Mercy Hospital shooting: A domestic dispute, more gun deaths. When will it stop?

Emergency physician Tamara O’Neal, one of the victims of the shooting at Mercy Hospital in Chicago, one of the worst attacks on hospitals in the U.S. in two decades.

It started, as do so many fatal shootings, as a domestic dispute.

A mass shooting at a Chicago hospital ended with four people dead, including the suspected shooter. He confronted his ex-fiancee in a hospital parking lot and shot her, leaving her for dead. He entered the lobby of Chicago’s Mercy Hospital, ready to keep shooting, while frightened staff and patients ran for cover. He shot a police officer responding to the scene and a pharmacy technician who just happened to be on an elevator with doors that opened into the gunman’s line of fire. By the end, the three victims were dead, as was the gunman, although police still aren’t sure if he died from police fire or a self-inflicted gunshot.

We can’t even say that was the latest mass shooting in the U.S., because there were five such incidents yesterday. That we know about.

The Washington Post rounded them up with the headline, “This just tears at the soul: 1 day, 5 cities, 11 killings.” Besides the Chicago shooting:

  • Someone shot into a group of crowd of homeless people in Denver, apparent motive unknown. Five were injured, one fatally.
  • Police found four people dead in a Philadelphia basement in an apparent execution-style slaying.
  • Just outside St. Louis, a gunman burst into a Catholic Supply store, sexually assaulted several women, then fatally shot one woman in the head. He fled the scene and is still at large.
  • Two were killed and a third was injured after a shooting and stabbing at a Boston housing complex. The incident took place just outside a children’s center.

It’s not surprising that people feel numb at news of another day of mass shootings. These incidents come only weeks after the mass shootings at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh and at a nightclub in Thousand Oaks, California. Mass shootings are defined as incidents in which four or more people are shot. So far in 2018, there have been at least 316 mass shootings.

The killings at Mercy Hospital in Chicago paralyzed the city, especially as it saw a young police officer killed along with the emergency physician and pharmacy tech. But more than half of all gunmen (and yes, they are men) who perpetrate mass shooting are also guilty of domestic violence. Some have police records, yet they still have access to firearms, even when they are legally prohibited from owning one. More than half of such shootings are related to domestic or family violence. This was true for so many mass shooters — Business Insider reports that “Nine of the shooters on this list of the top 10 most deadly mass shootings in modern America committed violence against women, threatened violence against women, or disparaged women.”

So when emergency physician Tamara O’Neal was shot and killed outside Mercy Hospital, it wasn’t a surprise that it was by her domestic partner.

As dangerous as domestic violence is for women, it also is lethal for police. The most dangerous kinds of calls police respond to are ones involving domestic violence. The family of Samuel Jimenez, the officer killed when responding to the Mercy Hospital shooting, learned that all too well, as he left behind a wife and three young children. According to a story in USA Today:

In 2017, more officers were shot responding to domestic violence than any other type of firearm-related fatality, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. From 1988 to 2016, 136 officers were killed while responding to domestic disturbances such as family arguments, FBI data show. By comparison, 80 were killed during a drug-related arrest in the same period. …

The pattern of repeated abuse makes domestic violence calls particularly dangerous for officers. A 2008 study by the National Institute of Justice determined that victims of domestic violence are more likely to call the police after repeated assaults have already taken place — which puts police officers in an even more volatile situation when they do respond.

We can’t let ourselves become numb to gun violence. The National Rifle Association started (and lost) a social media skirmish with the nation’s physicians when it told doctors to “stay in their lane” when they called for action on gun reform. Doctors everywhere responded with #ThisIsOurLane when they told personal stories of treating gunshot victims. An editorial in The Annals of Internal Medicine states clearly that treating victims of gun violence is the lane of doctors — one that too many have to navigate daily.

Firearm-related injury in the United States is a public health crisis. …

Doctors have a responsibility as health care professionals and scientists to seek the answers to questions related to health and safety. And we won’t be silenced in using what we learn to better care for our patients. Those who seek to silence progress toward finding solutions to the crisis of firearm-related injury are traveling a lane that leads, literally, to a dead end. We’re going to stay in our lane and keep moving forward.

After Dr. O’Neal’s death, many physicians across the country said, “Enough.” According to a story in The Washington Post, doctors across the country are issuing calls to action, asking their colleagues to speak out and demand laws that will fight gun violence.

A column in The Denver Post summed it up: “None of us should be willing to wait for that catastrophe to force our elected officials to take action on common-sense gun safety like banning high-capacity magazines, requiring universal background checks, banning bump stocks and enacting strong red flag laws to keep guns out of the hands of those who are dangerous.”

When will it stop? How many more victims will it take?

Rising Arctic temperatures trigger new alarms about climate change

The higher Arctic temperatures in this map by NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies will have widespread effects beyond the region.

Higher temperatures during winters in the Arctic are more than just a temporary rise — they’re further signs of the warming of the Earth, and they’ll affect more than just polar bears.

Last year’s temperatures in the Arctic were the warmest on record. “Of nearly three dozen different Arctic weather stations, 15 of them were at least 10F (5.6C) above normal for the winter,” said a story in The Guardian. The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet.

When we experience heat waves in the summer (no matter where we are in the world), the consequences of the high temperatures are often immediately obvious: drought, multiple health issues, higher death tolls from heatstroke, more severe wildfires, and crop failures, just to name a few.

When temperatures are abnormally high in the Arctic, the general population in the rest of the world doesn’t notice the effects immediately. The higher temperatures can have an immediate devastating effect on local inhabitants and the wildlife in the area, but they will hit us all in the long run.

The rest of the world will feel the consequences of warmer winters in the Arctic soon enough. Some of those consequences will be rising sea levels from melting glaciers and ice caps, which could be catastrophic for the millions of people living in low-lying areas, especially in Asia; increased release of trapped carbon dioxide and methane gas into the atmosphere as permafrost thaws; less salinity in seawater, causing a change in ocean currents; changes in precipitation patterns; and greater likelihood of extreme weather throughout the Northern hemisphere.

“The Arctic is warming faster than any other region on Earth, and the world is already feeling the effects,” explains a website from the World Wildlife Federation on how climate change affects the Arctic.

Among the species affected by warming Arctic temperatures, many of which depend on Arctic Ocean sea ice cover to survive: polar bears, which could face starvation and reproduction problems by the year 2100, as thinning sea ice isn’t strong enough to sustain their weight; walruses, which are forced to come ashore and can’t find food; caribou, which have less lichen to feed on; and many species of birds, whose migratory patterns are being disrupted and, in the case of Arctic sea birds, whose natural habitat is diminishing. As the seas grow warmer, fish are moving north, which poses a risk for commercial and subsistence fishing.

What about the species Homo sapiens? As air over the Arctic warms up, it pushes frigid air south, and we all feel it in extreme weather. As the World Economic Forum put it in a report:

The really bad news is that scientists have recently linked rapid Arctic warming to extreme weather farther south. Be it frigid cold spells, prolonged floods, persistent warmth, or long dry spells, it’s the persistence of weather patterns that is the connection.

We all know why this is happening. The lack of concrete steps to fight climate change, lessen the reliance on fossil fuels, and promote renewable energy is causing an increase in greenhouse gas emissions, with a projected global increase in temperature. The recent report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns of the need to limit the rise in global temperatures by 2030, or it will be too late. The report by the World Economic Forum gives a more urgent deadline: “There’s really only one treatment to cut our carbon emissions any way we can do it. We need to bend the emissions curve by 2020.”

The average daily temperature in most parts of the Arctic from December through March historically is -20 degrees F, with the usual coldest temperatures occurring in February. So scientists were alarmed when last February’s temperatures reached 45 degrees above normal at one point. The Bering Sea in Alaska lost one-third of its ice in just eight days.

The problem is, these abnormally high temperatures are not a one-year occurrence and have been happening more frequently. In November 2016, for instance, the temperature at the North Pole was 36 degrees above normal. This is going beyond being just a weather anomaly.

