Friday, August 28, 2015

Update: GOP Debate Drinking Game for 2016 But For the September 2015 Foofaraw In Particular

If you know what "foofaraw" means - no cheating using Google or online dictionaries - go ahead a take a drink.  Meanwhile, this post is NSFW so please blog responsibly...

If the Republicans are gonna have a debate every month leading up into the primary season, might as well update the GOP Debate Drinking Game every month as well.

I know people won't stop visiting the August one - given search engine algorithms - but I hope this September one lives up to expectations.

At least Crazy Eddie will have your specialty drink orders lined up on the Motie blog.  He's got special ones for Trump, but I would recommend getting Mexican brews just to spite Teh Donald.  It's your call.  Just remember, I don't drink I'm just the designated driver around these parts.

Here are the ground rules about drinking:

1. Respect your liver.  Have the decency to pass out before you drink to death.
2. Choose a designated driver to make sure you can get home safe.  Also have buckets and towels ready for any vomiting.
3. Get your declaration of love for your friendly toilet bowl done while you're sober.  Make sure the crawl path between your chair and that toilet is free of any sharp objects that can cut your kneecaps.
4. Even if you drink only water for this game, be aware that too much water is toxic.
5. Do not be surprised if something insane, insulting, and inconceivable not even covered by this drinking game happens during debate night.  Nobody had Trump going after Megyn Kelly (or her attacking him with pointed questions) the way he did this August.  Just be prepared for some serious xenophobia, librul-bashing, and the slight possibility that the Republican Party establishment leaders are drinking more than you.

So, for the debate set at The Ronald Reagan Worship Temple of Passive-Positive Conservatism for this Wednesday September 16: THE REPUBLICAN PRE-PRIMARY "2015 IS TOO EARLY TO CAMPAIGN DAMMIT" DRINKING GAME (be prepared for Updates as situations change, by the way)

General Rules
  • If any candidate talks about meeting Ronald Reagan in person, take a drink.
  • (Update) If any candidate talks about being invited to the Reagan Library so that St. Ronnie could anoint him/her as THE CHOSEN ONE, take two drinks.  If the candidate points to the exact spot it took place, add a drink.
  • (Update) If any candidate shows his/her own library card for the Reagan Library, take a drink.  If Nancy Reagan or the Library Director comes on stage with a receipt showing fifty dollars or more of overdue fines and lost returns, take a drink for every ten dollars of overdues, and take three drinks for every lost book.
  • (Update) If all sixteen candidates perform a Black Mass to summon the demonic form of Reagan in his Hall of Power, to smite all and bring about the apocalypse, drink whole bottle and barricade the doors and windows.
  • (Update) If any candidate praises Fox Not-News for "honesty and credibility" even though THIS debate is Live on CNN, throw bottle at screen.
  • If any candidate tries to out-pander Trump, take a drink. This also applies to Trump, who is allowed within the rules to pander as much as inhumanly possible.
  • (From @word_34 aka SkarkWeekSneak) If "Hillary" "email" or "server" are mentioned in the same sentence, you have to do double shots.  Throw in "Benghazi" here too.
  • (Update) If a foreign policy matter that DOESN'T involve war drumming or trade boycotts even comes up as a debate topic, drink whole bottle in surprise.
  • If any candidate accuses Obama of being the Worst President Ever, throw a dart at a photo of Dubya taped to the wall and take two drinks.
  • If any candidate calls for the defunding of Planned Parenthood, take a drink.  If the candidate calls for the arrest of Planned Parenthood staffers, take two drinks.  If the candidate calls for the arrest of women who go to Planned Parenthood even for basic women's health care needs, turn off the TV and get stinking drunk because the Republicans are pretty much writing off the women's vote even in Red States.
  • If any candidate calls for the impeachment of Barack Obama over:
    Executive orders, take two drinks;
    The Iran treaty, take six drinks in honor of the other nation signatories;
    Disrespecting Congress, take seven drinks for each year Obama's had to deal with their sh-t;
    Being an illegal Marxist Muslim Kenyan, finish whole bottle.
    (Update) The way Obama ties his shoelaces, even though Obama wears loafers, finish whole bottle.

And now, to the specific doom-bringers by order of the most current polling track.  CNN will follow Fox Not-News guidelines of having the top ten polled on the big stage (so this list will get a cut-off set during the final Update) with the survivors clinging to hope during an earlier round of debates, but is offering near-equal coverage otherwise.  New drink rules for each one will be established, although the good funny ones from August may roll over:

Donald Trump
  • Just take a drink already.  It doesn't matter what he says because whatever it is will drain the soul and break the heart.  When he speaks, just BOOM one shot, slam the glass / bottle down on the table, and wait for the next one.
  • If Trump describes The Trump Wall in any detail, take two drinks.  If he uses the word "classy" as part of the description, add a drink.
  • If Trump attacks the moderator verbally for what he feels is an insulting question or directed barb, take a drink.  If Trump disparages the moderator's gender, take two drinks.  If Trump expresses disdain for the moderator's fashion sense, finish off the bottle.
  • If Trump describes Nancy as a "classy broad," just sit there flummoxed because it'll be a clue that TRUMP has been drinking before getting on-stage.

