Friday, November 5, 2010

Last Call

No, I have no comment on Keith Olbermann being suspended from MSNBC for failing to disclose his political donations to Jack Conway and other Dems to the MSNBC brass.  Besides, there's nothing I can say that Rachel Maddow didn't say a hundred times more effectively tonight.

There is nothing I can do here other than to throw a handful of cherry blossoms and walk away silently.

Your Even A Stopped Clock Can Be Right Alert Of The Day

Yeah I know, John Carney is just Jim Cramer without the ridiculous sound effects and better hair, but on the subject of Tim Geithner needing to find out what America's unemployment situation is like by being unemployed, he's right.

There will be heavy pressure from within the Democratic party for the Obama administration to make changes that will both publicly mark a change of direction for the administration and privately send a message to party insiders that the White House is accepting its share of the blame for the loss of the House of Representatives.

Geithner is a clear candidate to play the fall-guy. In exit polls, six in 10 voters said the economy is the nation's No.1 problem. Around four in 10 believe their family's financial condition got worse since Obama took office. Geithner is the nation's chief economic official. A large share of the blame for last night's results will likely fall on him. 

Geithner outlasted many other economic advisers to the president, including Peter Orzsag, Herb Allison, Steve Rattner, Larry Summers and Christina Romer. Insiders say the role he played in getting Congress to pass the financial reform bill has significantly strengthened his position in the administration. 

But Geithner lacks a constituency within the Democratic party, especially on Capitol Hill. He won't have substantial backers who could protect his job, unlike many other high level Obama administration officials. He doesn't have any ties to the Democratic base. He hasn't been a substantial fund-raising draw for any Democrats. 

Geithner's best hope for keeping his job may have been for the GOP to take the Senate. In that case, the administration may have feared Republicans would block the nomination of his successor. But with the Democrats still controlling the nominee confirmation process, the administration will have a more leeway to pick a replacement. 

Four words.  Treasury Secretary Paul Volcker.  He's done it before.  Reagan's "Morning in America" happened because Volcker labored in Carter's darkness before the dawn and made the tough calls.  Carter got rewarded for that by getting steamrolled in 1980, but Volcker did what he had to do to kill stagflation.
This time around, it's going to be a lot tougher, especially with Helicopter Ben flying around crapping out bricks of cash.  Volcker could get confirmed, too...and maybe knowing Treasury was serious about dealing with the banks would go a long way.

Although that's probably exactly why it wouldn't happen, the GOP scorched earth campaign would mean that Reagan himself couldn't get appointed SecTreas.

How Many Quadrillion Imaginary Rupees Is That Anyway?

Eric Boehlert notes that the Drudge-tastic myth of President Obama's trip to India costing some two billion dollars is of course a complete lie, but that never stops the right wing smear machine from inflating the numbers now, does it?

The question for the mainstream press, as always, is how to deal with egregious falsehoods that take hold and quickly drive our political discourse. Sometimes I think the right-wing plan is to just drown everyone in so many lies that it becomes too time consuming for journalists to fact-check all the fabrications. And perhaps that's why so often the lies are not confronted.

Happily, the India trip lie is being forcefully knocked down from some mainstream media outlets such CNN and ABC News. And that’s exactly the right way to confront a misinformation campaign -- call it out for what it is. Don’t look away, or issue it’s-just-Rush-being-Rush type of passes to powerful pundits who can’t tell the truth. The correct thing to do is to say without apology, that these people are lying about the President of the United States, they don’t seem to care that they’re lying, and most likely they  know they’re lying. ($2 billion in security costs for a presidential visit? On what planet?)

Rachel Maddow brilliantly takes this on:

It was too much for some of the right wing blogs, apparently...but a pretty impressive number of them repeated this story without even bothering to question it.

Of course, what standard are they held to?

Another Stimulus/Response Exercise

Hey, Congress?

It's still about the jobs.  A new Gallup survey on what Congress should do next:

Looking Ahead, Which of the Following Should Be the Highest Priority for Congress After the Election? (Closed-Ended Responses: Repealing the New Healthcare Law, Passing a New Economic Stimulus Bill Designed to Create Jobs, Cutting Federal Spending, or Extending All the Federal Income Tax Cuts Enacted During the Bush Administration)

So when Republicans say they are listening to the "will of the American people" they're going to help pass a major new jobs creation bill, right?

Takei Fights The Stupid

In a hilarious and still touching video, George Takei (Mr. Sulu from the original Star Trek) responds to the comments made by Clint McCance last week. For those who missed the original article on ZVTS, McCance encouraged gay teens to kill themselves, and went on to say he enjoyed knowing they would give each other AIDS and die.

