Quick Thoughts on the Election

I am not even going to bother calculating how wrong I was on my predictions. Suffice it to say that the lesson I learned this election was that if you are going to follow the crowd, make sure they are headed in the right direction.

Donald Trump’s victory last night should cause us all to reflect. The leadership in both parties need to figure out how they could have let so flawed a person be their standard bearer. One reason is that both leaderships have slowly been losing legitimacy among a large swath of the American electorate. This is not just about white male racism. I am a big believer in globalization and technology, but for decades now a significant slice of the population have been taking it on the chin as the world changes around them. Political elites have been pushing ideas like trade, federalism, foreign intervention, and regulation without feeling much of a need to build a popular consensus or explain why any costs are worth bearing. I am a big believer in most of these policies, but when leaders exceed the limits of their popular support, they deserve to be reined in. The solution is to go back and rebuild a path forward that deserves and gets a broader majority.

Every election results in elation for the winning party and predictions of doom from the losers. And yet the nation goes on. Democrats now will gain new appreciation for the many checks and balances our system contains. Somewhere they are plotting to make sure Trump is a one-term president, just as Mitch McConnell did eight years ago. Meanwhile many Republicans will gain new appreciation for the aggressive precedents president Obama set in the use of executive power. And in two or four years it could all change. Things are never as bad or good as they seem. Losers always warn that the sky is falling and winners always over reach. The fact is that it remains very hard and unwise for a president to enact major policy changes without bipartisan support. There are several opportunities including infrastructure investment, tax reform, and even immigration reform where reasonable compromises by both sides could produce progress. The question is whether the leaders are willing to govern.

It is worth keeping in mind that eight years ago Democrats rejoiced at the election of the first black president, the attainment of 60 votes in the Senate, and a new majority in the House. It barely lasted two years. The 2010 elections could produce similar change. There is some reason to be vigilant in making sure that Constitutional boundaries are respected. There is even more reason to be hopeful that the inherited institutions that have seen us through much greater challenges will remain strong.

Our founders believed that, man being imperfect, so must be the institutions and policies that guide society. But they also believed in a higher purpose and potential. That still holds.

All rivers go to the sea,

yet never does the sea become full.

To the place where they go,

the rivers keep on going.

Ecclesiastes (1: 7)






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Predictions for the presidential race

These predictions were first posted on my business website, kennedyresearchllc.com last night.

In 2014, I was pretty accurate on my election predictions for both senators and governors. But I did not make my predictions public. I have been kicking myself ever since. So this year, I am putting my predictions up on my blog. I will probably spend the next two years kicking myself for doing so.

My general rule is never go against the polls. This election might be an outlier, but I still feel that the polls offer the best guidance, all other things being equal, which they usually are.

My prediction for the presidential election is that Clinton ends up beating one of the very few Republicans capable of losing to her. That despite an inept campaign, ethical violations, and an inability to appeal to moderates who were looking for a reason to vote for her. The final popular vote is something like Clinton 48.5%, Trump 45.5%, Johnson 4.0%, and Stein 2.0%. Clinton wins the electoral college by 323 to 215. The state-by-state winners are:

Predictions for the Electoral College

STATE                              VOTES     WINNER        COMMENTS

Alabama                        9                Trump             Southern state

Alaska                             3                Trump             Usually a Republican state

Arizona                           11             Trump             Resistance to immigration is high.

Arkansas                        6                Trump             Southern state, done with the Clintons

California                       55             Clinton            Strongly Democratic state

Colorado                        9                Clinton            More blue than purple. A stronger Senate candidate might have helped Trump

Connecticut                  7                Clinton            Strong Democratic state

Delaware                       3                Clinton            Strong Democratic state

District of Columbia   3                Clinton            Not a state but strongly Democratic

Florida                            29             Clinton            One of two top battlegrounds. I may be kicking myself tomorrow.

Georgia                          16             Trump             A close state but southern

Hawaii                             4                Clinton            Strong Democratic state

Idaho                              4                Trump             Wilderness

Illinois                             20             Clinton            Republican Governor but still too Democratic to be close

Indiana                           11             Trump             Pence helps

Iowa                                6                Trump             The state has historically been good to Trump, bad to the Clintons

Kansas                            6                Trump             Midwestern, not industrial

Kentucky                       8                Trump             Southern state

Louisiana                       8                Trump             Southern state


At large                        2                Clinton            Still a blue state, despite a Republican governor and senator

First District                1                Clinton            Traditionally a Democratic district

Second District          1                Clinton            Carried in part by state-wide strength

Maryland                       10             Clinton            Republican governor could not have helped Trump even if he wanted to

Massachusetts            11             Clinton            Despite some recent Republicans at the state level, this was never contested

Michigan                        16             Clinton            Trump’s blue collar appeal does not overcome traditional Democratic strength. If this state goes for Trump, expect him to win the Presidency handily.

