Archive for the ‘Critical Thinking’ Category

Why Trump’s Comments about 2nd Amendment & HRC Won’t Hurt Him

August 9, 2016 5 comments

As many of you might have heard earlier today, Donald Trump made a speech in Wilmington, NC where he said (among many other statements) the following.

Hillary wants to abolish — essentially abolish the Second Amendment. By the way, and if she gets to pick… If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is. I don’t know. But — but I’ll tell you what. That will be a horrible day. If — if Hillary gets to put her judges — right now, we’re tied. You see what’s going on.

As you also might have heard by now, every mainstream media outlet and “liberal” blogger/ tweeter/ presstitute is busy spinning this statement as an incitement to assassinate HRC if she wins the presidential election in November 2016. But is that really the case? And perhaps more importantly- will this help or hurt Trump’s chances of winning the presidential election in November? Note that I said- “winning the presidential election” and not “winning the next round of supposedly objective 3rd party polls based on curated information given over the phone by people who chose to answer them after being randomly dialed”. As you will see, this distinction is far more important than it seems.

On the question of whether that statement is evidence (beyond reasonable doubt) of Trump trying to incite others to assassinate HRC- I have to say, based on available information, there is no evidence that he was trying to do what his detractors have accused him of doing. At best, he was hinting to the well-known fact that any legislative measure to severely curtail legal gun ownership in USA might face significant pushback from those who believed in the commonly accepted and legally supported frameworks surrounding gun ownership today. He was also quite correct in pointing out that stacking the Supreme Court with judges known to oppose the current legal framework on that issue would result in erosion of 2nd amendment rights at the federal level.

In other words- nothing he said in that speech actually rises to the logical level of encouraging assassination of one or more public figure. But what about the alleged public perception of those remarks?

Well.. let me begin this part by restating that HRC is the least popular and most negatively perceived career politician ever to run for the american presidency as a candidate of a major political party. Many of you might remember that almost half of those who cast ballots in the democratic party primary voted for her opponent- Bernie Sanders, a hitherto unknown independent senator from Vermont. It is also no secret, now, that she “won” the democratic primary through large-scale direct and indirect electoral fraud. In other words, a lot of people in her own party hate her guts even though she has been in the national spotlight for over two decades. Therefore the idea that she is deeply disliked only by gun right advocates and hardcore republicans is simply untrue.

And this brings up the next question. Would a careful and oblique suggestion by Trump that HRC is a tyrant worthy of assassination actually hurt his chances with either his supporters or those who might potentially vote for him in November?

As far Trump’s supporters are concerned, HRC always has been the globalist tyrant she-devil who wants to take away their guns while impoverishing and destroying them. For them, Trump’s remarks are just more proof that he is the guy who will battle the evil witch and her army of flying monkeys. While some of Trump’s non-hardcore supporters might initially balk (at least publicly) at this particular statement- the reality is that many of them hate HRC far more than they are willing to admit in public. His latest statements about her will therefore almost certainly end up bolstering their support for him- especially since he alone seems to have the backbone and balls to stand up to the establishment.

It is also no secret that previous milquetoast republican presidential candidates such as McCain and Romney had major problems creating enough voter enthusiasm largely because their potential voterbase perceived them to be working against their interests and in league with establishment democrats. As I have said in previous posts on this blog, Trump’s strategy for winning the general election relies on increasing voter polarization to levels that would bring out those who would have voted republican if they felt their vote made a difference. He is fully aware that he (nor any other republican candidate) can win the presidency without a significant increase in voter turnout among republican voters who have given up on voting.

Therefore, in my opinion, Trump’s remarks about the 2nd amendment and HRC are very unlikely to hurt his chances of winning the actual presidential election. They will, if anything, help him win by further polarizing the electorate and increasing republican voter turnout in November 2016.

What do you think? Comments?

Interesting Links: July 25, 2016

July 25, 2016 12 comments

Here are links to a few interesting articles I came across recently. They contain a few articles about the general unraveling of society in USA (and other “developed” countries to a lesser extent) by Chris Arnade on Medium.

