The Blame Comey Movement

screen-shot-2016-11-11-at-4-49-34-pmThere is a big rush from commentators on all sides to blame Jim Comey for the election result. And while normally I’m happy to blame Comey for things, I’m not convinced we have data to support that claim here, at least not yet.

The claim comes from two places. First, this description of how Trump’s analysts responded after discovering rural whites were voting at higher rates than expected.

Trump’s analysts had detected this upsurge in the electorate even before FBI Director James Comey delivered his Oct. 28 letter to Congress announcing that he was reopening his investigation into Clinton’s e-mails. But the news of the investigation accelerated the shift of a largely hidden rural mass of voters toward Trump.

Inside his campaign, Trump’s analysts became convinced that even their own models didn’t sufficiently account for the strength of these voters. “In the last week before the election, we undertook a big exercise to reweight all of our polling, because we thought that who [pollsters] were sampling from was the wrong idea of who the electorate was going to turn out to be this cycle,” says Matt Oczkowski, the head of product at London firm Cambridge Analytica and team leader on Trump’s campaign. “If he was going to win this election, it was going to be because of a Brexit-style mentality and a different demographic trend than other people were seeing.”

Trump’s team chose to focus on this electorate, partly because it was the only possible path for them. But after Comey, that movement of older, whiter voters became newly evident. It’s what led Trump’s campaign to broaden the electoral map in the final two weeks and send the candidate into states such as Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan that no one else believed he could win (with the exception of liberal filmmaker Michael Moore, who deemed them “Brexit states”). [my emphasis]

And from this letter from Hillary’s pollster Navin Nayak.

We believe we lost this election in the last week. Comey’s letter in the last 11 days of the election both helped depress our turnout and also drove away some of our critical support among college-educated white voters — particularly in the suburbs. We also think Comey’s 2nd letter, which was intended to absolve Sec. Clinton, actually helped to bolster Trump’s turnout.

Navak is presumably the same person who missed the surge in rural areas that Trump was seeing, and therefore partly responsible for Clinton’s belated attention to MI and WI. No matter what caused surges in Trump’s support, not responding to it was a key reason for Hillary’s loss. So Navak has a big incentive to blame others.

After saying everything was going swimmingly in early turnout (without noting low African American turnout in that early vote), Navak tells this story about the last week.

But then everything changed in the last week.

Voters who decided in the last week broke for Trump by a larger margin (42-47). These numbers were even more exaggerated in the key battleground states.

There are two major events that happened in the last week:

Director Comey released his first letter 11 days out from the election, which likely helped to depress turnout among Hillary’s supporters. It made Sec. Clinton’s e-mail the focus of the campaign for half the remaining 10 days.

After seeing record early vote numbers, there was a significant drop in Election Day turnout, particularly among Hillary supporters, and this was noticeable in both larger cities such as Philadelphia, Raleigh-Durham, Milwaukee, Detroit and the suburbs surrounding these and other cities.

The two days before Election Day, Director Comey released a 2nd letter, which energized Trump supporters. [emphasis original]

What these two pieces — from Trump’s data analyst and Hillary’s pollster — suggest is a correlation between the Comey letter and Trump’s improved chances. But there’s no proof of causation — certainly not that Comey is the primary explanation.

Iscreen-shot-2016-11-11-at-5-21-22-pmn fact, temporally, the correlation is not perfect. Trump’s analysts say the trend started before the Comey letter. This was a weird election, but it is still highly unlikely that a letter released on October 28 can entirely explain a trend that started before October 28.

Navak is a lot squishier on timing. He says the trend happened in the last week. But of course, the letter (and the blizzard of press coverage) came out earlier than that. Precisely when did he see things start going south? He doesn’t say in his email but if it was really just the last week, then that timing doesn’t make sense either.

Then there’s the other detail that Navak does tell us: the move away from Hillary happened more in the “key battleground states.” That got me wondering why voters in key battleground states would be more responsive to Comey’s letter than voters in red or blue states.

screen-shot-2016-11-11-at-5-32-21-pmWhen I raised this on Twitter, a lot of people said swing state residents would be more bombarded with discussions about emails in the last two weeks. But aside from people who went to a Trump rally (which is admittedly thousands of people, though presumably hard core Trump supporters more than late deciders), they wouldn’t necessarily have. Trump’s final ad, which was very good and pretty reminiscent of Obama’s election ads, only referred to the emails once (albeit right at the beginning, just 5 seconds in), and even then only visually, appearing as Trump said “corrupt.” The emails were just one part of Trump’s larger narrative about a corrupt establishment. The rest of Trump’s ad played to economic anxieties, with dog whistles to anti-Semitism and xenophobia, but not the aggressive ones you’d see in his rallies.

Hillary’s final ad meanwhile (at the same link), was far weaker, basically just saying Trump is a dick but without naming him. So for those who decided based  on the content of these ads (I personally didn’t see many super PAC ads, though they may be a factor), the emails probably weren’t the deciding factor, the quasi-empowering message probably was more likely to have been.

