Photo of the day

Some of my happiest early childhood memories were visits to Gatlinburg, Tennessee when visiting my grandmother in western North Carolina (Swannanoa , to be precise).  Probably haven’t been there since I was 10 or younger, but I sure remember riding up the side of a mountain on a skylift with my big sister.  Anyway, I knew there were fires in the area, but had not realized that the town itself was at risk.  In Focus with a photo gallery of the wildfires in the area:

Burned structures are seen from a National Guard helicopter near Gatlinburg on November 29, 2016.

Erik Schelzig / AP

Give up already

Just what is Pat McCrory trying to prove?  And, no, I don’t think he’s counting on the legislature keeping him in office my  legislative office.  At this point, I think he has been so insistent upon fraud and the need for a recount that he wants to go through with it to save face.  Of course, the longer he drags this out, the worse he looks.  The Charlotte Observer:

Pat McCrory, it appears, is going through the five stages of grief. First came denial, then anger. Right now he’s in the bargaining stage. That, thankfully, means that depression and finally acceptance should not be far behind.

Such a cycle may be normal, but what the governor has done since the Nov. 8 election is anything but. In a razor-close race, he has gone way beyond asking that every vote be counted before a winner is declared. He and his fellow scaremongers have disrespected democracy and honest election workers of both parties while slandering innocent North Carolina citizens by recklessly accusing them of felonies. In doing so, he has further tarnished his already-stained legacy and will be remembered always for the lack of grace he showed in what may be his final election…

et us be clear: There is no widespread voter fraud in North Carolina or America. In a state with 6.5 million registered voters, there may be a handful of wrongly registered felons or overzealous get-out-the-vote volunteers. But there is no evidence that thousands of N.C. voters are voting in two states, or that legions of dead people are voting. Almost half of the 43 people McCrory’s camp accused of voting as a felon were not felons at all. And the 101-year-old World War II veteran living in a Greensboro senior living home did not vote in two states, no matter what McCrory’s campaign alleges. There’s certainly not enough fraud, in any case, for McCrory to make up the more than 9,000 votes he would need to overtake Democrat Roy Cooper…

What he doesn’t have a right to do is malign innocent voters with claims that he either knows are mirages or doesn’t care enough to vet. The state board of elections – which, like all 100 county boards, is majority Republican – issued an order Monday effectively dismissing all 52 of McCrory’s complaints.

They know voter fraud is not a real problem in North Carolina. And, down the road, voters shouldn’t allow the myth that McCrory foments to provide cover to overzealous lawmakers – in Raleigh or in Washington.

McCrory has also not escaped notice of the NYT Editorial Board:

Mr. McCrory, a governor who brought disgrace and financial loss to his state by championing a bill to discriminate against gay and transgender people, demanded a recount and began scouring voting rolls for evidence of fraud. It was a hard-fought, acrimonious election, decided by a slim margin, but as provisional and absentee ballots were added to the tally in recent days, Mr. Cooper’s lead surpassed the 10,000 threshold that bars Mr. McCrory from requesting a taxpayer-funded recount.

Mr. McCrory has refused to concede, and despite having no path to victory, he has been engaged in an all-out assault on the integrity of the election system. His fight appears likely to serve as rationale for a renewed effort in the legislature to make North Carolina’s voting laws and regulations even more onerous…

“It’s scandalous that they would malign innocent people to poison the larger public’s trust in the election system,” Bob Hall, the executive director of Democracy North Carolina, said in an interview. It’s dishonorable for Mr. McCrory to promote voting fraud myths and add fuel to voter suppression efforts as he’s going out the door.

Yep.  I don’t hate Pat McCrory.  I’ve mostly thought he was somebody decently well-meaning who was not that bright and ended up  in way over his head.  But now I think he is a sad little man who just cannot face reality.

The reality of immigration policy

I gave a talk earlier this week on a Trump presidency and grouped his policy actions into easy, medium, and hard.  I put immigration in “hard” as the GOP itself is clearly so divided on this.  Drum has a nice post getting to the problematic dynamic and how so many Republicans are really  about rhetoric (the wall!) and not the actual changes that would matter (serious crackdown on employers).  Drum:

I don’t personally care all that much about the level of illegal immigration. The chart above, from Pew Research, shows the current numbers, which strike me as reasonable. But obviously a lot of people do care, and most of them are Republicans. They talk tough, they build walls and fences, and they promise to hire lots of border enforcement agents. But this is all a sham. If the economic incentives continue to exist, so will illegal immigration.

The problem is that Republicans can’t come to grips with their two main constituencies. Social conservatives generally hate undocumented workers and want to deport them all. Business conservatives want no such thing. So Republicans thunder on TV that borders are borders, and by God we need to control them. Then they quietly go back to their jobs and do nothing.

 The obvious way to cut down on illegal immigration has always been to go after employers. [emphases mine] Not only does this attack the root of the problem, but it’s practically self-funding. You hire lots of ICE auditors and then pay for them by levying big fines on employers who break the law. As the problem diminishes, you collect less money but you also need fewer auditors.

