Morning Ed: Politics {2016.12.07.W}

Politics may be making things worse for dogs. The adverse consequences of puppy mill laws is really quite concerning.

Lawrence Lessig wants to know why we aren’t challenging the constitutionality of the Electoral College! Actually, just the WTA aspect of it. It’s an interesting thought, though going by congressional district puts gerrymandering concerns on steroids, and any attempt to proportionalize it would need a much larger US House to work. (Wait! I have a plan!)

Okay, but what if they really are low-information voters? (Other than that they are probably better at time management and prioritization than people like myself are?

I thought that the “deplorables” comment was not good politically, but I didn’t realize precisely how bad it was.

Housing and Urban Development is has gone forward with its smoking ban in public housing, to the frustration of some. I share my thoughts over at Hit Coffee.

China: Well, this doesn’t sound good. Also, this.

But what of Good China, that is doing everything right and still has no friends? Well, except…

In case you were wondering, this is how presidents usually phone to outside people.

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Will Truman is a former professional gearhead who is presently a stay-at-home father in the Mountain East. He has moved around frequently, having lived in six places since 2003, ranging from rural outposts to major metropolitan areas. He also writes fiction, when he finds the time. ...more →

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87 thoughts on “Morning Ed: Politics {2016.12.07.W}

  1. Trump’s phone call to Taiwan is revealing a lot of hypocrisy in liberal foreign policy positions. On LGM, Loomis started a thread where he called Taiwan the New Israel, which in his opinion means that it is a client state that does not know its place and has a lobby that gets the United States to place its interest over American interest. Liberals and leftists have decried American meddling in foreign countries for the pursuit of American interests as imperialism for decades. It seems that there exists a set of countries in the world where liberals and leftists expect the United States to push its weight in the pursuit of American interests, which means bashing those countries because they do not like them.

    I guess that the liberal and leftist position on China is something similar to that of Cuba and Iran. Yes, the governments of the PRC, Cuba, and Iran are terrible but they are the ones with the most legitimacy among the Chinese, Cuban, and Iranian population and having a diplomatic relationship with them would do more good than isolating them. Its like how many people are willing to say “screw Israel” simply because their are more Muslims than Jews and if more people in the world hate Israel than like it that should determine American foreign policy towards Israel. This position is both cynical and idealistic at the same time. Its a neat trick.


      • I agree. I just find it curious that there are some countries where the biggest critics of American imperialism want the United States to act in a more imperious manner to them because they see these countries as client-states at best. The fact that Loomis refers to Israel and Taiwan as client-states is revealing.


        • There is an overwhelming tendency of Americans of all political stripes to sort the world into Good and Evil characters.
          Combined with our desire to paste our own political templates over their dynamics, then
          topped off with a notoriously short attention span, this makes for chaotic foreign policy.


    • The risk of Taiwan overestimating US support is what happened with Georgia at the tail end of the Bush administration. Taiwanese hawks get over their skis because they think their big friend in the US will protect them and when their neighbor gets angry and makes a move (China in Taiwan’s case, Russia in Georgia), they discover that the US may send some weapons and a sternly worded letter, but won’t risk American blood or treasure for them.


    • It’s a weird piece, but the hilarity of commenters railing against the KMT’s tyrannical past in one breath and whatabouting over the PRC’s tyrannical present in the next redeems it from a certain point of view.


  2. Dogs: Politics? As demonstrated in the article, it’s more an issue of culture and values. And how would you react to some person coming up to you and insulting you and accusing you of criminal actions? Oh yes, you’d be all “understanding”. Maybe a better approach is to be a bit less hysterical?

    Low info Voters: Best line. “I — a chaired professor of strategy, economics, ethics, and public policy at an elite research university, with a Ph.D. from the top-ranked political philosophy program in the English-speaking world, and with a strong record of peer-reviewed publications in top journals and academic presses — have superior political judgment on a great many political matters to many of my fellow citizens, including to many large groups of them.” Oh dear god! Here’s you’re smug liberal attitude. Is it odd that this guy advocates “a model of government that would prevent the armies of stupid from voting.” Can’t have the rubes mucking up our efforts to a more perfect society. And if that doesn’t work, there’s always “the camps”. And people wonder where the other side’s hostility comes from? You just read where.

