Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Superest Tuesday

We need to give a nickname to this day.  It is the most important day of the presidential primaries so far.  There are quite a number of delegates that will be awarded tonight.  I wanted to post my predictions for tonight and some bold predictions for tonight that may or may not happen.  I’ll put up my predictions first and you can scroll down to see the bolder predictions.

Democratic Party predictions: It’s important to note that the Democratic Party presidential primary is proportional so unless it’s a blow out in the election, it’s not that important who wins the state.  Keep that in mind because my projections are +/- 3 for each candidate.  There’s not a significant difference in that percentage in terms of the number of delegates awarded.

Florida: Hillary Clinton- 62% Bernie Sanders - 37%
Illinois: Hillary Clinton – 53% Bernie Sanders- 47%
Missouri: Hillary Clinton- 49% Bernie Sanders – 51%
North Carolina: North Carolina – 60% Bernie Sanders – 40%
Ohio: Hillary Clinton – 52% Bernie Sanders – 48%

Republican Party predictions: The Republican primaries are winner takes all in Ohio and Florida.
They’re winner take most in Illinois and Missouri.  They’re proportional in North Carolina.  It’s all very confusing.   At any rate, these are about +/-3% for each candidate, as well.

Florida: Donald Trump – 35%; Marco Rubio-30%; Ted Cruz-20%; John Kasich-8%; others-7%
Illinois: Donald Trump-30%; Ted Cruz-27%; John Kasich-25%; Marco Rubio-15%; others-3%
Missouri: Donald trump-33%; Ted Cruz-31%; John Kasich-21%; Marco Rubio-12%; others-3%
North Carolina: Donald Trump- 40%; Ted Cruz – 35%; John Kasich – 12%; Marco Rubio – 11%; others – 2%
Ohio: John Kasich -42%; Donald Trump-35%; Ted Cruz-18%; Marco Rubio-4%; others-1%
16 Bold Predictions

These predictions I don’t see as particularly likely, although they are plausible, and may contradict what I stated above for my predictions of how the projected votes will go.

1. Marco Rubio drops out of the race tonight.  This seems as the most likely of my bold predictions to happen.  If Rubio fails to win Florida, there’s not a path forward for him as a contender.  Although I’ve heard that he’s one of the most ambitious politicians working right now, I doubt he believes he can still be president if he falters in Florida.

2. Bernie Sanders fails to get above 30% with black voters in Illinois.  This one also seems fairly likely.  If Clinton is to win the Illinois primary, Sanders will most likely have to be below 30% with black voters.  More likely, he would have to get below 25% for Clinton to win.  Since Sanders has failed to get above 30%, even in Michigan, this seems pretty likely.

3. Hillary Clinton sweeps tonight, winning all five states.  This one is probably next in line in terms of chances of happening.  If you believe the polls, she has a very good chance of winning all of the states tonight.

4. Bernie Sanders wins Ohio instead of Missouri.  If you look at the demographics of the state, Ohio is very similar to Michigan which, as we all remember, provided a huge upset for Sanders.  This would also show that the polls were wrong in Ohio, which may be the case.

5. Marco Rubio, with the strength of the Hispanic vote and Miami vote, pulls a yuuuuuge upset over Donald Trump allowing for the possibility of a brokered convention.  If this actually happened, of course Trump would blow up, combined with his predicted loss in Ohio, he would raise hell.

6. Florida is the first state to be called tonight on the Democratic primary.  I shared the demographics on the Facebook page, but 60% of the early votes were submitted by those who are older than 60.  22% of the early vote were submitted by black voters.  Combined with a closed primary and a more diverse electorate, this state will be the first to be called for Hillary Clinton tonight.

7. Bernie Sanders supporters will label Ohio as the south.  Bernie Sanders’s campaign manager Jeff Weaver labeled Hillary Clinton as a regional candidate who can’t win outside of the south.  Either way Ohio goes, the meme around his supporters will be that Ohio was part of the South.

8. Outside of the college towns in Illinois, Sanders best showings in Illinois will be in Lincoln Park in Chicago.  This is one of the whitest parts of Chicago and is also a white flight portion of town.  Sanders should do well, there.

9. Strategic Democratic voters will have an impact on the Ohio primary.  I think it will be pretty slight but I think strategic voters in Ohio are more likely to vote for Trump to continue to disrupt the Republican primaries.

10. Ted Cruz wins a number of delegates in Illinois and Missouri.  Thanks to how the delegates are apportioned in those states, Cruz can pick up a number of delegates without winning the statewide election.  He may do well in the southern part of Illinois and in Missouri.  I think this will help derail the surge of momentum Trump will get.

11. North Carolina is the first state called in the Republican primary.  Although the numbers look pretty close, I think Trump gets out to a pretty big lead in North Carolina and the news outlets call it pretty easy.

12. Sanders supporters will ironically retweet Decision Desk HQ’s tweets calling states for Hillary Clinton.  They called Michigan for Clinton while she was losing and made a number of Sanders supporters angry.

13. We will talk about a brokererd convention a lot tonight.  After Kasich (if my predictions are right) wins Ohio, the news outlets will talk about the chances of a brokered convention on the Republican side.  The chances are still pretty low but instead of 0.0000001% it’s now probably closer to 1%, especially if Trump loses Ohio.

14. Rubio throws his delegates to Kasich.  If Rubio drops out and doesn’t win Florida, I think there will be a deal between John Kasich and Rubio for Rubio to drop the lawsuit in Pennsylvania allowing Kasich to be on the ballot and Rubio will try to move his support and delegates to Kasich.  In exchange, Kasich gives him all the bottled water Rubio could ever drink.  I’m kidding.  I think in exchange Kasich makes a promise that Rubio will be the VP and allow him to release his delegates again if there is a brokered convention.

