Chart of the day

If you are in the 3%, it really is too bad. But this chart definitely helps put all the Obamacare horror stories in perspective:



Busy day today, but enjoy this:

Photo of the day

From the Telegraph Animal photos of the week.  Happy Halloween.


This six-week-old Labrador puppy is one of the 1,300 in trained each year at the National Guide Dog Breeding Centre. It enjoyed a well-earned day off to play, frolicking in a huge pumpkin donated to the centre in Leamington, West Midlands, by Wasperton Farm. The puppies are being cared for by staff at the school, before being adopted by volunteer trainers who will spend a year-and-a-half moulding them into helpers for the blind. They will soon be assigned new homes to prepare to become fully fledging helpers at 20 months old.

Picture: CATERS

On Keystone

I read Ryan Lizza’s extensive piece on the Keystone pipeline in the New Yorker a while back and ended up feeling frustrated that Lizza seemed to push the anti-Keystone position, but ultimately failed to take a side, and left me wanting a little more clarity.   Not long after, I listened to Lizza interviewed on Fresh Air and decided that there’s just not enough good policy analysis to support an anti-Keystone position.   After the interview I resolved to blog about my frustration with this becoming a seeming sine qua non of the US environmental movement despite being based on questionable policy analysis at best.  As you know, I’m always frustrated by the complete lack of seriousness with which conservatives so often approach policy, so I found it especially galling to see liberal environmentalists (and I happily call myself both) being similarly guilty on a high profile issue.  All that, but I’m lazy and distractible.

Into the breach steps Chait, who wrote an excellent post hitting on most all my concerns and frustrations on this issue.  Now that he’s done the hard work (and there’s really little question who’s better to read), I get to cut and paste:

Estimates differ as to how much approval of the Keystone pipeline would increase carbon emissions, but a survey of studies by the Congressional Research Service found that the pipeline would add the equivalent of anywhere between 0.06 percent to 0.3 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions per year. By contrast, the Natural Resources Defense Council’s proposal for EPA regulations would reduce U.S. emissions by 10 percent per year – 30 times the most pessimistic estimate of Keystone’s impact.

Of course, it’s far from clear Obama will settle on a regulatory proposal as aggressive as the NRDC’s. But that’s just the point. Even slight gradations in the strength of possible EPA plans matter more than the whole fate of the Keystone pipeline. And yet McKibben and tens of thousands of his followers are obsessed with a program that amounts to a rounding error at the expense of a decision that really is the last chance to stop unrestrained global warming…

Sprinkled throughout Lizza’s story are statements by various supporters of the anti-Keystone movement to the effect that they seized on Keystone because they needed something to rally environmentalists on…

Lizza doesn’t frame these observations as a damning indictment, but they do amount to one. The logic of the decision was the opposite of what it appeared to be: Rather than build a movement as a means toward the end of stopping Keystone, Keystone was the means toward the end of building a movement. Cap and trade was dead, Keystone was the best thing they had, so they went with it.

Later in the piece, Lizza notes as an aside that the back-of-the-envelope calculation undergirding Hansen’s “game over” warning turns out to be wildly incorrect: …

Oh! So developing the Canadian tar sands isn’t Game Over, or anything close to Game Over? While framed in the story as a minor detail, this seems like an enormously damning fact. In much the same way that conservative Republicans initially decided to shut down the government on the mistaken belief that doing so would defund Obamacare, and had to stick with their strategy once they had rallied millions of followers to the cause, environmental activists appeared to have built a strategy upon what was at best a rickety factual premise.

Now the anti-Keystone activists (and less transparently, Lizza) seem to believe that there’s huge symbolic value in the President taking this step that is completely unaccounted for in a traditional cost/benefit analysis.  The idea is that Obama making such a bold move is a game changer that recasts and reframes the environmental and climate change debate that entirely new avenues of useful policy change open up.  Maybe.  But color me skeptical.  For now, I’ll stick with hard-headed analysis of how much this oil will actually impact the climate and it’s likelihood of finding some other way to market (please, you just know they’ve got to find some way).

