Sunday, August 21, 2016

Florida Primary 2016 EARLY VOTING NOW

I posted Primary suggestions earlier, but need to point out that EARLY VOTING is NOW this week until Saturday August 27 and there's still time fellow Sunshine Staters TO GET YOUR VOTE IN.

The statewide Primary official date is Tuesday August 30th. GET THE VOTE IN! PRIMARIES COUNT! There's a state amendment - creating tax-exemptions for solar panel installations - on the ballot, so EVERYONE has a reason to check in.

Elections matter.

A Brief Foray Into Pragmatism

If you all had been reading this blog for some time - hi, my regular 8 readers! - you might have noticed I occasionally rail against the "-Isms" of the world. By that, I mean the philosophical ideologies that drive people to commit to certain acts and thoughts towards themselves and others.

I made a big deal ranting against Libertarianism from time to time, for example.

One of the reasons why I don't ascribe to an -Ism (even though I probably do, everyone has at least one -Ism) is that it can force a person to adhere ENTIRELY to that belief system - almost like a religious faith - to where they exclude any rational thought or healthy skepticism (uh-oh) that could help them out of a philosophical argument they can't get out of. A person can become an Absolutist about an -Ism to where they deny the Reality that -Ism can't resolve.

That is where planned Utopias go to die: the -Ism becomes more important that the practicalities of daily living and the tiny moral (and amoral) compromises that one requires to survive.

I even argue that Pragmatism has its' flaws. Yeah, I went there.

But what exactly is Pragmatism in the first place? Good question, self.

This is coming up by the by because of a brilliant article by PM Carpenter about American Pragmatism and the Republican Party's current logical dilemma of backing an outright fraud like Trump, even though supporting him AND denying him would destroy their party no matter what. He mentioned a fellow I hadn't heard of before - William James - and that peaked my interest.

Anyway, just to start off, Pragmatism is (thank you Merriam-Webster) "a reasonable and logical way of doing things or of thinking about problems that is based on dealing with specific situations instead of on ideas and theories." Another explanation would be that a Pragmatist would focus on the problem-solving required of an idea rather than reflect over or promote the idea itself.

It has - much to my delight - an American origin as a philosophy, beginning in the 1870s by the likes of Charles Sanders Peirce, William James, and John Dewey (not the guy who invented the Dewey Decimal, that was Melvil you fools).

Let's focus on James as Carpenter refers to him directly:

That phrase, "whatever works," is often embraced as the essence - the singular essence - of American Pragmatism. The embrace, however, is a degradation of the ism. William James would be appalled to see his seminal philosophy reduced to the practical politics of enduring a human blight such as Trump.
(James) meant, in his early 20th-centiry lectures and writings, to locate an intellectual space between Idealism (often, Dogmatism) and rootless Materialism. He borrowed from both, which is to say, he and another principled pragmatists saw their philosophy of practicality as one nonetheless endowed by human decency, human values, even by what I'm reluctant to call human morality (possibly inspired by the ethereal). What's more, none of it was worth a bucket of warm whatever if it wasn't geared toward the humanly productive.
And nothing could be less conceptually productive than the incontestable horror of a President Trump - the very definition of blighted humanity...

I'm with Carpenter about the subversion of "whatever works": that passes more as an excuse for "expediency" which usually results in a sloppy, half-hearted patch job that falls apart when its logical fallacies bump up against the Real World. A Pragmatic solution is one that thinks towards long-term resolution, something that when fixed stays that way, or is open to further revisions down the line.

One of the elements of Pragmatism - if we refer to Peirce's founding practices - requires the use of the "Scientific Method": That is, Observation, Measurement, Testing, and Modification of a hypothesis towards establishing a theory, rule, or law. Most other -Isms won't even look at modifying anything if it meant disrupting the core principles of that -Ism. It gives Pragmatism a flexibility other ideologies don't have.

Where James comes into the equation is his application of his career in psychology - Peirce and Dewey were mathematicians and logicians - over establishing Truth and Facts: That the mind would accept certain things about Reality but not others. James' version of "the Pragmatic Theory of Truth" which differed from Peirce's went like this:

(James) begins with a standard dictionary analysis of truth as agreement with reality.  Accepting this, he warns that pragmatists and intellectualists will disagree over how to interpret the concepts of “agreement” and “reality,” the latter thinking that ideas copy what is fixed and independent of us.  By contrast, he advocates a more dynamic and practical interpretation, a true idea or belief being one we can incorporate into our ways of thinking in such a way that it can be experientially validated.  For James, the “reality” with which truths must agree has three dimensions:  (1) matters of fact, (2) relations of ideas (such as the eternal truths of mathematics), and (3) the entire set of other truths to which we are committed.  To say that our truths must “agree” with such realities pragmatically means that they must lead us to useful consequences.  He is a Fallibilist, seeing all existential truths as, in theory, revisable given new experience...

How would this apply to Carpenter's invoking James to rebuke the current Republican disillusionment? Carpenter tells us:

In brief, authentic pragmatism can't always mean "whatever works." It must be grounded in principles. And not even Herr Hegel (note: never mind him, he's an Idealist) could synthesize Trump's boundlessly unprincipled character with Republican strategists' exultation of others' fundamental principles. These just can't be squared. Trying to square them or defend the attempt is unproductive, which further means pragmatically oriented, Trump-tolerating Republican strategists are, paradoxically, being quite un-Pragmatic.

Contrast what the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy article says to what Carpenter points out: "They must lead us to useful consequences" vs. "the attempt is unproductive".

A real Pragmatist among the Republican ranks would not be trying to twist him/herself into knots defending the indefensible. The Pragmatists would be working on fixing the whole damn Republican Party to ensure this sort of shit - preventing the hater factions from seizing control of the primaries, adding regulatory practices to campaign financing to clamp down on the rampant greed that consumed most of their candidates (and their managers), end the constant lying to themselves and the public by popping that hermetically-sealed media bubble of theirs - never happens again.

But how many Pragmatists are left among the Republican ranks? The Idealists - the Utopian-driven fanatics worshiping at the Altar of St. Ronnie - have done such a masterful job driving out the more moderate and skeptical members of the party - where most of the Pragmatists would reside - over the last twenty-five/thirty years.

