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Clinton Is Good At This

[ 203 ] October 20, 2016 |


One thing that will likely be quickly forgotten is that Donald Trump, as he did in the first two debates, sounded vaguely rational for the first 20 minutes or so, and even showed evidence of actual preparation. His answers on abortion, for example — “send the issue back to the states,” “Hillary Clinton wants 11-month-old babies ripped out of women’s stomachs!1!1!1!” — were on the one hand dumb but on the other hand the standard-issue responses Republican pols have been using to evade the party’s nationally unpopular position on abortion for time out of mind. But as the debate progressed he became less and less hinged, and finally made the lunatic statements that defined his performance so that any Republican less hacky than Jeffrey Lord had to admit he was pretty mush a disaster.

This unraveling isn’t something that just happened, though. While Trump is predictably worse in a one-on-one debate than in a crowded field, he’s also no longer up against a bunch of tomato cans who have no idea how to provoke him:

This is not normal. As Andrew Prokop concluded in his review of the political science evidence around presidential debates, “There’s little historical evidence that they’ve ever swung polls by more than a few percentage points.” In this case, they did. And it’s because Clinton executed a risky strategy flawlessly.

The dominant narrative of this election goes something like this. Hillary Clinton is a weak candidate who is winning because she is facing a yet weaker candidate. Her unfavorables are high, her vulnerabilities are obvious, and if she were running against a Marco Rubio or a Paul Ryan, she would be getting crushed. Lucky for her, she’s running against a hot orange mess with higher unfavorables, clearer vulnerabilities, and a tape where he brags about grabbing women “by the pussy.”

There’s truth to this narrative, but it also reflects our tendency to underestimate Clinton’s political effectiveness. Trump’s meltdown wasn’t an accident. The Clinton campaign coolly analyzed his weaknesses and then sprung trap after trap to take advantage of them.

Clinton’s successful execution of this strategy has been, fittingly, the product of traits that she’s often criticized for: her caution, her overpreparation, her blandness. And her particular ability to goad Trump and blunt the effectiveness of his political style has been inextricable from her gender. The result has been a political achievement of awesome dimensions, but one that Clinton gets scarce credit for because it looks like something Trump is doing, rather than something she is doing — which is, of course, the point.

Clinton is no Obama as a political talent, but debating is one thing she does really well, much better than Obama. One reason I’ve always been confident of her winning was that I assumed that you could consider what she did to Rick Lazio in the debates and then triple it. Sure, Trump is her nearly perfect opponent, but she knew how to put him away despite some obvious issue-based vulnerabilities.


You know who else bused minorities from city to city in order influence the outcome of an election?

[ 10 ] October 20, 2016 |

In case there was any doubt that there is more than a smidge of projection driving the right wing’s Buses Full of Sneaky Black People conspiracy theory.

At least six chartered buses carried mostly poor, black men from as far as Philadelphia to hand out inaccurate voter guides in Baltimore and Prince George’s County yesterday as part of an effort by backers of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and U.S. Senate candidate Michael S. Steele to woo black voters.

The glossy voter guide, paid for by the Ehrlich and Steele campaigns, pictured three of Maryland’s most prominent black Democrats above the words “These are OUR Choices,” even though two were not on yesterday’s ballot and the other was running unopposed. Inside, under the heading “Democratic Sample Ballot,” it listed mostly Democratic candidates as the preferred choices — along with Ehrlich and Steele, who were not identified as Republicans.

Several people who distributed the fliers said they were recruited at a Philadelphia homeless shelter and told they would be paid $100, plus two meals, for the day.

“The Hollow Earth theory was not going over well in the quarry.”

[ 74 ] October 20, 2016 |

I have never been any good at conspiracy theories. Part of it is that so many of the ones I hear are designed to shore up Fear and Distrust of the Other, which in turn supports a Get Them Afore They Get You mentality. But mainly I can’t stop myself from trying to figure out how the big elaborate plot to whatever (control the world’s finances, make everyone have sex with The Village People, guarantee a Democratic win through fraud) would work.

