September 30, 2019

Quick Takes (v43): WNY OTB's Gamble

Quick Takes
Regular readers know how excited I am that New York State gambles so heavily on gambling to help fund our government.  

We've got four new-ish casinos, which have been getting a lot of attention - they've all been troubled with lower-than-expected revenues, bad credit ratings, at least two have had ownership changes, and so on. 

Most industry experts attribute the poor performance to our very over-saturated market, which includes several Indian Nation casinos, thoroughbred and harness tracks, and Off-Track Betting (OTB) outlets. You can read my coverage on this topic over the last five years here.

One thing I haven't covered all that much is the OTB stuff. There are five regional OTB corporations, with multiple betting parlors around the state (none here in Onondaga County, which is fine with me). Money earned is supposed to be distributed to the municipalities that fall under each corporation's jurisdiction. Unless, of course, that money goes for other stuff.  

Take a look at this reporting from Investigative Post, noting that there's a federal grand jury nosing around into the Western Regional OTB corporation, investigating possible corruption including free health insurance for board members, vendor contracts going to politically-connected businesses, and issues with tickets to Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres games.  Not only that, the report notes,
In addition, the state comptroller has started a previously announced audit and sources said the state Gaming Commission is engaged in some sort of review, as well.
According to the paper's reporting, no one was paying much attention to WNY OTB until about a year ago, when they reported on the free health insurance offered to the part-time board members (employees have to pay for theirs), and that NY's AG seemed to suggest that was prohibited. The AG's opinion and the state comptroller, and the attorneys hired by the OTB, all said it was wrong. An estimate, based on 'normal usage' would put the prohibited program's cost at between $250K and $500K annually.

The ticket issue stems from an accusation that OTB officials give tickets to "family, friends, and political allies," although there have been changes made in how ticket distribution is handled, including "the frequency and method of ticket giveaways." 

The contracting issue has to do with politically-connected vendors getting healthy contracts, including a contract extension given, even after it was reported the contract in question was under FBI scrutiny.

New York has a history of good intentions gone bad, and sadly we seem to excel when it comes to situations where public corporations, boards, and authorities are given freedom to do their own thing - because that almost always ends up with politically connected companies and people receiving benefits they are probably not entitled to, or that are way beyond what's reasonable for the work done, and that regular folks have no way to access.

Kudos to the reporters who have been chasing these stories. Ideally we'll find that there's nothing untoward in how the OTB handles its benefits and other practices, but if there is, the practices need to change - or cease - and the municipalities who are supposed to benefit from WNY OTB need to be made whole for any lost revenue.

And if nothing else, I hope these investigations will put the hundreds of other authorities, corporations and boards that engage in similar shenanigans on notice that, as the saying goes, the house always wins.

The Update Desk: Don't Let The Door Hit You...

It's been a while since we've heard any news about Erie County's embattled Congressman, Republican Chris Collins.

In fact, it was back in May that we checked in on Collins, the insider-trading, call-your-son-from-the-Rose-Garden (but don't call your daughter) wheeler-dealer.  Here's what was going on back then:
Collins is in the news again, for a couple of reasons. First, the House is going to reopen their ethics investigation into his case, which was suspended back when he was indicted on federal charges. But not to worry -- the House has promised the Department of Justice that they'll not interfere with the criminal case against him.

But the more interesting news about Collins has to do with infrastructure, and taxes. That's right, two things Republicans like to talk about, for different reasons. Infrastructure is good, particularly if it's public/private partnership, which helps their donors, or if it's block grants to states, which the Rs love. And taxes? That's another good topic to talk about too, of course, particularly when they're going down, not up - or not being introduced at all. You know what happens to Rs who get that part wrong. I mean, who can forget "Read my lips - no new taxes!"
Well, he's back, and now news is breaking from his hometown newspaper, the Buffalo News:
WASHINGTON – Rep. Chris Collins resigned Monday, a day before he is expected to plead guilty Tuesday to federal charges stemming from an insider trading scheme that prosecutors first detailed in an indictment nearly 14 months ago.
A spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said her office received Collins' resignation letter Monday. The aide said Collins' resignation will become effective Tuesday.
A new court filing in the case, filed in federal court in Manhattan, shows that U.S. District Court Judge Vernon S. Broderick scheduled a court hearing where Collins – who had pleaded not guilty to all the charges against him – will change his plea.
A new entry on the docket in the case read: "As to Christopher Collins: Change of Plea Hearing scheduled for 10/1/2019 at 3 p.m."
Moments after that docket entry was filed, a second appeared, indicating that Collins' co-defendants – his son Cameron Collins and Cameron Collins' prospective father-in-law, Stephen Zarsky – plan to change their not-guilty pleas as well. A hearing in their case is set for Thursday.
No one has any comment on whether the gang will plead to the original changes, which were scheduled to go to trial in February, or if there are lesser, more palatable charges on the table. Either way, it's good that (after the court date on Tuesday), we'll no longer have Rep. Collins to kick around any more.

You can read all of the veritable pastiche coverage of Collins here.

September 29, 2019

Sunday School Extra Credit: 9/29/19

There were all kinds of people saying all kinds of things in today's classrooms. Our 'official' Sunday School post covered Jake Tapper's interview with Cory Booker on CNN's State of the Union.

Here, for extra credit, are comments from Tom Bossert, former Homeland Security Advisor in the Trump Administration and former Deputy Homeland Security Advisor in the Bush II administration.  Bossert, who is now a, speaking to George Stephanopoulos on This Week, expressed his frustration with the "entire mess," noting
...I’ll tell you, the whole world is watching this. The removal of a president is a -- is a big and serious deal. But the removal of a president in not only a democracy but the biggest democracy in the world is really a weighty matter and I hope that everyone can sift through the evidence and be very careful, as I’ve seen a lot of rush to judgment this week. That said, it is a bad day and a bad week for this president and for this country if he is asking for political dirt on an opponent.
About the theory the president is putting forward, that Ukraine was involved in hacking the DNC emails back in 2016, Bossert said that it's not true; he confirmed he had explained that to the president; and,
You know, I -- I don’t want to be glib about this matter, but last year retired former senator Judd Gregg wrote a piece in The Hill Magazine, saying the three ways or the five ways to impeach oneself. And the third way was to hire Rudy Giuliani. And at this point I am deeply frustrated with what he and the legal team is doing and repeating that debunked theory to the president. It sticks in his mind when he hears it over and over again.
And here's what Bossert had to say about the president's fixation on 2016:
...I honestly believe this president has not gotten his pound of flesh yet from past grievances on the 2016 investigation. I believe he and his legal team have been looking into this, probably even prior to Joe Biden announcing that he would run for president. And they’re continuing to focus on everything they can, in their belief -- understandably, in this case -- that the president was wrongly accused of colluding with Russia the first time around. But George, if he continues to focus on that white whale, it’s going to bring him down. Enough. The investigation’s over. There was no evidence of collusion. He’s won and he should take that victory and move forward.
Funny -- whenever someone says that Democrats can't get over losing in 2016, I've suggested that the president is the one who can't get over winning in 2016.  Seems I'm in good company.