And look at the data, above, from Nate Silver’s analysis. It is absolutely true that late-deciding voters in WI, MI, IA, PA, and FL went disproportionately for Trump. They did too in UT, which is unsurprising, but which is also a useful example because it suggests one of the other things people were doing in the last week: Deciding whether to vote a third party candidate, Evan McMullin, or not. Indeed, polling averages show that Trump’s late surge nationally came in conjunction with what was a longer, slower slide in Gary Johnson’s support. I think it’s possible that the emails affected people’s decision to vote third party or even among Republicans who might have voted for Hillary. But one thing that appears to partly explain Trump’s rise at the end is just a very typical decision among people who consider voting third party to in the end support the major candidate. Remember, too, that Trump’s aides had finally gotten him onto a script for these last days, so he was saying and doing fewer offensive things just as these late deciders decided.

Finally, look at those other swing states. In OH, the difference was much smaller. In NV, later breakers actually broke for Hillary. In GA that was even more pronounced.

Perhaps most interesting of all, however, is VA. VA — especially its northern suburbs where Hillary got most of her support — is packed with security clearance holders, precisely the kind of people who’ve expressed the most exasperation about a perceived double standard in the treatment of Hillary. Perhaps that sentiment, which I’ve seen expressed by individuals in a number of places — is overstated. Maybe some clearance holders who also understand overclassification aren’t as bugged by the email scandal as others. In any case, in VA, the state that probably has a higher chunk of clearance holders than any other, broke slightly for Hillary after the Comey letters. Why would Virginians treat the Comey letter so much differently than Wisconsonites and Michiganders?

One final thing. In the days after the first Comey letter, polls actually asked how much it would influence voters’ decision. One poll showed as many undecided voters saying it made no difference as those who said it did.

Thirty-nine percent of voters said the additional review of emails in the Clinton case had no bearing on their vote in November, while 33 percent it made them much less likely to vote for Clinton.

But most of those voters are already aligned against Clinton. Nearly two-thirds of Trump voters, 66 percent, said it makes them much less likely to vote against Clinton.

Among the small pocket of undecided voters remaining, 42 percent said it made them less likely to vote for Clinton, including 30 percent who said it made them much less likely to vote for her. But just as many, 41 percent, said it makes no difference either way.

In others, there was a bigger difference, even affecting Clinton supporters.

An ABC/Washington Post tracking survey released Sunday, conducted both before and after Comey’s letter was made public on Friday, found that about one-third of likely voters, including 7 percent of Clinton supporters, said the new e-mail revelations made them less likely to support the former secretary of state.

The poll found that Clinton received support from 46 percent of likely voters to Trump’s 45 percent, suggesting the race is a toss-up. That contrasts with the 12-point advantage that Clinton held in the same poll a week ago. Trump’s numbers have crept up, in part, as more Republicans have gotten behind their candidate.

A CBS tracking poll of likely voters in battleground states — the 13 states that could swing the Nov. 8 election — released on Sunday found that among voters overall, 71 percent say it either won’t change their thinking, or in some cases, they had already voted.

I’m not aware of any polls that asked about this after Comey’s second letter (and I’m somewhat baffled about how it could energize Trump voters in the way Navak claims), so it’s unclear how these numbers moved after she was re-exonerated.

The election was incredibly close. So if those 7% of Hillary voters who, the weekend after the first Comey letter, considered his announcement significant enough that it might decide their vote instead decided to stay home, it may well have been decisive. But we don’t have that data yet.

Let me close by emphasizing what I am not saying. I am not saying the email scandal didn’t affect the election at all. I am not saying that the press’ disproportionate coverage of it as opposed to Trump’s own corruption didn’t affect the election. Nor am I saying that the Comey letter definitively did not affect the election.

Rather, I’m just saying we don’t have proof that a somewhat inexact correlation between Trump’s late surge and the Comey letter was the cause of his late surge. I’m happy to be convinced otherwise. But right now I’m not seeing it.

Update: This David Plouffe analysis is worth reading in the context of this post for two reasons. First, he notes that Gary Johnson lost support primarily among his older supporters, but his younger supporters stayed with him. This means that his decline likely was tied to a Trump increase, and what remained did hurt Hillary disproportionately.

And here’s what he says about Comey.

JAMES COMEY From the last debate until Election Day, the dominant news was the F.B.I. and Mrs. Clinton’s emails along with a drumbeat of daily WikiLeaks dumps. Postelection research will help shed light here, but the small number of undecided voters at the end should have broken at least equally based on their demographic and voting history. If exit polls are accurate, they moved to Mr. Trump much more than to Mrs. Clinton in certain battleground states, and it’s quite possible the shadow created by the F.B.I. director was the major culprit. Oct. 19, the day of the final debate, was a long 20 days to Nov. 8, and the atmosphere was far from ideal for the Democratic candidate.

Update: On Twitter, Jamison Foser explained why the second letter would invigorate Trump’s supporters: because it fed the narrative that Hillary is corrupt and always gets away with it. That makes sense.

Another person pointed out that the differential impact in VA may be due to Tim Kaine’s influence, which is also a good explanation.

What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted Dems And Clickbait Complicit Media Who Got Us Here?

Will Rogers very famously said:

“I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat.”

That was made sometime in the 1930’s I think, but it is enduringly true.

So, where will the Democratic party go now that they have had their ass handed to them by Trump? Who will lead the Democratic party going forward?

The calls are already ringing out. Liz Warren! Bernie Sanders! Keith Ellison (Sanders has even issued an email ask as to Ellison)! But there is a serious money people and Clintonian push for Howard Dean. Which is truly mind numbing.

