The Coming Council Battle Over Parental Leave Will Tell Us Who Really Won the 2015 Election Cycle

This afternoon, King County Elections will certify the November 3 results with Lisa Herbold holding a 30-something-vote lead in the closely contested District 1 race. There will be an automatic manual recount, but don’t expect the margin to change by more than a vote or two at most. KCE pre-inspects ballots, duplicating those it expects might have trouble scanning, and previous recounts have routinely shown little or no change from the first count.

Congratulations to Herbold, and my sympathies to Shannon Braddock for what must be a heartbreaking loss.

Back when Braddock had a comfortable election night lead and it was Kshama Sawant’s D3 race that looked uncomfortably close (she eventually won by 12-plus percent), there was a rush by some pundits and politicos to judge the election cycle as a loss for Sawant and her socialist/labor alliance. But with Herbold replacing her ultra-liberal boss Nick Licata on the council, the current 6-3 split on the council remains intact. At least.

For the question of who really won this cycle will be answered in the new year, when the issue of 12 weeks parental leave for city employees is inevitably again raised before the council. Yesterday, the proposal went down to defeat, with Sawant, Licata, Mike O’Brien, and Bruce Harrell voting for it. Sally Bagshaw, who voted yes in committee, switched her vote to no before the full council. I’ll leave it to others to speculate on her motives.

But next year, four newly elected council members will have the opportunity to weigh in. If the new council approves 12 weeks parental leave, that will indicate a further shift to left left. If the proposal fails by the same 4-5 margin, that will indicate status quo.

Every member of the council thinks of themselves as progressive. The truth will be in their votes.

Drinking Liberally — Seattle

DLBottleThe past week in politics has been absolutely crazy. Conservatives have developed bladder control issues as they cower at the thought of refugees coming into the U.S. Some Washington State lawmakers joined right in on the public display of cowardice. A leading Presidential candidate has been spewing incredibly racist lies, apparently to stoke his base. And that just touches on the week’s wackiness.

Please join us for some sane political conversation over the beverage of your choice at tonight’s Seattle Chapter of Drinking liberally.

We meet tonight and every Tuesday at the Roanoke Park Place Tavern, 2409 10th Ave E, Seattle. You’ll find us in the small room at the back of the tavern. Things start up at about 8:00 pm.

Can’t make it to Seattle tonight? Check out one of the other DL meetings happening this week. Tonight the Tri-Cities chapter also meets. On Wednesday, the Burien chapter meets. And the Woodinville, Spokane, and Kent chapters meet on Thursday.

Welcome, Hanna Brooks Olsen, to Nick Hanauer’s Crass Menagerie

Back in March, when I welcomed Paul Constant to our then-unnamed policy/messaging shop, I joked about our boss’s weird hobby:

Most 1 percenters just don’t know what to do with all their filthy lucre. Some rich people collect art. Other rich people collect cars or even houses. But Nick Hanauer, America’s premier self-loathing plutocrat, seems intent on ostentatiously collecting ex-Stranger writers.

Well, I’m happy to announce that Nick has recently added Hanna Brooks Olsen to his crass menagerie.

Hanna has a number of freelance bylines at The Stranger and elsewhere, though she’s certainly best known to local readers as one of the forces behind the popular tumblog, Seattlish. Mostly, Hanna will be heading up a top-secret internal Civic Ventures project, but she’ll also contribute regularly to our Civic Skunkworks blog. In fact, her first Skunkworks post just went live today: “It’s Too Soon to Tell if a Higher Minimum Wage is Eliminating Restaurant Jobs.” Give it a read, and then pretty much ignore just about every headline you see on the so-called “early” impact of Seattle’s minimum wage.

So welcome to Civic Ventures, Hanna. Now let’s all go out there and change the world… you know, hopefully for the better.

Vitter’s loss has huge implications

Sen. Vitter reenactmentSen. David “Diaperman” Vitter (R-LA) has lost today’s runoff gubernatorial election in Louisiana. Vitter was defeated by Democratic state Rep. John Bel Edwards (LA-72), who has led in all recent polling for the race.

Vitter is infamous for a 2007 sex scandal when his phone number was among those found in the “D.C. Madam’s” phone book. Vitter responded to the scandal by offering an apology with his wife, Wendy, by his side, in what might be the most awkward political moment in history. And he refused to resign.

The moniker “Diaperman” is from reports that the Senator enjoyed diaper play with at least one prostitute.

Despite the scandal, Vitter was reelected to his U.S. Senate seat in 2010. This year he ran for Governor.

Vitter’s opponent, John Bel Edwards, made effective use of Vitter’s prostitution scandal.

This race has a number of implications. First, it means that the Democrats have won back a Governor’s seat. Bobby Jindal (R) has been the Governor since 2008, but must step down on account of term limits. Jindal ran for the G.O.P. presidential nomination for 2016, but dropped out this past week.

The second big implication has to do with Vitter’s Senate seat. Vitter can run for reelection to the U.S. Senate. But tonight Vitter announced he will not run for reelection. Furthermore, he said he will fulfill the last year of his Senate term.

