Monday, March 13, 2017

Cruising the Web

Add in one more shock to the conventional wisdom that I listed about a week ago. They said that no team could win four games in a row to win the ACC tournament. Congratulations to Duke for winning the ACC. I'm still recovering from that excitement.

Nate Silver is also pondering the mistakes of conventional wisdom this year with the media finding themselves shocked by the results of the Brexit vote and the U.S. presidential election. He concludes that there was a liberal bubble that fed on its own assumptions. He refers to a Sean Trende analysis after the Brexit vote which had predicted the same sort of shock to the experts in the U.S. election. The experts belong to the same class and inhabit the same locations. They talk to each other and discount bits of evidence that contradict their assumptions.
So did journalists in Washington and London make the apocryphal Pauline Kael mistake, refusing to believe that Trump or Brexit could win because nobody they knew was voting for them? That’s not quite what Trende was arguing. Instead, it’s that political experts aren’t a very diverse group and tend to place a lot of faith in the opinions of other experts and other members of the political establishment. Once a consensus view is established, it tends to reinforce itself until and unless there’s very compelling evidence for the contrary position. Social media, especially Twitter, can amplify the groupthink further. It can be an echo chamber.
He applies the principles of James Surowiecki in his book, The Wisdom of Crowds. Political journalism fails on three of the four requirements for crowds to make good predictions. They don't have diversity of opinion, independence of those views from those around them, or decentralization from the center of opinion-making. He goes through all the evidence on the lack of political diversity among journalists, particularly as it applied to Trump. Twitter has exacerbating the groupthink among political journalists. A real problem this past year was decentralization.
Surowiecki writes about the benefit of local knowledge, but the political news industry has become increasingly consolidated in Washington and New York as local newspapers have suffered from a decade-long contraction. That doesn’t necessarily mean local reporters in Wisconsin or Michigan or Ohio should have picked up Trumpian vibrations on the ground in contradiction to the polls. But as we’ve argued, national reporters often flew into these states with pre-baked narratives — for instance, that they were “decreasingly representative of contemporary America” — and fit the facts to suit them, neglecting their importance to the Electoral College. A more geographically decentralized reporting pool might have asked more questions about why Clinton wasn’t campaigning in Wisconsin, for instance, or why it wasn’t more of a problem for her that she was struggling in polls of traditional bellwethers such as Ohio and Iowa. If local newspapers had been healthier economically, they might also have commissioned more high-quality state polls; the lack of good polling was a problem in Michigan and Wisconsin especially.
Silver has some recommendations for the media.
In some ways the best hope for a short-term fix might come from an attitudinal adjustment: Journalists should recalibrate themselves to be more skeptical of the consensus of their peers. That’s because a position that seems to have deep backing from the evidence may really just be a reflection from the echo chamber. You should be looking toward how much evidence there is for a particular position as opposed to how many people hold that position: Having 20 independent pieces of evidence that mostly point in the same direction might indeed reflect a powerful consensus, while having 20 like-minded people citing the same warmed-over evidence is much less powerful. Obviously this can be taken too far and in most fields, it’s foolish (and annoying) to constantly doubt the market or consensus view. But in a case like politics where the conventional wisdom can congeal so quickly — and yet has so often been wrong — a certain amount of contrarianism can go a long way.
Don't expect any major change. The power of conventional wisdom is just too powerful.

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James Pierson and Naomi Schaefer Riley ponder
what is wrong with college students. There is a lot of talk about college students living in a "bubble." Some on the left are critical now of colleges for being bubbles of "white privilege." Pierson and Schaefer Riley point out that being in a bubble used to be a feature, not a bug.
Many liberal-arts colleges like Middlebury were established in remote locations or in small towns precisely to provide students with a respite from the “real world.” The traditional idea of the liberal-arts college was that it provided students with a temporary oasis from practical life, a period when they could immerse themselves in the great questions and develop a foundation for going forward in life. It was a “bubble,” but a useful one.

Educators, parents and students once thought this was a good thing. Many academic leaders in the last century liked to cite Cardinal John Henry Newman. In “The Idea of a University” (1852), Newman wrote that it “is only after our physical and political needs are supplied, and when we are ‘free from necessary duties and cares,’ that we are in a condition for ‘desiring to see, to hear, and to learn.’ ” Many also recognized the tension between professional and liberal-arts education and worked to maintain the undergraduate college as a preserve for general education in the humanities.