    Deplorables: Yeah, how’d you think folks would react?


    • That line you quoted from the PhD type is pretty much what Jason Brennan is saying (if not in so many words) in his latest, Against Democracy.

      In general, disdain for Democracy is pretty standard among libertarians so I guess we can add them to the list of smug a**holes.


  3. Dogs: Count me in on the anti puppy mill side. I think the Humane Society should help pay for upgrades though if they truly care. I can’t fathom the puppy mill owner’s views on dogs since he knows they are going to living rooms and not farms.

    Low Info Voters: I don’t agree with Brennan’s view but this essay was anti-Intellectual right wing shit. Why is scholarship always considered a waste of other people’s money but drone bombing and DOJ drug raids are not? I think people vastly overestimate how much government money is spent on scholarship.


      • I didn’t see any proof of that in the article and I suppose that “make it worse” becomes a definitional term. A lot of people would say that it is better to adopt a shelter dog than it is to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on a new puppy.

        The mill owner they interviewed was largely not that sympathetic a person. He expressed his views on the purpose of animals and they are not in jive with modern sentiments. The conditions could probably be made better but not at full level of what the Humane Society wants. It was noted that he failed numerous safety inspections. He is just as guilty of derogatory terms against people he dislikes.


        • Forget about the white hats and the black hats for a minute. This sounds worse to me:

          “It just got too hard to deal with the ladies at the flea market. That’s why I went to the brokers,” Raber said. “If they’d just left me alone at the flea market, I’d be getting $350 a puppy. I’d be fine with 15 breeding females. Instead, I had to go volume for the brokers. They’d give me only $75 or $100 [per puppy], so I needed three times as many [breeding] females.”


          • But what about, “I was raised in agriculture. A dog is just like a cow or a pig or a goat. That’s how I was raised. But I see where the business is going, and I’m going to have to wrap my brain around the idea that I need to spend $50,000 to build a kennel that houses even less dogs. That’s the future of this business.” It seems like the politics are changing the norms slowly.


            • That’s cause for a bit of hope. But I think for every one of him, there’s going to be 10 expansions in less hostile jurisdictions.

              It may be a matter of finding the right set of regulations (I agree with the goals) but the existing ones (which I’ve supported) have not have the desired effect.


    • Low Info Voters: I don’t agree with Brennan’s view but this essay was anti-Intellectual right wing shit. Why is scholarship always considered a waste of other people’s money but drone bombing and DOJ drug raids are not? I think people vastly overestimate how much government money is spent on scholarship.

      I had a different reading of that article from yours. I didn’t read Lehmann as saying scholarship is a waste of people’s money, and I certainly didn’t see where she said that drone bombing and DOJ drug raids aren’t. (In fact, she doesn’t even mention bombing or drug raids and never says scholarship is a waste of people’s money.)

      I see her more as saying that the so-called “low information voters” either have more information than they’re often given credit for or have views that are more reasoned than they’re given credit for. Her other point is that we should remember that so-called high information voters can be just as guilty of motivated reasoning, confirmation bias, and other cognitive and logical errors.

      ow, she does hint that that “high information voters” might be more susceptible to such errors, a point I’m not sure I agree with, but it’s hardly “anti-intellectualism.” Lehmann also–and in my opinion rightly–discusses the stakes that low-information voters have in some of the policies that empower some high information voters. That’s where her points about their taxes paying the salaries of some scholars come in.

      Even one of the more anti-intellectual-seeming statements Lehmann makes,

      People with PhDs who call themselves “social scientists” and who use taxpayer funds to write papers on pilates being the embodiment of whiteness and the importance of understanding icebergs from a feminist perspective would have more authority to vote than the common taxpayers who pay their wage.

      can be read–and given everything else she says, ought to be red, in my opinion–more charitably as, “those who pay taxes ought to have a say in deciding how such taxes are spent.” (Didn’t our civic ancestors fight a terribly unjust war just for that purpose? I’m no apologist for the American Revolution, but if you support it, it’s hard to do so and yet also consistently deny that taxpayers deserve representation.)