Climate scientists worldwide said they have been “stunned” by the abnormal temperatures. According to a story from Live Science:

Weather conditions that drive this bizarre temperature surge have visited the Arctic before, typically appearing about once in a decade, experts told Live Science. However, the last such spike in Arctic winter warmth took place in February 2016 — much more recently than a decade ago, according to the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL) at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). And climbing Arctic temperatures combined with rapid sea-ice loss are creating a new type of climate feedback loop that could accelerate Arctic warming, melting all summer Arctic sea ice decades earlier than scientists once thought.

story last February in Inside Climate News explained it this way:

The Arctic is often referred to as the world’s refrigerator—cool temperatures there help moderate the globe’s weather patterns. This winter, which has seen deep freezes at lower latitudes while temperatures have soared in the North, it seems like the refrigerator may have come unplugged.

The last two years were the Arctic’s warmest on record as the region continued to warm at about twice the global average. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration noted in its annual Arctic Report Card in December that Arctic sea ice has been declining this century at rates not seen in at least 1,500 years.

Winter in the Arctic is just getting started. The weather forecast for the next week included a low of -4 degrees F and highs in the 40s. The weather pattern is being described as a period of “unusual warmth,” with measures of sea ice being the third lowest on record.

Looks like it could be another long, warm winter for the Arctic — one that could be way too warm. And we’ll all end up paying the price.

Originally posted on Daily Kos on Nov. 11, 2018.

Lessons from the midterms: Count every vote

Election season lasts a long time. Why not wait a little longer until all the votes are in?

Republicans seem to have come up with a new strategy to win elections when gerrymandering and voter suppression aren’t doing the trick — just don’t count all of the votes. We’re seeing some of these arguments play out in Florida, Georgia, and Arizona.

Americans are impatient to a fault. On any given Election Day, we want to know the results almost as soon as the polls are closed. And many news organizations fulfill that urge, giving projected winners in some states almost immediately.

Many of those projections are based on exit polling, and in many cases, those projections hold up. For instance, in the midterm elections on Nov. 6, every news organization was justified in reporting that Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren had won reelection just moments after the polls closed, and that expected result came true. After all, she had been given a higher than 99 percent chance of reelection by FiveThirtyEight.com. On the evening of the election, with 88 percent of the votes counted, public radio station WBUR reported that she had won 61 percent of the vote — an insurmountable lead.

Note that there was only 88 percent of the vote counted. While the outcome of that particular contest wasn’t in doubt, the outcomes of other races around the country where votes are still being counted are in doubt.

Many Americans vote by visiting their polling places on Election Day. As states change voting practices, more and more voters are voting early, voting absentee, voting by mail, and voting by dropping off their ballots in secure vote collection boxes. All of those methods make it much more convenient for voters to cast ballots and increase the percentage of people taking part in elections. They don’t have to wait in line for hours, as many voters did in Georgia this year. The downside is that all of those voting methods add to the time it takes officials to count votes.

To which we should say, so what? What’s the rush? The new Congress isn’t sworn in until January, and state officials don’t take office until then, either. It’s more important to get it right than to get it quickly.

Three states — Washington, Colorado, and Oregon — do all of their voting by mail. Many states have expanded their use of absentee ballots. As long as a mailed-in ballot is postmarked on Election Day, it counts. But those mailed-in ballots must be gathered and tabulated — a process that can take weeks. Voters in states with a lot of voting by mail are used to the process and know that tight races won’t be decided right away.

Three days after Election Day, CNN reported that 10 House races, most of them in California, which also has a lot of mailed-in ballots; two Senate races; and two gubernatorial races are still up in the air. A Senate seat and the governor’s race in Florida are headed for a likely recount, and the governor’s race in Georgia is still not settled.

But many of the Republicans in these races want to be declared the winners — now. If officials are still counting votes, they claim, it must be voter fraud, which only exists in the mind of the GOP.

Part of the trouble is how the two parties’ voters are distributed. As Josh Marshall writes at Talking Points Memo:

Democrats are concentrated in large urban counties. Almost everywhere in the country, these counties take longer to count the vote than more sparsely populated exurban and rural areas. That’s hardly surprising. It’s not new. We’re seeing it in Arizona and Florida. In fact, we’re seeing it across the country. It’s just that those are states with Senate and governors races that remain undecided. If you stop counting the votes before the blue regions are done counting, that obviously helps the Republican candidates quite a lot. That’s exactly what Rick Scott is trying to do as of last night, just much more openly and brazenly than even Republican candidates have done in the past.

Rick Scott, the outgoing governor and would-be senator, and his allies are declaring the election over. Donald Trump is on one of his tweet-rampages about election “fraud,” claiming that Democratic election officials must be “creating” votes. Scott’s campaign is even suing officials in two Florida counties, arguing that “unethical liberals” are trying to steal the election.

No, they’re counting ballots.

Absentee ballots get checked against voter lists by hand, which is time-consuming. The trouble is, disproportionate number of votes cast by younger and minority voters get rejected, according to a report by the ACLU and Dr. Daniel Smith, chair of the Department of Political Science at the University of Florida and President of ElectionSmith. Smith is one of the nation’s leading experts on voting and election administration.

“By contrasting the rates of rejected VBM [vote by mail] ballots in the 2012 and 2016 Presidential election, we found that younger and racial and ethnic minority voters casting VBM ballots were at least twice as likely as older and white voters to have their VBM ballot rejected,” stated Dr. Daniel Smith. “With this revealing information, we need to work towards ensuring all Florida voters’ ballots are counted regardless of the method they choose to vote.”

Needless to say, younger and minority voters tend to vote for Democrats more. Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson has filed a lawsuit of his own, challenging the state’s “signature match” law.

The state of Georgia became Ground Zero in voter suppression this year, with gubernatorial GOP candidate Brian Kemp also in charge of elections in his role as secretary of state. During his time in office, he has purged some 1 million voters from the rolls, mostly by enforcing a “use-it-or-lose-it” law for voters who hadn’t cast a ballot recently. He also rejected 53,000 voter applications because of the state’s “exact-match” law, in which an application can be rejected for any difference between the name on the application and a name on a government data base, even if that difference is as small as a hyphen. In addition, there are still thousands of uncounted provisional ballots all over the state, which Kemp doesn’t want counted. His opponent, Democrat Stacey Abrams, obviously does, and a federal judge has ordered that the tally of statewide provisional ballots be disclosed, mainly to see how that total compares with previous elections. Even though Kemp leads and has declared himself the winner, there could be a runoff election if the vote totals change and Kemp’s lead drops below 50 percent.

In Arizona on Election Night, it looked like Republican Martha McSally was winning over Democrat Krysten Sinema. But since three-quarters of Arizonans vote by mail, much of the vote was still outstanding. Several days later, the lead has flipped, Sinema is in the lead, and there were still half a million votes to be counted in the state. Republicans figured that their only hope to squeak out a McSally win was to file a lawsuit asking that the outstanding votes not be counted. UPDATE: Now state Democrats and Republicans have agreed on a strategy that could help both candidates: Voters whose signatures on absentee ballots caused those ballots to be flagged will have a chance to “cure,” or verify, those votes up to five days after Election Day. That will hold true in both urban and rural areas of Arizona.

When we hear news of elections in other countries, the news reports usually say that “we might not know the results for a few days.” The population doesn’t freak out — they just wait.

It’s time that Americans — and especially GOP candidates — learned to wait as well. Count every vote.

#Midterms2018: Women are ready to win the fight

Millions of women woke up after the 2016 election, and they’re not going back to sleep again any time soon.

Ever since November 2016, women in this country have learned what it really means to be resilient.

That resiliency started with multiple protests post-election, with large crowds chanting that “Love Trumps Hate.” It came to a crescendo with two Women’s Marches a year apart, both numbering several million participants in cities and towns, large and small, across the country and around the world. Besides the anger against Donald Trump and the thousands of pink pussy hats (not to mention the truly excellent signs), the focus of all of those marches was threefold:

  • Register to vote.
  • Run for office.
  • Vote.

Most important, all of that resiliency ratcheted up the political involvement of women across the country as they realized that they, too, had a choice to make to involve themselves in the political process. Resiliency, it turns out, is contagious.

After Hillary Clinton’s loss in 2016, many of us worked through the five stages of grief. There was initial denial (this can’t be happening), anger (are you KIDDING me?), bargaining (I’ll trade a loss for a Senate seat if it means a Clinton win), depression (oh, was there a lot of depression) and acceptance (my God, this lying, pussy-grabbing Orange Menace is actually going to be president).