Link 1: Why Trump voters are not “complete idiots”

Trump voters may not vote the way I want them to, but after having spent the last five years working in (and having grown up in) parts of the US few visit, they are not dumb. They are doing whatever any other voter does: Trying to use their vote to better their particular situation (however they define that). Labeling them dumb is simply a way of not trying to understand their situation, or what they value. In choosing a candidate, a voter is buying into that candidate. It is, in an oversimplified way, like buying a stock. In that sense, it is helpful to use some basic analysis from finance, to look at how/why voters make the choices they do.

Link 2: Granted, however….

There is a growing move to blame Brexit, or Trump, on voters just not trusting experts. Or being too uneducated to understand experts. This is wrong for two big reasons beyond being contemptuous, beyond having the goal to demean those who you disagree. Reason 1: It creates an unnecessary laziness in political discourse. Rather than really working at explaining a position, you default to the much simpler, “Well the experts say.” So when I hear arguments like, “The voters didn’t understand the consequences of Brexit,” I am also hearing, “I didn’t explain my positions very well.” Reason 2: It ignores the huge mistakes experts have made. Like the Iraq war and the aftermath of the global financial crisis (TARP anyone!) At the risk of borrowing from David Brooks (!), let me get a bit pop-sociology/ psychology.

The “expert class” are very slow to admit they are wrong which is a direct result of our system that rewards the most educated, and the cleverest. Rising to the top now means being clever as fuck, knowing how to game rules, and most important, being able to always argue your case. It is almost like we now reward that kid on the playground who when tagged during recess, replies, “You didn’t ACTUALLY tag me. You only tagged my clothes. Which isn’t technically me…..” Or the person who when they lose a bet for 100 dollars, says, “I didn’t say dollars, I said, Doll Hairs.” or responds, “We never actually signed a contract.”

Link 3: Rationality, anxiety, and meaninglessness

In all of these places people are turning more and more to drugs to combat a growing sense of hopelessness, meaninglessness, and anxiety. Some are also turning to angry and disruptive politics. Why? Over the last fifty years we have pursued a political and cultural agenda shaped around rationality and efficiency. We worship free markets and have maximized the power of capital while rendering labor only a cost to be minimized. We now define success through simple numbers — rising GDP, rising income, and rising profits. Our economic policy, driven by this rationalism, has morphed into a national version of the Hunger Games, pitting every worker against each other. We sort by education and by wealth, giving the winners a larger share than they need or deserve. It has created anxiety, one especially acute in lower income neighborhoods.

Now the poor are seen as losers and failures, increasing their anxiety. They are told they have failed to pull themselves up, failed to educate themselves, failed at a system that rewards the advantaged and the aggressively clever. We have also completely changed our culture in other ways, devaluing what once gave people meaning: A sense of community. It is easy to ignore these changes because community is a hard to measure metric. What once defined many neighborhoods —a tight social structure focused on community — is giving way to the ordinariness of strip malls, franchises, and disposable jobs. It is a deadening banality of both style and purpose.

What do you think? Comments?

Some Thoughts about the Recent Shooting of Cops in Dallas: 2

July 10, 2016 11 comments

In the previous post of this series, I pointed out that Micah Xavier Johnson’s (MXJ) profile was remarkable for being unremarkable. In other words, there is nothing about him which would predict that he was going to shoot up a dozen cops on July 7. In my opinion, the plainness of his profile is by far the most problematic part of that shooting since it raises the possibility that many (potentially millions of) other people in USA are capable of doing similar things.

As many of you know, the difference between fringe rebellions and full-blown insurrections is that those who do the former are far more ideologically driven than the later- which is a fancy way of saying that insurrections are usually done by people who are average in every sense of that word. The profile of MXJ strongly suggests that what he did is better categorized as part of a wider decentralized insurrection than due to membership of fringe group or belief in a fringe ideology.

And this brings me to the use of a bomb disposal robot by the police to kill MXJ. In my opinion, it was a terribly stupid idea to kill him with an explosive carrying robot. My objections to that action by the police are based in long-term consequences of such an action- both intended and unintended.

It does not take a genius to figure out that use of such technology, primitive as it is, in the USA opens the door to its use in far more routine circumstances. What is going to stop local police departments, filled as they are with “people” who feel they are above the law, to start bombing people in far more mundane situations? What about bombing innocent people living in some house that was incorrectly identified as the hiding place of some “suspect”? What about due legal process? Well.. you get the picture. However, cops killing people in USA is by the far the least problematic aspect of using bomb carrying robots.