Minnesota                    10             Clinton            Despite a Republican House, Democrats are still the stronger party

Mississippi                    6                Trump             Southern state

Missouri                         10             Trump             Southern state

Montana                       3                Trump             Wilderness


At Large                       2                Trump             Rural states go for Trump

First District                1                Trump

Second District          1                Trump             Propelled by strength in the rest of the state.

Third District               1                Trump             Republican state

Nevada                          6                Clinton            Reid’s turn out the vote machine and a strong Senate candidate help.

New Hampshire         4                Clinton            Will Republicans ever challenge again in the Northeast?

New Jersey                  14             Clinton            Even without the bridge Christie would not have helped win this state

New Mexico                5                Clinton            Might have been more competitive with a stronger Republican (of course you can say that about every state)

New York                      29             Clinton            Traditionally Democratic and Clinton’s third home state

North Carolina             15             Clinton            The second key battleground state. Clinton maintains a narrow margin in recent polls

North Dakota               3                Trump             Rural state

Ohio                                18             Trump             Of the key Midwestern states, this is the only one Trump looks likely to win

Oklahoma                     7                Trump             Rural state

Oregon                           7                Clinton            Traditional Democratic state

Pennsylvania               20             Clinton            A better campaign might have translated Trump’s populism into a win.

Rhode Island                4                Clinton            Traditional Democratic state

South Carolina             9                Trump             Southern state

South Dakota               3                Trump             Rural state

Tennessee                    11             Trump             Southern state

Texas                              38             Trump             Southern state on the border.

Utah                                6                Trump             No third party victory

Vermont                        3                Clinton            Traditional Democratic state

Virginia                           13             Clinton            Polls still show a solid, but narrower lead for Clinton

Washington                  12             Clinton            Traditional Democratic state

West Virginia               5                Trump             Southern state

Wisconsin                      10             Clinton            Still a blue state.

Wyoming                       3                Trump             Rural state

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My predictions for the Senate and Governor races

Here are my predictions for the Senate races. They were originally posted on my business site, Kennedyresearchllc.com last night.

Predictions for the Senate

STATE                     WINNER           COMMENTS

Alabama               Shelby               Southern state, popular incumbent

Alaska                    Murkowski      If she can win as a write-in, she should win as a party nominee

Arizona                  McCain              The incumbent survives another tough battle

Arkansas               Boozman          Southern state

California              Harris                 In a race between two Democrats, the state’s runoff again fails to elect the more moderate candidate. Harris could challenge Sanders and Warren as the darling of the left.

Colorado               Bennet              This could have been a closer race in another time. Republican may have suffered because of Trump.

Connecticut         Blumenthal      A weak senator with no real opposition

Florida                   Rubio                 Rubio gets his second pick. Promises to work at least two years before running for President again.

Georgia                 Isakson              Not particularly close

Hawaii                    Schatz                Traditional Democratic state reelects the incumbent

Idaho                     Crapo                 Strong incumbent

Illinois                    Duckworth       Republican incumbent is unable to keep the seat

Indiana                  Coats                  Incumbent keeps the seat by a narrow margin

Iowa                       Grassley            Long-time incumbent returns

Kansas                   Moran               Strong incumbent

Kentucky              Paul                    Paul lives to fight another day

Louisiana              Open                  Kennedy and Campbell look likely to make the runoff. Could set up a fight for Senate control

Maryland              Van Holland     The election of a Republican governor was largely a fluke. Democrats probably have this seat for a long time.

Missouri                Blunt                  Incumbent runs an inept campaign, still wins

Nevada                 Cortez Masto  Reid’s turn out the vote machine outlasts him. A bitter defeat for Republicans

New Hampshire                             Ayotte    One of the more promising incumbents keeps her seat

New York             Schumer           No serious opposition to the next party leader

North Carolina    Burr                    Weak incumbent is helped by Trump

North Dakota      Hoeven             Rural state

Ohio                       Portman           One of the classier guys in the Senate runs a strong race

Oklahoma            Lankford           Rural state

Oregon                  Wyden              A strong incumbent wins easily

Pennsylvania      McGinty            Toomey cannot overcome Trumpism

South Carolina    Scott                   Southern state

South Dakota      Thune                A great senator returns

Utah                       Lee                      A safe seat

Vermont               Leahy                 Not a close race

Washington         Murray              No serious challenger

Wisconsin             Feingold            Despite narrowing polls, the one guy that Johnson might have beat returns to the Senate.

