Friday, July 31, 2015

A Long Month July Rolling Into a Long Month August

It's the time of year to be saying "Once in a Blue Moon."  Because the odds pick up on having a Blue Moon, especially one set for tonight.  But I digress.

Just realized I have a tag for #Is It August Yet, so apparently I've mused about this time of year before.

For myself, this is part of the year at the library I work - and have been so at other libraries throughout my career - that things slow down a little.  The summer reading programs for kids finish in July, families get ready for school starting up just before September, the snow birds have yet to return from up north back to the Florida neighborhoods where libraries wait for their arrival.  In the real world, calling August the Dog Days - the time to nap long in hot weather, cope with the stretches of time - of the year has always been an apt thing to do.

In the political world, this time of year is where the Congressional fights flare up between the long vacation break and the upcoming conflicts of settling annual budgets and omnibus bills due by October.  As such, we're getting talk about another round of shutdowns, this time over Planned Parenthood.  The need to appeal to the Far Right has kicked up this year due to the now-packed and fully-crazed primary season, and going after Planned Parenthood for their abortion services and other women's health care providing is red-meat material for the likes of Ted Cruz (via Simon Malloy):

...This is now a familiar dynamic of the relationship between Republicans in Congress and activist conservatives. When it comes time to make new appropriations and keep the government’s lights on, hard-line conservatives in the media and elsewhere insist that Republicans go nuclear and threaten a government shutdown in pursuit of their preferred policy outcome, whether it be defunding Obamacare, defunding President Obama’s executive actions on deportations, or stripping Planned Parenthood’s federal funding. And they make these demands even though the chances winning these fights are slim to nonexistent – Democrats still retain filibuster authority in the Senate, and even if legislation were to get through, Obama would veto it...
...But once again the Republicans in Congress find themselves in a position in which the simple act of governing is made difficult by the extreme positions of their influential hard-right flank. The Republican leadership opposes abortions rights and does not support Planned Parenthood, but if they’re not willing to drive off the edge of the political cliff to cut funding to the group, then in the eyes of people like Erick Erickson they’re no better than pro-choice Democrats. “Friends,” he writes, “if Republicans in Congress will not stop giving tax payer dollars to the American Joseph Mengele, we should show the party violence in the polling booth.” Reactions like these scare Republicans in Congress. The question is whether they will (once again) be pressured into another shutdown fight they won’t win.

It's because Congress can't win these fights.  The ones who DO win these fights are the agitators on the outside, the caustic critics on the sidelines and the media channels who profit from shilling their books and motivational appearances at the cost of competent governance.  It'll cost Boehner and McConnell political points and maybe even their seats sooner rather than later, but it'll cost Erickson nothing and in fact he'll probably get more invites to the Sunday talk shows because of it.  It won't cost Ted Cruz or any of the other Presidential candidates either, especially as they struggle to impress the Far Right voters they need to win the early-month Primaries next year.

In the midst of all this, we are facing the first round of a rather early series of debates for the 2016 Presidential campaigns.  The circus of campaigning has gone from a 4-year cycle to a full-time gig (half of the jokers on the right we have debating have been campaigning for this moment ever since 2011 when you think about it).  And where the Fox Not-News people are setting the debate table for a chaotic affair, the powers-that-be running the back-rooms of the Republicans are hosting their own private summit to narrow down their personal favorites to a banner-carrier despite the voters' preferences.

August is not a time to relax when it comes to politics.

It is apparently a time to drink.  Drink early, drink heavily.  Especially if you're Rinse, uh Reince Prebius, or the RNC Chair Formerly Known as Prince, however he wants to be known.  Because that Debate Drinking Game blog post I wrote a week ago has been blowing up my stats chart... No seriously my stats chart has been spiking all day because of that, I mean I F-CKING LOVE YOU GUYS for visiting it...

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Honest Bumper Stickers 2016 Part V: Fast And Trumpious

Okay, on the serious side, if any campaigns out there need to hire a guy to design bumper stickers for them, gimme a call, 'cause I am seriously in need of some on-the-side consulting fees to take care of a few medical bills (who knew a sore shoulder and sleep apnea CPAP gear would cost this much even with full-time health care benefits?)