But there’s a sixth stage that we’ve reached, and we reached it quickly. It’s the stage of picking yourself up and bouncing back, stronger than ever.

How do we know women have bounced back? In 2016, the political action committee Emily’s List attracted interest from 920 women who considered running for office. In the two years since, the number of women who contacted the organization, which helps to elect pro-choice Democratic women, kept growing and growing. Emily’s List now reports that the grand total of interested women candidates for this election cycle has skyrocketed to an eye-popping 42,000. Out of that total, over 5,000 women received training on running for office.

Not all of them ended up on a ballot, and some of them ran against each other. They ran at all levels, from school boards to library boards to state offices (both for legislatures and for governors’ mansions), and for the House and Senate.

There is a record number of women running for state and federal office. In total, there are 235 women running for the House and 22 for the Senate. Of those, 182 House candidates are Democratic women and 15 Senate candidates are Democratic women. There also are 12 Democratic women candidates for governor. In addition to the marquee national races, Emily’s List endorsed 500 women running for state and local offices.

Besides this election, Emily’s List is concentrating on Focus 2020, which aims to shift state legislatures and governorships to Democrats to make drawing up new congressional districts fairer in 2021. A good head start on that is the 43 state legislative seats that already flipped from red to blue since Trump took office.

Even the women who chose not to run for office got involved in multiple ways. They became part of the resistance. They joined Indivisible chapters all across the country. They swelled the ranks of Moms Demand Action groups in communities across the U.S. to fight for common-sense gun legislation. They have become more politically active, volunteering for campaigns, attending town halls, and calling and writing their representatives. The movement is being described as the pink resistance, or the pink wave. As Jennifer Rubin wrote in The Washington Post: “I suspect that 2018 will be the first election, but certainly not the last, in which brigades of women, spurred by righteous anger, play a role far weightier than their numbers would suggest.”

Not all of the women candidates are going to win. Some are facing uphill fights in red districts in red states. We won’t know the results of this election until all the votes are counted, which, in the case of some tight House races in California, could take a few weeks, after all of the mailed-in ballots are received. With so many close races, it’s possible that too many Democrats could end up in the just-missed-it category. There are many wonderful Democratic candidates who will fall short and whose campaign supporters will end up deeply disappointed. And Democratic candidates and voters face more entrenched voter suppression tactics than ever before.

But many signs point to sweet, satisfying victories. Traditionally, more women than men turn out to vote, and the voting gender gap between men and women could be record-breaking, all to Democrats’ favor. Democratic turnout was way up in this year’s primaries. Donations to Democratic candidates also reached new highs, many from a record-high number of women donors.

The huge early voting numbers show the expected greater numbers of women voters and older voters, but, compared with 2014, they also show a nearly 500 percent increase in the number of young voters (granted, their 2014 turnout was dismal), a 165 percent hike in the number of African-American voters, and a nearly 600 percent increase in the number of Latinx voters.

The blog Margaret and Helen (everyone’s favorite octogenarians) is written by two feisty women in their 80s who have been “best friends for 60 years and counting.” After the 2016 election, they issued a call to arms that rings just as true today as it did in November 2016:

They say Trump woke a sleeping giant, but maybe that giant didn’t wake up before the election. Maybe it woke after the election when we all finally realized that everything we hold true and dear about this nation can indeed be taken away. Maybe, just maybe, the sleeping giant is actually the millions who trusted in hope and love instead of those who walked into a polling booth and secretly voted for hate and fear. …

Whomever we are and whatever color we are, and whatever age we are, and whatever gender we are, and whatever sexual preference, religious belief, city or town, church, mosque or synagogue … we are awake now. And this is our country.

We are battle worn but not battle weary. Someone has to watch that skunk Trump and keep him in line. And someone has to watch the Republican powerhouse and make sure they don’t overreach. Our elected Dems need us now more than ever.

My favorite ad of this election cycle (and there have been many terrific ones) is “Women Rising,” a kick-ass video of eight Democratic women running for the House in six states. They are military veterans who served in combat. They flew fighter jets. They commanded troops. They worked for the CIA. They worked in the White House.

Let’s not wake up disappointed Wednesday morning. Let’s get this done.

The heroes fighting voter suppression

Everyone deserves a chance to vote. Period.

When the voting deck is stacked against Democrats, it’s time to fight back.

I’m not talking about bringing in high-profile speakers like President Obama to rally the base at candidate rallies, although that certainly helps. I’m talking about taking concrete actions to help people whose votes are being suppressed or voters whose access to the polls is being severely limited.

Donald Trump and Republicans keep harping on the “problem” of non-existent voter fraud. It’s the scare tactic the GOP keeps using to make it harder to cast a ballot. Voter suppression can mean the difference between victory and defeat. It’s why the Georgia Republican candidate for governor, Brian Kemp (also coincidentally the guy in charge of voting rules as secretary of state) is frightened of Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams’ voter turnout operation, “especially if everybody uses and exercises their right to vote,” as he was recorded saying at a fundraiser.

There are groups across the country going above and beyond the usual efforts to challenge voter suppression in the courts, to help voters get the needed IDs, and to aid voters in actually getting to the polls on Election Day. Many groups have always helped in those efforts, but as Republican-controlled legislatures pass more draconian voter-ID laws, voter suppression efforts, and voter access hardships, more and more have stepped up to try to ensure that every voter has a chance to have his or her voice heard. These are just a few of those efforts.

Let’s call them the voting heroes.

A new report by three political scientists from Northern Illinois University, Jacksonville University, and China’s Wuhan University studied factors about ease of voting in each state and how those factors affected voter turnout. They created a “Cost of Voting Index,” or the time and effort it takes to vote, which takes into account 33 different variables dealing with registration and voting laws. The study is published in the September issue of the Election Law Journal.

Differences in registration deadlines carried the most weight in developing the index. For the most part (but not universally true), it was easiest to vote in states led by Democrats, and hardest to vote in states led by Republicans.

Oregon led the pack for ease of voting with its automatic voter registration and its ballots that are mailed to every voter. The state with the most barriers to voting is Mississippi, with required ID, no early voting, and no “no-excuse” absentee voting.

The higher the Cost of Voting Index, the lower the voter turnout, and much depends on laws designed to suppress voting. As a story on the study in The Washington Post pointed out:

What sort of effect do these laws have on voter turnout? Some quick calculations suggest that the effect is potentially quite large: The five most restrictive states had turnouts in 2016 that were, on average, nearly nine percentage points lower than turnout in the five easiest states to vote in. …

Those findings strongly suggest that high turnout in some states is at least partly a direct consequence of choices made by policymakers to expand access to the ballot box. The converse would also be true: The low turnout rates seen in places like Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas are in part a result of lawmakers’ deliberate efforts to make voting harder.

Let’s look at a few examples of voter suppression and the voting heroes who are fighting back.

Fighting for Native Americans’ right to vote in North Dakota. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to overturn a state law requiring all voters to have IDs with street addresses, causing disenfranchisement for many living on the state’s five tribal reservations — over five percent of the state’s voters — who have only P.O. box numbers. “Roughly 35 percent of that population doesn’t have an acceptable ID with a residential address,” said a story by ABC News. Four Directions, a Native American voting rights advocacy group, has worked out a plan so that Native American voters can get a letter on tribal letterhead that will serve as an ID with an address. Whether that’s acceptable to GOP officials in the state remains to be seen, but many tribal leaders say this voter suppression is motivating Native American voters in North Dakota to show up at the polls. “It’s real simple,” OJ Semans, Four Directions’ executive director, told ABC. “At the end, you tell them — Standing Rock will vote. Spirit Lake will vote. Turtle Mountain will vote. Sisseton-Wahpeton will vote. All of the tribes are united in ensuring that our tribal members are able to participate in this democratic process.”

