Sunday, September 25, 2016

Last Call For The Keys To The Keystone State

NY Times Upshot columnist Toni Monkovic talks to PredictWise prognosticator David Rothschild about the state this year that will decide the presidential election, and it's looking more and more like that state will not be Ohio or Florida, but Pennsylvania Rothschild argues.  We get into the weeds here on electoral tipping points and probabilities, but the bottom line is if Clinton wins the state, she's nearly guaranteed the White House...but the same goes for Trump.

Q. Based on the PredictWise state polling probabilities, the entire election could boil down to Pennsylvania. If Hillary Clinton wins the state, she’ll probably be president. If Donald J. Trump wins there, he’ll probably be president — because such a victory would suggest he’d also win Ohio, Florida, North Carolina. Today, PredictWise gives Clinton a 78 percent chance to win the state. This is close to The Upshot forecast(85 percent). Can you give some more insight into what makes Pennsylvania so important and what signs you’ll be looking for in the state in the next few weeks?

A. Pennsylvania has been the most likely tipping-point state since midsummer

It has been the state to put Hillary Clinton over 270 electoral votes, should she win all of the other more likely states for her. Conversely, it’s also the state that would put Trump over the hump, if he wins all of the states that are more likely for him.

Every day, I run 100,000 simulations of the election. I use the probability of each state going for Clinton or Trump, then I mix that with a correlation matrix that defines the relationships between the states. And every day since late July, Pennsylvania has been the state that most frequently is won by the candidate who wins the election. Currently, there are just 6 percent of scenarios where Clinton wins Pennsylvania but loses the election, and just 3 percent of scenarios where Clinton loses Pennsylvania and wins the election.

Since Pennsylvania is more secure for the Clinton camp than other swing states, it’s unlikely that Clinton loses Pennsylvania and wins either Florida or Ohio or other states to make up for the necessary electoral votes. And Trump could take Florida and Ohio and North Carolina, and go over the top with some other combination of swing states. But Pennsylvania is his most likely route.

What I will be looking for in Pennsylvania over the next few weeks is simple: polls in Pennsylvania; polls in Ohio, which have similar demographics (and a lot of polling); and national polls that correlate heavily among the key swing states.

Furthermore, I will be paying special attention to the crosstabs of national polls that focus on key swing demographics for Pennsylvania, when available and reliable, including white women. Beyond the polling for the presidential election, the ups and downs of the Pennsylvania Senate race could be important. The Democratic challenger, Katie McGinty, currently enjoys a slight lead, and that get-out-the-vote campaign will heavily overlap with Clinton’s.

Further, we will learn more soon about ad buys and get-out-the-vote operations in the state. Currently Clinton enjoys a comfortable margin in both categories. If they make a difference — and if they ever make a difference it will be this year with a massive disparity in both advertising and get-out-the-vote efforts — it should give Clinton a slight advantage over the polling average.

In other words, while I've talked a lot about Ohio this year, the state that will decide the election seems to be the Keystone State.  Florida decided 2000, Ohio decided 2004, and most likely Pennsylvania will decide 2016.

The interview goes on to talk about swing voters (they don't exist at this late stage in the game other than the Johnson/Stein third party vote), the ground game (Clinton's advantage there may be worth as many as two percentage points nationally), and why Rothschild and his team failed so miserably on the Brexit vote...a sobering lesson that all the punditry in the world is essentially meaningless in the end.  People either will vote or will not, and we'll see who they vote for in November.

Sunday Long Read: Star Chamber

The Silicon Valley Startup Shuffle model can be applied to just about anything, from vaporware hardware to financial double-dealing to organic mayo, but what has to be the biggest ongoing scam is, of all things, a video game about space that at this point may turn into one of the biggest ripoffs in crowdfunding history: Star Citizen.  Julian Benson at Kotaku UK lifts the lid on the gaming industry's biggest elephant in the room, and wonders like I do when it will all come crashing down and take PC gaming with it.

For the past seven months, I’ve been talking to the people who have been makingStar Citizen. This includes its directors, a number of anonymous sources who’ve worked on it, and the man who drives the whole project: Chris Roberts. From the outside, Star Citizen appears to have been wildly successful; to date, it has raised more than $124 million from passionate fans. The money has allowed its developer, Cloud Imperium Games, to open studios around the world and employ more than 325 talented developers.

Behind the closed doors of CIG’s studios, however, it’s been far from an easy ride, according to staff. They have all faced a unique challenge: how to nail down the scope of a game whose budget and ambition is always growing. Star Citizen has now been in development for five years, and over that time it has suffered through significant changes and unrest among its staff, huge delays and, 18 months ago, a radical restructuring of all its studios. CIG has released several discrete demos over this time, but there is still not even a date for the final game, which was originally planned for 2014.

Star Citizen’s development has been high-profile enough, expensive enough and, yes, troubled enough to spawn a whole ecosystem of theories as to what’s going on at Cloud Imperium Games, from theorising about the project’s technical challenges to wild accusations about what’s happening to the money. Various community scandals have added yet more fuel to the fire, turning Star Citizen into a lightning rod for controversy. The questions I wanted answers to were: what exactly has been happening over the past five years? What are the reasons behind Star Citizen’s various delays, and what specific development problems has it encountered? Have things been mismanaged? And, as many Star Citizen backers are now beginning to wonder, can it ever actually be finished?

