Saturday, November 3, 2018

Last Call For That Little Domestic Terrorism Problem Of Ours, Con't

The suspect in Friday's deadly shooting at a yoga studio in Tallahassee, Florida was a right-wing nutjob incel loser who hated women, black folk, and immigrants and of course he loved him some Donald friggin Trump.

The man who shot dead two women at a yoga studio in Tallahassee, Florida, on Friday before killing himself was a far-right extremist and self-proclaimed misogynist who railed against women, black people, and immigrants in a series of online videos and songs.

Scott Beierle, 40, was named by Tallahassee Police as the shooter who opened fire inside the Hot Yoga Tallahassee studio, killing two and injuring four other women and a man.

Those killed were named as Dr. Nancy Van Vessem, 61, who worked at Florida State University’s College of Medicine, and FSU student Maura Binkley, 21.

On a YouTube channel in 2014, Beierle filmed several videos of himself offering extremely racist and misogynistic opinions, in which he called women “sluts” and “whores,” and lamented “the collective treachery” of girls he went to high school with.

“There are whores in — not only every city, not only every town, but every village,” he said, referring to women in interracial relationships, whom he said had betrayed “their blood.”

Officer Damon Miller of the Tallahassee Police Department said he could not tell BuzzFeed News whether women were specifically targeted in the attack or whether these online posts were the subject of detectives’ inquiries.

“Everything that he has a connection to we’re investigating right now,” Miller said.

Police said they were still investigating a motive, but noted Beierle had previously been investigated for harassing women.

In one video called “Plight of the Adolescent Male,” he named Elliot Rodger, who killed six people and injured 14 and is often seen as a hero for so-called incels, or those who consider themselves “involuntarily celibate.”

“I’d like to send a message now to the adolescent males ... that are in the position, the situation, the disposition of Elliot Rodger, of not getting any, no love, no nothing. This endless wasteland that breeds this longing and this frustration. That was me, certainly, as an adolescent,” he said.
This is the second deadly attack this year in which Rodger has been mentioned by the suspected assailant. A man who wrote anti-women references on his Facebook account allegedly killed 10 people in Toronto in April when he drove his van into a crowd. “The Incel Rebellion has already begun!” Alek Minassian wrote on Facebook prior to the attack in a post that also mentioned “the Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger!”

Nothing like a 40-year-old white guy who believes he's entitled to sex from women, and so frustrated with the fact he's not getting it that he opens fire in a yoga studio to kill a few of them on the way to checking out himself on the suicide express.

The fact is we make it, well, criminally easy for this to happen.  We're the only country in the world to see something like this happen and say "Oh well, price o' freedom" and go back to playing video games.

I'm tired of this.  We need to decide as a country that this needs to stop, and that means voting in people who will make it far harder to happen.

Seeing Some Sobering Senate Surprises

In Texas here in the final weekend of the 2018 midterms, Democratic Rep. Beto O'Rourke is throwing everything he has at GOP Sen. Ted Cruz, and Cruz is in a lot more trouble than Republicans are willing to admit.

Early Friday afternoon, on the last day of early voting, Jacque Callanen strutted out of the Bexar County Elections Department with a noticeable pep in her step and a smile on her face, her red, white and blue American flag slip-on shoes pounding against the pavement and her “Bexar County Elections” lanyard swinging freely back and forth.

“If you got to see the people behind the scenes right now, you would see them high-fiving,” said Callenen, who is the elections administrator of Bexar County.

That’s because her county, the fourth largest in Texas, saw what she said was record-breaking turnout during early voting this year. By the time the polls closed Thursday, 33.7 percent of registered voters in Bexar County had voted, well past the 17.3 percent turnout at the same point in 2014, the last midterm, and close to the presidential-year turnout recorded at the same point in 2012 and 2016.

And Bexar County’s election officials are not alone in having a lot to high-five each other about. Turnout during early voting in the state’s 30 largest counties easily surpassed the entire turnout – during the early voting period and on Election Day – of the 2014 midterm and continues to race toward the turnout seen in presidential election years.

In Harris County, the state’s largest county, 32.3 percent of registered voters had voted by the end of Thursday, compared to 15.5 percent at the same point in 2014. In Dallas County, the number was 35.1 percent, compared to 15.2 percent at the same point in 2014. Early voting turnout in Travis County had already surpassed total early voter turnout in both the 2014 midterm and the 2012 presidential election by the end of Thursday.