Fighting back in Georgia. Things are not peachy for voters in the Peach State. The aforementioned Brian Kemp and his GOP allies are trying to suppress votes on multiple fronts, and several groups are finding ways to fight back:

  • Kemp has blocked 53,000 new voter registrations from being processed, calling them “pending.” Kemp cites the “exact match” requirement, passed by the GOP Legislature in 2017, in which a signature, a hyphen in a name, or a typo is enough to stop a registration from being processed. It’s also no coincidence that 70 percent of those “pending” registrations are for African-Americans. A coalition of voting advocacy groups, including the Campaign Legal Center and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, has filed a lawsuit. A spate of negative publicity forced Kemp to tweet that those 53,000 voters could still vote, and several media reports are telling voters to show up at the polls and bring ID to prove who they are. They can still cast a regular — not provisional — ballot. “Voters who prove ‘substantial match’ between their voter registration and ID can cast normal ballots, not provisional,” according to a story in Atlanta Magazine.
  • Besides the new voter registrations, Georgia election officials also were rejecting absentee ballots based on the “exact match” requirement, an action challenged by several groups, including the ACLU. A federal judge has now blocked the state from throwing out those absentee ballots, issuing a temporary restraining order allowing those voters to confirm their identity by the “substantial match” standard. Georgia officials announced plans to appeal.
  • The NAACP filed complaints alleging that some old voting machines in two Georgia counties were changing votes that were cast for Abrams into votes for Kemp.
  • Officials in Jefferson County, Georgia, ordered black voters off a bus taking the senior citizens to an early voting site. The county officials gave a series of contradictory excuses for their actions. Candidate Stacey Abrams joined them for a voting rally, and several of the voters went to the polls on their own. And the action proved to be nothing but bad publicity: The voting advocacy group Black Voters Matter reports that most of the seniors removed from the bus have now voted.
  • Kemp (again!) and voting officials recently erased the voter registrations of over 100,000 voters just because they hadn’t voted in recent elections, the result of a “use it or lose it” voting law. This is on top of a purge of half a million voters in 2017. Voter action groups responded by reminding people to check and re-check their voting status, and re-register if necessary.

Suing officials for purging voters. At least nine states, most under GOP control, now have “use it or lose it” voting laws. A story from American Public Media Reports says states “have purged an estimated hundreds of thousands of people from the rolls for infrequent voting since the 2014 general election. States with these policies are removing voters at some of the highest rates in the nation, no matter the reason.” Infrequent voters, the story adds, tend to be younger, poorer, and people of color who are more likely to favor Democrats. A report from the Center for Media and Democracy estimates that as many as 700,000 voters may have been purged in Wisconsin alone since 2016. There have been multiple suits challenging such laws — most famously in Ohio — but the Supreme Court ruled that the laws were not illegal. It will take a change in the makeup of state legislatures to reverse those laws.

Fighting cuts to access to polls. There are way too many stories of GOP state officials conveniently (for them) closing polling places or limiting early voting in areas more likely to vote Democratic. These areas include college campuses, urban areas, and areas with higher concentrations of minority voters.

Here’s one example: In Texas, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund sued Waller County for limiting early voting opportunities for students at Prairie View A&M University, a historically black college. The students have only five days of early voting, with no voting on evenings or weekends. Even though there are more students at Prairie View A&M than there are white residents of the city of Waller, Texas, Waller has early voting for two weeks, plus evening and weekend voting hours.

Will the suit do any good? Well, it is Texas, and the U.S. Supreme Court already has shown it has no interest in helping voters in underserved areas. But you’ll never get anywhere without a fight.

Free rides to the polls. For weeks, the ride-sharing service Lyft has shared the message through social media that it will offer free rides to the polls for voters who otherwise would have trouble getting to their voting stations. It teamed up with Voto Latino, the Urban League, and the National Federation of the Blind to offer free rides on Nov. 6, and worked with Vote.org, Nonprofit Vote, and TurboVote to offer half-off coupons. Not to be outdone, the ride-sharing service Uber joined the free-ride train. Uber has partnered with Democracy Works and #VoteTogether to share that message through social media.

Uber and Lyft could get big usage on Election Day. Pew Research data from 2015 reported that only 15 percent of Americans used ride-sharing. But lest anyone thinks Uber and Lyft are used only by the wealthy, millennials, or those in urban areas, estimates of who uses ride-sharing services (tracked by credit card usage) is now as high as 43 percent of Americans.

One of those places where the offer will come in very handy is in Dodge City, Kansas. There, the idea of making it ridiculously hard for voters to get to the polls went to a whole new level.

For years, Dodge City, a city of 27,000 residents that is now majority Latinx, had only one polling site. Now it doesn’t even have that. The polling place has been moved outside city limits and is more than a mile from the nearest bus stop. It’s no coincidence that Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who is running for governor in a tight race with Democratic state Sen. Laura Kelly, is conveniently in charge of voting in the state.

Lyft and Voto Latino to the rescue. And there’s a donation link to help the effort.

The most insidious effect of voter suppression is to discourage voters from coming to the polls for fear that the effort won’t be worth it. Despite the advances in voting by several states, such as online registration, automatic registration, and mailed-in and dropped-off ballots, there remains the practice of erecting voting hurdles for those who are seen as likely to vote for Democrats. As legal scholar and campaign law expert Richard L. Hasen wrote in Slate:

These laws are always unacceptable, whether or not they swing elections. If the state is going to put a hurdle in front of voters who wish to cast a ballot, it should offer a good reason for doing so. Thanks to the Supreme Court, the states are not really even trying to offer those reasons anymore.

It’s outrageous, and it deserves everyone’s condemnation. It takes resources away from campaigning and get-out-the-vote efforts. It undermines the equality and dignity of each voter.

One day, maybe we won’t have two Americas, but a single America, where every eligible voter will be able to easily register and cast a ballot that will be fairly and accurately counted. One might have expected we would have had that by 2018.

We must keep fighting and — above all else — keep voting.

Originally posted on Daily Kos on Oct. 28, 2018.

Coal is dying, and Trump knows it


West Virginia coal miners listened intently at a Donald Trump rally in August. By September, Trump wasn’t talking about bailing out coal anymore.

Of all the empty promises Donald Trump made on the campaign trail in 2016, perhaps the cruelest one was the vow he made to coal miners that the coal mining industry would come roaring back.

It hasn’t. And it never will.

In the first year of the Trump presidency, the administration announced with much fanfare that it would develop plans to prop up and subsidize both the coal and the nuclear industries. That was supposed to be a project run by Energy Secretary Rick Perry, who proposed several plans over the last year to force power companies to keep coal plants running, all in the name of national security.

But none of the bailout plans went anywhere, and it seems that the administration has thrown in the coal-stained towel (at least for now) in the move to subsidize the failing industry. The main concern was who would pay for the multibillion-dollar bailouts.

On top of that, electricity generated from coal-powered plants has hit a 35-year low. Coal company bankruptcies in states such as West Virginia and Colorado also are increasing. The main thing keeping the industry going right now is coal exports that go overseas to make steel, not to produce energy at home.

Using less coal is good news for the environment, as coal is one of the dirtiest sources of energy. “Coal generates the most CO2 emissions of any fossil fuel and yet remains the world’s dominant energy source,” according to the World Resources Institute, mainly because so much coal is still burned in China.

But it’s bad news for people hoping for jobs in the industry, especially the miners who lined up behind Trump in droves in places like West Virginia.

At an August campaign rally in the state, Trump touted his vague coal industry plan to a friendly audience. He bragged that he had a “military plan” to save coal. One month later, those claims seem to have disappeared. According to a story in the Washington Examiner:

“We are working now on a military plan that’s going to be something very special” for coal, Trump said while addressing a rally in August.

But when he arrived in West Virginia last weekend, there was no reference to anything close to a military plan. He instead made references to supporting transmission lines and coal exports.

The Examiner story also pointed out that “The White House has also been struggling with the legal justification for the plan, as well as questioning whether there is a real need for the plan to make the grid more resilient.”

In 2016, Hillary Clinton got hammered over and over again for a quote she made during the presidential campaign—always taken out of context—that “We’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.” Trump and Republicans turned the quote into Clinton’s “war on coal” and, by extension, coal miners. It became known as the best-known “gaffe” of her campaign, and it turned many voters in coal country against her. Trump went on to win West Virginia and its five electoral votes with 68.5 percent of the vote—the highest vote share in any state.

What Clinton meant, of course, was that coal is a dying industry, and that the country needed to invest in new jobs involving clean and renewable energy for those out-of-work coal miners. Never mind the fact that her campaign proposed a $30 billion plan to help coal miners and their communities. The message was baked in; she was against coal, and Trump would be its champion.