In the meantime, here's my portfolio of work:

And now, for the party brands:

So, I hope to hear from the Sanders or Kasich campaigns any day now... yup, any day...

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

When I Talk Of The NRA Worshiping Guns Over Lives, I Am Not Joking, And I Am Not The Only One

Just going to link to Rude Pundit on this, because the Lafayette shooting hit him where he lives:

You can remember learning in school or at a museum or maybe on the Discovery Channel about human sacrifice in ancient or distant cultures, whether it was the temples of the Aztecs and Incans down south or the bogs of the British Isles, where the Celts performed their rituals. You can remember how you felt: the gruesome fascination followed by disbelief at the stupidity of the reasons. Killing the slaves of a dead master? Ludicrous. And the tribes and nations that sacrificed children, virgins, whoever to appease angry gods just seem insane in retrospect. The circular logic was mind-boggling: We must cut out the hearts of these kids so the gods will make the crops grow and keep away the storms or volcanoes. But if there is a storm or volcano and the crops all die, we'll just sacrifice more kids because obviously we didn't please our mad deities last time...
...The mass shooting in Lafayette, Louisiana, hit home, literally, for the Rude Pundit. That's where he grew up. It's where he went to college. It's where his family lives and where he visits twice a year. He can't count the number of times he has been to the Grand movie theater on Johnston Street, right across from the Judice Inn and its delicious Cajun hamburgers. From the Grand, you go northeast on Johnston and make a left on Jefferson Street to get to Parish Ink, the t-shirt and design shop where he regularly bought souvenirs from home to give as gifts, where family bought gifts for him. He spoke a few times to co-owner and designer Jillian Johnson, praising her work and laughing at the puns on the shirts. Johnson was one of two women who were shot and killed by (shooter shall be damnatio memoriae) while they watched the film Trainwreck in the bone-chilling air-conditioning that makes the Grand an oasis in the smothering Lafayette summer...
...The Rude Pundit thought about the Inca, the Mayans, the savage tribe of Skull Island when he began trying to piece together something to say about the Lafayette shooting. It's long been apparent that the United States is now a death cult built around the worship of guns. The dead in each shooting, whether it's gang-related in Los Angeles, accidental in Virginia, or mass shooting after mass shooting, are treated as a necessity in order for us to stay safe. How is Sandy Hook any different than the Aztecs stabbing a child to keep the city from destruction? How did that work out for them?...
...Our firearm-centered death cult is based on a deliberate misinterpretation of the Second Amendment. No matter what courts or lobbyists or corporate-manipulated citizen-tools say, the Second Amendment has a conditional phrase, "A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State." You can pretend that that doesn't matter or you can lie about what it means, but "well-regulated" is in there, and we live in a country that is far, far from regulating guns, let alone militias, well. The Second Amendment wasn't meant to be a murder-suicide pact. It was meant to deal with a widely-spread, small population that wanted to kill the British and some Indians. A rational nation would revisit it to clarify or change it. In the United States, that would probably just mean craven politicians frightening Americans into taking out the opening phrase so no one can bring up the argument against more guns anymore... 
...If we continue to do nothing, we are all mentally ill and we are all extremists. We are just another bunch of Mayans, watching the high priest politicians cut out the hearts of the children in Newtown, the churchgoers in Charleston, the women in Lafayette, all to appease the malicious gods of the NRA, holding the gore aloft so all may see it, hoping that our  sacrifices are deemed worthy, not realizing that the gods are illusions and that we're just killing our way into oblivion.

To every American who believes in the need for gun regulation, for gun safety, for PUBLIC SAFETY, for the Love of God let us get to work.  End the craven political stalemate, drop out of the pro-gun party that is the Republicans, push for candidates who WILL vote for gun safety laws.  There are 248 million Americans who want universal background checks, opposed by 5 million NRA members (a solid majority of whom would agree to that law but are represented in bad faith by an obsessed leadership that won't listen to their own) who throw a hissy fit every time the very idea of common-sense safety laws are even breathed.

