Last night I went out to dinner and briefly checked in on things when I got back. While I was busy with some other stuff, I had this idle Twitter conversation:

I had been out of touch with the news for maybe six or seven hours, nothing more. And yet I was completely out of the loop on the latest campaign idiocy. I had no idea what this was about, which explains my foolishly casual tweet. This morning I found out:

This post has currently been read by 1.3 million people, and is ricocheting through the Trumposphere at light speed. Apparently oversampling is this year's deskewing.

In case you care, oversampling is a normal and longtime practice for folks who are running presidential campaigns—which is what John Podesta was doing. If you survey, say, a thousand people, you're likely to get a sample of only 130 African-Americans. This means that if you happen to be particularly interested in African-American voters, you need to deliberately oversample them in order to get a statistically reliable pool of respondents. The same is true for any smallish group of people. If, for some reason, you want to target Hispanic environmentalists or white women under age 30, you have to oversample them too.

Ordinary polls don't normally do this, though they do sometimes. For example, suppose everyone is obsessed with blue-collar white men and their alleged anger at the political system. A polling firm might want to oversample them in order to report how they really feel. That wouldn't affect the overall poll, though. It would be released as a separate survey on a matter of current interest.

Anyway, this is all obvious and simple, which explains my tweet above. But hell, what do I know? Do the yahoos peddling this stuff know it's nonsense but only care about ginning up an army of easily-duped malcontents on November 9? Or are they genuinely ignorant? Who knows? But naturally Donald Trump is all over it:

Jesus, this election is dispiriting. I'm beginning to think the whole thing is a spectacularly successful plot by the pharma industry to boost sales of anti-anxiety drugs and prescription blood pressure meds.

Adam Ozimek posted an item yesterday making the case that Donald Trump is wrong about something. Shocking, I know. But in the process he points to an interesting paper from a couple of years ago about the effect of sales taxes on Amazon purchases. A trio of researchers compared purchases from Amazon in five states both before and after Amazon started collecting sales taxes there:

They found that brick and mortar retailers saw a 2% increase in sales, and a decline of 9.5% for Amazon. This is hardly enough to save brick and mortar stores or stop Amazon.

True enough. The move to online retail is bigger than Amazon, and it's unlikely that anything would have stopped it or even slowed it down substantially. Still, here's the data from the paper:

These are...big effects. For costly items, the paper concluded that Californians reduced their Amazon purchases by a third. Even in low-tax Virginia, households reduced their Amazon habit by 11 percent. For all items, households reduced their Amazon purchases by 9.5 percent overall, but by 15 percent in California and 11 percent in Texas.

This coincided with an increase of "only" 2 percent at brick-and-mortar stores, but that's to be expected. As big as Amazon is, it's still a small fraction of the size of the entire retail market. A decline of 9.5 percent in Amazon sales spread among all brick-and-mortar retailers adds up to a small number.

Obviously this hasn't put Amazon out of business. But I think that misses the point. I wonder what effect it would have had on Amazon's growth ten or fifteen years ago? If sales tax has this much effect even now, when Amazon is practically a habit for millions of consumers, what effect would it have had back when Amazon was still relatively new in the non-book space? Bigger, I assume. And what effect would that have had on Amazon's growth? Substantial, I think.

One study doesn't prove anything, but this one sure suggests that an awful lot of Amazon's initial stratrospheric growth was due to Quill v. North Dakota. Maybe Jeff Bezos should send a thank you note to the Supreme Court.

Here's some good news on the employment front:

Retailers geared up to hire holiday-season workers in August this year, an unusually early start showing how competition has intensified for temporary help in a tight labor market....Companies and analysts say a number of trends are converging. The holiday-shopping season is starting before Halloween for many consumers, rather than the traditional day after Thanksgiving. There are fewer workers available, due to unemployment holding around 5% for the past year. And retailers are competing for the same employees as logistics firms, distribution centers and restaurants during the final months of the year.

This story is accompanied by a chart that inexplicably shows that seasonal hiring was strong in 2014, weaker in 2015, and then stronger still in 2016. Really? I don't recall 2015 being weaker than both 2014 and 2016. So take this all with a grain of salt.

