Saturday, October 22, 2016

What a contrast!

LP note: I was struck by reading this piece by President Obama vs. Donald Trump's rhetoric in the current presidential campaign.

It is too bad that the president is just now, at the tail end of his second term, coming into his own. Not that he hasn't done great stuff. But his naïve optimism at the beginning of his first term was blown apart by the Republican Party and their supporters whose chief goal was not to govern for the betterment of the country and its people, but rather to try to bring him down.

Because of this destructive behavior, they end up with Donald Trump as their candidate. Yes, they got what they deserved.

Today, President Obama is no less smart but he's more wary, more battle-tested and more a realist. And surprisingly, he hasn't lost his optimism, but he realizes that not everyone is onboard with him for their own reasons — faith? power? money? — rather than logic, science and doing good for all — three of the founding pillars of our country.

This piece is an extraordinary example of how a president should think. From reading it you'll wonder what he's going to be doing next, and what impacts he has yet to make on this world.

Now Is the Greatest Time to Be Alive

by President Barack Obama

WHEN WIRED ASKED me to guest-edit the November issue, I didn’t hesitate. I know it’s the height of election season, and I happen to have a day job that keeps me pretty busy. But given the chance to immerse myself in the possibility of interplanetary travel or join a deep-dive conversation on artificial intelligence, I’m going to say yes. I love this stuff. Always have. It’s why my favorite movie of last year was The Martian. Of course, I’m predisposed to love any movie where Americans defy the odds and inspire the world. But what really grabbed me about the film is that it shows how humans—through our ingenuity, our commitment to fact and reason, and ultimately our faith in each other—can science the heck out of just about any problem.

I’m a guy who grew up watching Star Trek—and I’d be lying if I said that show didn’t have at least some small influence on my worldview. What I loved about it was its optimism, the fundamental belief at its core that the people on this planet, for all our varied backgrounds and outward differ­ences, could come together to build a better tomorrow.

I still believe that. I believe we can work together to do big things that raise the fortunes of people here at home and all over the world. And even if we’ve got some work left to do on faster-than-light travel, I still believe science and technology is the warp drive that accelerates that kind of change for everybody.

(The article is here.)

Friday, October 21, 2016

Third party candidates offer unrealistic alternative

by Tom Maertens
Mankato Free Press

Gary Johnson and Bill Weld, the Libertarian Party candidates, say they are running on a platform of fiscal restraint, social freedom and limited involvement overseas.

The two former Republican governors, from New Mexico and Massachusetts respectively, also favor downsizing government and balancing the budget, but differ from mainstream GOP policies in that they support legalizing marijuana and abortion rights.

After that, they veer off into the ozone. Their party platform says they would:
  • Eliminate public schools in favor of private education or home schooling.
  • Abolish Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.
  • Abolish the Internal Revenue Service and repeal the federal income tax, which would be replaced by some sort of regressive national sales tax or value added tax.
  • Repeal the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 and let corporations offer even lower wages.
  • Eliminate the Department of Education along with government support for college students.
  • Eliminate the EPA and virtually all environmental regulations, including those governing air pollution and global warming, and those prohibiting dangerous chemicals in drinking water.
It is hard to imagine a platform more favorable to the polluting plutocrats, such as the Koch brothers: no income taxes and no environmental regulations. They would be free to destroy the land, the air and the water in pursuit of their second hundred-billion dollars.

Gary Johnson claimed in 2011 that he takes the long-term view of climate change. “In billions of years,” he said, “the sun is going to actually grow and encompass the Earth, right? So global warming is in our future.” This is another form of climate-change denial.

Johnson also believes that health care should be handled by the private sector, which would mean the elimination of veterans’ hospitals, for example.

He is a strong supporter of Citizens United and believes corporations should be able to spend unlimited funds to influence elections.

Johnson describes himself as a social liberal, but as governor of New Mexico, he ended collective bargaining for state employees and cut off Medicaid funding for abortions deemed medically necessary.

It’s clear Johnson doesn’t know much about foreign affairs, either. He has been unable to answer simple questions about Syria and foreign leaders during interviews. Johnson and Weld oppose “entangling alliances” with other countries or attempts to “act as policeman for the world,” which would mean, among other things, pulling back from NATO and other global alliances. The United States has defense pacts with 69 countries which make up around 75 percent of the world’s economic output.

Johnson and Weld also support a balanced budget amendment that would prevent the government from incurring additional debt, a simplistic solution that sounds good to some, but would eliminate an important counter-cyclical economic tool.

As for Johnson’s tax plan, The Tax Foundation estimated that it would reduce federal revenue by $4.4 trillion to $5.9 trillion over 10 years. That is much like Trump’s tax plan, which The Tax Policy Center said would reduce revenue by $6.2 trillion over 10 years, while bestowing tax benefits on the wealthy, like Trump himself. Hillary Clinton’s plan, in contrast, would increase revenue by $1.4 trillion by increasing taxes on the top one percent.

Johnson also wants to eliminate the corporate income tax, which is nominally 35 percent.

In actuality, some two-thirds of U.S. corporations did not pay any federal income tax from 2006 to 2012, according to a Government Accountability Office study. Profitable U.S. corporations paid, on average, an effective federal income tax rate of 14 percent over the slightly shorter period from 2008 to 2012.

Johnson is on track to win perhaps six percent of the national vote, and much more than that in some states, but has no chance of winning the election. That makes a vote for Johnson/Weld a protest vote. This is attractive to some as a demonstration of moral purity; they can ever after disclaim responsibility for what happens.

It’s not clear which major party candidate would be hurt more by a big third-party vote, but voters should keep in mind what happened in 2000, when Ralph Nader, the Green party candidate, received 92,000 votes in Florida, a state in which Bush allegedly beat Gore by 537 votes. The subsequent recount ended up in the U.S. Supreme Court, which threw the election to Bush.

It’s hard to imagine that a President Al Gore would have invaded Iraq and run the economy into the ground with unfunded programs like the Prescription Drug bill and tax cuts for the wealthy.

Protest votes can have unforeseen consequences.

Tom Maertens served as National Security Council director for nonproliferation and homeland defense under presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, and as deputy coordinator for counter-terrorism in the State Department during and after 9/11. He lives in Mankato.

(Original here.)

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Trump is the Frankenstein outcome of GOP attempts to delegitimate government

Trump didn’t invent the ‘rigged election’ myth. Republicans did.

By Elizabeth Warren, October 18 at 5:20 PM, Washington Post

Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat, represents Massachusetts in the U.S. Senate.

