Thursday, September 03, 2015

Starbucks Is So Passé! The Marketing of Coffee Takes a Turn

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"Translated" by Bing: "The café with care given the exposure the white-collar workers on LinkedIn. ‪#‎walterscoffee‬" (Hmm, seems to lose something in "translation.")

by Noah

Inspired by Breaking Bad, aka the greatest TV show ever, an astute Turkish food and beverage industry veteran named Deniz Kosan has created what looks to be the "world's first Coffee Super Lab," as reported by TODAY.com, and it's not even disguised as a laundromat, chicken restaurant, ordinary RV, or anything else. Walter's Coffee Roastery brazenly operates, as Gus Fring would say, "hidden in plain sight," in Istanbul, Turkey.

The Turks are known for their love of coffee, always have been, but it took Kosan to see that Breaking Bad was the perfect merchandising opportunity for his coffee, or, as Walter White himself would say, "the product."

Kosan has designed his coffee shop to look like Walter White's beautiful subterranean high-tech stainless-steel meth lab. His employees even dress up in those wonderful yellow hazmat suits and black masks that Walter and his young protégé, Jesse Pinkman, don for every cook of "the product."


That's not you-know-who and you-know-who, is it?

Kosan says that the precise moment of inspiration came to him as he watched Season 3, Episode 6 of the legendary show. That's the episode in which former high school chemistry teacher, now master meth maker, Walter White (Bryan Cranston) discusses fine coffee with Gale Boetticher (David Costabile), his ill-fated assistant. Walter marvels at Gale's brilliantly brewed coffee and wonders aloud, "Why are we making meth?"



Why make meth, indeed! Kosan knows that, in the real world, coffee is a far more popular drug, and it has the extra advantages of not costing as much and being totally legal. Not only that, but you can add sugar -- as much as you want!

Speaking of sugar, Walter's Coffee Roastery also sells a beautiful blue candy that looks, very suspiciously, just like Walter White's classic blue "product." It's even sold over the counter -- again, in plain sight!


Ahem, samples of "the product"?

Unfortunately, Walter's Coffee Roastery only has the one location -- in Turkey. For now, that is. But, just like Walter White's meth spread 'round the world, there's always hope that one day soon there will be a Walter's Coffee Roastery near you. When you have what people want, expansion is easy.

Kosan's move is as good an example of inspired marketing genius as you will ever find. I'd be hard-pressed to find a better way to sell a food or beverage product based on the creepy factor or crime factor of a TV show or movie.  I suppose one could start up a Texas Chainsaw Massacre Steak House. Silence of the Lambs, anyone? Maybe I'll just move to the Gulf Coast and open up a chain of BP Seafood Huts. "The secret is in the oil."


That's definitely not Walter and Jesse (or Skyler).
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Now That It's Been Established That Trump's Appeal Is Fascist, Is It Also Xenophobic?

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I had a very high draft lottery number. There was no way I would be drafted after college. However, it made me sick to see what my country was doing to Vietnam, and it made me sick to imagine that my tax dollars were somehow paying for that. So l wound up living overseas for the duration of the war. I learned a lot-- and I recommend the experience to anyone contemplating any such thing, for myriad reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with this post. 

What inspired me to think back about my years living abroad was an interview Trump did with an extreme right-wing site. In reacting to Jeb having spoken to a crowd in Miami about Trump, where he said, "El hombre no es conservador," Trump went right to his Know-Nothing base about Jeb: "He’s a nice man. But he should really set the example by speaking English while in the United States."

Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL): Trump's anti-Spanish 
language comments are "modern day fascism."
Why is this such a devastating zinger, which damages Jeb so profoundly? I first started picking up on it in 1969 when I was driving across Asia-- Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India. I was on the hippie trail, and so were several hundred, maybe a thousand, other Westerners-- primarily Europeans, with a handful of Canadians, Australians, Japanese and a tiny number of Americans. Overland across Asia was a tough haul, and not for the faint of heart. There was basically only one road-- around 4,000 miles-- and everyone stopped in the same places to rest: the Sultan Ahmet district of Istanbul, Tabriz, Tehran, Meshed, Herat, Kandahar, Kabul, Lahore. So by the time you got to where you were closing in on India, you had basically met and shared experiences with almost everyone on the road that season.

English was the lingua franca. If there were people from Sweden, Brazil, Japan, Italy and Holland sitting around a campfire, there was only one way anyone would assume they could have a discussion: in English. Was I ever lucky! But occasionally-- very infrequently-- you'd be in a group of people, maybe a bunch of Frenchmen and some Canadians and someone from Senegal, say, and they'd be speaking French. Or some people from Mexico, Chile, Argentina and Spain  would be speaking Spanish. You could also find yourself sitting around with a bunch of Afs speaking Farsi or Pashtun. Well, no one minded-- except Americans.

I started figuring it out pretty quickly. Americans, but not Brits or Aussies or Canadians, would get terribly uptight if another language was being spoken. And since there was usually a lot of hash going around, they would also get terribly paranoid. Americans seemed to always think that if two or more people were conversing in not-English, they were either making fun of them or plotting against them. It came to me gradually, and then I thought it was funny-- and sad.



A few years later I was back in Europe from India and working at de Kosmos, a youth center owned by the city of Amsterdam which was based on meditation and Eastern philosophies. It was always packed with young travelers and tourists babbling in every language under the sun. Again, English was the lingua franca-- even over Dutch-- but there were always enough Germans or French or any linguistic group so that there would be conversations going on in those languages. And again, when people were speaking not-English, I noticed the uptightness-- exclusively of Americans.

Years later, back in the States, it was easy to detect that some Americans get uptight when people in restaurants or in stores or in their workplaces speak Spanish. Here in Los Angeles that's over with now, but farther inland it isn't. It's just an awkward and backward part of being part of Fortress America, long associated with the kind of isolationism that breeds nationalism, and hostility towards outsiders (xenophobia), or even toward new ideas. 

Trump knows his audience.


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GOP Front-Runner Donald Trump Defines The Republican Party's "Deep Bench": "Bunch Of Clowns, Bunch Of Real Clowns"

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Ronald Reagan's 11th Commandment was, at least superficially, sacrosanct among Republicans... until Trump took over the party. Reagan, from his 1990 book An American Life:
The personal attacks against me during the primary finally became so heavy that the state Republican chairman, Gaylord Parkinson, postulated what he called the Eleventh Commandment: Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican. It's a rule I followed during that campaign and have ever since.
In the video compilation above, Trump is shown doing the kind of takedown of his party's presidential field that Hillary Clinton would never dare. "We have losers, we have losers. We have people who don't have it," the TV reality-show star said of the party's "deep bench." Trump is busy rendering Jeb Bush unelectable, emphasizing a series of ugly, off-putting personality traits that voters will flee from. He has no energy; he's "an unhappy person," as well as being "weak" and "a puppet to his donors." In sum: "How the hell can you vote for this guy?"

Trump has already obliterated Rick Perry, who was governor of the biggest Republican state in America for 15 years. After he famously declared that Perry should "have to have an IQ test before getting on the debate stage," Perry's campaign fizzled out entirely. He never went beyond 1 or 2% in the polls again. 

Then there's this: "This guy Lindsey Graham-- a total lightweight. He doesn't seem like a very bright guy. He actually, probably, seems to me, not as bright, honestly, as Rick Perry." Lindsey is lucky he doesn't have to run for his Senate seat again for five years. (And Trump hasn't even outed him yet!)