They've got the guns, but we got the numbers.  And we've got the one power that matters under the Constitution: we've got the power to vote for responsible leadership.  It is time for us 248 million Americans to USE that power for our good.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Brief note: Yes, I Plan On Making Tampa Bay Comic Con 2015 This Saturday

I am hoping to share the day with my nephews, who are into gaming and some of the comic book narratives, and a little of the science fiction movies/television.  We'll see how it goes.  Some of my library co-workers not working Saturday may make it as a former co-worker in the area wants to show.

I do plan on cosplaying, wearing the Jedi robes mom crafted for me that I wore at MegaCon earlier in the year.  So it may yet be a long and busy day for me.  Here's hoping it goes well - no morning downpours, easy walkpaths, lots of benches to sit on between patrols, posing with cute bounty hunters, etc. - and I promise to document the atrocities.

gonna meet my boss R2 and do a little roll-out
Update (Friday night): Yup.  Got the robe and gear - sans lightsaber I will make sure I leave tomorrow morning with it - already in the car.  The brother/sister-in-law plan on dropping the nephews off for me to meet and greet at the door.  I promise to post pics as soon as possible Saturday night.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Brief NSFW Post About Huckabee's Invoking the Holocaust to Fearmonger Over a Treaty With Iran

F-ck you, Mr. Huckabee.

A true man of Christ would accept peace as an option.  An honest man looking to lead our nation would view diplomacy as a virtue.  A leader would accept working with our allies abroad towards stabilizing the world.

Only a sick bastard would use the Holocaust to fearmonger.  Only an idiot would think that making a treaty with Iran that ENDS their nuclear weapons program could possibly lead to another round of genocide.

F-ck you, Mr. Huckabee.  This is the last thing I am ever going to write about you.

When Beltway Media Is Out of the Loop

There is something tangible to the "what the hell happened" response of the mainstream media this week, all involving the combined fascination and fear the media elites have with Teh Trumpster.

After the Republican leaders and most of the Washington DC power circles attacked Trump for going after one of their beloved own - Senator McCain - the prognosticators and experts and talking heads were crowing that Trump had finally gone too far, had insulted a hero POW, was likely to lose supporters from the vast number of Vietnam War vets and other vets who leaned Republicans.

Instead, Trump's polling numbers have stayed well in the 20 percentile - give or take a few points - and remains in a clear lead among the Republican primary candidates.  We're all - guilty party here alongside the Beltway media elites - talking Trump (even as we're all in the need for bathing in holy water once we walk away from the blog writing).

The media probably couldn't understand why, although I kinda figured Trump wasn't going to get hurt at all by going after McCain.  Because he wasn't so much going after John McCain the Vietnam Navy pilot, he was going after John McCain the Media Darling.

Look, back in the day before the Republican Party got to be too insane even for me, I backed McCain, I liked him as a candidate in 2000 mostly because he wasn't Dubya (by that time my ire for the Bush clan due to Jeb was greater than anything else) and partly because he showed bipartisan efforts as a Senator.  Problem with him now is, I swear McCain gets invited to Sunday talk shows every week.  He's become a go-to interview subject for the mainstay political roundtables to where he's over-saturated the market.  They - the media elite - hang on his every word even when he's not the real guy they ought to be interviewing on that given topic.  They act like he really won the Presidency in 2008 or something.  It's gotten annoying, even to a former fanboy like me who will on occasion forgive McCain for the sad-but-unavoidable pandering he did to win the GOP nomination back then (I do, in fact, absolve him of making the horrific move of picking Palin for the Veep spot: he wanted someone the party wouldn't take, so he went either out of spite or frustration for a complete unknown whose governing record wasn't deep enough to reveal how much of a loon she was.  I blame a poor vetting system and a party obsessed with image over competency...).  Anyhoo.

THAT is the guy - the Interview All-Hours-Of-The-Day McCain - Trump was really targeting: Trump was pointing out how McCain's reputation was vastly inflated all because of his years in a POW camp.  And most of the Trump fanbase knew that.  A good amount of the Republican voting base knew that: it may surprise the media elites to know that McCain is not all that popular to the Tea Party and Far Right crowds.