The implications for this are huge. If Vitter resigned now, Jindal would be able to appoint a replacement who would, effectively, be an incumbent for 2016. But Vitter and Jindal hate each other, so Vitter will not give Jindal the opportunity to pick a successor. The result is that the U.S. Senate 3rd class seat for Louisiana will be an open race in 2016.

In my recent analysis of the Senate race, Democrats would most likely win 49 seats if the election was held now. That analysis assumed that (1) Vitter would lose the gubernatorial race, (2) Vitter would run as the incumbent for his seat, and (3) he would win with 100% certainty.

Now we know that will not happen. Instead there will be an open seat in Louisiana for 2016. It is too early to tell who the candidates will be. Both sides have potential strong candidates, but none have declared yet. We do know that the strongest candidates on each side, Bobby Jindal (R) and Mary Landrieu (D), have declined to run. Maybe they will reconsider.

I usually stay away from predictions, but I’ll offer a conditional prediction here. If the Democrats manage to reach at least 50 seats in 2016, it will be because Louisiana elected a Democrat to the Senate.

Friday Night Multimedia Extravaganza!

Starbucks responds to War-on-Christmas-Cup-gate.

The adventures of Young Hillary: One Woman Play.

Seals help scientists study climate change in Greenland.

Mental Floss: 52 facts about popular cities.

Paris Attacks Turn Wingnuts into Blubbering Cowards:

Adam Ruins Internships.

Congressional Hits and Misses of the week.

The Adventures of Young Hillary: Sleepover games.

Stephen does Bill Maher

The 2016 Cascade of Clowns:

Mental Floss: Misconceptions about the brain.

White House: West Wing Week.

Farron Cousins: Is there any group the FAUX News doesn’t hate.

Unintended Consequences:

Stephen: You know nothing, Barack Obama.

The adventures of Young Hillary: Teaching the less fortunate.

Last week’s Friday Night Multimedia Extravaganza can be found here.

Why Does Amazon Knowingly Hawk Fake Products?

So, I was searching for a high capacity rugged USB thumb drive, and now this Amazon ad keeps following me around the Internet:

Scam Amazon ad

Wow! A tiny form factor waterproof 512GB USB thumb drive for only $15.10? That’s a fraction of the size of a similar capacity drive from a name brand manufacturer, at less than one twentieth the price! It’s gotta be too good to be true, right?

Of course it is. It’s a scam. And it’s not the only one. Amazon’s search pages are actually stock full of ads offering high-capacity drives at literally impossible prices, and if  you click through, you’ll usually find helpful reviewers warning you off… typically scattered among a bunch of scam reviewers touting a “great product!”

No, this particular scam drive isn’t shipped directly by Amazon—but this one is. And Amazon is directly advertising these fakes both on its website and in ads like the one above, making it complicit in the scam. And in so doing, Amazon is surely fooling loyal customers by lending these ripoffs the credibility of its valuable brand. Makes you wonder if you can trust any bargain you find on Amazon? And if it doesn’t, it should, because if it’s happening with USB thumb drives, it’s surely happening in many other product categories.

And no, Amazon isn’t a victim here. The company has spent kajillions developing AI designed to sell us more stuff, so it’s certainly capable of developing technology that flags impossibly priced merchandise as potential scams.

Just imagine the scandal if Walmart was found stocking its shelves with fake discount merchandise, possibly knowingly? So why isn’t this a scandal when it’s happening at America’s largest online retailer?

Anyway, consider this post a free tip to ambitious investigative journalists, attorneys general, and class action lawyers. Because my Goldy senses tell me there’s a lot more to this scam than one impossibly priced fake 512GB drive.

The Uterid

Once upon a July day, Washington Republican leaders were haunted by thoughts of lady parts making baby parts with capitalist intent.

“We will investigate this outrage of endometrial entrepreneurship!”, they cried from the belfry.

The scrivener issued a clarifying scroll, “Yes, we believe in free markets, unless a uterus is involved. And then we demand Big Government Regulations”

So they hatched a bold plan to use Collective Action to get the job done:

Thirty-four Republican state representatives have asked state Attorney General Bob Ferguson to investigate whether Planned Parenthood affiliates in the state have illegally profited from the sale of fetal body parts.

The leaders waited as General Ferguson’s investigation underwent a months-long gestation. They would take the fruits borne of this disquisition, parade the findings before the masses, take them apart and serially disseminate them in pursuit of political contributions.

But the fruits were bitter and cruel to the union of uterine-overseers. There was no nourishment to be had for their War on Women™.

In a 48-page report, Attorney General Bob Ferguson rejected claims that Planned Parenthood has performed partial-birth abortions or that any of its clinics sell fetal tissue for profit “rather than simply recovering costs.”

“We found no indication that procedures performed by Planned Parenthood are anything other than performance of a legally authorized medical procedure,” Ferguson wrote in his report.

Ferguson’s findings are particularly important because Washington is one of only two states where a Planned Parenthood clinic allows women to donate fetal tissue to medical research. The report is a result of a four-month investigation, which was requested by state Republican leaders.

