Friday links! It’s the children who are wrong edition


Every time some recount widens Hillary Clinton’s margin of victory in the popular vote, the Democratic Party looks stupider. It’s one thing to lose to a game show host. Losing to a game show host even though more people voted for you really plants the flag atop Mount Fuckup. Now is the time for Democrats to turn on one another in recrimination and gnashing of teeth, but wait: Jonathan Chait says they have nothing to learn from their loss. The 2016 Election Is a Disaster Without a Moral, he writes in New York Magazine. The only lesson to be taken is “don’t run Hillary Clinton again.” Other than the thrilling moment when you realize the DNC might do that, this lesson sucks. Plenty of mistakes were made in the process of losing by getting 2.5 million more votes. But Chait blames the voters themselves:

If you listened to the political scientists, Hillary Clinton’s defeat was relatively predictable — winning a third term for a party is pretty difficult. Most of us believed that dynamic wouldn’t matter in 2016 because the Republican Party nominated a singularly unfit candidate for office. But it turned out this factor was cancelled out by Hillary Clinton’s almost equal level of unpopularity. To many people who follow politics closely, it was hard to believe that the voters might see the ordinary flaws of a consummate establishmentarian pol as equivalent to those of a raving ignorant sociopathic sexual predator. And yet.

Let me get this straight: “This factor,” by which you mean one candidate’s unfitness for office, was cancelled out by the other candidate’s unpopularity? Sounds like an election, dude. I agree it’s awful and surprising that Trump won, but to say it only happened because people hated the Democratic candidate more than him is to jam the snake’s tail into its mouth. Chait spends the next several paragraphs convincing the reader there’s nothing to be learned from the last election by limiting himself to describing it. When he dismisses Sanders as a “message candidate,” he draws attention to the lacuna haunting his whole nihilist project: maybe the lesson is that your candidate should have a clear message. Today is Friday, and the Democratic Party is free to spend the next 3.75 years deciding what its message might be. Won’t you fill the silence with me?

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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has written the following analysis of Girls


The single largest audience for HBO’s Girls is white men over 50. Fifty-six percent of the show’s audience is male. I got those fun facts from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s indictment of Girls in the Huffington Post, which he wrote because “win six NBA championships” was crossed off his to-do list. It is weird that Kareem composed a critical review of a TV show. What’s really weird, though, is that he makes a lot of very good points.

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Fox News unbowed in defeat

Totally a real thing

Remember yesterday, when I expressed faint hope that the Republican Party might reform its political behavior now that it, like, didn’t work? Me either. Apparently that’s what I thought, though, and already I am refuted. Fox News—the media wing of the Republican Party—sees no reason to change its ways. Evidence: Rich Noyes’s handy guide to five ways the mainstream media tipped the scales in favor of Obama. According to Noyes, the president’s reelection was abetted by favorable media coverage, including but not limited to “partisan fact checking.” That damned mainstream media! Never mind that Fox News is the most watched cable news network, or that Noyes also claims reporters “buried” the story of the bad economy.

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Five-year survey yields bitter confirmation re: Tea Party

His support for abortion makes him an extreme outlier within the Tea Party, but his Skynrd shirt puts him right back in the middle.

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of the Tea Party is its members’ claims about who they are. Tea Party groups continue to identify as grassroots, non-partisan coalitions of citizens from every walk of life, when we all know that they’re white racist Republicans or, sometimes, white racist libertarians. By “know,” here, I mean “assume in a way that makes us feel guilty about our own closemindedness.” There is no quantitative proof that Tea Partiers are more bigoted, GOP-affiliated and prone to sunburn than the average American, after all. For that you’d need some kind of comprehensive, long-term survey, and such a thing would be too good to—oh, you shouldn’t have, David Campbell and Robert Putnam of Notre Dame. And just in time for my birthday, too.

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Scientists identify religious gene, intractable research problem

A giant Pacific octopus, since pictures of scientists are boring. The octopus is the scientist of the sea.

In their ongoing quest to determine why other people believe in stuff that cannot be demonstrated by logic or cutting open a mouse’s brain, scientists have identified a gene that predisposes people toward religious belief. They’ve also identified a classic problem of deductive reasoning. Citing the World Values Survey, Cambridge economist Robert Rowthorn noted that “adults who attended religious services more than once a week had 2.5 children on average; while those who went once a month had two; and those who never attended had 1.67.” From these statistics, he concluded that “the more devout people are, the more children they are likely to have.” Kombat! Kids: can you spot the flaw in Professor Rowthorn’s reasoning? Probably not, because there are only 1.67 of you for both Combat! readers.

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