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— You can follow me on Twitter at @MichaelRStrain.

Public Opinion Holds Steady


A very interesting explanation of what really happens with “swing voters” when approval numbers go up and down over at the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage:

How can election polls swing so much given the increasingly polarized nature of American politics, where switching one’s support between candidates is a significant move? We investigate this question by conducting a novel panel survey of 83,283 people repeatedly polled over the last 45 days of the 2012 U.S. presidential election campaign. We find that reported swings in public opinion polls are generally not due to actual shifts in vote intention, but rather are the result of temporary periods of relatively low response rates by supporters of the reportedly slumping candidate. After correcting for this bias, we show there were nearly constant levels of support for the candidates during what appeared, based on traditional polling, to be the most volatile stretches of the campaign. Our results raise the possibility that decades of large, reported swings in public opinion — including the perennial “convention bounce” — are largely artifacts of sampling bias.

Andrew Gelman, one of the authors of the study, fleshes out the whole thing quite well. 


Mo. Dem Senator: Controversial County Prosecutor Will Be ‘Fair’ in Brown Case


Senator Claire McCaskill (D., Mo.) gave St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch a forceful vote of confidence amid calls from within her own party that he not be involved in the case of the shooting death of Ferguson, Mo., man Michael Brown.

Critics question McCulloch’s objectivity, and suggest that he will be sympathetic to Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot Brown, because McCulloch’s family has served on the police force and his father was killed on the job by a black man in the 1960s. On Tuesday, Governor Jay Nixon, a Democrat, refused to remove McCulloch from the case, saying McCulloch can recuse himself if he feels compelled to do so.

McCaskill, who has known McCulloch for decades, said he has one of the best county prosecutor’s offices in the country and suggestions that he cannot be objective are unfounded. “I know he is fair,” she told MSNBC.

“We have a process in the country where people are elected,” McCaskill said. “You don’t come along and just remove someone from that job unless it is under the powers of an emergency.”

Ultimately, Nixon can remove McCulloch if he chooses to by using state-of-emergency powers, and his refusal to do so shows he too has confidence in McCulloch, McCaskill added.

McCaskill’s support is likely to rankle some of her fellow Democrats in the state, as well as left-leaning commentators following the situation. For example, state senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal has said McCulloch should not be involved in the case. Ferguson Democratic committeewoman Patricia Bynes has also questioned his capacity to fairly prosecute the case.

Tags: Ferguson

Web Briefing: August 21, 2014

Not That He Favors Racial Quotas or Anything


From Eric Holder’s “open letter” to the people of Ferguson: “And police forces should reflect the diversity of the communities they serve.”

Hiring with an eye on race and ethnicity violates the civil-rights laws that Mr. Holder is supposedly enforcing. And such discrimination is not only unfair and divisive; it also means that the less qualified will be hired over the more qualified, which is in no one’s interest, including of course the general public’s interest in being protected.  

Should an all-white jurisdiction avoid hiring nonwhites? Do most nonwhites insist on having a sub-optimum police force because of their racial preferences? If they do, should those preferences be catered to? Can and should a police force be trusted only if it has a melanin content that approximates the melanin content of the jurisdiction’s general population? The answers are no, no, no, and no. And it is certainly not a good thing for the attorney general of the United States to encourage, apparently, the answers of yes, yes, yes, and yes.

Tags: Ferguson


Tempers Flared between Police and Protesters in Ferguson Tuesday Night, 47 Arrested


After a night of non-violent protests along West Florissant Street yesterday, police officers attempted to clear the parking lots people had been standing and sitting in. The police had been pushing people away from the street and towards the sidewalk before making the decision to push people in the opposite direction — away from the parking lots. Protesters grew angry quickly.

