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Published: Tue, 25 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0400

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Powerful: GOP Congressman Scott Rigell Video Endorsement of Libertarian Gary Johnson

Sun, 23 Oct 2016 11:21:00 -0400

src="" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0"> That's Scott Rigell, a Republican congressman from Virginia who broke party ranks to endorse Libertrian presidential nominee and former two-term New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson back in August. The mere fact of partisans such as Rigell splitting their votes is important, of course—it's a bold, even courageous example, and a necessary one for an era in which voter identification with the major parties is going down like the Titanic: . But Rigell's specific argument in the video is also important. In less than two minutes, he stresses that nobody has to accept the two unacceptable major-party candidates or the awful platforms they are espousing (protectionism, statism, overseas interventions, increases in the size, scope, and spending of government). There's a different way says Rigell. "We don't just have two choices. We have a third choice, a better choice....We can change things. We can change the system." Among the many ways "we can change the system" is by evacuating the duopoly in politics the same way that we've evacuated false binaries and harshly limited choices in all other aspects of our lives. We no longer allow, for instance, our options in automobilies to be dictated by the Big Three automakers and we're better off for it. On more important levels, we no longer our cultural choices to be forced on us by the three or four TV networks or a handful of book publishers, record labels, and film studios. When it comes to our most lifestyle choices and identities, we no longer submit to dualistic categories such as black/white, male/female, gay/straight as the only way—or even a particularly meaningful way—to structure our world. As Matt Welch and I argued in The Declaration of Independents, politics is a lagging indicator of where America is headed and always the last institution to change its ways. What we have been witnessing throughout 2016 is a damn-near perfect illustration of our thesis that the same sort of proliferation in choice and increasingly individualized options in our work, cultural, and social lives is coming to politics. Characters such as Scott Rigell are in the vanguard of that movement, if only because he dares to speak as a Republican what we all know to be true: The established parties can't even represent their own members any more. We need more, better choices in politics just as we needed them in cars and we'll get them sooner or later. And it's important to note that the push for more and better choices isn't simply limited to the historically string response to Gary Johnson this time around. The Bernie Sanders insurgency suggests that many in the Democratic Party feel cheated by that party's current iteration, as does a continuing lack of enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton. That Trump won the GOP nomination is evidence of the same and so does relatively strong showing by late-to-the-race independent Evan McMullin and stronger-than-expected polling by Green Party nom Jill Stein. Something is happening here that is actually different than in the past, even though the winner of the 2016 election will be from a party founded before the U.S. Civil War. Former political consultant (he worked with both parties) and current ABC News analyst Matthew Dowd is framing a similar scenario to the one in The Dec. of Ind.: It is time we reject the messaging from the two major parties, and make choices in our own hearts that help bring the country together. If you don't feel good about either major party choice, then don't be shoved into choosing between what they describe as "the lesser of two evils." Make an independent and innovative choice that may not win this year, but over time will be successful in reuniting us as a country. We need independents to take back our country and unite us. It is only a binary choice if we listen to the duopoly. More on that here. If the 20th [...]

Will Maine Be the First State Where Voters May Rank Their Choices?

Fri, 21 Oct 2016 12:17:00 -0400

What if you really didn't have to accept that there are only two valid choices for a particular race, and your third-party vote actually mattered more than as just a protest? Maine voters may find out for themselves. On their ballot this November is Question 5, a ballot initiative that would institute ranked-choice voting for statewide positions like governor and for lawmakers on both the state and federal levels. In a ranked vote system, voters are invited not to just check off the box for their favorite candidate; they're allowed to rank each candidate in order of preference. If the winning candidate doesn't get a majority of the votes, there's an "instant runoff." The candidate with the least votes is dumped from the race and the votes are counted again. On the ballots of those who voted for the least-popular candidate, their second choice is now counted as their vote. If again the winning candidate still doesn't get a majority of the votes, the cycle continues until the top-ranked candidate doesn't get just the most votes but a majority of votes. No state here currently has such a voting system, but some cities do, and it's how Australia elects its lawmakers. Australia's complicated, preference-based voting system has resulted in several lawmakers who are members of smaller parties, including libertarian David Leyonhjelm. That is partly the intent of this system: To make it more possible for third-party candidates to break through the electoral duopoly, but only in situations where the majority of voters reject what the establishment offers. The editorial board of the Portland Press Herald endorsed Question 5 last week with the awareness that an increasing number of voters are refusing to identify as Democrats or Republicans: Our current system took shape when there were two strong parties that dominated the political process. Parties won elections by assembling coalitions and selecting candidates who had broad appeal. It was hard for fringe elements to break through. But even though Maine's political parties have been in decline for decades, they still have an outsized influence on the process. Nominees selected by the small number of committed partisans who show up to vote in June have enormous institutional advantages on Election Day in November. That puts the largest group of voters, those who are not active as either Democrats or Republicans, in a bind. They have no say in the selection of a party nominee, but they can't vote for a third-party candidate without risking a vote for a "spoiler" who fragments opposition and gives an extreme candidate a path to victory. What if, for example, you could vote for Gary Johnson as your first choice, but thought that Hillary Clinton would be much less dangerous as president than Donald Trump (or vice-versa)? You could make Johnson your first choice and Clinton your second. Thus, you'd be shutting down any arguments (or even your own fears) that a vote for a third-party candidate was ultimately helping Trump (or Clinton) win. Heck, given the unpopularity of Clinton and Trump and the way polls are going, it is likely that the winner in November will get a plurality of the votes, not a majority. A ranked system significantly favors third-party candidates in situations where voters are really unhappy with what the establishment has to offer. It's easy to imagine Johnson becoming the second choice for a good chunk of voters, and then imagine what could happen next if neither Clinton nor Trump gets 51 percent of the majority vote. It shouldn't come as a surprise then that Johnson supporter and former Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic is a big endorser of this kind of voting system. And he puts his activism where his mouth is: He's the chairman of the Board of FairVote, a nonprofit group pushing for more proportional voting systems such as Maine's proposed ranked-choice method. The ranked-choice system comes with its own flaws. One study pointed out that even in a ranked-choice election, the winner may not actually have gotten the majority vote in the [...]

