Red state Democrats trying to run for the Senate and away from Obama are finding it hard to escape the Big Anchor:
Obama: Dem candidates avoiding me 'have supported my agenda'
President Obama delivered a blow to Democratic Senate candidates looking to distance themselves from his flagging approval ratings Monday, saying lawmakers avoiding him on the campaign trail were “strong allies and supporters” who have “supported my agenda in Congress.”
The president said that Democrats faced a “tough map” and noted during a radio interviewwith Rev. Al Sharpton that many Democrats in crucial races “are in states that I didn’t win.”
“And so some of the candidates there — it is difficult for them to have me in the state because the Republicans will use that to try to fan Republican turnout,” Obama said.
“The bottom line is though, these are all folks who vote with me; they have supported my agenda in Congress; they are on the right side of minimum wage; they are on the right side of fair pay; they are on the right side of rebuilding our infrastructure; they’re on the right side of early childhood education.”
Obama went on to say that his feelings weren’t hurt by Democrats who were reluctant to campaign with him.
“These are folks who are strong allies and supporters of me, and I tell them, I said, ‘You know what, you do what you need to do to win. I will be responsible for making sure our voters turn out.’ ”
To be fair, someone needs to attempt to rally the Dem faithful, so Obama is just hoping/wishing that these conflicting messages can be compartmentalized. The plan here may be that audio from an Al Sharpton radio show does not make as ghastly an attack ad as video. Still, Obama providing the voiceover while images flash of the Democratic candidate should work fine.
Last week Obama, living the metaphor, delivered the old har-de-har with a story about his credit card being turned down at a NYC restaurant. At a fundraiser last night (can't golf at night!) he delivered the rest of the story:
White House Deletes Obama's 'Unpaid Bills' Admission from Transcript
Last night at a Democratic fundraiser in Chicago, President Obama mentioned that there are some "unpaid bills" on his desk in Chicago--which he left when moved to the White House after winning the presidential election in 2008. Here's what he said:
"One of the nice things about being home is actually that it's a little bit like a time capsule. Because Michelle and I and the kids, we left so quickly that there’s still junk on my desk, including some unpaid bills (laughter) -- I think eventually they got paid -- but they're sort of stacked up. And messages, newspapers and all kinds of stuff."
Geez, I thought the 'unpaid bills' was a reference to closing Gitmo. Or imposing a carbon tax, or cap-and-trade. Or dialing back the Cheney Surveillance State, or redirecting everyone's war on drugs.
Instead, it's just a straight admission that he can't administer his own household and pay his own bills.
Damn. I blame Obama. Who of course blames harsh Republican budget cuts. Now, if the quest was for a hovering golf cart...
ERRATA: From the article, an allusion to the poor man's alternative to the hoverboard:
Dustin Rubio, 39, an electrician who grew up skateboarding and saw “Back to the Future Part II” when he was a teenager, is not thinking quite that big.
This year, Mr. Rubio turned “a leaf blower, some plywood, some plastic and duct tape” into a small hovercraft that his daughters used to glide down the driveway at his home in Napa, Calif. “I was like I’m just gonna make something funny and see if it works,” he said.
In the course of pondering Ezra Klein's odd views on due process with respect to "Yes Means Yes" and rape allegations, I have come across the following popular notion, written by Tara Culp-Ressler of Think Progress and endorsed by Michelle Goldberg of The Nation. Their gist - women don't lie about rape. To which I say, sure, maybe - in the current enviroment that is stacked against them. But what about after the system is made more victim-friendly?
In addition Ms. Goldberg asserts that
It is, after all, a right-wing canard that acquaintance rape cases tend to stem from misunderstanding rather than predation.
She points to a survey of self-confessed rapists as support. To which I say, a guy who sincerely believes he was persisting rather than intimidating and assaulting (Ezra explains) won't show up in a survey of self-confessed rapists. In addition to overlooking guys who would feel misunderstood if accused, this survey made no attempt to query woman as to whether they felt assaulted. Right wing canard it may be, but this isn't the study to make the case.