A protester talked to police as they attempted to clear a parking lot:


Some protesters shouted at police, as the police moved through the lot:

Police stopped moving in the McDonald’s parking lot, where protesters had grown frustrated. Some protesters attempted to calm down others who had grown angry with police:

Protesters did not engage police at this time and appeared to regain their composure. After a vehicle that resembled Thomas the Tank Engine rolled through the street and protesters gathered in prayer, an officer could be heard shouting that some unruly protesters had begun throwing bottles. Cops and protesters alike started sprinting in the direction of the QuikTrip convenience store. Police apprehended several men and handcuffed them on the ground.

Police then prepared a response to the protesters’ actions. St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar told media, “I cannot ensure your safety,” and instructed media to move to the command post.

Police officers advanced on the protesters in armored vehicles and on foot in riot gear. Using a loud speaker, the cops asked everyone to disperse immediately. In an early-morning press conference, Missouri Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson said 47 people were arrested, mainly for failure to disperse. 

Tags: Ferguson

Thomas the Tank Engine Showed Up in Ferguson Last Night


When police left the street to remove protesters from the parking lots last night in Ferguson, something rather bizarre happened: A miniature Thomas the Tank Engine rolled down West Florissant Street.

Blasting what sounded like Marvin Gaye’s “Mercy Mercy Me,” the train made a full lap around the street that protesters had marched along. The train headed towards McDonald’s, and pulled over to the sidewalk when instructed to do so by police.

The train arrived just before protesters gathered in prayer. Soon after the prayer, some protesters allegedly threw bottles at police.

Tags: Ferguson

Al Sharpton to Deliver Eulogy at Michael Brown’s Funeral


The Reverend Al Sharpton will give the eulogy at the funeral of Michael Brown on Monday, according to the family’s attorney.

Tags: Ferguson

Megyn Kelly Blasts Mo. Gov’s Premature Call for Prosecution in Brown Case


Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly ripped Missouri governor Jay Nixon for getting ahead of the prosecutor in calling for a “vigorous prosecution” in response to the killing of Ferguson, Mo. man Michael Brown. Nixon, who also served as the state’s attorney general for 16 years, should know better, she said.

​”That is not the way our justice system works, and he knows damn well that’s the case,” Kelly said on Tuesday night shortly after Nixon released a video message in which he made the remarks. “Is he that worried about his own political hide that he’s going to endanger this officer’s life further, and other people’s life for that matter?”

Nixon has come under pressure to remove St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch, who critics say would be too sympathetic to Darren Wilson, the officer who killed Brown; McCulloch’s father, a police officer, was killed on the job by a black man in the 1960s. In his video, Nixon refused to remove the prosecutor, but said McCulloch could also recuse himself if he wanted.

But for Kelly, Nixon was interfering with the judicial process and essentially siding with protesters who have vowed to continue demonstrating if Wilson was not indicted.

“I will say, as somebody who practiced law for nearly a decade, that was an irresponsible and outrageous statement to make on the eve of the grand jury convening and he needs to walk it back and apologize for getting out ahead of his skis,” she said.

Tags: Ferguson

Democrats Fail in Effort to Tilt Alaska’s GOP Senate Primary


The last major Republican primary in a state with a competitive Senate race this fall is over. Last night in Alaska, the choice of both establishment Republican Karl Rove and the free-market Club for Growth won over a tea-party-backed candidate — but not by much. With that result comes some lessons for the future about Democratic interference in GOP primaries. The race against Democratic senator Mark Begich this fall will be close and very hard fought — and could determine overall control of the Senate.

Former state attorney general Dan Sullivan won 40 percent of the vote to defeat Fairbanks lawyer Joe Miller (32 percent) and Lieutenant. Governor Mead Treadwell (25 percent). The result was much closer than polls had showed, with Miller winning almost twice as high a percentage of the vote as expected. Miller had a similar surge in 2010 when he won a narrow victory over U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski but went on to lose to her as a write-in that fall. Since then he has remained politically active, and won the endorsement of Sarah Palin in this year’s race after he joined her in calling for President Obama’s impeachment.