And anyone who didn't know that John Kasich was a Lehman Bros managing director when the company went belly up and nearly upended the entire U.S. economy... well, Trump reminded them. As for Carly Fiorina: "She ran Hewlett Packard into the ground; then her stock value tanked. She laid off tens of thousands of people. And she got viciously fired." Many Republicans didn't know that about Carly Fiorina. Now they do.

Nor has he been gentle with the candidate the Koch brothers had originally settled on: Scott Walker. "Wisconsin's doing terribly; the roads are a distaster, the hospitals and education are a disaster." He skewers Rand Paul ("weak on the military... weak on immigration-- he's weak on everything") and Marco Rubio, and then he's back to how much of an unqualified moron Jeb Bush is. Jeb's responses-- his pathetic attempts to "hit back" at the bully-- only underline what a terrible leader he would make. It never pays to roll around in the mud with a pig, unless you plan to use a butcher knife.
Bush does not seem to be radiating much joy these days.

He said last year that he would run for president only if he could do so with a sunny spirit, but Mr. Trump, the unlikely front-runner who gleefully ignores the traditional rules of political engagement, has turned this summer into a miserable one for Mr. Bush.

There is the personal ridicule-- constantly questioning Mr. Bush’s vigor, invoking a since-retracted statement by his mother, Barbara Bush, that “we’ve had enough Bushes” in the White House, and even alluding to his wife’s Mexican heritage in discussing immigration.

But the torment goes deeper than that. Emphasizing bluster over ideas, Mr. Trump has turned the campaign into a tabloid-style clash of personalities, heavy on provocation and insults. What little policy that has been discussed mostly revolves around Mr. Trump’s appeals to anxious white conservatives: stoking fears about immigrants, gang members and foreign countries that, in his telling, are eclipsing America.

It is a race, in other words, that embodies what Mr. Bush likes least about politics.

Mr. Bush is at his most animated discussing policy. And the only thing he may be more passionate about than issues is his conviction that the Republicans must become an inclusive, big-hearted party that appeals to people’s hopes rather than their resentments.

“It’s got to be difficult,” said John McKager Stipanovich, a veteran Florida lobbyist who has known Mr. Bush for over 30 years. “Donald Trump epitomizes everything that Jeb has spent his political career trying to prevent the Republican Party from becoming.”

...“He attacks me every day with nonsense, with things that aren’t true,” Mr. Bush said in Spanish, before saying much the same in English: “He tries to personalize everything. If you are not totally in agreement with him, you’re an idiot, or stupid, or you have no energy, or blah, blah, blah. That’s what he does.”

...More than annoyance is at stake. Mr. Bush’s advisers say they believe that the relentless mockery by Mr. Trump is contributing to their candidate’s slide in the polls. In a new Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics poll, more Iowa Republicans view Mr. Bush unfavorably than favorably. Mr. Bush has also slipped in some national surveys, falling into single digits and well back in the Republican pack.

The campaign does not want donors and up-for-grab Republican voters to see Mr. Bush as meekly absorbing Mr. Trump’s blows, so Mr. Bush, the former Florida governor, has begun to criticize Mr. Trump aggressively on the campaign trail. This week, he released a video highlighting the developer’s previous liberal views.



Still, seemingly powerless to pull Mr. Trump down, Mr. Bush and his advisers are expressing anger over what they see as the news media’s enabling of Mr. Trump by not scrutinizing his far-fetched plans, such as making Mexico pay for a wall along the United States’ southern border.

“Look, this guy’s the front-runner,” Mr. Bush said last week at a town-hall-style meeting in Norfolk, Va. “He should be treated like a front-runner, not like some kind of alternative universe to the political system.”

At a private fund-raiser the night before in Richmond, Va., Mr. Bush was even more direct when asked by a contributor what he would do about Mr. Trump. Mr. Bush said with a touch of wonder that Mr. Trump’s rise reminded him of reality TV, adding that he was the only candidate taking on the bombastic front-runner and that he hoped the news media would begin aggressively vetting Mr. Trump, according to an attendee.



UPDATE: From Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

In yesterday's Washington Post Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, author, all-time leading NBA scorer and former cultural ambassador for the United States, opined about how Trump and Bernie Sanders differ.
Ernest Hemingway once said that courage was “grace under pressure.” Two presidential candidates, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, have recently tested this proposition. And how each man responded revealed the type of person he is and the type of president he would make: Trump authored his own doom, and Sanders opened immense new possibilities as a compassionate person and serious candidate for president.

...Americans may flirt with the preppy life of the frathouse partier because he’s poked sacred cows, said stuff we all wish we could say (except that reason keeps us from doing it), and acted buffoonishly entertaining. But when you wake up the next morning and he’s saying you’re now in a four-year relationship, reason comes rushing in, and it is time for the “it’s me, not you” speech. With over a year until the elections, there are too many Republican hopefuls that dilute the polls. Once the herd thins out (Rick Perry seems out of money; Bobby Jindal out of breath; Huckabee out of touch), other candidates with more substance will have their voices heard. And when it comes down to just three or four candidates, Trump’s blustering inarticulation and dodging of questions will seem untrustworthy.

Although each absurd, uninformed or just plain incorrect statement seems to give Trump a bump in the polls, there are only so many times supporters can defend his outrageous assault on decency, truth and civility. Yes, a few will remain no matter what. (One 63-year-old woman told CNN that the Republicans were out to discredit Trump: “They twisted what the words were, because they’re trying to destroy him.” No one has to twist his words because what he says is twisted enough. He speaks fluent pretzel.) But voters will eventually see the light.

Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders faced his own challenge at a political event last month, when two African American women pushed in front of him to use the microphone to demand four and a half minutes of silence to honor the death of Michael Brown. Sanders left the stage and mingled with the crowd. Later, Trump criticized Sanders as being “weak” for allowing them to speak, but truly he showed grace under pressure by acknowledging their frustration and anger. Instead of bullying their voices into silence or ridiculing them as losers, pigs or bimbos, Sanders left. After all, it was not his event; he was a guest. Besides, his voice was not silenced, but came back booming even louder: The next day, Sanders posted a sweeping policy of reform to fight racial inequality. (The timing coincided with Michael Brown’s death and had nothing to do with the two women.)

The two approaches reveal the difference between a mature, thoughtful and intelligent man, and a man whose money has made him arrogant to criticism and impervious to feeling the need to have any actual policies. Trump threatens to run an independent campaign (he won’t; that’s a negotiating ploy). Trump is a last-call candidate who looks good in the boozy dark of political inebriation.

...Two roads diverged in a political wood, and one man took the road of assaulting the Constitution and soon will be lost forever. The other will be a viable candidate who, regardless of whether he wins the nomination, will elevate the political process into something our Founding Fathers would be proud of.
Trump, of course, responded in typical classy Trumpian fashion:



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Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Trump And The Republicans Are Far From The Only Candidates Taking Big Money With Plenty Of Strings Attached-- Let's Look At Raja Krishnamoorthi

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Kim Davis and Ro Khanna-- kind of "Democrats"

Hopefully Steve Israel won't figure out that Kim Davis, the crackpot religionist fanatic clerk in Kentucky's Rowan County, is a Democrat. No doubt, if he did, he'd want to recruit her to run her against Hal Rogers. Something attracts Israel to Democrats from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party. And there are lots of them, although fewer and fewer as unhinged as Davis, who is on her fourth marriage. Most of these Republican-lite Democrats are just economic Republicans, like the New Dems and Blue Dogs-- from Patrick Murphy (FL), Kyrsten Sinema (AZ), Sean Maloney (NY), Dan Lipinski (IL) and Jim Costa (CA) to Gwen Graham (FL), Henry Cuellar (TX), Cheri Bustos (IL) and Scott Peters (CA).