“We’ve got a lot of unhappy and activist voters out there who have been wanting to vote for a long time,” said Dana DeBeauvoir, the Travis County clerk. She attributed the bump in the number of voters to President Donald Trump.

Texas isn't a purple state or even a red state.  It's a non-voting stateAs I said earlier today, if turnout numbers really are as high as people are predicting, then all bets are off come Wednesday morning. Yes, the generation low turnout of 2014 was quite literally the lowest bar to overcome.  If early voting turnout in Texas hadn't easily eclipsed the total from four years ago, I wouldn't just be worried, I'd be despondent. But it has crushed those numbers, and Ted Cruz is fighting for his political life right now.

Unfortunately for Dems, the most vulnerable Senate seat they are in danger of losing is one many people are overlooking. Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota is in trouble, but so is Bob Menendez in New Jersey.

New Jersey Democrats are growing increasingly worried that Sen. Bob Menendez could lose his seat next week in an outcome that would undercut the party’s effort to take back the Senate.

Democratic strategists working on races across the state said in interviews that they have seen a remarkable decline in support for Menendez as his Republican opponent — former pharmaceutical executive Bob Hugin — poured $36 million of his own wealth into his campaign. Hugin has used much of the money to run a seemingly endless stream of negative campaign ads. Even as public opinion polls show the senator up by double digits, some insiders say a post-summer boost, hoped for by team Menendez, never arrived.

Hugin’s relentless attacks, which took a dark turn the last three weeks, have chipped away at the scandal-scarred senator’s standing with suburban voters and women, some strategists said. Menendez, running in a state that has 900,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans, is now struggling to hold on to areas where he should have massive support, some said. In several competitive congressional districts, internal polls show votes for Menendez running far behind support for a generic Democrat, one strategist said.

As Menendez’s aides insists they’re “confident” he’ll win, some allies are openly admitting things may not turn out as planned, saying the massive advertising campaign on the other side has been difficult to overcome.

“I think the race is a toss-up,” Loretta Weinberg, the Democratic majority leader of the state Senate, said in an interview. “I think it’s a fight, and we’re all in to continue fighting up until 8 p.m. on Election Day.”

Now, with three days until the election, Menendez is swinging wildly at his opponent, linking him to President Donald Trump, former Republican Gov. Chris Christie and even suggesting — falsely and without evidence — that Hugin was fired under questionable circumstances by investment bank JPMorgan nearly two decades ago. He’s furiously working to get out his base, cranking up the urban turnout machine with the help of Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and others.

All of that is playing out as national Democrats are dumping some $7 million into a state that hasn’t elected a Republican to the Senate since 1972.

I hope New Jersey comes to their senses and finds a way to reelect Menendez, but I have a feeling that when we find ourselves in "all bets are off" territory on Tuesday, there are going to be several surprises in the Senate.

There's no way Ted Cruz should lose in Texas.  There's no way Bob Menendez should lose in New Jersey either.  But I wouldn't bet any money on both of them winning.

We're going to see some major surprises in the House on Wednesday.  Some long-time House Republicans are most likely going to find themselves out of a job in a couple months, hopefully Steve King and maybe even Don Young in Alaska. There's also a lot of reason to believe that Democrat Phil Bresden can pull off a major upset in Tennessee and win back Al Gore's old Senate seat.

But when it comes to Cruz and Menendez, one of the two is going to get an unwelcome surprise.  Maybe both.

The Blue Wave Rises, Con't

Banal proclamation about midterms on Tuesday like "It's about turnout!" aside, as I've told readers, we're largely in uncharted territory when it comes to polling for this year's elections and that's because we really don't have any idea what "likely voter models" really represent in 2018, because we're so far outside the norm.  

Turnout in 2010 was decent, 41%, but Republicans destroyed the Democrats and picked up 63 House seats. Turnout in 2014 was dismal, 36%, but as a result Republicans regained the Senate and took the largest House margin they've had in generations by picking up 13 more seats.  And midterm turnout since I've been alive has largely been hovering around that 40% mark.  Back in the sixties and in 1970, midterm turnout was much higher, 47 or 48%, and Democrats had huge House margins, unthinkable in today's era of gerrymandering down to city blocks.