        • There’s some research suggesting that educated and intelligent people are considerably more susceptible to confirmation bias than others. They use their smarts to ram new information into existing theories, with greater success.

          I’m not quite sure that proves anything except that educated and intelligent people feel the need to *justify* their dumb ideas.

          It doesn’t actually make their ideas just as dumb.

          I.e., if both a well-educated and a poorly-educated person both are presented with five theory that do not fit with evidence, but *are* what the person wants to believe…the well-educated may, indeed, somehow contrive to jam three or four of them into the evidence.

          The poorly-educated, meanwhile, doesn’t even bother to see if they make sense or reason out bad logic, and accepts all five.

          Educated people might be *more* biased than they think (Everyone is.), but just the mere fact they think they have to *justify* their beliefs to themselves means there’s some sort of upper limit on it, some actual sanity checking going on. Using logical fallacies is only needed when logic matters. Educated people exist in a universe where logic matters, ergo, they use them more.

          Note I suspect this is a lot more to do with ‘educated’ than ‘intelligent’. Intelligence is almost a non-issue when dealing with 99% of political knowledge. What catches the dumbness, even if it doesn’t catch it as much as we would like, is whether or not someone was ever taught to rationally dissect ideas.


          • It doesn’t make the ideas dumb. It might make them more adept at holding on to bad ideas through justification.

            I haven’t found the one I’m thinking of, but here’s one suggesting no difference in cognitive bias.

            And here’s something else:

            Perhaps our most dangerous bias is that we naturally assume that everyone else is more susceptible to thinking errors, a tendency known as the “bias blind spot.” This “meta-bias” is rooted in our ability to spot systematic mistakes in the decisions of others—we excel at noticing the flaws of friends—and inability to spot those same mistakes in ourselves. Although the bias blind spot itself isn’t a new concept, West’s latest paper demonstrates that it applies to every single bias under consideration, from anchoring to so-called “framing effects.” In each instance, we readily forgive our own minds but look harshly upon the minds of other people.

            And here’s the upsetting punch line: intelligence seems to make things worse. The scientists gave the students four measures of “cognitive sophistication.” As they report in the paper, all four of the measures showed positive correlations, “indicating that more cognitively sophisticated participants showed larger bias blind spots.” This trend held for many of the specific biases, indicating that smarter people (at least as measured by S.A.T. scores) and those more likely to engage in deliberation were slightly more vulnerable to common mental mistakes. Education also isn’t a savior; as Kahneman and Shane Frederick first noted many years ago, more than fifty per cent of students at Harvard, Princeton, and M.I.T. gave the incorrect answer to the bat-and-ball question.

            Granted, that’s by Jonah Lehrer who got into some trouble. But I choose to believe it because it was supporting my earlier comments.


            • I haven’t found the one I’m thinking of, but here’s one suggesting no difference in cognitive bias.

              That’s about *intelligence*. And I completely agree. I suspect it’s because intelligence doesn’t work the way people think it does. And you don’t need to be ‘intelligent’ to understand almost anything about politics.

              My point was more about people who tried to look at things objectively and make a rational decisions, vs. people who did not. This is sorta short-handed as ‘well-educated’, because that is a skill taught in higher education. Although it’s not exactly that….plenty of educated people do not do that, and plenty of uneducated people do.

              It doesn’t make the ideas dumb. It might make them more adept at holding on to bad ideas through justification.

              If two people both feel the need to justify their beliefs when those beliefs run contrary to facts, I can see how the more intelligent person is better at that skill, so holds wrong ideas longer.

              The thing is, I suspect there’s a large group of people out there who don’t feel the need to justify their beliefs *at all*. They are not ‘low information’ voters as much as ‘literally does not care about information’ voters. They vote purely based on emotion. They will repeat facts that agree with that position, true, but they will completely ignore inconvenient other facts.

              This is not the same as ‘inventing a justification of those inconvenient facts’.


