Monthly Archives: September 2017

You can disagree with Colin Kaepernick and still respect his courage

By Kent R. Kroeger (Source:, September 25, 2017)

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At this point, an NFL starting quarterback job would be a demotion for former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Willingly or not, he is now  one of this nation’s most prominent symbols of protest against police brutality towards people of color. And for good reason. He took a visible position while a player in this country’s favorite professional sport — and did so knowing it could (and did) jeopardize his career.

#IMWITHKAP is becoming a mainstay on Twitter’s trending list in part because the core issue being highlighted by Kaepernick — equal treatment under the law by our nation’s police and judicial system — continues to divide this country.

My 11-year-old son, a rabid Washington Redskins football fan, can’t spell Q-U-A-R-T-E-R-B-A-C-K, but he can spell K-A-E-P-E-R-N-I-C-K. His friends are still talking about Kaepernick, over a year removed from last playing a significant down in an NFL game.

On one level, this could be evidence of Kaepernick’s success. Sadly, however, Kaepernick’s original protest seems to be lost in what are now the daily distractions our president and the servile media have chosen to be our next 24-hour obsession.


Kaepernick initially sat down and eventually took a knee instead during the national anthem at NFL games as a protest for the unequal and deadly application of police force in this country towards African-Americans.

We should welcome discussion on this topic whatever the viewpoint. I do not apologize for using both the #BlackLivesMatter and #BlueLivesMatter hashtag when tweeting on this issue.

The police are put in harms way every day and they don’t always have the luxury to make the best decisions under stressful circumstances. And, yes, young men are increasing their chances of being killed by law enforcement when they do not immediately and unequivocally comply with police commands.

All true but do not abrogate our responsibility as a civil society to find ways to minimize these too frequent deadly force confrontations between law enforcement and citizens.

From a statistical perspective, the evidence is murky on whether African-American men are disproportionately killed by law enforcement. The Washington Post’s 2015 investigation into the issue found that, out of the 995 people killed by police in 2015, less than 4 percent (38 people) involved an unarmed black man and a white police officer. In 2016, only 17 unarmed black men were killed by the police, according to The Post. That is 17 too many.

The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund reported that 64 police officers were killed in firearm-related incidents in 2016 compared to 41 killed in 2015.

These numbers may seem small relative to the amount of news coverage dedicated to police shootings and racial justice, but what the statistics don’t capture are the intense emotions generated within the African-American and law enforcement communities every time a police shooting video is released to the public.

Regardless of your view on whether it is appropriate to kneel during the national anthem, we can all agree that our law enforcement officers work within the most weaponized civilian population in the world. According to the Congressional Research Service, there are 113 guns per 100 residents in the U.S. The next most armed country is Serbia with 76 guns per 100 residents.

Americans arm themselves like Peshmerga rebel fighters and then ask their law enforcement officers to go into dangerous situations where suspects can sometimes have more firepower at their disposal than the police on the scene. Solely judging police officers for making bad decisions in those situations is short-sighted and unproductive. However, how we train our law enforcement officers, particularly with respect to rules of engagement and deescalation training, must be addressed.

Something has to change and that, in my view, is what Kaepernick’s simple and visible protest was always about.

That Kaepernick responded to his fellow 49er teammate and former U.S. Army Green Beret Nate Boyer‘s belief that sitting during the anthem was disrespectful to our military members’ sacrifices, and that kneeling would be more appropriate, confirms the former 49ers quarterback’s intentions. Kaepernick was not trying to disrespect the military, the flag, or the country — his purpose was to keep the issue of the unequal application of justice on the nation’s agenda. That’s all.

But that was when Barack Obama was president. This is a new day and a new president.

The issue of racial injustice now requires the Trump name to be repeated 125 times per hour while discussing any hot topic issue. And while we can admire what many NFL owners and players did this past weekend, we should not forget how the league has manipulated the national anthem for its own purposes, particularly in the last 10 years.

The NFL not only cloaks itself in the American flag, but emphasizes its military symbolism to the neglect of other important aspects the flag embodies (like say, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, equality before the law, justice, and all that other legally do-gooder stuff that can’t be easily represented by things as cool as a B2 Stealth Bomber doing a low stadium flyover). Many will rightfully note the NFL’s extraordinary cynicism given that it once required the U.S. Department of Defense to pay for halftime tributes to our nation’s military members.

After Trump’s incendiary Alabama speech, Roger Goodell said some good things about the players kneeling at NFL games. He’s still a shit head toady for the owners, though.

As for the news media and the political Left, they need to stop posing Trump’s remarks against these NFL player protests as potentially infringing on their right of free speech. Trump’s comments were not a threat to the First Amendment.

The NFL is a private organization run by the team owners. They run an entertainment enterprise and have the legal right to set rules on how their employees behave when they represent the NFL. This is not a First Amendment issue, despite what Megyn “I was a lawyer once” Kelly tells us.


You don’t need to exaggerate Kaepernick’s influence to appreciate how his simple act of protest became something much bigger.

Statistics do not always tell the whole story. The issue of race is one of those cases where the official data we collect fail to reflect the real experience of being a person of color in this country. Numbers are sterile and emotionless. Videos, on the other hand, are visceral.

The latest disturbing video comes Huntington Beach, California where a High School junior was shot dead outside a 7-11 after wrestling with a police officer and grabbing something from the officer’s belt (it appears to have been his walkie-talkie, but it is not clear in the video). This is not suggesting young men should wrestle with police officers with impunity. It is suggesting that some law enforcement officers are not prepared for situations like the one in Huntington Beach.

Police should not be issuing summary death sentences in these circumstances. I don’t understand why the law enforcement community would want its officers making these decisions when legitimate non-lethal forms of defense are available and already in the hands of police officers.

While President Trump spits out needless and impertinent remarks meant only to garner crowd applause, Kaepernick has stayed out of the spotlight. Only his mother’s tweet in response to Trump’s Alabama remarks gives a reminder that her son is still a figure in this protest movement.

Kaepernick’s absence however does not protect him from personal attacks, even among commentators otherwise sympathetic to his cause.


Perhaps the saddest comments I’ve heard since Trump’s original comments in Alabama came from the elder statesmen of sports broadcasters — NBC’s Bob Costas.

While appearing on one of CNN’s morning shows, Bob Costas gave an awkward and intellectually sloppy dismissal of Kaepernick’s importance in this current controversy. According to Costas, who apparently has the education he considers necessary to judge who should and should not lead racial justice protests, suggested that Kaepernick’s public statements regarding the futility of voting makes him “an imperfect messenger” for this protest movement.

Fair enough, that is Costas’ opinion. And to be truthful, Kaepernick has made some decisions I would not have recommended (i.e., socks showing pigs wearing police uniforms).

But Costas’ citing Kaepernick’s voting cynicism ignores the litany of writers, academics and prominent social activists that have come to similar conclusions.

Costas instead cites Mohammed Ali, Jackie Robinson, Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Jim Brown as better representatives of what a protest leader should sound and look like. Again, I admire each of those four men for varying reasons, but how Costas determines their qualifications for leadership to be superior to Kaepernick’s is baffling. No, its just stupid.

Here is a quote that is not stupid. It was how Kaepernick explained his reason for kneeling during the national anthem in the first place: This country stands for freedom, liberty, and justice for all. And it’s not happening for all right now.”

Costas’ gripe about Kaepernick’s credentials mirrors similar dismissals made by politicians and media opinion elites about ABC talk show host Jimmy Kimmel’s criticisms of the Graham-Cassidy health care bill. Conservative writer Stephen Moore called Kimmel “uneducated” on the subject. Others mocked his over-simplification of the bill’s effect on Americans. God knows, CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News have never put “experts” on their air that over-simplified an issue like health care. I’m so exhausted right now, I’m reduced to offering low-grade sarcasm. Its late in the day and I have little else left in the tank.

Hypocrisy, elitism and occasional idiocy is embedded in our genetic code and I fully expect someday Colin Kaepernick will say something wrong or ill-timed that will require a day of national outrage against him and everything for which he stands.

Until then, he gets my respect for standing against what he perceives to be an injustice. We don’t have to agree with him.

We are a great but imperfect nation and we should all, when we see imperfections, share our concerns with our fellow citizens. That’s not disloyalty or lack of patriotism. It’s our civic duty. And that is why I respect Colin Kaepernick today.


About the author:  Kent Kroeger is a writer and statistical consultant with over 30 -years experience measuring and analyzing public opinion for public and private sector clients. He also spent ten years working for the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and the Defense Intelligence Agency. He holds a B.S. degree in Journalism/Political Science from The University of Iowa, and an M.A. in Quantitative Methods from Columbia University (New York, NY).  He lives in Ewing, New Jersey with his wife and son.


Peer pressure and climate science

By Kent R. Kroeger (Source:, September 21, 2017)

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One reason science remains human advancement’s greatest engine is its subjection to empirical evidence for confirmation of its assumptions, models and theories.

Regrettably, since science is conducted and reported by humans — at least for now — it is subject to many analytic biases including measurement error, selection bias, peer pressure, reputation protection, partisan politics, and peer pressure. Scientists are vulnerable. Journalists are vulnerable. Even the Pope and Al Gore aren’t immune.

Moreover, the politicization of science fosters a dysfunctional social dynamic between experts, politicians and stakeholders, each bringing different, sometimes contradictory, motives and interests to the public discourse. Journalists want attention-grabbing headlines, activists need to raise money, scientists are competing for government research grants, and politicians must cater to their constituents.

The resulting stew can bury real science under layers of misinformation, bias, partisanship and deceit.

With the latest minor controversy in the climate science community, we see many of those analytic solecisms and social dynamics in action.

The latest scientific rumpus started with the release of a new climate study, Emission budgets and pathways consistent with limiting warming to 1.5 °C,  by Richard J. Millar, et al., and published in the September 2017 issue of Nature Geoscience.

And what did they find?

