Monday, October 31, 2016

Pols and Polls - The good, the bad, and the ugly

Summary for Oct. 31: The NY Times Upshot model gives Clinton a 90% chance of winning and gives Dems a 61% chance of flipping the Senate. HuffPollsterGeist has Clinton’s chances at 98% and the likelihood of Dems getting a Senate tie or better at 78%. HuffPollster still anticipates 341 electoral votes for Clinton. Trump was gaining, slightly, before Comey went Lone Ranger. Nate Silver reports little to no evidence that Comey-gate has shifted polls away from Clinton, but polls are few and more damage could emerge in the next few days. However, consider this quote from the HuffPollster’s email: “I do not equate sexual assault with mishandling of classified information, but it strikes me that the cognitive task before voters is similar. In both cases, voters have a mountain of evidence already placed before them. One more woman making an accusation against Trump will not change voters’ assessments of the veracity of the totality of the allegations. Similarly, possibly finding new Clinton-related emails - without any further evidence that they are relevant - does not change voters’ assessments of Clinton on this issue.”

Nate Silver’s 538 via email: Donald Trump continues to make modest gains in the FiveThirtyEight forecast. His chances are 21 percent in our polls-only model and 23 percent in polls-plus, his best position since early this month in each forecast. And Trump has narrowed Hillary Clinton’s popular vote lead to roughly 5 percentage points from 7 points two weeks ago. … look at what polls conducted since Comey’s announcement say about the race. This will be brief because there actually aren’t any of them. The best we can do is to look at polls that conducted some of their interviews since the FBI news and compare them to the most recent pre-Comey edition of the poll. There’s really no evidence of a further shift to Trump — at least not yet:

STATEPOLLSTERDAYS
POST-COMEY
NEW POLLLAST
PRE-COMEY
POLL SHIFT
U.S. ABC/Wash. Post 1 of 4 Clinton +1 Clinton +2 Trump +1
U.S. IBD/TIPP 2 of 6 Clinton +3 Clinton +3
U.S. USC/LA Times 2 of 7 Trump +2 Trump +2
Wisc. Emerson College 1 of 2 Clinton +6 Clinton +6
Ariz. YouGov 1 of 3 Trump +2 Trump +2
Colo. YouGov 1 of 3 Clinton +3 Clinton +1 Clinton +2
N.C. YouGov 1 of 3 Clinton +3 Clinton +4 Trump +1
Pa. YouGov 1 of 3 Clinton +8 Clinton +8

John Cassidy (New Yorker) looks at Clinton’s very bad week but remains optimistic.

… recent polls have confirmed the same message: voters have issues with Clinton, but they have bigger issues with Trump. He still has the highest unfavorable ratings of any Presidential candidate in recent history, and he still has a huge credibility problem.

Forecast update - More from HuffPollster (via email): “Despite fluctuations in national polling numbers, state polls indicate that Trump has no plausible path to winning 270 electoral votes at this point. Clinton’s electoral college advantage remains strong. The Huffington Post presidential forecast currently shows a 98 percent chance that Clinton will be elected… Trump’s [less than] 2 percent chance of becoming president represents the possibility that all of the polls could be wrong in the same direction. Clearly we don’t expect that to happen, but it is a possibility…. State polls are generally slower to come in than national polls, and if Clinton’s lead shrinks in key states, as it has in national polls, her Electoral College advantage will shrink a bit…. [But] Clinton’s lead shrinking a bit would likely only mean going from an anticipated 341 electoral votes in the HuffPost forecast model today to somewhere between 300 and 320 electoral votes. Unless Trump can sweep all the states he leads in now plus Ohio, Nevada, North Carolina, Florida and at least one other state (likely among Colorado, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania or New Hampshire), he won’t win the presidency.” [HuffPost, Presidential forecast]

DEMOCRATS HAVE THE EDGE IN SENATE PROJECTIONS- The HuffPost Pollster Senate forecast gives Democrats a 44 percent chance of taking 51 or more seats. There’s also a 35 percent chance that the chamber is tied and the vice president casts the deciding vote. Given Clinton’s strong chances of winning the presidency, Democrats overall have a 78 percent chance of taking the majority. Republicans are down to a 22 percent chance of getting 51 or more seats or 50 or more plus the vice presidency. [Senate forecast]

ComeyGate - an abuse of power

There’s far too much chatter in the Newsiverse about how much we don’t know about what we don’t know about the latest Clinton email mess. Not wanting to add uncertainty to uncertainty, I tossed the two other posts I prepared for this morning. I will, however, include this tidbit.

An article at liberalamerica.org points to some of the possible motivations that led Comey to violate decades of tradition protecting the FBI from partisan politics.

The latest “revelation” from the FBI just gets more and more curious by the hour. Now we have audio of Lara Trump, wife of Eric Trump and daughter-in-law of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, saying she believes her father-in-law was behind the latest letter from FBI Director James Comey.

In an interview on WABC Radio with Rita Cosby, Lara Trump came right out and said, proudly, that she believes Donald Trump was one of the people behind this whole thing:

“I think my father-in-law forced their hand in this. You know, he has been the one since the beginning saying that she shouldn’t be able to run for president, and I commend him on that.”

CNN has a timeline - as of yesterday.

I found the NY Times post copied below to be particularly informative (h/t Daily Kos).

On Clinton Emails, Did the F.B.I. Director Abuse His Power? By RICHARD W. PAINTER

Richard W. Painter, a professor at the University of Minnesota Law School, was the chief White House ethics lawyer from 2005 to 2007.

THE F.B.I. is currently investigating the hacking of Americans’ computers by foreign governments. Russia is a prime suspect.

Imagine a possible connection between a candidate for president in the United States and the Russian computer hacking. Imagine the candidate has business dealings in Russia, and has publicly encouraged the Russians to hack the email of his opponent. It would not be surprising for the F.B.I. to include this candidate and his campaign staff in its confidential investigation of Russian computer hacking.

But it would be highly improper, and an abuse of power, for the F.B.I. to conduct such an investigation in the public eye, particularly on the eve of the election. It would be an abuse of power for the director of the F.B.I., absent compelling circumstances, to notify members of Congress that the candidate was under investigation. It would be an abuse of power if F.B.I. agents went so far as to obtain a search warrant and raid the candidate’s office tower, hauling out boxes of documents and computers in front of television cameras.

The F.B.I.’s job is to investigate, not to influence the outcome of an election.

Such acts could also be prohibited under the Hatch Act, which bars the use of an official position to influence an election. That is why the F.B.I. presumably would keep those aspects of an investigation confidential until after the election. The usual penalty for a violation is termination of federal employment.

That is why, on Saturday, I filed a complaint against the F.B.I. with the Office of Special Counsel, which investigates Hatch Act violations, and with the Office of Government Ethics. I spent much of my career working on government and lawyers’ ethics, including as the chief White House ethics lawyer for George W. Bush. I never thought that the F.B.I. could be dragged into a political circus surrounding one of its investigations. Until this week.

(For the sake of full disclosure, in this election I have supported Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, John Kasich and Hillary Clinton for president, in that order.)

On Friday, the director of the F.B.I., James B. Comey, sent members of Congress a letter about developments in the agency’s investigation of Mrs. Clinton’s emails, an investigation which supposedly was closed months ago. This letter, which was quickly posted on the internet, made highly unusual public statements about an F.B.I. investigation concerning a candidate in the election. The letter was sent in violation of a longstanding Justice Department policy of not discussing specifics about pending investigations with others, including members of Congress. According to some news reports, the letter was sent before the F.B.I. had even obtained the search warrant that it needed to look at the newly discovered emails. And it was sent days before the election, when many Americans are already voting.

Violations of the Hatch Act and of government ethics rules on misuse of official positions are not permissible in any circumstances, including in the case of an executive branch official acting under pressure from politically motivated members of Congress. Violations are of even greater concern when the agency is the F.B.I.

It is not clear whether Mr. Comey personally wanted to influence the outcome of the election, although his letter — which cast suspicion on Mrs. Clinton without revealing specifics — was concerning. Also concerning is the fact that Mr. Comey already made unusual public statements expressing his opinion about Mrs. Clinton’s actions, calling her handling of classified information “extremely careless,” when he announced this summer that the F.B.I. was concluding its investigation of her email without filing any charges.

But an official doesn’t need to have a specific intent — or desire — to influence an election to be in violation of the Hatch Act or government ethics rules. The rules are violated if it is obvious that the official’s actions could influence the election, there is no other good reason for taking those actions, and the official is acting under pressure from persons who obviously do want to influence the election.

Absent extraordinary circumstances that might justify it, a public communication about a pending F.B.I. investigation involving a candidate that is made on the eve of an election is thus very likely to be a violation of the Hatch Act and a misuse of an official position. Serious questions also arise under lawyers’ professional conduct rules that require prosecutors to avoid excessive publicity and unnecessary statements that could cause public condemnation even of people who have been accused of a crime, not to mention people like Mrs. Clinton, who have never been charged with a crime.