I've already said my piece about McCance. However, the response has been overwhelming in the face of this man's bigotry, and that is a good sign that people are listening. Maybe there's hope after all.

We have to protect our kids, folks. As posted earlier today, a little boy was afraid to go to school after picking a costume he really wanted. We are staining their innocence, and some of us are doing it with the best of intentions.

Danger-Prone Daphne Strikes Again

A mother fires off a reply on her personal site regarding her son's decision to dress up as Daphne from Scooby Doo for Halloween. It's well written and she makes some brilliant points. I am not going to summarize it because to understand, her whole article needs to be read to establish context. Go ahead, I'll wait a minute.

There is one single quote I'd like to bring to the front, however, because it's a problem that applies to everyday conversations all the way to the White House.

"IT IS NOT OK TO BULLY. Even if you wrap it up in a bow and call it concern."

Seriously, did someone's mom just put the entire country in line? I think so. Her response is correct, and like truth tends to do, it applies to every situation big or small.

With the outpouring against gays, I have been curious. The arguments essentially boil down to "I don't like it, so I am going to make sure they aren't treated well." Is that not bullying? Is forcing your beliefs on an entire segment of people who have the right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness not taking advantage of a minority population? Is trying to use the Constitution to enforce personal beliefs on the private lives of Americans not warping the purpose of the law? Watching Palin and Company rail about values makes me feel like the popular kids are rallying against those pesky substandard people who just won't realize their place. Until they are willing to conform and live how they're told, there is no place for them in "their" United States.

I call BS. And thank goodness, so does this intelligent lady.

Under the guise of concern, women have been denied access to birth control and health care. Kids are taught to give up privacy for convenience, and the words "security reasons" has become the new catchphrase to imply obedience is mandatory. A child not yet in kindergarten has sensed that vibe and feared it. This has to stop We have to take a stand and think for ourselves, even if it means we are inconvenienced or find ourselves having to evaluate ourselves and tackle our flaws as they are brought to light. "I never thought about it" is a poor excuse to watch our society crumble and let fear and hate rule our lives. Kudos to this woman for showing intelligence and compassion in the face of stupidity and rudeness.

Again, taking this behavior out on kids is not acceptable. Just because you are free to say what you think doesn't mean you are not responsible for the words you say. Regardless of what we think or feel, our kids deserve to grow up innocent and not used as pawns in an argument that never made sense in the first place.

Pulling Off Pulling A Clinton

Greg Sargent explores what the concept of "Obama Pulling A Clinton" actually means as far as policy maneuvers.

Dem pollster Stan Greenberg unveiled a post-election poll designed to show that -- despite the public's deep dissatisfaction with Dems on the economy -- there's no mandate for conservative economic ideas. The poll, he said, shows the public is still receptive to an expansive government role in job creation -- provided it's articulated better than Dems did this year -- particularly on infrastructure spending and reviving manufacturing.

For instance: Greenberg tested messages askking 2010 voters whether they could support Congressional action to rebuild infrastructure via a National Infrastructure Bank that would use public and private money. He also asked whether they'd support Congressional action to "launch a five year strategy to revive manufacturing in America, providing companies incentives to make it in America" and "ending tax breaks that reward moving jobs abroad." Both had solid majority support.

Greenberg also tested various GOP and Dem messages on how to deal with the deficit. A majority supported ending the high-end Bush tax cuts, while only a bit more than a third supported huge cuts in domestic programs, raising the retirement age for Social Security, and turning Medicare into a voucher program.

This suggests a new way to "pull a Clinton," the Dem thinkers suggested: Draw bright lines against the GOP on popular programs, and lay out proposals for a clear, expansive role for government in job creation, and dare Republicans to kill them.

Why that's so obvious, the Dems will never go for it.

The problem with drawing a bright line is communicating why you're doing it.  Obama traditionally has been at his best when he's explaining why he's defending core principles, and campaign Obama was brilliant at it.  President Obama on the other hand, not so much.

If Obama comes out and says "Here's what we're not going to compromise on" then people will back him.  Lord knows that exactly what the Republicans are doing right now.  He needs to draw that bright line on Social Security, Medicare, repealing DADT, and job creation...and yes, dare the GOP to kill it.  Dare them to shut down the government.  Dare them to push the plunger.

If on the other hand Obama folds his hand early and goes Centrist Dalek on us, we're in an immense amount of trouble.

Nancy Boy Feminists

Over at Rumproast, Betty Cracker has an excellent point:  the people who should be screaming the most about Heath Shuler trying to displace Nancy Pelosi as minority leader should be the Hillary/PUMA crew, but they're not saying a damn thing...wonder why that is?