The far more problematic aspect of legitimizing and normalizing such behavior by cops is the potential for serious and unending blowback. Do you think that people who are being killed by bomb carrying robots will not use similar devices and methods against cops? I mean.. what is now going to stop some black or brown guy from using an improvised robot bomb, remote-controlled device or even the suicide vests you see in the middle-east against them or their families? Think that is too far-fetched? Look what happened in Iraq and Afghanistan after the USA unsuccessfully tried and failed to occupy them. Do you really think it cannot happen here? How much money would bet on there not being a similar blowback in the USA?

It is well-known that people in Iraq and Afghanistan had no worthwhile history of using IEDs and suicide bombs against “soft” targets (non-active combatants and supporting civilians) prior to the invasion and failed occupation of their countries by the USA. As many of you might also remember, all that changed very quickly after the invasions and explosive devices (IEDS and suicide bombs) eventually caused more casualties among american soldiers and their civilian supporters/ helpers than pretty much any other weapon system. Then, as now, the american response was to increase harassment and murder of potential terrorist sympathizers and try to find technological fixes. We all know how that worked out or not. In any case, both occupations ended in american defeat- despite massive technological and material superiority.

Will write about some other aspects of this incident (especially the tone-deaf response of politicians and cops) in future posts on this topic.

What do you think? Comments?

Some Thoughts about the Recent Shooting of Cops in Dallas: 1

July 9, 2016 11 comments

I am sure that all of you have seen, heard and read a lot about the July 7 shootings that killed a few cops in Dallas. It is also not exactly a secret that this shooting has a peculiar linkage to a couple of extensively documented extrajucidial killings of two black men (Alton Sterling, Philando Castile) in the previous two days. As some of you know, more than a few of my previous posts have been about how the hubris associated with unaccountable power (or perception thereof) ultimately creates the conditions for the rise of its nemesis.

It does not take a genius to see that, throughout human history, institutions and systems that seem invulnerable at their peak inevitably implode under the strain of their hubris- which principally manifests itself through unaccountability, overreach and inability to adjust to the changing reality. Even systems capable of incredible levels of repression and surveillance over decades fail- frequently because of doing exactly that. It is also no secret that the status quo in the USA (especially since 2008) has more in common with a slowly imploding system than one with any chance of a better future.

Having said that, I will now make some brief observations about the July 7 incident.

1] The shooter, Micah Xavier Johnson, was a black veteran. It is noteworthy that he had no worthwhile criminal record and grew up in a middle-class family. There is also no evidence to suggest that he was particularly shy, angry or had an otherwise unusual personality. In other words, there is nothing to suggest that he was destined to do what he did on July 7.

2] Ideologically, he did not seem to be especially partisan or religious. He certainly had an interest in black nationalist groups and was not exactly enamored by the behavior of white people (especially cops) towards blacks. Then again.. it is hard to blame him for having a fairly negative view of white cops in USA. However none of this rises to a level which would foreshadow what he did on July 7.

3] It is now obvious (based on his journal entries) that he was planning to go on a shooting spree for some time. However, it is not clear why he chose to do it on July 7. While he was fairly systematic in planning the shooing, the motive is unclear. I mean, we know he hated white cops.. but why now? What was the final event which pushed him into action?

4] Unlike most spree shooters who prefer venues where people are unarmed, he chose to shoot up an area with hundreds of cops. Also he was pretty accurate for a spree shooter as only two protesters were hit by stray bullets and neither died. In contrast, he was able to shoot 12 cops killing 5 of them. Perhaps most interestingly, all 5 dead cops were white men- which is pretty impressive when you consider that particular police department has many non-white cops.

5] One of peculiarities of the July 7 shooting was his choice of weapons. Why would he use a SKS carbine as his main weapon? As some of you know, the SKS is an older, but rugged, semi-auto carbine chambered for the same cartridge (7.62×39mm) as the AK-47. This is especially odd since a person who was in the US army would be more familiar with using an AR-15 derived semi-auto carbine.

6] He knew how to milk the fear of potential IEDs to cause maximal disruption and fear among his opponents. I mean.. think about it- one determined guy with a SKS, handgun and basic bullet-proof jacket was able to make hundreds of armed cops take shelter behind cars, garbage cans and pretty much anything they could find. Even if you do not agree with his actions- that is a pretty impressive result.

