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Michigan Berned

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that I’ve been looking at the primaries in the context of what the results mean for the general election. My concern has been what every democratic voter’s concern should be: Which democratic candidate has the best chances to beat Trump in the primary?

If you need a recap, I laid most of it out here. I laid out my thoughts on the relevance of Michigan here (you’re going to want to read those for context to understand this post). Well, the massive upset that Bernie pulled off in Michigan has seriously amped up my anxiety level over the thought of Hillary becoming the nominee.

Hillary’s general election prospects are not looking awesome. That’s just a fact. When I posted my March 1st blog, with the mountain of evidence to support my thoughts, one Facebook commenter (a Hillary supporter) actually told me to “have faith”. Why? Why the hell would I rely on faith when I have freaking numbers? Should I have faith that the climate isn’t changing too?

I don’t want to ever have to utter the words “President Trump”. That is my primary objective here. Supporting my candidate at all cost is not. I earnestly don’t understand people who don’t share that objective. I’m completely flummoxed by this thinking, and I sincerely need someone to help me out by explaining this to me.

My concerns aren’t based on subjective flaws of Hillary. My concerns aren’t even based on bullshit fortune telling like, “she could be indicted by the FBI any minute now”, or “Ted Cruz’s wife is definitely in the position to leak Hillary’s speeches to Goldman Sachs when the time comes” (she actually is, and I would be a fool not to think they’re coming when it’s the right time). I haven’t done any of that.

My concerns are based on the data that is available to me today. There isn’t a single poll that shows Hillary beating Trump by a higher margin than Bernie does. Not one. The aggregate of all the polls puts Hillary at a 2.8 point margin of victory, while Bernie’s is a 6 point margin. Wanna know what another Hillary supporter said in response to this? He posted a poll that has Hillary beating Trump by 8 points. One poll against my aggregate of polls. Wanna know what that same poll, in that same article he posted said? That Bernie beats Trump by a twelve point margin. Wow, that was some clear headed thinking on that commenter’s part. I do not understand emotional voting. Emotional voting results in people turning stupid and doing what that commenter did: made an ass of himself.

In that earlier post, I placed a lot of importance in Michigan because it’s a swing state. Hillary isn’t winning swing states. She’s winning southern states that she can’t win in the general. When I was positive that Hillary was going to win Michigan, I said that winning it by 20 points would allay some of my fears about her chances against Trump in the general. Well not only did she not win by 20 points, but the polls were turned on their heads when Bernie took it by nearly 2 points.

This is a disastrous sign for Hillary’s viability against Trump in the general. My concerns are compounded by the fact that Michigan had the highest voter turnout in a primary election since 1972. People were turning out in huge numbers to vote in both the republican and the democratic elections. Trump is getting people out to vote in swing states. That should put the fear of God into anyone who also vomits at the thought of a President Trump scenario. Since Michigan is an open primary and they had record turnout and Bernie won instead of losing by the 20 points he was supposed to lose by, we can reasonably conclude that he’s also bringing voters out.

Remember, 42% of voters self identify as independents. 26% self identify as democrats, and 23% self identify as republicans. Bernie will always do better in open primaries. 77% of independents voted for Bernie. Wanna know who can vote in the general with no restrictions? Independents.

If Trump is bringing out right wing independents and first time voters, democrats better be damned well sure to select the candidate who is doing really well with independents. That’s clearly not Hillary.

I’m sorry Hillary supporters, but it’s time to care about who controls the white house next year and to leave your emotional attachment to your candidate behind. The numbers here aren’t ambiguous about the general. And so far, every primary that has already happened should have you as concerned as I am.

The next two states to keep an eye on are Florida and Ohio – both swing states. Hillary is currently leading by a large margin in both states. Florida has a closed primary, meaning that registered independents can’t vote in the democratic primary. Ohio has an open primary. I’m going to say this to Hillary supporters: winning Florida and losing Ohio would completely support my assertion that Hillary isn’t our best chance in the general.

I know that no other media outlet is going to lay this out for you the way I have, so it’s easy to dismiss what I have to say but look at past posts for accuracy before dismissing my analysis. I left the door wide open for myself make the case that Hillary is viable by spelling out exactly what would have made her viable in Michigan. She didn’t make the threshold that would have had me writing a very different post today. Let me be very clear on this: if Hillary loses Ohio, you would be a fool to vote for her in any primary moving forward.

Yes, Florida matters. Yes, Florida is a swing state. But Florida won’t help you make any sort of reasonable calculation about the general since Bernie’s strongest voting block is independents who can’t vote in the Florida primary. Let me repeat: those independents will be voting in November. Ohio and its open primary is where you should be looking to decide if a Hillary nomination could lead to a President Trump.

Hillary needs to win Ohio to demonstrate her viability in the general. Once again Hillary supporters, I am laying out the parameters upon which her general election viability looks better. I’m not making a “Bernie is awesome sauce in all scenarios” argument. I’m telling you how you and I can tell if voting for her is a good idea in the long term. I’m also telling you that if she loses Ohio, any Florida victory she may (or may not) have means significantly less.

Independents are the key in this election cycle. It’s not millenials, it’s not all about the older black vote, it’s about the independents because that’s who Trump is bringing into this election. Hillary can’t win the general if independents are so apathetic that they can’t be fucked to go out and vote in November.

Six more days. That’s when the next test of whether I’m an idiot or not will happen. And believe me, my hands are yuuuuuge….oh wait…….I got confused…. I meant to say believe me, I will not be back peddling on anything I’ve said here today if Hillary wins both Ohio and Florida. If that happens, I will be doing what any critical thinker should be doing: reassessing.

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Super Tuesday 2016 Edition

I’ll admit that there were a couple of surprises for me last night, but nothing too significant in terms of delegates.