It's amazing how an entire profession - media people, whose backgrounds are supposed to be in journalism and are supposed to handle information and data on a regular basis - can be so clueless, out-of-touch, and misinformed about a lot of things about their own nation, their own audiences.

I'm amazed but not surprised.  I've known for over a decade that the higher-end of the media power structure - the national media, the cable and nightly newspeople - have been disconnected from the general public ever since the Lewinsky scandal.  How the talking heads were all predicting doom for Bill Clinton, that he had to resign for having betrayed everyone (mostly themselves), the moral indignity of it all (swoon)...  Only to find a majority of Americans still liked Slick Willie, that they backed him during the Republicans' failed effort to impeach, and that all of their outrage had been mocked or ignored.

The disconnect is still there, and it's gotten worse.  Per David Atkins at Washington Monthly:

The interesting question is why there is such a disconnect between the establishment pundit class and average American voters.  ...The professional political class lives in same socially rarefied air as America’s business...elites, culturally and economically separated by a widening gulf of inequality and disconnection that prevents them from grasping at an emotional, fundamental level the challenges faced by normal families...

The low-end journalists, the ones working local markets and on papers and magazines (the ones not yet dying out) may still earn within the real middle-class range (between 40k to 70k yearly) and may well remain connected to the real world.  However, once you get to the cable channel level, the nightly news level, the talking head level, those are people pulling down the seven-figure incomes and book deals of the upper classes.  Even the ones still "thinking" themselves as liberals/left-leaning are going to find themselves unable to fathom what a family living under $10 an hour has to do to survive.

The professional political class tends to believe that there is a mythical American “centrist/moderate” voter who loves John McCain and Joe Lieberman because they are serious, respectable moderates who “get things done...”
Note: we don't.

...The fact that the centrist voter is largely a myth doesn’t dawn on them, because they spend more time misreading poll results than they do actually talking to average voters. (Hint: lumping progressive and conservative voters who call themselves “independent” together into a single voting bloc and then marveling at their seemingly moderate collective policy choices isn’t terribly smart statistical analysis.) In a Washington DC where John McCain is a permanent fixture of the talk show circuit, McCain is the “maverick” and bellwether of serious opinion. In the real world, John McCain is just another extremist Republican to Democrats, and a despised Establishmentarian to the Republican base.

The media elites don't grok that McCain might not get all the fans agiggling because they meet with him so often and interact with his circle of friends to where they are blind to how others outside that circle would view him.  Epistemic closure at its simplest.

And by the by, moderate voters DO exist, we just don't sit there going Ooh and Ahh at everything you all say on the cable shows and Sunday morning gush-fests.

In the elite pundit world, voters are fairly happy with American society generally but unhappy with Washington specifically because of an “extremist” environment where no one cooperates to pass respectable centrist legislation. But in the real world, voters understand that the middle class is coming apart at the seams—which leads more knowledgeable left-leaning voters to support economic populist approaches to reduce inequality and hold corporations accountable, and that leads less educated, more racist and reactionary conservative voters to try to restrict immigration from allowing others to take “their” jobs...

To the media elites, those views both Left and Right are considered 'extremes' mostly because they can't see themselves being on the wrong side of income inequality (it's not their fault they're rich, after all) that's driving those views in the first place.  It's far easier to sit in their hermetically-sealed studios sharing coffee and jokes with "experts" like themselves and joke that it's all "Washington's fault" without realizing their part of that Washington culture - hi, Morning Joe! - making it a mess.

Easier for them to sit on the sidelines wondering where all the good times under Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill went than it is to empathize with the growing evidence that the United States has fallen apart and needs serious reforms and fixes - to our tax codes, to our highway budgets, to our immigration system, to our drug war and incarceration policies, to our racial conflicts and growing body count - that just can't be bothered with because they would involve messy disagreements among their own.

I said it before: it's not that we need term limits on our elected leaders, we need term limits on the Talking Heads dominating the cable news shows.  We need to slap some journalistic sense - and journalistic ethical standards - into these vapid chatterers, and remind them there's a real world outside the Green Rooms.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

About Gun Deaths: Best Solution

Another mass shooting, again at a movie theater this time in Lafayette LA. Another angry guy with a gun, and yet another moment in America where NOTHING WILL GET DONE BECAUSE OUR POLITICAL LEADERSHIP HAS THE COLLECTIVE MORAL COURAGE OF A SLUG.