Chasing this information has not been easy. There’s a reason that many of the sources in articles like this are usually anonymous: people fear both legal and professional repercussions for speaking out. In the course of contacting over 100 different people while researching Star Citizen’s development, I was told by multiple sources that they were worried about legal repercussions if they spoke to the press. Speaking out publicly about a previous employer carries professional peril, too; prospective future employers may see you as a risky hire. Nonetheless, over the course of the year we found that many of the people who had worked on Star Citizenwere willing to talk about their experiences, which painted a picture of a development process riven by technical challenges, unrealistic expectations and internal strife.

The other side to the story, of course, is that told by Cloud Imperium Games’ current staff: its director, Chris Roberts, its project leads, and the developers who have survived the upsets that drove others away. At the stage where CIG allowed us access to Roberts and other members of the Star Citizen team at its Manchester studio, we already had a pretty clear picture of the problems that have dogged the project thus far. Roberts and his team did not deny any of them (though they did contest the severity of the problems’ impacts). But despite everything, most of the staff we talked to still passionately believe in this unwieldy, ever-changing dream project. Many of its backers still believe, too, even as others have been demanding (and mostly getting) refunds.

Plenty of people have sermonised about Star Citizen’s future. We can’t pretend to know how it will work out in the end. But we can know how it got to where it is today.

Keep in mind that people have invested $120 million in a game that hasn't come close to being out yet, and is still in extended alpha testing now.  At best the game won't be out until 2018.  At worst, this is a portrait of Chris Roberts and his ego, and it's doing the kind of damage to people that we usually reserve for Big Pharma, banks, campaign finance cons and Silicon Valley disasters.

And yet people I know continue to hope and dream this game will come out someday.

It's amazing, and more than a bit sad.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Cruz, Controlled Con't

Erica Grieder spells it out at Texas Monthly: Sen. Ted Cruz completely caved in Friday to Reince Priebus's threats and to Donald Trump's ego and endorsed an orange Cheeto for president, and it's going to cost him any future political aspirations he might have had.

First, both of the reasons Cruz gave for his decision, in a statement he posted on Facebook Friday afternoon—that he signed a pledge and that Hillary Clinton is unacceptable—are demonstrably ridiculous. Even if you agree that Clinton is more “unacceptable” than Trump, and that a pledge made to the Republican National Committee should take precedence over one’s oath of office and one’s repeated promises to work for the 27 million people of Texas, it remains the case that Cruz signed the pledge last year and could have known, months ago, that Clinton would be the Democratic nominee. If those are his real reasons for endorsing Trump, in other words, he would have done so at the Republican National Convention, in July. In fact, he would have done so in May, at the Republican Party of Texas convention instead of refusing to do so in our interview.

His answer effectively precluded him from endorsing either Clinton or Trump; I noted that at the time, and he didn’t disagree. Beyond that, multiple sources close to Cruz confirmed to me, last week, that he was considering an endorsement. Every single one of them cited external pressure. There was some disagreement about the source of the pressure, but none of them had changed their minds about Trump, and none of them suggested that Cruz had done so. In other words, Cruz’s assessment of Trump’s merits relative to Clinton’s hasn’t changed; what’s changed is his assessment of the relative risks of refusing to endorse Trump.

That being the case, it should be easy to see why this is a mistake Cruz can’t afford to make. To be clear, that’s an analytical comment, not a normative one. I would guess that his endorsement of Trump is an example of Cruz Rule Five (“he’s too smart for his own good”), and—for what it’s worth—I’m not entirely unsympathetic to him. I remember, from our conversation in May, how genuinely distressed he seemed at the realization that Trump would be the Republican nominee. I believe he was sincerely convinced that a Trump presidency would put the country, and the Constitution, in real peril. And I suspect that Cruz, in the privacy of the voting booth, may not tick the box for Trump in November.

At the same time, I’m aware that even before today’s news, it was tricky to persuade anyone to consider giving Cruz the benefit of the doubt about anything—and after today, it will be impossible. Either his endorsement is a pack of lies, or his speech at the RNC was: they can’t both be true. And though it’s possible that “Lyin’ Ted” might still one day become president, the odds, in my view, are now vanishingly narrow. We’ve all heard it a million times: “Everyone hates Ted Cruz.” And now he’s given this faceless “everyone” plenty of reason to do so.

So we'll see how Cruz fares in 2018 when he's up for re-election.  Something tells me in a scenario where Clinton is in the White House that he can probably get enough Republican votes to survive a primary challenge and keep his seat (because let's face it, seething hatred of Democratic presidents is really all that matters to the GOP) but anything beyond that is a big, huge question mark.

And it's worth noting that the one guy in the 2016 GOP clown car primary that had worse general election vs. Clinton and overall favorable numbers than Trump was...Ted Cruz.

We'll see what happens next week as Cruz still keeps giving hints about a government shutdown.