Cratering in the polls, besieged by sexual assault allegations and drowning in his own disgusting rhetoric, Donald Trump has been reduced to hollering that November’s election is “rigged” against him. His proof? It looks like he’s going to lose.

Senior Republican leaders are scrambling to distance themselves from this dangerous claim. But Trump’s argument didn’t spring from nowhere. It’s just one more symptom of a long-running effort by Republicans to delegitimize Democratic voters, appointees and leaders. For years, this disease has infected our politics. It cannot be cured until Republican leaders rethink their approach to modern politics.

Anyone with children knows that whining about imaginary cheating is the last refuge of the sore loser. But GOP leaders have served up such a steady diet of stories about imaginary cheating that an Economist-YouGov poll shows that 45 percent of Republican voters believe voter fraud is a “very serious problem,” and 46 percent have little or no confidence that ballots will be counted accurately. They hold these views even though there is literally no evidence — none, zero, zip — that widespread voter fraud is a factor in modern American elections. A recent study looked at around a billion ballots cast in the United States from 2000 through 2014 and found only 31 instances of impersonation fraud at the polls.

(Continued here.)

Monday, October 17, 2016

A 5th party candidate gains traction

Media Suddenly Very Interested in Evan McMullin


It has been over two months since conservative Evan McMullin launched his independent bid for the White House that he doesn't think is just about being a "spoiler". However, ever since FiveThirtyEight wrote earlier in the week that he could be just that, the rest of the MSM seems to be noticing him more.

McMullin has been getting some coverage, but most of the chatter about him until now would have been missed if you weren't following a bunch of the #NeverTrump crowd on social media. Now we've got media stalwarts like The New York Times and the BBC writing about him.

Why all the fuss now?

Some of it certainly has to do with his rise in the polls in Utah, making him more newsworthy than he was a couple of weeks ago. If you're still operating under the presumption that the media is genuinely interested in news pertaining to this election, it's a plausible theory.

(Continued here.)

Friday, October 14, 2016

The GOP is history. What about the country?

By Fareed Zakaria Opinion writer October 13 at 5:23 PM, WashPost

Politics is an enduring feature of human life, but political parties are mortal. This week we watched the beginning of the end of one of the United States’ great, illustrious parties. The Republican Party, as we knew it, is dying.

The death of a party is not so unusual. Scholars divide U.S. history according to six distinct party systems, each responding to a particular political era. Sometimes parties retain their names but morph ideologically, like the Democratic Party, which went from being Southern, pro-slavery and pro-Jim Crow to the opposite. On other occasions, parties collapse entirely, as did the Whig Party in the mid-19th century, torn apart by divisions over slavery. (In fact, in an interesting parallel, the fall of the Whigs was hastened by the rise of a party called the Know-Nothings, dedicated to stopping what was then seen as uncontrolled immigration.) Whatever the form of the Republican Party’s collapse, it will be messy.

Sunday’s debate may have been the watershed moment. As many commentators and some of his own strategists noted, it was pretty obvious what Donald Trump needed to do — apologize, be contrite, and then strike broad themes of change, bringing back jobs and putting the nation first. Ideally, he would have reached out to women — the group of voters he desperately needs to win the election.

Instead, Trump did the opposite. He minimized his behavior as “locker-room banter,” accused Bill Clinton of much worse and paraded the former president’s accusers at a news conference. Since then, things have spiraled downward. Trump’s strange, self-defeating strategy has led to speculation that his real ambitions lie beyond the election, when he may set up a conservative media network to rival Fox News.

(More here.)

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic

Surrogates explaining away Trump’s sexual behavior only seem to make things worse

By Katie Zezima October 13 at 5:24 PM, WashPost

Waves of aides and surrogates have fanned out in recent days to defend Donald Trump after the release of a video in which he brags about forcing himself on women and subsequent allegations that he groped or kissed multiple women without their consent.

But in trying to justify or dismiss the reports, many of Trump’s defenders only seem to be making the situation worse.

Trump’s top supporters, many of them middle-aged or older men, have tried to explain away Trump’s behavior in terms that range from puzzling to offensive — angering people in both parties and complicating the Republican nominee’s attempts to move past the controversies.

Trump and his surrogates have brushed off his crude remarks about sexual assault on the 2005 videotape as “locker room” banter, infuriating many who say it is not how most men actually speak to one another. Some, including former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, have described Trump’s comments on the video as typical male behavior in general.

(More here.)

Even Republicans know the Bill Clinton attacks don’t work

Trump is plotting new Bill attacks against Hillary. Years of poll and focus-group testing show he’s wasting his time.

By Annie Karni,
10/13/16 05:49 PM EDT

Since Hillary Clinton launched her own political career in 1999, Republican operatives have been polling and focus-grouping specific attacks about Bill Clinton’s sex scandals, hunting for story lines to potentially damage her.

They have never worked.

In 2000, during Rudy Giuliani’s brief Senate bid in New York, his pollster, Frank Luntz, tested voter responses to information about the president’s history of extramarital affairs. “It was terrible,” recalled Rick Wilson, the GOP strategist on the campaign who hired Luntz. “It made Hillary Clinton more human, more relatable, more sympathetic — we found that you can’t come at the problem the right way.”

But back then, the Monica Lewinsky affair was still fresh on America’s mind. Would time paint Hillary Clinton’s actions and decisions in a harsher light?

Wilson again polled a question about Bill Clinton’s affairs during the 2008 presidential election, when he was working for a right wing PAC. His pollster put the subject out in the field among independent women in Florida, Missouri and Virginia, among other states. “It did not move the numbers at all,” Wilson recalled.

In 2014, the right wing America Rising PAC hired Republican strategist Christine Matthews, a partner at Burning Glass Consulting, to conduct focus groups testing the Bill Clinton sex scandals, including Hillary Clinton’s role in allegedly “enabling” her husband, or threatening the “other” women. The work was commissioned under the assumption that Clinton would be the Democratic nominee, and the PAC would have a ready-made opposition research file it would hand over to the Republican nominee.

(More here.)

Seoul Questions Own Defense Strategy as North Korea Nuclear Threat Grows

South Korean defense spending is up and a debate is growing over the nuclear option

By Alastair Gale, WSJ
Updated Oct. 13, 2016 12:06 p.m. ET

SEOUL—North Korea’s nuclear push is triggering a military buildup here and adding fuel to a hot debate over South Korea’s defense strategy—including whether the country should have its own nuclear option.

A few conservative politicians and a small majority in opinion polls have for years supported South Korea getting access to nuclear weapons. Lately, some prominent new voices have joined them, including Kim Jin-pyo, a four-term lawmaker from the main, left-of-center opposition party, who said Seoul needed a “balance of terror” to match North Korea’s threat.

