Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Last Call For These Disunited States, Con't

Rural Oregon wants out of the state and wants to join Idaho, apparently, in a new plan that would turn the Gem State into the third-largest state in the US by area and would include parts of Washington State and Northern California.
Idaho lawmakers appeared intrigued but skeptical on Monday when pitched a plan to lop off about three-fourths of Oregon and add it to Idaho to create what would become the nation’s third-largest state geographically.

Representatives of a group called Move Oregon’s Border For a Greater Idaho outlined their plan to a joint meeting of Idaho lawmakers from the House and Senate on Monday.

The Idaho Legislature would have to approve the plan that would expand Idaho’s southwestern border to the Pacific Ocean. The Oregon Legislature and the U.S. Congress would also have to sign off.

Supporters of the idea said rural Oregon voters are dominated by liberal urban areas such as Portland, and would rather join conservative Idaho. Portland would remain with Oregon.

“There’s a longtime cultural divide as big as the Grand Canyon between northwest Oregon and rural Oregon, and it’s getting larger,” Mike McCarter, president of Move Oregon’s Border for a Greater Idaho, told Idaho lawmakers.

If everything falls in line with Oregon, supporters envision also adding adjacent portions of southeastern Washington and northern California to Idaho. Backers said residents in those areas also yearn for less government oversight and long to become part of a red state insulated from the liberal influence of large urban centers that tend to vote Democratic.

“Values of faith, family, independence. That’s what we’re about,” said Mark Simmons, an eastern Oregon rancher and former speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives. “We don’t need the state breathing down our necks all the time, micromanaging our lives and trying to push us into a foreign way of living.”

President Joe Biden easily won Washington, Oregon and California in November, while President Donald Trump carried Idaho with 64%. The Idaho House and Senate each have supermajorities of Republicans.

The group’s strategy has been to get advisory votes in Oregon counties likely to make the switch. But last November the group had mixed success with two counties opting to join Idaho but two wanting to stay a part of Oregon. Supporters blamed the setback on the coronavirus pandemic and an inability to get their message out. Five more Oregon counties are expected to vote on the matter in May.

The county votes carry no weight, but are intended to potentially sway lawmakers to ultimately approve the plan.
This is dumb, but the point is Republicans simply want to get rid of liberals in their states.
By any means necessary.

That Poll-Asked Look, Con't

Democratic party aligned polling firms are trying to figure out why they've spent the last decade almost being absolutely wrong about Democratic margins, and they still haven't come up with a consensus.
A group of top Democratic Party pollsters are set to release a public statement Tuesday acknowledging “major errors” in their 2020 polling — errors that left party officials stunned by election results that failed to come close to expectations in November.

In an unusual move, five of the party’s biggest polling firms have spent the past few months working together to explore what went wrong last year and how it can be fixed. It’s part of an effort to understand why — despite data showing Joe Biden well ahead of former President Donald Trump, and Democrats poised to increase their House majority — the party won the presidency, the Senate and House by extremely narrow margins.

“Twenty-twenty was an ‘Oh, s---' moment for all of us,” said one pollster involved in the effort, who was granted anonymity to discuss the process candidly. “And I think that we all kinda quickly came to the point that we need to set our egos aside. We need to get this right."

That’s about where the answers end. The collaboration’s first public statement acknowledges that their industry “saw major errors and failed to live up to our own expectations.” But the memo also underscores the limits of the polling autopsy, noting that “no consensus on a solution has emerged.”

According to Democrats involved with the internal review, Tuesday’s statement marks the beginning of a years-long process to examine why, since 2012, most major elections have tilted against the party, despite favorable polling data before the vote. Up and down the ballot, Democrats have been, more often than not, shell-shocked by defeats in races they thought to be competitive, or narrower-than-expected, victories in contests they thought they led comfortably.

Democrats are not alone in reviewing what went wrong last year. The polling industry is engaged in multiple reviews of its 2020 performance, including a forthcoming report from the American Association for Public Opinion Research’s task force that is expected to address the overestimation of Democrats’ performance, from the presidential race down to races for Congress and state offices.

The previously undisclosed Democratic polling review is not being replicated by Republicans, who ultimately lost the presidency and the Senate, and won fewer House seats than Democrats. While some in the GOP were also surprised by the party’s competitiveness last November and are studying their methods, there is no similar, organized effort moving into the 2022 midterms and the 2024 presidential election.

There’s no simple answer for why the polls have missed the mark in recent elections. But one likely culprit for some of the errors is the deteriorating public trust in institutions, like government and the news media — and the correlation between that wariness and voting for Trump. Between his public statements and Twitter account, the former president cast doubt on polling specifically, which the Democratic consultants suggested led to his supporters refusing to participate in surveys.

“Trump went after the polls,” said another Democratic pollster involved in the partnership. “He was really pretty overt to those that were listening about some of his distrust of polls or media.”

The 2020 election shattered turnout records — and since November, pollsters have been eagerly awaiting official information from the states about who voted, and who didn’t. That data is now almost entirely available, and there are clues hidden within.

