Friday, June 19, 2020

Last Call For Juneteenth Done Wrong

Corporate brands embarrassing themselves when it comes to Black history is nothing new, but when you factor in the tech sector's near universal anti-blackness due to an appaling lack of black employees and complete absence of black decision-makers, you get absolutely moronic crap like this.

Snapchat apologized for its now-removed Juneteenth filter, telling CNBC on Friday that it went live without being approved through its review process.

Using the Pan-African flag as the backdrop of the filter, the app prompted users to smile, which then caused chains to appear behind them and break.

“We deeply apologize to the members of the Snapchat community who found this Lens offensive. A diverse group of Snap team members were involved in developing the concept, but a version of the Lens that went live for Snapchatters this morning had not been approved through our review process. We are investigating why this mistake occurred so that we can avoid it in the future,” a Snap spokesperson told CNBC in a statement.

Criticism of the filter spread when Mark Luckie, a digital strategist and former journalist, shared the filter on Twitter, calling it “interesting.”

The blunder comes after Snap CEO Evan Spiegel said the company will continue to keep its diversity report private, according to Business Insider. Spiegel said that releasing the data would reinforce the perception that minority groups are underrepresented in the industry.

I can't think of an industry sector that is more openly antagonistic, unrepentant, and outright racist towards Black America than Silicon Valley right now, even more so than banking or real estate, and that's only because banking and real estate face federal housing and financial civil rights regulations.

Tech does not.  They can be as awful as they want to be, and often are. 

It's About Suppression, Con't

Donald Trump is once again calling voting by mail the "biggest risk" to his reelection, and all but says his campaign will do everything in its power to stop states expanding it.

President Donald Trump called mail-in voting the biggest threat to his reelection and said his campaign's multimillion-dollar legal effort to block expanded ballot access could determine whether he wins a second term.

In an Oval Office interview Thursday focusing on the 2020 election, the president also warned his party in blunt terms not to abandon him and cast Hillary Clinton as a more formidable opponent than Joe Biden, despite Biden's commanding lead in polls.

The president’s assertion that mail-in voting will endanger his reelection comes as states across the country are rushing to accommodate remote voting in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Millions of voters could be disenfranchised if they decide to stay home on Election Day rather than risk contracting the virus at crowded polling stations.

But Trump and his campaign argue, despite a lack of evidence, that widespread mail-in voting will benefit Democrats and invite fraud. The Republican Party is spending tens of millions of dollars on a multifront legal battle.

“My biggest risk is that we don’t win lawsuits,” Trump said. “We have many lawsuits going all over. And if we don’t win those lawsuits, I think — I think it puts the election at risk.”

Trump was asked a two-part question during the interview: Would a substantial amount of mail-in voting — which is widely expected because of coronavirus — cause him to question the legitimacy of the election? And would he accept the results no matter what?

“Well, you can never answer the second question, right? Because Hillary kept talking about she’s going to accept, and they never accepted it. You know. She lost too. She lost good.” Clinton conceded the day after the 2016 election.

Trump goes on to warn Republicans thinking about dumping him that they will face the wrath of"the strongest base people have ever seen" unless they remain completely loyal, taking credit for ending the political careers of former GOP senators Bob Corker, Dean Heller, and Jeff Flake.

But note Trump didn't say losing the lawsuits puts his reelection at risk, he specifically said that losing the lawsuits to block voting by mail puts "the election at risk".

That's a dead giveaway as to what's coming if and when Trump loses the electoral vote, which CNN's Harry Enten now sees as a likely outcome.

For Biden to score a huge win, very little needs to change. Biden is ahead by 10 points in an average of live interview polls nationally. The largest Democratic win in the last 56 years was Bill Clinton's 9-point win in 1996.

More impressively, Biden isn't that far from taking more than 400 electoral votes. Let's assume Biden wins all the electoral votes Hillary Clinton did four years ago (232), as polls indicate. One or more recent polls put him up as well in Arizona (11 electoral votes), Florida (29 electoral votes), Georgia (16 electoral votes), Michigan (16 electoral votes), North Carolina (15 electoral votes), Ohio (18 electoral votes), Pennsylvania (20 electoral votes) and Wisconsin (10 electoral votes). 
If Biden wins all of these states, he gets to just south of 370 electoral votes.
Add on Iowa (6 electoral votes) and Texas (38 electoral votes), where Biden was down just a point in two high quality polls released in June, and he gets more than 400 electoral votes. That would beat Clinton's 379 electoral votes in 1996 as the largest since Johnson's 486 electoral vote win in 1964. 
Indeed, forecast models based on a slew of indicators (such as one put together by University of Alabama student Jack Kersting) have Biden earning more than 400 electoral votes within its 95% confidence interval.

Of course, if the models are off by only a few points, Trump wins easily.

Yet, models such as these also have Biden getting only about 200 electoral votes as a plausible scenario too. 
Remember, it was only a few months ago when Biden's lead in the live telephone national polls was 6 points. That would put Trump within the range where he could win an electoral college victory with a small polling error, even if he lost the national vote. In fact, in many of the 2016 Trump states where Biden currently leads, there were polls that favored Trump just a few months ago. 
In our fast moving news cycles, one could imagine a new unforeseen crisis arising. Likewise, a topic currently dominating the news (e.g. the protests) may fall to the background. Either of these could cause the presidential race to tighten up. 
Moreover, history tells us that it's also quite conceivable that Biden loses. Harry Truman in 1948 was facing a similar deficit in the national polls that Trump is facing now. He'd win by nearly 5 points nationally and carry the electoral college in a tight contest. More recently, Clinton was in a distant third place at this point in 1992 to Republican George H.W. Bush and independent Ross Perot. Clinton took the popular vote by 6 points and scored 370 electoral votes.