Mr. Kim said nuclear weapons in South Korea would also pressure China and Russia to deal with North Korea more seriously.

(More here.)

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Hypocrisy be thy name

If Donald Trump has done anything, he has snuffed out the Religious Right

By Russell Moore
October 9, WashPost

Donald Trump once bragged to radio shock-jock Howard Stern about walking through the dressing rooms of his beauty pageants while contestants were getting dressed. He could do it, he suggested, because he owned the place.

This year, religious conservatism stands naked and exposed before the world, while Trump smugly surveys what he has come to own.

Journalist Mark Halperin noted this weekend that virtually all of the “reaffirmation of support” for Trump, following the disclosure of his sexually predatory recorded comments, were from religious conservative leaders. This is a scandal and a disgrace, but it should not be a surprise.

We know nothing new about Donald Trump. He has told us about his view of women, his view of sexuality, his views of marriage and family for more than 30 years. He has gloried in reality television decadence before reality television was even invented, in his boasts to tabloid reporters. He reaffirmed who he is over and over again, even during this campaign — from misogynistic statements to racist invective to crazed conspiracy theorizing.

(More here.)

Fact-checking fraudulent political claims

[LP note: It drives us crazy when we keep hearing the same fraudulent claims made by politicians about the economy, untruths fueled by monied interests and repeated ad nauseum by a media that refuses to do its job. A lie repeated often enough becomes a core belief among too many vulnerable people. This article provides a very good visual representation that should dispel many of these false claims.]

27 charts that will change how you think about the American economy

by Timothy B. Lee on October 10, 2016
Vox Media

The US economy is changing — and not always in the ways people expect. Fewer people are working in the manufacturing sector, yet we're producing more manufactured goods than ever. In many ways, the US economy is less dynamic than is commonly believed — the number of startups is dropping, people are changing jobs less often, and worker productivity is growing at its slowest pace in decades.

Meanwhile, American cities are enjoying a renaissance, with job growth and home prices soaring in the biggest cities. Read on for 27 charts that show the surprising evolution of the US economy.

(Charts here.)

Monday, October 10, 2016

Can he really fool a lot of the American people a lot of the time?

Dear New York Times Reader,

He lied about a sex tape.

He lied about his lies about ‘birtherism.’

He lied about the growth rate of the American economy.

He lied about the state of the job market.

He lied about the trade deficit.

He lied about tax rates.

He lied about his own position on the Iraq War, again.

He lied about ISIS.

He lied about the Benghazi attack.

He lied about the war in Syria.

He lied about Syrian refugees.

He lied about Russia’s hacking.

He lied about the San Bernardino terrorist attack.

He lied about Hillary Clinton’s tax plan.

He lied about her health care plan.

He lied about her immigration plan.

He lied about her email deletion.

He lied about Obamacare, more than once.

He lied about the rape of a 12-year-old girl.

He lied about his history of groping women without their consent.

Finally, he broke with basic democratic norms and called on his political opponent to be jailed — because, in large part, of what he described as her dishonesty.

This is the second time I’ve summarized a presidential debate by listing Donald Trump’s untruths, and there’s a reason. The country has never had a presidential candidate who lies the way that he does – relentlessly.

Yes, virtually every politician, including Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Mitt Romney and George W. Bush, strays from the truth at times. To be fair, virtually every human being does. But Trump is fundamentally different.

His gamble is plain enough: He believes he can fool a lot of the American people a lot of the time. He has decided that lying pays.

It’s up to the rest of us to show him otherwise.

David Leonhardt
Op-Ed Columnist, NYT

(The article is here.)

Sunday, October 09, 2016

What would Jesus do?

Why some top evangelicals are standing by Trump

Evangelical leaders who are defending Trump, even after release of lewd video, say it’s all about the policy choice – not values. But that puts them in a difficult box.

By Linda Feldmann, Christian Science Monitor
OCTOBER 9, 2016

WASHINGTON — The Republican Party is reeling after the release of a 2005 video in which Donald Trump speaks in vulgar terms of his aggressive sexual behavior toward women.

Top Republicans – including Sen. John McCain of Arizona – have abandoned Mr. Trump and now won’t vote for him. Some have called on him to drop out of the presidential race, and urged the Republican National Committee to replace him with running mate Mike Pence.

Others have rebuked Trump for both his language and actions of 11 years ago – but are in wait-and-see mode. Trump’s second debate with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, Sunday night at 9 p.m. Eastern, will be must-see TV, as he is expected to try to talk his way out of the biggest crisis of his campaign.

But perhaps the most curious aspect of this unprecedented episode is the reaction of evangelical Christian leaders. As Republican politicians – some in tight reelection races – have dumped Trump, prominent members of the Christian conservative movement have stood by him, even as they express revulsion over his actions.

(Continued here.)

Saturday, October 08, 2016

What Options Does the U.S. Have After Accusing Russia of Hacks?

OCT. 8, 2016

WASHINGTON — Now that the White House has formally accused Russia of meddling in the presidential election with cutting-edge cyberattacks and age-old information warfare, devising a response might seem fairly easy: unleash the government’s cyberwarriors to give the Kremlin a dose of its own malware.

Technologically, that would not be too difficult, American officials say. But as a matter of strategy and politics, formulating the right kind of counterstrike is not that straightforward.

President Obama’s options range from the mild — naming and shaming the Russians, as he did on Friday — to the more severe, like invoking for the first time a series of economic sanctions that he created by executive order after North Korea’s attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment. The Justice Department could indict the Russians behind the attacks on the Democratic National Committee and the email accounts of prominent individuals, as it did with members of China’s People’s Liberation Army, who have been charged with stealing industrial secrets.

Or Mr. Obama could sign a secret intelligence finding — similar to many he has issued to authorize Central Intelligence Agency efforts in Syria or drone strikes against the Islamic State — to attack and disable Russian computer servers or expose the financial dealings of President Vladimir V. Putin and his oligarch friends.

(More here.)

Friday, October 07, 2016

When will U.S. politicians wake up?

Removing CO2 From the Air Only Hope for Fixing Climate Change, New Study Says

Without 'negative emissions' to help return atmospheric CO2 to 350 ppm, future generations could face costs that 'may become too heavy to bear,' paper says.

BY ZAHRA HIRJI, Inside Climate News

The only way to keep young people from inheriting a world reeling from catastrophic climate change is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions dramatically and immediately, according to a new paper. Not only that, but it's also necessary to aggressively remove greenhouse gas that's already accumulated.

"If rapid emission reductions are initiated soon, it is still possible that at least a large fraction of required CO2 extraction can be achieved via relatively natural agricultural and forestry practices with other benefits," the authors wrote.