Miller’s grassroots support gave him a late surge against Sullivan. But one of the biggest drags on the frontrunner was a series of brutal TV ad attacks against him by Put Alaska First, a Democratic super PAC allied with Senator Begich. It spent $4 million in a small state on ads accusing Sullivan of undermining hunting and fishing rights while serving as the state’s natural-resources commissioner. Then late in the campaign, Put Alaska First ran ads highlighting Miller’s pro-life stands along with his support for impeaching Obama.

“Why else would you be telling Republican primary voters that he wants to impeach President Obama?” GOP strategist Taylor Bickford told the Anchorage Daily News, describing Put Alaska First’s strategy as “very clearly trying to move Sullivan and Treadwell votes over to Joe Miller.”

“They’ve essentially couched positive messages in ads that look and feel like attacks,” he said. The tactic is very similar to what allies of Senator Claire McCaskill did in 2012 in Missouri, when they ran ads attacking Representative Todd Akin as an extreme conservative. He wound up winning the GOP primary thanks to conservative votes but his loose tongue and comments on “legitimate rape” quickly cost him the election. Senator Harry Reid’s allies did much the same thing in Nevada in 2012, resulting in the primary victory of Sharron Angle, who then went on to lose to Reid in the general election.

Republicans are going to have to anticipate further attempts by liberals to intervene in their primaries and influence the result. Sullivan himself is unfazed by the effort and promises to beat Begich in November. “The fact that they attacked me so early just showed they feared me the most,” he told reporters.

Poll: Democrats Oppose Obama’s Unilateral Amnesty


A majority of self-identified Democrats oppose President Obama’s expected executive orders to provide administrative relief for illegal immigrants, according to a poll released Wednesday.

“Nearly three quarters of likely voters want Congress and the President to work together to address immigration policy,” Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway found. “This includes majorities of self-identified Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Conservatives, and Moderates, while Liberals are alone in supporting Obama as the executive action Lone Ranger.”

Fifty-six percent of Democrats in the poll said they would prefer Obama to work with Congress rather than act unilaterally; 81 percent of independents and 93 percent of Republicans gave the same answer.

Of the political groups surveyed, only liberals prefer unilateral action, 56 percent to 44.

Conway surveyed 1,001 likely voters between July 16 and 20 and another 1,008 from August 7 to 10.

Overall, just 32 percent of likely voters approve of Obama’s handling of the immigration issue. 

Most pointedly, likely voters were unequivocal in their support of immigration policies that protect the American worker,” Conway wrote (emphasis in the original). “Their sentiment is the inverse of the oft-repeated phrase, ‘illegal immigrants do the jobs that Americans don’t want to do,’ saying instead that these workers should have a fair opportunity to do the jobs that illegal immigrants currently do.”

If Democratic strategists are looking for comfort in the survey, the results suggest that the populism motivating such antipathy to Obama’s immigration policies creates a political opening on the minimum-wage issue.

“‘Raise the pay’” is a rallying call for these voters, who believe there are plenty of Americans to do the work and that better pay and more training is an elixir for labor shortages,” Conway wrote. “Working class voters, married women, and political Independents agree with this in dramatic numbers.” 

MSNBC Reporter: Ferguson ‘Almost Like an Apartheid State’


Pulitzer Prize–winning MSNBC reporter Trymaine Lee, who has been on the ground in Ferguson, Mo., for most of the unrest, said on Tuesday the city’s governmental structure is similar to apartheid. 

Referring to remarks by the town’s mayor that the community didn’t have a racial divide, Lee said, “It’s one thing to say there’s no racial undertone here, but then in practice it’s almost like an apartheid state.”

Making the comments during an appearance on PoliticsNation with Al Sharpton, Lee pointed to the small number of black officers on the city’s police force and the zero black members on the school board in the 70 percent black community. Lee also pointed out that Ferguson’s schools perofrm poorly and that he believes white St. Louis residents blame the community of Ferguson for its own problems.

Via Weasel Zippers.