This is where -Isms suck: the fighting over ideology that disregard more practical matters at hand. And we as a nation allowed the Idealists of one party - hi, Republicans! - to take control of the car, driving it over that cliff into the ocean all because their -Ism told them so.

As been said before, we will be lucky to live through this...

...

Okay, so I hate all -Isms, what negative things can I say about Pragmatism?

The biggest dissent against it revolves around "What IS Truth" in the first place. The more Progressive/Left philosophers of the 20th Century also attacked Pragmatism because it "fails to offer significant moral and political resistance to the existing set of social and institutional relations. For (Randolph) Bourne and his followers, pragmatism came up short when it came time to articulate new values and new ideals in response to that system. Pragmatism, in its insistence on the practical cash value of ideas, had reduced ideas to mere expediency..."

I think Carpenter and myself would disagree about the "expediency" part (the current Republican dilemma is a clear example), as long as the Pragmatists remained dedicated to the process of modification and problem-solving. As far as "cash value" - that is, the Real-World Experience of the -Ism - being a millstone, I would argue the Left-leaning critics were - like any other adherent to a Utopian ideal - ignoring the practical realities to pursue a potentiality.

Damn. I *am* defending an -Ism here. Quick, slap me with a trout, see if that resets my leanings towards Skepticism!

Playing With the Polling Numbers Mid-August 2016 Version

It's either this or writing three different science fiction short stories I can plug together to make an self-published anthology I can use to teach an e-publishing class at my library next month.

Anyway.

Going by Nate Silver's 538 polling forecasts as of August, which shows the likelihood one state is leaning between Hillary and Trump - so far, neither Johnson or Stein have enough percentages within each state - let's go with the states that are so clearly going for one candidate that they are basically locks this November, and convert that result into the 270towin.com mapping for better visualization:


Click the map to create your own at 270toWin.com

Look at that. These are the states already locked up. Hillary has THAT huge of an electoral lead. Granted, there's still a lot of states left to go.

Now, next let's add the states that are leaning either for Hillary or Trump but have enough of the "wiggle room" room crossing the dividing line to make them competitive. However, leave off the states where the current average - represented by a dot centered in that sliding bar - is closest to that line.

Let's start off with Trump-leaning states:


Click the map to create your own at 270toWin.com


Okay, that adds in a lot of Red to the map. Let's add Hillary-leaning states now:


Click the map to create your own at 270toWin.com


If we were just playing this as a game of numbers, it'd already be over. But this is just forecasting: the actual results won't matter until when people, you know, actually FREAKING VOTE.

And for the final touch, let's fill in the final states - Arizona, Georgia, South Carolina and Missouri - based on how their sliding bar of interest ekes across the middle of the numbers, and how the Dot of Averages specifically lines up:


Click the map to create your own at 270toWin.com


It's not a huge Electoral beatdown - nothing like 1984 or 1964 - but it will be a bigger win than Obama's electoral numbers (and every likelihood of a Popular vote landslide victory), showing a nationwide track of Democratic dominance that the Republican Party can no longer ignore. And if Hillary can flip at least Georgia and South Carolina - which is possible if she campaigns aggressively in those states - she can shove a stake into the heart of the Southern Strategy monster that the Far Right had been counting on the last 40 years.

Granted, this is still August, and there's still the debates - if Trump deigns to show up - and anything can happen, and who knows what October Surprise is in store from the wingnuts... and this still all requires one thing:

GET THE DAMN VOTE OUT, DEMOCRATS! Show up at the ballot box, in spite of the GOP suppression efforts! DOOO EEEETTTTTTTTT!

Friday, August 19, 2016

What If: The Democrats Ran the Best, Cleanest Candidate They Could Ever Have?

Just a thought:

Once upon a time, there is this young man Steve Yancy Luck growing up in Findlay, Ohio. His father is a man of good standing in the community, owner of a hardware store, his mom a faithful volunteer at the family's Presbyterian church. He's got a younger sister, and an adopted cousin whose parents (from his mom's side) died in a tragic incident involving three cars full of nuns, a runaway train carrying needed medical supplies to Canada, and an innocent free-range giraffe.

Steve does well at sports, lettering in shot put and discus - where he sets the county record at discus his senior year - serves as President of the school's French Club, and graduates in the top ten percent of his class. He considers going to his mom's alma mater of Wittenberg U., but accepts a scholarship for the Naval Academy in Annapolis MD.

He's 24 when September 11, 2001 happens. Steve immediately switches from a promising Navy Surface track to train as a Marine officer, knowing that is where the nation is going to need battlefield leaders. It's another year before he's a lieutenant, but doesn't get deployed until 2004 into the thick of the Iraqi occupation.

By April 2005, Steve's patrolling with his rifle platoon near a good-sized village in the Kurdish hills when insurgents attack with 160 men. He loses two men during the first minute of the firefight but leads the surviving forty men and women into the village - mothers and children, as most of the men are already dead or missing - for a concerted defense. Lacking communications, they can't call for air support or rescue. For nearly 12 hours into the night Steve leads his Marines with an effective defense using trapping engagements to pull the more reckless insurgents into kill zones. But he does lose half his troops to wounds by the break of next day. Luckily, a Kurdish-led unit patrolling those hills find out about the battle and join in, creating a flanking attack that catches the insurgents off-guard. They also help call in an A-10 strike that buzzes the area and spooks the bad guys into fleeing back into the desert, leaving behind 74 of their own dead or dying.

Angered up by the situation, Steve decides on a reckless pursuit of the fleeing insurgents. Taking only volunteers - two Kurdish brothers, a rifle squad sergeant name of Lafayette Washington (no relation), a female Marine Amy Wolfe who's half-Plains Apache and the platoon's best sniper, a third-generation Japanese-American Naval Medical Corpsman Joey Yagachuchi who promised his girlfriend he'd make it home okay, and a young Black kid name of Lionel (nobody can remember his last name) from the Chicago slums who lied about his age when he signed up six months ago for the Corps and is really fifteen years old - they chase after the bad guys.