See you around campus.

Sunday School 9/29/19

As you know, I've been trying to focus on the 2020 presidential candidates when they choose to wander around the halls on Sunday morning. Today, Cory Booker is the only one making an appearance; he stopped by CNN's State of the Union for a conversation with Jake Tapper.

Why was he the only one? Probably because, as you might imagine, everyone wants to talk to someone about the impeachment inquiry, the Ukraine shakedown, the coverup, and of course, whatever it was that Adam Schiff did the other day, and so the candidates are not all that interesting, I guess.

Schiff is in two classrooms (Meet the Press and This Week) as is the president's personal nuclear weapon attorney, Rudy Giuliani (This Week and Face the Nation). Also making an appearance today? Stephen Miller, another Trump advisor, who's dropping on Fox News Sunday.

But let's stay with Booker, who, as Tapper noted, has been calling for the president to be impeached since this spring. Tapper wondered if the narrow focus that Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced for the inquiry is appropriate. Booker said that Pelosi was right, before answering Tapper's request to define the 'high crimes and misdemeanors' that the president has committed.
Well, clearly, I mean, from the federalist papers to even in past impeachment, we see that defined in a broader sense and for me it is -- comes down fundamentally how they portrayed their office. And I think we see a president right now what's implicated in that transcript, in that whistleblower report is someone that frankly was pursuing their own interests above our national security interests... We had a bipartisan agreement that we should give resources and aid to a desperate country. And this president seemed to be willing to hold that up in order to pursue his petty political aspirations.
And that is absolutely unacceptable. If this is true, that is an impeachable offense. History will look back on what did we do when a president was willing to trash the constitution, act less like a leader of the free world and more like a dictator or a thug in using American power to pursue his own personal gain.
Tapper asked whether Booker thought it was acceptable for a president or vice president's kid to be on a board of a foreign company while the parent was 'conducting foreign policy.'

I dreaded hearing the answer, but I was pleased with Booker's response - because he hit the nail on the head (emphasis added).
Look, I have a lot of beliefs about ethics rules and the needs for our government of the United States to go far further in the rules than we have. But the fact that the Republicans right now are trying to use this and distract from the president of the United States and his own actions is to me incredible.
And so, yes, I have problems with the way things happen. I have problems with Congress people coming in and holding their office and leaving -- and walking right out the door and going to work for lobbying firms. There are a lot of things I see in Washington that need changing and I intend to bring a whole new suite of ethics laws to the White House when I get there.
But right now we have a crisis in our country. It has been exposed that the president of the United States on potentially more than one occasion is using his office for his own political gain at the expense of national security, urgent national American interests.
Tapper pressed the question again, wondering if Booker was saying it would not be OK for someone to do what Hunter Biden did.
Look, I'm watching what's going on with the Trump family right now and Trump properties and I just find that deeply offensive to just a -- any kind of independent sense of what's honorable, ethical, not to mention inconsistent with the emoluments clause. I just don't think that children of presidents, vice presidents during an administration should be out there doing that.
He went on to describe Joe Biden as a "statesman. He is a truly honorable man." And he reiterated the key issue here (again, emphasis added).
And so I'm offended by the Republicans trying to shift the attention and this is -- and what is Trump's scandal. This is a Trump scandal and potential violation of office. It has -- it should in no way affect the vice president in his pursuit of the nomination.
Finally, since Booker is running for the Democratic nomination after all, Tapper turned to the 2020 race. Booker had set a fundraising goal of $.17M by the end of the third quarter to keep him in the race. Tapper noted that he was still about $200,000 short, and wondered if this was close to the end of his campaign.

Booker allowed as how it could be, but that he's had a lot activity and even though he's already qualified for the November debate,'s not a goal, it's a real number that we believe is necessary for us to stay in the race with a trajectory to win the nomination.
I'm in this to win it. It's not a vanity play. I'm not sticking around for ego. I don't think you should be in this primary, at least this is my values, my lens. I'm not going to be in this primary unless I have a viable path to victory. We have that right now but in the fourth quarter we're going to need help...
Booker got in three plugs for his website during that one question, so that's a plus. But the fact that the only question he was asked about the campaign was whether it was almost over is a real problem, and it's one that all of the candidates are going to face, I suspect.

See you around campus.

September 28, 2019

In Case You Missed it (v4)

A head-spinning week, to be sure - I know I had a hard time keeping up with everything, so I forgive you if you missed a post.

Here's a recap.

Adam Schiff, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, was Jake Tapper's guest for Sunday School. Obviously, the conversation was about the whistleblower complaint, which no one had yet seen. But, if what was being reported was true - that Trump had used his office to pressure someone into promising to do something that would benefit Trump, Schiff was clear:
This would be, I think the most profound violation of the presidential oath of office, certainly during this presidency, which says a lot, but perhaps during just about any presidency. There is no privilege that covers corruption... And again, I don't know if this is the subject of the whistleblower complaint. But if it is, it needs to be exposed. 
On Monday, I had myself a little Poll Watch party, and took a look at the so-called shocking results out of Iowa: Joe Biden was on longer the front-runner.  The Des Moines Register poll - historically, the most accurate in Iowa, they say, showed not only that Warren was the first choice of would-be caucus-goers, but also the second choice, and also picked up several points in the 'actively being considered' bucket, giving her an overall 9-point leave over Joe Biden (second overall) and a 19-point lead over Bernie Sanders.  Here's how it stacks up:

There was also some interesting information on the definition of 'electability that's worth checking out.