Sen. Jeff Flake: If Hillary Clinton Wins, GOP Should Vote Quickly on Merrick Garland's SCOTUS Nomination

Fri, 21 Oct 2016 11:15:00 -0400

(image) Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona has a message for his fellow Republicans. In an interview with Politico, Flake said that if Hillary Clinton wins the election next month, Senate Republicans should stop stonewalling and instead move quickly to hold hearings and a vote on Merrick Garland, the languishing Supreme Court nominee put forward by President Barack Obama back in March. "If Hillary Clinton is president-elect then we should move forward with hearings in the lame duck," Flake said. "That's what I'm encouraging my colleagues to do."

What explains Flake's thinking? In the words of Politico, "the political calculus is straightforward: Better to deal with Garland now and avoid swallowing a more liberal nominee from Hillary Clinton."

But not every Republican is on the same page as Flake. Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, for example, believes that Garland will be just as left-wing as any nominee that Clinton might offer. "I don't believe there would be a real substantive distinction, a real noticeable difference between the voting pattern of a justice who would be appointed by a President Hillary Clinton...and Merrick Garland," Lee recently said.

Meanwhile, over in the House of Representatives, Republican Congressman Justin Amash disagrees with all of the above. According to Amash, the Senate should reject Garland right now because Garland is a lousy nominee in his own right—plus, Garland may well be worse than anybody put forward by Hillary Clinton. "Odds are the next president will pick someone less extreme than the anti-libertarian Garland," Amash wrote last night on Twitter. Amash then elaborated on the point: "Garland is 'moderate' only from the view of political elites. His record is anti-civil liberties and pro-unchecked executive powers."

Amash is correct about Garland's record, which is replete with judicial deference to both law enforcement agencies and to the executive branch.

All of which raises an interesting question. If the Senate does hold hearings on the Garland nomination, how many Senate Republicans will be forced to admit that they approve of Garland's judicial passivity in these important areas of the law? Like it or not, the Senate is not exactly packed to the gills with libertarian-minded lawmakers in the vein of Justin Amash (or Rand Paul). What will traditional conservatives have to say about Garland's record on these matters? What about the so-called law and order crowd? Remember, from the standpoint of a certain type of legal conservatism, the courts should be deferential towards the actions of police and prosecutors, or should be deferential towards the "inherent" powers of the presidency. Perhaps Garland will pick up more than a few votes from those segments of the Senate GOP.

If nothing else, Senate confirmation hearings on Merrrick Garland would be a positive development because they might force conservative lawmakers to publicly air their differences on these crucial legal questions.

