Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The First Bigly, Good and Beautiful Presidential Debate

I love Donald Trump's presidential language:

The United States is a mess, the Middle East is a mess, NATO is a mess, and the Americans lose on everything.

But Mr. Trump, he has the great temperament, the winning temperament, and the stamina to steer this country out of all those messes!  He can give us witness testimonials about what a wonderful guy he is, what beautiful businesses he has built (and bankrupted).  Indeed, he is just the greatest.

Now that was important to include in a presidential debate, in case someone in the audience hadn't already learned that Donald thinks he's the greatest thing since grated cheese.

Ms. Clinton, on the other hand, doesn't have the right temperament, doesn't have any business ability, doesn't have judgment.

And luring the wealthy corporations to bring back their money to the United States would be beautiful, beautiful.

Now parse all that for me.  Then ask yourselves if the media wouldn't have found such a language inappropriately fuzzy and inappropriately emotional had it come from the mouth of some other politician. Say, Hillary Clinton.

The whole debate was a hoot, a bit like the sound Hillary Clinton made when Donald Trump told us that she doesn't have the temperament, the judgment or the stamina to be the president of the United States.  Perhaps that attack was based on the Republican code-book of always attacking your opponents at what their strengths are?  Even if they are your own weaknesses?

So who won the debate?  The general agreement is that Hillary Clinton did.  I'm not quite sure what the basis of that judgment is, whether it is that she was better on facts* or future policies, or just the better debater, though I think that she won in all of those categories.

Two parts of the debate stuck to my mind:

First, Trump's insistence that Hillary Clinton, together with Barack Obama, created ISIS.  That, by the way, caused some coffee to be spewed on my screen.

George Walker Bush would be the name that comes to mind if a particular American would be accused of enabling ISIS**, not Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton.   It was our Georgie Porgie who poked a sleeping beehive with a stick and then ran away when the bees woke up.  It was our Georgie Porgie  who sent young Tea Party personnel over to Iraq to create a free market, it was our Georgie Porgie who destroyed the Iraqi army, without apparently knowing anything about the Shia-Sunni quarrels,   and it was our Georgie Porgie who did all that without any understanding of what he got into.

To be quite honest, my research into ISIS, which I used for an earlier three-post series, taught me that the roots of ISIS are complicated, hard to eradicate and that it's quite possible that very few Western politicians really understand the size of the problem.  But surely Trump's utterance serves as the most idiotic one ever.

Second, Trump's inability to properly counter Clinton's references to the way he had treated Alicia Machado, the Miss Universe of 1996.  Trump loves judging women's bodies so much that he's been in the beauty pageant business for years.

The case of Ms. Machado was about her gaining weight during the year she was the ruling Miss Universe.  According to Hillary Clinton, Trump's concern with that weight gain made him call Ms. Machado names:

"And one of the worst things he said was about a woman in a beauty contest -- he loves beauty contests, supporting them and hanging around them -- and he called this woman 'Miss Piggy,' then he called her 'Miss Housekeeping' because she was Latina," Clinton had said.
The point I want to make about all that is this:  Trump knows that Clinton is accusing him of sexism and misogyny (with good evidence, I might add).  So why didn't he prepare for something of this sort to come up in the debates?  Is it because he didn't prepare for the debates at all, what with already being the greatest?  Or is it because wimminfolk really do not matter in his mind?

To be completely fair, I should note that Trump did better in the first fifteen minutes or so, before his ramblings began.  He also brought up one important issue, and that is the way the costs and benefits of globalization fall differently:

The costs of globalization have hit the American working classes much more than they have hit the middle classes or, goddess bless, the very rich (who largely benefit from globalization).  Yet neither party has proposed anything that would truly work to compensate those workers who have lost their jobs in this country (especially in middle age, say), while others are enjoying cheaper foreign goods and services and firms increase their profits by locating abroad.

I credit Trump for stating the problem.  His solutions to it are, however, gobbledygook.  As are his solutions to most everything.

* Different sites check somewhat different assertions.  Here are a few more fact check sites for you to peruse:  CNN, USA TodayPolitifact.

** The Syrian civil war might have happened even in the absence of the Iraq invasion, and regional and religious politics also pay the role.  But it's also true that some within ISIS are fighting a grudge war against the West, with roots in the early crusades, and that those same theologians see both sides only in terms of religions.  This does not negate the crucial and harmful role Western imperialism and greed for oil have had in creating the current situation.  But no one person, not even Hillary Clinton!, can be seen as the architect of ISIS.

