75% ≠ 100%

Nate Silver’s Midterm forecast has the Democrats chance of taking the House at almost 75% (currently 72.7, to be precise).  Very worth noting that while most everybody else (including me who was too credulous of the more optimistic forecasts) way over-estimated HRC’s chances, Silver had her at about 75%.  So, very important to remember that Democrats taking the House is far from a done deal.

That said, I actually think the chances are notably higher than that.  Probably over 80%.  Why?  The model does not account for Mueller and all the criminality surrounding Trump.  Now, much of that is already factored into Trump’s approval numbers, but, there’s lots of reasonable belief that Trump may face substantially more bad news before November.  And little basis for reasonable belief that he will have substantial good news.  If we figure it fairly likely that Trump takes some meaningful hits (and, no, he’s not totally immune– if he were his popularity would be way higher in this economy), then the 75% figure is low.

For example, a nice summary of yesterday’s implications via Brian Beutler and the Crooked media team:

In the course of investigating hush-money payments Michael Cohen made to silence Donald Trump’s former mistresses ahead of the 2016 election, federal prosecutors from the southern district of New York granted immunity to the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg—the one person reported to have as much visibility into Trump’s business practices, legal and illegal, as Trump himself.

The fact that Weisselberg was given immunity means he was in real legal jeopardy and agreed to cooperate with investigators to make that problem go away. It’s possible prosecutors gave him immunity simply to investigate the campaign finance violations Cohen already pleaded guilty to. But even if Weisselberg has thus far only provided information about Cohen, he may still be obligated to cooperate with other investigations, including the one Special Counsel Robert Mueller is leading.

Weisselberg’s cooperation makes Trump’s potential legal jeopardy all-encompassing: his private business, his family, his campaign, and his administration are all vulnerable. Even if prosecutors never ask Weisselberg for any information about Trump beyond the hush-money payments, Trump is still exposed to:

  • The Mueller investigation
  • The SDNY’s investigation of Cohen and the National Enquirer
  • A DOJ public integrity investigation of former RNC Deputy Finance Chair Elliott Broidy, who allegedly tried to sell access to the Trump administration
  • Charges in Manhattan stemming from the way the Trump Organization recorded reimbursements of the hush-money payments
  • A New York state criminal tax investigation of Cohen

And that’s just what’s public.

From Brian: Not all of these distinct, overlapping lines of inquiry will necessarily touch Trump. But some of them likely will, and there’s little Trump can do to stop it. For over a year now, we have been worried, for good reason, that Trump might fire Robert Mueller and try to shut down the Russia investigation. It’s still an important concern, but at this point that would only obstruct one avenue of his legal exposure. There’s nothing he can do about his exposure in New York state, and pragmatically speaking, he won’t be able make three separate federal criminal investigations go away. He can’t fire and pardon his way out of the mess he’s made anymore.

Yeah, maybe I’m a little optimistic and projecting what I want to believe, but, honestly, it is so absurdly clear that Trump is a crook who has surrounded himself with crooks and that Mueller is well onto that fact.  The more we learn about that, the worse for Republicans.

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Quick hits (part I)

1) Love this NYT article about how we need to fail and talk about it the right way to enable growth.

We’ve all flopped on a big presentation.

After weeks of careful preparation and practice, you feel ready to knock it out of the park. But the day comes and, for whatever reason, every joke seems to fall flat, you bumble through all your numbers and your technology seems to be working against you.

The embarrassment and blow to your self-worth can manifest in unlimited ways — and sometimes it feels like it’s manifesting in all ways — and our bodies’ response to failure can even mimic that of physical pain, Bradley Staats, an associate professor at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan Flagler Business School, writes in “Never Stop Learning: Stay Relevant, Reinvent Yourself and Thrive.”

“We respond that way, and then we feel bad about responding that way, and so we try to cover it up instead of learn from it,” Mr. Staats said. “We shouldn’t be ashamed of the reaction. It is natural.”

Even though most people prefer to process failure internally and quickly move on for fear of causing a scene or seeming unprofessional, taking the time to reflect on and communicate about unwanted outcomes can go a long way in creating more congenial, trusting and ultimately productive workplaces.

2) NYT again, “An Underappreciated Key to College Success: Sleep.”  To be fair, replace “college” with any number of potential words there.  But, yeah, perhaps a particular problem for college students.  Then again, we aren’t crazy enough to start at 7:30 like they do in HS.

Whatever you may think can get in the way of a successful college experience, chances are you won’t think of one of the most important factors: how long and how well you sleep. And not just on weekends, but every day, Monday through Sunday.

Studies have shown that sleep quantity and sleep quality equal or outrank such popular campus concerns as alcohol and drug use in predicting student grades and a student’s chances of graduating.

3) More research on how sitting for too long is bad for your brain.  This study suggests an advantage to getting up every 30 minutes.  Between my kids always wanting something at home and my frequent bathroom breaks at work, I should be doing pretty well.

4) Really loving Sacha Baron Cohen’s new show (and appreciating the deal I just got on Showtime).  Here’s why it is so hard to win a lawsuit against him (mostly, because he lets people entirely voluntarily make fools of themselves, whether false pretenses or not).

5) Child services launches weeks long investigation for 8-year old walking dog on her own.  Ugh.  It all ended up okay, and I get that child services needs to investigate, but this should have been a 5-minute investigation.