I will write about other aspects of this incident in future posts on this topic.

What do you think? comments?

Interesting Links: May 31, 2016

May 31, 2016 3 comments

Here are links to a few interesting articles I came across recently. They are about the close linkage of prolonged economic downturns, widespread disillusionment with the ‘system’ and rise of populist politicians. As usual, note that you should not believe any author just because you agree with one or two of their opinions.

Link 1: An entire class of Americans misunderstood and rejected: Dismissing white workers is profoundly reactionary

The white working class is under the microscope. Facing bleak economic prospects and opioid overdose, wage-labor rage is alternatively credited and blamed for propelling the Sanders and Trump insurgencies. But a growing number of dissident analyses contend that this new conventional wisdom rests on lazy assumptions: Trump supporters are well to do, Sanders’ advantage is based on age rather than income, and whites aren’t really that poor anyhow compared to black and Latino people. The debate is an empirical one but emerges from general elite agita over just what to think of these people who many comprehend with the nuance that generally pertains to cartoon characters. From the liberal establishment, it’s about painting Sanders as a phenomenon rooted in white college students. On the right, it’s a plain meltdown over Trump’s usurpation. But whether it be derision or dismissal coming from liberals or conservatives the upshot is diminishing the import and possibility of class politics in the United States.

One finding that’s hard to ignore: Trump support is highly correlated to areas where the death rates of middle-aged white people, fueled by opioid overdoses, are spiking. No doubt xenophobia and white nationalism is driving Trump’s rise. But its the admixture of economic populism, however phony, that makes him so potent. Not only are people in the bottom and middle getting squeezed, many in the middle are falling into the bottom or fear that they will. Wages have been stagnant. Median household income and wealth plummeted during the Great Recession. At the same time, healthcare, childcare, higher education, housing and retirement costs have risen. Since 1979, the share of working-age American households making within 50-percent of the median has steadily declined. Importantly, class self-perception has shifted too, with many fewer Americans identifying as middle class and many more identifying as lower class. In particular, the number of young people identifying as lower or lower-middle class has skyrocketed. It should be expected that voter incomes exceed those of larger populations including non-voters. Missing that distorts analyses of any given candidates’ class appeal.

Link 2: The Elites and the Rise of Donald Trump

The “privilege” that these working class whites are looking to defend is middle class factory jobs paying between $15 and $30 an hour. These jobs generally came with decent health care benefits and often a traditional defined benefit pension, although that has become increasingly rare over the last two decades. This is certainly a privileged position compared to billions of people in the developing world who would be happy to make $15 a day. It is also privileged compared to women, whose pay still averages less than 80 percent of their male counterparts. And, it is privileged compared to the situation of African Americans, Hispanics, and other racial and ethnic minorities who have frequently been trapped in the least desirable and lowest paying jobs. But these factory jobs and other blue collar occupations are hardly privileged when compared to the high flyers in the financial industry, the CEOs and other top level managers, or even professionals like doctors and dentists. These groups have all seen substantial increases in their pay and living standards over the last four decades.

To start with the simplest case, the pundits, who are all free traders, get really blank faced when the topic of protectionism for doctors, dentists, lawyers and other highly paid professionals comes up. Just as there are hundreds of millions of people in the developing world who are prepared to do factory labor for a fraction of the pay of our manufacturing workers, there are tens of millions of really smart ambitious people in the developing world (and Europe) who would happily train to U.S. standards and work as professionals here for a fraction of the pay of our doctors and lawyers. The difference is that we have designed our trade deals to subject our manufacturing workers to competition, while we have maintained or increased the protection for our doctors and lawyers. Then we have our financial sector where the bankers benefit from “too big to fail” insurance from the government. We also exempt trades of stocks, bonds, and derivatives from the same sort of sales tax that applies to clothes, cars, and most other products.

Link 3: Ascended Economy?