"On the other hand, if large fossil fuel emissions are allowed to continue, the scale and cost of industrial CO2 extraction, occurring in conjunction with a deteriorating climate with growing economic effects, may become unmanageable. Simply put, the burden placed on young people and future generations may become too heavy to bear."

The study's 12 authors, led by prominent climate scientist James Hansen, the former head of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, call for bringing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels down to levels not recorded since the 1980s: 350 parts per million, a long standing goal of Hansen's.

(Continued here.)

Thursday, October 06, 2016

The thread is science

Key questions for the next presidential debate

By Rush Holt and Marcia McNutt
Oct 5, 2016

On Sunday, news anchors Martha Raddatz and Anderson Cooper will hold seats in St. Louis that millions of Americans would have loved to have. As the moderators for the second presidential debate, they have the privilege and the task of bringing organization and clarity to the candidates’ discussion of a range of important topics.

The first presidential debate featured three main question areas — America’s direction, achieving prosperity and securing America — with a common but underappreciated thread that should inform the candidates and the public.

That thread is science.

Enlightened policymaking, whether for foreign or domestic affairs, requires science. The objective, fact-based inquiries that are at the heart of scientific research unlock and uncover the way the world works, providing key insights into how we can address some of America’s most significant challenges — from public health to energy and environment, education, innovation and economic growth. The engineering and technology solutions that derive from science are tools that policymakers can consider when addressing the world’s problems.

(More here.)

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Unbelievable interview of Trump supporter on NPR

In Ariz., Mormon Working Mom Explains Why She's Supporting Trump



As part of our Divided States project, we are talking with representative voters across the traditionally red state of Arizona. Eileen Eagar is a Mormon, and a fervent supporter of Donald Trump.


And I'm David Greene at member station KJZZ in Phoenix for our project Divided States. We're meeting four voters this morning, and then we're going to bring them back tomorrow to hear what they thought about tonight's vice presidential debate. First, Eileen Eagar. She is a real estate broker, and she is supporting Donald Trump. And one thing we talked about was The New York Times report that Trump may not have paid taxes for 18 years. If that is true, she said, Trump is just taking advantage of legal loopholes.

EILEEN EAGAR: And I have done the same through the years. So there have been years when I did not pay taxes. However, I own several income properties. Trump owns multiples of properties. Think about the property taxes he pays. And people aren't aware of the fact, but actually your property taxes are the ones that pay for the schools. Your property taxes pay for the roads because those are county charges. He is probably paying more taxes, if you really looked into it, in that respect.

GREENE: OK. So more about Eileen Eagar. She is from Chicago. At one point, she was a single mom raising two kids, and I asked how tough that was.

EAGAR: Well, tough enough that, you know, occasionally had to go out on a date where I would order a big steak that I didn't even want to eat. And then I'd put it in a bag and take it home for the kids. (Laughter) So that's pretty darn tough. I worked at the steel mills. I was a secretary there, and as a matter of fact, that's where I met my husband.

(Continued here.)

Yahoo scanned all of its users’ incoming emails on behalf of U.S. intelligence officials

By Andrea Peterson October 4 at 6:03 PM, WashPost

Yahoo in April of last year began secretly scanning the incoming emails of its hundreds of millions of users to comply with an order from the U.S. intelligence community, a move that prompted at least two company officials to leave, according to a former Yahoo employee familiar with the matter.

The company’s decision not to fight the order from intelligence officials caused Yahoo’s then-chief information security officer Alex Stamos to resign last year -- and at least one other security staffer left the company -- due to ethical concerns about the surveillance program, according to the person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the matter was confidential. Reuters, citing unnamed former employees, first reported the news Tuesday.

The government's demand to scan email in real time alarmed privacy advocates, as did Yahoo's compliance with such a broad order. Patrick Toomey, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, called the order "unprecedented and unconstitutional."

(More here.)

Will Mike Pence Tell the Truth?

Dear Times Reader,

If you told me that I could change one thing about American politics, I would choose for the country to have a well-functioning conservative party.

I realize that some liberals see that notion as a contradiction. I don’t. There are serious, substantive arguments – even if you don’t agree with them – in favor of reducing the role of government in many areas of life and expanding the role of the market.

There are similarly serious arguments in favor of immigration restrictions, abortion restrictions, a more hawkish Syria policy, more competition in education and any number of other conservative positions.

Unfortunately, today’s Republican party doesn’t revolve around these substantive positions. Its leaders often care more about making Democrats look incompetent, and thus easier to beat, than about policy substance.

Along the way, they cause government shutdowns, paralyze Washington – and regularly deny basic facts.

Donald Trump has made blatant the party’s current problem with lying. But Trump is more of a reflection of the problem than the cause of it. Remarkably, every Republican presidential candidate this year was untruthful more often than every Democratic candidate, according to the watchdog PolitiFact (which was trying so hard to be neutral that it didn’t point out the pattern!).

Keep an eye out for the truth gap at tonight’s vice-presidential debate. Mike Pence, the Republican governor of Indiana, is a likeable, often sunny conservative, according to those who know him. He is the kind of politician who could make the real conservative arguments I wish we heard more often.

Instead, he is prone to falsehoods.

He’s called Trump’s back-and-forth immigration positions “completely consistent.” He claimed that raising income taxes reduced federal revenue. He said that President Obama’s health law would “deprive roughly 120 million Americans of their current health care coverage.” And Pence lied about Hillary Clinton’s actions during the Benghazi attacks.

No politician is perfectly honest – including Tim Kaine, Pence’s opponent tonight. But Pence and his party have earned an extra degree of skepticism. When he says something, you should check it out.

What I’m reading: PolitiFact, Politico, NPR, The Washington Post and The New York Times all did excellent work fact-checking during the first Clinton-Trump debate. I’ll be looking at them tonight. If you have another source you like, please tell me about it, at

The full Opinion report follows, including the results of Emma Roller's interviews with more than 30 people planning to vote for a third-party candidate this year.

David Leonhardt
Op-Ed Columnist, NYT

(The article is here.)

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The most dangerous conspiracy theory of 2016

Trump and Clinton feed the rigged-election charge to their peril

By Darren Samuelsohn,
09/28/16 05:08 AM EDT

In a presidential campaign consumed by conspiracy theories, the most dangerous one looming over these final six weeks isn’t about President Barack Obama’s birthplace or whether Hillary Clinton is sick with more than pneumonia.

It’s the suggestion that the election itself won't be on the up and up.

Donald Trump and his allies are directly fueling the fire. The Republican who launched his political career on the wings of the birther movement has been sounding the alarm since summer that the results in battleground states – from Ohio to Florida – will be fixed so he’ll lose.