In their words: “We show that limiting cumulative post-2015 CO2 emissions to about 200 gigatonnes of carbon (GtC) would limit post-2015 warming to less than 0.6°C in 66% of Earth system model members of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5) ensemble with no mitigation of other climate drivers, increasing to 240GtC with ambitious non-CO2 mitigation.”

Using more layman terms, they write, “assuming COemissions peak and decline to below current levels by 2030, and continue thereafter on a much steeper decline, [global temperatures will peak at] 1.2–2.0°C above the mid-nineteenth century [pre-industrial] levels.

No single study is the last word on global warming, and the Millar,et al. study did not find anything contradicting previous warming forecasts, including those reported in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report in 2013. However, the study did report, after 2020, the CMIP5 ensemble-mean human-induced warming is over 0.3 °C warmer than the central estimate for human-induced warming to 2015.

Let the conservative media’s misinterpretations begin. When the study’s results were reported in the UK’s Daily Mail, the headline read:

Now that’s an inconvenient truth: Report shows the world isn’t as warm as the green doom-mongers warned. So will energy bills come down?

The Daily Mail gets a A+ for headline creativity and a D- for headline accuracy. Once the mainstream news outlets took hold of the Millar et al. study, all interpretational control of was lost.

The problem is the Millar et al. results are influenced by the climate model outputs and observational temperature measurements selected in their analyses. Furthermore, the authors did not intend for their paper to be an estimate of current model/observation temperature differences, but was instead focused on global carbon cycle accuracy.

As for the news media, they serve a different master than climate scientists and the rash conclusion (no matter how wrong) that the climate models are exaggerating the extent of global warming was just too “newsworthy” to ignore, at least for the conservative-leaning media. News on the Millar et al. study was nowhere to be found in the liberal-leaning news outlets.

But the ‘models are wrong’ interpretation of Millar et al. is not accurate, even if understandable given the somewhat confusing way Millar et al. summarized their findings.

The website offers an excellent critique of Millar et al. and offers the following, presumably more accurate, conclusion:

The results of model/observation comparisons differ greatly based on the dataset used, the model outputs analysed – model air temperatures or blended model air/ocean temperatures – and the time period examined. While the Millar et al study points out some sizable differences between the HadCRUT record and the model air temperature field, this should not be generalised to conclude that warming projections are unreliable or that warming has been ‘exaggerated by faulty models’. The paper’s real focus is on carbon budgets and carbon cycle accuracy, rather than model/observation comparisons of the warming associated with increased atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations, and their results have little bearing on our understanding of climate sensitivity.

As a statistician (and not a climate scientist), I will defer to Carbon Brief’s expertise on the methodological issues regarding the measurement of global temperatures over time. Climate science has a long history of measurement issues and controversies. But the plotting and interpretation of time-series data is an area where I do have some experience, and in this regard, I am puzzled at to why climate scientists repeatedly shutdown public discussions over the uncertainty inherent to global warming models and forecasts.


The graph below comes from CarbonBrief’s website and shows the time-series plotting of five selected climate observation methods and the average of the forecast models (black line) between 1970-2020 for global temperatures. The gray shaded area indicates the models’ forecast ranges.

Since 1970, global temperatures are rising about 0.18 °C per decade, while model forecasts average about a 0.2 °C increase per decade.

Courtesy of Carbon Brief (

When the aggregated forecast models have a yearly error range of ±0.4°C from the mean prediction and a signal-to-noise ratio of around 2.5, the ability to explain short-term temperature anomaly fluctuations is constrained. In other words, it takes multiple years, even decades, to assess trends in global temperatures. To react to a one or two year spike (or decline) in global temperatures is like trying to drive your car but only being able to see one or two feet in front of your car.

Remember the ‘pause’ in global warming often cited by conservatives and global warming skeptics? A simple eyeball scan of the above time-series plot reveals the time period where the ‘pause’ occurred. Global temperatures did not increase between 1998, the year of a major El Niño warming event, and 2014, the year prior to the last strong El Niño event in 2015.

It may look like a pause, but the forecast models’ levels of uncertainty make it difficult to distinguish a genuine warming pause from natural variation. We know this because it is easy to draw a straight line for long time periods within the model forecast ranges (the gray shaded region). Like a lucky streak at a Vegas blackjack table, the so-called ‘pause’ may be random chance.

However, the climate scientists have a similar problem in that even sharp year-to-year increases in average global temperatures also could be a function of natural variation and not an indication of accelerating global warming.


Millar et al. may not have proven any systematic bias in global warming models, but the swift reaction by (and other climate scientists) to their paper demonstrates the community’s hyper-sensitivity to any science even slightly optimistic about the rate of global warming or the time we have globally to reduce carbon emissions to zero.

Even more distressing is how climate scientists’ use public forums to police their own over minor professional controversies. In the present example, the lead author of the Millar et al. paper, Dr. Richard Millar, and his co-authors felt so much professional pressure they quickly issued a public statement concerning the misinterpretations of their research paper.

The climate science community’s apparent need to shield the public from even small bouts of climate optimism carries with it significant analytic risks. Yes, Millar et al. paper could have been more precise in their conclusions, but their very public rebuke by their own colleagues sends a chilling message to other climate scientists: Do not challenge the consensus view on global warming and the urgency of our planet’s collective need to reduce carbon emissions to zero within the next 40 years.

I doubt the climate change community would have reacted at all to a similarly flawed research study if its final conclusion were that the earth is warming faster than the current models predict or that the time frame to reduce carbon emissions to zero is shorter than previously asserted.

Its a similar type of peer pressure and shaming the major world religions have been using for centuries.


About the author:  Kent Kroeger is a writer and statistical consultant with over 30 -years experience measuring and analyzing public opinion for public and private sector clients. He also spent ten years working for the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and the Defense Intelligence Agency. He holds a B.S. degree in Journalism/Political Science from The University of Iowa, and an M.A. in Quantitative Methods from Columbia University (New York, NY).  He lives in Ewing, New Jersey with his wife and son.


When will the Hillary Clinton death spiral end?

By Kent R. Kroeger (Source:, September 19, 2017)

{ Feel free to send any comments about this essay to: or}

Just when we think we can finally move past Hillary Clinton, she finds a way to pull us back in.

Cue Michael Corleone:

The View is a banal and usually harmless syndicated morning talk show that recently had Hillary Clinton on promoting her book, What Happened.

It was painful to watch. But feel free to give it a try:

I resist calling Hillary Clinton a liar anymore as Donald Trump’s post-truth era has rendered the term punchless. Besides, what she does so well, and that she put it on display in front of The View’s fawning hosts and audience, is crafting plausible fables that serve some larger, typically self-serving, political purpose. She is a fabulist, and while she is a joyless politician, she does enjoy (it shows in her eyes) tearing down her enemies…and she has a bushel and a peck of enemies.


Her recent book release and subsequent promotional appearances have a clear mission: Destroy Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’ credibility and with it the influence of the  progressive wing of the Democratic Party.

She believes (with little empirical merit) that progressive Democrats, led by Sanders, caused her to lose the 2016 election. Sure, Comey and Russians share some blame in her mind, but Bernie came before both of those proximal causes. Bernie is the distal, and most culpable, cause of her defeat and she is not about to forgive and forget…and she is enlisting every mainstream Democrat (i.e., any Democrat who cares about raising money — which is all of them) to join in her dark quest to crush Bernie Sanders and the progressives.

The apparent lurch leftward by congressional Democrats is a chimera meant to sedate the party’s progressives, not embrace them.

Enter Bernie Sanders’ plan for universal health care in the U.S.

It is extraordinary to see how many mainstream Democratic Senators (Al Franken, Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker and others) suddenly falling all over themselves praising and endorsing Bernie Sanders’ policy ideas, particularly universal health care.

Democratic leaders can’t say the word “progressive” often enough.

Even Hillary Clinton’s new website — — says “her 2016 campaign for president…laid out a comprehensive progressive vision for America’s future,” and goes on to say she supports “universal, quality, affordable health care for everyone in America.”

She was the true progressive in the 2016 Democratic nomination race, according to her website’s storytelling. Her website even claims: “She worked across the aisle to help pass the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Today, it covers 8 million kids. She has never given up on the fight for universal coverage.”

Hillary is now responsible for working across the aisle to get CHIP passed in 1997?

This is the Art of the Fable Clinton has mastered over a long public career. For the young 20-something and 30-something Hillary supporters today, they have no reason to question her CHIP claim. For those of us working in Washington, D.C. at the time and who followed the CHIP legislative saga, the story is far more complicated and not a wholly positive one for Hillary.

The story must begin with the  titanic failure of the Health Care Reform Task Force led by the First Lady in 1993. It was her first national executive role and it didn’t go well.

Hillary blamed the insurance companies and physician lobbies for the failure to pass a national “managed care” system in 1993 (yes, she’s always loved blaming others), but many policy experts also said her disproportionate penchant for secrecy in the policy process contributed to the insurance companies and physicians taking their grievances public.

The 1993 Health Care Reform Task Force turned into a hot mess, and its impossible not to hold the First Lady partially accountable for her lack of executive skills to manage the process.

“The scheme was fatally over-complicated.,” wrote historian James Fallows a few years after the 1993 health care reform debacle. “The proposed legislation, 1,342 pages long, was hard for congressmen to read and impossible for anyone except the plan’s creators, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Ira C. Magaziner, to understand.”

Enter Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy.

The Massachusetts Senator devoted his career to pushing for a more rational, national health care system, particularly with respect to poor children. Towards the end of his life he would tell people his greatest mistake was not accepting Richard Nixon’s offer to create a universal health insurance system (similar to Obamacare in its focus on mandating and subsidizing the purchase of health insurance, but on a much more comprehensive scale).

However, due to the deep political divide in the country at the time (sound familiar?), Kennedy rejected the Nixon overture. It was not until Bill Clinton’s presidency that the issue was again taken up seriously by Congress.