Last cycle, Democrats from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party-- with the help of outright Republicans-- tried defeating California progressive icon Mike Honda. Ro Khanna spent $4,427,101 smearing Honda, and his SuperPAC, Californians for Innovation, spent another $662,259 on the race. Honda beat the atrocious crooked corporate Dem Khanna 68,001 (51.8%) to 63,293 (48.2%). And this cycle Khanna is back for another try. (You can help defend Mike Honda here.)

Meanwhile, there's a very similar shady character, another corporate Dem with a Republican perspective, running for the open seat in IL-08, west of Chicago. Raja Krishnamoorthi is running against progressive state Senator Mike Noland, and many of the same people who spent lavishly to defeat Mike Honda are funding Krishnamoorthi. Over 20 of Khanna's biggest donors have already given tens of thousands of dollars to Krishnamoorthi's campaign, in just the first three months of fundraising. 

John Rogers, founder and CEO of Ariel Capital Management/Ariel Investments in Chicago maxed out ($5,400) to defeat Honda last year. His first contribution to Krishnamoorthi is $1,000. Another maxed-out Khanna donor, Navin Thukkaram, founder and CEO of NT Capital Partners (who reports to the FEC as a resident of Park City, Utah; Seattle; Northbrook, Illinois; and New York City) was a Romney donor as well as a Ro Khanna donor and has already given several contributions to Krishnamoorthi-- as well as to the Republican National Committee. Same pattern again and again. Mark Ferguson, an attorney with Barlit Beck Herman Palenchar and Scott, generally gives to conservative Democrats like Cheri Bustos, Bill Foster, Ann Callis, Brad Schneider, Evan Bayh, Jim Webb. He contributed $2,600 to Khanna and now $2,600 to Krishnamoorthi. Without exerting too much effort we found 15 other Khanna donors who together have given over $50,000 to Krishnamoorthi in the past three months. Like Ann and Kanwal Rekhi of Monte Sereno, a small, very wealthy bedroom community for Silicon Valley executives. Kanwal is a managing director and partner at Inventus Capital Partners, a venture capital firm. The Rekhis have given many thousands of dollars to conservatives in both parties and maxed out to  Khanna ($10,800), the same amount they just gave Krishnamoorthi.

Noland is a working-class union guy who doesn't have these kinds of strings-attached multimillionaire donors. He's always depended on working men and women who want to elect progressives to help him out in the fundraising department. If you'd like to help, you can find a slot for Mike Noland here. And look who else is backing Krishnamoorthi, predictably:

Inevitably, Steve and Raja found each other

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As I prepare to go to a Community Board public hearing, let's have the Borowitz Report update us on key national developments

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With post-hearing update -- see below



by Ken

To the best of my knowledge I have never attended a public hearing of a NYC community board before tonight -- or maybe even a public hearing of any governmental agency. (For the uninitiated, as a gesture to local input to government, NYC is divided into 59 community boards, numbered separately for each borough -- 12 for Manhattan, 12 for the Bronx, 18 for Brooklyn, 14 for Queens, and 3 for Staten Island.

Their powers are mostly advisory, but lots of things have to go through the CBs. The theory is that this has something to do with something called "democracy," which sounds to me like a fad that's bound to pass.) However, the above notice got my attention, because this meeting is supposed to be dealing with a zoning-modification request for a property at the end of my very block.

True, when I first saw it a few days ago, that attention took the form of a hazy note to the effect that that's, er, something. But when I saw it again this morning and realized that the meeting hasn't happened yet, I thought that it's maybe something I should, you know, look into. Like maybe actually going to the hearing. And as of this writing, I haven't yet thought of a convincing reason not to, even though I'm surprisingly easy to convince.

What's on the site now looks something like this:


It's a single-story building adjoining the entrance to the tunnel to the 191st Street station of the IRT Broadway local, housing several storefronts that were vacated a couple of years ago -- and have since remained shuttered -- in anticipation of, as I recall, a much more grandiose development project that wound up not happening.

Naturally I'm against this proposal, which in my opinion is unsuitable for the neighborhood, but what's got me thinking I really ought to go to tonight's meeting of the Land Use Committee of Manhattan CB 12 isn't so much my opposition (which I expect will be of interest to approximately no one) but my curiosity. According to the hearing notice, in order to build this 16-story, 235,458-square-foot mixed-use building, the unnamed developer wants (among the requested zoning modifications, you'll note):
an increase in residential floor area ratio (FAR) from 3.6 to 9.1;
an increase in the maximum building height from 80 feet to 165.25 feet;
an increase in the maximum number of units from 128 to 241;
and a decrease to the required parking spaces from 121 to 50.
Well, I want a lot of stuff too. I'd be happy to make a list if anyone's interested, but I don't think CB 12M would be very interested. Now, if this unnamed developer (I assume we'll get a name tonight) wanted to build an 80-foot-high building with an FAR of 3.6, 128 units, and the mandated 121 parking spaces, it appears that I wouldn't have a blessed thing to say about it, because the zoning allows all of that. I'm not sure I get to say a blessed thing about it anyway, but what I'm curious about is why the developer thinks he should be allowed to build a 165.25-foot-high building with a 9.1 FAR, 241 units, and only 50 parking spaces.

My gut feeling is that the reason is: I wanna! But I assume that even for such a lowly body as the Land Use Committee of a humble community board, the applicant is going to have to cobble together a fancier explanation than that. I can't help thinking, though, that the fancier explanation is going to boil down to: I wanna.

If the reason is that he can't make money, or enough money, putting up an 80-foot-high building with an FAR of 3.6, 128 units, and the mandated 121 parking spaces, my countersuggestion would be: Well then, don't. (Never thought of that, didja? Huh? Huh?) True, this leaves those vacated storefronts still shuttered, awaiting some sort of reuse of the site. But with all the smart people we've got in NYC, surely somebody can think of an economically viable use for an 80-foot-high building with an FAR of 3.6, 128 units, and 121 parking spaces. Or perhaps even a smaller building!

Granted, I'm a novice when it comes to NYC zoning regulations. Mostly what I know is that those regulations are so vast and complex as to provide gainful, likely even prosperous, employment for and industry of lawyers and others who specialize in understanding, exploiting, and abusing them. (Donald Trump is likely on a first-name basis with many of them.) Still, in my simpleminded understanding, it seems that if the regulations serve merely as a floor from which developers begin the process of negotiating for their desires, there's hardly any point in having the zoning regulations.

At which point I fear I'm apt to have put developers citywide in a state approaching orgasmic eruption, so I best back off. I expect I'm going to come away from tonight's hearing disillusioned, but that's the price to be paid by a humble city dweller who has been foolish enough to hold onto any illusions. Assuming I don't lose my nerve about attending the hearing, I'll let you know what I find out.


MEANWHILE IN BOROWITZ REPORT COUNTRY --

"Across the U.S., whose rail system is a rickety antique plagued by deadly accidents, Americans are increasingly recognizing that building a wall with Mexico, and possibly another one with Canada, should be the country’s top priority."

"Scott Walker is a fine individual, and we wish him well. We are confident that he will be a good fit for some other billionaire industrialists."
-- from a statement by Koch Industries, quoted by The Borowitz Report

Yesterday I had gathered a couple of breaking Horowitz Reports for sharing before I was sidetracked into looking at Greg Sargent's report on surprisingly widespread local compliance with the Supreme Court's decision legalizing same-sex marriage. There's still time, though, to catch up on these developments emanating from and rebounding onto the deep discussion of issues taking place in the 2016 presidential conversation.



WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—As America’s bridges, roads, and other infrastructure dangerously deteriorate from decades of neglect, there is a mounting sense of urgency that it is time to build a giant wall.

Across the U.S., whose rail system is a rickety antique plagued by deadly accidents, Americans are increasingly recognizing that building a wall with Mexico, and possibly another one with Canada, should be the country’s top priority.

Harland Dorrinson, the executive director of a Washington-based think tank called the Center for Responsible Immigration, believes that most Americans favor the building of border walls over extravagant pet projects like structurally sound freeway overpasses.

“The estimated cost of a border wall with Mexico is five billion dollars,” he said. “We could easily blow the same amount of money on infrastructure repairs and have nothing to show for it but functioning highways.”

Congress has dragged its feet on infrastructure spending in recent years, but Dorrinson senses growing support in Washington for building a giant border wall. “Even if for some reason we don’t get the Mexicans to pay for it, five billion is a steal,” he said.

While some think that America’s declining infrastructure is a national-security threat, Dorrinson strongly disagrees. “If immigrants somehow get over the wall, the condition of our bridges and roads will keep them from getting very far,” he said.
This one's from yesterday, not "today." (It was today yesterday.)



WICHITA (The Borowitz Report)—Saying that “things just didn’t work out,” the billionaire Koch brothers have decided to put Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker up for sale.

The Kochs, who earlier had purchased Gov. Walker with great fanfare, announced their plan to sell the politician in a terse statement from Koch Industries headquarters in Wichita.

“Scott Walker is a fine individual, and we wish him well,” the Kochs’ statement read. “We are confident that he will be a good fit for some other billionaire industrialists.”

Republican insiders, however, called the Kochs’ plan to sell Walker highly optimistic, and noted that the market for the Wisconsin Governor was, at this point, virtually nonexistent.

The Kochs, who reportedly had been frustrated by Walker’s poor performance in the polls, finally decided to sell the Wisconsinite after last weekend’s odd pronouncement, in which he seemed to support a border wall with Canada.

According to a Koch associate, “Ignorance has always been a part of Scott’s appeal, but that Canada thing was just too much.”

After their plan to sell him was announced, the Kochs immediately pulled Walker off the campaign trail for fear that he might say something that would further reduce his dwindling market value.

In Iowa, an aide to Walker said that the Governor was “still processing” the news that he had been put up for sale. “It takes a while for Scott to understand things,” the aide said.


UPDATE: SO I WENT TO THE HEARING!

Surprised myself, actually. I made it to the neighborhood so ridiculously early that I wandered around for 15 or 20 minutes until it was merely way early, then was cordially ushered to the 6th floor office of CB 12M, where the little hearing room was still mostly empty. Eventually it was packed, though, and Land Use Committee chair Wayne Benjamin did, I thought, a lovely job shepherding the proceedings while helping us non-initiates understand what exactly was at issue tonight in terms of the committee's need to formulate a recommendation to the Board of Standards and Appeals, which is where the proposal needs to go in pursuit of a zoning variance, notably explaining the five "findings" that need to be found -- on several of which the proposed building seemed to me to fail pretty miserably, notably the requirement that it not alter "the essential character" of the neighborhood and that the variance requested be the minimum needed to offset the other "findings."

It was a fairly miserable presentation, and while it was easy enough to see how the oddities of the building undoubtedly responded -- in their peculiar way -- to the extreme peculiarities of the site, nobody involved seemed to have stepped back and noticed that it's not only an awful building, which isn't an issue for the BSA to consider, but one that would be fairly disastrous for the neighborhood, which is. Moreover, it happened the committee is extremely familiar with the site, having been through so much discussion of it with other would-be developers, and has been through discussion of all sorts of other possibilities for the site, which Wayne noted isn't all that peculiar for Washington Heights, given our extreme topography. All of this, he pointed out, should have been well known to the present owner, who bought it after the last round of hearings at which so much about the site had been so thoroughly discussed.

In the public question period, one resident voiced horror (yes, he declared himself "horrified"), not by the proposal, which he made clear he didn't like, but by what he deemed the NIMBY quality of the public comments, which he insisted will make it impossible to bring any development to the neighborhood to restore amenities like movie theaters which have been lost over the decades. It's a reasonable caution, except that that isn't what I heard at all.

In the end, the committee crafted the framework for a note-votes-against recommendation to the BSA against granting the requested variances, for which a count was also taken among the public attendees, which included four abstentions but, again, no votes against the "no" recommendation. Of course this isn't necessarily the end of it, but I'm guessing that the developer is going to have to field a much sharper team to make any headway.

At that point I slipped out of the hearing room to catch an elevator down to the lobby, then walked around the corner to Broadway and up the block toward the bus stop, and lucked into a Bx7, which stops right in front of my building, just beginning its uptown route. I was the first person on the bus, and 10 or 15 minutes later I was home. Hey, I was in my "community."
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Will Republicans Choke On The Filthy Air And Water They're Forcing On Their Own Constituents?

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Late Tuesday afternoon Bernie Sanders sent out the above tweet to his nearly 400,000 Twitter followers. In all likelihood he was looking across the aisle at the crackpot Republicans competing for their party's nomination. Even if some of them actually do recognize the dangers of climate change and understand the urgency of responding to it, none of them would dare admit it going into a primary dominated by a lunatic fringe that gets virtually all its information from the charlatans and sociopaths on Hate Talk Radio and Fox News.

Polling has shown that this urgency on climate change is shared by a majority of the American people, 58% of whom support the EPA's Clean Power Plan to limit carbon emissions. 40%, primarily Republicans, oppose the plan, but that 40% is who the presidential contenders are playing to.
Top Republican presidential candidates took turns attacking President Barack Obama's new Clean Power Plan unveiled Monday to combat climate change, dismissing the new rules to slash carbon emissions as "radical" or "irresponsible" or "a buzz saw on the nation's economy."

Missing from the crowded field of contenders were any alternate proposals to address the growing threat, which many Republicans doubt is linked to human activity despite overwhelming scientific consensus... Jeb Bush called the rule, aimed at reducing the 2005 levels of emissions from coal-burning power plants by 32 percent in 2030, "irresponsible and overreaching," saying in a statement it "runs over state governments, will throw countless people out of work, and increases everyone’s energy prices."

...Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker dubbed it the "Costly Power Plan" and dismissed it as "a buzz saw on the nation's economy. I will stand up for American workers and stop the Costly Power Plan." His campaign referenced a May 21 letter he wrote indicating that his state wouldn't be able to comply with the emerging rules without "significant and meaningful changes."


Seeking to top them both was Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who called it a "lawless and radical attempt to destabilize the Nation’s energy system" that was "flatly unconstitutional."

The issue promises to present one of the starkest divisions between the two parties. Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton called the president's plan "a significant step forward in meeting the urgent threat of climate change." In a statement, she took a shot at her Republican rivals. "It will need defending. Because Republican doubters and defeatists-- including every Republican candidate for president-- won’t offer any credible solution," she said, adding: "They refuse to accept science."
Bernie Sanders summed up the dilemma Republican politicians find themselves in.
I understand that Republicans, including those running for president, are dependent on the Koch brothers, oil companies and other fossil-fuel contributors. Maybe for once they can overcome the needs of their campaign contributors and worry instead about the planet they are leaving their kids and grandchildren and young people all over the world.
Maybe, but not likely anytime soon.
 
