November 2016, Part 1
Jim Miller on Politics
53 Or 52: Mark Kirk lost in Illinois, though by less than expected, Joe Heck did not win in Nevada, and Kelly Ayotte's race against New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan is still too close to call, though, as I write, Bing gives Ayotte a 69 percent chance of winning.
All the other races were won by the party now holding the seat.
So, 53 or 52 Republican Senate seats, depending on the outcome of the New Hampshire race.
And the House losses can reasonably be described as minor, though they should expect more in 2018. And, possibly, in special elections between now and then.
- 11:57 PM, 8 November 2016 [link]
Three! The three Pacific coast states, Washington, Oregon, and California, will probably have three Republicans in statewide offices, beginning in January. Washington's secretary of state, Kim Wyman, was re-elected, and Republican Duane Davidson is leading fellow Republican Michael Waite for the state treasurer's office.
In Oregon, Republican Dennis Richardson has a solid lead in the race for secretary of state.
(I didn't bother to check California.)
That may not seem like much, but right now the Republicans have just one in the three states, Kim Wyman.
- 11:26 PM, 8 November 2016 [link]
My Apologies For Not Putting Up More Posts, So Far: I spent some time trying to find a useful "election central" at several news organizations. What I look for is a place that will give me the results, by county, for individual states. If they give the percentage of votes counted for the counties, I can often make my own projections, often before the networks.
No doubt, there are such sites, but I didn't find them in some minutes of looking at CNN, Fox, and the Washington Post. Budget cuts, or perhaps I am not as good at finding such things as I once was.
Microsoft's search engine, Bing, was quite good at giving me results for important individual races, such as Kelly Ayotte's in New Hampshire. (She's leading.) I've used Bing before on election nights and can definitely recommend it.
One great exception: As it has been for years, the Washington state secretary of state site is excellent, easy to use, and with just the right amount of detail. It's the best official site I know of. It even has a button that lets you export the data.
- 10:28 PM, 8 November 2016 [link]
Well, Obviously, I Was Wrong, By A Lot: Right now, as I write, the New York Times gives Donald Trump the edge in the electoral college ( >95 percent probability) — and Hillary Clinton the edge in the popular vote, by 1 percent.
That's by far the biggest mistake I've made in a prediction.
Naturally, those numbers may have changed by the time you read this.
(If the popular vote edge seems surprising, since she is trailing now, remember that there are many votes to be counted yet in California, Oregon, and Washington. In Washington, many of the votes haven't even been received since votes only have to be postmarked today.)
- 9:00 PM, 8 November 2016 [link]
54, 53, 52, 51, 50, 49, 48, And 47: Those are all possible numbers of Republican Senators after today's election. (Whether all of them are plausible, I'll leave to you.)
So, at best, Republicans can expect to break even, keeping their current 54 member majority.
Let's start with the easy ones. Almost everyone expects Republican Mark Kirk to lose in Illinois. It's a very Democratic state now, and his stroke disabled him for months, preventing him from getting an early start on his campaign. Moreover, here, as in most states, Trump has been a drag on Republicans.
Republicans have a good chance to win Harry Reid's seat in Nevada, since Joe Heck is a strong candidate.
So, 54 possibly, even assuming Mark Kirk loses.
I assume Marco Rubio will win in Florida. (At one time that race was in doubt.)
Now then, what about all the rest?
Since I haven't done any original research, I'll rely on Larry Sabato for the rest.
Overall, we’re picking a net gain of four for Democrats in the Senate, which results in a 50-50 tie in Congress’ upper chamber. If we’re right about the presidential contest, that means Vice President Tim Kaine (D) will be breaking ties after Inauguration. Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D-VA) would appoint Kaine’s replacement in the Senate (long-serving Rep. Bobby Scott, an African American, is the likeliest choice). If there is an evenly divided Senate, the next important date will be Nov. 7, 2017, when the Old Dominion will hold a special election for the remainder of Kaine’s term in office (that seat also will be up for regular election in 2018). There’s also the potential for a party change that alters the Senate’s leadership if it is indeed 50-50.In Nevada, Sabato expects former Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto will defeat Heck.