Ben Carson

  • If Carson or anyone else mentions how he's gotten to the Number Two spot behind Trump in the polls despite the fact he's got no legislative or administrative experience at all, take a drink.  If they try to describe this as a GOOD thing - the anti-government belief that experience in governance is actually BAD - drink whole bottle.
  • If Carson correctly names the capital of Uzbekistan (it's Tashkent), take a drink.  If any other candidate fails to name a nation's capital, salute Carson for actually working on his foreign policy homework. 

Jeb! Bush

  • If Jeb! accidentally uses the term "anchor babies" to describe Mexican-Americans, take a drink.
  • If Jeb! accidentally uses the term "anchor babies" to describe Asian-Americans, take a drink.
  • If Jeb! accidentally uses the term "anchor babies" to describe Puerto Ricans who are already Americans thanks to laws passed in 1917(!), take a drink.
  • If Jeb! accidentally uses the term "anchor babies" to describe Canadian-Americans, laugh mercilessly at Ted Cruz and take two drinks.
  • If Jeb! accidentally uses the term "anchor babies" to describe Czech-Americans, call up a Hebrew mystic, forge a golem using Rabbi Loeb's methods, then have the golem take a drink 'cause buddy he needs it.
  • If Jeb! accidentally uses the term "anchor babies" to describe Native Americans, sober up damn quick 'cause that sh-t ain't funny.
  • If Jeb! accidentally uses the term "anchor babies" to describe Greek-Americans,  start the rioting in the streets of Tarpon Springs FL with mass burnings of Jeb! in effigy, then take a drink.
  • If Jeb! accidentally uses the term "anchor babies" to describe Italian, Irish, German, French, Swedish, Norwegian, Dutch, Polish, or any other Euro-Americans, you're probably passed out at that point because he's run out of ethnic groups to insult.

Marco Rubio

  • If Rubio quits the stage and flies straight to Cuba because he can't take this stupid electoral process serious anymore, drink whole bottle.
  • If Rubio charges that flight to the RNC's credit card, start another bottle and finish that off.

Ted Cruz

  • I still think it's possible if Cruz attempts to suck the soul or eat the heart of Donald Trump live on-stage, you should drink whole bottle.
  • If Cruz merely attempts to fellatio Trump on-stage instead, take two drinks and spit.
  • If Cruz talks about Rorschach being his favorite comic book character, cry into your drink first before finishing the whole thing off.

Scott Walker

  • If Walker tries to say anything along the lines of "I have no strong feelings about that issue one way or the other," take a drink.
  • If Walker tries to say anything along the lines of "I'll support whatever the other candidates support," cook a Belgian Waffle, eat the waffle, throw the waffle maker at the TV screen, then drink whole bottle.

Carly Fiorina

  • If Carly brings out a bouquet of flowers sent to her by Roger Ailes and puts it on the podium, take a drink.
  • If Carly talks about the need for a strong business executive with a track record of success to serve as President, remove her from the stage and replace her with eBay's Margaret Whitman.
  • If Carly talks about mutant wolf-sheep, drink whole bottle.

John Kasich

  • If Kasich talks about a balanced budget amendment, take a drink.
  • If Kasich talks about a balanced budget amendment while discussing foreign policy matters, take two drinks.
  • If Kasich talks about a balanced budget amendment during an argument over which teams are likely to play in this year's World Series, slap the man and finish off bottle.  Then again, neither the Reds nor the Indians are in playoff contention so... 

Mike Huckabee

  • If Huckabee says one damn word about his "ability" to judge morality in others, scream JOSH DUGGAR at the top of your lungs and throw every bottle at the screen.
  • If this f-cking Pharisee even tries to play the holier-than-thou crap on-stage, throw every intact bottle at the screen again.

Rand Paul

  • If Paul lights up a blunt on-stage, do the same (California's legit to light up, yeah?)
  • If Paul uses a bong shaped like Reagan's head, take three tokes.
  • If Paul shares any of his Ayn Rand/Robert Heinlein fanfic from college, put that roll out and stop laughing.  Bro, dude, I said stop.  Yo, it hehe ain't that hehaho funny oh no hehehahaha the second-hand smoke's cough cough hahahaha is getting to me...

Chris Christie

Rick Perry

  • This never gets old: If Perry flubs a debate answer (again), take three drinks.
  • If Perry openly wonders where the hell his deep-pocket Texan friends are while his campaign shuts down due to running out of non-SuperPAC funds, laugh and take three drinks.

Rick Santorum

  • If Santorum punches out any Google executives in the audience during the debate, take two drinks.

