Wednesday Morning Open Thread: Excellent Choice, Ms. Abrams!

Per the Washington Post:

Abrams, speaking at the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades in Las Vegas, announced a 20-state voter protection initiative, using her experience challenging voting laws during her gubernatorial campaign last year in Georgia, which included widespread irregularities.

“We’re going to have a fair fight in 2020 because my mission is to make certain that no one has to go through in 2020 what we went through in 2018,” Abrams said…

The effort, expected to cost between $4 million and $5 million, will target 20 states, most of them battlegrounds in the Midwest and Southeast, and three states with gubernatorial elections this year: Kentucky, Louisiana and Mississippi…

In past election cycles, campaigns and state parties tended to wait until the start of general election campaigning to put together voter protection programs, which were often dismantled after elections. But with ongoing efforts by Republican state lawmakers to pass more restrictive voting laws, Groh-Wargo said, it was important that Democrats start working now to be ready to help voters navigate potential hurdles. Similarly, some states, such as Michigan and Nevada, have recently passed laws to expand access to voting, and party leaders and activists in those states need to make sure voters can take advantage of the changes…

The majority of the program will be run by Fair Fight PAC. Depending on the campaign finance laws of individual states, Fair Fight will make direct cash donations or will help groups raise money to hire staff, set up voter hotlines and develop public information campaigns…

Read the whole thing — it’s really uplifting!


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Election 2020 Open Thread: Brad Parscale Would Like to Be A Dangerous Person

He is dangerous, but only because — like his purported employer — he’s the idiot catspaw for at least one foreign power. If he were even halfway competent, he’d keep his head down and his mouth shut. But then, who would know what a Big Swingin’ D*ck he is?

In their chilling new documentary, The Great Hack, Academy-Award-nominated filmmakers Karim Amer and Jehane Noujaim follow the personal stories on both sides of the 2018 Cambridge Analytica/Facebook scandal that exposed the private data of 87 million Facebook users. Through the eyes of Professor David Carroll who sues Cambridge Analytica to release his personal data, Brittany Kaiser, a top Cambridge Analytica executive-turned-whistleblower, and investigative journalist Carole Cadwalladr, the film reveals how Cambridge Analytica used the same military-grade tactics of information warfare they employed against populations in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Eastern Europe to manipulate national political elections around the world, including the UK Brexit vote and the 2016 US presidential race. As one former Cambridge Analytica employee expressed, “It’s a grossly unethical experiment, playing with the psychology of an entire country without their consent or awareness.”…

Way to panic the rubes, dude. You’ll be lucky Zuckerberg doesn’t… er, that mysterious entities with tons of money and a strong interest in keeping Facebook profitable don’t find it in their interest to make your career go bye-bye, putz.








Open Thread: Joe Biden Is Very Popular / Joe Biden Is A Self-Described ‘Gaffe Machine’


(Breitbart needs the attention: apparently their audience has fallen by 72% since the Oval Office Occupant moved in.)

For the record, I don’t think Biden is suffering from the same kind of accelerating neurological deterioration as the Squatter-in-Chief. He’s gotten older since his last presidential campaign, and he gets tired sooner, but he’s been notorious for getting distracted and tripping over his tongue since his first campaign. It’s baked in to his public persona to the point where it’s perceived as vaguely endearing — a fixed eccentricity among the usual political chimeras. He’s still the top-polling Democratic candidate by a wide margin, and he’ll go on being the top-polling candidate… until someone else takes it away from him.

Which I’m pretty sure will happen, between now and next June! But were I giving my preferred candidates advice, I’d say don’t bother trying to undercut Joe — build on your own strengths, and let him have his own ‘clean and articulate’ moment.


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The Way We Live Now Open Thread: People for Whom It Is Difficult to Feel Sympathy Edition

Calling out the people who fund campaigns is not a new tactic in politics, but the question of how much should be publicly disclosed about those donors has been an issue that Republicans, led by the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, have repeatedly raised in recent years. While the Supreme Court ruled in the 2010 Citizens United case to uphold public disclosure — with Justice Antonin Scalia, the court’s conservative stalwart, arguing later that without such revelations “democracy is doomed” — Republicans and wealthy allies like the Koch brothers have argued that it results in donor harassment and has a chilling effect on free speech…

But the Supreme Court’s support for campaign finance disclosure laws has a built-in exemption for people who can show a realistic threat of harassment, and the renewed scrutiny on Trump donors has also raised questions about what qualifies as donor harassment and who is entitled to privacy…

“Transparency is essential, Mrs. Clinton, unless it means that our favorite plutocrats might get snubbed in the Hamptons. That’s just inhumane!… ”








Industrial clusters and thick labor markets

I’m waiting for a huge piece of code to rerun and I should not be working on a cognitively intensive revise and resubmit on a Friday afternoon, so I want to go back to what I originally went to grad school for — urban economics and economic development — for a minute to respond to a seemingly populist and really dumb proposal to strip the federal government of expertise proposed by Andrew Yang.

Let’s think about Washington DC’s primary export industry as government and more specifically federal government leadership and top level analysis and management. The federal government is an industrial cluster in DC much like venture capital fueled technology firms are an industrial cluster in San Francisco-San Jose region, bio-tech is a cluster in Greater Boston and steel was a cluster in Pittsburgh. Clusters are interesting in that they are often positive feedback loops until they run into hard constraints or a massive external shock.

There is a huge literature on the positive feedback loops on economically successful clusters. One of the major drivers is that a cluster creates a rich and thick labor market. This means that at any given point, there are lots of good jobs available to anyone who is qualified to work in the cluster. People aren’t locked into a “good enough” job because that is the only job available that utilizes any specific human capital/education/tacit knowledge available to them, but that people can readily shift between positions to maximize their personal gain. In Washington DC, if someone is a research economist, there are a hundred opportunities within seven Metro stops of their current place of employment. If someone is a research economist in Sault Ste. Marie, there may be one or two within an hour of their current place of employment. The same applies for geneticists who work in Boston vs. geneticists who work in Boise.

Employment concentration creates specialization and optimization. It allows for work to be more productive as the cluster grows and the labor market becomes even thicker and deeper. This is all pretty standard.

There is another labor market point to make; large urban areas have lots of jobs that are not in the primary export industry. This could matter for me at some point in the future as I could easily see myself spending a couple of years working for either the federal government in the DC-Baltimore region or working for an entity that directly services the federal management and analysis industrial cluster. My wife has a skill set that could translate into this industrial sector but her current experience is in a general professional environment. If my options for moving to DC for federal work or Boone, North Carolina, my wife will far more readily find a good enough job in DC.

Dispersing the vast majority of the DC/Baltimore/NOVA government management and analysis cluster that has been built up over four generations is a great way to make the federal government less efficient and less attractive to top tier talent especially if the dispersion would be going to smaller urban clusters with far shallower and thinner labor markets.