Scott Adams Says A Lot of Things
August 8th, 2016

I don’t know about you, but I like to keep up with Dilbert creator / proto-Trumpkin Scott Adams.

Adams likes to brag about how awesome his political predictions are because he wishcasted Donald Trump to the Republican nomination early on. And good for him!

But just because you make one correct prediction, you probably shouldn’t go getting chesty all over the internet.

Here, for instance, is another prediction Adams made recently that didn’t work out so great:

“I’ve been watching the Democratic National Convention and wondering if this will be the first time in history that we see a candidate’s poll numbers plunge after a convention.”

Oh? Oh.

See, Adams didn’t learn his lesson about predicting from the Republican convention, when he said that Trump’s convention speech “was an A-” that “on a strategic level” “was a strong performance.” Such a strategically strong performance that Trump became the first candidate to come out of his convention speech with people telling pollsters that they’re less likely to vote for him!

But here’s the thing: Adams doesn’t always get things wrong. Because he likes to cover himself with lots of predictions:

February 22, 2016: “To solve for scary, Trump needs Mark Cuban as his running mate.”

Oh boy. That’s a tall order. Because it turned out that not only did Trump not get Cuban as his running mate–Cuban eventually endorsed Clinton. Not that that mattered, because it turned out that Trump didn’t need Cuban at all . . .

April 26, 2016: “By October you will hear that Trump is “running unopposed” for all practical purposes.”

“Running unopposed”? Wow! I haven’t seen that #hottake yet, but in fairness, it isn’t October yet, either. So Adams kept trucking into:

May 19, 2016: “I’m teeming with confirmation bias, but from my kitchen counter, I don’t see how it can go any direction but a Trump landslide from here. . . .”

“Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager, knows how to win. The Clinton campaign doesn’t show the same level of talent, at least in terms of persuasion.”

Got that? Adams “didn’t see how” it could be possible go in any direction other than a Trump landslide–not possible!–because the Clinton campaign team just blows. Well, here we are five weeks later and:

June 28, 2016: “For months I have been saying mostly good things in this blog about Trump’s powers of persuasion, and mostly bad things about how the Clinton campaign does persuasion. And yet Clinton has a solid lead in the polls, assuming the polls are accurate. How can that be? The quick answer is that Clinton’s side is totally winning the persuasion battle.”

But, you see, Adams wasn’t contradicting himself because he was crediting Clinton’s “side” as opposed to her “campaign.” So don’t worry. He’s totally got a handle on the politicky stuff. Nothing he couldn’t master in an hour.

But then he went out with a post on June 28 and dropped a bombshell:

“The Clinton team won the month of June. And unless something changes, Clinton will saunter to an easy victory in November.”

I know what you’re thinking: Wait. What? From Trump “Running unopposed” to I “don’t see how it can go in any direction but a landslide” to “Clinton will saunter to an easy victory in November”? Wtf?

Don’t worry, though. Dilbert’s here to explain: “I now update my prediction of a Trump landslide to say that if he doesn’t give a speech on the topic of racism – to neutralize the crazy racist label – he loses.”

Not confused enough? Adams wasn’t done yet: “If [Trump] makes a case for the value of American diversity – and does it persuasively – he wins in a landslide.”

That’s a . . . lot of predictions. And surely one of them will work out.

Unless, of course, Clinton wins a 4- to 7-point victory because we haven’t had a presidential landslide since 1984–for complicated political and demographic reasons that someone who studied politics for, say, an hour and a half, might understand.

If you ranked all the surprises of 2016, right up near the top would be that the guy who draws Dilbert is a wannabe-PUA herb.


Trumpism Corrupts, Christie Edition
February 29th, 2016

Of all the guys running for the GOP nomination, Chris Christie is the last one you expected to see getting told to go get his shinebox. And yet, here’s the video of Trump dismissively telling Christie to “get on the plane and go home” half a second after the fat man stood in front of a crowd and humiliated himself by endorsing Trump.

And that wasn’t even the most humiliating moment of Christie’s weekend. You have to watch the full, excruciating eleven minutes of Christie’s ABC interview with George Stephanopoulos. There’s tons of video with Christie crushing Trump and then, asked how he could endorse the guy, Christie having literally no answer except that he thinks Trump could maybe create jobs.