Turns out the Marines recovered a cell phone from one of the dead insurgents that they could use to track the surviving evildoers back to their hideout. Steve leads his team of seven into an improvised yet cunning assault, taking out not only the rest of the attackers but also 80 more insurgents including the region's warlord, which reduces the level of violence to almost nothing in that part of Iraq for the rest of the year. However, during the battle one of the Kurdish brothers dies heroically throwing himself on a grenade meant for Lionel, and Steve himself takes a bullet from the warlord while protecting Joey who was busy tending to a half-blinded Amy. (Amy kills the warlord with a headshot without hesitation using her keen sense of hearing)

Steve's wound isn't severe - Joey gets him back on his feet soon enough - and by crushing a key insurgency force and saving that village the entire platoon earns praise across the U.S. and the world. Joey makes it home to Newport Beach like he promised by 2006 and finds out his girlfriend ran off with an Air Force Academy grad to live in Alaska. Amy regains most of her eyesight (she can never serve as a sniper again) and stays on with the Marines, performing other heroic deeds - including stealing a ISIL warlord's motorcycle in 2011 - that earns her enough Coup points to become War Chief of her tribe (she and Joey hook up in 2012 and have a daughter by 2014). Washington gets wounded in a later firefight but survives to return home to Chesapeake VA by 2009 to open a French bakery. Lionel stays in with the Marines another six months but disappears into the Kurdish countryside, joining the surviving Kurdish brother's family as an act of atonement and marrying one of the brothers' youngest sisters (who looks surprisingly like Rihanna). By 2016 Lionel (now known as the Lion of the Great Lake among the tribes) is a major leader of Kurdish forces fighting Da'esh in northern Iraq.

Wait, where was I going with this? Oh, right, setting up the main character...

Steve Luck gets promoted to Captain and moves up the chain of command within the Marine Corps until 2007, when he is falsely accused of insubordination by a Marine Colonel trying to cover up his own crimes of raping a female Naval officer: Steve had found out and was following the procedures to report it. The Corps keeps the entire situation under wraps during the conflicting investigations, which exonerates Steve and implicates the Colonel in other bad acts (involving military contract kickbacks). However, the Colonel is an older brother to a Republican Congressman from California who happens to serve on the Armed Services committee and who makes it clear that he will make the Marines suffer if any of this gets out. So both the Colonel and Steve are issued honorable discharges, and Steve is told to keep his mouth shut.

However, Steve is pissed at the injustice of it all. His family had been apolitical - his mom is a registered voter but considers herself No-Party-Affiliate - but when he makes it back to Ohio in 2007 he registers as a Democrat and signs up to run for Congress in 2008. With his war record, and the overall Republican failures weakening the GOP incumbent that election cycle, Steve Luck wins his hometown's district. As revenge, he makes sure he gets placed on the Armed Services committee to fill the spot of the Republican Congressman responsible for driving him out of the service, who by the by "retired" that election year rather than lose to an openly lesbian Latina (who wins that CA district by 20 points).

Steve goes on to serve the committee with distinction, uncovering various kickbacks scandals from the Iraqi occupation that leads to several key arrests and reforms in the Pentagon procurement process. Steve wins re-election in 2010 despite a heavy-handed attempt by the "Tea Party" faction to drive him out, but gets removed from the Armed Services committee when the GOP wins control of the House. He is able to secure a minority leadership spot on the Veterans Affairs committee and does what he can to keep their funding going during Republican obstructionism, and stays there well into 2016.

In 2012 he returns to Iraq as part of a fact-finding tour, reunites with Lionel in the Kurdish regions, and helps clear up Lionel's "desertion" through the legal channels (pointing out the U.S. needs him now as a liaison within the Kurdish community fighting the bad guys ISIL/Da'esh). Steve also meets the Kurdish brothers' sister Aida - a few years younger than he is - who had fled Iraq in 1999 for France in order to avoid getting raped by Uday Hussein. She had studied to become a doctor while in exile and had returned in 2010 to help set up hospitals across the region to improve the pediatric care. Aida and Steve hit it off - he speaks French from high school, remember? - and she travels three weeks later to the United States to continue the relationship, getting a visa through the proper channels. They marry in a joint Presbyterian-Zoroastrian marriage (they agree to an interfaith family) by 2013 at the National Cathedral with the Obama family in attendance.

He's 38 years old in 2015, now an established Congressman with a strong center-left voting record. He has no financial ties to Wall Street, no scandalous history (even his dating life before marriage was civil with few hard feelings from the exes), and his war record makes him a popular national hero (there are constant calls to award him the Medal of Honor although Steve keeps advising against it since he's now a member of the Congress that would award it). Aida gave birth to a healthy boy named Nebez for his heroic dead uncle, and she's hoping for a girl next. He's got a perfect family life and a perfect political career. Oh, and he looks like Chris Hemsworth (except for the insane muscle tone Hemsworth has to work on to play Thor in the Marvel series).

The Presidential field is made up of Hillary, Bernie, and Martin O'Malley, but some of the party leadership visit with Steve often to suggest he could do well with the deep-pocket supporters. Aida knows it could be hard on her and their newborn son, but she agrees to a campaign as long as Steve promises her he'll push for better child health care services and better wages for poor families.

Steve Luck throws his hat into the ring by April 2015, and picks up enough support to where he's got 20 percent of the polling to Hillary's 38 and Bernie's 19 (O'Malley's still at zero). Suddenly, Hillary drops out in August when a leaked e-mail from a Russian hacker reveals she had received illegal campaign contributions from Martin Shkreli. Support for both Steve and Bernie jumps up into the 40s, and it becomes a spirited campaign into Philadelphia where Steve wins over enough superdelegates to clinch the nomination on the first ballot. In order to appease Bernie's factions, Steve backs a fully progressive platform (except for universal healthcare, supporting the Public Option instead), and selects a fervently progressive Latina Congresswoman Unity Seguin-Roberts (descended from THIS guy) from Texas (and who looks suspiciously like Salma Hayek) as Vice President.

Steve Luck gets out of the gate with 55 percent of the general electorate polling. He's hugely popular among all key Democratic demographics and the ability to speak well to the interests of the Independent voters. He's got no secrets, no dark history, no corrupt habits (well, okay, he plays way too much Star Trek Online), nothing that would scare away voters in any circumstance.

Now, here's the question: How will the Republicans handle Steve Luck as the Democratic opponent?

Do you think the GOP will treat Luck with any respect? As a Marine war hero? As a good husband and father to a wife and son? Coming from the mythical Midwest of Ohio and home of MOM APPLE PIE AND TRUE AMERICAN VALUES? Someone with not one legit scandal in his closet?

...

There's no way. Not these Republicans.