This is no trivial matter. We cannot allow F.B.I. or Justice Department officials to unnecessarily publicize pending investigations concerning candidates of either party while an election is underway. That is an abuse of power. Allowing such a precedent to stand will invite more, and even worse, abuses of power in the future.

Toons for the Monday mourning

From AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona: here are the morning’s tunes for the mourning.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

In Defense of Full-Day K

One of the topics of discussion at the recent Arizona State Board of Education was the need for full day kindergarten. The minutes of the meeting report that Phil Francis, CEO of Petsmart, "gave a presentation about the importance of full day kindergarten as a grade and the efforts to bring this to Arizona. The intention of the group, comprised of business leaders, legislators and parents, is to make kindergarten a grade with rigor, requirements, accountability and benchmarks.” Arizona State Senator Steve Smith also spoke at the meeting “as a parent and as a legislator in support of this initiative.” He said “his goal is to first find out if this is something that Arizona wants and then the legislature will find money during the budget process."
I have several issues with both their comments. First of all, there is no research data that shows kindergarten should be "a grade with rigor, requirements, accountability and benchmarks." In fact, Finland (generally considered the best school system in the world), does not even start their children in school until they are seven years old. Numerous studies show young children need time to play and that putting too much pressure on our youngest students may cause them to miss out on other critical development and lose a love of learning.
Secondly, I am suspect whenever Senator Steve Smith appears to support something good for public education. According to the Friends of ASBA (Arizona School Boards Association) annual legislator report card, Smith only voted for our district schools and their students half of the time last year and that was better than previous years. He has consistently been a proponent of school choice and the diversion of taxpayer public education monies to private and religious schools via vouchers. Call me cynical, but if Smith is in favor of restoring the funding to full day kindergarten, there's profit to be made by commercial schools. Further Empowerment Scholarship Account (vouchers) expansion anyone?
The meeting minutes also stated that Lisa Fink, founder of Adams Traditional Academy, spoke against the initiative saying that “many of the gains of full day k are gone by the second grade. I’m not sure what research Fink is using, but I can point to plenty that shows her conclusion is incorrect. A 2004 National Center for Education Statistics longitudinal study showed a 32 percent gain in reading and 22 percent gain in math achievement for kindergarten students in full-day programs versus half-day. A more recent study (2014) showed a sizable learning advantage for full-day students. For Hispanic full-day kindergarteners, the advantage was nearly twice that of Hispanic half-day students. In a study of over 17,000 students in Philadelphia, researchers found that “by the time they reached the third and fourth grades, former full-day kindergarteners were… 26 percent more likely than graduates of half-day programs—to have made it there without having repeated a grade.”  The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) Center says the advantages of full-day kindergarten include: higher long-term achievement, fewer grade retentions, higher self-esteem and independence, and greater creativity. 
Where the gains have been less than obvious, it is likely due to outside factors. In 2008, another early childhood longitudinal study found that full-day students were statistically more likely to live below the poverty line and be of low birth weight and have unmarried parents who did not pursue education beyond high school. That is why researchers such as Chloe Gibbs at the University of Virginia, used students in her 2014 study who had a lottery to allocate full-day kindergarten slots, thus ensuring a random sampling. She concluded that full-day kindergarten produces greater learning gains per dollar spent than other well know early education interventions (such as Head Start and class size reductions.) It not only ensured all students did better, it also closed the literacy achievement gap between Hispanic and other students by 70 percent. This is important for several reasons. First of all, Hispanics are now the majority/minority in our Arizona's district schools. Secondly, their achievement levels on the latest AzMERIT tests are lower than that of their white counterparts. Thirdly, Dr. Rottweiler, reminded the Board that "the same year we created move on when reading to increase literacy scores, we cut the funding to full day kindergarten." In other words, at the same time the Legislature cut funding for full-day kindergarten, they enacted a law to hold students back who couldn't read adequately by the third grade. Talk about tying the students legs together and then asking them to run....
Sometimes though, “fadeout” (an apparent loss of gains as the student progresses through school) does occur. Studies documenting the phenomenon though, “often show better adult outcomes—better health, higher earnings, etc.,” than for students who didn’t have the full-day kindergarten experience. Additionally, there is no consistency across states for kindergarten programs. Quality matters and it really matters with our youngest students.  The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) Center says the advantages of full-day kindergarten include: higher long-term achievement, fewer grade retentions, higher self-esteem and independence, and greater creativity. 
One advantage of half-day kindergarten that matters to the Arizona Legislature is undoubtedly the fact that it costs less; $218 million less in 2010. Of course, the program cuts may not have been just about offsetting the state’s revenue shortfall. Cutting full-day kindergarten forced a choice on districts to either a) just offer half-day or b) trim other services (increase class sizes, eliminating art or music, cutting athletic directors) to pay for it. No matter which decision districts made, it hurt their ability to be fully successful. Not offering full-day kindergarten meant they might lose potential students who would likely have stayed through graduation. Since districts are funded on a per-student formula, this translates into lost funding. And I know there are those thinking “if the kid leaves, the cost of educating him leaves as well, so what’s the problem?” The problem is that districts have numerous fixed costs that continue to exist in full whether or not students attrit out (or never come in.) These include costs such as that for utilities, facility and grounds maintenance, and personnel.
Fortunately, there were others at the Board meeting who “get it.” Janiene Marlow, H.R. Director at Cave Creek USD, reiterated to the Board that "Full Day K programs are crucial." Channel PoweBalsz Elementary School District Board Member, also testified in support of full day kindergarten. Jack Smith, Yavapai County Board of Supervisors, spoke as a parent and discussed how kindergarten spring-boarded his children to success.
Of course, a move back to full-day kindergarten will cost significant monies. Kelley Murphy, from the Arizona Community Education Association (AZECA), stressed that in order to implement this in statute there must be a designated funding source. Remember that in his comments at the meeting, Senator Smith said, “the legislature will find money during the budget process.” I can guarantee you he is not talking about raising additional revenue to fund full-day kindergarten. I’m guessing he means the legislature will look at the K-12 budget to see what they can cut to fund it. Keep in mind that even after the Prop. 123 monies, Arizona is still 48th in the nation in K-12 per-pupil funding. Arizona’s GOP-led legislature is just not concerned and/or focused on truly improving the educational outcomes for the 80-plus percent of Arizonan students that attend our district schools. That's why I'm only partially excited about the potential restoration of funding for full-day kindergarten, even though I think it is critical. It, like any other initiative we pursue in K-12 education, is not a silver bullet. It must be pursued as part of a comprehensive educational system. It must also be funded to a level that will help ensure a quality program. Junk in after all, produces junk out.
The hard truth is that as long as we accept mediocre support for our district schools, they will have a very hard time producing stellar results. The fact that some districts are excelling at the highest levels and most others are continuing to improve, is a testimony to the underpaid and undervalued but totally dedicated educational professionals in 230 community school districts around the state. They do it because they love the kids. Both they and the kids deserve much better.

Jim Woodbrey on issues that matter

Jim Woodbrey writes about The candidates and the issues that matter in this morning’s “In My View” in the Green Valley News.

One of the issues resonates with your Scriber: income inequality. It is certainly one of the economic drivers of Trumpism and needs to be addressed by the next (Clinton, I hope) administration. Here are snippets from Jim’s essay.

Income inequality has clear-cut, direct adverse effects on most Americans, from lowest incomes right up through the middle class and into lower managements. It stems from inadequate compensation, inadequate sharing of profits and consequent inadequate economic demand. It amounts to killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.

Over the period 1990–2015, income inequality’s most conservative measure — the difference of real mean and real median compensations — amounted to just under $36 trillion largely lost from the economy. These trillions held by the very wealthy made little contribution to the deficient economic demand. They have proven time and again not to trickle down in large measure directly into investments in education, infrastructure and other private job creating programs.

For those of you not familiar with the statistics Jim cites here is a tiny tutorial. Assume a universe of 100 wage earners in which the average mean yearly wage is $30,000. Assume also that 50 0f those workers earn wages above $30,000 and 50 earn wages below $30,000. Thus the median is also $30,000. Now suppose that we add another worker to the universe and that this worker earns $30,000,000, that is 30 million. The median will hardly budge, but the mean will skyrocket. So the difference, mean-median, is an indicator of economic inequality. The bigger the difference the more money is held by those at the top.

Do read Jim’s essay for more on issues that matter, how neither Republicans nor Democrats have effectively addressed them, and what a Democratic administration must be doing in the years ahead.

Andy Borowitz - Trump loses American kingship to the Queen of England

New Yorker satirist in residence Andy Borowitz tells about the royal response to Trump’s attempt to dispense with the election and declare himself king.

LONDON (The Borowitz Report)—In an unexpected televised address on Saturday, Queen Elizabeth II offered to restore British rule over the United States of America.

Addressing the American people from her office in Buckingham Palace, the Queen said that she was making the offer “in recognition of the desperate situation you now find yourselves in.”

