If true, it's a dumb move by Trump. Vaccines have saved millions (billions?) of lives.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a proponent of a widely discredited theory that vaccines cause autism, said Tuesday that President-elect Donald Trump asked him to chair a new commission on vaccines.

Hours later, however, a spokeswoman for Trump's transition said that while Trump would like to create a commission on autism, no final decision had been made.


The Parliament of Clocks is a fantastic parable about the value of consensus. So many applications. I look forward to using this parable to sound smart many times in the future.

In the parable, a king wants to buy some clocks and travels to the Bavarian village were the ten best clockmakers in the world keep their shops all along one street.

As he enters the street all the clocks in all the shops strike 1 o'clock in one massive group chime. The king marvels at the great accuracy of the clockmakers of the village, but a few moments later he hears another group chime. After investigating he finds that all the clocks in 9 of the 10 shops show the same time but that all the clocks in the 10th shop show a different time by several minutes. Puzzled, the king calls all the clockmakers together and ask why the clocks in the 10th shop do not chime at the same time as all the clocks in all the other shops.

The owner of the odd shop out immediately steps forward and says that due to his unusual skill and innovation his clocks keep more accurate time than the clocks of the other shops. The other shop owners protest loudly. The king is at a loss. The town lacks a master town clock or sundial, so he has no means of determining which clocks keep the best time. Confused, he decides not to buy any clocks and leaves town. Angered, the owners of the 9 agreeing shops burn down the shop of the odd man out to prevent such confusion from arising again. Now when someone comes to town, all the clocks will chime at the same instant. Customers will not become confused and everyone will sell more clocks.

The clockmakers destroy the nonconforming clockmaker among them because they know that as a practical matter we judge the accuracy of clocks by consensus. Absolute time does not exist. Essentially, a parliament of clocks votes on the correct time. (Even scientifically, this is true.) By fiat, we say that the clocks that deviate from the consensus time are inaccurate, but logically that need not be so. Different technologies or different levels of care in setting, winding or servicing the clocks could lead to the minority clocks being more accurate. However, if all the clocks agree, then no lay person will have grounds for suspecting that the majority clocks don't keep accurate time.


I hadn't seen this essay before the election, but Michael Moore was right. The first reason that "Trump will win":

Midwest Math, or Welcome to Our Rust Belt Brexit. I believe Trump is going to focus much of his attention on the four blue states in the rustbelt of the upper Great Lakes - Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Four traditionally Democratic states - but each of them have elected a Republican governor since 2010 (only Pennsylvania has now finally elected a Democrat). In the Michigan primary in March, more Michiganders came out to vote for the Republicans (1.32 million) that the Democrats (1.19 million). Trump is ahead of Hillary in the latest polls in Pennsylvania and tied with her in Ohio. Tied? How can the race be this close after everything Trump has said and done? Well maybe it's because he's said (correctly) that the Clintons' support of NAFTA helped to destroy the industrial states of the Upper Midwest. Trump is going to hammer Clinton on this and her support of TPP and other trade policies that have royally screwed the people of these four states. When Trump stood in the shadow of a Ford Motor factory during the Michigan primary, he threatened the corporation that if they did indeed go ahead with their planned closure of that factory and move it to Mexico, he would slap a 35% tariff on any Mexican-built cars shipped back to the United States. It was sweet, sweet music to the ears of the working class of Michigan, and when he tossed in his threat to Apple that he would force them to stop making their iPhones in China and build them here in America, well, hearts swooned and Trump walked away with a big victory that should have gone to the governor next-door, John Kasich.

From Green Bay to Pittsburgh, this, my friends, is the middle of England - broken, depressed, struggling, the smokestacks strewn across the countryside with the carcass of what we use to call the Middle Class. Angry, embittered working (and nonworking) people who were lied to by the trickle-down of Reagan and abandoned by Democrats who still try to talk a good line but are really just looking forward to rub one out with a lobbyist from Goldman Sachs who'll write them nice big check before leaving the room. What happened in the UK with Brexit is going to happen here. Elmer Gantry shows up looking like Boris Johnson and just says whatever shit he can make up to convince the masses that this is their chance! To stick to ALL of them, all who wrecked their American Dream! And now The Outsider, Donald Trump, has arrived to clean house! You don't have to agree with him! You don't even have to like him! He is your personal Molotov cocktail to throw right into the center of the bastards who did this to you! SEND A MESSAGE! TRUMP IS YOUR MESSENGER!

