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January 10, 2008


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Odd. I'm 0.7 squares northwest of you, and most of my answers were of the "don't be an idiot" kind.

God, dull Midwestern pragmatism is now on the far left. Well, at least I can laugh at all those pie-in-the-sky social engineers with their gassy theories and fake data.

Noel Maurer

Someone just called me on the carbon tax question. Do I really "completely agree" with the proposition that "An additional carbon tax on fuel will effectively reduce pollution"?

It is true that I don't think that a carbon tax would be as effective as a mandate. People's fuel use is relatively price inelastic, for three reasons. One, the biggest polluters then to be richer people, for whom fuel costs are a small percentage of income. I drink about the same amount of beer at $2.50 as I do at $5.00, and I drove about the same amount at $1.20 as I did at $3.00.

Two, lots of what drives Americans to buy bigger cars is social pressure to one-up the Joneses, not need or a preference independent of other consumers' preferences. That kind of network externality can be more effectively addressed by a mandate than by a tax.

Three, I forget. Something.

But that's not to say that I don't think that a carbon tax won't reduce some pollution, at least a little bit.

More importantly, I think a carbon tax is a good idea for other reasons. You know, like taking money away from Venezuela and Saudi Arabia and transferring it to America.

So I defend my response against the offline accusation of inconsistency. At least partically.

Noel Maurer

Carlos: on which questions did we disagree? I'm quite curious.


There are three questions where we're two points off: the carbon tax question, the reduction in Medicare benefits question, and the final Iraq question -- though with the first and last ones, the questions employ concepts which are not well-defined: "pollution" and "Islamic terrorism".

Noel Maurer

Those are pretty minor, and as you say, mostly semantic. The only exception, I think, is the Medicare question. There my stance is openly political: social insurance programs have more legs when they provide universal benefits. Redistribution is best left as an unavoidable epiphenomenon of social insurance, rather than part of the underlying design.

Dave MB

I actually took this earlier today and my position also turned out to be on top of Obama's on their two-d scale. Which actually tells me that the test isn't that useful a tool for deciding between candidates with similar positions, since it doesn't address style, tactics, or degree of emphasis among issues.

Noel, were you in NH on primary day? I canvassed most of the day and then held a sign at a polling place. I saw the results from two wards in Keene, which were about the 40-30-20 for Obama I expected for the state. Then the real numbers came out on CNN and I was as surprised as anyone else. My pick among the various theories is that the tearing-up flap (and perhaps the media reaction to it) reminded lots of women of all social classes of their background-level annoyance at men and encouraged them to vote for a woman. Hillary probably didn't engineer all that much of this, but her closing pitch of "I'm the practical one who understands the details of the real problems" would have resonated with any "women are practical, men are clueless" feelings that were out there. (Neither the Bradley effect (lying-to-pollsters about the black guy) or the hacked-machines theory make any sense to me.)

I'm interested to see whether any organized Edwards campaign in MA emerges, given his resource constraints. I've got my lawn sign out. Our chances for the nomination are now way below 1%, so how long JRE stays in depends on how interested he stays in the brokered-convention scenario, and how plausible that stays. Unfortunately the 17% national polling is probably going to drop to 10% pretty quickly in the absence of any media attention during an exciting two-way race.

There were lots of Hillary people in Keene -- they GOTV-tagged a lot more doors than we did, and they had a pretty regular presence in Central Square and at the polling places, including a number of African-American women who I would guess came from out of state.

Noel Maurer

I was canvassing in New Hampshire. We had a messy time, with too many people in Nashua and not enough in Salem and no way to get them from one place to the other ... something that we should have realized.

And we should have done better in Nashua.

The polls actually got Obama's support about right. They underpredicted Hillary's. As far as I can tell, undecideds and former Biden-Dodd supporters broke her way.

I tend to doubt the women-suddenly-swung hypothesis because that should have hurt Edwards, what with his ill-thought-out response to Hillary's tears. (If you even want to call them tears; they were barely noticeable.) I also doubt the Bradley effect, because Obama did, in fact, get the amount of support predicted by the polls.

Considering that the end result was exactly in line with what the polls were telling us before the Iowa surprise, I'm very hesitant to read anything into it any way.

We're in a horse race. Would I have preferred a blowout? Of course. Is this a bad thing, though? Probably not.

I'll be voting by absentee ballot on February 5th. Physically, I will be in California on that day. You go where you have to go.

The thing I need to keep in mind is that the distance between all the Democratic candidates is fairly small, both on policy and on personality. More equaniminous personalities have less need for this advice.


