Thursday, December 1, 2016

When narrow-minded bullies succeed in determining whose voice gets heard

Following is the text of an email sent today (12/1/16) to some of the Splendid Spitter's friends and associates

My friend,

This is not a fund-raising message.  It is a call to action to stand up to those in our community who work to inhibit your right to hear all sides of important issues.

It's happened this week in Miami.

Last August, Bet Shira Congregation, a Conservative synagogue in Pinecrest, agreed to cohost, with J Street, a speech on December 5, 2016 (next Monday) by the eminent New York Times columnist, Roger Cohen, on The New Administration: Prospects for Peace (in Israel). Mr. Cohen is speaking in temples across the country on this vital subject.

On Tuesday, November 29—just six days before the speech—the lay leadership of Bet Shira Congregation rescinded the decision to host the Cohen speech at their synagogue. 

Why? Apparently a small number of synagogue members made clear to Bet Shira’s leadership that “there would be consequences” for hosting a lecture by a noted New York Times columnist in association with J Street. One member apparently threatened to withdraw his financial contribution to the synagogue. In the face of these threats, the lay leadership of the synagogue decided not to host the event.

Of course, the synagogue had the "right" to rescind the invitation--even at the last minute. But just because the synagogue had the right to give into this kind of pressure does not mean that this was a healthy thing for the community. 

Far from it. Can we agree that hindering the free flow of ideas is bad for every member of any community?

Is the Roger Cohen speech off? No.

We have relocated the Cohen speech to Pinecrest Gardens, in the Hibiscus Room at 11000 S. Red Rd, Pinecrest, FL 33156, Monday, December 5, 2016, at 7:00 PM.

But relocating the speech is not enough if people of good faith do not show up to the speech. Absent a good-sized audience, we will not demonstrate the strength of belief that we as Jews should not be forced to suffer attempts to squelch or hinder free discussion of important subjects.

Why should you come to hear Mr. Cohen:

Even if you do not have much interest in American policy to Israel, or even if you don’t agree with Roger Cohen--but listen closely to what he says, because you may discover that you agree with him!—you have a stake in preventing limitations of the freedom of people to decide for themselves whom they want to hear on an issue they care about.

History tells us that people of good faith cannot sit back and let others dictate who can listen to what views. If people of good faith remain silent, they permit this kind of behavior to become accepted as “normal.” We see where it is leading in our national politics.

I therefore ask you to SHOW UP and STAND UP!

This is what you can do to stand up for open debate, free speech and tolerance, and against efforts to squelch certain points of view:

1. Go to the Roger Cohen speech at Pinecrest Gardens in the Hibiscus Room at 11000 S. Red Road, Pinecrest, FL 33156, Monday, Dec. 5, 2016 at 7:00 PM. Admission is free.

2. Bring your family and friends.

3. Let your other friends and acquaintances know about what has occurred and the importance of a strong attendance to demonstrate that people insist on the right to be exposed to all sides on important issues and to make up their own minds. 

4. Please RSVP to

5. Forward this email to ten friends, family, and colleagues.

Why should you care? What is the significance of this  decision?

Narrow-minded bullies are shutting down debate, questioning the very legitimacy of those with other perspectives, and inventing "facts" to suit their purposes. They seek to win political arguments not by reasoned debate but by excluding other voices entirely. Sadly, we’ve seen this pattern before—earlier this year  a Miami Jewish institution cancelled, in mid-run, its own presentation of a play, Crossing Jerusalem, concerning intra-Jewish and intra-Arab family disagreements about how to treat the "other." This came after claims from an out-of-town right-wing Jewish group that the play was “anti-Israel.” I read the script. It was not, in my view, anti-anything. It was, instead, pro-reality.

These actions are emblematic of a dangerous extremism and close-mindedness that is sadly on the rise not just in our community, but in the U.S., in Israel, and across the world. People of good faith have a vital interest in not allowing a few people to squelch free discussion of issues of interest to members of the community—even if it’s an issue that’s not high on everyone's own list of issues. The principle is as important as the message being squelched.  

Does J Street deserve to be ostracized?

J Street is an 8-year-old national organization, with an associated PAC, that was formed to give a voice to American Jews who love Israel and back U.S. policy towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: support of a two-state solution and opposition to expansion of the settlements. In 2015, J Street played a major role in supporting the international agreement with Iran curtailing its ability to build nuclear weapons. 

