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Weather, Politics, Climate Change

[ 58 ] August 30, 2016 |


It’s easy to talk about corporate narratives undermining the fight to do something about climate change. But there’s a lot of room for deeper research and more nuanced understanding. That’s why this is pretty interesting.

December of 2015 was the warmest ever recorded in New Hampshire, by far. Indeed, in temperature anomaly terms (degrees above or below average) it was the warmest of any month for at least 121 years. January, February and March of 2016 were less extreme but each still ranked among the top 15, making winter 2015–2016 overall the state’s warmest on record — eclipsing previous records set successively in 1998, 2002 and 2012 (Figure 1).

Seeing in this record a research opportunity, colleagues and I added a question to a statewide telephone survey conducted in February 2016, to ask whether respondents thought that temperatures in the recent December had been warmer, cooler, or about average for the state. Two months later (April), we asked a similar question about the past winter as a whole. Physical signs of the warm winter had been unmistakable, including mostly bare ground, little shoveling or plowing needed, poor skiing, spring-like temperatures on Christmas day, and early blooming in a state where winters often are snowy and springs late. Not surprisingly, a majority of respondents correctly recalled the warm season. Their accuracy displayed mild but statistically significant political differences, however. Tea Party supporters, and people who do not think that humans are changing the climate, less often recalled recent warmth (Hamilton & Lemcke-Stampone 2016). Although percentage differences were not large, these patterns echoed greater differences seen in studies that asked about longer-term changes. Our February and April surveys had found counterparts on a much more immediate, tangible scale.

More of this sort of thing would be great. Last winter was ridiculously warm (although the leaves still weren’t on the trees until May so what’s the point) with several weird days in Rhode Island of temps in the upper 60s and thick fog on the ground, as if the Earth was revolting from whatever is happening to it. Of course, I can’t complain about the lack of snow. But that people would identify it differently depending on how they feel about climate change is fascinating and might well mean that they are already see the survey as a political question and are going to deny it regardless of what they actually think about the weather when they are being surveyed on a 60 degree February day in New Hampshire.


Displays of freedom in front of symbols of freedom are an attack on freedom!

[ 76 ] August 30, 2016 |

Colin Kaepernick, quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers did not stand while the National Anthem played before the game on Friday.

“I am not going to stand up and show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” he told NFL Media following the exhibition football game. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

That the simple act of not moving unleashed a reign of dorkness upon the land will fail to shock anyone who has a reasonable awareness of the history of black athletes protesting racism. Or protest. Or just racism.

Proving his point with racist shrieks? Yes. Telling him to worry about REAL problems? Mais oui. Claiming that he can’t protest oppression because he is rich and/or was adopted and raised by a white couple? Yeppers.

But the most common response that isn’t the N word or the oh so original If you don’t like it, leave! seems to be all-orifices sputtering about respecting the flag. Drew Brees may not have kicked off the wails of HDU Colin?! but his comment is a fine example.

The great thing about this country is that we have the freedoms that allow you to speak out openly about any issue. So I’m not commenting on the issue itself because any person has the right to speak out on any issue they want. That’s the great thing about being an American. But the American flag is what represents those freedoms. It represents the very freedom that Colin Kaepernick gets the opportunity to exercise by speaking out his opinion in a peaceful manner about that issue. …

Like, it’s an oxymoron that you’re sitting down, disrespecting that flag that has given you the freedom to speak out.

Speaking of morons, I don’t think Brees and the rest of the Flags Before Freedom crowd are so stupid that they believe any U.S. flag that was in the vicinity gave a shit.

What’s happening with any negative response more complex that racist epithets is that people are attempting to pretty up unreasoned responses (anger, discomfort, fear, whatever) with rational language.

This can’t be done, and the fact that such arguments convince some people doesn’t make them good arguments. A person who will latch on to the idea that his insides are a big boiling lump of anger because Caepernick is a hypocrite/doesn’t have anything to complain about/disrespected the flag has something he doesn’t want on his mind.

The future of self-driving cars

[ 306 ] August 30, 2016 |


The self-driving car appears to be sort of almost here.