Trump Cards, Con't

If this story from Michael Isikoff on Trump foreign policy advisor Carter Page is accurate, then Trump's ties to Russia and the Putin government are far worse than feared (and I didn't think that was possible.)

U.S. intelligence officials are seeking to determine whether an American businessman identified by Donald Trump as one of his foreign policy advisers has opened up private communications with senior Russian officials — including talks about the possible lifting of economic sanctions if the Republican nominee becomes president, according to multiple sources who have been briefed on the issue. 
The activities of Trump adviser Carter Page, who has extensive business interests in Russia, have been discussed with senior members of Congress during recent briefings about suspected efforts by Moscow to influence the presidential election, the sources said. After one of those briefings, Senate minority leader Harry Reid wrote FBI Director James Comey, citing reports of meetings between a Trump adviser (a reference to Page) and “high ranking sanctioned individuals” in Moscow over the summer as evidence of “significant and disturbing ties” between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin that needed to be investigated by the bureau. 
Some of those briefed were “taken aback” when they learned about Page’s contacts in Moscow, viewing them as a possible back channel to the Russians that could undercut U.S. foreign policy, said a congressional source familiar with the briefings but who asked for anonymity due to the sensitivity of the subject. The source added that U.S. officials in the briefings indicated that intelligence reports about the adviser’s talks with senior Russian officials close to President Vladimir Putin were being “actively monitored and investigated.” 
A senior U.S. law enforcement official did not dispute that characterization when asked for comment by Yahoo News. “It’s on our radar screen,” said the official about Page’s contacts with Russian officials. “It’s being looked at.” 
Page is a former Merrill Lynch investment banker in Moscow who now runs a New York consulting firm, Global Energy Capital, located around the corner from Trump Tower, that specializes in oil and gas deals in Russia and other Central Asian countries. He declined repeated requests to comment for this story. 
Trump first mentioned Page’s name when asked to identify his “foreign policy team” during an interview with the Washington Post editorial team last March. Describing him then only as a “PhD,” Trump named Page as among five advisers “that we are dealing with.” But his precise role in the campaign remains unclear; Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks last month called him an “informal foreign adviser” who “does not speak for Mr. Trump or the campaign.” Asked this week by Yahoo News, Trump campaign spokesman Jason Miller said Page “has no role” and added: “We are not aware of any of his activities, past or present.” Miller did not respond when asked why Trump had previously described Page as one of his advisers.

And this rabbit hole goes deep, folks.

Page came to the attention of officials at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow several years ago when he showed up in the Russian capital during several business trips and made provocative public comments critical of U.S. policy and sympathetic to Putin. “He was pretty much a brazen apologist for anything Moscow did,” said one U.S. official who served in Russia at the time. 
He hasn’t been shy about expressing those views in the U.S. as well. Last March, shorty after he was named by Trump as one of his advisers, Page told Bloomberg News he had been an adviser to, and investor in, Gazprom, the Russian state-owned gas company. He then blamed Obama administration sanctions — imposed as a response to the Russian annexation of Crimea — for driving down the company’s stock. “So many people who I know and have worked with have been so adversely affected by the sanctions policy,” Page said in the interview. “There’s a lot of excitement in terms of the possibilities for creating a better situation.” 
Page showed up again in Moscow in early July, just two weeks before the Republican National Convention formally nominated Trump for president, and once again criticized U.S. policy. Speaking at a commencement address for the New Economic School, an institution funded in part by major Russian oligarchs close to Putin, Page asserted that “Washington and other West capitals” had impeded progress in Russia “through their often hypocritical focus on ideas such as democratization, inequality, corruption and regime change.” 
At the time, Page declined to say whether he was meeting with Russian officials during his trip, according to a Reuters report.

Now there's plenty of evidence that Page has done just that, with the goal of helping his boss make nice with Putin in an obvious massive scheme to benefit Moscow in a Trump presidency.

This is a major, major story folks, and it far outweighs any silly conspiracy stories about Clinton's pneumonia or a simple email server.  This is international pay-for-play, Trump style.

It's time to put an end to it.

Enquiring Minds Choose Clinton

For the first time since Woodrow Wilson, the Cincinnati Enquirer has endorsed a Democrat for the White House in giving Hillary Clinton the editorial board's nod for November.