There is no question, however, that J Street is controversial among some supporters of Israel who apparently believe American Jews—even those who know and love Israel—should never criticize the Israeli government, at least in public. Sadly, opponents have put out false and misleading accusations about J Street's beliefs and its supporters. J Street has often been  inaccurately caricatured as being anti-Israel, pro-BDS, and worse. 

Q: What exactly is J Street “guilty" of? 

A: Publicly and strongly  supporting the official policies of the U.S. Government towards Israel and the Palestinians, and, through its PAC, contributing millions of dollars to pro-Israel, pro-peace candidates for Senate and Congress, and strongly opposing BDS.

In fact, over the course of eight years since its founding, J Street has built strong relationships with Israeli lawmakers and has assumed a leadership role in strong opposition to the BDS movement. Nevertheless, smears and threats have often succeeded in excluding J Street’s perspective from the Jewish space. 

These facts mean nothing to those who go to great lengths to demonize and marginalize J Street—and with J Street, the large segment of the American Jewish community who agree with J Street. If facts mean nothing, we have lost something very important in our society.

Silencing or inhibiting the free flow of ideas is not the American way, it’s not the Jewish way, and it’s not the Israeli way. Free and open debate are hallmarks of these two countries and of the Jewish faith. 

As someone who has devoted countless hours working to establish a J Street presence in Miami, I thank you so much for your careful consideration of this email. Whether or not you agree in full with Roger Cohen or J Street, I earnestly request that you attend this lecture on Monday. 

It will be two hours out of your life. Not only will you likely learn a lot from Roger Cohen, but it will immeasurably help the cause of the free flow of ideas in our community. I hope you will agree that it will be well worth your expenditure of time.


[The spitter]

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Role of the Selective Service System in Donald Trump's Win


The Selective Service System (SSS) is a small independent agency within the Executive Branch of the United States Government. One of its missions is "to be prepared to provide trained and untrained personnel to the DoD in the event of a national emergency." In other words, to run a draft of (so far only) young men to fill the ranks of the military.

So what is the relevance of the SSS to Trump's victory? The draft has not been used since 1973!

A bit of history: before December 1, 1969, during the height of the Vietnam War, which, from the American viewpoint, was fought by draftees, the system for determining eligibility for those 18 years old and above can best de defined in one word as "elitist." Individual draft boards in each locality were charged with drafting young men into the Armed Services. Each had different priorities and susceptibility to influence. 

American military involvement surged in 1965. The Johnson Administration decided to use the draft to fill the needs of the war effort. That meant that, until the lottery was instituted in 1969, boys in their 18th year became liable to be drafted. For each of the years 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968 and 1969, this is the year that they were born their age today (if they managed to survive), and the number of draftees each year:

Year Birth year Age today Number of draftees
1965 1947 69 230,991
1966 1948 68 382,010
1967 1949 67 228,263
1968 1950 66 296,406
1969 1951 65 283,586

There were three big bases for deferment: school attendance, the presence of dependent children, or physical problems. You could also avoid becoming a grunt in Vietnam by being accepted into a Reserve unit of any of the branches of the military. That's how George W. Bush got out of the draft and active military service. Donald J. Trump reportedly had an educational deferment for years and then, when drafted upon graduation, received a classification of I-Y (a physical deferment that was a "pass" unless there was a dire need) because of bone spurs on his feet. Before he graduated, Bill Clinton agreed to join the R.O.T.C. as a way of avoiding being drafted into service during the Vietnam War and later reneged on that promise when his draft-lottery number ensured that he would not be selected. (I was promptly drafted on my graduation from college in June 1968 and received a 1-Y classification because I had spondylolisthesisNo kidding. I wore a back brace from when I was 14 and, to this day, cannot lift more than 40 pounds without severe pain and ensuing inability to stand up straight.)

The long and the short: boys who didn't go to college, or those who didn't have or fake an illness, or those whose parents had no local influence or those who wanted to serve were drafted and sent to Vietnam and put out in the front lines, such as they were in this guerrilla war. 

This was grist for the cultural war that began with the Vietnam War and continues to this day. Yes, as the sixties turned into the seventies, kids from small towns smoked dope, listened to rock music, and, extremely rarely, demonstrated against the war. But mostly they soldiered on and watched their fathers' and mothers' secure world begin disappearing with the first gas lines in 1973. These are the sons of the original Reagan Democrats. They were screwed from 1965 to 1969 by an elitist (and, to the extent large numbers of blacks were also drafted, racist) Selective Service System. Their justifiable resentment of what they perceived (correctly) as privileged liberals can only be expected to have grown over the last 50 years. 