Predictions for Governors

STATE                                      WINNER                  COMMENTS

Delaware                               Markell                     Strong Democratic state

Indiana                                   Gregg                        A Democrat succeeds Pence

Missouri                                 Greitens                  Republican wins narrowly helped by Trump turnout

Montana                               Bullock                      Republican challenger is unable to unseat the incumbent, despite the state’s Republican leanings

New Hampshire                 Sununu                    A new Sununu become governor.

North Carolina                     Cooper                     Republican incumbent is defeated

North Dakota                       Burgum

Oregon                                   Brown                       Traditional Democratic state

Utah                                        Herbert

Vermont                                Scott                          Republican wins comfortably in a Democratic state

Washington                          Inslee                        Popular governor returns

West Virginia                       Cole                           There is justice, Trump beats mini Trump

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We Still Need Police Reform

Sorrow over recent the murder of two New York policemen should not detract from the continued need for reform of all institutions exercising the legal monopoly on the use of force. The need for fundamental reform extends far beyond the police forces to encompass corrections officers, border security, the intelligence services, and the military. It is unfortunate that many conservatives who normally are the loudest defenders of personal freedom and state limits in the economic sphere tend to blindly support government agencies when more personal freedoms are at stake. The editorial page of the Wall Street Journal leaps to mind.

Put plainly, there is a vast difference between arguing that a rookie officer should not kill a 12-year old holding a toy gun and advocating violence against officers. One can object to choking a man to death for selling illegal cigarettes without approving the looting that accompanied demonstrations in Ferguson. Those who represent the nation’s enforcers need to distinguish between political opposition and lawlessness. Their job is not to support all applications of force, no matter how unproked, no matter how violent.

The state’s monopoly on the legitimate use of force should be subject to a high standard of conduct. Yet the great political deference to state officials has instead fostered a climate of mediocrity in which officials accustomed to uncritical deference grow lax in both their competence and their respect for civil rights. Our border security officials are beyond management. The culture of prison guards has become corrupt and violent. The vast resources that intelligence agencies spend collecting data on ordinary citizens detracts them from the difficult job of collecting intelligence on foreign enemies. The military has lost the ability to apply power subtly or supply its troops at an acceptable cost. Police departments display a fetish for military hardware and finance themselves with extrajudicial seizures.  Just as the Catholic Church seemed to attract a disproportionate share of sexually confused males, these agencies increasingly attract petty men with a fetish for power. I remember a time when to raise the issue of abuse by clergy was to question the representative of God on Earth. One would think that the many great men in these institutions would object to the corruption that threatens them.

No nation can be great, no democracy can be safe, unless those who exercise the monopoly on legal force are fully answerable to the people over whom they hold that power. That cannot happen if the institutions supervising them are not fully independent. It cannot happen absent openness and debate about the conditions under which the state can gather information and use force.

I increasingly find that my personal interactions with police officers are annoying rather than pleasant. Resources seem to be devoted to the collection of revenue and the enforcement of minor laws rather than the protection of public safety. As the father of a minority son, I deeply resent the need to talk to him about how to navigate the heightened dangers he faces if stopped by an agent of the state.

The vast majority of Americans are law-abiding and patriotic. They have the right to expect their government to act on that assumption.


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The Cost of Sochi

The Sochi winter games will soon open and whether by choice or sheer over powering much of the world’s attention will be directed to Russia. Although the opening ceremony and most of the athletic events will be carefully choreographed to display pageantry and the triumph of internationalism over politics, it is worth considering what the games are likely to cost us.

The formal price of Sochi has now been estimated at $50 billion. A figure far in excess of anyone’s imagination at that time that the Olympic Committee awarded the games to Russia. In theory the money has gone into transforming a relatively quaint resort into an international sports mecca. In practice most of the money, like much Russian wealth before it, has gone to line the pockets of oligarchs. Still, if the theft of Russian resources were the only cost of these games one could perhaps overlook it. Unfortunately, the games are likely to be costly in at least three more dimensions.

The first is in the integrity of the games themselves. Parading at Sochi requires deception on many levels; in pretending that shoddy infrastructure is first rate, in pretending that the imposition of a police state mentality is routine security, in pretending that the personal pursuit of an authoritarian ruler of a dying country represents the collective celebration of a rising nation, and perhaps most of all in pretending that the Olympic games themselves bear no responsibility for the tremendous financial waste and political repression that have accompanied them.