My Wondering on Wednesday was in some ways more about things that we don't need to wonder about, rather than things we do.  For example, thinking about president Trump's phone call with Volodymyr Zalensky, the president of Ukraine, I was able to quite easily draw these conclusions;
But on the important stuff:
  • Don't wonder whether this was a shakedown: it was.
  • Don't wonder whether this was inappropriate: it was.
  • Don't wonder whether this was ethical: it was not.
  • Don't wonder whether this was a normal conversation: it wasn't.
  • Don't wonder whether there was pressure on Ukraine: there was.
And don't wonder whether a quid pro quo was on the table: There was.
Thursday's time at the Update Desk was again devoted to the top ten Dems, their emails, and their messaging. I should clarify, not 'their emails' like Hillary's, or Jared's, or Ivanka's - I mean their campaign messaging, which I'm getting via email. I certainly don't want to cause an international incident or anything.  Here's a snippet for you:
What else are they talking about? Trump and Ukraine, especially the Biden team. Impeachment and how much fun they're having in Iowa are common to all campaigns. Beto's still talking a little about pot, more about guns. And Bernie? He wants to wipe out billionaires. Seriously - take a look at these excerpts from his email with the subject "Billionaires should not exist." 
We didn't have a TGIF post this week - it was intentionally left blank, like those pages you see in manuals and manuscripts; given the news of the week, no one ended up on the good side of the ledger.

Coming up next week?  We'll visit Albany and Syracuse again, and have updates on the mess in DC; I think there'll be some poetry - in fact, I'm certain there will be - and we'll have one more update on the candidate messaging. It could be the last one, we'll see how things go. 

And, we should have the full complement of regular features, including an anticipated return to normalcy on Friday.  Which I know will help. 

September 26, 2019

The Update Desk: Who Loves Me, Baby? (4)

We are now in week four of my social experiment with the top ten Dems running for president.

If you're new to this one, I decided (and I confess, I might have been drinking,...) to sign up for emails from the campaigns of all the contenders who qualified for the 'single-stage' debate in Houston earlier this month.  The point? To see what's on their mind, and what they want to be on my mind as I look to find a candidate with whom I can move forward.

Here's the link to last week's update, which includes updates to all of the previous articles in this series, and the highlights from the post:
How did we do in week three?
  • I received 175 emails by this afternoon's deadline, 35 more than last week; 76% directly asked for money.
  • Kamala Harris sent me 29 emails, followed by Cory Booker (24), Joe Biden (22), and Elizabeth Warren (20). At the other end of the scale, Bernie Sanders and Julian Castro (12 each) were trailed only by Amy Klobuchar (8)...  
  • On the asking for money part, Sanders led the way, with 92% of his emails making a direct pitch for money. He was followed closely by Warren (90%) and Klobuchar (88%).  The one asking for money the least? Beto, with only 65% of his emails making a blatant pitch.
And this week?
  • Email volume overall was down. I only received 159, compared to last week's 175, but the percentage that directly asked for money was up -- from 76% to 82% (131 emails).
  • Individually, most of them slowed down at least a little, since we didn't have a debate staring us in the face. Kamala Harris reached out the most, with 27 emails. Joe Biden (23), Cory Booker (21) and Elizabeth Warren (19) were also in the top tier, with Andrew Yang (14), Beto O'Rourke, (13), Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders  and Julian Castro (11 each) and Mayor Pete (9) rounding out the list.
  • Who wanted my money the most? That would be Andrew Yang; 100% of his emails had a direct ask for money. Biden and Klobuchar (91%), Harris (85%), Booker (81%) and Warren (80%) were also pretty good at pushing the donations. Buttigieg (78%), Sanders (73%), Beto (62%) and Castro (60%) trailed here. 
And I can get on the donor wall, get a phone call from a candidate - and they don't care if I've made up my mind yet, they'll still take my money.  Both Biden and Harris sent emails with a subject line 'Bernie Sanders' which I thought was odd; they mentioned Bernie hitting 1,000,000 donors and how that meant I had to step up my game to keep them in the mix.

It's a lot of pressure on me, I have to say.

What else are they talking about? Trump and Ukraine, especially the Biden team. Impeachment and how much fun they're having in Iowa are common to all campaigns. Beto's still talking a little about pot, more about guns. And Bernie? He wants to wipe out billionaires. Seriously - take a look at these excerpts from his email with the subject "Billionaires should not exist"
And in order to reduce the outrageous level of inequality that exists in America today and to rebuild the disappearing middle class, the time has come for the United States to establish an annual tax on the extreme wealth of the top 0.1 percent of U.S. households.
Our tax on extreme wealth would only apply to the wealthiest households in America and would cut the wealth of billionaires in half over 15 years — which would substantially break up the concentration of wealth and power of this small, privileged class.
Now, I have never understood how someone could have tens and hundreds of billions of dollars and feel the desperate need for even more. I would think that with the amount of money the 0.1 percent of this country has, they might just be able to get by. 
I'm curious as to why Sanders only wants to take away half of their wealth, or how he thinks they'll have less power if they only have $50B instead of $100B or more, and why he thinks they feel the desperate need for more money. I guess they're supposed to just quit their jobs and shutter their companies to avoid making more? (Clearly, as regular readers know, I'm not a Sanders fan.)

As with prior weeks, they are not talking about jobs (0 emails), education (0), the economy (1), immigration (0), foreign policy (0), climate change (1) or barely mention health insurance (2). Warren has updated both her shopping options and her website with a special place just for her plans.

With the end-of-quarter FEC deadline only four days away, I expect the money pressure to ramp up significantly over the next couple of days. I also expect to see more emails about Trump, impeachment, and the debate requirements after today's goings-on in DC.

Stay tuned.

September 25, 2019

Wondering on Wednesday (v183)

I don't know about you, but I'd say 'WoW' sure fits today.

Right off the bat, we've got an unhinged Rudy Giuliani doing an interview with Fox and Friends that would have left the hosts slack-jawed had they not been clenching their teeth to keep their mouths from allowing huge peals of laughter to spill forth. I wonder how they managed to do that? I mean, there were several times when I literally (not just Joe Biden literally) laughed out loud listening to Rudy. Do you think they practiced the stone-faced look while watching his interview with Chris Cuomo?

And next batter up, we've got the Official Readout of president Trump's conversation with Ukrainian President Zelensky, which is widely being referred to as "the transcript" by most people. And what does the readout say?  Let's take a look; and yes, I've taken the liberty of bolding parts of the conversation if you want to skim.

Zelensky was very complimentary to Trump, saying he learned a lot from him on how to run a campaign, and he'd like to keep running so he can keep talking to Trump; he even mentioned 'draining the swamp' in his country.