So, 50, until after the 2017 Virginia election. And perhaps still 50, after that.
And it could be worse, if Republicans lose close races in North Carolina, Indiana, and Missouri.
The betting markets come close to agreeing with Savato; for example, the British bettors are now predicting that the Democrats will win 51 seats.
Most of you probably know this, but I'll remind you, anyway: In recent years, there has been a tendency for one party to win almost all the close Senate races. That's what happened in 1980 and 1986, for example.
So the median result is not as likely as it would be if the races were independent of each other.
(If the Democrats do take control of the Senate, will it be Donald Trump's fault? Possibly, though you should recognize that he may have helped Senate candidates in Indiana and Missouri.)
- 4:21 PM, 8 November 2016 [link]
Venezuela's Inflation Gets Worse: They haven't hit bottom yet, but they may be getting close.
This has been the result of a government that has spent more than it could borrow, and has borrowed more than it could probably pay back. The problem was that the Chavista regime bungled the state-owned oil company so badly that it didn't have enough money even when crude prices were high, and really doesn't now that they're low. So it's printed what it's needed instead, setting off what is currently the world's worst inflation. Which, according to black market rates, made Venezuela's currency, the bolivar, lose 99.1 percent of its value between the start of 2012 and the start of this October. In the last month, though, that's picked up to the point that the bolivar is now worth 99.4 percent less than it was five years ago.Most nations that go in for printing money in a big way print larger and larger denominations, as inflation gets worse. Zimbabwe, for instance, printed a 100 trillion dollar note. The Venezuelan regime, for reasons that escape me, has been unwilling to do that. As of last August, their largest note was just 100 bolivars — and worth about 15 cents, then.
According to Wikipedia, that's still their largest note.
As bad as the inflation is in Venezuela, it isn't their worst problem, though it may make the top five.
Now, doesn't that make you feel a little better about our problems?
- 9:46 AM, 8 November 2016 [link]
Here's An Excellent Way To Fight a war.
(The article doesn't say why they haven't divided the island, following the procedure a game theorist might recommend: One nation divides the island, and the other nation gets first pick.)
- 8:17 AM, 8 November 2016 [link]
Donald Trump Favored Impeaching George W. Bush: (Or said he did, anyway. With Trump, one should never automatically assume he means what he says.)
Here's the basic story, which I had missed or forgotten.
Donald Trump has been consistent on this claim — the claim that Bush lied. In 2008, he was talking to Wolf Blitzer. This is how it went:The whole Nordlinger piece is worth reading (as is almost everything he writes).
We needn't accept Trump's given reason for hating Bush. There is good reason to think that Trump has a personal grudge against the whole Bush family, why I am not entirely sure, though I assume Jeb Bush's rejection of his Florida casinos is part of it
- 4:20 PM, 7 November 2016 [link]
Election Scorecard, 11/7: Last week, Hillary Clinton gained in the betting market, but lost in the poll model.
In the betting market, her probability of winning went from 74.4 to 81.8 percent. In the poll model, her margin went from 6.4 to 5.2 percent.
How to explain those two moves? I think the first is the result of James Comey's "Never mind" announcement, and the second is the result of reluctant Republicans coming home.
My current prediction is simple enough: I am taking that 5.2 percent, and adding .5 percent for Clinton's better organization, so today's prediction is that Clinton will defeat Trump by 5.7 percent. And I am upping the odds in her favor; any Trump bettor should get at least 25-1 odds, which is up from 15-1 last week.
(A political scientist with a much more elaborate method thinks the odds should be about 100-1.)
- 2:49 PM, 7 November 2016 [link]
Politics Or Policy? Let's think ahead to the 2018 elections.
