• Friday Cat Blogging – 9 November 2018

    Here is Hopper in the backyard garden, peeking over the ferns. She is probably back there hunting lizards. Which is to say, lizard tails, the only part she likes. It’s kind of creepy coming into the kitchen and seeing a lizard tail flapping around, which they do for several minutes before finally doing the decent thing and dying. The lizards themselves just skitter back into the garden and grow new tails.

  • Just How Progressive Is Nancy Pelosi?

    Creating a histogram in Excel is a huge pain in the ass. And when you’re done, you can’t adjust anything. You take what they give you and that’s that. Either that or else I missed some big button labeled “Modify Chart Here.” But today I needed a histogram, so you get what Excel produced for me.

    Anyway, on to the subject at hand. I keep hearing a lot about the newly elected progressives in the House Democratic Caucus refusing to commit to Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House—and, you know, I get it. The Democratic leadership is getting pretty long in the tooth: Folks like Clinton, Sanders, Biden, Pelosi, Hoyer and so forth really do need to step aside for a younger generation sometime soon. That’s one of the main reasons I voted for Kevin De León in the California Senate race: sure, he’s Hispanic and he’s more progressive than Dianne Feinstein, but the main thing is that Feinstein will be 91 when she finishes her term, and really, that’s just too old. It’s time.

    But that aside, what about Pelosi’s ideology? Maybe this is just because I’m a dinosaur myself, but I sure remember when Pelosi was the very model of a “San Francisco liberal,” a creature feared far and wide among the conservative set. And look at her voting record—which, unfortunately, is best shown on a histogram. Using the DWNOMINATE ranking she scores -0.49, which puts her in the third bucket of liberalness. She’s not most firebrandy liberal in the world, partly due to the demands of her leadership positions, but she’s pretty damn liberal. It’s hard to see how anyone who understands the constraints of effective leadership would consider her “not progressive enough.”

    For comparison, the current Republican Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, scores 0.556, which puts him only in the sixth bucket of conservativeness. In other words, Pelosi is a lot more liberal than Ryan is conservative.

  • 15 Reasons Why Democrats Crushed Republicans This Week

    "Why so serious, son? Let's put a smile on that face!"Christy Bowe/Globe Photos via ZUMA

    Let’s review what’s happened over the past few days:

    1. Democrats won a huge victory in the House. Even with all the gerrymandering and voter suppression that Republicans put in place, they won by a popular margin of 7-8 percent. When all the counting is done, they will probably have won about 35 new seats and Nancy Pelosi will be Speaker of the House. This ends Trump’s legislative agenda for good.
    2. Trump immediately responded by holding an obviously unhinged press conference in which his nervousness and fear were plain to see.
    3. Halfway through, he instigated a fight with CNN’s Jim Acosta, a reporter he doesn’t like. The more we learn about this, the more it seems like the fight was carefully planned and executed by Trump’s communications staff.
    4. Following the fight, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders retweeted a video created by InfoWars, the most infamous source of conspiracy theories in America. The video appeared to be doctored to make it look like Acosta “karate chopped” a young intern. In fact. he did nothing of the sort, and his arm moved only in response to her effort to take away the microphone.
    5. Sanders then repealed Acosta’s White House pass.
    6. In other news, Trump nominated Matthew G. Whitaker, an obvious crackpot who has commented frequently on the Russia probe, to take over as attorney general. There are good reasons to think this is illegal, and protests erupted immediately all over the country.
      Erik Mcgregor/Pacific Press via ZUMA
    7. The Florida senate race continues to get tighter. The Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson is still behind, but he’s getting closer every day. His opponent, Gov. Rick Scott, is melting down over this:

      “Late Tuesday night, our win was projected to be around 57,000 votes. By Wednesday morning, that lead dropped to 38,000. By Wednesday evening, it was around 30,000. This  morning, it was around 21,000. Now, it is 15,000….In Palm Beach County, there are 15,000 new votes found since election night.”

      This is pretty normal as mail-in ballots are counted. If those votes are in liberal counties, then it makes sense that they might go against the Republican. And since there are lots of votes left still unopened, it’s quite possible that when all the votes are counted, Nelson might end up the winner. As a result, Scott is accusing the vote registrars of voter fraud and has filed a lawsuit to stop the counting. He can do this because he’s the governor and the person in charge of election integrity. But the bottom line is that he’s sailing a leaky boat. When all the votes are counted, Nelson is most likely to be the winner, and Scott will have to file a blizzard of lawsuits to try to overturn the result. Sound familiar?