It’s the most embarrassing interview I’ve ever seen. Way, way worse than the Sarah Palin 60 Minutes interview in 2008. Especially odd is how Christie refers to Trump–100 percent of the time–as “Mr. Trump.” This isn’t mere formal courtesy. Christie says he’s known Trump for more than a decade. Says he’s a friend. All through the primaries as a candidate, Christie called him “Donald.” And suddenly everything is “Mr. Trump” this and “Mr. Trump” that. Obviously this is a directive from Trump HQ. It’s the only possible explanation.

And now, Christie is holding a press conference to talk about judges in New Jersey and he strictly forbids any questions about the man he endorsed for president 48 hours ago. Literally forbids it: Asked a question about his endorsement, Christie responds, “Permission denied.” This from the guy who was the ask-me-anything, tell-it-like-it-is straight talker of 2016.

As I wrote a couple weeks ago, after being pretty sympathetic for several months, it’s now become clear that Trumpism corrupts.

It’s now clear that embracing Trumpism requires total abasement and complicity with the entire Trump program–the conspiracy theories, the lies, the egomania, and the bad policy ideas, too. You can’t just be for the wall or for America firstism. You can’t just do it to flip off the asshat GOP donor class. You have to kneel before Zod.

It’s possible that there will never be a reckoning for Quisling conservatives such as Christie. But it’s also possible that there will.


How Journalism Gets Done at Vox
August 27th, 2015

Like everyone else, I watched the Vox-Ezra Klein-Torbjorn Tannsjo-Brian Leiter fight yesterday. And truth be told, I don’t really have a dog in the fight. is, of course. But I don’t know Tannsjo at all and only know Leiter by reputation. (A friend of mine quipped, “They have to be like the Babe Ruth of assholes at Vox to out-asshole Leiter.”)

Also, I spend a lot of time on both sides of the editing/writing fence. I’ve had pieces get turned down, or spiked after acceptance. And I’ve had to do the rejection and spiking. This is all totally part of the writing life and part of being a professional is making your peace with this as part of the business.

What people who haven’t edited before may not understand is that the reasons for rejecting a piece can range from the straight-forward to the deeply complex. For instance, it could just be that the editor doesn’t like the piece. Or it could be that the editor likes the piece, but had previously rejected a similar piece by a long-time contributor, and doesn’t want to rub that other writer the wrong way. It could be that the editor likes the piece, but doesn’t have space to run it in a timely fashion. Or it could even be that the editor likes the piece, but thinks it would fit better at another publication.

There are hundreds of institutional, temporal, logistical, and relational considerations that go into these decisions, most of which the writer is never aware and which are too complicated and/or confidential to be explained. Which is why, to my mind, the ideal rejection is just explaining that the piece “isn’t quite right,” thanking the writer for the submission, and, if you have any good ideas on where the piece might find a home, then pointing the writer in the direction of another publication.

Again, I’ve been on both sides of those kinds of exchanges and if they follow that form, then both parties should be able to walk away happy.

All of that said, what’s offensive about the Vox situation isn’t that the site says they’re uncomfortable running a piece that implicitly questions the wisdom/morality of abortion and contraception. I don’t think that’s anything we didn’t know about the seriousness of the people at VOXDOTCOM already. (And on this score, I don’t think Ezra Klein’s explainer/non-apology really helped: Hey! We almost hired two pro-life people once!)

No, the really bad part is that Tannsjo hadn’t just submitted a piece on spec. Vox went to him and commissioned the piece. And then, when they didn’t like it, they did . . . nothing. They just sat on it.

That’s bad.

The writer/editor compact has two parts. The first is that writers should live with editorial decisions and be okay with them. But the second is that editors should deal with writers promptly, transparently, and courteously.

If you solicit a piece from someone, you owe them a great deal. They’ve just done a bunch of work for you, for free. You’re not obligated to publish them. But if you decide not to publish them, you’re obligated to let them know that fact immediately. You should apologize for the situation not working out. You should pay them a kill fee. And if you want to remain on good terms, you might help them find a different home for the piece.