Let's press on. From Ms. Goldberg:
Some people have argued that it doesn’t really matter if those lines are blurry, because, contrary to what men’s rights activists claim, women have no incentive to abuse the system. (The law is gender neutral, of course, but it’s clearly women who are most likely to be sexually assaulted.) We know that women very rarely lie about rape, and so they’re unlikely to go to authorities if their partners deviate from the letter but not the spirit of the new rules. “If both partners were enthusiastic about the sexual encounter, there will be no reason for anyone to report a rape later,” wrote Tara Culp-Ressler in ThinkProgress. “So if college students are worried about protecting themselves from being penalized, it’s not hard—all they have to do is stick to engaging in physical contact with people who are clearly receptive to it at the time.”
Women won't lie for anger or revenge? So much for "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned". This whole crazy ex-girlfriend thing is a myth with no foundation whatsover? I try to learn something new everyday.
In any case, the linked study suggests that about 6% of rape accusations are false-false; not just unprovable, not just subsequently dropped, but (as best as can be verified, sometimes by a recantation by the "victim") actually fabricated. As to the reliability of that result, Cathy Young has lots more.
Whether 6% is a little or a lot is a matter of opinion. But let me note a minor objection and then my major one.
The study looked at 136 rape allegations, or so they say (microagression alert!) since the numbers in Table 1 sum to 137. In any case, the authors tells us that there were 32 stranger rapes, 90 acquaintance rapes, and 15 where the appropriate categorization was unknown.
One might wonder whether the false rapes occured proportionately across those three categories; my unresearched guess is that the frequency of fabricated stranger rape claims is low relative to fabricated claims against an acquaintance.
The researchers can answer that question, but I can't. As an upper bound, if all eight false claims among the 136 (?) examined could be attibuted to the 90 cases of acquaintance rape, that would be a 8.9% fabricated charge rate. Might be worth knowing.
But my much bigger objection is this: we are seeing a 6% fabricated charge rate in a system that by wide agreement discourages women from coming forward. Presumably a system that discourages truthful accusations also discourages false ones. Is there any reason at all to think that the fabricated charge rate will go down, or even remain constant, in an environment that is much more supportive of the accuser?
So who has a reasonable guess as to the percentage of fabricated charges when the accuser will be put on a golden throne and the accused will have essentially no rights at all? Where would such a guess come from? And why are we comfortable restricting the rights of the accused lacking that information?
AND SINCE I AM HERE: Ms Goldberg gives me yet another opportunity to reflect on how two intelligent people can look at the same study and walk away with different conclusions. Here she is, my emphasis
The law might force couples into dialogue about their desires—obviously a good thing [because, and this is bad news for the Irish, we need to arrest people who aren't open about their feelings - TM]—but it’s hard to see how that alone will address rape. It is, after all, a right-wing canard that acquaintance rape cases tend to stem from misunderstanding rather than predation. Research at one campus by the scholars David Lisak and Paul M. Miller shows that most rapists are serial offenders who have committed other acts of violence as well. “This portrait is more consistent with the data on recidivism among sex offenders than with the still-prevalent image of a male college student who, under the influence of alcohol, mistakenly crosses the line between sexual pressure and rape,” they write. Yet California’s law treats the campus rape crisis as a communication problem, even as it blurs the parameters of what sexual assault is.
Hmm. The study involved a survey of men on some unidentified campus, a 6.4% of whom voluntarily and confidentially confessed to rape. Among that group of 120 men, 44 were one-time rapists and 76 were serial offenders, so it was a mix of predators and one-timers (some of whom, I suppose, would be more accurately called "first-timers", since even predators have to start at zero).
However, Ms. Goldberg seems to be engaging in a version of the No True Scotsman fallacy. We are not offered any data at all about rape and assault reports from the victim's perspective. Let's take for granted that every person on the other side of these self-reported rapes would agree that a rape had occurred. Does that speak to the frequency of misunderstanding and acquaintance rape? No - this is a study of men who understood themselves (at least upon reflection) to be committing rape.
But are there (mostly) women walking around feeling as if they had experienced an unreported rape while their (mostly male) counterparts and objective observers would sincerely disagree? That was not part of the survey so the data is not here, but if there are such women (as seems possible) then this study does not and could not give us a clear estimate as to what proportion of acquaintance rape allegations could be considered a misunderstanding.