Tags: Ferguson

Spike Lee: ‘There Is a War on the Black Male’


Filmmaker Spike Lee weighed in on the death of Michael Brown and said the “uprising” in Ferguson, Mo., is in response to years of racial tension and mistreatment towards the black community in the United States. “When people get to a point — to that tipping point — they can’t take it anymore,” Lee said on CNN on Tuesday, listing the tragedies involving Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Rodney King, and others.

While he seemed to disapprove of looting and burning property, Lee also said that he “just hope[s] that things will really blow up if people aren’t happy with the verdict of this upcoming trial.”

The deaths of Brown, Martin, Garner, and others are extreme examples of a growing trend in America, he continued.

“I just think there is a war on the black male, and it’s tearing the country apart, in my opinion,” Lee said. “It’s not just killing us — it’s educational system, it’s the prison system, it’s these young black men growing up with no hope. It’s systematic.”

Earlier in the interview, Lee also questioned the validity of the account of a friend of Officer Darren Wilson, who killed Brown, which was substantially more favorable to the officer than other witnesses’ accounts. Lee said the timing of the friend’s statement was orchestrated and said she’d been reading from a script.

Lee infamously involved himself in the media frenzy surrounding the 2012 Trayvon Martin case, at one point distributing to his hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers what he thought was the address to the house of Martin’s killer. (The address ended up belonging to an elderly Florida couple, who received a series of death threats in the subsequent months.)

Via Breitbart.

Tags: Ferguson

From Ferguson: Armored Trucks at a Car Wash


As daylight fades in Ferguson, police have moved armored vehicles down West Florissant Street and stationed them at a car wash. Police are preventing people from walking in the street but are still allowing them to walk past the car wash where the vehicles are stationed. The car wash is located directly across from the QuikMart, a destroyed convenience store, that has been fenced off and guarded by police.

Tags: Ferguson

Americans Are Taking Less Vacation


My wife just got back from a wedding in England, and while there she chatted up a friend about Americans and vacation. Her friend worked for a few years in London, and recently moved to Boston. He is shocked by how little vacation time Americans have relative to the Brits.

I thought of this while reading a fascinating back-of-the-envelope calculation by Evan Soltas.

Nine million Americans took a week off in July 1976, the peak month each year for summer travel. Yet in July 2014, just seven million did. Keeping in mind that 60 million more Americans have jobs today than in 1976, that adds up to a huge decline in the share of workers taking vacations.

Some rough calculations show, in fact, that about 80 percent of workers once took an annual weeklong vacation — and now, just 56 percent do.

There’s lots more in the whole post, which you can find here.

— Michael R. Strain is a resident scholar in economic policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute. You can write to him on Twitter at

Protesters in Ferguson Are Registering Voters


A man walking down West Florissant Street is carrying water bottles in a wheelbarrow with a sign that reads “Voter Forms and Water.” Elad Gross, president of the Education Exchange Corps, a nonprofit that works with at-risk youth, is soliciting protesters and other residents walking down the road. “The idea is empowerment, but also to make sure that no one passes out today,” he says.

On Sunday, a woman with a clipboard was registering voters in the aisles of a church before a rally led by Al Sharpton.

Tags: Ferguson

SEE: Rick Perry’s Mug Shot


While prominent liberals including ThinkProgress, the New York Times editorial board, Jonathan Chait, David Axelrod, Timothy Noah, and others have all joined in giving a thumbs-down to the indictment of Texas Governor Rick Perry, the Travis County District Attorney’s office seems determined to continue its pursuit of Perry. As a result, Perry turned himself in Tuesday and got photographed. 

The good news is that the 2012 presidential candidate and 2016 hopeful remembered a simple but rarely observed rule for preserving one’s dignity while in the clink: ALWAYS SMILE FOR YOUR MUG SHOT!

Perry, the longest-serving governor in Texas history, has overseen an unusually robust era of prosperity and progress in the Lone Star State, but he has been indicted on abuse of power charges for withholding funds from the Travis County office after District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg refused to resign after video surfaced of her going on a rampage against deputies and being restrained during a drunk-driving arrest. Lehmberg, to put it mildly, does not believe in putting her best face forward while in police custody:

Tags: Rick Perry

CNN Besieged by Ferguson Protesters


More than 1,000 protesters rallied outside of CNN’s Atlanta headquarters on Monday to voice their frustration with the news network’s coverage of the Ferguson, Mo., protests and the killing of Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson, and protest police brutality generally.