As CrunchyFrog demonstrated last night, it wouldn’t.

I know they’re all grifters, but man are they stupid, too. He actually thinks that Democrats are bussing in black people to vote multiple times in different precincts. This reminds me of an article once by a journalist who went undercover for a few months as a car salesman. He had the usual exposes about the car dealership industry, but one side comment was about how every sales dude (almost always dudes) was also involved in some multi-level-marketing scam or another and how their best customers were the other sales dudes. Gullible is as gullible does.

Regarding the black voter busing scheme. Let’s think about this logically (not possible for the GOP, I know, but bear with me). If I were running such a scheme what would I have to do to make an effective dent in the results? As a starting point, a lot of Colorado wingnuts think that Obama won there in 2012 by cheating. He won by 138k votes, so let’s use 140k votes as a starting point. So let’s say I have a bus full of black voters – say 66 people (common capacity limit on school buses). So if every bus is filled to near capacity that’s about 2200 bus-visits to the polling stations. How many polling stations can a given bus hit in a day? Well, your typical precinct has 2-3 people checking voters in and each one processes about 2 per minute, so that’s over 30 minutes just to check in (of course there will be other voters, too), plus time to drive between precincts. Seriously, if you are counting on more than 10 precincts per bus per day you’re going to be disappointed. So that’s 220 buses chartered for the day, and a total of about 14k fraudulent voters.

Holy freaking crap. The logistical problems of arranging that many fraudulent voters, ALL of whom are risking felony sentences and NONE of whom have ever talked about it to anyone. Now plan to arrange for 140k fake registrations using the matching photos for each person and arrange it so that the manager of each bus makes sure that every voter gets the exact fake ID for each precinct. And NO MISTAKES – remember no one has ever been caught doing this because Democrats, who are inept in government, are utter geniuses when it comes to vote fraud. So that means there NEVER can be a situation where a fake voter encounters a registrar who says “Hey, I live on that street, I’ve never seen you” or similar.

By the way, the absolutely easiest logistical part of this scheme is arranging for photo ID. Assuming you have that many people willing to commit felonies for whatever you are paying them and have arranged everything else in detail, getting fake photo IDs for them is simple and routine. So photo ID laws do absolutely jack shit to stop massive vote fraud – but of course that wasn’t their real intention, was it?

And when the O’Keefe’s find nothing we need not worry – all wingnuts everywhere will remain convinced that it is happening everywhere.

[Updated because someone requested the whole thing]

There are two scenarios in which a Clinton victory will guarantee that Trump disputes the legitimacy of the election

[ 140 ] October 20, 2016 |


If it’s close, and if it’s not.

Over recent days, as Trump’s claims about a rigged election have become ever-more fantastical and unhinged, a lot of commentators have claimed that the key to combating this kind of rhetoric post 11/8 is for Clinton to win by a really wide margin — by say more than the 9.5 million votes by which Obama defeated McCain.

I think this is a naive take. Suppose, as is becoming more likely every day, that the election is a true landslide: that Clinton wins by fifteen percentage points, which would translate into about 20 million more votes (the most one-sided presidential election in American history, in terms of total popular vote margin, was Nixon’s win by just under 18 million votes in 1972).

Does anybody really think that Donald and the Deplorables (buy their first album on Sire Records) will then say, wow, I guess we were really wrong about how millions of dead people and illegals were going to be bused into the “inner cities” (wink wink nudge nudge) to vote for Crooked Hillary? I thinks not, especially given that this highly scientific poll that Matt Drudge conducted on the afternoon of the election shows that Trump actually won by [insert large number here] votes etc etc.

In fact the more one-sided the election is, the louder Trump will squeal about how the “obviously” fake margin proves it was stolen.

