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That’s An Impressive ROI

[ 108 ] November 17, 2016 |

Putin Visits Olympics

Putin and Assange really both got what they wanted:

President-elect Donald Trump has offered the job of national security adviser to former military intelligence chief Michael Flynn, according to a senior Trump official.


A controversial figure, Flynn has been criticized for regularly appearing on RT, the Russian state-owned television station, and once attended an RT gala, sitting two seats from Russian president, Vladimir Putin. He later said his speaker’s bureau had arranged the trip and that he saw no distinction between RT and TV news organizations like CNN.

Flynn, who wrote in his 2016 book, The Field of Fight: How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and Its Allies, that he was “not a devotee of so-called political correctness”.

In February, the general posted on Twitter, “Fear of Muslims is RATIONAL.” Then, in July, he retweeted an antisemitic post mocking the Clinton campaign’s blaming of Russian hackers for leaked emails: “CNN implicated. ‘The USSR is to blame!’ Not anymore, Jews. Not anymore.” Flynn later deleted his retweet and apologized, saying it was a mistake; the tweet about Muslims has not been deleted.

Well, Hillary Clinton hired a publicist so I’d have to say both sides do it.


The Story of the 2016 Elections is That Republican Voters Voted Republican

[ 372 ] November 17, 2016 |


Steve Schale’s Florida post-mortem is must-reading. First of all, let’s look at the factors that weren’t decisive in Florida:

Base turnout: Both Broward and Dade county had higher turnout rates, and the Miami media market had a higher margin for Clinton than Obama. And even with Palm Beach coming in a little short, she won her two base markets by about 75K more votes than Obama 2012, and won a slighly higher share of the vote. Broward and Dade alone combines for a 580K vote margin, and honestly, I think around 600K is pretty close to maxing out.

The Panhandle: True, Trump did win the “I-10 corridor” by more votes than Romney, but it wasn’t significant. His 345K vote margin as slighly better than Romney’s 308K, and pretty much in line with Bush 04’s 338K North Florida vote majority. And frankly, Clinton succeeded in the major North Florida objective: keep #Duuuval County close. Trump’s 6,000 vote plurality in Duval County was the best Democratic performance in a Presidential election since Carter won Duval in 1976.

Hispanics: It is true that Hispanics under-performed out west, but here in Florida, she did considerably better than Obama in the exit polls — polls that are reflective in the record margins she posted in the heavily Hispanic areas of Miami-Dade, Broward, Orange, and Osceola.

SW Florida: This was the GOP talking point during early vote: SW Florida was blowing up for Trump. And they were right, it did. But SW Florida typically has exceptionally high turnout, and high GOP margins, and in the end, Trump’s total was only about 40K votes bigger than Romney.

Clinton got her base out, and generally held her own among most demographics, despite lacking Obama’s level of political skill and lacking Obama’s advantage of being an incumbent president. So what put Trump over the top?

It was rural Florida: Trump did very well in rural Florida, but so did Romney. If you take all the counties with less than 250,000 residents, he increased Romney’s vote share by 125,000 votes — enough to make up the Obama 2012 margin — except, Clinton increased Obama’s margin in the counties with more than 750,000 residents by over 100,000 votes. In other words, rural and suburban cancel eachother out. What doesn’t cancel out — midsize suburban/exurban counties, places with 250,000-750,000 residents — Trump won them by 200,000 more votes than Romney.


So, where did he beat her? Simple: I-4, and more specifically, the 15 counties that make up suburban and exurban I-4.

Quick recap: The I-4 corridor is roughly defined as the Tampa and Orlando media markets. If you are a Democrat, win here, and you win. If you are a Republican, win big here, and you win. Given that the rest of the state in 2016 generally looked like 2012, Trump needed to win big here.

