Monday, October 31, 2016

Last Cal For Working The Ref

As Steve M. points out, the notion that Trump will lose because he doesn't have a ground game is garbage: the GOP Right Wing Noise Machine *is* the Republican "get out the vote" ground game, and they're doing everything they can to win this election.

I know all the smart folks -- the Sam Wangs, the Ed Kilgores -- are sanguine about the effect of all this on the outcome of the election. We're too polarized for this to change many votes, they tell us. Clinton has a big lead and a firewall of several states, and, unlike Trump, she has a get-out-the-vote effort. 
Well, this is Trump's get-out-the-vote effort, however little his campaign may be involved in it. It's going to bring Republicans home to a nominee a lot of them have been reluctant to support, and even if it suppresses a tiny percentage of the Clinton vote, the loss of her least enthusiastic voters could tip the election
Nate Silver is already pondering scenarios in which an election that seemed likely to be an Obama-sized victory for Clinton now comes down to one state, possibly Pennsylvania, assuming Trump takes a lot of the toss-up states. I think Clinton will win Pennsylvania -- she's up nearly 6 points there according to Real Clear Politics. She has a cushion. 
But I think if Trump doesn't win, Republicans not named Trump are certain to try to litigate her victory. Oh, she won because of Pennsylvania? Lotta fishy stuff happens in Philadelphia at the polls, doesn't it, especially in certain neighborhoods
It's been said that Vladimir Putin doesn't actually want Trump to win -- he assumes Clinton's victory is inevitable and just wants to weaken her as much as he can. I don't know if that's really what Putin is thinking, but it's more or less what the GOP is thinking. I seriously believe you'll see Mitch McConnell or Jason Chaffetz or, who knows, maybe even John McCain seriously suggesting that electors withhold their votes for Clinton because the race was close and because all those FBI investigations seriously call into question whether she should serve as president. 
In other words: Either Trump's going to win or we really might have a ginned-up constitutional crisis. I'll be pleasantly surprised if we avoid both of these outcomes.

I think we'll avoid the first.  But the second, well...Congressional Republicans were already promising endless investigations and obstruction of Clinton appointments and executive branch actions, and that was before Comey crapped in the punchbowl.

The Republican platform is clear: they're going to make those people pay for every second she's in office, and when that subset of people includes 95% of America, well it'll be all her fault.  The Age of Trump means that if the GOP can't win, they'll make the country completely ungovernable. At this point I would take their word on that threat.  And somehow America mired in a constitutional crisis for the next several months or longer will be Clinton's fault.  Watch.

Happy Halloween!  Our long national nightmare is just beginning.

A Load Of Crap In Warren County

A load of manure was dumped outside the Democratic Party headquarters in Warren County.

"What reasonable person thinks this is OK????" party chair Bethe Goldenfield said in a post in the Greater Cincinnati Politics Facebook Group. "I won't be responding to anyone who thinks this is acceptable behavior. It is ILLEGAL!"

The same thing happened in 2012, Goldenfield noted. The suburban Cincinnati county is overwhelmingly Republican; Mitt Romney got 69 percent of the vote four years ago. It's been almost 40 years since a Democrat was elected to countywide office.

Goldenfield told The Enquirer the Warren County Sheriff's Office called her around 7:45 a.m. Saturday alerting her to the manure pile outside the Lebanon building. Deputies met party officials later to review video.

"Hopefully the perps will be held accountable for their actions," she said.

Jeff Monroe, chairman of the Warren County Republican Party, said the GOP had nothing to do with the manure "and has offered to help clean things up."

The Warren County Sheriff's office had no additional information. Goldenfield said the party hired a contractor to remove the pile.

Somebody sure thought it was funny, enough to repeat the action from four years ago.  I don't expect anyone to be caught, either.  But like I've been saying, the GOP has been broken in their souls long before Trump was the nominee for president.

Trump's Pence-ive Decision

So here's a blood-curdling Halloween tale for you: it turns out Donald Trump really, really wanted New Jersey GOP Gov. Chris Christie as his running mate and even offered him the job, but was then talked out of it by his family and campaign manager Paul Manafort in a weird story involving lying to Trump about plane trouble in order to get him to stay and talk to Mike Pence.  Trump and Christie developed a fast friendship, and Trump wanted to offer Christie the VP slot out of loyalty.  And basically everyone around Trump realized this was a horrible decision because Christie was going to go down in flames over Bridgegate.

“Trump cares about who’s the most loyal and who kisses his a– the most, not who’s the most qualified and what’s the best political decision,” said a source close to the campaign. “If it was up to him, it would have been Christie.”

The two men had developed a close relationship. Whenever Christie visited Trump’s campaign headquarters, he’d spend most of his time in onetime Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski’s office, ignoring Manafort and other top aides, a source said.

Christie contacted Trump and made his final, impassioned ­appeal on July 12.

“Christie said he thinks he deserves it and he earned it,” a second Trump source said. Convinced, Trump made the ­offer.

Christie “said all the BS that Trump likes to hear, and Trump said, ‘Yeah, sure I’m giving it to you.’ ”

That didn’t sit well with Manafort, who had arranged for Trump to meet Pence in Indianapolis on July 13, and fly back together to New York the next day for a formal announcement.

After Trump tentatively decided on Christie, Manafort told Trump his plane had a mechanical problem, campaign sources said, forcing Trump to spend another night in the Hoosier State. Pence then made his case to be Trump’s No. 2 over dinner as Trump’s advisers argued that Christie’s Bridgegate troubles would sink the campaign.

“Trump had wanted Christie but Bridgegate would have been the biggest national story,” a third Trump source said. “He’d lose the advantage of not being corrupt.”

Trump agreed to name Pence the next day and broke the news to Christie, saying it would “tear my family apart if I gave you VP,” a source said.

A Trump/Christie ticket would be down by 15 points right now.  Really is a shame that he didn't pick the governor, considering how much trouble Christie is in over the Bridgegate trial ongoing right now.

Five witnesses – including three who remain steadfast allies – refuted his claim that he was "blindsided" and knew nothing about his staff's involvement in the lane closures before the rest of us did.

Among those who contradicted the governor under oath are Michael DuHaime, his chief strategist for the last decade; Mike Drewniak, his press secretary during that entire stretch, and Deborah Gramiccioni, his deputy chief of staff at the time. You can read excerpts from their testimony here.

The governor is not charged. Prosecutors say that he knew about the lane closures as they occurred, but knowledge of the plot is not a crime in itself. And no one in this trial has suggested that Christie ordered the lane closures.

But the rules of the courtroom are one thing, and the rules of politics are quite another. It's tough to govern after absorbing a blow like this.

"It's been incredibly damaging to hear one person after another directly contradict him," says Julian Zelizer, a professor at Princeton University. "And if the national election goes as poorly for him as some think, that will add to the damage. Because he is forever connected to Donald Trump."

Indeed, the combination of Trump and Christie's problems would have most likely resulted in the biggest GOP presidential loss in generations. If Paul Manafort hadn't pulled a dirty trick to save Trump from his own terrible judgment, this race would actually be more lopsided in Clinton's favor than it is now.

What could have been, eh Republican party?


Sunday, October 30, 2016

Laboratories Of Democracy

Meanwhile next door in Ohio, it seems that one of the state's chief forensic experts had her thumb on the evidence scale in favor of Ohio cops for, oh, about 30 plus years.

Dozens, if not hundreds, of criminal convictions in Ohio could be in jeopardy because a longtime forensic scientist at the state crime lab now stands accused of slanting evidence to help cops and prosecutors build their cases.

The credibility of G. Michele Yezzo, who worked at the Ohio attorney general’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation for more than three decades, has been challenged in two cases in which men were convicted of aggravated murder. One has been freed from prison because of her now-suspect work.

