Monday Reads: Pre Debate warm-up jitters


Good Afternoon!

Take my advice for tonight’s debate. Don’t watch the pundits or you’ll need some form of tranquilizer.  Have I mentioned how horrible Andrea Mitchell is lately?

So, the debate is tonight and of course, we’ll be live blogging the drama.  I am assuming there will be drama.  I’m still trying to figure out if there will be blood.  Several little bits about the particulars first before we get on with the big build up to the event.

Bloomberg TV will be running a fact check of the debate on its screen tonight.  I find that very interesting.  How many debates have ever needed real time fact check before?

Bloomberg TV will conduct on-screen fact checks of statements made by both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton during Monday night’s debate, POLITICO has confirmed.

The channel’s decision to conduct an on-screen fact-check sets Bloomberg apart from the other major TV networks, none of whom have committed to doing on-screen fact checks during the debate. Most will leave the fact-checking to segments in the post-debate analysis coverage.

Clinton’s supporters have called for aggressive fact-checking during Monday’s debate, saying that members of the media have failed to adequately fact-check and correct falsehoods from her Republican rival. NBC’s Matt Lauer was recently criticized for not correcting several false statements from Trump during a presidential forum on the network.

Spokespeople for the networks told POLITICO that on-screen fact checks would be hard to execute in real-time, which is why they were opting out. That leaves the real-time fact-checking up to NBC’s Lester Holt, the debate moderator, or Clinton herself.

The debate will be on at 9 pm Eastern. Lester Holt of NBC News will be the moderator.  The format will be somewhat informal. Here are the details via Heavy.first-date-nerves

The first presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is tonight at 9 p.m. Eastern. It will be televised on all major broadcast and cable news networks.

The debate is being held on the anniversary of the very first televised presidential debate between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy in 1960. Here’s a look at the broadcast information:

DATE: Monday, September 26, 2016

AIR TIME: The debate will begin at 9 p.m. Eastern. It’s scheduled to end at 10:30 p.m. Eastern.

TV CHANNEL: This debate will be broadcast live on all the major networks and leading cable sites, including ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, CNBC, Fox, Fox News, MSNBC, and PBS NewsHour and Univision.

To find out what channel the station you want to watch is on for you, click here to go to TV Guide’s listings. Then change the “Provider” (right under TV Listings) to your local provider. You’ll be able to scroll down to see what channel the station you’re interested in is on for you.

LOCATION: Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York

MODERATOR: NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt.

12631562_10207197700835066_2340311403332702159_nMy guess is that the debate will either be very uninteresting or very volatile.  I can’t see much room for moderation in anything with Donald Trump participating. He’s the very definition of ASSymmetric political warfare. Jay Rosen–professor of journalism and media critic–believes that asymmetry between the parties right now has caused issues for the media. What do you do when one party has gone completely off the rails explicitly supporting policy that wouldn’t pass constitutional muster, is openly xenophobic, racist, and sexist, plus delegitimatizes private choices concerning love and religion?

Over that stretch I have tried to develop my own pressthink in reply to “theirs,” meaning the ideas most campaign journalists have about their work, and the explanations they tend to give when criticized for it. I tried to summarize the first 20 years of this tension in my 2011 lecture: Why Political Coverage is Broken. What I said there is still basic to how I do my criticism, but Trump’s spectacular intervention has raised the stakes and altered the terms of the debate.

Trump is not a normal candidate and can’t be covered like one. Journalists have finally accepted that. Just the other day Dean Baquet, editor of the New York Times, said this about Trump

He’s been hugely challenging. I don’t think we’ve ever had somebody who in my time as a journalist so openly lies, and that was a word that we struggled to actually utter. We’re used to, I think as journalists, we’re used to philosophical debates, like one party thinks we should go to war on Iraq, makes its case—exaggerates its case, we now know. But there are warring philosophies. I’ve never quite seen anything like [Trump], and I think it’s a real challenge for us.

Elections were about warring philosophies. Journalists sat in the press box and brought you the action. Baquet admits: this organizing image no longer organizes much. But even his phrase “hugely challenging” understates it, I think. Here are the major propositions I have been using to understand this unique and perilous moment.

1. Political journalism rests on a picture of politics that journalists and politicos share.

As practiced by the “mainstream media” (the professionals who work at NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, PBS, NPR, the AP, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Reuters, Bloomberg, Politico, Time magazine) political journalism is constructed — it rests entirely — on a mental picture of the American system in which the two major parties are similar actors with, as Baquet put it, “warring philosophies.”

Elections are the big contests that distribute power between them. The day-to-day of politics is a series of minor battles for tactical advantage. The press is part of this picture because it distributes attention, but — in this view of things — it doesn’t participate in politics itself. It reports on battles large and small, questions the power holders, tries to reveal machinations going on behind the scenes and generates public interest in the drama of politics. But it is unaligned with the major players and unaffected by the outcome of the contests it chronicles.

To report successfully on such a system you need sources who trust you inside both parties. You need people in both parties who will return your calls and have drinks with you at the Des Moines Marriott. The simplest way to guarantee that is to look at politics in the same way that people in the party establishments do. The political pros who staff the committees and run the campaigns and consult with the big players are the closest readers of political journalism and closest in outlook to the journalists who consider reporting on politics their profession.

I called this a mental picture, but it’s more than that. It’s a stable framework within which work can be done, coverage can be planned, knowledge can be refined, reputation can be won, careers can be built. The image of two similar parties with warring philosophies that compete for tactical advantage also positions the mainstream press in a comfortable way: between partisan players as chronicler, questioner and referee. Among those most comfortable with that position: media owners and managers hoping to alienate as few people as possible.

In other words: powerful forces keep the mental picture in place.

2. Asymmetry between the parties fries the circuits of the mainstream press.

Now imagine what happens when over time the base of one party, far more than the base of the other, begins to treat the press as a hostile actor, and its own establishment as part of the rot; when it not only opposes but denies the legitimacy — and loyalty to the state — of the other side’s leader; when it prefers conspiracy theory to party-friendly narratives that at least cope with verified fact; when it is scornful of the reality that in a divided system you never get everything you want.

This is the thesis that Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein developed in their 2012 book, It’s Even Worse Than It Looks. They are think tank scholars with PhDs and Washington insiders who were frequently called on by journalists to explain trends and furnish quotes. They had the same incentives as journalists to stay on conversant terms with politicos in both parties. Mann and Ornstein came to the conclusion that something had changed in the Republican Party. Their summary of it:

The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition. When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges.

How will Lester Holt handle the short-finger vulgarian?  How will Hillary respond to the man who has used sexism, meanness, and lies to characterize her entire life and accomplishments?    Lester Holt is probably not what is needed to get to the crux of this mean campaign season.  John Oliver and his entertainment form of news is probably a better source of analysis and outrage.

Political scandals, whether focused on Hillary Clinton’s email use or Donald Trump’s shady business dealings, have emerged as one of the most popular talking points of the 2016 presidential election. But as John Oliver explained on the latest“Last Week Tonight,” when you break down all the alleged scandals plaguing both candidates, it’s overwhelmingly clear that there is no contest: Trump is “unethically compromised to an almost unprecedented degree.”

“This campaign has been dominated by scandals, but it is dangerous to think that there is an equal number on both sides,” Oliver said. “You can be irritated by some of Hillary’s—that is understandable—but you should then be fucking outraged by Trump’s.”

Fucking outraged indeed.

So, what do “they” expect?  Here’s a bit from ABC.

–ANALYSIS — ABC’s RICK KLEIN: What if he apologizes? What if he behaves himself? What if he drops “Crooked Hillary” for “Madam Secretary”? What if – stay with us here – he doesn’t stretch the truth? Forget the no-holds-barred attacks Donald Trump has proven himself capable of. Hillary Clinton’s worst nightmare might be humble Trump, since that would flip storylines enough to potentially dominate the takeaways regardless of what else happens at Hofstra. Clinton’s camp is pressuring Lester Holt to do the fact-checking the candidate doesn’t want to do by herself. But she may be in the position of wanting and needing to draw Trump out – to bait him into a discussion of President Obama’s birth status, for instance, or a real policy discussion on Iraq or Afghanistan or ISIS. Clinton-as-aggressor would surely be unexpected. It also may be helpful in a race where she continues to struggle to lock down her base. The latest ABC News/Washington Post poll shows Trump getting a larger share of Republicans and of Romney voters than Clinton is of Democrats and Obama voters. Clinton isn’t known for smackdowns. But it may not hurt for her to show some fight.

downloadJames Hohmann from WAPO says Trump has won the expectations game already.

— Reviewing the coverage ahead of Trump’s 9 p.m. showdown with Hillary Clinton at Hofstra University makes it sound like all the GOP nominee really needs to do is not talk about how well-endowed he is…

“I think that Trump is buoyed by the very low expectations. This is a guy who’s never debated one-on-one … So if he does passably, we’ll all say he won,” a Politico reporter said last week. The headline of a lead story on Politico this morning, citing anonymous “insiders,” declares that “The heat is on Hillary.”