15. Donald Trump has Ben Carson and Chris Christie show up to his victory press conference and BEN CARSON IS AWAKE. The first part isn’t bold but the second part definitely is.

16. There will be calls for Sanders to drop out and there will be calls that Clinton belongs in jail. After tonight’s primaries, the map gets favorable for Sanders for 2 weeks before going back to Clinton.  Sanders’s next two weeks are filled with fairly small delegate counts.  And just remember this is a game of delegates not states.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Bernie vs. Hillary

The Democratic primary in 2016 has become a lot more competitive than I initially thought it would be.  Bernie Sanders has struck some type of nerve with younger voters who are excited to vote in the primaries and caucus for someone that they see out of the normal political establishment.  Coupled with Hillary Clinton’s ties to politics, money, and Wall Street has a number of people talking about trying to beat the establishment.  The Nebraska caucus is on Saturday for Democrats so I guess it’s about time I write about who I would support. I assumed originally that Bernie would have dropped out by now so I didn’t really plan on having anything formulated by this time.  

Foreign policy (30%)

One of the few major ways a President can influence decisions is with their foreign policy decisions.  Hillary Clinton is damaged in this respect, in my opinion.  She, most famously, voted for the Iraq War.  She was sufficiently punished for this vote in the 2008 primaries.  She was attacked throughout the primary campaign about this vote.  She defended this vote throughout that campaign.  However, in her 2014 book, she acknowledged that it was a mistake and offered no qualifications for it.  In 2007,she opposed the Iraq troop surge that was gaining traction in Congress and with various presidential candidates.  She also announced that she would end the war in 2009.  She also introduced a bill that would require removing troops within 90 days of passage or lose authorization for the war.  She later said that the Iraq war surge had not met its stated goals and wanted President Bush to come back to the table.  While she did support a number of troops to stay in Iraq to protect interests for years, she made it clear that she would not support permanent bases there. 

Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, did vote against the use of military force in Iraq and was an outspoken critic of the war throughout its tenure.  He did support the authorization of military force 
against terrorists. 

It would seemingly be fit to end it there, as Bernie seems to be the undisputed king.  He managed to not vote for the Iraqi War and was a critic of the war.  His proposal to fight ISIS just isn’t that good, though.  His releases have called for a coalition of Middle East countries including Iran and Saudi Arabia to fight ISIS.  This seems good enough.  However, Middle East countries see Iran’s regional power as a threat and may refuse to work with them.  King Abdullah of Jordan agrees that fighting ISIS requires a coalition of Muslim countries to be able to defeat ISIS.  He argues that Sunni Muslims would need to come together to condemn and ultimately destroy ISIS. 

I may be biased in my assumption that Hillary has the grander Syria plan.  She proposed arming Syrian rebels and ultimately concluded that we should have done more to help the Syrian people fight Bashar Al-Assad’s regime.  She was disappointed that President Barack Obama rejected her plan.  This was my plan, as well, and I also concluded that it was a mess in Syria with deciding which factions to support. 

I’ve also come to the conclusion that King Abdullah is right and a Sunni coalition would need to come together to be able to defeat ISIS .  Ceding power to Iran as a regional power is not something I support nor do I think it’s tenable to be able to defeat ISIS so I disagree with Sanders’s assessment of the Middle East. 

I think Clinton’s plan to work with Russia to have a no-fly zone in Syria would work.  The idea is that both Russia and the United States would come together and enforce a no-fly zone.  This is pie in the sky dreaming but it’s a much better option than boots on the ground or relying on Iran to fight ISIS.

The other argument against Clinton is that she is much more interventionist than Sanders.  My hope is that she has learned from her mistakes with her Iraqi War vote.  But this is just hope.  Her husband, Bill Clinton, still has the specter of not intervening in Rwanda when it was time to and this clouds his judgment.  I hope it doesn’t cloud Hillary’s.  Sanders argues that we should not go to war unless we have a coalition.  I believe his rhetoric may be right but I don’t know if I trust him to head up a coalition.

Both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton favor a two-state solution to help protect Israel.  Sanders has been more evocative in the past, defending Palestinians and condemning Israel.  Clinton has promised in the past that there would be massive retaliation if Iran attacked Israel.  Both candidates support the Iran deal and think we should have diplomacy with Iran.  Both candidates opposed free trade acts such as the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).  Clinton has been accused of pandering with her opposition to the TPP as she was once an advocate of it.  She has supported other free trade agreements such as NAFTA.  Sanders has unequivocally stated that he opposes all free-trade agreements.  I’m not sure where I really fall on this.  I believe that the TPP may be a mistake.  It does not grant sufficient protections for workers and we’re still waiting on the proper protections for Mexican workers for NAFTA.

Ultimately, I think the positives for Bernie are that he’s not an interventionist  and that he opposes free trade agreements if they don’t prioritize American workers.  I think Clinton’s experience in the Middle East with her role as Secretary of State provides a valuable resource, as well as her admitting her mistake in Iraq is helpful.  I trust Clinton more to deal with ISIS and to pursue the best path forward with ISIS. 

Domestic issues (20%)

Sanders and Clinton both share a number of the same concerns with regards to issues that are important to me.  Sanders and Clinton both believe that we should decriminalize marijuana.  Clinton thinks that we should allow states to decide on recreational marijuana which is a quasi-federalist position.  Sanders said that he would vote for recreational marijuana.  This doesn’t concern me that much either way, as the bill will surely die in Congress.  As much as Clinton gets accused to pandering to pick up votes, Sanders position is clearly pandering to young voters there.
Sanders called for an ambitious criminal justice reform which would end mandatory minimum sentencing.  Hillary’s plan is fairly similar, cutting into the mandatory minimum sentencing for non-violent drug offenders cutting their time in half, fixing the crack-cocaine sentencing disparity and applying it retroactively, and lessening the need for mandatory minimum sentencing.  Both support banning the box and restoring non-violent felon’s voting rights.