Is it not very likely that there is a direct connection between the old SSS system and today's late-60s Donald J. Trump voter? Not that there are not other reasons, but every cluster of attitudes has its roots in some actual, and not imagined, cause.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

It wasn't a vast right-wing conspiracy

It wasn't a vast right-wing or media conspiracy that caused:
  • Bill Clinton to hand over health policy in 1993 to his (unelected) wife, who came down from the mountain after months of closed-door confabs with a complicated health-insurance-based plan that she refused to permit even loyal Democrats to amend.
  • Bill and Hillary Clinton to prostrate themselves before bankers and other business groups to earn huge speaker fees.
  • Bill and Hillary Clinton to accept huge amounts of money for their family foundation from foreign governments or foreign-government enterprises while she was Secretary of State and while she was running for President.
  • Bill and Hillary Clinton to set up a home-based server to handle their emails while she was Secretary of State.
  • Hillary Clinton to misrepresent the facts concerning her use of that server for her official emails.
  • Hillary Clinton to be woefully oblivious of the security implications of doing so.
  • Hillary Clinton to refer to half of Donald Trump's core supporters as "deplorables."
A comparison of the margins between Obama and Trump (in 2012) and between Clinton and Trump (in 2016) in the most populated counties in the states that went from Blue to Red shows and in certain nearby counties shows that the only state that could have stayed blue had her margins in each state's selected counties been as large as Obama's was Michigan. In four of the six states, her margin was smaller than Obama's but the difference was dwarfed by the margin by which Trump beat her. 

(I am not using any suburban counties around Miami or Des Moines because the usual model of urban city surrounded by suburban counties is not applicable in those states. Adding Broward County or substituting it for Miami-Dade does not materially change the analysis.) 

The data show that even if Wayne and surrounding counties had turned out for Clinton the way thy did for Obama, that would have led to a change of only 16 electoral votes, not enough to give the election to her.

This disproves the notion, which we may well hear, that a relatively low turnout of Democrats' core constituencies of African-Americans, Hispanics living in big cities and people living in adjacent suburban counties cost Hillary Clinton the election. It was the white non-Hispanic vote in smaller cities and towns that killed her chances. 

Can we blame all of whites' votes on racism? or sexism? or the media? 

Isn't it as likely that an appreciable number of potential Democratic voters were turned off by the tone-deaf attitude of the Clintons, particularly Hillary--we're entitled, and I didn't break the law, and I really will stand up to the banks because, well, I worked for the Children's Defense Fund in the '70s--and either didn't vote, voted for Johnson, or, would you believe it, voted for Trump?

The Clintons are a spent force. They have done some good for this country, but the times have finally passed them by. I am sick and tired of hoping that the messes she and he have created can be cleaned up without causing mortal damage to the people who are most vulnerable to the effects of GOP right-wing principles. I am resentful that their reign over the Democratic Party has produced such a miserably inadequate bench that the only politician who saw her weaknesses--and was willing to try to capitalize on them--in 2015 was an aged hipster Senator with no record and no credibility as a potential President who wasn't even a Democrat. It is undoubtedly the Clinton political fund raising machine in each state that was deaf and blind to Hillary Clinton's weaknesses. And the press, especially The New York Times in 2015, also paid no attention to those weaknesses, even though, on the same newspaper, Times reporters continued to dig deep for Clintonisms, as well they should have. This one is on the Democratic political class and pro-Clinton media types--you can't blame Hillary Clinton for running.

I am a loyal Democrat who gave to Democratic candidates and worked the polls for Hillary Clinton, I hope they will leave politics, retire to their riches and their family get-togethers, and, if they want, they can speak to as many bankers who will pay them to pander to them.

See, there is a ray of hope amidst the devastation of November 8, 2016.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

There are only a few days to go before Election Day...

... and I want to puke my guts out.

The Republicans put up as their Presidential nominee someone who, in alphabetical order, is 
  • abusive, 
  • boorish, 
  • contemptuous, 
  • devious, 
  • egocentric, 
  • fatuous, 
  • grasping, 
  • haughty, 
  • ignorant, 
  • juvenile, 
  • knavish, 
  • laughable, 
  • mysogenistic, 
  • narcissistic, 
  • oafish, 
  • phony, 
  • quarrelsome, 
  • racist, 
  • sadistic, 
  • tactless, 
  • untrustworthy, 
  • vindictive, 
  • warped, 
  • xenophobic, 
  • yokelish, and 
  • zany. 
So, what did the Democrats do? They put up one of the weakest candidates in the last 75 years. 