And this is where the math comes in. In 2012, Mitt Romney lost by 64 electoral votes. Add up the electoral votes cast by Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. It's 64. All Trump needs to do to win is to carry, as he's expected to do, the swath of traditional red states from Idaho to Georgia (states that'll never vote for Hillary Clinton), and then he just needs these four rust belt states. He doesn't need Florida. He doesn't need Colorado or Virginia. Just Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. And that will put him over the top. This is how it will happen in November.

(HT: Ann Althouse.)


You may be as surprised as I was to learn that 7-Eleven is beating Amazon at the drone delivery game! (That is, delivering product by drone, not delivering drones.) Well, ok, it looks like most of the credit goes to their delivery supplier: Flirtey.

"We have now successfully completed the first month of routine commercial drone deliveries to customer homes in partnership with 7-Eleven," Flirtey chief executive Matthew Sweeny said in a release.

"This is a giant leap towards a future where everyone can experience the convenience of Flirtey's instant store-to-door drone delivery."

Flirtey said it made 77 drone deliveries to homes of select customers on weekends in November, filling orders placed using a special application.

Ordered items, including food and over-the-counter medicine, were packed into special containers and flow by drones that used GPS capabilities to find addresses, according to Flirtey.

Drones hovered in the air and lowered packages to the ground, on average getting items to customers within 10 minutes, the company reported.


You probably don't know who Lena Dunham is, which is why she's screeching for attention by glorifying abortion.

It's sad and pitiful that wealthy people like Dunham feel the need to aggrandize themselves at the expense of the weakest among us. Abortion kills a helpless, voiceless human being and causes severe, lasting damage to the mother and her family. Abortion should be mourned, not celebrated.

"I always thought that I myself didn't stigmatize abortion -- I'm an abortion rights activist, it's a huge part of who I am," Dunham said. But when a young girl asked her, as part of a project, to share the story of her abortion, Dunham "sort of jumped."

"I haven't had an abortion, I told her," the actress narrated. "I wanted to make it really clear to her that as much as I was going out and fighting for other women's options, I myself had never had an abortion. ... Even I felt it was important that people know that I was unblemished in this department."

Then Dunham said she was actually jealous of people who had had abortions. "So many people I love, my mother, my best friends, have had to have abortions for all kinds of reasons," she said. "I feel so proud of them for their bravery, for their self-knowledge, and it was a really important moment for me to realize that I had internalized some of what society was throwing at us."

"Now, I can say that I still haven't had an abortion, but I wish I had," Dunham concluded.


Emily Roden writes about her experience serving on a jury nine years ago with Secretary of State nominee and Exxon Mobile CEO Rex Tillerson. Few social settings are more private than jury rooms, and this account strikes me as authentic and valuable.

I didn't vote for Trump. This is not an endorsement of Mr. Tillerson for Secretary of State. I'm sure that the coming days and weeks will be filled with speculation and political discussion over this clearly controversial pick for Secretary of State. I certainly appreciate those concerns and the process that ensures significant scrutiny for this important position.

But during a news show tonight, I heard the term 'corrupt' applied to this man who I spent five days with back in 2007.

All I know is that this man holds one of the most powerful positions in the world and clearly has the means and ability to side step his jury responsibilities, served as a normal citizen without complaint or pretense. I know that a scared little girl who was finally convinced to come public with her account of abuse was inches away from a decision that would have sided with her abuser, yet this man put his negotiation skills to a very noble use and justice was served. All I know is that this man and his myriad of aides could have ignored an unsolicited email from a girl in her 20s suggesting that he donate to a local cause, but he took the time to respond and opened up his pocket book.


There's no such thing as the "popular vote" in American Presidential elections, and yet the term is used frequently to refer to the total aggregate accumulated by each candidate nationwide. Some people are calling for Electoral College electors to abandon Trump because Hillary "won the popular vote", but James Taranto points out the problem with the the argument.

The Electoral College is consistent with the U.S.'s constitutional character as a union of states. We suppose we can understand why one might prefer direct nationwide election by popular vote, but the way to achieve that would be through a constitutional amendment. Good luck with that: It's unlikely the requisite 38 states would agree to defer to California (where Mrs. Clinton's margin was more than four million, meaning that Trump "won the popular vote" in the other 49 states combined.)

If we're going to create arbitrary groupings of states to support our preferred candidate, why can't everyone play?


