The Diving Duck of Irvine

I still haven't been able to track down our new baby geese, and I'm going to torture you with daily waterfowl pictures until I do. Today you get a video! It's the diving duck of Irvine.

A few random thoughts about tonight's election results:

  • Hillary Clinton won a majority of the pledged delegates, a majority of the superdelegates, and a majority of the popular vote. If you can't stand her regardless, that's fine, but a clear majority of Democrats preferred her to Bernie Sanders. Nothing rigged, nothing corrupt, nothing unfair. That's just the way it goes sometimes.
     
  • I'd love to see her choose Jeff Merkley as her running mate. I've never thought it was fair that Oregon gets all the cool senators. They should share.
     
  • But Sherrod Brown is out of the running, I guess: "Aides say Sanders thinks that progressives who picked Clinton are cynical, power-chasing chickens—like Sen. Sherrod Brown, one of his most consistent allies in the Senate before endorsing Clinton and campaigning hard for her ahead of the Ohio primary. Sanders is so bitter about it that he'd be ready to nix Brown as an acceptable VP choice, if Clinton ever asked his advice on who'd be a good progressive champion."
     
  • I find Sanders' bitterness very sad. It's not that it's unusual: presidential primaries often get pretty nasty, and the losers frequently take it personally. But Bernie accomplished a helluva lot. He wanted to move the Democratic Party to the left, and every hack in the party is now keenly aware that young voters bought Bernie's message en masse—young voters who, in a few years, will be middle-aged voters that form the core of the party's base. Sanders has taught the hacks not only that it's safe for the Democratic Party to move to the left, but that it's going to whether they like it or not. How many losing candidates can say they accomplished that? Reagan in 1976? Who else? Bernie may have lost the primary, but he won the more important battle. He should be proud as hell.
     
  • For the record: Whitewater was a nothingburger. Travelgate was a nothingburger. Troopergate was a nothingburger. Filegate was a nothingburger. The Vince Foster murder conspiracy theories were a nothingburger. Monica Lewinsky was Bill's problem, not Hillary's. Benghazi was a tragedy, but entirely nonscandalous. The Goldman Sachs speeches were probably a bad idea, but otherwise a nothingburger. Emailgate revealed some poor judgment, but we've now seen all the emails and it's pretty obviously a nothingburger. Humagate is a nothingburger. Foundationgate is a nothingburger.

    Bottom line: Don't let Donald Trump or the press or anyone else convince you that Hillary Clinton is "dogged by scandal" or "works under a constant cloud of controversy" or whatever the nonsense of the day is. That constant cloud is the very deliberate invention of lowlifes in Arkansas; well-heeled conservative cranks; the Republican Party; and far too often a gullible and compliant press. Like anybody who's been in politics for 40 years, Hillary has some things she should have handled better, but that's about it. The plain fact is that there's no serious scandal on her record. There's no evidence that she's ever sold out to Wall Street. There's no corruption, intrigue, or deceit. And if anything, she's too honest on a policy level. She could stand to promise people a bit of free stuff now and then.

    If you don't believe me, then for God's sake, at least believe Jill Abramson. If she thinks Hillary is "fundamentally honest and trustworthy," then you can probably bank on it.

That is all. For now.

Apologies for the lousy video, but can someone please explain this:

Here's a transcript, such as it is:

GUY IN AUDIENCE: No TPP!

TRUMP: No PPP, you're right about that. [Smirks toward crowd.] And you mean, no PP.

Trump is such a moron that he doesn't realize right off what the guy is talking about and says "No PPP."1 Then he smirks and makes a little aside. Does he mean "no pee pee"? Is he that much of a child? Was it something else? WTF was this supposed to mean?

1Someone must have yelled at him about this in his ear, because a few seconds later he said, "We're not going to approve, as someone just said, the Trans. Pacific. Partnership." He drew out the last three words very slowly and carefully.

Donald Trump has issued a statement about his beef with Judge Curiel:

It is unfortunate that my comments have been misconstrued as a categorical attack against people of Mexican heritage. I am friends with and employ thousands of people of Mexican and Hispanic descent.