While Clinton supports amending the ACA to help fix the Medicaid gap and to help fully cover everyone, Sanders has suppoted a Medicare for all plan, which would be indistinguishable from single payer.  His math that he supported showing that middle class families would spend less and that the policy would cost less than right now was off.  When confronted about it, Sanders and his team revised the numbers to fit the criticism of one and then accused the other one of working for health insurers.   Beyond that, his proposal is simply not going to pass any form of Congressional hurdle.  This is not an indictment of Sanders’s plan but rather of the American form of government which is a hurdle for progressive legislation.  Beyond that, I agree with Clinton that with the ACA already struggling, the fight we should be having is how to strengthen the ACA.   I think that we can revisit the ACA and modify it as we get further out from it but we haven’t escaped the legal battles challenging it, quite yet.

Sanders calls for a plan to raise the minimum wage to $15/hour, arguing that while it may cost some jobs it will help enough people to make it worth it.  I’m not sure of the utilitarian calculus on that.  I may be described as somewhat conservative with my own minimum wage thoughts.  I think that we can raise it to probably about $12/hour without having significant job-loss in the south and Midwest (lower cost of living areas).  From there, we can index it to inflation.  If we raise it beyond that, I think we run into a significant risk of massive job loss throughout much of the country.  In Mississippi or other rural states, for instance, this may be too much and have more job losses making it harder to be able to raise the minimum wage later, if needed.  If the $15/hour makes it through Congress (which it won’t) and costs millions of jobs, it will be seen as a failure.  This will make it increasingly more difficult to raise the minimum wage if needed, later.  Clinton’s plan is for $12/hour with it indexed to inflation.  I think it’s on the high end of the spectrum of job losses but it is much more likely to get passed and much less likely to cost jobs.

Clinton is a supporter of charter schools, which I am not a fan of.  So is Barack Obama.  I’m not a fan of that either.  Sanders does not appear to be a supporter of charter schools.  His education proposal to make college tuition free is the much sexier option with regards to education policy.  Clinton’s plan has a much better chance of passing, though.  She would provide grants to states covering $175 billion to state that guarantee that they would not require students to take a loan out to afford to go to public four-year universities.  It would also allow students to refinance student loans at lower interest rates and to expand the Americorps national service program from 75,000 to 250,000 people.  This would be paid for by limiting the itemized deductions for wealthy people.  It’s not a very exciting plan but it is a plan that could work.

What it comes down to between the two candidates is style over substance.  Sanders’s style is winning him a lot of votes and a lot of support with young voters who think that these things can be fixed pretty easily.  Clinton’s substance gets overlooked in these debates about policy.  I should add that both candidates want to reform campaign finance but Sanders seems to think that only evil comes from Wall St and the corporate sphere which is illogical.

Leadership (25%)

While often mocked, correctly in my opinion, leadership does play a role in who I would want to be my party’s nominee for President.  Sanders has often run his campaign as if he is the only honest man in politics and that he can green lantern his way through changes in the political process.  It doesn’t seem as though he realizes the limitations of the American government system.  His campaign tweeted out that they would nominate a judge whose first priority would be to overturn Citizen’s United.  This is not how the court system works in the United States, thank god.  Beyond that, he’s only peripherally interested in helping the Democratic party.  He hasn’t been raising money for them as he promised. He doesn’t seem all that interested in trying to get down ballot votes to help implement the policies that he is advocating for.  Spoiler alert: he’ll need the Senate to go back to the Democrats and pick up a substantial amount of seats in the House of Representatives to be able to pass through any of his agenda.

Beyond that, his campaign seems to have a problem which indicates that he has no control over them or that he is planning on this.  He has had a few celebrity endorsers come out and say sexist things about Hillary Clinton (one said that he could not vote for a woman as President).  His campaign infamously got access to Clinton’s voter database which they claimed was a way to show vulnerabilities within the system (which is almost certainly untrue).  His campaign has also focused primarily on wooing white voters despite how the coalition of the Democratic party is made up.  His campaign seems fine with trying to win the nomination with only white voters which is not tenable and also is a problem of huge proprotions. 

Clinton’s campaign is certainly not perfect.  She seems to be learning from her previous mistakes.  She doesn’t seem content on being the female candidate in the way that Sanders seems content to be the socialist candidate.  She is reaching out to different blocs of the Demcoratic Party.  Her own celebrity endorsers have said erroneous things about “Berniebros” and are critical of the Sanders campaign, which is problematic, as well.

Political Judgment (25%)

In 2008, Clinton’s campaign was a mess.  She had Mark Penn help run her campaign.  They counted states instead of delegates.  They argued immensely that Michigan and Florida should count because she won (even though the primaries violated DNC rules).  Her campaign and surrogates argued that Barack Obama was not born in the United States.  They also said racial stereotypes of Obama.  Beyond that, Clinton has made mistakes in the past.  She supported Goldwater as a teen.  She supported NAFTA.  She supported the crime bill that her husband signed.  She voted for the Iraq War.  She was not a staunch supporter of LGBT rights and same-sex marriage.  She supported the death penalty.  All of these are mistakes.  All of these are fine to criticize her for.  Her and her husband rely on political opinion to shift their own opinion (just like everyone) and is fairly obvious.  What does she believe in her heart?  I can’t tell you.  I don’t think It really matters. 

