Later On

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Archive for the ‘Election’ Category

Why Hillary Clinton’s Book Is Actually Worth Reading

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James Fallows has a very interesting column on Hillary Clinton and her book. It begins:

Most books by politicians are bad. They’re bad because they are cautious, or pious, or boring, or some even-worse combination of all three.

They’re cautious because over the years politicians learn they have more to lose than gain by taking “interesting” or edgy stands. (Something I learned when working as a campaign and White House speechwriter: In “normal” writing, your goal is to make your meaning as clear as possible, ideally in a memorable way. For a politician, the goal is to make the meaning just clear enough that most people will still agree with you. Clearer than that, and you’re in trouble.)

They’re pious because in one way or another the “revealing” stories about the authors are really campaign ads—for future elections by politicians with a big race still ahead of them, or for history’s esteem by senior figures looking back. Thus  politicians’ biographies fall into the general categories of humble-brag (most of them) or braggy-brag (Trump’s).

And they’re boring because they’re necessarily often about policy. That’s hard enough to make interesting in the hands of very skillful writers, from Rachel Carson and Jane Jacobs to John Hersey and Michael Lewis. If politicians turning out books on “Our Schools: A New Blueprint!” were comparably skilled as writers, they’d be making their livings without having to bother with PACs and polls.

Of course there are exceptions. Some autobiographical books manage to be interesting because they’re written early enough not to be swathed in campaign caution (Barack Obama’s Dreams From My Father), or come from a quirky-enough sensibility to avoid normal constraints (Jimmy Carter’s Why Not the Best?), or are from performers talented enough to work subversively within the constraints (Al Franken’s Giant of the Senate, which is the kind of book Will Rogers might have written if he had made it into the Senate). And of course some all-out manifestos with an edge can shape the evolution of politics. Barry Goldwater’s Conscience of a Conservative didn’t get him into the White House, but it competed with the works of Ayn Rand on many conservatives’ bookshelves and lastingly shaped a movement.

I don’t know whether Hillary Clinton’s previous books were good or bad. I didn’t read them, because I assumed they were normal politician-books. But What Happened is not a standard work in this oeuvre. It’s interesting; it’s worth reading; and it sets out questions that the press, in particular, has not done enough to face.

* * *

On the overall interesting-ness of the book, I refer you to Megan Garber’s extensive analysis of the different personas Hillary Clinton has presented through her now very-long public career, and the much less-guarded one that comes through in What Happened. By the previously mentioned depressing standards of most political books, this one isn’t cautious (because the author  convincingly claims she’s not running for anything any more), it’s not (very) pious (because she favors an acid-humor tone), and most of it is not boring (because most of it is not directly about policy).

As an example of why it’s interesting, consider the opening scene, about how Clinton dealt with the inauguration ceremony in which she might have expected to be sworn in herself, but instead sat there watching Donald Trump take the oath. She’d wondered whether she had to show up at all, and talked with former presidents George W. Bush and Jimmy Carter, each of whom had called her right after the news of her loss sank in: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 September 2017 at 10:09 am

What To Make of the New Facebook-Russia Revelation?

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Josh Marshall has an intriguing column on the TPM Editor’s Blog. From the column:

. . . What is highly interesting to me is the reference to the ‘Internet Research Agency’, which is either a Russian intelligence front or the work of a Putin-aligned oligarch who does work on behalf of Putin and the Russian state. That’s the Russian company apparently doing the buying and then pumping up those ads with its army of trolls and fake accounts. This is the St. Petersburg ‘troll farm’ that Adrian Chen chronicled in that seminal 2015 New York Times Magazine that I’ve referenced numerous times.

I’ve always been a huge admirer of Chen’s since way back when he was at Gawker. Mainly he’s just a good writer and reporter. But his stories were usually ones that you’d never think were stories. You wouldn’t think the subject matter even existed (or wished it didn’t) or if they did that they were worthy of being stories. They were outlandish, bizarre, sometimes grotesque. But either at the time of publication or sometimes months or years later you’d realize they weren’t examples of random exoticism but actually topics of great significance operating outside of mainstream public view.

When I first read the 2015 troll farm piece I was amazed. The whole idea sounded preposterous and unreal. Some major operation in Russia – either informally or formally tied to the state – was investing lots of time and money building networks of bots and propaganda accounts to disrupt conversations, build counter-narratives and even test fire elaborate and potentially lethal hoaxes in the United States. Many of us have long known that teenagers with personality problems and sociopaths do this stuff. But this was an operation at scale, sophisticated and state-backed. What was it for and what was the end game? (Here are two posts from last year where I try to answer that question: one and two.)

