Friday, April 21, 2017

Chess and Checkers

Hillary Clinton managed to lose two presidential races where she was the front-runner with a huge financial advantage. First she lost the 2008 primary to Barack Obama then she lost the 2016 presidential election to Donald Trump. I had a recent insight into how this could happen - Hillary was using checkers rules in a chess game.

There are two major differences between checkers and chess. The obvious one is that the pieces move differently. But that's minor. The biggest difference is that you win checkers by taking all of your opponent's pieces but you win chess by taking the king. Taking pieces in chess is a strategy but it can also be a distraction and it is possible for a player with fewer pieces to still win by effective use of his resources.

In both elections, Hillary had the wrong objectives. She went after large states, assuming that wins there would crush her opponents. Both Obama and Trump ran in states that Hillary ignored and, when she didn't do as well in the big states, they passed her.

Once you look at it this way, you can see several aspects of Hillary's campaign that showed the wrong strategy. Look at the first debate. The accepted wisdom was that Trump needed to act presidential and keep from losing his temper. Hillary was supposed to have consulted with experts on how to needle him and make him lose his temper. In a later debate she made a point of crossing the stage so she could be photographed with Trump looming behind her. Then her staff sent out the picture as an example of how women have to cope with angry men looming over their shoulder.

What Hillary forgot was that the goal of the debates was not to score points on your opponent. It was to convince the voters that they would be better off with you in the White House. Trump spent most of his opening statement explaining why renegotiating treaties would help put people back to work.

Hillary had twice the campaign funds as Trump but she only spent a fraction on ads promoting herself and those only told how she had fought for children all her career. The vast majority of her ads were aimed at telling us that Trump is a bad person. Like taking chess pieces, negative ads can put you in a stronger position but they miss the goal of convincing enough people to vote for you to win the Electoral College.

Trump did the opposite - me told people how he would help them. Trump, like Obama before him, never lost sight of the goal and both dark horse candidates went on to win the presidency.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Gotcha Politics

While making a point about the brutality of the Syrian government, White House spokesman Sean Spicer pointed out that even Hitler didn't use chemical weapons. This should have been an uncontroversial statement since it is true. World War One saw wide-spread use of mustard and chlorine gas warfare. It was widely anticipated that Hitler would order the V2s fired at London to be equipped with similar payloads and images of the Blitz show Londoners in gas masks in preparation for that.

Similarly, battlefield troops across Europe were equipped with gas masks which they never needed.

So why the controversy? It's because the Nazis used gas chambers to kill Jews and other minorities.

This is not remotely the same thing as dropping nerve gas on apartment buildings. Spicer did not try to compare Assad's brutality to Hitler's. He was referring to specific battlefield use of chemical weapons Pointing this out in no way diminished the horrors of the concentration camps or Hitler's final solution and no one would have been outraged if President Obama's spokesman had made a similar statement. It's just gotcha politics.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

About that Pepsi Ad

The big story of the day (not counting poison gas in Syria and rocket tests in North Korea) is a "tone deaf" ad by Pepsi featuring Kendall Jenner.

Assuming it hasn't been pulled, you can see it here.

The add contrasts a big but friendly street protest and a professional model in the middle of a photo shoot. The model is wearing a slinky silver dress, makeup and a blond wig. There is also a guy playing a cello (or similar large stringed instrument) which is not part of the sound track and a woman in Islamic headscarf who is looking at contact sheets or something. The guy with the cello drinks a Pepsi and joins the march. The woman in the headscarf screams in frustration, scatters she contact sheets, grabs her camera and runs out the march. The cello guy catches the eye of the model who apparently is suddenly "woke". She pulls her wig off, flashes to herself with different makeup, then hands her wig to an older black woman and joins the parade. She also manages to change clothes in an instant.

The model picks up a can of Pepsi, gives a Pepsi-fist bump to a couple of people including cello-guy and has her picture taken by headscarf girl. Then she hands the can of Pepsi to a good-looking cop who is standing peacefully nearby. He drinks it and the crowd goes wild.