It likely that no one really knows what "the Russians" did or intended to do. (Note: "the Russians" are not a monolith... there are many contentious subgroups within the Russian government.) It seems certain that they -- and many others -- were working to disrupt the American election, but it seems impossible to determine how much these actions contributed to the eventual result, and to what degree any specific thing was intended.

Most of the American media are "reporting" that President Obama ordered an investigation of "Russian hacking of our election," and that the intelligence community "confirms" that it happened. Yet there is not yet any evidence that Russia hacked the election or was responsible for the DNC email hacks. None.

When self-interested people and their media allies proclaim something is true, and form a chorus that drowns out any other views, I always suspect a con. It is so easy for the Left, since it controls education and the media, to sell any tale it wishes, from global warming to Michelle Obama as a glamorous fashion icon. Most people will simply fall in line because it is too much trouble and risky to dispute what is regarded as a received truth by the power elite.

But the CIA's evidence and report are being kept secret, so we are expected to trust the word of anonymous sources.

The CIA has concluded in a secret assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the presidency, rather than just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system, according to officials briefed on the matter.

Intelligence agencies have identified individuals with connections to the Russian government who provided WikiLeaks with thousands of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and others, including Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman, according to U.S. officials. Those officials described the individuals as actors known to the intelligence community and part of a wider Russian operation to boost Trump and hurt Clinton's chances.

"It is the assessment of the intelligence community that Russia's goal here was to favor one candidate over the other, to help Trump get elected," said a senior U.S. official briefed on an intelligence presentation made to U.S. senators. "That's the consensus view."

And yet... farther down in the same barely-sourced article:

The CIA presentation to senators about Russia's intentions fell short of a formal U.S. assessment produced by all 17 intelligence agencies. A senior U.S. official said there were minor disagreements among intelligence officials about the agency's assessment, in part because some questions remain unanswered.

For example, intelligence agencies do not have specific intelligence showing officials in the Kremlin "directing" the identified individuals to pass the Democratic emails to WikiLeaks, a second senior U.S. official said. Those actors, according to the official, were "one step" removed from the Russian government, rather than government employees. ...

The White House and CIA officials declined to comment.

So... anonymous insiders leak a story to damage the incoming president. The tail end of the story makes clear that the entire matter was viewed in a partisan manner by every public official involved.

The Democratic leaders in the room unanimously agreed on the need to take the threat seriously. Republicans, however, were divided, with at least two GOP lawmakers reluctant to accede to the White House requests.

According to several officials, McConnell raised doubts about the underlying intelligence and made clear to the administration that he would consider any effort by the White House to challenge the Russians publicly an act of partisan politics.

Some of the Republicans in the briefing also seemed opposed to the idea of going public with such explosive allegations in the final stages of an election, a move that they argued would only rattle public confidence and play into Moscow's hands. ...

Some Clinton supporters saw the White House's reluctance to act without bipartisan support as further evidence of an excessive caution in facing adversaries.

Democrats unanimously wanted the government to assist Hillary (i.e., "take the treat seriously"), and Republicans pointed out that such actions would be "an act of partisan politics". You can parse the language however you like and agree with your preferred side, but there was clearly a divide across party lines.

It's worth pointing out that none of this "hacking" would have been possible if Hillary and her team had followed basic cyber-security protocols.


Jack Shafer writes that fear of the effects propaganda is excessive and elitist. If anyone was deceived by "fake news" this year, it would seem to have been the elites.

In this sense, the shrillness of the propaganda debate reveals a deep distrust of citizens by the elites. The Ignatiuses and Stengels of media and government don't worry about propaganda infecting them. Proud of their breeding and life experience, they seem confident they can decode fact from fiction. What they dread is propaganda's effect on the non-elites, whom they paternalistically imagine believe everything they read or view. But they don't. The idea that naïve and vulnerable audiences can be easily influenced by the injection of tiny but potent messages into their media feedbag was dismissed as bunk by social scientists as early as the 1930s and 1940s. According to what academics call the hypodermic needle theory (aka magic bullet theory, aka transmission-belt model), there is little evidence that the public was the defenseless prey of mini-doses of propagandists. Larger doses don't seem to be very effective, either.


Old-age might seem a long way off, but if you care about your children you should buy long-term care insurance now. Unless the insurers are going to go out of business, in which case you shouldn't. Fortunately for us younger folks, the aging Baby Boomers will probably be forced to solve this problem in some manner before we're old. Of course, the cost of that solution will probably be paid by... us younger folks.