Presidential elections should be about who’s the best candidate, not who’s the least flawed. Unfortunately, that’s not the case this year. 
Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton, the most unpopular pair of presidential candidates in American history, both have troubled relationships with truth and transparency. Trump, despite all of his bluster about wanting to “make America great again,” has exploited and expanded our internal divisions. Clinton’s arrogance and unwillingness to admit wrongdoing have made her a divisive and distrusted figure as well. 
The Enquirer has supported Republicans for president for almost a century – a tradition this editorial board doesn’t take lightly. But this is not a traditional race, and these are not traditional times. Our country needs calm, thoughtful leadership to deal with the challenges we face at home and abroad. We need a leader who will bring out the best in all Americans, not the worst. 
That’s why there is only one choice when we elect a president in November: Hillary Clinton
Clinton is a known commodity with a proven track record of governing. As senator of New York, she earned respect in Congress by working across the aisle and crafting bills with conservative lawmakers. She helped 9/11 first responders get the care they needed after suffering health effects from their time at Ground Zero, and helped expand health care and family leave for military families. Clinton has spent more than 40 years fighting for women's and children's rights. As first lady, she unsuccessfully fought for universal health care but helped to create the Children's Health Insurance Program that provides health care to more than 8 million kids today. She has been a proponent of closing the gender wage gap and has stood up for LGBT rights domestically and internationally, including advocating for marriage equality. 
Trump is a clear and present danger to our country. He has no history of governance that should engender any confidence from voters. Trump has no foreign policy experience, and the fact that he doesn't recognize it – instead insisting that, "I know more about ISIS than the generals do" – is even more troubling. His wild threats to blow Iranian ships out of the water if they make rude gestures at U.S. ships is just the type of reckless, cowboy diplomacy Americans should fear from a Trump presidency. Clinton has been criticized for being overly cautious when it comes to sending our troops into battle, but there is a measured way to react to the world's problems. Do we really want someone in charge of our military and nuclear codes who has an impulse control problem? The fact that so many top military and national security officials are not supporting Trump speaks volumes. 
Clinton, meanwhile, was a competent secretary of state, with far stronger diplomatic skills than she gets credit for. Yes, mistakes were made in Benghazi, and it was tragic that four Americans lost their lives in the 2012 terror attacks on the U.S. consulate there. But the incident was never the diabolical conspiracy that Republicans wanted us to believe, and Clinton was absolved of blame after lengthy investigations. As the nation's top diplomat, Clinton was well-traveled, visiting numerous countries and restoring U.S. influence internationally. She was part of President Barack Obama's inner circle when the decision was made to go after and kill Osama bin Laden and negotiated U.N. sanctions that led to the Iran nuclear deal.

For the Enquirer to come out for Clinton is staggering, after all this newspaper thought re-electing George W. Bush was a good idea,  But as the endorsement says, "this is not a traditional race, and these are not traditional times."

Remember, as goes Cincinnati in November, goes Ohio, and as goes Ohio, goes the White House.

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Coming Av-Hill-Lanche, Con't

If Hillary Clinton's team keeps hitting Donald Trump with his own words in powerful ads like this one out today, Trump may actually lose by double digits.

In the 30-second spot, which will air in several battleground states, young girls look self-consciously at their reflections in iPhone screens and mirrors. Trump’s offensive remarks, taken from radio and TV interviews, play in the background. 
“I’d look at her right in that fat ugly face of hers.”

“She’s a slob. She ate like a pig.” 
“A person who is flat-chested, it’s very hard to be a 10.” 
In the final quote, an interviewer asks if Trump treats women with respect and he responds, “I can’t say that either.” 
“Is this the president we want for our daughters?” the ad concludes.

Last Trumpista left, please scream at the lights until the bulb breaks.

The Keys To The Campaign

The NY Times interviews Prof. Allen Lictman, who has correctly predicted the last nine presidential elections successfully with his "13 keys" approach to political prognostication, and it's worth noting that he says that Donald Trump will be your next President.

Nobody knows for certain who will win on Nov. 8 — but one man is pretty sure: Professor Allan Lichtman, who has correctly predicted every presidential election since 1984.
When we sat down in May, he explained how he comes to a decision. Lichtman's prediction isn't based on horse-race polls, shifting demographics or his own political opinions. Rather, he uses a system of true/false statements he calls the "Keys to the White House" to determine his predicted winner.
And this year, he says, Donald Trump is the favorite to win.
The keys, which are explained in depth in Lichtman’s book “Predicting the Next President: The Keys to the White House 2016” are:
  1. Party Mandate: After the midterm elections, the incumbent party holds more seats in the U.S. House of Representatives than after the previous midterm elections.
  2. Contest: There is no serious contest for the incumbent party nomination.
  3. Incumbency: The incumbent party candidate is the sitting president.
  4. Third party: There is no significant third party or independent campaign.
  5. Short-term economy: The economy is not in recession during the election campaign.
  6. Long-term economy: Real per capita economic growth during the term equals or exceeds mean growth during the previous two terms.
  7. Policy change: The incumbent administration effects major changes in national policy.
  8. Social unrest: There is no sustained social unrest during the term.
  9. Scandal: The incumbent administration is untainted by major scandal.
  10. Foreign/military failure: The incumbent administration suffers no major failure in foreign or military affairs.
  11. Foreign/military success: The incumbent administration achieves a major success in foreign or military affairs.
  12. Incumbent charisma: The incumbent party candidate is charismatic or a national hero.
  13. Challenger charisma: The challenging party candidate is not charismatic or a national hero.

Lichtman's formula is that the party in power loses if they fail six or more of these conditions, and that Hillary Clinton and the Democrats have already failed ad conditions 1, 3, 7, 11, and 12 for sure, and that Gary Johnson's poll numbers mean that they have failed number 4 as well.

The problem is I disagree with points 7 and 11.  Both Obamacare and normalization of relations with Cuba continue to be major successes for the Obama administration, plus I believe that Gary Johnson's support will collapse by November.  That leaves the Democrats only losing two for sure, with condition 12 subjective at best.

