Saturday, November 14, 2020

Saved you a click

Here's the Al Arabiya story from last month which contains significant details that seem to be confirmed by Saturday's New York Times revelation of a carefully timed hit on senior Al Qaeda leader Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah ("Abu Muhammad al-Masri") in Tehran in August. It's a reminder of the deep Egyptian roots of old-guard Al Qaeda. 

Sunday, November 08, 2020

How the Four Seasons Total Landscaping fiasco happened

1. The Hatch Act is suddenly being enforced: White House staff couldn't work on the campaign post-election legal strategy.

2. The Trump campaign is flat broke and most campaign staff and contractors are wondering if they'll get paid -- no one there available to help (example). So ..

3. Rudy was on his own. He asked an intern to find a venue. Rudy hasn't seen Philadelphia other than through a limousine window in 25 years, so he remembered that there was a Four Seasons on the Parkway at 18th Street, with a parking area and overhang facing the Parkway. And he wasn't going to spend the money on a hotel function room. So he decided to gamble on showing up at the hotel and having the news conference either right outside, or if asked to move, he would go to Logan Square across the street, either of which would convey the needed degree of "classiness."

4. So he told the intern, give everyone the address for the news conference as the Four Seasons Philadelphia, the one in the city near I-95. Make sure it's the address rather than the name of the hotel, since we haven't arranged anything directly with the hotel.

5. The intern had never been to Philadelphia, Googled the description, and found what looked like a Four Seasons fitting the description. Especially as, since the Four Seasons is no longer in the original location, the intern would have been stumped by how Rudy described it (it's now called The Logan Hotel). Rudy wouldn't know it, but the Four Seasons has moved to the new Comcast tower (the Technology Center) a few blocks away. A short distance, but no longer fitting the description on the Parkway, across from Logan Square.

6. At some point, they realized the mistake, but before they could reverse course, Trump had mistakenly tweeted the hotel as the venue, and they knew it would be be obvious they were trying to get access to a hotel grounds without paying. So they toughed it out.

UPDATE: Whatever about the facts of what happened, you won't read a better cultural analysis of the event than in the Financial Times by Joy Lo Dico

Saturday, November 07, 2020


 How it started

How it's going

Wednesday, November 04, 2020

Election 2020

Everyone probably has their own version of how an unexpected election outcome merely confirms their existing opinions. So with that pinch of salt, our existing opinion: Pundits and pollsters have failed to grapple with the role of polarization in elections, and especially the role of elections in driving polarization

Would Americans have been as polarized by Coronavirus if it was not an election year? 

The fact that pollsters have now major misses two USA presidential elections in a row is a warning sign that should be familiar to social scientists -- you think you are undertaking a statistically scientific estimate of some fixed underlying parameter, but the very circumstance that makes you want to estimate that number is also causing that number to be fluid! 

Another way to say this. Pollsters and polling analysts (one in particular) tend to think about "news" as something that causes a measurable shift in opinion. But there is no plausible "news" that explains what is emerging in the election outcome. It is more that the election result is itself news about the level of polarization.

To be slightly more technical, polarization is endogenous. It can't be measured by polling, because the polling is correlated with a cause of polarization.  

Election 2020

It looks like all those Trump Country articles and books should have been reported not from diners, but from Pizza Hut and Taco Bell. 

Monday, November 02, 2020

Quote of the Day

Spurs boss Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports (after win over Brighton) via BBC sport

First of all it's three points. When teams with more power and history, one of the top six let's say, has a difficult match against the others it is always analysed as the top team not playing well. It is time to give credit to these guys. Not just to Brighton, the majority of the teams. They are getting better, they are very well coached, the difference in quality of players between the teams is not huge. The game is very difficult for us, we beat a good team and it was very difficult.

If he's correct -- and we think he is -- then much of what dominates analysis of the Premier League is a total waste of time. The tendency to view the "Top 6" versus any other team  in terms of "dropped points," "slip-up," calls for the head of the manager, etc is a relic. The teams are close in quality. The edge is a bit of skill and a bit of luck, not some business as usual from the Alex Ferguson days. 

Sunday, November 01, 2020

Song of the Day


It's allegedly a Donald Trump favourite, specifically on account of the video.