Former Heads Say Pimping Charges Motivated by Politics, Not Facts

Thu, 20 Oct 2016 12:52:00 -0400 Chief Executive Carl Ferrer and the classified-ad company's former owners are seeking a dismissal of the pimping and conspiracy charges filed against them in California, which they describe as unconstitutional, unjustified by facts, and a violation of federal communications law, as well as a blatant ploy for publicity from California Attorney General (AG) Kamala Harris. The state "cannot pursue the charges asserted and, in fact, is expressly precluded from doing so under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act," their attorney, James Grant, wrote in a letter to Harris, who is currently running for U.S. Congress. She can't claim ignorance: three years ago, Harris was one of several state attorneys general who pleaded with Congress to change the law so that they could prosecute Backpage, specifically admitting that, as is, Section 230 "prevents state and local law enforcement" from doing so. Congress said no. "It is troubling that the State is now pursuing a prosecution you admitted you have no authority to bring," Grant wrote. Ferrer and his co-defendants, Michael Lacey and James Larkin, were booked for pimping, pimping a minor, attempted pimping of a minor, and conspiracy, based on the state's contention that they know some of the tens of millions of user-generated posts on are veiled ads for prostitution, sometimes involving teenagers. As evidence of this, the state pointed out that Backpage blocks ads explicitly offering prostitution, states clearly that ads in the "adult" section can only be posted by adults, and promptly removes posts that are reported to advertise sex or underage women. In the topsy-turvy logic of the criminal complaint, the fact that Backpage policies are designed to prevent commercial-sex advertising and the prostitution of minors shows that execs actually condone these things, because said policies encourage posters of illicit sex ads to conceal their true intentions. "The AG's Complaint and theory of prosecution are frankly outrageous," state the defendants in a formal objection to the changes, filed October 19. "The basis for the AG's charges is that third-party users posted ads on, and the AG's office determined by responding to the ads that the users were offering prostitution." In total the complaint mentions nine ads, for which Backpage received $79.60. It does not allege that Ferrer, Lacey, or Larkin knew the ad-posters were discreetly offering sex for cash, knew the ad posters personally at all, had ever seen the ads in question, or had any direct knowledge of these ads. In his letter to the AG, the Backpage attorney notes that a recent federal court ruling against the Sheriff of Cook County, Illinois, "reject[ed] much the same theories that [California] asserts here," and that the U.S. Supreme Court has long recognized that "states cannot punish parties that publish or distribute speech without proving they had knowledge of illegality." In addition, "Section 230 expressly preempts all inconsistent civil and criminal state laws," he notes. "Literally hundreds of cases have applied and underscored the broad immunity that Section 230 provides and that Congress intended so as to avoid government interference— especially by state authorities—that would chill free speech on the Internet." Backpage itself has fought for these rights many times, winning cases in federal courts in New Jersey, Massachusetts, Washington, Tennessee, Illinois, and Missouri. But knowing the law is on their side "was of modest comfort," said Lacey and Larkin, "as we were being booked into the Sacramento County jail and paraded in front of the press in orange jump suits last week on a charge Ms. Harris knew she had no legal authority to bring when she brought it." The former Backpage owners suggested that California's AG knows she won't prevail here but doesn't care because conviction isn't the point. Their arrest in early October generated massive publicity for Harris just before the electi[...]

Electoral Politics Is a Horrible Context In Which to Talk About Sexual Consent

Sat, 15 Oct 2016 18:38:00 -0400

With less than a month left until the 2016 presidential election, the focus has shifted from immigration, foreign affairs, free trade, and other (nominal) questions of policy to whether the Republican nominee is a sexual predator and how much room his opponent has to criticize him for it, given her own husband's history with women. In the wake of the release of Trump's now-infamous 2005 boasts about grabbing women "by the pussy" and kissing them "without waiting," questions surrounding sexual consent are dominating the news, with Donald Trump's defenders expected to answer for not just the candidate's own treatment of women but the lifetimes of unwanted advances many modern women have faced. At first the spectacle felt at least a little novel, and not just because of the political stakes. Most instances in which these issues penetrate the public consciousness are pre-packaged for picking a side. A woman—or multiple women, as in recent high-profile cases such as the one with Bill Cosby—comes out with a story of sexual harassment, assault, or rape; her alleged assailant denies it; and everyone falls in line to either insist we "believe women" about these things no matter what or that ladies be batshit insane attention-seekers who lie about rape all the time. But with Trump's taped comments, the same old script didn't work. For one, there was no accusatory woman to center the counter-attack on. For another, there was direct and indisputable evidence of the bad behavior in question; reasonable people can argue over how literally to take Trump's assertions, but there's no denying he said what he said. So here we all were, having a more meta conversation about consent, crossing boundaries, why women might not report things like unwanted groping to the police but still don't want (and shouldn't have) to put up with it, and what responsibility men have to call out other men for bad behavior. Here we were with prominent Republicans who heretofore been at least nominally OK with Trump now calling for his head. And here were conservative women, too, coming forward with their own tales of being manhandled, sexually harassed, or raped, and disbelieved or told it was no big deal. For a minute, many conservative women were speaking in unison with left-leaning counterparts about these issues (a phenomenon also seen, if briefly, after Trump went after Megyn Kelly and when Gretchen Carlson and other women came out against former Fox News boss Roger Ailes). People across the political spectrum could be found expressing both contempt for the fact that this was what the presidential race had come to and cautious optimism that it would, somehow, be a force for good. But that didn't last long. Within eight (long) days of the Trump pussy-grabbing comments coming out, Trump and his surrogates were trotting out women who've accused Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct, a bevy of new allegations against Trump were aired, and before long it was back to business as usual. Republicans, including those with no love for Trump, demand that people assign more weight to the allegations against Bill, and liberals shrug. Women accuse Trump of molesting them, his detractors demand these claims be taken seriously, and conservatives shrug. Both assume the other side is simply trying to score political points, and of course both are. The women, whatever they have or have not suffered at the hands of either Donald Trump or Bill Clinton, have quickly been reduced to mere props in this familiar partisan (and ratings/clicks driven) play. The Trump campaign's decision to defend their man by deflecting blame to Bill is understandable—after all, Trump was initially being pilloried mostly for things he said (and what they implied), but Bill stood accused of actually doing despicable things toward women. But this, along with Trump's outright denial that he ever treated women badly in real life, inspired a quicky new cottage industry of claims from women who s[...]