“We know it’s a rigged system. All you have to do is ask Bernie Sanders and you’ll see,” Trump said last week during a rally in Kenansville, North Carolina.

Trump’s campaign website is recruiting poll watchers to “Help Me Stop Crooked Hillary From Rigging This Election!” and it’s also getting air cover from a political non-profit group named “Stop the Steal” — run by longtime confidante Roger Stone — that’s raising unlimited money from corporations and individuals to hire election experts and conduct exit polling that it says can go a long way to “prevent the THEFT of the 2016 Presidential election.”

(More here.)

Dutch probe: Missile brought from Russia downed Malaysia Airlines plane over Ukraine

A Malaysia Airlines plane carrying 298 people and traveling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, fell in a Ukrainian field.

What the Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash site looked like

By Andrew Roth
September 28 at 9:11 AM, WashPost

KIEV, Ukraine — A Dutch-led investigation team said Wednesday that the surface-to-air missile that downed a passenger jet over eastern Ukraine in 2014, killing all 298 people aboard, came from Russia and was fired from territory held by pro-Moscow separatists.

Investigators stopped short of directly accusing Russia of complicity in the attack on the Malaysia Airlines jet, and declined to name any suspects publicly. Both Russia and the rebels in Ukraine deny any role in the July 2014 attack on Flight 17, which was traveling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

The findings are intended to be used in a possible criminal trial. But even if the guilty are identified, it’s unclear how they would be apprehended, especially if they are located in Russia or in separatist-held Ukraine.

(More here.)

Monday, September 26, 2016

Mankato is doing just fine, thank you

By Leigh Pomeroy

About a month ago, Peter Nelson of the Center of the American Experiment, which bills itself as “Minnesota’s think tank”, contributed a piece to the Mankato Free Press op-ed pages entitled “Minnesota’s policies hold Mankato back”.

Mr. Nelson acknowledges that the city “boasts an unemployment rate well below the state rate and has experienced stronger growth in employment, labor force and population over the past 10 years.” This is great news!

However, he argues that “Mankato can do even better.” How? He says that Mankato is not growing fast enough.

To me as a former educator, this is like telling an “A-” student, “You aren’t doing well enough: Do better!” Not a good approach.

He blames Mankato’s ability to perform short of excellence (by his standards) on Minnesota’s tax policies: They’re not as business friendly as Iowa’s, for example. In addition, there is too much government regulation in Minnesota as compared to Iowa, listing oil pipelines as an example.

Yet looking into Mr. Nelson’s analysis reveals one of the great failings of the maximum growth fantasists: They insist on measuring everything in dollars and percentages.

What’s wrong with this? Quality of life does not depend on growth, personal or business income and the amount one has in savings and investments. It is far more encompassing than that.

Yes, money does matter for individuals and families who are struggling to feed their families, provide housing, have affordable and comprehensive health care, feel like they and their kids are receiving the benefits of at least the American middle-class lifestyle.

But other factors not easily quantified by analysts and number crunchers mean a lot more. For example: safe neighborhoods, effective and efficient local governments, easy-to-access local services, good schools, available parks and recreational opportunities, accepting and supporting churches, and much more.

Can these be translated into numbers? Do they constitute growth?

In Mankato, every housing or commercial development on the edge of town covers over our rich blue earth soils, displaces the natural flora and fauna within, and creates new drainage, city services and transportation issues, just to name a few challenges.

Further, growth often brings with it more crime, more traffic jams, more displaced persons, more violence and a host of other societal problems.

As a former resident of California and Colorado I have seen where growth and development have obliterated once prime fruit-growing regions and have taken away all the natural gifts that beckoned settlers to those areas in the first place. It’s the old lifeboat argument: The lifeboat provides safety, but if it’s too full it sinks.

In Mankato we need to look beyond the growth that the number crunchers claim we should achieve. We need to decide how big a greater community we wish to become. We need to decide on what we value most, then aim for those goals regardless of what outsiders advocate. We must grow smart, not fast. And we must remember that growth is a double-edged sword, and that when it stops, as inevitably it will, we must anticipate the challenges that no-growth brings.

These are the goals we need to set. In the meantime, we should thank Mr. Nelson and the Center of the American Experiment for their input. But we must ask them respectfully to either move to the Iowa that they revere or simply leave us alone.

This article was also published in the Mankato Free Press.

A Full List of Donald Trump's Rapidly Changing Policy Positions

by Jane C. Timm, WashPost

Trump Flips Immigration Stance, While Asserting Clinton is a 'Bigot'

After a year of campaigning, hundreds of interviews, stadium rallies, and press conferences, it is still difficult to glean a platform from the Republican nominee's powerfully incoherent rhetoric and constantly evolving views.

Donald Trump changes his mind so frequently and so dramatically that a compilation of his current policies would not tell the whole story, nor would it be up to date for very long — he once offered up three different views on abortion in eight hours. By mixing facts with exaggerations and outright falsehoods in hundreds of interviews while simultaneously refusing to offer specifics — insisting that unpredictability is an advantage he'll use to cut better deals — Trump and the Republican Party that's nominated him are putting forward the most elusive presidential platform in modern history.

To wit: This list features 117 distinct policy shifts on 20 major issues, tracking only his reversals since he announced his candidacy on June 16, 2015.

Highlights from Trump's RNC Speech

Consider the Muslim ban. Every time Trump and his team describes one of his most polarizing and defining policy positions, it is couched differently, making it impossible to determine how and to what degree Trump would implement such a thing if elected president. Initially, it was a full and complete ban on all Muslims; later, it was described as a ban that excluded citizens, members of the U.S. military, and Trump's good friends. These days, it's often described a ban on Muslims and people coming from countries with a history of terrorism — more than a third of the world, including major U.S. allies like France. On Monday, Trump said he hadn't actually limited his initial ban — he'd expanded it — but just didn't want to say it was about Muslims. Meanwhile, his campaign insists that the policy has not changed at all.

(More here.)

A Week of Whoppers From Donald Trump


All politicians bend the truth to fit their purposes, including Hillary Clinton. But Donald J. Trump has unleashed a blizzard of falsehoods, exaggerations and outright lies in the general election, peppering his speeches, interviews and Twitter posts with untruths so frequent that they can seem flighty or random — even compulsive.

However, a closer examination, over the course of a week, revealed an unmistakable pattern: Virtually all of Mr. Trump’s falsehoods directly bolstered a powerful and self-aggrandizing narrative depicting him as a heroic savior for a nation menaced from every direction. Mike Murphy, a Republican strategist, described the practice as creating “an unreality bubble that he surrounds himself with.”