There was no endometrial entrepreneurship to be found in the lands. The report was barren and lifeless. Their plans to sew the seeds of discontent and grow their coffers would have to be aborted.

“Surely, the investigation has overlooked something.”

“We’ll keep looking and root out endometrial entrepreneurship yon.”

More than a dozen other states have also ended investigations of Planned Parenthood without finding any illegal or suspicious activity.

“Inconceivable”, some bellowed.

“Unbearable findings”, others howled.

“More investigation!,” one cried.

“Yes…More investigation!”, another.

And they satisfied themselves by repeating the chant in rhythm, until their distant leaders took their cause.

Congressional leaders have announced their own probe into the organization, which consists of about a dozen members from both parties.

They were, once again, filled with great hope of finding endometrial entrepreneurship, but only so that they could properly abhor it. And plant the seeds of fundraising.

And so it goes.

Drinking Liberally — Seattle


Please join us tonight for an evening of politics over a pint at the Seattle Chapter of Drinking liberally.

We meet tonight and every Tuesday at the Roanoke Park Place Tavern, 2409 10th Ave E, Seattle. You’ll find us in the small room at the back of the tavern. Things start up at about 8:00 pm.

Can’t make it to Seattle tonight? Check out one of the other DL meetings happening this week. Tonight the Tri-Cities, Vancouver, WA, and Shelton chapters also meet. The Lakewood chapter meets on Wednesday. On Thursday, the Tacoma chapter meets.

There are 184 chapters of Living Liberally, including eighteen in Washington state, three in Oregon and one in Idaho. Find—or start—a chapter near you.

Poll Analysis: Senate Outlook 2016

Pres.Senate to Dems*Senate to GOP
Democratic:43.3% probability56.7% probability
Republican:5.6% probability94.5% probability
Mean of 49 seatsMean of 51 seats

Electoral College Map

AlabamaAlaskaArizonaArkansasCaliforniaColoradoConnecticutDelawareFloridaGeorgiaHawaiiIdahoIllinoisIndianaIowaKansasKentuckyLousianaMaineMarylandMassachusettesMichiganMinnesotaMississippiMissouriMontanaNebraskaNevadaNew HampshireNew JerseyNew MexicoNew YorkNorth CarolinaNorth DakotaOhioOklahomaOregonPennsylvaniaRhode IslandSouth CarolinaSouth DakotaTennesseeTexasUtahVermontVirginiaD.C.WashingtonWest VirginiaWisconsinWyoming

It is way too early to make much of anything out of the 2016 Senate head-to-head polls. After all, we still have a primary season to go before we know who will be on the ballot. Still…there is just enough polling to give us an “early-first-quarter score” in the Senate races.

Currently, the Senate is controlled by Republicans, who hold 54 seats. Democrats hold 45 seats, plus Maine’s Sen. Angus King caucuses with the Democrats. In 2016, there will be 34 senatorial elections, all of the Senate’s “third class.” (There could be additional special elections as well, but I am not aware of any right now.) The current crop of Senators were elected in 2010, a Republican wave off-year election. Six years later, Republicans find themselves with 24 seats to defend and Democrats with 10 seats to defend, in a presidential election year.

I’ve spent a bit of time trying to divine the candidates most likely to appear on the ballot. In some cases, it was easy. Rand Paul will appear as the G.O.P. nominee in the Kentucky race. (You know…assuming his struggling presidential campaign continues its current trajectory.) Incumbents tend to get their party’s nomination, although there are retirements, like Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV). In some states, front-runners are obvious, like in Wisconsin where incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson (R) will almost certainly go up against former Sen. Russ Feingold (D). When there are multiple candidates, I’ve tried to use primary polls, newspaper accounts, FEC numbers, and other sources to find the strongest or most likely candidate to advance to the general. You can see which candidates I’ve advanced to the general by looking at the polls page.

I’ve found state head-to-head polls in 15 races and no polls for 19 races. Polled states tend to be the ones with the most competitive Senate races OR states with some other importance. For example, there are many polls in Iowa and New Hampshire, which are the early caucus/primary states. I’ve found a total of 69 polls to date, so clearly there are multiple polls for many of the 15 races. States without polling are assumed to go to the party currently holding the seat.

After 100,000 simulated elections, Democrats have a Senate majority 5,553 times, there were 37,718 ties, and Republicans have a Senate majority 56,729 times. In the event of a 50 seat tie, the President’s party controls (U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 3). If Sec. Hillary Clinton wins, Democrats have a 43.3% probability of controlling the Senate and Republicans have a 56.7% probability of controlling the Senate. If Clinton loses, Republicans would almost certainly (94.5% probability) maintain control of the Senate.

The good news for Democrats is that they are likely to gain 4 seats and have a good shot of taking control if they win the presidential election. The good news for Republicans is that they are still more likely than not to control the Senate. They can either lose 4 or fewer seats or lose 5 seats plus win the presidential election.

Let’s examine a few of the races.

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