Sanders was a civil rights activist in the 1960s.  Bernie Sanders ran as a spoiler against Patrick Leahy in 1974 and nearly cost Leahy the election.  Leahy is a staunch liberal with nearly impeccable credentials.  It is hard to see how someone could accuse Leahy of not being progressive enough.  Sanders ran multiple third party campaigns.  He won, his congressional seat, in part by getting support from the NRA.  In 2011, as an independent who caucused with the Democratic Party, he called for a primary challenge to President Barack Obama.  Obama is one of the most progressive presidents we’ve ever had.  The ACA despite most  of its provisions being endorsed by the Heritage Foundation also called for the largest ever increase in Medicaid, making it one of the most progressive bills that we’ve had.  What does Bernie Sanders believe in his heart?  I don’t know.  I don’t think it really matters.

Sanders and his supporter have said that he is on the right side of history, consistently.  Most of the time, it is in reference to his civil rights actions.  Fred Phelps was a civil rights attorney.  Joe Lieberman was a civil rights activist.  A few good actions do not make you immune to criticism or make it impossible for you to make the wrong decisions. 

Sanders has consistently portrayed himself to be the most progressive candidate in any race, regardless of the truth of the statement.  It seems that the person who gets to make that call is Sanders.  Clinton  and her husband have always run as pragmatists.  They bend with the political wind.  Both are negatives.  Given the options, I would trust someone who is willing to admit that she was wrong and try to correct it in the future, as opposed to doubling down.


I’m a big fan of pragmatic arguments and pragmatists in general.  I believe that we need idealists to be able to dream and to reach for things beyond reach.  We need these, especially in politics.  We need people to drive the party closer to our true beliefs and to help guide our leaders going forward.  Primaries are essential to find the candidate that most line up with your views.    I support what Bernie Sanders has accomplished in this primary.  He has motivated thousands of young voters and convinced them of his message.  He has pushed Hillary Clinton significantly to the left.  We wouldn’t be talking about the minimum wage or college tuition without him.  Clinton would not be practiced for the general election without him.  I am supporting Hillary Clinton for the Democratic primary, though.  Her experience on foreign policy, her pragmatism with domestic issues, her leadership with regards to this campaign, and the shift in her political judgment makes this decision for me.  

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

#Timetodrink: The 5th Republican Debate, even more thoughts, again

I dislike Glenn Greenwald for a number of reasons.  But he is very intelligent when it comes to intelligence issues.  I bring this up because John Kasich rambles on about encrypted data.  "In addition to that, Wolf, there is a big problem. It's called encryption. And the people in San Bernardino were communicating with people who the FBI had been watching. But because their phone was encrypted, because the intelligence officials could not see who they were talking to, it was lost."  Well, this is a fairly good counter to that.

Ted Cruz fundamentally misunderstands ISIS, "that will change when militants across the globe see that when you join ISIS that you are giving up your life, you are signing your death warrant, and we need a president who is focused on defeating every single ISIS terrorist and protecting the homeland, which should be the first priority."  In Osama bin Laden's infamous and oftparaphrased words they "love death more than we love life."  Beyond that, carpetbombing ISIS territory and killing civilians is likely to result in MORE American deaths.  There's an oft-cited belief in ISIS circles that since American bombs are so accurate civilian deaths are intentional and therefore are justified in exacting vengeance.

At least Marco Rubio almost gets it "Well, let me begin by saying that we have to understand who ISIS is. ISIS is a radical Sunni group. They cannot just be defeated through air strikes. Air strikes are a key component of defeating them, but they must be defeated on the ground by a ground force. And that ground force must be primarily made up of Sunni Arabs themselves, Sunni Arabs that reject them ideologically and confront them militarily."

But then he says this:

"The air strikes are important, but we need to have an air force capable of it. And because of the budget cuts we are facing in this country, we are going to be left with the oldest and the smallest Air Force we have ever had." HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAAHAHA Airplanes were not invented until 1903.

But then he goes back to saying things that make sense

"They are recruiting people, including Americans, to join them, with the promise that they are joining this great apocalyptic movement that is going to defeat the West. We have to show what life is really like in ISIS territory, and we have to show them why ISIS is not invincible, by going out and conducting these attacks and publicizing them to those who they recruit."  Ultimately, this is correct.

#Timetodrink: The 5th Republican Debate, even more thoughts

Made another drink. We have some more time, let's jump to Chris Christie.  "What we need to do, Wolf, is restore those tools that have been taken away by the president and others, restore those tools to the NSA and to our entire surveillance and law enforcement community."  I guess this is trying to restore the NSA and provisions of the PATRIOT Act.  Might want to talk to Rand Paul about that.

John Kasich wants boots on the ground and wanted the Paris conference to be about terrorism.  Kasich missed this memo.

Ted Cruz mentioned radical Islamic terrorists and how the Obama administration won't invoke their name because we live in a Harry Potter novel.  To be fair, it is a step up from reading Green Eggs and Ham on the Senate floor.

Rand Paul wants more security, more rules, and more scrutiny to those entering the country.  I'm sure he supports the Syrian refugee plan currently in place.

Chris Christie shows that policy is unimportant.  "Listen, I want to talk to the audience at home for a second. If your eyes are glazing over like mine, this is what it's like to be on the floor of the United States Senate. I mean, endless debates about how many angels on the head of a pin from people who've never had to make a consequential decision in an executive position."  The exchange between Rubio, Cruz, and Rand were by fart he best part of the debate so far.  So of course Christie hates it.

Ben Carson is a baby: "First of all, let me just complain a little bit. This is the first time I've spoken and several people have had multiple questions so please try to pay attention to that."  Just so we're clear: the back and forth that previously occurred was between three Senators who had various opinions on certain bills that they voted for or supported.  Carson has not held an elected position in his life so he was not included.  This is Carson's choice.  He decided to run for President after not holding an elected position.

