Tag Archives: Politics

Who Needs a Court System?

Readers will know I am not a fan of Donald Trump for a variety of reasons, like him constantly saying things which aren't true. That he was elected as president obviously bothers me. I've been trying not to talk about that though. The point of this site is ultimately to explore my belief the world is insane, but Trump's election is too obvious an example.

Still, I can resist only so much. It would be fun to talk about how Trump managed to issue an executive order in a more incompetent manner than has ever been seen before. It would be fun to talk about how Trump claims the cancellation of his meeting with the President of Mexico was mutual because on Twitter he said:

And the guy responded by canceling the meeting. I mean, not only is that an incredibly strained definition of "mutual," it is hard to resist talking about how Trump apparently thinks he negotiated this cancelation via Twitter. Still, I managed. I managed right up until I saw this tweet:

I had to check for myself because that seemed too funny. How could the government fail to include one of its three branches on its White House website? I don't have an answer for that, but I can confirm it is true. The judicial branch no longer has a web page on the White House website.
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Police Department Forced to Hire Illegal Immigrants!

Yeah, that's not what really happened. Not too long ago, a radio host named Dana Loesch, who I've followed on Twitter for quite a while, posted a tweet about an article as such:

It highlights an article with the line, "Department of Justice fines Denver Sheriff Department for excluding non-citizens when hiring." Loesch responded to it: "For crying out loud." The reaction from Loesch's ~450,000 followers was largely what you'd expect. Continue reading

For the Record

I had a different post planned for today, but the reactions to my last post make me think I should spend a little more time on some things. As you may recall, the last post discussed how the United States often enters treaties with other nations under what is called an "executive agreement." Under U.S. law, the President can enter into these executive agreements without the approval of anyone else in the government.

This is important because the U.S. Constitution says one of the branches of Congress, the Senate, must consent to all "treaties" by a margin of two-thirds. The proprietor of The Blackboard, lucia, has used that requirement to justify insulting a journalist and what he's written about an international treaty known as the Paris Agreement.

There is some confusion here because under international law the Paris Agreement can be a treaty even though it is only an executive agreement under U.S. law. This confusion contributed to lucia writing a completely misguided post. Rather than correct her errors, lucia has since double down on them by making up quotations and even flat-out saying the U.S. Constitution says things it does not.

For today's post, I'd like to review some things people have been saying and set the record straight on a number of factual matters. I don't expect it to do much good, but I can't just ignore people making things up.
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Intentionally Misleading or Totally Ignorant?

I saw an odd post over at The Blackboard today. I want to discuss some of what I saw in it. Given my recent history over there and the... questionable nature of what is being said at that site of late, I thought it'd be best to make a new post for this.

The topic of the post was an article written by Paul Voosen, in which he discusses what Donald Trump may or may not be able to do about climate change policies as President of the United States. This is an interesting topic. Unfortunately, the response to it at The Blackboard is quite poor. I will try to give a better one.

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Stop Supporting Rapists*

So I was meaning to put a post up yesterday about an interesting issue I found in a recent paper, but yesterday's "breaking news" about Donald Trump has put me in a foul mood. I don't want to fill the post with rhetoric and opinionated commentary, so I thought I'd hold off for a bit.

Rather than just stay quiet for a week or so, I thought I'd copy a comment I just wrote showing my state of mind. If you support Donald Trump, I suggest you don't read it. Then again, if you support Donald Trump, I suggest you just leave. My site, the internet, the planet. whichever you prefer.
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You're Disturbingly Stupid

I try not to talk about politics much here because my views are a bit out there, and quite frankly, most political discussions are pointless and boring. I've had a bit of writer's block on what to post here recently though, so I"m going to delve into politics just a little.

Don't worry, I'm not really going to discuss politics. I'm just going to show you what is unquestionably the dumbest political propaganda I've ever seen. Or at least, the propaganda which requires the dumbest audience to work:
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Ted Cruz Endorses Steven Goddard

So I just submitted a comment over at Judith Curry's blog, on her post about a recent Senate committee hearing titled Data or Dogma. The comment didn't appear, which I figure is due to running afoul of some spam/moderation filter. I figured I'd copy it here because I think the subject merits some attention:

So I watched some of the hearing, and I'll try to watch the rest of it later on. There's one thing I have to say right away though. About two hours in (I skipped around) Senator Ted Cruz displayed two charts taken from Steven Goddard, on the basis they show adjustments to the USHCN data set cause massive changes in its results. That's embarrassing. Those charts are complete and utter bunk, and it is shameful they were used in this hearing, much less that they went unchallenged.

The methodology Goddard used to create those charts is trivially wrong and known to introduce biases in the results. This has been discussed on this very site, with a humorous example of its flaws being that applying it to a global data set (GHCN) instead of just one for the United States reverses the results, finding that adjustments reduce global warming by a significant amount.

And while this point is pretty much indisputable, with any technically oriented skeptic acknowledging Goddard's charts are bunk, Goddard continues to defend them. Today I expressed my shock and displeasure with Cruz using Goddard's charts during the hearing on Twitter. A few tweets later, Goddard tweeted:

Zeke Hausfather has written several posts explaining why Goddard's charts are bunk. Steven Mosher has explained the problems with Goddard's methodology as well. Anthony Watts has acknowledged the methodology is wrong. I suspect readers here could think of many other people who have said things like, you have to spatially weight your data or otherwise account for where your data is located so you don't give too much weight to any one area. According to Goddard, they're all frauds.

Goddard says you can just average every station together, without concern for where it is located or what its baseline temperature might be (go ahead and simply average those 30C and 10C areas together). That's the only reason he can come up with the charts Cruz used. And according to him, if you think that's wrong, you're a fraud.

