Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Battle of Ideas Was Lost at Abu Ghraib

This is the US losing the war of ideas.
Or maybe Nagasaki.

BBC: "Eight civilians, including three children, were reported to have died."

Donald Rumsfeld: “We are capturing and killing a lot of terrorists. But we also have to think about the number of new ones that are being created, it seems to me, and the memo I wrote raised that question — how might we do that? How do we win that battle of ideas?”

My Grandfather was UDT in WWII. He came back to Hawaii from island hopping and saw a bunch of Japanese playing volleyball with their guards. He got mad and asked one of the guards what the hell they were doing being nice to them. The guard answered that once the Japanese saw that we weren't the devils they’d been told, they told us everything we needed to know from them.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Democrats to Hold Senate is a Nice Long Shot If You Can Get It

The Geeky Version of Senate 2014 Election Day Model from Sam Wang
From the mixed up files of the #ThingsIWishICouldBetOn, this year is serving up an excellent long shot: Democrats to retain control of the Senate. It's a long shot for a reason, of course. Gamblers, especially the right-leaning ones looking for confirmation bias, learned that Nate Silver has been right a lot (something many of them learned the hard way). Democrats have to defend more seats. Midterms go against the incumbent President. People prefer Republicans in times of terror threats Republicans drum up (shorter Lindsey Graham: We're all gunna die!), even though Republicans want to start another land war in Asia that the people supposedly don't want.

Because, of course they do.

So, the nerd war between Nate Silver and Sam Wang have been entertaining as a way to highlight the differences between their prediction methods, but as we approach election day, Nate's model looks less at the "special sauce" and more at the polls. Since Wang doesn't add any special sauce, the two models will start to agree more. And it's Nate's model that's moving into agreement with Sam's. In fact, 538 moved from 64% GOP to 53% GOP in 9 days.

And Wang's prediction is a 70% chance of Democrats holding control of the Senate.

Betfair is paying 16/5 odds for Democrats to hold 51 seats.

In one of the play-money prediction markets I'm in, I'm getting Dems to control (VP breaking tie counts as control) at 23.4 a share (pays 100).

I made some money betting with the Princeton model at Intrade, and, of course, now that there's decent odds against Wang, I have no where to legally bet.


Standard long shot warning applies: don't bet as much on long-shots, as you're already subjecting yourself to some long-shot bias. But in a showdown between Silver and Wang, my money, at least a small chunk of it, would go with Wang. So, a sizable chunk of my play money is.

Furthermore, the Democrats have an ace in the hole, or, more precisely, some jokers: pent up pressure building under the lid the GOP is trying to hold on top of their boiling pot of crazy.
...we are well positioned to see some of these candidates take a journey on the crazy train in the closing weeks of this election cycle. Why? Three reasons. First, the debates are coming up, and as we saw in 2012 with Mourdock, the more these people talk in an unscripted forum, the more likely the guano will ooze out.
Second, in the tighter races, the candidates are feeling the heat. Consequently, they may make an unforced error or try to offer some red meat to the far right hoping it brings their base out in what’s expected to be a low-turnout election.
Finally, there are some male Republican candidates for Senate, like Colorado’s Corey Gardner and North Carolina’s Thom Tillis, who are playing with dynamite. By that I mean they’ve decided to talk birth control thinking it can help them, but one slip up on this issue, and cue the “Republican war on women” headlines.
Any of these scenarios could be trouble for the GOP. And not just for the candidate who made the comment, but it could put Republicans on the defensive nationwide. 
The Sarah Palin of the cornfields, via the Everlasting GOP Stoppers
Dean Obeidallah lists his Final Four crazies most likely to blow, which includes noted nullification expert Joni Ernst, the GOP Senate candidate in Iowa, who's reached pressure cooker levels of pent up crazy.

Nate Cohn notes:
If all of the candidates currently leading in the polls go on to win, which is not at all assured with so many close races and still 45 days to go, then the party that wins two from the list of Iowa, Alaska and Kansas will win the Senate. 
With Kansans, despite polling problems, looking more and more like less is wrong with them (they had to learn the hard way that Republicans are what's the matter with them) and Alaska being a tossup like Iowa, it seems my long shot could be depending on Joni Ernst doing or saying something really crazy, and when it comes to corn-fed Republicans and the crazy, the long shot looks better than even money.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Ma Nishtana

GW Bush palling around
The first line of The Four Questions song from the Passover Seder asks "Ma Nishtana?" Or, "What has changed?" The term is often used sarcastically to refer to something that someone thinks is new, but is actually not.

So, I ask, in a more contemporary English translation, "This is different how?"
“There’s nothing in it about national security,” Walter Jones, a Republican congressman from North Carolina who has read the missing pages, contends. “It’s about the Bush Administration and its relationship with the Saudis.” Stephen Lynch, a Massachusetts Democrat, told me that the document is “stunning in its clarity,” and that it offers direct evidence of complicity on the part of certain Saudi individuals and entities in Al Qaeda’s attack on America. 
That's Lawrence Wright in the New Yorker, via Digby, on the Twenty-Eight Pages the Dubya administration removed from the 9-11 Report.

Here's Josh Roggin at the Daily Beast with the answer to the question of why on earth doesn't Dick Cheney talk about who's backing the bad guys de jour:
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), now threatening Baghdad, was funded for years by wealthy donors in Kuwait, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, three U.S. allies that have dual agendas in the war on terror.
Ma Nishtana?

Meanwhile, occasionally, someone from the elite actually stands up and tells us what all this palling around with fascists has gotten us.
"I can only plead with you to examine the current political and cultural works of my country [the U.S.]. We are in the hands of a terrible counterrevolution and a great reaction, a second Civil War sponsored by the same people that lost the first Civil War," the director said.
"And it has created a good president who is a prisoner of the White House who can do little beyond the ceremonial," McTiernan continued. "It has made, despite of what you may see on screens, a prison country, and I've had the pleasure of seeing what most people in our class are never allowed to see. I've seen the engine of the beast, it has given us a country with more prisoners than North Korea per capita, more policemen per capita than Germany in 1938. They have suspended trial by jury in most of America."
Now there's a guy I hope keeps talking.