6) NYT’s “Smarter Living” guru argues for the value of life-tracking apps.  I’m mostly with him.  (Big fan of My Fitness Pal).

7) How fun and not surprising that the did Trump or John Gotti say it quiz is not all that easy.

8) It should not take a special counsel investigating the president to hold people accountable for white-collar crimes.  Alas, in 2018 America, it pretty much does.  Sad.

Oh, the audacity of dopes. The crimes of Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen are notable not just for how blatant they were but also for their lack of sophistication. The two men did little to hide their lying to banks and the Internal Revenue Service. One can almost sympathize with them: If it wasn’t for their decision to attach themselves to the most unlikely president in modern history, there’s every reason to think they might still be working their frauds today.

But how anomalous are Mr. Manafort and Mr. Cohen? Are there legions of K Street big shots working for foreign despots and parking their riches in Cypriot bank accounts to avoid the I.R.S.? Are many political campaigns walking felonies waiting to be exposed? What about the world of luxury residential building in which Mr. Cohen plied his trade with the Trump Organization?

The answer is more disturbing than the questions: We don’t know. We don’t know because the cops aren’t on the beat. Resources have been stripped from white-collar enforcement. The F.B.I. shifted agents to work on international terror in the wake of Sept. 11. White-collar cases made up about one-tenth of the Justice Department’s cases in recent years, compared with one-fifth in the early 1990s. The I.R.S.’s criminal enforcement capabilities have been decimated by years of budget cuts and attrition. The Federal Election Commission is a toothless organization that is widely flouted.

No wonder Mr. Cohen and Mr. Manafort were so brazen. They must have felt they had impunity.

How could they not? Any person in any bar in America can tell you who was held accountable for the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression, which peaked 10 years ago next month: No one. No top officer from any major bank went to prison.

But the problem goes beyond big banks. The Department of Justice — in Democratic as well as Republican administrations — has lost the will and ability to prosecute top executives across corporate America, at large industrial firms, tech giants, retailers, drugmakers and so on. Instead the Department of Justice reaches settlements with corporations, which pay in dollars instead of the liberty of their top officers and directors.

9) NYT NeverTrumper Brett Stephens makes the post-Manafort and Cohen convictions case for impeachment.  Honestly, Trump is so corrupt, but I think campaign finance violations (the whole system is so convoluted and so much of what’s wrong is what’s actually legal) that I really do not think this is the hill upon which to take down the self-dealing, corrupt, incompetent liar in the White House.

10) One area of clear bipartisan agreement?  Not in my backyard.

11) Perhaps you heard about the toppling of the Confederate memorial statue, Silent Sam, at UNC.  Forbes give us, “Scholars Explain The Racist History Of UNC’s Silent Sam Statue.”

12) Just throw some white nationalist chum to Trump (via Fox, of course) and he cannot resist.  Ugh.

13) You really can get addicted to marijuana.  And it’s not great.  That said, cost-benefit wise, I’d still argue almost anything is an improvement over the disaster that is federal schedule I and strict criminalization.

14) An interesting speculation on what if there were a tape of Trump saying the N word:

Let’s play this out for a moment. What would happen if a tape surfaced featuring the president using the N word? History is useful here. For a subset of the country, it would weaken the taboo on using the word. Some of these Americans would likely litigate whether the usage was, in fact, a slur directed at black people, or whether he was merely discussing the word. It was very improper language, and he’s acknowledged that, but I don’t characterize it as a slur.It’s always wrong to use that word. But as the president today he has not used that word. It was a quipLocker-room talka private conversation that took place many years agoTalk and action are two different thingsAlso within this subset would be the vocal contingent of folks—most, apparently, white men—for whom the proscription on saying the word constitutes the last, totemic vestige of racial discrimination. This is part and parcel of the left’s hypocrisy when it comes to the N wordThe question is, will the American people be smart enough to see beyond the manipulation? I expect this group already glories in the usage of the word in private, and if the president used it, they would consider that full license to take their newly desegregated word public, and shout it from the mountaintops. Free at last.

15) Your scientific guide to making friends.

So what should you do if your social life is lacking? Here, too, the research is instructive. To begin with, don’t dismiss the humble acquaintance. Even interacting with people with whom one has weak social ties has a meaningful influence on well-being. [7] Beyond that, building deeper friendships may be largely a matter of putting in time. A recent study out of the University of Kansas found that it takes about 50 hours of socializing to go from acquaintance to casual friend, an additional 40 hours to become a “real” friend, and a total of 200 hours to become a close friend. [8]

If that sounds like too much effort, reviving dormant social ties can be especially rewarding. Reconnected friends can quickly recapture much of the trust they previously built, while offering each other a dash of novelty drawn from whatever they’ve been up to in the meantime. [9] And if all else fails, you could start randomly confiding in people you don’t know that well in hopes of letting the tail wag the relational dog. Self-disclosure makes us more likable, and as a bonus, we are more inclined to like those to whom we have bared our soul. [10]

[7] Sandstrom and Dunn, “Social Interactions and Well-Being” (Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, July 2014)

[8] Hall, “How Many Hours Does It Take to Make a Friend?” (Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, March 2018)

[9] Levin et al., “Dormant Ties” (Organization Science, July–Aug. 2011)

[10] Collins and Miller, “Self-Disclosure and Liking” (Psychological Bulletin, Nov. 1994)

 

 

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