Trump, as you might imagine, lapped all of that up. And then, he got down to business. For anyone who looks at this and says there's nothing threatening here, I would strongly disagree.
...I will say that we do a lot for Ukraine. We spend a lot of effort and a lot of time. Much more than the European countries are doing and they should be helping you more than they are. Germany does almost nothing for you. All they do is talk and I think it's something that you should really ask them about. When I was speaking to Angela Merkel she talks Ukraine, but she doesn't do anything. A lot of the European countries are the same way so I think it's something you want to look at but the United States has been very very good to Ukraine. I wouldn't say that it's reciprocal necessarily because things are happening that are not good but the United States has been very very good to Ukraine
Got it? You're a former comedian, reality star guy who ends up president, talking to a guy who has to be your idol, and you're not supposed to get a message from that?

Zelensky does get the message, saying Trump is not just 100% correct, but 1000% correct, and how the European Union should be doing more but the US is technically the bigger partner. And he expressed that they were "almost ready" to purchase more weapons from us, which of course is literally music to Trump's ears - nothing more important than selling our weapons to foreign countries, right?

And then Trump said this:
I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it. I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say Crowdstrike ... I guess you have one of your wealthy people... The server, they say Ukraine has it. There are a lot of things that went on, the whole situation. I think you are surrounding yourself with some of the same people. I  would like to have the Attorney General call you or your people and I would like you to get to the bottom of it. As you saw yesterday, that whole nonsense ended with a very poor performance by a man named Robert Mueller, an incompetent performance- but they say a lot of it started with Ukraine. Whatever you can do, it's very important that you do it if that's possible. 
I want you to find out what happened, I'll have my people call your people, I would like you to get to the bottom of it...  Trump didn't come right out and say, yeah, maybe those arms sales won't be happening, and he didn't mention the hundreds of millions in aid that he ordered held up, but did he really have to?

Zelensky confirms his understanding, like a gambler would when threatened with collection action by his bookie.
Yes it is very important for me and everything that you just mentioned earlier. For me as a President it is very important and we are open for any future cooperation. We are ready to open a new page on cooperation in relations between the United States and Ukraine.
He talks about getting a new ambassador to the US, noting he's looking to see "trust and confidence" on Trump's part here, to allow for "cooperation even more so." And then, he tells Trump, hey - we're already dealing with your people on this stuff, and you're among friends - and provides additional reassurance that the message has been received.
I will personally tell you that one of my assistants spoke with Mr. Giuliani just recently and we are hoping very much that Mr. Giuliani will be able to travel to Ukraine and we will meet once  he comes to Ukraine. I just wanted to assure you once again that you have nobody but friends around us... I also wanted to tell you that we are friends. We are great friends and you Mr. President have friends in our country so we can continue our strategic partnership. I also plan to surround myself with great people and in addition to that investigation, I guarantee as the President of Ukraine that all the investigations will be done openly and candidly. That I can assure you. 
Trump comes back with a strong second serve, getting the Bidens into the mix. He also plays up the importance of this piece of the puzzle, even though everyone - the US government, the IMF, the EU - agrees it did not happen the way Trump presents it.
Good because I heard you had a prosecutor who was very good and he was shut down and that's really unfair. A lot of people are talking about that, the way they shut your very good prosecutor down and you had some very bad people involved. Mr. Giuliani is a highly respected man. He was the mayor of New York City, a great mayor, and I would like him to call you. I will ask him to call you along with the Attorney General. Rudy very much knows what's happening and he is a very capable guy. If you could speak to him that would be great. The former ambassador from the United States, the woman, was bad news and the people she was dealing with in the Ukraine were bad news so I just want to let you know that. The other thing, there's a lot of talk about Biden's son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it ... It sounds horrible to me.
Zelensky allows as how since he holds the parliament the new prosecutor will be "100% my person" and will start in September and will look into things, "specifically to the company that you mentioned in this issue." And then, knowingly or not, he invites the conspiracy theorists into the mix.
... I would kindly ask you if you have any additional information that you can provide to us, it would be very helpful for the investigation to make sure that we administer justice in our country.
He also thanks Trump for tipping him off to the previous ambassador being bad. Trump reiterates he'll have his people get in touch with Zelensky, and then dangles a carrot.
Well, she's going to go through some things. I will have Mr. Giuliani give you a call and I am also going to have Attorney General Barr call and we will get to the bottom of it.  I'm sure you will figure it out. I heard the prosecutor was treated very badly and he was a very fair prosecutor so good luck with everything. Your economy is going to get better and better I predict. You have a lot of assets. It's a great country. I have many Ukrainian friends, they're incredible people.
You found the carrot, right, about the economy getting better? Is that just going to happen organically, or are we going to be player in that, I wonder? Bet Zelensky knows the answer, depending of course on how those investigations go.

The Ukrainian then adds another dose of flattery, saying he stayed at Trump Tower the last time he came to New York, and then he did exactly what someone under 'no pressure whatsoever' would do - he promises again to take care of business, and then tosses out his own carrot, which was well played. I guess he has been studying the Trump playbook.
I also wanted to thank you for your invitation to visit the United States, specifically Washington DC. On the other hand, I also wanted to (assure) you that we will be very serious about the case and will work on the investigation. As to the economy, there is much potential for our two countries and one of the issues that is very important for Ukraine is energy independence. I believe we can be very successful (in) cooperating on energy independence with the United States. We are already working on cooperation. We are buying American oil but I am very hopeful for a future meeting. We will have more time and more opportunities to discuss these opportunities and get to know each other better. I would like to thank you very much for your support.
Happy that his message was received, Trump's ready to wrap things up, but not without mentioning yet again Rudy and Barr.
Good. Well, thank you very much and I appreciate that. I will tell Rudy and Attorney General Barr to call. Thank you. Whenever you would like to come to the White House, feel free to call. Give us a date and we'll work that out. I look forward to seeing you.
Zelensky must have missed the cue that the call was over, now that he had committed to doing what Trump wanted. Suggesting they get together in Ukraine after a meeting in Poland, he says
We can either take my plane and go to Ukraine or we can take your plane, which is probably much better than mine.
I love that last part: you've got a better plane, let's take yours. He's still got a bit of the comedian in him, don't you think? And maybe he was trying to let Trump he had nothing to worry about?

