Date: August 21, 2016

The difference between George Bush and Donald Trump in one photo

With Barack Obama under fire for a flood having happened in Louisiana and him not having visited, Hurricane Katrina and the reaction to Bush’s visit naturally comes to mind. For conservative partisans, Obama is uncaring and the media is biased if they don’t attack him. This is Obama’s Katrina! It is, because conservative partisans are treating Obama just as unfairly as many liberals treated Bush.

To be sure, Bush deserved blame for a poorly-planned relief effort, as did the state and local governments. In this case, there appears to be no reporting to the effect that the relief efforts are being terribly mismanaged, and the extent of the disaster is also not comparable at all.

But then there is the separate question of optics, which is the real reason Obama is being attacked. It’s not that he is doing a bad job responding–it’s just that he didn’t get any photo ops done and it is claimed that he “doesn’t care.” The issue of optics is where Bush was unfairly attacked, because he flew over the disaster zone in an airplane to take a look at it, and he was photographed doing so, and because he wasn’t swimming around in the water or something, critics said he didn’t care.

These photos in the airplane were killer just because they were bad optics:

Unfair for the photos to have been taken and then utilized by his opponents as such? Maybe. One could certainly argue that. When Donald Trump encounters unfavorable press coverage that he thinks is unfair (even when it is straight up quoting what he said), he goes crazy, attacking reports and name calling. “You’re a sleaze.” Megyn Kelly is a “bimbo.” And then there was this beauty last week:

How does Bush respond?

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Hypothesis testing about the 2016 elections

As a political scientist, there’s nothing like testing theories. One of the prevalent theory is that in a Western liberal democracy, to win a general election, you have to be the closest candidate to the center. Ever since Reagan won over, with the Democrats flocking towards him, and Thatcher did the same in UK, it has never been proved wrong.

Recently, these two new charts came to my notice, from YouGov.

Parties leaders left right spectrum-01

Tony Blair man of the people-01

Since Blair, Labour never won the election, because the Tory candidate was closest to the center.

2016, is a unique year, in both UK and US, and it is perhaps the golden opportunity to find out, if this hypothesis is true. Corbyn is hard left and Trump is hard right. According to this hypothesis, they will never win, and in this case the candidates closer to center, Hillary Clinton in US, and Theresa May in UK will sweep the polls.

We shall find out if that theory is universally true.


Is the media really ignoring Louisiana? No.

There’s a narrative in the media that the media is ignoring the flooding in Louisiana.

The public editor of the New York Times wrote the Times didn’t give it enough coverage. Mike Scott of the Louisiana-based Times-Picayune wrote on August 16 that the Times had only published its first story two days after the rains began.

But is it really true that the Louisiana flooding has been ignored? It’s a major news story, and yet days after the Times published its rebuke of itself, the narrative that Louisiana has been or is being ignored continues to spread down the media stream to columnists and bloggers. If the city of New York were destroyed in a hypothetical super storm, wouldn’t the media cover it?

We actually have precedents we can look at. We don’t need to wonder about hypotheticals. Just months ago in June floods in West Virginia killed 25 people. The floods in Louisiana killed 13. The number of houses that were damaged is reportedly very high–the governor puts it at 40,000. But there are natural disasters that killed more while also causing much, if not as much, damage. (By comparison, West Virginia’s governor said “thousands” of homes were damaged, but CNN reported the significantly lower total of 1,200. It may be too soon to know the property damage in dollars for either.)

Two more large-scale floods: those that killed 21 in Utah in 2015 after Hurricane Linda and the 2010 floods that killed 21 in Tennessee and 10 more in Kentucky and Mississippi while causing over $2 billion in damage.

A theory can be tested: If a dozen or more people were killed in say, Nashville, Tenn. or Hildale, Utah, would the media pay more attention to it than they are doing to the Louisiana floods?

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