At this point, to be convinced that Obama really should stop the Keystone pipeline, I’d like to see some evidence, rather than just hopeful conjecture, that in so doing there would be ongoing implications throughout climate policy.

Winning as a liberal Democrat in Virginia

Really enjoyed this Ron Brownstein piece on Terry McAuliffe titled “how to win in Virginia as a liberal Democrat.”  Like all good Brownstein, he brings the demographic analysis:

Virginia Democrats historically have sought a cautious middle ground on such questions, largely in hope of holding culturally conservative blue-collar, evangelical, and rural white voters long considered indispensable to statewide success. But McAuliffe has repeatedly adopted liberal social positions that ensure repeated conflicts with those voters—while providing fuel to energize the Democrats’ new “coalition of the ascendant” centered on minorities, the millennial generation, and white-collar white voters, especially women. All of this has established a cavernous contrast with Cuccinelli, an unflinching conservative culture warrior, who has pushed the envelope of opposition to abortion, gay rights, and illegal immigration, as well as Obama’s health care and environmental policies.

Like the president, McAuliffe has endorsed gay marriage; universal background checks for gun purchases; an assault-weapons ban; a pathway to citizenship for immigrants here illegally; a mandate on employers offering health insurance to include free contraception coverage; and limits on carbon emissions from new coal-fired power plants. He would also reverse the tight restrictions on abortion clinics championed by state Republicans led by Cuccinelli and outgoing Gov. Bob McDonnell.

Blue-state Democrats routinely adopt such positions. But in purple Virginia, Democrats Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, now both senators, moved more warily when they won the governorship in 2001 and 2005, respectively. Both men opposed further gun-control legislation and rejected gay marriage (although they opposed, as overly broad, a state constitutional amendment to ban it)…

et McAuliffe’s advisers recognize that better mechanics alone won’t drive turnout and that his fate will pivot more on exciting intermittent Democratic-leaning voters than reassuring right-tilting whites. “It is difficult to create enthusiasm and engagement among both Democratic voters and Democratic activists if you don’t step up on these issues,” said Geoff Garin, McAuliffe’s pollster.

Shifting population patterns have allowed—even pressured—Virginia Democrats to execute this shift. Geographically, as my colleague David Wasserman has calculated, socially liberal Northern Virginia, swelled by a vibrant technology sector, is steadily marching toward 30 percent of the statewide vote. Meanwhile, the downscale white Appalachian counties that Republicans have targeted with their “war on coal” campaign against McAuliffe (and Obama) have dipped to less than 10 percent.

Demographically, the state is growing better educated and more diverse, enlarging the strongest Democratic constituencies. Last week’s Quinnipiac University poll showed McAuliffe winning just one-third of noncollege whites but capturing almost half of college-educated whites (including a majority of such women), most young voters, and a commanding three-fourths of minorities. That tracked Obama’s winning coalition and was enough for a nearly double-digit overall lead.

Short version: in a decidedly purple state you actually have to appeal to liberal voters to get them to come out and support you (certainly in a non-presidential election year).  It’s not enough to try and convince moderates and conservatives you are not scary.  Before long, this will be the necessary winning strategy for Democrats everywhere but the deepest of the deep South.

Here in NC, while Democratic Attorney General and 2016 Gubernatorial candidate is unlikely to come out hard for gun control, he’s already made a clear statement in support of gay marriage.  That is a pretty clear indication of how the dynamics of Democratic politics are shifting.

Video of the day

This Ohio State marching band (tbdbitl) tribute to Michael Jackson is awesome.  You’ve totally got to watch the segment beginning about 4:15 (And I just figured out how to make the video start there!!).  Seriously.

Where the money goes

Via the National Priorities Project (and John F.).  Always a helpful reminder:

Or to badly paraphrase Ezra Klein, we’re basically a giant insurance company for old people with a huge military.