But on the important stuff:
  • Don't wonder whether this was a shakedown: it was.
  • Don't wonder whether this was inappropriate: it was.
  • Don't wonder whether this was ethical: it was not.
  • Don't wonder whether this was a normal conversation: it wasn't.
  • Don't wonder whether there was pressure on Ukraine: there was.
And don't wonder whether a quid pro quo was on the table: There was.  It wasn't directly expressed (do this or we won't sell arms to you, for example) but there is certainly an implied quid pro quo in Trump's comments:
  • we're good to you, better than Europe, but you're not reciprocating.
  • You do me a favor or two, and I predict your economy is going to start doing much better.
  • It's very important that you look in to these issues.
  • Speak to my personal attorney, that would be great, speak to the Attorney General, that would be great, that would be appreciated. Talk to them, and you can come visit me any time.
There was clear understanding that Zelensky had received the message, whether he recognizes or  admits he was being pressured on the call or not. After all, how can he say no to his country's biggest supporter, the country that protects him, the country with a petulant, retaliatory child sitting in the president's chair? 

A nothingburger? Who knew Trump could be so nice?  Everyone can wonder how those two statement can be associated with this call. 

September 23, 2019

Poll Watch: In Iowa, it's Warren (for now)

The latest poll from the Des Moines Register is out, and for the first time, Joe Biden is not in the lead.

Here's the small print: The Iowa Poll, conducted September 14-18, 2019, for The Des Moines Register, CNN and Mediacom by Selzer & Co. of Des Moines, is based on telephone interviews with 602 registered voters in Iowa who say they will definitely or probably attend the 2020 Democratic caucuses.

The poll asked respondents to identify their first and second choices for president, as well as others they are actively considering. Looking at the first choice rankings, Elizabeth Warren (22%) came out two points ahead of Joe Biden (20%), 11 points head of Bernie Sanders (11%), and 13 points ahead of Pete Buttigieg. 

More interesting, though, is where they stand when you look at total support based on first, second and actively considered choices. Warren and Biden are still the top two, but Sanders falls to fifth behind Buttigieg and Kamala Harris. The latter two have the highest 'actively considering' totals, and are tied with Biden as the second choice of respondents. 

Warren's overall support has increased by 10% since the paper's June poll. And, she's got the highest favorability (75%) followed by Mayor Pete (69%) and Biden (66%).

Here  are some other data points from the poll.
  • 63% say they could change their mind and support a different candidate, with only 20% saying their minds are made up; for Warren, 88% say they could be persuaded to support someone else. For Biden, 26% say they're good, with 70% saying they could go with some different.
  • Biden's favorability has dropped, having been at 82% in December, and his unfavorables have almost doubled (15% to 29%). 
  • Overall, 28% of folks say they are extremely enthusiastic about their first choice; for Warren, it's 32%, and only 22% of Biden. 31% of his supporters are 'mildly enthusiastic', whereas only 11% of Warren supporters describe themselves that way.
  • Biden is favored by older respondents, with 35% support among the 65+ group. That demographic is about 25% of caucus-goers; he leads Warren by a 3-to-1 margin. Warren holds the under-35 age group,with 27% first choice support; Sanders has 22% first-choice support here, whild Biden as only 9%.
  • Sanders is losing supporters from 2016. 25% say they'll be in his corner again, but 32% are supporting Warren, and 12% going to Buttigieg. And, among the self-described 'very liberal' cohort, which makes up 20% of likely caucus-goers, 48% are backing Warren and only 20% backing Sanders. 
Julian Castro is is in trouble. He's doing the best among the worst - the group at 1% support -but his attacks on Biden in Houston didn't help. 
  • He's getting better known, with 71% able to rate how they feel about him, compared to only 47% who said that in the June poll, but his unfavorable rating has gone from 13% to 36%
  • More than half of folks who watched all of the debate earlier this month rate him unfavorably (54%), compared to 23% who didn't watch any of the debate. 
Finally, looking ahead to the general election, 63% say having a candidate who can defeat the president is more important than finding someone who shares their position on the issues (31%). 

But just what is 'electability' in the mind of Iowa caucus-goers? Respondents were asked to rate four pairs of statements showing characteristics defining electability. Here's how that looked:

It will be interesting to see how this changes when the next round of polling is done, how it impacts how the candidates act out on the trail - and in the October debate -  and also whether or not it has an impact on my social experiment. 

September 22, 2019

Sunday School 9/22/19

None of the Democratic presidential contenders are in the classrooms today - they must be recovering from the Iowa Steak Fry, or the Des Moines Register poll (more on that during the week), or maybe they're just too busy raising money or something.

So, who do we listen to? Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (three classrooms), Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (two classrooms or Rep. Adam Schiff, the chair of the House Intelligence Committee (one classroom)?  

I chose Schiff, who appeared on CNN's State of the Union with Jake Tapper. Here are the highlights.

Tapper played a video clip in which the president said he wasn't looking to hurt Joe Biden but "he said a very bad thing. He said a very foolish thing. Now me, on the other hand, my call with the president, the new president of Ukraine, was perfect...There was no quid pro quo..." and Tapper asked Schiff to respond.
Well, if that was the case, then why doesn't the president simply release the transcript of that call? And I don't know whether the whistleblower complaint is on this allegation, but if it is - and even if it isn't - why doesn't the president just say, release the whistleblower complaint? 
Clearly, he's afraid for the public to see either one of those things. And we're determined to make sure that the public does, that the nation is protected, that if the president of the United States is browbeating a foreign leader at the same time he was withholding vital military assistance that Ukraine needed to defend itself against Russia, and trying to get dirt on his political opponent in yet a second campaign, then the country needs to know about it. And we need to take defensive steps. 
And Schiff disagreed with Mnuchin, who was also in Tapper's classroom this morning, who said that foreign leaders need to know their conversations with the president will not be shared. Schiff disagreed, if the conversations contained potential corruption or were being used for political purposes. And, he went on,
that's what's at stake here. This would be, I think the most profound violation of the presidential oath of office, certainly during this presidency, which says a lot, but perhaps during just about any presidency. There is no privilege that covers corruption... And again, I don't know if this is the subject of the whistleblower complaint. But if it is, it needs to be exposed. 
He was careful, twice, to point out that we don't know for sure what's in the whistleblower complaint, even though Tapper suggested that it was about conversation with Ukraine's president. But he did say what we do know: that it wasn't a policy disagreement, and that it was urgent.
(a policy issue) is not a valid whistleblower complaint. But, here, the inspector general said, this is not what is at issue. We're talking about serious or flagrant abuse, impropriety, potential violation of law. And there's no privilege that protects that.
Further, if this is what the complaint is about, you've got the "illicit conduct" by the president and "the added element of a coverup."