This study, as best I can read it, was not designed and can't be used to support the conclusion offered by Ms. Goldberg.
Leaving us where? Some well-regarded feminist writers are reaching conclusions about the likelihood of fabricated charges and acquaintance misunderstandings based on studies that simply don't get them where they want to go. I will risk arrest by concealing my true feelings, but at a minimum, there is some confirmation bias being displayed by someone here. Maybe me!
Turkey Says It Will Aid Kurdish Forces in Fight for Kobani
KAREEM FAHIM OCT. 20, 2014 MURSITPINAR, Turkey — Turkey’s foreign minister said Monday that the country would facilitate the movement of Iraqi Kurdish forces, known as pesh merga, to the embattled Syrian town of Kobani to join the fighting there.
At a news conference in Ankara, the Turkish foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, said that his government was “helping the pesh merga cross over to Kobani,” an apparent shift from Turkey’s previous refusal to allow any military assistance to Kurdish fighters in the town.
That is a big deal because, whatever its original strategic significance, Kobani has become a symbolic test of strength and commitment for both all sides:
The announcement, along with an American decision to use military aircraft to drop ammunition and small arms to resupply Kurdish fighters to Kobani, reflected escalating international pressure to push back Islamic State militants who have been attacking the Kurdish town for more than a month. The battle has become a closely watched test for the Obama administration as it embarks on a fight reliant on air power against the militant group in Iraq and Syria. It has also raised tensions across the border in Turkey, where Kurds have accused the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of abandoning the city to the Islamic State militants, also known as ISIS or ISIL.
We could use a win here so locals want to ride the strong horse. Now, on to Baghdad!
After Delay, Iraq Appoints Two to Posts for Security
By Kirk Semple
BAGHDAD — After weeks of negotiations, Iraq’s Parliament approved on Saturday two nominees to lead ministries responsible for the nation’s security forces, filling voids that exposed sectarian tensions in the government as the country tries to mount an effective military response to the Islamic State.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi had struggled to fill the powerful cabinet posts as he sought candidates with enough support to win approval but not so contentious as to undermine the tenuous unity government of Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds.
The ministries — interior and defense — are particularly important because each controls an array of security forces fighting the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. Many lawmakers, regardless of their misgivings about one candidate or the other, welcomed the vote as a matter of survival for the country.
It is an uneasy coalition government:
For interior minister, a coveted post overseeing the nation’s police forces, the lawmakers approved Mohammed Salem al-Ghabban, a member of the Badr Organization, a Shiite political group that controls a militia fighting alongside government forces against the Islamic State.
The Badr Organization had been pressing Mr. Abadi to name one of its members to reflect the party’s strong showing in the recent parliamentary elections.
Mr. Abadi had been reluctant to pick a Badr candidate because he feared that appointing someone closely associated with a militia would jeopardize his plan for a more inclusive administration. The Badr Organization’s armed wing has been accused of torturing and killing Sunnis, especially during the sectarian violence of the mid-2000s.
Mr. Abadi had won praise from Sunnis for resisting the candidacy of the Badr Organization’s chief, Hadi al-Ameri. Badr officials, however, reportedly threatened to withdraw from the government if one of their members was not nominated for the post.
Notwithstanding those differences:
Hamid al-Mutlak, a Sunni lawmaker from Anbar Province, said that while Mr. Ghabban was “not exactly what we want,” he voted for him all the same. “I voted yes for both of them because we are in need of these two ministers — not them specifically but in general we need ministers for these ministries,” he said.
Who needs Congress anyway? David Sanger of the Times reports that Team Obama is strategizing to "suspend" Iranian sanctions rather than end them, therby sidestepping any need for action by Congress. No word on whether this will follow or precede executive action on immigration.
Obama Sees an Iran Deal That Could Avoid Congress
WASHINGTON — No one knows if the Obama administration will manage in the next five weeks to strike what many in the White House consider the most important foreign policy deal of his presidency: an accord with Iranthat would forestall its ability to make a nuclear weapon. But the White House has made one significant decision: If agreement is reached, President Obama will do everything in his power to avoid letting Congress vote on it.