And speaking of sexist attacks and the unseemly attempt to give the bum’s rush to the first Madam Speaker in American history, guess who is silent on the issue? The sob-sisters of the Eternal 2008 Primary Butt-Hurt over at The New Agenda.

That bunch is still weeping bitter tears over the fact that some people thought Hillary Clinton should drop out of the primaries after being mathematically eliminated because to do so disrespected that historic candidate. But they’re not only utterly silent on the Pelosi issue, they’re trying to spin this week’s election results as a victory for women. Which it’s not.

Amy Siskind is, as usual, the rooster claiming credit for the sunrise, alleging in a bleg that she and her wealthy, dilettante cohorts were single-handedly responsible for McCain’s elevating Snowflake Snooki to national prominence and the subsequent Grizzly Mama revolution, which they claim enhanced women’s status in government.

Siskind may actually have a point about PUMA whinging prompting McCain to try to co-opt Clinton supporters with the Palin pick, but the joke’s on him—scoreboard! But since 77% of the women in Congress were Democrats (gee, I wonder why?), women’s representation—particularly in leadership positions—took a hit Tuesday.

The best-case scenario is that they’ll maintain 17% representation overall with a much-diminished role in committee leadership. So much for the glorious victory.

An actual women’s organization would point that out, but Siskind’s New Agenda is a home for PUMAs and SarahPAC fans who don’t shop at Walmart, so they can hardly be expected to notice. 

Damn straight.  I've said for a while that the PUMA faction of the Dems were always worse than the Firebaggers, because while the latter at least are intellectually consistent and want to see the Dems win and put forth progressive legislation, the former most certainly does not.

To that side, if they can't have Hillary, then we must have Sarah Palin.  It's insane.  Anyone who even remotely cares about women's issues would want to vote for the Dems, but putting Sarah Palin in the Oval Office just because she's a woman would be suicidal.

Likewise, seeing Nancy Pelosi drummed out of Congress like this should find Siskind and friends on the front lines.  Instead, it's silence that speaks volumes.

The Great Recession Bread Lines Are There, Part 2

The August numbers for food assistance programs are in and they are not pretty.

Food stamp recipients ticked up in August, children consumed millions of free lunches and nearly five million low-income mothers tapped into a government nutrition program for women and young children.

Some 42,389,619 Americans received food stamps in August, a 17% rise from the same time a year ago, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which tracks the data. That number is up 58.5% from August 2007, before the recession began.

By population, Washington, D.C. had the largest share of residents receiving food stamps: More than a fifth, 21.1%, of its residents collected assistance in August. Washington was followed by Mississippi, where 20.1% of residents received food stamps, and Tennessee, where 20% tapped into the government nutrition program.

Idaho posted the largest jump in recipients in the past year. The number of people receiving food stamps climbed 38.8% but their rolls are still fairly low. Just 211,883 Idaho residents collected food stamps in August.

The average benefit size per person nationwide in August was $133.90. Per household it was $287.82.

Up more than 50% since three years ago, and it's only going to get worse.  Here in Kentucky some 18.7% of the state received some food assistance in August, 14.5% of Ohioans, and 13.3% of Indiana residents.  Times are tough, and two years of guaranteed nothing out of the House to help will only make things that much more dire.

Basic commodity prices have increased, so this is only going to become harder and harder for folks as we wind through this economic disaster.  2011 is not going to be pretty.


Finally, some decent unemployment news as holiday hiring boosted the numbers.

Nonfarm payrolls increased 151,000 in October, the first increase since May, as a 159,000 jump in private employment more than offset a 8,000 drop in government payrolls, the Labor Department said on Friday. In addition, the government revised payrolls for August and September to show 110,000 fewer jobs lost.

Economists had expected payrolls to increase 60,000 last month, with private employment rising 75,000.

Can we keep that up?  I'm thinking "no."   But this was a pleasant surprise.

Pollster Poll Purports Partisan Political Polarization

Nate Silver passes judgment upon the polling outfits of 2010 for accuracy, precision, and the swimsuit portion of the competition and finds out whose polls were the most dependable.  Hint:  it's not Scotty R's boys.

And yes, preliminary analysis showed that nearly all the major polling outfits favored the Republicans, it was just a matter of by how much. But Rasmussen earned themselves a special rebuke (emphasis mine):

The 105 polls released in Senate and gubernatorial races by Rasmussen Reports and its subsidiary, Pulse Opinion Research, missed the final margin between the candidates by 5.8 points, a considerably higher figure than that achieved by most other pollsters. Some 13 of its polls missed by 10 or more points, including one in the Hawaii Senate race that missed the final margin between the candidates by 40 points, the largest error ever recorded in a general election in FiveThirtyEight’s database, which includes all polls conducted since 1998.