A few points:

  • One thing the Clinton campaign got wrong — and I’m not saying it was unreasonable to think this, because I, like most people, thought the same thing — is its assumption that enough suburban Republicans and Republican-leaners would find Trump distasteful enough to put Clinton in the White House. This just didn’t happen. Trump maintained Romney’s base and picked up enough additional white suburbanites to win. In Florida, at least, Trump didn’t win because Clinton failed to get the Democratic base out, and in general initial reports of low turnout appear to have been greatly exaggerated. Political science took a (justified!) beating during the primaries, but 2016 was, despite all of the assumptions, pretty much a fundamentals-and-partisanship election. Trump did underperform (or Clinton did overperform, or some combination of the two) the fundamentals to a small extent, but because of the Electoral College won anyway.  But the significant Republican defections that might have been expected from an unusually dishonest and scandal-plagued candidate just didn’t happen.
  • And, of course, a key factor is that amazingly enough voters considered Trump more honest than Clinton, which is why I have less than no patience with people who deny that the obsessive media coverage of EMAILS! had a significant effect on the election. (And, just to preempt the most common line of trooferism, election results have more than one cause. It’s possible that Clinton could have done something to overcome the grotesque media malpractice that normalized Trump. Feel free to propound your theory that Lena Dunham appearing on a panel cost Clinton 25 points or to use the phrase “bad messaging” or whatever you like. It doesn’t change the fact that the Both Sides Do It But Clinton Is Worse coverage pretty much eliminated the disadvantages one would assume would come from electing Trump.)
  •  Another key point: “2016 marked the 4th straight statewide election (two Governors, two Presidentials), where the victor’s margin of victory was roughly a point.” It was reasonable, in other words, for Clinton to contest Florida hard — she lost by barely more than 100,000 votes — and arguments about bad resource allocation just aren’t going to get you anywhere unless you can draw up a map of Clinton winning that doesn’t include Pennsylvania.
  • The biggest mistake Obama made for the 2016 elections was putting James Comey in charge of the FBI. But given that the Orlando and Tampa suburbs and exurbs won Florida for Trump, I wonder if Obama’s failure to provide substantial relief for people with foreclosed houses and failure to punish the malefactors had an important effect.

Is Our Democrats Learning?

[ 231 ] November 17, 2016 |


The initial signs are distinctly less than promising:

In the disorienting wake of Donald Trump’s election, Democrats in Congress grasped for some normality. To them — being Democrats reared for decades in a lawmaking culture — this meant some reassurance that they would participate in legislation. They quickly settled on Trump’s proposal for infrastructure spending as a promising venue through which they could trade cooperation for policy leverage. Charles Schumer, the incoming Senate minority leader, sounded excited about the prospect of passing a bill he has worked for years to enact without success. “As President-elect Trump indicated last night, investing in infrastructure is an important priority of his,” announced Nancy Pelosi. “We can work together to quickly pass a robust infrastructure jobs bill.”

And it’s not just the party leadership, either: Warren and Sanders have suggested that they’d work with Trump on infrastructure.

To state what should be obvious, aside from funding the government and raising the debt ceiling, congressional Democrats should be able to give Trump their offer right now: nothing. They should drive down Trump’s popularity by forcing whatever terrible legislation Ryan and McConnell want to pass on party-line votes and stopping anything they can filibuster or peel off a couple senators. There may be exceptions where something really important is at stake and the Dems can extract major concessions — saving important parts of the ACA, say.

But the stimulus plan? Trump’s proposal as of now is complete shit, just some tax breaks for private projects, many of which would be built anyway (and of course the possibilities for corruption are considerable and likely to be realized.) A substantially better one is enormously unlikely to make it past the Freedom Caucus.

I hope this is bluffing, that they’re making a show of being willing to cooperate but will sadly conclude that what’s being offered isn’t good enough. But if the Democratic leadership collaborates on anything remotely resembling Trump’s proposal it would constitute staggering political ineptitude. I mean, look who’s in the Senate majority leader’s seat — obstructionism works! If Schumer ever wants to occupy that position he’d better act likewise.