Rick, uh Bobby Jindal

  • If Jindal openly admits he's pandering his heart out to get even a hearty handshake from someone, ANYONE, shout back at the screen "Go ask Grover" and take a drink.
  • If Jindal pulls out a remote detonator and threatens to blow up a Louisiana Planned Parenthood office right there on the stage, call the FBI on him for terrorist activity and take a drink.

Lindsey Lohan uh Graham

  • If Lindsay talks about her upcoming work schedule such as a new pop album and hopes of a Hollywood comeback, you've got the wrong Lindsey on your channel so switch it over from TMZ back to CNN.
  • If Lindsey talks about his upcoming work schedule of shutting down the government over the Iran treaty, take a drink and switch it back to TMZ.

George Pataki and Jim Gilmore

  • Dudes.  No invite.  Go home.

Whew.  I need a drink after writing all that.

If anyone has suggestions for rules, please pass them along in the Comments area or if that's not working to tweet me @PaulWartenberg as long as it's at least 48 hours before the debate begins so I can make sure everything's in order.  Danke.

And when it's all said and done, wake me up when September ends.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

What If: Trump Wins Nomination But The Republicans Still Say No?

Here's a little thought exercise:

What would happen if Donald Trump did last all the way up to the Republican convention in 2016, with enough delegates to even win the nomination to run as President... and the Republican party leadership is the one that bolts to run a third-party candidate instead of him?

It's an odd thought, I grant you, but it's one that might play out.

This came to me while reading up on reports of how Virginia and North Carolina's - and perhaps more states - local officials were re-writing their rules - rigging the game again, eh boys? - to require for each candidate to pledge NOT to run as a third-party or independent candidate in the general election.  It's a rule clearly aimed at the one candidate who defiantly remains open-minded about the idea (Trump) and who was hit with that pledge with the very first question at this past August debate.

Deal is, such a pledge is meaningless: if the candidate who bolts is willing to risk it, to risk his standing in the GOP afterward, he'll do it.  (It's happened before by the way, hi Pat Buchanan!)  Trump owes the Republican Party nothing, regardless of the success he's having now as the lead candidate going into 2016.  Part of the reason the GOP leadership is pushing this idea is based on pure ego: they want to rein in their wild cards, try to (re)establish themselves as The Boss Of You All.  They want to set it up so that if Trump does bolt on an independent run, he'll look like a rule-breaker / oath-breaker.

Trump could still do it anyway.  He could argue - rationally - that the pledge is a joke, skewed against only him in the first place, and that the party leaders themselves are rule-breakers for trying to implement such a code at this late hour.  His voting base would easily agree with him on that (they mistrust the Establishment already).

But here's the thing: Trump right now doesn't even have to think about bolting.  He's in the lead, by an absurdly comfortable number in most polls.  He's got the largest factions among the GOP base - the anti-immigrant nativist crowd - backing him, and he can well get enough delegates to even clinch the nomination outright in Cleveland this 2016.  Threatening him with pledges to stay in the party does nothing but alienate his followers into convincing themselves ever more that the Republican leadership does not care about "their" rights/issues.

The only thing the Republican Establishment - the ones backing "rational" players like Bush and Walker, who are both struggling to even make themselves coherent to their audiences - have going for them is the very thing any party fears this day and age: a brokered (broken) convention where no one goes in with a clear count of delegates.  That means keeping as many candidates afloat in this election cycle than they've ever done in ages (if ever: usually the delegate counts narrow down to two clear choices with a dark horse compromise waiting in the wings).

This is actually easy to do this election cycle.  With so many Active-Negative types (ambitious muthahumpers) running, few will want to volunteer to drop out.  And if they play the long game out, each candidate would see the benefits of staying in the race all the way to the end: any sizable delegate total weakens everybody else, yet gives each of them enough playing chits to demand a seat at the table when the back-room deals are hammered out.

If the Republican leadership can go into a Cleveland convention center with six or seven serious players - Trump, Bush, Walker, Rubio, Cruz, maybe Huckabee, maybe Kasich, maybe one other - they could finagle a deal where they win out (with their boy Jeb!) and make Trump accept some peace offering.  But that will only work if Trump is nowhere near the lead...

However, if Trump is in the lead - although without a clear win - there's no guarantee he'll give up his spot.  He'll claim a win is a win, and will use any trick left in the books the GOP can't write out of the Roberts Rules of Order to muddle the convention until he gets the coronation he desires.  And with enough delegates and with that threat of a third-party run - which could easily break the GOP in two as Trump's faction is clearly large enough to matter - Trump could get that nomination.

But will the rest of the Republican Party accept it?

