing its job seems to clearly be the story of the time [emphases mine] “Clinton also met in June 2011 with Nancy Mahon of the MAC AIDS, the charitable arm of MAC Cosmetics, which is owned by Estee Lauder.” Was the meeting about Mahon trying to swing a plumb internship for a family member? Nope! As the story concedes, “the meeting occurred before an announcement about a State Department partnership to raise money to finance AIDS education and prevention.”

Meeting with the head of a charity as part of an effort to raise charitable money is just the system working properly. Read the meat of the article, and the most shocking revelation is what’s not in it — a genuinely interesting example of influence peddling…

The State Department is a big operation. So is the Clinton Foundation. The AP put a lot of work into this project. And it couldn’t come up with anything that looks worse than helping a Nobel Prize winner, raising money to finance AIDS education, and doing an introduction for the chair of the Kennedy Center. It’s kind of surprising…

Publication bias is the name of a well-known but hard to solve problem in academic research. A paper with a striking new finding is much more likely to be accepted at a top journal than a paper that says, “I investigated an interesting hypothesis, but it turned out to be wrong.” This means that spurious findings — statistical coincidences and such — make it into the published literature, while boring null results don’t. This gives a distorted picture of reality simply because everyone is trying to be interesting.

Similarly, the AP’s basic reporting project here seems like it was worth a shot and probably also fairly time-consuming. But it did not come up with anything. Clinton tried to help a Nobel Prize winner. She went to the Kennedy Center Honors. She had a meeting with the head of the charitable arm of MAC Cosmetics about a State Department charitable initiative.

There’s just nothing here. That’s the story. Braun and Sullivan looked into it, and as best they can tell, she’s clean.

Unfortunately, there’s a financial incentive to lean in the other direction…

The real news here ought to be just the opposite: Donors to the Clinton Foundation may believe they are buying Hillary Clinton’s political allegiance, but the reality is that they are not. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is someone, somewhere whom Clinton met with whom she wouldn’t have met with had that person not been a Clinton donor of some kind. But what we know is that despite very intensive media scrutiny of the Clinton Foundation, we don’t have hard evidence of any kind of corrupt activity. That’s the story.

Yep, yep, yep.  And for the right-wingers, this will just further confirm that opinion of Clinton as an evil, malicious, liar.  And for the rest of America without a particular axe to grind, they are probably not paying all that much attention, in which case all they get is a further sense– completely false, insofar as this story goes– that Hillary Clinton is unethical and cannot be trusted.

Ticket splitting in 2016

There’s a number of very vulnerable Republican Senators in blue/purple states who are hoping to run well ahead of Donald Trump to keep their seats.  That, of course, requires many voters to split their tickets.  My friends from grad school, David Kimball and Barry Burden literally wrote the book on ticket-splitting, so I’m been wondering their take on the matter.  Well, they were both interviewed for this nice Vox piece on the matter, so…

As the parties have gotten more and more polarized, voters have grown less and less likely to vote for both a Democrat and a Republican in the same trip to the polls. In 2012, after years of continual decline, we hit a low point — fewer than 10 percent of voters cast split ballots in the last election, Kimball says.

“The amount of ticket splitting in 2012 was lower than any previous election to the 1920s,” he says.

That was true for both the House and Senate. In 2012, the same party that won a congressional district at the presidential level also lost its House seat in just 6 percent of 435 races — breaking another record going back to the 1920s, according to Kimball.

Over the past few election cycles, in other words, the fates of a party’s presidential candidates and its congressional candidates have become increasingly inseparable. If that holds true in 2016, and if Trump’s polling numbers continue to sink, House and Senate Republicans look to be in terrible shape this November…

“Republicans will need lots of ticket splitting to hold on to the House and Senate — and right now the polling is showing a surprising amount of it,” says Barry Burden, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin.

Republicans have a ton of vulnerable seats to try to defend in 2016, so they’re likely to lose the Senate even if their congressional candidates do significantly better than Trump. But the extent of Republicans’ Senate losses — and, possibly, their control of the House — may depend on the extent to which candidates like Portman and Ayotte can reverse a decades-long decline in ticket splitting.

“This year, the relationship that’s been developing with greater strength over the past decades is getting a direct challenge,” Jacobson says. “In recent elections, ticket splitting has been going away. But in recent elections, we didn’t have Donald Trump.”

Short version: we’ll see in November.  Slightly longer version: Donald Trump has been blowing up lots of recent historical patterns.  We’ll have to see if ticket splitting is another of these.

 

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