A review of her personnel records by The Dispatch shows that colleagues and supervisors raised questions about Yezzo time and again while she tested evidence and testified in an uncounted number of murder, rape and other criminal cases in the state.

Their concerns included that she presented evidence in the best light for prosecutors instead of objectively, used suspect methods while examining trace evidence from some crime scenes, and made mistakes that, as one former attorney general put it, “could lead to a substantial miscarriage of justice.”

Yezzo, 63, of West Jefferson, told The Dispatch that the accusations about her work being biased are wrong and that she approached her work objectively.

“I have never done anything to overstate analysis of evidence, nor have I done anything, for lack of better a word, to taint the evidence,” Yezzo said. “No, I didn’t appease prosecutors and law enforcement. I bent over backwards to try and find out whatever evidence was there, and that’s the best I can tell you.”

But two former attorneys general, defense attorneys, a judge, a former BCI superintendent and a nationally renowned forensic expert from the FBI all say that Yezzo has credibility issues that may have poisoned cases she touched.

Lee Fisher, who served as attorney general from 1991 to 1995, and Jim Petro, who served as attorney general from 2003 to 2007, both said they didn’t know of Yezzo when they were in office, but they now have concerns about her work.

I would call for an investigation into every case where her findings and conclusions were instrumental in the final result of a case,” Fisher said. “We have an obligation to the integrity of the criminal-justice system to investigate every case. We have to determine whether her findings or conclusions were suspect.”

So Ohio BCI knew Yezzo was crooked and let her continue to work anyway for 32 years. And if you think the Kasich administration is going to even think about touching this mess with a 100-foot pole, you don't know Ohio politics very well at all.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said Friday that his office was alerted to the concerns about Yezzo in 2015 and has since conducted two separate reviews of her work. One involved examining 100 criminal cases where Yezzo’s evidence analysis played a role in a conviction.

DeWine said they found no issues with her work.

Moving forward, DeWine, who did not serve as attorney general during Yezzo’s tenure, said he has no plans for an internal investigation into Yezzo’s history, but he will have open discussions with defense attorneys on a case-by-case basis if they raise questions.

He said the BCI, which handles about 37,000 cases a year, has a “long history of doing good work” and has received the highest level of accreditation.

AG DeWine of course is running for governor in 2018, so you can expect this entire Yezzo issue to magically vanish.  Ohio BCI certainly isn't going to do anything.

Maybe the courts will do something about it.

But we should trust law enforcement because they are just and fair, right?

Fouling Up The Rigging

As Think Progress reminds us, two thirds of US states have elections controlled by the GOP, so if the election is "rigged" to keep Trump out of the White House (and it's not) then GOP Secretaries of State would have to somehow be in on it (which they aren't.)

So can we please stop this stupid notion that the election is rigged?

Because that's covering up what Republicans really are doing to stop Democrats from voting.

Sunday Long Read: Demon In A Bottle

Deadspin's Dave McKenna takes a look at the messy, tumultuous life of Washington Post sportswriter Jennifer Frey, whose talent burned brightly enough that it consumed herself in the process as she died earlier this year from a two-decade long fight with alcoholism.

Jennifer Frey drank herself to death.

Frey’s obituary in the Washington Post, her last full-time employer, merely gave “multiple organ failure” as the cause of her March 26 death. But alcohol killed her as surely as a bullet killed Lincoln.

She died abusing a drug that kills millions of people every year. But the life of Jennifer Frey was not a common one.

Frey was a can’t miss kid in sportswriting in the early 1990s. Just months out of Harvard, she was subjected to a high-profile episode of sexual harassment on the job. In response, Frey spoke forcibly and with righteousness for her gender and her profession in print and on national television as the controversy over women in locker rooms crested.

“There is a lot of talk about the players’ indignation at being forced to allow women into their dressing room,” Frey wrote while still an intern at the Miami Herald. “Few people are aware of the indignities felt by women beat reporters who are frequently harassed by athletes who do not understand that the women are there to do a job, not enjoy a peep show.

“It is not fun for a woman to go into a male locker room. It is not exciting. It did not ‘turn me on’ when a major-league baseball player dropped his pants and asked me to evaluate his anatomy.”

Soon after, she was wowing her elders at the Philadelphia Daily News and New York Times, and, in an era before the internet, writing reported stories at a blogger’s pace. Frey was also living like someone ready to take Manhattan and then the world. Everybody who knew her through the 1990s remembers Frey as both the organizer and the life of every party, and a party could be found in every town Frey filed copy from.

“Along with everything else she had, she was so much fun,” says Chuck Culpepper, a writer at the Lexington Herald Leader when he met Frey at a 1991 NCAA tournament game. “My God, was she fun.”

Mike Wise, who first worked with her at the New York Times in the early 1990s, vouches for the good times that awaited anybody lucky enough to be near vintage Jennifer Frey. “Being around her, you were just in awe,” he says. “If friends are going out for dinner, she would find the best place, and it didn’t feel like you were meeting her for dinner, it felt like you were in a parade going down Broadway and she was leading it.”

Frey was recruited from the Times by the Washington Post in 1995, at a time when the sports section was as stacked with big names as at any time in the history of the newspaper. Frey was set to become as big a deal as anybody on the masthead.

That never happened.

“She was incredible, a shooting star,” says Jeff Bradley, an assistant athletic director at Harvard when she was sports editor at the school paper. “And then she just fell off the face of the earth.”

It turns out that Frey’s hard living outlasted her usefulness as a journalist. ThePost’s obit contained glowing quotes about Frey from a 1997 column by David Carr, the future New York Times icon, who back then was editor and media columnist for for Washington City Paper: “Frey is a certified prodigy who can do it all: X’s and O’s, empathetic profiles, and hard takedowns when the situation requires it,” Carr wrote.

Yet other parts of that same Carr column, unreferenced in the Post’s obit, foreshadowed Frey’s fall, hinting all those years ago that her admirers were so blinded by her talents that they were ignoring the closeness of her relationship with booze.

Jody Goldstein, a former Houston Chronicle reporter who became a running buddy of Frey’s in the 1990s, was among a few friends from journalism who stuck with Frey after her bylines stopped. She says Frey’s alcoholism never loosened its grip.

“I asked Jennifer once, ‘What made you drink today?’” says Goldstein. “And she said, ‘That’s just what I do. I get up. I drink.’ That was her life.”

And Frey kept drinking even after it cost her a career, custody of her child, her house, and most of her friendships. Whenever doctors told her she’d die if she didn’t give up alcohol, she tried to call their bluff—until earlier this year, when she was told her liver was beyond repair.

Frey hoped to get a new organ through donation, but her application was rejected. Being kept off the transplant list was a death sentence. Lots of people who considered themselves close to Frey during the early, enthralling portions of her career were brought up to speed by an internet posting from Goldstein earlier this year explaining that the end was near and asking for money for Frey’s only child. Jaundiced but booze-free, Frey hosted visitors in her hospital room to talk about the good old days. Her final audiences reminded longtime friends what they’d lost years earlier.

No appreciation of her life appeared in the Washington Post, as noted by acommenter on its website who rhetorically asked if one was coming. (“If not, shame on you ALL,” the reader posted). Perhaps nobody at the paper wanted to write it. Intellectually, her former colleagues know they weren’t equipped to fight the alcoholism and mental illness that took Frey down; many nonetheless have guilt that she was allowed to slide so silently.

“I still can’t wrap my arms around her quiet exit and decline,” says Vinnie Perrone, a longtime Washington Post writer who was close to Frey before and during her time at the paper. “She was brilliant, she was a worker, she lit up any room she was in. She knew everybody and was liked by everybody in the business. We were all moths to her porchlight. There was a time when all these people would be glad to see her and be around her. But when the need arose, when she needed people, where were they? Where were we?”