He continues: "We have to get rid of all this PC stuff. And people are worried about if somebody's going to say that I'm Islamophobic or what have you. This is craziness because we are at war. That's why I asked congress, go ahead and declare the war " Again, so did Barack Obama.

From the transcript:

BLITZER: Dr. Carson, who was right in that little debate that we just heard between Senator Rubio and Senator Paul?

CARSON: I think you have to ask them about that. I don't want to get in between them. Let them fight.

So, he has no opinion on the subject.  Alright, so he was complaining just to complain then. 

And then Carly Fiorina is just wrong.  "And yet, we also know that ISIS is recruiting who are not in those databases. So of course, we're going to miss them. And then we now learn that DHS says, "No, we can't check their social media."

For heaven's sakes, every parent in America is checking social media and every employer is as well, but our government can't do it. The bureaucratic procedures are so far behind. Our government has become incompetent, unresponsive, corrupt. And that incompetence, ineptitude, lack of accountability is now dangerous."

Employers don't check social media for a variety of reasons, thank god.  But they also have various blocks set up to determine who can or cannot see your social media activity.  Of course, Carly Fiorina who so arrogantly put it, "comes from the technology world", would already know this but we digress.  Also nearly every parent can be blocked from viewing their child's social media.

To continue her wrongness, "that's why it cost billions of dollars to build an Obama website that failed because the private sector wasn't asked."  First, it was $840 million.  And also the problems were almost all contract work related.  You know the private sector.  

At least, she wasn't proposing something impossible like Donald Trump.  "ISIS is recruiting through the Internet. ISIS is using the Internet better than we are using the Internet, and it was our idea. What I wanted to do is I wanted to get our brilliant people from Silicon Valley and other places and figure out a way that ISIS cannot do what they're doing.

You talk freedom of speech. You talk freedom of anything you want. I don't want them using our Internet to take our young, impressionable youth and watching the media talking about how they're masterminds -- these are masterminds. They shouldn't be using the word "mastermind." These are thugs. These are terrible people in ISIS, not masterminds. And we have to change it from every standpoint. But we should be using our brilliant people, our most brilliant minds to figure a way that ISIS cannot use the Internet. And then on second, we should be able to penetrate the Internet and find out exactly where ISIS is and everything about ISIS. And we can do that if we use our good people."

#Timetodrink: The 5th Republican Debate, more thoughts

Donald Trump talks about how his crazy idea of banning Muslims and Mexicans is about security, "our country is out of control. People are pouring across the southern border. I will build a wall. It will be a great wall. People will not come in unless they come in legally. Drugs will not pour through that wall."  Except, they're not pouring across the southern border.  Pew Research Center found that there was a net of 140,000 people leaving the United States to Mexico since the end of the Great Recession.

This is the rambling of a crazy person: "As far as other people like in the migration, where they're going, tens of thousands of people having cell phones with ISIS flags on them? I don't think so, Wolf. They're not coming to this country. And if I'm president and if Obama has brought some to this country, they are leaving. They're going. They're gone."  I don't even know where he is headed with this outside of trying to say that Obama has somehow let in thousands of migrants with ISIS flags on them.

Jeb Bush is the first person that I've seen, admittedly not a big group of people, outside of ISIS or related organizations who concedes that ISIS has a caliphate: "well, first of all, we need to destroy ISIS in the caliphate."

"The refugee issue will be solved if we destroy ISIS there, which means we need to have a no-fly zone, safe zones there for refugees and to build a military force."  The refugee crisis is in large part due to Bashar al Assad and the oppressive Syrian regime and the Syrian civil war.  A no-fly zone is one that Hillary Clinton has proposed.  Safe zones for refugees? I don't even know what that means.

But beyond that he brings up some good points so I will give him that: "We need to arm directly the Kurds. And all of that has to be done in concert with the Arab nations. And if we're going to ban all Muslims, how are we going to get them to be part of a coalition to destroy ISIS?

The Kurds are the greatest fighting force and our strongest allies. They're Muslim. Look, this is not a serious proposal. In fact, it will push the Muslim world, the Arab world away from us at a time when we need to reengage with them to be able to create a strategy to destroy ISIS."

Donald Trump responds to the insult - "Jeb doesn't really believe I'm unhinged. He said that very simply because he has failed in this campaign. It's been a total disaster. Nobody cares. And frankly, I'm the most solid person up here."  Oh for Christ's sakes.  Drink.

"We want to make America great again. And Jeb, in all fairness, he doesn't believe that."  Another drink.  Does Trump actually think that Jeb doesn't want to make America great?

Marco Rubio then talks about confronting ISIS, "this group needs to be confronted with serious proposals. And this is a very significant threat we face. And the president has left us unsafe. He spoke the other night to the American people to reassure us. I wish he hadn't spoken at all. He made things worse. Because what he basically said was we are going to keep doing what we're doing now, and what we are doing now is not working."  He did not offer a serious proposal or how he would differ from the Obama administration but maybe later.  It's a long debate, after all.

Ted Cruz then talks about Syrian refugees.  "And even worse, President Obama and Hillary Clinton are proposing bringing tens of thousands of Syrian refugees to this country when the head of the FBI has told Congress they cannot vet those refugees."  The Obama administration have proposed bringing in at least ten thousand refugees.  Is it really this hard to get the number right?    And then Cruz talks about how the FBI can't vet the refugees.  Again, this is incorrect and misleading.  The FBI Director is saying that he can't 100% guarantee that there is not a no-risk process.

This is directly pandering to the base that Cruz is trying to attract.

#Timetodrink: The 5th Republican debate - opening statements

I have my holiday cocktail ready, that's right I'm a part of the war on Christmas.  Let's read through the transcript of the Republican debate.