From Day One they will mock Steve's military service the same way they've mocked so many other Democrats who served our armed forces. They'll break out those Purple Heart band-aids they made during Kerry's 2004 campaign. That Marine Colonel who got drummed out to avoid getting charged with rape and fraud will pop up from the fringes, accuse Steve again of that false insubordination charge, and get invited to camp out at Fox Not-News sound stages 24 hours a day 7 days a week (the show hosts will start promoting the ex-Colonel as the best possible Secretary of Homeland Security the Republicans should pick when Trump "wins"). The Far Right Noise Machine will even drop "hints" that Steve was the one who raped that Navy officer, forcing the poor woman to go public with her horror story about the real culprit (and then that woman will get attacked by the Far Right of conspiring with Steve to falsely accuse the former Colonel).

The Far Right media will go after Steve for being too young and inexperienced, as they'd do to anyone who's under the age of 50 60 running for the Presidency (this same media will remain silent on Donald Trump's utter lack of experience as an elected official).

Trump and the more Islamophobic GOP will insult Steve's wife Aida for being "a raghead," a subversive secret Muslim (that her true faith Zoroastrianism is older than Islam, and is a key influence of Judaism and Christianity, will be lost on them) whispering Sharia law into Steve's ear, that she married Steve to sneak into the country "to steal our jobz," that she was really Uday's mistress, that she set up terror camps and not hospitals, that she's part of the dreaded Islamic takeover of the United States ZOMG. They'll accuse Steve of "working with a terrorist," mistaking Lionel for a hardened mountain warlord fighting WITH Da'esh instead of against them. They'll even mock Steve's son Nebez for having a "weird" name, and claim he's not really Steve's son ("he doesn't have his father's fingerprint patterns! Oh noes! Who could Knee-bees' real father be?").

Rush Limbaugh will attack Steve for failing to protect all of his rifle platoon during that big battle ("He just let those two men die on his watch!"), and will invite onto his show one of the dead men's parents who will be told off-mic that Steve intentionally shot their boy because he was "drunk" when the patrol was ambushed, and tricking them into repeating that false tale on-air.

At Trump's rallies, they will wave signs that read "Fuck Luck" and scream that they should "hang the traitor" for failing to secure victory in Iraq (even as a lowly Lieutenant/Captain).

Stories about Steve's adopted cousin will accuse the poor man of having caused that giraffe-train-nun incident even though he was three at the time. He'll try to file a libel suit against the whisperers but the lawyers tell him it's an impossible fight to win. He'll lose his job at a financial firm in Chicago and suffer a nervous breakdown, fleeing his pregnant wife to hide in the mountains of Oregon, refusing to answer to his real name and claiming he's Fox Mulder hunting more UFOs.

The more fringe Far Right "news" sources will drum up some woman who's never even been to Ohio to claim she's an ex-girlfriend telling stories about Steve being a pothead alcoholic meth user who would beat her and send her out onto the streets like he was a pimp. Her timeline will be so out-of-touch with actual facts (she'll have him hanging out in a trailer park in north Florida during the time he's stationed in Iraq) that it should provoke ridicule by every legit news agency on the planet... and yet CNN will invite her on "to discuss the controversy." It gets bad enough that two of Steve's real ex-girlfriends have to sue the fake ex for defamation.

Trump will make unsubtle hints about how pretty the Veep candidate Unity is and how he'd "do her" even though she's "an illegal Mexican" (ignoring the fact she can trace her bloodline all the way back to when Texas beat Santa Anna to become a Republic, and that her ancestors have more history as Americans than Trump's). Trump at one rally will claim Steve only picked Unity as Veep because - as she's as young and pretty as Steve is - he's hoping to have a threesome with Unity and Aida in the Oval Office. He will later claim this is "a joke." And yet he will keep talking about how Unity "just needs to get laid by a guy who knows how. Maybe Princess Jasmine does too. I'm just saying."

I may be making this up as a thought exercise, but for a moment take a good long look at the Real World. We're watching the Republicans do exactly this sort of bullshit to a real candidate in a real election for the Presidency in a real-life situation that has dire consequences for the entire world.

Here's the Red Pill, America.

The Republicans are going to campaign with the Politics of Personal Destruction on ANYONE the Democrats would put up as a candidate. We've seen them attack Bill Clinton in 1992 with "bimbo eruptions", they went after Al Gore for being a tree-hugger in 2000, they went after John Kerry's military service and wealthy wife in 2004, they went after Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 for exactly who he is (an intelligent Black man) as though that were a crime.

That Hillary isn't the perfect candidate should not condemn her. Try to remember nearly every accusation against her has been investigated again and again for TWENTY-FIVE YEARS, and the most the Far Right can find on her is a questionable email server when she was Secretary of State, her firing of a travel agency in the White House back in 1993, and questionable billing practices at her Arkansas law firm back in the 1980s. That's it. Even Benghazi can't be placed at her feet because that had more to do with Congressional failure to fund embassy security.

Even so, Republicans are going to attack her: not so much with any facts, but with half-lies and outright bullshit, innuendo and rumor, unproven accusation placed atop sneering disdain.

They are not going to play nice campaigning against Hillary (they wouldn't have played nice against Bernie either). Trump bringing in Breitbart people to run his campaign now is just a sign of moving up the attacks to Defcon Level 2 instead of being at Defcon 3.

Democrats could run the cleanest, best possible person - educated, civil, experienced, married, well-spoken, sociable, a leader of others - and the Republicans would STILL call for his/her impeachment and execution.

Just never be surprised by this, America. This is all the Republicans have left to campaign on.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Just Remember Kids, Emperor Norton Was Kinda Sane

Damn, kick me for the fool that I am, I let this date slide.

August 12, 1869:

Norton I., Dea Gratia, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico, Being desirous of allaying the dissensions of party strife now existing within our realm, I do hereby dissolve and abolish the Democratic and Republican parties, and also do hereby decree the disfranchisement and imprisonment, for not more than ten nor less than five years, to all persons leading to any violation of this our imperial decree. - San Francisco Herald

Joshua Abraham Norton, once a proud businessman immigrant who came to these shores in the 1850s, property owner and trader who made a foolish attempt to corner the rice market and failed. By 1860, with all the dissension with the upcoming Civil War, Norton decided to take it upon himself to make himself an Emperor of the United States and calm the situation.