          • Incidentally, this is why conspiracy theories(1) show up among the well-educated and intelligent, and often start there.

            It’s because the well-educated and intelligent know they have to *explain* and *justify* crap. When their ideas are crazy, their explanations also sound insane, because the level of justification needed is so high.

            For unimportant reasons, I was recently trying to figure out the negative attributes of Hogwarts houses. For Ravenclaw, I decided it was ‘Sometimes descends into lunatic conspiracy theories’….and then I remembered this was actually canon, in that the one Ravenclaw main character we see is a conspiracy theorist. Doh.

            1) I am talking more the ‘classic’ conspiracy theories, not the more recent fake news stuff. That stuff is less ‘conspiracy theory’ and more ‘a bunch of slanderous allegations that just assembled a bunch of lies’. Actual conspiracy theories tend not to invent fake people or have other easily disprovable things.


  4. Lessing’s argument about the Electoral College remind me a lot about the arguments about the trillion dollar platinum coin from the debt celling crisis. Many liberals believe that these were perfectly fine ways to get around problems because they were in the letter of the law. Others found them at best cute and really not within in the spirit of the law. The norms of American government are still important to many Democratic politicians and they do not want to do more damage to the American system.

    Quote Link


  5. We have a cultural mythology of the farmer lovingly tending to his animals. In truth, your average farmer sees his livestock as little more than a crop that walks around, the welfare of which is of little more concern than that of a bean plant. Puppy mills are animal heaven compared to the production methods for beef, pork, poultry, and eggs.


      • It depends on what cow you’re talking about. My dad had what’s called a “cow/calf” operation. A small herd of cows living in a pasture with a bull, the purpose of which is to produce calves. The cows had it decent by cow standards, the bull was livin’ large with basically one job. Most of the calves never make it much past their first birthday (yum!) with the exception of a few heifers to replace the old cows that end up as hamburger when their time comes. The calves that go to the feedlots live in fairly miserable conditions.

        Dairy cows are basically treated like bio-reactors to convert hay and grain into milk. Their living conditions are pretty miserable; no grassy meadows for the most part.


  6. Re: the Lessig article: did the article discuss how the 12th amendment plays in all this? Eg., supposing EC votes were allocated proportionally to PV in this election, Hillary would have received more than Trump but not 270 (a majority). Hence, the election would get kicked to the Republican controlled House of Reps to decide, which strikes me as less democratic than the system Lessig’s critiquing.


    • I never thought about proportional; that’s an interesting link. Getting rid of winner take all does not appear to change much because disenfranchised California Republicans are roughly equal in numbers to disenfranchised Texas Democrats, and so on down the line.

      I think if the Equal Protection argument was actually pressed, the point would be made that the “original intent” (TM) was that electoral votes would be tabulated at the district level, similar to how Maine and Nebraska do it. The problem will be that Hamilton and Madison proposed a Constitutional Amendment to undo state WTA laws that never went anywhere.


      • Getting rid of winner take all does not appear to change much because disenfranchised California Republicans are roughly equal in numbers to disenfranchised Texas Democrats, and so on down the line.

        California: Clinton +32
        Texas: Trump +9

        California Leg breakdown:
        Senate: 26D, 14R (+1R, independent seat switched)
        Assembly: 55D, 25 R (+3D)

        Texas Leg breakdown:
        Senate: 11 D, 20 R (no change)
        House: 55 D, 95 R (+5 D, one seat was formerly independent)

        I’m not sure Texas is the GOP’s California. They certainly looked that way after 2010, but they’re going in the wrong direction since then.

        Nobody really talks about Texas this election. It was a weird outlier. Seven point swing over 2012 is a lot. She did better than Obama did in 2008. So either Texas REALLY hates Trump, or the GOP should be a bit more worried about Texas than they were a month ago. (Not hugely worried, but….16 points to 9 points in four years ain’t peanuts).


        • I more meant that most counting changes don’t seem to carry much impact because the current partisan breakdowns are such that both parties have large and small states in their tent. Switching to electoral votes being awarded on the basis of Congressional districts would have given Gore the win in 2000 though.