Even relatively mainstream conservatives in Congress-- take Fred Upton of Michigan, for example, since the committee he chairs should be working on this and he steadfastly refuses to permit any serious work in the area-- act out of fear of the teabaggers and the willfully ignorant. Speaking of Upton, environmentally concerned professor Paul Clements is running against him again this cycle and just released this new video explaining who he is and why he's running:



If you'd like to help make sure Clements replaces Upton in 2016, you can support his grassroots campaign here.

Yesterday four environmental groups announced they would be coordinating a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign targeting four Republican senators who face reelection fights next year and are all climate-change deniers. Below, for example, is the Sierra Club ad that will be running in Ohio against incumbent Rob Portman. The other three targets are equally backward reactionaries: Richard Burr (NC), Pat Toomey (PA) and Ron Johnson (WI).
"Polluters and their congressional allies have made dismantling clean air and climate protections a top priority this year," the groups said in a Tuesday statement launching their campaign.

"Unfortunately, Senators Burr, Portman, Toomey, and Johnson have joined in by fighting to allow the big polluters to continue pumping unlimited amounts of carbon pollution into our air," they said, citing droughts, wildfires, storms and other effects of climate change that show that "these senators need to start placing public health and safety above the profits of corporate polluters."


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Point–Counterpoint on Windows 10

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Police officers monitor CCTV screens in the control room at New Scotland Yard in London. Photograph: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AFP/Getty Kirsty Wigglesworth/AFP (source)

by Gaius Publius

I got a very small amount of very energetic pushback from one corner of the consumer tech industry — the part that popularizes and teaches the use of consumer technology — regarding this article about whether Windows 10 is spyware. (My opinion is still that it is, but that's a function of your definition of "spyware." I'll offer my definition in a later piece, since I don't want to kitchen-sink this one.)

I have to say, I found the pushback interesting for a number of reason. One, that while it was genuinely worth considering, it was angry; not just reasoned, angry. And the anger was not just directed at me, as you'll see below, but directed at anyone who doesn't like the intrusiveness of this new operating system (sorry, "service"). Second, I found it interesting that the pushback seemed almost completely unaware of, and therefore dismissive of, the political dimension of all forced (or highly incentivized) data sharing.

Let me explain what I mean by "political dimension."

Do Cops Lie Under Oath? Your Answer Defines You

For example, would you put any of your data on "the cloud"? If you would, you don't see a problem with corporate access to everything stored there. If you wouldn't, well ... you're suspicious, to say the least, of corporate good intentions. In the tech world, that's a pretty big divide. Of those who aren't suspicious, some understand why people might be, and others, the angry ones, are highly upset that the critics are "dumb enough" (my phrase) to fall for "tinfoil" arguments (their phrase).

Because companies would never misuse your data, right? They may "blunder" (get hacked, say), but they're not ill-intentioned. After all, this is America, not some Third World dictatorship. And those who take, well, America, at face value, even though admitting some flaws, are a world away, a divide away, from those who just don't see the world as the one presented on TV. That's a quite a divide, and it leads to one side using dismissive phrases like "conspiracy theories" and the other side using terms like, well, "politically naïve."

Now let's look at issue in a more general context. In the same way, there's a huge divide between those who think cops almost never lie under oath when giving testimony — their world is the world of Law & Order, for example — and those who suspect (or think they know) that cops almost always lie under oath to secure convictions they can't secure any other way.

Let's run a test. Ask yourself these two questions before you read on:
  1. Do you think cops routinely lie under oath?
     
  2. If your answer is No, what do you think of those whose answer is Yes?
Done? Now consider, with your two answers in mind, the following, via the New York Times:
Why Police Lie Under Oath

... That may sound harsh, but numerous law enforcement officials have put the matter more bluntly. Peter Keane, a former San Francisco Police commissioner, wrote an article in The San Francisco Chronicle decrying a police culture that treats lying as the norm: “Police officer perjury in court to justify illegal dope searches is commonplace. One of the dirty little not-so-secret secrets of the criminal justice system is undercover narcotics officers intentionally lying under oath. It is a perversion of the American justice system that strikes directly at the rule of law. Yet it is the routine way of doing business in courtrooms everywhere in America.”...
A web search produces a lot more like the above. Is this thinking "tinfoil"? Not if former Police Commissioner Peter Keane, quoted above, is right. Yet many today would call this thinking "decidedly un-American" (another term that needs more careful definition). That's part of what I mean about the political dimension — not all, but part. Trust in our governance and governing institutions, in their right to be presumed well-intentioned, is a political position. As is dismissing distrust in others.

Keep all this in mind, both the technical aspects of the Windows 10 argument and the anger, as you read on.

The Pro-Windows Pushback

I want to start with the pro-Windows 10 pushback by offering one example below from a ZDNet writer, just to give you a taste of the way the discussion is going. No, I'm not singling out one writer, just offering an instance of several I could have chosen. And no, I'm not saying the writer is wrong because of the tone. I am saying, though, that the facts do need examining, and that examination is not a breech of good sense. The fact that quite a number of people are examining this issue seems to be a good reason for having it.

As the ZDNet writer quoted more fully below admits:
There is apparently a growing and very vocal population of people who believe that Windows 10 is basically a 1984 telescreen come to life.
"1984" is a reference to the "Big Brother is watching you" book and film. There is indeed a "growing and very vocal population" that's suspicious of Windows 10. Some think that using Windows 10, Microsoft is watching them. And some worry that Microsoft has set up Windows 10 so that they could be watching them if the company wanted to. The first assertion needs proving, but the second is almost a given, as we'll see. Is it "tinfoil" thinking to notice that?

Now a more complete quote from the piece referenced above. It starts:
No, Microsoft is not spying on you with Windows 10

The Windows 10 privacy agreement doesn't mean Microsoft is secretly stealing the data from your hard disk. Where do people come up with these crazy ideas?

Buy tinfoil futures.

I'm dead serious. There is apparently a growing and very vocal population of people who believe that Windows 10 is basically a 1984 telescreen come to life. They are convinced that with Windows 10 Microsoft has built a spying apparatus not seen since the height of the Cold War, scraping up every detail of your life and feeding it back to Redmond for who knows what nefarious purposes.

They're going to need lots of tinfoil.

They're also either wildly misinformed or deliberately agitating. Unless, of course, they're just crazy, which is entirely possible based on some of what I've read.

But most importantly, they are wrong, terribly wrong. And they're being whipped into a frenzy, or at least passively aided by the tech press. That group unfortunately includes ZDNet, which earlier this week unquestioningly repeated this incendiary allegation, posted on Reddit by someone who claims to be affiliated with an obscure torrent tracker, iTS:

Microsoft decided to revoke any kind of data protection and submit whatever they can gather to not only themselves but also others. One of those is one of the largest anti-piracy company [sic] called MarkMonitor. Amongst other things Windows 10 sends the contents of your local disks directly to one of their servers.

That's not true. It's wildly at odds with the facts, even. I keep tabs on a handful of well-established torrent sites, orders of magnitude larger than the ones complaining here, and none of them seem to have a problem with Windows 10.

There's literally no basis for that statement in fact. And yet you read it here. And on dozens of other sites, unfortunately, where a single lie gets repeated often enough to seep into the collective unconscious.

The bizarre belief that Windows 10 is a spying tool keeps popping up among conspiracy theorists. Via email, a reader sent me a link to this rant by an alternative medical practitioner who apparently is also an expert on the law and IT:

Windows 10's new license agreement ... gives Microsoft permission to Hoover up every particle of data on a doctor's hard drive. This will include any confidential patient-doctor emails that are stored there, any reports, any bills, and any short notes to staff through intra-network messaging (for example: "Spoke to Tom Mypatient today re gender dysphoria and desire to transition to female. Pls follow up with referral.")