Didn't exactly take.

But he kept at being Emperor living on a bare income of "taxing" the local citizenry at 50 cents (and it wasn't annoyingly persistent, he kept a rigorous schedule and issued receipts by all accounts), despite how delusional it made him seem to others. As the years passed, people realized at first he was pretty much harmless about it, and on many topics could be erudite and well-spoken.

What he did noteworthy was issue decrees, proclamations like the one above that the local newspapers - hungry for anything to fill the page - would print. They noticed that readership picked up if a decree was on the front page, so the competing papers of San Francisco would curry favor for official ones from Norton or otherwise fake their own.

Historians can recognize the fakes because the newspapermen were lousy at spelling and grammar (one editor was obsessed with the recent Alice in Wonderland stories and used "off with his head" waaaaaay too much), and Norton had a proper education thank you. His decrees were also practical and focused on such things as public works: he would include from time to time reminders that the government needed to respect his authority, but he never pushed further than issuing more decrees.

Thing was, the decrees spread to other papers to where Norton became a public figure coast to coast. When train travel proved affordable, Americans traveled West and one of the things they did was seek out the Emperor for one of his fake scrips (self-printed money that the local stores exchanged as normal currency). He was, in some ways, the first celebrity tourist attraction.

As Emperor, he wrote letters to politicians and European royalty about matters of the day. Abraham Lincoln reportedly wrote back. When foreign dignitaries visited San Francisco (as a major Pacific port of the 19th century), stories abounded about how they would actually meet Norton I as though he were a peer.

Norton kept an ear open on local affairs. His proclamations would include encouragements to invest in local inventions that had merit, or promote a service to the citizenry. He decreed often that a bridge - suspension or fixed - be built between San Francisco and rival city Oakland to improve transportation, local trade, and community harmony.

San Francisco, being on the Pacific, was the entry point for the massive wave of Chinese immigration of the 19th Century. As such, there was a lot of violent anti-immigrant riots that decimated the local Chinatown. When a mob charged towards that part of town one night, Norton stood in their path and merely recited the Lord's Prayer until the mob turned away in shame.

Legend has it the California State Assembly allowed him to sit at various sessions. He rarely spoke, but reportedly during a harsh argument over which of two men would get a key appointment he did speak up for the one man he could vouch for personally, who ended up getting the job.

A local patrolman working for a hotel - not an actual policeman, in San Francisco private businesses can hire their own police - in 1867 arrested Norton for vagrancy, not knowing who he was. When Norton could demonstrate to the real law enforcement that he had 1) a residence and 2) money in his pocket to afford a reasonable one-night stay at that hotel, the patrolman decided to change the charge to Norton having a mental disorder. The public outrage was swift, and the patrolman dropped the charge. The chief of police let Norton go with an apology and said "Mister Norton had shed no blood, robbed no one, and despoiled no country; which is more than can be said of his fellows in the king line."

Norton I, Emperor of the United States, died in the streets of San Francisco during a storm on January 8th, 1880. It made national news the next day. Mark Twain - who knew Norton back in the early days - admitted his regret never getting a chance to write the man's biography. His funeral train was reportedly 20,000 people and stretched two miles. It took place during a solar eclipse.

Compared to Donald Trump, Joshua Abraham Norton was sane, and desirous for what was best for the citizens of San Francisco and the United States. He may have been playing a con perhaps, pretending to be mad to gain sympathy from his neighbors and later on an entire city and state. But he never ripped anyone off, never went out of his way to cause real damage, never called on violence - his real decrees called for arrests, not executions - and never put himself on a golden throne - a comfortable chair at best - at the expense of others. At worst, he'd tax you 50 cents and give you a receipt for it.

And he seemed to believe. The whole time from his first decree onward, everyone who saw and commented on him noted he really did believe he was Emperor of the United States. And behaved accordingly to his role.
His madness kept him sane - Neil Gaiman, speaking on behalf of Delirium

Some Trumps Just Want to Watch the Party Burn

So I go to sleep to Trump giving a really bad speech in Milwaukee and wake up to Trump's campaign in full meltdown mode.


Trump shuffled his campaign office - AGAIN - this time demoting the likes of Manafort - whose growing scandalous ties to corrupt Ukrainians was proving to be a legitimate foreign policy/national security matter - and bringing in this Steve Bannon to take charge. Via the Atlantic:

Donald Trump has hired a senior executive from Breitbart News and promoted a campaign adviser to a top position in an effort to jump-start his presidential campaign, which has been foundering in recent days.
Under the changes announced Wednesday, Stephen Bannon, Breitbart’s executive chairman, will become chief executive of the GOP presidential nominee’s campaign, and Kellyanne Conway, the Republican strategist and pollster, who currently is a senior adviser on the campaign, will become the campaign manager. Paul Manafort, who has come under scrutiny for his reported ties to Ukraine’s former Moscow-backed leader, will retain his title as campaign chairman, though it’s unclear whether he will continue to wield the same kind of influence in the new regime.

I actually wasn't aware of who Bannon was... but then the Internet - like the Atlantic article above - kindly let me know that he's essentially the guy who took over Breitbart's slime machine and kept it going as a conspiracy-hawking, librul-bashing, RINO-hunting monstrosity.

Bloomberg had this back in 2015 (article by Joshua Green):

As befits someone with his peripatetic background, Bannon is a kind of Jekyll-and-Hyde figure in the complicated ecosystem of the right—he's two things at once. And he’s devised a method to influence politics that marries the old-style attack journalism of Breitbart.com, which helped drive out Boehner, with a more sophisticated approach, conducted through the nonprofit Government Accountability Institute, that builds rigorous, fact-based indictments against major politicians, then partners with mainstream media outlets conservatives typically despise to disseminate those findings to the broadest audience.

He's basically an attack dog for the Far Right: shredding political opponents without a care for consequences or facts (despite Green's claims, this is a guy in charge of one of the most fact-free media outlets out there), and pushing a purity purge among the Republican ranks to enforce message discipline.

Putting a guy like Bannon in charge of Trump's campaign is a clear signal that Trump wants to increase the attacks not only on Hillary and Democrats but also on fellow Republicans who are failing to support the Trump brand.