Let me start with the republican primaries. There were almost no surprises there. Minnesota was a surprise, but there was very little data to rely on since it’s a caucus state. Caucus states are always going to be difficult to pin down because they’re hard to poll so most polling firms won’t try. We had one poll this year (conducted 2 weeks ago), showing Rubio up by 2 points. So: a) that’s one poll (we all know how I feel about putting much weight into a single poll) and b) the spread was within the margin of error. So I was surprised that he won, but I was not at all surprised that he was Mr. Third Place in most of the rest of the primaries.

Trump remains the inevitable nominee.

In any other election, Rubio would be announcing that he’s suspending his campaign today. But he’s not going to do it because he won a whole state!

There were more surprises for me on the democratic side. They weren’t so much surprises for me, as they were interesting since they mostly happened in states I deemed to be toss ups.

I’m not going to lie: not winning Massachusetts hurt Bernie. His path to the nomination did narrow last night. It wasn’t a resounding loss, so there’s that, but he should have won. The fact that Hillary eked it it out isn’t good for Bernie. The fact that Bill pulled this slightly desperate move in order to help his wife, isn’t awesome for Hillary, but she won nonetheless. By “won”, I mean purely from a numbers perspective. Every time Bill and Hillary pull moves like this, they become a little more untrustworthy so I’m not sure this is really a “win”.

On the upside for Bernie, he took every other state that was in play. Yesterday morning, I said that if Bernie pulls off MA, plus CO and MN, he would have pulled off an epic ass kicking. He lost MA, but he won both CO and MN which appeared too close to predict. Neither were even a little close. That fact does mitigate the loss in MA, but not entirely. Oklahoma was too close to call for me because there was only one poll. That poll had Bernie up by 5 points but again, I don’t put too much weight in one poll so I didn’t expect that he would win. He took it by 10 points. Again, not even a little close.

Here’s the thing: remember my post from yesterday regarding my anxiety over the general election? Well, that anxiety has grown slightly. With the exception of MA and VA, Hillary only won states that Trump will resoundingly win in the general. Virginia is a swing state, so that’s the only glimmer of hope. MA will always go blue in the general so that victory does nothing to calm my anxiety. I would feel better about the Virginia win if so many Virginia voters didn’t work in DC. But she did win, and and that does give me a little hope for her in the general. No other state that she won last night gives me any more hope about her chances in the general.

Bernie kicked major ass in Colorado, which is another swing state. Every swing state that Hillary doesn’t win (decisively), makes me more and more concerned about the general, especially since Trump is the only candidate who seems to be bringing in new voters.

The next measure of my anxiety over the general will be next Tuesday in Michigan, which is another swing state. The aggregate of eleven polls has Hillary winning by a nineteen point margin but, those polls were taken over a seven month period. She needs to beat Bernie by a twenty point margin in Michigan for me to feel a little better about her prospects against Trump in the general.

After Michigan, the next two tests for general election viability happen in Florida and North Carolina (also swing states) on the 15th.

It’s going to be an anxiety riddled couple of weeks for me, but I’m going to keep my eye on the general election prize.

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I’m Worried About The General Election

I haven’t been all that concerned with how the presidential election is going to turn out until this week. I had no doubt that whether it’s Hillary or Bernie on the democratic side, no republican candidate was going to pose a threat.

I can now see Trump’s path to the presidency. Let’s be clear: Trump is going to be the republican nominee. Unless the RNC pulls a seriously unseemly maneuver to stop him, I don’t see how Trump can be stopped.

When Trump announced, I didn’t think there was a snowball’s chance in hell that he was going to be the nominee. I was wrong. When Trump’s numbers were at around 24% of republican voters, I didn’t think that it was possible for his numbers to go up because they held steady at about 24% for months. I was wrong. When his poll numbers moved into the 30s, I thought that the republican party apparatchik were going to strategize over who they needed to get to drop out in order to consolidate the “establishment” vote. I was wrong.

So now Trump is almost certainly going to be the nominee. He steamrolled the entire republican party establishment and outbullied the bullies who like most bullies, were so scared when confronted, they were literally stunned and unable to act.

Donald Trump is the populist candidate on the republican side. He doesn’t have a platform other than his hatred for all things not white, and his seeming disdain for politicians and the establishment. He’s unpolished, unscripted, unconventional, and completely unconcerned with what politicos have to say about him. When you mix those qualities with the factphobia that republicans have contracted from their exposure to nearly twenty years of Fox News propaganda, you have an unstoppable force.

The disdain for the establishment isn’t sequestered within the republican party. Bernie is our populist. Despite a main stream media blackout until the day after the Iowa caucus, despite the (as Larry Wilmore puts it) top secret democratic debates that were all scheduled when television viewership is at its lowest, despite massively handicapping himself by refusing to have a superPAC, Bernie has managed to draw the biggest crowds we’ve seen at any political rally in this election cycle. He’s managed to keep up with Hillary in fundraising. Liberals aren’t any happier with corporatist, establishment candidates than republicans are.

Here’s where my worry lies: if Hillary is the nominee, we’re putting up a corporatist, establishment candidate against a populist. Ugh. That’s not a bet I feel good about. Head to head polls consistently show Bernie beating Trump by a larger margin than Hillary does. If you average all the polling, you get Hillary beating Trump by 2.8 points, while Bernie beats him by 6 points.

Why? Because it’s populist versus populist. More importantly, it’s a populist who has nothing but fear and hate to offer you, versus a populist who wants to give you back what the rich looted from you. I’m a sunny optimist so I don’t believe that Americans are more hateful than they are hopeful.

I feel great about putting a liberal populist up against a right wing populist. I feel great about putting a liberal corporatist up against a republican corporatist. I do not feel good about putting up any establishment corporatist against any populist in this climate.

I especially don’t feel good about it given the polling we have on Hillary versus Trump and Bernie versus Trump. I know what a lot of people are going to say at this point; “polls this early out are meaningless“. To which I say, no information is ever meaningless so stop dismissing information you don’t like. You never get the luxury of hindsight voting before an election happens. This information is the best information you have right now, and objective decisions are made by examining the information you have before you at the time that you have to make a decision. So unless you have other information to contradict this information, please spare me your efforts at dismissing information. This isn’t one, two, or five polls. This is information based on seven months of polling. At no point does Hillary ever do better against Trump than Bernie does. There are no outliers on this in any of the polling. You can’t logically dismiss this.