Tapper asked if, as the Wall Street Journal reported, Trump pressed eight times to have Hunter and Joe Biden investigated, whether Schiff would consider that an impeachable offense.  Schiff reminded Tapper that he's been "very reluctant" to go down that path (as have been many Dems in leadership roles), as it's "an extraordinary remedy," and one of last resort. That said, 
But if the president is essentially withholding military aid, at the same time that he is trying to browbeat a foreign leader into doing something illicit, that is, providing dirt on his opponent during a presidential campaign, that that may be the only remedy that is co-equal to the evil that that conduct represents.
Joseph Maguire, the acting Director of National Intelligence, will be testifying before the House Intelligence committee on Thursday to explain why he's withholding the whistleblower complaint, Schiff said. 
And we're going to make sure that we find out whether the president has engaged in this kind of improper conduct. But it may be that we do need to move forward with that extraordinary remedy if.. the president is, at the same time withholding vital military assistance he is trying to leverage that to obtain impermissible help in his political campaign.
Tapper allowed as how that's the farthest he's ever heard Schiff go on the topic of impeachment -but he also pointed out that other Dems are willing to go even further, referencing comments by 2020 presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren and freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez  as examples, and asked for Schiff's response.
Well, I would just say this. There's no chance of us persuading the Senate, the Senate Republicans, in an impeachment trial. They have shown their willingness to carry the president's baggage, no matter how soiled its contents. 
But I want to make sure, before we go down this road, that we can persuade the public that this was the right thing to do.... Now, some of the folks that you mentioned have been embracing impeachment from the very beginning. I don't think that's useful in making the case to the public that we did this reluctantly. 
But the president is pushing us down this road..I have spoken with a number of my colleagues over the last week, and this seems different in kind. And we may very well have crossed the Rubicon here.
They also talked about the Ukrainian foreign minister saying there was no pressure to investigate Biden in the July phone call. Schiff noted that the country is in a tough spot, wanting a summit with Trump, having issues with Russia occupying their country, and also understanding that, even though the $250M in military aid that was being held up (which was a subject before Schiff's committee already), it could be cut off just as quickly as it was released. In a nutshell, he was basically saying they're between a rock and a hard place, a position that Schiff doesn't envy, especially given Trump's vindictive tendencies.

He also said that they'll do everything possible - including potentially withholding funds from the DNI - if they don't get the whistleblower complaint. When asked by Tapper if that wasn't going to put our country at risk, Schiff said it depended on what funds are withheld, noting that some funds that don't go directly to national security could be held back. Further, he said,

Now, we cannot afford to play rope-a-dope in the court for weeks or months on end. We need an answer. If there's a fire burning, it needs to be put out. And that's why we're going to have to look at every remedy.
And if these two issues are, in fact, one issue, and relates to deplorable conduct, a violation of the president's oath of office, and a cover-up in terms of this whistleblower complaint, then we're going to have to consider impeachment, as well, a remedy here.
The interview with Schiff ended there, but this conversation -- about Trump and Ukraine and the whistleblower and the DNI and impeachment - yeah, that's going to keep going on, and on, and on...

See you around campus.

September 21, 2019

In Case You Missed It (v3)

I know you want to read me every day, right? But sometimes you can't?

It's OK - not only do I forgive you, but I'm even handing you a cheat sheet to this week's posts. Take a look.

On our Sunday School stroll through the halls of punditry this week, we heard from Mayor Pete on Afghanistan, particularly a misinterpreted comment during the debate about how the war started. Some in the media thought (or pretended they thought) that he said the US started that war. Buttigieg, on the anniversary of his coming home from that war, clarified
 I did not say that the US started the war; what I'm saying is the lesson is that wars are difficult to end...
And we heard from Andrew Yang on a number of subjects, including his announcement during the debate that he'd offer $1000 per month to ten families who got on his website and told him why they needed the money. And, he raised attention to the issue of money in politics, noting that if he
"gave a million dollars to a media company or consultants or hired a small army of canvassers, no one would blink an eye, but if we give the money directly to the American people, somehow that's problematic. So, it just speaks directly to how messed up our system is..."
In Monday's We Don't Need to Take People's Guns Away I disagreed with Beto O'Rourke's plan to do exactly that.
Don't get me wrong -- I think these guns are unnecessary, and have no purpose other than inflicting a great deal of harm in a very short period of time. But the mandatory buyback - confiscation with pay, if you will - is wrong. And I don't think most Democrats, or most Americans, believe it's right, or constitutional, even though O'Rourke says it can be done using the Commerce Clause without stepping on the Second Amendment.
This is exactly the kind of position that will make it much harder to get Donald Trump out of office next year. 
My sense that most Americans don't agree with O'Rourke on this was illustrated in Wednesday's Poll Watch  which summarized a recent Quinnipiac survey or registered voters.  But more interesting than our opinions on guns, and on climate change, another of the survey's topics, were the opinions on prejudice. For example,
By political party, the percentages of people saying prejudice is at least a somewhat serious problem falls where you'd expect it to, but the percentages were a little more extreme than I anticipated. 

We were Wondering on Wednesday afternoon about Republican presidential primaries being cancelled, angry Bernie Sanders voters, impeaching Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and about Trump's new National Security Advisor. On Kavanaugh, I wondered if we'd return to any sense of normalcy.
More important, though - under even the weakest of normal circumstances, the nomination of a potential SCOTUS justice with even a hint of what he's accused of never would have seen the light of day. And I wonder if we'll ever be close to that kind of normal again.
In Thursday's visit to the Update Desk, we looked at email activity from the top ten Democrats. Both the volume of emails, and the percentage of them asking for money, increased this week. What didn't change? What the candidates are talking about (money) and not talking about (issues).
Only Booker and Yang dedicated an email to the UAW strike, which surprised me given the candidates are all actively seeking the coveted union endorsements. Mayor Pete talked about Medicare For All Who Want It, his health insurance plan, and Cory Booker released an economic plan, so that was worth one email. And that was it - nothing solely related to immigration, foreign policy, education, and climate change. 
And finally, it was the last day of the work week and time for our TGIF feature, which looked at not just people (Rudy Giuliani, for one) but at a word. That's right - a word. Can a word have a good week or a bad week? Well, it seems it can. Or, sometimes, it 'shall', which
has this particularly relevant meaning, under 3(b): --used in laws, regulations, or directives to express what is mandatory.
Hmm.. mandatory? You mean like when a whistleblower complaint has been investigated and determined to be credible and urgent, and therefore it shall be turned over to Congress?  I would have thought this would be a good week for 'shall' but in our bizarro world, 'shall' and 'shall not' are synonyms, not antonyms.
So - there's this week in a nutshell. Next week, we'll have our regular features, as well as updates on whatever hot topics shall arise.