Too bad that reality shows a different set of facts.

Employment in coal mining has been going down steadily for years. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that, over the last 10 years, the industry has gone from slightly over 80,000 coal industry jobs nationwide in 2008 to slightly over 50,000 jobs now. There was a tiny uptick of 1,000 or so new jobs after Trump’s election, but that’s essentially leveled off.

Of course, that didn’t stop Trump and former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt from claiming that there had been “50,000 jobs” added in coal—statements rated false by Politifact, even if there’s some quibbling about what exactly constitutes a job in the coal industry.

Trump’s so-called military plan for coal never went anywhere because there was nowhere for it to go. It was opposed by groups such as the Heritage Foundation and the Electric Power Supply Association, and Perry’s proposals were rejected unanimously by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. There also has been pushback from Trump’s own advisers on the National Security Council and National Economic Council, as the bailouts would cost billions. Also objecting were the oil and natural gas industries. According to a story from Politico:

Perry’s proposals — which would also keep aging nuclear power plants operating — have riled up the oil and gas industry, which has prospered as inexpensive natural gas has increasingly eaten away at coal’s share of U.S. power markets. Other critics include consumer groups worried about rising power bills for customers, environmental organizations concerned about the threat to wind and solar power, and conservative policy organizations that oppose what they see as heavy-handed federal intervention in the economy.

Leave it to the Trump administration to bail on a bailout policy not because it would further poison the environment, but because conservative groups didn’t like it.

Coal is just not competitive any more. According to a story from Reuters:

Most coal-fired power plants still in operation were commissioned in the 1970s and 1980s, when surging oil prices caused a shift from oil-fired to coal-fired generation.

Most are now 35-50 years old and as a result of corrosion and fatigue require expensive replacements of steam generators and other large pieces of equipment. …

Coal-fired power plants have been losing market share for 30 years, with their share of total generation falling from a peak of 57 percent in 1988 to just 30 percent in 2017.

Coal is losing market share to natural gas and to renewable sources such as solar, wind, hydropower, biomass, and geothermal. Fossil fuels still make up about two-thirds of all electricity generation in the U.S., but the renewable share has been growing and made up 17.6 percent of all electricity production in 2017 (the rest is in nuclear). Renewable energy is now the fastest-growing source of electricity production in the U.S.

And what about all of the coal miners waiting for a mining miracle? Unfortunately for them, they’ve rejected numerous attempts at job retraining, instead putting their faith in Trump’s shallow promises. The reality is that the Appalachian coal mining region “has lost about 33,500 mining jobs since 2011,” according to another Reuters story.

Maybe they can feed their families by reselling their MAGA hats on eBay.

Originally posted on Daily Kos on Oct. 21, 2018.

2018 voting gender gap is becoming an abyss

A sign from the January 2018 Women’s March in Chicago. When millions upon millions of women turned out to protest nationwide, you know there’s gonna be a whole lotta voting going on come November 6.

The figures are stunning, but they’re really not surprising. The energy of women voters to turn out in this year’s midterm elections has been building since November of 2016.

There have now been a few polls conducted after the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court — a move that was supposed to make Republican voters more enthusiastic about voting — and the upshot is that more and more women are moving further and further away from the GOP.

A CNN poll showed that a whopping 63 percent of women are likely to support a Democrat over a Republican (33 percent of women respondents). The entire poll gives Democrats a 13-point edge in the generic ballot, 54 percent to 41 percent. Overall, men who were polled still favored Republicans, but by a smaller margin: 50 percent to 45 percent.

That’s a 35-point gender gap, even larger than ones seen earlier this summer, when FiveThirtyEight predicted a possible record-breaking gender gap in the midterm elections. At that time, the compilation of polls showed gender gaps in the range of 20 to 25 points. While that would be historic on its own, a 35-point gap is unheard of.

Why might it actually happen? There’s also an enthusiasm gap between men and women voters, small but reversed from the normal voting pattern, according to the same CNN poll:

Women are not significantly more enthusiastic to vote than men: 57% are extremely or very enthusiastic compared to 53% of men. This is, however, a shift from what we usually see in a midterm election year. In 2010 at this point, 46% of women voters were enthusiastic about voting in the midterm election vs. 54% of men. In 2014, a very low turnout year, 32% of men were enthusiastic compared to 28% of women. …

If women were to vote as the likely voter number suggests, it would be Democrats strongest performance in the House race in the history of modern exit polling (back to 1976). The previous record for women voting Democratic was in 1982, when Democrats got the nod of 58% of women voters.

A Politico/Morning Consult poll showed the biggest gender gap when it comes to voter motivation: 57 percent of women are “very motivated” to vote, while only 32 percent of men are “very motivated.” Even combining the “very motivated” and “somewhat motivated” numbers, women voters still beat men: A total of 81 percent of women are motivated compared with 71 percent of men.

Enthusiastic women voters? Check. A record number of women candidates, the vast majority of them Democrats? Check. A higher percentage of women donating money in record amounts to women and Democratic candidates? Check again. And the most important check mark of all: More women than men turn out to vote.

Recent data from Pew Research reported by Vox show that the younger the woman, the more likely she is to vote for a Democrat. Women 50 and older favored Democrats over Republicans 48 to 45 percent; women 35 to 49 chose a Democrat over a Republican 52 to 36 percent, and women 18 to 34 chose a Democrat 68 to 24 percent. For men, those figures showed the opposite: men 50 and older, 48 percent Republican to 43 percent Democratic; men 35 to 49, 50 percent GOP to 39 percent Democratic; and men 18 to 34, 50 GOP to 47 percent Democratic.

(Seriously, GenX men — 50 percent Republican to 39 percent Democratic? What the hell is wrong with you?)

A Politico Magazine analysis by E.J. Graff, managing editor of The Monkey Cage at The Washington Post and a senior fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University, posed the question of whether Donald Trump was permanently moving women away from the GOP. Maybe it’s not permanent, but it could last a long time.

An earlier Politico/Morning Consult poll reported that Republican women — 84 percent of them! — still strongly back Trump. The GOP’s problem is that the number of Republican women is dropping. As the Politico story pointed out:

Fewer and fewer American women identify as Republicans, and that slow migration is speeding up under Trump. My conversations with pollsters, political scientists and a number of women across the country who have recently rejected their lifelong Republicans identities suggested the same — and illuminate why this moment in American politics might prove a breaking point for women in the GOP. According to pollsters on both sides of the aisle, that doesn’t bode well for the Republican Party either in this fall’s midterms — which are likely to bring a record gap between how men and women vote — or for the party’s long-term future.

So where are these women going? Some are identifying as Democrats, and some are identifying as independents, but they’re definitely shifting away from the GOP, even if it’s not forever. As Politico quoted Democratic pollster Anna Greenberg, Trump’s election put this gender shift “on steroids.” But it’s not just Trump, as Graff pointed out:

Trump alone didn’t push these women to shed their Republican labels; other GOP politicians’ unquestioning support for Trump did that. Several told me they were angry that an all-Republican government has become the party of fiscal waste, deficits, trade wars and rebates for the wealthy. … “The Republican Party to me seems like it’s being run by white, upper-class or wealthy businessmen who aren’t paying attention to the rest of us.”

There are plenty of things to add to that list, of course, such as kidnapping immigrant children and keeping them separated from their parents, tolerating wasteful spending and high-flying travel by Trump Cabinet members, ignoring the peril of climate change and embracing new policies that will make the global climate much worse, and railroading white and male ultra-conservative judges onto the federal bench. Just to name a few.

Trump loves to falsely brag that he got “52 percent of the women’s vote” in 2016. That was only true of white women voters; overall, Trump got only 41 percent of the women’s vote. But why ruin a good narrative, even if he’s lying through his capped teeth?

In any case, even some of those white women voters are abandoning the GOP. From a story by CNBC’s John Harwood:

The share of women who call themselves Republicans has fallen, while the share who call themselves Democrats has risen.

Anti-Trump sentiment has been particularly pronounced among college-educated white women. That once Republican-leaning constituency now favors Democrats for Congress by 53 percent to 31 percent, according to the most recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

Donald Trump is taking time away from his TV watching and his golf game to attend a series of ego-stroking and fact-free rallies for Republican candidates in key races in several states. He’s betting that his popularity with his Trump-worshiping base will be enough to give GOP candidates the edge in many close races, even though he’s given up tweeting his laughable claim of a “Red Wave.”