A lot of people are going to look at Donald Trump and think, ‘Hey, if he can even get out a good sentence and show off his experience, then he’s doing well,’” New York Times correspondent Yamiche Alcindor said on “Morning Joe” last week, addressing the Clinton campaign’s complaints that she’s being subjected to a double standard.

“Clinton has the much tougher task tonight,” NPR declares in its curtain-raiser this morning.“She has the burden of high expectations. The former senator and secretary of state, who’s now been through two presidential campaigns, is an experienced debater who knows policy inside and out. But her job is very hard — Clinton has to convince voters who don’t want to vote for Trump but haven’t warmed up to her that she is likeable, honest and trustworthy. And she has to press her case that Trump is unqualified to be president without being overly aggressive or ‘harsh.’”

“I do think that the stakes are much higher in this debate and all the debates for Hillary Clinton,” CNN’s Dana Bash said on the air recently. “Because she is a seasoned politician. She is a seasoned debater. Yes, we saw Donald Trump in the primaries debate for the first time, but he is a first-time politician. So for lots of reasons—maybe it’s not fair, but it’s the way it is—the onus is on her.

The liberal group Media Matters has rounded up several other examples in this vein. The editor in chief of The Hill, Bob Cusack, also said on Fox News earlier this month that the bar for Clinton is “higher” than for Trump. “So there is an opportunity for Trump—if he can do the prep work and land some zingers—he could really make up some ground in the battleground states,” Cusack said.

As the Huffington Post’s Amanda Terkel notes, tongue in cheek, “Debate Bar So Low For Donald Trump That If He Doesn’t Vomit, He’s Exceeded Expectations.”

— This tenor of coverage has influenced public perceptions about the debate. Our new Washington Post/ABC News poll shows the race is within the margin of error nationally. Likely voters split 46 percent for Clinton and 44 percent for Trump. Among registered voters, Clinton and Trump are tied at 41 percent. The poll finds that eight in 10 voters plan to watch tonight’s debate, prompting some to estimate that upwards of 100 million could tune in. Overall, no matter who they’re supporting, 44 percent expect Clinton to win versus 34 percent who expect Trump to come out ahead. Many who say they’ll watch have already made up their minds. While about one in five registered voters say the debate could change their minds, only 6 percent said there is a good chance of that occurring.

So, anyway, the press is still trying to buck up Trump–imho–to make this a horse race.  It includes coverage of the upticks or down ticks  in the latest polls from Colorado and Pennsylvania.  Again, you can’t seperate random variance from trend in one data point so paying attention to any one poll without knowing  a lot of the past and the details is quite delusional.stress_and_anxiety_funny

Just one point separates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in two states that are critical to both candidates’ chances of becoming president, according to new CNN/ORC polls in Pennsylvania and Colorado.

In Colorado, likely voters break 42% for Trump, 41% for Clinton, 13% for Libertarian Gary Johnson and 3% for Green Party candidate Jill Stein. Pennsylvania’s likely voters split 45% for Clinton, 44% for Trump, 6% for Johnson and 3% for Stein. Those divides are well within each poll’s 3.5-point margin of sampling error.

Sam Wang–a great neuroscientist and poll analyst–suggests we ignore the expectations game as well as focusing too much on an individual poll.  He says its more important to watch the polls AFTER the debate.

Polls are likely to move after the debate. It is the moment when voters get to make a direct, side-by-side comparison of the two candidates. This may also be the last time for any significant shift in the race.

Both before and after the debate, pundits will emit opinions about “expectations.” This commentary does not have predictive value. It would be better if they kept their focus on policy substance or factchecking.

Here are three reasons why you should basically ignore the onslaught of horserace punditry that is about to rain down.

It’s a tight race. Clinton’s the favorite but close enough that Trump would probably pull ahead if he “wins” debate. 

Above is a mild example of what you can expect in the coming 24 hours. This particular statement is a bit circular: of course Trump will probably be perceived as “winning” if his numbers improve. However, there’s a bigger problem: the premise of “meeting expectations” itself carries no predictive value.

Trump could take the lead, but it would go against what we know so far. I would characterize the race as being very close, but not as uncertain as you might think. Why? The unappreciated story of 2016 is the amazing stability of public opinion. As measured by national polls, 2016 marks the most stable Presidential race in >60 years of modern polling. At the level of state-poll-based analysis, the stability is even greater. This basic fact should inform all analysis.

Wang provides 3 reasons and explanations. I’ll just list the points here and let you go read the explanations.636066015689702126754581096_college-tips-article

1. What commentators think about “exceeding expectations” is an anti-indicator.

2. If polls move after the debate, the reasons were baked in a long time ago

3. Polarization has made it difficult for opinion to move much.

I think his bottom line is most interesting here.

The groups that may choose up sides are self-described undecideds (4%), Gary Johnson supporters (8%), and Jill Stein supporters (3%). Undecideds andJohnson supporters are likely to split evenly between Clinton and Trump, while Stein supporters should break heavily toward Clinton. Tomorrow is a chance for them to get on the bus.

I guess that probably means more outreach to millennials is necessary.  Here’s the link to RCP and the latest poll by poll result.

So, hopefully, we will see you tonight as we nail bite our way through this.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?




Tuesday Reads: Donald Trump, Loser

Woman in blue reading a letter, Johannes Vermeer

Woman in blue reading a letter, Johannes Vermeer

Good Morning!!

Donald Trump is fast becoming that thing he fears most: a loser. At this point it’s difficult to imagine a scenario by which he recovers. Of course that doesn’t mean Democrats should be complacent; and I don’t think there’s a chance in hell that Hillary will let up one bit. Still, it’s fun to watch Trump’s personal nightmare coming true. Losing publicly–and to a woman! Sad.

Last night The Washington Post published an op-ed by Maine Sen. Susan Collins explaining “Why I cannot support Trump.” Here’s the gist:

With the passage of time, I have become increasingly dismayed by his constant stream of cruel comments and his inability to admit error or apologize. But it was his attacks directed at people who could not respond on an equal footing — either because they do not share his power or stature or because professional responsibility precluded them from engaging at such a level — that revealed Mr. Trump as unworthy of being our president.

My conclusion about Mr. Trump’s unsuitability for office is based on his disregard for the precept of treating others with respect, an idea that should transcend politics. Instead, he opts to mock the vulnerable and inflame prejudices by attacking ethnic and religious minorities. Three incidents in particular have led me to the inescapable conclusion that Mr. Trump lacks the temperament, self-discipline and judgment required to be president.

The first was his mocking of a reporter with disabilities, a shocking display that did not receive the scrutiny it deserved. I kept expecting Mr. Trump to apologize, at least privately, but he did not, instead denying that he had done what seemed undeniable to anyone who watched the video. At the time, I hoped that this was a terrible lapse, not a pattern of abuse.

The second was Mr. Trump’s repeated insistence that Gonzalo Curiel, a federal judge born and raised in Indiana, could not rule fairly in a case involving Trump University because of his Mexican heritage. For Mr. Trump to insist that Judge Curiel would be biased because of his ethnicity demonstrated a profound lack of respect not only for the judge but also for our constitutional separation of powers, the very foundation of our form of government. Again, I waited in vain for Mr. Trump to retract his words.

Third was Donald Trump’s criticism of the grieving parents of Army Capt. Humayun Khan, who was killed in Iraq. It is inconceivable that anyone, much less a presidential candidate, would attack two Gold Star parents. Rather than honoring their sacrifice and recognizing their pain, Mr. Trump disparaged the religion of the family of an American hero. And once again, he proved incapable of apologizing, of saying he was wrong.

I am also deeply concerned that Mr. Trump’s lack of self-restraint and his barrage of ill-informed comments would make an already perilous world even more so. It is reckless for a presidential candidate to publicly raise doubts about honoring treaty commitments with our allies. Mr. Trump’s tendency to lash out when challenged further escalates the possibility of disputes spinning dangerously out of control.

I had hoped that we would see a “new” Donald Trump as a general-election candidate — one who would focus on jobs and the economy, tone down his rhetoric, develop more thoughtful policies and, yes, apologize for ill-tempered rants. But the unpleasant reality that I have had to accept is that there will be no “new” Donald Trump, just the same candidate who will slash and burn and trample anything and anyone he perceives as being in his way or an easy scapegoat. Regrettably, his essential character appears to be fixed, and he seems incapable of change or growth.

by Gerrit Alberus Beneker

by Gerrit Alberus Beneker

Also at the WaPo, Stuart Rothenberg writes: Donald Trump needs a miracle to win.

Three months from now, with the 2016 presidential election in the rear-view mirror, we will look back and agree that the presidential election was over on Aug. 9th.

