Sunday, August 23, 2020

Last Call For The Call Of Trumpthulhu

It was mostly Democrats who watched last week's convention, and they liked what they saw. Now, as the Republicans begin theirs, we find a Republican Party whose voters not only hold a different view of things in America than Democrats do — but also one very different from most voters overall. And therein may lie Republicans' own challenge.

Republicans see an America — to borrow Ronald Reagan's famous test — better off today than it was four years ago, mainly, they say, because of their confidence in President Trump.

For most Republicans, America is a nation where the economy is still fairly good, where the effort to handle the coronavirus is going at least somewhat well and the president is doing a very good job on it. For them, the virus elicits less concern in the first place. They believe the 170,000 fatalities is an overstated count and one which, for many, can so far be considered acceptable. And it is a nation where, for an overwhelming number of Republicans, there has been too much focus on racial discrimination of late.

And so as their convention begins, one test for the GOP appears whether they can persuade more Americans to join them in these assessments. 

These are cultists in a death cult. Majorities of Republicans think that America is better off now, with a raging pandemic killing tens of thousands verging on hundreds of thousands (and they refuse to believe that is even happening) with a cratering economy where unemployment is in double digits, where America is a laughingstock and Americans are banned from traveling to most countries, where the most common reason as to why things are better than 2016 is because of Donald Trump.

And the reason they believe things are better now is because Obama isn't in charge.  They even believe their finances are better now than in 2016.

Your Republican neighbors are cultists.  There's no hope for them until they are deprogrammed and that will take years, if ever. We'll have to move forward through them, not with them.

Biden, His Time, Con't

Checking in with CNN's election guru Harry Enten, we see the age-old battle once again: younger voters vastly prefer the Democratic candidate, but don't give enough of a damn to vote.

There is good news for former Vice President Joe Biden when it comes to younger voters. He's no longer underperforming where Hillary Clinton ended up in the final 2016 polls. 
The big question coming out of the Democratic National Convention is whether they'll actually start to like him. Going in, young voters still didn't like Biden, which leaves him susceptible to some of these voters potentially not turning out to vote in the fall. 
Biden, at this point, holds a more than 20-point lead with young voters in live interview polls taken in August. Biden's up by 25 points among 18-29 year-old voters in an average of the most recent CNN/SSRS, Fox News and NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist College polls. It's a 24-point lead if we look at 18-34 year-olds in the CNN/SSRS, Monmouth University and NBC News/Wall Street Journal polls.

Young Millennials and the oldest of Gen Z now able to vote for the first time in a presidential contest clearly prefer Biden. They just dislike him. So will they actually vote?

The answer, historically, is no.

Biden's net favorability (favorable - unfavorable) rating averages out to be -4 percentage points among the 18-29 year-old subset. That's actually about 5 points worse than his net favorability with all registered voters in those polls. If we expand out to 18-34 year-olds looking at data from CNN, Gallup and Monmouth, Biden's net favorability remains negative. 
Indeed, the difference between vote choice and net favorability among young voters is striking. Biden's running about 30 points better against Trump in the horserace than his net favorability alone would suggest. Again, if we add more data from July, the point stands. 
Compare what's going on with young voters to 65 years old and older. They give Biden a net favorability rating of +10 points in an average of ABC News/Washington Post, CNN, Fox News and Monmouth polls. The same polls have Biden ahead of Trump by 9 points with this group. That is, there's no statistical difference. 
Senior citizens like Biden, and they're voting for him. 
What's going on with younger voters is pretty simple: They're voting for Biden because they really don't like Trump. His net favorability with those under the age of 30 averaged -40 points in these same polls, or about 35 points worse than Biden's net favorability rating. 
It's difficult to imagine Trump gaining too much among younger voters going forward. They know who he is after about 3.5 years of his presidency. 
The potential pitfall for Biden is that voters who like neither candidate are much less likely to be enthusiastic about voting. In CNN's last poll, only about 10% of those who did not have a favorable opinion of either candidate said they were enthusiastic about casting a ballot in the fall elections. Among those who had a favorable view of at least one of the candidates, about 60% were enthusiastic about voting in the fall. 
Of course, enthusiasm about voting is not the same as actually voting. You can vote without being enthusiastic about the idea, though the two are linked. 
An ABC News/Washington Post poll from late May (the latest I could attain the raw data file for) drives home the point. Voters who had a favorable view of either of the candidates were 20 points more likely to say they were certain to vote than those who liked neither. 
Not surprisingly, younger voters are also less enthusiastic to vote and say they are less certain to vote than older voters in November, which follows historical precedent. The question is whether they'll make up a smaller percentage of the electorate than they usually do given they don't really like either candidate on the ballot. 
We just don't know. Still, this data does show the potential problem of Biden relying on young voters disliking Trump as the mechanism for getting them to vote for Biden in November.