You don’t just try to pocket-veto the piece and then, when pressed, send an email to the writer making it sound like it’s their fault for writing such an offensive, deviationist essay.

That’s the part of this episode which reveals things we didn’t already know about Vox.


George Packer vs. Ezra Klein
January 8th, 2015

On the subject of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, Ezra Klein has taken a perfectly Voxian position–which is to say, come out with something so transparently foolish that there are only two possible explanations for it, and the more likely one is that he’s simply trolling for clicks. It’s the op-ed version of search-engine optimization. I wonder when the rest of the world is going to catch on and start treating Klein, Yglesias, et al accordingly.

We are at one of those rare moments suffused with such moral clarity that there’s no daylight between the Washington Free Beacon and the New Yorker. Seriously, take quick a taste test. Is this the Free Beacon or the New Yorker:

A religion is not just a set of texts but the living beliefs and practices of its adherents. Islam today includes a substantial minority of believers who countenance, if they don’t actually carry out, a degree of violence in the application of their convictions that is currently unique. Charlie Hebdo had been nondenominational in its satire, sticking its finger into the sensitivities of Jews and Christians, too—but only Muslims responded with threats and acts of terrorism. For some believers, the violence serves a will to absolute power in the name of God, which is a form of totalitarianism called Islamism—politics as religion, religion as politics. “Allahu Akbar!” the killers shouted in the street outside Charlie Hebdo. They, at any rate, know what they’re about.

So had to find an angle to drive some traffic.

It’s going to be awesome when they eventually go public.

1 comment

Dept. of Futurism
May 5th, 2014

Jon Evans has another entry in the post-scarcity economy genre here. It continues to amaze me that people not named Matthew Yglesias can write passages like this:

I’ve been arguing for some time now that the combination of new technology and old capitalism will soon drastically worsen inequality. It seems to me that technology will soon destroy jobs faster than it creates them, if it hasn’t started to already. Which is a good thing! Most of the jobs it destroys are bad, and most of the ones it creates are good.

What classifies a job as “good” or “bad”? Who has done the tabulation of jobs destroyed by technology versus created by technology? What, exactly, is the distribution of “good” and “bad” jobs in each of the created and destroyed columns?

Like so much of the tech-futurist press, this is all just taken as given because . . . internet!

As I’ve mentioned before, “post-scarcity economics” didn’t arrive yesterday. It’s been bouncing around the popular press and sci-fi writers for at last three quarters of a century. I’d be interested in knowing to what extent these boomlets coincide with moments of relative prosperity (or hardship) in the real world. Do our futurists tend to be more optimistic about the future when the here-and-now is gilded, or hard? Or is there no correlation between techno-utopian fantasy economics and real economics?


Santino. WFB. Juicevox Mafia.
April 30th, 2014

As a friend of mine delicately put it over email, OH MY GOD!

I don’t want to spoil it for you, so just go. Go. GO.






Disclaimer: The images you are about to see are merely historical recreations of what might have transpired based on meticulous research and the public record.


Yglasias String (cont.)
October 4th, 2013

Here’s lawyer Jason Mazzone writing about a recent Matt Yglesias column on Obamacare and John Roberts:

In an article called “The Millions Left Out of Health Reform by John Roberts,” Matthew Yglesias reports that the fact that working poor in certain states will not benefit from the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion is “due to the actions of Chief Justice John Roberts” who, in NFIB v. Sebelius, “burnished his conservative cred by striking down the penalties portion of the Medicaid expansion.” As a result, Mr. Yglesias says, “[t]here are going to be pockets of the country where poor people continue to lack insurance for quite a long time, all thanks to Roberts and the stubborn intransigence of conservative politicians.” The Chief Justice certainly enjoys some special powers. But who knew he could singlehandedly invalidate an act of Congress? He can’t, of course. Even in the world of Slate reporters, one plus zero doesn’t equal five.

And for the record, Slate readers, in the portion of Sebelius dealing with the Medicaid expansion issue, seven Supreme Court justices, including those notorious Tea Party heroes Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan, “burnished” their “conservative cred” and should therefore be blamed for depriving poor people of healthcare.

I don’t know much about Mazzone, but he sure doesn’t seem like your normal right-wing critic.