The part about replacing workers with robots isn’t too weird; lots of industries have already done that. There’s a whole big debate over to what degree that will intensify, and whether unemployed humans will find jobs somewhere else, or whether there will only be jobs for creative people with a certain education level or IQ. This part is well-discussed and I don’t have much to add. But lately there’s also been discussion of automating corporations themselves. I don’t know much about Ethereum (and I probably shouldn’t guess since I think the inventor reads this blog and could call me on it) but as I understand it they aim to replace corporate governance with algorithms. For example, the DAO is a leaderless investment fund that allocates money according to member votes. Right now this isn’t super interesting; algorithms can’t make too many difficult business decisions so it’s limited to corporations that just do a couple of primitive actions (and why would anyone want a democratic venture fund?). But once we get closer to true AI, they might be able to make the sort of business decisions that a CEO does today. The end goal is intelligent corporations controlled by nobody but themselves.

The more ascended corporations there are trying to maximize shareholder value, the more chance there is some will cause negative externalities. But there’s a limited amount we would be able to do about them. This is true today too, but at least today we maintain the illusion that if we just elected Bernie Sanders we could reverse the ravages of capitalism and get an economy that cares about the environment and the family and the common man. An Ascended Economy would destroy that illusion. How bad would it get? Once ascended corporations reach human or superhuman level intelligences, we run into the same AI goal-alignment problems as anywhere else. Would an ascended corporation pave over the Amazon to make a buck? Of course it would; even human corporations today do that, and an ascended corporation that didn’t have all human ethics programmed in might not even get that it was wrong. What if we programmed the corporation to follow local regulations, and Brazil banned paving over the Amazon? This is an example of trying to control AIs through goals plus injunctions – a tactic Bostrom finds very dubious. It’s essentially challenging a superintelligence to a battle of wits – “here’s something you want, and here are some rules telling you that you can’t get it, can you find a loophole in the rules?” If the superintelligence is super enough, the answer will always be yes.

What do you think? Comments?

Interesting Links: May 13, 2016

May 13, 2016 16 comments

Here are links to a few interesting articles I came across recently. They are about the democratic party and its republican counterpart betrayed (and are still betraying) the working and middle class in USA.

Link 1: Our awful elites gutted America. Now they dare ring alarms about Trump, Sanders — and cast themselves as saviors

The worst offenders of all are the American left’s cultural warriors, who daily wage some new battle over some imagined cultural offense, which has nothing to do with the lives of normal people but only the highly tuned sensibilities of those in the academic, publishing, and media ecospheres. The Hillary supporters have the authoritarian mentality of small property owners. They are the mirror image of the “realist” Trump supporters, the difference being that the Trump supporters fall below the median income level, and are distressed and insecure, while the Hillary supporters stand above the median income level, and are prosperous but still insecure. To manipulate them, the Democratic and Republican elites have both played a double game for forty years and have gotten away with it. They have incrementally yet quite comprehensively seized all economic and political power for themselves. They have perverted free media and even such basics of the democratic process as voting and accountability in elections. Elites on both sides have collaborated to engineer a revolution of economic decline for the working person, until the situation has reached unbearable proportions. The stock market may be doing well, and unemployment may theoretically be low, but people can’t afford housing and food, they can’t pay back student loans and other debts, their lives, wherever they live in this transformed country, are full of such misery that there is not a single word that an establishment candidate like Hillary Clinton or Jeb Bush says that makes sense to them.

Link 2: Unnecessariat

Prince, apparently, overdosed. He’s hardly alone, just famous. After all, death rates are up and life expectancy is down for a lot of people and overdoses seem to be a big part of the problem. You can plausibly make numerical comparisons. Here’s AIDS deaths in the US from 1987 through 1997. The number of overdoses in 2014? 47,055 of which at least 29,467 are attributable to opiates. The population is larger now, of course, but even the death rates are comparable. And rising. As with AIDS, families are being “hollowed out” with elders raising grandchildren, the intervening generation lost before their time. As with AIDS, neighborhoods are collapsing into the demands of dying, or of caring for the dying. This too is beginning to feel like a detonation. There’s a second, related detonation to consider. Suicide is up as well. The two go together: some people commit suicide by overdose, and conversely addiction is a miserable experience that leads many addicts to end it rather than continue to be the people they recognize they’ve become to family and friends, but there’s a deeper connection as well. Both suicide and addiction speak to a larger question of despair. Despair, loneliness, and a search, either temporarily or permanently, for a way out.

