Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Forget about faithless electors for a moment; it's the faithful we might need to watch.

I have extremely mixed emotions about "faithless elector" push. I see it as a distraction, it is very probably doomed to fail, and there is a "two wrongs make a right" feeling about the whole thing (just imagine how we would react if the situation were reversed).

My take on this (which has, if anything, been sharpened by recent events) is that we have been negligent about both maintaining the democratic process and protecting it from its opponents. I am more interested in fixing that process for the long-term than in changing the immediate outcome. As of next year, two of our last three presidents will have come into office losing the popular vote. Thanks to gerrymandering, the House has not represented the democratic will of the people for years. The Republicans decision to trash Constitutional norms and long-standing traditions has had a analogous affect on the judiciary. And none of this takes into account the blatant voter suppression efforts of the past few years.

At best, the faithless elector talk might serve as an effective protest against these anti-democratic efforts; at worst, it will simply drain the oxygen from the debate.

On a more personal note there are damned few people out there who are looking to me for normative statements. I've been doing a lot of reflecting as the election, thinking about the role of a statistics blogger in this whole mess. How do we make sure that we are adding value and not simply increasing the noise? One way is for each of us to ask him or herself what unique contributions we bring to the table. If we are all just trying to get our opinions on the record, we might as well all go over to Twitter.

Particularly for a statistics blogger, I believe personal experience and special knowledge can be extraordinarily useful. The combination of an analytic background and an informed perspective can go a long way toward bringing fresh insights and spotting potential problems in conventional arguments. There are few things more valuable for a statistician than having a good sense of what groups should or should not be aggregated and what relationships should or should not be treated as stable.

In my case, that experience includes growing up in the Bible Belt and spending pretty much all of my formative years arguing with fundamentalists. That has given me a strong feel for how evangelicals think. It has also made me more alert to the tremendous, in some cases cataclysmic, changes that have taken place in the movement over the past few years.

The current configuration of the evangelical movement is unstable. Just to be clear, I am not saying that we are about to see a radical shift toward either liberalism or toward the distrust of politics historically associated with groups like the Southern Baptists. When I am saying is that there are great tensions in the movement, that Trump has heightened those tensions, and that while we may not see huge changes in the way we think about religion and politics over the next few years, it would be foolish to rule out the possibility.

Steven Porter writing for the Christian Science Monitor:

A Texas Republican announced over the weekend that he plans to resign his post as a member of the Electoral College rather than cast a ballot for US President-elect Donald Trump, a man he deems "not biblically qualified for office."

Citing his Christian religion and his understanding of representative democracy, Art Sisneros wrote in a blog post that he could neither vote for Mr. Trump nor break his promise to do so by voting for anyone else. Texas does not require its 38 electors to vote in accordance with the state's presidential election results, but Mr. Sisneros says he made a pledge to the Texas GOP that his vote next month in Austin would follow the will of the general public.

"The reality is Trump will be our President, no matter what my decision is," Sisneros wrote. "Since I can’t in good conscience vote for Donald Trump, and yet have sinfully made a pledge that I would, the best option I see at this time is to resign my position as an Elector."

Sisneros spells out his position in more detail here and here.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Terrestrial superstation blogging – – Luken

There are a lot of over the air television stations available in Los Angeles. The last time I helped someone set up an antenna, we were able to pull in 170. Now, most of these are probably channels that you would never watch. English is the language of the plurality but not the majority. Quite a few (though possibly less than you might expect) are shopping channels and their are a few duplicates, stations that appear to or three times on multiple points of the dial.

As the familiar disclaimer reads, individual user experiences may vary. The number and reliability of the channels you will receive is primarily dependent on your location, quality of your antenna, and whether or not you are in the position to put it up on the roof. In some places, you can pull in well over 100 channels with a $.99 pair of rabbit ears. For most parts of town, you'll probably need to spring for a $30 amplified indoor antenna (or hook your TV up to and unamplified outdoor antenna if it still up there after all these years). If you happen to be deep in a canyon or on the wrong side of a mountain (which happens quite a bit around here) you might want to spend the $50-$100 for a good external amplified model.

Personally, I have found you hit a point of diminishing returns somewhere in the middle, and I have never spent more than 35 bucks for a set up.

Even with the best of setups, however, there are still likely to be a few low-powered channels that you never seem to pick up. These LPT the stations tend to collect the more low-budget entries. As compared with the top end of the spectrum exemplified by Weigel Broadcasting and the major studio affiliated channels that prominently feature older but still A-list material like M*A*S*H or Columbo or films from notable directors such as John Ford, Billy Wilder, or Mel Brooks, the poverty row stations generally rely on public domain material, justly forgotten bottom-of-the-catalog shows (such as the Barkleys), and a great deal of Canadian television.

Weigel is the undisputed King of the top end of the spectrum; Luken Broadcasting is arguably the king of poverty row (sort of like a modern day Monogram Studios). With Weigel you get something like NYPD Blue. With Luken, it's more likely to be Police Surgeon (if you were a serious television buff, you'd have heard of this one, but not in a good way).

Luken's networks are filled with absolutely the cheapest programming possible, but they do deserve credit for some real innovation, particularly when it comes to new themes for terrestrial superstations. In addition to Retro TV (a poor man's MeTV), Luken offers a family channel, and outdoors channel, a country music channel, and a gearhead channel. I don't believe I can pick up any of these channels and, even if I could, I probably wouldn't spend much time watching them (though I will admit to a morbid curiosity about whether police surgeon is as bad as everyone says), but it is good that they are out there somewhere.

As we have mentioned many times before, 21st century media has serious monopoly and monopsony issues. Putting aside YouTube for the moment (though that to brings up monopoly and monopsony issues), both content providers and consumers have to rely on a tiny group of major media and telecommunication companies, companies that are both ethically challenged and badly run. Over-the-air television offers an invaluable alternative, a way for independent companies to get stations direct to consumers, and it gives consumers a low or no cost media option.

Monday, November 28, 2016

The myth of orthogonality

One of the factors that contributed to the punched-in-the-gut feeling that so many people had immediately after the election was the seeming orthogonality of the data.

I'm using orthogonal in the broad rather than technical sense here (though I suspect both might apply) meaning to bring new information into the model. It wasn't just that the poll aggregators (with the partial exception of the outlier 538) were all telling us that the outcome was almost certain; we were also hearing exactly the same thing from pretty much everyone else, sources which supposedly had access to different information and were using a variety of approaches. A partial list included prediction markets, expert analyses, pseudo-exit polls (Slate's ill-fated, badly-thought-out Votcastr), and (from what we can infer) the consensus opinions within the campaigns themselves. All of these converged on exactly the same, completely wrong conclusion.

It is likely to take a great deal of hard work and deep digging to uncover exactly what went wrong here, but we can make some educated guesses:

The other data sources were never all that orthogonal (and possibly never all that good). For instance, even under ideal circumstances the predictive power of the markets was always overstated and overhyped, and presidential elections are nowhere near ideal circumstances.

To make matters worse, whatever orthogonality these other sources once brought to the table had faded to nothing by the time we got to this election. Between their early successes and the ludicrous amount of attention they received, the poll aggregators' predictions increasingly dominated conventional wisdom and became the only input (direct or indirect) that mattered for all the other “independent” sources of information.

I suspect that we reached the point where (if you'll forgive a clumsy phrase) prediction markets and the rest were anti-orthogonal. By providing the illusion of independent confirmation of the flawed polling data and likely voter models, they actually made it more difficult to bring new information in the system. It is entirely possible that better informed (or at least less misinformed) voters might have acted very differently, which suggests that the consequences of this particular failure may have been high indeed.

Friday, November 25, 2016

It's not what you'd call a pretty sound...

... but I'd still like to hear one in person.