In this scenario, Trump is coming in as the lead nominee but not the clear one.  He won't have the over-50 percent count of delegates, after all.  If we're looking at the current polling - Trump tends to sit at 24 to 33 percent of potential GOP voters - we should consider Trump getting around a quarter to a third of the party's vote.  That means there's at least two-thirds of a party that did not want him... which will definitely include a party leadership terrified that Trump's reckless campaign style can hurt their entire ticket.  Control of the Senate is clearly at stake this 2016 cycle, and the Congressional and state elections hang in the balance as well.

In this scenario, Trump may win the nomination for the Republicans but could clearly represent a hate-driven agenda that could depress voter turnout among the Republicans who didn't want him.  Trump will affect the general election count as his open hostility towards immigration - and open hostility to competent governing - will alienate the middle-third centrist/moderate voters.  If he's at the top of the ballot running on that platform it's good odds the rest of the GOP ballot will get shunned by the centrist/moderate voters too.

There is no guarantee with this fractured ballot of 16 candidates (with at least SIX viable choices who could go the distance) that the rest of the party will fall into line behind the eventual nominee (even if it isn't Trump).  A dispirited party would hurt the other races down-ballot.  In the face of this disaster, the Republican Establishment could well encourage one of their own to jump in as a last-minute Independent third-party run.

This depends on if states will allow new names on the ballot post-convention period.  Another likely scenario would be to have a minor third-party group - oh where is the Reform Party when you need it? - able to get on all states' ballots.  It is possible to pull it off.

Would the Republicans risk splitting their spot on the top part of the ticket?  If it meant keeping enough Republican voters invested in turning out, they would.

But who would?

The person who does this runs the risk of being labeled a party pariah for the rest of his political career (the Far Right wingnuts in particular will never forgive him).  It has to be someone who can command enough voter turnout to stop Trump (over 10 percent of the voters) yet convince the Republican base to vote well for the whole ballot.

There are few who could pull it off.  Jeb! Bush would have the means - more money than God, especially if the Koch Brothers still back him - but not necessarily the motivation, nor the fortitude to step outside his own comfort zone.  If there's no guarantee Jeb! gets the White House out of this move - this would likely keep Trump from winning but the Democratic candidate will be the clear winner in a three-way contest - he won't do it.  Walker perhaps, again with proper deep-pocket funding, but if he wasn't able to out-pander Trump in the first place he might not have enough of a fanbase left by then to pull this stunt off.

Cruz won't.  Partly because he's not on good terms with the Establishment faction in the first place.  And if it ever gets to where he realizes he can't out-pander Trump, he's likely to offer himself up - despite his ego - as Trump's VP choice.

Rand Paul is a likely third-party guy since he could in theory pull off a switch to the Libertarian party if it becomes clear he won't win the GOP nomination.  But would he pull enough Republican voters away from Trump while ensuring those voters still back GOP candidates for the Senate and the House?

The only remaining possibility who could and would attempt a third-party run would be the likes of Huckabee, especially if Trump stays on his own message that Planned Parenthood is "okay for women."  If he's convinced Trump is not pure on the anti-abortion stance, Huckabee would make that run claiming a spiritual mandate to do so.

Nobody else would have a support base able to pull off that move.  The Republican establishment would be hard pressed to find any volunteer to third-party against Trump even if it was for the "good of the party" (applies to the leadership only. The voting base is making itself very clear their feelings on the matter).

As a thought exercise, this didn't go very far.  If Trump is at the lead of the delegate count going into Cleveland, the Republican Party is going to have to live with certain facts: Trump won those delegates "fair and square" on a virulently racist anti-immigrant campaign, which reflects on a Republican voting base that supports such hatred.  In this scenario he's the likely GOP nominee out of the convention.

It's also likely that Trump - having campaigned so hard on that issue - will be unable to "turn back to the middle" of the regular election campaign to woo over any centrist/moderates (this is why the 2012 postmortem by their own experts argued FOR immigration reform as something the Republicans needed to pass themselves).  If the Republicans could have gotten Jeb! or Rubio past the finish line - one of the "soft on immigration" candidates who really are not that soft - they'd be in a better position to convince the media (and the public) that their nominee is "moderate" enough to win the votes.

It's also likely the Republicans are stuck: without a viable candidate able to beat Trump in the first place, they're unlikely to have a shot at running a smart third-party alternative to keep Trump from forcing the Republican Party to collapse under the weight of his own Id.

This isn't a fun thing to watch, though.  We are as a nation running a huge risk of having a neophyte impulsive egotist in Trump becoming responsible for policy decisions that affect the entire world.  If Trump does win the Republican nomination, it may not benefit the disgruntled party leadership to run a third-party candidate to weaken Trump's campaign... but it certainly will benefit the nation from keeping Trump out of the Oval Office.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

In Memoriam: Gainesville 1990

There is a wall on 34th Street in Gainesville Florida reserved for graffiti.  Technically, it's illegal to vandalize walls, but the locals have decided it was easier to let the kids and University of Florida college students tag it with their work over the years rather than cope with the hassles of stopping it or repainting over it.

