There is no Ebola “crisis” in New York City

Let’s start with a prediction– not one additional American will contract Ebola because NYC doctor Craig Spencer has.  We are talking about a single person who has taken all the proper steps (he knows exactly what to do, he was working for Doctors without Borders in Africa) to prevent spreading infection.  Furthermore, whatever systemic mistakes led to the two nurse infections in Dallas, will likely be learned from.  Also, those two Dallas nurses are both on the road to recovery and it is now quite unlikely they have infected anyone else.  A single person with a not very communicable disease (it’s just not when proper precautions are taken) is not a crisis just because it is in New York City.  Now, Liberia, there’s a crisis for you (though I understand that in Liberia you are still far more likely to die from many more prosaic diseases).  I get that this is a big story, but I just hate the freak out.  I swear, it’s human nature at it’s worst.

As always, some nice perspective from Jon Cohn:

Spencer spent time with his fiancée and two friends. And on Wednesday, despite feeling a little sluggish, he went bowling in Brooklyn, using the subway to get there and an Uber car to get back. The next day he started running a feverof 103 degrees.

Those details, as much as the diagnosis itself, were getting tons of attention on Thursday night. This morning, New Yorkers are busy retracing their steps, wondering if they were on the number one, the A, or the Lthe three subway lines Spencer apparently took. That’s understandable. Ebola is a scary, frequently lethal disease.

But you can only get it one wayby coming into contact with bodily fluids from somebody who is showing symptoms like fever, vomiting, or diarrhea. New York City officials said that Spencer did not have such symptoms when he was out and about on Wednesday. That’s why the public health experts I consulted on Thursday were convinced that his travels posed little, if any, danger to the broader public. “Minimal to no risk” is the phrase one used. [emphasis mine]

Oh, I’ll also mention that the tremendous and selfless work of Doctors without Borders (or Médecins Sans Frontières as they are properly called) is why I donate to them automatically out of every single paycheck.  

The missing crosstab

So, the latest from Gallup on the death penalty:

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Americans who favor the death penalty most often cite “an eye for an eye” as the reason they hold their position, with 35% mentioning it. “Save taxpayers money” and “they deserve it” tie as the second-most-popular reasons Americans volunteer in this open-ended measure, at 14% each.

And the cross-tab I so want to see?  What portion of these 35% are avowed Christians.  I suspect a solid majority.  Might as well ignore the words of a fellow named Jesus:

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’[a] 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

 

Young women shouldn’t vote!

In case you missed this, today in Fox News:

Fox News is discouraging young people from voting again, but this time the target is more specific: young women.

“The Five” co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle said Tuesday that young women should excuse themselves from voting in the upcoming midterm elections because they don’t share the same “life experience” as older women and should just go back to playing around on Tinder and Match.com.

“It’s the same reason why young women on juries are not a good idea,” Guilfoyle said. “They don’t get it!”

Earlier in the conversation, co-host Greg Gutfeld made the point that “with age comes wisdom” and the “older you get, the more conservative you get.”

Not that we would expect solid logical reasoning from a Fox News host, but this “the older you get, the more conservative you get,” trope just needs to be retired.  There’s just not empirical evidence for it.  Older voters are more conservative than younger voters, but they didn’t actually become more conservative.  It’s not like today’s millenials in 50 years are going to decide they don’t like gay marriage after all.  As for the young women not voting, that’s just too stupid to even waste time on except to mention that this is what passes for discourse on Fox.

“I’m not a scientist, but…”

I understand science about a million times better than the typical GOP politician.  Mostly, though, this David Shiffman piece is the best yet I’ve read on the absurdist “I’m not a scientist” cop out politicians use on climate change:

When politicians say “I’m not a scientist,” it is an exasperating evasion. It’s a cowardly way to avoid answering basic and important policy questions. This response raises lots of other important questions about their decision-making processes. Do they have opinions on how to best maintain our nation’s highways, bridges, and tunnels—or do they not because they’re not civil engineers? Do they refuse to talk about agriculture policy on the grounds that they’re not farmers? How do they think we should be addressing the threat of ISIS? They wouldn’t know, of course; they’re not military generals.

No one would ever say these things, because they’re ridiculous. Being a policymaker in a country as large and complex as the United States requires making decisions on a variety of important subjects outside of your primary area of expertise. Voters wouldn’t tolerate this “I’m not a scientist” excuse if applied to any other discipline, yet politicians appear to be using this line successfully to distance themselves from experts crucial for solving many of our country’s most important problems.

Amen!  On the other hand, everybody thinks they know more about politics than someone is actually a political scientist.  We don’t exactly have formulas for how chemicals interact, but we do know some stuff.  

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.

Race, age, and turnout

I love, love, love this piece by Ron Brownstein.  It hits almost every major point I’ve been making about demographics and elections for the past 4-6 years.  (Of course, I’ll admit to being heavily influenced by Brownsteins’ great analyses over this period).  I especially like how he emphasizes that the changing demographic nature of midterm versus presidential electorate is not new, but how the bases of the party’s align with that is new– that’s the key.

I’m going to heavily excerpt, but that said, if you are a regular reader of this blog, do me a favor and read the whole thing (then again, as a regular reader you may already totally get this).  So, at least consider sharing this piece with the politically-inclined among those you know as I really think it explains the dynamics of modern politics in a short piece better than about anything I’ve read.  Here goes:

The safest prediction one can make about this year’s congressional elections is that the voters who decide them will look very different from the ones who settled the 2012 presidential contest. The share of minorities and, especially, young people in the electorate will almost certainly decline; the proportion of whites and, especially, seniors will increase.

This shift isn’t new. Midterm elections have long attracted fewer voters than elections in presidential years have, with minorities and young people among the groups most likely to stay home…

But while the voting falloff between presidential-year and midterm elections has remained constant, its impact has been vastly magnified by a racial and generational realignment that has remade each party’s base of support since the 1980s. In presidential and congressional races alike, Democrats today fare best among minorities, Millennials, and white voters (especially women) who are single or college-educated. Even in a country rapidly growing more diverse, Republicans still rely almost entirely on whites, running best among those who are older, blue-collar, married, rural, and male. In other words, Democrats have become increasingly reliant on precisely the groups most likely to sit out midterms, while Republicans score best among those most likely to show up.

That’s modern American politics in a nutshell.  Brownstein adds plenty of data to flesh out the argument and also looks to the future:

But the best news for the Democrats is that, whatever happens this year, eventually demographic change will overwhelm the turnout gap. While Millennials and minorities still participate at lower rates in midterms than in presidential elections, their presence is inexorably growing on both fronts: the minority share of the vote in off-year elections jumped from 14 percent in 1994 to 23 percent in 2010, and this year will likely come in somewhere between that figure and the 28 percent from 2012. If Republicans can’t attract more votes from the growing numbers of minorities, Millennials, and white-collar white women who have powered the Democrats’ success in recent presidential elections, demographics will ultimately threaten the GOP’s hold on the House, too…

That’s an encouraging long-term prospect for Democrats—but it may be cold comfort if lagging turnout among their best voters contributes to another brutal midterm this year.

Personally, I’m taking warm comfort in it :-).

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