Younger voters hate Trump, but they don't give a damn about voting for Biden (or anyone), either.  And cajoling them doesn't work.  Obama got through to them in record numbers, but he's the exception that proves the rule.

Enten also adds that Black voters remain key to Democrats' chances of winning this fall, a "of course" moment but one that continually needs spelling out for some.

Biden will take any help he can get with Black voters. 
So far this month, there have been five live interview polls for which I could attain a Black voter crosstab: ABC News/Washington Post, CNN/SSRS, Fox News, Marist College/NPR/PBS NewsHour and NBC News/Wall Street Journal. While none of the polls individually have a sample size to be too reliable, aggregated together they tell a pretty clear story. 
Biden is ahead among Black registered voters by 67 points on average and 71 points in the median of these polls. That's a sizable advantage. 
It's actually slightly less though than the 75-point lead he had with Black registered voters when I looked at the average of polls taken in late May through mid-July. While we can't be sure that Biden's actually doing worse with Black voters than he had previously, given sample size restrictions, it's quite clear he isn't doing better than he was earlier in the summer. As far as I can tell, Biden's lead with Black voters is currently at one of its lowest levels of the 2020 campaign. 
More interestingly, his support among Black voters is quite clearly smaller than Clinton's 79-point margin in the final registered voter polls of 2016. 
An 8-point shift among Black voters (i.e. moving from a 79-point win for the Democrats to a 71-point win) could be a huge deal if applied to the swing states. It could shift the overall margin in a number of states (like Michigan and Florida) by a point. Remember Clinton only lost Florida by a little more than a point and Michigan by just 0.2 points.

The proliferation of by-mail voting may help with both Black voters and young voters, and that's why Trump wants to get rid of it.

Still, there are just too many factors going into November to be confident about that 9-point Biden lead though.  We'll see. The Trump Regime is already trying to create a "miracle cure" for COVID-19 and there's still 10 weeks to go...

My advice as always: get your ballot requested and in as soon as you can. Kentucky's online voting ballot request portal went live this weekend.

Vote like your country depends on it, because it does.

Sunday Long Read: The Correct Kind Of Hero

The New York Times unceremoniously jettisoned its copy editor desk three years ago, and of course in the era of niche social media doing what has to be done, a Twitter account took over the duties and did a good enough job that even the Times has taken notice, doing his work from the shadows, as The Ringer's Ben Lindbergh reports for our Sunday Long Read.

On October 18, 2019, a New York Times standards editor emailed seven other Times editors to alert them to the existence of a new Twitter account that they would soon grow to respect—and, at times, resent. According to the characterization of one of the editors on the email, the message advised its recipients “that there was a lawyer on Twitter aggressively pointing out typos, and that we should consider following him.” A little more than a month after the Twitter account’s creation on September 16, The New York Times had taken note of @nyttypos, or Typos of the New York Times.

Anyone who followed @nyttypos that day soon got a feel for the flavor of its tweets. On October 19, @nyttypos spotted a “happened” instead of a “happen” in a story about Brexit; a missing space and a picture of three people captioned with five names in a story about TikTok clubs; a missing comma and a “statue” in place of a “statute” in a story about President Donald Trump’s attempt to host the G7 Summit at his own Doral resort; a subject-verb agreement error in a story about Venezuela’s water quality; a misplaced comma in a story about Bernie Sanders accepting an endorsement from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez; and a missing space between quotation marks and a quote in a story about Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Although the account linked to a “nice, probably typo-free story” in the love section, it also found time to editorialize about the supposedly sorry state of the Times. “It’s kind of a shame that virtually each and every piece of content the Times produces, even the pretty great ones like this, has a typo in it,” @nyttypos tweeted about an opinion piece that contained a wayward word. On the same day, a story about a German YouTuber that contained a duplicated phrase prompted the observation “At times I really have a hard time believing that this paper is edited at all.” Between typos, @nyttypos engaged in a debate about the proper way to form plurals—“M.V.P.s” or “M.V.P.’s”—in support of the position that “Apostrophes don’t pluralize!