Redskins Win! Redskins Win! Redskins Win!
September 29th, 2013

Cue Redskins playoff talk in 5 . . . 4 . . . 3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . .

One of the small annoyances of living in DC is being around what I suspect might be the most Pollyanna-ish fanbase in all of sports. Yankees fans think they’re entitled to success. Lakers fans expect success. DC sports fans think that success is always just around the corner. I think I’ve told this story before, but if not, here’s the perfect distillation of the difference in mindset between Philly and DC:

On Monday, December 20, 2004, I was driving from New Jersey to DC. The day before, the Eagles had beaten the Dallas Cowboys, giving them a record of 13-1, the best in the league. The team was a buzz-saw, having gone to three consecutive NFC championship games in the preceding seasons and now, loaded with Terrell Owens and Donovan McNabb having a quasi MVP season, they were dominant.

However, in the course of the Dallas game, Owens broke his ankle while being horse-collared by the filthy, cretinous Roy Williams. On sports-talk radio, all the way through Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and northern Maryland, caller after caller and host after host rent their garments and caterwauled about the end of the Eagles’ season. The Super Bowl dream was over. The Eagles wouldn’t win another game. It was, people pretty much agreed, nearly impossible to envision them scoring again.

Yet once I crossed the Susquehanna River and tuned into DC sports-talk, it was like phasing into an alternate universe. That weekend, the Skins had just beaten the hapless ’49ers who, at the time, had 2 wins and would finish with the worst record in football. This glorious victory left Washington sitting at 5-9. And what did the good people of Washington think?


As hosts and callers carefully explained to one another, if the Skins just won out (even though they hadn’t won consecutive games all season long) and they got some help, then they could easily slip into the playoffs at 7-9. But Redskins fans weren’t just thinking playoffs. They were thinking Super Bowl!

Washington fans believed that the Eagles were now mortally wounded without Owens. And with a weak top-seed in the division, Washington could easily pick them off. And then the NFC was wide open. With their victory over 2-12 San Francisco, the Super Bowl was now within reach.

This is how sports fans really think down here. And it hasn’t much changed. Both fans and the press in DC have been itching to put Robert Griffin into Canton since his first game. To say these people are in love with Griffin doesn’t begin to describe it. I’ve been in towns with Mike Schmidt, Dr. J, and Michael Jordan (during his Wizards incarnation) and I’ve never seen a city fall this hard for an athlete. To live up to the woo they’ve been pitching, Griffin would have to win three rings, post Elway-like career numbers, and build a children’s hospital.

So now that Griffin has got his QB rating up to a lofty 84 and the Skins have moved into second-place in the division standings with their 1-3 record, let’s help our Redskins fans plot out their path to the 2014 Super Bowl in Jersey:

Technically, you can take your division with just three wins. If all the teams in the division lose all of their out-of-division games, and then split their division contests, then a 3-win team can totally make the playoffs.

This year, the NFC East might be almost that bad. As of today, there are three NFL teams that are 4-0. The entire NFC East has 4 wins right now. And if you only really need 3 wins for the playoffs, the Redskins are actually ahead of the game because they’re on pace for 4 wins and they already have a win out of division! If anything, they seem like a lock for 5 wins (at least!) with 6–or even 7–a real possibility. After all, they still have New York (twice), Dallas (twice), Philly, and Minnesota. Every one of those games is winnable. And the way the NFC East looks this year, a 7-win team will probably run away with the division.

So the Redskins are now it perfect position for the playoffs.

And once you’re in the playoffs, anything can happen.

The real question in Washington this week should probably be about 2015: When the Redskins start their quest to defend their Super Bowl title, should Griffin be favored to win his second MVP?

Redskins fans discuss!


More Juicebox Kremlinology
July 31st, 2013

Honestly, I barely follow any of this stuff myself–I’m pretty much Superman-Batman full time for the next 36 months. So I’m just passing this along for your enjoyment. More from Galley Reader X:

Ezra Responds!

Not to my critique, specifically, but to the complaints that he took Richard Fisher’s comments out-of-context. (Which is implicitly a response to the NYT correction on his wife’s piece, yes?)