The New York Times closely tracked Mr. Trump’s public statements from Sept. 15-21, and assembled a list of his 31 biggest whoppers, many of them uttered repeatedly. This total excludes dozens more: Untruths that appeared to be mere hyperbole or humor, or delivered purely for effect, or what could generously be called rounding errors. Mr. Trump’s campaign, which dismissed this compilation as “silly,” offered responses on every point, but in none of the following instances did the responses support his assertions.

(More here.)

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Study: Immigration Good for the Economy

First broad look at topic in nearly 20 years sheds light on subject at forefront of presidential race

JEFFREY SPARSHOTT, Wall Street Journal
Updated Sept. 22, 2016 5:20 p.m. ET

Waves of immigrants coming into the U.S. in recent decades have helped the economy over the long haul and had little lasting impact on the wages or employment levels of native-born Americans, according to one of the most comprehensive studies yet on the topic.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine report on immigration assesses the economic and fiscal impacts of immigration, offering a broad look at a phenomenon that has moved to the forefront of the presidential race, with both candidates debating the downsides and merits of immigration.

The conclusion runs counter to a popular narrative suggesting that immigrants take the jobs of U.S. citizens, though it does acknowledge some costs for segments of the population. It highlights research showing an influx of lower-skilled workers can lead to lower wages for earlier waves of immigrants and native-born high-school dropouts. And the study found that immigration can burden government finances, especially education budgets at the state and local levels.

The report, citing a lack of data, doesn’t distinguish between the impacts of documented and undocumented immigrants.

The distillation of research and previously unavailable data offer a big-picture view that highlights the overarching benefits of immigration without discounting the dislocation and the fiscal costs associated with illegal and legal arrivals into the U.S.

(Continued here.)

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

A wake-up call on the junk science infesting our courtrooms

By Harry T. Edwards and Jennifer L. Mnookin September 20 at 8:58 AM

Harry T. Edwards is a senior judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Jennifer L. Mnookin is dean of the UCLA School of Law. They serve as co-chairs of the Senior Advisors to the PCAST Working Group.

On the popular television show “CSI,” forensic evidence was portrayed as glitzy, high-tech — and virtually infallible. Unfortunately, this depiction is often a far cry from reality. This week, a significant report issued by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) persuasively explains that expert evidence based on a number of forensic methods — such as bite mark analysis, firearms identification, footwear analysis and microscopic hair comparisons — lacks adequate scientific validation. Quite simply, these techniques have not yet been proved to be reliable forms of legal proof.

(More here.)

Monday, September 19, 2016

'More guns in fewer hands': US study charts rise of hardcore super owners

Exclusive: New survey shows just 3% of American adults own nearly half of guns in the US, as part of most definitive portrait of gun ownership in two decades

The Guardian

Americans own an estimated 265 million guns, more than one gun for every American adult, according to the most definitive portrait of US gun ownership in two decades. But the new survey estimates that 130m of these guns are concentrated in the hands of just 3% of American adults – a group of super-owners who have amassed an average of 17 guns each.

The unpublished Harvard/Northeastern survey result summary, obtained exclusively by the Guardian and the Trace, estimates that America’s gun stock has increased by 70m guns since 1994. At the same time, the percentage of Americans who own guns decreased slightly from 25% to 22%.

The new survey, conducted in 2015 by public health researchers from Harvard and Northeastern universities, also found that the proportion of female gun owners is increasing as fewer men own guns. These women were more likely to own a gun for self-defense than men, and more likely to own a handgun only.

Women’s focus on self-defense is part of a broader trend. Even as the US has grown dramatically safer and gun violence rates have plummeted, handguns have become a greater proportion of the country’s civilian gun stock, suggesting that self-defense is an increasingly important factor in gun ownership.

(More here.)

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Deniers club: Meet the people clouding the climate change debate

They've stalled action with a campaign of deliberate misinformation.

By Michael Mann and Tom Toles
September 16, WashPost

Michael Mann is a professor of atmospheric science at Penn State University. Tom Toles is a Washington Post editorial cartoonist. This feature is adapted from their book, “The Madhouse Effect: How Climate Change Denial Is Threatening Our Planet, Destroying Our Politics, and Driving Us Crazy.”

August tied July as the hottest month on record, according to NASA data released this past week. This year we’ve seen half a dozen thousand-year floods, along with epic droughts. Mother Nature is telling us there’s a problem. The long-term trend lines are clear. Yet we have a Republican presidential nominee who has repeatedly called climate change a “hoax.” “Perhaps there’s a minor effect,” Donald Trump told The Washington Post’s editorial board, “but I’m not a big believer in man-made climate change.” So it goes in the madhouse of the climate debate. Even as the evidence has become unmistakable, and even though the alarm has been sounded several times, public policy has been paralyzed — sometimes from ignorance, sometimes from uncertainty, but often from a campaign of deliberate misinformation. Here are some of the worst offenders.

S. Fred Singer

“Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant. On the contrary, it makes crops and forests grow faster.”

Singer is the most prolific of the deniers-for-hire. Formerly a Cold War physicist and an environmental science professor at the University of Virginia, he left academia in 1990 to found a think tank, the Science and Environmental Policy Project, with a mission of debunking the science of ozone depletion, climate change, tobacco and other environmental and health threats. He has received considerable funding from corporate interests, including tobacco company Philip Morris, seed and pesticide company Monsanto and energy company Texaco. His many works include a 2009 report titled “Climate Change Reconsidered,” which concludes that “a warmer world will be a safer and healthier world for humans and wildlife alike.” The report has been dismissed as “fabricated nonsense.”

(More here.)

Republicans remain the 'stupid party'

By Tom Maertens
September 18, 2016

Governor Bobby Jindal famously said that his party, the Republican Party, had to stop being the stupid party.

They have a long way to go.

In late 2010, ninety-four of one hundred newly elected Republican members of Congress denied that global warming was happening.

Congressman John Shimkus (R-IL), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy, is one. He waved a Bible during a congressional hearing on climate change and declared that “the earth will end only when God says it’s time to be over. Man will not destroy this Earth, this Earth will not end in a flood.”

Senator James Inhofe, chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, claims that global warming is one of the greatest hoaxes ever perpetrated.

Other Republican anti-science spokesmen include such bright lights as Congressman Paul Broun, a physician who served on the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee. He told a luncheon crowd that “All that stuff that I was taught about evolution and embryology, big bang theory, all that, is lies straight from the pit of hell.”