Of course, it is politically incorrect to say that the die is cast.

Journalistic neutrality allegedly forces us to say that the race isn’t over until November, and most media organizations prefer to hype the presidential contest to generate viewers and readers rather than explain why a photo finish is unlikely.

But a dispassionate examination of the data, combined with a cold-blooded look at the candidates, the campaigns and presidential elections, produces only one possible conclusion: Hillary Clinton will defeat Donald Trump in November, and the margin isn’t likely to be as close as Barack Obama’s victory over Mitt Romney.

Rothenberg on the polls:

Pre-convention polls showed the race competitive but with Clinton ahead by at least a few points in most cases. Post-convention polls show Clinton leading the race much more comfortably. The NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll puts Clinton’s margin at 9 points, while Fox News shows it at 10 and the Washington Post/ABC News survey finds the margin at 8 points.

These numbers could close a few points or jump around depending on the individual survey, but the race is already well-defined.

In four-way ballots, Clinton maintains her solid lead over Trump, while Libertarian Gary Johnson draws in the high single-digits or low double-digits. Green Party nominee Jill Stein generally draws in the low to middle single-digits. Relatively few voters are undecided. (See RealClearPolitics’ poll numbers here.)

State polls confirm the national surveys, with some normally Republican-leaning states up for grabs or leaning toward Clinton.

There’s much more at the link, and it’s all good for Clinton and very bad for Trump.

Girl reading, George Cochran Lambdin

Girl reading, George Cochran Lambdin

Trump supporters are already doing what Romney supporters didn’t do until close to the election–claiming the polls are  “skewed” against their candidate. Ed Kilgore at NY Magazine:

You may recall that, late in the campaign season in 2012, as polls began to show the presidential election slipping away from Mitt Romney, his supporters went into denial. First there was a noisy effort to claim the polls were “skewed” in Obama’s favor (most famously by Dean Chambers, who offered “unskewed polls” showing the Mittster cruising to victory). Then, at the very end, Republicans indulged in public-opinion mysticism, ignoring adverse polls and focusing on crowd sizes, yard-sign visibility, vague “mood of the country” assessments, and their own deeply perceptive guts.

It was easy to make fun of all this wishful thinking, but it was understandable given the timing. That Donald Trump’s supporters are already manifesting the same fingers-in-the-ears la-la-la-la-I-can’t-hear-you self-deception three months before Election Day is harder to accept.

But it’s happening. Trump himself has a habit of criticizing individual polls he doesn’t like. Some of his fans are getting more systematic about it. Radio-talk-show host Bill Mitchell offered this Zen-like observation on Twitter: “Imagine polls don’t exist. Show me evidence Hillary is winning?”

How can Trump be getting those huge crowds if he’s losing, huh? All Hillary is doing is going around the country talking to voters about issues. She can’t possibly be beating Donald Trump. But she is.

Harry Enten at FiveThirty Eight: The Polls Aren’t Skewed: Trump Really Is Losing Badly.

…the unskewers are back, again insisting that pollsters are “using” more Democrats than they should, and that the percentage of Democrats and Republicans should be equal, or that there should be more Republicans. They point to surveys like the recent one from ABC News and The Washington Post, in which 33 percent of registered voters identified as Democrats compared to 27 percent as Republicans. That poll found Hillary Clinton ahead by 8 percentage points.

But let’s say this plainly: The polls are not “skewed.” They weren’t in 2012, and they aren’t now.

The basic premise of the unskewers is wrong. Most pollsters don’t weight their results by party self-identification, which polls get by asking a question like “generally speaking, do you usually think of yourself as a….” Party identification is an attitude, not a demographic. There isn’t some national number from the government that tells us how many Democrats and Republicans there are in the country. Some states collect party registration data, but many states do not. Moreover, party registration is not the same thing as party identification. In a state like Kentucky, for example, there are a lot more registered Democrats than registered Republicans, but more voters identified as Republican in the 2014 election exit polls.

A person’s party identification can shift, and therefore the overall balance between parties does too. Democrats have typically had an advantage in self-identification — a 4 percentage point edge in 2000, a 7-point advantage in 2008 and a 6-point edge in 2012, according to exit polls — but they had no advantage in the 2004 election. Since 1952, however, almost every presidential election has featured a Democratic advantage in party identification.

Woman reading with mother-in-law's tongue

Woman reading with mother-in-law’s tongue

Enten explains much more at the link, but here’s the point:

People…should stick to reality. Right now, Clinton is leading in almost every single national poll. She leads in both our polls-plus and polls-only forecasts. That doesn’t mean she will win. The polls have been off before, but no one knows by how much beforehand, or in which direction they’ll miss. For all their imperfection, the polls are a far better indicator than the conspiracy theories made up to convince people that Trump is ahead.

Hillary Clinton is going to be our next President–the first woman ever to hold the highest office in the land. It’s happening Sky Dancers. All we have to do is get through the next three months of media misogyny. We will overcome!

More stories to check out:

NYT: Donors for Bush, Kasich and Christie Are Turning to Clinton More Than to Trump.

NYT: 50 GOP Officials Warn Donald Trump Would Put Nation’s Security “At Risk.”

Public Policy Polling: Clinton leads in NC for first time since March.

Georgia Poll: Clinton Leads Trump by 7 Points.

WAVY (Virginia Beach): Congressman Scott Rigell resigns from local Republican party “following refusal to endorse Donald Trump.”

Brian Beutler at TNR: Donald Trump is now running Mitt Romney’s campaign plus racism.

San Jose Inside: Poll: Hillary Clinton Dominates Donald Trump in Silicon Valley.

WPTV West Palm Beach: Orlando shooter’s father attends Hillary Clinton rally in Kissimmee.

SevenDaysVt: Bernie Sanders Buys a Summer Home in North Hero

WaPo: Ivanka Trump champions working moms — except the ones who design her clothes.

NY Magazine: Report: ‘Multiple Women’ Taped Conversations With Roger Ailes.

NY Magazine: Fox News Host Andrea Tantaros Says She Was Taken Off the Air After Making Sexual-Harassment Claims Against Roger Ailes.

What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a terrific Tuesday!

Lazy Saturday Reads: New Hampshire Primary Weekend


Good Afternoon!!

So now it’s New Hampshire’s turn–a state that is even whiter than Iowa. Iowa is 92% white and New Hampshire is 94% white. Some interesting facts about New Hampshire from The Connecticut Post:

New Hampshire is even whiter than Iowa. Its largest “city” has 110,000 people in it.

Its population is slightly more educated and well off than the rest of the country.

Together, Iowa and New Hampshire tell us something about the voting behavior of white people who don’t live in or near large cities.

Blacks, Asians and Hispanics are basically excluded from the first two elections in the presidential nomination process.

This distorts results for both parties, but it especially affects Democrats because minorities vote in Republican primaries far less.

Hillary Clinton, for example, does far better than Bernie Sanders with minority voters in all the polling so far, so Sanders is lucky that Iowa and New Hampshire come first.

The big contest after the first two is South Carolina, which has a large minority population.

If Clinton wins big there, the Democratic race will suddenly look very different than it does today.

The U.S. is growing more diverse very quickly. For example, in 2012 there were 23.3 million Hispanic eligible voters; there are 27.3 million this year, making Hispanics the largest block of minority voters.

In 2014, there were four states where minorities make up the majority; by 2044, the U.S. will be majority-minority.


Some primary envy from The Detroit News:

The campaigns spent $40 million to sway Iowa caucusers; at the end, the spending hit a $6 million-a-week pace. Over the the past year, Iowa and New Hampshire residents had to be in hiding to avoid bumping into a candidate.

It would be one thing if these two states were microcosms of the nation. But neither represents the industrial or demographic diversity of America.

Fewer people live in Iowa than in Metro Detroit. Ninety-two percent of the population is white; fewer than 1 percent of businesses are owned by African-Americans. New Hampshire is even smaller and, at 94 percent, whiter.

Appealing to Iowa and New Hampshire voters requires different messages than would resonate nationwide. But if candidates fail to move the homogenous voters of these states, they’re at risk of seeing their funding dry up and their ambitions busted.

Presidential hopefuls should have to prove their appeal to a broader audience early on. The primary season should be revamped to force them to spend those early months demonstrating the resources to mount a national campaign.


The lack of diversity in the two earliest states has handed a big advantage to Bernie Sanders. We’ll have to wait for Nevada and South Carolina to see how much impact his “enthusiastic” support in Iowa and New Hampshire has had on voters in states that are more representative of the U.S. population.

And let’s not let voters forget that Sanders clearly stated in a debate that he considers white people to be the “general population” and African Americans and Latinos to be somehow outside the “general population.”