A fair assessment of Hillary’s role in CHIP must acknowledge that she pushed her husband to keep the CHIP program alive during budget negotiations in the mid-1990s; and though CHIP was dropped out of the 1996 budget during the administration’s negotiations with Trent Lott and the Republicans, it was revived and ultimately passed for the 1997 budget.

Kennedy’s senior health policy adviser, Nick LIttlefield, sums up Hillary’s contribution as such: “She wasn’t a legislator, she didn’t write the law, and she wasn’t the president, so she didn’t make the decisions — but we relied on her, worked with her and she was pivotal in encouraging the White House to do it.”

Basically, she lobbied her own husband.

Credit-grabbing is not uncommon in Washington, D.C. Hillary certainly wasn’t the first politician to take more credit than warranted for a policy success, but she angered the “Lion of the Senate” who felt her arrogance had not been earned.

There is a reason Ted Kennedy did not endorse Hillary’s candidacy in 2008.

As for those Senate Democrats endorsing Bernie’s “Medicare-for-All” plan, can we assume it is genuine? Yes. I believe these Democrats have some affinity with the idea a universal health care system. The Sanders bill proposes an incremental approach to rolling out universal health care, building upon CHIP’s existing administrative structures to cover all U.S. children, and expanding over time to eventually cover all Americans.

Though still lacking explicit funding mechanisms, the Sanders bill has brought genuine optimism to those Democrats that believe a single-payer, universal health care system is the most logical and efficient approach to health care delivery. The Nation details Sanders’ newly-found skill in building support for his bill within the Senate. [For some reason, the media is ignoring Michigan Representative John Conyers who has periodically offered a universal health care plan for over ten years now.]

But don’t believe for minute that this country is on the cusp of supporting and implementing “Medicare-for-All.” The polling data shows growing support, but these survey questions are prone to framing biases. For example, if the potential costs in terms — such as higher taxes or more government control over health care — are included in the question, support for universal health care falls.

[Henry Aaron’s 2010 book, The Problem that Won’t Go Away: Reforming U.S. Health Care Financing, offers some insights this attitude volatility with regards to health care.]

Democratic progressives need to keep their expectations low regarding Sanders’ plan. It will not go anywhere, which is one reason those Senators co-sponsoring it are not putting much at risk (for now). It was very telling that California Senator Kamala Harris’ endorsement of the Sanders plan included the rationale that it “makes sense from a fiscal perspective.” She is smart –which is why she will be the next president — because she has left herself a nice little escape hatch once the funding mechanisms for Sanders’ plan are revealed. When the Republicans start crying about Sanders’ plan not making fiscal sense and putting too much power in the incompetent hands of the government, expect a lot of these Senate co-sponsors to jump ship.

Hillary understands this issue better than anyone in the Democratic Party. That is not hyperbole, nor is it praise. It is her deep knowledge in this policy area that causes her to consider any attempt at a universal health care system in the U.S. to be a fools errand.

Frustrating to congressional Democrats is that, at the moment in history when the Republicans are drowning in political ineptness as they try to repeal Obamacare, and when public support for a more comprehensive health care system is near all-time highs, Hillary is betraying her own party.

Hillary is not a team player. She never was and never will be.

Under the harsh klieg lights of daytime television, Hillary’s book tour is a public shit storm descending on the disloyal progressives in her own party (not to be confused with the loyal progressives in the party –that is, anyone in senior management at Goldman Sachs, Oscar de la Renta, Barbara Streisand, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, CNN’s Jake Tapper, etc.). Hillary is dedicating the end of her public life to calling her opponents “misogynists,” one of the most contemptible acts in politics. Its what politicians do when they have nothing left to offer.

Apparently, it is not acceptable to dislike Hillary Clinton on her merits.

As Hillary undoubtedly knows — she is after all married to the greatest political savant of our generation — the time to kill the unholy progressive wing is now, when they are distracted by that shiny object called Donald Trump. In an ironic way, Clinton’s 2016 defeat may well mark the beginning of the end for the neo-progressive movement in the Democratic Party.

Does Hillary care if a real attempt to pass a national health care system is one of the victims of her new TV thriller, Kill Bernie (Vol 2.). Probably not. Like me, she’s too cynical to think it would pass anyway.

My father once said Bill Clinton was the best Republican president of his lifetime. Working-class Americans are still seeing the negative consequences of Bill Clinton-era policies labor and trade policies.

In terms of economics and foreign policy, Hillary is even farther to the right of Bill and one of the byproducts of her campaign to discredit Bernie will be to keep the corporatist Democrats like her firmly in control.

Progressive America, keep wearing the pussy hats while your party betrays you again courtesy of the Clintons, Wall Street’s investment banks, the insurance industry, the defense/foreign policy establishment and the neoconservatives at the Center for a New American Security — who are already drawing up plans for the next regime change war in the Middle East — probably Syria, but don’t rule out Yemen.


Hillary is known to like lists. She undoubtedly has a list of people she wants to see suffer for her 2016 loss. You see the blood lust in her eyes when she talks about them: Jim Comey, Trey Gowdy, Matt Lauer, Tulsi Gabbard and, of course, Bernie Sanders. It is starting to border on bat shit crazy.

If her sycophants still believe Hillary could run for the presidency in 2020, they need to let go of that dream. She is making herself toxic to half of the Democratic Party. Deliberately so. And she clearly doesn’t care anymore. The Clinton family has scores to settle..and the family’s business is going to get settled.

Cue Michael Corleone again:

[I am not suggesting Hillary is going to have people killed. Such baseless accusations are what we have Ann Coulter and Joy Reid for.]


In the September issue of The New Yorker, David Remnick reports Hillary’s closest confidants view her mental state as “angry, confused, bitter and sad.”

The same psychological assessment could have been made about Richard Nixon in 1962 after his defeat in the California gubernatorial race — but Nixon was far from done and he did come back to win the presidency six years later. Nixon was also just 49-years-old in 1962 when he famously said that the press wouldn’t “have Nixon to kick around any more.”

Luckily for the press, Nixon was lying.

If The View is available in hell — and why wouldn’t it be? — Nixon must recognize the many characteristics he shares with Hillary.

Well, let us think about that first. An informal checklist comparison might help:

  1. Intelligent? Yes, both are intelligent.
  2. Trained lawyers? Yep and yep.
  3. Charismatic? Uh….put that down as two ‘No’ answers.
  4. Secretive boardering on unethical? Absolutely, both get an enthusiastic thumbs up.
  5. Criminally corrupt? Nixon gets an A- since, at best, he was only going to get nailed on an obstruction of justice charge; Hillary receives an ‘incomplete.’
  6. Paranoid? Sweet Jesus, do you even have to think about this one? Two more yeses.
  7. Endured a humiliating marriage to a documented sexual predator, and then served as the sword’s point in character assassination campaigns against the spouse’s accusers, while knowing the accusations were mostly true? Hillary wins on this in Crimson Tide versus Troy State fashion.

Hillary is very different from Richard Nixon. Despite all of his other deep personality flaws, Nixon faithfully loved his wife, Pat, to the very end.


Hillary will not be back in 2020 to give it one more go-around. She will, however, play footsie with the nomination process, at one point acting like she might jump in — given the weak candidate choices offered, in her opinion— and then, once the field has been narrowed to two or three candidates, encourage the media to hold watch over who she may or may not endorse for the nomination.

The media attention will make her feel good.  Not good enough to put down the Chardonnay, but good enough to suppress her now autonomic reflex to grab the nearest heavy, sharp object and throw it at Bill’s head when he walks into a room.

Yes, Hillary tells us in her book, What Happened, when it was clear she would lose to Trump, she laid down next to Bill on a bed where they just ‘breathed together” in silence.

Its a heartwarming story. I may even believe it. I wasn’t there. And, to be fair, Bill is the only person Hillary has not blamed for losing the 2016 election. Never mind that Bill’s boneheaded, politically tone deaf tarmac meeting with U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch ignited a genuine media firestorm about possible collusion between the U.S. Justice Department and the Clinton campaign over a criminal investigation into Hillary’s alleged use of a private email server for transmitting classified information.

Don’t worry, I’m not going down that road. If the FBI says there is nothing to look at here, then there’s nothing to look at it. Move along.

What I can’t ignore are the pernicious myths Hillary promotes today to rationalize her failure to win the 2016 election.

There are so many, but I will concentrate on the biggest myth she offered to the uncritical women hosting The Viewbecause it features Hillary’s base, most self-destructive pathology. She is a professional victim, boarding on clinical paranoia. The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders identifies the major symptoms of this personality disorder as…

  • A pervasive, long-standing suspiciousness and generalized mistrust of others,
  • Hypersensitive and unable to handle criticism,
  • Vigilant scanning of the environment to validate the paranoia,
  • An eager observer of other’s actions and motives, and
  • Prone to spontaneous violence.

That may describe 50 percent of the people we know (including ourselves), but we see those symptoms on vivid display in Hillary’s appearance on The View. No, she didn’t hit anybody with a lamp, but she has a maniacal need to find more causes than are necessary to explain her 2016 defeat.

The Russians, the Comey letter and Robbie Mook’s awful tactical resource allocation decisions are the biggest non-Hillary factors in her defeat.

(Yes, I understand. If Hillary hadn’t recklessly set up a private, home-based server to handle classified documents there wouldn’t have been a Comey letter. So, assign 50 percent of the Comey letter blame on Hillary, 30 percent on Loretta Lynch for not allowing a genuine investigation, and the rest blame on Comey for losing control of a bad situation.)

A consensus is forming among serious political analysts that the Russian information operation against the 2016 election made it difficult for the Clinton campaign to form a coherent, stable message. It is doubtful definitive evidence will ever exist to quantify the impact of Russian interference, but our gut instincts are probably correct: The Russians interfered and it impacted the race.

As for the Comey letter, its timing was terrible. And while the news on the Obamacare premium hikes may have started Clinton’s late campaign slide, the Comey letter’s appearance in late October exacerbated the decline.