"Now is not the time" to talk about gun safety, says Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Okay fine, boss.  WHEN will be the time to talk about gun safety you sonofabitch?  Because these mass shootings are becoming so commonplace in the United States that if we go by your rules of "oh we can't talk after a tragic shooting" we will never find that time, because it's happening pretty much once every day: people tracking mass shootings this year have found 204 such shootings over 204 days!

This is madness.

It has been madness for ages, but we crossed the moral event horizon just a few years ago with the Sandy Hook massacre.  One of the most horrific mass shootings since Columbine, one in which there was mass outcry and a concerted effort to even talk about gun safety as a necessity...  And then nothing.  We moved on to another tragedy.  The Sandy Hook families were mocked by the gun-worship crowd of the NRA, we even had people denying the shooting even took place.  Nothing else happened, we moved on, and now we're at yet another public place defiled by an angry gun-wielding madman.

We are piling up the dead as though we are a war zone.  And in a way, we are.

We are at war between the average American citizenry (hi there!) versus the very few but very noisy and very angry gun-worship crowd (the National Rifle Association is the most prominent).

Just on one topic alone the vast majority of Americans are speaking out: Universal background checks.  A Quinnipiac poll in 2014 found that roughly 92 percent of Americans favor a universal background check for gun purchases, and that's roughly the same number of gun owners who support it.  The Pew Research Center has polling from 2013 showing about 81 percent of Americans favoring universal background checks.  We can infer at the least there's 80 percent of Americans favoring this one law: and yet Congress fails to pass any such legislation because the NRA - which opposes such background checks because they fear a federal gun registry - browbeats most other politicians - Democrats as well as Republicans - into submission.

If we're talking numbers, there's roughly 29 to 34 percent of Americans who claim to own at least one gun.  Out of 310-plus million Americans that's about 105 million Americans at most.  And then consider the NRA membership: there's no specific numbers but at most it's around 5 million.  That's barely a tenth of total number of gun-owners themselves, nowhere near the numbers able to claim that they speak for any majority at all.

And if we're talking about numbers: there's 80 percent of Americans who would want expanded universal background checks.  That's about 248 million Americans.  Who the hell speaks for them?

That's where the problem sits: we don't have the political will to do anything about gun safety because the politicians aren't paying attention to 248 million Americans who are spread out and unfocused over 100 other issues, and they pay attention to the 5 million Americans who focus singularly on guns and worship their guns and indulge their ability to open-carry their death-toys wherever they want. (am I being a little biased and demeaning here? Yes.)

We're stuck because the NRA has spent the last 40 years re-writing the interpretation of the Second Amendment away from "states requiring the well-regulation of militias to serve the states' needs" and into a "gun owners shall not be infringed on their urge to shoot everybody they can."

It doesn't help that the Second Amendment is an awkwardly worded amendment.  It hurts that people don't see the historical value of it and why such value has diminished: back when that amendment was created, we didn't have much in the way of law enforcement or the ability to defend our open borders.  When the Founders passed the Constitution and focused on the Bill of Rights to address specific issues, they nearly all focused on the "militia" aspect of the Amendment as a necessity for the national defense.

The Founders preferred militias over an organized standing army as they 1) viewed standing armies as a threat and 2) didn't have the money to pay for a standing army of sufficient size.  Militias and state defenses made more sense in the 18th Century because back then it took days if not weeks to receive news: a foreign incursion into the frontier wouldn't have been known about until it was too late.  Letting the states manage those affairs as local matters - with men and material closer at hand - was the way to go.

It took the War of 1812 - where the state militias performed miserably, forcing the nation to forge a stronger and trained federal army - to prove otherwise, and even then it took almost all the 19th Century to move away from state-raised armies - the Civil War in particular - to an organized national force we pretty much have today.