Dave MB, parsing the exit polls, it looks like most of the Clinton surge came from working- and middle-class voters with strong economic concerns. These are the voters Edwards has campaigned to.

I should note that the polls were correct for the level of support for Obama -- Pollster's standard estimate was 36.7%. It just wasn't enough.

Like I said in my last entry, I can construct a dozen narratives in the style of different pundits to account for it. But I find the "sympathy" and "underdog" narratives incredibly _boring_ -- and also, rather insulting to the voters.

Edwards does not have much traction. It's odd, because on paper -- and especially on the Internet -- he has a lot of marketing positives. But he worked his ass off in Iowa for months, and couldn't make enough of a connection.

While the media is certainly complicit in the degradation of political discourse in the country, sometimes, the candidate just isn't very strong -- for whatever reason.

Dave MB

Carlos, I agree that Edwards' lack of traction can't be fairly blamed on the media. I got really annoyed whenever the Dem race was characterized as Clinton versus Obama, but Edwards was always a longshot. My college classmate Mark Fernald, a former NH state senator, told me in the summer he was supporting Obama -- he liked Edwards, but Edwards had already established that he didn't have wide traction and thus Obama was likely to be the strongest candidate in the general election.

I'm still glad I did the work -- at least I got to know NH much better. And both Hillary and Obama are picking up portions of the Edwards message...

BTW, I hope everyone caught this Onion piece (potential NSFW due to vulgarity):


Bernard Guerrero

Odd results when comparing the sentiment indicators to the substantive agreement, though, at least in my case. Observe:

Rudy Giuliani
You are 9% economic left
You are 6% more progressive
You have a substantive agreement of 76%

Ron Paul
You are 5% economic left
You are 13% more traditional
You have a substantive agreement of 49%


Barack Obama
You are 39% economic right
You are 45% more traditional
You have a substantive agreement of 51%

Granted, I wouldn't expect substantive agreement to be a linear function of sentiment, but this looks a little wacky. I end up having slightly more policy agreement with Obama than with Paul, despite being nowhere near Obama on the map and only slightly farther from Paul than from Rudy. It appears to me that some dimensionality is being lost.


No, Bernard, it's because you don't base your politics from reason, but from sentiment. Which is _fine_, but you're not aware of it.

You spend a lot of time building up quasi-logical theories trying to support your politics, but it really comes down to gut-check for you. And again, that's fine. I just wish you had a little more self-knowledge.


I am slightly further north than Obama, when I was expecting to be closer to the axis. Funny how living in Madison, one starts to believe oneself is fairly conservative when one is actually a complete raving lefty to everyone else under the sun.

Carlos, did you hear Lee Dreyfuss died? For the rest of you, it's the Wisconsin Republican governor (1 term by choice) that signed the nation's first law making it illegal to discriminate against gays and lesbians.

Bernard Guerrero

Knock yourself out with your theories, my man. If you start getting good predictions, let me know, it would be worth a bundle. (FYI, that CFC move was _not_ a gut-check. Or rather, opening it wasn't. The volatility is a killer, though.)

But back to my unaddressed point.

They have a model that relates policy-answer Xs to both sentiment and substantive agreement Ys. At the same time, they have related votes and citations (that is, policy statement Xs by the candidates) to candidate sentiment Ys.

It remains odd that any particular set of Xs, such as the ones I entered, would place me much closer to one candidate than another in terms of sentiment (i.e. Paul vs. Obama) while producing a near congruence between them as far as policy-agreement with me. I could be agreeing with completely different halves of their overall policy makeup, but then the large shift upwards in agreement with Rudy's policies accompanied by only a small improvement in agreement in sentiment terms doesn't make sense.

To boil down my puzzlement, candidate policy ends up being strongly non-linear as a function of candidate sentiment, which seems odd given that they're both based on the same data. And I quote: "The positioning of the candidates was carried out with a comprehensive and objective method with regard to the policy proposals of the candidates. Multiple coders positioned each candidate and each positioning was subsequently checked by a group of (international) scholars assembled at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Their scientific independence and integrity guarantees that the positioning was carried out according to high academic standards and are correctly represented in the political landscape, based on strict scientific methods and well-established theoretical assumptions."

Noel Maurer

In all cases, what I like about the website is that it allows you to compare yourself to the candidates issue-by-issue, and therefore create your own weightings.

Carrie, it's true. Which doesn't mean that living in Madison is a bad thing!

That is sad about Governor Dreyfuss.