In off years, the party that does not hold the White House nearly always gains. So, if Donald Trump wins tomorrow, Democrats will gain in 2018; conversely, if Hillary Clintonn wins, Republicans will gain.
Sometimes these gains can be spectacular, as they were in the elections of 1946, 1966, 1994, 2006, and 2010. (The best recruiters for the Republican Party in recent years were Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, and, in 2006, George W. Bush returned the favor.)
This leaves us with the odd conclusion that, if a person wants his party to make long-term gains, he should be hoping that the other party wins the White House tomorrow.
Of course, if policy, short-term, is more important, then the person should hope his own party wins.
What I have described is the most likely scenario, not anything inevitable, especially with a joker like Donald Trump in the White House. (Would anyone be terribly surprised if he were to change parties once again, while in the White House?)
But, even allowing for Trump, it is, as they say, the way to bet.
Since I believe that Hillary Clinton will win tomorrow, I am predicting, right now, that the Republcans will make significant gains in 2018. How likely do I think a Clinton win and 2018 Republican gains in 2018 are? Together, at least 80 percent.
- 9:41 AM, 7 November 2016 [link]
This Cartoon May Explain Some Of The Odd Incidents in the World Series.
(Some software folks — I repeat, some — will like this xkcd cartoon.)
- 8:50 AM, 7 November 2016 [link]
Director Comey Says, "Never Mind." By now, you have almost certainly seen, or heard, this story.
But on Sunday, just two days before the election, Comey announced that the team had news to share. After reviewing “all of the communications that were to or from Hillary Clinton while she was Secretary of State,” he wrote, investigators had “not changed our conclusions.”I suppose I could take some satisfaction from having warned you that there might not be anything new in the emails. But mostly, I feel, even more strongly, the disgust over the delays in the Clinton and Trump cases I felt in April.
- 7:28 PM, 6 November 2016 [link]
Why Is Donald Trump Refusing To Pay His Pollster? At Political Betting, they speculate that it may be because Trump didn't like the poll results the pollster was giving him.
On this evidence I’m going to infer that Trump has some bad private polling and that has led to the current contretemps with his pollster. Donald Trump, the non career politician, in my opinion possesses the temperament of someone who doesn’t react well to bad news, polling denial is often synonomous with a losing candidate. In the early hours of Wednesday morning we’re going to find out if my supposition is right.That seems plausible, even likely.
- 3:42 PM, 6 November 2016 [link]
Melania Trump, Illegal Immigrant: The Associated Press has found what appears to be solid proof.
The wife of the GOP presidential nominee, who sometimes worked as a model under just her first name, has said through an attorney that she first came to the U.S. from Slovenia on Aug. 27, 1996, on a B1/B2 visitor visa and then obtained an H-1B work visa on Oct. 18, 1996.So, if the Donald is elected, he probably won't have her expelled.
In the past, he has admitted being in favor of a limited amnesty.
(This must have taken some digging by the AP. An earlier story, which I linked to, didn't have the facts quite right, and was retracted, after the Trumps supplied some documents. I missed the retraction.
But, if I had seen it, I would have still said that it seemed likely that she had worked here, illegally, even though one piece of evidence had failed to show that.)
- 3:19 PM, 6 November 2016 [link]
Worth Buying: This weekend's Wall Street Journal for Jonathan Haidt and Ravi Iyer's essay, "How to Get Beyond Our Tribal Politics".
Whether Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump wins Tuesday, understanding the psychological causes of our national rift can help us bridge itAnd you are likely to find one or two other things worth reading in that issue.
- 9:13 AM, 6 November 2016 [link]
Specialization Comes to the guru business.
- 8:54 AM, 6 November 2016 [link]
Poor Melania Trump: First the Trump team writes a convention speech for her that is partly plagiarized, and now this.
On Thursday, during Melania Trump’s second major speech, our potential next first lady said her agenda would be to end cyber-bullying.(Links omitted.)
