Candy corn versus a US Senate race

I was on an election panel the other day and after always seeing these factoids comparing the cost of campaign spending to the much greater cost of other things, I just threw out that the $100 million on the NC Senate race was less than spending on candy corn for Halloween (mostly because I’ve been eating way too much candy corn lately due to early Halloween activities).

Anyway, not long after I came across this article in the Atlantic about how much we spend on Halloween candy:

The National Retail Federation (NRF) forecasts total Halloween spending—including candy, costumes, and decorations—to come in at $7.4 billion this year.

Halloween candy alone has run up a $2 billion tab every Halloween for the past three years, though the candy industry says that bad weather can lower the numbers slightly. “We are predicting a slight bump in Halloween confectionery sales this year (1.9 percent),” said Jenn Ellek of the National Confectioners Association. The NCA is expecting candy sales to reach $2.5 billion. Additionally, the NRF says that retailers could benefit this year from the holiday falling on a Friday, as parents will be more likely to take kids out and revelers more inclined to attend or throw parties, boosting costume sales. And don’t forget the puppies: The NRF estimates that Americans will spend $350 million just on pet Halloween costumes.

For reference, the entire spending on the 2012 election was just under $6 billion (have not been able to find a good estimate for 2014).

Now, I could not find the actual spending for candy corn, but if it manages to top 5% of Halloween candy, then it is more than the (crazy-high) spending on the NC Senate race.

You can actually watch the election panel here, if you are curious:

Will young people vote Libertarian for legal marijuana?

Sure, all sorts of awful things happen in politics, but for me, one of the worst is the fundamental dishonesty of spending money to support a candidate who you actually do not support.  In this case, a Republican SuperPAC is running ads to help the NC Libertarian Senate candidate.  How is that you ask?  They are trying to siphon off pro-Marijuana young voters.  Via the National Journal:

A Republican group connected to the billionaire Koch brothers is making a last-ditch effort to push the GOP Senate candidate in North Carolina across the finish line by urging young voters to get behind the marijuana-supporting libertarian in the race.

The American Future Fund, which is running the online ad campaign, touts third-party contender Sean Haugh as the only one in the Senate contest who supports legalizing marijuana and opposes war…

The move aims to siphon liberal support from Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan, who is locked in one of the country’s tightest Senate races again Republican challenger Thom Tillis. (The ads might also persuade conservatives, many of whom generally wouldn’t support the ads’ message, to stop supporting Haugh.)

It appears to have been launched in secret. The group’s website and Twitter feed, which contain news releases about other ad campaigns, does not mention the efforts to help Haugh.

 A spokesman for the group says the digital buy is for $225,000, and the group could increase the buy later. The ad appeared to one reporter while watching Hulu, and the group has built a makeshift website that includes several different online spots.

The content of the ads is likely to get as much attention as the campaign itself: In one, a young woman says Hagan “doesn’t share our values” because she supports war and opposes legalizing marijuana.

“Vote Sean Haugh,” she says. “He supports our progressive values. Pro-legalization, pro-environment. More weed, less war.”…

Haugh, who still works as a pizza deliveryman while running for the Senate seat, has received a lot of coverage for drawing an unusually large amount of support for an underfunded candidacy. Interestingly though, his presence is seen as a bigger problem for the Republican Tillis, who has trailed in most public surveys of the race.

AFF appears to be trying to make Haugh a dilemma for Hagan as well, although it’s unclear how effective a digital ad campaign will be in a race that has already featured more than $100 million in TV ad buys alone.

And here’s the ad:

It’s highly unlikely this ad will persuade a meaningful number of younger voters, but I so hate this type of fundamental dishonesty in a political campaign.

North Carolina students– not smart enough for Common Core?

Yes, according to some.  I don’t doubt that some Common Core standards might be a little too optimistic, especially in lower grades, but I really am concerned by the sound of these complaints (via WUNC):

A state commission in charge of reworking the Common Core academic standards has begun reviewing them…

The 11 members were politically appointed to review and possibly make changes to the academic standards after lawmakers heard complaints from parents and teachers that they do not progress in a natural or developmentally appropriate way.

“Our kids are not common,” said Jeannie Metcalf, co-chair of the commission and long-time Forsyth County school board member. “They are different and they may not be able to achieve some of these higher level expectations.”

Wtf?  That sure sounds a hell of a lot like our kids are just not smart enough.  Wow, is that really the direction we want to go with state-wide standards.  Will you be shocked to learn that Metcalf is from the Tea Party brigade.  Oh, and how is this for classic Orwellian doublespeak:

Metcalf and others explained that some of the standards may need to be rearranged without lowering the bar for students.

“I don’t think any of us want to lower the bar,” said Jeffrey Isenhour, a principal from Catawba County. “There needs to be some alignment, things have to make sense in terms of how students learn.”