[Serious blogging to resume after the holidays.]

Thursday, November 24, 2016

"As God as my witness..." is my second favorite Thanksgiving episode line [Repost]

If you watch this and you could swear you remember Johnny and Mr. Carlson discussing Pink Floyd, you're not imagining things. Hulu uses the DVD edit which cuts out almost all of the copyrighted music. .

As for my favorite line, it comes from the Buffy episode "Pangs" and it requires a bit of a set up (which is a pain because it makes it next to impossible to work into a conversation).

Buffy's luckless friend Xander had accidentally violated a native American grave yard and, in addition to freeing a vengeful spirit, was been cursed with all of the diseases Europeans brought to the Americas.

Spike: I just can't take all this mamby-pamby boo-hooing about the bloody Indians.
Willow: Uh, the preferred term is...
Spike: You won. All right? You came in and you killed them and you took their land. That's what conquering nations do. It's what Caesar did, and he's not goin' around saying, "I came, I conquered, I felt really bad about it." The history of the world is not people making friends. You had better weapons, and you massacred them. End of story.
Buffy: Well, I think the Spaniards actually did a lot of - Not that I don't like Spaniards.
Spike: Listen to you. How you gonna fight anyone with that attitude?
Willow: We don't wanna fight anyone.
Buffy: I just wanna have Thanksgiving.
Spike: Heh heh. Yeah... Good luck.
Willow: Well, if we could talk to him...
Spike: You exterminated his race. What could you possibly say that would make him feel better? It's kill or be killed here. Take your bloody pick.
Xander: Maybe it's the syphilis talking, but, some of that made sense.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

This is Joseph

I hadn't been thinking about density like this, but here is a good point about LA:
LA suffers from the too-dense-but-not-quite-dense-enough problem (overall it's a very dense city, but with a kind of uniform density that is a bit difficult from a transportation perspective). 
I have generally hold that density is a pure good for transit, but it seems obvious that "destinations" would make things work a lot better than thousands of point to point connections.  The former (New York density) seems to make transit look super efficient.  But if you are relatively dense everywhere, that almost makes a cab/uber style of transit look efficient. 

In anticipation

Thanksgiving, 1905 from the incomparable Windsor McCay

from Mippyville.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Another entry in the Annals of Bad Ideas

This is Joseph

From Slate:
An anonymous elector told Politico that the House election that would result from a Trump Electoral College defeat “would immediately blow up into a political firestorm in the U.S." and be a positive step toward galvanizing the public’s support for ditching the college. Another, former Democratic National Committee Vice Chairwoman Polly Baca, said she’d prefer that the Electoral College return to the model outlined by Alexander Hamilton in the Federalist Papers and become an independent body informed but not governed by actual vote tallies.
I am especially surprised by the second suggestion here: just how does this help the problem?  You still have a potential difference between the popular vote and the electoral college.  But now the college can go completely rogue and decide the election.  How do we know that this version of the college, with what sound like unbound electors, will improve transparency.  The problem that people seem to worry about is the discordance between the electoral college and the popular vote -- how does this help? 

As for the first, the electoral college is currently in the constitution of the United States.  Last time I looked, it would take staggering levels of public support to pass a constitutional amendment.  Especially since any such amendment would obviously disadvantage whichever major party draws lots of support from rural and low population states.  I like the general idea of reforming this system, but I am unclear if continuing to destroy the norms of governance is going to be a good plan.

One may want to have them around at some point. 

Monday, November 21, 2016

One more for the lexicon: Curse of the First Model

This applies to a wide range of contexts, but, just to get the conversation started, let's say you're doing targeted marketing. You can come up with a fantastic mailing model, one that improves on the previous one in every conceivable way – – better response even if you mail somewhat deeper, more stable, and using data that are more reliable, cheaper, easier to work with – – and yet you will still get, at best, a lukewarm response from the executives. Invariably, you will be told something like this, "that's nice but we got so much more lift from the first model."

The trouble is that the improvement you see going from model to better model is almost always underwhelming compared to the improvement you see going from nothing to model. This curse can badly distort reputations and often leads to a kind of super Peter Principle where people are promoted to a level one step higher than their perceived level of competence which is much higher than their actual level of competence.

Friday, November 18, 2016

And no, we are not going to talk about the movie version

I have a pet theory that you can get some of the best insights into a period, not from the serious novels and plays of the era, but from good, successful popular art. You can learn a lot about a group by studying the stories that connected with them. You can also see how those people change over time

Case in point, in the Truman and Eisenhower administrations, it was remarkably easy to find Soviet bogeymen in movies and television. By the mid 60s, sympathetic and even lovable Russian characters were commonplace in movies and television. Think the Russians are coming, the Russians are coming, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Chekov from Star Trek and many others.

Even James Bond changed with the times. In the 50s, he battled SMERSH, a fictionalized version of a real Soviet organization combined with elements of the KGB. In the 60s it was SPECTRE, a cartoonish terrorist network with a propensity for playing East against West.

I originally assumed that the change in attitude was a reaction to the Cuban Missile Crisis, but the more I look, the more it seems the shift started earlier.

Which takes us to Matt Helm. Donald Hamilton's Helm wasn't just the American answer to James Bond; he was the Fawcett Gold Medal answer. A contemporary of Travis McGee and part of a tradition that stretched back to the film noirs of the 40s and the pulps of the 20s and 30s. As Anthony Boucher pointed out, Hamilton brought the sensibility of Hammett to the novels. Helm was as unsentimental and clear-eyed as the Continental Op.

This exchange from the 1960 novel the Wrecking Crew illustrates that sensibility, and you'll notice that the tough-mindedness extends to the political as well. Helm doesn't claim to be fighting on the side of the angels nor does he demonize his opponent. Instead he explicitly equates his role and motives with those of the man he was sent to kill.

Donald Hamilton wasn't John LeCarre and this isn't The Spy who Came in from the Cold. The Helm novels are meant to be fast-moving adventure novels with great mass appeal. That makes the lack of jingoism all the more interesting.

Page 107

"If you got other orders," she said, "would you really – –"

I said irritably, "let's not go into the morality lecture, honey. I've heard it before."

"But it doesn't make sense!" She cried with sudden vigor. "You're a… an intelligent person. You're even kind of… kind of nice at times. And still you'd hunt down the human being like… like…" She drew a long breath. "Don't you realize that if this man Caselius is so evil and dangerous that he must be removed, there are other ways, legal ways… Can't you see that I resorting to violence, you just bring yourself down to his level, the level of the animals? Even if you should win that way, it wouldn't mean anything!"

There was a change in her attitude that puzzled me, a kind of honest indignation that was incongruous and disconcerting under the circumstances. A day earlier, a few hours earlier, I have spent some time trying to figure it out, but it was too late now.

There comes a time in every operation when the wheels are turning, the die is cast, the cards are dealt, if you please, and you got to go on as planned and hope for the best. I can name you names, too many of them, of men I've known – – and women, two – – who died because some last-minute piece of information made them try to pull a switcheroo after the ball had been snapped and the back field was in motion. When that point comes, to scramble the similes even further, you just take the phone off the hook and walk away from it. You don't want to hear what the guy at the other end of the line has to say. You've done your best, you've learned everything possible in the time at your disposal, and you don't want anymore dope on any part of the situation, because it's too late and you can't do anything about it, anyway.

I said, "That's kind of a funny speech from you, Lou. It seems to be kind of a set speech in these parts. Sarah Lundgren – – I think you've heard the name – – made it to, a few minutes before your Caselius put a nice accurate burst from a machine pistol into her face and chest."