Let me address something else that is being said about democratic voter turnout. It’s true that democrats almost always have a voter turnout problem, but there is a cyclical element to primary election turnout that no one is talking about. Historically, the party who hasn’t held the white house for eight years are more fired up to vote in the primaries. That’s just a fact. Republicans were always going to be more fired up this primary season than democrats, just like democrats were more fired up after being Bushwhacked for eight years. Yes, president Obama had a lot to do with the numbers we saw in 2008, but that cyclical component was also a factor. The “problem” isn’t an issue with Bernie’s base not showing up to vote. The problem is that the cyclical voting patterns aren’t being taken into consideration here, and this election is being compared to a historic and anomalous election when Obama ran.

I don’t believe that millennial apathy is Bernie’s biggest issue in this primary.

I believe that Bernie’s biggest issue is that independents can’t vote in a lot of democratic primaries. More people refer to themselves as independents now, than in the past two decades. Do I really believe these people are “independent” and regularly vote across party lines? No. But I do believe that referring to ones self as an “independent” is a pretty good indication of how that person feels about establishment politics. Today, 39% of the electorate calls themselves independents. 32% call themselves democrats, and 23% refer to themselves as republicans. Yes, you read that correctly: the biggest block of the electorate refer to themselves as independents.

Here are some responses from a Quinnipiac poll of independents done in December:

  • Shares our values  – Clinton 33%, Sanders 47%
  • Cares about the needs of people like me – Clinton 40%, Sanders 59%
  • Honest and Trustworthy – Clinton 26%, Sanders 64%
Sanders leads Clinton among independents by a range of 20 – 50 points, depending on which poll you read. I could only find three polls of independents by credible polling firms. I don’t normally put too much weight in a mere three polls, but the results I’m seeing would explain how Bernie has a wider margin over Trump than Hillary does. More “independents” would have to be supporting Bernie than Trump. Populist versus populist.

I’m not as comfortable with a 2.8 point lead over Trump, as I am with a 6 point lead. If just one San Bernadino style event happens in the next eight months, that 2.8 points could evaporate. If you look at the polls, San Bernadino is what increased Trump’s support from the mid 20s (where he had been for a couple of months) into the low 30s.

I’m starting to see Trump’s path to the presidency, and it’s terrifying. Why did I highlight all of the ways I was wrong in the beginning of this post? Three reasons;

  • I can admit when I’m wrong so that
  • I can learn from my past mistakes and
  • Never underestimate Trump again
The “electability” argument that Hillary and her supporters have been making until now has been completely turned around on her by Trump. That’s the reality based on the information that we have today. Since I’m neither clairvoyant, nor am I prone to dismiss information just to make myself feel better about the opinion I started off with, I’m very worried about the general election.
This would be a change in my position from four months ago, that we had nothing to worry about from any republican nominee. That change in opinion is based on information that I didn’t have four months ago.
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The Most Important Election Of Your Lifetime

We always hear that. Every single election is “the most important election of your lifetime”. That’s almost always hyperbole, but not this time. This time, we’re voting for a four or eight year term for the next president and a twenty to thirty year term for the next Supreme Court Justice. This really is the most important election of your lifetime because the balance of the Supreme Court is in play.

Now that Antonin Scalia has moved on to the big Klan meeting in the sky, we have the opportunity to move the court from the far right to the center. I’m going to pause my train of thought for a moment to articulate that Klan comment I just made. I meant it, and I’m sick of people trotting out the old “respect for the dead” line today. I believe that you die as you lived. Here’s how Antonin Scalia lived (these are all direct quotes).

On equality:

“Of course it is our moral heritage that one should not hate any human being or class of human beings. But I had thought that one could consider certain conduct reprehensible—murder, for example, or polygamy, or cruelty to animals—and could exhibit even ‘animus’ toward such conduct. Surely that is the only sort of ‘animus’ at issue here: moral disapproval of homosexual conduct[.] It’s true that people generally disapprove of murder, but there’s more going on in laws banning murder than mere disfavor—the rights of the person being murdered, for example.”

“[The Texas anti-sodomy statute] undoubtedly imposes constraints on liberty. So do laws prohibiting prostitution, recreational use of heroin, and, for that matter, working more than 60 hours per week in a bakery. State laws against bigamy, same-sex marriage, adult incest, prostitution, masturbation, adultery, fornication, bestiality, and obscenity,” along with any other law “based on moral choices,” are now “called into question” by the court’s decision.”

“This Court has no business imposing upon all Americans the resolution favored by the elite class from which the Members of this institution are selected, pronouncing that “animosity” toward homosexuality is evil. I vigorously dissent…Coloradans are, as I say, entitled to be hostile toward homosexual conduct, the fact is that the degree of hostility reflected by Amendment 2 is the smallest conceivable”

On the second amendment:

“It doesn’t apply to cannons—but I suppose there are hand-held rocket launchers that can bring down airplanes, that will have to be decided.”

On a woman’s right to choose:

“The right to abort, we are told, inheres in “liberty” because it is among “a person’s most basic decisions,”…it involves a “most intimate and personal choic[e],”; it is “central to personal dignity and autonomy,”; it “originate[s] within the zone of conscience and belief,”; it is “too intimate and personal” for state interference; it reflects “intimate views” of a “deep, personal character,”; it involves “intimate relationships,” and notions of “personal autonomy and bodily integrity,”; and it concerns a particularly “important decision”. But it is obvious to anyone applying “reasoned judgment” that the same adjectives can be applied to many forms of conduct that this Court has held are not entitled to constitutional protection–because, like abortion, they are forms of conduct that have long been criminalized in American society. Those adjectives might be applied, for example, to homosexual sodomy, polygamy, adult incest, and suicide, all of which are equally “intimate” and “deep[ly] personal” decisions involving “personal autonomy and bodily integrity,” and all of which can constitutionally be proscribed because it is our unquestionable constitutional tradition that they are proscribable. (citations omitted)”

“I write separately to reiterate my view that the Court’s abortion jurisprudence, including Casey and Roe v. Wade, has no basis in the Constitution.”