The need for state-run militias - what we'd call the National Guard, although certain states still maintain separate guard forces - isn't as important due to massive improvements in communications and technology and armaments.  Our borders are now closed: there is no open frontier, and we've got the means to spot enemy forces from miles away with minutes' worth of response times.  Given the nature of the modern United States as a global power with a regular standing Army, our government and our citizenry are comfortable with such an army standing at the ready.  In that regard, the need for the Second Amendment as a defensive measure for militias has diminished.

What remains is the second half of that Second Amendment, the one that the NRA obsesses over to everyone else's hazard: "the right of the people to own firearms shall not be infringed."  Back when the Second Amendment was written, firearms were useful and in trained hands deadly; but they were also inaccurate, hard to prep, technologically primitive.  As far as weapons went, they were relatively low-risk.

That War of 1812 had almost laughably low casualty rates from actual combat: most troops died from illness that war.  It took technological advancements in the Civil War to turn guns into more lethal weapons, and the mechanization of the rifle from single-shot to repeating fire to increase such lethality.

Historically, during all this time (19th Century) gun control laws were common-place and common-sense.  The Wild West wasn't that wild: most towns imposed gun check-in requirements.  While owning a gun to keep yourself safe traveling across the vast vista made sense, it also made sense for the towns to put a cap on the risk of gun-fights erupting in their shops and saloons.  The individual right to bear firearms were infringed on a regular basis.

Blame the myth-making of the Western movies and TV shows of the 20th Century that made it seem shoot-outs between gun-toting good guys and bad guys happened once a week on the dusty streets of Dodge City.

Yet thanks to the NRA's constant campaigning to relax gun safety laws across the board, we're less-regulated today with firearms than those mythic days of yore.  And the firearm the NRA promotes today bears little resemblance to the firearm of our Founders: where our ancestors had single-shot rifles that took minutes to reload and was inaccurate as hell, we're facing semi-automatic (if not full auto) rifles carrying 50 bullet magazines.

These are the weapons that Jefferson and Washington and Adams wanted us to carry?  These are the weapons that shall not be infringed?  A solid argument can be made that the Founders did not intend the average American to carry such firepower with them wherever they went: that the firearm was to be in service to the militia, which was supposed to be under the regulation of Congress.

And yet the NRA has convinced the courts of just the opposite, arguing the second half of the Second Amendment in ignorance of the first half (as well as ignoring Article I Section 8 of the Constitution enumerating Congressional powers to regulate militias for training and federal oversight).  As long as that Second Amendment is there with that poor wording - and yes, the two halves of that amendment conflict with each other - we as a nation are hampered in our ability to protect our public places from gun-worshiping death-dealers.

So that's what has to change.  Not just the mindset that guns are needed - they're not, and most Americans don't own one and don't WANT to - but also the Constitutional Amendment at the heart of the debate.

Good thing the Founders gave us - their descendants - the power to amend that Constitution when able, when there are enough of a shared agreement among us that laws are broken and need fixing.  It's messy, it's difficult, and even with good intent there can be consequences, but it's doable.  We as a nation can and should look at amending the Constitution to replace that Second Amendment with a better worded, more modern law.

That means everybody who has a stake in this debate - that is, the 80 percent of Americans who want at least universal background checks - need to follow what I'm recommending here:

1) Get every American who wants gun safety laws put in place to drop from the Republican party - official party of the NRA - and switch to No-Party-Affiliate.  This is the cheapest - FREE to do - and easiest - it takes minutes to fill out the form and submit it to the county elections office - thing to do.
I'm arguing for people to quit the Republicans because that's the party most beholden to the NRA.  If needed, people can easily drop from the Democratic Party too.  Hell, switching to Democrats may simply make the NRA put pressure on them once they figure out what's happening, so don't even sign with the Dems.  Just go full Indy.  This move alone would signal to the party leadership - on both sides - that there are many disgruntled voters and many of them no longer hewing to the party dogma (of either side).
Current voter registration is about 36 percent Democrat, 34 percent Republican, 26 percent Independent.  What level of panic do you think will hit the Republican leadership - and also Democrats - when the numbers of registered voters switch to 33 percent Democrat, 25 percent Republican, 38 percent Independent when enough voters switch to NPA?  That's what the goal here should be: a clear warning flag to the GOP that they're losing the American voters.