And all it takes for Trump to knock those models in his direction far enough to win is to increase GOP voter suppression efforts in the battleground states the GOP has either legislative or gubernatorial control (or both): Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, Arizona, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania all have Republican-controlled state legislatures, along with Texas, Iowa, Ohio, and Indiana.

Take nothing for granted.  Everything will be different five months from now.  Again.

The Blue Wave Rises, Con't

The Cook Political Report is moving Montana Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock's race against incumbent GOP Sen. Steve Daines to true toss-up status due to Bullock's increasing popularity in handling COVID-19 correctly.

Montana skyrocketed to competitive status earlier this year when Democrats finally convinced term-limited Gov. Steve Bullock to jump into the race and challenge first-term GOP Sen. Steve Daines. That decision at the beginning of March came just before the COVID pandemic spread throughout the U.S., limiting the amount of campaigning either candidate could do.

But the past few months have also highlighted the unique nature of this race, as the only contest with a sitting governor seeking a Senate seat. And like other governors who have ably handled the pandemic — especially in comparison to the Trump administration's bungling — Bullock has seen his approval ratings rise exponentially too, up to 75 percent in one poll. Montana has had one of the lowest per capita infection rates (49th out of 50), with only 20 deaths as of June 17, and Bullock has gotten plaudits for closing the state early as it began to reopen last month.

So it's not surprising that Bullock seems to have benefited from his gubernatorial leadership during this crisis and being in the news daily. Recent private Democratic polling in the contest gives Bullock a small lead and finds that Bullock's approval ratings are more than 20 points higher than Daines, though the incumbent senator remains slightly above water. GOP polling also shows that it's a close race, but one where every internal poll for them has still shown Daines leading. Yet, even some Republicans privately admit this is likely to be a margin of error race to the finish line. Each party just believes it's their candidate who will eke out the victory.

Governors races and Senate races are fundamentally different of course, but this year could be one where having such executive experience and successfully managing such a daunting crisis could help Bullock overcome the heavy Republican tilt of the state at the presidential level. Trump won the state by just over 20 points four years ago. Still, if we look at where the president is polling against Joe Biden nationally (an average Biden lead of 8.5), that would indicate Trump is on pace to win the state by double digits, but somewhere perhaps in the mid or low teens instead.

Overcoming that margin is still tough in a presidential year — when Jon Tester won a second term in 2012 with President Obama atop the ballot, he outpaced him by almost 7 points. Obama lost Montana that year by nearly 14 points. But in 2008, Democratic Senate candidates in competitive races did outpace the top of the ticket by about 12.5 points. Also, Democrats argue that Biden isn't as toxic in the state as Hillary Clinton was four years ago, and note that Obama even came within 2 points of winning the state in 2008. But Republicans say their polling from last month still had Biden far underwater in the state. Plus, if Trump's numbers continue to sour nationally, there's a chance that Republicans can make the argument that there needs to be a GOP Senate still to serve as a check on a Biden administration.

But there's some evidence that maybe Bullock's performance with handling COVID-19 and generally good favorability in the state makes this a unique situation where traditional rules may not apply. Unlike other states with candidates newer to the statewide ballot, Bullock is already well-defined in voters' minds, and it may be harder to change voters' opinions of him. Bullock's fundraising has been impressive since he got in, too — he outraised Daines by about $2.1 million in the first fundraising quarter, despite being in the race for less than a month before the deadline. In the six week pre-primary filing period too ahead of the June 2 primary, Bullock again outpaced the incumbent by a nearly two-to-one margin and pulled within $1.6 million of Daines's cash of hand advantage.

Democrats need to pick up three seats with a Biden win, or four seats otherwise, to regain control of the Senate.  The bad news is Democratic Sen. Doug Jones in Alabama is most likely going to lose his seat, meaning the Dems will have to pick up five seats.

The good news is that there are now five GOP toss-ups in play: Daines, Susan Collins in Maine, Cory Gardner in Colorado, Thom Tillis in NC and Martha McSally in Arizona.

Michigan Democratic Sen. Gary Peters is facing a challenge from Republican John James, who ran unsuccessfully against Tammy Duckworth in 2018 and is trying again now, Peters has a six-to-nine point lead or so but his seat is in play.

But on the other side of the coin, there are four more Republican seats in play like Peters's seat, including both Georgia senators (Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue), Joni Ernst in Iowa, and Kansas's open seat with Pat Roberts retiring after 24 years.

Yes, the most mathematically likely outcome is that as with 2018, the GOP picks up a senate seat with Jones losing and nearly all the incumbent Republicans hanging on.  90%+ of them get reelected and the Dems would be historically speaking lucky to break even by knocking off one of the five toss-ups, maybe two in the end for a total of +1 and a 52-48 GOP Senate in January.  Hell, the GOP gained two seats in 2018 despite a massive House shift towards the Democrats.

But I don't think 2020 is going to be a typical year at all.  Not by a long shot.  I'd much rather be the Democrats in this situation with nine seats in play for the GOP than the GOP's likely one seat and one longer shot for a total of two Democrats even remotely in trouble.

A lot can happen in the next four-and-a-half months and will happen, believe me.  But things are looking truly good for the Dems this time.


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