According to local experts, most sections of the wall have over 250 layers of paint now.  In some places they had to replace concrete blocks because the weight of all those layers were weakening the stone.

It adds color to the scenery, in a way.  It's gotten its own Wikipedia page.

There's also a memorial there that the city and the college students honor.  It's rarely painted over, and when it is there is someone on hand to quickly repaint the memorial back in place.

1990 was my third year at UF.  Studying towards a Journalism degree, although my middling grades were telling me I would have been better off going into Political Science or something.  That August I started trying to do stringer work - freelance - for the school paper the Alligator and had gotten an article about the Harn Museum published (it would be the only one the Alligator would ever take from me, and I moved on to work for a local alternative monthly instead).

Classes were starting back up.  The college town was packed with young men and women returning or arriving for the first time.  Bicycles and cars everywhere.  Apartment complexes surrounding campus packed with 35,000 students.  Football season with Coach Spurrier starting up for the first year.

I had recently moved in with my twin brother.  I went first year to live in a dorm whereas Phil went to apartment living, and the second year my dorm roommate and I tried a year at Gatorwood Apartments before Phil needed a replacement roommate for the third year.  So there I went to Oxford Apartments on Archer Road while Mike moved on with some of his marching band-mates (funny story: if you ever watch the Florida-Notre Game bowl matchup (1992?), you'll see Mike being the one photobombing Coach Lou Holtz during a halftime interview.  The Irish went on to beat the crap out of the Gators during the second half, so yeah, the loss is totally Mike's fault.  But I digress).

That first week back in college... in my mind, I keep remembering it as being cold that week.  A chill wind for some reason, even though it was Florida in the late August month.  Maybe I'm remembering it that way because of what happened.  Because of the sorrow.

The first day killings shocked the campus.  The second day confirmed there was a serial killer on the loose and targeting young women.  Rumors got out about what the killer did to the third victim's body.  That weekend nearly every woman that could fled the city.  My brother and I stayed.  I have to admit, it was because as guys we wouldn't be targets.  We were worried, obviously.  Our female friends were threatened, but the ones we knew had fled to safety and they were going to be okay.

The third day of killings had a couple - girlfriend and boyfriend - dead in their apartment at the Gatorwood complex.  I remember biking by the apartments - it was just down the block from Oxford - and all those cop cars, all that yellow tape, and I feared the worst.

Everybody - even the guys - panicked.  Some of Phil's fraternity brothers came over to crash at our apartment that night.  The thinking was "safety in numbers" although fear was rampant.  Classes were cancelled for a few days.

Things calmed down once there was no sign of continuing atrocities, but things didn't fully return to normal.  Every apartment building went through massive security redesigns.  Some of the departed students never came back.

The police finally caught a suspect who used the same tools to commit burglaries elsewhere, and the man confessed.  He was executed by lethal injection about ten years ago.  Never say his name.  The sonofabitch wanted to be remembered as a mass murderer like Ted Bundy.  Screw him.

In time, memorials popped up.  Five trees planted outside of Library East.  The 34th Wall Memorial began that winter, and for all intents remains to this day and for as long as there is a wall there.  Five palm trees bearing signs of the victims names - Sonja, Christina, Christa, Tracy, Manuel - are planted along the street median where the Wall Memorial resides.  There may be others.

Gatorwood was bulldozed down years ago.  It had been an aging complex when Mike and I lived there.  There's a fancy expensive apartment tower there now.  Oxford Apartments was still there last I visited Gainesville with my brother Phil and my nephews for a football season opener.  Some of the places in town have changed.  Places always do.

The memories and memorials never should change.

We shouldn't forget the lives taken that didn't need to go.  There are so many of them taken from us every day across the globe, and the sorrow of it is how much waste and loss and pain there is when that happens.

If the killer had never been, right now Sonja or Christina or Christa or Tracy or Manuel would be my age or close to it, in their 40s.  Likely married or with kids of their own.  Kids old enough to be attending UF themselves by now, twenty-five years later.  All five of them could be working somewhere, as doctors or engineers or teachers.  Writing books, or painting, or composing music.  Creating, adding to the world.

We are them and they could have been us.  Maybe doing better, maybe not.  But we'll never know, we'll never see.  

All that loss during a cold week in August 1990.

In memoriam.

Monday, August 24, 2015

In the Jeb! Said What? Category Today (And It's August 2015)

Caught over the weekend using the derogatory term "anchor babies" to rail against immigration, Jeb Bush spent today trying to clarify what he actually meant by that (quote via Washington Post):

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush on Monday dismissed the controversy surrounding his use of the term “anchor baby” during a visit to this U.S.-Mexico border town, saying that he merely used the term to describe instances in which non-Americans abuse the law to gain citizenship for their children, and that it is more prevalent among Asians.
What I was talking about was the specific case of fraud being committed where there is organized efforts — and frankly it’s more related to Asian people — coming into our country, having children in that organized effort, taking advantage of a noble concept, which is birthright citizenship,” Bush told reporters during a press conference at Palenque Grill in McAllen (TX).