Enter the idea of long-term care insurance. Buy a policy when you're still relatively young and healthy, pay the premiums every year, and if you do end up needing intensive support services, you can go to a nursing home secure in the knowledge that your spouse and your legacy are protected. Personal-finance columnists have been solemnly recommending long-term care insurance for years, though in my experience, this advice is often just as solemnly ignored.

That's because the policies are now quite pricey. When long-term care policies were introduced a few decades ago, they seemed like an attractive deal. As it turns out, that's because they were underpricing the insurance. Insurers expected a significant portion of people to drop the insurance every year (meaning that their previously paid premiums would be all profit). Instead, only about 1 percent did. They also underestimated costs.

And while typical health insurers don't have to worry much about interest rates, because they generally pay this year's health care costs out of this year's premiums, long-term care insurers need to park the money between taking the premium in and paying the benefits out. The ultra-low interest rates of the last decade have made those investments less profitable, hurting them still further. And state regulators have proved resistant to efforts to raise premiums to make the insurance more actuarially sound.


Scott Alexander has a long and thoughtful post explaining that, despite Trump's many flaws, our president-elect isn't racist, sexist, homophobic, etc., and that such fears distract from the real need to keep a close eye on his actions and policies.

I stick to my thesis from October 2015. There is no evidence that Donald Trump is more racist than any past Republican candidate (or any other 70 year old white guy, for that matter). All this stuff about how he's "the candidate of the KKK" and "the vanguard of a new white supremacist movement" is made up. It's a catastrophic distraction from the dozens of other undeniable problems with Trump that could have convinced voters to abandon him. That it came to dominate the election cycle should be considered a horrifying indictment of our political discourse, in the same way that it would be a horrifying indictment of our political discourse if the entire Republican campaign had been based around the theory that Hillary Clinton was a secret Satanist. Yes, calling Romney a racist was crying wolf. But you are still crying wolf.

It's 8,000 words, but worth your time if you're worried about Trump.

(HT: Scott Adams.)


Trump has nominated Senator Jeff Sessions to be our next Attorney General, and by all accounts he is competent and qualified. However, I'm not enthusiastic about some of his positions on personal freedom issues.

He has opposed efforts to overhaul prison sentencing, back off the war on drugs and legalize marijuana.

Those three issues need to be re-evaluated by conservatives. Marijuana is already de facto legal in most of the country (possession being rarely prosecuted), so let's drop the charade. Prison reform is a tough issue that requires more expertise than I have, but I feel confident that America can design a more fair and more effective prison system than we have now.


Maybe a good start would be avoiding the disparaging term "flyover states".

Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), who hasn't ruled out such a challenge, said Tuesday that Democratic leadership needs to be more regionally diverse if the party is going to win back the rural voters who have fled to the GOP's tent. States like Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin "don't have a lot of representation" relative to the coastal states, he said.

"We lost those voters and we've gotta find a way to get them back in, and that starts with a message that resonates in the flyover states," Ryan said.

That was a frequent theme among the Democrats emerging from Tuesday's closed-door meeting in the Capitol.


There's a lot to agree with in Glenn Greenwald's analysis of the ongoing refusal to learn the lessons of Trump and Brexit. Greenwald is far to my left (and supported Bernie Sanders), but nonetheless correctly identifies many of the critical failures of the "elite" on both the left and right.

The indisputable fact is that prevailing institutions of authority in the West, for decades, have relentlessly and with complete indifference stomped on the economic welfare and social security of hundreds of millions of people. While elite circles gorged themselves on globalism, free trade, Wall Street casino gambling, and endless wars (wars that enriched the perpetrators and sent the poorest and most marginalized to bear all their burdens), they completely ignored the victims of their gluttony, except when those victims piped up a bit too much -- when they caused a ruckus -- and were then scornfully condemned as troglodytes who were the deserved losers in the glorious, global game of meritocracy.

That message was heard loud and clear. The institutions and elite factions that have spent years mocking, maligning, and pillaging large portions of the population -- all while compiling their own long record of failure and corruption and destruction -- are now shocked that their dictates and decrees go unheeded. But human beings are not going to follow and obey the exact people they most blame for their suffering. They're going to do exactly the opposite: purposely defy them and try to impose punishment in retaliation. Their instruments for retaliation are Brexit and Trump. Those are their agents, dispatched on a mission of destruction: aimed at a system and culture they regard -- not without reason -- as rife with corruption and, above all else, contempt for them and their welfare.