“This two-hundred-and-forty-year experiment in self-rule began with the best of intentions, but I think we can all agree that it didn’t end well,” she said.

The Queen urged Americans to write in her name on Election Day, after which the transition to British rule could begin “with a minimum of bother.”

Elizabeth acknowledged that, in the wake of Brexit, Americans might justifiably be alarmed about being governed by the British parliamentary system, but she reassured them, “Parliament would play no role in this deal. This would be an old-school monarchy. Just me, and then, assuming you’d rather not have Charles, we could go straight to William and those children of his who have mesmerized you so.”

Using the closing moments of her speech to tout her credentials, the Queen made it clear that she has never used e-mail and has only had sex with one person “very occasionally.”

In Scriber’s last survey less than 5% of the likely (American) voters knew about Queen Elizabeth and knew that England was an American ally. Over 50% thought that Parliament was a brand of cigarettes. About one-third knew to look to the right side as a way of exiting New York subway terminals when seeing the term “Brexit” standing for “Bear Right to Exit”.

America vs. Trumpism - A view from across the pond

The Guardian opines on the latest email furor, Clinton vs. Trump, and Trumpism, The Observer view on Donald Trump’s malign influence on the world. “Despite the latest twist over Hillary Clinton’s emails, she is ahead in the polls and remains the sane and reasonable choice.” h/t Paul McCreary, who says “Marvelously articulate. Something to which we should all ascribe. A pleasure.” He’s right.

The latest furore over Hillary Clinton’s alleged misuse of private emails when she was secretary of state in 2009–2013 has thrown a tumultuous and unedifying US presidential election into even greater confusion, with little more than a week to go before voting day.

The FBI’s unexpected and very public revelation that it is recommencing its investigation into Clinton’s conduct may not be politically motivated, but its timing certainly makes it appear that way. The row represents yet another hammer blow to a democratic process whose credibility has been repeatedly challenged, principally by the unscrupulous Republican candidate, Donald Trump.

Despite this new firestorm, stoked by Republicans and rightwing media, it remains likely that American voters will deliver a clear, possibly resounding, rejection of Trump on 8 November. Although opinion polls show the race tightening nationally and nothing is certain as a febrile campaign climaxes, Clinton is ahead almost everywhere that matters – and she is the sane and reasonable, if uninspiring, choice. A Trump defeat will be richly deserved. As we have noted previously, he is not a fit and proper person to serve in the White House. His behaviour during a long, raucous and often embarrassingly vulgar campaign made that abundantly plain.

The Observer goes on to deliver an insightful analysis of Trumpism, its origins , its adherents, and its prospects after November 8th. While skipping a lot of The Observer’s reasoning, these snippets get at the essence of the essay.

Trumpism appeals to the worst in people, cynically exploiting and fanning the anger, grievances and prejudices of the economically disadvantaged, the embittered, uneducated and plain ignorant. It appeals to base instincts, to lowest common denominators. Its is political dumbing down writ large. It is underpinned by a pervasive and comprehensible insecurity, engendered across the west by post–2008 economic injustice and social division, the growing gulf between rich and poor and incompetent, unfeeling or corrupt governance.

… His unexpected success in winning the nomination, despite the Republican establishment’s hostility, reflected his close identification with mainly white, working-class and lower-middle-class voters who, like him, feel angry, undervalued and alienated. While public figures such as Barack Obama, Trump’s failed Republican rival Jeb Bush and Clinton appear to this constituency to be remote, out of touch and uncaring, Trumpism peddles the delusion that the candidate is “on their side”. Again and again, in Ohio, Florida and elsewhere, disaffected voters claimed that only Trump could be trusted to tell the “truth”, only Trump would keep his promises, only Trump could make America great again.

The explanation of the rise of Trumpism rooted in economic inequalities certainly applies to those “mainly white, working-class and lower-middle-class voters who … feel angry, undervalued and alienated. ” But there is another group of much more well-to-do voters, mainly white I suspect, who support Trump. Do they do so out of “fear”? Perhaps. If so, it is fear of change.

But The Observer sees reason for optimism.

More than anything else, Trumpism will fade and fail because, ultimately, it is a minority pastime, pandering to bigotry, which runs against the grain and spirit of the times, Brexit notwithstanding. Trumpism decries the impact of globalisation, yet globalisation, for all the dislocation and often unwelcome change it brings, is the inescapable way ahead for a more integrated, more connected and more mutually responsible and caring world.

For good or bad, this clock cannot be turned back. Closed borders and closed minds, crude nationalism, trade barriers, xenophobia, religious, racial and sexual discrimination – these are old mistakes and old hatreds that, while still in evidence everywhere, belong to times past. The world is moving forward, not back. In the end, Trumpism and all its ghastly incarnations, dwelling in fear and darkness, will, like Trump himself, be exorcised.

Trumpists want us to go back to the future - the 1950s. But those were years of relatively high marginal tax rates and reasonable valuation of worker productivity resulting in a robust middle class and minimal economic inequality - minimal at least when compared to that in existence today. I’m betting Trumpists do not really want that. And Trump will not recreate those economic times.

The nation’s hope lies not with Trump but with Clinton and progressive Democrats who promise to hold her on a center-left course toward a more equitable America. The Observer one last time: Clinton is the “sane and reasonable” choice to lead us there.

Update on Comey's email mess

Update: No new information on Comey’s email mess. You can check out the latest analyses of the possibilities from Greg Sargent at the Washington Post/Plum Line via AZBlueMeanies’ post this morning.

In the absence of clarifying information from the FBI Director, insinuations and innuendos abound. I’ll throw in one to fan the flames. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R, UT) was pushed by Trump campaign officials to pressure Comey into writing the letter to Congress and Comey did so under duress. Do I have any reason to believe that any of that is true? None at all. But that is my point. You cannot prove me wrong either. Comey needs to squelch this crap but I’ll bet he doesn’t.

Justice Dept. advised against Comey's letter

The NY Times reports on how FBI Director Comey broke with tradition in writing his letter to Congress this close to an election, Justice Dept. Strongly Discouraged Comey on Move in Clinton Email Case.

The day before the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, sent a letter to Congress announcing that new evidence had been discovered that may be related to the completed Hillary Clinton email investigation, the Justice Department strongly discouraged the step and told him that he would be breaking with longstanding policy, three law enforcement officials said.

Senior Justice Department officials did not move to stop him from sending the letter, officials said, but they did everything short of it, pointing to policies against talking about current criminal investigations or being seen as meddling in elections.

That Mr. Comey moved ahead despite those protestations underscores the highly unusual nature of Friday’s revelations, which added a dramatic twist to the final days of a presidential campaign and reignited a firestorm that Mrs. Clinton believed she had put behind her when the F.B.I. decided in July not to charge anyone in the investigation.

The letter is also the latest example of an at-times strained relationship between the Justice Department and Mr. Comey, who technically answers to the attorney general but who — on issues of race, encryption, policing and most notably the Clinton investigation — has branded himself as someone who operates outside Washington’s typical chain of command.

Mr. Comey’s letter opened him up to criticism not only from Democrats but also from current and former officials at the F.B.I. and the Justice Department, including Republicans.

“There’s a longstanding policy of not doing anything that could influence an election,” said George J. Terwilliger III, a deputy attorney general under the President George Bush. “Those guidelines exist for a reason. Sometimes, that makes for hard decisions. But bypassing them has consequences.”

Right. And in a review of the facts and fallacies Mother Jones exposes what those consequences are: namely that We Have 10 Days of Madhouse Politics Ahead of Us.

With 10 days to go before Election Day, we are FUBARed. Have you heard? There are some emails. They are pertinent to something or other. But nobody has actually read them, so, actually, maybe they aren’t.

They are from Hillary Clinton to Huma Abedin. No, wait, they aren’t. Or maybe they are. No they’re not.

They are duplicates of emails we’ve already seen. No they aren’t. But maybe some of them are. Or most of them.

The FBI was legally required to inform Congress about these emails. No, just the opposite: it was an egregious breach of a longstanding Department of Justice policy of not announcing things that might affect a presidential campaign within 60 days of Election Day.

The emails are “bigger than Watergate.” They’re a nothingburger.

Jim Comey was in a no-win situation. No, he should have waited until he knew more.

Comey had no idea what effect his cryptic letter would have. Don’t be an idiot: he’s been in Washington for decades and knew exactly what effect it would have.

Sure, but he’s a standup guy. No, he’s a Republican hack and he’s trying to affect Republicans chance[s] in downballot races.

What an unbelievable cock-up. Are we really going to spend the last ten days of the election eagerly awaiting each new leak from “officials” at the FBI who might know things and might not? Seriously? After this election is over, Jim Comey should resign and then spend the rest of his life in a monastery reflecting on his failings.

If Clinton loses this election, we get a con man for president, Trump. If she wins only by a narrow margin, we still get Trump with trumped up lawsuits. If Comey’s actions hurt the Democratic chances down ballot, we get more paralysis in DC. If any of these possible outcomes are realized, we will have experienced a government law enforcement agency intervening to sway the results of the election. That may not be illegal, but it sure is unAmerican.

