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[ 139 ] November 8, 2016 |

I guess this settles the whole Nate Silver v. Sam Wang thing.

Seriously, in terms of electoral politics this is an unprecedented disaster for the country and the world.


What do shifts in polling numbers actually measure?

[ 23 ] November 7, 2016 |


According to Andrew Gelman, such shifts have little to do with actual changes in voter preferences between candidates, and much more to do with temporary shifts, largely driven by the news cycle, in the willingness of supporters of particular candidates to take part in polls:


Why, then, do the polls swing so much? This can mostly be explained by differential nonresponse to pollsters: Clinton goes up when more Democrats answer a survey, and Trump goes up when Democrats are less likely to respond. As Lauderdale and Rivers put it, “when things are going badly for a candidate, their supporters tend to stop participating in polls.” This is how new events can have big effects on the polls even if they aren’t changing many vote intentions.

For example, after the FBI letter on Clinton a week or so ago, I predicted that Clinton would fall in the polls — not because she was going to lose many votes but because the news would pump up a lot of Trump supporters who would then become more enthusiastic about the election and respond to surveys. The preceding weeks had been full of bad news for the Republican candidate, hence his supporters were dejected and not participating in polls. During that period, I and others suspected that Clinton’s lead in the polls had been exaggerating her strength among the electorate.

Gelman notes that this methodological problem is exacerbated by the sharp decline over time in the percentage of people who are willing to take part in voter surveys, which is now often just a few percent of the initial contact pool:


Differential nonresponse is a bigger deal now than it used to be, for two reasons. Survey response rates are lower. Not too many decades ago, quality polls had response rates over 50 percent; now a survey is lucky to get 10 percent participation. As a result, responding to surveys is much more optional, and we’d expect differential nonresponse to be a bigger deal. At the same time, the electorate is more polarized, and fewer people change their minds during the campaign. Thus, compared with previous decades, the “signal” of actual swings is lower and the “noise” of nonresponse is higher, and we need to be concerned about this source of bias more than ever before.

The upshot of this I suppose is that horse race coverage of elections, and especially presidential elections, is to a significant degree producing the “news” that it’s purportedly reporting.

Calling it

[ 215 ] November 7, 2016 |

The final pre-election day polls are in, and in the aggregate they show Clinton holding about a four-point advantage in the national popular vote.  I think the Dems’ vastly superior GOTV operation will bump that some, and that Clinton will end up winning the popular vote by something close to the 7.2 percentage points by which Obama defeated McCain (he won by 3.9 points over Romney).

I think HRC will win Florida and North Carolina, and will finish with around 320 electoral votes.

One thing to which the media’s election coverage has yet to adjust is the extent to which voting now takes place before election day.  It’s estimated that as of yesterday nearly 40 million votes had been cast, i.e., close to one third of what will be the final total.  Early voting is a great defense against voter suppression efforts (The absence of any easy early voting option in Michigan helps explain why Clinton and Obama are both in Michigan today, while Trump was there yesterday).

As for the Senate, who knows?  Election day turnout will be especially critical in this regard.

This is all very much shaping up as a glass half full situation. The good news is that the executive branch won’t be in the hands of an ignorant racist authoritarian demi-fascist, at least not for the next four years.

The bad news is that the ongoing long-term demographic collapse of the party that nominated Trump, and that then deployed all its institutional resources in an all-out attempt to make him president, isn’t going to stop that party from continuing to control very large parts of both the federal and state governments for at least another decade or two.


Never mind

[ 161 ] November 6, 2016 |


Jason Chaffetz ‏@jasoninthehouse 5m5 minutes ago
FBI Dir just informed us “Based on our review, we have not changed our conclusions that we expressed in July with respect to Sec Clinton”

I think this translates as, “once we actually took a look, it required about fifteen minutes to determine that there isn’t anything in Anthony Weiner’s hard drive (must . . . resist . . . bad . . . puns) that is even arguably connected to any investigation of Hillary Clinton’s email practices as Secretary of State.”