Noel Maurer

Bernard, why not post how you answered every question, along with Paul's and Giuliani's responses? That way, you could easily find out what is driving your results.

Otherwise, it's just a fog of words.

BTW, your first sentence indicates that you misunderstood Carlos completely. I know that you didn't; I am merely pointing out that it is a very confusing opener.

Bernard Guerrero

"what I like about the website is that it allows you to compare yourself to the candidates issue-by-issue, and therefore create your own weightings."

Fair enough, and I appreciate that aspect of it. The relationship between the candidate policy and sentiment claims still looks odd to me, though.

Bernard Guerrero

"BTW, your first sentence indicates that you misunderstood Carlos completely. I know that you didn't"

Let me put it this way. I think Carlos has a theory that holds no water. Nor does it, on its face, have much to do with what I was talking about.

I didn't save the initial results, though I see the option exists. I'll go back and recreate it.


Bernard, look at your response. Instead of considering the possibility that perhaps your opinions are closer to Obama's than to Paul's, which could be quickly proved or disproved on the website, you immediately gut-checked, and said, "couldn't be," and constructed a quasi-logical theory to explain it.

Your further responses follow the same pattern -- emotional response, followed by logical backfill.

It's not a bad thing, Bernard. People are different.

Dennis Brennan

I came out southeast of Obama, but northwest of the 0,0 origin (and closer to Obama than anyone else). Fine by me--anyone who comes out of Hyde Park can't be all bad.

Being a lawyer, I generally tend to respond with some sort of "disagree" whenever the question is framed as an unqualified absolute: "A is always better than B", "C should never be done", etc.

I'm still a registered Republican (for "I live in Delaware County, PA and still want my trash to get picked up" reasons)-- which Republican candidate should I vote for in the PA primary to do the most damage?


Carrie, I did see that. He was an all-around decent guy. Probably most famous for his quip that Madison was 40 square miles surrounded by reality. (He was an alum, so he knew.)

Bernard Guerrero

Carlos, your answer doesn't make any sense. Let's not get our terms mixed up. I'll lay this out simply and you take a look at it at your leisure.

A) The quiz involves three factors: policy picks and two dimensions that I've termed "sentiment", each described as running along an economic and a social axis.

B) The candidates' positions on the two sentiment axes have been determined by the authors by looking at their prior policy picks (votes and/or citations).

C) If you take a third party (moi) that enters a particular set of policy picks, this translates into:

C1) close policy and sentiment with candidate #1 (Rudy)

C2) close sentiment congruence with candidate #2 (Paul), but little sentiment congruence


C3) little congruence with candidate #3 (Obama) in terms of either sentiment or policy

D) The "possibility that perhaps your opinions are closer to Obama's than to Paul's" was looked at, but is sort of immaterial. There are several cases where my policy picks show _more_ congruence with Obama that with either Giuliani.

E1) The oddity is that a small shift in sentiment congruence translates into a big shift in policy picks in going from Rudy to Paul,

E2) while a further big shift in sentiment translates into a small shift in policies going from Paul to Obama. This makes me question how the thing is calibrated.

Noel Maurer

Bernard, why not just post your answers to the survey questions along with Paul's, Obama's, and Giuliani's?

I have no idea what you mean by "sentiment." I honestly can't parse what you're trying to say. If you post the answers, the confusion will melt away, and we'll be able to see immediately where you agree with some and disagree with others.


Bernard, this isn't the first time you've done this. My comment struck a deep emotional chord in you, and now you're going into rationalization mode. And that's fine, but the more you do it, the more you prove my point.

Gah. I should have just kept my mouth shut, but your pattern is beginning to bother me.


Bernard, this is the answer I would have expected from you, by the way: "Well, Obama might be closer to me than Paul -- though I kind of doubt it -- but I'm still going to vote for Giuliani. 8^)"

Instead, well, see above.

Noel Maurer

Hi, Dennis! Strategic voting? Hmm. Giuliani is the most easily-beatable candidate in the general election, but the problem is that his entire game plan depends on doing well on Super Tuesday. That means you won't know if it's a strategic vote or a wasted vote.

My take, then, would be to vote for Romney. Huckabee and McCain both bring advantages into the general election that he does not.

I'm willing to be convinced otherwise, of course. This analysis isn't particularly deep.


Kos has endorsed Romney in the MI primary and recommended that Dems, who are more or less disenfranchised by the no-delegate rule and absence of BHO and JRE from the ballot, take a Rep ballot and vote for him. He argues not that Romney is the weakest candidate but that a Romney win in MI is the only way to keep alive a candidacy that disrupts their party.