Howard Dean is moldy cheese that needs to be taken out with the next non-recycle trash dump. He did neither himself, nor the party, any favors in the 2016 election clownshow cycle. Seriously, in the 2016 election cycle, Sarah Palin may have been more reserved and credible than Howard Dean.

Dean’s 50 state op got Obama elected in 2008, but he is smelly garbage now. Screw this always retread manure. Dean needs to dry up and go away.

And the Democratic Party needs to extricate their head from their ass and move to the future.

New blood. Dems CANNOT be the same old constantly revanchist assholes every time they lose bigly. And, boy did they lose bigly.

The Dem go to kleptomaniacs like Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Rahm Emanuel not only did not help the party expand but set it back in serious ways in places like MO, KS, AZ and the entire United States.

And, while we are at it, the high holy “Senator Professor Warren” ain’t immune either. She had a moment and a shot, and she cowardly whiffed. Maybe it is something she just truly did not want, and, if so, fine. But don’t tell me that someone that is little more than a year younger than Hillary, and who consciously forfeited both her, and Bernie’s, shot in 2016, will be the Democratic holy savior in 2020.

Don’t do that. This is the same ignorant reset idiocy that got Democrats here today. That time is done. If Democrats do one thing ever, it ought be to build the bridge for the young’s of the United States to clean up the shithole we left them. Liz Warren and Bernie Sanders can be a huge part in doing that. But only as bridge builders, not as the man or woman who will be the avatar in 2020. We need them terribly, but not themselves as the embodiment of the future. That kind of thinking is the idiocy of the past.

There is a future. Although CNN’s Jeff Zucker and Trump/Breitbartism’s Steve Bannon are brothers in clickbait cuck arms that birthed, literally, President Trump, and will not easily give up their money raking news cycles.

The “new normal” is that CNN, MSNBC, NBC, CBS, ABC, New York Times, Washington Post, and an endless roll call of dying, wimpering subservient media jackasses, who rode Trump’s clickbait train to a place in hell, will find it’s new Stockholm Syndromed place and start lecturing us how it is all good and just a “function of normal democracy”. It is already occurring, just watch any Wolf Blitzer on CNN or Chris Matthews on MSNBC moment. They are getting climax happy legs on Trump and Giuliani fascism as we speak.

That is one vision, and the early reality, of what the “press” will do in the coming Trump Presidency. The competing vision, which is what I hope and ascribe to, is that the media extricates their heads from their asses and brings real scrutiny to try to mitigate the hell they helped gestate. Are there enough Brian Stelters and Jay Rosens to get us there?

The brokenhearted Dems have some serious soul searching to engage in. So do the currently unapologetic and furiously rationalizing media and “pundits” who so helped get us here.

“Balanced” is NOT fair. Honest is fair. Accurate is fair. Truth is fair. Putting on panels of bickering loud mouthed bought and paid for political assholes as “news coverage” is NOT fair. Nor is it “balanced” news. Jeff Zucker makes Roger Goodell look like a piker in terms of the pantheon of American assholes.

While the media, especially cable, has a circle jerk field day congratulating themselves over their “wall to wall coverage”, and “looking forward to the transition”, just remember how the Trumpism and fascism germinated. Not shockingly, it germinated the same way it always has. When the gatekeepers of a rational society become more about themselves and their money than their jobs representing society.

There is a lesson here, too, for the Dems in media interaction. You got played and hosed royally. Don’t be the brokenhearted, be the, for once, party that learns from its mistakes and failures, and does better.

Just once, do this. If you can.

UPDATE: Commenter GK James posted something below that I think crystallizes much of what I was trying to say far better than I did, even if from a slightly different perspective.

Sure, but doesn’t that effectively absolve the demos that does the choosing? Aren’t Democrats up against a larger problem, one that they’ve had to wrestle with since Reagan? How do you advocate a progressive worldview when the majority of an aging, increasingly atomized, entertainment-addicted population doesn’t want that? It’s easy enough to say, after the fact, that Clinton should have focused more on those disadvantaged by globalization, or that, had they only chosen Sanders, the Democrats would have won. But recall that, without moving to the center, Bill Clinton would never have made it. A lousy bargain in retrospect, but not a crazy one at the time.

Yes, the DNC needs new blood. But assuming someone is found who can articulate a crisp clear message of what Democrats stand for—and who’s telegenic, personable, and entertaining to boot—how would that change the stranglehold that Republicans have on state governments, state legislatures, and the US Congress? The clear majority likes the status quo, having no problem with gerrymandered districts, voter suppression, or bought-and-paid-for legislators who enjoy an incumbency rate of 90%+. And the infotainment complex is likely to help keep it that way by making sure that its customers are never overtaxed by complicated thoughts. There will still be people, adults, who read, think, and have constructive ideas about matters of public import, which they’ll express in complete sentences. But they’ll be increasingly outnumbered and marginalized in a Twittered world.

Can’t argue with that, and don’t know the answers to the questions. But the Democratic party, if it is to continue (and I think it must), has to start finding those answers quickly.

The Unlearned Lessons of Obama’s Guns, God, and Religion Comments

It will take some time to understand everything that went into Tuesday’s Hillary loss. But one of the most striking things we can see in actual results is that in the Midwest, Trump ran up the score in rural areas that Obama had won in 2008, counterbalancing Hillary’s ability to win in key exurbs. Not incidentally, this is the same thing Bernie was able to do in the primaries: win big in places with small populations.