September 20, 2019

TGIF 9/21/19

Let's dive right in to the good week/bad week stuff, shall we?

How about the word 'shall', which according to our friends at Merriam-Webster, has this particularly relevant meaning, under 3(b): --used in laws, regulations, or directives to express what is mandatory.

Hmm.. mandatory? You mean like when a whistleblower complaint has been investigated and determined to be credible and urgent, and therefore it shall be turned over to Congress?  I would have thought this would be a good week for 'shall' but in our bizarro world, 'shall' and 'shall not' are synonyms, not antonyms.

Now, admittedly only the whistleblower, the Inspector General for the intelligence community, the (Acting) Director of National Intelligence, the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel, and if we believe his tweets, the president, know what was reported and why it was determined to be both urgent and credible, and whether it meets the standard outlined in the regulations. We, the public? Yeah, we don't get to know that.

Congress? Yeah, they don't get to know that either, even though they have oversight of the Executive. As I said, in this bizarro world, up is down and left is wrong and right is where the president always is - just ask him.  But when the Wall Street Journal reports that during one phone call in July, Trump asked the president of Ukraine eight times to investigate Joe Biden's son, this is a problem whether he offered them a payment or arms or money or oil or a dinner with Ivanka or anything else.

Of course, there's always the chance that the call to Ukraine's president is not the one that kicked off the whistleblower complaint -- except that the president's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani (a true match made in heaven if there ever was one) set himself on fire last night in an interview with Chris Cuomo on CNN.

It was one of those head-spinning things, in which Rudy claimed to have affidavits, but those are likely unnecessary because the proof is all over the Internet, but he wouldn't give the proof to Chris Cuomo anyway, because he's fake news and also that he (Rudy) both absolutely did and did not talk to Ukraine about investigating Joe Biden and China and Hillary and let me tell you, he's damn proud he did. Or didn't. Or something. Rudy had a good week and a bad week in a matter of mere seconds.

Finally, let's close with some business decisions recently made public:
  • Walmart will stop selling e-cigarettes, the company announced today. Sure, the retail giant may be looking to save time, aggravation and money trying to implement the quickly changing regulations on a city-by-city, state-by-state basis, but this comes after they recently stopped selling ammunition used in so-called assault weapons. Earlier this year, they raised the age for tobacco purchases to 21. We can question their motives until the cows come home, but I appreciate the stands they've been taking.
  • Colt Manufacturing is stopping civilian sales of AR-15s, one of the weapons of choice in mass shootings. Again, motivation can be questioned -- they're already experiencing poor sales of the weapon to regular folks, and they've gotten a tasty contract to provide the AR's fully automatic sibling to the military.
And I was reminded of this post from 2014 which included a mention of CVS stopping cigarette sales. There were least four vocal components complaining after that decision, about them going too far, or not far enough, or about the nanny state, or questioning the company's motivation.

Seems little has changed in the past five years, doesn't it? 

TGIF, everyone.

September 19, 2019

The Update Desk: Who Loves Me Baby? (3)

Who Loves Me, Baby? was my original post setting the stage for me signing up with all ten of the top-tier candidates (nine Dems + Bernie) to see how they communicate. 

This update highlights the first week of my joining the fray, which included the end-of-August fundraising deadline and the lead-up to the CNN Climate Change town hall. And, here are the highlights from the second week. 

How did we do in week three?
  • I received 175 emails by this afternoon's deadline, 35 more than last week; 76% directly asked for money.
  • Kamala Harris sent me 29 emails, followed by Cory Booker (24), Joe Biden (22), and Elizabeth Warren (20). At the other end of the scale, Bernie Sanders and Julian Castro (12 each) were trailed only by Amy Klobuchar (8). In the middle of the pack this week were Beto O'Rourke (17), Andrew Yang (16 - twice as many as last week) and Pete Buttigieg (15).  
  • On the asking for money part, Sanders led the way, with 92% of his emails making a direct pitch for money. He was followed closely by Warren (90%) and Klobuchar (88%).  The one asking for money the least? Beto, with only 65% of his emails making a blatant pitch.
Based on the email numbers, Klobuchar seems to have the least aggressive team, although she did significantly up her game in terms of asking for money.

Again this week, there were lots of emails about the Houston debate. While 30% of last week's emails were all about "when I'm on the debate stage," 25% of this week's were about how they did while they were up there. Other than that, it was more of the same, the "hey, I'm out here" kind of thing, covering mostly Trump, FEC deadlines, fundraising goals, and the like. 

Honestly, they are almost entirely focused on the money: the debate qualifying rules: another candidate making the cut for the October debate (which may mean two nights, again - ugh), concerns the requirements will be tightened again going in to the debate after that, and the end-of-September filing deadline.  And, of course there were three or four references to Justice Brett Kavanaugh, after the new allegations came out.

Beto used two of his emails to ask for donations for the guy running against the Texas Representative who made the "death threat" against O'Rourke over his mandatory buyback plan for assault weapons. 

And what's with the stickers? Everybody's got stickers, it seems. Most of them are totally free, but Warren asks for a donation of any amount to get a free sticker, and Biden asks for a donation of any amount to cover production and shipping (with a $7 hint in case you're not sure what to do).

Only Booker and Yang dedicated an email to the UAW strike, which surprised me given the candidates are all actively seeking the coveted union endorsements. Mayor Pete talked about Medicare For All Who Want It, his health insurance plan, and Cory Booker released an economic plan, so that was worth one email. And that was it - nothing solely related to immigration, foreign policy, education, and climate change. 

The most interesting emails this time?  
  • Beto has a "comprehensive plan to end the failed War on Drugs, legalize pot, and fix the injustices in the country's drug policies. And, he wrote a book about legalizing pot back in 2011, and I can get a copy by donating any amount.
  • Yang's Marijuana Math hat is back - and last time it sold out fast. For $42, if I act fast, I might be able to score one.
  • Elizabeth Warren spends a LONG time in selfie lines - and she's not going to quit doing that, either, no matter what anyone tells her.
I want them to start spending more time talking to me about issues, and much less time talking to me about how much they need my money, but I'm not holding out a lot of hope for next week.

Maybe that'll change if I get one of those free stickers.

September 18, 2019

Wondering on Wednesday (v182)

Ready for some wondering? 

Let's dive in!

I wonder what the handful of states that are  cancelling their Republican presidential primaries are thinking. I can't imagine the president not wanting to show how loved and popular he is by crushing his opponents in a primary, can you? I mean, everyone talking about him is exactly what he lives for, right? 

