Post Election Trash Talk

Well here we are in the fifth day past the stunning election. That maybe was not that stunning at all. I don’t necessarily have anything to add at this point. Success has many fathers, and failure is an orphan. Right now there are a lot of fathers jockeying for power around Trump, and a hell of a lot of orphans pointing fingers about around the Clinton campaign and Democratic party. Well, that should go on for a while I guess.

But enough of that rot, let’s take a look at the sporting world:

As I write this, the Brazilian Grand Prix has just started on NBCSN. It is quite wet at Autodromo Interlagos, and the field started behind the safety car. Which is pitiful. F1 should either race in the wet (what they always used to do) or stop. Circling the track behind a safety car is asinine. Key race though for Lewis Hamilton, who is trying to close the championship gap to Nico Rosberg. One of these two men will be champion, Nico if he wins today, and, likely the winner of Abu Dhabi, the last race of the season. next week, if not.

A bunch of top ten teams lost in college football, including Michigan to Iowa and Clemson to Pitt. Didn’t see those coming, though Clemson has been flaky occasionally this year.

In the pros this week, the obvious marquee game is the Squawks at the Pats in Foxborough. Pats are healthy and even get fleet running back Dion Lewis back, though probably in a limited role. Russell Wilson still seems hobbled for running purposes, but is leading the offense well. Dallas at Pittsburgh should be interesting. Dak Prescott still pulling the trigger for the Boys, but is a question as to the Steelers. I expect Big Ben, but we shall see.

Denver at the Saints seems like it may be good. Saints are actually playing well lately, and they can score points. Can the Broncos and Trevor Siemian score enough to hang? After last week, it is suddenly a good question. Vikings at Skins is interesting to see only as to whether Minnesota can stop its slide. The knee jerk is to say the Vikings and their defense are the better team, but I’ll take Washington. Packers at Titans has the same morbid curiosity – Green Bay has looked horrid, can they get a grip again? Tennessee is still not very good, but they are improving. We shall see.

Music today is Sunday Mornin Comin Down. The song was really penned by Kris Kristofferson, but the Man in Black version by John Cash seemed more appropriate.

About that Russian Hacker Story

This story is going viral on social media. The CNN article, dated October 12, describes a compromise of a FL contractor they don’t situate in time.

Federal investigators believe Russian hackers were behind cyberattacks on a contractor for Florida’s election system that may have exposed the personal data of Florida voters, according to US officials briefed on the probe.

The hack of the Florida contractor comes on the heels of hacks in Illinois, in which personal data of tens of thousands of voters may have been stolen, and one in Arizona, in which investigators now believe the data of voters was likely exposed.
Later in the article, CNN makes it clear this is the same hack as described in this earlier ABC reporting, which expands on a story from several days earlier. ABC’s reporting doesn’t date the compromise either. Rather, it explains that FL was one of four states in which hackers had succeeded in compromising data, whereas hackers had scanned voting related systems — tried to hack systems — in half the states.

As ABC News first reported Thursday, hackers have recently tried to infiltrate voter registration systems in nearly half of the states across the country –- a significantly larger cyber-assault than U.S. officials have been willing to concede.

And while officials have publicly admitted Illinois and Arizona had their systems compromised, officials have yet to acknowledge that information related to at least two other states’ voters has also been exposed.

Hackers working on behalf of the Russian government are suspected in the onslaught against election-related systems, according to sources with knowledge of the matter.

And ABC’s source at least claimed that all hackers did was copy voter data.

The voter information was exposed after cyber-operatives gained entry to at least one computer associated with a private company hired to administer voter information, the sources said.

A simple “phishing” scheme –- with a malicious link or attachment sent in an email –- is likely how it all started, one source said.

“The attack was successful only in the sense that they gained access to the database, but they didn’t manipulate any of the voter [information] in the database,” the source said.

So, in spite of what people might think given the fact that the CNN is going viral right now, it doesn’t refer to a hack in conjunction with the election. It refers to a hack that happened well over a month ago. It refers to a hack that — at least according to people who have an incentive to say so — resulted only in the theft of data, not its alteration.

Both CNN and ABC use language that suggests the Russian government was behind this hack. Here’s CNN:

FBI investigators believe the the hacks and attempted intrusions of state election sites were carried out by hackers working for Russian intelligence.

And here’s ABC:

Hackers working on behalf of the Russian government are suspected in the onslaught against election-related systems, according to sources with knowledge of the matter.

But (as CNN points out) the October 7 joint DNI/DHS statement on Russian hacking doesn’t attribute the voting rolls part to the Russian state.

Some states have also recently seen scanning and probing of their election-related systems, which in most cases originated from servers operated by a Russian company. However, we are not now in a position to attribute this activity to the Russian Government.

An earlier DHS one explicitly attributes them to cybercriminals.

(U//FOUO) DHS has no indication that adversaries or criminals are planning cyber operations against US election infrastructure that would change the outcome of the coming US election. Multiple checks and redundancies in US election infrastructure—including diversity of systems, non-Internet connected voting machines, pre-election testing, and processes for media, campaign, and election officials to check, audit, and validate results—make it likely that cyber manipulation of US election systems intended to change the outcome of a national election would be detected.

(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.

There were known instances of identity thieves hacking voting rolls going back some time, so it is possible that’s all this was about.

We learned recently that FBI Director Comey pointedly did not want to be included on the joint DNI/DHS statement, because it was too close to the election. So it’s possible there was disagreement about that part of it (which might explain the FBI-sourced leak to CNN).