Having lost a grandparent to alcoholism 20 years ago, this story hit me kind of hard.  There but for the grace of God go I.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Here We Go Again

Here's a truly depressing thought from Politico's Mike Allen: what if Republicans, already showing a complete propensity to fail miserably at learning from their mistakes in 2008 and 2012, nominate Trump again in 2020?

Newt Gingrich, one of Donald Trump’s closest confidants and most visible boosters, on Friday raised the novel possibility of a Trump-Clinton rematch in 2020 — a spooky Halloween-weekend notion for the many voters who just want the ugly race to stop.

“The challenge for everybody’s going to be, 'What if he gets 48 or 49 percent?’” Gingrich said in a video interview for POLITICO’s “Open Mike” series. “And what if he says: ‘You know, I like this campaign and stuff. I ain’t leaving’? There will then be a Trump Party.”

Speaking a few hours before the FBI’s email review became public, Gingrich declared that “odds are better than even” that Trump will win.

But the former House speaker added that if not, Trump might form “a Trump Party inside the Republican Party, just the way William Jennings Bryan brought populism into the Democratic Party.”

Gingrich floated the notion when he was asked if Trump TV — a new media empire that might emerge from the campaign’s aftermath — would be a good idea.

“It’d be silly,” Gingrich said at his office in Arlington, Va. “He’s bigger than that. … It’s an irrelevancy. I mean, I know what it takes to run CNN or Fox. These are big operations, and he could do that if he wants to get out of politics, but he doesn’t need it.”

And so you think he might run again in 2020?

"I think that’s very possible,” Gingrich responded. "I think he likes being part of a movement — he likes thinking of it as a movement. … I was thinking about this, [and] he said to me the other morning, … ‘I sent out one tweet and 15,000 people showed up.’”

POLITICO asked: So you’re predicting a Trump-Clinton rematch?

Gingrich: “Could be, assuming she survives.”

What do you mean “survives”?

“That she’s not impeached and convicted,” Gingrich replied. “Look … when people have time to actually digest WikiLeaks and some brave person puts together a book and goes, 'This, this, this, this, this,' it’s very hard to imagine how there’s not going to be some serious effort in the first year of her presidency.”

Newt is usually full of crap, but at this point you can't discount the notion that the GOP will be so broken that they'll just nominate Trump again in four years.

Having said that, I think it's much more likely we see Rubio, Kasich, or Cruz than Trump again.

But I would have said the same thing if you had asked me who the GOP was going to nominate back in 2015, too.

Trump Cards, Con't

Meanwhile, in Iowa, the Trump Paranoid Style has gotten so bad that Trump voters have stared into the abyss of "rigged elections" and have discovered nothing more than the abyss staring back.

A Des Moines woman has been charged with Election Misconduct, a Class D felony, after allegedly voting twice for GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump. Terri Rote says she was afraid her first ballot for Trump would be changed to a vote for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

"I wasn't planning on doing it twice, it was spur of the moment," says Rote. "The polls are rigged

But Polk County Attorney John Sarcone says voter fraud in Iowa is very rare, which is evidence that Iowa’s election system is secure.

"I think in the 25-plus years that I've been doing this job, this maybe the third [time] we've had some irregularity that's resulted in a criminal charge," says Sarcone. "People aren’t voting more than once. And if they do, or attempt to do it, they will get caught because there are safeguards in place....We want everybody to exercise their right to vote, but only once."

Rote was released from jail on Friday on a $5,000 bond. If convicted, she faces up to five years in prison.

Trump voters are committing election fraud in order to save America from election fraud, huh.

Gosh it's almost like all of this screaming by Trump about "rigged elections" have had a massively detrimental effect on our voting system.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Last Call For Dammit, Weiner

Newly discovered emails from Hillary Clinton’s private server were found after the F.B.I. seized electronic devices once shared by Anthony D. Weiner and his estranged wife, Huma Abedin, a top aide to Mrs. Clinton, federal law enforcement officials said Friday. 
The F.B.I. is investigating illicit text messages that Mr. Weiner, a former Democratic congressman from New York, sent to a 15-year-old girl in North Carolina. The bureau told Congress on Friday that it had uncovered new emails related to the Clinton case — one federal official said they numbered in the thousands — potentially reigniting an issue that has weighed on the presidential campaign and offering a lifeline to Donald J. Trump less than two weeks before the election. 
In a letter to Congress, the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, said that emails had surfaced in an unrelated case, and that they “appear to be pertinent to the investigation.” 
Mr. Comey said the F.B.I. was taking steps to “determine whether they contain classified information, as well as to assess their importance to our investigation.” He said he did not know how long it would take to review the emails, or whether the new information was significant.

Why the hell would Jim Comey drop this nonsense that the FBI hasn't even finished determining if Weiner's emails to Huma Abedin were even significant, 11 days before a presidential election?  Oh yeah, he's a Republican.

Mr. Trump seized on the F.B.I. action on Friday at a rally in New Hampshire. To cheers of “lock her up” from his supporters, Mr. Trump said: “Hillary Clinton’s corruption is on a scale we have never seen before. We must not let her take her criminal scheme into the Oval Office.” 
After deriding the F.B.I. for weeks as inept and corrupt, Mr. Trump went on to praise the law enforcement agency. 
“I have great respect for the fact that the F.B.I. and the D.O.J. are now willing to have the courage to right the horrible mistake that they made,” Mr. Trump said, referring also to the Department of Justice. “This was a grave miscarriage of justice that the American people fully understand. It is everybody’s hope that it is about to be corrected.” 
The Clinton campaign called on Mr. Comey to provide information beyond what was put forth in the letter. 
“Director Comey’s letter refers to emails that have come to light in an unrelated case, but we have no idea what those emails are and the director himself notes they may not even be significant,” said John D. Podesta, chairman of Mrs. Clinton’s campaign. 
He added: “It is extraordinary that we would see something like this just 11 days out from a presidential election.”

Weiner is a dick. So is Comey.  And now all this crap will be on the news all weekend and all next week.  Here's hoping Trump says something ridiculously racist again to remind everyone what the real issues are.  There's still enough time left for him to botch the home stretch, but boy are we making it hard for Hillary to finish this asshole off, huh.

Will Actually, Attorney At LOL

I'm just as stunned as all of you are about yesterday's complete acquittal in the Ammon Bundy trial in Oregon, but it seems to me that given the "peers" they were judged by, we shouldn't be surprised at all.

Juror 4 vigorously defends the across-the-board acquittals of Ammon Bundy and his six co-defendants, calling the rulings a "statement'' about the prosecution's failure to prove the fundamental elements of a conspiracy charge. 
The full-time Marylhurst University business administration student was the juror who had sent a note to the judge on the fourth day of the initial jury's deliberations in the case, questioning the impartiality of a fellow juror, No. 12, who the judge bounced from the jury a day later. 
"It should be known that all 12 jurors felt that this verdict was a statement regarding the various failures of the prosecution to prove 'conspiracy' in the count itself – and not any form of affirmation of the defense's various beliefs, actions or aspirations,'' Juror 4 wrote Friday in a lengthy email to The Oregonian/OregonLive. 
He expressed relief that he can now speak out freely, but he wasn't ready as of Friday morning to drop his anonymity. He said his studies have suffered since the trial started, and he's not ready for the attention revealing his identity would bring but felt it was important to defend the verdict. The judge withheld jurors' names during the jury selection process and trial, instead referring to each by number. 
The jury closely followed U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown's instructions on how to apply the law to the evidence and testimony heard during the five-week trial, he said.