In 2011, economist Guy Standing coined the term “precariat” to refer to workers whose jobs were insecure, underpaid, and mobile, who had to engage in substantial “work for labor” to remain employed, whose survival could, at any time, be compromised by employers (who, for instance held their visas) and who therefore could do nothing to improve their lot. The term found favor in the Occupy movement, and was colloquially expanded to include not just farmworkers, contract workers, “gig” workers, but also unpaid interns, adjunct faculty, etc. Looking back from 2016, one pertinent characteristic seems obvious: no matter how tenuous, the precariat had jobs. The new dying Americans, the ones killing themselves on purpose or with drugs, don’t. Don’t, won’t, and know it. Here’s the thing: from where I live, the world has drifted away. We aren’t precarious, we’re unnecessary. The money has gone to the top. The wages have gone to the top. The recovery has gone to the top. And what’s worst of all, everybody who matters seems basically pretty okay with that. The new bright sparks, cheerfully referred to as “Young Gods” believe themselves to be the honest winners in a new invent-or-die economy, and are busily planning to escape into space or acquire superpowers, and instead of worrying about this, the talking heads on TV tell you its all a good thing- don’t worry, the recession’s over and everything’s better now, and technology is TOTES AMAZEBALLS!

Link 3: Burying the White Working Class

The media takeaway was clear: somehow, someway, West Virginia’s vote for a Jewish socialist Brooklyn native was a vote for racism. “I don’t want to say it,” said Chris Matthews on election night “but West Virginian voters are, you know — conservative on social issues — but there’s another word for that …” MSNBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald claimed, “Many attributed the outcome to West Virginia voters’ discomfort with Obama’s race. The state is one of the whitest in the country.” To be fair, it’s now widely known that Hillary Clinton keeps hot sauce in her purse at all times. These kinds of statements are the name of the game for today’s Democratic elite. The party has established a clear line on the white wage-earning class: they’re all either dying (demographically or literally), irrelevant in an increasingly nonwhite country, or so hopelessly racist they can go off themselves with a Miller High Life-prescription-painkiller cocktail for all they care. As liberal hero and Sanders nemesis Barney Frank put it a couple of weeks ago, “the likelihood that fifty-eight-year-old coal miners are going to become the solar engineers of the future is nil.”

But even with such “dangerous” and “unrealistic” expectations why do elite liberals seem to focus so particularly on white wage-earners? Part of the explanation is that unlike with the white working class, many of the hardships workers of color face fit neatly within an acceptable liberal narrative about what’s wrong with our society: racism. And when racism can be blamed, capitalism can be exonerated. Liberals can delude themselves into believing that it is nothing more than the accumulation of individual prejudices stashed away in the minds of powerful white people that has destroyed black and brown communities in Detroit, Ferguson, and Chicago’s South Side. Class stratification, capital flight, and the war against organized labor are thus sidestepped completely. The liberal elite is spared from having to question the fundamental injustices of capitalism. Unfortunately, the miseries, hardships, and exploitation of white workers don’t fit into an easy capital-friendly framework. Liberals then have two options: blame the individual moral failings of white workers or call into question the very nature of capitalism itself.

What do you think? Comments?

Interesting Links: May 4, 2016

May 4, 2016 1 comment

Here are links to a few interesting articles I came across recently. They are about all those “professional pundits”, “political operatives” and “credentialed experts” failed to see the rise and ultimate success of Donald Trump’s campaign for the republican presidential nomination.

Link 1: Beyond Schadenfreude, the Spectacular Pundit Failure on Trump is Worth Remembering

Trying to predict the future can be fun, which is why – from office sports pools to stock market speculation – many do it. Generally, though, people make such predictions with at least some humility: with the knowledge that they do not actually know what the future holds. But not America’s beloved political pundits. When they pronounce what the future has in store for us, it comes in the form of definitive decrees, shaped with the tone of authoritative certainty. With a few exceptions, those who purported to see the future of the 2016 GOP nomination process spent many months categorically assuring everyone that, polls notwithstanding, Donald Trump simply could not, would not, become the GOP nominee; one could spend all day posting humiliating examples, so a representative sampling will have to suffice.

