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Sunday, October 21, 2018

Saudi Influence

 Katie Benner, Mark Mazzetti, Ben Hubbard and Mike Isaac at NYT:
The killing by Saudi agents of  [Jamal] Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post, has focused the world’s attention on the kingdom’s intimidation campaign against influential voices raising questions about the darker side of the crown prince. The young royal has tightened his grip on the kingdom while presenting himself in Western capitals as the man to reform the hidebound Saudi state.
This portrait of the kingdom’s image management crusade is based on interviews with seven people involved in those efforts or briefed on them; activists and experts who have studied them; and American and Saudi officials, along with messages seen by The New York Times that described the inner workings of the troll farm.
Saudi operatives have mobilized to harass critics on Twitter, a wildly popular platform for news in the kingdom since the Arab Spring uprisings began in 2010. Saud al-Qahtani, a top adviser to Crown Prince Mohammed who was fired on Saturday in the fallout from Mr. Khashoggi’s killing, was the strategist behind the operation, according to United States and Saudi officials, as well as activist organizations.
Many Saudis had hoped that Twitter would democratize discourse by giving everyday citizens a voice, but Saudi Arabia has instead become an illustration of how authoritarian governments can manipulate social media to silence or drown out critical voices while spreading their own version of reality.
They have an amen corner in the United States.

At WP, Robert Costa and Karoun Demirjian report that right-wing politicians and pundits "are mounting a whispering campaign against Jamal Khashoggi ... exchanging articles from right-wing outlets that fuel suspicion of Khashoggi, highlighting his association with the Muslim Brotherhood in his youth and raising conspiratorial questions about his work decades ago as an embedded reporter covering Osama bin Laden, according to four GOP officials involved in the discussions who were not authorized to speak publicly."

At Time, Alana Abramson provides some context; "According to data compiled by the Center for International Policy, a foreign policy think tank, that was provided to TIME, the Saudi government spent $10 million on lobbying in 2016. By 2017, that number had nearly tripled, increasing to almost $27 million."

Maureen Dowd sums it up: "Hollywood, Silicon Valley, presidential libraries and foundations, politically connected private equity groups, P.R. firms, think tanks, universities ... are awash in Arab money. The Saudis satisfy American greed, deftly playing their role as dollar signs in robes."

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Health, Social Security, and Declining Fertility

At CDC, Danielle M. Ely, and Brady E. Hamilton report on data from data from the National Vital Statistics System
  • During 2007–2017, total fertility rates in the United States fell for rural and metropolitan counties: 12% in rural, 16% in small or medium metro, and 18% in large metro counties.
  • Rural counties had higher total fertility rates for each year from 2007 through 2017 compared with small or medium and large metro counties.
  • During 2007–2017, the mean age of mothers at first birth rose by 1.3 (rural), 1.5 (small or medium metro), and 1.8 years (large metro).
  • For all years, the mean age of mothers at first birth was lower in rural counties compared with metro counties.
  • Downward trends in total fertility rates and increases in mean maternal age over time occurred in rural and metro counties for each selected race and Hispanic-origin group.
  • Since the most recent peak in the total fertility rate (the estimated number of lifetime births expected per 1,000 women) in 2007, the United States has experienced a decreasing total fertility rate and an increasing mean, or average, age of mothers at first birth (1–4). Previous research shows rural areas have persistently higher fertility and worse birth outcomes compared with metropolitan (metro) areas (2,5–8). This report describes trends and differences in total fertility rates and mean maternal age at first birth overall, and by race and Hispanic origin, between rural and small or medium metro, and rural and large metro counties, from 2007 through 2017.
Overall birth rates continue to fall in the United States, but higher birth numbers in rural areas could mean insufficient pre-natal care as obstetricians retire and hospital coverage areas shrink.