Also note, I believe the known hackers used different methods, including both SQL injection and phishing. If in response to the earlier ones, DHS did a review of voting systems and found a number of phishes using the same methods as GRU, that may explain why FBI would say it was Russian.

In any case, we don’t know what happened, and at least public claims say the hackers didn’t alter any data.

But the CNN story, at least, is not about something that just happened.

Update: Fixed some typos and clarity problems.

What Was the Role of ObamaCare Premium Hikes in Trump’s Win?

As I noted in my piece assessing the claims that the two letters Jim Comey wrote on the Hillary email investigation cost Hillary the election, the correlation between the October 28 Comey letter and what Trump’s camp reports as a surge is not exact. According to them (and they seem to have seen in real time far more clearly than the Hillary camp), the surge started before the letter.

Trump’s analysts had detected this upsurge in the electorate even beforeFBI 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.

So something else (which I posited could be nothing more than Gary Johnson voters deciding to vote Trump) has to have happened as well.

In comments, rollotomasi offered another suggestion, one I think may be significant: ObamaCare premium increases.

The press started reporting that increases would happen before they were announced. To prepare for that, on October 20, Obama, in what was treated by some as a campaign stop in Miami but what was technically a policy speech on the increases, had this to say (after having delivered a long explanation that ObamaCare was working just as planned).

Now, the second issue has to do with the marketplaces.  Although the marketplaces are working well in most of the states, there are some states where there’s still not enough competition between insurers.  So if you only have one insurer, they may decide we’re going to jack up rates because we can, because nobody else is offering a better price.

In those states where the governor or legislature is hostile to the ACA, it makes it harder to enroll people because the state is not actively participating in outreach.  And so, as a consequence, in those states enrollment in the plan — especially enrollment of young people — has lagged.

And what that means is that the insurance pool is smaller and it gets a higher percentage of older and sicker people who are signing up — because if you’re sick or you’re old, you’re more likely to say, well, I’m going to sign up, no matter what, because I know I’m going to need it; if you’re young and healthy like you guys, you say, eh, I’m fine, life is good — so you have more older and sicker people signing up, fewer younger and healthier people signing up, and that drives rates up, because the people who use health care most end up being in the insurance pool; people who use it least are not.

And then, in some cases, insurers just set their prices too low at the outset because they didn’t know what the insurance pool was going to look like, and then they started losing money.  And so now they’ve decided to significantly increase premiums in some states.

Now, it’s these premium increases in some of the states in the marketplace that sometimes attracts negative headlines.  Remember, these premium increases won’t impact most of the people who are buying insurance through the marketplace, because even when premiums go up, the tax credits go up to offset the increases.  So people who qualify for tax credits, they may not even notice their premiums went up because the tax credit is covered.

And keep in mind that these premium increases that some of you may have read about have no effect at all if you’re getting health insurance on the job, or through Medicaid or Medicare.  So for the 80 [percent]-plus people who already had health insurance, if your premium is going up, it’s not because of Obamacare.  It’s because of your employer or your insurer — even though sometimes they try to blame Obamacare for why the rates go up.  It’s not because of any policy of the Affordable Care Act that the rates are going up.

But if you are one of the people who doesn’t get health care on the job, doesn’t qualify for Medicaid, doesn’t qualify for Medicare — doesn’t qualify for a tax credit to help you buy insurance,  because maybe you made just a little bit too much money under the law — these premium increases do make insurance less affordable.  And in some states, the premium increases are manageable.  Some are 2 percent or 8 percent, some 20 percent.  But we know there are some states that may see premiums go up by 50 percent or more.

One of the problems with ObamaCare is its complexity. If it takes 7 paragraphs to try to make a big rate hike sound better, it’s not going to work.

The actual rates for ObamaCare plan increases — with an average increase of 22% — came out October 24. There was a great deal of chatter between then and the election, especially around the November 1 start of sign-ups, as the Administration scrambled to get users to shop for a more affordable plan. Significantly, PA was one of the worst affected states.

According to a Kaiser Family Foundation, the ObamaCare hikes should not have mattered. It released a poll showing even among Republican voters, just 5% thought heath insurance was the most important issue. Except the poll, which was released on October 27, right in the middle of the discussion about spiking rates, was actually conducted from October 12 to 18, before the rate increases were announced (which to my mind makes it a largely useless but politically timed poll release). Moreover, the poll sampled far more self-identified Democrats than self-identified Republicans (408 to 285), meaning the margins of error would be far higher for Trump-leaning voters.

But in polls of voters taken after the election, repealing ObamaCare was the top priority among Republicans. 74% of those polled wanted to repeal ObamaCare, versus 30% who wanted to build Trump’s wall.

screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-8-06-11-am

Admittedly, this isn’t a good measure of the importance of premium hikes (though it does seem somewhat inconsistent with the Kaiser poll). It may be a measure of 7 years of relentless opposition to ObamaCare, compounded by Trump’s repeated description of the program as a disaster.

Moreover, while the October 24 premium hike may explain why Trump started surging before the Comey letter, it wouldn’t explain what Hillary’s camp describes as energizing of Trump’s base when the second letter revealed nothing had been in the emails after all.

All that said, the premium hikes were probably the most significant policy discussion that happened between the last debate and the election. And for the small segment of the electorate that actually uses the exchanges, that policy change may have been felt very viscerally as they started the tedious process of shopping for an affordable plan.

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.

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[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.

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