Unfortunate indeed. But no one has construed his comments that way. We've all construed them as a categorical attack on Curiel. That's because Trump has explicitly said that Curiel is "a hater" of "Mexican heritage" who is handing down unfair rulings because he dislikes Trump's anti-immigrant politics. "I think that's why he's doing it," he told Jake Tapper, just to make sure there was no question about it. Then this:

Due to what I believe are unfair and mistaken rulings in this case and the Judge’s reported associations with certain professional organizations, questions were raised regarding the Obama appointed Judge’s impartiality. It is a fair question. I hope it is not the case.

"Questions were raised." Golly. I wonder who raised them? No one knows, I suppose. But raised they were, and then Donald had no choice but to address them. But he really hopes these questions all turn out to be unfounded. Really. He does.

There it is. You have the whining, the lying, the passive voice rowback, and the faux sorrow that this has become such a divisive issue, all in just a few sentences. It's vintage Trump, folks.

Here's our first un-endorsement of the season:

Kirk was always likely to be one of Trump's first defectors. He's running a tough reelection race in a blue state. Here's his official reason:

At least, I guess that's the official reason. Twitter is now the source of official political pronouncements, right?

Anyway, this might be the first time ever that a senator has un-endorsed a presidential candidate of his party. There have been plenty who never endorsed in the first place, but I'm not sure if anyone has ever endorsed and then taken it back. Historians, what say you?

Next up: Paul Ryan should become the first Speaker of the House to un-endorse a presidential candidate of his party. If enough members of Congress do this, we might even have to take the hyphen out of un-endorse and make it a real word.

How's the Labor Market Doing, Really?

Last week produced a weak jobs report, and today Fed chair Janet Yellen implied that this made an interest rate hike unlikely in the next month or two. Fine. But that's just one report over one month. Does it really tell us much about the health of the labor market?

Maybe not. Justin Fox suggests that "things have actually been on the downswing for the U.S. labor market for months," based on his read of a newish composite measure from the Fed called the Labor Market Conditions Index. As you can see on the right, the LMCI has mostly shown positive growth over the past three years. In fact, it's been positive since mid-2009. But growth turned negative in January and has been getting steadily more negative ever since. It's currently at -4.8.

So that's not so great. But because the LMCI is a composite mishmash of other metrics, it's hard to have any kind of intuitive sense of what it means. Is -4.8 bad? Really bad? Just a blip?

One way to get a better sense of LMCI is to take a longer-term look at it. The Fed boffins have back-calculated it to 1976, so here it is for the past 40 years:

Ah. It's one of those measures designed to predict recessions. As its creators say: "Changes in the LMCI align well with business cycles as defined by the National Bureau of Economic Research....[Since 1980] the LMCI has fallen about an average of 20 points per month during a recession and risen about 4 points per month during an expansion."

These kinds of composite measures are a dime a dozen. Constructing them is practically a parlor game among a certain kind of economist. They're also problematic. LMCI, for example, combines 19 separate measures, and with that many inputs it's not hard at all to gin up a formula that will pretty accurately match past history. So I'd take LMCI with a grain of salt until we see how it does at predicting the next recession.

That said, if we do take LMCI seriously the question is: how low can it go before a recession is inevitable? Answer: Over the past 40 years, it's never gotten below -10 without foreshadowing a recession. In fact, during normal periods of expansion, it's never gotten below -7 without turning into a recession.

So: If we assume that LMCI has predictive capability, we can say that if it keeps dropping for another few months it probably means bad news. And if it drops into negative double digits, a recession is almost inevitable. That's a lot of ifs and probablies, but possibly something to keep an eye on anyway.

I have exciting news. A few days ago I asked if some qualified lawyer type person could take a look at Judge Curiel's rulings in the Trump University case and report back on whether he'd been fair. Guess what? Someone actually took me up on this! Here is Max Kennerly's summary:

The Makaeff case was filed on April 30, 2010, and transferred to Judge Curiel on January 30, 2013....On the issues where Judge Curiel had discretion, he generally ruled against the plaintiffs....On the issues where Judge Curiel had to rule on disputed legal concepts, he generally ruled against the plaintiffs....There’s only really one issue where Judge Curiel truly sided with the plaintiffs, and that was over the appropriate proof of damages.

....Summing Up: Judge Curiel is doing his job like a normal judge, issuing rulings consistent with the case law. But you already knew that.