    8. Elsewhere, Arizona is getting closer too. Democrat Kyrsten Synema is now 10,000 votes ahead of her Republican opponent. And Democrat Jon Tester has been declared the winner in Montana.
    9. Overall, Republican flipped seats in North Dakota, Indiana, and Missouri. Democrats have flipped a seat in Nevada and are quite possibly going to flip a seat in Arizona. In Florida, they may well prevent Republicans from flipping another seat. Altogether, if the best case works out for Democrats, they will lose only a net of one seat, leading to a 52-48 Senate. That’s not much. It makes Mitch McConnell’s job easier, but it also means that Democrats have an excellent chance of winning back the Senate in 2020, when Republicans have 21 senators to protect while Democrats have only 14—all but one of whom is pretty unbeatable. Republicans, by contrast probably have 5 or 6 vulnerable seats.
    10. In the House, the race in the California 45th district between Democrat Katie Porter and Republican Mimi Walters is shrinking. Two days ago Walters was ahead by 6,000 votes. Today her lead was down to 4,000 votes with nearly 100,000 votes left to be counted. I mention this race only for personal reasons since I live in the 45th, and I’m pretty sure this is the first time in my life I’ve voted in a congressional race that was actually close. It’s very exciting.
    11. In state races, Democrats have picked up seven governor’s seats and hundreds of state assembly seats. This will be critical when it comes to redistricting in 2021.
    12. In legal news, a panel of judges ruled against a partisan gerrymandering by Democrats in Maryland. It will go straight to the Supreme Court and probably get combined with a Republican gerrymandering case in North Carolina. This is good, since it will allow the court to make a combined ruling that will appear nonpartisan. If the court actually does something to rein in egregious partisan gerrymandering, it’s good news for Democrats even if it’s not good news for Maryland Democrats.
    13. Another panel of judges ruled that Trump didn’t have the power to repeal DACA.
    14. And just today, a judge blocked the Keystone XL pipeline, one of the first things Trump tried to open up on his second day in office.
    15. Altogether, the Democrats won a big victory in the House, suffered a small loss in the Senate, and won a big victory in the states. They also seem to be doing very well in court cases around the country, and public opinion is very much on their side. Meanwhile, Trump’s ability to win races is getting weaker, but Republicans are stuck with him anyway. More about that in the previous post I wrote this morning.

    That’s more than a dozen bits of truly bad news for Republican, and it’s only going to get worse as they stare down the long barrel toward 2020, where the Senate map is massively in favor of Democrats; the economy is likely to be on a downturn; and Donald Trump will probably have long-since worn out his welcome with his one-trick pony. In other words, they’re getting more and more desperate, knowing that a historic shellacking is probably headed their way in two years.

    And this desperation is showing. Over the next two years Republicans can nominate some more conservative judges to the lower courts, but that’s about it. With Democrats controlling the House; the filibuster controlling the Senate; and a man-child controlling the White House, they’re in for a very rough two years.

    So I’m curious: is there still anyone out there buying the Republican fable that this was sort of a 50-50 election? Believe me, it wasn’t. From the start it was a huge win for the Democrats, and three days later that win is looking even more remarkable when you account for the seats won, the economic headwinds they plowed through; the gerrymandering they overcame; and the obviously panicky reaction this has all gotten from Republican pols. Unless they change and change fast, Republicans might not win another election for a decade. That’s what they’ve always been afraid of—namely that racism couldn’t be a winning card forever as America steadily became less white—and 2018 might be the year that finally proves it. They held on longer than any party of old white men should have, and that’s a testament to their ruthlessness and political smarts. Eventually, though, the tide rolls in and Republicans are left sticking their fingers into the leaky old dikes of Fox News while Democrats are creating brand new barriers helmed by men and women of all races who are best suited to the job. Which party would you rather work for?

  • In 2018, Racism Was Down But Sexism Was Up Among Republican Voters

    Here’s an interesting bit of polling research from Brian Schaffner. He used a panel study to test the effects of racist and sexist attitudes toward voting Republican in 2016 and 2018. Here’s what he found:

    There are several interesting things here:

    • The chart on the left is consistent with my hypothesis that racism has decreased a bit as a driver of Republican votes now that Barack Obama has been out of office for two years. It’s hard to tell from the lines, but the effect is noticeable. In 2018, the most racist voters were about 4.3 percentage points less likely to vote Republican than in 2016. However, the least racist voters were 7.7 points less likely to vote Republican. That’s not a big change, but it does suggest that the least racist voters were running away from the GOP faster than the most racist voters.
    • actually fairly substantial: a decline of about 5-7 percentage points in the likelihood of racist attitudes to cause someone to vote Republican.
    • However, this has been more than replaced by a huge increase in the influence of toxic sexism on the party vote. As the chart on the right show, sexist attitudes had barely any effect at all in 2016. In 2018 they had an enormous effect.
    • But the effect was entirely negative. The most sexist voters voted about the same way they did in 2016. The least sexist voters abandoned Republicans in droves. They were about 30 percentage points less likely to vote for a Republican.