No, it doesn't, doc. Here, take a sip of this calming tea and let's talk, OK? And let's get that torrent dude in here, too, because he needs someone to explain what's really going on. ...
I'm going to look at just two of the points made above and leave the rest for later. Do read the whole piece, though; I'm not saying it has no value, but the value is in evaluating its arguments on a factual basis, not in getting caught up in the ... well, politics of what's an OK question to ask, and how to evaluate anecdotal evidence that something is fishy with Microsoft's new operating "service."

Is Windows 10 Spyware? What Does the Privacy Policy Allow?

Because I don't want to turn this into an essay, let's look at just these aspects of the new Windows 10 operating system ("service") — concerns about the privacy policy, and concerns about interference with pirated and "unauthorized" software and hardware. (Yes, Windows 10 cares about "unauthorized hardware.")

First, about that new privacy policy, from another, more suspicious, technology writer. The piece is called "Windows 10: Here are the privacy issues you should know about." One of the issues discussed is this:
Microsoft can disclose your data when it feels like it

This is the part you should be most concerned about: Microsoft’s new privacy policy assigns is very loose when it comes to when it will or won’t access and disclose your personal data:

We will access, disclose and preserve personal data, including your content (such as the content of your emails, other private communications or files in private folders), when we have a good faith belief that doing so is necessary to protect our customers or enforce the terms governing the use of the services.

I’m not suggesting Microsoft and its lawyers are alone in making provision for such sweeping power over your data, but we should all be very careful about relying on the “good faith” of corporations. I’m not even sure such a thing exists.
Again, note that the limits don't turn on absolute restrictions, but on belief in Microsoft's corporate "good faith." That belief is ultimately a political act. The ZDNet writer above appears to have that belief; the medical doctor he responds to in his piece — by saying, "No, it doesn't, doc. Here, take a sip of this calming tea and let's talk, OK?" — doesn't.

The privacy language allowing Microsoft to "access, disclose and preserve personal data, including your content (such as the content of your emails, other private communications or files in private folders)" is pretty clear to me, and pretty scary. And I've already had a "calming tea."

Do Torrent Sites Have a Problem with Windows 10 and Its User Agreement?

Now let's look at concerns about Windows 10's search for and treatment of pirated software and "unauthorized hardware." Torrent sites are part of file-sharing peer-to-peer ad hoc networks that facilitate downloads of programs and data files, including legal and illegally obtained copies of software, games, music and movies. The ZDNet writer, who thinks people should not question Windows 10 in the way they do, wrote this (also quoted above) about whether torrent sites are worried about users running Windows 10:
That's not true. It's wildly at odds with the facts, even. I keep tabs on a handful of well-established torrent sites, orders of magnitude larger than the ones complaining here, and none of them seem to have a problem with Windows 10.
Why would torrent sites even consider worrying about Windows 10? Because they worry that the operating system (operating "service") could inspect users' hard disks, check to see if downloaded software and other files are "legal," and if not, delete or disable the files or programs; then report back to Microsoft anything it can find about how those files or programs were obtained.
In other words, to use the vernacular they worry that Windows 10 will spy on users, delete files it considers illegally obtained, then rat out the users to Microsoft and rat out torrent sites that distributed the files to the government and copyright holders. Our anti-tinfoil writer thinks this is a foolish worry. Do you think Microsoft is capable of this behavior? Isn't that like asking if you think most cops lie?

So what's actually happening with torrent sites and Windows 10? First, there are stories of software already being deleted and/or disabled, but they are anecdotal at this point. The reports are from small venues and haven't been verified. Second, a web search on whether torrent sites are concerned about the possibility produces a lot of articles like the following:
Windows 10 users are being banned from torrent sites

Some torrent websites are banning Windows 10 users over fears that the operating system is sending identifying information back to Microsoft.

Piracy sites are preventing users of Windows 10 from using their trackers. These are the servers that allow all of the computers downloading files using torrents to talk to one another, which allows them to find and request the files that they need. Without trackers, torrents won’t work.

Pirates have released statements that say, “Windows 10 sends the contents of your local disks directly to one of their servers.” They also claim that Microsoft is working with a company called MarkMonitor to identify people who are downloading from the internet.

There are genuine concerns that Windows 10 sends personal information about computers to Microsoft, even if users have changed all their settings to tell it not to do so. But there is less concrete evidence to support the pirates’ most worrying claims.

The controversy began because of a line in Microsoft’s service agreement. This allows Microsoft to issue updates that will stop users “playing counterfeit games,” according to TorrentFreak.
Notice that "MarkMonitor" is mentioned in the original writer's piece above, who also quotes his own publication as making this claim. The writer says his own investigations say otherwise.

Are torrents and torrent trackers really banning Windows 10 users? We're in he-said, she-said territory. Should they ban Windows 10 users just in case? That turns on what Microsoft decides to make of the language in its new User Agreement. One tech site characterizes that language this way:
Microsoft can disable your pirated games and illegal hardware

Updated terms let Microsoft invade your Windows 10 computer in search of counterfeit software

Microsoft’s updated End User Licence Agreement [EULA] terms and conditions let it disable any counterfeit software or hardware and, if you’re running a Windows 10 computer, you’ve just agreed to them.

Section 7b – or “Updates to the Services or Software, and Changes to These Terms” – of Microsoft’s Services EULA stipulates that it “may automatically check your version of the software and download software update or configuration changes, including those that prevent you from accessing the Services, playing counterfeit games, or using unauthorised hardware peripheral devices.”

The list of services covered by the agreement doesn't explicitly include Windows 10. However, it does include your Microsoft account, which is an extensive part of the Windows 10 experience, as well as core features like Cortana – and that implies Redmond can disable any games you’ve pirated or devices you’ve "unlawfully" hacked. Enable Cortana (which pretty much everyone using Windows 10 is going to do) and you're subject to the services agreement.

While it’s incredibly clear what Microsoft means by “counterfeit games”, the wording “unauthorised hardware peripheral devices” is a little hazy. Does this mean Microsoft can now block uncertified PC or illegally modified Xbox One and Xbox 360 controllers? Furthermore, Microsoft’s agreement doesn’t state whether it will also disable other counterfeit software, such as cracked versions of Office or Adobe Photoshop, or if it only cares about pirated Microsoft games.

I’ve reached out to Microsoft for a comment about these unanswered questions and will update you when more information becomes available. (UPDATE: More than five days after we initially published this story and we still haven't heard anything back. If anyone from Microsoft reads this, please get in touch!)
More at the link. Is there a problem now with pirated software and "unauthorised hardware peripheral devices" (whatever that means)? Some say yes, some say no. Could there be a problem in the future? Looks like it to me, depending on which of its "rights" Microsoft decides to exercise. Do you trust Microsoft? Should you?

Why Does This Matter? The PC Counterrevolution

Why go through all this? Because Microsoft is one of the largest tech companies on the planet, its operating systems are literally everywhere, and Windows 10 is a revolution in operating systems. It phones home with data no one can figure out, and has Privacy and License agreements that grant rights to the company that are both extremely broad and unprecedented.

But most of all, Windows 10 is not a program per se — not an operating "system," but a "service." The implications of that are huge. In the days of IBM mainframes and VAX terminals, what you had on your desk at work was one tentacle of an octopus owned and run by your company. You used what you were allowed to use. You were watched if they wanted to watch you. Your data was never just yours.

Then came the "PC revolution" — the revolution of the personal computer, a machine that was yours completely. You owned it, you owned the software on it, you managed it, and no one saw what you did with it but you, if that's the way you wanted things to be.