For the record, note that the "plaintiffs" in this case are the folks suing Trump. So when Curiel rules against the plaintiffs, he's ruling for Trump. There's a whole lot of detail to back up Kennerly's summary, and you should read it if you're interested in this stuff.

But there's one bit that I'll take note of right here. Trump's major whine is that the whole case should have been tossed out on summary judgment long ago. Kennerly points us to Ken White for an explanation of all that. Roughly speaking, White confirms that Trump is full of shit. You don't get summary judgment unless your opponents literally have no credible evidence on their side. If they have even a small amount, then you let a jury decide. Obviously Trump's victims do have some evidence, so summary judgment was never really a possibility.

None of this will stop Trump from whining, of course. As near as I can tell, there's no force on earth that can stop a Trump whinefest. Without something to whine about, I don't think Trump would find life worth living. He's the eternally unappreciated man.

Who's Worse, Berniebros or Hillarybots?

Kevin's law of politics states:

Every candidate for office believes he's been treated brutally unfairly by his opponent, the press, and his opponent's supporters.

Occasionally this is even true. But usually it's not. It's just that candidates usually see only the abuse that's been aimed at them. They never really notice the abuse hurled at their opponent.

For what it's worth, I happen to have had a pretty good look during this election at the way both Bernie and Hillary supporters attack anything critical of their hero, and I have to call it a draw. I'll confess that initially I thought the Berniebros were worse, but they're not. The Hillarybots are every bit as obnoxious, and the condescension and contempt seem about equal on both sides. Bernie's most avid supporters are convinced that Hillary fans are establishment shills, warmongers, and hate young people. And they are tired of being attacked as easily led, bro-centric cultists who have no clue about how real-world politics really works.

Likewise, Hillary's most avid supporters are convinced that Bernie fans are naive, sexist, and in thrall to a cult leader. And they are tired of being attacked as corrupt, patronizing boomers who can't stand the thought that no one cares what they think anymore.

But here's the good news: As near as I can tell, this only describes, at most, about 5 percent of the Democratic electorate even if they get the lion's share of the attention. The other 95 percent has an ordinary preference but that's all. When the dust has settled, they'll shrug and let the outraged 5 percent go off and vote for Jill Stein or Gary Johnson or whoever. The rest of us will forget the primaries and put our minds to work on the upcoming election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

This process of forgetting about the primaries will start tomorrow. It will finish within a week or two.

Your Outrage of the Day, Explained

Here it is, ladies and gentlemen, your outrage of the day:

Bernie supporters are apoplectic. We haven't even finished voting yet! What's going on?

It's simple. The AP keeps a running tally of delegates, and on Sunday Hillary won a few more in Puerto Rico. Then on Monday a few more superdelegates announced their support. On Monday evening the delegate counter ticked over the 2,383 mark and the AP moved a story saying she had officially won. The networks followed suit, and so did just about every newspaper in the country.

So was this the right thing to do? There are a couple of ways to look at it:

  • Yes! The AP's tally is what it is. From the start they've said that they'll declare a winner when someone goes over 2,383, and by chance that happened last night. They can't play favorites by changing their minds at the last minute.
  • No! Come on. There's a real world out there too, and the AP should be sensitive to the impact of its coverage on election results. Announcing now is like releasing exit poll results before the polls close. Holding back for 24 hours would hardly have hurt.

The timing of this was unfortunate, but I have to go with Option A. The tally is the tally. When it goes over 2,383 the AP declares a winner. The AP's members expect them to deliver the news when it happens, not to hold it back until their editors decide it's politically safe to release it. Besides, if they did hold it back, someone would probably be apoplectic about that.

On a separate note, the AP's tally includes superdelegates, who aren't technically pledged to a candidate. Superdelegates can announce their support, but they can also un-announce it at any time. Bernie supporters have thus argued for some time that they shouldn't be included in any delegate count.

YMMV, but I don't buy this. Whether you like superdelegates or not, they're part of the Democratic Party process. Willy nilly, you have to count them. If you don't, you're putting a huge thumb on the scale.

On the bright side, at least Bernie supporters aren't mad at Hillary this time around. By providing everyone with a common enemy, the AP is allowing the healing process to begin. Nice work, AP!

Monday Evening Waterfowl Blogging

I'm still looking for the adorable baby geese. So far, they've remained cleverly hidden from my prying camera lens. In the meantime, enjoy this local duck.