Clinton’s friendly-fire approach to party building isn’t going to bring long-term electoral success to the Democrats. She is lashing out at everyone she perceives as either being an enemy or an insufficiently loyal votary. As we are finding out, its a  long list and likely to get longer.

(How did Bill Clinton not make that list? Give it time my friend, give it time.)

This type of over-identification of causal factors is to historical analysis what Dairy Queen’s Blizzard Cake® is to childhood nutrition.

But Hillary Clinton can speak for herself. So here is what she said on The View about Bernie Sanders that launched me out of my shoes:  “I know what it is like to lose because I lost in 2008 to President Obama. As soon as I lost I turned around and I endorsed him, I worked hard for him.”

What the hell was she talking about?

I will be kind and assume she just mis-remembered what happened in 2008. Let me refresh our collective memories on that race.

Hillary’s official suspension of her 2008 campaign occurred on June 7, 2008. The last Democratic primaries were on June 3rd in Montana and South Dakota. Furthermore, any outside chance Hillary had at winning the nomination ended on May 6th with her defeat to Obama in the North Carolina primary.

Why didn’t she concede then? Why did she continue to pressure Democratic super-delegates to rescind their pledges to Obama using the racially charged argument that Obama would not win in the general election?

Hillary targeted white voters with so many dog-whistle attacks on Obama that even former Klansman-turned-U.S.-Senator Robert Byrd (WV) had to step in and tell Hillary to cool her jets.

Hillary doesn’t stop with just attacking Bernie Sanders, who she likes to remind us is “not even a Democrat.” [Which does beg the response, “Forty-three percent of Democratic primary voters preferred a ‘non-Democrat’ to you.” That is not a ringing endorsement of your candidacy. A can of tuna might have garnered 10 percent of 2016 Democratic primary voters.]

But, no, Hillary doesn’t just attack Bernie, she attacks Bernie’s supporters, who she claims disproportionately supported Trump over her in the general election.

The truth? About 1-in-10 Bernie Sanders supporters voted for Trump and another 10 percent voted for Jill Stein or Gary Johnson. Enough in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania to swing the election back to Clinton.

By historical standards, the 2016 Democratic defections to the GOP dark side (or to third parties) were not unusual.

In 2000, 11 percent of Democrats voted for George W. Bush in the general election. A similar percentage of Democrats went to George W. Bush in the 2004 general election.

In fact, the historical outlier case might be Hillary Clinton’s primary supporters in 2008. One study determined that around 25 percent of Clinton primary voters ended up voting for Sen. John McCain in the general election.

Of course, all of this gets muddled due to states with open primaries where ‘independents’ and Republicans can vote in Democratic primaries. Those Democratic primary voters, of course, are much more likely to vote Republican in the general election.

But that is the problem with Hillary’s complaint towards Sanders supporters. That is the game played every four years. As Sanders said in reply to Hillary’s attack, ‘That is what happens in politics.”

Hillary Clinton knows this. If there is one political couple that obsesses about poll numbers and voting patterns, it is the Clintons. At some point, she must have been told a large percentage of her supporters in 2008 bailed on Obama.

It is just numbing how easy it is for Hillary Clinton to tell nuanced fabrications and sometimes, dare I say it, flat out lies. Journalist William Safire famously labeled Hillary a ‘congenital liar.’ He was being kind.

For Clinton to now launch the disloyalty indictment against Sanders and his supporters leaves many us exhausted.


Does Hillary want to see the Democrats divided going into 2018 and 2020? If she does, then she needs to keep doing what she is doing.

Even as I agree that intramural disagreements within the Democratic Party should never be shut down out of  party “loyalty” — that would be particularly hypocritical on the part of a Bernie supporter — there is a difference between an intra-party dispute and what Clinton is doing.

Clinton continues to eat her own young. She is slashing through the Democratic Party like Anakin Skywalker did with the Jedi younglings in Revenge of the Sith.

Sorry, gotta take one more movie break (Enjoy!):

“Master Clinton, there are too many Republicans in Congress. What are we going to do?”

Hillary is not engaging in a constructive critique of the current Democratic Party (though she does occasionally offer some valid insights on the fiscal realities constraining Bernie’s Cheesecake Factory menu of policy ideas). Instead, she is telling Bernie’s supporters that they are an invasive species that need to be eradicated from the Democratic body.

And, frankly, many of Bernie’s supporters would reverse the argument and say the neo-liberal corporatists like Clinton are the invasive species.

This argument is unwinnable. Neither side holds the high ground. The progressive far left is trying to convince us that the Democrats are unified in their opinions and attitudes and its only the “process” (such as Democratic National Committee election rigging) that divides the party.

That is weaponized bullshit straight from the same East and West Coast elites that happily looked away when Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns became too beholden to banking, insurance, and high tech corporatist interests.

Today’s Democratic Party is deeply divided (though not as divided as the Republicans!), but now is not the time for a party purge. This isn’t Stalin’s Russia.

The Democrats’ current configuration file is improperly set up to ensure consistent electoral success going forward. That problem list is almost as long as Hillary’s personal hit list. The problems include:

  • Not attracting enough working-class Americans (of any ethnic/racial background)
  • Identity and rights issues used as tools for exclusion, not inclusion
  • The Democratic brand of government-centered solutions and civil rights activism is not built for success in the 21st-century
  • Democratic messaging and themes are confrontational, not aspirational
  • Support base too geographically clustered
  • Current party leaders need to step aside and allow in some new blood
  • Fail to embrace opinion diversity
  • Stop obsessing about Trump and the Russians and focus on Americans

I could go on….

But I need to get back to the Hillary Clinton’s 2017 Slaughterhouse Tour. Its just too much fun to watch. Its like Game of Thrones without the boring dialogue scenes. She’s Darth Vader in the hallway scene at the end of Rogue One.

I hope this Hillary Clinton never goes away…


About the author:  Kent Kroeger is a writer and statistical consultant with over 30 -years experience measuring and analyzing public opinion for public and private sector clients. He also spent ten years working for the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and the Defense Intelligence Agency. He holds a B.S. degree in Journalism/Political Science from The University of Iowa, and an M.A. in Quantitative Methods from Columbia University (New York, NY).  He lives in Ewing, New Jersey with his wife and son.







Unsolicited campaign advice for Kamala Harris

By Kent R. Kroeger (Source:, September 13, 2017)

{ Feel free to send any comments about this essay to: or}

Last I checked my inbox and cell phone voice mail, California Senator Kamala Harris is not asking for my advice on how she can best become the next President of the United States.

I’m sure she’s busy right now lining up donors and manning the anti-Trump barricades in the U.S. Senate. On that assumption, I unilaterally offer some advice should she run for president in 2020.

[Note: This advice is relevant to any Democratic presidential nominee in 2020 as well.]

Presently, we are being treated to a nationwide Hillary Clinton pity party as she softens up the public for the release of her book, “What Happened.”

Predictably, Twitter and Facebook are ablaze with mean-spirited memes and vicious character attacks over Hillary’s book and her take on the 2016 presidential election.

We should all understand by now, she blames former FBI Director Jim Comey for her defeat. I would too if I were her — but I’m not, and in past essays I’ve even made the counter-argument that the Obamacare premium hikes started her electoral decline and the Comey letter simply reinforced her rapidly softening support heading into the final weeks of the 2016 campaign.

Regardless, I am willing concede Hillary has a strong argument on the Comey letter’s impact.

So my first point of advice to Senator Harris is this…


Let Hillary fight her own battle with history. As Senator Harris works to become the Democrats’ 2020 nominee, there is nothing to gain from overly effusive and public statements of confederation with the former Secretary of State.

Polite acknowledgement of Hillary’s significance to the Democratic Party is fine, but much more than that will distract attention from Harris’ own substantive accomplishments. Her demonstration of fealty to feminist ideals does not require excessive obeisance to Hillary, who has a checkered history with respect to defending women victimized by sexual assault. Senator Harris does not have that baggage and there is no reason to take on Hillary’s.

Which leads to my second point of advice…


To the point of almost being a physical law, there has long been an assumption among political pundits and consultants that the candidate that raises the most money (and endorsements), especially early in a nomination race, is most likely to win. The evidence for the power money is strong but more complex than portrayed in the mainstream media. A few recent research efforts on this question can be found: here, here and here.

Money does matter, though in 2016 we saw strong evidence that “free media” (the media promotes the term “earned media” because it makes them feel more empowered) can help overcome monetary disadvantages. Hillary outspent Trump two-to-one, even when considering Russia’s Facebook advertisement expenditures in support of the Trump candidacy. Trump’s greatest advantage in 2016 was his ability to get free coverage on MSNBC and CNN every time he had a big rally. He was a novelty that was good for ratings.

Hillary out-raised Bernie Sanders by $570 million in the 2016 nomination race ($807 million versus $238 million, respectively), but Sanders still won 43 percent of the popular vote in the primaries. I am not advocating for Senator Harris to raise less money than her fellow nominee candidates, she just doesn’t need the crushing fundraising advantage that Clinton (and Obama) acquired in their successful nomination races.

A Democratic presidential nominee can win the nomination without excessive reliance on money from banking, health care, insurance, pharmaceutical, and Hollywood executives. They will be there for the nominee in the general election.

In the nomination phase the task is to demonstrate a candidate’s deep and substantive connection to average voters (as well as party activists, of course). Hillary was never credible in that effort to connect with average people because she….I don’t think she likes average people. Seriously, it was a vibe I heard from more than a few Iowa Democrats. Hillary never connected with Iowans, who are insecure, quick to judge others and easily insulted.

Having attended a few Hillary rallies while living in Iowa, Hillary was noticeably inaccessible to the crowds. At the last Clinton rally I attended, she shook hands only with the very front row of a small group of rally attendees — mostly Iowa Democratic Party leaders).

She had an anti-charisma charisma, perhaps— but even there she was outflanked by Sanders.