No revolution for Trump supporters

The New Republic’s Graham Vyse thinks that the “Threats of a post-election uprising is a bunch of Trumpian bluster” in Trump Supporters Say They Want a Revolution. They Don’t.

Worries about post-election violence certainly aren’t unfounded. Trump incited brawls at his rallies earlier this year and spoke about the violence of “the old days” with wistful nostalgia. His recent attempts to delegitimize the results of the election by insisting it’s “rigged,” and calling on supporters to “go around and watch other polling places,” certainly create conditions ripe for conflict. …

But preparing for isolated incidents of low-level violence is different than bracing for some sort of mass uprising, which remains highly unlikely. The Hill recently “reached out to more than a dozen police departments across the country to inquire if they’re preparing enhanced security plans for Nov. 8. Those that responded said they aren’t making different security preparations than usual, at least for now.”

That’s because, although it’s been a revolutionary year in American politics, an actual revolution isn’t imminent.

Like their candidate, plenty of Trump supporters talk tough. Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. said it’s “Pitchforks and torches time.” Joe Walsh, a former Republican congressman for Illinois, said, “November 9th, if Trump loses, I’m grabbing my musket.” (He subsequently defended his remark as a call for peaceful protest, asking, “If I wanted people to take up arms, why would I recommend people take up an antique like a musket?”) Cable news has repeatedly found people at Trump rallies flirting with armed insurrection if not advocating it openly.

But there’s every reason to believe this talk is hollow. Contrary to a popular mythology, Trump’s voters are better off economically than most Americans. They may believe the country’s headed in the wrong direction, and feel anxious and resentful about the nation’s cultural and demographic shifts, but most aren’t desperate enough to risk their lives in a standoff with a heavily militarized state.

Writing about Trump last month, The Atlantic’s Salena Zito argued, “The press takes him literally, but not seriously; his supporters take him seriously, but not literally.” Maybe we should all adopt the latter attitude about his supporters who are primed for revolt. …

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Scriber advisory

The SkyIslandScriber blog will be undergoing some changes that may (or may not) be noticeable to you subscribers. Subsequent to a switch in my blogging platform, older software needs to be updated. That migration process may limit the number of topics that I have time to write about. Stay tuned.

Why latest email-gate is dumb and dumber (aka news media goes freaking nuts)

Kevin Drum at Mother Jones explains why Emailgate Just Gets Stupider and Stupider.

Well, it turns out the "unrelated case" that led the FBI to more Hillary Clinton emails was an investigation into Anthony Weiner's sexting. Because of course it was. It is what we all deserve.

But it's even stupider than that. In the past, I've found Pete Williams [MSNBC] to be a pretty reliable guy ...

Check out Drum's article for the Williams video clip.

If Williams is correct, investigators looked at Weiner's laptop and discovered that Weiner's wife—Clinton aide and all-around conservative boogeyman Huma Abedin—had also used it. So there are some emails from Abedin to Hillary Clinton on the hard drive. ...

Now they've got to go get court process to get the right to...take a wider look at these emails and begin that process. You said earlier this probably won't be wrapped up before Election Day? Scratch probably.

In other words, nobody has even looked at these emails yet. The FBI has to get a court order first. So: are these emails that have already been turned over? Maybe. Are they routine emails about schedules and so forth? Maybe. Nobody, including the FBI, has the slightest idea. But there's certainly no reason to think there are any bombshells here.

Needless to say, that didn't stop every news outlet in the country from blaring this at the tops of their front pages. They never learn, do they? Email stories hyped by folks like Jason Chaffetz never pan out. But news orgs get suckered every time anyway. So just to make sure their shame is preserved for posterity ...

Drum displays the front pages of NY Times, LA Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, CNN, NBC News, and The Guardian, every one of which tying Clinton to the new emails mentioned by the FBI.

Director Comey and the FBI just entered the election by advising Congressional Republicans, and the rest of America, that the FBI doesn't know squat about those new emails but that they are willing to lay a guilt trip on Clinton just in case there's something there. Predictably Trump made up a story for his mob about Clinton corruption and the mob responded with "lock her up".

So what will the latest chapter of the email-gate saga do to the election? Politico offers some (gloomy) assessments.

How much the latest email eruption affects the race depends on how both campaigns handle it over the next few days – and how much voters give a damn.

... the handicappers give [Clinton] between an 80 and 90 percent chance of winning and roughly 30 percent of votes have already been cast, thanks to early balloting and absentee voting in many states. And the scandal (or pseudo-scandal) doesn’t yet directly involve her.

But by late Friday all the Democratic talk of landslides and big down-ballot victories had given way, yet again, to nervous chatter about a candidate who never seems to able to seal the deal.

You can read more about the "five takeaways from Clinton’s very bad Friday – that could turn into something much worse" at Politico's article by Glenn Thrush.

Ezra Klein auto Vox.com advises Americans on both sides of the aisle to chill out because The unsatisfying truth about the Clinton-FBI news: we don’t know anything yet. "Both Democrats and Republicans should calm down."

There is a lot more panic among Democrats and excitement among Republicans than the facts of the story seem to justify. My sense, reading the chatter, is that both sides are assuming that Comey wouldn’t have sent this letter if he wasn’t previewing something big.

... if we just take Comey at his word — and there’s no obvious reason not to — the truth is simpler: The FBI seized computers or phones related to the Weiner investigation. They found emails, likely from Huma Abedin, that might relate to the Clinton investigation. They now need to review those emails, and Comey thought the safest — and perhaps legally required — course of action was to tell Congress those emails exist, and would be reviewed, rather than be criticized later for covering them up until after the election.

The position Comey has put himself in isn’t fun or institutionally safe: Already, the Clinton campaign is demanding Comey release everything he has, rather than just this vague letter. Republicans, of course, will flay Comey if he releases truly damaging information about Clinton only after the election is complete. And the whole thing is coming 11 days before an election where tensions are high, conservatives are looking for good news, and liberals are seeking excuses to panic — so everyone is freaking out.

But for now, the truth is we need more information to know whether this is a big deal — or nothing at all.

And it will take time for the FBI to sift through the new emails.

So what happens next? The FBI is going to review the new emails to “determine whether they contain classified information, as well as to assess their importance to our investigation.” Subsequent reporting from the New York Times emphasizes that the FBI does “not know how long it [will] take to review the emails, or whether the new information was significant.”

Scriber's take: If Clinton loses the election it will be because of the FBI covering its ass.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Pols and Polls: The good, the bad, and the ugly

Summary for Oct 28. Clinton's chances keep edging upward (Huff Post says 98%) and the Republicans' chances of keeping the Senate are declining (Huff Post says 26%). 70% of registered Latino voters are voting for Clinton.

Forecast update - HuffPost’s models give Hillary Clinton a 98 percent chance of winning, and Republicans just a 26 percent chance of holding onto the Senate. [Presidential forecast, Senate forecast]

POLLS DIFFER ON CLINTON’S MARGIN, BUT AGREE THAT SHE’S AHEAD - Mark Murray: “In the last 24 hours, one national poll showed Hillary Clinton with a 14-point lead. Another had her ahead by just three points. And another found it right in the middle ― Clinton up nine points….How to make sense of the plethora of polls? Well, here’s an answer: Clinton is clearly ahead, though the margin is larger in some polls than others. And when looking at the battleground states, she still has the easiest path to the 270 electoral votes. Looking at the national polls, the Huffington Post shows Clinton with an average lead of seven points in the surveys it recognizes, while the RealClearPolitics average has it at five points. To put those numbers into perspective, President Obama won the national vote by seven percentage points in 2008 and by four points in 2012. What’s more, on this same day in the 2012 cycle, Obama held just a 0.6-point lead over Mitt Romney in the Huffington Post poll tracker.” [NBC]

So Clinton is way ahead of where Obama was on this day in 2012. And she is still running her ground game at full court press.

LATINO VOTERS SUPPORT CLINTON BUT FEEL DISENGAGED FROM PROCESS - Nick Bayer: “Seventy percent of registered Latino voters are voting for Clinton this year, while only 17 percent support Trump, according to a new poll from the National Council of La Raza and Latino Decisions. Among Latino registered voters surveyed, 68 percent view Clinton favorably, while only 18 percent have a favorable opinion of Trump. The poll also shows clear Latino support for greater economic equality and wider health care coverage. To provide one figure, 55 percent of Latino voters think we should keep and improve the Affordable Care Act, 16 percent think it’s okay as is, and only 25 percent believe it should be repealed. But despite a lot of attention paid to Latino voters, Eric Rodriguez, Vice President of NCLR, noted with discontent, ‘we haven’t seen a lot of engagement around the issues. No one is really talking to our community and asking [about] what Latino voters are thinking.’ For example, the poll finds over half of respondents don’t think public officials take into account the health needs of the Latino/Hispanic community when considering health insurance reforms. President of the Children’s Partnership Mayra Alvarez’s big takeaway: ‘We have work to do to engage the Latino community in identifying solutions for the future.’” [NCLR]

Trump declares Democracy DOA, himself King

If you have any other way to interpret Trump's remarks, let me hear it.