In 1936 University of Chicago chancellor Robert Maynard Hutchins wrote that a liberal education frees a person “from the prison-house of his class, race, time, place, background, family, and even his nation.” To gain such an education, students had to remove themselves from the daily grind of earning a living and attending to family responsibilities.
The bubble now is one that students should be sheltered from any thoughts that doesn't fall in line with the leftist worldview.
The original rationale for the liberal-arts college has been displaced by the ideological impulses that fly under the banner of diversity, inclusion and equality. Colleges like Middlebury now wish to be “relevant” and on the cutting edge of social change, with the goal of redeeming American society from its exclusionary heritage. Many liberal-arts professors succumbed to this temptation in the 1960s.

Today, ideological conformity has been institutionalized on the nation’s campuses. Students are encouraged to look upon American society from a perspective of righteous indignation. Anyone challenging the assumptions underlying this perspective risks provoking the kinds of confrontations seen at Middlebury, Berkeley and elsewhere.

Because students at these schools operate in a bubble, they have little understanding of American society—and little sympathy for most Americans struggling to make a living. For a host of reasons, they are poorly equipped to engage in redemptive crusades of any kind. A genuine liberal-arts education would help them realize this. Without it, though, the “charmed years” will continue to look much less charming—both for the students and the society they will inherit.

The Los Angeles Times writes about how conservatives are experiencing a backlash in Hollywood.
As an Academy Award-winning producer and a political conservative, Gerald Molen has worked in the entertainment business long enough to remember when being openly Republican in Hollywood was no big deal.

“In the ’90s, it was never really an issue that I had to hide. I was always forthright,” recalled the producer, whose credits include “Schindler’s List” and two “Jurassic Park” movies. “It used to be we could have a conversation with two opposing points of view and it would be amiable. At the end, we still walked away and had lunch together.”

Those days are largely gone, he said. “The acrimony — it’s there. It’s front and center.”

For the vast majority of conservatives who work in entertainment, going to set or the office each day has become a game of avoidance and secrecy. The political closet is now a necessity for many in an industry that is among the most liberal in the country....

“There’s a McCarthyism coming from the left,” said one prominent TV and movie actor who requested his name not be used for fear of professional repercussions. The actor, who is conservative but not a Trump supporter, said political shouting matches have erupted on the set of one of his shows and that a conservative producer he works with has been shunned by colleagues.

“In 30 years of show business, I’ve never seen it like this,” said the actor. “If you are even lukewarm to Republicans, you are excommunicated from the church of tolerance.”
An organization, Friends of Abe, for conservatives has to keep their membership list secret and only accept new members who are vouched for by someone who is already a member.

With all the criticism being flung at the House plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, Ed Morrissey wonders where the Democratic plan is. As he reminds us Democrats have been campaigning on "mend it, don't end it." Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama talked about the need to reform or "tweak" Obamacare. He links to a column by Jonathan Alter arguing that, if Democrats put forth their own plan, they could start negotiating with Trump to get what they want.
The safest path is for Democrats to sit back with popcorn and watch this campy horror film play out, knowing that Trump and Republicans will be blamed no matter what. But if they truly care about preventing regular folks from taking a devastating hit — and the richest Americans from consolidating wealth at the expense of the poor — they’ll offer a serious substitute bill that addresses the shortcomings of Obamacare.
They would prefer to complain and eat that popcorn. Morrissey adds,
All of that may be true, but it doesn’t explain why Democrats didn’t try fixing it before now on their own. In 2014, Democrats still had a majority in the Senate and control of the White House, and yet neither entity pushed a bill to fix ObamaCare’s obvious shortcomings when they still had some leverage to force the issue. Nancy Pelosi declared at the time that her fix would be a single-payer system, strongly suggesting that even Democrats saw ObamaCare as unfixable and unworkable. And in the following two years, even as the Clintons all agreed that ObamaCare was crazy and costly and Obama talked about “tweaks,” no Democrats stepped forward with a plan at all.