Ummm, right.  Standards need to be “aligned” but not “lowered.”  Yeah, and ignorance is strength.  Again, in all fairness some of the standards may need adjusting, but I really don’t trust the people who think the solution is to entirely ditch the higher, better, standards of the Common Core because North Carolina is somehow “unique” or “different.”  At this rate we will be, though– uniquely behind in public education (of course, not really uniquely, we’ll always have Alabama and Mississippi to make us feel good).

Photo of the day

My instagram of the deep-fried everything booth at the NC State fair on Friday.  Personally, you just can’t beat straight-up fried dough covered in butter and cinnamon-sugar, i.e., an elephant ear, so that’s what I went with, as I do every year (had my first ever elephant ear at the 1993 NC State fair).  Funnel cakes are good, but nothing like an elephant ear.

Anatomy of a smear

So, I have a friend/former student who is currently in a very tight race for the NC Senate.  One of the few competitive races in the whole state (thank you, gerrymandering).  Anyway, Sarah is pure awesomeness.  She’s super smart, super hard-working, friendly, great family, etc., in short everything you could want in a representative and political candidate.  Her work career has been spent in raising money for worthy institutions, e.g., Duke Children’s hospital, an animal shelter, and a center for mentally disabled adults and children.

So, when I talked to Sarah and she told me her opponent was running a negative ad against her, I genuinely thought, “but what?!”  I figured maybe generic opposition to a liberal Democrat, i.e., “Sarah Crawford wants to raise your taxes!” etc.  But now, her opponent has an ad that is pure smear.

Sarah’s flaw is that she is married to a “influential special interest lobbyist.”  Oh how I’m sure Dan wishes he was influential.  When you are a lobbyist for an environmental coalition you are not exactly influential with the NC legislature (and, of course, every interest is a “special interest.”  Well, what about the “millions” in out of state money for Sarah,  Well, an environmental group did spend over a million in NC, but Sarah’s campaign was just one of many targeted races.  Hardly millions of out-of-state money on her race.  As for the tangled web of special interest money leading back to Dan?  These were environmental ads and Dan is an environmental lobbyist.  But he’s not stupid and was therefore beyond scrupulous in avoiding any impropriety (he actually told my Interest Group class all about it last Spring).

And then the one that really got me was “and now an Election (forward?  not clear to me) investigation.”  Oh, so sleazy as this clearly implies that Sarah is the target of an investigation.  She’s not of course.  A group that supports Sarah is the subject of a complaint (the legitimacy of which I truly have no idea) that was filed the day before this ad hit the air.

There is not even the slightest hint of Sarah’s campaign actually doing anything wrong in this “investigation.”  I get it, this is politics, not beanbag toss, and I am sure I have seen worse.  But it really is pretty amazing to see firsthand the integrity impugned of one of the best people you know.  It’s no wonder nobody wants to run for political office.  Sarah will hit back with on her opponent, but it will be based on the reality of his very real votes that hurt the people of NC, not false and sleazy innuendo.


Quick hits

1) The zeppelins of WWI

Although the zeppelin was embraced by both the Germans and the Allies during World War I, the Germans made far more extensive use of the rigid, hydrogen-filled airships. The concept of “strategic bombing”—targeted airstrikes on a particular location—didn’t exist before the conflict. The advent of aerial warfare changed that, and also robbed the British of the protection afforded by the English Channel. The zeppelin allowed Germany to bring the war to the English homeland. Kind of.

2) Parenting as a Gen-Xer:

It struck me recently, after one of my quiet carpool rides, that my generation of parents – we of the soon-to-be or recently 40 year old Gen X variety, the former latchkey children of the Cold War and an MTV that actually played videos, former Atari-owners who were raised by the the Cosby Show and John Hughes, graduated high school with the kids from 90210, then lumbered through our 20s with Rachel, Ross, Chandler, Monica, Phoebe, and Joey and flip phones – is perhaps the last to straddle a life experience both with and without the Internet and all its social media marvels.

3) EJ Dionne on NC politics.  And a WSJ piece on how NC politics increasingly resemble those of Virginia.

4) Eating octopus?  No thanks.

5) Jon Chait with an interesting essay on the value of playing football.

6) Are Alabama Judge Tom Parker’s ideas the key to dismantling Roe v. Wade?  I suspect not, but it is disturbing to think about somebody with his ideas (forget the Constitution– the real version– it’s all about God– Parker’s version) serving as a judge.

7) Maria Konnikova on social media and the Dunbar number

Dunbar did the math, using a ratio of neocortical volume to total brain volume and mean group size, and came up with a number. Judging from the size of an average human brain, the number of people the average person could have in her social group was a hundred and fifty. Anything beyond that would be too complicated to handle at optimal processing levels. For the last twenty-two years, Dunbar has been “unpacking and exploring” what that number actually means—and whether our ever-expanding social networks have done anything to change it.