And where has Hillary been since the 2016 campaign? Unless you own your own worldwide fashion label or are willing to stand in line for her latest book, the chances that you will ever meet Hillary Clinton are slim to none.

Kamala Harris is already being labelled the Democrat’s establishment’s candidate (Holding fundraisers in the Hamptons will do that). That is an image fraught with problems and destined to further divide an already divided party.

A transcendent Democratic candidate, like Barack Obama, did not embrace the neo-liberal, establishment label (though it fit him) and Kamala Harris, likewise, cannot afford to do so.

Spending too much visible time with big donors is something she can control and must in order to start shedding the establishment label. Besides, spending significant face time with George Clooney or Barbara Streisand has no proven value to a political candidate outside of the money they raise — certainly not at the presidential level. In my opinion, Kamala should play it safe and avoid the Hollywood crowd altogether.

The third piece of advice is this…


I could fill up a hundred feet of blog space with articles and essays arguing that the Democratic Party needs to move to the left. It is a careless and even dishonest argument predicated almost entirely on survey-based opinion data that are more appropriate for descriptive and retrospective analyses than for prediction.

The data point Harris needs to internalize is the value and status of the Democratic brand within the U.S. electorate. According to a recent poll, 48 percent of registered voters have an unfavorable view of congressional Democrats compared to 36 percent with a favorable view. That is good news only in relationship to congressional Republicans who get a favorable review from only 22 percent of registered voters. No surprise: The ongoing health care debacle is  weighing negatively on the Republicans. If the Republicans fail on tax reform as well, that pretty much hard codes the outcome for the 2018 midterm elections in the Democrats’ favor.

As for 2020, one voter group Harris needs are the 16 percent of registered voters that are “unsure” about the Democrats. And drilling down even farther, I would target the 30 percent of self-described “moderates” who are “unsure” about the Democrats. While they are not a large percentage of the electorate in the aggregate — only around 10 percent in the poll — they are still large enough to change an election outcome in key battleground states. Lets put it this way — if I’m the Russians in 2020, my money is best spent targeting those folks’ Facebook pages with fake news stories.

The idea of standing against your own party’s ideological wing is hardly new. Bill Clinton mastered the art in 1992, highlighted by a still remarkably relevant argument he had with American writer Sister Souljah concerning violence within the African-American community.

Not to open a old wound, but the following exchange in 1992 between Sister Souljah and a Washington Post reporter regarding the 1992 Los Angeles riots sparked the controversy.

WaPo Reporter: “Even the people themselves who were perpetrating that violence, did they think that was wise? Was that a wise reasoned action?”

Souljah: “Yeah, it was wise. I mean, if black people kill black people every day, why not have a week and kill white people?”

Yeah, that’s gonna get a rise out of a few opportunistic politicians. Enter Bill Clinton.

More seriously, Kamala Harris (or any Democratic nominee) will need to demonstrate independence from the party’s ideologues. It is true for the Republicans as well, but I don’t think it is as important for them.

For Democrats, however, the near constant din from political pundit about how out-of-touch Democrats are with the American voter (whether true or not) can overwhelm an otherwise strong Democratic presidential candidate

I recommend the book, “What it Takes: The Way to the White House,” by Richard Ben Cramer, about the 1988 presidential campaign between Michael Dukakis and George H. W. Bush. The book digs deep into the the success of Bush’s chief campaign strategist, Lee Atwater, in soaking Dukakis with the image of being “too liberal” and “out-of-touch.”

In the 1992 presidential election, employing many of the same Atwater techniques, Bill Clinton returned the favor on the Republicans. [I am a fierce critic of both Clintons, but if God told me I can manage one candidate from American political history to run for president, I pick Bill Clinton. No hesitation. Over Obama. Over JFK. Over FDR. Over Reagan.]

So, in my view, Harris needs to give voters the opportunity to say, “Kamala Harris is no liberal — she believes [insert non-liberal viewpoint on some key issue].”

Of course any pivot to the center has to be genuine (voters are good at smelling fakes) and even then it won’t necessarily change many votes. And it probably won’t bring many new people to the polls. But the effort helps set the table for bigger, more electorally critical arguments…and that represents my fourth piece of advice…


Hillary Clinton had no big ideas in 2016.  She still doesn’t. Clinton’s website redux — — says it provides a “comprehensive progressive vision” for America’s challenges, but its endless laundry list of policy proposals is straight off of Bernie Sanders’ 2016 campaign website.

That many figures from the Democrat’s establishment (Elizabeth Warren, Al Franken, Cory Booker, Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand) have embraced key elements of Sanders’ progressive agenda — most notably, universal health care — should send chills down every progressive Democrats’ spine.  What the establishment couldn’t kill overtly from from the outside, they may be trying to kill covertly from within.

A tendency towards unnecessary equivocation has already become one of the narratives describing Harris’ political career. While I believe her tenure as California’s AG more than overcomes that argument, as it is impossible to be an active California AG — as Harris was — without taking substantive policy positions. Still, Harris’ critics will rightfully challenge her for not going far enough in holding mortgage banks accountable for the housing crisis, just as an example.

Is Harris cautious? Most good politicians are. But is she Hillary Clinton-level cautious? That is the question Harris needs to answer for the American people and one way to start is by offering big ideas early in her presidential campaign.

Should it be universal health care?

Hillary Clinton’s experience on the issue serves as Harris’ Cassandra. Recall that Clinton’s first significant executive role in national political life was to lead the 1993 Task Force on National Health Care Reform. I will skip to the conclusion: The Task Force effort blew up in her face. Was she to blame? Probably some. Excessive secrecy didn’t help. But this country didn’t hate Hillary Clinton in 1993. We were all hopeful that this holy grail issue for progressive post-FDR Democrats, a national universal health care system, was finally going to happen.

For me, the Task Force’s failure represents the biggest legislative disappointment in my lifetime. That’s not hyperbole. There is a reason Obama pushed so hard on his own administration’s Affordable Care Act. It was always going to be the keystone achievement of his administration (along with getting out of Iraq and Afghanistan).

As Bernie Sanders is offering his universal health care bill to the U.S. Senate for a universal health care plan. As mentioned, along with Harris, Senators Franken, Gillibrand, Booker, and Elizabeth Warren are co-sponsoring the bill. I expect all five (plus Bernie Sanders) to contend for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020 and their credibility with the party’s progressive (liberal) wing rides largely on their position with respect to universal health care.

Needless to say, Bernie already has the street cred on this issue.

My own research using 2016 American National Election Study data shows that health care is one three broad issues, along with climate change and the activist role of government in addressing economic inequalities, where the Left currently holds a strategic advantage over the Right (see chart below).

[How to read chart below: The more shading — blue for the Left and red for the Right — indicates higher degrees of disagreement between ideological activists and the average American voter. For example, on immigration, the activist Left is outside mainstream opinion while the activist Right is closer to that norm. Both ideological groups are relatively close to mainstream policy stances related to terrorism and internal (domestic) security.]

When Democrats talk about health care, economic inequality and investment, and climate change, most Americans side with the political Left. That doesn’t mean most Americans are Leftists or that they will agree with the Left on these issues in the future. But, as of today, those issues are strategic opportunities for the Democrats.

Health care is one big issue to consider, but it may not be the issue right for Kamala Harris. Perhaps climate change? Or tax middle-class tax cuts coupled with tax increases on the wealthy? That is a decision for the Kamala Harris campaign to hash out internally.

My advice is to Kamala Harris is to avoid Hillary Clinton’s most glaring mistake in 2016. She didn’t have ANY big ideas and voters were forced to decide whether they distrusted Donald Trump more than they distrusted Clinton. It was an ugly election that the Democrats should not try to repeat.

My final suggestion for Senator Harris is perhaps most difficult to follow…


This advice rubs against every  living cell in a politician’s body. There is nothing a politician loves more than going unchallenged in an election. Typically, only the most entrenched incumbents get that privilege.

Democrats need to allow this prediction to start settling in now: The 2020 Democratic nomination race will be an intramural shit storm filled with baseless accusations, misrepresentations, borderline slander, all mixed in with a few tactical dog whistle attacks to activate and divide the party’s many identity group warriors.

As Hyman Roth might say, “That’s the business we’ve chosen.”

Senator Harris needs to do what few politicians do well — including Bill Clinton. Seek and encourage competition. The stronger Harris’ competitors in the 2020 nomination race, the more likely she wins in the general election.

Barack Obama would not have won as decisively in 2008 if Hillary Clinton hadn’t run for the nomination. Joe Biden is tough, but he’s not Hillary Clinton tough. John Edwards brought his deep ties to organized labor to the discussion. Bill Richardson had foreign policy credentials. Together, they all made Barack Obama, a genuinely inexperienced politician, a far better candidate in the fall campaign.

Crushing your primary opponents may seem like the best approach to winning a party’s nomination, but it is potentially the midwife to the harmful narrative of the party nominee being the predetermined handiwork of party elites.

Consider the last three Democrats to win the presidency: Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. All were arguably “outsider” candidates, even if they had a few establishment benefactors along their path.

Harris will need to have a credible answer to this question if she is the nominee: Is she the establishment candidate who won only because the party elders rigged the nomination in her favor (if even just subtlety)?

Harris cannot afford to be viewed as simply Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama 2.0. If she wins in 2020 (against, I still assume, Donald Trump), it will be historic on a level perhaps surpassing even Barack Obama’s 2008 win.

To get to that moment, Harris needs to win the nomination in a big, crowded and substantively contentious family brawl that ends with a party nominee ready to take on the dirtiest fighter in American political history.

That’s my advice to Senator Harris.  Good luck.


About the author:  Kent Kroeger is a writer and statistical consultant with over 30 -years experience measuring and analyzing public opinion for public and private sector clients. He also spent ten years working for the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and the Defense Intelligence Agency. He holds a B.S. degree in Journalism/Political Science from The University of Iowa, and an M.A. in Quantitative Methods from Columbia University (New York, NY).  He lives in Ewing, New Jersey with his wife and son.