From Fox News (one among many other sources):

"Just thinking to myself right now, we should cancel the election and just give it to Trump," the real estate mogul said in Toledo, where he held one of a series of rallies in the battleground state.

From HuffPollster email about a recent Pew poll: "56% of registered voters say that Trump has little or no respect for the ‘nation’s democratic institutions and traditions' ". I would say that Trump, the groping golem, just increased that number.

Also check out AZBlueMeanie's post on how Donald Trump is at war with democracy itself.

Trump's poor judgments and his conflicts of interest

Trump U hires contrary to Trump's vetting claims

The Daily Star relays an AP investigation showing that Trump U staff included drug trafficker, child molester. Snippets follow.

Donald Trump says he hand-picked only the best to teach success at Trump University. But dozens of those hired by the company had checkered pasts — including serious financial problems and even convictions for cocaine trafficking or child molestation, an Associated Press investigation has found.

As a candidate, Trump has said he will run the U.S. government like he runs his businesses. So his past hiring practices could offer insight into how a President Trump might fill scores of key federal positions.

Half of the 68 former faculty and staff identified by AP had personal bankruptcies, foreclosures, credit card defaults, tax liens or other indicators of significant money troubles prior to teaching Trump University courses promoting "wealth building" and "how to invest like a billionaire," according to AP's review. Many of those hired to teach did not have college degrees and were not licensed to broker real estate.

At least four had felony convictions.

They include Ron P. Broussard Jr., who was hired to the Trump University staff in 2007 after years serving as a motivational speaker at get-rich-quick seminars taught in hotel conference rooms.

Though he has never been licensed as a real estate agent or broker, Broussard is listed as "staff" or "coordinator" for at least five Trump seminars titled "Fast Track to Foreclosure."

Records show the former Army sergeant was convicted at court-martial in 1994 of sodomy and indecent acts with a child. He then served five years in the military prison at Leavenworth, Kansas.

So, either Trump has a weird view of "the best" or suffers from a cavalier approach to vetting his employees. To use Trump-speak about Trump's hand-picking only the best: Dumb, dumb decisions. Careless. Sad.

Trump's investment in Dakota Access pipeline (and vice versa)

Here is an example of the financial entanglements that would immediately cast doubt on a President Trump's ability to avoid conflict of interest in his decision making. From the Guardian's report: "Trump’s financial disclosure forms show he invested in Energy Transfer Partners, operators of the controversial pipeline, and its CEO donated to his campaign." Read more here about Dakota Access pipeline company and Donald Trump have close financial ties.

The GOP's "hot war against women" and the "women who are saving us"

UPDATE: Last night Rachel Maddow documented both Trump and Pence saying women have no place in the military: Trump: Women in the military is bedlam.

Rachel Maddow shows Mike Pence calling women in the military a "bad idea," and shares previously unreleased audio of Donald Trump criticizing the decision to allow women into the U.S. military, calling it "bedlam."

I guess that's part of the GOP's outreach efforts to get women into the Republican tent. You can fill in the rest. You know, the delicate fairer sex that cannot perform. The sultry seductresses corrupting our fine young men. Spin away.


Jenna Johnson and Karen Tumulty have the story, Republican women increasingly fear party is alienating female voters

It seems more like panic. Trump is not a great decider so much as he is a great divider. And nowhere is that more apparent than what he says about, and allegedly does to, women. I'll let the reporters and other women tell this story with some snippets and the article's quotations.

A growing number of prominent Republican women are worried that as members of their male-dominated party step up to defend Donald Trump against accusations of sexual assault, they are causing irreparable damage to the GOP’s deteriorating relationship with female voters.

Trump has faced questions throughout his campaign about his crass comments about women, but concern escalated this month following the release of a 2005 video in which Trump boasted that he had sexually assaulted women and subsequent allegations by 11 women that Trump had inappropriately touched or kissed them. A series of mostly male Republicans have come to Trump’s defense — dismissing the accusers as liars and, some worry, further alienating the female voters that the party desperately needs to survive.

“For next-generation professional women, the party is going to have to do something very, very drastic to change the course of where this candidate has taken us,” said Katie Packer, a deputy campaign manager for Mitt Romney in 2012. “I think the leaders in our party are going to have to aggressively reject this. Come November 9, they better be prepared to make very strong statements condemning all of Trump’s behavior.”

And how has Trump (and suck-ups Gingrich and Giuliani) addressed this rift?

Trump and his supporters deemed Gingrich’s interview a victory, with the campaign’s director of social media tweeting that [Megyn] Kelly is “not very smart” and telling his followers: “Watch what happens to her after this election is over.”

“Congratulations, Newt, on last night. That was an amazing interview,” Trump said at a ribbon-cutting at his new hotel in Washington on Wednesday. “We don’t play games, Newt, right?”

"Watch what happens to her"? A threat from these Gr*p!ng 0th#rs Pu55!es? Might Kelly end up being the one unshackled?

A "hot war against women"

More quotes from Republican women follow.

... many other Republican women have concluded in recent weeks that this is not the party they know.

“Looks like Newt Gingrich just proved my point again,” tweeted Amanda Carpenter, a conservative commentator and former communications director for Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign. Carpenter wrote this week in The Washington Post about how her party has left women like her behind by ignoring Trump’s chauvinism that was “well-documented in decades’ worth of publicly available smutty television, radio and print interviews long before he became the nominee.”

“If the GOP has truly convinced itself that openly engaging in sexual assault fantasies is something normal that men do among one another, I have a suggestion. Relocate the Republican National Committee headquarters into a men’s-only locker room,” Carpenter wrote. “Eliminate all pretenses of wanting to let women in.”

Christine Matthews, a Republican pollster, said in an interview that Democrats no longer have to push a “war on women” narrative because it’s playing out on its own thanks to Trump — and comments like those that Gingrich made on Tuesday.

“It’s just one more clueless middle-age-to-older white guy taking to task a woman,” Matthews said. “It’s so unhelpful on every level.”

Nicolle Wallace, former communications chief for George W. Bush who is now a political commentator, tweeted that Republicans are now “engaged in a hot war against women that will end badly” for the party.

“Men like @newtgingrich are a big reason the GOP has lost women,” Packer wrote in another tweet. “Men like him don’t make women like me want to share a ‘tent’ w/them.”

Women "are saving us from this guy"

John Weaver, a GOP consultant who worked on the presidential campaigns of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz) and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, said he is stunned by “the misogyny, the lack of understanding of where this country is now” coming from Trump’s campaign.

“If you have a gender gap the size of the Snake River Canyon, why do you trot out Newt Gingrich, and [former New York mayor] Rudy Giuliani and your nominee to talk about it and further make it worse?” said Weaver, noting that all three men have been married three times. “The only ones I can see who seem to be obsessed about sex in this campaign are those three people.”

Weaver continued: “He’s going to lose the general election, and the credit goes to the women of America who are saving us from this guy.”

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Pols and Polls: The good, the bad, and the ugly

Summary for Oct 27. The good (for Clinton): Clinton maintains her lead with pollsters estimating her chances of winning at 85.7% to 97.6%. HuffPollster sees the chances of gaining a Senate majority now at 70%. The bad (for Trump): Libertarian VP candidate Bill Weld issued a statement harshly critical of Donald Trump and urging undecideds to NOT vote for Trump. The ugly (for America): Americans are split on partisan lines about how well or poorly things are going.

POLLS VARY, BUT SHOW CLINTON LEADING - Janie Velencia: “Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is either slightly ahead or way ahead of Republican Donald Trump with just 13 days until Election Day, according to new polls released Wednesday. An AP-GFK poll shows Clinton leading by an astonishing 14 points, 51 percent to Trump’s 37 percent, in a four-way race. In a two-way heat, Clinton’s lead narrows to 13 points. A new Fox News poll finds Clinton ahead by a much smaller margin― just 3 points ahead in a four-way race, 44 percent to 41 percent. She also leads by 3 points head to head with Trump. Other recent polls show Clinton with a lead ranging from 2 points to 12 points. It’s best not to freak out just yet over which of Wednesday’s polls are right. Instead, consider the aggregate of recent polls for a more sober look at the race. According to the HuffPost Pollster aggregate, Clinton is leading by about 7 points in the four-way race, 46.6 percent to 39 percent.” [HuffPost]

Splitting the difference - The ABC News/Washington Post tracking poll released Thursday morning shows Clinton leading by 6 points. [WashPost]

All that is good news, but beware. Regardless of which set of percentages attract your attention, there remains a sizable group of voters who are committed to the Johnson-Weld ticket or are just undecided. By subtraction that group contains 12 to 15 percent of the voters. Johnson-Weld is running about 6% so that leaves 6 to 9 percent up for grabs. Will they all vote for Trump? Probably not. Certainly not if Bill Weld has anything to say about it and he most definitely does. See the accompanying post today on Weld's statement.

