• Did the Woke Propel Donald Trump to Victory?

    ABC News

    I’ve periodically pointed out that Donald Trump’s 2016 election victory didn’t depend on rising levels of racist sentiment among voters. Racism has actually been declining slowly over time in the US, and in any case Trump got about the same share of the racist vote as Mitt Romney did four years earlier. In the Washington Post today, Sheri Berman points out that this is not unique to the US:

    Empirically, there is little cross-national correlation between levels of racist or anti-immigrant sentiment and [right-wing] populist success. Swedes score extremely low on measures of racism and anti-immigrant views, yet the right-wing Sweden Democrats are the country’s third-largest party. The Irish and the Spanish, meanwhile, score relatively high on such measures, yet right-wing populism has not been particularly potent in either country. Populists have become more politically successful over time, but racist and anti-immigrant sentiments have actually decreased over time in Europe and the United States over the same period.

    This seeming paradox is explained by the salience of racist and populist sentiment. Racism may not be increasing throughout the population, but it can become a more important voting issue to those who already harbor racist feelings if politicians appeal to it. Obviously Donald Trump did this, and the Republican Party has followed suit. But Berman says that it’s not just Republicans who are at fault:

    As Maria Snegovaya and I argue in a recent article, the left has played a role as well….By the late 20th century, economic differences between left and right diminished as the former accepted much of the neoliberal agenda. In Europe, as the left and the right converged economically, politicians tended to focus more on sociocultural issues “so as to be able to display meaningful programmatic differences.” With fewer economic differences between left and right, voters had reason to pay more attention to noneconomic factors as well. In the United States, Sides, Tesler and Vavreck found that along with Donald Trump’s pivot, Hillary Clinton focused more on race and immigration than Barack Obama. The 2016 campaign was thus particularly focused on these issues and the candidates particularly divided on them, raising their salience and thus their effect at the ballot box.

    Berman notes that progressives may do better in the future “if they sideline the issues on which populism thrives.” To put this more bluntly, she’s saying that if liberals are consumed with identity politics because they don’t really have a strong economic agenda to offer, they’re just playing into conservatives’ hands.

    In one sense, this is an ancient argument: is the real dividing line between workers race or class? Or gender? Or something else? FDR worked hard to keep the New Deal about class and Democrats dominated politics for four decades. LBJ made it largely about race and Republicans eagerly took him up on this, dominating politics for the subsequent four decades. Today, Democratic candidates like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are trying to downplay race and focus instead on a newly potent economic agenda. Meanwhile, candidates like Kamala Harris and Cory Booker are trying to keep a strong spotlight on race and have been dragged only reluctantly into supporting Sanders-esque economic agendas. Which is most likely to be a winning formula in November?

    I think the best answer is somewhere in between. Warren’s blizzard of plans may go too far for some, but it’s certainly useful to remind people that sluggish middle-class wage growth is no accident. In fact, it’s precisely what Republicans have worked hard to achieve. At the same time, there’s no harm in talking about, say, illegal immigration as a problem that deserves a humane but still vigorous response. The former doesn’t turn you into a socialist and the latter doesn’t turn you into a racist.

    Now then: are you still wondering why Joe Biden continues to have strong, steady support among both blacks and whites and among a wide range of ages aside from the very young? You shouldn’t, really.

  • A Brief History of Malarkey

    Inspired by both Matt Yglesias and the launch of Joe Biden’s Malarkey Express, this Google ngram demonstrates the impact Biden has had over his 50-year political career:

    Does Biden deserve credit for this boom in the popularity of malarkey? I don’t know why not. It’s only his preferred spelling that’s taken off, after all. Science™ has spoken.

  • Social Media Is Bad

    Dominic Lipinski/ZUMA

    Rebecca Jennings writes today that Instagram makes us, individually, look wonderful all the time. Twitter, by contrast, makes us, collectively, look outrageous and appalling all the time. What happens when you follow both?