So what does all that mean in 2018?  As Vanity Fair's Peter Hamby reminds us, if Virginia in 2017 is anything to go by, the polls break down completely if midterm turnout is as high as it was 50 years ago.

In the final week before Election Day last November in Virginia, where the commonwealth was electing a new governor, the polls were tightening. Republican Ed Gillespie, was, like Donald Trump before him, tapping into immigration fears by running campaign ads about the threat of the violent MS-13 gang and sanctuary cities. Polls showed Gillespie was suddenly within 3 points of the Democratic front-runner, Ralph Northam, who had held a sturdier lead for much of the year. Were Democrats about to blow another big race in a battleground state? Were last minute Republican efforts to exploit racial fears actually working? Could Northam lose even with an unpopular president in the White House? That scenario would defy the logic of every previous off-year election in modern times, but never mind. The punditry machine, huffing Twitter fumes, gassed itself up. The day before the election, three out of four panelists on MSNBC’s Morning Joe solemnly predicted a Northam loss.

The fourth, Harold Ford Jr., predicted a toss-up, but not without pre-writing an obituary. “Democrats are going to look back and wonder, if he does not win, did we lose on the crime issue, did we lose on the public-safety issue?,” Ford offered. Meanwhile, Mika Brzezinski wondered whether the governor’s race in a state populated by 8.5 million people might hinge on “the Donna Brazile stuff,” a niche beltway Twitter scandal so forgettable that I had to Google it to recall what it was about, despite the fact that I cover politics for a living and grew up in central Virginia. Turns out Brazile wrote a book trashing Hillary Clinton’s campaign, which surely weighed heavily on the minds of voters in Roanoke.

Not only did Northam win the Virginia race, he won by 9 points, a polling error more substantial than anything we saw in 2016. Gillespie, it turns out, actually won more votes than any previous statewide Republican candidate; he had enthusiasm at his back. It’s just that Democrats had more—and they blew the doors off on Election Day. The whole spectacle was yet another blow to polling and to punditry, two industries sullied by Trump’s victory in 2016. 
The Virginia result went mostly unexamined after the results came in, as everyone in politics quickly moved on to the latest Trump thing. But the question of why Northam outperformed the polls, and why polls continue to wield such mystical power over the political press, is worth keeping in mind as America prepares to head to the polls next Tuesday. Every piece of evidence we have about voting behavior during the Trump presidency—special elections in various corners of the country, public and internal polls, early voting data in key states—indicates that we are heading for a midterm election with explosively high turnout. University of Florida professor Michael McDonald, who studies voting patterns, estimated recently that almost 50 percent of eligible voters could cast ballots this year, a turnout level not seen in a midterm election in 50 years. Trump, in his way, is loudly trying to juice Republican turnout in red-leaning Senate races by demagoguing the threat of illegal border crossings, which happen to be at their lowest point in decades.

Enthusiasm in this election, though, is mostly fueled by Democrats. Aside from college-educated white women, much of the Democratic coalition in 2018 is comprised of voters—young people, African-Americans, and Hispanics—who don’t typically show up in midterm elections. And the main thing to remember about high-turnout elections, especially ones that bring non-traditional voters into the mix, is that strange things can happen. House seats once thought to be safe are suddenly in jeopardy, like Republican Steve King’ssolidly red seat in Iowa now appears to be.

Still, in the press, it seems written in stone that Democrats will take back the House but fail to take the Senate, thanks to an unfavorable map that has too many Democratic incumbents running in Trump-friendly states like Missouri, North Dakota, West Virginia, Indiana, and Montana. The prospect of a House-Senate split is the most likely outcome according to the polls and veteran handicappers, and that probability has already started congealing into conventional wisdom. New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, writing last weekend, said this scenario is “the sensible thing to root for,” the best way to constrain Trump’s impulses but also an unchecked liberalism.

Polls remain our best tool for reading the electorate and discerning important trends, which is why journalists, handicappers, and campaign managers depend on them so much. Entire media companies are devoted to explaining them. But polls are not predictive. They are wobbly around the margins. Pollsters, the honest ones at least, know this and repeat the warning over and over again. Yet even the shock of 2016 hasn’t stopped people in the media from making predictions about next Tuesday. Journalists, at least on their Twitter accounts, have started to write off certain Senate races. Tennessee is one, North Dakota another. Joe Donnelly was left for dead last week, until a new NBC/Marist poll came out this week, showing him ahead by 2 points. In Nevada, a recent Emerson pollshowed incumbent Republican Dean Heller ahead of challenger Jacky Rosen by 7 points, prompting a chorus of worried groans from Democrats. People who know better urged caution.

