Commenter Archive

AvatarComments by KenB in reply to pillsy*


On “That’s Amore!

Omigosh, I forgot all about those! They still make them? I'm eagerly looking forward to your contribution.

On “The Perspective of Luck, or Lack Thereof

I’m largely in agreement with this, but I think there would have been somewhat less pushback if he had come to this realization a few months ago, rather than just a couple weeks before the regular season starts.

On “The Hedgehog Who Won

There's an implicit suggestion there that this is specifically a GOP failing - do you really think that if the situation were reversed and the Dems benefited from the EC, mainstream Dems wouldn't be defending it?


Well, if that was the question, then sure, it's a little different. I find it hard to keep track sometimes, or even to realize that there's a single question being discussed.


Sure, depending on what it is we're trying to figure out. It's kind of absurd to identify what's "representative" across a group of 10s of millions of people and across any number of different areas of policy (many of which can't be placed on a simple scale where the concept of an "average" even makes any sense).

If we were political professionals, we might want to do a "brand equity" study, to find out what people generally associate with the party -- but that will have much more to do with what they see in the media than with who's the median Dem voter.


Rats, I was hoping to find out if you would be any use to me for my upcoming bank heist. Having you there to stop one bullet might not be a guarantee of success but it would definitely improve the odds.


This reminds me of 2012 with Michelle Bachmann & Todd Akin -- it was in their own interest and in the interest of the Democrats to paint them as the face of the new GOP.

I don't think it's justified to point the finger at the GOP for the Squad's prominence -- certainly they're taking advantage of it and helping it along, but it wouldn't be happening without plenty of oxygen from the louder left and the media.

On “Churches In the Hands of an Angry God

You have something of a point that typically a significant percentage of one's church pledge goes to general upkeep, salaries, and member functions, but you proceed to ruin your own argument by giving crappy examples. Church giving is not transactional and giving is generally not required for participation in church activities, so it's ridiculous to compare this to buying insurance. How one accounts for what percentage of a church pledge should be considered "charity" depends a lot on what a person's trying to argue. You imply that there's some simple calculation that can be done, but that's hardly the case.

Beyond that, I'm curious to know your source for the assertion that church-goers give less overall after subtracting church pledges -- the information I've seen has suggested that even for secular charities, givers are more likely to be religious than not. I'm open to contrary evidence but to me this would be expected -- the ethic of giving is built in to most religious practice.


On “This One Really Hurts

Sort of related -- I recall seeing a story a few years ago about how doctors who'd made a medical mistake were regularly advised by their and/or hospital lawyers not to apologize to the patient because of how that could be used in a lawsuit -- but the journalist talked to a number of such patients who said that if they'd just gotten an apology, they wouldn't have been motivated to sue.

On “Endorsed: Other Options

There's a large element of that to be sure, but I think there's also a game-theoretic aspect to voting. Would be interesting to see a model with an assumption of no cultural incentives, just accounting for different people's cost of voting, strength of preference, and threshold of predicted vote value, and see what happens to participation over time under various levels of candidate differentiation.


I appreciate this approach, and my third-party votes over the years have been for a similar reason, but I wonder if there's ever been any measurable effect (outside of political debates) of that kind of argument. At the end of the day, it's the winners who have the power and they'll use whatever they can to justify going full steam ahead-- IIRC, even GWB found a way to claim a mandate for his policies after the 2000 election.


Well, I wasn't saying it was a libertarian idea per se, just that for whatever reason most of the people I've seen making this argument have been libertarian bloggers/professors. I'm libertarianish myself, so that bit wasn't intended as a criticism, just an observation.

Anyway -- not only are votes not ordered, a given vote that provides the margin only does that because of the other votes that were cast. I think in the case where, say, A beats B by 1,000,000 votes to 800,000 votes, it's more sensible to say that 800,001 of the A votes "mattered", or else perhaps that all million votes ended up being worth about 80% of their maximum value. This is really just another collective action thing -- a single individual's action is virtually worthless but a large group of individuals doing the same thing has impact. If I prefer candidate A but don't vote, I'm just free-riding on the votes of others.


It's not what I was thinking of, a little different than this specific situation but certainly in the same ballpark of "least charitable interpretation" and over-simplistic cause-effect analysis.



The issue isn't the thing itself, it's the perceived intent (and/or perceived possible outcome) that causes the disagreements. Imagine how reactions would change on both sides if a Trump-supporting politician posted a list like this of anti-Trump voters in the immediate aftermath of an apparently politically-motivated shooting? It's all about thinking the worst of our opponents.

And I can't point to a specific instance but I have a vague memory that something very like this was done by a GOP politician with similar reactions from (some) folks on the left. EDIT -- maybe not a politician, but at least a prominent conservative/republican..


This idea that one's vote is worthless if the margin of victory is >1 and so you shouldn't be too bothered about who you vote for seems to be particularly common among libertarians/classical liberals, but it's not a sensible way of looking at it. It leads to the absurd conclusion that if Candidate A beats Candidate B by one vote then everyone's vote for candidate A mattered but if A beats B by two votes then *no one's* vote mattered.

A better way to consider it is that every vote increases the probability that the given candidate will win. Typically for a statewide election (note that your 138 million nationwide number is irrelevant due to the EC), the amount of that probability increase is quite small, but the amount isn't known until after the election's over. Ironically, if the campaign to convince people that their votes are meaningless were incredibly successful, the outcome would be that the value of each of the few votes still actually cast would become quite a bit higher.

On “Andrew Yang: Think. Different.

So @jaybird's first candidate is criticized for not having any policy prescriptions and his second one is criticized for being too focused on policy... I'm looking forward to finding out who his Goldilocks candidate is.

On “A Polish Joke

And of course a big problem with the dialogue here and elsewhere is the whole "blind men and the elephant" problem -- there's a ton of diversity with both the "liberal" and "conservative" labels, and mostly we associate our side with the best aspects and the other side with the worst.


I think part of it is the overloads on "conservative" -- socialcons think liberals are depraved & godless, libcons think liberals are stupid.


This is awesome. To me, across-the-aisle rapprochement is the best purpose & goal of a website such as this one, but I'd become pretty negative about the prospects of that over the last few years, and also about the utility of even trying -- nice to see a bit of mutual understanding happening. Thanks to both of you.

On “Ordinary Bookclub: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality (Chapters 16-25)

Reading through again, I see that I forgot how didactic it is. The majority of the "rationality" topics he brings up were familiar to me before the first read, and I was happy enough to learn a bit more about others, but I do wonder how well these many very quick presentations do as an introduction for the uninitiated. The ones that get thrown into a paragraph or two seem a little forced and rushed.

One small item in Chapter 2 that I picked up on only with the second read -- Harry describing his peculiar sleep patterns to McGonagall and her saying "I'll find a solution in time."

On “Elizabeth Warren Goes There

The difficulty is that any findings of a Dem-controlled House-initiated investigation will be vulnerable to being written off as politics. It's hard to imagine what that would turn up that would be so clear and convicting that the GOP Senate would actually remove Trump; absent the prospect of actual removal, the whole thing becomes just political calculation. Arguably the Clinton impeachment stuff was effective for the GOP in that it hurt Gore's campaign in the next election (probably worked out better for them than letting Gore take over for Clinton earlier would have).

*Comment archive for non-registered commenters assembled by email address as provided.