It's still a risky move on three points:


  • Bannon's never run a political campaign before, if I've read the articles about him right. Trump's campaign is still a disorganized mess that barely had no ground game and no ad spending (something that eagle-eyed observers are watching)
  • Going even more negative than the previous year, at this stage of the general election, can just as easily backfire on Trump. Being negative during the primaries work because that's what your voting base feeds off of. Being super-negative with the mudslinging during the general election will only depress voter turnout among the moderate/independent voters who hate that negativity... and Trump - whose own party support is the lowest any Republican candidate ever had - needs the moderate votes more than Hillary does.
  • It still doesn't resolve the internal scandals involving Manafort - whose still on the campaign - and other lackeys with serious (almost criminal) baggage.


This is less Schadenfreude than Oh Crap. Not that Bannon is suddenly going to turn Trump into a winning campaigner, but that Bannon is going to nuke everything from orbit... just to make sure the Narrative stays pure.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

I Admit This Makes Me Feel Good. Still GET THE VOTE OUT FOR HILLARY, FLORIDA...

Actually I dunno if this counts as Schadenfreude, but I am laughing my ass off.

Among Sunshine State voters likely to participate in November’s presidential election, 48 percent currently support Clinton and 39 back Trump.  Another 6 percent intend to vote for Libertarian Gary Johnson and 1 percent support Green Party candidate Jill Stein, with 5 percent who are undecided.
Among self-identified Democrats, 92 percent support Clinton while 4 choose Trump and just 3 back a third party candidate. Trump has less support among his own party base, with 79 percent of Republicans who back their nominee, compared to 12 who support Clinton and 5 who back another candidate.  Clinton leads Trump among independents by 47 percent to 30, with 11 supporting Johnson and 2 backing Stein.
Clinton has an overwhelming lead among Hispanic, black and Asian voters who make up about one-third of the electorate, garnering 69 percent of this group’s vote to 19 for Trump.  Trump leads among white voters by 51 percent to 37, but there is a significant gender split.  Among white men, Trump has a 64 percent to 24 advantage.  Among white women, Clinton leads by 49 percent to 39.  There is no difference by educational attainment, with Trump ahead among white voters without a college degree (51 to 39) as well as white college graduates (50 to 36).

BWHAHAHAHAHA

Of key interest: Hillary has near full support of her own party at 92 percent, while Trump only has 79 percent. By comparison, Romney got well over 90 percent of GOP support nationwide: where Florida can reflect most of the nation, Trump is struggling still to secure his own base.

And of course, the gender split between Whites is where the Women vote matters. Trump just cannot survive on White Men alone.

When more than one poll post-convention is showing that you're losing a state, you're losing that state. Granted, anything can happen around debate time, but if the polling remains this consistent, it's not going to flip on its own. And when the polling difference (9 percent) is greater than the Margin Of Error number (3 or 4 percent usually), you're losing.

Trump is losing Florida, and is doing so in a way that is making my Sunshine State a solid Blue. No more Toss-Up for us, folks. Let me just map this out for you.

California is our biggest Electoral state at 55 votes. Texas is next at 38. Then you get a two-way tie between New York and Florida at 29. And then you get to Illinois (needs fresher polling) and Pennsylvania at 20.

According to the average polling for each of the six biggest states, you get this map:


Click the map to create your own at 270toWin.com

Out of the six biggest states, only ONE of them is reliably Republican anymore for Presidential races. And even Texas is closer than it looks as the demographics for Latino votes may yet flip that state (it all depends on turnout).

Hillary's got 153 EV wrapped up already while Trump only has 38. She's halfway to the 270 finish line. Throw in how Hillary is wrapping up Virginia and Colorado and New Jersey and Massachusetts and nearly every other big electoral state and you are looking at Democratic dominance for the White House not just for this election cycle but the three or four afterward (hello, 2028!). The next comfortable state for Trump is Tennessee at 11 EV, because Ohio and Michigan lean Blue and Arizona, Georgia and North Carolina are Toss-Ups now.

What happened here is that the Republicans decided a long time ago to play their game by Geography and Demographics rather than offering leadership and solutions towards a broad set of national issues. They looked to lock up certain states and they looked to lock up White voters at the expense of the other ethnics (Blacks, Latinos, Asians). This worked when White voters would vote as a cohesive block (say, 1984): Today, they don't. White voters have fractured by gender (White Women are rejecting the GOP at an alarming rate), age (younger voters are rejecting the GOP), and education level (college-level Whites are keeping their distance).

That turns into a major drawback in the heavily-urban, heavily-populated, heavily-educated states. They've kept control over Texas over purely cultural / social conservative stances, but even that's starting to fail them.

And now here comes Trump, alienating nearly every voting bloc other than Low-Education White Males. That's not enough to win at the national level anymore. Maybe a few Senate elections, clearly the House elections where congressional districts favor gerrymandering out into the exurbs where most conservative Whites live. But the White House is going to be off-limits to the Far Right now and for the near future.

Just as long as the demographics that matter - Women, Blacks, Latinos, Asians, Young, and Educated Whites - turn up in droves at the ballot box this November.

GET THE DAMN VOTE OUT, PEOPLE.

Let's get it to where Hillary wins the Electoral College before the poll closings reach the Mississippi River.


Click the map to create your own at 270toWin.com


It's doable.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Florida Primary 2016 Suggestions

Shame on me, I ignored something about this year's Florida statewide primaries for this month that I need to address here.

That while there IS a state amendment to vote for - and I mean that in the positive sense, because it IS a pro-solar-power referendum - there's also key seats up for grabs.

Like, oh, the GODDAMN U.S. SENATE SEAT.

And this time, people have a reason to show up. Both major parties have candidates to choose: This isn't a rubber-stamp, here's-your-incumbent-choke-on-it situation. Republicans and Democrats gotta show up for this one. Even Libertarians have a choice.

So on the Republicans side, you get these candidates (I am defaulting to the Polk County ballot):

Marco Rubio - Incumbent
Ernie Rivera - Businessman
Carlos Beruff - Businessman
Dwight Mark Anthony Young - Sheriff's Deputy

Rubio put himself back on the ballot when it turned out he couldn't even beat Ben Carson in a fair fight for the White House. He originally had to drop because state law said he couldn't be on the same ballot for different seats. But he's back... and oh boy does he deserve to get kicked right back out again.