That got me thinking of this, a key moment in the 2008 election — when Obama was caught on tape suggesting forgotten rural voters often cling to their guns, god, and religion.

Here’s how it is: in a lot of these communities in big industrial states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, people have been beaten down so long, and they feel so betrayed by government, and when they hear a pitch that is premised on not being cynical about government, then a part of them just doesn’t buy it. And when it’s delivered by — it’s true that when it’s delivered by a 46-year-old black man named Barack Obama (laugher), then that adds another layer of skepticism (laughter).

But — so the questions you’re most likely to get about me, ‘Well, what is this guy going to do for me? What’s the concrete thing?’ What they wanna hear is — so, we’ll give you talking points about what we’re proposing — close tax loopholes, roll back, you know, the tax cuts for the top 1 percent. Obama’s gonna give tax breaks to middle-class folks and we’re gonna provide health care for every American. So we’ll go down a series of talking points.

But the truth is, is that, our challenge is to get people persuaded that we can make progress when there’s not evidence of that in their daily lives. You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. So it’s not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

Um, now these are in some communities, you know. I think what you’ll find is, is that people of every background — there are gonna be a mix of people, you can go in the toughest neighborhoods, you know working-class lunch-pail folks, you’ll find Obama enthusiasts. And you can go into places where you think I’d be very strong and people will just be skeptical. The important thing is that you show up and you’re doing what you’re doing.

Hillary pounced on the comments, accusing Obama of being tone deaf about rural issues. But over the course of the year, Obama worked to win the votes of these people.

Eight years later, this very same disheartened voters, who remain cynical that the government can do anything for them, voted for a billionaire grifter who thinks wages are too high.

That’s a bad enough story. It’s bad enough that giving people access to (too expensive and complicated) health insurance didn’t provide needed relief.

But then Hillary missed the importance of these same rural areas, because the algorithm that did all the campaign’s thinking underestimated it and so Hillary made few or no campaign stops there.

So where did Ada go wrong?

About some things, she was apparently right. Aides say Pennsylvania was pegged as an extremely important state early on, which explains why Clinton was such a frequent visitor and chose to hold her penultimate rally in Philadelphia on Monday night.

But it appears that the importance of other states Clinton would lose — including Michigan and Wisconsin — never became fully apparent or that it was too late once it did.

Clinton made several visits to Michigan during the general election, but it wasn’t until the final days that she, Obama and her husband made such a concerted effort.

As for Wisconsin: Clinton didn’t make any appearances there at all.

Like much of the political establishment Ada appeared to underestimate the power of rural voters in Rust Belt states.

Trump, partly out of desperation, did see these voters.

Hillary failed Obama’s challenge — convincing people that we can make progress when there’s little evidence of it. That said, I think in the White House, Obama failed that challenge as well.

 

Why Democrats May Embrace Jim Comey’s Self-Righteousness in 12 Months

Some Democrats are already blaming Jim Comey for Hillary’s loss last night. It will be some time before we know for sure whether that is true. Certainly polling (to the extent that it can be regarded as a fair read of the electorate, which I’m not sure it can) didn’t show Hillary losing a lot of support, net, over the course of Comey’s head fake. Instead, polls showed Gary Johnson voters coming home to the GOP, which closed Trump’s polling gap. I do think it likely that Comey’s head fake had an effect on Democratic turnout.

So we will see whether Comey is to blame or something else (that said, by the time we really know that, a narrative will be set).

But I also want to talk about Comey’s position going forward.

Had Hillary won, I think President Obama might have fired Comey in the lame duck. But I don’t see that happening now. Partly, because it would be seen as vindictive, and Obama has his legacy to cement. More importantly, there’s no chance Obama could get someone else confirmed.

So Comey will be FBI Director on January 20, with six plus years of a ten year term in front of him.

Trump has already floated Rudy Giuliani as Attorney General.

I have no idea what their relationship is like now, but recall that Comey worked for (presumably was hired by) Giuliani when the latter was US Attorney in the 1980s. Giuliani is the guy that launched Comey on his self-righteous career of federal prosecution.

For that reason — and because of Comey’s behavior in the last month — I expect Trump will keep him.

That means Comey’s self-righteous rule is one of the few things that will prevent Trump, in the near turn, from politicizing the FBI more than it already is. Today’s FBI is already bad, but Comey may limit how badly Trump’s FBI targets Muslims and others Trump targeted during the campaign.

Ultimately, Comey’s tenure may end where it has before, in standing up to some legalistic abuse (even while sanctioning the underlying behavior, as Comey did with both torture and mass surveillance), and resigning or getting fired.

But in the short term, at least, the Democrats who are blaming Comey today may welcome his self-righteousness tomorrow. Me, I think the reasons that self-righteousness is a problem now will remain a problem. But probably less problematic than having Joe Arpaio run the FBI.

The Day After Election Day 2016

thisisfine_comicstrip_09nov2016Well. I don’t know that I have adequate words for this ‘day after’ experience. I didn’t in 2000 or in 2004; why should this be any different? As I write this and schedule for publishing, I don’t know the final outcome of the big race — but the entire day has been bad and it looks grim at 2:00 a.m. the day after.

Watching this evening’s coverage by major TV/cable news networks has been an appalling joke. They even appeared to realize they were flailing, producing occasional weird spots of dead air when one of the talking heads couldn’t articulate what’s going on.