From Time:

Sanders was asked about this exact problem at the debate Sunday night in Charleston. His answer:

“When the African American community becomes familiar with my Congressional record and with our agenda, and with our views on the economy, and criminal justice — just as the general population has become more supportive, so will the African American community, so will the Latino community. We have the momentum, we’re on a path to a victory.”

A little bit condescending, no? So we can only wait and see what happens on Tuesday and go from there. I don’t think it’s time for the Clinton campaign to panic just yet.


For a little deep background on the New Hampshire primary, here’s a great article from 1988 by the Washington Post’s Henry Allen: New Hampshire is a fraud.

New Hampshire is a fraud.

Which is to say that behind that idyll of white-steepled, sleigh-belled, town-meeting, republican-with-a-small-R America lurks a much realer and hidden New Hampshire — the souvenir hustlers, backwoods cranks, motorcycle racing fans, out-of-state writers, dour French Canadians and tax-dodging Massachusetts suburbanites who have conspired as New Hampshire has conspired for two centuries to create an illusion of noble, upright, granite-charactered sentinels of liberty out of little more than a self-conscious collection of bad (if beautiful) land, summer people, second-growth woods full of junked cars and decaying aristocracy, lakes howling with speedboats, state liquor stores that are open on Sundays and the most vicious state newspaper in America — the Manchester Union Leader, which recently greeted the birthday of Martin Luther King by describing him as a Communist dupe.

They sell the rest of the country maple syrup, lottery tickets and Yankee sagacity the way Indians on reservations sell moccasins, bingo and environmental wisdom. They never shut up about how closemouthed they are. They beat you rich and they beat you poor. They do this by taking a Calvinist pride in the riches from the high-tech boom in the southern part of the state, and then asssuming the smugness of Thoreau in defending the poverty of the swamp Yankees and shack people living back in the woods with yards full of mean dogs and broken snowmobiles. They exhibit the ethics of Switzerland and the shrugging shabbiness of New Jersey.

Or as Emerson wrote: “The God who made New Hampshire taunted the lofty land with little men.”

The question is not who they think they are, to be holding us hostage every four years with their presidential primary. Instead, who do we think they are, to let them get away with it, this white, tight and right smidgen of a place, this myth-mongering bastion of no-tax/no-spend conservatives with no minorities to speak of and a total of .43 percent of the American people? As Thomas Jefferson said, after New Hampshire town meetings had attacked his Embargo Act, “The organization of this little selfish minority enabled it to overrule the union.”

Read more at the link. It’s a long read, but a fun one.

NH primary1

The media is finally beginning to vet Bernie Sanders with some serious research. Some examples:

Michael Grunwald at Politico: Bernie’s Radical Dilemma: If we need a revolution, how does he explain that things are already getting better?

Now that Bernie Sanders is looking less like a quixotic left-wing protest candidate and more like a serious contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, a contradiction at the heart of his campaign is becoming more glaring. You can call it the Radical’s Dilemma, or the Revolutionary’s Quandary, or maybe just Bernie’s Obama Problem. Whatever you call it, it was on stark display at last night’s debate in New Hampshire, even though Sanders tried to gloss over it.

The conundrum boils down to a schizophrenic view of a nation where progressive change is impossible and where progressive change is simultaneously happening. On one hand, Sanders argues that the political system is hopelessly corrupt, that the economy is outrageously rigged, that nothing good can happen as long as Wall Street, drug companies and fossil-fuel interests own Washington. On the other hand, Sanders says President Barack Obama has done a “fantastic job,” that America is in “much better shape than we were seven years ago,” that there has been significant progress on financial reform, health reform and climate action.

This is not just a political problem, as Sanders tries to carve out space to Obama’s left without denouncing a president with a 90 percent approval rating among Democrats. And Sanders can’t wave away the problem by saying the progress under Obama has been impressive, considering the Republican opposition, but insufficient; Obama says the same thing. This is a philosophical problem for a radical candidate, a question he hasn’t figured out how to answer: If things are never going to get better without a political revolution to take power back from special interests, how is it that things are getting better?


Tim Mak at The Daily Beast: The Veterans Scandal on Bernie Sanders’ Watch.

Bernie Sanders’s tenure as chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee was characterized by glaring neglect of his oversight responsibilities, allowing the 2014 VA scandal to unfold under his watch, veterans’ rights advocates argue.

Sanders has touted his work on veterans’ issues, most recently citing his involvement in “the most comprehensive VA health care bill in this country,” in a debate Thursday.

Left unsaid however, is that he was the chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, responsible for overseeing the Department of Veterans Affairs, as the scandal erupted.

Thursday Reads: The Battle for the Senate


Good Morning!!

On Tuesday, I wrote about the epic battle between political poll analysts Nate Silver and Sam Wang to predict which party will control the Senate after the Midterm elections in November. Actually, it’s a fairly one-sided battle. Silver’s statistical model predicts that Republicans will take over the Senate, and Wang thinks Democrats will hold onto their narrow majority. As Daniel Altman pointed out at The Daily Beast, Silver has much more to lose if Wang turns out to be right.

[Silver has] been attacking Wang relentlessly, calling his methodology  “wrong” and Wang himself “deceptive.” Silver could simply wait for the election results to come in and compare his forecasts’ accuracy with Wang’s across all the Senate races. Instead, he’s doing everything possible to discredit Wang before Election Day.

Here’s my guess at the reasons why. First, Silver fears Wang. In 2012, Wang’s model did a better job predicting the presidential election. Wang called not only Obama’s electoral college total of 332 votes, which Silver matched, but he also nailed the popular vote almost perfectly. Wang’s model also picked the winner in every single Senate race in 2012. It’s not good for business if Silver keeps coming up second-best.

But more importantly, Wang is the only one predicting Democrats will win. This represents a huge risk for Silver. If every forecaster had Republicans taking the Senate, then they’d all be either right or wrong in November; no one would have a better headline the next morning than Silver….If the Democrats hold the Senate, then Wang will stand alone; Silver will just be another one of the many who got it wrong.

It goes without saying that I am rooting for underdog Sam Wang.

On Tuesday, I also discussed the two close races that I’m most familiar with–Louisiana, because of Dakinikat’s reports, and New Hampshire, where former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown is carpetbagging in hopes of getting his job back. Today, I want to take a look at the latest “expert” prognostications about which races are the most likely to decide whether Democrats or Republicans will be in the majority in 2015.


The most recent poll results come from {gag} Fox News.

Fox News Polls: Senate battleground races trending GOP, Roberts up in Kansas.

New Fox News battleground polls show a Republican trend in the fight for the U.S. Senate.The GOP candidates — helped by anti-Barack Obama sentiment and strong support from male voters — lead in all five states: Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas and Kentucky.

The races, however, are still far from settled. None of the Senate candidates has a lead outside the poll’s margin of sampling error. And none of the front-runners hit the important marker of 50 percent support from their electorate.

Read the results for specific races at the link. But here’s an interesting reaction to the Fox poll results from analyst Harry Enten at Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight blog, Senate Update: Don’t Go Crazy.

At about 6 p.m. Wednesday, a collective Democratic spit-take splattered computer screens around the country (at least that’s what I imagined happened). Fox News released new polls showing Republican candidates ahead by 4 percentage points in Alaska, 6 percentage points in Colorado, 5 percentage points in Kansas and 4 percentage points in Kentucky.

The polls look like a disaster for Democrats.

They’re not.

FiveThirtyEight’s Senate forecast has Republican chances of taking back the Senate at 56.4 percent — basically unchanged from the 56.5 percent we showed Tuesday.

Enten explains how the FiveThirtyEight model adjusts the Fox results for Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, and Kentucky. On Kansas, Enten says he needs more data. It looks like Pat Roberts is gaining on challenger Greg Orman, but he can’t be sure yet. And here’s some possible good news for Democrats:

Democrats got good news in Georgia, where Michelle Nunn’s chances of winning rose from 26 percent to 30 percent. Nunn’s odds inched up because she was down only 1 percentage point to Republican David Perdue (46 percent to 45 percent) in a new SurveyUSA poll. For the first time, the FiveThirtyEight model forecasts Perdue to capture less than 50 percent of the vote (49.9 percent).

As in Louisiana, if neither candidate gets more than 50%, there will have to be a runoff election.

Geeky Prof. John Sides, George Washington University

Geeky Prof. John Sides, George Washington University

At The Washington Post, Dana Millbank touts the Post’s Election Lab (headed by John Sides of George Washington University) and weighs in on the Silver-Wang controversy, Predicting the Senate election down to the decimal point. Here’s Millbank’s summary of Side’s current predictions:

We know, for example, with 98 percent certainty that Sen. Kay Hagan, an embattled Democrat, will win reelection in North Carolina next month. We are even more certain — 99 percent — that Sen. Mitch McConnell, a vulnerable Republican, will keep his seat in Kentucky. And we are darn near sure — 91 percent, to be specific — that Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) will lose.