Global warming is real and we are preparing for it (mostly)

By Kent R. Kroeger (Source:, September 12,2017)

{ Feel free to send any comments about this essay to: or}

Along with death and taxes, we should add this: Houston floods and Florida gets hit by hurricanes.

Journalist Daphne Thomspson understands what frequently happens when you build a large metropolitan area on a Texas bayou:  “Founded in 1836, where the Buffalo Bayou met White Oak Bayou, Houston has faced many floods,” she writes.

As Thompson further notes, “In 1929, the Buffalo and White Oak Bayous both left their banks after a foot of rain fell. Downtown (Houston) suffered massive damage. Property damage was estimated at $1.4 million.”

This is a historical reality for Houstonites; but, in covering Hurricane Harvey, the national media has created an impression that the flooding caused by Harvey is without precedent.

Yes, Hurricane Harvey dumped more rain on the Houston area than any other storm in the city’s modern history. But here is just the short list of major Houston floods from the past century.

  • December 6–9, 1935 – A massive flood kills 8 people.
  • September 11, 1961 – Hurricane Carla.
  • August 18, 1983 – Hurricane Alicia.
  • October 15-19, 1994 – Hurricane Rose brings with it The Great Flood of ’94 as it stalled over north Houston for a week and killing 22 people; it dumped over 30 inches of rain in north Houston and still holds the record for the highest flood levels for the San Jacinto basin.
  • June 5 – June 9, 2001 – Tropical Storm Allison floods Houston’s Central Business District and was called a ‘500-year event.’
  • June 19, 2006 – Major flooding in Southeast Houston.
  • September 13, 2008 – Hurricane Ike.
  • May 25 – May 26, 2015 – Flooding from storms is called “historic” and impacts most of the city.
  • April 18, 2016 – This flood affects nine counties in the Houston area.
  • August 2017 – Hurricane Harvey dumps more rain over a week than any storm in Houston’s history.

Houston is built in a low-land area subject to hurricanes, slow-moving storm systems and frequent flooding. Is global warming the cause of Houston’s extreme flooding from Hurricane Harvey? Probably yes but not necessarily.

Yes, the amount of rain deposited by Hurricane Harvey is historic and I wouldn’t want to be on the side arguing against climate change’s role — but Houston is always flooding!

To think we can distinguish the source of Houston’s flooding between its inherent geographic vulnerability and the effects of global warming is analytic dreamweaving.

Houston is not a good place to put a major metropolitan area — but that is what the Texans have done.

Hurricane Irma, likewise, while impressive in size and intensity, was not the most powerful hurricane to ever hit the U.S. or even Florida.

That doesn’t diminish the tragedy or disprove the role that climate change may have had in the scope of Irma’s damage. Anyone that’s lived in Miami for the past few decades will tell you that high-tide flooding around downtown Miami is the new normal.

“The water is here. It’s not that I’m talking about some sci-fi movie here. No. I live it. I see it, it’s tangible,” long-time Miami resident Valerie Navarrete recently told a Yale researcher who studies rising sea levels.

According to Navarrete, her garage now floods about once every other month.

That is what rising sea levels will do. Did global warming cause it? The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) estimates sea levels will continue to rise at a rate of about one-eighth of an inch per year. If that doesn’t sound like a lot, its because it is not. Yet, Miami residents will tell you that aggregating those small annual sea level changes over decades and you can start to see and feel it, particularly during high tides.


The recent experiences in Florida and Texas bring to the fore our nation’s need to reconcile the realities of global warming (which includes rising sea levels and increased storm intensities) with the urban planning decisions made many decades before today.

Following Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, I offer this conclusion:  We are well down the road in making the necessary adjustments for global warming. Through our forecasting advancements, improved early warning systems, and better coordinated relief efforts, we are seeing a tangible decrease in the human tolls from weather events when compared to the past (see chart below).

Furthermore, the estimated property damage from Harvey and Irma, while historic, was predictable given the economic growth we’ve seen in the past 30 years along our hurricane-vulnerable coastlines.

This does not mean we can ignore climate change as many (but not all) Republicans want to do. More property and people are exposed to the threat of hurricanes and coastal flooding than at any time in our history, according to AIR Worldwide, an insurance analytics firm. The number of Americans living in coastal counties grew by 84% between 1960 and 2008, compared to 64% in non-coastal counties, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Sadly, as evidenced in the tragic death of eight nursing home residents in Hollywood, Florida, our most vulnerable populations — the elderly and the poor — bear a disproportionate share of the risks associated with severe weather events.

Much more needs to be done to secure our coastlines: updating zoning laws, improving building codes, disaster management training, protecting our power grids, insurance reform (including improved fraud detection), and population relocation subsidies.

“The rising level of the oceans, the growing coastal population, the additional development associated with it, and the possible increasing severity of storms mean that people and property are increasingly at risk,” says Dr Tim Doggett, an environmental economist for AIR Worldwide. “Coastal communities have three options when it comes to dealing with this enhanced risk of flooding. Defend the shoreline with man-made or natural barriers, adapt by raising structures and infrastructure above projected flood levels, (or) retreat.”

But, if Texas’ and Florida’s preparations and responses to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma are any indication, the U.S. is starting to meet the challenges of climate change and, particularly with respect to protecting human life, appears capable of withstanding its future challenges.

How do we know this?  Lets go to the data.

When looking at the number of fatalities across a wide variety of weather-related events (lightning, tornadoes, floods, and hurricanes), the trend has been downward since the 1970s. The years 2005 and 2012 (Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy) are the obvious deviations from this trend. By comparison, if we annualize the weather-related deaths so far in 2017, even with the fatalities related to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, the estimated number of weather-related deaths are consistent with the long-term downward trend.

Americans are better able to withstand the impacts of extreme weather events today than at anytime since 1940. That finding should be no surprise to anyone working at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), NOAA or any other weather and public safety organization in the U.S. We have the tools and technology to predict and prepare for almost any major weather event.

Yet, fatalities are just one simple measure of our ability to confront unpredictable weather events. Weather’s economic costs are also important and, in that regard, the story is more complicated.

NOAA data on weather-related economic costs shows a relatively predictable year-to-year financial impact in the U.S. Since the late 1980s, the U.S. has not seen any substantive increase in damages due to weather events…….until this year (see graph below):

Two Category 4 hurricanes hitting our shores will do that. Damages from Hurricanes Irma and Harvey combined are expected to exceed $115 billion, according to Goldman Sachs. Even controlling for monetary inflation, the economic costs of weather events have increased in the U.S. since 1990, from around $15 billion-a-year to around $30 billion-a-year (see chart below).

But why?

With good reason man-made climate change (anthropogenic global warming) is high on that suspect list and the empirical evidence is growing that global warming is causally linked to the increased probabilities of extreme weather events such as heat waves, droughts and flooding.

There will be no effort here to challenge that conclusion as the scientific evidence grows, literally, by the day. However, implicating climate change in the unparalleled economic costs of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma is not necessary.

Indeed, such attribution may distract from this country’s most cost-effective tools for addressing the effects of climate change: improved building standards and materials, strict zoning laws limiting new commercial and residential development in flood prone areas, and subsidies to low-income and elderly Americans to aid in their relocation out of areas prone to extreme weather events.

Our country must also move quickly to balance our national, state and local budgets so that we can start building up “rainy day” funds to address the unpredictable costs of climate change.  If Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have a positive side it is for sounding the alarm that climate change could get very expensive very soon. In fact, it already is expensive.

[Side note: Democrats, thimight not be the time to push universal health care. I’m just suggesting for consideration: if you are going to continue two military occupations in the Middle East AND fund universal health care AND prepare for climate change, our country may have to start making hard choices

…Oh, and this administration is considering a military intervention in North Korea. Just one more potential stressor on a national government debt that is already around 88 percent of annual GDP, according to the International Monetary Fund. That level of debt puts us in the company of the UK, France, Ireland, and Italy. While not an unsustainable level of debt for an economy like ours, it still brings major constraints on any new, big budget items.]

Back to the more immediate issue at hand…

Extreme weather, economic growth, and government spending are closely linked.

The yearly weather-related damage totals in the previous graphic reveal significant variation from year-to-year — which is one reason it is useful to combine annual totals into higher-order aggregates.

If we aggregate weather-related economic costs to the decade-level and compare this to economic growth in Texas and Florida (serving here as proxies for the economic growth of hurricane-vulnerable coastal areas in the U.S.), we see a strong relationship:

Over the past three decades, the increase in total damages from weather events tracks closely to economic growth in the coastal states of Texas and Florida, where wealth and property development increasingly pepper the coastlines.

Going forward, the U.S. can expect around $30 billion in weather-related damages from one year to the next. Without a lot more data, however, we must assume for now the weather-related damages from Irma and Harvey are outliers, not the new normal.

Courtesy of Inside Climate News, we get this fantastic graphic showing new building developments in downtown Ft Lauderdale, FL that are likely to face storm-caused flooding problems in the future. Readers should note, however, that near-term global-warming-caused sea level rises aren’t going to be anywhere the +1, +2…,  or +6 feet shown in the graphic. However, storm surges from hurricanes are more than capable of reaching +6 feet.

In the presence of rising sea levels, Ft. Lauderdale’s urban planning strategy does beg the question: What the hell are they thinking? Building high-density residential buildings on low-elevation tracts of land is just dumb — dumb even for Florida.


I am not a climate change alarmist (as the title of this essay should make obvious), but we cannot ignore global warming either. It is happening. That is not a fiction created by the mainstream media, Al Gore or the Chinese. The first place we can start preparing is in where we place new building developments.

Unlike Ft. Lauderdale, many forward-leaning coastal cities in the U.S. are preparing for rising sea levels. New York City has invested significantly into its flood prevention plan and a coalition of Miami-Dade County, FL leaders are laying out five-year city plans that account for increasing sea levels. Why only five-year plans?