A driverless future will obviously have enormous economic, social, and cultural consequences. To mention a relatively trivial one from my own piece of the pie: A large percentage of the work done by many small law firms and solo practice lawyers involves things — traffic accidents, drunk driving, etc. — that will pretty much disappear in a world without drivers.

A more consequential effect will involve the millions of people in the US alone who currently make their living by driving cars and trucks.

In short, driverless cars could be a major technological shock in all sorts of ways, both good and bad. Which raises the question (btw I hate it when people use the phrase “begs the question” to mean “raises;” also get off of my lawn) of how soon this harbinger of our robot overlord future will be upon us.

I have zero expertise or even vague lay knowledge on this subject, so I put it to you, quasi-omniscient LGM readership:

(1) When will your typical local car dealership first sell driverless cars?

(2) When will a significant percentage — say 10% — of all cars on the road be driverless?

(3) When will the majority of cars no longer have human drivers?

(4) When will the human-driven car be a freakishly rare site, causing wonder among the young, who will have lost this crucial skill set, even as their grip strength continues to decline in our increasingly machine-dominated and decadent age?

Once Again, For the Media, “Working Class” Means White Men

[ 20 ] August 30, 2016 |

A man walks past a painted building in Youngstown, Ohio November 21, 2009.  Youngstown has 4,500 vacant structures in a city of about 75,000 people, and about 22,000 vacant parcels of land.     REUTERS/Brian Snyder    (UNITED STATES CITYSCAPE SOCIETY) - RTXR04Y

The New York Times decided to run a long profile of workers in Youngstown to get at the appeal of Donald Trump. It’s the typical article of angry workers who see Trump as a way to lash out and angry workers who see Trump for what he is. But there’s one really big problem here. Allow me to embed a tweet from my betters:

Once again, for the media, working class means white guy. Not only is this a huge blind spot that reinforces the idea of “real voters” as working class white men, but it also completely ignores Youngstown. That city is 47 percent white and 45 percent African-Americans. Are black people in Youngstown not working class? I think we know the answer to this question. African-Americans made up a large percentage of workers in the steel mills, and did before you had large-scale black employment in most heavy industry. In 1977, 23 percent of steel workers at the largest Youngstown steel mill were African-American or Latino. You simply cannot talk about the working class in a city like Youngstown without talking to African-Americans. And of course, it’s not as if the only real workers are those who may have worked in a steel mill in the past or who still work in the GM plant in nearby Lordstown. The working class is a whole lot more than white men. It’s a disservice to readers and to both journalism and political analysis to assume otherwise. Yet it happens all the time.

“It’s Out There!” An Endlessly Recurring Series

[ 56 ] August 30, 2016 |


Speaking of the Clinton rules, here’s a headline that appears on the virtual front page of the New York Times:

Weiner’s Texts Cast a New Shadow Over Clinton Campaign

(I don’t have the chops to do a screencap, but the linked article itself has a more anodyne title.)

The skill taken in crafting this headline is important to learn — it’s what separates us from the animals. Except the weasel. Carlos Danger’s escapades are more or less interesting gossip but they aren’t political news and they have nothing whatsoever to do with the Clinton campaign. The “casts a shadow” language neatly allows you to pretend that this is political news that raises Troubling Questions about the Clinton campaign without committing yourself to the obviously absurd underlying proposition. Rebecca Traister states what should be obvious while dismantling an odious Washington Post story along similar lines:

Here’s the thing: There is no reason for there to be political fall-out from this. There is an increased likelihood of TMZ coverage and fantastic tabloid headline puns. But nothing in this silly, sad story has any bearing on the presidential campaign. The fact that we are talking about it like it does is a result of the hungry media’s attempt to maintain the fantasy that there is any equivalence between Hillary Clinton, a competent candidate whose politics you can love or hate, and Donald Trump, a man best summed up by some of his Scottish critics as a “weapons-grade plum.” New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman tweeted Monday morning that the Weiner story is a “problem for Clinton team” since after Trump’s recent hire of Steve Bannon “Democrats repeatedly pointed to Bannon’s personal past” making it “hard to argue Weiner is off limits.” But Bannon, a white nationalist media entrepreneur, is in the employ of the Trump campaign, and the personal past Haberman was referring to involved divorce proceedings in which his ex wife claimed he had violently assaulted her and also made anti-Semitic comments, Haberman later tried to clarify that her tweet was meant in reference to the Bannon divorce and was not “equating a police report with the Weiner situation.” But as with the Washington Post, this clarification didn’t help much. We are still in the fairyland of false equivalence.