It’s rather pathetic that the only person who went there and touched on the difficult topics of voter suppression, racism, and sexism, did so on a comedy program. The rest of the mainstream media muddled on blithely as if these things don’t exist and didn’t affect this race. They are doing exactly what they’ve done for decades, pretending everything is fine, this is fine, it’s all fine.

Speaking of fine, here are a few bright spots:

Boston voted down Question 2, rejecting more charter schools;

Nevada elected Catherine Cortez Masto, its first Latina Senator, filling Harry Reid’s seat;

California elected Kamala Harris to fill the seat vacated by retiring Senator Barbara Boxer;

New York elected Adriano Espaillat, the first Dominican-American member of Congress and formerly undocumented immigrant;

— Washington state’s Pramila Jayapal elected, first Indian-American woman to Congress to serve for WA-7 [need link];

Oregon elected Kate Brown, first openly LGBT governor.

If I missed another bright spot, leave a note in comments.

This is an open thread, but it is dedicated to post-election discussion.

__________

[graphic: KC Green, c. 2013]

Election Day 2016

Oh. My. God. We made it to Election Day. Batten the hatches; the final 24 hours of this general election season are going to be a doozy.

Resources for you if you haven’t already voted early or by absentee ballot:

And last but not least, HuffPo’s Elise Foley’s list of poll closing and bar closing times by state. Yeoman’s work here.

This is an open thread, but it’s open for election content only. Spare your family, friends and neighbors and dump here instead about your voting experience.

UPDATE — 10:45 AM EST —
Interesting resource: Google Trends voting related searches — a tool built by Google News Lab and Pitch Interactive for ProPublica’s Electionland coverage.

I’m surprised at the location of certain searches, like concentrations of Long Lines in a predominantly white rural small city, and Voter Intimidation in a nearly all-white town. Wonder if the latter is a case where the search location isn’t really in that town but within the ISP neighboring a minority-majority city.

Monday: A Border Too Far

In this roundup: Turkey, pipelines, and a border not meant to be crossed.

It’s nearly the end of the final Monday of 2016’s General Election campaign season. This shit show is nearly over. Thank every greater power in the universe we made it this far through these cumulative horrors.

Speaking of horrors, this Monday’s movie short is just that — a simple horror film, complete with plenty of bloody gritty gore. Rating on it is mature, not for any adult content but for its violence. The film is about illegal immigrants who want more from life, but it plays with the concepts of alien identity and zombie-ism. Who are the illegals, the aliens, the zombies? What is the nature of the predator and their prey? Does a rational explanation for the existence of the monstrous legitimize the horror they perpetuate in any way?

The logline for this film includes an even shorter tag line: Some borders aren’t meant to be crossed. This is worth meditating on after the horrors we’ve seen this past six months. Immigrants and refugees aren’t the monsters. And women aren’t feeble creatures to be marginalized and counted out.

Should also point out this film’s production team is mostly Latin American. This is the near-future of American storytelling and film. I can’t wait for more.

Tough Turkey
The situation in Turkey is extremely challenging, requiring diplomacy a certain Cheeto-headed candidate is not up to handling and will screw up if he places his own interests ahead of that of the U.S. and the rest of the world.

  • Luxembourg’s foreign minister compares Erdoğan’s purge to Nazi Germany (Deutsche Welle) — Yeah, I can’t argue with this when a political party representing an ethnic minority and a group sharing religious dogma are targeted for removal from jobs, arrest and detention.
  • Op-Ed: Erdoğan targeting critics of all kinds (Guardian) — Yup. Media, judges, teachers, persons of Kurdish heritage or Gulenist religious bent, secularists, you name it. Power consolidation in progress. Democracy, my left foot.
  • HDP boycotts Turkish parliament after the arrest of its leaders (BBC) — Erdoğan claimed the arrested HDP leaders were in cahoot with the PKK, a Kurdish group identified as a terrorist organization. You’ll recall HDP represents much of Turkey’s Kurdish minority. But Erdoğan also said he doesn’t care if the EU calls him a dictator; he said the EU abets terrorism. Sure. Tell the cities of Paris and Brussels that one. Think Erdoğan has been taking notes from Trump.
  • U.S. and Turkish military leaders meet to work out Kurd-led ops against ISIS (Guardian) — Awkward. Turkish military officials were still tetchy about an arrangement in which Kurdish forces would act against ISIS in Raqqa, Syria, about 100 miles east of Aleppo. The People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia — the Kurdish forces — will work in concert with Arab members of Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) coalition in Raqqa to remove ISIS. Initial blame aimed at the PKK for a car bomb after HDP members were arrested heightened existing tensions between Erdoğan loyalists and the Kurds, though ISIS later took responsibility for the deadly blast. Depending on whose take one reads, the Arab part of SDF will lead the effort versus any Kurdish forces. Turkey attacked YPG forces back in August while YPG and Turkey were both supposed to be routing ISIS.

In the background behind Erdoğan’s moves to consolidate power under the Turkish presidency and the fight to eliminate ISIS from Syria and neighboring territory, there is a struggle for control of oil and gas moving through or by Turkey.

Russia lost considerable revenue after oil prices crashed in 2014. A weak ruble has helped but to replace lost revenue based on oil’s price, Russia has increased output to record levels. Increase supply only reduces price, especially when Saudi Arabia, OPEC producers, and Iran cannot agree upon and implement a production limit. If Russia will not likewise agree to production curbs, oil prices will remain low and Russia’s revenues will continue to flag.