Which is all the more reason to simply ignore him and everybody associated with him when he goes on his inevitable post-election tirade. Of course if people are literally rioting in the streets ignoring them is not an option. If some of those people end up getting shot they will have only themselves, Donald Trump, the Republican Party, the media, and American politics, culture, and society as a whole to blame.

So Donald Trump Said This

[ 213 ] October 19, 2016 |


I’m sure this will end well:

It’s extraordinary that Chris Wallace had to ask this question of Donald Trump during a presidential debate: If he loses, will he accept the result of the election?

But what is even more stunning was Trump’s response: You’ll just have to wait and see.

“I will look at it at the time,” Trump said. He listed off his litany of complaints about the election. The media is biased. There are “millions of people registered to vote that shouldn’t be registered to vote,” he said, distorting a Pew Research Center report that was about voter registration systems rather than fraud. Clinton, he said, shouldn’t even be running in the first place.

Wallace pressed him again: “There is a tradition in this country, in fact one of the prides of this country is the peaceful transition of power, and that no matter how hard-fought a campaign is, that at the end of the campaign that the loser concedes to the winner. Not saying that you’re necessarily going to be the loser or the winner. But that the loser concedes to the winner, and that the country comes together in part for the good of the country. Are you saying you’re not prepared now to commit to that principle?”

And again, Trump wouldn’t say that he would. “I’ll tell you at the time,” he repeated. “I’ll keep you in suspense, okay?”

But Al Gore refused to concede an election whose outcome had not been determined, so really Both Sides Do It.

…at least the media seems to be avoiding “is democracy good? Views differ” for now:


This Again? Third Debate Open Thread

[ 247 ] October 19, 2016 |


Donald Trump and Roger Ailes have had a falling out. Reportedly, Trump doesn’t have the attention span or interest to do actual debate prep, and Ailes just wasted everyone’s time with jagoff stories about the good old days when he was paid huge sums of money while working for Fox and coercing women for sexual favors rather than being paid huge sums of money to tell interminable anecdotes about it. I’m confident that, uncharacteristically, both sides are telling the truth!

Anyway, this will make me more grateful than ever that the new silent majority is holding up.

…it would have been fitting for Adrian Gonzalez to have scored the first run in tonight’s game, only for some reason using instant replay is no bar to getting calls wrong.

James O’Keefe finds another use for his pimp hat

[ 38 ] October 19, 2016 |

Hold it under the suckers’ noses and ask them to fill it with cash.

But in a new fundraising message to supporters of PVAction, O’Keefe writes that “a rampant and organized system of voter fraud has been exposed” by his reporters, and he promises more to come.

“Weeks ago, we deployed undercover journalists in early voting states across the nation,” O’Keefe writes. “They have been recording hours and hours of footage as we waited for the dam to break. And now I need to double down and flood the field with undercover investigators. They will be deployed to early voting stations around the nation to monitor ‘bussing’ activities and catch voter fraud in the act. Can you pay for one hotel night for an undercover journalist? One meal?”

By the way, the word busing (I assume he doesn’t mean kissing) is not at all meant trip the very sensitive alarms of the sort of people who can’t understand why black and brown people are allowed to vote.

At any rate I wonder if the sort of people who still take him seriously will offer room and board for his supermassive squad of undercover investigator sleuth fraud detectors. O’Keefe trying to graciously decline anything that can’t go in his bank account is an exchange I’d pay to see.

High-ranking marks don’t seem eager to grab this particular merde sandwich. Possibly because their hands are full with Trump.

In a 2011 email released during an unrelated lawsuit, a Walker ally suggested that if a close statewide election went the wrong way, Republicans needed to “start messaging ‘widespread reports of election fraud’” and argue for a recount.

Yet in the 24 hours after conservative activist James O’Keefe released a video, claiming to expose a voter fraud plot in Wisconsin, Walker has been relatively quiet. In his first comments on the videos, Walker tweeted a link to a Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that covered how Madison activist Scott Foval got Democratic “bird-doggers” into Republican events.