The jury returned unanimous verdicts of "not guilty'' to conspiracy charges against all seven defendants. Each was accused of conspiring to prevent employees of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Land Management from carrying out their official work through intimidation, threat or force during the 41-day occupation. 
Juror 4 noted the panel couldn't simply rely on the defendants' "defining actions'' to convict. 
"All 12 agreed that impeding existed, even if as an effect of the occupation,'' he wrote. 
"But we were not asked to judge on bullets and hurt feelings, rather to decide if any agreement was made with an illegal object in mind,'' the Marylhurst student wrote. "It seemed this basic, high standard of proof was lost upon the prosecution throughout.''

Shorter Juror #4: Haha, can't read minds, losers.

Bet you dollars to donuts that this guy not only voted for Donald Trump, but would suffer a complete apoplectic stroke if you asked him whether or not the FBI could prove Hillary Clinton's intent involving her e-mail server.

In all seriousness, this guy right here is the dude responsible for the Bundys being free men today, and I'm wondering how he got past jury selection.  Keep in mind also that federal prosecutors had a plea bargain in hand with Ammon Bundy but that the feds thought they had an open and shut case and told him to go to hell.

They beat the system, period. I don't like it, I'm sure none of you do either, but that's exactly what they did.

The Biden Unleashed Again?

Although this definitely seems like measuring the drapes in the Oval Office at this point, the Clinton team is floating VP Joe Biden's name for Secretary of State should Hillary pull off the win.

Joe Biden is at the top of the internal short list Hillary Clinton’s transition team is preparing for her pick to be secretary of state, a source familiar with the planning tells POLITICO.

This would be the first major Cabinet candidate to go public for a campaign that’s insisted its focus remains on winning the election, and perhaps the most central choice for a potential president who was a secretary of state herself.

Neither Clinton, nor her aides have yet told Biden. According to the source, they’re strategizing about how to make the approach to the vice president, who almost ran against her in the Democratic primaries but has since been campaigning for her at a breakneck pace all over the country in these final months.

"He'd be great, and they are spending a lot of time figuring out the best way to try to persuade him to do it if she wins,” said the source familiar with the transition planning.

The vice president, who chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee before joining the administration, is one of the most experienced and respected Democrats on the world stage. He’s also coming to what would be the close of a 44-year career in Washington, first with six terms in the Senate and then two terms as President Barack Obama’s closest adviser — and the keeper of the portfolio on some of the most difficult international issues, including Iraq and Ukraine.

He wouldn't be a bad choice at all.  He definitely has the foreign policy chops, that's why then candidate Barack Obama picked him as VP.  I figured the Clinton administration would at least give Biden the chance to serve again out of courtesy, I feel like restless Joe Biden puttering around the house and not having an excuse to board commuter trains would be miserable.

As Secretary of State, Joe could experience commuter trains all over the world.  He'd be as happy as a clam, and the guy is a charmer.  We'll see what comes of the rumor, and hey, maybe he'll just hang up his spurs and go play with his '67 Corvette.

The guy has kind of earned a break.


Thursday, October 27, 2016

Last Call For Zero Consequences

In America, if you're a family of white ranchers who take the law into their own hands and conduct an armed takeover of federal property, you are acquitted of all charges because we have no domestic terror problem in America.

A federal court jury on Wednesday acquitted anti-government militant leader Ammon Bundy and six followers of conspiracy charges stemming from their role in the armed takeover of a U.S. wildlife center in Oregon earlier this year.

Bundy and others, including his brother and co-defendant Ryan Bundy, cast the 41-day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge as a legitimate and patriotic act of civil disobedience. Prosecutors called it a lawless scheme to seize federal property by force.

In an emotional climax to the trial in U.S. District Court in Portland, Ammon Bundy’s lawyer, Marcus Mumford, was tackled to the floor by U.S. marshals as he became involved in a heated verbal exchange with the judge over the terms of his client’s release.

The verdict came hours after a newly reconstituted jury, with an alternate seated to replace one panelist dismissed over questions of bias on Tuesday, renewed deliberations in the case. Jurors previously had deliberated over three days.

The 12-member panel found the Bundy brothers and their four co-defendants – three men and a woman – not guilty of the most serious charge, conspiracy to impede federal officers through intimidation, threats or force.

So Ammon Bundy walks for this. Meanwhile, non-armed, peaceful protests of the federal government are met with National Guard troops.

Police in North Dakota began clearing a group of Native American and environmental protesters from an encampment near an oil pipeline construction site on Thursday in a move that could escalate tensions in a standoff that has lasted several months.

The police moved in on the protesters camped on private property near the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline about 11:15 a.m., according to a statement from the Morton County Sheriff’s Department.

Police were also removing roadblocks set up by the demonstrators, but Donnell Preskey, a spokeswoman for the sheriff’s department, said protesters had lit some blockades on fire.

Law enforcement used a sound cannon in a effort to force protesters to move, Preskey said by telephone. There had not been any arrests on Thursday and the number of protesters at the site was unknown, Preskey added.

Something tremendously wrong in this country when it comes to being a person of color who believes your government can be very, very incorrect at times.  But if you're an armed white guy, are acquitted.

The Streets Will Run Orange

The reality that Donald Trump might not actually end up the next president is not sitting well with the vast majority of his supporters, and they're making it very clear what they expect will happen come November 9th.

Jared Halbrook, 25, of Green Bay, Wis., said that if Mr. Trump lost to Hillary Clinton, which he worried would happen through a stolen election, it could lead to “another Revolutionary War.” 
“People are going to march on the capitols,” said Mr. Halbrook, who works at a call center. “They’re going to do whatever needs to be done to get her out of office, because she does not belong there.” 
“If push comes to shove,” he added, and Mrs. Clinton “has to go by any means necessary, it will be done.”

You don't say, Jared.

“It’s not what I’m going to do, but I’m scared that the country is going to go into a riot,” said Roger Pillath, 75, a retired teacher from Coleman, Wis. “I’ve never seen the country so divided, just black and white — there’s no compromise whatsoever. The Clinton campaign says together we are stronger, but there’s no together. The country has never been so divided. I’m looking at revolution right now.”

Real five stages of grief stuff here, folks.  And it's not a good look for America.

New York Times reporters spoke to people attending Trump rallies in Colorado, Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. In every crowd, there were supporters who echoed Mr. Trump’s message that the polls do not reflect the “silent majority” who they say will turn out on Nov. 8 and elect him in a landslide. 
“You go through any neighborhood and see how many Trump signs there are and how many Hillary signs there are, and I guarantee you it’s not even going to be close,” said Bill Stelling, 44, of Jacksonville, Fla. “The only way they’ve done it is by rigging the election.” 
An information diet from Trump-friendly outlets like Breitbart News and Infowars has led many to believe that there is no way Mr. Trump can lose, and that even contemplating the possibility is foolish. “I’d be shocked,” said Rick Hill, 58, of Fort Myers, Fla. 
Mr. Hill added, “If you get on social media, he’s got Hillary beat three to one.” 
But others expressed unease about what a Trump loss would bring. 
“Unfortunately, I’m not a man of vigilante violence,” said Richard Sabonjohn, 48, of Naples, Fla. “I’m more of a peaceful person. But I do think there will be a large amount of people that are terribly upset and may take matters into their own hands.”

The message I'm hearing is very clear, and it's "If you vote for Clinton, there's going to be violence.  It would be a shame if that happened.  Maybe you should just stay home."