So no, I don't think Hillary Clinton is in trouble in the least by this criteria.  I just think it's being measured incorrectly.

She's still going to win.

Bevin Busted Big

The Kentucky Supreme Court has shoved GOP Gov. Matt Bevin's face in the dirt with a 5-2 ruling throwing out the governor's unilateral decision to cut University of Kentucky system funding.

"The governor's reduction of the allotments of the universities in this case exceeded his statutory authority," wrote Justice Mary C. Noble in a 50-page opinion. "Whatever authority he (the governor) might otherwise have to require a budget unit not to spend appropriated funds does not extend to universities, which the legislature has made independent bodies politic with control over their own expenditures." 
The ruling reverses an earlier one by Franklin Circuit Court Judge Thomas Wingate saying a governor does have the authority to withhold funds appropriated by the General Assembly to universities. 
Four justices concurred with Noble in the 5-2 opinion. Justices Daniel J. Venters and Samuel T. Wright III dissented. 
At issue in the case is Bevin's controversial directive to cut state funding to universities and community colleges by 4.5 percent during the 2015-16 fiscal year. Bevin later agreed to reduce the cuts to 2 percent and exempt Kentucky State University – the state's smallest university. 
The 2 percent cuts amount to about $18 million – money that has been held in a separate account pending the Supreme Court's final ruling.

So no,'re not king of Kentucky.  And several other suits are pending as Bevin took authority in his first six months to do everything from make cuts to colleges to firing entire advisory boards, and if this ruling from the state's highest court is any indication. he's in a lot of trouble.

But the impact of the ruling is huge as it relates to the Republican governor's aggressive exercise of executive power and his ongoing legal clashes with Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear, who filed the lawsuit challenging the university cuts. 
"Today, the Supreme Court enforced Kentucky law, reminding us that not even the governor is above the law," Beshear said at a news conference late Thursday morning. "Based on today's ruling, I am calling on Gov. Bevin to immediately release the $18 million he wrongfully withheld from our public universities and colleges." 
Beshear also said, "I'm also calling on the governor's office to use today as a turning point. It's time for him to stop attacking and instead to join me in building a better Kentucky." 
But the response of the governor's office made clear Bevin is not ready to join Beshear in anything. That response briefly said Bevin disagreed with Thursday's ruling and emphasized that the cuts to universities were part Bevin's broader strategy to save money to address the crisis within state pension funds, which have unfunded liabilities of about $35 billion. 
"The Attorney General clearly does not understand the severity of the pension problem which became the nation's worst-funded plan under the watch of his father's (former Gov. Steve Beshear's) administration," Bevin Press Secretary Amanda Stamper said in a statement.

So the fight between Andy Beshear and Matt Bevin continues, Beshear's not sorry he's winning, and Bevin's refusing to apologize while losing.

Welcome to Bevinstan.


Thursday, September 22, 2016

Last Call For The Ol' Perfesser's Lament

Our old friend Glenn "Instapundit" Reynolds was booted from Twitter last night for a rather awful tweet he made about Charlotte protesters:

Glenn Reynolds, a conservative USA Today columnist and University of Tennessee law professor known by the moniker Instapundit, was suspended from Twitter on Wednesday for urging drivers to hit protesters blocking a highway in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Reynolds tweeted a link to a live video stream of demonstrators stopping traffic on I-277 during the chaotic second day of protests over the fatal police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott. His comment read “Run them down.”

Twitter suspended his account shortly after the tweet went up and outraged commenters accused Reynolds, who also runs the Instapundit website, of inciting violence. Several users preserved screenshots of the tweet.

Run them down.

That tweet was bad enough.  Far worse is Reynolds's defense today.

Sorry, blocking the interstate is dangerous, and trapping people in their cars and surrounding them is a threat. Driving on is self-preservation
, especially when we’ve had mobs destroying property and injuring and killing people. But if Twitter doesn’t like me, I’m happy to stop providing them with free content. 
ANOTHER UPDATE: Was just on Hugh Hewitt talking about this. Since Twitter won’t let me respond to — or even see — my critics, let me expand here. 
I’ve always been a supporter of free speech and peaceful protest. I fully support people protesting police actions, and I’ve been writing in support of greater accountability for police for years. 
But riots aren’t peaceful protest. And blocking interstates and trapping people in their cars is not peaceful protest — it’s threatening and dangerous, especially against the background of people rioting, cops being injured, civilian-on-civilian shootings, and so on. I wouldn’t actually aim for people blocking the road, but I wouldn’t stop because I’d fear for my safety, as I think any reasonable person would
Run them down” perhaps didn’t capture this fully, but it’s Twitter, where character limits stand in the way of nuance
Meanwhile, regarding Twitter: I don’t even know that this is why I was suspended, as I’ve heard nothing from Twitter at all. They tell users and investors that they don’t censor, but they seem awfully quick to suspend people on one side of the debate and, as people over at Twitchy note, awfully tolerant of outright threats on the other. 
Twitter can do without me, as I can certainly do without Twitter.