The conclusion that Allen avoids isn’t that Democrats could box Trump in with a serious alternative. It’s that no serious alternative exists that fixes the problems within the ObamaCare architecture, and that’s because the ObamaCare architecture is what’s causing the systemic problems. The combination of mandates, taxes, and subsidies is a stew of contradictions whose inherent failures have matured even faster than its critics predicted. Any fixes (or “tweaks”) they could suggest that would have an impact on the coming collapse would make that very clear, and expose their years-long effort as a failure. Bernie Sanders at least ran honestly on that point, even if his proposal of “Medicare for all” was even more insane than ObamaCare....

Right now, the choices appear to be a default slide into a single-payer system as ObamaCare collapses or at least a first step away from it. The AHCA may not be a great option, but it’s better than the alternative, and possibly the only start Republicans can get through Congress under present circumstances.

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Lack of irony alert - Nancy Pelosi, she of "we have to pass the bill to find out what is in it," now has to written Paul Ryan claiming,
The American people and Members have a right to know the full impact of this legislation before any vote in Committee or by the whole House.

Fortunately, I missed this, but, apparently, the media have decided that Chelsea Clinton is so fascinating that they have to push her tweets as if anyone cares. Jim Geraghty reports,
Chelsea Clinton is not fascinating. But the repeated insistence that Chelsea Clinton is fascinating . . . is actually rather fascinating. It’s like a giant social experiment, in which everyone who has spent decades building connections to the Clinton political dynasty attempts to make the world see the president’s daughter as someone she isn’t.

Witness the recent insistence that we’re seeing a new side of Chelsea Clinton . . . because she’s tweeting a lot of critical things about President Trump. This is not particularly unusual behavior for a Democrat with a Twitter account. Yet Politico declares that she “lets loose on Twitter” with “a spicy, sarcastic online personality.” CNN concurs that “Chelsea Clinton embraces her Twitter sass.”

Almost every time the younger Clinton opens her mouth, it is treated as inherently newsworthy. Neontaster notices that The Hill has tweeted about her 70 times since the beginning of the year.

Why is Chelsea Clinton news? She’s the scion of America’s most famous Democratic dynasty, sure, but her own accomplishments in public life are meager. When can we stop pretending that hers is a voice worth listening to?

In fact, she’s pretty much the worst possible person to be speaking on behalf of Democrats right now. At a time when one of the preeminent problems in American life is a sense of declining economic opportunity and social mobility, she’s the living embodiment of inherited privilege.

After a few years of attempting to work in consulting and at hedge funds, she concluded she “couldn’t care about money on a fundamental level.” Then, with no experience in television journalism, she had her people call up the networks and set up a bidding war for her services as a correspondent. She made $600,000 per year for part-time work at NBC, generating what the Baltimore Sun’s David Zurawik called “a handful of reports that no self-respecting affiliate in a top 20 market would air.”

She was named an “assistant vice provost” at NYU at age 30. She was picked to give the keynote address at South by Southwest, and honored as one of Glamour magazine’s “Women of the Year.” Now she makes $1,083 per minute speaking to public universities. And almost everything she does is decreed to be extraordinary by a pliant, pro-Clinton media. The New York Times even interviewed her about her favorite books.(links in original)
There is now talk about her running to office. But what has she ever done in her life to make her worthy of holding political office?
Really? Yes, she has a famous last name and her parents’ Rolodex of powerful donors and friends. But what does she herself bring to the table that any other educated 37-year-old doesn’t? Do you remember anything from her address at the 2016 Democratic convention? Any of her statements on the trail for her mother, other than her shamelessly inaccurate claim that Bernie Sanders wanted to “strip millions and millions and millions of people of their health insurance”? Even her greatest strength, the family name, isn’t what it used to be: It’s been more than decade since a Clinton won any race for public office, and Hillary’s stunning loss to Trump is still fresh in Democrats’ minds.

Yet quite a few powerful people in Democratic politics and the media remain heavily invested in the Clinton dynasty, and those investments seem less valuable than ever now. It makes sense that they’d be desperate to recoup something from years of sucking up, and thus eager to float Hillary for mayor of New York City or Chelsea for Congress.