Even while negotiators argue over the number of centrifuges Iran would be allowed to spin and where inspectors could roam, the Iranians have signaled that they would accept, at least temporarily, a “suspension” of the stringent sanctions that have drastically cut their oil revenues and terminated their banking relationships with the West, according to American and Iranian officials. The Treasury Department, in a detailed study it declined to make public, has concluded Mr. Obama has the authority to suspend the vast majority of those sanctions without seeking a vote by Congress, officials say.
But Mr. Obama cannot permanently terminate those sanctions. Only Congress can take that step. And even if Democrats held on to the Senate next month, Mr. Obama’s advisers have concluded they would probably lose such a vote.
The President was eventually able to find legal advice that the military action against Libya did not involve the War Powers Act, so this sanctions question must have seemed easy by comparison.
This part of the strategy seems to involve a bit of fantasy:
White House officials say Congress should not be surprised by this plan. They point to testimony earlier this year when top negotiators argued that the best way to assure that Iran complies with its obligations is a step-by-step suspension of sanctions — with the implicit understanding that the president could turn them back on as fast as he turned them off.
“We have been clear that initially there would be suspension of any of the U.S. and international sanctions regime, and that the lifting of sanctions will only come when the I.A.E.A. verifies that Iran has met serious and substantive benchmarks,” Bernadette Meehan, the spokeswoman for the National Security Council, said Friday, referring to the International Atomic Energy Agency. “We must be confident that Iran’s compliance is real and sustainable over a period of time.”
The President can turn the European sanctions back on? Hmm, with their economies fading, I have the idea that once sanctions are suspended our European allies will find billions of reasons to keep them suspended.
Jennifer Rubin of the WaPo has more on the bad deal coming down the tracks.
"The game is rigged, and the Republicans rigged it," Warren said to loud cheers.
Republicans? And here I thought it was progressives that were the stalwart defenders of Affirmative Action. I thought that was why the Democrats are now obliged to nominate a woman for President in 2016 regardless of qualifications or achievement, following the AA nomination of a black guy regardless of qualifications or achievement. In fact, I thought that was why Ms. Warren was a national figure, as a possible rival to Hillarity!
Times columnist Frank Bruni braces for pre-election panic on Ebola:
Because the Ebola response deepens doubt about the current government, it almost certainly hurts incumbents in the midterm elections and favors change. That’s unhappy news for Democrats as they fight to retain control of the Senate, and by the end of last week, they were spooked. I heard that not only in my conversations with party strategists but also in the statements of Democratic candidates themselves.
No kidding. That makes quite a change from only a week ago, when Mr. Bruni was exhorting the faithful to remain calm, avoid distractions and focus on real threats (like the flu).
Let's give Mr. Bruni huge props for this allusion:
Rationally or not, this is one of those rare moments when Americans who typically tune out so much of what leaders say are paying rapt attention, and Obama’s style of communication hasn’t risen fully to the occasion. Even as he canceled campaign appearances and created a position — Ebola czar — that we were previously told wasn’t necessary, he spoke with that odd dispassion of his, that maddening distance.
About the ban, he said, “I don’t have a philosophical objection necessarily.” About the czar, he said that it might be good to have a person “to make sure that we’re crossing all the T’s and dotting all the I’s going forward.” He’s talking theory and calligraphy while Americans are focused on blood, sweat and tears.
Wacking Obama for being insufficiently Churchillian - yes I love that! And yes, I would pay double if, during his next speechification on Ebola the Greatest Orator in The History of Forever would declare that in his attempts to contain a pandemic he had "nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat". I mean, ewwww, right?
Yeah, yeah, the sun rises in the east, my morning paper is delivered, and the Times has another daft article about gun rights. Their latest:
Mental Health Issues Put 34,500 on New York’s No-Guns List
Is that a good thing or an emerging scandal? It's complicated! Remember, in lib-world taking guns away from people who respect the law is a good thing. But taking guns away from victims of victims of society, such as the mentally ill, is problematic. Away we go:
A newly created database of New Yorkers deemed too mentally unstable to carry firearms has grown to roughly 34,500 names, a previously undisclosed figure that has raised concerns among some mental health advocates that too many people have been categorized as dangerous.
