Michael Stein writes about the expectation of kindness when you visit the doctor:

It’s reasonable to expect a doctor to be kind at every visit....Today, medical schools teach and evaluate kindness at patients’ bedsides and through role-playing....Yet doctors and patients alike have lamented that fully booked appointment schedules, the laptop’s intrusion during history-taking, billing pressures and edicts from insurance companies are squeezing kindness out of the exam room.

Personally, I don't care. Sure, I'd prefer that my doctor not be an asshole, but most of them pass that test. My hobby horse is different: I want them to tell the simple truth. Period.

I always feel like telling them this: "You know how you talk when you're consulting with another doctor? Neither kind nor unkind. Just a simple, unemotional dialogue that's concerned solely with the facts of the case. That's what I want."

And a pony. As near as I can tell, I have about as good a chance of getting either one.

POSTSCRIPT: Not that I really blame them. Every patient wants something a little different in the bedside manner department. How are doctors supposed to know? And even if they do, can they really be expected to turn different personalities off and on for each appointment?

David Atkins is unhappy about a Politico story suggesting that "top Senate Democrats" are pushing Hillary Clinton to stick with Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland if she wins in November, rather than replacing him with someone more liberal:

It seems increasingly likely that Clinton’s hands will be tied by the Obama Administration’s decision to nominate a centrist in Merrick Garland in the hopes of compromise with the current GOP. Democratic Senators are already pushing for Clinton not to displace Garland with a more liberal choice in the interest of “preserving political capital.”

....“Top Senate Democrats” never seem to learn their lesson about political capital and negotiating with Republicans in Congress. There is no amount of compromising or bending over backwards that will please Senate Republicans or even make them more willing to negotiate with Democrats over other key items. One of the more glaring falsehoods of the Democratic primary campaign was that Clinton would be able to make more effective deals and compromises with the opposition, enabling Clinton to get things done that Sanders could not.

The reality is that Congressional Republicans won’t compromise with Clinton any more than they would have with Sanders. And they won’t be more inclined to deal in good faith with her if she nominates Garland than if she were to pull his nomination and select someone else.

With a caveat or two, I agree with this. And yet, I can't help think that something more is going on with Garland. Think about it. For starters, why did Obama nominate Garland? Not in hopes of compromise with Republicans, I think. He's not an idiot. Rather, he did it as a campaign ploy: a way of making Republicans look so extreme that they weren't even willing to confirm a moderate jurist that most of them had praised earlier in his career.

But now think about this from the other side. Why would anyone have agreed to be Obama's accomplice in this? It was obvious from the start that Republicans were going to block confirmation no matter who it was. Why go through all the trouble and paperwork and so forth for nothing more than being able to help the president make his opponents look bad?

My guess is that Garland received a promise—probably implied rather than explicit—that Democrats would stick with him if they won in November. Obama would work to get him confirmed during the lame duck session, and would recommend to Hillary Clinton that she renominate him in 2017 if necessary.

Roughly speaking, Garland is being a team player in hopes that the team will stick with him even if someone better comes along. The question, then, isn't whether Clinton should try to appease Republicans. It's whether she ought to reward loyalty in a guy who agreed to play a difficult and thankless role.

So should she? And if I'm right, how should Republicans play this game?

Hmmm:

Catholics dislike Trump more than Romney, perhaps because Pope Francis doesn't care for Trump. Or because Trump is a dick. Whatever. And among white evangelicals who attend church regularly, they're just going to vote for the Republican, full stop.

But among white evangelicals who blow off church, Trump is much more popular than Romney was. Why? I suppose they sense quite accurately that Romney really was religious. Trump, on the other hand, says he's religious but very clearly isn't. This appeals to them. They're apparently the kind of folks who want to call themselves Christians, but don't care much for holier-than-thous who make them feel guilty—even just by their existence—for not acting Christian. That's smart. Trump fits the bill perfectly.

Quick! What Is 17 Times 6?

Over at the mothership, Matt Miller reports that the nation's scientists have some questions for Donald Trump and the rest of the presidential field. They want to know about climate change, biodiversity, science education, nuclear power, vaccines, and so forth, but I think they're being a little too ambitious. Here is Trump on the Howard Stern show a few years ago:

STERN: What's 17 times 6?
[Trump kids look like deer in headlights.]
TRUMP: It's eleven twelve, 112.
STERN: Wrong!
ARTIE LANGE: It's 102.
TRUMP: 112.
STERN: It is 112?
TRUMP: 112.

Maybe we should ask Trump to tell us what is 17 plus 6. Then we can move on to the harder stuff.

Of course, there's a real lesson here: Trump knows it's better to have an answer, any answer, than to be caught out. Besides, he was just being sarcastic. Why do you people take everything he says so seriously, anyway?

Friday Cat Blogging - 12 August 2016

As everyone knows, the best cat toy is also the cheapest: a three-foot piece of string. But everyone also knows that you can make anything better by putting it on a stick. Hot dogs. Grilled peppers. Ice cream bars. Three-foot pieces of string.