E-Verify isn’t perfect. Nothing is. But it could be made good enough. And once that’s done, enforcement could be made pretty widespread and the fines could be made pretty high. If you do that, you can forget about the wall. It’s just a distraction.

Bottom line: Anyone who claims to be fiercely opposed to illegal immigration but doesn’t support strong employer sanctions is just lying to you.

Cheap rhetoric for political point-scoring?  Never.

Facts? We don’t need no stinkin’ facts

James Fallows on Trump’s post-fact world:

This morning, straight off the plane from Shanghai, I was on The Diane Rehm Show with Margaret Sullivan, much-missed former Public Editor of the NYT who is now with the WaPo, and Glenn Thrush of Politico. We were talking about how to deal with the unprecedented phenomenon that is Donald Trump, related to the “Trump’s Lies” item I did two days ago.

You can listen to the whole segment here, but I direct your attention to the part starting at time 14:40. That is when Scottie Nell Hughes, Trump stalwart, joins the show to assert that “this is all a matter of opinion” and “there are no such things as facts.” [emphasis mine]

You can listen again starting at around time 18:30, when I point out one of the specific, small lies of the Trump campaign—that the NFL had joined him in complaining about debate dates, which the NFL immediately denied—and Hughes says: Well, this is also just a matter of opinion. Hughes mentions at time 21:45 that she is a “classically studied journalist,” an assertion that left Glenn Thrush, Margaret Sullivan, Diane Rehm, and me staring at one another in puzzlement, this not being a normal claim in our field.

It’s worth listening in full. This is the world we are now dealing with.

Where I gesticulate wildly about Pat McCrory

Enjoyed being in this Al Jazeera English report on the governor’s race in North Carolina.  Especially, the B-roll footage they used of me at the beginning of my appearance

Also, worth noting that my very next sentence was that I still thought it highly unlikely any such attempt would take place🙂.

Turnout update

So, in the end (though there’s still a little counting), turnout did not drop off nearly as much as it first looked.  That said, Democratic votes went down from 2012 and Republican votes went up.  Nice chart from Timothy McBride:

Trump will bring back all the coal-mining jobs!

Also, he would’ve won the popular vote but for those millions of fraudulent votes for Clinton.  Also, I’ve got a bridge to sell you.  Alas, in Trump sold many of his supporters a bill of good with this (among many such con jobs).  Brad Plumer with the reality on coal jobs:

All year, Donald Trump has been promising to rescue the US coal industry by repealing various Obama-era pollution rules and ending the “war on coal.” And all year, analysts have pointed out that he probably can’t stop the collapse of the coal industry — since coal’s woes go far beyond the Environmental Protection Agency.

But if you want a perfect example of why Trump will struggle to bring back coal, just look at Michigan.

Last weekend, the CEO of Michigan’s largest electric utility reiterated that his company is still planning to retire eight of its nine remaining coal plants by 2030 — whether or not Trump tries to repeal President Obama’s climate policies. “All of those retirements are going to happen regardless of what Trump may or may not do with the Clean Power Plan,” DTE Energy’s Gerry Anderson told MLive.com’s Emily Lawler.

Coal’s woes go far beyond Obama’s climate policies

Anderson’s reasoning was simple. Coal is no longer the economic choice for generating electricity, due to relentless competition from cheaper (and cleaner) natural gas and wind power. In Michigan, a new coal plant costs $133 per megawatt hour. A natural gas plant costs half that. Even wind contracts now cost about $74.52 per megawatt hour, after federal tax credits. “I don’t know anybody in the country who would build another coal plant,” Anderson said. [emphasis mine]

 What’s more, Anderson added, surveys show that most of Michigan’s consumers want to add more renewables “if it can be done at reasonable cost.”

It’s not just Michigan. This dynamic is playing out all over the country, as coal plant after coal plant succumbs to competition from cheap natural gas and wind. Over at Politico, Michael Grunwald estimates that US power plants are now on track to emit 27 percent less carbon dioxide in 2016 than they did in 2005.

What’s remarkable is that this is all happening before Obama’s Clean Power Plan even takes effect…

True, Trump could still try other moves to help coal. One big reason coal plants have become so expensive is that they have to comply with a slew of EPA air pollution rules on particulates, smog, mercury, and so on (coal is the dirtiest fuel, after all). If a Trump administration were to scale back these rules, the cost of coal power would drop a bit. Likewise, if Congress were to get rid of federal tax credits that subsidize wind and solar, they’d be less competitive against coal.

But none of these strategies are guaranteed to work. A surprising number of Republicans in Congress, including Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), are actually in favor of those renewable tax credits. What’s more, rewriting every last Obama-era air pollution rule could be a time-consuming slog — and in any case, utilities have already bought costly scrubbers for their coal plants to comply with things like the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS). That can’t be undone.

On top of all that, Trump has vowed to ease regulations on fracking, which will just mean more cheap shale gas — which, again, could hurt coal.

Sure, Trump has done a lot of things differently, but he cannot change basic laws of economics.  And if coal power plants are more expensive than alternatives, they just won’t get built.  But, hey, lets just keep on blaming Obama and all those pesky government regulations.

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