          • Hmm. Texas has more potential to suddenly and radically tip in a wave election because, post-2010, Texas re-gerrymandered. To spread the GOP love around so many districts, they had to cut into their safety margins.

            I’m not 100% sure the state legislative districts are that heavily gerrymandered, but I believe they are.

            I believe Clinton out-performed most Democratic candidates in Texas so it’s not like they saw a -7 swing across the state and federal offices. The GOP will clearly control the redistricting process in 2020, but I suspect they’ll be forced to sacrifice a House seat or three (especially since the fastest growing areas are already blue) to maximize their seats over the 2020-2030 time frame.

            That’s even if they keep to their fairly thin margins for ‘red’ districts.


      • The article was not at all clear (to me) as to whether the preferred solution to WTA was proportionality, or according EC votes to each district. Maybe that was an open question given that the main argument was against WTA. As Trumwill said in his brief summary, tho, allocating EV votes based on district voting creates yet another incentive to engage in politically driven gerrymandering.


        • The irony here though is that Lessig’s argument is that WTA violates the equal protection clause, which IMHO would most likely result in voting by districts crafted by political parties, but those districts are already subject to equal protection review.


  7. As someone who was awarded Time’s Person of the Year 2006, I find it vaguely offensive that everyone always points out that Hitler got it too.

    Now they get to start pointing out “So what? So was Trump!”


  8. “Why are these big states standing by quietly as their voters are essentially silenced by the unconstitutional inequality?”

    As I learned when I proposed a proportional allocation, the “big states” in question (Cali and NY) would send far fewer Democratic electors to Washington with this system.


  9. An interesting article in Slate theorizing how businesses are going to manipulate Trump

    First, it seems likely that SoftBank was already planning its big investment in the U.S. before Trump’s win. The money, Son explained, was coming from a $100 billion tech fund SoftBank had created with Saudi Arabia back in October. When reporters asked how he would create those 50,000 jobs, Son said he intended to “invest into the new startup companies in the United States.” In other words, he’s apparently planning to plunge more venture capital into Silicon Valley, as people tend to do when they want to bet on the global technology sector. SoftBank and its partners may use much of their money to buy up existing companies, as well. “In addition to startups, Mr. Son also has his sights on acquisitions as large as $30 billion, a person familiar with his thinking” told the Wall Street Journal.

    There were other ambiguities. During the press conference, Son help up a piece of paper with the logos of SoftBank and Foxconn, which manufactures Apple’s iPhones. It read: “Commit to invest $50bn + $7bn in the US; generate 50k + 50k new jobs in the US; next four years.” This has led some speculate that Foxconn might be planning to open a U.S. plant, though nobody is quite sure. The Financial Times noted that SoftBank and Foxconn have partnered previously, and that Foxconn “confirmed it is in ‘preliminary discussions’ about a potential investment in the US but gave no other detail.”


  10. Will,
    What if YOU are the low information voter? Your information has been corrupted by Clintonian Cash, and by the subsequent twisting of people who KNOW they’re going to get a nice kickback if Clinton wins.
    [Yes, I know, this is written as if before the election. Check out Cenk’s Election Night, where he realizes that he’s not getting the promised kickback from the DNC]


  11. On Comet Pizza and conspiracy theories:

    Moral panics function somewhat like parables: They validate a group’s anxieties in a dramatic way, they exonerate the anxious from culpability, and they assign blame. Not all child-sex-ring conspiracy theories are alike. In the 1980s, the alleged abusers were ordinary people—day care workers and babysitters who lived in the same communities as the children they were charged with hurting and the parents who called for their prosecution. The day care cases were parables of social rot from within, of communities that had allowed a horrible fate to befall their children—which is how many Americans in the 1980s would have characterized the decline of the nuclear family and the entry of middle-class women into the full-time workforce. As the institution that cared for the children of working mothers during the week, day care became an object of suspicion for people who believed that a woman’s proper place was at home with the kids. The Satanic-abuse story was a reactionary morality play for a reactionary moment in the country’s history.