I made an impatient gesture. "What the hell makes everybody feel so damn superior to this fellow Caselius? As far as I can make out, he's a bright, ruthless guy working like hell for his country, just like I'm a bright, ruthless guy working like hell for mine. His country doesn't happen to like my country. He's responsible for the deaths of a couple of people I'd rather have seen keep on living. I even got some sentimental objections to his methods. Therefore it's not going to grieve me deeply if I get orders to go ahead and make the touch.

"But as far as feeling superior to the guy, nuts! I'm perfectly happy to be on his level, doll. It's the level of a tough, intelligent, courageous man who could probably make a better living selling automobiles or insurance or whatever they sell in Russia, but who prefers to serve his country in the front lines, such as they are today. I don't hate him. I don't despise him. I don't look down upon him, as everybody else seems to, from some kind of a higher moral plane. I'm just prepared to kill him when and if I get the instructions to do so, whether it means anything or not. Meanwhile, I'd like to find out who he is."

Thursday, November 17, 2016

With all this talk of moon bases and Mars missions

The unique conditions of the Post-war Era, tremendous optimism and prosperity balanced by Cold War anxiety got us to the moon. Space enthusiasts tend to overstate the part that the first element played and to overestimate the inspirational impact of the space race – the initiative was always controversial – but inspiration did play a role. Understanding that excitement is an important part of understanding what came next

The idea that conquest of the heavens was not just possible but eminent was greatly furthered by this...

From Wikipedia:
Man Will Conquer Space Soon! was the title of a famous series of 1950s magazine articles in Collier's detailing Wernher von Braun's plans for manned spaceflight. Edited by Cornelius Ryan, the individual articles were authored by such space notables of the time as Willy Ley, Fred Lawrence Whipple, Dr. Joseph Kaplan, Dr. Heinz Haber, and von Braun. The articles were illustrated with paintings and drawings by Chesley Bonestell, Fred Freeman, and Rolf Klep, some of the finest magazine illustrators of the time.

For more, check this out.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016 " Why Hollywood Can Lose Billions & Still Make Terrible Movies"

One of these days we ought to do a deep dive into dysfunctional corporate decision-making, but for now I think the missing piece in the explanation of the green-lighting of seemingly doomed projects is the asymmetric risk associated with conventional versus unconventional decisions.

When everyone else is doing something, even when it is something that has failed badly and consistently in the past, you probably won't lose your job for doing the same thing. While your mother may not have been impressed by the "everybody else was doing it" defense, it is generally good enough to satisfy a Board of Directors.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Terrestrial superstation blogging – – MGM's the Works

[The over-the-air television industry continues to show remarkably strong and steady growth both in revenue and in number of stations (the last time I rescanned my television, I found well over 100). Press coverage has grown too, but at a far, far slower rate. The cynic in me might point to this as yet another data point in the argument that 21st-century reporters are only interested in stories that focus on the top quartile of the income distribution and have massive PR budgets behind them. Whatever the reason, there is remarkably little being written on the subject, so I thought it would be a good idea to do an occasional series of posts introducing some of the players.]

From Wikipedia:
The Works is an American digital broadcast television network that is owned by the MGM Television division of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.   …  Through its ownership by MGM, The Works is a sister network to This TV, a joint venture between MGM and Tribune Broadcasting which also focuses on films and classic television series from the 1950s to the 1990s and carries programming from The Works' corporate cousin MGM Television.

Compared to most studio--affiliated terrestrial superstations, the programming here is a bit of a hodgepodge, ranging from old movies to stand-up comedy shows to the odd sporting event like the Home Run Derby to HuffPost Live. This does not necessarily have to be a bad thing if the people running the channel know what they're doing, but no one at The Works appears to have put any thought whatsoever into pulling together the various strands. Nor has there been any apparent effort to come up with interesting and distinctive branding ideas.

The Works is also not at all insomniac friendly. While most of its peers program 24/7 (NBC/Universal's trainwreck COZItv -- which, for some reason, throws in a couple of hours of paid programming a day -- being the most notable exception), the Works runs late-night infomercials. I feel this is almost always penny-wise and pound-foolish. Late nights are a great time to build viewer loyalty, reinforce your brand, and just play around. To take an example from the world of cable, look at Cartoon Network and Adult Swim.

I do, however, have a couple of very nice things to say about the channel, One general and one specific.
Like all terrestrial superstations, MGM's the works is a good thing. For starters, you don't have to pay for it. More importantly(And this is the part I really, really like), you don't have to pay a cable company for it. I know I'm not alone in my feelings toward cable providers, phone companies, and satellite services. All of these industries have horrible reputations and long records of despicable business practices. This pattern of bad behavior is largely the result of operating mostly under monopoly or near-monopoly conditions. Even with the internet, you still have to deal with many of the same providers. For the moment, over-the-air television represents by far the healthiest competitive force in the field of live TV.

The second reason is specific to the Works. As you probably know, virtually every major piece of  popular art you can think of that is still under copyright is owned by a tiny handful of major players. Most of those companies appear to own or be in a relationship with at least one terrestrial superstation and these stations have been aggressively mining their owners' libraries. Furthermore, many of these stations are either operated by Weigel or modeled after their channels. As a result we have a lot of smart people who know what they're looking for digging through a fantastically rich collection of material.

Someone at the Works must've realized that MGM currently holds a great collection of major and minor gems of British cinema from the 30s through the 70s. A given week is likely to have multiple showings of something vintage from the likes of Alfred Hitchcock, David lean, or Noel Coward. There are also lots of not necessarily good, but interesting and hard-to-find films like Richard Lester's unique surrealist black comedy the Bed-sitting Room or First a Girl (the English remake of the German film Viktor und Viktoria which was in turn later remade by Blake Edwards as a vehicle for his wife Julie Andrews). I even saw a very nice print of Alfred Hitchcock's 1927 film the Lodger, nicely restored with an original soundtrack and tinting of selected done, I assume, to match the original.

On the plus side, it's an industry disruptor from a visionary CEO

Monday, November 14, 2016

I'm just going to post videos till I get my head around things

More thoughts on the economy

This is Joseph:

From the Guardian:
Median family income is lower now than it was 16 years ago, adjusted for inflation. Workers without college degrees – the old working class – have fallen furthest. Most economic gains, meanwhile, have gone to top. These gains have translated into political power to elicit bank bailouts, corporate subsidies, special tax loopholes, favorable trade deals and increasing market power without interference by anti-monopoly enforcement – all of which have further reduced wages and pulled up profits.
This is both a reasonable explanation for the rise of Trump, and it does not require any special appeal to racism or misogyny (not that both weren't present, but they would be very depressing as a complete explanation).  The key item is to think about ways to tackle these issues without introducing xenophobia.  Once the Democrats have decided on how to do this, the path back will be a lot clearer.

h/t: Mike

Friday, November 11, 2016

Talking Points Memo

This is Joseph

It might seem to be a very odd time to subscribe to Talking Points Memo; I did so on Tuesday, only after the subscriber drive and election were both pretty much over.  But the publication is considering taking an interesting direction.  One thing that seems clear to me is that it probably cannot hurt to put some real reporting into recent political shifts.  I have some suspicions about what happened, some of which are humbling.  But no matter what the cause, improved media depth of coverage cannot hurt matters, and may well really help.


The Windblown Hare is not one of the great Looney Tunes -- McKimson and Foster were never on the studio's A-team -- but at 5:20 you will find one of my favorite cartoon gags. It is also one of the most fertile for metaphor. I'll let you fill in the details.

Bugs Bunny - The Windblown Hare by bugs-bunny1

Prehistory of the TED talk

At least he's not using PowerPoint.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Post-election pondering

This is Joseph

I had been thinking of writing something like this piece by Matt Yglesias, but he seems to have bounced back faster and said it better.  It is true that Democrats do work in mid-term elections, the house appears to be very effectively gerrymandered, and the senate tends to be in defense for the Democrats in the mid-term years (as they have to defend gains made at a presidential cycle). 