The ad is sort of a feel-good version of the anti-Trump marches. People are carrying peace signs or signs that say "Join the conversation" and "love". There are a lot of minorities but the majority of the crowd is white. There are several cops present but none of them are visibly armed. A couple have riot helmets but most are simply standing there with their arms held behind them. There is no hint of violence.

If anyone should be offended, it's Trump supporters. It makes protests seem cool, especially if Pepsi is involved.

But that's not who's protesting. The complaints are all coming from the left, primarily Black Lives Matters. Here's a report on the backlash. The backlash is mainly split into two complaints. The first is Pepsi co-opting protest culture to sell soft drinks. That's a valid complaint.

The other complaint, and probably the real one, is that it makes the police look human. That's not how they put it but it's what they mean. It's a peaceful march, not a violent protest. The cops are engaged in traffic control. But the commenters keep going on about how a black marcher would be shot for approaching a cop like that.

Again, there is nothing in the ad to link it to the BLM marches. The closest anyone has come is a still of Kendal approaching the cop with a can and a picture of a BLM protestor being arrested.

But Black Lives Matters is all about teaching people that cops are terrible, people who will use any excuse to kill blacks. They still repeat the "Hands up, don't shoot" lie. So they can't allow an ad campaign that shows marchers and cops getting along. The ad has to go.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Nuking the Court

Senate Democrats are about to successfully filibuster a Supreme Court nominee for the first time ever. In response the Republicans are expected to "go nuclear" and change the rules governing the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees.The Democrats are making a mistake and doing it for very poor reasons. At the heart of their justifications are two truths - that they have no respect for principle and that they prefer to oppose President Trump than to serve the country,

They claim that the seat that Gorsuch was nominated to was "stolen" from Garland, President Obama's nominee and that no vote on Gorsuch should be allowed until a vote on Garland is first held. This sounds great in principle until you remember that President Obama and Vice-President Biden were both against a President nominating judges in their final year. I'd like to know if the Democrats would have held to these principles if Hillary Clinton had been elected and nominated a different, more progressive justice? I suspect I know the answer.

Gorsuch's elevation to the Supreme Court will not change the balance. He will be a conservative replacing a conservative and there is no chance that President Trump will withdraw his nomination and replace it with Garland.

A case can be made for leaving the court with eight members. Since Obama packed the lower courts with ideological appointments, that means that the court will keep ruling 4-4 on controversial matters letting lower court rulings stand. While terrible for jurisprudence, this would be good politically for the Democrats. But that would requite them to keep the seat open the entire Trump administration and to manage to win a 60-vote majority in the Senate after a Democrat replaces Trump. This would be a viable strategy if not for the nuclear option. The Republicans will not allow the Democrats to leave the seat vacant and by opposing such a well-qualified candidate who will not shift the court, the Democrats make the nuclear option inevitable.

That leaves obstructionism for its own sake as the Democrats' only motive. Their far-left base insists that Trump be opposed in every possible way and they are pandering to that group rather than serving their country.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Wonder Woman's Arm Pits

There's a controversy about Wonder Woman's arm pits. Some feminists are outraged that Diana shaves them. Here's some thoughts on that:

The character has been represented without excess body hair for decades.

Ancient Greek Women removed extra body hair (NSFW). Wonder Woman's culture is inspired by the ancient Greeks.

Many fashion trends, such as shaving, are as much about impressing other woman as they are looking good for men.

Men shave, too and much more often (and these days, men shave more of their bodies, too). I've seen speculation that both sexes are trying to preserve an adolescent look. Men shave world-wide including in cultures where women do not shave and this goes back thousands of years. There's something in the human makeup that makes us want to remove body hair. 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Science and Dogma

Recently a student organization at Middlebury College invited Charles Murray to speak. Murray is considered a controversial speaker because he co-wrote the book The Bell Curve in the 1990s. His most recent work is about the effect that college recruitment has on income inequality. Rather than hear what Murray had to say or just ignore his talk, protestors shut it down and forced him to leave, injuring a professor in the process. The college paper published a letter from a guest contributor signed Nic Valenti '17 that gives some insight into the motivations of the protestors.