So... Jeb! is taking a term that applies often to Hispanic families coming into the United States - legally as well as illegally - and applying them to other ethnic groups - Chinese, Japanese, Indian - that deals with the same amount of racist hostility from Caucasian-American a-holes.

Interestingly enough, the insult "anchor baby" originally applied to Vietnamese refugees coming to the United States after the fall of South Vietnam in the 1970s.  So in a way Jeb! is kind of right.  He's just still incredibly racist about it.

Jeb! has pretty much insulted two massive ethnic voting blocs - even as they are in reality culturally diverse within their own ranks - with one blow.  The tone-deafness of this act points to two things: 1) Jeb! really doesn't know how to campaign on a national stage, and 2) The point-of-view of the epistemic bubble Jeb! lives in does not look kindly upon ANY ethnic group that's not rich and Eurocentric.

At this rate, I wouldn't be surprised if Jeb! goes out of his way to insult Greek-Americans next.  I would love to see Jeb! burned in effigy along the streets of Tarpon Springs FL.

This is your Republican Party, America: even the "Establishment" candidates are talking the language of hate and discrimination.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Florida Problem #1589, also known as "Florida Gerrymandering And the Legislature Is Effed Up" Edition

I was just chatting about this on Monday, when news kept creeping out of Tallahassee - that's the state capital for all you 5th graders out there needing to learn these things for the new school year - about how the two branches of the state legislature were at odds over gerrymanders.

Remember, the state court basically ordered the government to redraw most of the map for the Congressional districts - and also the state Senate, it seems - so that the map would conform to the voter-approved state amendments enforcing fair districts.  The courts insisted on certain deadlines, with the first week of September the goal but with the legislature needing to get something confirmed by this weekend.

Well, given the track record of this current session - how the House literally quit on itself, how the Senate and House are at odds over every little detail now, how half the elected officials seem to either not know or not CARE about how things work - don't be surprised at the results (from the Tampa Bay Times):

A special legislative session to fix Florida's flawed congressional district lines ended in chaos Friday as senators staged a walkout and the House rejected Senate requests to extend the session into a third week.
Lawmakers ended the session on time but with no agreement on a new map. As a result, legislators have turned over the job of redrawing the 27 districts to a trial judge, who can choose a House or Senate map, solicit other options or create his own to comply with a Florida Supreme Court decision ordering lawmakers to fix eight districts that it said were illegally gerrymandered.
"That should make everybody nervous," said Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando...

You would think that the Republicans in charge of both houses of the lege would have known that.  That it was in their best interests to actually come up with SOMETHING the court judge would accept as a good-faith effort.

At the Congressional level, the state Republicans had drawn out a map that favored their party with 17 "safe" districts - with +1 to +5 favor in registered voters - to 10 districts drawn to favor Democrats.  Considering how Democrats outnumber Republicans as voters in a 38-to-33-to-25 (the 25 percent is Indy voters) percentages, that 60-to-40 skew was viciously unfair.  The Republicans could have STILL drawn up a map that cleared out the obvious gerrymanders like the snake-shaped 5th District (heavily Dem by the way) and still given themselves at least a 14-to-13 advantage, but noooooooo apparently they wanted as much of it as mathematically possible and to hell with any trade-aways.

It's the sheer open INCOMPETENCE that ought to be troubling everybody, as Times' columnist John Romano points out:

...After all, this is a state that single-handedly held up a presidential election in 2000. It bungled the 1876 presidential election, too. For crying out loud, this is a state that elected Rick Scott as governor. Twice!
Considering such an inglorious history, how could 2015 possibly be in the running as the worst of the bunch?
Simple. It is the consistent stupidity. The relentless undermining and backstabbing. It is the utter dedication to self-interest in the guise of public service.
Truly, it has been a remarkable eight-month run in Tallahassee. Scandal followed by embarrassment followed by ineptness. And all of it without a hint of shame or remorse...

Romano points to the fiasco of Rick "No Ethics" Scott violating state ethics by forcing the chief of the state's law enforcement office out over refusing to persecute people for a political agenda, and then highlighted how our state's legislature couldn't settle their budget issues on time in April and literally quit on the state.

...The state House followed by ending the legislative session early — technically, another constitutional no-no — because it refused to accept billions of dollars in federal money so poverty-level residents could buy private health insurance.
That required spending additional tax dollars on a special session to agree on a budget that included even more state spending to make up for the federal money we refused.
As if one special session weren't enough, the state Supreme Court sent legislators back to Tallahassee this month to redraw congressional maps that had been influenced by political consultants in violation of the Constitution. Noticing a trend here?

HEY! WHOA! That "notice a trend" shtick is MY deal, Romano, go get your own!