Monday, September 26, 2016

More on the False Equivalence in The 2016 Presidential Elections

Paul Krugman writes about the false equivalence phenomenon in how the media has handled the two presidential candidates:

If Donald Trump becomes president, the news media will bear a large share of the blame. I know some (many) journalists are busy denying responsibility, but this is absurd, and I think they know it. As Nick Kristof says, polls showing that the public considers Hillary Clinton, a minor fibber at most, less trustworthy than a pathological liar is prima facie evidence of massive media failure.

Or put it this way:  We have a spelling bee in the final round of questions. The winner will run the world.  One candidate is asked to spell "huge", the other candidate is asked to spell "prospicience."

Or put it this way:  One candidate's 'errors and flaws' are subjected to a microscope, the other candidate's 'errors and flaws' are viewed through the kind of veil that was used to film romantic moments and happy endings in old movies*.  At the same time, one candidate's expertise and experience are ignored, the other candidate's lack of expertise and lack of experience are also ignored.  That, my friends is not equivalent treatment.

Or put it this way:  One candidate is a racist, sexist turnip-head with no real qualifications for the job he wants, unless one believes that playing a bully in reality television is such a qualification**.

The other is a career politician.

Yet the false equivalency approach means that "Trump being Trump" is accepted as an excuse for the misogyny and the racism, whereas there is no such equivalence of "Hillary Clinton being Hillary Clinton" for anything she does or is accused of doing.

I see some change in the false equivalence approach, to give some in the media credit where credit is due.  But the damage is probably already done.

* These "errors and flaws" are not intended to be read as being of the same size and/or nature.

**  With apologies to upstanding turnips everywhere.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Glenn Reynolds. On The Self-Harm Caused by Tweeting

My apologies for the quiet on this here blog.  Life and its troubles intervened.

Glenn Reynolds, a law professor ( who therefore should know better) and a conservative pundit, was temporarily suspended from Twitter for this tweet:

Reynolds is not my favorite flavor of the month*.  It's also worth noting that another right-wing pundit has been permanently suspended from Twitter for tweets which cross the line from pretend-performance-art to inciting real hatred toward other people and groups**.

Still,  there's something wider I want to say about this case, something which might matter to others than weird propagandists on Twitter. 

Reynolds defends the above tweet by saying, among other things, that he has sent off over 580,000 tweets, and they can't all be perfect.

But here's the thing:  Every single of those 580,000+ tweets can be saved, every single of them equals etching its message on the tissues of the universe , and every single one will be interpreted by someone as if it resulted from careful, slow and rational thought.

Twitter is a game***, or several games in one box.  There's the sub-game of ganging up on people, threatening people, doxxing people and so on.  There's the sub-game of trying to get people banned when they don't deserve to be banned****, there's the sub-game of sending hordes, small or large, to attack specific individuals.

Now, all those are nasty sub-games.  But the ones we all must play are the games of seemingly chatting with a few individuals while the message goes to the universe, the games of having trouble with the small number of characters allowed for a tweet, and the resulting game of being misunderstood, with various consequences.  There's the game of mixing up opinion with facts, of presenting false evidence in a way which is tough to correct,  and there's the game of taking things out of context.

Or so I think, and that's why I can't understand why people don't plait their fingers or stuff them into mittens or, if all else fails, chew them off, when they get angry while tweeting.  Because nothing good follows from the instinctive reaction of slashing back at someone without even having taken one breath first.


*  A couple of examples of Reynolds' views on women and such can be found in this post and in this one.

** You can read more about the pundit described in that link here and here.

***  I'm not covering here the obviously useful and beneficial aspects of Twitter which are not really games.

***  This does not apply to Instapundit/Reynolds, but I have seen it done on Twitter.

Friday, September 16, 2016

The Dish-Draining Cabinet

This year was the 120th anniversary of the birth of Maiju Gebhard.  I bet you don't know who she was. 

She was the Finnish inventor of a dish draining cabinet/cupboard (though similar inventions were earlier patented in the US by Louise R. Krause in 1932 and Angiolina Scheuermann in 1929).  Here's one picture of what a dish draining cabinet is:

By Jarno Elonen - photo taken by Jarno Elonen, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=602283

The doors close, and the cabinet is right above the sink area.  Note the plastic-covered metal grids which create the bottoms of the racks.  They allow someone washing the dishes by hand to just put them into the cabinet and then close the doors.  No drying is necessary, and, indeed, the everyday dishes can just live in the cabinet, to be taken out of it when needed.

The dish draining cabinet became common in Finnish households, though not elsewhere.  Its industrial production began in 1948 and the plastic-covered metal wire grids were introduced in 1954.  The sizes were standardized in the early 1980s.

The introduction of the dishwasher made the dish draining cabinet less useful, of course.