Throw all of these into our election model, add eye of newt and toe of frog, stir counterclockwise and — voila! — we can project with 84 percent confidence that Republicans will control the Senate next year.

Really? Millbank also summarizes competing predictions:

As of Tuesday afternoon, Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight, which turned the academic discipline of computer models into a media game, gives Republicans a 57.6 percent chance of taking the Senate. (Decimal points are particularly compelling.) The New York Times’s model goes with 61 percent, DailyKos 66 percent, Huffington Post 54 percent and PredictWise 73 percent. The Princeton Election Consortium gives a 54 percent advantage to Democrats.

Millbank seems gobsmacked that Sam Wang has the gall to predict a Democratic victory in the Senate. But he also appears to favor old-timey political prognosticators like Charlie Cook and Stuart Rothenberg. Let’s take a look at what they are saying.

Charlie Cook: Senate’s Future Likely Hinges on These Three Races: The Senate most plausibly turns on the survival of Alaska’s Begich, Colorado’s Udall, and the outcome of the open contest in Iowa between Braley and Ernst.

The number of seats in play is either 11 or 12, depending on whether or not you believe that the contest in Minnesota between Democratic incumbent Al Franken and GOP challenger Mike McFadden has tightened up. We have begun to see some polls that show the race now in mid-to-high single digits; it could just be that Republicans are coming home, thus producing the normal closure you often see, or it could be that it is in fact growing more competitive.

Three Democratic open seats are goners: Montana, South Dakota, and West Virginia. Democrats’ three most endangered incumbents still are in extremely challenging races. However, all of them—Mark Begich in Alaska, Mark Pryor in Arkansas, and Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu—are still absolutely alive and in the hunt for victory. The hope and prayer for Democrats is that one of these incumbents will survive, which would mean that Republicans would have to then win at least one seat in a “purple” or “light blue” state. Of these three races, Pryor’s challenge looks to be the toughest and least promising for Democrats. Landrieu’s is far from hopeless, but it would grow much more difficult if, as expected, the race moves to a Dec. 6 runoff with GOP Rep. Bill Cassidy. If there is a survivor in this trio, it is most likely to be Begich, though his race is extremely close and his chances of winning at this point are no better than a coin flip. The analogy for these three is that even Olympic swimmers have a tough time if the undertow is too bad, and that might well be the case here.

Read more of Cook’s analysis at the National Journal link above.

Charlie Cook and Stuart Rothenberg

Charlie Cook and Stuart Rothenberg

Stuart Rothenberg: What If I’m Wrong About GOP Flipping at Least 7 Seats?

A few weeks ago I wrote Senate Republicans would gain at least seven seats, even though the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call race ratings showed a likely Republican gain of five to eight seats.

That expectation was based on national survey results that showed the president extremely is unpopular and voters are unhappy with the direction of the country, as well as state polling that showed Democratic incumbents well below the critical 50 percent threshold in ballot tests against their GOP opponents.

Is Rothenberg ready to start hedging his bets on a Republication takeover?

Democrats still may be able to localize elections in a few states — the most likely prospects are North Carolina and Alaska, which were carried by Romney, and two swing states won by Obama, Iowa and Colorado. Doing so would inoculate the Democratic nominees (three incumbents and one open seat hopeful) from Obama’s near-toxic political standing.

Democrats certainly have lowered the boom on North Carolina’s Thom Tillis, Alaska’s Dan Sullivan, Iowa’s Joni Ernst and Colorado’s Cory Gardner, and it isn’t unreasonable to believe they can hold all four seats by discrediting the GOP nominees.

I have been assuming a 2014 electorate that looks more like the last midterm electorate than either of the past two presidential electorates. The 2010 electorate was much older and whiter than the 2008 and 2012 electorates, and there is no reason to believe that Democrats won’t suffer again from this year’s midterm electorate.

But Democrats are making an effort to register African-American voters in a number of states, mobilize Democratic voters in Alaska’s remote villages, and turn out both younger voters and reliable Democratic voters who in the past sat out midterm elections. If they can change the electorate, they can change their chances of holding on to a handful of states that I am expecting them to lose.


As Dakinikat wrote on Monday, getting out the votes for Democrats is all-important!

It’s also interesting that Nate Silver may also be wondering if he could be wrong this time. On Monday, he told Real Clear Politics, “I’m Not Sure My Magic Will Work This Election.”

Election prognosticator Nate Silver seemed unsure of his ability to predict races when he appeared on the Monday broadcast of Fusion TV’s “Midterm Mayhem.”

“I’m not sure my magic will work in this election,” Silver said. “It’s a very close election nationally and in a number of states.”

“We’re certainly not clairvoyant. It’s a close election this year,” he added.

Hmmmmm . . .

And at FiveThirtyEight, Carl Bialik recently wrote: Pollsters Predict Greater Polling Error In Midterm Elections.

We asked pollsters if they expected more or less error in Senate election polls — the difference between what the latest pre-election polls show and actual vote margins — this year than two years ago. Ten said they expected a higher average error, while just five predicted lower error.

No one cited low response rates as a reason to expect poll error. Perhaps that’s because pollsters have managed to maintain strong national-election records despite declining response rates.

Instead, the top reason cited was the difficulty of forecasting turnout in midterm elections, without a presidential race to bring voters to the polls. And the crucial midterms are in states that don’t usually have close races. “The key Senate battlegrounds this year are also places like Alaska, Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, etc., where most of the public pollsters don’t have a ton of experience,” one pollster said. “It’s not the Ohios and Pennsylvanias and Floridas of the world that we’re all used to polling a lot.”

Some also cited an increase in unproven polling techniques by pollsters. “Many are attempting to use Internet surveys with untested methodologies to determine likely voters,” said Darrel Rowland, the Columbus Dispatch’s public affairs editor, who conducts the newspaper’s Dispatch Poll. “As often happens to pioneers, there could be some grim results.”

Again, Senate control is going to hinge on voter turnout.  And of course there is always the possibility of last-minute surprises.


A few more links to check out:

The Economist, The Battle for the Senate: An Interactive Guide.

U.S. News, Top 10 Senate Races of 2014.

BBC News, US mid-term elections: Six Senate races to watch.

USA Today, Senate control may be undecided for weeks after election.

David Wiegel at Bloomberg Politics, Why the GOP Wants You to Think There’ll Be an Immigration Deal if They Win.

Huffington Post, As South Dakota Race Breaks Open, Bizarre Turn Of Events Could Save Senate For Democrats.

Mark Halperin at Bloomberg Politics, Exclusive: Senate Democrats Flooding South Dakota Airwaves.

Bloomberg Politics, These 10 States Are Getting Slammed With Campaign Ads.

Please share your thoughts and links on any topic in the comment thread and have an enjoyable Thursday.

Lazy Saturday Reads


Good Morning!!

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting really sick of bad news. I’ve completely stopped watching TV and listening to radio news, because I just can’t take any more details of wars, plane crashes, dead children. If it weren’t for writing these morning posts, I wouldn’t have a clue what’s happening. I get all my news from Google, Twitter, and various blogs, including Sky Dancing. So I’m going to quickly link to the major stories topping Google this morning, and then I’ll post some interesting longer reads that I came across around the ‘net.

Israel-Palestine Conflict

There’s a 12-hour cease fire in Gaza right now. BBC News has extensive coverage, Gaza conflict: 12-hour truce as deaths top 900.

Residents in Gaza are using a 12-hour humanitarian truce to return to their homes, gather essential supplies and search for those trapped in the rubble.

At least 85 bodies have been pulled from the rubble during the truce, a Palestinian health official says.

That raises the Palestinian death toll to 985 since the Israel-Hamas conflict began on 8 July, the spokesman said. Thirty-nine Israelis have died.

International talks on a longer truce have resumed in Paris.

Israel said it would continue to “locate and neutralise” Hamas tunnels during the pause, which began at 08:00 local time (05:00 GMT).

So far 31 tunnels have been discovered, with about half destroyed, Israeli’s military says.

Lots of details and photos at the BBC link.

bad news

From AP via The Boston Globe, Gaza Sides Agree to Lull But Truce Efforts Stall.

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel-Hamas fighting looked headed for escalation after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry failed Friday to broker a weeklong truce as a first step toward a broader deal and Israel’s defense minister warned Israel might soon expand its Gaza ground operation ‘‘significantly.’’

Hours after the U.S.-led efforts stalled, the two sides agreed to a 12-hour humanitarian cease-fire to begin Saturday. However, the temporary lull was unlikely to change the trajectory of the current hostilities amid ominous signs that the Gaza war is spilling over into the West Bank.

In a ‘‘Day of Rage,’’ Palestinians across the territory, which had been relatively calm for years, staged protests against Israel’s Gaza operation and the rising casualty toll there. In the West Bank, at least six Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire, hospital officials said.

The latest diplomatic setbacks, after several days of high-level diplomacy in the region, signaled that both sides are digging in and that the fighting in Gaza is likely to drag on.