On equal protection:

“Sorry, to tell you that. … But, you know, if indeed the current society has come to different views, that’s fine. You do not need the constitution to reflect the wishes of the current society. Certainly the Constitution does not require discrimination on the basis of sex. The only issue is whether it prohibits it. It doesn’t. Nobody ever thought that that’s what it meant. Nobody ever voted for that. If the current society wants to outlaw discrimination by sex, hey we have things called legislatures, and they enact things called laws. You don’t need a constitution to keep things up-to-date. All you need is a legislature and a ballot box. You don’t like the death penalty anymore, that’s fine. You want a right to abortion? There’s nothing in the Constitution about that. But that doesn’t mean you cannot prohibit it. Persuade your fellow citizens it’s a good idea and pass a law. That’s what democracy is all about. It’s not about nine superannuated judges who have been there too long, imposing these demands on society.”

And finally, Scalia’s blatant racism:

“There are those who contend that it does not benefit African Americans to get them into the University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less-advanced school, a slower-track school where they do well.”

“Whenever a society adopts racial entitlements, it is very difficult to get out of them through the normal political processes. I don’t think there is anything to be gained by any Senator to vote against continuation of this act. And I am fairly confident it will be reenacted in perpetuity unless — unless a court can say it does not comport with the Constitution. You have to show, when you are treating different States differently, that there’s a good reason for it.

That’s the — that’s the concern that those of us who — who have some questions about this statute have. It’s — it’s a concern that this is not the kind of a question you can leave to Congress. There are certain districts in the House that are black districts by law just about now. And even the Virginia Senators, they have no interest in voting against this. The State government is not their government, and they are going to lose — they are going to lose votes if they do not reenact the Voting Rights Act.”

I won’t even go into his disdain for democracy with Bush v Gore, Citizens United or McKutcheon. Anton Scalia does not deserve any respect from me, and he won’t get it.

Back to my point. This really is the most important election of your lifetime. I’m talking to you, democrats. I know that the primaries aren’t over yet, but you all need to start wrapping your minds around embracing whoever the democratic nominee is going to be. I know, I know….you can’t ever see yourself voting for Bernie or Hillary. Well guess what? It’s time to get your vision checked so that you can see it.

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m on team Bernie. But I’ve also made it very clear that I will go out and vote for Hillary if she’s the nominee. I’ve defended (you should click on that link) Hillary when she’s been falsely accused, and I’ve stood up for Bernie when he speaks the objective truth. I have also criticized both when they’re wrong. Politics isn’t emotional for me, and it shouldn’t be for you.

You need to start focusing on your own self interest. That self interest is stopping a lunatic republican from putting a young, spry Scalia clone on the Supreme Court.

Republicans in the senate are going to do their damnedest to make sure that President Obama doesn’t make this Supreme Court appointment, as is his right per our constitution. That means they’re going to punt this nomination until after inauguration day. That also means that their biggest donors are about to pick who the republican nominee is. They’re going to have to coalesce around one candidate. And they’re going to throw every smear they can on Hillary and Bernie.

You shouldn’t help them.

At this point, I would like to get into the difference between a smear and an objective truth. Here are some examples to help illustrate:

“Hillary broke the law when she used her private email server to orchestrate an attack on Benghazi.”

That would be a smear, since using her private server broke no laws, and investigation after investigation has found nothing untoward in regard to Hillary’s actions pertaining to Benghazi.

“Bill and Hillary Clinton are completely corrupt.”

That would also be a smear, since no one in the history of our country have been more investigated than the Clintons. Those investigations have resulted in finding precisely no illegal activity.

“The financial industry are among Hillary’s top donors, and they’re expecting a return on their investment.”

That would be an objective truth, and over 80% of us agree that corporate money is corrupting our politics. That would also be an objective truth that you won’t be hearing in the general election, should Hillary become the nominee because her opponent will be significantly more guilty of participating in this particular form of legalized corruption than she has been.

“Hillary is much more qualified to be president than Bernie.”

That would also be an objective truth, which I laid out in the post I linked to above. Bernie is pretty weak on foreign policy. That’s just a fact, but so was President Obama. Getting corporate money out of politics is my primary policy concern, so Bernie is my candidate. That doesn’t mean that I have to retool this particular objective truth in order to make the choice I’ve made.

“Bernie has taken money from Wall Street too.”

That would be a smear. Bernie has received a tiny fraction of his total fundraising efforts from the democratic party apparatchik over the course of his career. Some (or most) of that money may have come from Wall Street. This is not the same as accepting donations from Wall Street, who clearly despise him. If you want to use this smear, you’re going to have to start talking about Elizabeth Warren’s Wall Street contributions too. It’s just not an intellectually honest point.

“[Bernie] [Hillary] can’t win the general election.”

That one is not a smear, but it’s also objectively false. This one is simply projection. We have a mountain of polls demonstrating that either Hillary or Bernie can resoundingly beat any republican who may end up being the nominee if we all support our nominee.

That’s precisely what we all have to do. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t support your chosen candidate in the primary. We all should, and I’m with Bernie for as long as Bernie is in the race. But I am saying that you need to start getting used to the idea of supporting whoever the democratic nominee is going to be.

So maybe, instead of putting up posts against either Bernie or Hillary, we can focus on posting for the one we support? We can support our chosen candidate without tearing down the one we’re not voting for in the primary. I know that’s hard, and I know that some people are so emotionally invested in this election that they can’t see the difference between posting an objective truth and a smear.