Consider the contrasting situations: Donald Trump, who wants to be the president, recently hired a purveyor of white ethno-nationalism who had been accused by his wife of assault and who is alleged to have fired a woman suffering from MS while she was on maternity leave, as the CEO of his campaign. Hillary Clinton, who wants to be the president, has employed since the 1990s a woman who in 2010 married a guy who turns out to be really skeezy.

The fact that anyone is suggesting even mild political concern about the impact of this story of Clinton’s campaign is ludicrous. Hundreds of the most powerful men in this country, including a number of presidents, have been just as skeezy as Anthony Weiner. Roger Ailes built a cable news network that helped prop up several Republican presidential administrations, all while using his network’s money to help him cover up his record of serial sexual harassment; he just got paid $40 million to walk away from his job and sign on as an adviser to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

Frank Bruni, meanwhile has a column comparing Donald Trump — who is the Republican nominee for President of the United States — with Anthony Weiner, who got almost 5% of the vote in the 2013 Democratic mayoral primary. (To put this in perspective, Mickey Kaus got more support in the 2010 Democratic Senate primary.) Even leaving aside the fact that what Weiner did wouldn’t rank in the top 100 of the bad things Trump has done, it’s a silly comparison. But the rule is that Both Sides Have To Do It.

NAACP and Charter Schools

[ 13 ] August 30, 2016 |


Above: Charter school hacks

Glad to see the NAACP come out against charter schools and the fraud that they offer African-Americans a better education.

With charter schools educating as many as half the students in some American cities, they have been championed as a lifeline for poor black children stuck in failing traditional public schools.

But now the nation’s oldest and newest black civil rights organizations are calling for a moratorium on charter schools.

Their demands, and the outcry that has ensued, expose a divide among blacks that goes well beyond the now-familiar complaints about charters’ diverting money and attention from traditional public schools.

In separate conventions over the past month, the N.A.A.C.P. and the Movement for Black Lives, a group of 50 organizations assembled by Black Lives Matter, passed resolutions declaring that charter schools have exacerbated segregation, especially in the way they select and discipline students.

They portray charters as the pet project of foundations financed by white billionaires, and argue that the closing of traditional schools as students migrate to charters has disproportionately disrupted black communities.

There’s also the many problems with how charter schools operate:

Although charters are supposed to admit students by lottery, some effectively skim the best students from the pool, with enrollment procedures that discourage all but the most motivated parents to apply. Some charters have been known to nudge out their most troubled students.

That, the groups supporting a moratorium say, concentrates the poorest students in public schools that are struggling for resources.

Charter schools “are allowed to get away with a lot more,” said Hiram Rivera, an author of the Black Lives platform and the executive director of the Philadelphia Student Union.

Charters are slightly more likely to suspend students than traditional public schools, according to an analysis of federal data this year. And black students in charter schools are four times as likely to be suspended as their white peers, according to the data analysis, putting them in what Mr. Brooks calls the “preschool to prison pipeline.”

Another platform author, Jonathan Stith, the national coordinator for the Alliance for Educational Justice, chose a charter school in Washington for one of his children because it promised an Afrocentric curriculum. But he began to see the school driving out students. It was difficult, he said, for parents to push back against the private boards that run the schools.

“Where you see the charters providing an avenue of escape for some, it hasn’t been for the majority,” he said.

Mr. Stith came to think the money would be better spent on fixing the traditional public school system.

Once again, the problem of education is the problems of poverty and inequality. If you want to improve public education, you don’t give over public monies and responsibility to private entities. You work to fix poverty. But where’s the money for that? Plus if you fixed poverty there might be room for teachers’ unions and we couldn’t have that now, could we. After all, who is more concerned about a child’s education, a Silicon Valley investor or a teacher trying to reach out to a children and pay her mortgage at the same time?