Only Gridlock Can Save America Now

Fri, 14 Oct 2016 00:01:00 -0400

When Republicans lost the presidential election back at the Republican National Convention in July, many elected GOPers feigned support for the Party's doomed nominee in an effort to placate the base and hold their majority in Congress. After watching Donald Trump's Access Hollywood tape (honestly, does anyone believe this is the last, or most odious, of the October surprises?), some of these candidates have decided the gambit wasn't worth it. So naturally, Trump has targeted down-ballot races in his own party—people like House Speaker Paul Ryan and Sen. John McCain. As it turns out, cult leaders are less concerned about the long-term philosophical aims of your political party than they are about your personal loyalty and subservience. But if the prospects of a Hillary Clinton presidency are truly as apocalyptic as I'm told, shouldn't Republicans be appalled that their nominee is undermining the only institution in Washington, D.C., that has the power to stop her agenda, should he lose the race? After all, it wasn't Ryan who coaxed Trump into vulgarity on a hot mic. I hear this absurd myth every day: "Well, what's the difference? These cowardly Republicans have given President Obama everything he wanted!" Elsewhere, I've gone into great detail, debunking the idea that Congress has enabled Obama's agenda in toto—a belief that is pervasive among Trump supporters. In reality, a GOP Congress spent eight years doing the opposite. Not only did it block dozens of progressive initiatives and reforms but it often sued the president for abusing his executive power (and won a host of cases). These presidential overreaches, incidentally, were necessitated by the GOP's effective "obstructionism"—which is just another way of describing the manifestation of a divided nation's will. Of course this Republican Congress is infuriating. It often fails. It often folds. It creates unrealistic expectations. It struggles to find compelling arguments that appeal to its base. It picks mediocre candidates and is often paralyzed by risk-aversion. Yet it's also true that an uncompromising legislative branch stymied an uncompromising ideologue in the White House. I note the former with admiration because, despite the assertions of our political class, the most crucial task of those elected to Congress isn't to pass minimum-wage laws but to check the power of the executive branch. They did it better than most. This time around, both of our big-government candidates deserve to grapple with gridlock for the next four years. There's simply no better antidote to the authoritarianism and corruption that has infected our political causes. In fact, if Republicans somehow hold the Senate, they should also have the spine to preserve the even 4-4 split in the Supreme Court, to stop a potentially progressive judicial branch from further empowering the state. For those who believe stopping runaway government is a political liability, remember that despite the incessant warnings from Democrats, the GOP was not punished for its obstinacy. It has won two wave elections and more than 900 state seats during the Obama years. Imagine what it could have done with competent leadership. Moreover, despite more incessant warnings about economic Armageddon, the country did not collapse. Just ask Democrats—because these days they make the most persuasive case for obstruction. "Real hourly wages have grown faster over the current business cycle than in any cycle since the early 1970s," Jason Furman, chairman of Obama's Council of Economic Advisers, tells us. Thank you, gridlock! "Under Obama, stock market has tripled, returning an annualized 11.8 percent ex dividends," says union bailout architect Steven Rattner on Twitter. OK. Thanks again, gridlock! For the past eight years, Congress has passed absolutely no new economic reforms. I know this because every liberal pundit, every liberal functionary, every elected official in the Democr[...]

Does Bob Dylan Have a Politics and if Yes, What the Hell Are They?

Thu, 13 Oct 2016 19:06:00 -0400

Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan (let that sink in for a bit) has been on "a never ending tour" since 1988. For nearly 30 years, the man behind "Like a Rolling Stone," "All Along the Watch Tower," "Tangled Up in Blue," and dozens of other classic tunes has stayed on the road, playing concerts all over the planet.

Nick Gillespie is joined by his Reason colleague Brian Doherty and The Daily Beast's Andrew Kirell to talk the influence and meaning of Dylan, who has resisted all political and cultural categorization. What are the politics of Bob Dylan (which is different than Bob Dylan's politics), who made his early bones by writing protest songs but also claimed kinship to Lee Harvey Oswald? Admired for his authenticity, Dylan is a cultural escape artist who has regularly changed his persona and style and alienated his most-loyal fans by going electric, disappearing from view, becoming a born-again Christian, and more.

If Dylan is the "Shakespeare of our time," what does he for an encore now that he has joined the ranks of Eugene O'Neill, Saul Bellow, and Toni Morrison as a Nobelist?

Each participant also names his favorite Dylan record and defends his choice.

Click below to listen. About 40 minutes. Produced by Ian Keyser.

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Bob Dylan's Never-Ending Tour of The Self

Thu, 13 Oct 2016 19:00:00 -0400

Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan (let that sink in for a bit) has been on "a never ending tour" since 1988. For nearly 30 years, the man behind "Like a Rolling Stone," "All Along the Watch Tower," "Tangled Up in Blue," and dozens of other classic tunes has stayed on the road, playing concerts all over the planet.

Nick Gillespie is joined by his Reason colleague Brian Doherty and The Daily Beast's Andrew Kirell to talk the influence and meaning of Dylan, who has resisted all political and cultural categorization. What are the politics of Bob Dylan (which is different than Bob Dylan's politics), who made his early bones by writing protest songs but also claimed kinship to Lee Harvey Oswald? Admired for his authenticity, Dylan is a cultural escape artist who has regularly changed his persona and style and alienated his most-loyal fans by going electric, disappearing from view, becoming a born-again Christian, and more.