The Democratic pollsters, who typically compete against each other for business, acknowledge that Trump was able to activate large numbers of voters who had turned out less reliably in the past. Looking at one state where the polls were off — Iowa, where Trump beat Biden handily and what had been seen as a toss-up Senate race went decisively for incumbent GOP Sen. Joni Ernst — Republicans classified as “low-propensity voters” turned out at four times the rate of Democrats in that category, according to the Democratic memo.

“This turnout error was clearly one factor in polling being off across the board, but especially in deeply Republican areas,” the memo reads. “It also meant, at least in some places, we again underestimated relative turnout among rural and white non-college voters, who are overrepresented among low propensity Republicans
Red state non-college white voters lied to pollsters about Trump. In states like Iowa, Maine, and South Carolina, Democrats didn't have a chance despite the polls saying they did. In all three states, Dems lost by double-digits in Senate races.

Getting suckered into thinking we had a chance is a dangerous game, and it's one we have to stop.

Russian To Judgment, Con't

Pretty sure this is one of those "Well, Biden has more information than your second-guessing pundit wannabe self does, so..." situations as President Biden is keeping John Sullivan in place as Ambassador to Russia.

The Biden administration recently decided to keep the Trump-appointed US ambassador on the job in Moscow for the foreseeable future, two senior administration officials told CNN, demonstrating a willingness to nurture areas of stability in the US-Russia relationship after it got off to a tumultuous start. 
John Sullivan has been on the job for almost a year and a half. He is viewed by administration officials as a steady hand as the administration ramps up the pressure on Russia for taking actions to undermine the US and democratic values broadly. President Joe Biden is still deciding on other ambassadorial posts, and the White House said Monday the President had not decided on the "vast majority" of positions. 
The Biden administration has already made it clear that they will break from President Donald Trump's approach to Russia. Trump largely sought to flatter Russian President Vladimir Putin and famously said he believed Putin that Russia did not seek to interfere in the 2016 US presidential election, despite a finding from US intelligence agencies that it did. 
The White House signaled that it would approach Russia on a case-by-case basis early in the administration when they extended a key arms control treaty with Russia, New START, and also ordered an intelligence review of Russian misdeeds. 
Keeping an ambassador in Moscow who already knows the players, as well as inviting Putin to the climate change conference later this month, signals that the administration remains open to diplomacy and working with Russia where is it possible. Biden invited dozens of leaders to the summit, though the Kremlin said when the list was announced it would need some time to confirm Putin's participation. 
The Biden administration "decided the professionalism that John Sullivan has brought to the job is valued at a time of important political transition in the US and US-Russia reactions, in both standing up to Russia's bellicose efforts near Ukraine as well as exploring possible engagement on climate, security and other issues," said John Tefft, the former US ambassador to Russia. "These transitions can often take a long time which works to our detriment in terms of having a consistent foreign policy." 
These moves come as Biden is currently weighing a package of sanctions and other moves in response to a US intelligence review of Russia's malign actions, including election interference and the Solarwinds breach. 
Senior administration officials have met over the last week to discuss the potential response, which the White House has also said would include an "unseen" component. Complicating the deliberations, however, has been Russia's massing of troops along Ukraine's eastern border, ratcheting up tensions with the US. 
Officials now are weighing how the potential new sanctions and other punishments might provoke further escalation.
It's that last part that's the key. Right now Russia is massing troops on the Ukrainian border, with clear intent to invade in order to test Biden and Biden doesn't want to go through appointing a new ambassador right now. He doesn't have the time. Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky, our old friend that got his ultimatum from Trump last year, is now dealing with Putin's wrath directly.

For years, the brutal conflict in eastern Ukraine, between government forces and Russian-backed separatists, has been locked in a tense standoff. Major combat, which cost thousands of lives since 2014, has given way to a grinding stalemate. Following the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014, fighting erupted in the neighboring Donbas region -- another mainly Russian speaking area of Ukraine with rebels demanding independence from Kiev.
But amid growing tensions with the United States and its Western allies, Russian forces have again been spotted on the move across the border sparking concerns the war may be reignited.
Cell phone video has emerged of Russian armored columns driving towards the Ukrainian frontier. Tanks and artillery guns have been seen being transported by rail. There's also been a build-up reported in Crimea.

In Moscow, the Kremlin says the troop movements are inside Russia, part of a planned military exercise and pose no threat.
But at the front lines, the Ukrainian President told CNN a Russian invasion is a very real possibility his country is bracing for.
"Of course. We know it, from 2014 we know it can be each day," he said.
"They are ready, but we are also ready because we are on our land and our territory," he told CNN. 
Lt. Gen. Ruslan Khomchak, commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian armed forces, told CNN an estimated 50,000 Russian troops have now gathered across the Russian border and in Crimea. In addition, there are at least 35,000 Russian-backed separatists in rebel-held areas of Ukraine, he said.
A Russian invasion of the Crimea region again seems imminent.  Biden has bigger problems than a new ambassador in Moscow right now. Sullivan will have to do.
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