Is the race tightening? - Nate Silver: “It seems like we’re overdue for another round of ‘is the presidential race tightening?’ And the answer isn’t totally clear. Our model thinks Donald Trump has probably narrowed his deficit against Clinton slightly, but the difference is modest enough that we’ve wanted to change our answer with every new round of polls. And in general, we’re reluctant to proclaim any turnaround in the race while we still have to squint to see a shift. But here’s what we think is a little clearer: Trump’s share of the vote has increased, as he’s picked up undecided and third-party voters, probably as the result of Republicans’ returning home after a disastrous series of weeks for Trump this month. Clinton, however, is at least holding steady and probably also improving her own numbers somewhat.” [538]

Forecast update - Clinton’s chances of winning are up to 97.6 percent, according to HuffPost’s presidential forecast. That number have been steadily ticking upwards as it gets closer to the election. The forecast gets more certain of the outcome as Election Day approaches, even though polls haven’t changed much. Trump’s chances are down to 2.4 percent, essentially the chances of all of the polls being wrong. Other models show Clinton’s chances between 86 percent and 99 percent. The main difference between the models deal with how likely they think there is to be major polling error. In the Senate, Republicans are down to a 29 percent chance of keeping 51 or more seats according to HuffPost’s model. Democrats have a 35 percent chance of winning 51 or more, and accounting for the presidential race, their likelihood of a majority becomes 70 percent. [Presidential forecast, Senate forecast]

From 538: 85.7 percent - Probability that Hillary Clinton wins the presidency, according to the FiveThirtyEight polls-only model. If you want to know how Trump might win, by golly, we have that too. [FiveThirtyEight]

VIEWS ON DIRECTION OF THE COUNTRY ARE DIVIDED BY PARTISANSHIP - Jennifer Agiesta: “More Americans than at any time in Barack Obama’s presidency now say that things in the United States are going well, a sharp uptick in positive views and the best reviews of the country’s trajectory since January 2007, according to the latest CNN/ORC poll. Overall, 54% say things in the country today are going well, 46% badly. That’s a reversal from late July when 54% said things were going poorly and 46% said they were positive. The improvement in impressions of the country’s path stems largely from shifts among Democrats and independents. Among Democrats, 85% say things are going well, up from 76% in late July. Among independents, 51% now say things are going well, up 9 points since this summer. There’s been no significant shift, however, among Republicans: 21% now say things are going well, not significantly different from the 17% who said so in July. There’s also a stark divide between supporters of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. More than 8-in-10 of those behind Trump, whose campaign slogan suggests America has gone off on the wrong track, say things in the US today are going poorly. Among Clinton’s supporters, almost 9-in-10 say they’re going well.” [CNN]

Bill Weld condemns Trump, urges supporters to NOT vote for Trump

It's a bit of a leap from that to the claims that Weld was pushing his supporters to vote for Clinton, as the Johnson-Weld campaign notes in their response. But the statement Weld released is a powerful rationale for Libertarians and undecideds to not vote for Trump.

From the ThinkProgress report, Libertarian VP nominee quietly throws in towel, urges voters to choose Clinton over Trump.

... in a remarkable statement released Tuesday, Johnson’s running mate, former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld (R), broke with Johnson and made a case for Hillary Clinton by urging undecideds to stop Trump while acknowledging Libertarians won’t be able to do so.

Rachel Maddow: Trump stops fundraising for GOP but keeps the feelgood rallies

Rachel Maddow wonders what the Trump campaign is for anymore if they've already given up on fundraising, they're not responding to pleas for resources from swing districts, and Donald Trump just seems to want to make appearances in front of cheering crowds.

Check out the video here.

"Fascinated with sex"

The author of this one is correct: sometimes words fail. That quote was from Newt Gingrich doing a projection (that's a psychological term - look it up) number on Megyn Kelly at Fox. Rebecca Sinderbrand at the Washington Post/The Fix provides the video clips and transcripts of the interview: ‘You are fascinated with sex’: That Megyn Kelly-Newt Gingrich showdown was one for the ages.

I guess I'll find a few words anyway. That charge, "fascinated with sex", from a guy with three wives? Who was defending Donald Trump, the now notorious groper, against a charge of sexual assault? One tweet summed it up: "Wow."

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Pols and Polls: The good, the bad, and the ugly

Summary for Oct 26. As I follow the money, Clinton out-raising and out-spending Trump, I see more signs of Trump as L O S E R. HuffPollster gives Clinton a 97% chance of winning and the Democrats a 66% chance of getting at least 50/50 in the Senate. Americans are split about their outlook on the country's direction since the 1950s. "Seventy-two percent of likely Trump voters think things have changed for the worse, while about 70 percent of Clinton voters think things have changed for the better." Many voters remain pessimistic about the worth of their vote. That's ugly.

FiveThirtyEight Newsletter: 0: Number of fundraisers for Trump Victory — a joint committee of the Republican Party and Donald Trump’s campaign — scheduled between now and Election Day. The committee’s last formal fundraiser was the day of the final debate. On the Democrats’ side, Hillary Clinton had her last fundraiser Tuesday in Miami, with 41 more events featuring surrogates to come. [The Washington Post]

FiveThirtyEight Newsletter: $22 million: That’s how much the Clinton campaign and its allies are spending in battleground states this week, compared to $9.8 million from the Trump camp and its allies. Ah, now those fundraising numbers from earlier make sense. In Florida alone this week, Clinton and her allies are spending $7.4 million to Camp Trump’s $3.6 million. [NBC News]

HuffPost forecast update - Hillary Clinton has a 97 percent chance of winning the presidency. Donald Trump’s chances are under 3 percent. In the Senate, Republicans have a 33 percent chance of getting 51 or more seats, Democrats have a 32 percent chance of winning the outright majority and there’s a 35 percent chance of a 50-50 split. In the event of a tie, the vice president would be the tie-breaker, so after accounting for the chances of each ticket winning the presidency Democrats have a 66 percent chance of holding at least a weak majority in the chamber. [Presidential forecast, Senate forecast]

MANY AMERICANS ARE NOSTALGIC FOR DECADES PAST - HuffPollster: “Americans are close to evenly split on whether the U.S. has gotten better or worse in the past 60 years, according to a new survey from the nonprofit organization PRRI. Fifty-one percent say that American culture and way of life have worsened since the 1950s, while 48 percent say they have changed for the better. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton supporters are on opposite ends of the spectrum. Seventy-two percent of likely Trump voters think things have changed for the worse, while about 70 person of Clinton voters think things have changed for the better. ‘This election has become a referendum on competing visions of America’s future,’ Robert P. Jones, PRRI’s CEO, said in a statement. ‘Donald Trump supporters are nostalgic for the 1950s, an era when white Christians in particular had more political and cultural power in the country, while Hillary Clinton supporters are leaning into ― and even celebrating ― the big cultural transformations the country has experienced over the last few decades.’” [HuffPost]

MANY VOTERS WORRY THEIR BALLOTS WON’T COUNT - Giovanni Russonello: “Fewer than half of Americans are very confident that their vote for president will be counted correctly — and most say their ballot will not matter anyway because the political process is so dominated by corporate interests. These are among the results of a P.R.R.I. poll released on Tuesday showing a nation that is deeply ambivalent about the electoral process. Americans are almost evenly divided on whether fraud or voter repression is a bigger problem, despite many studies showing that fraud is almost nonexistent nationwide…. political independents were the most skeptical, with just over a third expressing a great deal of confidence. Independents were also among the most likely to say that the influence of wealthy interests overpowered voting. Fully 57 percent of all Americans, and nearly two-thirds of independents, agreed that ‘politics and elections are controlled by people with money and by big corporations,’ so it does not matter if they vote. At 66 percent, young people are among the most likely to feel pessimistic about the worth of their vote.” [NYT]

Donald Trump: "you can’t respect people because most people aren’t worthy of respect"

That's from What Drives Donald Trump? Fear of Losing Status, Tapes Show. The New York Times obtained "Recordings of Donald J. Trump [that] reveal a man who is fixated on his own celebrity, anxious about losing his status and contemptuous of those who fall from grace."

"Most people aren't worth of respect." Really? From the man who would be President? That sentiment you might imagine coming from a monarch, a king, or a dictator. But from the President of a democratic republic? What happened to "all men are created equal"?

Here are some snippets from the recordings of live interviews by his biographer that get to the essence of Trump.

The recordings reveal a man who is fixated on his own celebrity, anxious about losing his status and contemptuous of those who fall from grace. They capture the visceral pleasure he derives from fighting, his willful lack of interest in history, his reluctance to reflect on his life and his belief that most people do not deserve his respect.

In the interviews, Mr. Trump makes clear just how difficult it is for him to imagine — let alone accept — defeat.

Mr. Trump, in a statement on Monday night, called the recordings “Pretty old and pretty boring stuff. Hope people enjoy it.”

