Police called for a relationship made in Hell

Boris Johnson

What was that George Monbiot was saying about politicians? Oh, yeah.[1] I have no sympathy for either Boris Johnson or Carrie Symonds. She is clearly attracted to power, even when it is evil, even when it is embodied in a much older (24 years[2]) man, and is using her relative youth to draw that power near. And while I don’t and can’t know the precise history of this relationship, it sorta kinda looks very much like he left his wife for her, a much younger woman (“arm candy”), which would, in this case, very much be an expression of powerful male entitlement. In which case, they each deserve whatever hell they manage to inflict on each other. What will be unfortunate will be the degree to which this affects matters of state.

Gordon Rayner, “Police called to home of Boris Johnson and partner Carrie Symonds after reports of loud altercation,” Telegraph, June 21, 2019, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2019/06/21/police-called-home-boris-johnson-girlfriend-reports-altercation/

Jim Waterson, “Boris Johnson: police called to loud altercation at potential PM’s home,” Guardian, June 21, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/jun/21/police-called-to-loud-altercation-at-boris-johnsons-home


Horse race

I’m appalled that polls with anything like a nine percent response rate are taken seriously[3] (it should be ninety percent or better[4]), but Nate Silver hits an important point here that fuzzy notions about ‘electability’ may lead voters to support a candidate other than the one they prefer because they fear the other party’s candidate more. Silver takes this a step further, calling it a feedback loop as respondents may rely on these notions even when responding to pollsters.[5] He doesn’t quite fill in the logic here, but it’s fairly obvious he means that the pollsters publish their results based on what respondents told them thus, without saying so, reproducing and reinforcing these notions, so ‘electability’ becomes a major and inadequately accounted-for variable in those results, particularly as the race wears on and respondents in subsequent polls in turn respond in part based on the reinforced notions of electability.

The proof? “A recent Avalanche Strategy poll found Joe Biden in the lead, but when voters were asked to ‘imagine that they have a magic wand and can make any of the candidates president,’ Elizabeth Warren narrowly became the top choice.”[6] My guess is you could find a number of scholars who suspected this kind of feedback even if only at a gut level, even if we lacked the evidence to back it up.[7]

Given the response rate issue, I think the method is now worthless, never mind the outsized influence it nonetheless has in the electoral process. But this is a worthy and welcome bit of self-critique.

It also adds support for my critique of voting for “lesser of two evils.” When we’re overly focused on beating the other guy, in part because of a two-party system, we neglect to advance the policies we would actually prefer.[8] Silver thinks electability is still a legitimate issue. As he puts it,

Nonetheless, Democrats care a lot about who can beat President Trump. If, hypothetically, one candidate had a 70 percent chance of beating Trump and another one had a 40 percent chance, both voters and the media would be right to give that lots of consideration.[9]

But to me, this is an important part of why we are where we are.[10]

Nate Silver, “Is Electability A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy?” FiveThirtyEight, June 21, 2019, https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/bulletpoint-is-electability-a-self-fulfilling-prophecy/


Migration

Mike Godwin is the one who coined Godwin’s Law:

Godwin is being imprecise here. Meriam-Webster defines a concentration camp as

a place where large numbers of people (such as prisoners of war, political prisoners, refugees, or the members of an ethnic or religious minority) are detained or confined under armed guard —used especially in reference to camps created by the Nazis in World War II for the internment and persecution of Jews and other prisoners.[11]

Apparently, children are being underfed and denied mattresses, heat, and basic sanitation, and not just at the facility in Clint, Texas. Oh, but we’re supposed to believe these are not concentration camps.

The reports of unsafe and unsanitary conditions at Clint and elsewhere came days after government lawyers in court argued that they should not have to provide soap or toothbrushes to children under the legal settlement that gave Ms. [Elora] Mukherjee and her colleagues access to the facility in Clint. The result of a lawsuit that was first settled in 1997, the settlement set the standards for the detention, treatment and release of migrant minors taken into federal immigration custody.[12]

Caitlin Dickerson, “‘There Is a Stench’: No Soap and Overcrowding in Detention Centers for Migrant Children,” New York Times, June 21, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/21/us/migrant-children-border-soap.html


 

  1. [1]George Monbiot, “Outer Turmoil,” June 17, 2019, https://www.monbiot.com/2019/06/17/outer-turmoil/
  2. [2]Gordon Rayner, “Police called to home of Boris Johnson and partner Carrie Symonds after reports of loud altercation,” Telegraph, June 21, 2019, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2019/06/21/police-called-home-boris-johnson-girlfriend-reports-altercation/
  3. [3]Steven Shepard, “Report: Phone polls aren’t dead yet,” Politico, May 15, 2017, https://www.politico.com/story/2017/05/15/pollsters-phone-polls-238409
  4. [4]The problem here lies in assumptions that must be made about that portion of an allegedly representative sample which does not respond, however extrapolated from the portion that does. This is an inherently dubious move that only becomes more suspect as the response rate deteriorates because, in truth, we know very little about those in any given sample who do not respond—we don’t even have their demographic information because those questions are asked as part of the survey. See my subsequent note on Valerie Sue.
  5. [5]Nate Silver, “Is Electability A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy?” FiveThirtyEight, June 21, 2019, https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/bulletpoint-is-electability-a-self-fulfilling-prophecy/
  6. [6]Nate Silver, “Is Electability A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy?” FiveThirtyEight, June 21, 2019, https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/bulletpoint-is-electability-a-self-fulfilling-prophecy/
  7. [7]Valerie Sue was my first methods professor at California State University, East Bay, and my advisor while I was an undergraduate. The issue of perceived electability affecting polls and voting is the kind of thing I’d expect her to have mentioned or at least strongly hinted at in class, even if only later in a graduate seminar I took from her on political communication, and she might well have, but I must confess I don’t specifically remember. I know she addressed a bias that might be introduced where respondents might skew their responses in an effort to enhance their appearance to survey workers (especially men responding to attractive young women) in the methods class and I know she talked about the response rate issue in the methods class, then, while it was still far higher, but maybe—my memory is fuzzy here—only sixty or seventy or eighty percent.
  8. [8]David Benfell, “The lesser of two evils? The more successful con artist,” Not Housebroken, May 15, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/05/15/the-lesser-of-two-evils-the-more-successful-con-artist/
  9. [9]Nate Silver, “Is Electability A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy?” FiveThirtyEight, June 21, 2019, https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/bulletpoint-is-electability-a-self-fulfilling-prophecy/
  10. [10]David Benfell, “The lesser of two evils? The more successful con artist,” Not Housebroken, May 15, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/05/15/the-lesser-of-two-evils-the-more-successful-con-artist/
  11. [11]Meriam-Webster, “https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/concentration%20camp,” n.d., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/concentration%20camp
  12. [12]Caitlin Dickerson, “‘There Is a Stench’: No Soap and Overcrowding in Detention Centers for Migrant Children,” New York Times, June 21, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/21/us/migrant-children-border-soap.html

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