If Dylan is the "Shakespeare of our time," what does he for an encore now that he has joined the ranks of Eugene O'Neill, Saul Bellow, and Toni Morrison as a Nobelist?

Each participant also names his favorite Dylan record and defends his choice.

Click below to listen. About 40 minutes. Produced by Ian Keyser.

src="" width="100%" height="450" frameborder="0">

Don't miss a single Reason podcast or video!

Subscribe to our audio podcast at iTunes.

Subscribe to our video podcast at iTunes.

Subscribe to our YouTube channel.

Like us on Facebook.

Follow us on Twitter.

The Other Way an Alternative Candidate Could Pick Up an Electoral Vote

Thu, 13 Oct 2016 13:30:00 -0400

Hillary Clinton is almost certain to carry Washington state next month. But she won't necessarily collect all of its electoral votes. Robert Satiacum Jr., one of the Democratic Party's slate of 12 electors in Washington, has been mulling in public about whether he can bring himself to vote for his party's nominee. He may yet fall in line, and he may simply give up his seat in the Electoral College. But there's a chance he'll cast his ballot for Bernie Sanders, Jill Stein, or some other person not named "Clinton" or "Trump." This is the other way a minor-party candidate can eat into the major-party nominees' Electoral College totals: In 21 states, it is legal for a so-called "faithless elector" to ignore the popular vote and cast a ballot for someone else. So while we're pondering the possibility that Evan McMullin might carry Utah or Gary Johnson might pull off an upset in New Mexico, let's take a moment to consider this other scenario. After all, a third-party candidate hasn't won a state outright since 1968, when George Wallace carried five states in the South. But in six of the 12 elections going back to then, faithless electors have voted for alternative candidates—or, sometimes, for people who weren't actually running for president at all: • In 1968, Wallace didn't just win those five states; he picked up a vote from a Republican elector from North Carolina. • In 1972, a Republican elector from Virginia voted for John Hospers of the Libertarian Party, making this both the LP's weakest year (they got only 3,674 votes on Election Day) and its strongest (it's the only time the party has broken into the Electoral College). That elector was Roger MacBride, who went on to become the Libertarian presidential nominee in 1976. • In 1976, a Republican elector from Washington voted for Ronald Reagan, who had narrowly lost the GOP nomination that year to Gerald Ford. • In 1988, a Democratic elector from West Virginia thought that her party's vice presidential nominee, Lloyd Bentsen, was a stronger candidate than Michael Dukakis. So she cast her presidential vote for Bensten and demoted Dukakis to VP. • In 2000, a Democratic elector from the District of Columbia refused to cast a ballot at all, to protest the fact that D.C. doesn't have a vote in Congress. Since nobody got her vote, I consider this a moral victory for Wavy Gravy. • In 2004, a Democratic elector from Minnesota flipped the ticket and voted for vice presidential nominee John Edwards—or technically, since spelling was not this person's strong suit, for "John Ewards." (Also that year, New York's entire slate of electors accidentally voted for some guy called "John L. Kerry" rather than Democratic nominee John F. Kerry. But this was just a typo, and the votes were ultimately assigned to the correct Kerry, so unfortunately it doesn't count.) With Clinton opening her lead over Trump in the polls, it's very unlikely that a faithless elector will actually keep a candidate from accumulating the 270 ballots needed to win the White House. But that same lead may make it more likely for such electors to defect in the first place. Regular voters are probably more likely to back third-party or independent candidates when the election looks like it's going to be a blowout: If the lesser evil is either sure to win or sure to lose, you might as well give your support to a protest candidate instead. When the Electoral College votes, more than a month after Election Day, that effect may be magnified: These people already know who won the popular vote and whether the margin is close. A Clinton-hating Democrat like Satiacum—or a NeverTrump Republican, which isn't exactly a scarce species these days—would feel even less constrained from voting his or her conscience. So even if the alternative candidates don't manage to carry any states this year, we ma[...]