In the interviews, which occurred in Mr. Trump’s office and apartment in Trump Tower in Manhattan, he is by turns animated and bored, boastful and stubborn when prodded toward soul-searching. “No, I don’t want to think about it,” he said when Mr. D’Antonio asked him to contemplate the meaning of his life. “I don’t like to analyze myself because I might not like what I see.”

Despite his reluctance, Mr. Trump reveals himself over and over, in the stories he tells, in his wide-ranging answers to questions and at times in casual, seemingly throwaway lines.

Who does he look up to? “I don’t have heroes,” Mr. Trump said.

Does he examine history to better understand the present? “I don’t like talking about the past,” he said, later adding, “It’s all about the present and the future.”

There is little trace of sympathy or understanding. When people lose face, Mr. Trump’s reaction is swift and unforgiving.

And when Mr. Trump feels he has been made a fool of, his response can be volcanic.

On the tapes, Mr. Trump describes a passionate enjoyment of fighting, which started during his adolescence in Queens. It did not matter, he said, whether an altercation was verbal or physical. He loved it all the same.

He still seems to long for those older, tougher times as a presidential candidate. At a Las Vegas rally in February, as Mr. Trump scolded a protester who tried to interrupt his speech, he used strikingly similar language.

“I love the old days,” Mr. Trump told the crowd to loud cheers.

“You know what they used to do to guys like that when they were in a place like this? They’d be carried out on a stretcher, folks.”

He is intoxicated by the glow of his name in the news media, a subject he brings up repeatedly in the interviews.

He quickly figured out that media attention was free advertising for his new hotels and golf courses, a fact that led him to frequently participate in newspaper interviews and television shows ... No matter the newspaper, magazine or show, Mr. Trump was always keeping score — of how positive the coverage was and how often he was featured, just as he does today.

Ultimately, Mr. Trump fears — more than anything else — being ignored, overlooked or irrelevant.

During his final interview with Mr. D’Antonio, as their relationship had warmed and deepened, Mr. Trump turned philosophical. He recalled a favorite song, performed by Peggy Lee, “Is That All There Is?” — a poignant ballad about unfulfilled dreams and dissatisfaction with life.

But he quickly retreats from the moment, declining Mr. D’Antonio’s [his biographer] invitation to further explain how the song makes him feel about himself, saying he might not like what he discovers.

Of this, however, Mr. Trump is certain: He needs the world’s attention and its embrace, a life force that has sustained him for decades.

“I don’t like to analyze myself because I might not like what I see.”

We voters don't like it either.

Bragga-a-what-ious? It's a funny, funny video

BRAGGADOCIOUS!: Randy Rainbow Moderates Debate #1

h/t Jana Eaton

Morning Trump Dump: McCreary's op-ed and more (news items about Trump)

Paul McCreary (yep - our Paul McCreary) has an op-ed in the GV News, Trump fans won’t wake up, but our nightmare ending.

Trump's ghostwriter for "The Art of the Deal" says Trump is in meltdown.

Frank Rich lays Trumpist actions on election day on the GOP.

Catherine Rampell (Daily Star) advises ditching the right-wing media, Catherine Rampell: To save the Republican Party, dismantle the right-wing media.

AZBlueMeanie writes about The GOP’s worst nightmare: boycott the election. If the election is rigged, as according to Trump, then why should his people vote? (His people being the GOP.) Citing Brian Beutler of the New Republic:

Positing a vast conspiracy is already becoming untenable for [Trump], placing him at odds with his campaign manager and his eldest daughter, and will look especially ridiculous if he loses in a landslide, with members of both parties condemning him in chorus. Thus, the bleakest possible scenario for Republicans isn’t that Trump loses badly and refuses to admit defeat. It’s that he rejects the notion that a fair election is even possible with him on the ticket, and announces he’s boycotting it. His supporters, only a small fraction of whom would have refused to vote for Trump turncoats down the ballot, stay home en masse instead. The Democrats take back the House.

The strange thing is that Trump's attempts to suppress the vote might actually work - in favor of Democrats.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Breaking: Trump pocketed $17 million for mythical hurricane damage

That's what is reported in several sources like ABCnews: Trump Took $17 Million in Insurance for Damage Few Remember. This one is juicy. By my count, this is the 21st scandal attached to Trump.

Donald Trump said he received a $17 million insurance payment in 2005 for hurricane damage to Mar-a-Lago, his private club in Palm Beach, but The Associated Press found little evidence of such large-scale damage.

Two years after a series of storms, the real estate tycoon said he didn't know how much had been spent on repairs but acknowledged he pocketed some of the money. Trump transferred funds into his personal accounts, saying that under the terms of his policy, "you didn't have to reinvest it."

In a deposition in an unrelated civil lawsuit, Trump said he got the cash from a "very good insurance policy" and cited ongoing work to the historic home.

"Landscaping, roofing, walls, painting, leaks, artwork in the — you know, the great tapestries, tiles, Spanish tiles, the beach, the erosion," he said of the storm damage. "It's still not what it was."

Trump's description of extensive damage does not match those of Mar-a-Lago members and even Trump loyalists. In an interview about the estate's history, Trump's longtime former butler, Anthony Senecal, recalled no catastrophic damage. He said Hurricane Wilma, the last of a string of storms that barreled through in 2004 and 2005, flattened trees behind Mar-a-Lago, but the house itself only lost some roof tiles.

"That house has never been seriously damaged," said Senecal, discussing Mar-a-Lago's luck with hurricanes. "I was there for all of them."

[Snip - lots of good stuff here.]

About that "very good insurance policy"?

Much of Trump's property insurance business has long been handled by Pamela Newman, a leading insurance broker for Aon Risk Services Inc. Neither Newman nor AON would discuss the case with AP.

Two former Aon employees familiar with the company's work for Trump said Trump's company was routinely late on insurance premium payments and regularly threatened to take its business elsewhere. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss confidential business matters and because they feared retribution since they continue to work in the insurance industry. Representing Trump allowed Newman to bring up her work on behalf of Trump in sales pitches to wealthy clients, sometimes offering him as a reference, the employees said.

Newman's ties to Trump have endured. He and she both sit on the board of New York's Police Athletic League. She has attended galas at Mar-a-Lago and donated the legal maximum of $2,700 to his presidential exploratory committee before he announced his run. She followed up last July with $25,000 in donations to the Make America Great Again PAC, according to Federal Election Commission records.

According to the Trump deposition, Newman led the effort to obtain a payout on the Mar-a-Lago insurance policy. Trump did not identify which insurer actually footed the bill and the AP was unable to identify who paid the claim.

...

In the depositions, Trump said he knew little about that process that produced his $17 million payday, but praised the policy and said Newman took care of it.

"We had a very good insurance policy, actually," he said.

Indeed.

If Trump pockets that much in what looks like an insurance scam, think about what he will pocket should he become CEO of Fort Knox.

Actually.

Pols and Polls: The good, the bad, and the ugly

Summary for Oct 25. Clinton maintains a healthy lead in the polls both in popular votes (in some polls double digits) and electoral college votes (over 300 vs. under 200 for Trump). Nate Silver's 538 model gives Clinton an 85% chance of winning but he admits her chances might be better. (HuffPollster makes it 96.6%.) Moreover, her support among her own supporters is increasing. Democratic control of Senate is looking good (69% chance of 50-50 or better) but control of the House is not (yet) within Dems' reach.

FORECAST UPDATE from the HuffPollster - "Hillary Clinton has a 96.6 percent chance of winning the presidency. Republicans’ chances of keeping the Senate majority are declining ― they’re down to a 30 percent chance of getting 51 or more seats, Democrats have a 35 percent chance of getting 51 or more seats and there’s a 35 percent chance that the chamber will be split 50-50. Accounting for Clinton’s 96 percent chance of winning the presidency, which would make Tim Kaine vice president and the tie-breaking vote , that becomes a 69 percent chance of Democrats taking over. [Senate forecast, Presidential forecast]"

Trump's chances approaching zero - Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake of the Washington Post's "The Fix" see Donald Trump’s chances of winning are approaching zero. "We are making three changes to The Fix map this week, all favoring Hillary Clinton ... First, we are moving Nevada, where Trump had shown surprising strength for much of this year, from "toss up" to "lean Democratic" amid signs that the state is slipping away from him. ... We're also moving Utah — yes, Utah! — from "lean Republican" to "toss up" ... and ... much to our amazement — we are adding Texas to our list of competitive states, rating it as "lean Republican."" At present, they predict 323 electoral votes for Clinton and 180 for Trump.

Trump is losing but continues to lie about it. Greg Sargent writing at the Plum Line (Washington Post) says As Trump stares a loss in the face, even his favorite lies are failing him. "The key finding in the new ABC News tracking poll, which finds Clinton leading among likely voters nationally by 50-38, is that affirmative support for Clinton among her supporters, as opposed to a motivator only rooted in dislike for the other side, is growing ... the punditry got this race all wrong. Yes, it’s true that Clinton is one of two historically unpopular candidates. Yes, she is widely distrusted. Yes, she is a flawed candidate. But this campaign just isn’t a “race to the bottom,” as the cliche has it. One candidate is widely seen as fundamentally lacking in basic decency and fitness for the presidency, while the other just isn’t. And increasingly, one is affirmatively preferred by her supporters [56%], to a degree that the other just isn’t [41%]. This last metric will be important to keep an eye on as we seek to understand what’s happening in the race’s final days."

