September 2020 Archives


Well that was weird and unpleasant.

Wallace's questions were stacked against Trump overall. Wallace did ask Biden a couple of tough questions, but then let him get away without answering.

Oddly, Biden was much ruder to Trump than vice versa, calling the President a "clown" and "the worse president ever", and even telling him to "shut up". Trump interrupted a lot, which is also rude, but not in the same way. I think most viewers would have expected Trump to be ruder than Biden.

Biden didn't seem senile. He's leading in the polls without much effort. That seems likely to continue.

Trump was combative and aggressive, which I assume is what he was going for. Unfortunately for him, he wasn't as funny or effective as he often is.

I think Michael Brendan Dougherty is right about Trump's biggest tactical weakness:

By far Trump's most self-defeating habit in these debates is to refer to stories rather than tell them. He speaks as if he's talking to people who, like himself, spend hours a day watching Fox News and have a shared folklore of scandal stories that can be referred to in shorthand. He refers to events, like ballots found in a wastepaper basket, but doesn't tell the story of where they happened, or why they matter.

Most people won't get these references and may think Trump is just blustering.

Both sides are spinning this as a win, but surprisingly to me 2/3 of Telemundo Spanish-language viewers gave Trump the victory. I presume all the crosstalk couldn't be translated in real-time, so maybe that helped Trump come off stronger?


Said Judge Amy Coney Barrett in 2019. Erika Bachiochi writes about as a new feminist icon.

In recounting how she decided to go through with their second adoption, Barrett said: "What greater thing can you do than raise children? That's where you have your greatest impact on the world." And when a justice of the Supreme Court showcases this truth by her very life, this long-abandoned insight can finally begin to reemerge across our culture.

When greater numbers of us understand the cultural priority of caregiving, a movement will grow strong enough to challenge the dominant market mentality that disfavors family obligation for both women and men. Ginsburg's brand of feminism will give way to something new, a society in which we will no longer fight over abortion because it will have become irrelevant.

Barrett's feminism is inspiring to me as the primary earner of my family and as the father of four daughters.


Every time a Supreme Court seat opens up the ensuing political fight reminds us that the Supreme Court shouldn't be so important.

The point isn't whether the Court got the questions right. The point is that it decided these important [political] issues and, having done so, took them off the table for democratic politics. When Congress decides an issue by passing a law, democratic politics can change that decision by electing a new Congress. When the Court decides an issue by making a constitutional ruling, there's no real democratic remedy.

That makes the Supreme Court, a source of final and largely irrevocable authority that is immune to the ordinary winds of democratic change, an extremely important prize. And when extremely important prizes are at stake, people fight. And get hysterical. ...

So to break it down: All the hysteria about a Ginsburg replacement stems from the fact that our political system is dominated by an allegedly nonpolitical Court that actually decides many political issues. And that Court is small (enough so that a single retirement can throw things into disarray) and unrepresentative of America at large.

I'm actually not against "packing" the Supreme Court. There's no reason it needs to have exactly nine justices. Pack it out to 100 and we might gain two advantages: first, higher throughput for our court system; second, less political fighting over SCOTUS nominations. Reynolds suggests that each state governor nominate a justice:

In an earlier article, responding to Democrats' plans to "pack" the Court with several additional justices whenever they get control back, I suggested going a step further, and add fifty new justices, one each to be appointed by every states' governor. My proposal wasn't entirely serious, being meant to point up the consequences of opening the door on this topic. But on reflection, maybe it was a better idea than I realized.

Sounds like a fine plan to me. Put some power back in the hands of the states.


The headline writer says, "Unconscious learning fosters belief in God, study finds", but that's wrong in a very significant way. The study only demonstrates a correlation between a belief in God and an ability to predict complex patterns.

People who unconsciously predict complex patterns are more likely to hold a strong belief in God -- a god who creates order in an otherwise chaotic universe -- according to research published Wednesday.

"Belief in a god or gods who intervene in the world to create order is a core element of global religions," Adam Green, an associate professor of psychology at Georgetown University, said in a news release.

"This is not a study about whether God exists, this is a study about why and how brains come to believe in gods," said Green, who also serves as the director of the Georgetown Laboratory for Relational Cognition. "Our hypothesis is that people whose brains are good at subconsciously discerning patterns in their environment may ascribe those patterns to the hand of a higher power."

From what I can see, the fault lies with the writer of the headline, not the study authors. Any of these four possibilities could be true:

  1. Belief in God leads to the ability to make better predictions
  2. The ability to make better predictions leads to believe in God
  3. Both belief in God and the ability to make better predictions are caused by some third unidentified factor
  4. The correlation discovered by the study is anomalous

The first three possibilities are all interesting.


I'm interested in political polls but don't know much about their inner workings. My assumption is that pollsters must have learned something from their failures in 2016, and that 2020 polls showing Biden leading Trump are more accurate than the polls in 2016 that showed Hillary easily defeating Trump. I have no real basis for this assumption, except that people don't like to look foolish twice in a row.

But this voter registration data from Pennsylvania is more concrete than a poll, and hard to dismiss.

The GOP has added almost 198,000 registered voters to the books compared to this time four years ago, whereas Democrats have gained an extra 29,000. Though Democrats still outnumber Republicans by about 750,000 voters in the state, the GOP has seized on their uptick in party members as a sign that Trump is on track to win this critical Rust Belt swing state a second time. ...

Overall, registered Democrats now make up 47 percent of the state's electorate, down from 49 percent in September 2016. Republicans comprise 39 percent, up from 38 percent four years ago. Many party officials credit Trump himself for narrowing the gap.

Obviously Republicans claim this trend in registration is significant, and Democrats claim it isn't.

"It's one of the reasons why I am very bullish on Donald Trump's prospects in Pennsylvania. I think he will win again, and I think he will win by more votes than he did in 2016," said Charlie Gerow, a Harrisburg-based Republican strategist who has worked on presidential campaigns in the state. "Trump is doing what Ronald Reagan did 40 years ago, which is moving a lot of traditional Democrats into the Republican column." ...

"It probably means less than meets the eye," said J.J. Balaban, a Democratic consultant in Pennsylvania. "There's reason to believe the shift is mostly 'Democrats' who haven't been voting for Democrats for a long time, choosing to re-register as Republican."

Republicans and Democrats agree that former Democrats are registering as Republicans, but disagree about the significance of this fact. I guess we'll find out in a couple of months.


According to Rasmussen, Trump has the support of 27% of Black Pennsylvanians.

Worrisome for the former vice president is his 67% black support, low for a Democrat, with the incumbent earning 27% of the black vote in Pennsylvania. Trump leads among whites and other minority voters.

That's a tremendous showing for Trump. If he is able to attract more than ~15% Black support nationally his re-election is almost assured.

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