Rand Paul, in his opening remarks talked about Donald Trump wanting to close the internet to help stop terrorism.  While Trump's remarks were off base and clearly unfeasible and a sign of a totalitarian regime as Paul correctly notes, Trump's comments about how to combat terrorism is almost partially right.  As we learned in ISIS: The State of Terror, the whack-a-mole approach to shutting down terrorist accounts on Twitter or other social media sites as they pop up do actually detract from their reach and help to stop reaching new followers but it would be unfeasible, illegal, and immoral to shut down the internet for certain regions.

"I think if we want to defeat terrorism, I think if we truly are sincere about defeating terrorism, we need to quit arming the allies of ISIS. If we want to defeat terrorism, the boots on the ground -- the boots on the ground need to be Arab boots on the ground," Paul continued.  As much as it pains me to admit, Paul has a point.  King Abdullah of Jordan argues that the only solution to ISIS would be a Muslim solution in which Muslim countries fight off ISIS themselves.  This is actually something that is currently happening.  This is strange, I thought that Republicans would offer something that is new and not at all a part of the current Obama administration plan.

Oh well, at least he's in the debate and won't decide this week whether or not he should continue running for President.

"Just last weekend, just last week, a friend asked one of my daughters, "Do you like politics?" And my daughter said, "No, I don't. And the reason I don't like it is because there's too much fighting, too much yelling. It's so loud, I don't like it." You know, I turned to my friend and I said, "You know, she's really on to something."

And when we think about our country and the big issues that we face in this country; creating jobs, making sure people can keep their jobs, the need for rising wages, whether our children when they graduate from college can find a job, protecting the homeland, destroying ISIS, rebuilding defense. These are all the things that we need to focus on but we'll never get there if we're divided. We'll never get there if republicans and democrats just fight with one another.

Frankly, we are republicans and they're democrats but before all of that, we're Americans. And I believe we need to unify in so many ways to rebuild our country, to strengthen our country, to rebuild our defense, and for America to secure it's place it world; for us, for our children, and for the next generation." I posted the entirety of John Kasich's remarks here, just in case he argues or yells at anyone throughout the debate.

His level-headedness and his commitment to bipartisanship is not necessarily real but the fact that he exists is literally the only reason that journalists continue to believe that there are bipartisan Republicans running for President and office.

Chris Christie garbled about something about safety in Los Angeles which literally has nothing to do with Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton but whatevs.  Then he ended on this note, "What is (sic) Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton done to this country? That the most basic responsibility of an administration is to protect the safety and security of the American people. I will tell you this, I'm a former federal prosecutor, I've fought terrorists and won and when we get back in the White House we will fight terrorists and win again and America will be safe."  Chris Christie was appointed as a federal prosecutor on December 7, 2001.  His lone prosecution against terrorists was the Fort Dix attack (that I'm aware of).

Next we have failed HP CEO Carly Fiorina, "Like all of you I'm angry. I'm angry at what's happening to our nation. Citizens, it's time to take our country back.

Bombastic insults wont take it back. Political rhetoric that promises a lot and delivers little, won't take it back. All of our problems can be solved. All of our wounds can be healed by a tested leader who is willing to fight for the character of our nation."

For the record, she says that bombastic insults and political rhetoric that promises a lot and delivers little will not take our country back while saying that we need to take the country back, implying a bombastic insult on Barack Obama.  This is immediately followed by "all of our wounds can be healed by a tested leader who is willing to fight for the character of our nation."  This is not political rhetoric that promises a lot and delivers little.

Oh Christ. Drink.

"I have been tested. I have beaten breast cancer. I have buried a child. I started as a secretary. I fought my way to the top of corporate America while being called every B word in the book. I fought my way into this election and on to this debate stage while all the political insiders and the pundits told, "it couldn't be done."

I don't want to do this. BUT Fiorina was born to a family of a law professor who later became a judge.  Not exactly humble beginnings.  After fighting to the top of corporate America, she failed miserably.  Also, let's not move on from the fact that she talked about the death of her daughter as a political point.

And then to top it off, she "fought [her] way into this election and on to this debate stage."  Well, not exactly.  By her fighting, she stopped polls from being conducted after August 6.  She also fought to make sure CNN would amend the rules.  The new rules allowed anyone in the top 10 from August 7 to September 10.  Oh wait.  CNN did all of this.  Fiorina actually didn't fight for it.  But that ruins the narrative.

Jeb Bush who should be doing better continued with his opening remarks which included "the leading democrat is under investigation. And America is under the gun to lead the free world to protect our civilized way of life."  Meh.  Scott Walker once led the polls and he was under investigation.  Chris Christie is currently under investigation.  Marco Rubio is not under investigation but has a scandal about his credit card.  Jeb, himself, did not release any e-mails about the 2000 election or voter purge.  But you know, it's always about Hillary.

Marco Rubio was next.  "It's really amazing to be back in Las Vegas. I spent six years as a child growing not far from where we stand tonight. I use to sit on the porch of our home and listen to my grandfather tell stories as he smoked one of three daily cigars."  Rubio was Mormon during that time.  This is a fact he doesn't want to share, apparently.  Also, what the hell? Three cigars!? That's insane.

"One of the things my grandfather instilled in me, was that I was really blessed because I was a citizen of the greatest country in the history of our mankind."  No words for this one.

Next is the junior Senator from Texas who has been in the Senate since January of 2013.

"America is at war. Our enemy is not violent extremism. It is not some unnamed malevolent force. It is radical Islamic terrorist. We have a president who is unwilling to utter its name. The men and women on this stage, every one of us, is better prepared to keep this nation safe than is Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton."

The magical words of radical Islamic terrorism.  Do we really think that uttering the phrase will somehow make it better or make the Obama administration better at foreign policy? Or more able to defeat ISIS?  Also, it's kind of weird to blatantly announce we are at war.  You know.  Especially with this in mind.  Also, there is not a possible world where I trust Ben Carson over Hillary Clinton on foreign policy.