An op-ed from Al Jazeera, Israel’s war of disproportionate force on Gaza, by Britain Eaken.

The recent killing of four Palestinian children by an Israeli airstrike while they played soccer on a beach in Gaza should call into question Israel’s claim that it’s waging a war of self-defense. Western journalists who saw the attack witnessed firsthand an ugly reality of life in Gaza — Palestinian civilians are too often caught in the crossfire in this tiny, densely populated and besieged coastal strip.

Early Sunday, an Israeli incursion into the Shujayea neighborhood in Gaza killed at least 60 more Palestinians. Most of the injuries being treated at Gaza’s al-Shifa hospital belong to civilians suffering from shrapnel injuries and amputations. More than 100 children have been killed so far and the Palestinian death toll just surpassed 400 with more than 3000 injured.

The UN says more than 70 percent of Palestinian casualties are civilians, a marked increase from previous Israeli assaults.

The toll on civilians has raised United Nations’ concerns of the Israeli use of disproportionate force in Gaza in violation of international humanitarian law. But the use of disproportionate force and the targeting of civilian infrastructure isn’t a new or surprising tactic for Israel. In fact, it’s a primary strategy according to Gabi Siboni, head of the Military and Strategic Affairs program at the Institute for National Security Studies in Israel. This strategy has a well-documented history in Gaza.

I have no words.



Yes, there’s still fighting in Libya, and the violence is getting so bad than the U.S. has closed and evacuated its embassy there. NPR reports: U.S. Embassy Compound In Libya Shut Down Amid Fighting.

The U.S. has closed its embassy in Libya and evacuated diplomats amid what is being described as a significant deterioration in security, with rival militant factions battling in the capital, Tripoli.

“Due to the ongoing violence resulting from clashes between Libyan militias in the immediate vicinity of the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, we have temporarily relocated all of our personnel out of Libya,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said.

“Securing our facilities and ensuring the safety of our personnel are top department priorities, and we did not make this decision lightly,” Harf said. “Security has to come first. Regrettably, we had to take this step because the location of our embassy is in very close proximity to intense fighting and ongoing violence between armed Libyan factions.”

In a separate statement, Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said: “[All] embassy personnel were relocated, including Marine security guards who were providing security at the embassy during the movement.”

AP via ABC News: US Evacuates Embassy in Libya Amid Clashes.

The United States shut down its embassy in Libya on Saturday and evacuated its diplomats to neighboring Tunisia under U.S. military escort amid a significant deterioration in security in Tripoli as fighting intensified between rival militias, the State Department said….

The evacuation was accompanied by the release of a new State Department travel warning for Libya urging Americans not to go to the country and recommending that those already there leave immediately. “The Libyan government has not been able to adequately build its military and police forces and improve security,” it said. “Many military-grade weapons remain in the hands of private individuals, including antiaircraft weapons that may be used against civilian aviation.” ….

“We are committed to supporting the Libyan people during this challenging time, and are currently exploring options for a permanent return to Tripoli as soon as the security situation on the ground improves. In the interim, staff will operate from Washington and other posts in the region,” Harf said. The evacuated staffers will continue to work on Libya issues in Tunis, elsewhere in North Africa and Washington.



Ukraine is still roiling, but it seems to have receded into the background for the moment. Here are a few headlines just to keep you current.

Fox News: Ukraine crisis: European Union hits Russian intelligence chiefs with sanctions.

WaPo: Russia, Ukraine trade accusations of cross-border shelling.

Bloomberg: U.S. Says Russia Set to Supply New Arms to Ukraine Rebels.

The Economist: The shooting down of an airliner shows how reckless Vladimir Putin’s sponsorship of Ukrainian rebels has been.

From the WaPo editorial board: If the West doesn’t do more for Ukraine now, it might soon be too late.

From the Are You Kidding Me? File

From the LA Times: White House aide says Republicans might impeach Obama over immigration.

Pesident Obama will propose broad-ranging executive action on immigration reform later this summer that could provoke Republicans into trying to impeach him, a senior White House official said Friday.

While details of the immigration plan are still being worked on, it will mark “an important step in the arc of the presidency” that will shape both the substance and politics of immigration policy for years, White House senior advisor Dan Pfeiffer told reporters at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor.

That move is certain to “increase the angry reaction from Republicans” who already accuse Obama of exceeding his executive authority, Pfeiffer said, highlighting recent statements by former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin in which she backed an impeachment move.

“I would not discount the possibility” that Republicans would seek to impeach Obama, he said, adding that House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) has “opened the door to impeachment” by his plans to sue Obama for allegedly exceeding his executive authority.


Is this just an effort by the White House to put the impeachment question out there so Americans can let the GOP what they think about it? The Hill reports: White House taking impeachment seriously.

Senior White House advisers are taking very seriously the possibility that Republicans in Congress will try to impeach President Obama, especially if he takes executive action to slow deportations.

Dan Pfeiffer, a senior adviser to Obama, said Friday that the White House is taking the prospect of impeachment in the GOP-controlled House more seriously than many others in Washington, who see it as unlikely.

Pfeiffer noted that former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who has a large following among Tea Party conservatives, has called for Obama’s impeachment and a large block of the GOP’s base favors it.

“I saw a poll today that had a huge portion of the Republican Party base saying they supported impeaching the president. A lot of people in this town laugh that off. I would not discount that possibility,” he told reporters Friday at a breakfast sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor.

Pfeiffer said Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) decision to file a lawsuit against Obama over his use of executive actions increased the chance of impeachment proceedings in the future.

A little reality testing from Sean Sullivan at the WaPo: These two numbers show why impeachment talk is trouble for the GOP.

By about 2-1, Americans say they don’t think President Obama should be impeached and removed from office, according to a new CNN/ORC International poll released Friday.

But a majority of Republicans disagree.

That, in a nutshell, is why talk about impeaching the president is nothing but trouble for the GOP heading toward the November midterms.

Sixty-five percent of Americans say Obama should not be impeached, compared to just 33 percent who say he should. Very one-sided. It’s clear that impeachment is a political loser when it comes to the public as a whole.

The “public as a whole” numbers matter because with most of the consequential primaries behind us, Republican candidates in key Senate races — the battle for the Senate is the main midterm event — have to be concerned about playing to broad statewide audiences.


Some (mostly) longer reads

These aren’t all that cheery either, but they are interesting.

This one from the NYT Sunday Magazine is for Dakinikat: Why Do Americans Stink at Math?

Why do people leave their kids in hot cars? How can you forget you’ve got your kid with you? I just don’t get it, and it makes me furious! There’s a long article about these cases at NBC News, Fatal Mistake: What Everyone Should Know About Hot Car Deaths, by Alex Johnson.

This NYT op-ed isn’t a long read, but it’s a useful one: Why the Border Crisis Is a Myth, by Veronica Escobar.

Remember all that talk about how there was going to be some kind of horrible disaster in 2012? Well it turns out that something awful almost happened. From NASA Science News,  Near Miss: The Solar Superstorm of July 2012. If you don’t want to wade through the whole article, The Boston Globe has a shorter summary, Apparently Earth ‘Just Missed’ a Solar Superstorm in 2012.

Finally, something entertaining and not depressing, This Is What Happens When You Ask Contemporary Artists To Reimagine Maps Of The World. Check it out!

What stories are you following today? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread.


Monday Reads: In Search of the American Dream


Good Morning!!

Whatever happened to the American dream? Did it ever exist in reality?

We baby boomers can look back to the post-WWII years, when the economy was humming along and the GI Bill made it easier for our dads to get college degrees, find good jobs, buy houses for their families.

In those days, one salary was enough to support a couple and several kids. My dad did it on a college professor’s salary. It was a struggle early on, but those government programs for veterans gave us a push into the professional class.

Eisenhower was President then–a Republican who wouldn’t even recognize his fellow Republican today. Later on, after John Kennedy was murdered and Lyndon Johnson was brought down by the Vietnam War, Richard Nixon presided over the end of the good times. After about 1973, it was over; and since then, wages have essentially remained stagnant.

That was when we entered a new America, in which it took two salaries to support a family. Women went to work, not just because they wanted to, but to keep their families afloat. Children went to day care. So many thing changed. What happened to the American dream? Were those post-war years just an outlier, a brief period of prosperity that meant nothing in the greater scheme of things?

Yesterday, I read a piece by Joseph Stiglitz–in Politico of all places–that addressed some of these questions: The Myth of America’s Golden Age: What growing up in Gary, Indiana taught me about inequality. Stiglitz was born in 1943. Growing up in the industrial “company town” of Gary, he was able to observe the underside of the “golden age” of capitalism–“discrimination, poverty, and bouts of high unemployment.” The big steel companies deliberate brought in desperately poor African Americans from the south in order to keep wages low–to divide and control the work force. Stiglitz writes that he never bought into the notion of the free market as the answer to all ills.