Nate Silver explains differences among models - "Although it fluctuates, [15% is] roughly where FiveThirtyEight’s polls-only model has Donald Trump’s chances of winning the presidential race. That’s a little more bullish on the Republican’s chances than other models, and that’s because of the model’s design. If we ignored the large number of undecided votes, Trump’s chances would be 10 percent; if we calibrated the model since 2000 rather than 1972, his chances would be about 5 percent; and if we assumed states moved independently rather than having some correlation in error, that would give him less than a 1 percent chance." So if one or more of Silver's assumptions are wrong, Clinton's chances in the model would improve a lot. Silver provides a lot more detail on his model's assumptions in his Election Update: Why Our Model Is More Bullish Than Others On Trump.

A CLINTON WIN MIGHT NOT BE BIG ENOUGH TO FLIP THE HOUSE from the HuffPollster - John Harwood: “The larger Hillary Clinton’s polling margin over Donald J. Trump grows, the louder the question becomes: Is control of the House of Representatives really in play? Among House strategists in both parties, the answer remains the same as it has been all year: not yet. Democrats must gain 30 seats to capture a majority. That requires sweeping nearly all Republican-held seats in which they nurse even small hopes of winning. Yet the interplay between the presidential race and others on the ballot has made those small hopes bigger….Using data from elections since 1948, [Columbia University’s Robert] Erikson estimates the coattail effect this way: Every percentage point added to a Clinton victory margin would add half a point to the average Democratic House candidate….Gary Jacobson of the University of California, San Diego, uses generic vote poll questions to predict House outcomes. In his calculation, which subtracts those who are undecided, voters now say by a margin of 53 percent to 47 percent that they want Democrats to control the House next year. House Democrats need to stretch that edge to around 55-45 percent to come within range of a majority, he estimates. And to do that, they need a Clinton victory margin larger than the roughly six-percentage-point polling margin in the current New York Times national average.” [NYT] Scriber: She may well get that.

Why we need an inclusive society

The ugliness of the 2016 election seems bound to continue beyond November 8th. It seems to me that addressing the divisions in our society must be at the top of Clinton's list of goals. One way to reduce some of those divisions is by reducing economic inequality, and that is on Clinton's agenda. John Cassidy (New Yorker) reports on Clinton's plan to tax the very rich to pay for such things as infrastructure improvements: Hillary Clinton's Plan to Squeeze the Ultra-Rich.

With all the attention given to whether Donald Trump would accept the results of the election, one major claim made by Hillary Clinton at last week’s Presidential debate was all but overlooked by the general public. Three times during the proceedings, Clinton asserted that her economic proposals—which call for about $1.65 trillion in additional spending over the next ten years on infrastructure, health care, education, and other items in the federal budget—wouldn’t “add a penny” to the national debt.

"We are going to ask the wealthy and corporations to pay their share,” Clinton said during last week’s debate. “And there is no evidence whatsoever that that will slow down or diminish our growth. In fact, I think just the opposite. We’ll have what economists call middle-out growth. We’ve got to get back to rebuilding the middle class, the families of America. That’s where growth will come from.”

A more progressive tax structure is a good first step toward reducing inequality. But we need to go further and change how people think of themselves and others and that means fostering social inclusion. The reason why we need to aim for social inclusion is that social exclusion breeds conspiracy theories, as Tom Jacobs explains in the Pacific Standard magazine, Social Exclusion Breeds Conspiratorial Thinking. "New research provides a possible clue as to why so many Donald Trump supporters believe outlandish things."

Donald Trump’s core supporters seem willing to swallow increasingly absurd conspiracy theories — including the candidate’s insistence that a vast array of international forces are out to defeat him. It’s easy to mock their credulousness, but newly published research suggests a specific psychological mechanism may be driving such beliefs.

It finds a feeling of social exclusion is linked to belief in superstitions and conspiracy theories. And, as a wide range of commentators, including President Barack Obama, have noted, many of Trump’s voters see a nation they no longer recognize and feel left out.

Social exclusion — the realization you have become cut off from either your circle of acquaintances, or the wider society — can be a source of intense discomfort. Princeton University psychologists Damaris Graeupner and Alin Coman argue it can send people on a search for meaning, which, in turn, leads some of them to accept discredited ideas.

[In the second of two studies college students] wrote a short essay, which — they were told — “would be given to the other two participants that were physically present in the room.” Those people “would rank who they would like to work with in a subsequent collaborative task.”

In fact, the students were randomly told they had been selected or not selected (with members of a third group not getting word either way). They then took a test designed to measure their superstitious beliefs.

... the researchers found higher levels of such beliefs among people who had just felt excluded. Graeupner and Coman believe these results help explain why so many conspiracy theories are “impervious to change.”

"Feeling socially excluded might lead one to endorse superstitious beliefs and conspiratorial ideas,” they write. “This endorsement, in turn, might lead to further exclusion from one’s social circle, and the cycle continues…. Very often, the individual who experiences social exclusion then searches for like-minded individuals who further reinforce those beliefs, until they become entrenched.”

Another reason to seek a more inclusive society is the present level of acrimony observed by Jeffrey Goldberg, now editor of The Atlantic. NPR reports on their interview with the new Atlantic Editor On Acrimony In U.S.: 'I Have To Imagine That It Actually Gets Worse'.

... recently, Goldberg pressed for his magazine to endorse Hillary Clinton for president. He said it was right, even though it's only the third time in its history The Atlantic has endorsed a presidential candidate.

"The Atlantic was founded by abolitionists in 1857 to bring about an end of slavery. It was not merely a non-racist magazine. It was an anti-racist magazine. It was about advancing the progressive American idea. It was about preserving the unity of the Union," Goldberg tells NPR's Steve Inskeep. "And so if you look at some of the things that Donald Trump has said and done over the past year, these fly in the face of some core principles of the founders of The Atlantic."

Many newspapers and magazines have called Trump a threat to the republic. Trump has made the media his target, though he also has a media executive as his campaign CEO. All of this poses a challenge for the magazine and widely read website that Goldberg leads. He wants The Atlantic to appeal to a wide audience at a moment when Americans are exceedingly divided.

"We're entering a period in which a profound number of Americans are alienated from a profound number of other Americans, and that is unhealthy and that disturbs me," he says.

Here are some quotes, all by Goldberg, from the interview.

I can't imagine that millions of Trump voters — having watched him lose and possibly having him come out and say the election was rigged — I can't imagine that all of these millions of disaffected angry people are going to say, "Oh, well. Hillary Clinton won. I guess I gotta get behind her." I wish that — and that's a nonpartisan wish. I can't imagine that this goes away. I have to imagine, and I don't mean to sound overly pessimistic, but I have to imagine that it actually gets worse.

... the thing that I worry about the most is that we've had an election season and election rhetoric that's untethered from observable reality.

So you have a candidate now who says, "I didn't say X" when there's tape of him saying X, and that doesn't seem to affect his supporters. In the old model when you catch a candidate making an obvious lie that usually hurts the candidate even among that candidate's base. And so we've moved into a new phase of the way in which truth is understood in part of the American polity, and that's troubling.

I don't know if that's reversible but the new administration has to try. Here is more justification for such an effort from an op-ed in the NY Times this morning, Your Facts or Mine? by Emma Roller.

The strongest bias in American politics is not a liberal bias or a conservative bias; it is a confirmation bias, or the urge to believe only things that confirm what you already believe to be true. Not only do we tend to seek out and remember information that reaffirms what we already believe, but there is also a “backfire effect,” which sees people doubling down on their beliefs after being presented with evidence that contradicts them.

So, where do we go from here? There’s no simple answer, but the only way people will start rejecting falsehoods being fed to them is by confronting uncomfortable truths. Fact-checking is like exposure therapy for partisans, and there is some reason to believe in what researchers call an “affective tipping point,” where “motivated reasoners” start to accept hard truths after seeing enough claims debunked over and over.

Some facts are equally inconvenient for both sides. President Obama has deported more people than any president before him. That fact doesn’t sit well with the president’s supporters, who think of Democrats as the party of kindness toward immigrants, and it doesn’t sit well with Mr. Trump’s supporters, who think the president is a weak and feckless leader.

“President Obama has moved millions of people out. Nobody knows about it. Nobody talks about it. But under Obama, millions of people have been moved out of this country. They’ve been deported,” Mr. Trump said at the third and final debate.

This criticism was bizarre — after building his campaign on a southern border wall and a “deportation force” that would round up undocumented immigrants by the millions — but it was true all the same.

Perhaps the eventual cure for our common confirmation bias is to reject truthiness and share the pain of embracing objective reality.

h/t Michele Manos for the Pacific Standard and NPR articles.