Increasing pipelines for both oil and gas could bolster revenues, however. Russia can literally throttle supply near its end of hydrocarbon pipelines and force buyers in the EU and everywhere in between to pay higher rates — the history of Ukrainian-Russian pipeline disputes demonstrates this strategy. Bypassing Ukraine altogether would help Russia avoid both established rates and conflict there with the west. The opportunities encourage Putin to deal with Erdoğan, renormalizing relations after Turkey shot down a Russian jet last November. Russia and Turkey had met in summer of 2015 to discuss a new gas pipeline; they’ve now met again in August and in October to return to plans for funding the same pipeline.

A previous pipeline ‘war’ between Russia and the west ended in late 2014. This conflict may only have been paused, though. Between Russia’s pressure to sell more hydrocarbons to the EU, threats to pipelines from PKK-attributed terrorism and ISIS warfare near Turkey’s southwestern border, and implications that Erdoğan has been involved in ISIS’ sales of oil to the EU, Erdoğan may be willing to drop pursuit of EU membership to gain more internal control and profit from Russia’s desire for more hydrocarbon revenues. In the middle of all this mess, Erdoğan has expressed a desire to reinstate the death penalty for alleged coup plotters and dissenters — a border too far for EU membership since death penalty is not permitted by EU law.

This situation requires far more diplomatic skill than certain presidential candidates will be able to muster. Certainly not from a candidate who doesn’t know what Aleppo is, and certainly not from a candidate who thinks he is the only solution to every problem.

Cybery miscellany

That’s it for now. I’ll put up an open thread dedicated to all things election in the morning. Brace yourselves.

NYT Ombud Calls for More Unproven Fearmongering

In an overly dramatic (and in key areas, fluff) piece promising voting related hacks long into the future, David Sanger includes this passage.

The steady drumbeat of allegations of Russian troublemaking — leaks from stolen emails and probes of election-system defenses — has continued through the campaign’s last days. These intrusions, current and former administration officials agree, will embolden other American adversaries, which have been given a vivid demonstration that, when used with some subtlety, their growing digital arsenals can be particularly damaging in the frenzy of a democratic election.

“Most of the biggest stories of this election cycle have had a cyber component to them — or the use of information warfare techniques that the Russians, in particular, honed over decades,” said David Rothkopf, the chief executive and editor of Foreign Policy, who has written two histories of the National Security Council. “From stolen emails, to WikiLeaks, to the hacking of the N.S.A.’s tools, and even the debate about how much of this the Russians are responsible for, it’s dominated in a way that we haven’t seen in any prior election.”

The magnitude of this shift has gone largely unrecognized in the cacophony of a campaign dominated by charges of groping and pay-for-play access.

On a day when results from North Carolina strongly suggest that efforts to suppress the African American vote have thus far worked, the NYT frames a story by arguing that cyber — not racism and voter suppression — accounts for “most of the biggest stories of the election cycle” (the story goes on to include Hillary’s email investigation in with the Russian hacks dealt with in the story).

It does so even while insintuating that the “probes of election-system defenses” are a Russian state-led effort, which the Intelligence Community pointedly did not say. Indeed, a DHS assessment dated September 20 — before that Intelligence Statement — (and publicly posted Saturday) attributes such probes to “cybercriminals and criminal hackers.”

(U//FOUO) We judge cybercriminals and criminal hackers are likely to continue to target personally identifiable information (PII), such as that available in voter registration databases. We have no indication, however, that criminals are planning theft of voter information to disrupt or alter US computer-enabled election infrastructure.

Sanger posted his piece, claiming that cyber is the most important part of this election, in the wake of NYT’s ombud, Liz Spayd, posting her own piece judging — partly based off Sanger’s assessment — that the NYT should put someone on the Russian hacking story full time.

[W]hile several reporters have periodically contributed to the coverage, no one was dedicated to it full time. That’s too bad. In my view, The Times should have assembled a strike force and given it a mandate to make this story its top priority.

[snip]

I asked Sanger, a highly knowledgeable and seasoned hand on matters of cyberwarfare, about the challenges in covering information hacks. “American drone strikes and Russians bombing a hospital in Syria are immediate, gripping, tragic human stories,” he said. “A cyberstrike, by nature, is subtle, its effects often hidden for months, its importance usually a mystery. The bigger story here is that a foreign power has inserted itself in the fundamental underpinnings of American democracy using cybertechniques. We’ve never seen that before.”

That sounds like a pretty powerful argument for all-hands-on-deck coverage. After all, Trump’s treatment of women, Clinton’s email servers, the foundations of each candidate — all of it will soon fade out. The cyberwar, on the other hand, is only getting started.

Spayd makes a number of unproven or even false claims in her piece. Not only does she (like Sanger) claim that those probing voter poll sites are Russian (implying they are state hackers), she also implies the Shadow Brokers hack was done by Russia (which may be true but is far from proven).

So was the National Security Agency. Now, hackers are meddling with the voting systems in several states, leaving local officials on high alert.

She asks a question — were the Russians running Trump — she answers in her own piece.

And most critically, what has it done to try to establish whether Donald Trump was colluding with Russian intelligence, as Clinton suggests?

[snip]

The Times finally weighed in on this question last week, concluding that there is no compelling evidence linking Trump to the hackers. The piece, which ran on A21 and down page on the website, appeared to have been in the works for some time. Yet it was published just seven days before the election, and was unsatisfying in exploring the back story that led to its conclusions.