U.S. Women Won't Let Trump Off the Hook for His Comments, and the Polls Show It

Wed, 12 Oct 2016 13:15:00 -0400

Poll after poll shows a widening of the electoral gender-gap in the less than a week since Donald Trump's 2005 boasts about groping women were unearthed and subsequently splashed non-stop across cable news, including during the second presidential debate last Sunday. U.S. women across the country are indicating that no matter if men's support for Trump is steady, female voters could spike the election out of his reach. Nate Silver posted a roundup of recent polls last night. In a dozen national polls conducted since the start of October, Hillary Clinton leads by an average of 15 percentage points with women and Donald Trump leads by an average of 5 percentage points among men. Clinton's lead among women is consistent throughout the polls, ranging from a relatively small 6 percentage points in one to a 33 percentage point lead among women in the most recent poll from the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) and The Atlantic (in the same poll, Clinton trailed Trump by 11 points with men). Clinton also led among men in three of the national national polls, by a range of 2 to 5 percentage points. Trump led among men in nine of the 12 polls, by margins ranging from 2 to 14 percentage points. "It seems fair to say that, if Trump loses the election, it will be because women voted against him," Silver concluded. I took a look at how men and women split their votes four years ago, according to polls conducted in November 2012. On average, Mitt Romney led President Obama by 7 percentage points among men, about the same as Trump's 5-point lead among men now. But Romney held his own among women, losing them by 8 points, whereas they're going against Trump by 15 points. That's the difference between a close election — as you'll remember, those national polls in late 2012 showed the race neck-and-neck3 — and one that's starting to look like a blowout. Silver cautions that "there isn't yet enough data from after Sunday night's debate to really gauge its impact." And "for that matter, the polls may not yet have fully caught up to the effects of the release on Friday of the 2005 videotape." That also means they haven't caught up to newly unearthed (or re-media blitzed) allegations of the Republican presidential nominee acting in gross and predatory ways toward women. Trump has recently been accused of walking in on Miss Teen USA pageant contestants while they were changing and kissing an '80s Miss USA contestant directly on the lips upon meeting her. Jill Harth, who accused Trump of attempted rape in 1997, has also been back in the spotlight, along with the thousands of lawsuits alleging sexual harassment and sex-based discrimination against Trump's company. Evangelical women, including New York Times-bestselling religious author Beth Moore, have been showing signs of turning against Trump recently. And on Tuesday night, the president of the Iowa Federation of Republican Women resigned, stating that she "cannot support Donald J. Trump for president, nor can I advocate for his election." In a new interview, Bill O'Reilly told Republican nominee he was behind with women. Trump's response? "I'm not sure I believe that."[...]

If Johnson Gets 5 Percent of the Vote, Would the Libertarian Party Take FEC Money?

Tue, 11 Oct 2016 14:20:00 -0400

If current polling numbers hold, the Libertarian Party could surpass an important vote share threshold come November. If Gary Johnson and Bill Weld receive at least five percent of the popular vote, they'll be officially classified as a "minor party" by the Federal Election Commission (FEC). If that happens, the Libertarian Party's candidate in 2020 would qualify for public matching funds based on how much of the vote they receive. At RealClear politics, Bill Scher takes note of the possibilities: If Johnson snags 5 percent of the national popular vote, the Federal Election Commission will classify the Libertarians as an official "minor party," granting the 2020 nominee a lump sum of cash for the fall campaign, courtesy of the American taxpayer. (And don't you think for a second that the vehemently anti-big-government Libertarians won't cash that big government check in a heartbeat.) The exact amount of federal funds depends on the size of his vote, but Green Party officials – who have been chasing 5 percent for years – estimate that meeting the threshold would yield about $10 million. That may seem like chump change compared to the hundreds of millions of dollars major party presidential nominees routinely raise. But Johnson has gotten this far after raising only $8 million through August. The prospect of knowing the Libertarian Party's nominee is guaranteed $10 million will allow him or her to hit the campaign trail running, improving the odds of getting into the debates, winning an even larger share of vote and fortifying the party's place in the American political landscape. Isn't it a little bit odd for Scher to assert what the Libertarian Party would do in a snarky parenthetical aside rather than simply contacting them to ask? Scher's hardly an objective observer of the election from his home at That's certainly no sin (read about my own lack of objectivity here), but it took me no time at all to contact the Libertarian Party and talk to party chair Nicholas Sarwark. The reality is, according to Sarwark, members of the Libertarian Party are not in agreement over whether to take the money, and it will have to be something hammered out if Johnson actually reaches the threshold. (Keep in mind this FEC fund Scher describes is made entirely from voluntary donations from taxpayers. The FEC notes in its guidelines "Money for public funding of presidential elections can come only from the Presidential Fund. If the Presidential Fund runs short of funds, no other general Treasury funds may be used.") "We would be delighted to have that conversation," Sarwark told Reason. "Right now we're just entirely focused on the election and having Johnson do as well as possible." In the event Johnson reaches the FEC vote threshold, Sarwark believes the most likely outcome will be that delegates to the Libertarian Party's 2018 national convention would need to hammer out a possible bylaw about whether a potential candidate should be permitted to accept the money. As a legal matter, Sarwark notes, it's the candidate who decides whether to take the money, not the party. So the bylaw would serve the purpose of attempting to bind a future candidate to the party's attitude toward whether to accept the grant. Another potential concern is that accepting the grant actually imposes a limit on fundraising by the candidate as part of matching these funds. While it might, at the moment, appear to be a boon for whoever comes after Johnson (it certainly was for Pat Buchanan following after Ross Perot with the Reform Party), if this Republican Party crack-up continues and more people see the Libertarian Party as an alternative, it actually might not be in the party's interest to tie themselves down this way. There's a reason the Democrats and the Republicans d[...]