Starting with her husband?
This is so weird that you have to start considering a malice explanation, instead of the usual incompetence explanation. You have to wonder whether someone in Trump's campaign is deliberately sabotaging her.
(That wasn't the only problem with the speech.)
- 10:06 AM, 5 November 2016 [link]
Since It Is Pouring Rain Here Today, this cartoon seems appropriate.
- 9:41 AM, 5 November 2016 [link]
Who To Blame For The Fire? Here's the basic story.
A black church in Greenville, Mississippi, was set on fire on Tuesday night. Fire fighters arrived to find Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church “heavily engulfed in flames,” Mayor Errick Simmons said in an interview; the fire took nearly an hour to contain. No one was in the church at the time, and no one was injured. On the side of the church, beneath the blackened windows and roof, the words “Vote Trump” have been spray painted.The Atlantic reporter, Emma Green, is nearly certain that a Trump supporter set the fire, though she admits that may be hard to prove.
In reaction to the article, Trumpistas at Lucianne were nearly certain that it was a hoax.
No doubt someone will post a verified photo of Trump lighting the fire. And the MSM will run with the story. Maybe they´ll reference all the black churches that were burned in Arkansas which Bill Clinton referred to many times, which of course never happened but then if he and/or Hillary says it´s true, then it is true for all intent and purposes. God help us rid this nation of these two charlatans.People believe what they want to believe, as both the article and the comments demonstrate.
My take? Most likely, it is just what it appears to be, an attack by a Trump supporter on a black church. But there have been hoaxes from time to time, so we can't exclude that possibility. Or even the fainter possibility that this was a cruel joke, or the act of a mentally disturbed person.
And we may never know the motive, just as Green said.
But we can learn something from that all-too-common mistake in reasoning. If you see a story that you really want to be true — or false — then you should check it with extreme skepticism, lest you fool yourself.
- 2:08 PM, 4 November 2016 [link]
"Ours Is Better" (1): I was looking for a different version of this joke when I found this one in a search, but thought you might like it, too.
(And I plan to give you the other version next Friday.)
- 1:22 PM, 4 November 2016 [link]
An Embarrassment, Not Of Riches, But Of Scandals: Every morning, when I am thinking about what posts to write that day, I am faced with such piles of Clinton and Trump scandals that it can be hard to choose just one or two to write about. (As far as I can tell, Clinton thinks the rules don't apply to her, and Trump thinks only "losers" try to follow the rules, if there is profit to be had in breaking them.)
I've been doing more Donald Trump scandals, since I think his are still less well known than hers, so, by way of balance, this George Will blast from the past.
As the presidential campaigns sink to the challenge of demonstrating that there is no such thing as rock bottom, remember this: When the Clintons decamped from Washington in January 2001, they took some White House furnishings that were public property. They also finished accepting more than $190,000 in gifts, including two coffee tables and two chairs, a $7,375 gratuity from Denise Rich, whose fugitive former husband had been pardoned in President Clinton's final hours.(Eric Holder managed that pardon, which did not disqualify him, in Barack Obama's opinion, to be the nation's top law enforcement official.)
This may be hard to believe, but I would rather write about strategy and policy than scandals. But I do think we all have to do our little bits to clean up the messes these two candidates have made.
- 6:23 PM, 3 November 2016 [link]
NHK World's Animated Graph: As I mentioned earlier, I have been pleased to see the Japanese network displaying simple graphs in their news programs, graphs of the kind you might see in the business section of a good newspaper.
A few days ago, I saw them do something clever, something you can't do in a print newspaper. They displayed this graph showing the decline in South Korean President Park's popularity — only they animated it; they drew it from left to right as they discussed how her popularity had changed since she had become president.
It was, I thought, a very effective way to present the data. And there is no reason why our networks can't do similar things, if they tried.