The Comey Effect

[ 211 ] November 17, 2016 |


This series of tweets from Will Jordan is fascinating. There was a very clear, major shift towards Trump in battleground states after October 28th, and the more polling that was done in this period, the more likely it was to be picked up. So this helps to explain the polling error in the Midwest. And it also makes it highly implausible that Comey’s letter and the 24/7 thigh-rubbing about Clinton’s EMAILS it catalyzed didn’t put Trump in the White House. I’m not saying Comey explains all 5 points, but how likely is it that he explains none of it? I dunno, maybe putting a former Ken Starr goon in charge of the FBI wasn’t a great idea? It also would have been nice if Anthony Weiner could have confined his sexting to adult women, although to be Scrupulously Fair it’s entirely possible that Comey could have found some other snipe hunt as an excuse to send a letter with no content about a pseudo-scandal with no content that would ultimately blow up the world.

In other findings, there’s no evidence that the “shy voter” effect contributed to the polling error.

How To Normalize Trump, Cont’d

[ 25 ] November 16, 2016 |


Invite Breitbart Grand Wizard on to NPR to debate the highly debatable question, “is Steve Bannon a racist?” [Answer to question: yes. I mean, just ask the experts.] Let him call NPR the real racists for having a show that criticizes racism. Let him go on about how there’s nothing wrong with homophobes referring to female public officials as “dykes.” Views Differ. Both Sides Do It.

You Are What Your Record Says You Are

[ 127 ] November 16, 2016 |

Jamelle Bouie requests that some of the endless media empathy for Trump’s supporters perhaps be extended to Trump’s inevitable victims:

Millions of Americans are justifiably afraid of what they’ll face under a Trump administration. If any group demands our support and sympathy, it’s these people, not the Americans who backed Trump and his threat of state-sanctioned violence against Hispanic immigrants and Muslim Americans. All the solicitude, outrage, and moral telepathy being deployed in defense of Trump supporters—who voted for a racist who promised racist outcomes—is perverse, bordering on abhorrent.

It’s worth repeating what Trump said throughout the election. His campaign indulged in hateful rhetoric against Hispanics and condemned Muslim Americans with the collective guilt of anyone who would commit terror. It treated black America as a lawless dystopia and spoke of black Americans as dupes and fools. And to his supporters, Trump promised mass deportations, a ban on Muslim entry to the United States, and strict “law and order” as applied to those black communities. Trump is now president-elect. Judging from his choices for the transition—figures like immigration hardliner Kris Kobach and white nationalist Stephen Bannon—it’s clear he plans to deliver on those promises.

Whether Trump’s election reveals an “inherent malice” in his voters is irrelevant. What is relevant are the practical outcomes of a Trump presidency. Trump campaigned on state repression of disfavored minorities. He gives every sign that he plans to deliver that repression. This will mean disadvantage, immiseration, and violence for real people, people whose “inner pain and fear” were not reckoned worthy of many-thousand-word magazine feature stories. If you voted for Trump, you voted for this, regardless of what you believe about the groups in question. That you have black friends or Latino colleagues, that you think yourself to be tolerant and decent, doesn’t change the fact that you voted for racist policy that may affect, change, or harm their lives. And on that score, your frustration at being labeled a racist doesn’t justify or mitigate the moral weight of your political choice.

Are all Trump voters racists? No. Did they all, at an absolute minimum, vote to enable racism in order to get a nice tax cut, or to impose legal disabilities on women and/or gays and lesbians, or because climate change is a hoax, or to “shake things up,” or — and I think this is the most plausible explanation — because campus activists have overused the term “gaslighting”? Yes. They have agency and they have moral responsibility.

Don’t Worry, He’s Just Keeping the Seat Warm For Don Blankenship

[ 69 ] November 16, 2016 |

The Trump administration is providing the real benefits for the working class the Clinton administration never could:

After campaigning as a champion of coal miners, Donald Trump is reportedly close to choosing for commerce secretary a New York billionaire who owned a West Virginia mine where a dozen miners were killed in 2006. Trump’s favored candidate, Wilbur Ross, also engineered buyouts that cost workers their benefits and their jobs. It’s a striking choice, considering Trump’s promises to improve the lives of coal miners and other working-class Americans.