But the more he screams his lies during his rallies, the more he prods his sheep-like supporters to chant “LOCK HER UP!” when it’s not even about Hillary Clinton any more, the more he mocks the #MeToo movement, and the more he disparages sexual assault survivor Christine Blasey Ford, the more determined the majority of women voters will be to reject Trump by proxy and cast their vote for a Democrat.

Originally posted on Daily Kos on Oct. 14, 2018.

The #BlueWave surge where it really counts: voter registration

Besides the focus on fighting gun violence, the March For Our Lives stressed voting and voter registration. It sounds like people listened.

There are four weeks to go until the midterms, and the biggest thing Democrats have in their favor is the huge growth in voter registration.

A new Gallup Poll shows that voter enthusiasm is high on both sides, even though Democrats still have the edge — 61 percent of Democratic voters are enthusiastic about voting on Nov. 6 compared with 58 percent of Republicans. The generic congressional ballot polling has favored Democrats the entire election cycle, rising and dipping every now and then but usually staying within a seven- to ten-point margin. Most major polling firms predict a Democratic House with a much closer overall Senate contest. Many races remain tight, and there’s no way of predicting how the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court will affect votes — polling is limited and varied, although on the whole, it seems to be energizing Democrats more than Republicans.

But since polling outfits always use their historical models for measurement, one key element many might be missing is the growth in voter registration, especially the growth in the registration of young voters.

An NBC analysis with the headline, “Voter registration data suggests Democrats’ longed-for ‘blue wave’ will crash over Republicans in November,” reports on a surge in several states’ registration numbers. The details all seem to be pointing in Democrats’ favor, both by age and by party affiliation.

Unmentioned in the debate over who will vote and in what numbers has been voter registration data, which provides a solid glimpse into the mindset and enthusiasm levels of Americans heading into November’s midterm elections. Compiling publicly available data from several states in the nation over the past month shows results that should deeply concern Republicans: Several states with key races are showing a noticeable surge in voter registrations when compared to prior midterm election cycles.

There’s no guarantee that new voters will actually show up at the polls or that they’ll vote for Democrats. But combine these new voter numbers with the higher turnout for Democrats in most state primaries, more political engagement by Democrats this election cycle, and the fact that Democrats have a definite edge with younger voters, having so many new—and younger—voters is one more sign that many races could end up tipping to Team Blue.

National Voter Registration Day was established in 2012 as the fourth Tuesday of September. In 2018, the Twitter-designated #NationalVoterRegistrationDay was in full gear, and the results didn’t disappoint.

More than 800,00 people registered to vote on September 25 of this year, surpassing the old record of 771,321 new voters set in 2016. That was in a presidential election year. Compare 800,000 new voters on one day in 2018 with the 154,500 new registrants on the same day for the last midterms in 2014.

Nonprofit VOTE, an organization that partners with America’s nonprofits to help the people they serve participate and vote, coordinates National Voter Registration Day. Organizers were expecting maybe 400,000 or 500,000 new voters, tops. “I think it’s a sign of the interest in the midterms and the interest in having this unified day of action,” Brian Miller, the group’s executive director, told TIME Magazine. More than 4,000 partners throughout the country, from national associations of election officials to companies to community organizations, used social media and the traditional approach of volunteers with clipboards to attract and register new voters.

The number of new young voters is impressive. It stands to reason that many new voters come from the younger ranks, because they’re finally old enough to vote, but these numbers are beyond normal registration figures. An analysis from TargetSmart, a Democratic polling firm, says the upswing came mostly after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, at which 17 people were killed. The fact that the Parkland survivors involved with the March For Our Lives movement crisscrossed the country registering voters helped the numbers greatly, adding “Vote For Our Lives” to their focus.

The state-by-state analysis shows that younger voters are poised to have an outsized impact in key battleground races. Pennsylvania – which has November elections for U.S. Senator, Governor, and many critical House races – has seen youth voter registration surge by 10 points after the February 14th Parkland shooting. Youth voters make up nearly 60 percent of all new Pennsylvania registrants.

Other states with critical elections that may decide control of the U.S. Senate and House also showed large increases in youth registration, including Arizona (+7.6 point increase), Florida (+7.9), Indiana (+6.8), Michigan (+7.5), Wisconsin (+5.7), and New York (+10.7). The increase in new youth voter registrants in North Carolina is 8 points higher in 2018 than in 2014; a majority of states have seen at least modest, if not significant, increases in youth voter registration rates compared to 2014. This spike in voter registration activity comes on the heels of the grassroots movement to address gun violence issues. …

The increased registration rates among young voters outpaces all other age groups in almost all states.

The NBC analysis as well as other sources give further examples of voter registration growth in several states, and how the new voters are trending younger:

Colorado sees a surge in new young voters. Of the more than 97,000 new voters added to the rolls between January and August (a 233 percent increase over the number of added voters in 2014), more than 50,000 of them, or 52 percent, were between the ages of 18 and 40. “And the Republican Party not only saw the total number of registered voters in the state decline, but particularly among women 18-40,” the analysis pointed out. Figures are from the voter statistics website of the Colorado Secretary of State.

There are also lots of new young voters in Minnesota. Nearly 68 percent of the nearly 53,000 new voters in that state are ages 18-30, according to a tweet from the Minnesota Secretary of State. The number of new registrants is more than double the number of new voters in 2014.

New voters in Iowa are Democrats, not Republicans. Besides the fact that the number of new registrants was double the number of new registrants in 2014, “Democrats added 23,064 new members so far this year and Republicans only 1,636,” the analysis said. Figures are from the Iowa Secretary of State.

Virginia is likely to continue Democrats’ winning ways. After the successes of 2017, when Democrats took the governor’s mansion and nearly recaptured the House of Delegates, there is another surge in voter registration. Of the more than 172,000 new voters in 2018, more than 106,000 are 35 and under. Figures are from the Virginia Dept. of Elections.

Younger voters now outnumber older ones in Pennsylvania. A New York Times story on the young voter surge gave that startling statistic, along with the fact that young Democrats outnumber their Republican counterparts by more than 400,000 statewide (a margin not true in every county). “Pennsylvania residents who are younger than 30 years old now make up nearly two-thirds of new voter registrations,” the Times reported.

California voter registration hits new record. The California Secretary of State reported that an additional 1.5 million new voters have been added since 2014, reaching a total of 19 million voters. Factors such as pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds helped — more than 200,000 have pre-registered since 2016, and 104,000 of those teens are now 18 and eligible to vote this year. There are 3.6 million more Democrats than Republicans.

Youth registration jumps in Florida. After the Parkland shooting, youth voter registration went up 41 percent in the state. Florida added more new voters (around 600,000) since 2016, for a total of over 13 million, but the state’s population keeps growing, too. Registered Democrats there still outnumber Republicans, but the margin remains basically unchanged.

Arizona is getting less red. Registered voter totals in Arizona still tilt Republican, but Democrats are catching up. “For every person who registered since March with the GOP, the Democratic Party registered more than three,” according to a story at Tucson.com. The voter breakdown is 34 percent Republican registered voters, 31 percent Democratic, and the rest is a shrinking number of independents.

How about Texas? Polling between incumbent Republican Sen. Ted Cruz and Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke has narrowed substantially. So the report that an additional 1.6 million voters have registered since the 2014 midterms has to be welcome news for the O’Rourke team. According to an AP story reported through a Houston TV station, Texas has seen a 400,000-voter increase since March (Texas added an average of slightly over 100,000 voters a year between 2002 and 2014). Texas is traditionally a low-turnout state, and Hispanics in Texas historically vote in smaller numbers than their population in the state might suggest. So turning out those Latinx voters is key to an O’Rourke victory. A new wrinkle: The state has used a vaguely worded law to invalidate 2,400 online voter registrations, all in predominantly Democratic counties.