“Consistently, the public polling here is garbage,” Nevada political journalist Jon Ralston told me. He pointed out that public polling in Nevada underestimated Democratic performance in every one of the last six competitive statewide elections. In 2010, Harry Reidwas losing to Republican Sharron Angle by 3 points heading into election day. He won by 5.7. “Polls here under-represent Democratic turnout in general. They under-represent Hispanics,” Ralston said. “I don’t know why no one has learned.” Funny stuff happens when people who don’t mainline CNN for a living actually vote.

Then there’s Texas, where Democrat Beto O’Rourke appears to have reclaimed some late momentum against Republican Ted Cruz,who expanded his lead in the race after the Brett Kavanaughhearings energized G.O.P. voters. Right-leaning analysts have fallen all over themselves to mock the endless stream of Texas polling and the glowing coverage O’Rourke has received from the national press. Republican pollster Patrick Ruffini tweeted that “Beto is and has always been fanfic.” The Weekly Standard published an otherwise sensible piece about the race on Wednesday under the headline “Beto-Mania Is a Joke (Probably).” Yeah, O’Rourke might lose. That’s the most likely outcome and the best bet. But here’s a wild concept: he also might win.

So yes, the blue wave scenario is actually really simple: Democrats turn out in numbers that utterly overwhelm Republican voter suppression efforts.  If this is another year where turnout is 38-42%, the polls are probably pretty accurate, because that's what the likely voter models are based on.  That's still pretty decent news for the Dems as we've seen, at least for the House.

But if turnout is closer to 50%, the likely voter models come apart instantly.  Odds are those additional voters are going to be pulling the levers for the Democrats.  At that point, all bets are off as to where things go, but the possibility of not just a blue wave but a surprise blue tsunami does exist.  I remain extremely skeptical, precisely because of those wildly successful GOP voter suppression efforts in states where Dems are trying to defend those Senate seats.

But let's remember that even in "high" turnout years, the vast majority of eligible voters still don't show up in midterms, and that only helps the GOP.

We need to make 50%+ turnout midterms and 75%+ turnout presidential election years the norm.


Expanding The Map In Georgia

Going into the final days of the 2018 campaign, Democrat Stacey Abrams is in a neck-and-neck race with Republican Brian Kemp for the Georgia governor's race.  Kemp, who has not recused himself as Secretary of State and will remain in charge of counting the votes in his own race, has done everything he can to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of Georgia Democratic voters in a race that will probably be decided by just tens of thousands of votes.  But if Abrams wins, it will be because of black women turning out at presidential election levels in order to expand Medicaid in the wake of a Republican-created public health crisis.

Money, lives, and change. Those three words could roughly summarize any political race, but seem especially important in the state today. The issues facing much of the Georgia electorate are fairly simple: The state is the fifth-poorest in the nation. Its median wages and minimum wages are both below the national average. Across all races, the poor are underserved, often lack insurance, and face remarkably high rates of mortality and morbidity from preventable diseases. The state has huge swaths of rural land whose communities often lack basic services. Outside the urban oasis of the Atlanta metropolitan area, Georgia faces as many challenges to the health and welfare of its citizens as any state in the country. The most important policy issues in the governor’s race boil down to each candidate’s ability to fill those gaps.

But there’s a special dimension in Georgia that could very well mean the difference next week. The state is in the grip of a crisis, one that affects, in particular, the lives of black women like Abrams and like those who form the foundation of her coalition and organizing base. Across the country, black women’s health—particularly the fate of mothers and their newborns—is in peril, and mortality rates have spiked. Nowhere is this truer than in Georgia: The issue has been front and center in mobilizing black women, and it’s central to the policy platform of the candidate seeking to be the first black woman governor in U.S. history. To black women in Georgia, the stakes of the debate over health-care access are no less than life or death.

Perhaps no one is more aware of those stakes than Joy Baker. Baker is an ob-gyn in Thomaston, a little more than an hour south of Atlanta. Thomaston is the picture of a small southern town. It has a Main Street and a Church Street. The town was built around a mill that’s long gone, but it’s still a hub for basic services for people living in the deeply rural surrounding areas. For hundreds of poor, rural women, Baker’s practice in the Upson Regional Medical Center is the sole lifeline. Half of the rural areas in Georgia don’t have any doctors’ offices, hospitals, or clinics where women can seek obstetric care. That means Baker is responsible not just for the care of people in and around Thomaston, but also for women from an average of 40 miles away.