With that in mind, yesterday we drove by the animal shelter and picked up a few new toys for the cats. One of them, of course, was the ever-popular feather-on-a-string-on-a-stick. So behold, Hilbert and Hopper at play. Note the color commentary from Marian at the beginning and Hilbert's graceful belly flop on top of Hopper at the end.

There's been a lot of talk lately about the fact that Donald Trump has so far spent $0 on TV advertising. Here is Jeet Heer:

Hillary Clinton has entered the field with $13 million in Olympics ad spending, but her competitor is nowhere to be seen. Astonishingly, Donald Trump’s campaign is spending zero dollars on Olympics advertising. And it’s not just in Olympics ads that Clinton is winning by default. To date, the Trump campaign has been unwilling to spend one thin penny on television advertising.

....In recent weeks, he’s upped his fundraising game, bringing in more than $91 million. So Trump has the money, he’s just not choosing to spend it. This is further evidence that Trump’s not running a real campaign, but something closer to a scampaign.

Maybe. But does it occur to anyone that this might be a danger sign for Hillary? She's about 6-7 points ahead of Trump at the moment, which sounds great until you think about the fact that she's spent $90 million on ads to Trump's zero. Perhaps the Trump campaign is gambling that ads this far ahead of Election Day don't have much effect, so he might as well wait until September and then unleash a gigantic blitz. They might even be right. In any case, once he does start advertising, surely that will cut Hillary's lead.

How much will it cut her lead? That's a good question, isn't it?

From today's LA Times coverage of the Hillary Clinton campaign:

On a day in which Clinton was hoping to inflict considerable damage on Donald Trump — this time, by ripping into his economic agenda — her campaign was on the defensive, scurrying to clean up the latest damaging revelations in years-old messages that were sent by Clinton and her staff and released as the result of a lawsuit.

....The fresh batch of emails was pried from the State Department thanks to a lawsuit filed by the conservative advocacy group Judicial Watch. It revealed what appeared to be seedy dealings by Clinton’s team at the agency....The emails are not devastating, but they are damaging as Clinton struggles to boost her trustworthiness with voters.

I have developed a fairly regular habit of ignoring the latest Hillary "scandal" for a day or two, just to see how it's going to play out. Nearly all of them turn out to be bogus, and it's hardly worth the time to figure out how and why. So I just wait for other people to do it.

Even the ones that really are a problem are almost always overblown. Emailgate is a prime example. Yeah, it was bad judgment. Hillary screwed up, and if you think that's reason enough not to vote for her, fine. But when you dig into the actual facts, there's surprisingly little there. She had a private server. She turned over all her work emails when asked to. In an unprecedented judicial ruling, they were all released to the public and there was virtually nothing of interest there. Of the "classified" emails, most were retroactively classified (at a low level) in a dreary episode of interagency feuding; three were marked classified at the time but were marked improperly (and were trivial); and 110 were emails Hillary "should have known" were classified, but which dealt with a drone program that everyone on the planet already knew about.

So sure, it's a screwup. But there's not really that much to it. So what about the latest batch of emails. Do they really show "seedy dealings" by Team Hillary?

I dunno. One is from a Clinton Foundation executive asking a Hillary aide if she can set up a meeting for a big donor with someone at State. The Hillary aide says she'll see what she can do, and then blows it off. In another, a foundation executive asks for help getting someone a job. He's told that everyone already knows about the guy, and "Personnel has been sending him options." In other words, he's blown off. In yet another, it turns out that a Clinton aide spent some of her own time helping the foundation look for a new CEO.

So....what? People in Washington schmooze with people they know to help other people they know? Shocking, isn't it? My guess is that the average aide to a cabinet member gets a dozen things like this a week. If all we can find here are two in four years—both of which were basically blown off—the real lesson isn't that Hillary Clinton's State Department was seedy. Just the opposite. It was almost pathologically honest.

Let's get back to the Olympics. In particular, the seemingly endless griping about NBC's coverage of the Olympics. I'm tired of it.

Why? Because it emanates from a place of—what? White-collar privilege? Creative-class privilege? Or maybe just plain old class privilege. Basically, it comes from people who assume that we all have jobs that allow us to keep a TV on in the background all the time. And for people like that, it makes sense to want the Olympics live and unedited.

But most people don't have jobs like that. They get up, they go to work, they come home, and the only chance they have to watch the Olympics starts around 6 or 7 at night. So what do they want? Whatever random stuff happens to be live at the time? Of course not. They want to see all the stuff that's happened throughout the day.

And no, they're not equally fascinated by any old sport, just for the sheer thrill of watching the best of the best compete against each other. Nor are they devotees of the hammer throw or epee—the more obscure the better for the hipsters of Olympic viewing. They only watch this stuff every four years or so, and they mostly want to see swimming and gymnastics and track. They don't know any of the athletes, so they like the little mini-docs that get them up to speed on who they are and what they've been through—even if those segments do promote gauzy narratives aimed mostly at women. And they're Americans, so they mostly like to see events where Americans are favored.