I would change one thing in that animation; I would add some indication of the uncertainty, perhaps light dashed lines showing the usual 95 percent confidence intervals.
(Her popularity has fallen recently because of this scandal, which I don't claim to understand.)
- 2:47 PM, 3 November 2016 [link]
Why Hasn't This Sensational Case Received Coverage? The charges are serious enough.
If you’ve been anywhere near Facebook or Twitter in the past several months, you’re probably aware that there is a case working its way through the courts that accuses Donald Trump of raping a 13-year-old girl in 1994.The anonymous woman canceled the press conference, "because Bloom said her client had received threats and was afraid of appearing in public".
Ryan Grim explains, at length, why the story hasn't received more coverage, but left me wondering whether the story is true. There is this hint:
The allegations aren’t entirely implausible on their face. The accuser says Trump raped her repeatedly at parties thrown by since-convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, who was widely known to throw wild parties with young women and girls. Epstein was convicted in 2008 of soliciting an underage girl for prostitution and served a small portion of an 18-year sentence.(Links omitted in both quotations.)
Which still leaves me wondering whether the story is true — and seeing no obvious way to decide, unless there is a trial, or some journalist is able to dig up far more evidence.
We can, however, be reasonably certain that Matt Drudge won't feature this story.
(Here's Epstein's Wikipedia biography.)
- 8:56 AM, 3 November 2016 [link]
It Took Me A Few Moments To Understand the latest xkcd cartoon.
But I liked it when I did.
- 8:07 AM, 3 November 2016 [link]
J. Edgar Comey? Andrew Ferguson and I had the same reaction to the attempt by the New York Times to compare the current FBI director, James Comey, to an earlier one, J. Edgar Hoover.
We both think it's absurd.
In one respect, the headline seemed almost banal. Why not compare James Comey with J. Edgar Hoover on the front page of the Times? After all, they've both worked as director of the FBI—Comey currently, of course, and Hoover for nearly half a century, from 1924 to 1972, though it seemed longer.You could, I suppose, call this an attempt by the Times to imply guilt by association, a very lame attempt.
(I assume all of you recognize that the Times is trying to protect Hillary Clinton by this comparison.
I had been planning to write a post making that argument, but then found that Ferguson had already done so, better than I would have.)
- 3:27 PM, 2 November 2016 [link]
Donald Trump's 1990's Tax Dodge: Because the New Jersey laws governing casinos require extensive disclosures, we have a window into Donald Trump's taxes and finances — while he was operating casinos there.
That's how we know that he was effectively, though not legally, bankrupt for a time, and how we know he paid no federal income taxes for several years.
The New York Times dug deeper into those records and discovered how Trump was "potentially" able to dodge millions of dollars in federal taxes.
Moreover, the tax experts said the maneuver trampled a core tenet of American tax policy by conferring enormous tax benefits on Mr. Trump for losing vast amounts of other people’s money — in this case, money investors and banks had entrusted to him to build a casino empire in Atlantic City.Other people lost the money, but Trump claimed their losses, as his own.
Whatever the legality of the maneuver — and the tax lawyers Trump consulted at the time were dubious about it — it is obviously unethical.
Suppose, through some slip in drafting, our income tax law made it possible for you to claim deductions for your neighbor's children. Would you do that? I would like to think that most people wouldn't, and that almost all people would see it as unethical.
One final point, which is not mentioned in the article: Although Trump's business failures cost other people tens of millions of dollars, to the best of my knowledge, he has never made any effort to compensate them for their losses — even though he now says he is worth billions.
(There's a detail in the article I had forgotten:
According to assessments of his financial stability by New Jersey casino regulators, there were times in the early 1990s when Mr. Trump had no more than a few million dollars in his various bank accounts. He was so strapped for cash that his creditors were apoplectic when they learned that Mr. Trump had bought Marla Maples an engagement ring estimated to be worth $250,000.His creditors actually had him on an allowance for a while, as if he were a teenager who couldn't be trusted to handle money.)