Paul Swick, 42, who owns a moving business, went with his wife and daughter to see Mr. Trump speak in Green Bay last week. Mr. Swick considers himself a “Bible Christian” and “Thomas Jefferson liberal,” and said he hoped to beat Mrs. Clinton “at the ballot box.” 
But Mr. Swick, by his own estimation, also owns “north of 30 guns,” and he said Mrs. Clinton would have trouble if she tried to confiscate the nation’s constitutionally protected weapons. (Mrs. Clinton has said she supports the Second Amendment, but she favors certain restrictions, like tighter background checks for gun buyers.) 
“If she comes after the guns, it’s going to be a rough, bumpy road,” Mr. Swick said. “I hope to God I never have to fire a round, but I won’t hesitate to. As a Christian, I want reformation. But sometimes reformation comes through bloodshed.” 
Alan Weegens, 62, a retired truck driver in Colorado Springs, also wondered aloud how the country — with so many citizens who own guns and, he said, “are willing to trample a grandma on Black Friday at midnight to save $5 on a toaster” — would react if Mr. Trump lost. 
“I am not going to take my weapon to go out into the streets to protest an election I did not win,” Mr. Weegens said, “but I think that if certain events came about, a person would need to protect themselves, depending on where they lived, when your neighborhood goes up in flames.” 
Asked what might cause such a conflagration, he pointed to places like Ferguson, Mo., and Charlotte, N.C., which have been hit by unrest after police shootings of black men, and said, “Because hungry people get mean.”

What I'm reading is that people are now supporting Trump to somehow stop a violent revolution and thus saving the country..  The "and you boys better hope Trump wins, or else" is implied.  These guys are scared and violent, and I wouldn't be surprised to see things turn very ugly in a couple weeks.

It's happened before.  But at least the Village is no longer pretending it's "economic anxiety" when Trump supporters are calling for armed, open revolution should Clinton win.  It's not amusing or funny or quaint anymore, is it guys?

Might want to think about your role in all this, too.

All-Day Impeachment Buffet

As Alex Seitz-Wald and Benjy Sarlin remind us, the move by House Republicans to begin the impeachment process of a President Hillary Clinton will officially begin on November 9th.

In the last few weeks alone, dozens of House Republicans have demanded that a special prosecutor investigate the Clinton Foundation for possible conflicts of interest. Sen. Ted Cruz has called for a "serious criminal investigation" into a Democratic operative featured in a sting video by conservative activist James O'Keefe. And Speaker Paul Ryan promised "aggressive oversight work in the House" of an alleged "quid pro quo" deal between the FBI and the State Department over reclassifying an email on Clinton's private server. 
Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who would likely serve as the chief antagonist of a second Clinton White House as chair the House Oversight Committee, told Fox News last week the "quid pro quo" claim alone was worth at least "four new hearings," claiming it was a "flashing red light of potential criminality." 
Both the FBI and State Department say no quid pro quo took place, and that the incident was a misunderstanding. But the episode is one of many that conservative commentators, watchdog groups and lawmakers will almost certainly return to well after election day. 
"You're going to still have a clamor for a serious criminal investigation of Mrs. Clinton's conduct with respect to her emails and the [Clinton] Foundation," Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, which has spearheaded legal efforts against Bill and Hillary Clinton for years, told NBC News. "There's been no systematic investigation of various issues." 

You know, except for the systematic investigation of various issues by multiple House Republican committees, the FBI, the State Department, and several inspectors general, just to name a few.

After Trump spent months telling the party's base the election is rigged, Republicans in oversight roles will face tremendous pressure to expose Clinton's perceived corruption
"I know this generation of Republican leaders is loathe to exercise these tolls, but impeachment is something that's relevant," said Fitton, who criticizes Republican lawmakers for failing to pre-emptively impeach Clinton. "They see [the oversight process] as an opportunity in some measure to keep their opponents off-kilter, but they don't want to do the substantive and principled work to truly hold corrupt politicians, or the administration, or anyone accountable."

So yes, for all you folks going "Thank god the election will be over in two weeks" please remember that impeachment proceedings will be getting underway almost immediately.  And when they do happen, if you thought Benghazi and emailgate and Operation Fast and Furious GOP witch hunts were fun, expect the entire GOP House under a Clinton administration to be one long multi-year investigation that goes nowhere.

Jason Chaffetz, the Utah congressman wrapping up his first term atop the powerful House Oversight Committee, unendorsed Donald Trump weeks ago. That freed him up to prepare for something else: spending years, come January, probing the record of a President Hillary Clinton. 
It’s a target-rich environment,” the Republican said in an interview in Salt Lake City’s suburbs. “Even before we get to Day One, we’ve got two years’ worth of material already lined up. She has four years of history at the State Department, and it ain’t good.”
Unless of course the Democrats manage to win the House back, in which case impeachment proceedings in a lame duck session will begin immediately while GOP House members still have gavels to bang.  And should the GOP control the Senate too, well, expect the unfilled seat of the late Justice Scalia to remain empty along with all other federal bench appointments if Sen. Ted Cruz has anything to say about it.

Speaking to reporters after a campaign rally for a Republican U.S. Senate candidate here, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) said that there was “precedent” for a Supreme Court with fewer than nine justices — appearing to suggest that the blockade on nominee Merrick Garland could last past the election.

“You know, I think there will be plenty of time for debate on that issue,” said Cruz, when he was asked whether a Republican-controlled Senate should hold votes on a President Hillary Clinton’s nominees. “There is certainly long historical precedent for a Supreme Court with fewer justices. I would note, just recently, that Justice Breyer observed that the vacancy is not impacting the ability of the court to do its job. That’s a debate that we are going to have.”

A debate I'm sure that will last four years at the minimum.  Of course, voters can do something about that now.  Let's hope they do. Enjoy!


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Last Call For The War Next Door

Mother Jones reporter Shane Bauer went deep into the Three Percenter militia movement to talk to its leadership and interviewed militia co-founder Mike "Fifty Cal" Morris.  Mike's just your average, friendly neighborhood insurrectionist advocating the overthrow of the US government, you see.

In 2013, Mike Morris, a Marines veteran and IT manager from Colorado, cofounded a militia group called Three Percent United Patriots (3UP). This armed faction was an offshoot of the larger Three Percenter movement, which sprung up after the election of Barack Obama. The movement's members take their name from the belief that just three percent of American colonists were responsible for overthrowing the British in the Revolutionary War, and that it will take three percent of today's Americans to bring about the "restoration of the Founders' Republic." Today, 3UP is likely the largest militia in the country, with active branches in more than a dozen states. Morris says that membership "exploded" after the Black Lives Matter protests in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014. He boasts that the Colorado branch now has 3,400 members. 
After months of training undercover with militias in California, earlier this year I traveled to southern Arizona to join 3UP's Operation Spring Break. At least twice a year, militia members from around the country set up a heavily armed base in the Arizona desert and patrol the US-Mexico border for people entering the country illegally. Morris, also known as Fifty Cal, runs the operations, planning daytime and nighttime missions from his Kodiak trailer in the "forward operating base." When I first met Morris, he only knew me as a low-ranking militia member. I later caught up with him, told him I was a journalist, and asked for an interview.

And this guy is a real piece of work.

Shane Bauer: How did you get involved in the militia movement and patriot movement? 
Mike Morris: I got involved in the militia movement back in the late '90s. I was involved in state militias in Colorado and then got involved in a group called the Tyranny Response Team, which I was one of the original members of. 
SB: What attracted you to the militia movement? 
MM: I was always raised to be patriotic; to believe that protecting the nation is my duty. I went into the Marine Corps straight out of high school and when I got out of the Marines, joining a militia seemed like the way to continue serving my country. In 2013, Mitch Nerem and I formed the Three Percent United Patriots, which has become one of the largest national patriot organizations. We didn't plan for 3UP to be this big national organization. We really started by focusing on Colorado. Colorado is built up now to over 3,400 members. We have trainings every week. 
SB: What is the goal of 3UP? 
MM: The object for 3UP is to unite patriot groups across the United States and to build a patriot network of shared resources, education, and training. We set out to train people to be able to take care of themselves, protect their families. We are preparing for anything, from bad snowstorms to a blackout. I can tell you what we're not: We're not an organization trying to take over the government. That being said, we do have an interest in trying to preserve what we see as the founding principles of the nation as codified by the Bill of Rights. We're not out looking for some newfound revolution. But we are prepared, should the day come, to defend our nation, defend our neighbors, and defend our way of life. I don't think there's a lot of patriots out there that are looking to run from the fight, but it's not the patriots that are gonna bring the fight.