Nic begins with this:

I can understand the perceptions that would lead the AEI to invite a controversial speaker such as Charles Murray. Indeed, when I first arrived at Middlebury I was clueless to the systems of power constructed around race, gender, sexuality, class or ability, and found that when I talked about these issues as I understood them — or rather, as I didn't — I was met with blank stares and stigma rather than substantial debate. As a young bigot, I can recall thinking: "I thought at Middlebury I would get to have intellectual discussions, but instead it feels as though my views are being censored." However, as a first-year I had failed to consider a simple, yet powerful component of debate: not all opinions are valid opinions. I had fallen into the trap of false equivalence.

He then talks about a debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham, a Young Earth Creationist, on the legitimacy of evolution. Naturally, Nye failed to convince Ham which seems to have infuriated Nic. That serves as a springboard into the controversy about Charles Murray:

And yet Charles Murray's views are even more dangerous than Ham's. Ham disavows a scientific theory; Murray disavows the fundamental equality of all human beings. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center: "In Murray's world, wealth and social power naturally accrue towards a 'cognitive elite' made up of high-IQ individuals (who are overwhelmingly white, male and from well-to-do families), while those on the lower end of the eponymous bell curve form an 'underclass' whose misfortunes stem from their low intelligence. According to Murray, the relative differences between the white and black populations of the United States, as well as those between men and women, have nothing to do with discrimination or historical and structural disadvantages, but rather stem from genetic differences between the groups."
This is an interesting juxtaposition and it shows how misguided Nic is about the world.

First of all, Nye didn't have a chance of convincing Ham. Nye was taking the scientific viewpoint which is that you go where-ever the evidence takes you. Ham was taking a dogmatic viewpoint that the Bible is to be taken as literally as possible and and evidence that says otherwise must be incorrect. I doubt if Nye ever expected to convince Ham. He was playing to the audience of people who might have been swayed by Ham.

So, on to Murray. Murray is not arguing dogma. He is a scientist and he is arguing in favor of an interpretation of the evidence. He uses genetics and statistics to make his case, both hard sciences.

Nic doesn't even bother to quote a dissenting scientist. Instead he quotes from the Southern Poverty Law Center which is not a scientific body by any stretch of the imagination. They are condemning Murray because they don't like the implications of his conclusions.

Nic doesn't realize it but he's in the same position as Ken Ham - he's spouting dogma against a scientist. If you look at Nic's earlier paragraph in this light you can see the parallels between it and a religious tract: "I was a sinner but I've received the word and I've been saved." Nic tells us that he came to college ready to debate issues but was indoctrinated.

This attitude explains the violence against a speaker. Science allows dissenting opinions to be voiced. They are then accepted or rejected on the soundness of their arguments. Dogma rejects all dissent out of hand and harshly suppresses heresy.

In late-17th century the Puritans in New England had a problem. The founders were sure they had been saved. But they weren't sure about their children. Salvation isn't hereditary and there's no visible mark to tell who is among the elect (the ones chosen by God). According to the Puritans. the only way to be sure was to constantly search your own soul and the souls of those around you for sin. That's what college campuses have become these days. The students are constantly searching each other's souls for and deviation from their dogma and engaging in ostentatious virtue signalling to prove that they are among the elect.

Friday, March 03, 2017

Kellyanne and the Gotcha photo

Earlier this week President Trump had a meeting with over 100 leaders of historically black colleges and universities. The press didn't run a picture of that. And pictures were taken. Here's one of Kellyanne Conway taking a picture with her phone.



Here's the picture that was run



Which was followed by criticism for Kellyanne for having her feet on the couch and fir sitting in the presence of the visitors. This is a "gotcha" picture. It had two purposes:

1) It keeps the press from having to report on Trump's outreach to a large group of black leaders.

2) It helps to discredit Kellyanne. The left hates her with a passion for orchestrating Trump's winning campaign.

Contrast this with eight years ago when CNN had a group of black kids singing and dancing in support of Obamacare.

That's why the press is no longer trusted.