The database, established in the aftermath of the mass shooting in 2012 at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., and maintained by the state Division of Criminal Justice Services, is the result of the Safe Act. It is an expansive package of gun control measures pushed through by the administration of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. The law, better known for its ban on assault weapons, compels licensed mental health professionals in New York to report to the authorities any patient “likely to engage in conduct that would result in serious harm to self or others.”
And back to the analysis:
But the number of entries in the database highlights the difficulty of America’s complicated balancing act between public safety and the right to bear arms when it comes to people with mental health issues. “That seems extraordinarily high to me,” said Sam Tsemberis, a former director of New York City’s involuntary hospitalization program for homeless and dangerous people, now the chief executive of Pathways to Housing, which provides housing to the mentally ill. “Assumed dangerousness is a far cry from actual dangerousness.”
Dangerous to whom? Remember (and the Times will barelynudge your memory on this point), roughly 60% of gun deaths are suicides. Pressing on, the Times notes the alliance of gun nuts with, well, nut nuts:
Similar laws in other states have raised the ire of gun rights proponents, who worry that people who posed no threat at all would have their rights infringed. Mental health advocates have also argued that the laws unnecessarily stigmatized people with mental illnesses.
Some ink is splashed towards TimesWorld:
Gun control supporters argue a wide net is appropriate, given the potentially dire consequences.
Even if just one dangerous person had a gun taken away, “that’s a good thing,” said Brian Malte, senior national policy director of the Brady Campaign To Prevent Gun Violence. The National Rifle Association of America favors a separate “process of adjudication” to make sure that “these decisions are not being made capriciously and maliciously,” Andrew Arulanandam, a spokesman, said.
And back towards obfuscation:
Mental health professionals and advocates point out, however, the vast majority of people with mental illnesses are not violent. Accurately predicting whether someone will be violent, they said, is also a highly fraught process.
Again, violent towards whom? Suicide prevention should be a key goal here, but the only mention of suicide comes in this description of the cases passing through the database:
On a recent Wednesday, Dr. Glatt logged into the system and up popped the names of people being reported — 16 since he last looked three days before.
Among the newest cases was a patient who had threatened to kill his partner. “Becomes aggressive and unpredictable, has history of noncompliance with medications,” the narrative said.
Two patients had attempted suicide with guns. Another “is exhibiting manic behavior,” the note said. It added that the patient was “not sleeping in the past few days, throwing lit cigarettes and matches around the house,” and had “a history of fire setting.”
Still one more involved a man who had threatened a housing office worker if he was not helped immediately and was so agitated that it took six police officers to bring him into the emergency room.
Well, four out of sixteen were cited and two involved suicide; we are pressing the envelope of social science with this data sample.
My suggestion - the Times ought to decide whether death by suicide is something they are worried about and then report accordingly. They do brush by the topic ocassionally (with no explanation of a link between suicide prevention and magazine capacity). And the normal liberal tendency is to rely on misleading stats to minimize the palce of the mentally-ill in our problem with violence (e.g., violence by mentally ill substance abusers is not counted as violence by the mentally ill because... sorry, I am not smart enough to be a progressive so I can't answer that).
No one ever went broke underestimating the power of PC. The Washington Post Wonkblog illustrates the point with this post about the economic prospects of the children of rich and poor families:
America is the land of opportunity, just for some more than others.
That's because, in large part, inequality starts in the crib.
Stop right there! Unequality begins ast conception, or evan at the altar. Height, hiogh energy, good health, good looks and high intelligence are all correlated with high income and all are heritable. The "average" child of successful parents will probably benefit from a more nurturing environment (better diet, health care, books, reading time and so on) but also has, on average, a more favorable genetic endowment. Sort of like the way size, strength, athleticism and effort are heritable.
But as Mickey noted with respect to the WSJ, some things simply aren't said in polite media outlets. So Matt O'Brien of Wonkblog treats us to this:
Rich parents can afford to spend more time and money on their kids, and that gap has only grown the past few decades. Indeed, economists Greg Duncan and Richard Murnane calculate that, between 1972 and 2006, high-income parents increased their spending on "enrichment activities" for their children by 151 percent in inflation-adjusted terms, compared to 57 percent for low-income parents.