We've been eroding the "personal" (meaning, private) aspect of personal computing for a while, ever since the widespread use of the Internet, but that erosion has accelerated. Certainly, using "the cloud" means you voluntarily surrender the privacy of any data you put there. But by voluntarily upgrading to Windows 10, the rest of your surrender — the surrender detailed in my original article— may never be voluntary again.

In the Tarot, The Fool is a "path to wisdom" card.

If that was the PC revolution, this is a counterrevolution. Welcome back to the corporate-controlled computer, disguised as something you own. What will those corporations — Google and Apple are sure to follow suit — do with all that intrusive power and control? I don't think you need a tinfoil hat to worry about this, and on that I respectfully disagree with those who do.

If we're going to hand out the "who's being foolish?" card, perhaps it should go to those who choose to ignore the implications of this counterrevolution — not to those trying to think it through, as politically out of the mainstream as those thoughts may become.

GP

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How Much Damage Will Trump And The Also-Rans Do To The GOP's Slim Hopes Of Holding The Senate Majority?

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Will Trump's racist approach inadvertently save Michael Bennet's Senate seat?

The Republican Party brand is now so damaged among key electoral groups-- you can start with rapidly growing/rapidly registering-to-vote Hispanic-Americans and high-propensity Asian-American voters-- that not only is it likely that whoever emerges as the party's nominee will be unable to cobble together a winning coalition in 2016 but it's likely that more and more Senate seats will fall outside the party's grasp. Sure, the Republican brand will still go over well in backward, overwhelmingly ignorant and white gerrymandered congressional districts, particularly in the former slave-holding states, but that will increasingly become all they can do. 

Of course Republicans will never have a problem reelecting their candidates in places like TX-13 (north Texas-- Amarillo, Wichita Falls; R+32), TX-11 (West Texas-- Midland and Odessa; R+31), GA-09 (white, rural northeast Georgia-- Gainseville; R+30) and TX-08 (Huntsville, Crockett and Montgomery County; R+29). But this year all the bigotry and racism Trump has stirred up among the base in the presidential contest is giving the Republican Establishment nightmares in terms of the Senate races.

Keep in the back of your mind some of the results in the national polling PPP released yesterday. Not that Trump is at 29% and Jeb is at just 9%, or that former top-tier candidates Chris Christie and Rand Paul are now at, respectively,  2% and 1%, but that Trump's backers have listened to so much Hate Talk Radio and Fox News that most of them believe President Obama is a Muslim born in a foreign country-- and that Ted Cruz, who freely admits he was born in Calgary, was born in the U.S. These are profoundly ignorant people, driven by their own prejudices and bigotry and completely uninterested in reality other than reality TV. 

Now let's think about the way Trump has energized the other candidates to do exactly what the RNC wants them not to do: go off on a racist and Know-Nothing tangent, which has alienated millions of voters and makes some of their own conclude that the party is just hopelessly lost. Remember, right now most of these goofballs are only thinking about appealing to the racist base to win the primary and not thinking about what happens when they need the votes of normal Americans for the general.


The Republican Party was hoping to hold onto GOP Senate seats in Florida and Illinois and capture blue seats currently held by a retiring senator (Harry Reid in Nevada) and an extremely weak incumbent (Michael Bennet in Colorado). The biggest share of Latino voters in the country are in these 10 states:
New Mexico, 46.7%-- no 2016 race
California, 38.1%-- safe Democratic seat
Texas, 38.1%-- no 2016 race
Arizona, 30.1%
Nevada, 27.1%
Florida, 22.8%
Colorado, 20.9%
New Jersey, 18.1%-- no 2016 race
New York, 18.0%-- safe Democratic seat
Illinois, 16.1%
It's not likely that the Republican-lite New Dem Schumer recruited to run against McCain in Arizona, Ann Kirkpatrick, is going to win. Nor does it look likely that Republican Mark Kirk can possibly hold onto his seat in Illinois. Nevada, Florida and Colorado will all probably be much closer, but thanks to Trump and the cowards also in the running, all of them are slipping away from whatever grasp the Republicans had on them.

Florida

Obama took the Hispanic vote against Romney 60-39%, and that portion of the vote continues to grow. In 2012 it was 17%; by Election Day 2016 it will be 20%. The likely Democrat to face whichever lunatic the GOP runs-- probably teabagger Ron DeSantis or conservative David Jolly-- is Alan Grayson, who knows how to dish it out as well as Trump and already accused him of "subliminal racism." Last week on MSBNC he told Chris Hayes: "He’s thrown away the dog whistle. It used to be that you had to speak in metaphors in order to exhibit your racism. Now you can just come out and be racist."



Colorado

Michael Bennet is a weak, wishy-washy centrist who generates almost no enthusiasm. But with Obama having won 75% of Hispanics to Romney's 23% and with the share of the voting population climbing from 14% in 2012 to 16% by 2016, Bennet has another advantage: Trump's impact on Colorado GOP politics. The party is a complete mess and has so far been unable to even recruit a plausible candidate to run. The NRCC's top recuits-- Rep. Mike Coffman, state Attorney General Cynthia Coffman and former gubernatorial candidate Mike Kopp-- turned them down one after the other. Instead, the party may be stuck with a choice between perennial candidates, small-time ex-mayors or Tea Party activists.

Nevada

Hispanics in Nevada went for Obama over Romney 70-25%, and where they were 16% of the voting population in 2012, they will be 25% in 2016. Republican Joe Heck is giving up his House seat to run, and that's looking like a bad gamble right now.
So far, however, Heck has also been dragged into the Trump mud. At an appearance at the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce last week, Heck said ending birthright citizenship "needs to be part of the discussion," even as he said, "I don’t talk about Donald."

Former state Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, the leading Democratic candidate to replace Reid (who is retiring), is Latina, and has taken to Facebook to slam Trump while implicating other Republicans:

"We’ve all heard Donald Trump’s awful comments about Mexican immigrants-- they’re so offensive that I won’t repeat them here. And as someone who would be the first Latina to ever serve in the U.S. Senate, I’m especially disgusted," she wrote in July. "But some extremist Republicans are actually defending Trump’s outrageous remarks! It’s baffling, and it’s flat-out wrong. That kind of hateful speech has no place in our politics."



The Senate Overview

Right now the GOP holds 54 seats to the Democrats' 44 (46 if you include New England independents Bernie Sanders and Angus King). Of the 34 seats that are up, 10 are held by Democrats and 24 are held by Republicans. The Democrats need to win 5 seats to take the majority. Their pathway to victory includes holding onto Colorado and Nevada while beating Republicans in 5 of these 7: Florida (Grayson), Illinois (Duckworth or Zopp), New Hampshire (Hassan), North Carolina (Ross or Miller), Ohio (Strickland or Sittenfeld), Pennsylvania (Sestak) and Wisconsin (Feingold).

So far Blue America has endorsed four Senate candidates, all vetted progressives. Please consider supporting them here.

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Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Is the Republican Party Already Circling The Drain?

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Even Republican voters hate the assholes they elected to Congress. Most of the dumbed-down, Foxified party base is in full revolt against their own party's twisted establishment, whether or not they realize that they themselves put them in their positions. 

The Des Moines Register Iowa poll that came out Sunday shows that among the party's base, approval of Republicans in Congress is horrendous. 54% say they are unsatisfied, and on top of that another 21% say they are "mad as hell" at the Republicans in Congress. That makes 75%. Among Democrats, only 8% are "mad as hell" at their congressional delegation and another 43% are unsatisfied-- total 51%, not great... but not 75% either. (Also worth noting, 94% of Democrats and 91% of Republicans say they are either unsatisfied or "mad as hell" about the amount of money sloshing around in politics, a core Bernie Sanders issue.)