So he absolutely was advocating for violence, in particular vehicular assault,  against protesters.  The standard is that if you block the road, and he runs you over, it's automatically self-defense no questions asked.

This is a tenured law professor saying this.

Oh but it gets worse: Nick Gillespie shows up and continues the defense at Reason because he's a nice guy and a blogger.

Well, I hope he is reinstated immediately and keeps on giving Twitter "free content." Over the past 15 or 20 years, Reynolds (whom I interviewed for one of my very first stories at Reason, about the potential influence of the Supreme Court case United States v. Lopez) has been one of the most-interesting and thoughtful voices on the broadly defined right. He writes everywhere (I recommend especially his USA Today columns) and books such as An Army of Davids and The Higher Education Bubble are the product of an incredibly sharp and serious person with an eye on the possibilities offered by technological and cultural innovation. Since coming online in 2001 shortly before the 9/11 attacks, the Instapundit site has been nothing short of a godsend, collecting and sharing links on an immense variety of topics from electoral politics to private space exploration to human longevity to flash sales at Amazon (for these and other reasons, Reynolds is sometimes called "the Blogfather"). I don't always agree with the spin the various contributors put on current events, but it's the first or second site I check every day after
Whatever you think of the tastefulness of his suggestion regarding the protesters in Charlotte, the idea that he is seriously inciting any sort of actual or real threat is risible. I can appreciate the various pressures that Twitter is facing from all sorts of perspectives. The service is constantly being asked to take material down for any number of reasons, and the requests aren't simply coming from SJWs with bees in their bonnets (indeed, it seems as if the most numerous requests from copyright holders). Twitter lists the most common reasons for suspending accounts here.

He was reinstated later on Thursday morning, of course.

This is what we're up against.  This is what I mean by there's a different legal, cultural, and social standard for black people exercising anything that looks like a right: a right to gather, a right to protest and air grievances, a right to bear arms, they either apply to black people only with the permission of white people or do not apply to black America at all, and the penalty for violating this goes all the way up to death, guys.

And this is why.  We're just obstacles to Reynolds.  We're in his way, and if we violate that, our lives are forfeit. Automatically. Not only is he unapologetic, but he doesn't see any possibly reason as to why he should have been made to care in the first place, and the bad guys here are Twitter and liberals for pointing out he's advocating violence against people.

Black Lives Matter, guys.

Racism's Only Been Around For Eight Years Or So, You See

This isn't just gaslighting by Trump supporters, I'm used to them just pretending facts don't exist. Global warming, police brutality, gun safety and an entire economic "plan" are all fiction to these clowns. But this?  It's wholesale alternate reality construction that erases 400 years of history.

Donald Trump’s campaign chair in a prominent Ohio county has claimed there was “no racism” during the 1960s and said black people who have not succeeded over the past half-century only have themselves to blame. 
Kathy Miller, chair of the Republican nominee’s campaign in Mahoning County, who is white, made the remarks during a taped interview with the Guardian’s Anywhere but Washington series of election videos. 
If you’re black and you haven’t been successful in the last 50 years, it’s your own fault. You’ve had every opportunity, it was given to you,” she said. 
“You’ve had the same schools everybody else went to. You had benefits to go to college that white kids didn’t have. You had all the advantages and didn’t take advantage of it. It’s not our fault, certainly.” 
Miller also called the Black Lives Matter movement“a stupid waste of time” and said lower voter turnout among African Americans could be related to “the way they’re raised”.

Such abject denial is necessary for voting for Trump, after all.  But this is bordering on mass delusion.

Miller also dismissed the racial tensions of the 1960s, when she said she graduated from high school. “Growing up as a kid, there was no racism, believe me. We were just all kids going to school.” 
Asked about segregation and the civil rights movement, she replied: “I never experienced it. I never saw that as anything.” 
Miller added: “I don’t think there was any racism until Obama got elected. We never had problems like this ... Now, with the people with the guns, and shooting up neighborhoods, and not being responsible citizens, that’s a big change, and I think that’s the philosophy that Obama has perpetuated on America.”

Miller dismissed the suggestion that Trump was exploiting racist or prejudiced views among some voters as “the media making stuff up”. Instead, she said of the Republican nominee: “He’s very willing to talk about issues that have never been discussed publicly.” 
When it was pointed out that some people might find her remarks offensive, Miller replied: “I don’t care, it’s the truth.”

This is what we're up against in November, guys.  Now, after this Kathy Miller has resigned her position but take a long, hard look at the very real possibility of a country where sixty million Kathy Millers decide your federal government.

Maybe you want tot do something about it?

Our Dark Orange Future Nightmare

Evan Osnos at The New Yorker honestly considers what a Trump presidency would look like, and it's pretty awful across the board if you're one of those folks who thinks that they can grin and bear it through four years of Trump to reach the promised land of liberal utopia.

