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.