These acts are outrageous failures of growing consistency out of our legislature.  In the 38 years I've lived in this state, of the years since my high school years where I was aware of what the state government did, I have never witnessed such gridlock and failure to perform out of our state capital.

The insane part is that two of the three major branches of our state - the governor's office, both houses of legislature - are all part of the same political party.  You would think the Republicans would have their sh-t together and stay on the same page or at least work out a deal among their own ranks.  I mean, that's part of their identity: DEMOCRATS are this disorganized for God's sake (and yet are still able to work among themselves, go figure).

This Republican Party in Florida can't even get themselves coordinated over drawing up a district electoral map that could at least pass the court judge's bullsh-t detector.  Either the entire game-plan of gerrymandering is that far out of bounds of legality that there was no advantage to the GOP - that any map variations they drew up for districts pretty much gave Democrats a majority of districts - or else the Republican legislators didn't even care anymore and are daring the courts to come up with their own maps.

Which I hope to God the court judges do.

There are computer programs out there that can generate population maps, and some of them can be easily configured for voter placement and population density.  As long as the districts follow the other rules of compactness, conforming to geographic boundaries (water lines) and city/county lines as best as possible, and near closeness of population (within margin of error), a computer map can get charted and printed out within hours.  Addicting Info website even used a system by computer engineer Brian Olsen to draw up this map:

Which looks like it respects the population density of Florida's cities and counties without creating districts that lollygag their way across half the state.  The court judge can easily choose that map and bada-bing bada-boom we've got ourselves a 2016 Congressional election worth paying attention to.

And we shouldn't be wasting taxpayer money on a group of "elected" officials who won't do their f-cking jobs.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

RIP Republican Party 1856 - 2015

(Update: Hello to the Crooks and Liars readers!  Hope you enjoy reading my blog!  Check back in, I should have a Drinking Game rules for the September GOP Debate up this weekend...)

What we once called the Republican Party here in the United States is officially dead.

Oh, the dying has been going on for some time, and in public view for the world to see.  It's just nobody did anything to stop it, and indeed far too many people within the ranks of the party encouraged and hastened the demise.

The structure and body of the Republican Party still remains, of course: however, the soul and spirit that once animated this august body has now departed.  What we have left is a shambling ghoul, with enough brain power to endlessly loop the same one-liner bursts of outrage but unable to perform more recognizable human traits such as empathy, adaptability, and long-range planning.

The Republicans began in the mid-1850s to fill the vacuum of the dying Whig Party at the most tumultuous period in American history.  While the party took on many of the Whig traits - a federalized Union, pro-business merchant/industrial class which required increased education and improved transportation networks (aka massive construction projects) - it also rallied around a radical agenda opposed to chattel slavery.  This became the singular trait of the party as the threat of slavery - driven by the southern states led by the upper class Democratic Party slaveowners -  spread to all states including ones that had been Free states for generations.

The fights between the Democrats and the Republicans in the 1850s revolved around: whether slavery should spread into Western territories, whether Northern states should assist Southern states in detaining any Blacks that Southerners accused of being runaways, whether slavery should even exist as it violated various concepts of religious and social decency.  To the Democrats, led by rich Southern slaveowners who could not comprehend a world without cheap labor to fuel their cotton empires, the call to end slavery came across as a call to their destruction.  To the Republicans, led by religious and civil rights leaders who could not accept the evils of physical and spiritual abuse, the push to spread slavery was a horror akin to war.

Those opposing views - intractable, uncompromising - led to war, the bloodiest our nation had ever seen.  The results of that war solidified the Republicans as the political power of the nation well into the 20th Century and kept the Democrats as a secondary yet stabilizing political presence that held onto power at a regional level through populist efforts and reactionary (Jim Crow) fervor.  By 1900, we as a nation were stuck with a two-party system, which keeps the balance.

There's another thing to mention called the Iron Law of Oligarchy: that any organization in a democratic/republican form of government will evolve into a group that serves its "oligarchic tendencies" (that is, it serves the needs of the elites rather than the needs of the lower-rung members).  A variation on that Law is that any party or organization reaches a moment where that group must either compromise on its founding principles to survive as an organization, or else collapse upon itself.

In the American system of governance, compromise was built into the process in the first place: the entire system of checks and balances is supposed to ensure that the three branches work in harmony, and when the factions of party emerged the rules were tweaked and re-enforced to ensure the checks and balances would make the parties aim for bipartisanship.  It becomes an issue of which oligarchs hold sway over other oligarchs to maintain a balance, through which they keep the lower classes mollified with reasonable laws and policies.

Most of the times, this worked: whenever needed, a shift in the political paradigms allowed one party to gain favor and enact reforms.  The Progressive Era of the early 20th Century, for example, was when reformer factions in both parties were able to direct legislation that fixed most corrupt practices in business and politics and also led to serious reforms such as the women's vote.