Walker’s caution, and the hands-off approach of other Republicans, suggest that the second Project Veritas Action video — “Massive Voter Fraud” — is prompting caution about how to move.

Because Project Veritas Action’s full undercover interview with Scott Foval has not been made available, the charge that he plotted voter fraud is constructed from O’Keefe’s narration and damning-sounding quotes.

Is the GOP thrice bitten, finally starting to get a clue? No. I’m sure that after the election we’ll hear lots and lots about the wonderful work PVA has done to defend democracy. For now they’ll let Trump shout about it and hope everyone takes this as a sign that the GOP is a serious party that just happens to have a high gibbering bigot count.

Politics is the strong and slow boring of hard boards, Washington climate bill edition

[ 34 ] October 19, 2016 |


A reader asked for a post on I-732, a carbon tax on the ballot in Washington State. I’ve been avoiding writing about it because the story is too depressing, but it should be done. A series of loosely connected observations and commentary on 732 and related issues follows.

• Rather than try to offer my own summary, I’ll begin by simply assigning Dave Roberts’ piece on the history and the politics. It’s very good. Go read it.

• First things first: whether your sympathies lie with the alliance or CarbonWA, vote yes.

• Seriously, vote yes. If you don’t believe me listen to these climate scientists.

• A few months ago I was much angrier and would have written very nasty, snide things about, the Sierra Club, and Jay Inslee, had I written this post then. Now, I’m feeling a bit more appreciative of the tragic nature of the alliance/carbonWA split. At most points in time over the last six years, there have been plausible and sympathetic reasons to support both sides and both approaches.

• That said, that CarbonWA was able to agree on the text of an initiative and get it on the ballot and the Alliance hasn’t yet agreed on exactly what their initiative would look like is revealing: coalition politics are vital and important, but for the purposes of constructing an initiative designed to win statewide but also satisfy all key coalition-partners with diverse goals can be debilitating.

• With this in mind, while I obviously wasn’t privy to the December negotiations between the two groups, the claim reported by Roberts that internal polls and research showed the Alliance approach had a better chance of passing should be treated with a great deal of skepticism. For one thing, they were comparing an actual initiative vs. a theoretical one, and it’s easier to disguise the warts of the latter.

• Furthermore, there’s a decent case to be made that the median voter in Washington is a suburban white affluent moderate who is susceptible to anti-tax, anti-big government rhetoric but nevertheless concerned about the environment. A revenue neutral tax re-structure might be necessary to win them over. The alliance people are almost certainly correct that revenue neutrality won’t win over actual Republicans, but that’s beside the point. There’s a population of once-R-leaning, now probably D-leaning moderates who are still all too easily spooked by tax increases, especially general ones.

• That said, if I were designing a bill from scratch, I might have aimed for a slightly revenue positive bill, with the increased revenue earmarked for clean energy projects. That probably would be just as, or slightly more, appealing to the median voter in Washington state. But evaluating an actual proposal against a perfect one in one’s head isn’t a reasonable standard for initiatives.

• There’s a part of me that can’t help but see the desire to use a climate bill as the kludge to DO ALL THE PROGRESSIVE THINGS like fix the tax structure, fund McCleary, deal with the whole “most regressive tax structure of all 50 states” problem and so on is a way of not taking climate change sufficiently seriously. This is particularly the case in a state in which previous efforts with full Democratic control of state government manifestly failed. I’m old enough to remember when Ron Sims ran against Christine Gregoire for in the Democratic primary for governor in 2004 on a revenue neutral to the state, positive to the taxpayer income tax, and was trounced by his status-quo supporting opponent by a better than 2-1 margin. Granted, she had some advantages over him and was likely to win regardless, but that was still a clear rebuke of a tax overhaul. Climate change policy can’t solve all our problems, and it’s hard not to conclude that the alliance was treating it as something of a magic bullet.