This story is an example of the era when some women began studying the ergonomics of housework and tried to rationalize and reduce the labor of housewives. 

But I also like it because the dish draining cabinet or cupboard probably didn't cost much more to build than the ordinary kind of cabinet, yet saved labor for years to come (by making drying by hand unnecessary and by saving steps because the cabinet was right above the sink).  It might have even been more hygienic than the practice of drying dishes by hand.

Besides, there's a "duh, that's obviously a good idea!" feeling about the whole thing.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The New Times-CBS Presidential Race Poll. How Are White Men And White Women Planning To Vote?

A new Times-CBS poll suggests that the presidential race is tightening, though it's worth remembering that the questions were asked when Hillary Clinton was receiving even more negative public attention than she usually does.  Here's the summary table from the poll:

Polls are not elections, of course, and direct comparisons with past elections are not without problems.  Still, I decided to look at two rows in that table in order to see how they compare to what happened in the 2012 presidential election and in the 2014 mid-term elections.

Those two rows are the percentages of likely voters who are white women and white men*.  In the above table white men go for Trump 57-33, while white women narrowly go for Clinton 46-45.

What happened in 2012?  Sixty-two percent of white men voted for Romney, 56% of white women did.  Those figures reflect the traditional party split among American whites.  The reasons for that split are many.  In the 2012 presidential election these reasons were suggested:**

Without much doubt, attitudes about race—and even outright racism—played a role, although one that is hard to quantify. But it’s far from the only thing. Income is important. On average, white men and women tend to be richer than non-whites, and voting Republican is strongly correlated with income. (In families that made less than a hundred thousand dollars a year, Obama won by eight points. In families that made more than a hundred thousand dollars a year, Romney won by ten points.) Age is another factor. Whites, on average, tend to be older than non-whites, and older people (male and female) tend to vote Republican in greater numbers. Religion is also part of the story. Most white women, like most white men, are churchgoing Christians, a group that is strongly Republican—especially evangelicals, who voted for Romney by almost four to one. Then there is ideology. Just as there are conservative men, there are conservative women.

The 2014 midterm voting patterns reinforce the above arguments:  Sixty-four percent of white men voted Republican in that election, and so did 56% of white women. 

Is there anything useful we might glean from those comparisons, given that the 2016 numbers come from a poll, that third-party candidates complicate analysis and so on?

I believe that a Trump-As-A-Misogynistic-Asshat*** effect is visible in those findings, especially when it comes to the possible voting patterns of white women this year.  The majority of white women have traditionally voted for Republicans, but that may not necessarily be the case this year.

And the difference is because the man who is running on the Republican ticket this time is a man who doesn't even bother to hide his sexism the way past Republican candidates have hidden it.

But is there an effect from the Trump-As-A-Know-Nothing candidate?  I'm not sure, because I don't have the time to do the kind of digging that would be required to guarantee that the numbers from various years are at least somewhat comparable.   But it looks like there might be one.


*  Because these are still the largest voter groups and because Trump's support is especially strong among white men.  It's not weak among white women, either, and both these numbers make me sad.  Trump is a racist and sexist egomaniac.  That so many people are fine with that makes me sad and cynical.

**  That paragraph is about the 2012 elections where racism had a more open role to play.  Sexism will take a comparable role in the 2016 elections.

Note, though, that the quoted explanation doesn't quite explain why in 2016 whites without college education might prefer Trump 58-32, whereas whites with college education prefer Clinton 51-40.  The latter group has the higher income.  But the case of one Donald Trump might be exceptional.

**  He is also a racist asshat, a person knowing very little about the job he is applying for, a person who seems unable to contain his own temper tantrums, and a person who just might decide to nuke some country because he had a bad-hair day.  Which is every day of the year.   

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Short Posts 9/14/16: On Undecided Voters, Missing Women On Conference Panels and Chelsea Clinton's Mothering Skills

1.  Digby writes about one of the undecided voters profiled in a GQ story.   That particular voter is not given a name in the story, only a profession, which would be politics reporting, so we can't tell if all the undecided people interviewed in the GQ article are men or all but one.  I suspect that the anonymous person is a guy, too,  and white, given the concerns that person has about Clinton and Trump:

I cannot stomach Hillary Clinton. I just can't get with her. Maybe because I know too much. I find so much of her world hypocritical, reprehensible. I think the rest of the country sort of gives her a pass, like, "Oh, she's always been attacked by Republicans, it's not that big a deal, email shmemail!" But I'm like, "WHAT! This is a huge deal."
And then I also obviously struggle with Donald Trump. The things I like about him are: I believe that sometimes you just have to blow shit up to build it again, and I think that a Trump presidency would do that. But just when I sort of get there with him, like, Ohhhhhhkayyyy, he says or does something and I'm like, "No, I can't!" Like saying, "What do you have to lose?" to African-Americans. Like, WHAT? What?