    Pizzagate is different. It is not about domestic life in local communities, not about victimized children and their too-trusting parents. This story is about Hillary Clinton and her allies getting away with something, and it features a child sex ring because organized pedophilia is the worst thing Americans can imagine. (No class of criminal aside from the child sex abuser is widely thought to deserve rape while in prison.) With its allegations of international sex trafficking and cavalier discussion of vile crimes via comical secret codes, the story depicts Clinton’s camp as a depraved, globetrotting elite, utterly detached from normal life, concerned only with the gratification of its own desires.


  12. So a coupla things from Greg Sargent:
    1. GOP headed for collision on Obamacare-
    Trumps HHS Sec is in the “kill it on Day 1” camp, while other Republicans are in the “Repeal slowly to give us cover” camp.
    Either way, Trump is going to have to put his signature on something, and Shumer isn’t going to toss him cover.

    2. Trump is bullish on “Priming the Pump” don’t-call-it-Keynesian spending plan. Again, putting him on a collision course with the Ryan/ Cruz faction.

    3. Trump’s jobs plan isn’t going to happen; Coal jobs are not coming back.

    4. But coal country voters are still hopeful.

    A savvy minority party would see an opening here.


    • Re the repeal: unless the GOP gets rid of the filibuster they can’t repeal the ACA (it’d require 60 votes). They can gut some of the provisions – like medicaid expansion and subsidies for insurance purchased on the exchanges – under reconciliation, but not the key stuff like guarantee issue and the whole mess ‘a provisions governing insurance companies. So most of this stuff strikes me as more politically-motivated than policy-motivated at this point. (Eg., Trump has said he likes guarantee issue, which is the lynchpin to most of the stuff the GOP objects to.)


      • Getting rid of subsidies while keeping guaranteed issue is essentially impossible. No insurance company could survive. Ins. companies have already stated this publicly and you can get more forcefully behind the scenes.


        • Yes. It’s an interesting problem. :)

          One option I heard is to voucherize the funding mechanisms, tweak guarantee issue so that it only prevents rescission wrt an existing policy but does NOT apply to acquiring a new policy (free market applies!), cut back Medicaid expansion (vouchers, maybe, can’t recall), leave the all the unimpeachable (heh) insurance provisions in place …. I dunno. A clever person/team might be able to come up with something, I guess.


          • I don’t know how they’d handle community rating. Surely that’s a socialistic idea if ever there was one….

            Course, I don’t think they can repeal the unspeakable socialistic act which cannot be named, either. OK, OK. The mandate.


        • Yeah, the insurance companies are starting to speak up about what it will take to get them to stay (or get back) in the individual policy markets. My take on what’s been said so far is that they want the subsidies maintained (or increased) and the company loss guarantees that the Republicans stripped out restored.

          I figure Medicaid privatization fails when the upper Great Plains Republican Senators, whose constituencies are rapidly aging and are counting on Medicare as we know it, and where the private insurance industry has said they have no real interest in the individual policy market, refuse to play along.


      • So most of this stuff strikes me as more politically-motivated than policy-motivated at this point.

        It always was.
        The GOP has never had a healthcare policy other than “Status Quo” since, well, forever.
        And after 6 years of constant screeching about it, they still don’t have one.

        In 2017, they won’t have one.

        In 2018, and 2020, they won’t have one.

        Which is their pickle. They finally caught the car, have all the power they want, but no idea what to do with it since although everyone hate the Obamacare whole, everyone loves its parts.

        As someone might say, “Please proceed, Governor.”


    • I’m not sure now is a great time for Keynes here. Our labor market isn’t super tight, but it’s not slack either. OTOH, we’ve got really low interest rates (for now) on government borrowing and a lot of aging infrastructure — pipes, bridges, roads, electrical grids, etc. On the gripping hand, I keep hearing “public/private partnership” which when it comes to comes to infrastructure that translates out…poorly.


  13. Chuck Jones, who is President of United Steelworkers 1999, has done a terrible job representing workers. No wonder companies flee country!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 8, 2016

    Okay, one of the folks I follow on the twitters is calling this “targeted harassment”.

    What if Twitter bans DJT?


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