It's also not good to hear that:
The GOP now controls historical record number of governors’ mansions, including a majority of New England governorships.
So what next?  I think Democrats should consider trying to compete at all levels.  After all, states are where the gerrymander is executed and there is no reason not to start thinking about how to win some of them.  The 2020 census is closer than it may look.  The presidency is important, but it may have left the party complacent about the rest of the political process. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

More post-apolitical posts

Admittedly, a television producer supporting a Democrat is not particularly surprising, but, as mentioned before, the Donald Trump campaign has changed the social norms around when and where and how it is appropriate to express that support.

From Ken Levine's blog today [emphasis in the original]:

This is the man you want controlling nuclear weapons?  His aides don't feel he's responsible enough to have his Twitter account. This is the man you want at the helm during major international crises? It’s just terrifying. Yes, I’m a Democrat, and I’ve had this blog for eleven years. You never saw me write a post like this about Mitt Romney, or John McCain, or even George Bush. But this is different. This is life-threatening.

It's important to remember the good moments as well

Joe Tone writing for the Washington Post:

But Vega and other voters said that at least in this swath of suburban Dallas – in the dense and diverse neighborhoods where they live and work – things didn’t feel especially different. “We all want to live in peace,” he said, walking out of a bustling community college here.

A couple miles away, a Pakistani immigrant, who asked not to be identified, told a similar story. She’d driven in her minivan to her neighborhood’s Islamic community center, which happened to double as her polling place. “We just want peace,” she said. Asked about the effects of Trump’s candidacy – and a potential Trump presidency – on her neighborhood and the local Muslim community, she stiffened and said it made no difference, for better or worse. “We just wanted to be treated fairly, no matter what we worship.”

She didn’t want to say for whom she cast her ballot. Still, she was giddy about having cast it. With her 5-year-old, Texas-native son in tow, she described how she’d walked into the mosque’s near-empty gym, clad in an ornate tunic and hijab, and handed her ID to the elderly white poll workers. When she told them it was her first time voting, she said, they burst into applause and cheers.

An important cultural literacy note

Listening to various experts over the past few months, the phrase "super-genius" has often come to mind. For those readers who have not had the benefits of a classical education, I thought I would share the source.

Bugs Bunny Operation - Rabbit by playeden

Monday, November 7, 2016

Going out like he went in...

… classy

From Tim Mak writing for the Daily Beast

The parting jab occurred on Saturday evening, when Republican Nevada chairman Michael McDonald darkly hinted at a Trump rally that there was wrongdoing by election officials in the state to advantage a “certain group.” It was clear that he was referring to Latino voters.

“They kept a poll open ‘til 10 o'clock at night so a certain group could vote,” said McDonald, referring to Clark County, which is 30 percent Hispanic. “You feel free right now? You think this is a free or easy election?”

Trump echoed this sentiment, alleging, without evidence, some form of misconduct at “certain key Democratic polling locations in Clark County.”

“Folks, it’s a rigged system. It’s a rigged system. And we’re going to beat it,” Trump said.

Organizations that have spent years encouraging this “certain group” to vote immediately cried foul, accusing Trump of suggesting that the citizenship of Hispanic American matter less than others.

“Donald Trump’s campaign has been one defined by its dog-whistle statements of communities of color, and this is no exception,” said Maria Teresa Kumar, president and chief executive of Voto Latino. “Donald Trump has continually tried to make Latinos feel less than American with his insistent attacks against our community… Party officials like Chairman McDonald are again showing just how out-of-touch the GOP is about welcoming new voters into its party by discouraging people from casting their ballot.”

Just to review a couple points we've made before:

1. The damage Trump has done to the GOP with respect to the Latino vote is twofold. He has tarnished the Republican brand for years to come and he has greatly increased the community's political awareness and participation. Remember back in 2013 when everyone agreed that the GOP absolutely had to improve its standing with the Latino electorate in order to remain viable? This would be the opposite.

2. A big part of the anger within the GOP that allowed Trump to get the nomination came from the feeling that the two previous elections had been stolen. This notion did not occur spontaneously. It was planted and carefully cultivated by Fox News and talk radio and countless other right-wing media outlets. Telling the base this story one more time and at a much higher volume is highly risky for the party. It will almost inevitably make these voters more angry and ideologically extreme and there's a real danger that a large number of them will simply give up on the system and stop voting.

Even the hitchhiker with the axe... *

Strange days, indeed.

* for those just joining us.

"How to Rig an Election"

After Josh Marshall (who has dominated the field for the past year), Paul Krugman may have done the most to enhance his reputation as a political observer this election season. Today, he posted the best concise summary of the campaign I've come across so far. Even if you already know the story, you should take a moment to read this, just to see it clearly and forcefully laid out in under 800 words.

Entrenchment versus democracy

[I am currently in a mad rush to try to get as much down as possible before the election. I am, as a result, relying heavily on my phone's dictation app which frankly is not that good. Be on the lookout for homonyms and I would appreciate it if you would cut me some slack on the prose.]

I'll come back and fill in some of the details later, but just as a quick outline...

Imagine that, Without loss of generality, you are a Randian conservative in 1980. (There are other Republican-affiliated persuasions that would work here, but let's just stick with this one for now.) You have recently had some awfully good political breaks -- favorable demographic trends, bad news for the Democrats on the foreign and domestic fronts, a major rift in their party a few years earlier, and a fantastically charismatic GOP leader -- but you are not at all optimistic about the popularity of your positions in the long term. For example, you suspect that once people have tried a generous social safety net, they will not do you want to go back.

To put it bluntly, you do not believe in a democratic process where the best ideas, after a period of open and vigorous debate, will win over the majority of the population. How do you take advantage of your current position of dominance and popularity to subvert that process?

Here's a brief an incomplete list of the measures you might take:

Campaign funding
1. Maximize your present and long-term funding advantage. (See the K Street Project.)
2. Remove rules limiting the impact of money on campaigns.

Voter suppression
Make it more and more difficult for people who are likely to vote for the opposing party to exercise their constitutional rights.

Focus on strategically important offices and elections, such as controlling the state houses in years divisible by 10.

Make big plays for single issue voters

Defund and delegitimize established sources of trustworthy, high-quality information and analysis (see "the war on data").

Co-opt and intimidate the mainstream press.

Create a media bubble for the party's base.

Does any of this sound familiar?

I am inclined to believe that we are coming to the end of this social engineering experiment, but it is worth noting that it worked disturbingly well for decades.

If Donald Trump is somehow elected president tomorrow...

... it will be partially because the mainstream press largely ignored a massive effort by the Republican Party to disenfranchise voters based on race.

More excellent work from Talking Points Memo's Tierney Sneed:

NC GOP Brags About Low Black Turnout–After Lobbying To Limit Early Voting

A state GOP press release on the state's early voting numbers highlighted that African American early voting turnout was down by 8.5 percent from 2012.

Back in August, the News and Observer reported on an email sent by North Carolina GOP executive director Dallas Woodhouse to local elections officials urging them to limit early voting opportunities, including Sundays, which are used disproportionately by African Americans, and particularly those participating in black churches' "soul to poll" voter drives.

“Our Republican Board members should feel empowered to make legal changes to early voting plans, that are supported by Republicans,” Woodhouse wrote. “Republicans can and should make party line changes to early voting.”

Since then, more emails from GOP operatives making similar arguments to elections officials emerged. The county elections boards -- which are made up two-to-one of GOP appointees -- were debating their early voting plans for the extra week of voting effectively restored by an appeals court decision over the summer. More than a few of those officials took the state party's advice and proposed plans that would have severely limited early voting opportunities, particularly for black and student voters. Civil rights groups challenged many of those plans, and the state elections board ameliorated some, but not all, of the cutbacks to early voting.