So let’s make a deal: how about we all agree to post an 80/20 ratio of positive posts supporting our candidate? And how about we use the same ratio for our comments? Why am I proposing this? Because I believe that focusing on the positive will make it easier for everyone to do what needs to be done in the general election. If you’re constantly making vitriolic comments about a candidate, your emotions are more likely to get in the way of your pragmatism.

Let’s all try and advocate our primary positions with more positivity than what’s been happening on our side of the primary so far. The next thirty years worth of Supreme Court decisions is dependent on decisions that democrats make over the next nine months. Let’s make smart choices that are in our own self interest.

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What New Hampshire Means

This one will be short and sweet. Here’s my analysis of the democratic primary so far. Yes, New Hampshire was good for Bernie but don’t get too excited yet Bernie supporters.

In my estimation, we won’t have a real race on our hands until after South Carolina. Right now, Hillary is up by about 30 points in South Carolina. Let me tell you what the first 3 primary states mean these days. New Hampshire and Iowa don’t really represent America at all anymore so the only real relevance in those states lies in viability and momentum. They’re always going to be terribly troubling places for the national front runners because they have almost nothing to gain by winning those primaries. New Hampshire and Iowa can however, make an “unviable” candidate viable. Not very viable, but merely viable. On the democratic side, South Carolina is a barometer for how the black vote will go. Without significant black and Latino supporters, a democrat’s chances of winning the primary aren’t awesome.

Bernie needs to come within 5 points of Hillary in South Carolina before we officially have a race on our hands. If he can pull that off, her inevitability will completely evaporate and it will be 2008 all over again. We’ll know who the nominee is going to be on Super Tuesday. If Bernie doesn’t come within 10 points of Hillary, his viability shrinks considerably. He will definitely hand in until Super Tuesday, but her inevitability won’t be damaged much.

Bernie met with Al Sharpton in Harlem this morning. My assumption when I heard about the meeting was that they were strategizing about South Carolina. When I heard Ben Jealous’ representative walk into the restaurant, I knew that they were planning a serious effort to bring in the black vote. Jealous endorsed Bernie 5 days ago. That was no accident. He knows that it’s all about South Carolina now.

Since I’m not one to prognosticate without some solidly unimpeachable evidence, I’m still not prepared to pull out a crystal ball and predict the winner. Anything is still possible.

On the republican side, I have no freaking idea what the hell is going on. The most interesting thing to me at this point (it was clear to me that Kasich was going to come in second) is the fact that Chris Christie (who will never be the nominee) may have succeeded in blowing up Rubio’s chances. Remember how I kept saying that Rubio was as dumb as a bag of rocks when he announced? Well, Christie managed to successfully point that out. The more Rubio does his Ruboto shtick, the more he will become a laughing stock. But he’s so dimwitted, that going off script may actually be even more damaging. Watching him implode will be nothing but fun though.

Oh, there’s never a dull moment in presidential politics!

 

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6 Coin Tosses

So a lot has been made of coin tossgate in Iowa last night. Let me weigh in with my two cents. The unlikeliness of the coin toss outcomes is irrelevant, so let’s stop focusing in on how dubious that whole thing was. The “it was rigged” talk is pointless. We’ve known that the democratic apparatchik has had their thumb on the scales of this primary for a while now. There’s no point in crying over milk that hasn’t even been spilled.

Why do I say that? Because there were six coin tosses involved in the process of electing a presidential nominee. Let’s leave the absurdity of the coin toss procedure aside for now. Bernie Sanders, who we’ve been told for months has no chance of ever getting the nomination necessitated six coin tosses against the unbeatable establishment candidate, who we’ve all been told is a foregone conclusion to be the democratic nominee for president. Every single time a coin had to be tossed, Bernie emerged victorious by demonstrating that narrative about his having no chance completely wrong.

The outcome of the coin toss was completely irrelevant, and focusing on on who “won” Iowa in terms of delegates gained is the wrong way to look at it. Bernie won a big victory for people-powered politics. I would go as far as to say that Bernie won a big victory for democracy. The idea of having an unchallenged primary should be repugnant to anyone who believes in democracy. We don’t have coronations in America, we have elections.

The fact that a dark horse candidate who put himself at a massive disadvantage by not superPACing himself through an American election, tied in a primary race should make everyone happy, regardless of who they support. This is what democracy is supposed to look like.

So Bernie supporters, calm down. You won. The cloud under which Hillary was declared the victor is enough to make that victory irrelevant. It doesn’t matter. There’s no reason to dwell on the declared winner. The fact that most of the headlines said that Hillary “eked out a victory” isn’t really a win for her. I actually think that it’s hurt her. I also think that the cloud under which she was pronounced the victor will energize more people onto team Bernie.

Speaking of being energized, I want to say one thing; the vitriol between Hillary supporters and Bernie supporters is ridiculous and unproductive. Approaching politics emotionally is precisely the wrong way to approach politics. I have heard liberals say the most ludicrous things in support of their candidate of choice over the past few months. At the end of the day, either Bernie or Hillary is far more preferable to any republican candidate running for president. Please don’t lose sight of that. Your emotional investment in your primary candidate needs to end when the primaries do. We have a minimum of two likely Supreme Court nominations on the table for the next president. Don’t let your emotions get in the way of doing what needs to be done on election day because that would be an incredibly foolish mistake.

So let’s please table the “Hillary is corrupt” or the “Bernie can’t get anything done” talk after Super Tuesday, when you all need to shake it off. If you don’t get over it, you will regret it deeply when a 42 year old version of Clarence Thomas or Antonin Scalia are appointed to the Supreme Court.

As an aside, I think that Rubio was the big winner on the republican side last night. He’s the establishment candidate who did pretty well. I promise you that Jeb! has been on the phone with the big donors all day, getting his marching papers. I don’t know why he would stay in the race until New Hampshire, but I promise he won’t see anymore superPAC money coming in. Cruz is universally despised by both the republican and the democratic establishment, so his path to the nomination is going to be hard if the establishment band together around one candidate. The only possible candidate left for them is Rubio.