How about elsewhere? Other states are seeing less of a surge in new registrants:

  • Georgia, with its marquee gubernatorial race, has added 84,000 more voters since the May 22 primary. To make sure the state is not losing minority voters, a voting activist group is suing the Georgia Secretary of State (who coincidentally is the Republican candidate for governor) for purging 700,000 mostly minority voters from the rolls.
  • In Tennessee, where there’s a close Senate race, the state remains at the bottom of both voter registration and voter turnout, despite online registration. But after singer Taylor Swift urged her 112 million Instagram followers to register to vote, registration surged by 65,000 new voters in one day, specifically in Tennessee, where she endorsed former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, the Democratic candidate.
  • Both parties in Nevada, with its close Senate race, pushed voter registration in August, boosting their numbers by only 1.7 percent for Democrats and 1.5 percent for Republicans.

At this point, many states have only raw data for voting totals, so it’s hard to tell where they are.

The NBC analysis quotes Pew Research data that 62 percent of millennials are planning to vote on Nov. 6, up from 46 percent in 2014 and 39 percent in 2010. “The level of enthusiasm among all other generations remained stagnant for these three election cycles,” NBC said. The analysis concludes:

While voter registrations do not guarantee voter turnout, they are certainly indicative of enthusiasm heading into the midterms. Circumstances can always change before people head to the polls but, 36 days out from the election, Democrats and independents are equally, if not more, enthused than Republicans. The party cannot rely on their opponents’ supporters simply staying home.

Despite President Trump and his base’s sclerotic insistence that a blue wave isn’t real, the voter registration data clearly demonstrates a far more engaged electorate that is likely to break for Democrats. Further, of the 106 House seats ranked as competitive by Cook Political Report, 93 currently belong to Republicans. These all reveal that Democrats in are in very strong position to take back the House of Representatives.

All of the polls and data show that voters are not registering to vote in order to make their voices heard, but rather deliver a primal scream of rage to President Trump and his fellow Republicans.

October 9 is the final day to register to vote in several states, although a few have later deadlines. While I suspect that anyone reading this is already registered to vote, some of your neighbors, co-workers, relatives, and friends may not be. You can direct them to any of the numerous online voter registration sites available; 38 states allow online voter registration, and those state-specific sites can be found by Googling. Here are just a few general online registration sites, which also will direct people to their state sites: Rock the Vote, Vote.org, and the March For Our Lives voter site, which also sponsors #TurnoutTuesday to boost voter engagement.

As David Hogg, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas alumnus who is taking a gap year before college to be a gun safety and voting activist, always tweets: “The young people will win.”

Originally posted on Daily Kos on Oct. 9, 2018.

The soaring cost of climate change, especially for the U.S.


All those carbon dioxide emissions come with an enormous price tag, as well as damage to the planet.

A new study delivers more bad news about climate change: The U.S. is second only to India in experiencing the negative economic consequences of greenhouse gas emissions. The study projects the loss to be a whopping $250 billion a year in this country alone.

The study, by researchers at the University of California at San Diego and published in Nature Climate Change, looks at the social cost of carbon, or SCC, a commonly employed metric of the expected economic damages from carbon dioxide emissions. A basic definition of the social cost of carbon is the measure, in dollars, of the long-term damage done by the release of a metric ton of carbon dioxide emissions in a given year.

The study measured the effects of the social cost of carbon on each of the world’s nearly 200 countries. The four countries with the highest economic losses from the social cost of carbon are India, the U.S., Saudi Arabia, and Brazil. China, the world’s biggest emitter of carbon dioxide, places fifth. The U.S. cost was put at $48 per ton of carbon dioxide emissions, while most countries, especially those in more northern latitudes, had costs of $10 or less per ton of CO2 emissions.

Why does this matter, besides the obvious conclusion that climate change is costing the world a lot of money in addition to the damage to our individual health and the health of the planet? Because Donald Trump’s administration wants to scale back the regulations now in place for greenhouse gas emissions.

Maybe the only way climate science deniers will believe the negative effects of climate change is if it hits them in their profit and loss statements. Because just as a country suffers economically from greenhouse gas emissions, that same country will have the most to gain economically from taking climate action.

To find their numbers, the study’s researchers used results from several climate and carbon cycle modeling experiments to capture the magnitude and geographic pattern of warming under different greenhouse gas emission trajectories, according to a news release describing the study from the University of California at San Diego.

Lead researcher Kate Ricke, who holds joint appointments with the UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy and Scripps Institution of Oceanography, said the country-by-country breakdown shows how wealthier countries can suffer more economic damage. “It makes a lot of sense, because the larger your economy is, the more you have to lose,” she said.

The old U.S. estimates of the social cost of carbon also have been far underplaying the cost. According to the news release:

Among the most-trusted contemporary estimates of SCC are those calculated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The latest figures for global costs range from $12 to $62 per metric ton of CO2 emitted by 2020; however, the new data shows SCC to be approximately $180–$800 per ton of carbon emissions. What’s more, the country-level SCC for the U.S. alone is estimated to be about $50 per ton – higher than the global value used in most regulatory impact analyses. This means that the nearly five billion metric tons of CO2 the U.S. emits each year is costing the U.S. economy about $250 billion.

The study also blows up the Trump administration’s claim that CO2 emissions don’t have much of an economic effect, which it was using as an excuse to gut President Obama’s Clean Power Plan. Here’s an explanation from InsideClimate News:

The Obama administration set its median social cost of carbon at about $42 per metric ton for 2020. It based that on calculations of the global harm being created by each ton of U.S. emissions. When the Trump administration came in, it argued that the social cost of carbon should only address the impact on the U.S., and it wanted a higher discount rate. When the Trump administration issued its cost-benefit analysis for rolling back the Clean Power Plan, it cited numbers closer to $3 per ton.

The Trump EPA proposal released in August, the Affordable Clean Energy Rule, would give states the authority to loosen regulations for coal-fired power plants. The so-called ACE Rule would let 12 times more greenhouse gas be emitted over the next decade than would have been allowed under the Clean Power Plan. As explained in this story from CBNC:

The measure also stands to relieve pressure on the coal industry, a sector President Donald Trump has vowed to revive. Coal miners have seen their fortunes fade as coal-fired plants retire ahead of schedule, under pressure from cheap natural gas and falling prices for renewable energy projects.

Tougher regulation under former President Barack Obama put additional stress on the coal industry by requiring power plants in some cases to undertake expensive upgrades or shut down. On Tuesday, the EPA said Obama’s plan to curb greenhouse gas emissions from power plants was “overly prescriptive and burdensome.”

“The ACE Rule would restore the rule of law and empower states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide modern, reliable, and affordable energy for all Americans,” EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in a statement.

“American policy is looking backward to a world that no longer exists,” said another study co-author, Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution for Science. “It should instead be preparing for a future that is very different from the past.”

As for Wheeler’s claim that the ACE Rule would reduce greenhouse gases? That’s as full of hot air as the CO2 released by coal-fired power plants. Remember — there is so such thing as clean coal.

Originally posted on Daily Kos on Sept. 30, 2018.

Voting gender gap may be a chasm if GOP rams Kavanaugh onto Supreme Court


The white Republican men on the Senate Judiciary Committee could be in for a rude awakening come Nov. 6.

As Donald Trump and the Republican men of the Senate Judiciary Committee (and it’s a men-only club for the GOP) downplay the credible claims of Brett Kavanaugh’s alleged sexual assault of Christine Blasey Ford when they were teens, they might be feeling smug that they’re getting away with something. But women in this country aren’t having it — and they won’t let those men get away with it for long.

Kavanaugh, despite demonstrable instances of lying to the Judiciary Committee with false or evasive answers, seemed headed for swift confirmation as the newest justice to the Supreme Court. Despite valiant attempts by several Democratic senators to expose Kavanaugh as being unfit and unsuitable to sit on the nation’s highest court, he was ready to be measured for his new robes.

But 2018 isn’t 1991, when Anita Hill got raked mercilessly over the coals during her questioning by the same committee at hearings for now-Justice Clarence Thomas. Women’s attitudes have changed, because so many women have lived through a similar experience of unwanted and unwelcome sexual advances, whether it was kissing, groping, or grinding, even if it never got as far as an actual rape. Women know that the #MeToo movement is real, even when men refuse to admit it.