Who was weaker? George McGovern in 1972, with that grating Midwestern whiny voice, his refusal to campaign on the fact that he had been a bomber pilot in WW II while Nixon manned a desk in the Navy, and his obvious lack of leadership (can't even strong-arm Bella Abzug and others to stop fooling around with their Vice-Presidential-nomination-crap so that McGovern could accept the nomination on prime-time TV rather than at 2 in the morning). Not to mention the fact that at the last possible moment he selected Tom Eagleton, a Senator from Missouri who had had electroshock therapy, as his running mate, then got walked on when he kicked Eagleton off the ticket until he finally got Sargent Shriver, JFK's brother-in-law, to agree to be the nominee.

Why is this year's Democratic nominee the weakest candidate since McGovern? First, her baggage is extremely heavy. Any realist among Democratic heavies could and should have predicted as long ago as March 2015, once her private email server was revealed, that that issue, together with the Clinton Foundation, would be seized upon by the GOP and would be potent arguments against her candidacy. Why? Because they fit, like a glove, with the long-held perception that the Clintons believed they are above the normal rules because they're so dedicated to the public interest (as in, "she worked with the Children's Defense Fund"). If they were not clear-eyed enough to see this danger, then the robust performance of an aging Senator who wasn't even a Democrat and had no credibility whatsoever as a potential President should have awakened them. But, even had they awakened, to whom were they going to turn? The incredibly weak "bench" of the Democratic Party nationwide meant that the only alternative to Clinton was an aging, grieving Joe Biden. 

We loyal Democrats have been forced to scurry around cleaning up after the Clintons' personal and political messes since 1992. They've sucked all the oxygen out of the party. If it weren't that the GOP had nominated a Know-Nothing cretin...

Monday, August 22, 2016

RCP Addicts: Which Pollsters Are the Most and the Least Reliable?

This will be my shortest post ever. 

I went to and copied the rating of various pollsters. Leaving out the data that led to the rating, here are the top-rated and bottom-rated. Go here to get the original data and the full listings. Generally, the ratings were based on the techniques used, the accuracy of the polls on a gross (batting average) basis, and what I interpret to be volatility.

I have highlighted the pollsters with over 50 polls. Those that have been "banned" by Nate Silver & Friends are shown with an asterisk after the rating. (Others were banned but were not either A- or higher or C- and lower.)

One observation: generally it appears that Real Clear Politics does not show bottom-of-the-barrel polls. 

Rank Pollster No. of Polls Rating
1 Monmouth University 71 A+
2 Field Research Corporation (Field Poll) 25 A+
3 Selzer & Company 37 A+
4 Elway Research 18 A+
5 Ciruli Associates 17 A+
6 ABC News/Washington Post 51 A+
7 Grove Insight 29 A
8 Marist College 146 A
9 Muhlenberg College 22 A
10 National Journal 12 A
11 Public Policy Institute of California 12 A
12 Survey USA 763 A
13 University of Cincinnati (Ohio Poll) 38 A
14 Siena College 42 A
15 Fairleigh Dickinson University (PublicMind) 18 A
16 Research & Polling, Inc. 26 A
17 Fox News/Anderson Robbins Research/Shaw & Company Research 24 A
18 Marquette University 7 A
19 Behavior Research Center (Rocky Mountain) 7 A
20 Blum & Weprin Associates 18 A
21 NBC News/Wall Street Journal 25 A-
22 University of Connecticut 7 A-
23 Time/Abt SRBI 7 A-
24 Angus Reid Global 29 A-
25 Ipsos 49 A-
26 Quinnipiac University 169 A-
27 University of Arkansas 4 A-
28 IBD/TIPP 17 A-
29 CBS News/New York Times 55 A-
30 CNN/Opinion Research Corp. 89 A-
31 Los Angeles Times 40 A-
32 MassINC Polling Group 11 A-
33 St. Norbert College 12 A-
34 EPIC-MRA 43 A-
35 Western New England University 11 A-
337 Merriman River Group 21 C-
338 Opinion Savvy/InsiderAdvantage 105 C-
339 Rainmaker Media Group 1 C-
340 Consumer Logic 4 C-
341 University of Alabama 2 C-
342 McLaughlin & Associates 19 C-
343 Neighbor 1 C-
344 Zogby Interactive/JZ Analytics 465 C-
345 Southeastern Louisiana University 8 C-
346 Harris Interactive 135 C-
347 Ohio University 2 C-
348 20/20 Insight 5 C-
349 Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne 3 C-
350 Opinion Research Associates 12 C-
351 Optimus 4 C-
352 SurveyMonkey 11 C-
353 Loyola University (New Orleans) 2 C-
354 Clout Research/Wenzel Strategies 9 C-
355 Data West Polling 3 C-
356 Baydoun Consulting 6 C-
357 Fort Hays State University 4 C-
358 Brown University 12 C-
359 Nielson Brothers Polling 6 C-
360 WCIA-TV 2 C-
361 CPEC LLC 3 D+
362 Marketing Workshop 7 D+
363 Riggs Research Services 1 D+
364 Dane & Associates 2 D+
365 Brigham Young University 4 D+
366 Massie & Associates 2 D+
367 Valley Research 6 D+
368 Millersville University 5 D
369 Jayhawk Consulting 1 D
370 Mitchell Research & Communications 47 D
371 Humphrey Institute 10 D-
372 TCJ Research 133 F   *