Nearly half a century later, the problem of inequality has reached crisis proportions. John F. Kennedy, in the spirit of optimism that prevailed at the time I was a college student, once declared that a rising tide lifts all boats. It turns out today that almost all of us now are in the same boat—the one that holds the bottom 99 percent. It is a far different boat, one marked by more poverty at the bottom and a hollowing out of the middle class, than the one occupied by the top 1 percent.

Most disturbing is the realization that the American dream–the notion that we are living in the land of opportunity–is a myth. The life chance of a young American today are more dependent on the income and education of his parents than in many other advanced countries, including “old Europe.”

American Dream, by Skip Hunt

American Dream, by Skip Hunt

Stiglitz points to Thomas Picketty’s research as evidence. Picketty’s work shows that capitalism leads inevitably to inequality. The post-war era of my childhood and early adulthood was an “aberration.”

Today, inequality is growing dramatically again, and the past three decades or so have proved conclusively that one of the major culprits is trickle-down economics—the idea that the government can just step back and if the rich get richer and use their talents and resources to create jobs, everyone will benefit. It just doesn’t work; the historical data now prove that. [….]

Ironically enough, the final proof debunking this very Republican idea of trickle-down economics has come from a Democratic administration. President Barack Obama’s banks-first approach to saving the nation from another Great Depression held that by giving money to the banks (rather than to homeowners who had been preyed upon by the banks), the economy would be saved. The administration poured billions into the banks that had brought the country to the brink of ruin, without setting conditions in return. When the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank engage in a rescue, they virtually always impose requirements to ensure the money is used in the way intended. But here, the government merely expressed the hope that the banks would keep credit, the lifeblood of the economy, flowing. And so the banks shrank lending, and paid their executives megabonuses, even though they had almost destroyed their businesses. Even then, we knew that much of the banks’ profits had been earned not by increasing the efficiency of the economy but by exploitation—through predatory lending, abusive credit-card practices and monopolistic pricing. The full extent of their misdeeds—for instance, the illegal manipulation of key interest rates and foreign exchange, affecting derivatives and mortgages in the amount of hundreds of trillions of dollars—was only just beginning to be fathomed.

American Dream, by Gordon Wendling

American Dream, by Gordon Wendling

I can’t quote any more, but I hope I’ve whetted your appetite enough that you’ll go read the whole thing. While you’re at that link, you might also take a look at this article by “zillionaire” Nick Hanauer, The Pitchforks are Coming for Us Plutocrats. Here’s just a small taste–it’s a long read.

The most ironic thing about rising inequality is how completely unnecessary and self-defeating it is. If we do something about it, if we adjust our policies in the way that, say, Franklin D. Roosevelt did during the Great Depression—so that we help the 99 percent and preempt the revolutionaries and crazies, the ones with the pitchforks—that will be the best thing possible for us rich folks, too. It’s not just that we’ll escape with our lives; it’s that we’ll most certainly get even richer.

The model for us rich guys here should be Henry Ford, who realized that all his autoworkers in Michigan weren’t only cheap labor to be exploited; they were consumers, too. Ford figured that if he raised their wages, to a then-exorbitant $5 a day, they’d be able to afford his Model Ts.

What a great idea. My suggestion to you is: Let’s do it all over again. We’ve got to try something. These idiotic trickle-down policies are destroying my customer base. And yours too.

It’s when I realized this that I decided I had to leave my insulated world of the super-rich and get involved in politics. Not directly, by running for office or becoming one of the big-money billionaires who back candidates in an election. Instead, I wanted to try to change the conversation with ideas—by advancing what my co-author, Eric Liu, and I call “middle-out” economics. It’s the long-overdue rebuttal to the trickle-down economics worldview that has become economic orthodoxy across party lines—and has so screwed the American middle class and our economy generally. Middle-out economics rejects the old misconception that an economy is a perfectly efficient, mechanistic system and embraces the much more accurate idea of an economy as a complex ecosystem made up of real people who are dependent on one another.

Which is why the fundamental law of capitalism must be: If workers have more money, businesses have more customers. Which makes middle-class consumers, not rich businesspeople like us, the true job creators.

Is it possible that because these articles appear in conservative Politico, even a few powerful people  in Washington might read them and stop for a moment to think about what what is really happening to America?

American Dream by Matt Sesow

American Dream by Matt Sesow

Also in the news today:

NBC NEWS: Yes, Perceptions of Washington Are Even Worse Than Last Year.

This is a six-month report card time, and it’s failing grades for all of Washington. President Obama’s approval rating stands at 41% in our recent NBC/WSJ poll, his fav/unfav is upside down (at 41%-45%), and a majority of Americans (54%) no longer think he’s able to lead the country and get the job done. Republicans and Congress are in even worse shape. The GOP’s fav/unfav in the NBC/WSJ poll is 29%-45% (versus the Democratic Party’s 38%-40% score). Just 7% of the country has confidence in Congress (compared with 29% for the presidency and 30% for the Supreme Court, per Gallup. And when it comes to congressional productivity, the 113th Congress (2013-2014) has passed just 121 bills into law — fewer than at this same point in the historically unproductive 112th Congress (140 bills into law). Maybe it doesn’t FEEL worse, because there hasn’t been an epic showdown or confrontation like the government shutdown. But the numbers tell a different story — it has gotten worse.

From James Risen at the NYT, scary revelations about the murder of 17 civilians by Blackwater thugs in Iraq in 2007: Before Shooting in Iraq, a Warning on Blackwater.

Just weeks before Blackwater guards fatally shot 17 civilians at Baghdad’s Nisour Square in 2007, the State Department began investigating the security contractor’s operations in Iraq. But the inquiry was abandoned after Blackwater’s top manager there issued a threat: “that he could kill” the government’s chief investigator and “no one could or would do anything about it as we were in Iraq,” according to department reports.

American Embassy officials in Baghdad sided with Blackwater rather than the State Department investigators as a dispute over the probe escalated in August 2007, the previously undisclosed documents show. The officials told the investigators that they had disrupted the embassy’s relationship with the security contractor and ordered them to leave the country, according to the reports.

After returning to Washington, the chief investigator wrote a scathing report to State Department officials documenting misconduct by Blackwater employees and warning that lax oversight of the company, which had a contract worth more than $1 billion to protect American diplomats, had created “an environment full of liability and negligence.”

“The management structures in place to manage and monitor our contracts in Iraq have become subservient to the contractors themselves,” the investigator, Jean C. Richter, wrote in an Aug. 31, 2007, memo to State Department officials. “Blackwater contractors saw themselves as above the law,” he said, adding that the “hands off” management resulted in a situation in which “the contractors, instead of Department officials, are in command and in control.”

I have a few more links, but I’m going to put them in comments; because I’m having terrible issues with WordPress today. I hope you’ll also post your thoughts and links in the thread below.

Thursday Reads: Empathic Elephants, Meaningful Lives, Hillary Harassment, and Miranda Decision

baby elephants

Good Morning!!

A fascinating new study found that Asian elephants comfort each other in times of stress by touching each other with their trunks and making consoling vocalizations. From National Geographic:

Asian elephants, like great apes, dogs, certain corvids (the bird group that includes ravens), and us, have now been shown to recognize when a herd mate is upset and to offer gentle caresses and chirps of sympathy, according to a study published February 18 in the online journal PeerJ.

Joshua Plotnik, a behavioral ecologist at Mahidol University in Kanchanaburi, Thailand, and primatologist Frans de Waal, director ofEmory University’s Living Links Center, have shown through a controlled study what those who work with elephants have always believed: The animals, in this case captive Asian elephants (Elephas maximus), offer something akin to humans’ sympathetic concern when observing distress in another, including their relatives and friends.

The scientists observed a group of 26 elephants in Thailand for a year. It was a naturalistic study–researchers waited until a stressful situation occurred and then noted the animals’ behavior toward each other. From The Christian Science Monitor:

A stress-inducing situation might be a dog walking by or a snake rustling the grass, or the roar or just the presence of a bull elephant. Sometimes the stressor was unknown. Regardless, scientists know elephant distress when they see it: erect tails and flared ears; vocalizations such as trumpeting, rumbling, or roaring; and sudden defecation and urination tell the story….the scientists witnessed bystander elephants—those not directly affected by a stressor—moving to and giving upset elephants physical caresses, mostly inside the mouth (which is kind of like a hug to elephants) and on the genitals. 

Bystanders also rumbled and chirped with vocal offerings that suggested reassurance. Sometimes the empathetic animals formed a protective circle around the distressed one.

There was also evidence of “emotional contagion,” when herd mates matched the behavior and emotional state of the upset individual. In other words, seeing a “friend” in distress was distressing to the observers. Those animals also consoled one another.