Yes Trump can still pull it off but I do suspect that he’s going to continue to be the outlier in the polls because I don’t believe that a lot of his supporters aren’t likely voters. I think that if there’s another upset in New Hampshire, he’s basically done (even though he will push through to super Tuesday).

 

 

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Who Won The Democratic Debate?

If you follow my Facebook page, my opinion was that it was too close to call, but that I thought that Bernie was going to get a bump in the polls. Why? Because a lot of viewers hadn’t been paying attention to the primaries yet, and were seeing Bernie for the first time. This was the most watched democratic debate in history with over 15 million television viewers and another million streaming it online. Bernie had nowhere to go but up. And while Hillary did a great job, her advantage up to this point becomes a disadvantage; people know her and have already formed their opinions about her.

That analysis, like my commentary the night of the debate wasn’t based on who I support or what I want to happen. It was an objective observation.

I immediately started seeing results of some very unscientific online polls indicating that Bernie crushed it. I didn’t post any of those, even though I support Bernie because again, they are very unscientific. I also didn’t post any of the nearly 100% of articles from the main stream media declaring that Hillary won decisively. Why? Because there were (and still aren’t yet) any scientific polls behind those claims. They were all basically opinion pieces.

But here’s the thing; those very unscientific polls weren’t even close.

Here’s a video of a CNN focus group. These people weren’t closely divided. Bernie clearly won with them. That would not be a margin that could be characterized as “close”.

Here’s another focus group that Fusion did. It was also not close, with Bernie winning 8 to 3 with one undecided. That would not be a margin that could be characterized as “close”.

Frank Luntz did a focus group in Florida. Not only did Bernie win overwhelmingly, but people who started off supporting Hillary switched their support to Bernie. That would not be a margin that could be characterized as “close”.

Here’s a screen shot of a very unscientific poll on Slate.com;

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Funny enough, here’s an article on Slate proclaiming that Hillary resoundingly won. And here’s a comical follow up to that article, esplainin why the original article was correct, despite the not-even-close results of the very unscientific poll.

Here’s another screenshot from a very unscientific poll from Time;

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That would not be a margin that could be characterized as “close”.

Here’s another very unscientific poll from an NBC affiliate in Colorado. That would not be a margin that could be characterized as “close”.

Here’s very unscientific poll on The Street. Bernie won 80% of the vote there. That would not be a margin that could be characterized as “close”.

Here’s one from Daily Kos where criticism of president Obama has been met with disdain for the past 6 years, and where Hillary is clearly the consensus candidate;

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That would be the closest one I’ve seen, but then again it’s Kos who is not without it’s significant bias. It’s still a 20 point spread in favor of Bernie.

I can post another half dozen of these, but you get the point. That would not be a margin that could be characterized as “close”. 

Vox published a piece claiming that Hillary “is not facing first rate competition”.

Ryan Lizza from the New Yorker tweeted that “Hillary Clinton won because all of her opponents are terrible”.

CNN called it “Hillary’s Big Night”.

Again, I can go on and on but you get the point.

Why did I keep emphasizing the phrases “very unscientific” and “could not be characterized as close” in this piece? Because both points must be emphasized. While the polls aren’t scientific and not even a little close, the pattern you see when you put them all together means something.

Does it mean that Bernie is going to be our next president? Not even remotely.

The fundraising disparity between Hillary and Bernie will always make him unlikely to win. When Obama ran in 2008, he raised half a billion dollars from regular Americans and half a billion dollars from the usual big money rainmakers. Bernie has a long road to hoe, but that doesn’t mean that he has no chance. The only thing that can make the money irrelevant, is if more people engaged in paying closer attention to the candidates they have to choose from.

Does this mean that the very unscientific polls showing Bernie is the overwhelming favorite are meaningless? Contrary to what the main stream (and some left leaning) media is telling you, the answer is no. It does mean something. It means that among people who are actively paying attention to the democratic primary, Bernie Sanders is crushing it. People who answer online polls they find on pages with political content are people who are more engaged in the process than the lion’s share of the electorate.

Unfortunately, most voters base their decisions on television commercials. Sigh.

So what’s my point? My point is that we’re about a day away from getting some scientific poll results. I’m positive that Bernie is going to get a bigger bump than I anticipated. Is he going to become the front runner? Probably not, but he’s going to make some pretty solid national gains.

Don’t let the media tell you what’s going on in this race. That’s my point. Thanks to the internet, you have the power to tell them. We’re not living in an age where they have as much power to create a narrative for you to believe and therefore make true.

Keep falling in love in the primary because that’s what primaries are for. Forget the “viability” arguments. This is your time to vote your conscience. I’m completely confident that people who fall in love in the primaries have the sense to fall in line in the general and to vote for whoever gets the democratic nomination, so I’m not going to lecture about the general. We’re not there yet.

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A Good Guy With A Gun

So a “good guy with a gun” decides to save the day when he witnesses a car jacking. He fired several shots, managing to land only one shot at the victim’s head and missing the carjackers completely.

Our hero then proceeded to collect his shell casings and fled the scene. Police are still looking for our ammosexual hero.

So my question now would be, is he still a “good guy”? How do you tell the difference?

Followers of this blog and of my facebook page know that I’m not a fan of anecdotal evidence because it’s meaningless. So why am I posting this story? Because this anecdotal story lines up perfectly with the data, as well as a couple of experiments done to see how effective armed citizens are at saving the day with their binkies.

Remember when a pro-gun group repeatedly reenacted the Charlie Hebdo shootings with all of the victims armed? SPOILER ALERT: they all died in every reenactment they did. Well, except for the one time one of the armed victims chose to flee instead. That guy survived the reenactment. All of the Rambos died over and over again, but their ammosexual fantasies of being heroes were impervious to the evidence and survived.

Another simulation done by researchers at Mount St Mary’s University produced the same results.