Granted, I'm not a huge fan of his to begin with. But let me make this one huge mark against Rubio: He has the worst attendance record of any sitting Senator we currently have. His failure to show up for votes is one of the many reasons he failed his Presidency bid. Voting him back into that Senate seat is essentially sending him back to a no-show job. He has not earned the right to keep that seat, period.

So that leaves Rivera, Beruff, and Young. If you were Republican, which of those three should you vote for?

Beruff has been an aggressive campaigner against Rubio, but he's got shady business practices as a land developer and a Trump-ish attitude about him. He's also getting hit with accusations he remained a Crist ally in 2010 when Crist and the party separated. Rivera, listed as a businessman and pastor, has been marketing his campaign but getting little actual press coverage. Young is a county sheriff's deputy, and there's almost nothing - except this - about him out there. Beruff's been making himself the big opponent against Rubio, so if you had to make a choice Florida Republicans I'd suggest him (with a head shake of serious doubt. Honestly, you've got bad choices this year, folks).

On the Democratic ticket, it's just as messy (link again to Polk County ballot):

Patrick Murphy - Congressman
Alan Grayson - Congressman
Pam Keith - Lawyer
Roque De La Fuente - Businessman
Reginald Luster - Lawyer

The race here has pretty much been Murphy vs. Grayson, both of them well-known and both of them carrying serious baggage. Grayson has been a loose cannon figure as a Congressman, grabbing the spotlight but also getting caught in a lot of unethical behavior. And he's coming off a nasty divorce with serious abuse allegations. Murphy has been the more consistent Democratic official but has troubling business ties, a spotty resume, and a problem of being more Center-Right than Center-Left.

Of the other candidates, Luster is an African-American South Florida lawyer, Keith is the sole female (as well as African-American) who's also a lawyer with a military background. De La Fuente is a businessman who put in for a Presidential run (didn't go very far), and he's the type of businessman who will not impress the Progressive base one whit (they barely tolerated Sink and Crist: De La Fuente will not get many votes).

If I were a registered Dem, I'd be leaning between either Keith or Murphy. Grayson is too much of a wild card, and there's a legitimate concern that he's going to get hit hard with ethics charges. Keith would stand out as a Woman and Black Senator from a southern state, but while I concur with some of her positions I've looked at her unemployment and income equality stances and I can't comprehend how she's backing privatizing unemployment training and pushing for more corporate tax cuts (trying to incentivize companies to share the wealth seems like more trickle-down trickery). This leaves Murphy, who does have experience and even as a moderate Democrat would be a vast improvement over No-Show Rubio. But I worry that Florida Democrats, notoriously finicky, won't show up for a candidate they perceive as a Blue Dog Dem even if he'll be liberal enough to defend their views.

And if you're Libertarian, you've got a choice for once, which is a state first: Paul Stanton or Augustus Sol Invictus. Invictus has the cool name but has a habit of drinking goat's blood: we've already got enough blood-drinkers up in DC. /rimshot. Stanton has a military background and bad haircuts. Ah, I shouldn't rag on him for that: I show up at salons with my double-crown and the barbers all kill themselves. Stanton's more Senatorial of the two, so go with him.

So for the Senate primaries, for Republicans, that's Beruff; for Democrats that's Murphy; for Libertarians that's Stanton. If we get any goats' blood drinkers on the general ballot, I swear I will cut this state off the map like Bugs Bunny and move to Detroit.

For the Congressional primaries, just vote Democrat and be done with it. I know we've made progress getting rid of most of the gerrymandering, but I still wanna see the Republicans thrown out for their constant obstruction and government shutdowns. At the State Lege level, yeah throw the GOP out too. We're choking on toxic algae waters and our schools are underfunded and our state wages are weak, and it's all on them for the last 20 years or so.

And for the Pasco Mosquito Control Board, we'll have to wait for the General Election in November.

For the rest of us, we still need to show up and vote for the judicial seats, local boards, and the state amendment. LET'S GET THE VOTE OUT, FLORIDA!

Anniversary (again): Woodstock August 15 1969

Yeah, I keep looking back at this moment. Even though I wasn't even born when it happened.

There's just something about the fact that 500,000 people gathered together in terrible, rainy, muddy, starving, and for some drug-hazed, conditions in the heat of August (even in New York) in the middle of Max Yasgur's farm outside of Bethel, and most basically walked away in good spirits and incredible memories.

For a weekend in 1969, they had a population that rivaled major cities. You could tell because the traffic was f-cked up.

For all the fears about getting so many young adults, likely on drugs - it got to where the Governor Nelson Rockefeller was just seconds away from calling in the National Guard, with the local law enforcement arguing against it - and potentially in a mood to riot if conditions got bad... nothing violent happened. Well, there were obviously a bunch of fights here and there (one food vendor burned down because they were inflating prices on their burgers) but for the most part people worked to keep the weekend event going. The local townsfolk volunteered to help with food rations. People did duty as first aid medics. Bands did extra sessions on stage to cover for acts that had to be flown in by helicopter.

It wasn't pretty.

But it was beautiful.

Usually in history when you get 500,000 together in one spot for an event, it tended to be a battlefield, massive armies pummeling each other into blood and death. Woodstock was one of those rare moments when that many people got together for a weekend to delight and enjoy and commune. Some didn't come away with that feeling, but many others did.

It was one of those moments that proved Rousseau right: that in a confusing and chaotic environment, coming at a problem with a blank slate, most humans would behave in their self-interest but towards a common good. At Woodstock, where people didn't know exactly what was going on, tried to behave as well as they could under the circumstances.

It was a situation where people more often shared their food rather than steal it. It was a situation where people took total strangers to the medical tents and helped out. It was a situation where one guy manned the Port-O-Sans to keep them clean and did it with a happy grin on his face.

Speaking of, I am sending up flares to Mr. Michael Taggart again. You left a comment on that Woodstock blogging I did about your father, but you didn't leave a contact email. PLEASE email me back, sir. I really want to hear your story.



Sunday, August 14, 2016

What Type of Election IS This, Anyway?

One of the things I keep seeing in the tweets and blogs is this concept of the 2016 Presidential cycle being a "Wave Election".

My political science knowledge is still at Amateur / College Student level, so I had to look that up.

Wikipedia pops up firstly - obviously - with their definition. It is:

...Major gains (that is, seats) made by a political party. Although there is no precise definition of what constitutes a wave election, the term is used in the United States when one party makes major gains in the House and Senate.