Shawn Otto (The War on Science) has written that, as far back as 2008, it had become doubtful whether a Republican candidate for president could get the party’s endorsement without taking a stridently anti-science position. Yet science is responsible for half of all US economic growth since WWII, writes Otto, and scientific advancements are the only way we can support the world’s growing population.

“Over the next forty years, science is poised to create more knowledge than humans have created in all of human history” -- but not if Republicans have their way.

A 2015 Public Policy Polling survey found that almost half of Republicans don't believe in evolution, the foundation of modern biological sciences. But there is no controversy among scientists about evolution.

In the Republican playbook, however, global warming and evolution are junk science, but “creationism” -- religion --should be taught in public schools. A Public Policy Polling (PPP) national survey conducted in 2015 found that 57 percent of Republicans want to dismantle the Constitution and establish Christianity as the official national religion despite a clear Constitutional prohibition that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”

Another canon of today’s Republican Party is that the other side rigs elections. According to a recent Gallup poll, 52% of Republicans think vote fraud is a major problem; 71% of Trump voters said that if Clinton wins the election it will be because it was rigged. A PPP survey in Texas found that 40% of Trump supporters believe ACORN will steal the upcoming election. News flash: ACORN went out of business six years ago.

In fact, a person is more likely to get struck by lightning than encounter in-person vote fraud. For example, Texas prosecuted only three people for in-person vote fraud between 2002 and 2014 – three persons out of 54 million votes cast in that time period.

The real vote rigging has been carried out by Republican administrations in a dozen red states that passed voter suppression laws which – as a three-judge federal appeals panel ruled in striking down a North Carolina law -- targeted “African Americans with almost surgical precision.”

The court’s opinion said that “because of race, the legislature enacted one of the largest restrictions of the franchise in modern North Carolina history … that North Carolina GOP leaders launched a meticulous and coordinated effort to deter black voters, who overwhelmingly vote for Democrats.”

Federal courts have struck down similar voting restrictions in Texas, Wisconsin, Kansas and North Dakota.

Anti-black voting restrictions are not just a series of coincidences in a dozen red states controlled by Republicans; the Republican Party has employed dog-whistle racism for decades, starting with Nixon’s Southern Strategy. It’s not a coincidence either that nearly four in ten Trump supporters in South Carolina told The Hill they wish the South had won the Civil War.

According to Simon Jackman of the University of Sydney, “Whites who reported prejudicial beliefs about blacks skewed heavily Republican in 2008 and 2012 — and they will in 2016.” Similarly, research by the Washington Post found that Trump does best among Americans who express racial hostility.

According to a NBC News|SurveyMonkey poll conducted in late June and early July of more than 1,700 registered voters,"Seventy-two percent of registered Republican voters still doubt President Obama's citizenship.” And this skepticism even exists among Republicans high in political knowledge."

Those people have given us a bigoted, caterwauling egomaniac who wants to make America Great Again by expelling brown-skinned people, and turning the clock back to Top of Form some mythical “good old days” when there were no government prohibitions on discrimination against women and minorities.

Republicans obviously didn’t listen to Bobby Jindal.

This article also published in the Mankato Free Press.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Former Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates Sizes Up the Next Commander-in-Chief

At least on national security, I believe Mr. Trump is beyond repair. He is stubbornly uninformed about the world and how to lead our country and government, and temperamentally unsuited to lead our men and women in uniform. He is unqualified and unfit to be commander-in-chief.

By Robert M. Gates, WSJ
Sept. 16, 2016 6:23 p.m. ET

You wouldn’t know it from the presidential campaigns, but the first serious crisis to face our new president most likely will be international. The list of possibilities is long—longer than it was eight years ago.

Here is the world the new president will inherit at noon on January 20—a range of challenges for which neither candidate has offered new strategies or paths forward.

Every aspect of our relationship with China is becoming more challenging. In addition to Chinese cyberspying and theft of intellectual property, many American businesses in China are encountering an increasingly hostile environment. China’s nationalist determination unilaterally to assert sovereignty over disputed waters and islands in the East and South China Seas is steadily increasing the risk of military confrontation.

Most worrying, given their historic bad blood, escalation of a confrontation between China and Japan could be very dangerous. As a treaty partner of Japan, we would be obligated to help Tokyo. China intends to challenge the U.S. for regional dominance in East Asia over the long term, but the new president could quickly face a Chinese military challenge over disputed islands and freedom of navigation.

(More here or here.)

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Something stinks in Madison

Leaked court documents from ‘John Doe investigation’ in Wisconsin lay bare pervasive influence of corporate cash on modern US elections

By Ed Pilkington and the Guardian US interactive team

Scott Walker was under pressure. It was September 2011, and earlier that year the first-term governor had turned himself into the poster boy of hardline Republican politics by passing the notorious anti-union measure Act 10, stripping public sector unions of collective bargaining rights.

Now he was under attack himself, pursued by progressive groups who planned revenge by forcing him into a recall election. His job was on the line.

He asked his main fundraiser, Kate Doner, to write him a briefing note on how they could raise enough money to win the election. At 6.39am on a Wednesday, she fired off an email to Walker and his top advisers flagged “red”.

“Gentlemen,” she began. “Here are my quick thoughts on raising money for Walker’s possible recall efforts.”

Her advice was bold and to the point. “Corporations,” she said. “Go heavy after them to give.” She continued: “Take Koch’s money. Get on a plane to Vegas and sit down with Sheldon Adelson. Ask for $1m now.”

Her advice must have hit a sweet spot, because money was soon pouring in from big corporations and mega-wealthy individuals from across the nation. A few months after the memo, Adelson, a Las Vegas casino magnate who Forbes estimates has a personal fortune of $26bn, was to wire a donation of $200,000 for the cause.

(Continued here.)

Fifteen years after 9/11, American Muslims have seen both progress and peril

I’m the first Muslim in Congress. I believe America can beat Islamophobia.

By Keith Ellison September 10
Washington Post

Keith Ellison represents Minnesota's fifth congressional district and was the first Muslim elected to Congress. He is the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and serves on the Financial Services Committee.

Fifteen years ago, the United States was attacked by terrorists claiming to act in the name of Islam. America’s response? “United We Stand.” Yet now it feels like Muslims face more hatred in 2016 than on Sept. 11, 2001.

Back then, President George W. Bush, no liberal, visited a mosque in Washington, D.C., just days later to show solidarity with Muslims, saying, “The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That’s not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace. These terrorists don’t represent peace. They represent evil and war.” People came together in gratitude for those who risked everything rescuing others during the attacks, including Mohammed Salman Hamdani, a 23-year-old first responder who died saving lives in the World Trade Center. He was Muslim. So am I.