Hurricane Matthew and the Politics of Climate Change

Fri, 07 Oct 2016 14:30:00 -0400

Weather disasters bring out the worst partisan instincts nowadays. It's happening now with Hurricane Matthew. Two days ago, a Huffington Post headline read: "Hurricane Matthew's Strength Is Yet Another Climate Change Indicator." In fine reactionary mode, Matt Drudge tweeted his doubts: "The deplorables are starting to wonder if govt has been lying to them about Hurricane Matthew intensity to make exaggerated point on climate." Drudge further darkly suggested that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has a monopoly on data and could be cooking the books about just how high Matthew's wind speeds are. I, too, am skeptical of government agencies, but Drudge and other weather conspiracists provide no evidence for such claims in this case. So what can be said about the relationship between climate change and hurricanes? The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Fifth Assessment report noted: Current data sets indicate no significant observed trends in global tropical cyclone frequency over the past century and it remains uncertain whether any reported long-term increases in tropical cyclone frequency are robust, after accounting for past changes in observing capabilities. Regional trends in tropical cyclone frequency and the frequency of very intense tropical cyclones have been identified in the North Atlantic and these appear robust since the 1970s (very high confidence). However, argument reigns over the cause of the increase and on longer time scales the fidelity of these trends is debated with different methods for estimating undercounts in the earlier part of the record providing mixed conclusions. No robust trends in annual numbers of tropical storms, hurricanes and major hurricanes counts have been identified over the past 100 years in the North Atlantic basin. More recent research by climate modelers suggests that as the oceans heat up and the atmosphere becomes more saturated with moisture, hurricane numbers may decrease but they may become stronger and produce more rainfall. On the other hand, empirical researchers in an article in the Journal of Climate recently observed: Ten years ago, Webster et al. documented a large and significant increase in both the number as well as the percentage of category 4 and 5 hurricanes for all global basins from 1970 to 2004, and this manuscript examines whether those trends have continued when including 10 additional years of data. In contrast to that study, as shown here, the global frequency of category 4 and 5 hurricanes has shown a small, insignificant downward trend while the percentage of category 4 and 5 hurricanes has shown a small, insignificant upward trend between 1990 and 2014. Accumulated cyclone energy globally has experienced a large and significant downward trend during the same period. The primary reason for the increase in category 4 and 5 hurricanes noted in observational datasets from 1970 to 2004 by Webster et al. is concluded to be due to observational improvements at the various global tropical cyclone warning centers, primarily in the first two decades of that study. In any case, the latest bulletin from the NOAA's National Hurricane Center notes: At 200 PM EDT (1800 UTC), the eye of Hurricane Matthew was located near latitude 29.7 North, longitude 80.7 West. Matthew is moving toward the north-northwest near 13 mph (20 km/h), and this general motion is expected to continue today. A turn toward the north is expected tonight or Saturday. On the forecast track, the center of Matthew will continue to move near or over the coast of northeast Florida and Georgia through tonight, and near or over the coast of South Carolina on Saturday. Maximum sustained winds are near 115 mph (185 km/h) with higher gusts. Matthew is a category 3 hurricane[...]

CNN Accused of Bias Against Third Parties By a Post-Debate Focus Group Participant

Fri, 07 Oct 2016 13:00:00 -0400

During and after Tuesday's Vice Presidential Debate, CNN hosted a 28-person focus group of self-identified "undecided voters" at the University of Richmond (Va.). One of the participants in this group—Justin Smith—later complained on his Facebook page that CNN's Pamela Brown had asked the group if they now intended to vote for Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, or an unnamed third party candidate. In Smith's telling, two supported Trump, five supported Clinton, and 12 indicated they would vote for a third party candidate. But, Smith tells Reason, the producers then told the focus group they were going to "reshoot" the segment, only this time they replaced "third party candidate" as an option with "undecided." Smith says this caused confusion among the panel, leading some who had just raised their hands for "third party" to now raise their hands for "undecided." An important difference between the two questions: the cameras were only airing live on CNN during the "undecided" question, whereas the "third party" question was taped. Watch the segment that aired live—with "undecided" as an option as opposed to "third party"—below: src="" width="560" height="340" frameborder="0"> Smith's Facebook post has caused a bit of a stir online, with accusations that CNN is censoring third party supporters to favor a narrative in which the only opinions worth considering are from voters who support Trump, Clinton, or have not yet decided between the two. The Intercept's Glenn Greenwald weighed in on Twitter this morning, offering his opinion that "If this account is accurate, it comes pretty close to actual fraud." Though he has a "Evan McMullin for President" poster as his Facebook profile cover page, Smith tells Reason he is an undecided voter, it's just that he hasn't decided which third party candidate he will vote for. He calls himself a constitutional conservative and insists he will absolutely not vote for Trump and Clinton. For a while, he had considered voting for Constitution Party candidate Darrell Castle, but he's not on the ballot in Virginia, so Smith is now on the fence between voting for McMullin or Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson. Smith says CNN producers told the focus group they would be taping certain questions as segments that might be used by CNN shows the next morning—a common TV news practice. Smith added that each of the questions they had been asked as a group had been taped twice. As a former cable TV news producer myself, I can attest that shooting more "packages" than you're likely to need is standard operating procedure. It's entirely possible that there was no nefarious intent on the part of CNN behind the creation of a taped package which included third party as a voting option. But the fact is, when the cameras went live, Brown didn't give the group the option of choosing a "third party." Live TV viewers were left with the impression that the majority of the focus group was undecided between Trump, Clinton, and no one else. "I was shocked that they would purposely not put it out there that people were supporting a third party," Smith told Reason, adding, "Intentionally covering that up...I can't imagine what their narrative is." CNN did not respond to requests for comment. Is it just an odd turn of events that the "undecided" question went out on live TV while the "third party" question went to tape? It's not clear whether the latter ever aired the next morning and I haven't been able to find a clip of it on CNN's website, but sometimes producers are left with more content than they can use. It's also important to note that CNN hasn't ignored third parties this election cycle; they have aired two Libertarian town halls in recent month[...]