Study after study after study (I can do this all day, but you get the point) show that owning a gun makes you much more likely to be a shooting victim. Or a perpetrator, since you’re more likely to shoot yourself or someone you know with your gun, than you are to stop crime.

The FBI reports an average of about 25o “justifiable homicides” each year. Remember, George Zimmerman was recorded as a “justifiable homicide”, but I’m willing to go with the 250 number. So for 250 instances of people defending themselves, we have the highest homicide rate in the developed world. For 250 instances of people defending themselves,we have about 1,000 children shot every year.

In order to entertain the ammosexual hero fantasies of about 35 million American households, we have a situation where those nutters are feeding the “illegal” gun market. We know that the size of the “legal” gun market and the “illegal” gun market are inextricably intertwined since all guns start out “legal”.

We accept the unacceptable because a minority of us are literally deluding ourselves. I’m sorry to break it to you ammosexual, but you’re not Rambo and you never will be. You’re much more likely to be the sad sack who shoots their toddler in the face. The studies are very clear on this.

Here’s the funny thing. When I was fact checking the story I started this post with, my search came up with another story of another carjacking, also in Houston. This one was only a little over a month before the first story. In this story, the ammosexual was the guy whose car was being jacked. He decided that it would be a good idea to open fire on the carjacker. Wanna know how it ended? With both the carjacker and the ammosexual receiving freedom bullets, and the car wrapped around a cement post. Awesome. Thankfully, no one else was caught in the crossfire.

Does pulling out your binkie and firing off rounds to save your fucking car make you a good guy? It’s a car. You’re shooting at a person, and risking the accidental shooting of other people. For a car.

We don’t have “good guys” with guns. We have delusional “dumb guys” with guns. If they were smart, they would have done unbiased research on whether owning a gun was a good idea before making that choice. The evidence is clear, and you can’t possibly hang your hat on a handful of debunked NRA “studies” because you like what they’re telling you. The ratio of studies telling you that guns are awesome are roughly in the same proportion to legitimate studies, as the “cigarettes are awesome” studies were to those legitimate studies. When the ratio is 10 or 20 studies to 1, telling you that gun ownership is a bad idea, you’re not “responsible” by definition.

That’s how you present an anecdotal story. It has to be accompanied by data, otherwise you’re doing it wrong and you’re deliberately disinformning yourself.

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My Disdain For Your Proselytizing

You may have heard about this, but the Pope is coming to town and many “Christian” politicians in the US aren’t happy about it. I’ve been posting memes and news articles over the past day or so, pointing out the irony of the fact that (some) atheists respect and revere this Pope more than (some) Catholics do.

These posts came with a slew of comments that I found irritating. Some took the opportunity to present a history lesson about the Catholic Church, as if supporting this Pope indicates an ignorance of history. Here’s the deal; if you can’t separate your feelings about the Catholic Church from your thoughts on this Pope, you need to work on your critical thinking. This Pope, in the context of the Papacy is Bernie freaking Sanders.

Here are some quotes from Pope Frank on the dreaded gay:

“If they accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them?”

“Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person? We must always consider the person. Here we enter into the mystery of the human being. In life, God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation. It is necessary to accompany them with mercy.”

Pope Francis took the initiative to set up tribunals to look at that pesky pedophile problem the church has had for (at least) decades. Is anything going to come from them? I don’t know, but doing anything to address this issue is a giant leap froward from denying that the issue exists at all.

He’s spoken on women’s issues including equal pay (he’s for it) and “reconciliation and forgiveness” for women who have had abortions. Is that last part awesome? No, I personally don’t believe that making the choice to have an abortion is something that one must seek “forgiveness” for, but I acknowledge that he’s moving the church forward on this issue. Is he interested in female clergy? No but for fucks sake, he’s still a Catholic. I’ll take the baby steps.

He’s fucking awesome on the issue of unregulated capitalism and the toxicity that creates.

I don’t need to conflate the issues I agree with him on, with the areas where I vehemently disagree with him (and the church) in order to easily dismiss the obviously improved rhetoric of this Pope. He’s the first Pope in my lifetime who isn’t absolutely loathsome. He actually seems like a lovely person, embracing some of the best parts of Christianity, rather than wagging the old testament in the world’s face as all of his predecessors all did.

Acknowledging (and thereby encouraging) the fact that this Pope is moving things in the right direction isn’t the same thing as converting to Catholicism and suddenly condoning everything that makes up its colored history. If my acknowledgement of the changes that are happening today prompts you to assume that I need a history lesson, I would say that you need a lesson in critical thinking. I know that distilling everything down to black or white is easier for you, but that’s just not how I roll.

If you don’t acknowledge and encourage progress, there’s no reason for anyone to ever evolve.

The other comments I got were from militant atheists deriding and ridiculing Catholics. To you I say, stfu. I don’t need you proselytizing your lack of faith, anymore than I need anyone else proselytizing their religion to me.

The vitriol and intolerance of other people’s beliefs is as repugnant to me as any organized religion. The unmitigated arrogance of believing you have it all figured out, and that everyone else is a fool is indistinguishable between religious zealots and atheists. You’re all doing the same thing, and you see past your own zealotry.

Proselytizing is proselytizing, whether you’re proselytizing a religion or your disdain for religion.

I fall on the side of encouraging people to believe whatever the hell they choose to believe. It’s a free country, and I’m not the kind of dick who feels the need to belittle people for what they believe. Just keep it to yourself. The proselytizing is where you lose me.

Faith is personal, as should the lack of faith be.

You don’t have it all figured out anymore than a Catholic, Muslim, Jew, or Buddhist does. And I can’t tell the difference between the arrogance of foisting one’s religion on others and the arrogance of actively mocking religion. It’s all arrogance, and it’s all based on choice more than fact.