And this is what I don't get.  This is like pretending to be citizen police just in case police can't do the job.  It's a cop out, to expect tyranny and be "ready for it" but then saying you're not here to overthrow the government, and he gives away the game a bit further down.

SB: What do you think of the federal government? 
MM: The federal government is becoming tyrannical. I think that they have broadly overreached in many aspects. We see it in the Second Amendment, but we see it in the First Amendment too. There's talk about what you can say, when you can say it. Loretta Lynch came out herself and said people who make disparaging comments against Muslims should be charged with hate crimes. We see the federal government getting involved in everything from school lunches to firearms to how you can talk. Twenty years ago we didn't need all these laws and rules. Things seemed to work just fine

Make America Great Again.  And it always comes back to "We don't like the federal government doing things we don't agree with, so we're willing to resort to non-legal and armed methods in order to deal with that."

Just call it what it is, armed insurrection, and be honest about your beliefs.

The Green Hill To Die On

For a Morehouse man, Marc Lamont Hill disappoints me greatly as he says he's voting Green and that it's preferable to have Trump to Clinton.

Hill not only talked about his road to success—from dropping out of Morehouse to homelessness, from selling incense on the streets of Atlanta to receiving a Ph.D.—but also made it clear that when it comes to the 2016 presidential election, there is no “lesser of two evils” in our current political duopoly
W.E.B. Du Bois said in 1956, “I believe that democracy has so far disappeared in the United States that no ‘two evils’ exist.” Hill takes that philosophy and makes it plain.

The DNC disappointed me because it looked like a Republican convention. … 
“[Democrats] tried to take the patriotism language that the Republicans usually use in their conferences and used it for their own. They talked about war. They talked about the economy in a way that sounded like Republicans from 20 years ago. Part of the reason it was so easy for Melania to jack Michelle Obama’s speech is because they’re all saying the same stuff. 
I’m not scared of Trump. I’m scared of us as a country moving in the wrong direction. … Republicans are always talking about terrorism, but Democrats are playing on a certain kind of terrorism, too. They’re essentially saying, ‘If you don’t vote for us, then you’re going to have Donald Trump and your life will be ruined.’ If you frame that as the choice, you never get to demand what you actually deserve and what you actually want. 

Except for the small problem that a two-party representative democracy doesn't work like that, and that the people do actually decide what they want.  If enough people voted for Jill Stein, she would be president. They're not, and that doesn't make the other 99% of America using fear tactics as terrorists or too stupid to be allowed to vote, it means, as our resident pain in the ass puts it, that Jill Stein has not made the case to the American people.
When D.J. Envy asked did Hill “like” Hillary Clinton, he responded unapologetically:

I wouldn’t vote for her. I’m voting for the Green Party. … They’re not going to win this election. But if the differences between the two candidates aren’t vast enough, then I would rather introduce a third candidate to build a movement. Because every four years we say, ‘The third party can’t win.’ So we never invest in the third party. We never grow the third party. If they get 5 percent of the vote, they can be in the debates. And if they’re in the debates, now we can change the conversation. 
After Envy said that Democrats voting third party would take votes away from Clinton, ultimately paving the way for a Donald Trump presidency, Hill laid the truth on the table: 
I would rather have Trump be president for four years and build a real left-wing movement that can get us what we deserve as a people, than to let Hillary be president and we stay locked in the same space where we don’t get what we want..

I am terribly tired of this argument, that somehow anyone pointing out the very real damage that Donald Trump would do to our country should be dismissed as promoting "fear-mongering".  It's not fear-mongering given his own statements and behavior.  Keeping him out of the White House should be a no-brainer and yet we have people who still haven't figured out that the country will be greatly diminished with Trump in the Oval Office.  Fire burns things, and people who point out that fire, if used incorrectly, can cause great damage aren't called "fear-mongers" by National Park Rangers

The cost to pay for a coalition based on stopping a Trump presidency in 2020 is too high to pay, particularly since we can easily stop it now before said presidency ever happens here in 2016, but I don't have a Ph.D. like Marc here.

Guess I'm just a fear-mongering fear-monger.

It's About (Voter) Suppression, Con't.

Trump's real legacy, that of destroying confidence in the American election system, is growing more pernicious by the day.  Greg Sargent notes that the party divide on which is a larger issue, voter suppression or voter fraud, isn't even close.

The Public Religion Research Institute released a remarkable new poll this morning that confirms the point. It finds that a huge majority of Republican respondents say voter fraud is a bigger problem than restricted access to voting is. And there is a striking racial divide on this question as well — more on that in a moment. 
The poll finds that among Americans overall, only 43 percent have a great deal of confidence that their votes will be counted accurately. That’s unfortunate, to be sure. Meanwhile, the partisan divide is notable: 55 percent of Democrats have a great deal of confidence in the vote counting, while 44 percent of Republicans and 41 percent of Trump supporters feel the same way. 
Here’s where it gets worse. Only 37 percent of Americans believe that “people casting votes who are not eligible to vote” is a bigger problem than “eligible voters being denied the right to vote,” which is seen as a bigger problem by 41 percent. But a huge majority of Republicans sees the former as the bigger problem:

Roughly two-thirds (66%) of Republicans believe voter fraud is a bigger problem than voter disenfranchisement, compared to only 19% of Democrats. More than six in ten (62%) Democrats say eligible voters being denied access is the bigger problem facing the election system
The racial divide is also striking. According to numbers provided to me by PRRI, African Americans say that denial of access to eligible voting is the bigger problem by 66-21, while whites say that voter fraud is the bigger problem by 42-35. But as Ari Berman recently demonstrated, voter suppression is a far more extensive problem than is voter fraud, which is virtually nonexistent:

The real danger to American democracy stems from GOP efforts to make it harder to vote. New voting restrictions — like voter-ID laws, cuts to early voting and barriers to voter registration — that are in place in 14 states for the first time in 2016 will make it harder for millions of eligible voters to cast a ballot. And voters are lacking crucial protections because this is the first presidential election in 50 years without the full provisions of the Voting Rights Act…. It’s incredibly unlikely there will be widespread voter fraud on Election Day. But there will be eligible voters who show up to vote and are turned away from the polls. That’s the real threat to election integrity we should be focusing on. 
Yet the public is closely divided on this question, and Republican voters are overwhelmingly think voter fraud is the bigger problem.

Republicans will continue to blame "voter fraud" for every loss that they suffer from here on out, particularly "voter fraud" by black and Latino voters.  They will then continue to try as hard as possible to keep black and Latino voters from voting at all.

That's the real fight going forward.


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Last Call For Harry's Big Exit

As you're probably aware, Senate minority leader Harry Reid is hanging up his boxing gloves this year as Republican Joe Heck and Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto battle it out over his Nevada seat.  Right now it's looking pretty good for Cortez Masto who has taken a slim lead for the first time in state polling, indeed Cook Political Report's latest Senate forecast has the Democrats picking up five to seven seats and regaining control of the Senate.

