Thursday, March 17, 2016

Will Merrick Garland Be the Next Supreme Court Justice?

Update 3/21: With Illinois GOP Senator Kirk advising that the Senate should "man up" and not only hold hearings but vote on Garland, the Senate Majority Leader doubled down on his obstructionism on Sunday, stating categorically that Garland will not be confirmed, before or after the election.  It used to be that Senators at least pretended they were approving Supreme Court appointees solely on the basis of their judicial qualifications and not for partisan or ideological reasons.  But on Sunday the majority leader actually gave as his reason why Garland would never be a Justice that the National Rifle Association opposes him.

President Obama's appointment of Merrick Garland to fill the Supreme Court vacancy was greeted by the media as a solid, "sensible" and excellent choice, a judge who is more qualified than any in a generation and has had wide bipartisan support before, but an appointment that seems to have little or no chance of succeeding.

That's because the Senate Republican Majority Leader immediately announced there would be no hearings and no vote on this appointment in this Congress.  This is a continuation of what GOPer leadership has been saying since virtually the moment that Justice Scalia's death was announced.

The alternative, some speculated, might be that if a Democrat were elected President in November, and especially if Democrats became the Senate majority again, that a "lame duck" session of Congress (a name for the period between the election and inauguration of a new President) might conceivably vote to approve Garland, partly due to GOPer fear of Hillary appointing a more liberal (and younger) Justice.  However, most concluded, this was still unlikely, and Garland is an extremely well qualified sacrificial lamb.

But on "All Things Considered" Wednesday evening, veteran Supreme Court reporter Nina Totenburg--probably the most respected journalist covering the Court and certainly the one I consider most credible-- said at least twice that Republican leaders have by "back channels" assured the White House that if a Democrat is elected President in November, they will vote to confirm Garland in the lame duck session.

Nobody else I've seen has confirmed this story.  But if it's correct, and if the GOPer leadership is true to its word (and I tend to believe the former before the latter), then Merrick Garland is no "sacrificial lamb" but more probably the next new Justice of the Supreme Court.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Rain Reign

Those of you closely following the narrative of rain on the North Coast must be pining for an update, yes?  Considering how active, extreme--and actively tragic--the weather has been in other parts of the country and the world, this seems a bit self-indulgent but here goes.

The rains have stopped this week, and it's sunny and warmer.  But we did get considerable rain on the North Coast, though here in Arcata it really didn't feel like that much.  Maybe because a lot of it was at night.  It was often localized, though.  Eureka--less than 10 miles away--got rain on days we didn't (until Tuesday, Eureka got it every day in March except one.)  Southern Humboldt also seems to have gotten a lot more from the last couple of storms.

Still, our precip is officially at 6.85 inches for the month that's half over, and the average for all of March is 5.30.  And the news is better for the big reservoirs like Lake Shasta (reaching 79% of capacity) and Lake Oroville (70%,) both higher than this time of year for the past three years.  On March 6, Lake Oroville saw its biggest one day increase in 12 years.  Other reservoirs are also higher than normal, though not at capacity.

Also importantly for the summer, the Sierra snowpack grew, though it is only slightly above average for the date.  But in these drought years, that's very welcome.

Fateful Tuesday, the Day After

The day after Fateful Tuesday--which, most agree, was pretty fateful-- a number of media analysts had at the exit poll data.  The most interesting I saw was Alexander Burns in the New York Times.  His basic conclusion:

"Democrats and Republicans can now confidently predict which candidates will have the most delegates at their conventions in July: Donald J. Trump and Hillary Clinton each hold large and growing delegate leads. It would take an upset of staggering proportions for a rival to pull ahead of either one by the time the primaries end in June.

But the two front-runners are not on equal footing. Mrs. Clinton has assembled a formidable majority coalition within the Democratic Party that has resisted Senator Bernie Sanders’s appeals.

Mr. Trump has achieved something less than that. He has locked down a large plurality of voters on the right, but not enough to guarantee that he will win a majority of Republican convention delegates. And his position appears to be weakening."

Trump is winning, he writes, "but at a terrible price. The intensifying attacks on his personal character and business record, and the scenes of violence at his rallies, appear to be taking a toll, exit polls show. In no state did a majority of Republican primary voters say they believed he was honest and trustworthy. In every state that voted on Tuesday except for Florida, about two in five Republicans said they would consider voting for a third-party candidate over Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton in November."

While the numbers bear out Trump's popularity among working class white men, other figures suggest to Burns that "If Mr. Trump became the nominee, Republicans might risk a large-scale defection by upscale whites who voted willingly for Mitt Romney four years ago."