Falling birth rates also matter when it comes to the sustainability of the Social Security system, per Forbes. A 2017 Social Security Administration actuary report considered two scenarios, one in which fertility rises to 2.20 children per woman and one in which it stays low, at 1.8. Expenditures would exceed income by 5.97 percent by 2091 in the low-fertility scenario.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Research, Fall 2018

Watch this clip from The Wire.  It is the best description of research, ever.

Great stuff at Honnold Library -- which students usually overlook! (password required)
  • Nexis Uni:  news sources and law journals
  • Political science journals
  • Dissertation abstracts (search for "California" and "redistricting" in abstracts, and you will see a couple of Rose Institute names)
General Statistics and The Census

California and General State Politics
Elections, Parties, Campaign Finance

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Nonmarital Births Around the World

Riley Griffin at Bloomberg:
Forty percent of all births in the U.S. now occur outside of wedlock, up from 10 percent in 1970, according to an annual report released on Wednesday by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the largest international provider of sexual and reproductive health services. That number is even higher in the European Union.
The average age an American woman has her first child is now 27, up from 22 in 1970. As the marriage rate has fallen in the U.S.—and those who do tie the knot do so later in life—the number of adults in cohabiting relationships has steadily risen. This shift is most evident among those under age 35, who represent half of all cohabiting couples, however the rise in cohabitation is occurring across all age demographics.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Fake Comments

At The Wall Street Journal, James V. Grimaldi reports that the attorney general of New York State has subpoenaed more than a dozen consultants and outside lobbying firms as part of an investigation into fake comments filed with the FCC over net neutrality.
The civil subpoenas are aimed at determining who was behind millions of comments sent using the names of real people who didn’t authorize them, according to a person familiar with the investigation. New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood said in a statement that her office found up to 9.5 million comments that appear to have been filed using the names and addresses of real people who had no idea they were being cited in the comments.

An investigation by The Wall Street Journal last year found thousands of people who said their names were used without their permission to post comments about FCC rules.
The attorney general’s yearlong investigation is targeting fake comments filed on both sides of the issue. Among the entities subpoenaed are Broadband for America, a group backed by AT&T Inc. and other internet-service providers who sought the repeal of the Obama-era internet rules known as net neutrality, as well as consumer groups that supported the Obama rules, such as Fight for the Future and Free Press.
The attorney general also subpoenaed the Center for Individual Freedom, an Alexandria, Va.-based group that supported Mr. Pai’s repeal of the rules and drafted one of the most frequently cited comments posted on the FCC website: a complaint about the “unprecedented regulatory power the Obama administration.”
The Journal investigation reached 1,994 of the people registered by the FCC as having filed that comment; 72% of them said the comment was falsely submitted.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018


The federal government spent $779 billion more than it took in during the 2018 fiscal year, the highest deficit since 2012, according to Treasury Department data released Monday.
The deficit rose 17 percent from the previous year, fueled by the 2017 GOP tax cuts and a bipartisan agreement to increase spending. Treasury projected that the deficit will surpass $1 trillion in fiscal 2019, which began Oct. 1.

Overall receipts were similar to the previous year, up 0.5 percent despite a booming economy and a low unemployment rate. Outlays, however, rose six times faster, surpassing $4.1 trillion.
Earlier this month, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office issued a similar deficit figure of $782 billion.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Media Trust and Political Polarization

Forty-five percent of Americans have a great deal or fair amount of trust in the mass media to report the news "fully, accurately and fairly," representing a continued recovery from the all-time low of 32% in 2016. Media trust is now the highest it has been since 2009 but remains below what it was in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
All party groups' trust in the media hit record lows in 2016 and has increased in the past two years. Democrats' trust surged last year and is now at 76%, the highest in Gallup's trend by party, based on available data since 1997. Independents' trust in the media is now at 42%, the highest for that group since 2005. Republicans continue to lag well behind the other party groups -- just 21% trust the media -- but that is up from 14% in 2016 and last year.

Republicans have typically placed less trust in the media than independents and especially Democrats, but the gap between Republicans and Democrats has grown. The current 55-percentage-point gap is among the largest to date, along with last year's 58-point gap.