Still, it's yet another data point that the labor market is truly starting to tighten up this year. It still has a ways to go, but we're making progress.

Today in the category of...oh, forget it. I don't have the heart for snark. It's just so goddamn tiresome. The Wall Street Journal headline on the right describes the latest pseudo-scandal in Hillaryland, and it's obviously intended to make you think there's yet more fishiness in the Clinton family. In a nutshell, here's the story:

  • In early 2015, Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe recruited Dr. Jill McCabe to run for state Senate.
  • Various organizations under McAuliffe's control donated lots of money to her campaign.
  • She lost.
  • Several months later, McCabe's husband was promoted to deputy director of the FBI. Because of that promotion, he "helped oversee the investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s email use." This was presumably in addition to the hundreds of other things that a deputy director has oversight responsibility for.

There's literally nothing here. Not "nothing substantial." Not "nothing that other politicians don't do." Literally nothing. There's not a single bit of this that's illegal, unethical, or even the tiniest bit wrong. It's totally above board and perfectly kosher. And even if there were anything wrong, McAuliffe would have needed a time machine to know it.

Honest to God, I'm so tired of this stuff I could scream. I've been joking about it lately by appending gate to every dumb little non-scandal that's tossed in Hillary's direction, and I guess I'll keep doing that. But our illustrious press corps needs to pull its collective head out of its ass. If you've got real evidence of Hillary being engaged in something fishy, go to town. I won't complain. But if all you've got is a thrice-removed, physics-challenged gewgaw that proves nothing except that you know how to play Six Degrees of Hillary Clinton,1 then give it a rest. It just makes you look like those monomaniacs with thousands of clippings glued to their wall and spider webs of string tying them all together.

Just stop it.

1Here's how it works:

  1. Make a list of the entire chain of command that had some oversight over the FBI's investigation of Hillary Clinton's email server. That's going to be at least half a dozen people.
  2. Make a list of all their close family and friends. Now you're up to a hundred people.
  3. Look for a connection between any of those people and the Clintons. Since FBI headquarters is located in Washington DC and the Clintons famously have thousands and thousands of friends, you will find a connection. I guarantee it.
  4. Write a story about it.

See how easy this is? But please don't try it at home. This is a game for trained professionals only.

I went out to get the paper this morning and noticed that my yard sign was gone. Some Trumpkin vandalizing Hillary signs? Nope. All the other signs in my neighborhood were gone too. City council signs, school board signs, Irvine mayor signs—all gone.

So I investigated. I went over to our sister neighborhood on the other side of the tennis courts. No signs. I don't know what that neighborhood looked like yesterday, but I'll bet there some signs there.

I went farther afield and finally found some signs. But only about half as many as there used to be. How strange. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to which signs were left standing. When I went even farther out, signs reappeared in full force. Half a mile from my house everything was normal. Out on the main drag, signs were still piled high, just as they've always been.

What's going on? Did some local busybodies decide that colorful yard signs were polluting our beautiful all-beige neighborhood? Did my local association suddenly decide they didn't care about the First Amendment anymore? Did a yard sign neutron bomb go off? It's very mysterious.

Only 16 days to go! So what did Hillary Clinton spend the weekend doing?

Hillary Clinton moved to press her advantage in the presidential race on Sunday, urging black voters in North Carolina to vote early as Republicans increasingly conceded that Donald J. Trump is unlikely to recover in the polls....By running up a lead well in advance of the Nov. 8 election in states like North Carolina and Florida, she could make it extraordinarily difficult for Mr. Trump to mount a late comeback.

....Both Mrs. Clinton and key Republican groups have effectively pushed aside Mr. Trump since the final presidential debate on Wednesday, treating him as a defeated candidate and turning their attention to voter turnout and battling for control of Congress. An ABC News tracking poll published on Sunday showed Mr. Trump trailing Mrs. Clinton by 12 percentage points nationally and drawing just 38 percent of the vote.

OK, that sounds like good, sound campaign strategy. How about Donald Trump? Well, he went to Gettysburg, the site of Abraham Lincoln's famous speech about living up to our highest ideals as a nation. Trump was there, supposedly, to provide a vision of his first hundred days in office:

Instead, the Republican nominee used the first third of what had been promoted as a “closing argument” speech to nurse personal grievances, grumbling about “the rigging of this election” and “the dishonest mainstream media,” and threatening to sue the women who have come forward — an 11th woman did on Saturday — to accuse him of aggressive sexual advances.