    Beats me. But I am becoming ever more convinced that social media provides us with such a distorted view of the world that we would all be better off without it. Each of us may be convinced that, of course, we take all this into account and don’t believe everything we see, but I’m skeptical that any of us can really do this no matter how hard we try. Twitter in particular provides a view of the world so massively distorted that we can hardly help but come away from it convinced that society is about to collapse any second now.

    That’s my cheery thought for Monday morning. And now I’m off to get livesaving chemicals dripped into my body. Have a nice day!

  • Adventures in Panorama, Vertical Edition

    Yesterday we went out to Yorba Linda and browsed the Christmas sale at our local Danish church, built in the traditional Danish style and complete with the runes of Harald Bluetooth outside. The church itself gave me a nice opportunity to do a vertical panorama. It was remarkably easy. I didn’t have my tripod, but I steadied the camera on a railing and took five shots from floor to ceiling, showing far more of the church than I could have gotten in a single vertical picture. This provided a good look at the ceiling, with its beams modeled after the keels of old Viking longboats. Photoshop stitched everything together perfectly, and then I applied a bit of perspective correction. Færdig!

  • Adventures in Panorama

    I decided to spend Thanksgiving weekend learning how to use Photoshop to take scenic panorama photos. This is something I haven’t gotten around to before, and I figured it was time to get better at it.

    After a bit of practice at home, I headed down to Lookout Point in Newport Beach and set up my tripod. Here’s a plain, full-frame shot taken at the 24mm setting, which provides an angle of view of 52° (horizontally). The advantage of this is that it’s easy and requires no special effort to keep everything straight and level. The disadvantage, obviously, is that it’s not really very panoramic.

    Like most cameras (and smartphones) these days, mine can shoot a panoramic picture in-camera. The is a quick and easy way of getting a wide shot, but it has problems. First, it’s generally a low-resolution image, which may or may not be a problem depending on what you want to do with it. Second, it’s very narrow in the vertical direction. In this case that’s not too bad (the palm trees on the left are cut off), but in other cases it makes it difficult to capture an entire scene.

    Next up, then, is to use Photoshop to produce a panorama. Put your camera on a tripod and then take a series of pictures while rotating from left to right. Then use the Photomerge feature to stitch them together. This works remarkably well, especially when there’s nothing too big in the foreground. On the other hand, our palm trees are still cut off.

    Finally, you can do the same thing but with the camera turned vertically. This requires more pictures, of course, but that’s no real problem. Here’s the original shot after Photoshop has finished its merge.

    In all these cases, the original picture will display a fisheye effect, but you can play around with Photoshop’s warp and distort filters to get what you want. In this case, I chose to make the horizon line as level as possible, which means that the palm trees and the clouds are distorted a bit. Alternatively, you can retain the fisheye effect for the horizon, which keeps the rest of the picture less distorted. In this case, I don’t think the distortion would really be noticeable if I hadn’t pointed it out.

    Not bad! This is probably an angle of view of 120º or so, and it looks pretty good. This works best with a tripod, but Photoshop is pretty forgiving even if you shoot handheld and then stitch everything together. I shall keep you all posted as I produce ever more panoramic shots.

  • Lunchtime Photo

    Here are some lovely morning sunrays filtered through the trees on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Floyd, Virginia. But wait! What are those critters on the side of the road?

    Yes, they’re turkeys! Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

    May 8, 2019  — Near Floyd, Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia
  • Lunchtime Photo

    This is Sumapaz National Park, about 50 miles south of Bogotá, on a misty day in August.

    This picture is an object lesson in composition. I spent a fair amount of time trying to get a good picture of these misty hills without any telephone poles or electrical lines or anything else blocking the view. Those all turned out to be boring. But this one, with the fence in the near foreground to draw your eye, is a winner.