While other Southern states have seen a uptick in black early turnout this cycle, North Carolina's is down, with University of Florida political scientist Michael McDonald, noting that "it seems like something went awry in North Carolina.”

    Something went very wrong for African-Americans' voting in North Carolina

    — Michael McDonald (@ElectProject) November 6, 2016

"Worth making" does not begin to cover it

From another essential post from Josh Marshall:
One meta-point is worth making here. We've heard a lot about both candidates being unlikeable, the election being ugly and so forth and how that means people are going to be turned off and a lot of people just won't vote at all. We don't know the total numbers yet. But all the indications from the early vote are that that is not going to be true. This should have been obvious. Everything we've seen over the last generation tells us that hard fought elections where a lot is on the line turn out a lot of people. That makes total sense. Why people stick to this other assumption is a mystery.

And part of a larger one. For more than a year now, the meta-journalism story has been one of intelligent, respected professionals, often claiming to be data-driven, clinging to theories and assumptions despite the overwhelming force of both evidence and common sense.

A post-apolitical era(?)

I suspect I could come up with more counterexamples if I were a better student of history, but, at least in recent memory, there has generally been a reluctance for certain writers, artists, directors, etc. to explicitly endorse candidates through their work. That's not to say that these people did not take partisan positions, but that they often maintained something of a firewall between what they said on their own and what they said"on the job ."

For example, Randall Munroe of XKCD was an Obama supporter, but he chose to keep politics out of the cartoon he posted the day before the 2008 election

You can put it down to Paul Krugman's line about Trump as clarifying shock or mine about Trump as stressor, but either way, the stark contrast in this election has caused a lot of people to abandon (at least temporarily) a number of long-held conventions.

Here's today's cartoon:

Trump didn't start Trumpism

[Quick caveat: I haven't had a chance to read Chait's longer piece in the recent issue of New York Magazine which could very well undercut some of my criticisms.]

Jonathan Chait is one of the very few journalists to emerge from this campaign with his reputation enhanced and there are a lot of real insights in this post from earlier in the week (How Donald Trump Outsmarted George Will), but his central is wrong in a subtle but fundamental way.

The point is not at all to gloat at the failure of anti-Trump conservatives, but to explain the source of their error. You can’t heal an illness you’ve diagnosed improperly. Anti-Trump conservatives deluded themselves about the source of conservatism’s electoral appeal. Trump’s long list of deviations from party orthodoxy — on health care, abortion, support for the Clintons — would have destroyed a normal candidacy, the way Rick Perry’s support for humane treatment of undocumented immigrants killed his candidacy in 2012.

The most important analytical failure of the anti-Trump conservatives is their blindness to the centrality of white racial backlash. They simply cannot imagine how movement conservatism could result in bigoted authoritarianism, and their confusion produces absurdity. Erick Erickson, the conservative pundit who has fiercely opposed Trump, today defends Rush Limbaugh, even though Limbaugh is defending the candidate. Erickson argues that Limbaugh’s brand of conservatism is exactly what the party needed all along. “If Republicans lamenting Trump and hating on Rush had only listened to Rush and taken his counsel that he gives for free three hours a day, five days a week, the GOP would not be in this mess,” he reasons. Yes – Trump’s popularity clearly demonstrates that a racist, misogynist, conspiracy-mongering bully-entertainer has had too little influence.


The conservative intelligentsia is right about one thing. Trump is not a committed ideologue but a grifter who decided to use their voters for his own ends. Trump grasped from the outset that the birther issue gave him a connection to the Republican electorate. The conservative intelligentsia ignored the birthers, the freaks, and the transparent racists because they were embarrassing. It was far more flattering and heroic to imagine the whole thing was about the Constitution. The con artist swindled the perfect mark.

The anti-Trump conservatives weren't blindsided by the rise of these angry, bigoted voters; they were blindsided by their sudden inability to control those voters. The conservative movement went to great lengths to cultivate this segment of the electorate, feeding it a steady diet of misinformation, dog whistles and astroturf. The assumption (which proved sound for a long time) was that the more anger and fear you could stoke in this segment, the more you could count on their money and their votes.

This segment was not "ignored" because they were "embarrassing." They were kept at a distance in order to maintain plausible deniability. For example, by pursuing the endorsement of Donald Trump, Mitt Romney was able to court the birthers without actually associating himself with them. As for misreading the appeal of their agenda, Chait himself has often pointed out that the leaders of the conservative movement have rather openly admitted that their ideas do not have broad electoral appeal. Think of Romney's 47% comment or of any conversation you've had with an Ayn Rand acolyte.

For the record, Chait gets more right here then he does wrong, so why should we make a big deal out of this?

For starters, this narrative lets a lot of the anti-Trump conservatives off the hook far too easily. When proto-Trumpism was in a controllable and politically expedient form, very few of the conservative intelligentsia had any trouble with them. There's a fairly direct line from the redmeat, "real America" anti-intellectualism of Sarah Palin and the rise of Trump, but Bill Kristol was crazy about Palin. Even more to the point, Rush Limbaugh and Donald Trump are virtually interchangeable, but anti-Trump conservatives remarkably willing to work with Limbaugh.

But there is far more at stake here than simply assigning blame. We have recently seen an appalling level of racism and sexism and every other type of bigotry imaginable. Obviously, there are social, economic, and demographic factors at play, but they have been greatly exacerbated by a massive amount of propaganda. I would argue, if you had to pick a single cause for how bad things have gotten, that would be it.

The Republican base believes things like this...

... because this is what they've been told repeatedly through endless channels.

The media is filled with people willing to condemn the anger and the bigotry that Trump has brought to the surface, but if we're serious about these condemnations, we need to be looking at the people who have been cultivating Trumpism for decades.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

When different interpretations become different realities

Trump's target audience (and, to a degree, Trump himself) receive virtually all of their information in a highly filtered form and the biases of these filters are endlessly reinforced through social media. The result is that the same event will be depicted in such different ways inside and outside of the bubble that the two versions cannot be reconciled.

For example, here's how TPM described an incident at a recent Clinton rally featuring President Obama (an account supported by a video of the event).

For a couple minutes, Obama attempted in vain to gain back control of the crowd as chants of "Hillary!" drowned out the protestor.

While the protester's identity and motives weren't clear, from Obama's remarks after he finally gained control of the crowd back, the protester appeared to be an older war veteran.

"This is what I mean about folks not being focused," Obama said. "Hold up. Hold up. First of all, we live in a country that respects free speech. Second of all, it looks like maybe he might have served in our military and we have to respect that. Third of all, he was elderly and we have had to respect our elders. And fourth of all, don't boo, vote!"

And here's how Donald Trump described the incident at one of his rallies.

“You saw it today on television, right? He was talking to the protester, screaming at him, really screaming at him. By the way, if I spoke the way Obama spoke to that protester, they would say, 'He became unhinged! He became – ' … And he spent so much time screaming at this protester, and frankly, it was a disgrace.”

Along similar lines (also from TPM), read how a protester trying to pull out a sign morphed into Teddy Roosevelt shrugging off an assassin’s bullet. 

The essential details are these. Not long after Trump claimed that a surge in Latino voting in Nevada was evidence of voter fraud, a man named Austyn Crites (later self-identified as a registered Republican who opposes Donald Trump) was in the arena, relatively near the front of the audience. There was some commotion. Trump noticed the commotion, accused Crites of "being from the Hillary Clinton campaign."

From the stage he asked Crites, "How much are you being paid? Fifteen hundred dollars?" and then called for security to "take him out."

(The idea that the Clinton campaign sends people to Trump rallies to instigate violent disruptions is an urban legend growing out of the latest James O'Keefe tape dump. There is zero evidence to support this. It is a sort of mass psychology version of projection.)