Let’s acknowledge all the valid caveats: there’s nothing inherently wrong with making predictions, and everyone who tries it is going to be wrong sometimes. Moreover, though there were some exceptions, very few pundits predicted Trump’s success (though there’s a huge difference between (a) refraining from predicting or doing so with a tone of uncertainty and (b) hubristically and condescendingly “explaining” The Truth to the world about what will happen). Many factors, such as Trump’s celebrity status, made these circumstances unusual. And everyone makes mistakes in every realm.

Nonetheless, it becomes a much different type of error when one invokes one’s own claimed authority and expertise when issuing such embarrassingly wrong pronouncements, and, worse still, when the tone used is one of certainty and hubris as though the decrees are being passed down from Mount Sinai. At the very least, when a profession that touts its expertise, collectively, is this wildly wrong about something so significant, more needs to be done than a cursory, superficial acknowledgment of error – or casting blame on others – before quickly moving on, in the hope that it’s all forgotten. Some collective, introspective soul-searching is in order.

Link 2: One of the most painful lessons ever learned in finance has finally come to politics

The statistician George Box once wrote, “Essentially, all models are wrong, but some are useful.” This is true. The failure to predict of Trump’s rise to the nomination, then, is not the fault of the work done by folks like Silver, but a manifestation of the hubris involved in trusting the party over what was happening on the ground. Trump dominated Republican polls for months, but his place in the race as a self-funded outsider who was clearly not the choice of The Party seemed entirely untenable. The incoming data was doubted all the way. The model broke. In a great tweetstorm Wednesday, former Wall Street trader Chris Arnade — who was among the slick, model-wielding upstarts to hit finance in the 1990s — broke down the problem with models, with beliefs, and why Trump’s imminent nomination is, really, a pie in the face for everybody. The success of Silver in 2008 and 2012 at the time appeared to be the triumph of math over feeling or inspiration. The classic political pundit could — still can! — anecdotally outline their case for or against a certain candidate. Silver instead brought the data to back up his view. And he was very right.

But where a Silver-style model eventually broke down this cycle was in doing what all models do: using the past to predict the future. And this is ultimately why Box’s quote endures. All models — even those that are useful and correct for long stretches — will eventually reach a point at which the current inputs no longer yield results that look anything like the past. The model’s guiding light goes dark. The model breaks. Arnade argued Wednesday that this affirms the need for on-the-ground reporting, meeting voters in real life, getting a feel for just how serious the Trump thing is by talking to people who take it seriously. Maybe this is the answer. Maybe not. But Arnade’s point is that using the model as a backstop to affirm your priors — that Trump can’t win because he’s not the party’s choice, that he’s too unserious, too racist, too inconsistent, too everything — is exactly the point at which the model begins to fail. Long-Term Capital Management thought all arbitrage opportunities would eventually revert to some efficient equilibria. Then they incurred a revision of belief, and then they were out of business.

Link 3: The Trump-ocalypse is upon us: America can’t afford to misunderstand what his nomination means

Being so wrong is a professional hazard of the dumb game of covering politics like a sports match. But it’s worth exploring more specifically why. The immense power of conventional wisdom can swamp all but the most powerful contrary evidence—evidence like, say, Trump becoming the presumptive nominee yesterday. There were lots of clear messages that the rules of the game weren’t holding, such as when, last July, Trump insulted John McCain for being captured in Vietnam and suffered zero concrete consequences. Pundits weren’t listening. Trump’s rise should not have been incomprehensible. Much available evidence has long suggested that today’s Republican Party is capable of anything. In recent years, government shutdowns became the norm, a huge fan of Ayn Rand was elevated to House Speaker, and somewhere near half of all Republicans said they believe that Barack Obama is a Muslim. Meanwhile, everything hinted that Jeb Bush’s candidacy might prove to be the very nonstarter that it was. But no matter.

Wonks typically make predictions from big data sets that are in reality drawn from presidential elections—something that, in numerical terms, have happened a very small number of times. If journalists are only good at describing what passes for normal over a few decades, journalism is not very useful at understanding reality when things get interesting. And as things have gotten more interesting, journalists have played catch up every time, from the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street to Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. It’s been clear since the financial crisis that American politics are fragmenting under the stress of enormous income inequality — toward the socialist left and, on the white right, a toxic quasi-fascist stew that conflates middle-class decline with growing racial diversity.

What do you think? Comments?


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 122 other followers