    This is just one study, blah blah blah. Don’t take it as gospel. However, it appears to be a fairly standard kind of study, and nothing about it raises any special alarms. If Schaffner is right, racial animus (or tolerance of racial animus, perhaps) has declined a bit since the poisonous election of 2016, which makes Donald Trump’s racist appeal less effective going forward. At the same time, the Republican Party has apparently been branded very strongly as an anti-woman party. Will this last until 2020? If it does, Democrats should be in pretty good shape to elect our next president.

    UPDATE: The first bullet point has been corrected to properly reflect what the chart tells us. Thanks to Arindrajit Dube for setting me straight.

  • California Voters Kicked Ass!

    A couple of days ago I wrote a post saying that turnout in California had been lousy, probably because of our stupid jungle primary that frequently gives us uninteresting general election contests. But I based that on this data from the California Secretary of State:

    Unfortunately, I didn’t know that the historical data was final while the current data was provisional, which means they weren’t even remotely comparable. In short, I totally blew it, and when I recalculated the numbers to give me turnout as a percentage of eligible voters (rather than registered voters) I was, of course, still way off. So what was the voter turnout in California? David Dayen has the approximate answer:

    • Total Election Day votes in the governor’s race: 7.3 million.
    • Total unprocessed votes as of today: 4.9 million.
    • Total eligible voters: 25.2 million.
    • There are still a few counties not reporting everything, so the total number of votes will continue to increase by maybe half a million votes. The likely final number of votes is approximately 12.7 million.
    • Total turnout when everything is finally finished: probably about 50 percent.

    Here is a corrected chart:

    Turnout in California was almost certainly a smidge higher than the national average. Unfortunately, we won’t have a final answer for another month or so. I don’t know why, but that’s how things work here in the center of the Resistance.

  • Hey David: It Wasn’t “We” Who Screwed the Working Class

    I get so tired sometimes. Here is David Brooks today:

    Working-class voters tried to send a message in 2016, and they are still trying to send it. The crucial question is whether America’s leaders will listen and respond.

    One way to start doing that is to read Oren Cass’s absolutely brilliant new book, “The Once and Future Worker.” The first part of the book is about how we in the educated class have screwed up labor markets in ways that devalued work and made it harder for people in the working class to find a satisfying job.

    Part of the problem is misplaced priorities. For the last several decades, American economic policy has been pinioned on one goal: expanding G.D.P. We measure G.D.P. We talk incessantly about economic growth. Between 1975 and 2015, American G.D.P. increased threefold. But what good is that growth if it means that a thick slice of America is discarded for efficiency reasons?

    No. It was not “working-class voters” who sent a message in 2016. It was white working-class voters.

    It was not the “educated class” that screwed up the labor market for the non-rich. It was the Reagan/Gingrich/GOP establishment.

    It was not “we” who decided that GDP was the only thing that mattered and low incomes at the bottom didn’t. It was right-wing Republicans.

    So, so tired. I get so very tired of conservatives or centrists or bobos—or whatever it is that David Brooks calls himself these days—refusing to acknowledge this stuff. Progressives have been fighting all along for the working class; for equitable labor markets; for higher wages; for labor unions; for taxing the rich; for job training; for workplace regulations; for universal medical care; for equal treatment regardless of race or sex; and a million other things. Have we accomplished much? Not nearly as much as we should. Brooks is sure right about that.

    But it’s not because of some amorphous “we.” It’s because Republicans have spent the past four decades fighting all these things hammer and tongs and then telling working class whites to vote for them because Democrats won’t let them tell ethnic jokes anymore.

    Fuck me.

  • What Drove Media Coverage of the Migrant Caravan?

    Here in leftyville, it’s an article of faith that hysteria over the migrant caravan from Honduras is purely an invention of Donald Trump, one that the media, inexplicably, went along with. I certainly believe that, and during lunch it occurred to me that it might be interesting to check out Google Trends to test this theory.

    To my surprise, it didn’t really check out. So I drove home to put together a chart showing that we had gotten this one wrong. But then I dumped everything into Excel and looked a little more closely and—well, the Trump/media hacking theory actually does check out. At least, I think it does. Here’s a chart showing public interest in the caravan as measured by Google Trends:

    When the caravan forms around October 13, the media isn’t reporting it and public interest is about zero. After a few days of Trump talking about it, it finally catches on. Then the caravan crosses into Mexico, another newsworthy moment, but nothing happens. It’s not until October 22 and 23, when the New York Times splashes a couple of big, scary pictures on its front page that hysteria really takes off.