I hate to break it to you, but you can’t call yourself a liberal if you’re intolerant of people who believe something that differs from your beliefs. If it’s not effecting you in any way at all, you have no business dictating to anyone what they should or shouldn’t believe. The line is crossed when someone’s beliefs are being used to oppress or abuse anyone else. That’s when a liberal should speak up. But to chime in on a post about the Pope in order to deride all Catholics, makes you the opposite of a liberal. You are not liberal in your thought, and you’re not liberal with your heart.

All Catholics are not rubes, nor are they obsessed with beating you over the head with their faith. Wanna see an example of two inspiring and lovely people of faith? Here you go (I promise you won’t regret watching both videos all the way through);

 

If you can’t see for yourself how faith gives some people comfort and purpose, I feel sorry for you. Your mind is closed. You don’t need to have faith in anything to acknowledge that for some, there’s value in their faith.

Did you notice that I never espoused my own personal views on faith or religion in this post? That’s because I understand that the only purpose of my beliefs is to get me through this life. That’s the only purpose for anyone’s belief. My beliefs die with me, and I don’t need to get people to agree with me in order to validate my beliefs. I don’t need them validated. They serve me, and they need not serve anyone else.

So please stop with the proselytizing. No one wants to hear it.

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Understanding Syria

I’ve had a slew of incredibly ignorant comments on my Facebook page regarding Syria lately. The stupid has ranged from “the west started the civil war” to, “you know that Putin is helping Assad and that’s bad, right?” That last one took the cake because that was 18 layers of ignorant to not only how the war started, but what the US’s interests are at this very moment. And in each instance of ignorance, I posed one simple question which was left unanswered 100% of the time: What started the Syrian civil war?

If you can’t answer that question, you have no freaking idea what’s going on or how to deal with it. So I thought this was a good time to lay out the basics and explain how we got here. The original cause for the Syrian civil war is a pivotal point here. No, it didn’t start as a sectarian war. No, the CIA and MI6 didn’t covertly start that was because destabilizing the middle east even further is in anyone’s interest. Putin likewise, had nothing to do with starting that war.

The Syrian civil war started because of a drought. That’s right, the Syrian civil war is the first of the climate change wars we’re going to see more and more more of in the coming decades. Syria had been experiencing extreme drought conditions since 2006. It wasn’t just Syria, much of the middle east was suffering through drought conditions. As a result, wheat prices skyrocketed, leaving many people in rural areas with no food. Assad being Assad, responded to the drought with greed, rather than with practical solutions to improve irrigation methods or a focus resources in a way that would mitigate the effects of the drought. He allocated resources to growing wheat (which is a very water-intensive crop to grow) because he wanted to cash in on the skyrocketing market value of wheat. This drove Syrians out of their farms (where 75% of farmers suffered total crop failure) into the big cities. That migration represented 1.5 million Syrians moving to cities who didn’t have the resources to accommodate such a large influx of people. And remember, Syria had already been taking in large numbers of refugees from the Iraq war we started.

So we created total fucking chaos next door to Syria, and then the drought left the Syrian people starving. This was a perfect storm for ISIS and gave them the opportunity to ad an “IS” to the only “IS” they were at that point. Please take a moment to read an article I wrote detailing the genesis of ISIS before you read on. They were (at the time of the start of the Syrian civil war known as “the Islamic State”. That was not their first name, and 2006 is not when they formed. But the instability in Syria gave them an opening to add “Iraq and Syria” (the second “IS”) to the name of their terrorist group. Syria did seek help from the UN, who refused to give them a mere $60 million dollars in food aid to alleviate the starvation. Does anyone think that would have been a good investment?

The Syrian people were already very interested in removing Assad from power because he left them starving. ISIS was able to exploit that desire by providing them arms with which to fight Assad. Make no mistake about this; ISIS has money. They have very wealthy funders in Saudi Arabia and they have oil revenue from the oil fields they control in Iraq. They came into Syria with guns and food a’blazing. When you’re starving, anyone who has food and an alternative to your current situation seems to be the solution to your problems. Kind of like Hezbolla in Lebanon. Every time Israel levels Lebanon and leaves it in shambles, Hezbolla is there to “take care” of the people. When you create a vacuum, you can’t complain about whatever comes in to fill that vacuum.

So now the west is left with deciding what it can live with more: Assad or ISIS. The US has decided that Assad is preferable. Europe is on board with that assessment. No one thinks that Assad is awesome, but we can all agree that Assad is less destructive than ISIS. Turkey and some factions in Saudi Arabia disagree. I have no earthly idea why Turkey is taking this position, other than the fact that their current prime minister, Tayyip Erdogan is a fundamentalist whackadoodle who would like to take that country back 1000 years. Saudi Arabia is in it to fuck Iran. Both are being incredibly stupid, since ISIS is already operating inside Saudi Arabia and won’t stop until they take over the entire middle east. So watch out Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Jordan, and eventually Israel. It won’t be long before you’re sidling up to Iran and asking their army to fight along side yours.

So Putin is now sending Russian fighter jets into Syria (in addition to the arms they’ve always been selling Assad) to help the Assad regime hold on to power. Contrary to the dullard who thought this was something to be worried about, the US wants this. Guess who else wants this? Germany. Having as many allies in there to do the heavy lifting as possible is a good thing for US interests.

That’s not to say that I believe that keeping Assad in power is a good long term strategy. It’s obviously not, since his shitty leadership skills are in great part, what got us here in the first place.

Do I have a winning long term strategy in mind? Nope. There are too many moving parts, most of which are in direct conflict with each other. And since I’m not fond of rectally generating opinions in order to sound smart, I’m going to be smart by telling you that I have no answers. I have answers to many things, including how this whole thing started and how it unfolded to get us to this place, but I don’t know how to solve this problem.

What I do know is that some of us are going to have plenty of opportunities to spit on refugees from all around the world in the coming decades. There are going to be hundreds of millions more of them from all around the world as climate change leaves them starving.

So buckle up Mike Huckabee, because millions more are on their way to get your cable, you heartless and ignorant piece of shit.

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