"We need a president who understands the first obligation of the commander-in-chief is to keep America safe. If I am elected president, we will hunt down and kill the terrorists. We will utterly destroy ISIS."

You mean like Osama bin Laden?  It's not like Obama has had countless drone strikes killing terrorists all the time, as well.

"We will stop the terrorist attacks before they occur because we will not be prisoners to political correctness. Rather, we will speak the truth. Border security is national security and we will not be admitting jihadists as refugees."  So there is a way to screen refugees?  Or we will just simply not admit them.

Then there's Ben Carson, "please join me for a moment of silence and remembrance of the San Bernardino victims. Thank you."  I'm going to be charitable and assume there was a break in the transcript and the moment was not accurately captured.

Carson also brought up that ISIS is an existential threat to the United States which is probably not true.  Then he just brings up the same thing President Barack Obama already did.  "And I am asking the Congress, which represents the people, to declare a war on ISIS so that we can begin the process of excising that cancer and begin the healing process, and bring peace, prosperity, and safety back to America."

But guys Barack Obama already did this twice, now.

I am skipping Trump's opening statement.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

One more thing

The goals of pro-choice and pro-life people are essentially the same. We both want to limit the amount of abortions that occur. Attacking facilities that provide services to women, blocking contraceptives for women, and the further stigmatization of those who have abortions does not assist in this goal. If you want to limit the number of abortions, the goal should be to limit the number of unwanted pregnancies and to help with adoptions to make them easier, quicker, and cheaper for parents to adopt. You limit unwanted pregnancies by providing contraceptive services for everyone at a reduced rate or for free. Further, more advanced versions of contraception, such as IUD's, should be cheaper for the consumer to be able to get them. IUD's have one of the highest rates of success in preventing someone from being pregnant. Beyond that, they can be removed as needed if she decides to get pregnant later on. Plan B and other emergency contraceptives should be allowed to be sold over the counter without an age requirement or parental consent.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Weighing your vote

On November 17, 2015 Representative Michael McCaul introduced HR 4038 American SAFE Act of 2015.  The bill would effectively halt the current Syria refugee program while implementing a new system for background checks for Syrian refugees.  The new program would require background checks conducted by the FBI in addition to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).  In addition, the head of the FBI, DHS, and Director of National Intelligence would have to certify that they personally believe that the refugee is not a threat to national security before the refugee is admitted into the United States.  I'm sure that there are nuances in the law that I am missing and someone can happily point them out in the comments and I'll add them to the post, if they feel it is necessary.  The next day, my Congressman, Representative Brad Ashford co-sponsored the bill.  He was the only Democrat who co-sponsored the bill.  When it came up to vote, he joined 46 other Democrats in voting for the bill.

I like Ashford as a candidate and a Congressman.  I have some friends who worked on his campaign.  He was able to unseat the incumbent Republican in 2014 which was pretty impressive.  If I was registered to vote in my current district instead of casting my absentee ballot in California, he would have gotten my vote.  All of that being said, I wasn't surprised that he was a co-sponsor of the bill but I was still disappointed when I found out.  It's not the last straw for me with him, not by a long shot but I know that some progressives in the area have already had their issues with him and this is just another thing on their checklist of why they won't support him as a candidate in 2016.

On Saturday, Louisiana voters decided to elected John Bel Edwards as Governor over Republican Senator David Vitter.  Edwards campaigned his ass off on the scandal surrounding Vitter about hiring prostitutes while he was in Washington, D.C.  He also promised to accept the federal expansion of Medicaid.  This was highly important coming just weeks after Matt Bevin won the gubernatorial election in Kentucky, in part, because he promised to reject the Medicaid expansion in defiance to Steve Beshear.  Some progressives were elated at the idea of Edwards becoming the new Governor of Louisiana because of the expansion of Medicaid.  While others were disappointed because of his opposition to abortion and gun control.

We understand, hopefully, that not all politicians are perfect.  They are not perfectly matched to our desires of what they should be.  You know what, we're not perfect, either.  We hold people to impossible standards and then are disappointed when they don't meet them and we look for ways out.  This is human nature.

All we can do is try to use our voices to make sure that the politicians who disappoint are held accountable.  The problem is that in politics, it is a zero sum game.  With the current duopoly of the political system by the Democratic and Republican Party, a third party vote is the equivalent of a crush on a co-worker when you are in a committed relationship, an idealization that will never actually come to fruition.  If you gin up support for your preferred third party candidate, you end up hurting the chances of someone who agrees with you, let's say 60-~98% of the time.  And in the end, the person that you are voting for in the third-party vote, you only end up agreeing about ~50% of the time, anyway, but it's the damn principle of the thing.

Your other option, which is the preferred option by myself and others, is to vote against the candidate in the primary election.  In an ideal world, you vote for the person who most represents your view in every election.  This means that in the primary election, if you are a progressive, you vote for the most progressive candidate and then in the general election, you continue to vote for the most progressive candidate even if they disagreed with you on a certain issue.  And it sucks.  I understand.  I live in a pretty conservative district, I keep hoping for true progressives to run in the election but it never ends up happening.

Let's take Ashford, for an example.  He voted for the Keystone XL Pipeline.  He's voted for halting the Syrian refugee program.  At what point should I continue to believe that he is the right candidate for me or for any progressive?  Well, if you have these issues in mind and that he is voting contrary to your beliefs, you may look towards his other votes or co-sponsorships of bills.  And hey, maybe, you find something there that you like.  He doesn't support the normal pro-life legislation so there's that to hang your hat on.  Then you remember that any candidate running in this district will support the same bills Ashford does but DOES support the pro-life legislation.  So maybe that's enough for you.  Unfortunately, it's not very exciting.  You would want someone to primary Ashford to cast your vote for the more progressive candidate hoping to get your message across.  But in the end, when he wins the primary, you hold your nose and vote for him in the general.