Moreover, Rasmussen’s polls were quite biased, overestimating the standing of the Republican candidate by almost 4 points on average. In just 12 cases, Rasmussen’s polls overestimated the margin for the Democrat by 3 or more points. But it did so for the Republican candidate in 55 cases — that is, in more than half of the polls that it issued.

If one focused solely on the final poll issued by Rasmussen Reports or Pulse Opinion Research in each state — rather than including all polls within the three-week interval — it would not have made much difference. Their average error would be 5.7 points rather than 5.8, and their average bias 3.8 points rather than 3.9.
Nor did it make much difference whether the polls were branded as Rasmussen Reports surveys, or instead, were commissioned for Fox News by its subsidiary Pulse Opinion Research. (Both sets of surveys used an essentially identical methodology.) Polls branded as Rasmussen Reports missed by an average of 5.9 points and had a 3.9 point bias. The polls it commissioned on behalf of Fox News had a 5.1 point error, and a 3.6 point bias.

Rasmussen’s polls have come under heavy criticism throughout this election cycle, including from FiveThirtyEight. We have critiqued the firm for its cavalier attitude toward polling convention. Rasmussen, for instance, generally conducts all of its interviews during a single, 4-hour window; speaks with the first person it reaches on the phone rather than using a random selection process; does not call cellphones; does not call back respondents whom it misses initially; and uses a computer script rather than live interviewers to conduct its surveys. These are cost-saving measures which contribute to very low response rates and may lead to biased samples.

Rasmussen also weights their surveys based on preordained assumptions about the party identification of voters in each state, a relatively unusual practice that many polling firms consider dubious since party identification (unlike characteristics like age and gender) is often quite fluid.

Rasmussen’s polls — after a poor debut in 2000 in which they picked the wrong winner in 7 key states in that year’s Presidential race — nevertheless had performed quite strongly in in 2004 and 2006. And they were about average in 2008. But their polls were poor this year.

The discrepancies between Rasmussen Reports polls and those issued by other companies were apparent from virtually the first day that Barack Obama took office. Rasmussen showed Barack Obama’s disapproval rating at 36 percent, for instance, just a week after his inauguration, at a point when no other pollster had that figure higher than 20 percent.

Rasmussen Reports has rarely provided substantive responses to criticisms about its methodology. At one point, Scott Rasmussen, president of the company, suggested that the differences it showed were due to its use of a likely voter model. A FiveThirtyEight analysis, however, revealed that its bias was at least as strong in polls conducted among all adults, before any model of voting likelihood had been applied.

Some of the criticisms have focused on the fact that Mr. Rasmussen is himself a conservative — the same direction in which his polls have generally leaned — although he identifies as an independent rather than Republican. In our view, that is somewhat beside the point. What matters, rather, is that the methodological shortcuts that the firm takes may now be causing it to pay a price in terms of the reliability of its polling.

What Nate here is saying seems to boil down to "It's funny how all the strange methodology that Rasmussen uses seems to favor an overemphasis of traditional Republican voters".  Even in this year's election where Republicans did extraordinarily well, Rasmussen overshot the mark not only by a large margin favoring the GOP, but did so time and time again.  You would think Rasmussen would then adjust its final model based on this, as it did have precision hitting that 4-5 points in the GOP's favor repeatedly.  That didn't happen.

Rasmussen's game appears to be selling a narrative that support for conservative positions was stronger than it really was.  Rasmussen is a prolific poller, polling races that other pollsters would only poll less often.  Considering there were many times this year where the most recent poll in a particular race was Rasmussen's (and other national outfits would go 6-8 weeks or more without a poll of that race) that had to have affected the framing of the coverage of the race.

How many "Republican X is surprisingly close to incumbent Democrat Y" stories out there were based on Rasmussen polls when Rasmussen was off from 4 to nearly 40 points?

Then again, maybe that was the point.  Rasmussen may have sacrificed its credibility to boost the GOP, but if Nate Silver wasn't around to call them on it, would anyone have noticed?  Will that have any effect on polls taken towards 2012, and the Village media's use of them?  Doubtful.

And looking back at that chart, Rasmussen was hardly the only outfit that favored the GOP by a significant margin.  Rasmussen was just the most inaccurate of the lot.

Remember how PPP is considered a Dem leaning polling outfit too?  Real Clear Politics always slaps on (D) after any of their polls.  They actually shaded a bit towards the GOP, and with the least amount of bias towards a party.  I wonder if that D stands for "Damn Straight They're Unbiased".  Does Rasmussen and Marist get an (R) after each poll heading into 2012?

Somehow I doubt anyone in the Village will take notice, especially the guys on the conservative end of things.  Keep that in mind heading forward.


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