It wasn’t the account’s most productive typo-finding day. But it was a weekend, and its owner did have other work. “I took ten minutes out of my fun Saturday afternoon reading D.C. Circuit opinions about jurisdiction to review FERC orders to read this article and find the typos,” @nyttypos tweeted about the TikTok story.

The proud pedant behind @nyttypos is, as his Twitter bio proclaims, an “appellate lawyer and persnickety dude.” While working for a government office on appeals for the federal courts of appeals and the Supreme Court, he has diligently, competently, and caustically grammar-policed the paper of record in his spare time, producing more than 20,000 tweets over the past 11 months. His account is a cross between an ego trip, a crusade, and a compulsion. His quixotic quest to flag the words that weren’t fit to print has attracted roughly 8,000 followers, yielded countless corrections, and made its anonymous owner the object of some fascination within the walls and Slack chats of the Times, while exposing the trade-offs in copy quality that competitive publishing in the age of algorithms demands.

“He’s obviously a smart, well-read, knowledgeable person,” says Jason Bailey, an editor on the national desk at the Times (and a former colleague of mine when he was a copy editor at Grantland). “And he’s almost always right.” Bailey, who frequently fields tweets from @nyttypos, says the tipster sometimes reports perceived typos that aren’t incorrect according to the most recent version of the Times style guide, which is more up to date than the 2015 PDF @nyttypos possesses. “But for the most part, if it comes to grammar, he’s correct. And to be honest, I’ve learned some things from him, because I’m not an English major or a grammarian in a traditional sense. I kind of edit by ear a little bit. So some of those more technical details, he’s been helpful with.”

Despite his proficiency and apparent command of syntactic arcana, @nyttypos is self-taught too. Studying Latin in high school helped him learn the parts of speech, but he majored in philosophy, and his experience in journalism is limited to a short-lived column in his college paper. “I don’t think that I have a terribly great grasp on grammar, to be honest with you,” he says on the phone. “I think I intuit some things.” Sometimes he researches rules before tweeting, lest the master of spotting mistakes commit a mistake of his own. “I don’t like to be wrong about things,” he says, unsurprisingly.

The prolific account is an outlet for a lifelong impulse of its ornery operator, who hates GIFs and emoji almost as much as misspellings. He remembers first being bothered by bad copy as a 5-year-old typo prodigy who noted mistakes on menus at a local restaurant. Teachers have told him that he read the Times to classmates in kindergarten, and he confesses to fashioning his writing after The New York Times Book Review when he was a preteen. While he expresses some fondness for The New York Times Magazine, he says he’s never been a devoted Times reader and doesn’t harbor any sentimental attachment to the paper; he read it because it’s what was available in the “middlebrow suburban home” where he grew up in Philadelphia in the 1990s.

Now in his early 30s, @nyttypos still indulges his deep-seated antipathy toward typos in his professional and personal lives. In his own legal writing, which he describes as “fairly fussy,” he strives for immaculate copy not only because of his habitual aversion to errors, but also because some judges look down on typo-prone lawyers, and because misquotes or mistakes in citation may confuse readers or undercut his credibility (a concern for the Times, too). “If you’re trying to get a case into the Supreme Court, which I do on occasion, and you’re trying to stand out from a crowd of thousands of submissions, you want to signal in all sorts of ways that you’re terribly competent, and one way of doing that is not typing typos,” he says.

Judges make grammatical mistakes too—some, he observes, display a regrettable tendency to swap “tenet” and “tenant”—but he keeps those typos to himself unless he has a personal connection to the judge or can notify a designated clerk who handles corrections. However, he does deploy his talents in other offline company, with some social consequences. By general request, he proofreads the legal briefs that his colleagues compose. But he took things too far when he sent unsolicited feedback to his office’s press secretary. “I was sending her corrections to all of her press releases every day, and I think I was asked to stop fixing them,” he says. “So now the corrections are filtered through somebody else if they’re really bad.” When he encounters typos in the wild, he sometimes tries to “helpfully” point out mistakes, but he picks his spots, holding his tongue if he has reason to anticipate an awkward interaction. Thus far, he hasn’t objected to the handmade sign at the corner shop near his home that says “can sale closed containers” and “no sales on Sunday’s” because he fears offending the proprietor. He knows not to [sic] where he eats.