But, of course, it's not just a matter of dollars and cents. It's also a matter of letters and words. Affluent parents talk to their kids three more hours a week on average than poor parents, which is critical during a child's formative early years. That's why, as Stanford professor Sean Reardonexplains, "rich students are increasingly entering kindergarten much better prepared to succeed in school than middle-class students," and they're staying that way.
It's an educational arms race that's leaving many kids far, far behind.
Oh, please. Nurture is part of the story, but nature should be noted as well. The balance of Mr. O'Brien's effort documents something closer to a real surprise - on average, a college grad coming from a poor family barely outearns a high school dropout coming from a well-off family. I have no real guesses as to how that develops, although I will note that since the nationwide high school drop out rate for the highest earning quartile is around 5%, we are talking about outliers amongs the children of the better-off. My out-of-the air (or somewhere) guess would be that well-off dropus are a combination of special needs kids, kids with drug problems, and kids who dropped out of school to take over the (successful) family store or construction business after dad had a heart attack. In any case, learning that the family did not cut them loose but instead propped them up in some sort of a job is not surprising. Geez, parent supporting their kids - welcome to progressive hell, where the family is more important than gther state
Most studies incorporating a measure of cognitive ability find strong predictive effects for upward and downward mobility. Even controlling for parental background and personality attributes, measured cognitive ability emerges with a strong independent effect on outcomes.
There is also evidence that cognitive abilities are partly inherited; though there is little agreement among researchers how big that part is. Some behavioural geneticists, comparing correlations in IQ between adopted and non-adopted siblings and identical and non-identical twins (who have varying similarities in genes and in family environment) have suggested that genes account for up to 60% of the variation in IQ (Sacerdote, 2008). But Björklund, Jäntti, and Solon (2005) use a large Swedish sample to explore correlations in earnings across a large number of sibling types, including adoptees, and find a weaker role for genetics in explaining earnings, determining around 20% of the variance in earnings. As Jo Blanden concludes: “This literature indicates that genes play an important role in generating intergenerational transmissions. But they also show that they are not the whole story.”
So I am not making this up, but the media is supressing it.
The NY Times sets the stage for the final Democratic push towards election day:
Black Vote Seen as Last Hope for Democrats to Hold Senate
WASHINGTON — The confidential memo from a former pollster forPresident Obama contained a blunt warning for Democrats. Written this month with an eye toward Election Day, it predicted “crushing Democratic losses across the country” if the party did not do more to get black voters to the polls.
“African-American surge voters came out in force in 2008 and 2012, but they are not well positioned to do so again in 2014,” Cornell Belcher, the pollster, wrote in the memo, dated Oct. 1. “In fact, over half aren’t even sure when the midterm elections are taking place.”
Well, I'm not sure when the midterm elections are taking place either, but my quick guess is the first Tuesday in November. However, not having checked a calendar, can we have elections on Nov 1, or is the rule (taking its cue from holidays like Easter) that elections are to be on the first Tuesday after the first Monday? Or is it Labor Day that falls on the first Monday following the first Sunday? Score me as one more low-information voter.
But enough about me! Clearly the Democrats need a Trayvon Martin and they need him, well, just about now. Michael Ferguson looked like a a great choice to fill that role but his story seems to be unravelinga bit, although media attempt to cocoon their readers continue. Hope sprang back to life last week when a white police officer shot teen-aged Vonderrit Myers, and MSNBC is keeping hope alive despite clear evidence that Myers was a gun-thug who fired at the officer first.
Finally, anyone imagining that Obama will be imposing a Ebola-related travel ban on West Africa two weeks before an election where the Democrats are desperate for black votes and pushing a message about racist Republicans clearly lacks a private pollster. As with so many other things, Obama will have more flexibility after the election.
HELP FROM MY FRIENDS, OR, BING IT ON: My buddy advises me that Election Day this year is Nov 4, the first Tuesday after the first Monday. Hmm - no elections on the day after Halloweeen, i.e., All Hallows Day. Yet we pretend to have a separation of Church and State...