Fluidity at the Front

[ 2 ] August 30, 2016 |

Valiant Shield – B2 Stealth bomber from Missouri leads aerial formation. By Jordon R. Beesley – US Navy, Public Domain,


Here’s the second of what will likely be three columns on the Biddle-Oelrich International Security article:

As discussed in last week’s column, Stephen Biddle and Ivan Oelrich have made a significant contribution to the literature on the future military balance in the Western Pacific. As with any such analysis, however, their article offers as many questions as it does answers. We can break these quibbles down into three areas; strategic, technological, and organizational questions.


Jill Stein Being A Buffoon Is Overdetermined

[ 202 ] August 30, 2016 |


As ridiculous as Jill Stein’s tendency to play pattycake with anti-vaxxers and use of DANK MEMES to attract the kids are, her ignorance about basic facts of politics and public policy are far more comprehensive. Peyser collects some of the sillier comments from her recent Washington Post interview here, including an instructively Trump-like claim that the presidency isn’t “rocket science.” Her recent Intercept colloquy is even more derp saturated. It’s amazing how many absurd statements she can fit into a single “thought”:

But in practice, if Trump wins, what happens to the Fight for $15, what happens to Planned Parenthood, what happens to health reform and immigration reform? Wouldn’t there be a difference between a Trump presidency and a Clinton one?

Maybe around the margins. We would have the Affordable Care Act, instead of some other privatized option. The Affordable Care Act is not a solution, it’s quite a problem. It provides some care for all. There was a Medicaid expansion, but that Medicaid expansion has been stopped, and it made health care more expensive and more out of reach.

I’m not even sure where to start.

  • The argument that because the ACA didn’t fully nationalize the American health insurance industry that there’s really no meaningful difference between the “privatized” ACA and the “privatized” Republican alternative is obscenely wrong. A unified Republican Congress would deregulate the insurance industry and probably block grant or privatize Medicaid. Tens of millions of people would lose health insurance and those that retained insurance would pay more while receiving less.
  • The term “privatized” strongly suggests that the ACA constricted public insurance and deregulated private insurance, which is the antithesis of the truth. (This is a close cousin to the ‘the ACA BAILED OUT the insurance industry’ argument, ludicrously assuming that we’d have single payer were it not for that meddling ACA.)
  • The idea that the ACA made insurance more expensive is absurdly wrong.
  • The Medicaid expansion was not “stopped.” A majority of states have adopted it. Millions of poor people have health insurance because of it. Were Stein to succeed in her goal of throwing the election to Trump, conversely, the most likely outcome would be millions fewer people having access to Medicaid than did before the ACA was passed.
  • It is true that while all Democratic statehouses accepted the Medicaid expansion after it was ineptly re-written by John Roberts, most Republican statehouses have not. This is surely central to Stein’s point that there is no meaningful difference between the two parties.
  • And note how she just dodges the point about the other massive differences between the parties. Is the difference between, say, Roe v. Wade being restored and being overruled “marginal”? How about carbon emissions being more tightly regulated rather than deregulated by crackpot climate change denialists? Oh, wait, Stein already answered that question:

I think they both lead to the same place. The lesser evil, the Democrats, certainly have a better public relations campaign, they have better spin. The dangers are less evident, but they’re catastrophic as well. Just look at the policies under Obama on climate change.

Yes, let’s do look at them. I see the Clean Power Plan, killing the Keystone pipeline, substantial subsidies for clean energy, tighter emissions standards in many areas, and the effective death penalty for the coal industry. Of course, these massive substantive differences are just “PR,” and I’m sure policy under EPA director Inhofe would be exactly the same!

Her analysis of legislative politics is equally shrewd:

You said before that President Obama came into office with an incredible public mandate, and yet he had an incredibly hard time getting anything through Congress. If you were to win the election, would you be able to get any legislation past them?

Because he didn’t want to. He didn’t try. He put his ground troops on the shelf. The myth is out there that the Republicans stopped him. He had two Democratic houses of Congress, he could have done something. He didn’t. What he did was make George Bush’s tax cuts for the rich permanent and he gave Wall Street the biggest bailout on record, that’s what he did.

You think Congress wouldn’t stop you?

No, because we won’t put our ground troops on the shelf. That’s what Barack Obama did.