“Nobody knows what things are going to look like in 50 to 100 years,” Nicole Hefty, the head of Miami-Dade County’s Office of Sustainability, told The Atlantic‘s Amy Lieberman. “We can speak for smaller years and adapt in that way.”

Not a bad strategy. Being too ambitious too soon can do more harm than good given finite local, state and national budgets.

Any decisions looking beyond five years can be “rendered irrelevant by the rising seas,” writes Lieberman.

Furthermore, the economic impact of global warming, as measured by dollar damages and deaths, has so far been manageable. Even with the historic nature of Irma and Harvey , the U.S. economy will likely lose only about 0.8 percentage points in 2017 third quarter growth, according to Goldman Sachs. That still leaves the American economy chugging along at a 2-percent growth rate. Not exactly booming, but not recessionary either.

What climate change scientists and media forget to tell us is that global warming is not a planet killer or a human-level extinction event (though New Zealand’s tuatara, a lizard-like reptile whose eggs produce females only when nests are cool, are not so lucky).

Nonetheless, we face an uncertain future as we continue to put more development and economic wealth in the path of future weather events.

AIR Worldwide estimates that the total value of insurable property in ZIP Codes potentially impacted by storm surge is $17 trillion (USD).  If, as a society, we spend the majority of our time and money trying to phase out the oil and automobile industries, we will fail to directly address the real challenges posed by climate change.

Our coastlines will always be a point of destination for Americans for settlement and entertainment, so we need to better control coastal property development. Trying to slow or even reverse global warming may be too expensive or ineffective, and diverts resources away from more effective climate change mitigation tools over which we have more predictable control.

The planet will continue to get warmer — nobody should doubt that. How warm will depend on the extent and quickness with which we convert to renewable energy sources. But politicians and activists need to keep their expectations realistic on that front.

Forecasts on the U.S.’s conversion to renewable energy sources offer little optimism for those expecting all of our country’s energy needs will in their lifetime come from renewables. That is not likely to happen.

By 2050, Energy Innovation, an energy and environmental industry consulting firm, estimates 35 percent of U.S. electricity capacity will come from the combination of solar and wind power, up from about 15 percent today.

While some optimistic forecasts see much more than 50 percent coming from solar and wind power by 2050, they assume capacity growth for solar photovoltaic (PV) and wind will continue at current high rates. Unfortunately, solar and wind’s high growth rates are due in part to the small percentage from which they start (see the yellow and blue shaded areas in the chart below).

U.S. cannot afford building castles in the sky with respect to renewable energy when it has more immediate policy tools at its disposal to combat the effects of climate change.

As the planet warms, and it will, Americans need to make better decisions about where they live and play and how they prepare for future extreme weather events. Though generally ridiculed in the media as just another form of climate denialism, climate realism strikes a balance between the realities of global warming and our economic and social capacities to address it in a substantive way.

Climate realists don’t see the term ‘adaptation’ as a dirty word as does the climate change lobby. Whether we use public policy to adapt to climate change is a political question. If our political leaders don’t see the necessity of adapting that job will be left to us as individuals.

Despite little attention from the media, our cities and states are making significant adaptations along their shorelines and internal waterways necessary to weather climate change (pardon the pun). This will continue with or without our national politicians, who seem incapable of doing anything these days.

Local economics are dictating these adaptations — any maybe that is the best way to do it anyway. Our national politicians are too busy failing us in other areas.



About the author:  Kent Kroeger is a writer and statistical consultant with over 30 -years experience measuring and analyzing public opinion for public and private sector clients. He also spent ten years working for the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and the Defense Intelligence Agency. He holds a B.S. degree in Journalism/Political Science from The University of Iowa, and an M.A. in Quantitative Methods from Columbia University (New York, NY).  He lives in Ewing, New Jersey with his wife and son.






The Internationalization of U.S. Elections

By Kent R. Kroeger (Source:, September 8, 2017)

{ Feel free to send any comments about this essay to: or}

In theory and intent, U.S. law prohibits foreign nationals from participating substantively in U.S. elections.

The Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) and Federal Election Commission (FEC) regulations prohibit foreign nationals from:

  • Making any contribution or donation of money or other thing of value, or making any expenditureindependent expenditure, or disbursement in connection with any federal, state or local election in the United States;
  • Making any contribution or donation to any committee or organization of any national, state, district, or local political party (including donations to a party nonfederal account or office building account);
  • Making any disbursement for an electioneering communication.

FECA offers very little wiggle room for allowing foreign actors to interfere in U.S. elections, though “green card” holders are not considered foreign nationals under FECA and have exemption status from the above prohibitions.

One small loophole in FECA does allow foreign nationals to volunteer personal services to a federal candidate or federal political committee without making a contribution. “The Act provides this volunteer exemption as long as the foreign national performing the service is not compensated by anyone,” according to the FECA website. That is why the 2008 Hillary Clinton campaign was comfortable having Elton John perform (for free) at one of her 2008 campaign events.

Yet, there is little doubt anymore that the Russians played a significant role in this past presidential election, and there is evidence the Obama administration knew of Moscow’s plans as early as 2014.

The latest news story regarding the Russians and the 2016 election — this time it is Russians using fake Facebook accounts to buy $100,000 in political ads on Facebook — it begs this simple question: How can we prevent a foreign power from planting “fake news” on the internet or using social media platforms to amplify the impact of this content?

We can’t. We won’t.

So let us just acknowledge that globalization in the internet age has internationalized U.S. elections — because, unless we are willing to erect unprecedented censorship walls around the internet and other media sources, there is little that can be done to stop American voters from reading and distributing news content originally sourced outside U.S. borders.

Russian meddling happened. And, despite the Trump team’s dodgy attempts to deny it, collusion with the Russians probably happened too. Though, I refuse to let go of the possibility that the Trump campaign was simply populated by a bunch of hopelessly stupid and naive hacks hat were easily manipulated by the Russians. That’s not illegal, its just sad.

Did the Russians find ways to help finance the Trump campaign? That would be illegal and remains one of the more interesting questions. And, if true, would not likely touch candidate Trump himself — meaning, whatever happens with the Mueller investigation, we probably get to enjoy at least three more years of the Trump presidency.

The one aspect of the Russian meddling that should give us some comfort is that we knew about it long before November 8th.  The Hillary Clinton campaign thought they could leverage that publicly-known fact to their advantage, but the Obama administration refused to completely lift the lid on what they saw going on with the Russians. Hillary will never forgive Obama for that decision — I hope her new book, “What Happened”is indexed so I can go right to the pages where she blames Obama for her election loss — but she should forgive him. Obama didn’t decide the election outcome.

As for Trump, his campaign’s denials about collusion occurred at the same time candidate Trump was begging the Russians to release Clinton’s 30,000+ deleted emails. He didn’t care about suggesting the Russians could help his campaign because 63 million American voters didn’t care.

The 2016 Popular Vote Outcome was Baked into the Cake Before Anyone Read the Russian-hacked DNC emails

The following fact will not be altered by anything Robert Mueller’s investigation finds: Russian electoral meddling and any possible collusion with the Trump campaign was baked into the final results long before November 8th.

There is a reason many of the econometric models predicted the final popular vote outcome months prior to the general election campaign. [If you don’t believe me, check out’s summary of the 2016 econometric models). While our media and political parties place too much emphasis on political campaigns, factors exogenous to the campaigns themselves — such as economic conditions and incumbency — are far bigger drivers of presidential election outcomes.

Election campaigns are important, however. For one, they inform voters about the relative policy positions of the parties and candidates and help voters align their own issue opinions with those of their preferred party. But, more importantly, in close elections where a shift or 1 or 2 percent can change the outcome, campaigns can have a decisive impact.

The 2016 campaign may be in that latter category. But, given the relatively strong economy in 2016, the popularity of Obama, and the difficulty for one party to win three consecutive presidential elections, Hillary Clinton did about as well as could be expected. She wasn’t a lousy candidate. Donald Trump wasn’t a master manipulator of public opinion. But those will always be the myths.

What do we do now to protect future elections?

How can we protect our elections from foreign influence? The answer is: there is little we can do.

Just prior to Election Day 2016, I argued with my own family about this question. I’ll say now what I said then: “I am not happy about it, but this is our system. Foreign influence in American elections is going to happen this year and every election after. We can’t stop it.”

We all knew about the Russian meddling in 2016. I read about the Russian hacking on Facebook. Between all of the Russian-promoted stories about out-of-control illegal immigration, gays taking over the Boy Scouts and Hillary’s emails, there was an equal deluge of Democratic-sponsored attack news  — I recall one such article suggesting Donald Trump has a secret man-crush on Hitler and keeps Hitler’s best quotes at his bedside.

So, yeah, there’s a lot of bullshit flying around the internet during election time. Who doesn’t know that by now?

That is the election system we have and will have for the rest of our mortal lives.

And why do we have this system? It is one of the by-products of globalization in the internet age.

It also the product of the campaign financing system the Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court has given us.

Dark money is now a formal and approved aspect of our election system.

Dark money is money given to 501(c) nonprofit organizations that can receive unlimited donations from corporations, individuals, and unions, and are not required to disclose their donors.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, “spending by organizations that do not disclose their donors has increased from less than $5.2 million in 2006 to well over $300 million in the 2012 presidential cycle and more than $174 million in the 2014 midterms.”

If you want to keep the Russians and other international interests out of American politics, the current campaign finance system is not the way to do it.

Just as much as Trump and the Republicans are in denial about our country’s ability to “renegotiate” trade deals like NAFTA or deport 12 million illegal aliens, the Democrats are in denial if they think Russian influence in the 2016 elections won’t happen ever again.

It will.

How do we know this? Because this country has been doing it for decades. We don’t even deny it. We put it on the cover of Time magazine in July, 1996.

Do you think that former KGB officer sitting in St. Petersburg (Putin), whose political future was linked to Yeltsin’s biggest opponent in 1996, was going to forget that little bit of meddling by Bill Clinton, et al.? Not likely. And he didn’t.