When Trump talks about what he will create and what he will eliminate, he doesn’t depart from three core principles: in his view, America is doing too much to try to solve the world’s problems; trade agreements are damaging the country; and immigrants are detrimental to it. He wanders and hedges and doubles back, but he is governed by a strong instinct for self-preservation, and never strays too far from his essential positions. Roger Stone, a long-serving Trump adviser, told me it is a mistake to imagine that Trump does not mean to fulfill his most radical ideas. “Maybe, in the end, the courts don’t allow him to temporarily ban Muslims,” Stone said. “That’s fine—he can ban anybody from Egypt, from Syria, from Libya, from Saudi Arabia. He’s a Reagan-type pragmatist.” 
William Antholis, a political scientist who directs the Miller Center, at the University of Virginia, pointed out that President Trump would have, at his disposal, “the world’s largest company, staffed with 2.8 million civilians and 1.5 million military employees.” Trump would have the opportunity to alter the Supreme Court, with one vacancy to fill immediately and others likely to follow. Three sitting Justices are in their late seventies or early eighties. 
As for the Trump Organization, by law Trump could retain as much control or ownership as he wants, because Presidents are not bound by the same conflict-of-interest statute that restricts Cabinet officers and White House staff. Presidential decisions, especially on foreign policy, could strengthen or weaken his family’s business, which includes controversial deals in Turkey, South Korea, Azerbaijan, and elsewhere. Trump would likely face pressure to adopt an arrangement akin to that of Michael Bloomberg, who, when he became mayor of New York City, withdrew from most management decisions for his company. Trump has said only that he plans to turn over the Trump Organization’s day-to-day control to three of his adult children: Donald, Jr., Ivanka, and Eric. 
As President, Trump would have the power to name some four thousand appointees, but he would face a unique problem: more than a hundred veteran Republican officials have vowed never to support him, and that has forced younger officials to decide whether they, too, will stay away or, instead, enter his Administration and try to moderate him. By September, the campaign was vetting four hundred people, and some had been invited to join the transition team. An analogy was making the rounds: Was Trump a manageable petty tyrant, in the mold of Silvio Berlusconi? Or was he something closer to Mussolini? And, if so, was he Mussolini in 1933 or in 1941? 
Michael Chertoff served both Bush Presidents—as a U.S. Attorney in Bush, Sr.,’s Administration, and then as Secretary of Homeland Security under George W. Bush. He was one of fifty senior Republican national-security officials who recently signed a letter declaring that Trump “would be the most reckless President in American history.” Chertoff told me that he has been approached for advice by younger Republicans who ask if joining Trump, after he has already been elected, would be regarded as patriotic, rather than political. “I think anybody contemplating going in will have to have a very serious look in their own conscience, and make sure they’re not kidding themselves,” Chertoff said. 
Trump’s Presidential plans are not shaped by ideology. He changed parties five times between 1999 and 2012, and, early on the campaign trail, he praised parts of Planned Parenthood (while opposing abortion), vowed to protect Social Security, and supported gay rights (while opposing same-sex marriage). He is governed, above all, by his faith in the ultimate power of transaction—an encompassing perversion of realism that is less a preference for putting interests ahead of values than a belief that interests have no place for values. 
Trump has relied heavily on the ideas of seasoned combatants. Newt Gingrich, who, as House Speaker in the nineties, pioneered many of the tactics that have come to define partisan warfare, is now a Trump adviser. Gingrich told me that he is urging Trump to give priority to an obscure but contentious conservative issue—ending lifetime tenure for federal employees. This would also galvanize Republicans and help mend rifts in the Party after a bitter election.

“Getting permission to fire corrupt, incompetent, and dishonest workers—that’s the absolute showdown,” Gingrich said. He assumes that federal employees’ unions would resist, thus producing, in his words, an “ongoing war” similar to the conflict that engulfed Madison, Wisconsin, in 2011, when Governor Scott Walker moved to limit public-sector employees’ collective-bargaining rights. After five months of protests, and a failed effort to recall the Governor and members of the state senate, Walker largely prevailed. Gingrich predicts that that chaotic dynamic can be brought to Washington. “You have to end the civil-service permanent employment,” he said. “You start changing that and the public-employee unions will just come unglued.”

That was always the goal: to dismantle the US civil service for good. The damage would be catastrophic in the courts and in the executive branch, as well as in foreign policy.

If you can't see that you should be doing everything you can to stop Trump, and that means voting for Hillary, then I don't know what else to tell you at this point.  There is nothing that Hillary Clinton could do that would be worse than this man at the helm of the United States Armed Forces, making Supreme Court nominations, and making and breaking foreign treaties.

Put your pride and ego aside and realize there are exactly two choices in this election, and make the right choice.  Period.


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Last Call For All About The Benjamin

My friend Emily L. Hauser wonders why President Obama is even bothering to meet with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu today at the White House, because it's not like Bibi hasn't smacked the president around like a wet noodle for eight years and laughed at him every second of it.  I don't often see her upset with President Obama over things, but she's pretty frustrated over this, and rightfully so.