Does that make them a bunch of rubes? I don't think so, though your mileage may vary. They're just ordinary people. And they're the ones that NBC televises the games for. Not for the one or two million of you who swear you want the games live so you can watch the hammer throw at 10 in the morning.

In other words, give it a rest. We all know how smart and sophisticated you are. We all know you have nice desk jobs where no one minds if you keep a streaming feed going all day long in a corner of your computer display. We all know you're a big, big fan of the hammer throw.

That's all fine. But keep it to yourself. Most of the country just doesn't have the opportunity to follow your lead. They've got jobs, dinners to make, and kids to put to bed. Give them a break.

Donald Trump says Barack Obama is the "founder" of ISIS. Let's hear his explanations for this. First, there's this, on the Hugh Hewitt show yesterday:

HH: I know what you meant. You meant that he created the vacuum, he lost the peace.
DT: No, I meant he’s the founder of ISIS. I do.... It’s no mistake.

So he meant it literally. Then there's this, about 20 seconds later:

HH: I’d just use different language to communicate it....
DT: But they wouldn’t talk about your language, and they do talk about my language, right?

So he didn't mean it literally. It was deliberate hyperbole in order to get people talking. Then there's this, from the wee hours of this morning:

It was just sarcasm! Why don't you people get this?

So why does Trump do this stuff? The most likely explanation, of course, is that he's a child who can't control his mouth, and then invents transparently dumb excuses when he's caught with his hand in the cookie jar. But there's another possibility.

Everyone remembers the famous LBJ quip about why he called his opponent a pig fucker, right? Johnson admitted it wasn't true, but "I want him to have to deny it," he explained.

Well, what have we been talking about for the past few days? First, that Hillary Clinton doesn't really want to eliminate the Second Amendment. She just wants background checks and so forth. Then, that Obama and Clinton aren't really the founders of ISIS. They just created the vacuum that helped ISIS thrive.

This probably won't help Trump. But it might. Getting the media to obsess for days about Hillary Clinton's position on gun control and her part in the rise of ISIS doesn't really do her any good. When you're explaining, you're losing.

In fact, done more adroitly, this might be a pretty diabolical strategy. Unfortunately for Trump, he's so ham-handed about it that it hurts him more than it does Hillary. So far, anyway. But if he gets better at it, you never know.

You all know about the Prisoner's Dilemma game, right? You and a partner are arrested and taken to separate rooms. The police offer each of you the deal on the right. What should you do?

The best strategy is for both of you to clam up. You'll each get a token 1-year sentence and then you're free. But—if you rat out your partner, you go free while she gets 20 years. So you should rat her out. But of course, she's thinking the same thing. So you both rat each other out and you both get 5 years in the clink. You should have clammed up!

The best strategy here depends on your partner. Can you trust her? Is she gullible? Do you hate her guts so much you don't care about a jail sentence? There's a whole stew of things going on. So which personality characteristics are most important in a situation like this?

James Pethokoukis points today to a new paper that sheds some light on this. A team of researchers in Spain got 541 volunteers at a fair1 to play a similar set of games over multiple rounds. Then they took all the data and let an algorithm loose to seek out clusters of common behavior. They found five. Here they are in order of prevalence:

  • Envious: Works to ensure their partner doesn't do any better than they do.
  • Pessimist: Maximizes the worst-case outcome
  • Optimist: Maximizes the best-case outcome.
  • Trustful: Always assumes their partner will play nice.
  • Undefined: No particular personality driving them.

The authors add that these basic personality types appear to be independent of both age and sex:

Our results open the door to making relevant advances in a number of directions. For instance, they point to the independence of the phenotypic classification of age and gender. Although the lack of gender dependence may not be surprising, it would be really astonishing that small children would exhibit behaviors with similar classifications in view of the body of experimental evidence about their differences from adults....Our research does not illuminate whether the different phenotypes are born, made, or something in between, and thus, understanding their origin would be a far-reaching result.

About a third of the population is in the envious subgroup, which seems to be unable to understand a win-win situation. They're just hellbent on not losing relative status. The optimistic and pessimistic subgroups are both ego-driven: their decisions are based solely on risk aversion and don't take into account what their partners might do. Trustful is...well, it's what we all hope our partners are. The undefined subgroup, though undefined, "can have a strong influence on social interactions because its noisy behavior could lead people with more clear heuristics to mimic its erratic actions."

Take it for what it's worth. Maybe nothing. Who knows? But writing about it gave me an excuse to ignore Donald Trump for a while.

POSTSCRIPT: But wait! There's a Trump connection after all. Doesn't that envious subgroup seem to define him pretty well? And his followers too? If so, it suggests that his core group of supporters might be about a third of the country.

1Yes, this means it wasn't just the usual collection of bright undergrads. All sorts of people participated, and they won tickets to the rides depending on how they did in the game.