Oh well, no harm no foul as they said in the Weimar Republic.

. . . apparently Pete Williams of NBC is reporting that all the emails on Weiner’s laptop were duplicates of already-reviewed emails, which sounds plausible, since otherwise it’s hard to see how they could reach a definitive conclusion so quickly. What a clown show.

ETA: A reminder that the entire email “scandal” is a right-wing fabrication.

Is Nate Silver tweaking his projections because ESPN is pressuring him to generate more revenue?

[ 111 ] November 6, 2016 |


This has been asserted a number of times in the comments at LGM, and a quick trip around the interwebs reveals that some version of it is at least being entertained as a hypothesis by Sam Wang and others.

Like Scott, I think the probability that this hypothesis is true is very low.

Silver’s website FiveThirtyEight is owned by ESPN, which is a subsidiary of Disney. ESPN’s revenues last year were around $11 billion, which represented a quarter of Disney’s total revenues.

FiveThirtyEight is a wonky website for people interested in statistical projections about politics and to a lesser extent sports. I don’t know what its revenues are, but I’m pretty sure that they represent something that barely constitutes a rounding error on ESPN’s (let alone Disney’s) accounting spreadsheets.

I assume ESPN bought FiveThirtyEight because for many years now it has had a license to print money, which means that, per the terms of Article VII of the United States Constitution & General Corporate Charter, it has to piss away a couple of million here and there every other week on some bullshit or the other that makes no sense in economic terms, but which a bunch of suits decided would synergistically leverage some combination of “prestige” or “eyeballs” or “exposure” or “credibility” or whatever for the benefit of said printing press.

Yes ESPN’s revenue model is currently under some stress, which inevitably means they’re getting rid of an extra pantomime horse or two, and so maybe they’ll dump FiveThirtyEight after Silver’s contract expires, but the notion that somebody is actually pressuring Silver to come up with sexier projections seems implausible on its face.

Nate Silver is a young guy who has been wildly successful at what he does, and continuing to be successful at what he does requires maintaining close to 100% confidence among his potential audience (i.e. consumers of wonkery, whether political or sporting) that he’s not a hack. Any actual evidence that he has been massaging his models to generate clicks would ruin him, so, leaving questions of personal ethics aside (I don’t know him and have no opinion on that score), it would be nuts for him to do so, even in terms of pure self-interest. His corporate superiors may or may not understand this, but even if they don’t I’m pretty confident that he would tell them to go to hell if they were to ever try to twist his arm. (Of course the argument can always be made that Silver is unconscious of his actual motivations, and thus that he’s unconsciously trying to please his employers. That argument has the advantage of being by its nature irrefutable).

The far more plausible explanation for why Silver’s presidential election projections have been such outliers is that he got egg on his face when he ignored what his models were telling him when he kept estimating that Trump had little chance of winning the GOP nomination, and so now he’s even more committed to sticking with his model for the general. That model may well be flawed, but it’s understandable and he’s not willing to try to re-work it on the fly, to make it more congruent with what the other prestige predictors are predicting, since that too would be perceived, fairly or not, as a hackish move on his part.

National Enquirer paid $150,000 to hush up affair Trump had in 2006

[ 52 ] November 5, 2016 |


Pictured: Donald Trump, Jerry Falwell, Jr., and Playboy Magazine.

Class. The best.

The company that owns the National Enquirer, a backer of Donald Trump, agreed to pay $150,000 to a former Playboy centerfold model for her story of an affair a decade ago with the Republican presidential nominee, but then didn’t publish it, according to documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal and people familiar with the matter.

The tabloid-newspaper publisher reached an agreement in early August with Karen McDougal, the 1998 Playmate of the Year. American Media Inc., which owns the Enquirer, hasn’t published anything about what she has told friends was a consensual romantic relationship she had with Mr. Trump in 2006. At the time, Mr. Trump was married to his current wife, Melania.