At this point Crites was apparently in the process of pulling out a sign of some sort which someone nearby thought was a gun. That person yelled "gun!" This tripped off a melee in which Trump supporters beat Crites fairly severely. Secret Service agents, seeing the melee and possibly hearing the cry of "gun", rushed Trump off the stage and took Crites into custody.


 It made perfect sense for the Secret Service to escort Trump off the stage until they were confident there was no threat and that the area was secure. We should also bear that history in mind if we find ourselves chiding people for jumping to conclusions in the heat of the moment.

In any case, it was clear very quickly that there was no gun and that there was no threat. How do we know that? Because they allowed Trump to return to the stage very quickly. If there had been a gun or if they were not close to certain there hadn't been one, that would not have happened. The presence of a gun would have meant security had been breached and that likely would have been the end of the event. One gun can mean another gun. There are many examples of assassinations and assassination attempts were an initial commotion is used to distract from a subsequent attack etc. Letting Trump back on the stage only a few minutes later essential confirms the Secret Service knew very quickly that there had been no threat.

As I said, it was determined very quickly that nothing had happened. No attempt. No nothing. But this didn't stop the campaign from pushing out a storyline about an "assassination attempt"  and a tale of Trump's bravery in immediately returning to the stage.

Next a CNN journalist went out from the press pen into the area where the incident had occurred to find out what happened. He was promptly verbally abused and physically assaulted, though seemingly to no great physical harm, mainly just shoved around.

Things got darker still when Trump arrived a short time later in Colorado. In Denver, Trump was introduced by Father Andre Y-Sebastian Mahanna, a Maronite Catholic priest who said Trump had just survived "an attempt of murder against Mr Trump."

He then blamed the press for incitement the non-existent assassination attempt.

The Trump campaign allowed this to happen and made no effort to correct the record. This was followed by another warm up speaker who joked about Clinton being a 'bitch.'

Normally the challenge for a political party is to craft messages that resonate with the general public and the party faithful. Over the next few cycles, the challenge for the Republicans will be to come up with messages that make any sense at all both inside and outside the bubble.

I never thought the “Seven Days in May” joke would become a thread…

But the thought of a rogue faction in the government trying to influence the election seems less like a joke.

From a long but very good piece in Vox by Yochi Dreazen

It’s come to this: The FBI, America’s premier law enforcement agency, just had to decide whether to investigate one of its own Twitter accounts to see if it had an anti-Hillary Clinton bias.

The account in question, @FBIRecordsVault, burst into the news earlier this week after abruptly posting records related to Bill Clinton’s last-minute — and deeply controversial — pardon of financier Marc Rich. An FBI official said in an interview that the bureau’s Office of Professional Responsibility referred the matter to its Inspection Division for a possible investigation into whether anyone in the FBI had intentionally released the documents to hurt Hillary Clinton.

Comey has since come under sustained criticism from law enforcement veterans and lawmakers from both parties who believe he broke with longstanding Justice Department policies by directly intruding into the presidential race — and potentially impacting its outcome.

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

But Comey isn’t the only member of the FBI stepping into the election. Earlier this week, unnamed sources within the bureau told the Wall Street Journal that some FBI agents believed they had enough evidence to begin an aggressive investigation into a potential pay-to-play scheme at the Clinton Foundation, but were overruled by more senior officials.

Another anti-Clinton leak came Thursday, when sources thought to be disgruntled FBI officials told Fox News that an indictment was coming in the Clinton Foundation case. The story gave Trump a new talking point, dominated Fox’s primetime news programming, and rocketed across the conservative media before being debunked by an array of other media outlets. By that point, though, the damage had already been done.

Taken together, it’s easy to come away with the conclusion that the FBI is out to get Hillary Clinton. The truth, though, is far more complicated. The FBI isn’t a monolith, and it isn’t the bureau as a whole that is targeting Clinton. Experts who study the FBI believe the leaks are coming from a small clique of agents who profoundly distrust Clinton and believe she deserves to be punished for what they see as a long record of ethically dubious behavior.

The recent series of FBI leaks are particularly worrisome because they raise the prospect of a state security agency equipped with the full resources and investigative might of the federal government working to interfere in the elections. The FBI is so powerful — it can, with court approval, issue subpoenas, tap phones, intercept emails and conduct round-the-clock surveillance — that even a small coterie of its agents can find ways of influencing the political process. That’s the kind of thing we normally see in autocracies like Egypt or Turkey, not here in the United States.

It’s impossible to know how many agents support Trump, and the anti-Clinton leaks are likely the result of only a tiny minority of the bureau. Still, the fact that a small fraction of the FBI’s workforce has felt free to take steps that could impact the election is profoundly alarming. Comey stumbled by personally entering the political fray. His bigger mistake may have come from signaling to other agents that they could do the same.

Two of Holder’s most recent Republican predecessors, Alberto Gonzales and Michael Mukasey, have also accused the FBI chief of making a serious error in judgement.

Outside experts on the FBI say Comey has made a serious and perhaps irreparable mistake.

“His actions were unprecedented, unethical, shocking, and have apparently led to chaos within the bureau, an unprecedented number of leaks, and chaos in our election cycle,” said Douglas Charles, a history professor at Penn State.

Charles, the author of a book about J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI, said Comey has a long history with the Clintons that may have left him with a “personal grudge or underlying or subsumed political motive” to try to derail Hillary Clinton’s candidacy.

When the meta-dialogue about the campaign starts to sound like the f**king campaign

Things are getting a little heated...

Nate Silver unloaded Saturday on the Huffington Post’s Ryan Grim, who accused the polling guru and founder of the prediction website of “changing the results of polls to fit where he thinks the polls truly are, rather than simply entering the poll numbers into his model and crunching them.”

According to Grim, however, Silver is “just guessing” and his “trend line adjustment” technique is “merely political punditry dressed up as sophisticated mathematical modeling.” Grim also noted that FiveThirtyEight’s model -- due to his adjustments -- shows Trump more likely than not to win Florida, while the Huffington Post’s calculates her victory there as more likely.

And that, apparently, enraged Silver, whose track record of correctly predicting elections -- and explaining how he does it in painstaking, but accessible detail -- has made him a celebrity whose very name is synonymous with the art of data-driven prognostication, and whose model is widely considered the gold standard in election forecasting.

After dropping his initial f-bomb, Silver went on to argue why his model -- which, in its polls-only version, puts the odds of Hillary Clinton winning the presidential race at 64.7 percent -- is superior to those like the Huffington Post, which rates her election a near-certainty, at 98.3 percent.

Four from Talking Points Memo I'll want to get back to

This account of how sensible formerly anti-Trump conservatives get sucked in is essential reading (and mirrors some of my personal encounters).

Josh Marshall addresses the none-too-subtle antisemitism of Trump's latest commercial.

One of these days I'm going to run a post called "meta-inference." I don't really have anything other than the title and the fact that I'll be quoting extensively from this Marshall piece.

If Trump manages a narrow victory in North Carolina, this will be part of the reason.

Five hour lines and the tell-your-grandchildren effect

A few quick thoughts on waiting five hours to vote

1. That's right... FIVE

2. The line circled around the library building then snaked back and forth through the park. It's difficult to say how long it was but five to ten blocks seems conservative.

3. This was LA, None of the major races have any chance of being close in the state.

4. People were there because they really wanted to vote in this election. The mood was cheerful and there was a sense democratic participation.

Which leads us to...

5.This was always going to be a big, historic race, the kind people wanted to be a part of. This tell-your-grandchildren effect is not limited to either party but I suspect it plays more to Clinton's advantage and it certainly should give those arguing for a low turnout election reason to question their assumptions.