8) Nice post from Mike Cobb on how to have a healthy skepticism towards non-attitudes reported as attitudes on surveys.

9) Really nice piece from John Dickerson about Matt Bai’s new book, the media, and political scandal.

10) Jon Chait decries California’s new “yes means yes” approach to sexual assault.  Ezra Klein writes easily the most interesting commentary (supportive of the law) I’ve read on the matter.

11) A look at the great impact exercise can have on a child’s brain.  The results are great, but, there’s this:

Each two-hour session also included downtime, since children naturally career about and then collapse, before repeating the process. In total, the boys and girls generally moved at a moderate or vigorous intensity for about 70 minutes and covered more than two miles per session, according to their pedometers.

That doesn’t strike me as remotely scalable.  I’d love to see some efforts along these lines of an exercise program for kids with less time commitment.

12) Vox on why the LED light was worth the Nobel Prize.  (For what it’s worth, I remember reading many years ago how a white LED light was a holy grail).

13) NYT Magazine on how school lunches have become a political battleground.  Personally, I think everybody needs to give pizza more respect.  My middle and high schools all offered pizza as a lunch entree every day.  That’s how it should be.

14) You probably don’t know that much about giraffes.  You should.

15) A sixteen year old spent three years in jail for allegedly stealing a backpack before the charges were dropped.  Just another day (or three years) of criminal justice in America (at least if you are poor).

The real purpose of Voter ID

“Integrity of elections” my ass.  If you believe that, I’ve got a bridge to sell you.  How about this (nicely shared in chart form by Drum):

Voter turnout was reduced by 2-3 percentage points in both states. But of course there’s more to the story. Some groups were more strongly affected than others. Here are the results for Kansas:

Age. In Kansas, the turnout effect among registrants who were 18 years old in 2008 was 7.1 percentage points larger in size than the turnout effect among registrants between the ages of 44 and 53.

….Race or ethnicity. We estimate that turnout was reduced among African-American registrants by 3.7 percentage points more than among Whites in Kansas.

….Length of registration. In Kansas, the reduction in turnout for people registered to vote within 1 year prior to Election Day 2008 was 5.2 percentage points larger in size than for people registered to vote for 20 years or longer prior to Election Day 2008.

Victory! Turnout plummeted among blacks, young people, and college students. What more could an enterprising Republican legislature want?

Oh, and, um, maybe voter fraud was reduced. The Kansas Secretary of State responded to a draft of the GAO report by explaining that “if lower overall turnout occurs after implementation of a photo ID law, some of the decrease may be attributable to the prevention of fraudulent votes.” You betcha.

And from a strongly-worded (and rightly so) Op-Ed in the N&O:

The Supreme Court’s disappointing ruling against reinstating same-day registration and counting out-of-precinct votes serves as a stark reminder that it is time for everyone outraged by the ongoing war against voting to call this coordinated attack for what it is: dishonest, unjust and racist. Harsh words, perhaps, but the shoe fits. [emphasis mine]

The rationale for voting restrictions is restoring public confidence in the integrity of our elections. The problem is that reasons to lack confidence in their integrity have been fabricated, largely out of whole cloth. Major studies have repeatedly failed to unearth anything other than infinitesimal evidence of voter fraud, and states defending their laws restricting voting rights – including North Carolina – have not brought forward evidence to support their claims that it is a problem.

We’ve heard the quotation, attributed to Vladmir Lenin, that a lie told often enough becomes the truth. Anyone who pays attention to Fox News, Rush Limbaugh or most of the Republican delegations in Raleigh and Washington has heard one conspiracy theory after another for years now about how Democrats are out to steal elections, and these stories often revolve around the inherent political corruption in urban areas with high percentages of voters of color. It’s easy to understand why folks are nervous about rigged elections when the likelihood of them is promoted as inevitable and sold as if they reflect an inherent flaw in the character of a substantial percentage of the electorate.

Given the opportunity, the North Carolina legislature restricted opportunities to vote in-person, where evidence of fraud is virtually non-existent, and did not restrict opportunities to vote absentee, where evidence of actual fraud has persisted for decades. The difference is that allowing early voting, same-day registration and counting ballots cast out-of-precinct are more likely to boost African-American turnout, which is more Democratic, while absentee voting boosts white turnout, which is more Republican.

Voting is not a partisan matter. It’s the cornerstone of democracy. In its zeal for reducing voting among groups it mistrusts, our legislature even discontinued pre-registration of 16- and 17-year-olds. Raise your hand if you think that getting young people signed up to vote is a bad idea.

And spare me your “but you need an ID to … why not to vote.”  Because we have not had problems with in-person voter fraud under the current regime and because requiring that ID disproportionately affects minority groups in electoral representation.  That’s why.


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