Ross made his money collecting “distressed assets”—failing steel and textile mills in the Midwest and South, and coal mines in Appalachia. Dubbed the “the King of Bankruptcy,” Ross cut jobs, wages, pensions, and health benefits at the companies he acquired, and reaped the profits. In the early 2000s, Ross’s foray into the steel industry netted him a $267 million personal windfall, but stripped health-care benefits from more than 150,000 retired steelworkers. Then he moved on to the coal industry, at one point controlling as much as $1.2 billion in coal assets through his company, the International Coal Group.

One of ICG’s acquisitions in West Virginia was the Sago Mine, about 100 miles east of Charleston. The mine, a non-union operation, racked up a slew of safety violations from federal inspectors—more than 208 in 2005 alone. That year, the roof of the mine collapsed 20 times. Workers at Sago were injured three times as often as workers in similar mines elsewhere. Though Ross claimed not to be part of operating management at Sago, he admitted later that he was aware of the violations, and waved them away.

Then, early one January morning, methane ignited deep in the mine. The explosion instantly killed one worker and stranded a dozen others about two miles from the mouth of the mine, in a passageway filled with carbon monoxide. It was more than an hour before company managers called for help, and four hours until a rescue team arrived. Nearly two days later, when they finally reached the trapped miners, all but one had died. Ross and ICG set up a $2 million compensation fund for the families of the deceased—an amount, critics pointed out, that paled in comparison to Ross’s immense personal wealth. (Trump contributed $25,000 to that fund.)

Lena Dunham really has a lot to answer for.

The Woman Who Gave Us Trump

[ 281 ] November 15, 2016 |


Some “anti-identitarians” (that is, people who take the position, normally taken by people like Mark Penn, that centering politics around the interests of white people isn’t “identity politics”) of the “left” have found a yoooge factor in the rise of Donald Trump. The media? Hell no — indeed, this faction devoted much of the campaign that elected a white nationalist authoritarian to trying to pretend that inane trivia from John Podesta’s inbox presented a major scandal. Jim Comey? Nah, what power does the director of the FBI working with the media have? No, the person responsible for Donald Trump is…Lena Dunham.

If I might be permitted to state the obvious, Lena Dunham did not materially affect the election in any way. She does not symbolize decisions that materially affected the campaign in any way. The fact that some celebrities who campaigned for Obama also campaigned for Clinton did not materially affect the election in any way. Hillary Clinton’s campaign one was not a campaign of CELEBRITY FEMINISM in which she relied on Katy Perry to conceal the fact that she had no policy solutions to offer to American women. Clinton offered, inter alia, such longtime Goldman Sachs priorities as a family leave plan, an increased minimum wage and better overtime rules, the Employee Free Choice Act, child care funding, Social Security increases, a public option for health care, and support for repealing the Hyde Amendment. You might think that her speeches consisted of analyses of Broad City and Lemonade, but in fact they were mostly arguments in favor of these policies. Should the Clinton campaign have tried to be more creative about finding ways of getting word of this attractive platform out, over the heads of a media that has abandoned policy coverage? Yes. But there was nothing remotely superficial about her policy appeals. Citing her as an explanation would be like blaming a Trump defeat, had the FBI not intervened or if the United States had a democratic system for picking the president, on reading an endorsement from Bill Belichick.

I mean, look, many of us have trivial hobbyhorses we run into the ground. But projecting them onto other people to provide causal explanations that are specious even for campaign strategy just-so stories is silly. I’m not inclined to spend a lot of time tweeting about Lena Dunham or the neoliberalism of Hamilton or whatever, but I make the readers endure any number of idiosyncratic interests and arguments. But at least I don’t write about how Clinton lost Ohio because she didn’t denounce Mike Holmgren for trading up to draft Trent Richardson.

The Only Thing Necessary for the Triumph of Evil is for the Media to Care Far More About Email Management Than Racism

[ 238 ] November 15, 2016 |


You might think that a candidate running an explicitly white nationalist campaign might be seen as a major scandal. But, to the media, it was certainly no EMAILS!:

I want to be crystal clear: When Trump said he would ban Muslims from this country, that didn’t get long-lasting attention. When Trump proposed an irresponsible tax plan or espoused dangerous climate change attitudes, that didn’t either. It just became an accepted part of Trumpism.