Jill Stein’s GROUND TROOPS will force Paul Ryan to enact the Green platform. That and her DANK MEMES! The whole interview is like this — there’s scarcely a sentence that doesn’t have a massive factual howler, logical fallacy, or both. (To be Scrupulously Fair, she does defend approval voting, but this doesn’t help to explain why she’s running as if the U.S. already had it.)

And yet, someone in Stein’s position has to afford to be made to look ridiculous. The idea that there’s no major differences between the parties in 2016 is massively stupid, but since the only effect the Greens could ever have on an election in the current context is to elect Republicans, the Green leader has no choice but to pretend to believe it. She doesn’t have a good answer for what a Green presidential campaign can accomplish, but that’s because such an answer doesn’t exist. Being an ignorant crank is exactly what her form of third-party campaign demands.

The Clinton Rules

[ 196 ] August 30, 2016 |

powell-wideAbove: Only A Fool Or Frenchman Could Question His Unimpeachable Integritude!

The contrast between how the Clinton Foundation and Colin Powell’s foundation have been covered is indeed striking:

Because Colin Powell did not have the reputation in the mid- to late ’90s of being a corrupt or shady character, his decision to launch a charity in 1997 was considered laudable. Nobody would deny that the purpose of the charity was, in part, to keep his name in the spotlight and keep his options open for future political office. Nor would anybody deny that this wasn’t exactly a case of Powell having super-relevant expertise. What he had to offer was basically celebrity and his good name. By supporting Powell’s charity, your company could participate in Powell’s halo.

But when the press thinks of you as a good guy, leveraging your good reputation in this way is considered a good thing to do. And since the charity was considered a good thing to do, keeping the charity going when Powell was in office as secretary of state was also considered a good thing to do. And since Powell was presumed to be innocent — and since Democrats did not make attacks on Powell part of their partisan strategy — his charity was never the subject of a lengthy investigation.

Which is lucky for him, because as Clinton could tell you, once you are the subject of a lengthy investigation, the press doesn’t like to report, “Well, we looked into it and we didn’t find anything interesting.”

Instead we get things like:

An Associated Press investigation whose big reveal is that Clinton once tried to help out a Nobel Peace Prize winner who was in hot water with the ruling party of his home country.
An LA Times story headlined “Billionaire’s Clinton Ties Face Scrutiny,” about a rich Lebanese-Nigerian man who appears to be genuinely somewhat shady, gave money to the Clinton Foundation, and received nothing in exchange.
A Wall Street Journal story about how the crown prince of Bahrain scored a meeting with Hillary Clinton years after having donated to the Clinton Foundation. The story somehow forgets to mention that Rice, Powell, Madeleine Albright, and Warren Christopher had all also met with him during their tenures as secretary of state
An ABC investigation that concluded a donor had used a foundation connection to get a better seating assignment at State Department function.

Three of these stories, in other words, found no wrongdoing whatsoever but chose to insinuate that they had found wrongdoing in order to make the stories seem more interesting. The AP even teased its story with a flagrantly inaccurate tweet, which it now concedes was inaccurate but won’t take down or correct. The final investigation into the seat assignments at least came up with something, but it’s got to be just about the most trivial piece of donor special treatment you can think of.

Did one of Alma Powell’s donors ever ask for a better seat at a Powell-era function? Nobody knows, because nobody would think to ask.

The Clintons have made mistakes. But it’s absolutely true that going back to Whitewater the media has been inventing anti-Clinton scandals out of absolutely nothing, and this continues in earnest during this campaign.

Takes Never Sleep

[ 52 ] August 30, 2016 |


Skip Bayless has still got it, everyone!

He began stirring it up in L.A. last week, taking to a Fairfax Avenue barber shop to talk sports with fans who came in for a cut. Bayless defended the abilities of Tim Tebow and opined that Aaron Rodgers is overrated considering his mixed playoff results.

I would expect all of these 7 forms of Colin Kaepernick hot takes to appear on Skip’s exciting new Fox show within the first ten minutes.

Gene Wilder, RIP

[ 109 ] August 29, 2016 |

Big loss, although not unexpected.

[SL]: Great tribute from Roy.

Both Sides Do It, An Eternally Recurring Series

[ 150 ] August 29, 2016 |

Yes, Hillary Clinton making Anthony Weiner the CEO of her campaign showed very poor judgment. Can’t dispute that logic.

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