“Twenty-five percent of my patient population lives below the poverty line, on less than $17,000 per year,” Baker told me. Her patients are disproportionately African American. The vast majority of them are on Medicaid, which by federal mandate covers pregnancy and perinatal services for women under or near the poverty line. They often have to rely on booking Medicaid vans three days in advance to get to doctor visits because they can’t afford gas or don’t have cars. “Some of my patients can’t even afford a prescription at Walmart for $4,” Baker says.

Baker told me that at least 60 percent of her patients qualify as having “high-risk” pregnancies, often because of obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other comorbidities common among poor and rural populations. For most of those women, the nine-plus months of pre- and postnatal care they are guaranteed under federal law are the only regular primary and preventive care they’ll receive in a given year.

“I see an average of 30 to 40 patients per day in my clinic,” Baker says. “That’s way more than I’d like to be seeing, but I have to be able to accommodate.” Her average week includes two 24-hour shifts in a row, during which she alternates between working in the maternity ward, in the emergency room, and in the operating rooms of her hospital, as well as in her clinic across the street. For her and the one other doctor in her practice, it’s a Herculean task just to provide an adequate standard of care—often squeezed into 10-minute visits.

Baker’s patients often have chronic conditions that her office can address only while they’re there for pregnancy-related care. That includes the mental-health problems that have come to characterize rural American life. Most often, the mental-health dangers associated with pregnancy and childbirth involve postpartum depression, but Baker sees women who are already depressed, suffering from undiagnosed disorders, or having suicidal ideations before and during pregnancy. She’s also obtained a special license to treat opioid addiction among women who want to rehabilitate themselves during pregnancy. “We don’t have any mental-health services and supports,” Baker told me.

Her office tries to confront those challenges head on, counseling patients and finding psychiatric services for them. And Baker utilizes group prenatal care—an attempt to alleviate patients’ potential isolation and to provide women with support networks that can help their pregnancy outcomes.

But there are mounting structural issues that even Baker’s ingenuity and willpower can’t fix. Dozens of labor-and-delivery units across the state have faced closures in the past two decades. Eight rural hospitals in Georgia have shuttered in the past eight years. And that’s amid other stresses on rural and maternal health in Georgia, like the opioid crisis.

The biggest challenge is still insurance. Even though poor pregnant women are entitled to Medicaid coverage, that coverage is difficult to navigate, and under state law it comes with a firm expiration date. “Medicaid usually ends about six to eight weeks after the delivery,” Baker says. “But the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has come out with a strong suggestion that we follow those patients for the entire year.” Baker estimates that after those six to eight weeks, she won’t see 90 percent of her patients until they’re pregnant again. In the dangerous medical crucible that is the first few weeks after childbirth, she estimates that some 30 percent of her patients won’t even make it to their first postpartum visit.

For Baker, the only solution is the one that’s at the center of the Georgia governor’s race: Medicaid expansion. “I feel like I’m kind of piecing things together here, and I would love to have the resources to do the things we need to do,” she told me. Because Medicaid expansion would offer health insurance to more low-income adults than the state’s current program, it would provide many residents of Thomaston with the first steady guarantee of coverage in decades. That would give them access to more regular care and reduce their own health-care costs. And it would give Baker’s patients year-round access to her services.

The Medicaid expansion would also signal that the state is serious about assisting Baker on the front lines of the crisis—and that it cares about her, too. “As a black woman, it is just really unacceptable to me that black women are more likely to die” than white women, Baker says. “I take it personally because I am a black woman and I would like to live if I should decide to have a baby.”

Nearly five million Georgians live outside the Atlanta metro, effectively the entire population of Alabama.   A lot of Georgia outside Atlanta is rural and poor and a full third of Georgia's population is black.  You can imagine then why Kemp is so eager to disenfranchise as many black voters as he can, and why Abrams appealing to black women -- one-sixth of the state's population -- to help her tackle the health care crisis is such an existential threat to the GOP there.

If black women showed up to vote at 2012 levels, Kemp would be obliterated.

That's how Abrams wins.
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