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

What if Ivanka Convinces Daddy to Come in Out of the Rain?

The clamor among Democrats to embarrass "mainstream" Republicans to abandon Trump is getting louder. President Obama chimed in yesterday.


The Donald is taking care of his problems quite well, thank you (for the Democrats, that is). Why increase the pressure on the GOP to dump Trump, and thereby encourage his family (Ivanka) to convince him to come out of the rain?

There is a procedure in the GOP National Committee Rules to fill a vacancy "which may occur by reason of death, declination, or otherwise of the Republican candidate for President of the United States or the Republican candidate for Vice President of the United States." The Republican National Committee can do so either by itself or by reconvening the GOP Convention.

The Rules do not expressly answer whether the nomination of a Presidential candidate can be amended or rescinded in the absence of a "declination" by the nominee. They do not even answer, whether a nominee, once nominated, can resign as nominee. (In the Democratic Party in 1972, Thomas Eagleton "resigned" as the Vice Presidential nominee after it was revealed that he had undergone shock treatment.) But let's assume a nominee can resign. Under the above Rule, there is every reason to believe that, once nominated, a nominee stays in that position unless there is a vacancy. Maybe short of death or resignation, the nominee can be replaced, but it is very likely only in the case of a clear disability. 

The Rules provide that "[t]he current authorized edition of Robert's Rules of Order: Newly Revised ('Robert’s Rules of Order') shall govern in all meetings of the Republican National Committee and its committees insofar as they are applicable and not inconsistent with these rules." Does this cover the decisions of the Convention? Who knows? 

Let's assume Robert's at least will be consulted.  Robert's says that a motion to nominate a candidate for an "office" may not be amended. The listing of motions that may not be amended refers to the procedure to be followed while a meeting is going on. Does this include a motion, once passed? Who knows?

From the appearances, Trump won't take direction from anyone, least of all any other Republican. But there is a way to get to him: through his daughter, Ivanka.

The bottom line question is what if the Power That Be, i.e., Ivanka, convinces the Donald that his brand is getting trashed and he will look like a fool, and the fool actually resigns? 

This is what Hillary Clinton should fear more than anything. Here we are, 14 months after Trump has, day after day, revealed himself, and a full week after the Democratic National Convention, and the four national polls (admittedly, an imperfect measure, given that we elect through the Electoral College, but a very reliable one nevertheless) conducted after the conclusion of that convention and listed in Real Clear Politics have HRC up by a mere 5.5%, almost within the margin of error. (Yes, there are two other national candidates, and these are polls limited to these two major party candidates, but allow me to paint with a broad brush on this one, since neither of the other two is likely to win an electoral vote, and the four-way post-DNC polls show a 6% margin.) She is a weak candidate, whether she should be or not. 

One can only imagine what a candidate like Kasich could do to Clinton. He has name recognition. He's a true conservative. And he is pure as the driven snow on the acid test--support of Trump--by reason of his having stayed in the race 'til the end and not only refusing to endorse him but boycotting the convention in his own State. 

My fellow Democrats, stop pushing and stick to the issues. The Donald will take care of himself.