Although @nyttypos revealed his identity to me—a scoop some New York Times newshounds would be happy to have—he asked not to be named. His status as a mystery man enhances his mystique. “Some of the editors that I’m closer to, we definitely discuss him,” Bailey says. “And he’s kind of this curious figure because he spends a lot of time doing this … and it is fascinating to think about why someone would do that. There are times where he’s tweeting me all weekend.” Bailey and other editors have made a game of trying to guess who he is, but @nyttypos withholds just enough details that they haven’t cracked the case. Although he says his current boss is politically conservative and “might think it’s so wonderful to see me criticizing the Times,” he may want to work for a law firm in the future, and he doesn’t know whether his hobby would go over well: “You wouldn’t want the entire hiring committee thinking about it, that some weird, typo-correcting Twitter personality is applying to work there.”

Not the superhero we deserve, but maybe the one we need, as they say.

He's smart enough not to want to actually work for the Times though. Maybe that's for the best.

Lowering The Barr, Con't

According to The Guardian's account of CNN media critic Brian Stetler's book on the Trump Regime and its incestuous relationship with FOX News, "Hoax", Trump ordered Attorney General Bill Barr to have a few words with FOX News owner Rupert Murdoch about legal analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano after Napolitano criticized Trump in October over his Ukraine quid pro quo deal, leading to Trump's eventual impeachment by the House.

The attorney general, William Barr, told Rupert Murdoch to “muzzle” Andrew Napolitano, a prominent Fox News personality who became a critic of Donald Trump, according to a new book about the rightwing TV network. 
Barr’s meeting with Murdoch, at the media mogul’s New York home in October 2019, was widely reported at the time, with speculation surrounding its subject. According to Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox News and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth, by CNN media reporter Brian Stelter, subjects covered included media consolidation and criminal justice reform. 
“But it was also about Judge Andrew Napolitano.” 
Stelter’s in-depth look at Fox News, its fortunes under Trump and its links to his White House will be published on Tuesday. The Guardian obtained a copy. 
In early 2019 it was reported that Napolitano, a New Jersey superior court judge who joined Fox News in 1998, told friends he had been on Trump’s shortlist for the supreme court. But he broke ranks later in the year, labeling Trump’s approaches to Ukraine, seeking political dirt on rivals, “both criminal and impeachable behavior”. 
“The criminal behavior to which Trump has admitted,” Napolitano wrote, in a column dated 3 October, “is much more grave than anything alleged or unearthed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and much of what Mueller revealed was impeachable.”
Citing an unnamed source, Stelter writes that Trump “was so incensed by the judge’s TV broadcasts that he had implored Barr to send Rupert a message in person … about ‘muzzling the judge’. [Trump] wanted the nation’s top law enforcement official to convey just how atrocious Napolitano’s legal analysis had been.” 
Barr has been widely accused of riding roughshod over the rule of law, in service of Trump and his own authoritarian view of the presidency. 
Though Barr’s words to Murdoch “carried a lot of weight”, Stelter writes, “no one was explicitly told to take Napolitano off the air”. Instead, Stelter reports, Napolitano found digital resources allocated elsewhere, saw a slot on a daytime show disappear, and was not included in coverage of the impeachment process. 
In Stelter’s telling, Napolitano thought he was being kept off air by “25-year-old producers” who didn’t think viewers could handle his analysis. Stelter, however, says an unnamed “twentysomething staffer” confirmed that one host, Maria Bartiromo, would only book Napolitano to discuss non-Trump topics, because he would upset Bartiromo too much if he criticised the president. 
Fox News’ audience, of course, remains loyal to Trump as his campaign for re-election continues. Some Fox employees, Stelter writes, “justified the benching of the judge by claiming that viewers hated him: ‘Why are we going to book someone who kills our ratings?’”

Judge Nap got back in Trump's good graces of course by backing Barr dropping charges against Michael Flynn and commuting Roger Stone's prison time, but having Barr lean on Murdoch should be enough for not just Barr to be removed from office, but Trump as well.

Luckily, we can do that in the next few months.
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