It makes you wonder if the elephant is really the appropriate symbol for the Republican Party. Read more about elephant empathy at The Christian Science Monitor and Wired.


Here’s another interesting study at Scientific American–this time about humans: A Happy Life May not be a Meaningful Life. The results reminded me of all the super rich guys who are constantly complaining about how victimized they are by the rest of us peons.

Psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl once wrote, “Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.” For most people, feeling happy and finding life meaningful are both important and related goals. But do happiness and meaning always go together? It seems unlikely, given that many of the things that we regularly choose to do – from running marathons to raising children – are unlikely to increase our day-to-day happiness. Recent research suggests that while happiness and a sense of meaning often overlap, they also diverge in important and surprising ways.

Roy Baumeister and his colleagues recently published a study in the Journal of Positive Psychology that helps explain some of the key differences between a happy life and a meaningful one. They asked almost 400 American adults to fill out three surveys over a period of weeks. The surveys asked people to answer a series of questions their happiness levels, the degree to which they saw their lives as meaningful, and their general lifestyle and circumstances.

As one might expect, people’s happiness levels were positively correlated with whether they saw their lives as meaningful. However, the two measures were not identical – suggesting that what makes us happy may not always bring more meaning, and vice versa. To probe for differences between the two, the researchers examined the survey items that asked detailed questions about people’s feelings and moods, their relationships with others, and their day-to-day activities. Feeling happy was strongly correlated with seeing life as easy, pleasant, and free from difficult or troubling events. Happiness was also correlated with being in good health and generally feeling well most of the time. However, none of these things were correlated with a greater sense of meaning. Feeling good most of the time might help us feel happier, but it doesn’t necessarily bring a sense of purpose to our lives.

Interestingly, the researchers found that money can buy happiness, but it can’t guarantee a meaningful life. This is something I’ve come to believe through long and painful experience. I think a sense of meaning comes from working your way through problems and difficult times and coming out the other side stronger and wiser. Rich people are often able to shield themselves from life problems, but at the same time they miss out on opportunities for emotional growth.

Of course relationships are also important for both happiness and a sense of meaning.

In Baumeister’s study, feeling more connected to others improved both happiness and meaning. However, the role we adopt in our relationships makes an important difference. Participants in the study who were more likely to agree with the statement, “I am a giver,” reported less happiness than people who were more likely to agree with, “I am a taker.” However, the “givers” reported higher levels of meaning in their lives compared to the “takers.” In addition, spending more time with friends was related to greater happiness but not more meaning. In contrast, spending more time with people one loves was correlated with greater meaning but not with more happiness. The researchers suspect that spending time with loved ones is often more difficult, but ultimately more satisfying, than spending time with friends.

This is something else I can testify to. I spent about 18 years being a primary caregiver for my ex-mother-in-law. At times this was a thankless, frustrating task that certainly didn’t make me happy all the time–but in the end, I realized that the experience had been meaningful and I had grown a great deal from it.

Bill De Blasio Sworn In As New York City Mayor

It looks like Hillary is going to be in the news a great deal between now and the 2016 presidential primaries. We’ve seen the Republicans ramping up their campaign against her–so far by focusing on old gossip from the 1990s. Even the Vince Foster conspiracy theories are coming back to haunt us. Bob Cesca at The Daily Banter reported yesterday that Fox News was set to resurface not only Vince Foster myths, but also Kathleen Willey’s claims that Bill Clinton sexually harassed her.

One of the top shelf conspiracy theories about the Clintons had to do with the suicide of White House advisor Vince Foster, which topped a list of other suspected deaths at the hands of Bill and Hillary. Now, 13 years after the end of that administration and at the outset of the would-be presidential candidacy of Hillary Clinton, everything from the ’90s appears to be back on the table.

We’ve already heard from Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) who was the first to invoke Monica Lewinsky. And now here comes Fox News Channel resurrecting the Vince Foster conspiracy theory.

On tonight’s The Kelly File, Megyn Kelly welcomes Kathleen Willey who famously accused President Clinton of sexual harassment. An independent counsel discredited the groping allegations. Nevertheless, Willey has gone on to accuse the Clintons of not only assassinating Vince Foster, but also of murdering her husband.

Sigh . . . I don’t know if anyone here watched that travesty–I wonder if Megyn explained why Hillary should be held responsible for things her husband did (or was accused of doing) decades ago.

As an antidote to that nonsense, here are a couple of very interesting polls:

Politico: Hillary Clinton sweeps GOP in Ohio

Hillary Clinton buries Gov. Chris Christie and other potential Republican presidential candidates in the crucial swing state of Ohio, according to a new poll on Thursday.

The former secretary of state, who led Christie 42 percent to 41 percent in November, now tops the New Jersey governor 49 percent to 36 percent, according to a Quinnipiac University poll.

Read the rest of the numbers at the link.

Now here’s a poll that will make Dakinikat smile: In a Stunning Turn Poll Shows Hillary Clinton Could Make Louisiana Blue in 2016 (Politicus USA)

A new Public Policy Polling survey of Louisana found that Hillary Clinton would be the strongest Democratic presidential candidate in the state since her husband Bill was on the ballot in the 1990s.

According to PPP, “All the Republican contenders for President lead Hillary Clinton in hypothetical contests, but the margins are closer than they’ve been in the state since her husband was on the ticket. Christie leads her by just a point at 44/43, Jindal’s up 2 at 47/45, Paul leads by 4 points at 47/43, Huckabee has a 5 point advantage at 49/44, and the strongest Republican with a 7 point edge at 50/43 is Jeb Bush.”

Hillary Clinton’s numbers represent the best showing for a Democratic presidential candidate in the state since her husband Bill Clinton won Louisiana by 5 points in 1992 and 12 points in 1996. George W. Bush won the state by 8 points in 2000, and 15 points in 2004. McCain beat Obama by 19 in 2008, and Mitt Romney defeated the president by a margin of 18 points in 2012.

Wow! It’s still very early, but that is exciting news.


You may recall that last August, Glenn Greenwald’s partner David Miranda was detained at Heathrow Airport in London and questioned about documents he was carrying–top secret documents that had been stolen by Edward Snowden from the U.S. and Great Britain. Miranda’s computers, flash drives and other electronic devices were also confiscated. Greenwald and Miranda sued, claiming that Great Britain charging him under their “anti-terrorism laws was unlawful and breached human rights.” Yesterday the court released its decision, saying that judges said it was a “proportionate measure in the circumstances” and in the interests of national security. From BBC News:

Steven Kovats QC, representing the UK home secretary, previously told the High Court that the secret material seized from Mr Miranda could have ended up in the hands of al-Qaeda.

But Mr Miranda’s lawyers argued the detention at Heathrow was illegal because it was carried out under the wrong law: Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000.

They said that in reality he was detained on the say-so of the security services so they could seize journalistic material.

Mr Miranda was carrying 58,000 highly classified Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) files, the judge said.

He added that Oliver Robbins, the UK’s deputy national security adviser at the Cabinet Office, had stated that “release or compromise of such data would be likely to cause very great damage to security interests and possible loss of life”.

But could Miranda be called a “journalist” just because he was carrying material that his partner had written about in a newspaper, The Guardian?

In his ruling, Lord Justice Laws said: “The claimant was not a journalist; the stolen GCHQ intelligence material he was carrying was not ‘journalistic material’, or if it was, only in the weakest sense.

“But he was acting in support of Mr Greenwald’s activities as a journalist. I accept that the Schedule 7 stop constituted an indirect interference with press freedom, though no such interference was asserted by the claimant at the time.

“In my judgement, however, it is shown by compelling evidence to have been justified.”

Here’s the full decision of the court. There is a subtle but emphatic slap-down of Glenn Greenwald’s arguments in points 54-56. The judged noted that Greenwald appeared to be lecturing the court when he discussed “responsible journalism,” and responded that the “evidence” Greenwald offered was “unhelpful,” because he took the position that British law enforcement officers deliberately acted in a way that they (officers) knew to be wrong; he ignored the fact that the material Miranda was carrying was stolen and could end up in the wrong hands; and that

Mr Greenwald’s account (paragraph 33) of the “many ingredients to the sensible reporting of very sensitive information” is insubstantial; or rather, mysterious – the reader is left in the dark as to how it is that “highly experienced journalists and
legal experts” (paragraph 33(1)) or “[e]xperienced editors and reporters” (33(2)) are able to know what may and what may not be published without endangering life or security.

Miranda and Greenwald hope to be granted the right to appeal the decision.

I’m just about out of space, so I’ll conclude with a quickie from Sochi: Olympian Films Wolf Stalking Her Hotel Hallway.

Olympian Kate Hansen tweeted out a video of what appears to be a wolf trotting down her hotel hallway with the message, “I’m pretty sure this is a wolf wandering my hall in Sochi.” via

Now it’s your turn. What stories are you following today? Please post your links in the comment thread, and have a great day!