At what point do you end up not supporting the candidate in the general?  In my opinion, the only time comes when they support the same bills in every meaningful fashion.  In the Ashford example, maybe you're pro-life and all the other things that Ashford is that generic Republican candidate x is.  Maybe they are the exact same person or maybe you just don't agree with the differences that Ashford holds over Republican candidate x.  I guess, it's possible.  At that point, it would be wise to vote for the other candidate.  Vote for the candidate that most closely resembles your views on all facets of policy that you find meaningful.  Policy always trumps personal grudges.

Before we reach the primaries for next year, I'll be unveiling my legislative scorecard for this Congressional session.  I will also be endorsing candidates for the, first time ever.  I'm hoping that this helps in decision-making.  I will be as transparent, as possible.  I will be showing what my policy goals for each arena and where the candidates fall.  I'm hoping that the project doesn't take too much of my time but we'll see.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Hart and Talent

Be prepared for probably at least 10 posts on Gary Hart.

I've been reading All the Truth is Out which is largely about the week that Gary Hart's affair went public and the ramifications of his downfall.  There is perhaps no politician that I identify with more than Gary Hart at a personal level.  Perhaps that is why the book has become somewhat of an obsession for me, along with What it Takes.  He comes off as a self-obsessed asshole who hates himself almost as much as he hates everyone else.  Which, to be fair, he probably is.  And to be fairer, I definitely am.  Beyond that, his tics, his style of speaking, his lack of confidence in himself, his stubborness, his unwillingness to listen to others for advice, all of these things remind me of myself.  I despair, profoundly.

Those on the left hate him because he probably did more to usher in the Democratic Leadership Council than any other person beyond Bill Clinton.  He pissed off labor unions because, I'm guessing, he still held a grudge for the AFL-CIO for endorsing Richard Nixon instead of George McGovern.  You know what? That was a stupid decision for the AFL-CIO and I still think to a degree that Hart was justified in harboring this anger.

Those on the right hate him because he authored reports from 1999-2001 arguing that the biggest threat for the 21st century would be stateless terrorists and then, of course, George W. Bush and his administration ignored the report to little or no consequences.  Then he rejected the notion that the Iraqi war should be supported by Democrats or Americans for that matter.  He argued that this would further destabilize the region and not actually go after the problem of terrorists.  Of course, they're mostly upset that he couldn't keep it in his pants long enough to become the nominee and have this scandal unfold in the middle of the general election.  Of course George H.W. Bush won 1988 pretty handily, so it's mostly water under the bridge now.

I say all this to bring up the point of this post.  Hart talks to Matt Bai, the author of this book, and talks about his despair over losing the Dem nomination.  But moreso, the problem that Hart expressed is that he knew he would be a great President if he could get elected his way.  He failed and in his own words admits in a memo soon after the affair that he despairs profoundly.

Hart relays his greatest despair about not winning the nomination and does it with his traditional style of bringing up theology and is able to hit on the biggest fear that I have and what causes me the greatest anxiety of my life.

To paraphrase Gary Hart and the Bible, we have the parable of the talents.

Jesus tells the story of the master going on a trip. And he gives the three servants talents, a talent being a form of money. And to one he gave ten talents, to one he gave five, and to one he gave one. And he said, ‘You are to be the stewards of these talents. And manage them wisely for me.’ “He comes back from the trip and he asks all of the three servants how they managed the money that he’d given them. The ten-talent man had invested it and made some money. The five-talent man had wisely invested. But the one-talent man was afraid to lose it, and he buried it, and he just had the one talent to give back. And the master condemned him and said, ‘You are not a faithful servant, because you didn’t use your talents wisely.

And to quote Matt Bai and Gary Hart giving words to my fears and anxieties:

“Well, this haunts me,” Hart said, looking directly at me in the darkness, his eyes brimming and red. “Because I think you are given certain talents. And you are judged by how you use those talents. And to the degree I believe in some kind of hereafter or transmigration of the soul, I will be judged by how I did or did not use the talents that I was given. And I don’t think I’ve used them very well.”

And I don't think I have either.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Umbrella Man

Every once in a while, I post that I'm thinking about the lesson of the umbrella man.  I feel like I should explain what the umbrella man is and what I think the lesson is.  Since I am essentially Wikipedia on a couple of subjects, I wanted to add to my collection:

The umbrella man was a man in the infamous Zapruder film and other photographs that were taken during the JFK assassination.  The man was holding an umbrella which he opened as the limousine approached.  He put on kind of a show.  Because it was the JFK assassination, there were conspiracy theories trying to point this man as someone who was signaling when to shoot the President or maybe he was concealing a shooter from view on the film.  The man did not know he was so wanted by the public until an appeal from the House Select Committee on Assassinations initiated a public appeal to find out who this man was.

Instead of signaling for an assassination or to conceal his fellow conspirators, he was doing something much more complicated.  He was protesting the support of Kennedy's father for the great appeaser, Neville Chamberlain.  His argument was that the black umbrella was the trademark fashion accessory of Chamberlain and since Kennedy's thesis was on appeasement, he would get this strange protest.

This protest, if seen, by Kennedy probably never registered.  Instead, we were left for 15 years wondering what this man was doing.

The lesson to me is that people do strange things for strange but almost always their own reasons.  If someone is doing something strange, there is, in all probability, a much more unlikelier explanation of why they are doing what they are doing.  Instead of jumping to conspiracy theories or what we seem to think are crazy explanations, we should try to address the person committing the action for the explanation.  Or we can just stop deciding the reason someone takes a particular action.