Protesters said they took issue with CNN’s “smearing” of Brown, including the network’s airing of footage released by the police of a robbery Brown was allegedly involved in on the day he was killed.

CNN also aired an interview from a friend of Wilson, sharing the officer’s account of the events that led to Brown’s death, which contradicts the accounts of other eyewitnesses. According to the friend, Wilson says Brown tried to grab his gun from him and later “bum-rushed” the officer before he was shot and killed.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that protesters chanted “No justice, no peace” and “I am Mike Brown” throughout the event.

ISIS Beheads American Journalist James Foley


James Foley, an American journalist, was beheaded by the Islamic State recently, according to a video released by the jihadist group. Foley went missing in Syria in 2012. In the video, the Islamic State explains that the killing is in retaliation for American air strikes against the group in Iraq. They also appeared to show another American journalist, Steven Sotloff, on the video, claiming that if American operations continue he will be killed too.

One of the jihadists in the video appears to be a native English speaker and have a British accent — hundreds of holders of Western passports have reportedly joined the group in Iraq and Syria. (The U.S. intelligence community is still trying to verify the video itself.)

Foley in Syria in 2012.

Foley worked for the U.S. military newspaper, Stars and Stripes, in Afghanistan in 2011. When he was reporting from Libya, also in 2011, Foley was held captive by Qaddafi-loyalist militias for 44 days. He later wrote a series for the Global Post about the experience. Clare Gillis, another American journalist covering the Middle East, wrote an essay about her friendship with Foley for Syria Deeply in 2013.

Mo. Lt. Governor Blasts Governor for Mishandling of Ferguson Curfew


Nearly everything Missouri governor Jay Nixon did regarding a curfew in Ferguson was wrong, according to the state’s lieutenant governor.

Peter Kinder, a Republican, said Nixon, a Democrat, not only waited too long after the unrest began to implement the curfew, only to cancel it days later, but he also should have made it from dusk to dawn rather than from midnight to 5 a.m. He argued that dusk-to-dawn curfews are more effective in restoring peace, than are curfews that allow demonstrations to go late into the night, which can lead to rising tensions and misconduct.

“You’ve announced to bad actors that they’ve got four hours of darkness in which they can do their looting, and their throwing of Molotov cocktails, and their storming of convenience stores, and breaking into retail stores before the curfew begins,” Kinder told MSNBC. Nonetheless, he urged Nixon to issue another curfew, even if it’s not necessarily from dusk to dawn.

“I don’t understand an argument for not reinstating it,” Kinder said. “I’m not trying to be overtly political — I am saying the people of Ferguson, the people of the state of Missouri are crying out for leadership.”

Via Breitbart.

Rapper Assumes Taylor Swift’s New Video Must Make Racial Assumptions


A rapper tweeted that he didn’t have to watch Taylor Swift’s new music video to know it was offensive and promoted racial stereotypes — apparently not realizing that making assumptions about her video without watching it could also be considered stereotyping.

“Havent watched the taylor swift video and I don’t need to watch it to tell you that it’s inherently offensive and ultimately harmful,” Earl Sweatshirt tweeted on Monday, the day of the “Shake It Off” video release.

“Perpetuating black stereotypes to the same demographic of white girls who hide their prejudice by proclaiming their love of the culture,” he continued.

“For instance, those of you who are afraid of black people but love that in 2014 it’s ok for you to be trill or twerk or say n***a.”

Swift has been accused of racism by others on Twitter over the use of twerking and other hip-hop dancing in the video.

Some said it is is racist that mainly black dancers perform the hip-hop moves in the video because that is stereotyping. Conversely, others have said it is racist that she performs hip-hop moves in the video because those are “black” moves and she is white.

Tags: race


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