Is it, as has been suggested by former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, that the president's party faithful support, hovering around 90%, may be a mile wide, but only an inch deep? Are the states afraid of letting that particular cat out of the bag?

Given that one of the reason why the cancellations are happening, we're told, is because it's expensive to hold a primary, I wonder if the RNC will cancel their convention? I know, that's silly, but a woman can hope, right? 

Staying with presidential politics for a bit, I saw a headline today that began "Sanders supporters cry foul..." and my first thought was, I wonder why that's not a bumper sticker? I mean, that could be every headline from 2016, and they're just piling on the foul-crying this time around too. Which is one reason why many people don't like him. You know, people like me. And I wonder if that's why Sanders is in third place in four of the five national polls since the debate?

I'm also wondering what the Democratic presidential candidates have to gain by calling for the impeachment of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. 

I get it - I believe he lied in his confirmation hearings, I believe he did make unwanted sexual advances, of varying degrees, on multiple women, and that he has no business being on the court. But on the court he is, and there he will stay, barring forensically verified proof of his lies or the sexual activities, and I don't know that such evidence exists. And honestly, if the NY Times reporters had not been writing a book, but instead were working solely to get to the bottom of the accusations against Kavanaugh, I'd feel better about that. 

More important, though - under even the weakest of normal circumstances, the nomination of a potential SCOTUS justice with even a hint of what he's accused of never would have seen the light of day. And I wonder if we'll ever be close to that kind of normal again.

Finally, tonight, the president has named Robert O'Brien as his fourth National Security Advisor. O'Brien was most recently the 'Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs' at the State Department, and according to Trump, his record is 38-0. 

I wonder if anyone knows who those 38 'hostages' were? Because to me, a hostage is someone like Terry Anderson, kidnapped on the streets of Beirut and held for over 2450 days, from the mid-1980s until 1991, or the 52 American diplomats held for 444 days in Iran before being released. 

A hostage is not someone convicted of a crime in another country and held in jail. You know, like A$AP Rocky, for example, who was arrested after getting into a fight on the streets of Stockholm. 

Keep in mind that Trump send Robert O'Brien to intercede in the case of A$AP Rocky - and wonder about that. 

Poll Watch: Climate, Guns and Prejudice

As promised, here's the post highlighting what was learned about climate change, gun control. and prejudice in America from the recent Quinnipiac poll

Here's the small print: Quinnipiac University surveyed 1422 self-identified registered voters nationwide August 21-26. Generally, the pollsters conduct live interviews with people on randomly dialed landlines and cell phones. The margin of error for this survey is +/- 3.1percentage points.

The survey shows:

  • 56% of registered voters say climate change is an emergency, with both Democrats and Independents believing this; Republicans do not. Further, 67% of registered voters believe the US needs to do more to combat climate change. 
  • 72% of voters say Congress needs to do more to reduce gun violence - even 50% of Republicans think so. The majority - 60% - thinks we need stricter gun laws.
  • 74% of voters think that prejudice against immigrants is at least a somewhat serious issue (23%), with 51% thinking it's a very serious issue.
Let's look at some of the details.

This section of the survey focused on prejudice against specific groups of people, and whether it's a very serious, somewhat serious, or not so serious problem, or if it's not a problem at all. By political party, the percentages of people saying prejudice is at least a somewhat serious problem falls where you'd expect it to, but the percentages were a little more extreme than I anticipated. 

When you look at it from a 'what's your religion' perspective, the divides are also extreme. 

When a majority of people think that prejudice against whites is a bigger problem than any other kind of prejudice, in a society in which whites are overwhelmingly better off from every measure, we've got our work cut out for us.

As we all wait to hear from the president what he wants Congress to do, and we hear from the Democratic candidates what they want to do, here's what we want them to do.
  • Universal background checks are supported by +87 (93% to 6%).  Every demographic supports this, even Republicans, at 89% and rural voters at 91%.
  • Needing a license to purchase a gun is supported by +66 (82% to 16%); again, every demographic supports this, including Republicans, by +41.
  • Red Flag laws are supported by +65 (80% to 15%)
  • An assault weapon ban is supported by +24 (60% to 36%),Surprisingly, support for this measure is actually down 3% since the May survey. This was a surprise, given that the mass shootings in Virginia Beach, Dayton, El Paso, and Odessa/Midland, which resulted in 50 deaths and 79 injuries, happened between the two surveys.
  • An assault weapon mandatory buyback is underwater by -3 (46% in favor, 49% opposed)
The overall percentage of folks saying more needs to be done, at 67%, is the highest since since the question started being asked back in December 2015.

Support for stricter gun laws comes from across all demographics except for Republicans and gun owners. Men (53%), white men (49%) and whites without college degrees (51%) all support stricter rules. Even rural voters by the slimmest of margins (47% to 46%) support this. And, 

  • Almost every demographic (again, Republicans are the outlier, at -10) believe Congress needs to do more. And the overall percentage on this question is up 4 points since it was last asked in March 2018. 
  • More people overall, and people of every demographic except Democrats and Blacks, feel that mental illness is a bigger cause of mass shootings than is the availability of guns. 
  • Most think that stricter gun laws would help decrease the number of mass shootings, but by generally much slimmer margins than the political party demographic reflects: Dems agree +71, while Reps disagree by +54. 
And no matter what the president says, we do think he has an impact on white supremacists when it comes to motivating them to commit violence. Everyone but folks in the four standard outliers are of one mind on this.

Climate Change.

40% of voters overall (and 15% of Republicans, 56% of Democrats, and 44% of Independents) are worried that someone in their family might be affected by an extreme weather event. The overall percentage is unchanged since this was last asked in December 2018.

By age group, 43% of those 35-49 and 65+ are worried; by race, Hispanics (48%) are the most worried about this. The least worried? Republicans (83%) white men (67%) all men (66%), and whites without college degrees (63%).

On the question of whether we're doing enough, doing too much, or if we need to do more, 91% of Dems and 76% of Independents say we need to do more. In fact, every demographic but one --Republicans, at 32% - believe by a pretty significant margin that we need to do more.

As to whether climate change is an emergency, only Republicans, at 81% saying no, and people 50-64 (50% no, 49% yes) believe it's not. All other demographics believe it is. 

One more thing.
The last question asks whether the respondent feels more safe or less safe with Donald Trump as president or if he doesn't have an impact on a person's sense of safety. By a +20 margin (46% to 26%), people feel less safe with Trump in office

#MAGA, or something.