In a piece that notes there is no evidence the Russians are behind the poll probes, she suggests a Sanger piece suggesting they might have been should have been somewhere more prominent than page A15.

A piece laying out evidence that the Russians may be trying to falsify voting results in state databases ran on A15 and got minimal play digitally.

And she applauds a highly problematic piece claiming Julian Assange and Wikileaks always side with the Russians.

Led by David Sanger, The Times was first to link the Russians to the hacks, to examine the baffling role of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks and to smartly explore the options that the Obama administration could use to retaliate. I have no substantive complaints about the stories The Times has done.

In short, she points to a lot of problematic, hasty fearmongering the NYT has done on this front (as well as the one debunking much of that fearmongering, though she complains that doesn’t offer enough detail). And then says NYT should do more of it.

From the sounds of things, what she really wants is more cloak and dagger on the front pages of the NYT. Even if NYT has to invent a Russian tie to get it there.

Update: Egads.

The NYT just decided to tweet out its crappy Assange only does things Putin likes piece again.

Waveland and The North Side, Sweet Home Chicago

pj-bh129_sp_wri_g_20120514203124I was raised in a pretty educated house. We travelled too, from Phoenix to El Paso to Dallas, Houston, New Orleans, Memphis, Miami and Detroit. But those were hit and run trips, most by air, some by car, when visiting grandparents and other relatives during the summer. Nevertheless, I thought I knew the country well. I had also already spent portions of summers working in Santa Monica restoring glorious cars and sometimes meeting stars.

I was just turned 18, a man or the world, and god I knew it. But I was really none of that at all. I didn’t know shit.

Then I started college and moved into a dorm. By happenstance, at Arizona State University, I was assigned to an asylum, er floor, chock full of similar kids, on that floor almost all from Chicago and New Jersey. The first few days were an amazing, though not rude in the least, awakening. One group dragged me, literally almost kicking and screaming, to see Bruce Springsteen rock the venerable, and historic, Grady Gammage theater at ASU almost to the ground. That was life changing in a way.

The others were the Chicagoans. They taught me the love and misery of the Cubs and the perpetual Windy City. And Chicago blues and rock. Many of the Chicagoans I met that way in college are still friends to this day. Their parents all came out, then and now as they can, for Spring Training to see their Cubbies. Being from here, I always took spring training for granted growing up as a kid. It was kind of a yawner. But the Cubs fans had a love, purpose and passion that was incredible. Anybody that went to the old Hohokam Park knows how greatly insane, drunken and wonderful it was.

Fast forward to the present day. One of those Chicagoans had parents who, when they retired, moved here permanently. To be close to their son and the winter home of their beloved Cubs. I knew them well. The father wanted to see the Cubs in the World Series before he died. He did, but not by much. He slipped into peaceful sleep right after they won the National League Championship, and never woke up. But, ain’t that a Cubs fan? This is for you Richard, RIP.

That is my own personal story of how and why the Cubs touched me, not just this year, but long ago. The stories are legion. Tell us yours.

The inestimable Wright Thompson has penned a simply beautiful piece that captures so much of the everything goodness that is the Cubs World Series win:

CUBS FANS awoke Wednesday to one last wait, with little to do before Game 7 but think, about themselves and their families, about the people who’ve come and gone during these 108 years of failure. Hundreds found themselves drawn to Wrigley Field, where workers were already breaking down the concessions and cleaning out the freezers. Some people said they didn’t even mean to come. They started off on a trip to the store and ended up standing in front of the stadium’s long brick wall facing Waveland Avenue. Many wrote chalk notes to the dead. Some dedicated messages. This one’s for you, Dad. Others wrote names. Dan Bird. Ben Bird. Eugene Hendershott. A man with a bright smile but melancholy eyes wrote the name of his late wife, Andrea Monhollen. They met four blocks from here, on Racine. She’s been gone six years.

“Cancer,” John Motiejunas said.

He looked around at the names, each one as special to some stranger as his wife’s name is to him. All these chalk ghosts longed to see a day like this one. Each name represented an unfulfilled dream. The big bright murals made the wall seem fun and festive from afar, but a closer look revealed life stripped of romanticism. “A lot of people waited their whole lives,” Motiejunas said. He took a picture of the wall and then left, walking through the light rain that had begun to fall.

There is no way for me to recommend you reading Thompson’s entire piece enough, it is fantastic and a tear jerker. And if you think that quote from the top is good, you REALLY need to see the rest.

Sports are a lazy diversion from reality in America I guess. Or they are a metaphor for everything that is awesome about America. Or it is just a game. Or, just maybe, all of the above.

It has been a long and painful slog through the swamp of an ugly political season. One that started far too early, and promises to never stop even after the election. I could insert links and cites, and yadda, yadda, yadda but what difference does it make anymore? One candidate was born a Cubs fan, and the other literally thinks he was the second coming of Babe Ruth and the world simply was deprived of recognizing his narcissistic awesomeness because he went into the business (of bankruptcy and fraud) world instead.