Hillary Clinton on the other hand has a clearer path to the nomination while Bernie Sanders has almost none.  But analysis by others points to the continuing trend in which Republican turnout is much higher and Democratic turnout much lower (although the big discrepancies in individual states tend to skew the averages.)  Ohio in particular had half the turnout of 2008, and so Clinton's support among unions and the Ohio Democratic party suggest reasons for her surprising margin of victory.

Clinton's sweep, by the way, is not yet official.  Apparently the Missouri vote has not yet been actually certified, and there are uncounted ballots that could change the outcome.  But the state is proportional, and the Sanders campaign said that even if they officially lose, it's unlikely that they would ask for a recount since it wouldn't matter much or even at all in number of delegates.  Update Thurs. p.m.: It's now official: Hillary won Missouri and it's a sweep of 5.

GOPer turmoil over Trump continues, but so does evidence that the party is reaping what it sowed, as New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer reminds us with a trip down Koch Brothers lane.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Deadblogging Fateful Tuesday: Hillary Sweeps, Trump All But Ohio

The winners of the night are Hillary Clinton and secondarily Donald Trump.

Hillary won three states, including the very important Ohio, and lost none in EDT prime time.  She gave a prime time speech which at least one commentator called one of her best.  Either she or Bernie Sanders will get bragging rights when Missouri and Illinois are decided, but they are both so close that each candidate is likely to receive about the same number of delegates from those states.  Which again is a win for Hillary, who is well ahead.

Donald Trump won Florida early, and so it was Goodbye Rubio Tuesday, who could hang a name on you-- when you changed with every new day, still they're gonna miss you. Now he can do what he may well be aching to do--cash in on his brand and get rich.

  But it looked like Trump might miss the rest of prime time until suddenly he was declared the winner in North Carolina and Illinois.  He made a short but rambling speech and reportedly looked tired.  He complained that his day on the golf course with other rich guys was ruined by overhearing ads against him.  Poor guy. Another reason for his working class devotees to get angry.

John Kasich won his home state of Ohio.  His victory speech began with being introduced as the next President of the United States and ended with confetti dropping from the ceiling.  So he got a taste of The Show that most politicians don't, worth all his time away from actually being governor while spending other people's money.  Remember this moment, John.  

Tail Gunner Ted made his usual softly vicious speech, and since he came in second in several states, will reap some delegates, with Missouri still undecided. If Cruz and/or Sanders win Missouri, it will be after the late news.  But that's when St. Louis reports, which is probably good for Hillary and Trump.

 Kasich winning winner-take-all Ohio is pretty good news for Trump, as it means that with Kasich staying in the race, Trump can keep winning in remaining states with 40% but under 50% of the votes cast.   But it's also bad news in that it makes it much more difficult for him to achieve a majority of delegates before the convention.  So it wasn't the best night for him.

Kasich's victory speech and Rubio's concession speech were both interrupted by a Trumpophyte.  Sign of things to come?

Clinton's largest margin of the night is Florida--where the majority of Dem voters were not white.  Bodes well for the general.  While most of the noise is about the working class white male vote, as it was at this point in 2008, it was not decisive in 2008 even in the general, and has declined proportionately since.

  However, if anything about this primary season can be seen as positive, it is the focus by Sanders and awkwardly but apparently with effect by Trump on the working class as victims of income inequality, allegedly from trade policies.  Maybe in the rest of the campaigns we'll get substantive on this.  You know, accidentally.

After midnight....(EDT time anyway) Bragging rights in Illinois go to Hillary. After midnight (everywhere): Margins in both races in Missouri are so thin that the loser can ask for a recount, but the Missouri secretary of state has declared Hillary and Trump as the winners.  For Clinton, it completes a clean sweep.

What's interesting though is that with most of the votes counted in Ohio, how large Hillary's margin is: 57% to 43%.  That's about equal to her margin in North Carolina, long conceded as more friendly to her.  (Her monster win is Florida, which she took by more than 30 points.)  Michigan now looks like a special case.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Meanwhile in the Real World

Meanwhile in the real world (quite literally), the planet Earth had its biggest one- month temperature spike in modern history in February, according to NASA.  This follows the news that there was also an unprecedented spike in CO2 levels in 2015, which does not bode well for future years.  Nor does a study which finds that the planet is likely to get hotter sooner than is conventionally believed.