The second area of cost is likely to be the personal security of the athletes and spectators at the games. By voluntarily deciding to award the games to  Russia, the Olympic Committee inserted itself into a political climate built on repression and violence. It is virtually certain that groups will try to disrupt the games with violence. It is very possible that they will succeed. Security can move the barrier surrounding the games far from the arenas where they actually occur but only at a cost to the games themselves. Moreover, it cannot erase it completely. An attack at the barrier is an attack on the games and an attack on the games will affect them profoundly even if it does not disrupt the schedule.

Finally, the integrity of the events themselves is likely to suffer. This is Russia after all. Every Olympics has had its share of judging controversies but the Moscow games perhaps set the pace. The nature of hosting, especially in Russia means that the events are not totally under the control of the Olympic Committee. Having done so poorly in the last games and spent so much on Sochi, Putin’s government is unlikely to lose gracefully.

The lesson is that international sports bodies cannot be excused from taking responsibility for the decisions they make. There is an obligation to the athletes and fans to chose venues that are adequate and safe. But there is also an obligation to refrain from lending the credibility of major sports events to corrupt and incompetent governments whether they be in Russia, Bahrain, or Brazil. If these bodies want politics to stop while the games go on, they will have to wait until the poor are no longer hungry and the dissidents are no longer in jail.

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A Good Example of Bad Medicine

The New York Times reported on a recent decision by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology to severely restrict the practice of their members. One of the key restrictions covers the ability of board-certified doctors to see male patients. This anti-competitive act should draw the immediate attention of antitrust officials and state licensing offices.

Although the Board recently backed off of a similar restriction on seeing males who are at a high risk of anal cancer, its broader determination to limit the practice of its members and thereby limit both competition among doctors and care for their patients should call into question the role of medical boards in licensing doctors.

The Board’s decision is not motivated by any evidence that doctors are delivering sub-standard care. There is no allegation that seeing male patients in any way detracts from the care that female patients receive. Rather, the decision seems to be driven by a desire to further separate the specialty from other areas of medicine. Why such as separation would benefit anyone but the leadership of the Board itself is unclear.

It is also not clear why private boards should possess such influence over licensing decisions, especially if the motivating factor in is self-interest rather than public welfare. Private boards may have an advantage in testing professionals for specific knowledge and then certifying the acquisition of that knowledge so that hospitals and patients can rely on it. Government agencies still need to oversee these standards to make sure that they are not hidden attempts to limit entry into a field. But boards should have absolutely no right to restrict doctors’ practice of that knowledge within arbitrary limits. The question of whether a given doctor possesses the somewhat arbitrary minimum amount of knowledge and experience needed to obtain board certification is totally unrelated to the question of whether the doctor should be allowed to use that and other knowledge to help any given patient. In fact, to be consistent with the ethical standards of medicine, the Board should encourage doctors to apply their knowledge to any patient that they can help.

The medical industry needs to demonstrate much higher productivity over the next two decades. To achieve this it will be necessary to break apart many of the institutional barriers that protect providers from competition to reduce costs and improve care. The Board has just provided an excellent example of the type of restrictions that need to be removed.

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Why the NSA Should be Uprooted (if not abolished)

The latest revelations make it hard for even the intelligence communities stanchest friends to continue to defend it. It is now apparent that the NSA spied on vast numbers of people, misled the courts, Congress, and (if Obama is to be believed) even the White House about what it was doing. Yet it continues to act in complete denial of the position it is in.

The damage done by the intelligence community is immense. The spying exceeds even the worst case imaginings of many civil liberties groups. Its scope, as well as the reluctant responses of the intelligence community, have shaken public confidence in the those who say they are defending us. The ability of Congress to oversee a major part of our defense establishment is severely compromised. America’s leadership in the Internet and cloud computing is threatened because the federal government apparently takes the position that it should have complete access to the data of foreign citizens who use Google, Facebook, and similar services. The National Institute of Standards and Technology’s role in helping to set encryption standards is jeopardized because the NSA apparently built a back door to one of the common standards. Our relationships with key allies has been set back because we apparently tap their leaders’ communications.

And yet, to hear the intelligence leaders talk, none of this is their fault. It is all Edward Snowden’s. Its as if you met someone who recently lost their job, their family, and their freedom because he watched child pornography and all he can talk about is how their secretary ruined his life by turning him in. An agency and a community that continues to be in this type of denial is probably beyond redemption. Since the beginning of these revelations, the response of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and NSA Director General Keith Alexander remind me most of Anthony Comstock, whose single-mindedness in setting himself up as defending America against his own demons ruined many lives before the country regained its common sense.

The irony is that if the agencies had asked for this power openly and visibly subjected themselves to the type of strong controls needed to protect democracy, they probably would have gotten strong support for using most of the data they seek.

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