Nevada, either leaning slightly Trump or in the bag for Hillary

From FiveThirtyEight a few minutes ago:

And since timing is important

From Jon Ralston [UPDATED, 11/5/16, 5 PM]

Let me remind you of the math: Trump would need to be holding 90 percent of the GOP base and Clinton would have to be losing 15-20 percent of hers and he would have to be winning indies for him to be competitive. Let me be clear: None of those things are likely.

The Reid machine and the Hillary campaign did not spend two weeks turning out crossover voters. They know what they are doing. Trump is probably down 12-15 points in Clark County and 65-70,000 votes. You can't make that up unless Election Day turnout is so large and so GOP-heavy that he could. And with two-thirds of the vote in, and with Democrats not simply willing to roll over and not rev up the machine on Election Day, that ain't happening.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Proof = hearing about things

 Following up on "In retrospect, it's surprising we don't use more sewage metaphors,

 From TPM:
[Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC)], a Donald Trump surrogate and the first congressional candidate endorsed by the Republican nominee, was interviewed about FBI investigations into Clinton’s private email server and the Clinton Foundation on CNN’s “New Day.”

“She is under—facing indictment,” Ellmers told host Chris Cuomo. “We’re in a situation where the Clinton Foundation—”

“No proof she's facing indictment,” Cuomo replied.

“There is proof,” she insisted.

“There isn't any proof,” Cuomo pushed back.

“There is.”

“What's the proof?” he asked.

“The proof is the FBI investigators,” Ellmers said. “This is coming out everywhere. I'm hearing about it. I don't really have all that many connections and yet I'm hearing about the investigation.”

A widely-circulated Fox News report that Trump himself pushed on the stump cited two anonymous “sources with intimate knowledge” into the Clinton Foundation probe who said Clinton would “likely” be indicted. Fox later walked the report back, noting that a prosecutor must decide whether to bring an indictment against a potential defendant.

When Cuomo pointed that out, Ellmers remained defiant.

“You know what, people are talking,” she said. “So, the investigation is moving forward. Now, I do agree with you, there is someone who is trying to put a cover up in place here. And it's at the Justice Department level. That's where it is.”

“That's a conspiracy theory and that's fine for you to believe it. But you said she's facing indictment,” Cuomo said, adding that that implies “you know something that the FBI is about to do.”

“We have no basis of proof that that is about to happen. You may want it to happen, but that doesn't mean it's going to happen,” he went on.


Ellmers lost her reelection bid in North Carolina's Republican primary this June.

Ellmers is both a surrogate and a member of Congress (albeit a lame duck), but she's apparently operating on the same news stream that was intended for the party-faithful cannon fodder.

And on a related note: Fox Host: Report On 'Likely' Clinton Foundation Indictment ‘Was A Mistake

Friday, November 4, 2016

However, the real candidate is not filled with tasty treats

Another thing I should have been blogging about earlier.

Living in Los Angeles, I've been hearing about Donald Trump pinatas for well over a year. If you go to a quinceaƱera, there's a very good chance that you will see the Republican candidate for president hung in effigy and beaten to smithereens by a group of young people. Given the conventional wisdom of as recently as 2013 that the GOP absolutely had to extend its appeal to Hispanics and younger voters, pummeling is not a good sign.

This is another instance where we need to be talking about range of data. Obviously, major parties have alienated various demographic groups, but I'd argue that Trump has done this in a unique way and to an unprecedented level. While it would be reckless to try to predict what this will lead to, it's important to be prepared for at least the possibility of something big.

On a related note, from Talking Points Memo:

Latino voters are already showing up to vote this election and could cast ballots in larger numbers than Democrats saw in recent elections.

On a call with reporters Friday, Latino Decisions– a polling group focused on Hispanic voting patters– said that Latino turnout is on track to make history next week.

On the call, Gabriel Sanchez, a principal at Latino Decisions, pointed to early voting trends that show Latino early voting is up 100 percent in Florida, 60 percent in North Carolina and up 25 percent in Colorado and Nevada.

Sanchez said at this point, Latino Decisions is projecting that between 13.1 million and 14.7 million Latinos will vote on or before Tuesday– a major increase from 2012 numbers when the group estimated 11.2 million voted.

I was joking about the Seven Days in May reference

But this summary by Josh Marshall of what we've learned about the role of the FBI's New York field office in this really is starting to read like the first chapter of a rather outlandish novel.

It's like a weird mash-up of The Manchurian Candidate and Seven Days in May

Where's John Frankenheimer when you need him?

We've got covert Kremlin operatives trying to rig the presidential election...

With the assistance of rogue FBI agents (from the Guardian).

Deep antipathy to Hillary Clinton exists within the FBI, multiple bureau sources have told the Guardian, spurring a rapid series of leaks damaging to her campaign just days before the election.

Current and former FBI officials, none of whom were willing or cleared to speak on the record, have described a chaotic internal climate that resulted from outrage over director James Comey’s July decision not to recommend an indictment over Clinton’s maintenance of a private email server on which classified information transited.

“The FBI is Trumpland,” said one current agent.

For me, though, the strangest thing about all this is how unfreaked-out everyone seems to be by all this.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The message is the same but the direction has reversed

[This is something of a follow-up to An Arkansas Tea Party group plans an anti-equality rally. Guess what happens next...]

It is difficult to put exact dates on this but if you were growing up in a small Southern town between approximately the late 60s and the early 80s, you would hear a mixture of progressive and reactionary messages. The reactionary ones were overwhelmingly local and based on word-of-mouth. Blatant racism or sexism or anti-Semitism or old-style redbaiting were the kind of thing you might hear from neighbors and acquaintances.

By comparison, the national media you consumed in that pre-satellite, pre-Internet age, strongly tended toward the progressive. Norman Lear was the king of television. Nixon was a punchline. Even the Saturday morning cartoons preached diversity and tolerance. If you look at contemporary opinion polls, you can see that this is one of the few periods where both journalists and entertainers got significantly ahead of the social curve. The myth of a liberal media today owes a lot to its relative reality forty years ago.

Today, if you go to the small Southern town I grew up in, you will still hear plenty of reactionary messages, perhaps more than you would have heard back then, but the source has changed. If you actually talk with one of the locals who is voicing some extreme reactionary sentiment, you will generally learn that this comes directly from some kind of national media, be it cable news or talk radio or a website or a tweet on a smart phone.

In local interactions, there appears to have been real progress. Unlike 50 years ago, everyone in my hometown now knows someone who is in an interracial relationship or someone who is openly gay and no one seems to consider it that big of a deal. You'll find less tolerance in these towns than you will in a  big city, but considerably more than you would have found in that small town (and perhaps in many major metropolis ) forty years ago.

In short, there's a bizarre combination of progress and regression. I know the standard explanation at this point is to go for some big sweeping social or demographic factor like economic inequality or white backlash, but I don't see how those fit what I've been seeing. I'm certain these things play a part, but more in the sense of fertile ground than direct cause.

Obviously, this is an immensely complicated problem, but if you had to reduce it to one simple hypothesis, I would say it would have to be that the rise of the Trump voter was the intended consequence of a massive and not particularly secretive social engineering experiment on the part of the conservative movement, an experiment that involved right wing media, the co-opting and in some cases simply buying off of religious leaders, and blatant Astroturf among other things. The rise of Trump is the unintended consequence of that same experiment.

I'd say something about “unintended consequences,” but that implies longer term intent

From Distracted by the large flock of black swans
December 14, 2015
In recent years, a large part of the foundation of the GOP strategy has been the assumption that, if you get base voters angry enough and frightened enough, they will show up to vote (even in off year elections) and they will never vote for the Democrat (even when they really dislike the Republican candidate).

Capitalizing on that assumption has always been something of a balancing act, particularly when you constantly attack the legitimacy of the electoral system ("The system is rigged!" "The last election was stolen!" "Make sure to vote!"). With the advent of the Tea Party movement, it's gotten even more difficult to maintain that balance.