Blue Mass Group has a nice graphic here:



Since when does a Heinlein fan from Indiana turn out to be a far-northwest lefty liberal? What the bleep is the matter with all you people?

Sigh. If you throw out my tepid reaction to gun control (I regard it as inconsistent with a liberty-centric stance) then nobody in the room comes close to my actual politics. Even Kucinich, apparently.

But Obama's closest. Too bad I live in Puerto Rico and it's all moot as far as my vote would have been concerned. Just a fully disenfranchised American citizen, that's me.

Dennis Brennan

Hi, Noel. Give me a call next time you're in town (my office number is on my work website at www.saul.com), and I'll take you out to lunch.

Bernard Guerrero


Well, you got the smiley face right, anyway.

"I should have just kept my mouth shut, but your pattern is beginning to bother me."

Tell you what, regular clashes with 25% of a site's proprietors is already plenty, thanks. This just crossed over into "pointless waste of time" territory, and I don't plan on watching you get increasingly annoying over an election for another year. Have fun, see you all around.

Brad Holden

I was surprised that I came out so close to Obama. I guess I now know who I am voting for in the primary. I think that, for the first time in a long time, my CA vote might matter.

Jussi Jalonen

Somehow, Bernard, I thought you'd be the kind of fellow who actually _enjoys_ open controversy. Why don't you clash back?

(Assuming that you're still listening. If not, never mind.)

Not surprisingly, some of these questions are of the sort that provokes an immediate response of "what century are you living in?" Not that it isn't fun to watch a 21st century country to run an election on 19th century themes.

Anyhoot. According to this, the opinions that I have on the firearms legislation, national security and Iraq would seem to be an exact match to Bill Richardson, whoever the hell he might be.

There are some multiple-interpretation questions and at least one completely weird one: "The government should spend money on keeping drugs off the streets, not on treating drug addicts". Um, why should these be mutually exclusive?

As expected, my opinions on economy managed to hit the Origo once again.


J. J.


Bernard, goddammit. So you've been found out, big deal. Like I said, there's nothing _wrong_ with that.

Noel Maurer

Jussi: I answered "neutral" when the questions provided non-mutually-exclusive options. This was deliberate on the part of the survey designers, for many voters do favor one option over the other.

The "what century are you living in" dig is interesting. Gratuitous insults aside, what bothers you, and what do you think that the residents of, say, European countries would answer so differently? You know, the sophisticated 21st-century voters of, say, Flanders or Switzerland?

I may need to post something on recent Spanish controversies, but really, the digs aren't fair.


Very nice... Now I know why bipartisan politics leave me cold. When you're right at the center of mass of the political spectrum no competent politician will agree with you.

Noel Maurer

Brad: might? Will! You guys vote on Super Tuesday. Even if one candidate sweeps Nevada and South Carolina, the race will still be open. (And remember, "uncommitted" is the likely winner in Michigan.)

Should you be a Republican, the same applies, only more so.

Jussi: I'm serious, dude. I like you, and your country, weird stuff that we've already talked about aside. Just asking for mutual props when it's fair, you know.

Carlos: today I had a discussion with a strong and very committed Hillary supporter. He denied it when I said that he wishes that he could still be an Eisenhower Republican. (I am no longer an Eisenhower Republican, but I recognize that they may, in fact, be, like, right on the issues.) A very accomplished fellow who is above retirement age pointed out that this is incorrect, and that the supporters of the Hillary campaign are, in fact, Eisenhower Republicans.

Therefore, Carlos, since I hold a sneaking suspiscion that you may indeed be an Eisenhower Republican, I would like to thank you for your support for the Obama campaign.


Might be a Dreyfus Republican. He'd go on Wisconsin Public Radio during the 1990s and call (Bill) Clinton a fine moderate Republican president. Must have driven Tommy Thompson nuts. RHIP.

Eisenhower was prescient about the power of the military-industrial complex. But I doubt if he ever thought his party would be taken over by a bunch of whiny punks.

Will Baird

"Eisenhower was prescient about the power of the military-industrial complex."

No sh*t he was. The MIC was nursemaided into even further evilness under McNamara. идиот! worse.

"Will! You guys vote on Super Tuesday. Even if one candidate sweeps Nevada and South Carolina, the race will still be open. (And remember, "uncommitted" is the likely winner in Michigan.)"

very aware. I'm a Repugnant, so I'm weighing my options. so far I have been getting set to vote against candidates. No Huckabee! No frakkin whacko Paul! No actors! No Hunter either: my wife states he looks, acts, and 'smells' like a Russian politico. That's not a compliment. Beyond that...not much left: McCain and Romney. McCain's too old (IMO) and Romney's as slippery as a hagfish.