Quashing stories that way is known in the tabloid world as “catch and kill.”

BTW Barron Trump was born in March 2006, so it sounds like Trump may have had a pretty good excuse, in his mind anyway.

Of course the real scandal here is that the Enquirer did this after running, at the most crucial juncture of the GOP primaries, an unsubstantiated story about Ted Cruz having an affair, and a completely hallucinogenic story about Cruz’s father taking part in the murder of JFK. That Trump is a completely amoral pig who is more than willing to have sex with other women while his wife is otherwise occupied in a maternity ward is not exactly breaking news, although maybe it should give pause to his biggest evangelical boosters. (Who am I kidding?).

Fabricated non-scandal has gotten more media coverage during presidential campaign than all policy issues combined

[ 173 ] November 4, 2016 |


Yglesias breaks it all down in great detail. Here’s the tl;dr:

Network newscasts have, remarkably, dedicated more airtime to coverage of Clinton’s emails than to all policy issues combined.

Cable news has been, if anything, worse, and many prestige outlets have joined the pileup. One malign result of obsessive email coverage is that the public is left totally unaware of the policy stakes in the election. Another is that the constant vague recitations of the phrase ‘‘Clinton email scandal’’ have firmly implanted the notion that there is something scandalous about anything involving Hillary Clinton an email, including her campaign manager getting hacked or the revelation that one of her aides sometimes checked mail on her husband’s computer.

But none of this is true. Clinton broke no laws according to the FBI itself. Her setup gave her no power to evade federal transparency laws beyond what anyone who has a personal email account of any kind has. Her stated explanation for her conduct is entirely believable, fits the facts perfectly, and is entirely plausible to anyone who doesn’t simply start with the assumption that she’s guilty of something.

Given Powell’s conduct, Clinton wasn’t even breaking with an informal precedent. The very worst you can say is that, faced with an annoying government IT policy, she used her stature to find a personal workaround rather than a systemic fix that would work for everyone. To spend so much time on such a trivial matter would be absurd in a city council race, much less a presidential election. To do so in circumstances when it advances the electoral prospects of a rival who has shattered all precedents in terms of lacking transparency or basic honesty is infinitely more scandalous than anything related to the server itself.

This story is “troubling” all right.

The plot against America, con’t

[ 140 ] November 3, 2016 |


A friend of mine just heard this commercial aired on WLW, a 50,000-watt Cincinnati station whose signal can be heard, at least at night, over much of the eastern half of North America (it’s also the radio home of the Cincinnati Reds and Bengals). It’s part of the media behemoth iHeartMedia — formerly Clear Channel Communications.

Here’s the text of the ad:

Trump publicly identified International Bankers as the destroyers of America, and the power behind Hillary Clinton.

——-The international Bankers around Goldman-Sachs and the FED ARE the organized Worldwide, Christ-hating, America-hating Jewish Shadow Government behind Communism and the New World Order.

—— These Jewish Bankers rig key elections through their control of all five big TV networks, which are issuing the false polls,

—– and their control of the three Big Mega-Election Vendors, — ES &S, Hart, and Dominion — which process 90%+ of our USA vote on SECRET COMPUTER PROGRAMS, with the shameful permission of all 50 Secretaries of State.

—— In a fair count Trump wins by a landslide in all 50 states.

—— If they dare to announce Hillary the “winner”, it will be blatant computer-fraud.

——- We will then not have a legitimate government.

—– See – and see you this Sunday at 2 PM on 55KRC – paid for by Dr. Kuimars Kiani for Congress 2016.

The emperor of ice cream

[ 65 ] November 3, 2016 |


A friend of mine moved to Chicago in May. He writes:

It’s been a long, long 6 months. There were times I wondered if we’d EVER even set the league record for most wins! And when we failed…well, it was tough, I’m not gonna lie. There were tears. Booze bottles were emptied, relationships were broken that can never be repaired.