    August 8, 2019 — Sumapaz National Park, Colombia
  • Here’s Where Trump Got the Idea That “Some People” Want to Change the Name of Thanksgiving

    SMG via ZUMA

    At a rally yesterday, President Trump gave his fans the red meat they craved: “You know, some people want to change the name Thanksgiving,” he said. “They don’t want to use the term Thanksgiving.”

    This confused a lot of people, and we should get something straight right off the bat: no one wants to change the name of Thanksgiving. So where did this come from? Did Trump just make it up out of whole cloth?

    Not really. Perhaps you’ve noticed that every year we get flooded with news stories about the “real” story of Thanksgiving? Here’s a small sampling from the past day or two:

    LA Times: A family learns to tell a new kind of Thanksgiving story….It’s hard to say when or how it started, but a few years ago my husband and I quit celebrating Thanksgiving….As immigrants from El Salvador and Armenia, we know about the sorrow of having our pasts rewritten, our genocide and massacres, time and time again, neglected or denied.

    New York Times: Everything You Learned About Thanksgiving Is Wrong….Plymouth, Mr. Loewen noted, was already a village with clear fields and a spring when the Pilgrims found it. “A lovely place to settle,” he said. “Why was it available? Because every single native person who had been living there was a corpse.” Plagues had wiped them out.

    HuffPo: 6 Things Every Non-Native Should Do On Thanksgiving….Of all the Native American communities whose distinct histories are worth knowing about, the Wampanoag tribe should be at the top of your list….Following the Wampanoag’s lead starts with learning about the “National Day of Mourning.” Since 1970, the Wampanoag and other tribes in the New England region have hosted a gathering on Thanksgiving Day at Plymouth Rock to recognize the holiday’s authentic history.

    Vox: Trump’s made-up war on Thanksgiving, explained….For all you Thanksgiving aficionados out there, nobody’s coming to take away your turkey….But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth considering that the holiday isn’t the same for everyone and for all communities. For Native Americans, the holiday can be a painful one, not a time to celebrate but instead a time to remember the atrocities they suffered when Europeans landed in America.

    Once you account for Trump’s bizarre habit of misunderstanding things and then making up vaguely related stories, it’s clear where his statement originates. There may be no organized effort to rename Thanksgiving, but there’s certainly an organized effort from some precincts on the left to make sure everyone understands that Thanksgiving is largely a celebration of white atrocity. This is pretty obvious grist for the white grievance mill that Trump uses for a brain, and its appeal to the white grievance base that attends his rallies is equally obvious.

    I’m not passing any particular judgment here. Americans should understand their own history better. That said, there’s a price to be paid for sticking up for the truth, and that price is hostility and bitterness from traditionalists and conservatives who consider this stuff not just ridiculous, but a personal attack on their own heritage and beliefs. In other words, it’s a microcosm of the price to be paid for being a liberal.

    In any case, this is almost certainly where Trump’s statement originated. Like so much of what he says, it didn’t come completely out of the blue, it was just a weirdly exaggerated and mangled version of some kinda true stuff that someone else told him.

  • Boomers vs. Gen X: Who’s the Wealthiest of Them All?

    This tweet has been making the rounds:

    One of my readers emailed this to me and asked if it was for real. I promised to look into it.

    The short answer is yes, it’s true. It’s based on the Fed’s Survey of Consumer Finances, which is a pretty reliable set of data, and the numbers are accurate. Boomers at age 35 held a much larger share of national wealth than Gen Xers did when they turned 35 a decade ago.

    So what’s going on? Is there really such a huge gap? I think probably not, and it has to do with the huge increase in income inequality over the past few decades. Compared to 1989, a much larger share of national wealth is tied up in the wealth of the very rich these days, and Gen X isn’t yet old enough to have a big share of that. It’s mostly boomers—either by inheritance or by simple accumulation—who control that wealth. If you look at median wealth instead, the difference between boomers and Xers would be much smaller.

    That’s my guess, anyway, but I can’t find the data to support it. It’s probably out there somewhere, though. Can anyone help us out here?