In any case, some time after the troll farm piece ran, Chen noticed that a number of the accounts he had identified spreading conspiracy theories about Ebola or other fake stories had rebranded as Trump/MAGA accounts. It’s quite fascinating. The Trump revelation comes in a December 2015 podcast interview Chen at He clearly didn’t think that much of it at the time. It comes up sort of parenthetically at about 35:12 into the podcast. But there it is: perhaps the political scandal of the early 21st century, months before anyone had any inkling of it, briefly sketched in its outlines. The momentary exchange still amazes me. Here it is.

Chen said: “A lot of them have turned into like conservative accounts, like fake conservatives. I don’t know what’s going on but they’re all like tweeting about Donald Trump and stuff.” Interviewer: “Who’s paying for that?” Chen: “I don’t know … I feel like maybe it’s some kind of really opaque strategy of like electing Donald Trump to undermine the US or something.” . . .

Read the whole thing.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 September 2017 at 11:30 am

Men and Women Have Reacted Differently to Donald Trump’s Election

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Very interesting post by Kevin Drum, worth reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 September 2017 at 1:12 pm

Good post on the personal aspect of the political divide

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Written by LeisureGuy

28 August 2017 at 8:02 pm

Very clear timeline showing intent to collude

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Totally clear.

If the Russians gave the Trump campaign significant dirt on the Clintons, wouldn’t it have been revealed before the election?\

Pavel Drotár, Watched the US politics from afar for decades.

Yes, it would.

And that’s in fact what Trump intended to do when he announced that he would be announcing important new findings about Hillary Clinton. It was only AFTER the meeting in which the Trump campaign did not get any new “dirt” that he silently withdrew from that planned press conference.

The fact that the idiot announced he would be revealing new incriminating evidence, the fact that he made that announcement just prior to the meeting and scheduled the press conference for few days later, and then never had the press conference, is the most damning evidence of collusion between Trump himself and the Russian power structure.

Just to recap:

  1. Trump Jr. receives an email which spells out “I want to provide you incriminating evidence on your father’s opponent; this comes from the Russian government”
  2. He replies “If it’s what you say it is, I love it.” and drags Kushner and Manafort into it. They both agree to the meeting and show up.
  3. Just moments before the meeting begins, Trump Sr. announces that in few days, he will reveal new incriminating evidence about Hillary Clinton.
  4. The meeting turns out to be an attempt to help push the “adoptions” issue, should DJT be elected, so no dirt is provided.
  5. DJT then never has the press conference he promised to have.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 August 2017 at 4:21 pm

Facts or Anecdotes? Pick One and Stick With It.

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Extremely intriguing post by Kevin Drum. And I agree with his recommendation: always issue two different reports, one with statistics, charts, and measures and the other using personal anecdotes as representative examples.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 August 2017 at 2:15 pm

Being the First Name on the Ballot Has a Huge Effect

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Kevin Drum has a very intriguing post. From that post:

In Texas, names are placed on the ballot in different orders depending on the county. The order is selected randomly, which allows an examination of whether being first on the ballot matters very much. Darren Grant of Sam Houston State University did exactly that, and he found that it really, really makes a difference.

. . .

In states that don’t randomize ballot order, this means that the first candidate on the ballot has a huge advantage. And this could be true even in states that do. If you got lucky and ended up at the top of the ballot in Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio, you’d get an advantage in areas with millions of votes, while your opponent would get an advantage in areas with only thousands of votes. And there are certain unusual circumstances where the ballot order effect can be truly massive:

In an ironic twist of fate, we were recently able to [test our hypothesis] with the March, 2016 Texas Republican primary, held just after the first draft of this paper was completed. Featuring a highly visible Presidential race, it drew twice as many voters as in 2014—and had contests for three Supreme Court positions, one of which was between Paul Green and Rick Green, two men with common first names and identical last names. It was The Perfect Storm, and our logic implies that this should lead to large ballot order effects. This is immediately evident in the histogram of county vote shares presented in Figure 2(a), without even looking at ballot order: in a race won with 52.1% of the statewide vote, virtually no county’s vote was nearly evenly split. Instead Paul Green’s vote shares are bifurcated into two clusters, one around 40%, and another around 60%, suggesting a ballot order effect approaching twenty percentage points. The regression results in Figure 2(c) confirm this: the coefficient estimate is 19.4 percentage points. We have never seen a ballot order effect this large, and may never again. . .

Written by LeisureGuy

21 August 2017 at 12:54 pm

Posted in Election, Science

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