• It’s worth keeping in mind that while 732 doesn’t fix the fundamentally regressive nature of state taxation, it does make the tax code less regressive than it currently is—in fact it does more on that front than has been accomplished by anyone else in Washington politics recently.

• Also, as the California example demonstrates, when the time and the politics are right a carbon tax can be revisited to emphasize other progressive priorities.

• If this fails and the alliance moves forward with an initiative in two years just in time for the Hillary backlash election, God help us.

• Also, if you’re in the ST zone and care about the climate please vote yes on ST3. There’s lots of details about for us transit nerds to be frustrated with, but it’s a) really pretty good overall, especially by North American standards, and b) the only realistic alternative is a delayed, cheaper version of what’s currently on offer. And one of the reasons I’ve come around on prioritizing rail to emptier parts of suburbs over rail in the city is at least there’s a chance for dense development there–the first round of light rail in the city has demonstrated that moderately dense established Seattle neighborhoods just have too many politically powerful wealthy homeowners who know how to play anti-upzone politics, while some suburbs (Lynnwood and Shoreline in particular) are proving more enthusiastic about station-adjacent upzones than Seattle has been. Hell, there are still empty lots less than a quarter-mile from light rail stations that opened in 2008 zoned for 2-3 stories.

• Also, if you actually care about not cooking the planet, you can’t really justify anti-density activism. If you commute via Hummer 200 miles a day or whatever, that’s bad, but what DiCaprio et al are trying to do is infinitely worse—you’re forcing many thousands of present and future people to pump more carbon into the air for many decades to come, including some people who would choose not to, if allowed to make that choice. If parking inconveniences, or not having to look at newer and taller buildings than you’d prefer for aesthetic reasons are more important than the future of the planet, fine, but own that preference ordering.

Since We Could Use Some Good News…

[ 111 ] October 19, 2016 |


The chances that the Democrats will retake the Senate have substantially improved in the last week. Apparently endorsing a different misogynist for president isn’t helping Ayotte, and McCrory et al. have made North Carolina extremely winnable. Even though I’ve always been dubious about Murphy’s chances, I do agree that unless there’s a really severe resource crunch it’s premature to be pulling out of Florida.

Steve Bannon says that Trump is bringing a mystery special guest to tonight’s debate

[ 269 ] October 19, 2016 |


Besides Obama’s half brother and Pat Smith.

Using Donald’s Razor, i.e., the stupidest possible explanation is generally the best (I prefer the prosody of this phrase to John Scalzi’s formulation), let’s figure out who it is.

Revealed! The real racist of this election.

[ 85 ] October 19, 2016 |

From the baseball-sharp mind of Jane Orient, MD, comes a question no Democrat will answer:

If Trump and his supporters are such racists, why won’t Hitlery Racist Clinton acknowledge her step-child through that time Bill Clinton hired an African-American prostitute???

Pennsylvania Faculty on Strike

[ 70 ] October 19, 2016 |


Early this morning, 5500 faculty members on the 14 campuses of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, including my wife, went on strike because of PASSHE’s refusal to offer a fair contract. The university system has sought to effectively destroy these schools. They want to commit to even more adjunct teaching while also lowering adjunct pay up to 20 percent. The schools are offering pathetic pay rates and seeking major health care givebacks. 477 days after the last contract expired, the union (APSCUF) was willing to continue meeting, but as the hours wound down, PASSHE refused to come back to the table. APSCUF is trying to argue for binding arbitration. But the schools, with a weak hand because of the absurdity of the offer, refuses to agree to that. The strike will end if PASSHE agrees to that binding arbitration. Until then, the corporate war on higher education has forced 105,000 students to not get an education.

I know this isn’t Yale, Harvard, Columbia, or any of the New York schools that the lefties who went to those schools teach at since many couldn’t imagine lighting out for the territories. So this strike probably won’t get the kind of attention that we saw at Long Island University. But it’s equally important. More will be forthcoming.

…Since there seems to be some confusion, this has nothing to do with Penn State University. These are the affected schools.

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