All snark aside, when asking why Trump said something these days, the safest answer is generally that he wanted to hear his fans cheer, but it is still reasonable to talk about Trump's rigging comments as part of a strategy because they predate this election, going back to a period when calm, rational (albeit cynical) people were mapping out the plan for the GOP in great detail, particularly when it came to message discipline.

There were two obvious objectives, providing cover for voter suppression and motivating the base. In terms of the latter I suspect that the key to successful execution was to get supporters to think of rigging as a surmountable challenge. If you keep sending money, voting the straight party ticket and, most important of all, showing up for every election, the cause of right will prevail.

Comments like the following, clearly overshoot that happy medium.

From Esme Cribb writing for TPM:

Donald Trump suggested in a speech at a Colorado rally on Saturday that election officials will throw away mail-in ballots if they don't "like" them.

"I have real problems with ballots being sent," Trump said, according to a transcript by NBC's Ali Vitali and Emily Gold. "People say, oh, here's a ballot, bing. Here's another ballot, throw it away. Oh, here's one I like, we'll keep that one."

Trump claimed that there are "a lot of people" watching election officials.

"We're trying to have some pretty good supervision out there," he said. "We have a lot of people watching you people that collect the ballots."

I think this pushes us into bifurcation range, where Trump supporters are either too discouraged to vote or are willing to go to extreme measures to make sure that their vote counts.

From New York Magazine:
A Des Moines woman has been arrested and charged with voter fraud after she allegedly voted for Donald Trump a second time out of concern that her first vote for Trump would be counted for Hillary Clinton instead. The Des Moines Register reports that 55-year-old Terry Lynn Rote was charged with first-degree election misconduct on Thursday after authorities discovered that she had cast early-voting ballots at two different locations in Iowa.

“I don’t know what came over me,” Rote told the Washington Post sometime after being released on $5,000 bond Friday. The registered Republican also told Iowa Public Radio that she was afraid that her first Trump vote was going to be somehow counted for Clinton. “I wasn’t planning on doing it twice, it was spur of the moment,” she insisted, also repeating Trump’s oft-made claim that “the polls are rigged.”

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Petruchio liberals

As Shaw observed, Taming of the Shrew can be difficult for modern sensibilities (Benedick and Beatrice, by comparison, stand up well and are still being repackaged by comedy writers), but recently one particular element of the story has been coming to mind.
In Verona, Petruchio begins the "taming" of his new wife. She is refused food and clothing because nothing – according to Petruchio – is good enough for her; he claims perfectly cooked meat is overcooked, a beautiful dress doesn't fit right, and a stylish hat is not fashionable.

There is a certain type of vocal liberal, almost always white and reasonably affluent, who insists on blocking virtually every viable attempt to advance a progressive agenda because nothing meets his or her standards. They feel enormously proud of themselves for refusing to compromise, despite the fact that the price of their principled stands are invariably paid by the most disadvantaged.

Lawyers, Guns and Money has spent the past year or so dismantling this silliness.

Here's Scott Lemieux:

There should be a fancy Latin term for “arbitrarily chosen deal-breakers selected to reverse-engineer a justification for not voting for a candidate you’ve decided a priori you don’t want to support.” People who actually care about how the next president will affect environmental policy evaluate the candidates on environmental policy. People who want to effectively ignore environmental policy focus solely on fracking.

Her laundry list also serves to illustrate the utter stupidity of “dealbreaker” logic. “If Hillary Clinton favored a $15 minimum wage that won’t pass Congress, I might support her. But since she only favors a $12 minimum wage that won’t pass Congress, I’ll take my chances on Trump winning.” “I used to be a Democrat, but when I found out that Hillary Clinton is insufficiently woke on GMO labeling I can live with several decades of a Supreme Court where the median justice would have to turn to the left to see Antonin Scalia.” OK.

First of all, with the FBI director having decided to try to throw the election to Trump, this is an odd characterization. Clinton remains a favorite and probably an overwhelming favorite, but it would be wrong to say that Trump has no chance, and if Stein got any real traction he certainly would. But, hey, not only will it not be Sarandon who might die because she can’t get medical care or be unable to get an abortion or lose her legal marriage privileges or lose her welfare assistance or have no remedy for discrimination or be denied the vote if Trump wins, she stands to gain considerably from the Trump presidency she’s urging her fans to make more likely.

And it’s worth noting again that what utter chickenshit the qualifier is. At least the “heighten-the-contradicitons” crap she was peddling earlier is an argument — a really terrible argument in the vast majority of circumstances including this one, but an argument. “Vote Stein because it won’t matter anyway” just makes you a free rider patting yourself for what a special snowflake you are. Lamest. form. of. masturbation. ever. If you think that we can’t have an omelet without Trump breaking America’s most vulnerable then own it, and if not spare us.

An emerging journalistic subgenre

From the Washington Post:
Last month, the man who's tried to turn vote prediction into a science predicted a Trump win.

Allan J. Lichtman, distinguished professor of history at American University, said Democrats would not be able to hold on to the White House.

In the intervening weeks, the campaign was rocked by a series of events. The release of the Access Hollywood tape obtained by The Washington Post was followed by accusations from a growing list of women of various improprieties on Trump's part, ranging from verbal abuse and harassment to outright sexual assault. Fix founder Chris Cillizza named Trump the winner of the inauspicious “Worst Week in Washington” award for four weeks running. At the same time, WikiLeaks released internal Clinton campaign emails, and the U.S. government flatly accused the Kremlin of being involved. And let's not forget those presidential debates.

So plenty has changed. But one thing hasn't: Lichtman, author of “Predicting the Next President: The Keys to the White House 2016,” is sticking with his prediction of a Trump victory.

If you aren't familiar with his somewhat unique prediction system, here are the basics: The keys to the White House, he says, are a set of 13 true/false statements. If six of them are false, the incumbent party loses the presidency. His system has correctly predicted the winner of the popular vote in every U.S. presidential election since 1984. Our first interview went into the keys more in-depth, and in September he said the keys were settled enough to make an official prediction of a Democratic loss and a Trump win.

From CNBC via Yahoo:

 An artificial intelligence system that correctly predicted the last three U.S. presidential elections puts Republican nominee Donald Trump ahead of Democrat rival Hillary Clinton in the race for the White House.

MogIA was developed by Sanjiv Rai, founder of Indian start-up It takes in 20 million data points from public platforms including Google, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube in the U.S. and then analyzes the information to create predictions.

The AI system was created in 2004, so it has been getting smarter all the time. It had already correctly predicted the results of the Democratic and Republican Primaries.

Data such as engagement with tweets or Facebook Live videos have been taken into account. The result is that Trump has overtaken the engagement numbers of Barack Obama 's peak in 2008 — the year he was elected president — by 25 percent.

Rai said that his AI system shows that the candidate in each election who had leading engagement data ended up winning the election.

"If Trump loses, it will defy the data trend for the first time in the last 12 years since Internet engagement began in full earnest," Rai wrote in a report sent to CNBC.

Election wiz predicts Donald Trump will win Oval Office

Donald Trump may be behind in most polls, but one veteran New York prognosticator still predicts he will win come Election Day.

“I think he was the strongest candidate in the primaries and that he will prevail,” Helmut Norpoth, a political science professor at SUNY Stony Brook, told The Post on Monday, even as the RealClearPolitics average shows the Republican candidate trailing Democrat Hillary Clinton by 6.1 percentage points.

Norpoth developed a model that, applied retroactively in earlier races, would have correctly predicted the winner of every presidential election since 1912 — with the exception of 2000, when predicted winner Al Gore barely lost to George W. Bush.

The model looks at which of the candidates performed better in the primaries and caucuses and concludes that the stronger performer there will enter the White House.