A National Academy of Sciences report provides strong links between extreme weather outbreaks and the climate crisis.  Another study of climate crisis effects on food production suggests that they could be responsible for half a million deaths by 2050.  Yet another says that more than 13 million Americans living along coastlines will face being displaced by the end of this century because of rising sea levels.

So naturally, the topic of what to do, both to lessen future heating and cope with climate crisis effects that are on their way in the much nearer term, is front and center in the presidential primaries.


It took a Republican mayor in Florida whose city is being regularly flooded begging that the question be at least asked, that the topic even came up at a Republican debate. And all he got was a river in Egypt.  You know, denial. But it hasn't come up much in Dem debates or campaign speeches either.

Others however are thinking out loud about it, and more.  Doctors are beginning to confront the public health challenges ahead.  The Obama Administration is paying out a half billion dollar installment on its pledge to support the global Green Climate Fund to help poorer countries confront the climate crisis.  And so on.

The irony perhaps is that this denialist silence actually makes the whole thing scarier.  It's not happening and nothing can be done about it anyway! is the self-contradictory GOPer position. Those actually confronting the facts and beginning to act have positive evidence of progress.

Like this guy, who got half a million more votes for President than the epic disaster the Supreme Court elected in 2000. Al Gore is confronting the issue that President Obama acknowledges is the primary existential threat of our age.  Gore's recent TED talk is worth the time, not only for its big picture content but as an antidote to the current and tragic political madness.

Another Perishable Post: One Day to Fateful Tuesday

Tomorrow there are primaries in five state. Weekend polls showed Trump far ahead in Florida, and Rubio in third place behind Cruz, who isn't even campaigning there anymore.  So it seems pretty likely that Rubio is toast, and he will suspend his campaign this week.

Those polls show Kasich and Trump are virtually tied in Ohio.  For the final push Mitt Romney is campaigning for Kasich, and John Banal has endorsed him.  My instincts tell me both of those will backfire, and the momentum will return to Trump--and with early voters often going to him, he's still most likely to win this winner take all.

 If Kasich wins Ohio, there's at least a moment of hope for anti-Trump GOPers, however illusory it might turn out to be.  If by dint of a weekend backlash he also wins another state, like Illinois (which according to polls is extremely unlikely), then Kasich actually becomes a factor.

If Kasich loses Ohio, where as Governor he pretty much commands the state Republican infrastructure and the state's voting machinery as he obviously will nowhere else--then he's done.

Meanwhile Cruz needs to win somewhere--Illinois seems his best shot, but Missouri would be more impressive.  Trump's lead in both states has fallen in recent polls.  If Trump loses Missouri, and late deciders went elsewhere, then there's some evidence that this weekend's troubles have hurt him because Missouri has no early voting.  In any case, Cruz may well be the last man standing against Trump when Wednesday rolls around.

With the Democrats, Bernie Sanders has a shot at Illinois, which is possible if a late surge breaks big enough for him (though the incredible polling swing in one week--from Hillary up 46 points to Bernie leading--suggests we don't really know anything) and maybe Missouri, but there I doubt it.  Except for a kerfluffle over Nancy Reagan, Hillary has engendered no new controversy, so her support should hold, and unless there's a big demographic surge of young voters, I feel Missouri voters will be put off by the participation of Sanders partisans in clashes at a couple of Trump events.  Ohio has gotten closer, but a Bernie win there would be regarded as a serious upset.

 In any case, polls show Hillary is way ahead in North Carolina and Florida, more narrowly ahead elsewhere. She's almost certain to come out of Tuesday with more delegates, and she could sweep.

But you know, this is Monday, and who knows what the day will bring.

Mon. p.m.: A detailed piece in the New York Times about the last days of campaigning suggest how demographically driven the Dem race has become.  The Clinton campaign is either trying to lower expectations by signaling that Bernie has the upper hand in three midwestern states, or...that campaign is in more trouble than it should be. Ed Kilgore at New York pretty much agrees with the distinct possibility of Bernie winning all three, though for different reasons in each state.

  Other stories emphasize delegates--that unless Bernie not only wins these states but wins them big, the victories won't cut into Hillary's lead because she's get a large share of the proportional delegates.

In this story I also flag the ad campaign targeting Trump on the basis of his manifold insults to women.  How well this works could be key to Hillary's campaign in the general, if such were to happen.

The story also repeats a quote going around that may be a little out of context but seems accurate that Hillary said of clean energy plans "we're going to put a lot of coal miner and coal companies out of business," which is not only an utterly needless, gratuitous statement (coal companies are clearly doomed, so why crow about it?) it's as tone-deaf and heartless as it seems possible for a politician to make who is running for President.