Another reason I decided to copy it here is it lets me delve into the subject more than I could in a comment on someone else's blog. So that's what I'm going to do.
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Donald Trump for President!

There's been a meandering discussion about this and that over at lucia's blog, and one of the topics has involved the Syrian refugee crisis and Donald Trump. The details don't matter. I just wanted to copy over a short excerpt from one of my comments because it summarizes my views on Trump's race for election so far:

I personally believe Americans who can’t strongly and vigorously criticize Donald Trump for being a delusional and racist blowhard should be deported to another planet for the sake of the human race. But hey, instead, we give him billions of dollars and consider electing him president. And he’s not even threatening to murder us if we criticize him!

This Explains Everything. No Wait, it Explains Nothing

Take a look at this tweet:

I saw this in my Twitter feed because Glenn Kessler, fact checker for the Washington Post, retweeted it. I immediately thought it seemed weird. I've been skeptical of any analysis of survey results since I realized accepted practices in the field let you prove anything, no matter how untrue, just to attack groups you don't like (demonstrated here).

That wasn't what was at play here though. What was at play here is the results seemed too good. I know a lot of people believe the United States is growing more polarized, and that may be true, but look at those numbers. 92%? 94%? Even if those numbers were correct, how could we measure liberalism and conservatism of an entire country well enough to know?

I'm not convinced we could. To investigate, I decided to look at the data. It turns out that's not available. The Pew Research Center doesn't publish their data so people can check their conclusions. They publish a summary of sorts, but it doesn't even include the information shown in their charts. It shows reponse rates for all respondents, not stratified results for Republican/Democrat respondents separately. That means readers don't even have the information necessary to plot the same graphs, much less verify them.

I think it's weird news articles get written based off work which cannot be investigated. I think it's weird for journalists to trust a source so much they decide verification is not necessary. But whatever. It's apparently an accepted practice. Journalists will just publish graphs people hand them if they like what those graphs show.

That's not just me being snarky and criticizing the lack of investigation. It's me pointing out the way these graphs are being used is completely bogus. The graphs were created by combining the results of ten questions. No explanation is given as to how these questions were originally chosen. No explanation is given as to why we should expect these questions to measure conservatism/liberalism. The report says:

The questions cover a range of political values including attitudes about size and scope of government, the social safety net, immigration, homosexuality, business, the environment, foreign policy and racial discrimination.

Why are those the issues we need to look at to measure conservatism/liberalism? It doesn't say. It doesn't even say how we know the questions ask truly get at the conservative/liberal split on those issues. I don't think they do. The respondents were asked to select which options in these rows they agreed with more:

1-7-question-list

Look at the third line. A person is measured as "conservative" if he or she thinks poor people have it easy because of government assistance. The economy has gone up in down in the last 20 years. A person could think poor people have it easy one year and hard another without changing how conservative/liberal they are. Even worse, government benefits have changed over the last 20 years. Obamacare alone would change how people answer this question.

And the fourth question? The United States economy has changed over the last 20 years, and its debt burden has grown by an enormous amount. When the country's debt grows, of course how much it can spend on things, such as helping needy, will change. And again, government assistance has changed. The amount of money being spent to help the needy has changed. Is it any surprise people's view on whether or not we need to spend more has changed?

How about that sixth question? The role of immigrants in a country's economy can change a great deal in 20 years time. Why should people recognizing that be viewed as the country becoming more polarized? And what about the change in how immigrants are treated in those 20 years? The rights of illegal immigrants have been expanded in the last 20 years, including their rights to certain benefits. Does changing your view to reflect a change in the true answer really mean you've become more polarized?

These are just some of the obvious concerns with using these ten questions to measure how conservative or liberal people are. Nobody seems to have looked into them. The journalists at the Washington Post seem to have just ignored them. They don't even tell their readers what questions were asked. I'd check for myself, but again, the Pew Research Center doesn't provide its data so people can verify its conclusions.

Fortunately, the Pew Research Center did make a figure showing some of that data. They published a figure showing how Republicans and Democrats responded to the ten question over the last 20 years:

1-7-question-graph

As it shows, these 10 questions don't all measure the same thing. Some questions, like how people feel about homosexuality, show Democrats and Republicans are moving in the same direction. Other questions, such as the one question on foreign policy, show one party's views changing while the other remains constant. Then you have questions like the ones I highlighted. All three questions I highlighted show an increase in "polarization."

For instance, a person who believes economic problems, growing debt levels and the introduction of Obamacare mean the government can't afford to do much more to help the needy is labeled as more "conservative." The change in the amount of money available, and the change in amount of money being spent are simply ignored. If a person's view on the question has changed, this study and the Washington Post means their view on liberalism/conservatism has changed.

That's how they produced the graph which started all this, a graph the author of the Washington Post articled cited in the tweet says "explains everything you need to know about partisanship." Explains everything, seriously? It doesn't explain anything. It indicates people have become more polarized on certain issues, but look at which issues those are. Almost every single one of them can be tied to the changing economy and government policies of the United States.

The graph this author promotes as "so important" does absolutely nothing to show Republicans are becoming more conservative and Democrats are becoming more liberal. All it shows is when the reality of a country's situation changes, people's views on that situation change.

And this would be obvious to anyone who bothered to investigate the study before reporting on it. It would be obvious to a "fact checker" like Glenn Kessler if he, you know, checked the facts of the story. Instead, these journalists at a major newspaper promote a story which amounts to nothing more than, "Some people handed us some pretty charts, so we published them."