- 2:40 PM, 2 November 2016 [link]
Is 52 Years Of One-Party Control Enough? Not for me, in this instance.
Although Washington state leans Democratic — it last voted for a Republican for president in 1984 and for governor in 1980 — Republicans have held the secretary of state's office since the 1964 election, 52 years in all.
Democrat Tina Podlodowski thinks that's long enough, and has been saying so, in one of her TV ads. Ordinarily, I'd have some sympathy for her argument, but her campaign would make me reject her, even if the Republican candidate were not the competent and honest Kim Wyman.
Podlodowski is opposed to voter IDs, and in favor of same-day voter registration. None of her ads even give lip service to keeping elections here honest, but many of them accuse Republicans of "voter suppression". (I know of no instance of voter suppression in Washington state, in recent years, but there is simply no doubt that illegal votes gave Christine Gregoire her victory in the 2004 gubernatorial election.)
The amount of money that Podlodowski is spending on ads makes me wonder whether she isn't getting substantial help from billionaires Tom Steyer and George Soros, but that isn't a question that interests our local journalists.
(Like almost every other Democrat in this area, Podlodowski is running against Donald Trump. There are places in the United States where he will not be a drag on Republicans, but Washington state isn't one of them.)
- 11:39 AM, 2 November 2016 [link]
We Already Have A Zika-Like Virus Here In The United States: We already have a virus that causes no symptoms when it infects most people, but can cause serious birth defects.
The world has been galvanized by the Zika epidemic spreading through the Americas, which has left more than 2,000 infants with severe brain damage. But for pregnant women and their infants in the United States, cytomegalovirus, or CMV, is the far greater viral threat.But you can reduce your chances of getting the virus by hand washing, and other simple practices.
Unlike Zika, it is so widespread that I probably have it — and so do you.
How many people carry the human cytomegalovirus? That depends on where they live.
HCMV is found throughout all geographic locations and socioeconomic groups, and infects between 60% and 70% of adults in industrialized countries and almost 100% in emerging countries.As far as I know, there is no large effort to develop a vaccine against the virus.
That might be difficult to do, since it is so good at evading our immune systems.
Ir can be treated with anti-viral drugs, but, if I understand that Wikipedia article correctly, there are limits to their effectiveness.
- 9:33 AM, 2 November 2016 [link]
Jason Gay Gives Us An Entertaining Look At The NFL, halfway through the 2016 season.
There are a lot of theories for this ratings tumble, among them: agita over Colin Kaepernick’s anthem protest; rapt fascination over the erudite back-and-forth in the 2016 Presidential race; lousy officiating; too many commercials; crummy quarterbacking; and football fans discovering they have families who have wanted to do other stuff on Sundays all these years.Don't worry; that's about all there is on politics in the column, so if you are looking for relief from the current campaigns, you'll find it.
(If you are interested in that ratings decline, you might want to look at the English Premier League, which, according to an article I read, has had a similar ratings decline.)
- 7:30 AM, 2 November 2016 [link]
How Much Will Hillary Clinton's Better Organization Help Her? The usual estimates I've seen, from knowledgeable people, are 1-2 percent, in national elections.
Having said that, I should add this caveat: Although there are probably formal studies, I haven't seen them. (While he was in the White House, Karl Rove ran some experiments, but I don't think the results were ever reported in any formal way.)
Everything else being equal, that would be enough to tip a close state or two, and, possibly, a Senate race or two.
(One of the mild surprises this year, for me anyway, is learning that Hillary Clinton is a more competent executive than Donald Trump. He is, as we all should know by now, a promoter, not an executive.
I wasn't terribly surprised to learn that he is a better in-person campaigner than she is, having watched her previous campaigns.)
- 3:27 PM, 1 November 2016 [link]
What Would Self-Aware Robots Be Like? Here's one possibility.
- 9:47 AM, 1 November 2016 [link]