Furthermore, U.S interference in foreign elections has a long and dark history: Italy 1948, Iran 1953, Guatemala 1954, Chile 1973 , Laos 1957-1973, Greece 1967, Haiti 1986, Russia 1996, Israel 2015).

One researcher estimates the U.S. as interfered in 81 elections between 1946 and 2000.

The attempt by the Obama administration to influence the Israeli 2015 elections was particularly brazen, both in scope and arrogance. While not a fan of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the open attempt by the Obama administration to funnel U.S. taxpayer dollars to Israeli peace groups actively engaged in defeating Netanyahu was shameless — but, apparently, not illegal.

“Some $350,000 was sent to OneVoice, ostensibly to support the group’s efforts to back Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement negotiations,” according to the Washington Times. “But OneVoice used the money to build a voter database, train activists and hire a political consulting firm with ties to President Obama’s campaign .” If someday we learn that Israeli intelligence mucked around in a U.S. election, you can spare me the outrage.

Perhaps it is healthier to view cross-national interference in democratic elections to be the norm, not the exception. The U.S. was doing in Russia (1996) and Israel (2015) exactly what a superpower should do when its interests are affected by election outcomes in far away places. As Frank Sinatra might say, “That’s life!”

Good statecraft requires using state power to influence friends and enemies. What the Russians did to us in 2016 is we did to them in 1996. Its not much more complicated than that.

What is different today, however, is the ability for information — good and bad — to travel very fast in very targeted ways. In a free world, we can’t stop at our borders information we don’t like. If the information source wants the information in the public domain, they will find a way. It is not hard Yet, attempting to stop it would require draconian levels of censorship no free society should tolerate.

We are witnessing the internationalization of our electoral system. Interference from foreign sources has been part of our national elections since the first years of our democratic republic. Ask George Washington, who warned in his 1796 farewell address that the French were trying to meddle in our nation’s upcoming presidential election (and it turns out they were).

Moreover, we should embrace this feature of our elections. The ability to discern accurate, credible information from false, noxious information is a life skill we should all possess.

We should want our citizens to be exposed to different points of view from all parts of the world — even at the risk of some of it (maybe even most of it) being false. That much of the foreign-sourced news and information is deliberately malignant (as it was coming out of Russia this past election) gives, frankly, too much credit to our domestic-sourced news and information.

Our voter registration databases and voting machines are always potential targets, but, as of now, there is no concrete evidence that a single vote or voter registration record was altered by the Russians.

But that doesn’t mean they won’t try.

We should eliminate all unnecessary barriers to voting in this country. If you are an adult U.S. citizen, you are  automatically registered to vote where ever you are living at the time of an election. Period.

Stop pretending that state voter I.D. laws are something other than crass attempts to keep Democrats from voting.

As for the “fake news” phenomenon, education is the only defense we have in today’s free-flowing information environment.

Teach our citizens how to detect bad journalism. Luckily, we have lots of examples to choose from on any given day.

Teach how anonymous sourcing can be used to spread disinformation as easily as it can be used to uncover evidence of political malfeasance.  Why was Woodward and Bernstein’s anonymous sourcing substantively better from how it is generally practiced today? It was.

Educate ourselves about how profit motives can impact the content of our news sources.

We need to better understand how our economic and political system shapes and directs our information streams and how, as informed citizens, we can protect ourselves from rogue actors who attempt to misinform us.

In the age of internationalized U.S. elections, we need to make the American voter the most sophisticated news and information consumer on the planet. (We aren’t.)

That is our only sure defense against future Russian or other country’s meddling in our elections.


About the author:  Kent Kroeger is a writer and statistical consultant with over 30 -years experience measuring and analyzing public opinion for public and private sector clients. He also spent ten years working for the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and the Defense Intelligence Agency. He holds a B.S. degree in Journalism/Political Science from The University of Iowa, and an M.A. in Quantitative Methods from Columbia University (New York, NY).  He lives in Ewing, New Jersey with his wife and son.


Much of what we believe will someday be shown to be deeply flawed (…so why are we today yelling at each other over politics?)

By Kent R. Kroeger (Source:, August 28, 2017)

{ Feel free to send any comments about this essay to: or}

Medical schools often tell their first-year students that, within a few years, half of what they learn in medical school will be wrong – they just don’t know which half. Harvard mathematician Samuel Arbesman named this phenomenon ‘the half-life of facts.’

Reading about Arbesman’s research prompted me to wonder why people on social media are so strident in their political beliefs and so hostile to others that disagree with them, even though much of what we believe today will someday be proven wrong (or at least seriously flawed).

I thought of this question again while analyzing a list of former Twitter followers. I noticed that when someone unfollowed @nuqum4real it correlated with the ideological content of the newest essay.

Generally, we lose a few followers and gain a few. But sometimes, especially essays with strong ideological content (ex. He may be The Worst President Ever and I’d Vote for Him Again), our Twitter followers start fleeing, and it always correlates with ideological orientation. Twitter accounts with #ImWithHer or #TheResistance hashtags run from the conservative-friendly content and accounts with #MAGA or #LockHerUp run from the liberal-leaning content.

Its may be easy to understand why this happens…but…why does it happen? Really. Is there no enjoyment derived from reading alternative viewpoints? Is there no benefit from understanding why others might think differently from yourself? Not in a condescending way, but in a genuinely inquisitive, “walk-in-someone-else’s-moccasins”-way. Shouldn’t we always be seeking new perspectives on old issues?

Apparently not.

This lament was only deepened after reading an essay in Politico by political scientists Alan Abramowitz and Steven Webster titled: “Negative Partisanship’ Explains Everything.” From their original research article — The rise of negative partisanship and the nationalization of U.S. elections in the 21st century (in Electoral Studies, Vol. 41, March 2016, pp. 12-22) — they summarize their thesis:

“Since the 1980s, there has been a large negative shift in affect toward the opposing party among supporters of both major parties in the U.S. …The rise of negative affect toward the opposing party has contributed to dramatic increases in party loyalty and straight-ticket voting among strong, weak and independent-leaning partisans….Growing party loyalty and straight-ticket voting have led to the nationalization of elections in the United States: there is a much closer connection between the results of presidential elections and the results of House, Senate and even state legislative elections today than in the past.”

Most depressing about their research is their prediction for the future:

“In today’s environment, rather than seeking to inspire voters around a cohesive and forward-looking vision, politicians need only incite fear and anger toward the opposing party to win and maintain power. Until that fundamental incentive goes away, expect politics to get even uglier.”

Somehow our self-esteem has now become dependent on the validity of our political beliefs. Forget that over a lifetime a lot of things we once believed have proven to be false. Penguins, for example, don’t mate for life. And where were you when you first learned the earth doesn’t revolve around the sun? What? You didn’t know that? Yes, it is true. I learned it while helping my 11-year-old son on a science project. The earth revolves around our solar system’s’ center of mass (which is called the barycenter and is usually contained within the mass of the sun…but not always.)

People don’t want to hear anything that contradicts their core beliefs. There is no market for objectivity anymore. There once was when there were only three national news networks and one or two local newspapers. Today, it takes little effort to shelter yourself from media content you find offensive or useless. The content filters on Facebook and Twitter make for happier but less informed and more intolerant people.

The research is still sketchy on this question, but some of the more thoughtful attempts can be found here, here, and here.

One Huffington Post blogger warned readers: “When it comes to the Internet, it’s best not to trust the first source you see. Even if (or maybe especially) it’s coming from a friend.”

I mostly agree with that statement but would modify it slightly:  When it comes to the Internet, it’s best NEVER to trust ANY source you see…especially if it’s coming from your idiot friends and family.

[Yes, that includes anything you read on]

One of the great contradictions of our time is that Americans are more comfortable than ever with ethnic, racial and religious differences (or, at least, we think we are), but when it comes to opinion diversity, we’ve lost our appetite.

Opinion leaders (academia, politicians,journalists, writers) lecture us on the theoretical virtues of multiculturalism, but render it meaningless when they try to give it practical application.

Multiculturalism was always a loaded term, poorly defined by academia and subsequently misused, often as a convenient cudgel by both the left and the right to justify their own disdain for the other side.

Social constructs and their supporting institutions today all seem to serve partisan ends — even comedy has been commandeered by the political class. Jerry Seinfeld and Chris Rock won’t do concerts on college campuses anymore. Bill Maher cries more about ‘liberal snowflakes’ than Sean Hannity. Steve Martin has to delete a tweet mourning his friend Carrie Fischer because he noted her good looks before he mentioned her great sense of humor and intelligence.

A former colleague of  mine once observed: “David Letterman was funnier when he seemed to disdain Democrats and Republicans.” As funny and insightful as Steven Colbert can be today, we lose something when his nightly monologues are almost exclusively politics and Trump-focused.

Yes, I do miss the good ol’ days when everybody was a reflexive cynic and largely disinterested in politics. That seems now like a healthier society.

Neuro-scientist Sam Harris and Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams had an interesting podcast on this topic (found here). At one point, Harris makes an insightful comment that captures the social and political dysfunction we see today.

“The fact that politics is so much a part of our lives now is toxic,” says Harris. “It is a sign that something is wrong with our society; if things were good we would not be talking about politics.”

Somehow, we’ve all been driven into political corners that don’t necessarily represent our best interests or our most deeply held beliefs. Social pressure has put us in these boxes and only social pressure will get us out.

Let’s start now. Send a friend request on Facebook to someone whose politics you can’t stand. Baby steps, as they say.


About the author:  Kent Kroeger is a writer and statistical consultant with over 30 -years experience measuring and analyzing public opinion for public and private sector clients. He also spent ten years working for the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and the Defense Intelligence Agency. He holds a B.S. degree in Journalism/Political Science from The University of Iowa, and an M.A. in Quantitative Methods from Columbia University (New York, NY).  He lives in Ewing, New Jersey with his wife and son.