Ford’s story rings true because women know such stories are true. They take seriously her recollection, corroborated by evidence that she told the same story to a therapist six years ago — that a drunken Kavanaugh forced himself on her, groped her, covered her mouth to stop her screams, and tried to remove her clothes until she was able to flee when a second teenage boy caused them to fall off the bed (Kavanaugh denies the allegation). It’s why nearly 1,200 (and counting) alumnae of Ford’s high school, the Holton-Arms School in Bethesda, Maryland, have signed letters of support and launched a website that says “We stand with Dr. Christine Blasey Ford,” along with a separate letter from members of her class of 1984, stressing that they represent all political parties.

And now, a fellow Holton-Arms alum also has corroborated Ford’s story, posting on her Facebook page that she recalls hearing about the incident. “Many of us heard a buzz about it indirectly with few specific details. However Christine’s vivid recollection should be more than enough for us to truly, deeply know that the accusation is true.” They truly, deeply know, because women with similar experiences know that they need to warn each other against male predators.

Even worse for Kavanaugh, a second woman has come forward with an accusation of sexual misconduct — that he exposed himself to her during a party when they were undergraduates at Yale University. Deborah Ramirez recounted that the two were taking part in a drinking game at a dormitory party and that Kavanaugh “thrust his penis in her face, and caused her to touch it without her consent as she pushed him away,” according to the account in The New Yorker. Kavanaugh also denies this allegation, calling it a “smear.”

A hearing for both Ford and Kavanagh is set for September 27, now that she has agreed to testify. Even corroboration from a fellow Holton-Arms student, however, is unlikely to change any GOP senator’s mind.

The Republican senators apparently have decided that a swift Kavanaugh confirmation is worth whatever blowback there might be in public opinion or from most pundits, especially women. After learning of the second accusation, their choice was to push forward with a quick confirmation vote rather than an FBI investigation. But they might not expect the depth of anti-Kavanaugh sentiment that could register itself at the ballot box.

Welcome to 2018, gentlemen. It’s the Year of the Woman all over again.

Public support for Kavanaugh was already low, and it’s getting lower. The latest Reuters/Ipsos poll showed that support for the Kavanaugh nomination had dropped to only 31 percent. Opposition to Kavanaugh has grown six points to 36 percent. And the number of women opposed to having Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court is climbing.

Of course, the American public doesn’t vote directly on who is named to the Supreme Court. That opportunity was lost when Trump won a narrow Electoral College victory, despite losing the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by nearly 3 million votes. But the American public will get a chance to vote in the midterm elections. All signs point to a #BlueWave, if not a #BlueTsunami, with Democrats likely to pick up the 23 House seats needed for a majority and possibly having a fighting chance to edge over the 50-member mark in the Senate. The Kavanaugh allegation, and the subsequent treatment of Ford by Republicans, could provide the needed push.

All polling already was showing what could be a historic gender gap between men’s preference for Republican candidates and women’s preference for voting for a Democrat. Two polls showed a record-breaking gap of over 24 points. While we haven’t yet seen how the Kavanaugh-Ford accusation is affecting polling or the gender gap, I suspect we will soon, and it’s not likely to bring good news for the GOP. Data from Pew Research showed that “Democrats are far more likely than Republicans to see men getting away with sexual harassment and women not being believed as major problems.” The partisan gap is even larger than the gender gap.

In one of their roundtable chats, the crew at FiveThirtyEight had their own prognostications on how the allegation might affect the midterms. Being the number-crunchers they are, they’re going to wait for numbers to crunch. But all agreed that there’s no way this helps the GOP. Some of their comments:

  • If Trump, McConnell, and the other Republican men minimize Ford’s comments, that will hurt the GOP politically.
  • Shifts among independent women in the suburbs could be consequential.
  • It seems like something that does more to activate a Democratic base and make Republican-leaning women more squeamish.

Interestingly, new data from FiveThirtyEight shows that the gender gap might be narrowing. But it’s not because more women are turning to Republicans. It’s because more men might be turning to Democrats.

Robert Costa of The Washington Post also is reporting on many Republicans who privately admit how bad the optics could be for the GOP, finding “Republican lawmakers and strategists unnerved by the charged, gender-infused debates that have upended this campaign season.”

Already burdened by an unpopular president and an energized Democratic electorate, the male-dominated GOP is now facing a torrent of scrutiny about how it is handling Kavanaugh’s accuser and whether the party’s push to install him on the high court by next week could come at a steep political cost with women and the independent voters who are the keystone for congressional majorities.

In a CNN story, several Republicans worried that Ford’s accusation could be driving away suburban women voters. “You could hardly think of a more galvanizing news event,” Democratic strategist Krystal Ball said. “This election is about backlash to Trump. And this turns it up to 11.”

Ford is receiving much support from her fellow school alumnae. How does Kavanaugh remember his time at Georgetown Preparatory High School and at Yale? At a 2014 speech to the Federalist Society, he told tales of heavy drinking at Yale Law. As for his high school days, a video clip of a 2015 speech showed him updating the frequently used cliché: “What happens at Georgetown Prep, stays at Georgetown Prep. That’s good for all of us.”

Kavanaugh’s high school yearbook includes references to a “Keg City Club” membership. Kavanaugh’s high school friend Mark Judge has been identified as the second male involved in the alleged sexual assault. And while Judge denies that the incident occurred, he has written extensively about the drinking that he says was common at Georgetown Prep, including a time someone identified as “Bart O’Kavanaugh” vomited in someone’s car. The New Yorker report of the second accusation also quotes multiple contemporaries describing Kavanaugh’s partying habits, including one (Kavanaugh’s roommate) who says the would-be justice was “frequently, incoherently drunk.”

No one claims that drinking and partying at college — or even in high school — should exclude a person from success later in life. But there’s a wide gulf between the youthful indiscretion of frequent inebriation and sexual assault.

Kavanaugh also will face questions about another scandal — whether he was involved in the “doppelganger theory” espoused in a series of tweets by his close friend Ed Whelan, a legal operative who was forced to take a leave of absence from his post at a conservative Washington think tank. Whelan floated the theory that Ford’s naming of Kavanaugh was a case of mistaken identity, and he named and posted a photo of a Georgetown Prep classmate who might really be the culprit. Whelan was forced to apologize and delete the tweets, but it strains credibility that Kavanaugh wasn’t at least aware of Whelan’s actions. Whether he took part in the ridiculous conspiracy is another matter.

There’s a reason that millions of women (men, too, but the majority were women) turned out for the historic women’s marches in January 2017 and 2018 to register their opposition to the pussy-grabber-in-chief and to vow to vote on Nov. 6. It’s the same reason that a record number of women, most with a “D” after their names, are running for office in Congress and in statewide elections: 234 are running for House seats, 22 for the Senate, and 16 for governor. It’s the reason that Democratic voter turnout jumped sharply during the primaries, more so than Republican turnout. It’s also the reason that women voters have an edge in voting enthusiasm. And it’s why more women are donating money to Democrats and women candidates.

From the viewpoint of too many men, however, not much has changed at all. Too many men are still backing Kavanaugh, either saying there’s no way of knowing the truth, or it happened too long ago to matter, or that he was only a teenager, or that “boys will be boys.”

The most outrageous take is from the men who argue that, if Kavanaugh loses his SCOTUS appointment, all men lose. From an essay by Lili Loofbourow in Slate:

Per this dark vision of the future, any consequence for committing assault — even being unable to move from one lifetime appointment to another lifetime appointment — is the beginning of the end of a just society. …

“The thing happened — if it happened — an awfully long time ago, back in Ronald Reagan’s time. … No clothes were removed, and no sexual penetration occurred.” What’s a little assault — or fearing for your life and having to fight free and hide—if no penises made insertions and the Gipper was in charge? …

It is now clear, and no exaggeration at all, that a significant percentage of men — most of them Republicans — believe that a guy’s right to a few minutes of “action” justifies causing people who happen to be women physical pain, lifelong trauma, or any combination of the two. They’ve decided — at a moment when they could easily have accepted Kavanaugh’s denial—that something larger was at stake: namely, the right to do as they please, freely, regardless of who gets hurt.

It’s cynical to say that we’re not surprised, but we’re not surprised.

All of those men who are feeling entitled and who think the Ford accusation is an affront to what they see as their rightful place in society also may get a stark wake-up call on Nov. 6.

To those white Republican men in the Senate: Think twice before you vote for Kavanaugh. For a few of you, it might be one of the last Senate votes you cast.

Originally posted on Daily Kos on Sept. 23, 2018.

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