“Every woman lied when they came forward to hurt my campaign — total fabrication,” Mr. Trump said. “The events never happened. Never. All of these liars will be sued after the election is over.

As always with Trump, his timing and his venue are perfect. Next up: Trump goes to Checkpoint Charlie to complain about NATO allies not paying us enough money.

Jay Nordlinger and I don't agree on much, but I've never held that against him. However, with 17 days left until we go to the polls, I do hold against him the five minutes of my life that I lost from reading Pat Buchanan's latest column. But you know what? If I have to suffer, so do you. Ladies and gentlemen, here is Buchanan's latest defense of Donald Trump:

What explains the hysteria of the establishment? In a word, fear.

....By suggesting he might not accept the results of a “rigged election” Trump is committing an unpardonable sin. But this new cult, this devotion to a new holy trinity of diversity, democracy and equality, is of recent vintage and has shallow roots. For none of the three — diversity, equality, democracy — is to be found in the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Federalist Papers or the Pledge of Allegiance.

....Some of us recall another time, when Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas wrote in “Points of Rebellion”: “We must realize that today’s Establishment is the new George III. Whether it will continue to adhere to his tactics, we do not know. If it does, the redress, honored in tradition, is also revolution.” Baby-boomer radicals loved it, raising their fists in defiance of Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew. But now that it is the populist-nationalist right that is moving beyond the niceties of liberal democracy to save the America they love, elitist enthusiasm for “revolution” seems more constrained.

Nordlinger comments:

Around the world, there are many, many places that lack the “niceties of liberal democracy.” You don’t want to live there. You would quickly discover that the niceties are more like necessities — a rule of law necessary to live a good, decent, and free life.

Is this just garden-variety Buchanan? It's been years since I've read or listened to him. He's always been a bit of a lunatic, but it seems like he's gotten even crazier in his old age.

Here is Hopper doing her best impression of a three-toed sloth. It lasted for about three seconds. Sometimes I wish she had the energy of a sloth. She is one high-maintenance cat.

What's going to happen to the Republican Party after November 8? I've raised the possibility that if Trump loses massively, the party establishment might get serious about marginalizing the tea party caucus in Congress instead of being held endlessly hostage to them. Most of the responses to that suggestion have been skeptical. The more likely possibility is that tea partiers will increase their influence and the GOP will become even crazier and more obstructionist than ever.

That's pretty much what apostate Republican Max Boot thinks:

Republican leaders like Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan may hope that after Trump’s inevitable defeat the party will return to their brand of conservatism — in favor of free trade and American leadership abroad, cutting government spending and taxes, a balanced approach to immigration, and making deals where possible with centrist Democrats. But that’s not a safe assumption anymore.

....Perhaps Trump will fade away after the election and the Republican Party will return to its Reaganite roots. But...survey findings suggest a strong possibility that instead the GOP, or at least a substantial portion of it, could continue veering toward the fringe, muttering darkly about how Trump was robbed of his rightful victory. If that is the case, then the Republican Party may not survive the Trump takeover.

I want to make this easy. There's basically only one thing that matters for the GOP: whether they double down on being the white men's party, or whether they take the painful but necessary steps necessary to broaden their appeal. That's it. Everything else pales in comparison.

If they continue on their current course, the presidency is going to get further and further out of reach. Eventually they won't be able to hold on to the Senate or the House either. They've simply run out of ways to increase the white vote and suppress the non-white vote, and the demographics of America just flatly don't support a party that's increasingly loathed by women and minorities.

Lindsey Graham's critique of four years ago is famous: "We're not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term." Republicans need to print this on a hat and start wearing it at all times. The Southern Strategy worked great for half a century, but nothing lasts forever. It's time to abandon it.

I have no idea what this is about, but....

A few days ago I mentioned that there were a few people who had attacked Trump and avoided return fire: Michelle Obama, Mark Cuban, and Warren Buffett. I guess now we're down to just the last two.