But something changed.  A restructuring of the parties after the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s led to a realignment of party ideologies.  Where conservative and liberal values were split between Republican and Democratic as social, religious, and economic agendas - Republicans were economic conservative and social liberal, Democrats were social conservative and economic liberal - in 1968 the Republicans made the conscious decision to court all conservative thought into their own ranks.

It was called the Southern Strategy, because the Democrats had gone in on passing civil liberties laws that alienated their Southern factions left over from the Civil War.  Rather than let those Southern votes alienate themselves into a regional third-party element (the Dixiecrats of 1948), the Republicans realized they could count on those voters as a cohesive bloc that would secure state and legislative powers and even the occasional Presidential win.

As a result, the Republican Party became more conservative on ALL issues, and those issues began to intermingle to where economic policy blended into religious policy and overwhelmed social policy.  Where there were points of moderation, of seeking common ground between ideological poles, the Republicans shifted Hard Right on all gears and kept going Right.

The conservative media keeps calling the strategy a "myth" or a liberal lie - and like to point out that it used to be Democrats who relied on such a strategy during the New Deal era - but the evidence is pretty strong (Hi, Lee Atwater!) over the decades that the Republicans made the moves to court and hold such voters, and to pander to them to win elections.

The Republicans keep priding themselves on being "The Party of Lincoln" yet it's been the Republicans since the 1990s who have actively sought to suppress voting rights for Blacks.

The Republicans keep pushing their own goalposts, resetting the ideological purity for their party so far Right Wing that the party no longer respects the very concept of bipartisanship, no longer considers the need for checks and balances within government to promote compromise and acceptance of issue resolutions by the majority.

As a result, we're seeing the proof of that Iron Law of Oligarchy.  Where a party must choose between survival by compromise or else self-destruct by adhering to dogma.  Rather than survive by compromise as parties did before to continue onward, the Republicans are now choosing self-destruction much in the same way the Southern Democratic leadership did back in 1860 when they chose secession over dealing with a Lincoln-led Republican victory.

The Republicans are openly choosing to nuke from orbit any much-needed immigration reforms.  The drum-beats by Trump and now pretty much the whole Presidential primary field - which will dictate the entire party's platform going into 2016 - has been one of racist demagoguery of Hispanics.  The party is pretty much burning down every bridge to a voting bloc the party was desperate to win over after their losses in 2012 proved that ethnic group was needed for elections at the national level.

The Republicans are openly running against immigration reforms that a majority - or at least a plurality - of Americans want to make it easier for immigrants to come legally to the U.S. and apply for citizenship.  The only thing the Republicans take away from that polling is just the "enforcement" part of border security, which they want to implement by building Trump's Wall (and creating a black market on high ladders and tunnel diggers) as a costly boondoggle (and no, Mexico WILL NOT pay for your damn wall, Donald).

And now the Republicans are making a mockery of our Constitution by openly calling for repeals of the 14th Amendment and its citizenship clause.  They want to end "birthright citizenship" at the expense of alienating hundreds of thousands of existing citizens - four of whom are primary candidates! - and also threaten the very concept of citizenship for millions of Americans those conservatives would well seek to purge as "Un-American" if they ever got the chance.

And there's even spokespersons among the media conservatives openly calling for slavery (!) - effectively ignoring the 13th Amendment - imposed on illegals as though that would be a good thing.

What had been two of the signature achievements of the early Republican Party -back when the Republicans were those who championed civil rights - are now sitting targets for Republican ire and proposed destruction.

And I haven't even touched on how the Republicans are calling for an end to women's right to vote (among other things).

All because the Republican Party isn't the Republican Party anymore.

It's the Southern Slaveowner Party.  Back from the ashes of 1865 and hoping to tear the United States apart again.

This is what you are now, people.  You aren't the Party of Lincoln or Grant or Teddy Roosevelt.  You're the Party of John C. Calhoun.  You're openly calling for an end to voting rights for people not from your tribe, you're openly race-baiting anymore, you're openly calling for a return to slavery as a means of social and economic dominance.

The Republican Party is dead.  All that's running in its place now is an imposter force looking to con more voters.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Honest Bumper Stickers 2016 Part VI: The Undiscovered Primary

But that the dread of something after Trump,
The undiscovered primary from whose open border
No voter returns, puzzles the George Will
And makes us rather beer those illegals we have
Than fly to a Canada that we know not of?
- A very poor translation of Hamlet from the original Klingon

...couldn't resist.

Suffered another bout of ill-tempered rage, so I'm countering it with a round of badly made bumper stickers for certain campaigners.  I still can't think of a decent one for Carly, though.

Anyhoo, if you're interested here's links to the five (fourthest) (thirder) (secondly) (primo) previous bumper sticker blog offerings I've hidden elsewhere in this messy site.

On to the fresh offerings:

I'm willing to bet it's YOOGE!