His argument is still ridiculous. He suggests that the discussion of Yellen’s sex began with her critics. In fact, it began with her proponents! See, e.g., John Cassidy in April, the Money’s Annalynn Kurtz in April, the FT’s Robin Harding in May, and the WSJ, quoting one of Yellen’s supporters, in May.

Oh, and Matthew Yglesias in April!
Not to mention Binyamin Applebaum — a/k/a, Annie Lowrey’s co-author — who favorably nodded toward Yellen and the gender issue back in April, too.
In other words, when Fisher acknowledged the gender issue in his May interview, it’s not because he was conjuring it out of thin air. It’s because it’s what everyone had been talking about for the last two months!
So when Klein’s headline reads, “Funny how gender never came up during Bernanke’s nomination. Or Greenspan’s. Or Volcker’s,” the answer is, it only came up this time because your friends have been blathering about it since April.
Seems kind of interesting to me. Not Superman-Batman levels of interesting, though.

Juicebox Kremlinology
July 30th, 2013

An interesting observation from Galley Reader X:

So this is interesting: In a one-week period both Ezra Klein and Annie Lowrey published pieces reporting that Larry Summers’s friends, who want him to replace Bernanke as the Fed Chairman, have started a sexist “whispering campaign” against the other top contender, Janet Yellen.

Neither story actually cites evidence of such a “campaign.” In Ezra’s article, which came out first, his only example was a two-month old quote from Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher. According to Ezra, Fisher said that if Yellen were to get nominated to succeed Bernanke, then the pick would be “driven by gender.”

Now, invoking Fisher as part of a coordinated pro-Summers campaign is pretty absurd in and of itself, because Fisher is a very hot critic of a lot of what Larry Summers stands for.

But what was even better was when Mrs. Klein tried to use the same Fisher quote in her own front-page NYT story a couple days ago: the Times had to quickly issue a correction, bluntly saying that Lowrey (and, implicitly, Klein) had taken the quote out of context:

 An article on Friday about Janet L. Yellen and Lawrence H. Summers as possible successors to Ben S. Bernanke as chairman of the Federal Reserve omitted context for a quotation from Richard W. Fisher, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. In an interview earlier this year on CNBC, Mr. Fisher said of a potential choice to replace Mr. Bernanke: “It’s a presidential decision, and we’ll see if it is driven by gender or other considerations and so on. Janet is extremely capable. There are other capable people.” He did not say simply that a decision to choose Ms. Yellen would be “driven by gender.”
If there’s a “whispering campaign” going on, it’s not between Summers’s anti-Yellen buddies. It’s between the Kleins, and whoever’s urging them to push the Summers’-friends-are-sexist storyline.

Speaking of Misreading
July 12th, 2013

The following passage appears in a post by Clare Halpine over at NRO:

Much of our culture today is predicated upon our belief that overpopulation is the root cause of the world’s ills. Consider these statements, which have recently graced the pages of learned tomes, the first from a New York Times commentary:

“Our failure to regulate the human population ensures a future of environmental toxicity including genotoxicity, disease, famine, warfare, and massive social upheaval . . .”

And from Jonathan Last’s book, What to Expect When No One’s Expecting:

“Children are actually an impediment to economic and social success . . .”

The theory of overpopulation informs our view of life so fundamentally that although no one really knows what genotoxicity is, and children are not typically birthed for reasons of social climbing, we live schizophrenically: rejoicing in birth notifications and baby shower e-vites from our friends, while  feeling guilty for being accessory to what we have been told is the selfish act of reproduction.

Really? I’m not sure if this is a misreading or a mischaracterization of WTE. Or inelegant writing.

Btw, I’m not sure where that quote she ascribes to me is from. It’s not in the book and it’s not in the interview she links to. Entirely possible I’ve said it somewhere, but what the book says (and the formulation I try to use, not always successful) is that we have “a system where economic and social success are largely dependent on not having children.” Which is a very different connotation.

(I used a similar formulation in a 2006 piece: “We have reached a point where children are actually an impediment to economic and social success.”

Or maybe she’s just the first person to come away from What to Expect thinking that I’m selling the dangers of overpopulation.


No mas
March 20th, 2013

Joel Kotkin piles on Richard Florida. Not for the faint of heart.