In Chelsea’s case, such pipe dreams only seem plausible if you believe that she is a natural leader, waiting in the wings for the right opportunity to save a Democratic party in ruins. And if you believe that, you must not have been paying attention the last 30 years.

The media columnist for the Baltimore Sun chastises the media for peddling a storyline that Donald Trump has been conducting an unprecedented war on the media.
What tipped the balance on writing this column was the over-the-top reaction to Sean Spicer, Trump's press secretary, excluding some reporters from an informal, off-camera briefing Feb. 24 called a gaggle.

The word "unprecedented" was used along with the idea that Trump had gone where no modern president ever has by allowing his press secretary to exclude The New York Times, CNN, the Los Angeles Times, Politico, BuzzFeed and others from the session....

I hate hearing Trump say such things as the press is the "enemy of the people," because I know many among the 63 million who voted for him are going to believe what he says. And that's going to make for more polarization in a nation that already feels more like a collection of enemy camps than anything resembling E Pluribus Unum. I hate seeing Trump play us against each other this way.

But as someone who fervently embraces legacy values, I also believe that you try to the tell the truth even if it favors someone you don't especially like. Actually, if you know you don't like someone, I believe you should go out of your way to make sure you are being fair to them.

And, in fairness to Trump, his administration has not escalated the conflict with the press to a new level. It has not yet come close to doing what President Obama's administration did in making the act of reporting itself criminal behavior in a case that started in 2009 under the Espionage Act of 1917.

At the heart of the case is James Rosen, chief Washington correspondent for Fox News, publishing information about North Korea that he received from a State Department employee.

In obtaining a subpoena to access Rosen's phone and computer records, the Justice Department labeled him "an aider, abettor and/or co-conspirator." It also described him as a flight risk.

Branding a reporter that way in court documents had never been done by the government. Since the case was widely reported, I am surprised an act that really was unprecedented was overlooked by so many pundits in making their worst-ever analyses.

Or, how about the Obama administration excluding Fox News from a round of interviews in 2009 with Kenneth Feinberg, then a Treasury Department official?

At the time, Feinberg was the administration official responsible for deciding the highly controversial issue of compensation for executives of companies being bailed out by the federal government after the economy nearly crashed. Access to him was a very big deal.

Emails later obtained by Judicial Watch about the matter included this one from Obama press secretary Josh Earnest to a Treasury Department spokesperson, saying, "We've demonstrated our willingness and ability to exclude Fox News from significant interviews…"

The Treasury Department exclusion was part of a larger war that the Obama administration declared on Fox in October 2009 when Stephanie Cutter, White House communications director, went on CNN to denounce Fox as a "wing of the Republican Party" and say that the White House was going to stop treating them as a "news network." Administration heavy hitters David Axelrod, Valerie Jarrett and Rahm Emanuel reinforced the message on other cable and network talk shows in subsequent days.

It was a public admission that the White House was punishing Fox for its negative coverage — the very thing some of the nation's leading editors labeled "unprecedented" when they believed it was happening to them with Spicer's gaggle.
As the Democrats are finding out now as Donald Trump's executive orders can cancel out Obama's orders, precedents set by one party can come back to haunt them. And precedents that the Republicans set now when they control both Congress and the White House can return to haunt them when/if the Democrats regain control.

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Sweden prides itself on having a "feminist" government. This is how ridiculous it's gotten there.
Swedish Environment Minister Karolina Skog wants to reduce the number of cars in the country, arguing they contribute to gender inequality.

The center-left government will propose new guidelines for urban development this summer. Skog suggests cities should give less space to cars, and not just because of their impact on the environment.

“The car is flexible and it’s nice to sit in your own bubble, but the downside is space inefficiency,” Skog said in an interview with Goteborgs-Posten published Wednesday. “A normal Swedish car is parked 97 percent of its lifespan, and for every car there are eight parking spaces and [large parts] of driving lanes. You can’t suggest that’s efficient.”

Since most drivers in Sweden are men, the current city planning “give space to men at the expense of women,” according to Skog.
Since most drivers in Sweden are men, then what about their passengers? Are they mostly women? Would the passengers also be hurt if they decreased room for cars? Do men just not deserve equal concern from the government because they'