In a way, it doesn't involve the Presidency directly, although a Presidential candidate can influence or ride such a wave. Wave elections can happen in the midterms when it directly affects Congress.

What CAUSES a Wave election is also pretty obvious: Voter anger or dissatisfaction with how things are going. Problem is, which way do they direct that anger? And who stokes that anger to the boiling point?

We saw a good example of a Wave election back in 2010, when elderly white voters - just recovering from an election for Obama and the Democrats to overturn an incompetent Bush the Lesser administration and their Congressional enablers - were stoked by the Far Right media into a lobbyist-created "Tea Party" uprising. It overturned the Democratic gains of 2008 and led to the obstructionist gridlock of the last six years, during which even more anger against Obama and the government were stirred up by the Far Right to keep themselves in the game.

Thing is about anger: it is very hard to maintain. Oh, it is easy to stir one passions, but after the first few bursts of warmth you get from that rage you start looking at the actions you've done. And you start thinking through the gaps in logic that you jumped over while chasing after the objective that caused your rage in the first place. And you have to start thinking about repairing all the damage you did during your rampage. As a result, anger only gets you so far: It can get you into your political office, but it's not going to do you any good when you actually have to DO that job in office.

In terms of Presidential elections, a Wave election is only good for you when you have a need to gain or retain control of Congress when you get into the White House. For the Republicans, they don't need a Wave election for themselves as they've pretty much got the US House locked in via Gerrymander... but the Senate is up for grabs. Problem is, they are playing defense on the Senate: if there's any anger fueled towards the Senate, it'll be towards a bunch of Republican Senators refusing to do their jobs (SCOTUS vacancy, hint hint). It is possible there could be a great shift in Congress, considering how unpopular that branch has been, but Congress has been unpopular before and the Republicans were able to keep control...

If anything, using anger to generate a Wave election might backfire this time around: Railing against the failures of government could hurt you when your own party is clearly controlling said government. Despite all the deceptions, despite arguing against Democrats as destructive tax-happy libruls threatening TO TAKE YER GUNZ, a lot of voters know full well it's Republicans sitting in Congress doing NOTHING.

It doesn't help when your Presidential candidate running on a rage-fueled campaign - just guess what Trump did at his Connecticut speech last night? - is running on so blatant a racist, sexist, hate-driven platform to force a Wave election that he's causing a backlash. Not so much an ebb but a Riptide pulling away from the shoreline, sucking everyone else with him backwards into the deep ocean.

As such, this isn't a Wave Election at all. Is Riptide Election feasible? No, maybe Undertow works better.

I'd rather think that in normal circumstances this would have been a Legacy Election, where a sitting President with a popular base - and Obama's numbers are going up as the voters wake up to how he's actually done a good job despite the obstruction - could influence turnout to support his party's nominee: Get the voters who backed Obama in 2008 and 2012 to back his successor who would guarantee the gains made under Obama's administration survive (and even get upgraded).

But with all this anger - a lot of it generated by false accusations and driven by chaos - flooding the scene, it's going to be hard to focus on that Legacy. Which is probably what Trump wants.

Let's not let him have it. Turn this Wave into an Undertow. Stop Trump, and vote the Congressional Republicans out to sea with him. Flip the Senate, people. Screw gerrymandering, turn the House over to the Democrats. This is the type of election we need.

Friday, August 12, 2016

We Need To Redefine Battleground States

If the current Presidential polling is correct - and yes, it is still too early although it's getting to the point where the numbers have to be taken serious - then the states we USED to call toss-up battleground states are no longer in play:


States like Virginia and Colorado - with relatively large suburban, conservative-leaning voters - are currently for Hillary over Trump in double digits. That is almost unheard of outside of solid Blue states like California, Illinois and New York where urban and progressive-minded voters tend to be. North Carolina - which went Obama in 2008 but then flipped to Romney (and went Republican at the state level) in 2012 - is now solidly for Hillary. Florida is the only state where Trump even has a wisp of a chance polling five points under Hillary... and given how Florida went Obama TWICE and that our state is full of Hispanics and educated Whites, there's little hope for Trump - outside of voter suppression - to flip the Sunshine State any time soon.

And this is covering both variables of head-to-head (Hillary vs. Trump) and with the four-player race (Hillary vs. Trump vs. Johnson vs. Stein). Having the third-party candidates in the mix does not do Trump any favors and does not hurt Hillary one bit.

If we had to play out the Electoral College right now, the map is going to look like this. 


Click the map to create your own at 270toWin.com


Sadly, Utah is currently polling for Trump, which kinda hurts the narrative about Mormons hating the cheeto-faced ferret-wearing sh... uh, Mormons don't like the cursing, but anywho, you get the drift. Thing is, the polling still shows a tight race with Hillary within 5 points: Given how conservative Utah is, that is shockingly good performance for her. And something that she can use to turn Utah into a new battleground state.

And this map doesn't show how close Iowa is... and Indiana... and Mississippi... and South Carolina... and Texas is still a maybe... and...

Key thing remains: Getting the vote out is important. Polling is one thing, actual voting - and voting in large enough numbers to thwart any rigging - is everything.

Get to it, America. Stop Trump. Vote Hillary. I'm with her.

Even Dinsdale Was Frightened of Doug

Apparently this was what Trump was aiming for when he accused President Obama of being a founder of a major terrorist organization:

Oh, we all get sarcasm Donald. Do you get the fact that you were repeatedly asked about your accusation and for a whole day you said you were "literal," which is kind of the opposite of "sarcasm".

I get the feeling Trump would totally pussy out if he ever met Doug Piranha.


Palin: Doug. (shaking, takes a drink) I was terrified of him. Everyone was terrified of Doug. I've seen grown men pull their own heads off rather than see Doug. Even... Dinsdale was frightened of Doug.
Jones: What did he do?
Palin (eyes go wide for a second in horror): He used sarcasm. He knew all the tricks, dramatic irony, metaphor, bathos, puns, parody, litotes... and satire.

You see, Trump, Doug is a MASTER of sarcasm. You barely rank out of kindergarten, you con artist.

It doesn't help Trump's cause that every joke he tries is based on insult and degradation. Neither of those bits work with sarcasm at all.

How bad does Trump have to be at his stand-up routine before the judges hit that damn gong?