TWENTY MILES NORTHWEST, cars parked in groups along the winding paths of the All-Saints Cemetery. An hour remained until the 5 p.m. closing time. It’s a Catholic burial ground, out in the middle-class suburbs, and there are dozens, maybe hundreds, of Cubs flags and hats and license plates and signs. It’s one of many places around Chicago this past week where the conflicting ideas of joy and pain leave the realm of the psychological and become attached to action. People come here for many reasons, to say a little prayer, or talk to someone, to themselves, or to believe that their loved one knows what is happening tonight. Last Friday, an old man in a Cubs jacket stood over a grave and left a pennant and a Cubs pumpkin. Yesterday, a middle-aged woman named Maureen stood for the longest time at a grave not far away. A sign said “Believe.” Maureen touched her hand to the Cubs logo on her chest and smiled, looking back at the ground.

“My son,” she said.

Then she pointed across the rolling hill to the most famous grave in the cemetery, which is where she was headed next, to pay respects to Harry Caray before going to watch the game. His stone has green apples on top, an inside joke referencing a quote about the Cubs one day making it to a World Series just as surely as God made green apples.

Wright Thompson has painted the perfect picture of the Cubs fan. It touched me. And made me remember so many things, and so many people. I know them. You know them. They are us, and we they. Wright also made me forget for a bit the intellectually demeaning tornadic hell that is the 2016 election. I hope you will find the same moment of peace.

Right now, football is boring, Formula One sucks and the NBA doesn’t yet matter. So, this is yer Emptywheel Trash Talk for this week. Share your stories and thoughts. Music is Sweet Home Chicago. There were a lot of versions to choose from, but this seemed to be the right one. The original Robert Johnson version. Keep in mind, when Robert Johnson first recorded that song, the Cubs had already not had a World Series victory for 28 years. That string only ended this week. As a bonus, I also include a newer version by Eric, BB, Buddy, Mick and some dude named Obama. Have a great weekend folks.

Friday: When the Beau Breaks and Brakes

In this roundup: Brexit breaks, Turkey’s troubles trebled, shattered guardrails.

I’ve been trying to get a handle on culture in the United Kingdom, to understand why the country is both so divided about its membership in the European Union and the nature of its identity. One of the places I’ve looked has been fashion, which is an outward expression of cultural identity and values.

British GQ and Vogue worked together on a video series looking at four different major movements in UK fashion. I have to admit I’m both enlightened and confused after watching them. I’ve embedded the first one here, and offer the rest as links.

(1) The Lad | (2) Modern Dandy | (3) New Traditionalists | (4) New Romantics

There isn’t a direct correlation with cultural segments in the U.S. so it’s difficult to translate what some of these mean. Lad culture, for example, is somewhat like our blue collar men and yet it’s also like high school and college jock culture. But then neither of these U.S. groups would own up to being a culture with a differentiated sense of style.

I think Americans will understand both the New Traditionalists and New Romantics most easily. They’ll recognize the correlates in their own U.S. culture. They’ll also recognize how segments of these three UK movements — Lad, Traditionalists, Romantics — might cleave with Remain or Brexit.

The one part of this series I found most odd was the Modern Dandy — these British literally did not know the roots of their own dandyism even when pointing to Beau Brummel. Brummel rebelled against the excessively ornate fussiness of pre-Regency fashion and is responsible for the adoption of trousers and white dress shirts as standard men’s’ wear (not to mention daily bathing). Brummel ultimately shaped global expectations of men’s business attire and our standards of hygiene. The contemporary dandies interviewed may grasp the notion of differentiation, but they don’t know their own history.

Not unlike the U.S., the UK has an identity crisis. It’s changed in ways it doesn’t fully understand and it’s out of tune with some of its own history. And while white nationalists like those in Ukip believe the UK should be more homogeneous, the UK hasn’t been for as long as it’s been a center of global business — even the monarchy is not lily white. We’re witnessing a struggle for control of identity, and it’s touch-and-go as to which faction will win.

Brexit breaks and brakes

Turkey troubles treble

  • Internet throttled, social media choked overnight (Turkey Times) — Erdoğan’s standard M.O.: shut down the internet and social media so that no one can report to the outside world what he’s doing to throttle democracy. VPNs are also targeted this time since the government knows they are used to bypass censorship.
  • Turkish police raid homes and arrest opposition party members (Andalou Ajansi) — This is insanity, like a U.S. president ordering the FBI to arrest the leaders of any other political party. The HDP had support of six million Turkish voters. HDP is the third largest political party holding more than 1/3 of the seats in parliament and the representative party of the Kurdish minority.
  • Car bomb detonated after HDP arrests, PKK blamed (USA Today) — Is this a prompt retaliation for political arrests? Whatever it is, instability is increasing in Turkey.
  • EU worried about HDP members (Twitter) — High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the EU Commission Federica Mogherini expressed great concern for HDP members arrested; held phone meeting with Turkish officials.
  • ISIS claims responsibility later in the day for car bombing (The Star) — Unfortunately, many pro-Erdoğan supporters were riled up against PKK by the time ISIS piped up. Expect even greater hostility toward the Kurds.

Longread: A conservative’s POV on this election
Yeah, yeah, I know, David Frum, whatev. But his op-ed for The Atlantic is quite good, examining ‘guardrails’ of democracy Trump’s candidacy has broken. Which is all well and good — a conservative recognizes the serious threats to democracy — but what will conservatives do to fix this mess? Will they ever look carefully at their ownership of this dumpster fire they stoked pushing Movement Conservatism to excess, and begin to build a rational escape toward sanity?

A little over four days — mere hours — away from the end of this debacle we call a general election. Rest up.

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