But when powerful men reacted to those things and changed their minds — or not — that became the story. So when they okayed his candidacy, it was normalizing, as if what he had done was forgivable and what he planned to do was acceptable.

Meanwhile, the story around Hillary Clinton was about one thing: emails.

Let me first show you this astounding chart, because it illustrates why some people believe the media was irrationally obsessed with Clinton’s emails:

[omitted so you click through, but it’s astounding]

It was covered far more than Trump’s Muslim proposal. In fact, on televisions it was covered far more than all policy issues combined.

From the beginning of 2016 to late October, the three major networks — CBS, ABC, and NBC — spent 100 combined minutes of their newscasts covering Clinton’s emails. They spent 32 minutes on every other policy issue, and no time on climate change, health care, poverty, and trade. This focus on her emails made it relevant throughout the election, peaking right before Election Day. Often, it was a small development that provided little new information, like FBI Director James Comey sending a letter to Congress saying the bureau had more emails to look at — and then saying it didn’t change the original decision that she hadn’t done anything criminal.

Let’s rehash what this “scandal” actually was: It started from allegations that she mishandled the Benghazi attacks in 2012. An investigation found no wrongdoing. It did find a private email server — which was also investigated — and at the end of it, her mistake was sending classified information on systems that weren’t approved for it. But the investigation found she wasn’t criminally responsible. As Vox’s Matt Yglesias writes, this is a bullshit scandal.

So it’s absurd for Clinton’s emails and Trump’s racist proposals to be put on the same scale of morality. But it’s even more absurd that Clinton’s emails were somehow a better indicator of how she would change people’s lives compared with Trump’s actual plans. It was absurd that at only a single point in this election was the Muslim ban Googled more than Clinton’s emails, and media is responsible for some, if not most, of this. We were more interested in what Clinton was doing on her BlackBerry than in how Trump was going to ban people from this country based on their religion.

And this doesn’t even account for the astonishingly racist comments Trump made that pretty much vanished without a trace. A major candidate nominee literally called for innocent African-Americans to be lynched while attracting almost no attention whatsoever from a media gripped by a consuming obsession with a trivial pseudo-scandal that involved no substantial misconduct by Hillary Clinton and was immaterial to how the candidates would preform in office.

I’m already hearing, in comments and elsewhere, a lot of “look forward not back,” that we should get over it because discussing it will get in the way of our shiny new theory about how Lena Dunham cost Hillary Clinton the election or whatever. To hell with that. This was gross misconduct on the part of the media. It probably changed the outcome in ways that will have untold horrible effects for the most vulnerable people in the country and for the planet. But even if Clinton had been able to overcome the electoral college and the four-front war being fought against her by the GOP, the FBI, Wikileaks (and the “leftist” media that acted as the dupes for a libertarian ratfucking operation) and the media, it is still absolutely reprehensible conduct. It reflects grossly skewed priorities and a consummate failure to even minimally inform the American public. And while Hillary Clinton won’t be a presidential nominee again, don’t assume it won’t happen next time too.

How Trump Will Blow Up the World

[ 78 ] November 15, 2016 |


But Jill Stein told me the parties were the same on environmental policy because fracking:

What’s more, the GOP has become much more radicalized since the Bush years, and the country much more partisan. “Negative partisanship” — hatred of the other side — is increasingly the prime motive force in US politics, with less and less willingness on either side to compromise or even negotiate. There is virtually no Republican support left for environmental or climate policy, other than to dismantle it.

While there is always some chance Trump could lunge off in an unexpected direction (he is Trump, after all), the overwhelming likelihood is that GOP operatives and industry lobbyists will control energy and environmental policy for the next four years. What lies ahead now is triage, a long string of terrible choices, desperate battles, and wrenching losses, the consequences of which could reverberate for millennia.

I hope the press will respond appropriately with hard-hitting reporting of the EPA’s email classification policies.

A Disaster In Full

[ 136 ] November 14, 2016 |


In addition to the terrible policy consequences likely to arise from a Trump presidency, the fact that nobody at the top levels of the White House has any idea what they’re doing is a rather major problem for the country:

Trump’s elevation to the presidency has people worried about everything from the collapse of America’s democratic institutions to the spectacle of violence in the streets.