I'm waiting to see what you all extrude out of your political process. *shrugs*

Jussi Jalonen

Slower, Noel. I have no doubt that you're serious, but it's weekend and just like you, I have things to do and places to be in.

First off, you should perhaps try to get rid of that idea of me as a "European", however you may define that word. I don't view myself as a member of the said civilization, and from where I'm standing, countries such as Poland, France and the United States are equally distant in cultural terms.

As for the questions... well, as I said, there are some which are just plain odd, the first one being obviously the banning of semi-automatic firearms. I'm familiar with the American background of that debate, and it's just stupid. Should revolvers and lever-action rifles also be eventually banned? But never mind.

Then we get to those rather obsolescent issues: "People with higher incomes should receive less Medicare benefits". "The federal government should reduce income inequality". I'm guessing that one has to be an American in order to understand why these questions are so very relevant. But hey, there are people in influential positions who think these issues are relevant even in this country, so well, why not?

"What bothers me"? Well, do you really have to ask?

Abortion? That's a non-issue in this day and age. Creationism? That's late 19th century. Death penalty in peacetime? That went out of fashion in the times of Nicholas I, which was early 19th century.

Torture? That was abolished by Gustav III. This is a late _18th_ century issue.

There's also the question on the Patriot Act, which suddenly reminds me that there are surprisingly many parallels between the recent history of the United States and the inter-war history of the Baltic republics. Perceived threat from outside; one case of succesful infiltration; government reaction; curtailment of civil rights; "constitutional" rule by decree in the name of national unity and patriotism, with the democratic institutions still in place.

On the definite plus side, however, the United States will apparently be able to get rid of all this without a Soviet takeover.


J. J.

Noel Maurer

The misunderstanding, Jussi, appears to be that I don't particularly think of you as a nationalist, in George Orwell's sense of term. Or perhaps, I don't /want/ to think of you as a nationalist. Thus, I assume you are trying to knock the United States as peculiarly benighted, rather than trying to extoll Finland as particularly enlightened.

Torture, though, yes, of course. But you could have just said that.


"First off, you should perhaps try to get rid of that idea of me as a "European"... from where I'm standing, countries such as Poland, France and the United States are equally distant in cultural terms."

Those two statements don't necessarily go together. Also, no offence intended, you strike me as very European indeed, for particular values of "European". It's a big tent.

"Death penalty in peacetime? That went out of fashion in the times of Nicholas I, which was early 19th century."

Except in Japan, both Chinas, both Koreas, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, about half of Africa and much of the Arab world.

If you tally up the numbers, over a third of the world's population still lives in countries that have the death penalty. So I wouldn't say this issue is, um, dead. No, not even among advanced liberal democracies. Japan is rich, peaceful and as advanced as anywhere, but they love them some death penalty.

Doug M.

Jussi Jalonen

Noel: I'm not "knocking" the United States. I'm just noting the difference. Mind, there were also some questions in the test which seemed to be quite futuristic.

You're right that I'm not a "nationalist", even though I do have a tendency for ethnocentrism, for certain values of the concept. But that's a different thing; more primeval, less modern.

And no, I don't think that the country that I live in is particularly "enlightened", and I don't necessarily even regard the word "enlightenment" positively.

Doug, capital punishment in peacetime went out of fashion in _this country_ in times of Nicholas I. After that, it was only used in the times of war or terror, and has become associated with them. What, it wasn't already clear to you that I'm a parochial sort of fellow who tends to ignore what the rest of the world thinks?

As for the idea that I strike you as "very European indeed"... well, no offence taken. Although that depends on how you really define the concept; Albanians and Turks are also Europeans, and you've met some. Whether the people in question would be "European" also in the eyes of an average American (or an average European, for that matter) is another matter.

However, I was simply correcting Noel's apparent presumption that because I'm a "European", I could also be expected to provide some kind of a meaningful comment on the viewpoints the Flemings and the Swiss. The fact is that, well, those people are a complete enigma to me.

But well, if you wish to regard me as a European, by all means, do so. Perceptions differ. As I've said before, you seem to hold some opinions which would, in this country, make you fit perfectly in the Social Democratic Party.


J. J.

Doug M.

"fit perfectly in the Social Democratic Party."

I'll take that as the compliment it's undoubtedly intended to be.

Doug M.

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