    But then interest drops off, so Trump doubles down, calling the caravan “an invasion of our country.” Interest immediately jumps as the media reports this, even though there’s really nothing inherently newsworthy about it. Finally, on November 4 at 7 pm, just before Election Day, interest spikes up as Trump delivers a stemwinding rally focused almost wholly on immigration.

    November 5 is the last day to make an impression on voters. On November 6, press attention is focused solely on the election and interest in the caravan plummets. On November 7 it plummets again. Today, as near as I can tell, it’s flattening out at about the level it had in mid-October, when hardly anyone cared.

    There’s always a chicken-and-egg problem with this stuff. Does public interest drive media coverage, which is perfectly normal, or does media coverage drive public interest? If the latter, what drives the media coverage in the first place? In this case, media coverage seems to mostly follow Trump, not the specific events that would be newsworthy on their own merits. This suggests that, in fact, they’re taking their cues from Trump and Fox News more than they are from their own independent news judgment. But honestly, it’s hard to say for sure, isn’t it?

  • Lunchtime Photo

    Donald Trump will never cop to it, but I imagine this is what he looked like on Tuesday night as he was watching CNN on the sly and finally realized that he was getting shellacked and there was nothing he could do about it.

    In reality, this is a golden lion tamarin at the Prospect Park Zoo. It’s an endangered species. Hopefully Trump is too.

    September 14, 2018 — Prospect Park Zoo, Brooklyn
  • Chart of the Decade: Why You Shouldn’t Trust Every Scientific Study You See

    This chart is three years old, but it may be one of the greatest charts ever produced. Seriously. Via John Holbein, here it is:

    Let me explain. The authors collected every significant clinical study of drugs and dietary supplements for the treatment or prevention of cardiovascular disease between 1974 and 2012. Then they displayed them on a scatterplot.

    Prior to 2000, researchers could do just about anything they wanted. All they had to do was run the study, collect the data, and then look to see if they could pull something positive out of it. And they did! Out of 22 studies, 13 showed significant benefits. That’s 59 percent of all studies. Pretty good!

    Then, in 2000, the rules changed. Researchers were required before the study started to say what they were looking for. They couldn’t just mine the data afterward looking for anything that happened to be positive. They had to report the results they said they were going to report.

    And guess what? Out of 21 studies, only two showed significant benefits. That’s 10 percent of all studies. Ugh. And one of the studies even demonstrated harm, something that had never happened before 2000

    Reports for all-cause mortality were similar. Before 2000, 5 out of 24 trials showed reductions in mortality. After 2000, not a single study showed a reduction in mortality. Here’s the adorable way the authors summarize their results:

    The number of NHLBI trials reporting positive results declined after the year 2000. Prospective declaration of outcomes in RCTs, and the adoption of transparent reporting standards, as required by clinicaltrials.gov, may have contributed to the trend toward null findings.

    Let me put this into plain English:

    Before 2000, researchers cheated outrageously. They tortured their data relentlessly until they found something—anything—that could be spun as a positive result, even if it had nothing to do with what they were looking for in the first place. After that behavior was banned, they stopped finding positive results. Once they had to explain beforehand what primary outcome they were looking for, practically every study came up null. The drugs turned out to be useless.

    Is this because scientists are under pressure from pharmaceutical companies to show positive results, and before 2000 they did exactly that? Or is it because scientists just like reporting positive results if they can? After all, who wants to spend years of their life on a bit of research that ends up being a nothingburger? I guess we’ll never know. But one thing we do know: we need to keep as sharp an eye on scientists as we do on anyone else, especially if there’s a lot of money at stake. When we don’t, they’re just as vulnerable to pressure and hopeful thinking as anyone.

  • UCLA Tops List of Revenue From Declined Applicants; CSULB Comes in 20th

    I’ve gotten a couple of emails from an outfit called lendedu, which I guess is some kind of loan broker or something. Anyway, as an enticement to people like me, they have calculated which universities make the most money from declined applications. Here’s the top 20:

    They suckered me into this because my alma mater made the list, over on the far right. My puny little state university makes loads of money from declined applications! Apparently CSU Long Beach receives 62,000 applications per year (!) but admits only about 20,000. That makes for 42,000 applicants annually who paid $55 but were eventually turned down. I have to say that I had no idea The Beach was such an exclusive institution. But times change.

    Anyway, most of the disappointed applicants haven’t really wasted their money, since I assume they mostly end up at CSU Fullerton or CSU Dominguez Hills or some other nearby campus.

    Another interesting factoid: All of the top six and nearly half of the top 20 are in California. Is this because UC has such a great reputation? Or because our weather and partying have such a great reputation? Or both?