But it’s worth recalling that any presidency also features a range of more or less banal crises in which the fate of the nation and the world is nonetheless at stake. Can Trump really tear up the nuclear agreement with Iran without completely destablizing the Persian Gulf, for example? I’m not sure, I’m sure that Trump is not sure, and I’m frankly skeptical that Priebus is the right person to figure it out.

From the Mariel boatlift to Hurricane Katrina to the 2014 Ebola virus outbreak, weird apolitical crises strike and need to be handled. Financial markets sometimes need soothing. Sometimes it looks like a war is going to break out in the Taiwan Strait.

It’s great that Trump has decided to make the premier digital popularizer of white nationalism the second most important person in his White House rather than the first. But the presidency is still a really big job that Trump has no relevant experience for. Priebus works as an “establishment” figure who has also earned Trump’s trust. But he’s never worked in the White House or even in Wisconsin state government. Trump needs people who can help him actually run the government. More to the point, the country needs people who can help Trump actually run the government.

Falling over ourselves to praise Priebus as a responsible choice simply sets the bar too low given the stakes.

The Republican Party has reacted to the systematic incompetence of the Bush administration by installing a White House that consists of nothing but Mike Browns. Personal to Jim Comey: heckuva job!

How Committed is Paul Ryan to Destroying Medicare?

[ 290 ] November 14, 2016 |


I was going to discuss Sean McElwee’s excellent recent post, but lest it be construed as subtweeting Erik let me clarify first that of course racial  and economic anxieties and resentments cannot be neatly separated. While Trump’s supporters are generally well-off, in marginal electoral college states they’re also disproportionately likely to live in declining economic areas.  Perceptions of declining economic status and declining communities fuel racial resentment and vice versa.

One problem for the Democrats (and I don’t think Erik disagrees although he can correct me), though, is that this precise form of economic anxiety is not easily addressed by policy changes, at least in the short-term. Strengthening the welfare state is very important, but since Trump’s supporters are generally the last-people-standing rather than the victims these policies aren’t likely to attract and might even alienate their support. Strengthening labor is important, but passing card check or even repealing Taft-Hartley isn’t going to immediately bring Carrier back to Indianapolis or GM back to Flint or GE back to Schenectady, and neither would increasing tariffs. The way of life that this segment of voters is pining for can’t be quickly brought back by passing even the most salutary laws. The Democrats should do the right thing, but it won’t necessarily produce immediate political payoffs among the white working class that votes Republican.

One thing that could shift Republican WWC votes back to the Democrats would be for the Republicans to exercise the “mandate” they received by earning fewer votes for president, Senate and House by taking away benefits that members of the WWC count on or expect to count on — like, say, Medicare. Ryan seems to be going full steam ahead, despite the obvious and massive political risks.

Let me be clear: I am not making a heighten-the-contradictions argument. Privatizing Medicare is bad politics for the GOP, but 1)especially in midterm elections it’s possible to survive particular actions that are net negatives, and 2)once Medicare is transformed it won’t be easy to change back. The Democratic Party needs to fight Ryan with everything it has, and given that attacking Medicare is attacking a relatively politically active and affluent constituency it can win this fight the way it won on Bush’s attacks on Social Security.

Indeed, this fight could be a huge moment for the Democratic Party. Ryan’s policies are so unpopular that when you ask focus groups to evaluate them they won’t believe that anything so cartoonishly evil is being proposed.  It’s going to be hard to escape the reality of his intentions if he makes destroying Medicare one of his first major policy battles. Beating Ryan on this could be the best of both world’s politically: a chance to tarnish the Republican brand and improve the Democratic one on an issue of critical importance to many people. And it’s possible. Not easy — the Democrats don’t control any veto points, and you can bet the nation’s media will ready to call anyone attacking Ryan’s plan to replace Medicare with $500 CVS gift cards as a plan to end Medicare as the LIAR OF THE MILLENNIUM. Ryan might decide that he’s OK with burning his party down if he can make Ayn Rand federal policy. But it’s possible, and beating Ryan would be good policy and good politics alike.


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