But now, after all that, after these 6 impossible months… Victory. Relief. Absolution?

It was a long, difficult, painful journey. I’m not even sure if it was worth what we all gave up. During those brutal, impossible 6 months. God, August alone was… I can’t finish that…

But whether it was worth the heartbreak or not, the divorces, the mass alcoholism – we did win. WE won. And they – the non-Chicacagoans, who will NEVER understand the hardship – they can never take it away from us. Us, the Chicagoans.

Whoo, go Sox or whatever!!

Srsly, I used to live in Chicago once upon a time and I’m happy for almost all the Cubs fans, even though the whole Wrigley Field thing was always a bit twee.

And as Sparky Anderson probably once said, if you don’t like Harry Caray singing Take Me Out to the Ballgame, you don’t like ice cream.

The plot against America

[ 293 ] November 2, 2016 |

The National Policy Institute made this ad, which is running in various markets and media over the last days of the election. It isn’t endorsed by Trump, but he hasn’t disavowed it either.

The NPI is an alt-right think tank run by Richard Spencer. It was founded by William Regnery, who is the heir to the Regnery publishing fortune.

Richard Spencer lives in Whitefish, MT.

As of the census of 2000, there were 5,032 people, 2,229 households, and 1,203 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,138.5 people per square mile (439.6/km²). There were 2,652 housing units at an average density of 600.0 per square mile (231.7/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 95.97% White, 0.14% African American, 1.11% Native American, 0.58% Asian, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 0.72% from other races, and 1.43% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.93% of the population.

How would you like to be one of the seven black people in Whitefish?

ETA: A lot of people in Whitefish don’t seem too thrilled to have Spenser around:

The town of Whitefish, where Spencer has lived since 2014, sits in a scenic river valley nestled in Montana’s Flathead Range, some 40 miles from the Canadian border. Over three days there in late September, it was tough to spot nonwhites. The hotel maids were white, the busboys were white, and the landscapers were white. But while this is part of why Whitefish appeals to Spencer, the town is not particularly thrilled with his presence. Several local restaurants have refused to serve him. He was compelled to resign his membership from the exclusive Big Mountain Ski Club after he got into a chairlift argument about the Iraq War with the neocon Randy Scheunemann, a former adviser to US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and to John McCain in the 2008 election. In 2014, a local human rights group known as Love Lives Here urged the city to bar Spencer from conducting NPI business in town but settled for a resolution condemning hate groups.

Newspapers endorsing Trump

[ 134 ] November 1, 2016 |


A semi-complete list:

The National Enquirer

Has a long-standing cozy relationship with the candidate.

New York Observer

Owned by Trump’s son in law.

Santa Barbara News-Press

Apparently owned by a crazy cat lady.

St. Joseph News-Press

Las Vegas Review-Journal

A Sheldon Adelson joint

Waxahachie Daily Light

Waxahachie is a 5,00032,000-soul town deep in the heart of Texas. Best-known as the place where Billie Joe McAllister jumped off a bridge.

Welcome to the James Comey comedy hour, or maybe 15 minutes

[ 152 ] October 31, 2016 |

great pumpkin

FBI Director James Comey argued privately that it was too close to Election Day for the United States government to name Russia as meddling in the U.S. election and ultimately ensured that the FBI’s name was not on the document that the U.S. government put out, a former FBI official tells CNBC.

The official said some government insiders are perplexed as to why Comey would have election timing concerns with the Russian disclosure but not with the Huma Abedin email discovery disclosure he made Friday.

He’ll be here all week, or at least for the next eight days.

BTW, one of DC’s most egregious rituals is when all sorts of insiders vouch up and down for the sterling impartiality of some political hack who doesn’t even have the self-awareness to realize he’s a hack. I realize Obama has to play the game, but lots of smart people who aren’t professionally obliged to keep up pretenses are still waiting patiently for the Great Bipartisan Pumpkin to rise above the mists in Foggy Bottom.

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