Gun to my head, I would probably vote Trump because of my feelings about Hillary, and my—I just want to see what happens. But if I were to talk to you tomorrow, I'd be like, "Ugh! I've gotta vote for Hillary!" 

What struck me about those opinions is the way different classes of people have different amounts of "skin in the game."  If Trump's penchant for nuking other countries would be openly linked to bringing back the draft, perhaps the above opinions would have been different?  The excitement with "blowing shit up to build it again" might have been somewhat more muted if blowing that shit up meant that the person: "politics reporter, Washington DC,  42",  might get blown up as part of the shit or if it was that person's child who would be conscripted and sent to participate in the blowing up.

I could be wrong, of course, but when "shit is being blown up" some people get blown up with it first.  Or some people get their lives made more difficult, their safety endangered, their incomes diminished,  their bodies controlled.  Maybe not people who can be defined as "politics reporter, Washington, DC, 42."  In other words, for some the idea of "blowing shit up" is abstract, for others it is much more concrete.

2.  A new study (which I have not read) is reported to cast more light on the impact of being viewed as a woman or as a man has on who gets a paper accepted at a scientific conference:

The study -- published in the Journal of Language Evolution -- is based on a change in the way paper proposals were reviewed for the Evolution of Language Conference, which takes place every two years and is a premier academic event for those in the field. For the most recent conference, held this year, the organizers switched from a single-blind review to a double-blind review.
In single-blind review, the names of reviewers are not disclosed to those who have made submissions. The idea is that reviewers need not fear offending anyone with frank comments. But the reviewers know who has submitted. In double-blind review, all names are shielded, so that reviewers' identities are protected, but they don't know the identities of those who are being judged.
When the language conference switched to double blind this year, the rankings of paper proposals from women or teams where a woman was the first author saw a gain of 4 percent on the ratings system. The ratings of proposals by men or where a man was the first author saw a 19 percent decline in their ratings.
Further, the study found a gender impact when looking at women and men who had submitted papers under single-blind review to prior conferences and to the most recent conference under double-blind review. Under double blind, the women-authored papers moved up and the men-authored papers moved down in the rankings.

I can make theories about what might have driven those findings*, but, in essence, the outcome looks similar to the one observed once orchestras began auditioning new members using a screen which hid the person's external attributes from the judges but left the music audible:  Many more women were accepted as members.

Certain attributes:  perceived biological sex, race, age, body size etc. can all function as seemingly relevant information to our subconscious judges about a person's skills and abilities, even when the information is not relevant.

It's also possible, of course, that this finding was a fluke one, caused by something having changed over time in the relative quality of the papers women and teams led by women submitted, as compared to the quality of the papers men and teams led by men submitted.  Though I doubt that, and add it here just because I try to be a thorough goddess.

3.  Here's today's fun piece of crap:

The subtext is that Chelsea Clinton might be a bad mother, but it's really tough to make that explicit enough.**  So we are asked:  Is it acceptable for one parent to drop the child off on the first day of school?

Hmm.  Let me think about that one for a minute or two!  Is it acceptable for just one parent to drop the child off on the first day of school if that parent is the mother? 

What percentage of children have both parents drop them off on the first day of school? 

What percentage of children, traditionally, had just their mothers drop them off on that day?  Just their fathers?

Getting that subtext about bad-mothering accusations clear enough is hard if it is done in the context of "parenting," not in the context of "traditional mothering" obligations.   Mmm.

Do weird kinds of journalists follow Trump's wife, sons and daughters around in order to find what kind of people they might be? 
* But those theories are just idle speculation.  Here are a few examples, for those who are interested: 

It could be that people use academic rank as a signal of how good an article might be, and if women, on average, are less likely to be full professors, then that would hurt them.  It could be that people use institutional affiliation as a signal of how good an article might be, and if women, on average, are less likely to have one of those truly fancy institutional affiliations (Ivy League, say), then that would hurt them.

Or both of these together or in combination of that psychological phenomenon where women at meetings or seminars or conferences may just not get their opinions listened to that seriously, what with being subconsciously viewed as individuals of lesser rank, less powerful to affect the career of someone else,  and therefore safer to ignore when time and resources are short.

**  Imagine if the story was reversed:  Mark Mezvinsky, Hillary Clinton's son-in-law, misses the first day of his daughter's school.  That wouldn't even be a story.  And just as an aside, did Donald Trump take his children to school on their first days of school?