Before that day, America’s Muslim community wasn’t the focus of much political discussion. Now, Islam and Muslims are regular topics on talk shows and in headlines, often in a negative light. The political landscape has changed dramatically for America’s Muslim community — for better and worse. Increased Muslim visibility and engagement in the community are occurring at the same time as an increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes, and this is not a coincidence: A recent study by the Bridge Initiative found that anti-Muslim crimes have increased during this election season, with 2015 having the most anti-Muslim violence and vandalism of any year since 9/11. Looking at the data, there is a clear uptick in anti-Muslim crime associated with the rise of Donald Trump. In fact, two Somali Muslim men were recently shot in my own city of Minneapolis because of their faith. For American Muslims, the period since 9/11 has represented both progress and peril — and many fear what may lie ahead.

(Continued here.)

More stupidity in Congress: As long as the money flows it will never end


By Lawrence M. Krauss
SEPTEMBER 14, 2016, The New Yorker

If you know the answers you want in advance, you can always find them by cherry-picking your data. That’s what climate-change deniers have tried to do in recent years in arguing that there’s been a “pause” in the global-warming trend over the past two decades—suggesting, thereby, that global warming is just a temporary anomaly unrelated to human industrial activity. Last year, scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration put the “climate change hiatus” myth to bed. They published a paper in Science that showed, using new and more definitive data, that the claimed “pause” hadn’t taken place.

Not long after the paper was published, something odd happened. Kathryn Sullivan, the head of N.O.A.A., received a subpoena. It came from Lamar Smith, the Texas congressman who chairs the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, and it demanded that the N.O.A.A. scientists turn over records and internal communications. They had already turned over their data in response to previous requests but refused to turn over scientists’ correspondence. In a statement, Smith accused the N.O.A.A. scientists of falsifying their data:
It was inconvenient for this administration that climate data has clearly showed no warming for the past two decades. The American people have every right to be suspicious when NOAA alters data to get the politically correct results they want. . . . NOAA needs to come clean about why they altered the data to get the results they needed to advance this administration’s extreme climate change agenda.
(More here.)

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

When Donald Meets Hillary

Who will win the debates? Trump’s approach was an important part of his strength in the primaries. But will it work when he faces Clinton onstage?

James Fallows, The Atlantic
October 2016 Issue

The most famous story about modern presidential campaigning now has a quaint old-world tone. It’s about the showdown between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy in the first debate of their 1960 campaign, which was also the very first nationally televised general-election debate in the United States.

The story is that Kennedy looked great, which is true, and Nixon looked terrible, which is also true—and that this visual difference had an unexpected electoral effect. As Theodore H. White described it in his hugely influential book The Making of the President 1960, which has set the model for campaign coverage ever since, “sample surveys” after the debate found that people who had only heard Kennedy and Nixon talking, over the radio, thought that the debate had been a tie. But those who saw the two men on television were much more likely to think that Kennedy—handsome, tanned, non-sweaty, poised—had won.

Historians who have followed up on this story haven’t found data to back up White’s sight-versus-sound discovery. But from a modern perspective, the only surprising thing about his findings is that they came as a surprise. Today’s electorate has decades of televised politics behind it, from which one assumption is that of course images, and their emotional power, usually matter more than words and whatever logic they might try to convey.

(More here.)

Who cares if they don't vote?

New evidence that voter ID laws ‘skew democracy’ in favor of white Republicans

By Christopher Ingraham February 4, Washington Post

Voter fraud is, for all intents and purposes, practically nonexistent. The best available research on the topic, by Loyola Law School professor Justin Levitt, found only 31 credible incidents of voter impersonation in an investigation of over 1 billion votes cast.

But that hasn't dampened Republican efforts to pass a spate of strict voter ID laws since 2008. And it hasn't hurt the public's overall enthusiasm for those laws, either.

But the results of a new working paper from political scientists at University of California, San Diego suggest folks may want to consider. The researchers analyzed turnout in recent elections -- between 2008 and 2012 -- in states that did and did not implement the strictest form of voter ID laws. They found that these laws consistently and significantly decreased turnout not just among traditionally Democratic-leaning groups, like blacks and Hispanics, but among Republican voters too.

The findings are notable because they're some of the first using data in elections that took place after some states implemented photo ID requirements to vote. Previous studies on the effects of these laws showed mixed results. A 2014 report by the Government Accountability Office examined 10 of these studies. Five showed no significant effect of voter ID laws on turnout, four found a significant decrease in turnout, and one found, paradoxically, that the laws increased turnout.

(More here.)

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Here's one reason why U.S. can't budget enough for its own infrastructure

Israel to get $38 billion in U.S. military aid over 10 years

By Associated Press
09/13/16 03:16 PM EDT

WASHINGTON — The United States will provide Israel's military with $38 billion during the next 10 years, officials said Tuesday, the largest batch of military assistance the U.S. has ever pledged to another country.

Following months of behind-the-scenes negotiations, the State Department said the two countries had reached a 10-year agreement, with a signing ceremony planned for Wednesday. The U.S. and Israel haven't disclosed the exact sum, but officials familiar with the deal said it totals $3.8 billion a year — up from the $3.1 billion the U.S. gave Israel annually under the previous 10-year deal.

Obama's national security adviser, Susan Rice, planned to attend the ceremony at the State Department, a senior Obama administration official said. Israel's acting national security adviser, Jacob Nagel, arrived in Washington ahead of the announcement and was also expected to attend.

Israel's government had no immediate comment on the deal.

Under the agreement, Israel's ability to spend part of the funds on Israeli military products will be gradually phased out, eventually requiring all of the funds to be spend on American military industries. Israel's preference for spending some of the funds internally had been a major sticking point in the deal.

(More here.)

Census Bureau reports largest income increase since it started measuring in 1967

U.S. Household Incomes Surged 5.2% in 2015, First Gain Since 2007

By Nick Timiraos and Janet Adamy, WSJ
Updated Sept. 13, 2016 11:29 a.m. ET

Incomes in the U.S. surged in 2015, delivering the first increase for family households in eight years.

The median annual household income—the level at which half are above and half are below—rose 5.2% from a year earlier, or $2,800, after adjusting for inflation, to $56,500, the Census Bureau said Tuesday.

The boost leaves household incomes around 1.6% below the 2007 level, before the last recession began. But the 5.2% annual gain is the largest such increase since the Census Bureau began releasing such data in 1967.

The official poverty rate in 2015 was 13.5%, down 1.2 percentage points from 14.8% in 2014, the report added.

The latest figures show how several years of robust growth in employment have finally helped a broad swath of the nation improve living standards—after several years of either flat incomes or sustained declines.

(More here.)