Photo of the day

When I’ve attempted forced perspective photos, it’s been an unmitigated failure.  Now this is how it’s done.  Photos by Michael Paul Smith.  Click the link for more.



Declining support for the death penalty

I found Gallup’s latest on the death penalty to be quite interesting.  Support has really been dropping more than I realized.  I’ve got to think all the exonerations of innocent people from death row have something to do with it.  Here’s the main chart:

Trend: Are you in favor of the death penalty for a person convicted of murder?

Also, quite interesting is how much this has become a partisan split:

Support for the Death Penalty -- 1988-2013 Trend by Party ID

Since early in Bill Clinton’s days (a notable supporter of the death penalty as part of his “new Democrat” image) Democratic support has declined from 75 down to 47.  And the smaller decline in Indepdents likely represents a similar decline in Democratic leaners among the category.  With a clear partisan split, now, it will be interesting to see if this reemerges as a partisan issue.  Though, I think we’d need to see Democrats below 40% for that to happen.

And, a final chart, that I find somewhat depressing:

Trend: Generally speaking, do you believe the death penalty is applied fairly or unfairly in this country today?

Short version, there’s a non-trivial portion of the electorate who finds the death penalty to be applied “unfairly” but supports it anyway.  In a better world, this number would never be lower than the topline number in the first chart.

Video of the day (climate change)

I gotta say, I really love these vlog brothers.  And I have a soft spot for Hank Green given that I actually use hankgreene as a frequent username.   Here’s a nice short and entertaining piece on climate change denialism

WSJ redefines “expert”

Just wow.  What more can you say about Suzanne Somers “expert” column on the Affordable Care Act for the Wall Street Journal.  Do their opinion pages have any intellectual credibility?



He piece is an utter embarrassment for anybody who actually understands pretty much anything about the ACA.  But don’t read me, nobody can rip foolishness like this to shreds than Chait (he should also look into reviewing bad movies).

Somers may lack the “qualifications” to analyze public policy of an Alicia Munnell, but she has written no fewer than 24 books on beauty, aging, weight loss, and other issues relevant to health care generally, and whatever she lacks in traditional analytic skills, she more than makes up for with a strong love of freedom. If your newspaper is going to publish a weekly column by Karl Rove, you have already crossed whatever conceptual boundary might stop you from publishing Suzanne Somers.

Still, even by the Journal’s meager intellectual standards, Somers’s op-ed goes badly, badly awry. I would strongly urge any readers to take 90 seconds from their day to read Somers’s entire column. Her basic premise appears to be that Obamacare is aimed primarily, and perhaps entirely, at retirees:

Reminder: This appeared in The Wall Street Journal. In addition to offering her “down and dirty” advice for retirees, Somers has strong views on socialism:

And then there is another consideration: It’s the dark underbelly of the Affordable Care Act reminiscent of what Lenin and Churchill both said. Lenin: “Socialized medicine is the keystone to the arch of the socialist state.” Churchill: “Control your citizens’ health care and you control your citizens.”

Unsurprisingly, Lenin never said that line — it’s a decades-old right-wing fabrication. The more curious line is the Churchill quote. It’s almost certainly fake, too; it does not appear in the LexisNexis database or in Google. Unless Somers has done original archival work on Churchill, she seems to have fabricated that quote on her own, or possibly received it via chain e-mail…

We eagerly await subsequent Somers’s augmentations of the Journal’s Pulitzer-winning critique of Obamacare.

Photo of the day

Yet another great gallery of animal photos from the Telegraph.  This very last one is my favorite:


Photographer Jon Winslow, from Dover in New Hampshire, USA, captured this moment when an eagle decided to eat its lunch a little too close to two kingbirds’ nest. The kingbirds, defending their home, flew after the eagle, with one deciding to take a ride on the eagles back, pecking at the larger bird as it tried to make a desperate escape with its fish still in its grasp.Picture: Jon Winslow/Caters

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