Many things stand in the way of a durable Israeli-Palestinian peace, not least Palestinian terrorism; domestic politics on both sides; a mutual refusal to recognize the just demands of long-time enemies; the hugely fraught questions of how to share Jerusalem and the status of Palestinian refugees; and all those wars in Gaza, each of which was part of a cyclical and very lopsided war of attrition waged between the sides for decades. 
But even if all that were somehow, through sheer force of will, resolved, Obama's stated goal of a two-state peace literally cannot be achieved if Israel not only refuses to leave Palestinian land but continues to build on it. Which is, and has always been, the goal of settlement — to force permanent Israeli control over the West Bank. 
What could the Obama administration have done to convince its client state that compromise for the sake of peace was in its own best interests? Any number of things, ranging from the geopolitical to the financial. We'll never know if putting real pressure on Israel would have worked, because Obama — like every other president before him, with the single and short-lived example of George H.W. Bush — was never willing to push Israel past its comfort zone. I believe Obama to have been an excellent president for the American people, but the simple truth is that he has failed Israelis and Palestinians miserably
Netanyahu, on the other hand, has staked his entire career on settlement and was once secretly recorded telling a group of constituents: "I know what America is. America is a thing you can move very easily… They won't get in our way." 
Do you think Obama wants a chance to tell Netanyahu he was right?

It's not hard to admit that Obama's foreign policy failures are real and lasting.  He's done a lot of good things over the last eight years, but Syria, Israel, and Yemen  (and in reality, Russia) are never going to be counted among his successes.  I love the man dearly and will always respect him, and I wish he could server another term, but as with Emily, the rose-colored glasses have to come off when it comes to MENA and the failure of Arab Spring, and what could have been.

He's not alone in that blame.  But he gets his healthy share of it, deservedly.

Eight years of letting Bibi kick him in the crotch and run away giggling, then giving him $38 billlion in new military aid? C'mon. The truth is, Obama got sandbagged, bruised, battered, beaten, and just plain outsmarted in his second term, like Clinton and Dubya before him.  Clinton's weakness was domestic, Dubya's was both domestic and foreign policy, but Obama's is definitely foreign policy and the next President has a hell of a mess to clean up.

And no, I expect even less from Hillary when it comes to dealing with Israel, so let's get that out of the way now.

God help us all if it's Trump, though.

Not Here To Entertain You

Donald Trump's Traveling Medicine Show For Black America Featuring Sean Hannity is in Cleveland today, and as The Grio's Brian Bush reminds us, the packaging of black grief for absolution consumption by white audiences is snake oil for everyone involved.

So as the circus that is the Trump campaign makes a stop in Cleveland, what, exactly, could Donald Trump hope to possibly communicate during this interview with Hannity? After all, his rise to political prominence came as a result of overtly racist talking points and “Alt-right” fervor. His arena-filling rallies over the past year have been little more than public gathering spaces for white supremacists, and hotbeds of violence against protesters. 
Should, then, Donald Trump’s last-ditch effort be enough to convince black voters that he is the candidate best able to address “African-American concerns?” 
His track-record suggests no, and he can’t wheel out enough black faces to convince me otherwise. Simply put, the Trump campaign’s recent push to secure black votes is absurd.

It always has been about selling Trump as White Savior not to black America, but to white America. The problem is Trump's past is so awful that nobody believes him.  But he sure is selling the notion that he's forgiven, because after all if Trump and the GOP are absolved of their guilt on race, it because the fault of black America alone.

Speaking last month to a predominantly white crowd in Dimondale, Michigan, Donald Trump boldly asked “What the hell do you have to lose,” going on to use inaccurate statistics to paint a dystopian portrait of black America. The question posed was odd for a few reasons. 
First, because the audience present was mostly all white, and the question itself was directed towards black voters. More odd, though, was the fact that the person asking the question seemed to ignore his own past of discrimination; the very type of discriminatory views that helped create the environment he now criticizes. 
In 1973 while Donald Trump served as the president of his father’s real estate company, the Trump Management Corporation, the Department of Justice sued the company for violating the Fair Housing Act, alleging racial discrimination against potential black renters in several of the Trumps’ buildings. While Donald and his father ultimately settled the lawsuit without having to admit guilt, the suit alleged that the Trumps quoted different rental conditions and terms to black renters seeking housing than to white renters, and lied to black rental candidates about apartments not being available. In fact, just a few short years later, the Justice Department sued the Trump company again for the same reason. 
Recognizing that, it’s hard to believe Donald Trump when he now says that he’s concerned with issues facing black Americans. The disparities in education and employment that exist now are a result of the same racist attitudes Donald Trump helped perpetuate. 
While Trump was allegedly keeping black tenants out of his buildings, an employer a few blocks away was likely denying an applicant because of the color of his skin. Both worked in concert to create inner-city communities with few economic opportunities, and crumbling, underfunded schools for black children. Trump, more than most, has played a direct role in preserving the structure of white supremacy. Even if his data is a bit off (things aren’t as bad as he makes them seem), Donald Trump is objectively one of the many architects of a system that has worked to disadvantage black people for many years. 
And he’s done a poor job during his campaign to change my perception. 
Trotting out black preachers in order to ingratiate himself with black Americans has hardly worked to refurbish his image. Not because of their religious affiliation, but because they have been so willing to lie about the most basic things.

But lie they will, because lies sell very well in the game of forgiveness.  And it's all right there on FOX News.
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