Actively Open-Minded Thinking About Climate Change

Fri, 07 Oct 2016 00:01:00 -0400

Americans remain deeply divided along partisan lines on the issue of climate change, according to a new Pew Research Center poll. Seven in 10 liberal Democrats trust climate scientists to give full and accurate information on the causes of climate change, whereas only 15 percent of conservative Republicans do. In addition, 54 percent of liberal Democrats believe that climate scientists have a good understanding of the causes of climate change, compared to only 11 percent of conservative Republicans. Liberal Democrats also believe that climate research reflects that best available evidence most of the time. Only 9 percent of conservative Republicans agree. Why this partisan difference over what is essentially an empirical question? Some researchers have concluded that conservatives are less likely than liberals to be open-minded or to engage in effortful cognition when evaluating scientific evidence, especially when accepting those data means undermining their faith in free markets. But research from the Yale Cultural Cognition Project supports a different notion: This polarization tends to occur when accepting or rejecting a scientific thesis becomes a signal to your fellow partisans that you're on their side. For example, research by the Yale law professor Dan Kahan finds that as scientific literacy goes up, so too does partisan polarization on the issue of climate change. In other words, the more science people know, the more they are able to seek out and find information justifying their beliefs. In a new study, Kahan and his colleagues assess the relationship between accepting the evidence for man-made global warming with a measure for actively open-minded thinking and attitudes toward climate change. Actively open-minded thinking is defined as the "willingness to search actively for evidence against one's favored beliefs, plans or goals and to weigh such evidence fairly when it is available." In a survey, some 1,600 Americans were sorted by political orientation and their propensity toward actively open-minded thinking. Psychologists have devised various questionnaires that aim to measure an individual's propensity to engage in such salutary cognition; Kahan's survey used a seven-item scale that asked participants to rate their agreement with such statements as "allowing yourself to be convinced by an opposing argument is a sign of good character," and "changing your mind is a sign of weakness." In the past, many researchers have argued that political conservatives tend to be deficient with regard to actively open-minded thinking. Consequently, they contend that if for some odd reason a conservative did have such a disposition, he would be more likely to accept the scientific evidence in favor of climate change. In fact, the opposite occurred. Since most liberals in the survey already believed that there is solid evidence of recent global warming due mostly to human activity, their probability that that they would accept that conclusion rose only modestly with higher actively open-minded thinking scores. On the other hand, the higher conservatives scored on actively open-minded thinking, the lower the probability they would agree that there is solid evidence for man-made global warming. The gap between liberals and conservatives on beliefs about climate change widens the more that both engaged in actively open-minded thinking. What is going on? The researchers argue that "actively open-minded thinking in fact enhances the proficiency of reasoning aimed at forming identity-congruent beliefs." Actively open-minded thinkers are "simply better at screening information for identity-congruent inferences." In other words, sophisticated reasoning skills enable people to more [...]

Rep. Charles Boustany, Accused of Patronizing Murdered Sex-Workers in Louisiana, Files Defamation Lawsuit Against Reporter

Wed, 05 Oct 2016 16:40:00 -0400

(image) U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany (R-Louisiana) is suing author Ethan Brown and his publisher, Simon & Schuster, over a new book that claims Boustany was a client of murdered sex workers in Louisiana's Jefferson Davis Parish. The book, Murder in the Bayou, was released in September and explores the unsolved murders of eight women in western Louisiana who came to be known as "the Jeff Davis 8."

After years of digging into the case, Brown, a New Orleans-based investigative reporter, asserts that the serial-killer narrative pushed by police and media was wrong and "it should have been obvious all along that the Jeff Davis 8 killings were not the handiwork of a serial killer…[since they] all knew one another intimately." Without answering any questions about the case definitively, Murder in the Bayou explores how police incompetence, indifference, and possibly corruption sabotaged the murder investigations.

The book also includes three anonymous sources who say Rep. Boustany patronized one or more of the murdered sex workers. And it notes that a Boustany field staffer, Martin "Big G" Guillory, ran a hotel, the Boudreaux Inn, where the victims had seen clients. "Several of the slain workers were constantly involved in incidents resulting in police presence at the Boudreaux Inn" while Guillory owned it, the book states.

But Brown was also careful to note that "there is no evidence that either Congressman Boustany or Big G had any involvement with the murders of the Jeff Davis 8."

It wasn't enough to keep Boustany—one of 24 people up for David Vitter's open Senate seat in November—from filing a defamation lawsuit Monday against Brown and Simon & Schuster. The suit claims Brown's book includes statements that "were known to be false when made or were made with malicious intent and reckless disregard for the truth." Boustany and his wife have also vigorously denied the book's claims.

Brown told the Associated Press that he stands by what he reported in the book.