Early voting is underway in 27 states, so Republicans don’t really have much time to turn things around, and Trump won’t be any help, especially his campaign doesn’t really have a ground game to speak of. The GOP’s only hope is to start running a checks-and-balances message, or more blatantly, a don’t-give-Clinton-a-blank-check message to motivate their base, particularly what one strategist called “casual Republicans,” to the polls. We are starting to see that message in some red and purple states as candidates work to tie Democratic candidate to Clinton.

History shows that races in the Toss Up column never split down the middle; one party tends to win the lion’s share of them. Since 1998, no party has won less than 67 percent of the seats in Toss Up. While the 2016 election has broken every political science rule and trend, we’d be surprised if this becomes one of them.

As such, we are increasing the range of expected Democratic pick ups to five to seven seats. This means that we feel that the prospect that Democrats will have at least 51 seats is greater than the odds of a tied Senate, or of Republicans somehow holding their majority.

So in a future Clinton administration with the Democrats poised to have 51 to 53 Senate seats, that still means that Republicans can go back to filibustering everything like they did in 2012 and blame the Dems to great effect in 2014 and win the Senate right back in two years. And this time around, it would mean an almost guaranteed block on any Clinton nomination to the Supreme Court.

But maybe Harry Reid has the solution.

The outgoing Democratic leader told Talking Points Memo that he's paved the way for what would be a historic change of the Senate's rules, allowing Supreme Court nominees to bypass a 60-vote procedural requirement and be approved by a simple majority. 
"I really do believe that I have set the Senate so when I leave, we’re going to be able to get judges done with a majority," he said. "It’s clear to me that if the Republicans try to filibuster another circuit court judge, but especially a Supreme Court justice, I’ve told 'em how and I’ve done it, not just talking about it. I did it in changing the rules of the Senate. It’ll have to be done again."

Reid's comments come as Senate Republicans have refused to give Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, a hearing or a vote for more than eight months. They argue that the vacancy from Justice Antonin Scalia's death should be filled by the president's successor.

Reid, who has previously floated changing the rules in 2017, added to TPM that if Republicans "mess with the Supreme Court, it'll be changed just like that in my opinion. So I’ve set that up. I feel very comfortable with that.”

Not just a threat but a promise.  We'll see how the future plays out, but I'm hoping the Dems are ready to move to nuke the filibuster.

Breaking Obamacare: Missions Accomplished

The news, just before the election, that Obamacare premiums will jump an average of 22%, is just bad for Democrats across the board no matter how you slice it. Republican governors refusing to take money set aside to soften the blow for consumers through expanded Medicaid and health insurance companies bailing out of the single-plan market have largely succeeded in damaging the system in enough states to put the burden on shifting costs to premiums as Sarah Kliff explains.

Premiums are rising on the Obamacare marketplaces largely because the people who signed up for coverage were sicker than the insurance companies expected. This led some health insurers (like Aetna and UnitedHealth) to leave the marketplace. The insurance companies that stayed behind realized they’d have to charge higher premiums in order to cover their members’ medical bills.

What does this mean for Obamacare customers? Most Obamacare enrollees (83 percent) receive subsidies that limit the amount they have to spend on premiums. They only have to spend a certain percent of their income, and then the government will cover the rest.

These people will likely be somewhat insulated from the premium increases. But the premium hike could still be disruptive. These people might have to switch to a new plan if another insurer is offering a lower premium than the one they currently use.

But another 17 percent of Obamacare enrollees don’t receive premium subsidies. And these people are going to be in a really tough spot. They’ll need to decide whether they want to continue spending more to buy their same coverage — or if the insurance doesn’t provide enough value at the higher price.

What does this mean for the future of the law more generally? That’s really hard to tell right now — but there seems to be two plausible interpretations of the data.

One is that this is a one-time course correction. When Obamacare launched, premiums were much lower than analysts had expected. Insurance plans are now bringing their premiums more in line with expectations, and after they do that, they won’t have to make these big rate increases again.

The other is that this is the start of a series of higher rate increases for the health care law — that these new, high premiums might encourage some healthy people (especially those without subsidies) to leave the individual market. Subsides act as a powerful counter-balance to this second scenario, though, by capping enrollees’ contributions.

In either case, these numbers are bad news for Obamacare — we just don’t know how bad, exactly, the news is at this point.

Keep in mind that Republicans and health insurance companies are extremely eager to make the second scenario real, figuring that if they can wreck the system badly enough, and make their own constituents and customers suffer enough, that they will demand a full repeal of Obamacare to be replaced by a Republican "plan" of some sort.

The fact any Republican plan wouldn't actually lower premiums at all but dramatically cut coverage and put millions of Americans back in jeopardy of medical bankruptcy every year, well, somebody has to pay for it, after all.

I don't think this will cost Clinton the race, it's too late for Trump at this point.  But if I'm a Republican strategist in a Senate or House race, or a governor's contest in a red state, I just got handed the lifeline that could very well keep Congress in GOP control and put GOP governors in Missouri, NH, Vermont and WV with more empty promises of "Forcing Clinton to repeal Obamacare".  Hell it might even save Mike Pence's chair in Indiana and even Pat McCrory's job in NC.

We'll see if there's enough time left to affect downticket races.

Frankly Stein's Monster, Con't

Even this late in the game we have third party stupidity from people who should know better (i.e. anyone not named H.A. Goodman) involving Jill Stein and voting for the Green Party as a magical cure-all from the horrific Clinton administration that hasn't happened yet. Today's contestant is Vox's Ben Spielberg.

There is both a principled and strategic component to voting choices in presidential elections. In principle, citizens should cast their votes for whichever candidate’s views align most with their own. Strategic voting, on the other hand, includes a voter’s assessment of the probability that various voting choices will lead to desired outcomes. 
These components are related to some degree; voters are more likely to agree about which candidate to vote for if they agree in principle on which candidate is best. Yet principled and strategic voting are not the same. One might believe a third-party candidate to be optimal, for example, but still vote for a major party candidate because of the higher probability that the major party candidate will win the election. 
This decision can be a self-fulfilling prophecy —third-party candidates would be more electable if their supporters decided to vote for them — but it can also be rational, depending on how one evaluates the differences between major party candidates and the downside risk to voting for a bad nominee. 
I believe social justice advocates committing to vote for Hillary Clinton in the present election have a misguided strategy — I’d argue that good policy in the United States is set back more by strict lesser-evilsism than by the possibility of a Trump presidency. (In short, millions of people are suffering under the status quo, and I think a pledge to vote for a Democrat who won’t fundamentally change that just because she’s better than Trump deprives us of the bargaining power we need to challenge the status quo in the long run.) But I respect that others evaluate the trade-offs inherent in third-party voting this year differently. Their reasoning is generally coherent.  
What isn’t coherent, however, is many Democrats’ ridicule of the Jill Stein candidacy on principle. If they believe what they say they believe — that America needs aggressive action to dismantle institutional racism and sexism, combat climate change, end mass incarceration, promote a richer democracy, and achieve economic justice — they should acknowledge that Stein is the candidate who, if elected, would be most likely to advance those goals. Stein’s platform is significantly better than Clinton’s, and, unlike with Clinton, there’s little reason to doubt that what Stein currently says gels with what she’d actually support if she became our next president.

So if you really cared, you'd vote for Stein instead of Clinton, and that if Trump ends up president, that's actually better "policy" for marginalized groups.  Come to think of it, that's actually H.A. Goodman's exact argument before he went full alt-right and dedicated his platform to destroying Clinton and everyone who votes for her.

I really do love such helpful advice from holier-than-thou liberals about voting.


Monday, October 24, 2016

Last Call For The Italian Job

Don't look now, but we could be six weeks away from yet another Brexit-level crisis in Europe, this time as Italy faces a referendum in early December that will make or break the government of Italian PM Matteo Renzi.