I'm personally optimistic that Trump will be a better president than many people fear, but his election should be a stark warning to the elites who have "gorged themselves" at the expense of the rest of us.


Will Rahn of CBS correctly identifies the media's problem: hubris.

The audience for our glib analysis and contempt for much of the electorate, it turned out, was rather limited. This was particularly true when it came to voters, the ones who turned out by the millions to deliver not only a rebuke to the political system but also the people who cover it. Trump knew what he was doing when he invited his crowds to jeer and hiss the reporters covering him. They hate us, and have for some time.

And can you blame them? Journalists love mocking Trump supporters. We insult their appearances. We dismiss them as racists and sexists. We emote on Twitter about how this or that comment or policy makes us feel one way or the other, and yet we reject their feelings as invalid.

It's a profound failure of empathy in the service of endless posturing. There's been some sympathy from the press, sure: the dispatches from "heroin country" that read like reports from colonial administrators checking in on the natives. But much of that starts from the assumption that Trump voters are backward, and that it's our duty to catalogue and ultimately reverse that backwardness. What can we do to get these people to stop worshiping their false god and accept our gospel?


Harry Enten notices that of the states that elected Senators last week, 100% of them picked senators of the same party as the winner of their electoral votes -- that is, Trump states elected Republican senators, and Clinton states elected Democrat senators.

In the run-up to Election Day, we wondered whether more voters than normal would split their tickets because of Donald Trump's unique candidacy, perhaps voting for Republicans down-ballot but for Hillary Clinton in the presidential contest. Republican Senate candidates, unsure of how to deal with Trump, tried different approaches -- endorsing him, disavowing him, refusing to say whom they'd vote for. In the end, it didn't matter. Every state that elected a Republican candidate for Senate voted for Trump, and every state that elected a Democratic Senate candidate voted for Clinton.

The 2016 Senate elections were the most nationalized ever.

The amount of straight-ticket voting was unusual even for the highly polarized era we live in. Four years ago, for example, Democratic Senate candidates won in some states where President Obama lost by healthy margins, including Indiana, Missouri and North Dakota. Republicans, meanwhile, held their seat in Nevada even though Mitt Romney lost there by 7 percentage points.

The evidence provided doesn't support the claim. It's entirely possible that ticket-splitting increased, decreased, or stayed the same. If Adam votes for Trump and a Democrat senate candidate, and Betty votes for Clinton and a Republican senate candidate, then they both split their votes. The data provided tells you nothing about the prevalence of vote splitting.


I'll update this with more thoughts as I process today's news.


You should be glued to the NYT Election Night Dashboard. Excellent tool.


I don't have a strong opinion on whether or not felons who have served their sentences should having their voting rights restored. I can see reasonable arguments in both directions. However, Terry McAuliffe's naked politicizing of what should be a solemn responsibility is appalling.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe has granted voting rights to as many as 60,000 convicted felons just in time for them to register to vote, nearly five times more than previously reported and enough to win the state for his long-time friend, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

The Virginia chief executive claimed to have "no idea" how felons would vote and said he had never thought about it. Clinton's staff emailed him after the 200,000-voters move to call it a "great announcement" and set up a call about it.

McAuliffe also did a major favor for the wife of a senior FBI executive who was running for a Virginia legislative seat at the same time the bureau was investigating Clinton's use of private email addresses and a home-brew server to conduct the official diplomatic business of the U.S.


Well this video is fun:

Is this real or paranoia? Considering how the year as gone so far, maybe it's both!

There's also a lot of chatter from right-wing conspiracy sites about the contents of Weiner's laptop -- including claims by unnamed NYPD officials that they're prepared to push the investigation into Hillary themselves.

NYPD detectives and a NYPD Chief, the department's highest rank under Commissioner, said openly that if the FBI and Justice Department fail to garner timely indictments against Clinton and co- conspirators, NYPD will go public with the damaging emails now in the hands of FBI Director James Comey and many FBI field offices.

"What's in the emails is staggering and as a father, it turned my stomach," the NYPD Chief said. "There is not going to be any Houdini-like escape from what we found. We have copies of everything. We will ship them to Wikileaks or I will personally hold my own press conference if it comes to that."

The NYPD Chief said once Comey saw the alarming contents of the emails he was forced to reopen a criminal probe against Clinton.

"People are going to prison," he said.

Stay tuned... I think things are going to get weirder.

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