A Qunnipiac poll released Monday showed similar results. Neither party is well-liked, but the survey showed that "voters disapprove 81-12% of the way Republicans in Congress are doing their job and give the Republican Party a negative 31-58% favorability. Disapproval of Democrats in Congress is 66-27% and the Democratic Party gets a negative 40-50% favorability." The poll found that 69% of Republicans disapprove of the way the Republicans in Congress are handling their job. 37% of Democrats disapprove of the way the Democrats in Congress are handling their job.


Republican voters don't especially hate their congressmembers for the reasons normal people hate Republicans in Congress. Trump is certainly turning the Republican Party brand into more of a racist mess than it already is... but that isn't especially unpopular among Republicans. In fact, that's exactly what many of them want! White nationalist groups-- KKK freaks, neo-Nazis, the whole gamut of bigots and fascist misanthropes-- see Trump as leading their own last stand. Not only has Trump, whose daughter is an observant Jew, not seriously disavowed them, neither have the other Republican presidential hopefuls. Nor have Reince Priebus and the official Republican Party denounced the affinity that outright Nazis are now showing for their party's front-runner. 

But hedge-fund god Jim Chanos thinks the Republicans will lose the White House again next year-- only not because of the racists, Nazis, Trump, or even the contempt with which the base holds their own congressional leaders. Although he's a Biden guy who says even sane Republicans he knows will vote for Biden before they vote for the GOP clown car, his analysis of why the GOP will lose works across the board for Democratic candidates:
In 2016, barring any unforeseen things, we're going to have the stock market near record highs, corporate profit at record highs, gas prices very low. We're going to have mortgage rates very low, house prices at all-time highs. We're going to have universal healthcare. We're going to be at peace. This is not the worst record to run on if you're tied to the Obama administration. Eight years of peace and prosperity-- let's bring in the other guys?
And it isn't just Chanos predicting a Democratic win. Yesterday the Wall Street Journal reported that their Moody's Analytics election model now predicts a Democratic electoral landslide in the 2016 presidential vote-- 326 electoral votes for the Democrats and only 212 for the Republican.
The primary factor driving the results further to the incumbent party in August is lower gasoline prices. Plummeting prices and changing dynamics in global energy markets from Chinese weakness and the Iranian nuclear deal have caused us to significantly lower our gasoline price forecast for the next several years. This variable is very significant to voter sentiment in the model, with lower prices favoring incumbents.

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Greg Sargent looks at the real story of widespread compliance with the Supreme Court's legalization of same-sex marriage

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The great Mike Luckovich drew this glorious cartoon back when legalized same-sex marriage came to Massachusetts. As marriage equality gradually (but, in the grand scheme of things, remarkably rapidly) became the law of the land, homophobes surely continue to wish desperately that same-sex couples would "act a little scarier."

"Given that the ruling happened only a couple of months ago, things are going exceedingly smoothly. This shows that clerks are following the law, whether or not they support the freedom to marry, and irrespective of their religious beliefs."
-- Marc Solomon, national campaign director for Freedom
to Marry, to washingtonpost.com’s Greg Sargent

by Ken

Today we have another demonstration of why I love Greg Sargent, whose Plum Line has been functioning happily for ages now on washingtonpost.com. Look all around today and, understandably, you’ll see coverage of a story that Greg synopsized thusly in a post this afternoon:
Kim Davis, the elected clerk in Kentucky’s Rowan County, refused this morning to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples, just hours after the Supreme Court had turned down her request to be excused from issuing them on religious grounds. Asked on whose authority she was turning the couples away, she replied: "Under God’s authority."

The Kentucky standoff is a dramatic story whose resolution is very much up in the air, and it suggests that in some pockets, at least, resistance to the Supreme Court’s declaration of a Constitutional right to marry may continue.
However, the head on Greg’s post is "A Kentucky clerk is turning away gay couples. But she’s a real rarity." And mostly it’s this last part that his post is about. "If anything," he writes, "the more important story here is how little of this sort of resistance we’re seeing, which suggests that the continuing cultural shift on gay rights is only continuing -- and is swamping whatever backlash has greeted the ruling."

Now that, friends, is a story, and I wonder how many people are focusing on it. This is, as I said, an excellent demonstration of why I love Greg Sargent.

For his story, Greg turned to the organization Freedom to Marry, which has been in the thick of the movement to legalize same-sex marriage, and not surprisingly is keeping a watchful eye on developments. Freedom to Marry, it turns out, "has been closely tracking implementation of the gay marriage ruling in counties across the country," and, Greg says, "provided me with a rundown of the state of play," based on "direct calls to the clerks themselves, as well as on reports from organizers on the ground":
In Alabama, there are 67 counties. 54 counties are issuing licenses to everyone.

In Kentucky, there are 120 counties. 118 counties are issuing to everyone.

In Tennessee, there are 95 counties. All are issuing licenses.

In Mississippi, there 82 counties. All are issuing licenses.

There are 64 parishes in Louisiana. All are issuing licenses.

In Georgia, there are 159 counties. All are issuing licenses.

In Texas, there are 254 counties. All are issuing licenses.
Now that’s a story!

Now it’s time for facts and some context for them. Greg is a great lover of facts, and he's terrific at context.
Before the Supreme Court ruling, there were 14 states in which gay and lesbian people could not get married. (Thirteen of those had laws against it, while Alabama wasn’t complying with a lower court ruling making gay marriage legal.) Of these 14 states, seven -- the ones concentrated in the south -- are listed above. In the remaining states -- North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Missouri, Arkansas, Michigan and Ohio -- Freedom to Marry says any and all problems have been resolved.

And so in the seven southern states where the backlash might have been expected to be fiercest, only one -- Alabama -- still has multiple counties that are holding out. One other -- Kentucky -- has only two remaining counties holding out. One of those counties in Kentucky is the one drawing all the attention today. In the other one, no gay couples have tried to get licenses, Freedom to Marry tells me. All the rest are issuing licenses, the group says.
Finally, Greg reports some crucial points of his conversation with Freedom to Marry's national campaign director, Marc Solomon, beginning with the quote I've put atop this post. (I'll give you a second to take another look at it.)

"It’s true that Alabama remains a trouble spot," Greg writes.
But Solomon notes that the counties still holding out are "not the major population centers," which "just shows how silly the whole thing is." He adds: "this is a very small temporary blip that will take care of itself."

Meanwhile, some polls have shown solid majority approval of the Supreme Court ruling, while other polls suggest support for marriage equality is holding steady in the wake of the decision. And conspicuously few Republican lawmakers and presidential candidates are mounting any kind of serious call for continued resistance.

Says Solomon: "I’m expecting that support will hold and even increase as people see what this means -- that this really is about committed couples who are getting married."
Now that's a story well covered. And just another day at the office for Greg Sargent.

I SHOULD PROBABLY PUT IN A WORD HERE --

for Greg's Plum Line colleague Paul Waldman, whose ability to provide clear-headed explanations of complex political subjects I've drawn on repeatedly in this space.

And while we're on the subject(s), when it comes both to what we might call the Digbyan ability to discern the real story lying behind -- or above or below -- the popularly bruited one and to the ability to make complex subjects intelligible to nonspecialist readers, notably in technical areas like climate change, there aren't many practitioners who can match our Gaius Publius, which I can say because it was my opinion long before he started writing with us here at DWT. (What I didn't know before was how much fun he would be to have as a colleague!)
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