In the town of Pontida at the foot of the Italian Alps, Alberto Frassoni cheerfully admits he knows nothing about the country’s upcoming referendum, not even the date. 
What the unemployed 48-year-old does know is that the economy isn’t working for him. 
“The euro ruined us because prices doubled,” says Frassoni, who supports the anti-immigrant Northern League that wants Italy to abandon the single currency. “A few things have changed, there are better public services for young and old people, but my job opportunities haven’t changed.” Foreigners “have taken work away from me,” he says. 
It’s the sort of discontent that populists are thriving on, taking them from the vocal fringes of politics right into the mainstream. After Britain’s stunning decision to withdraw from the European Union, now comes another ballot that could topple a leader should Italy defy Prime Minister Matteo Renzi over what, on paper at least, is the constitutional issue of reducing the size and powers of the Senate.

Should the December 4th referendum fail, Renzi has promised to resign as PM, and a narrow loss is looking more and more possible as Italy turns to protectionism and populism (sound familiar?)

What is clear is that many voters don’t know what it’s really about. They fret over the economy, immigration and Italy’s future in or out of the euro. 
Renzi, 41, now has a little over a month to champion a reform that promises to end the political instability that has toppled dozens of governments since World War II. But polls show he could be narrowly defeated, an outcome that is likely to lead to elections and potentially a leader who wants to take Italy out of the euro. 
Pontida stands out neither for its beauty nor rough edges, riches nor poverty. Every year, though, it hosts the annual rally of the Northern League, making it a touchstone for its followers. A poster on the main street proclaims: “Renzi slave of Europe and banks.”
The good news for the prime minister is that Frassoni, a former delivery driver, is among a third of the electorate who polls show might not even vote. There’s also at least 20 percent of voters who haven’t made up their minds in surveys that put Renzi’s “Yes” campaign trailing by four percentage points.

It's a bold move by Renzi, but if it fails, Italy will almost certainly elect a PM who will want to make sure that Italy is the next country out of the euro currency or the EU entirely.

Keep an eye on this one.  So far the EU has dodged plebiscite bullets in Spain but Lithuania's new government is very nationalist and more such elections around Europe are certainly on the way, the big one being France next year where President Hollande is pretty much doomed and Marine Le Pen and her French Trumpites are waiting in the wings.

2017 is the year the EU could crack up completely, folks.  We may get out alive in November but the rest of the world won't be so lucky.

The Next Midterm Massacre

Chris Cillizza makes the case that even if the Democrats win back the Senate and achieve the impossible and win back the heavily gerrymandered House, that a 2018 Democratic midterm meltdown (without Donald Trump to drag down the GOP ballot) all but guarantees Republican control of Congress for the second half of a Clinton term.

If we are being honest, the presidential race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is effectively over. Which means that the big fight over the next 15 days is for control of the Senate, where Democrats need a net gain of four seats to retake control. 
That prospect is looking more and more likely of late — thanks in large part to Trump’s collapse at the top of the ticket, a fall that appears to be dragging down the likes of Richard Burr in North Carolina, Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire and Joseph J. Heck in Nevada.

What few people talk about — but should — is that this could be a very short-lived majority for Senate Democrats, as the 2018 field is remarkably bad for them. 
The numbers for that year are stunning: 25 Democratic or Democratic-affiliated independents are up for reelection, compared with just eight Republicans. That’s as lopsided an election cycle as you will ever see.

But a look inside the numbers makes the Democrats’ challenge in 2018 all the more daunting. Fully 20 percent of the 25 Democratic seats are in states that then-Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney carried in 2012 (and even Trump is likely to carry on Nov. 8): Indiana, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota and West Virginia. 
All five Democratic incumbents in those states are expected to run for reelection, a prospect that gives Democrats a chance in each. But with 2018 looking almost certain to be the first midterm election of a Hillary Clinton presidency, it’s hard to see how her party avoids major losses in red states.

I hate to even consider the notion that a twit like Cillizza is correct, but...he's correct.  Jon Tester, Heidi Heitkamp, Joe Donnelly, Claire McCaskill and Joe Manchin are all going to face very long odds in 2018, plus Tim Kaine's seat would be open in Virginia and Sherrod Brown in Ohio, Bill Nelson in Florida, and Bob Casey in Pennsylvania would all be incumbent Dems with seats in play.

And if the midterms are yet another disaster the way 2010 and especially 2014 were, Democrats losing all of those seats would be a nightmare.  There's nothing at this point to make me think the DNC has their crap together enough to pull it off, either.

I'm not saying this is a done deal by any means, but the time for Dems to get the ball moving on defending the ramparts is going to be November 9th.  A third midterm disaster is just going to undo any gains made this year and then some.

But now that I've got that out of my system, the time to start moving on 2018 is just a few weeks away.  I know people don't want to hear that, but it's what the GOP is going to do, trust me.

We have to be ready.

The Big Orange Log Cabin

When it comes to LGBTQ rights and the Republican Party, apparently there are folks who sincerely believe that Donald Trump is the best the GOP is going to get on the issue to the point where they freely say they will continue to back him over Hillary Clinton folks like California GOP delegate Charles Moran.

As Trump’s chances of winning the election appear to continue to drop in the waning days of his campaign, many gay conservatives, an unexpected segment of the Republican Party, are still backing him.

“Donald Trump is the best candidate that the LGBT community has ever seen come out of the Republican Party,” Moran said. “We see a consistent line from Donald Trump that being pro LGBT and pro inclusion is a good business decision and I believe he’s going to bring that with him in the White House."

Trump earned a lot of credibility with gay Republicans when he became the first GOP presidential nominee to positively refer to the gay community in a convention acceptance speech, saying, “As your president, I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology. Believe me.”

When that comment drew applause from the audience, Trump then ad-libbed -- “And I have to say, as a Republican, it is so nice to hear you cheering for what I just said. Thank you.”

Moran said he was not expecting Trump to talk about the LGBTQ community in that speech.

“Right after his speech people were starting to text me, ‘What does the ‘Q’ stand for?’” Moran said. “So I said, ‘It’s either queer or questioning’ -- an instructional moment. And I like being able to have those with the Republican Party.”

Moran points to Trump’s LGBTQ inclusiveness at Mar-a-Largo -- Trump’s Florida country club -- where he says Trump broke with tradition by allowing gay members. Moran also notes that Trump publicly supported Elton John’s marriage to David Furnish.

“We see a consistent line from Donald Trump that being pro-LGBT and pro-inclusion is a good business decision and I believe he’s going to bring that with him in the White House,” Moran said.

Despite the fact that Trump’s Christian conservative running mate Mike Pence enacted anti-LGBTQ laws as governor of Indiana, such as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Moran said he’s comfortable with Pence because he’s “not running for president.”

Moran notes that Pence later amended the religious freedom law after meeting with LGBTQ groups, which he says shows Pence is willing to listen.

Moran said he does get a lot of flak from his friends for being a Trump supporter.

“The running joke is that it’s so much easier to be gay in the Republican Party than it is to be a Republican in the LGBT community,” he said.

And it's easy and reductive to call Moran "self-hating" and throw up your hands and say "what is wrong with them?" but that's as unfair as saying that about black Republicans or Latino Republicans or Asian Republicans who still support Trump.

My problem is wondering how you're still Republican at all with Trump as your candidate given the abject awfulness of his behavior and the rest of his stated platform.  As I've said before, the problem with Trump as the GOP candidate is not Trump, but the people who selected and accepted him as the nominee.  They are the folks who threw up their hands and said "Well, he's not Hillary."

When you stand for nothing, and are against everything that's happened over the last eight years in the White House, you get Trump. And these are Republicans who find Trump OK and Mike Pence to be a bridge too far?

PS, the official platform of the GOP on LGBTQ rights are "you have none."


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