2) Get every American who wants gun safety laws to publicly insist on voting only for state and federal candidates for office who will ignore the NRA and pass those much-needed laws.  Put this in letters to the elected officials on a daily basis, put this in letters to the editors at newspapers and local TV stations.  Actively interview and confront political candidates during election years and let them know: this is a problem they cannot ignore, and this is a solution they need to support.

3) Remind the NRA that they are only 4.5 million members out of 100 million gun owners - meaning they do not represent every gun owner - and that is out of 310 million Americans - meaning they sure as sh-t do not represent all of America.  They'll likely put their fingers in their ears and shout "La-La-La" and then accuse all non-gun owners of being wimps or Commies, but 248 MILLION AMERICANS ARGUING FOR BACKGROUND CHECKS CANNOT BE WRONG, and they need to speak for themselves.

4) If enough elected officials at the federal and state level are on board, pass a new amendment that abolishes the OUTDATED Second Amendment and replaces it with an amendment that allows for gun ownership but with strict, clear and enforceable limits to ensure gun safety and the protection of the many millions of Americans who DO NOT WANT GUNS.
A better worded amendment could go like this: 1. An American citizen can register to bear firearms for personal defense, 2. that the state license the citizen, and ensure proper training, public safety, and personal safety to protect others from any abuse or improper firearm handling, 3. that firearms are manufactured and sold under strict federal guidelines under the enumerated powers of Congress, 4. that Congress regulate and ban all offensive / assault firearms to ensure the public's right to peaceably assemble.
The need for militias is already stated in the Constitution (Article I Section 8), the Second Amendment was meant as a clarification. With this new amendment, such clarification isn't needed (and in this day and age, militias are irrelevant to the national or state defense thanks to the establishment of National Guards).

That is a lot of work, I admit.  There will be a lot of screaming - mostly by the NRA, who will have a conniption if these ideas are even breathed in the public forum.

But we are at the point - from Sandy Hook to today - where gun violence MUST end.  We MUST stand up, we MUST do something about the spread and easy access of weapons - The Gun - of mass death.

WE must.  Okay, America?  Otherwise WE will keep dying in the streets, and the malls, and the movie theaters, and the churches and the schools and the office spaces and...

Friday, July 24, 2015

They Made The Rules They Now Regret

I know it's crooked, but it's the only game in town
- attributed to a con artist, Canada Bill Jones

The Republicans - and their media overlords - are apparently getting more worried about their self-inflicted damage, also known as Candidate Donald Trump.

The first part is the coverage.  The biggest reason Trump is leading - for now - is because Fox Not-News and their conservative media cohorts - hi, Rush! - can't stop their coverage of Trump as he rails against immigrants and trashes the reputations of established party leaders (dissing John McCain, doxxing Lindsey Graham).

This is how serious a problem it's become: Rupert Murdoch, who officially OWNS the Fox News channel and pays everyone's salary there, can't even get his own people like Roger Ailes to listen to him:

One reason Murdoch is taking to social media and deploying his publishing properties to attack Trump may be the simple fact that he hasn’t been able to control his most powerful media organ: Fox News. According to sources, Murdoch has tried — and failed — to rein in Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes, who, insiders say, is pushing Fox to defend Trump’s most outlandish comments. This week, Ailes told his senior executives during a meeting that Murdoch recently called him and asked if Fox could “back off the Trump coverage,” a source told me. Ailes is said to have boasted to his executives that he told Murdoch he was covering Trump “the way he wanted to.” The implication was that he wasn’t going to budge... 
...It’s understandable that Murdoch would be frustrated. Fox News has been a ringleader of the Trump circus. Shortly after Trump jumped into the race, he had a "2-to-3 hour" private lunch with Ailes, sources told me. Last month, Fox gave Trump more airtime than any other candidate. And, according to sources, the channel's personalities are taking an active role in aiding Trump, both on- and off-camera. One source explained that Ailes has instructed The Five co-host Eric Bolling to defend Trump on air. A review of Bolling’s comments shows that over the past week, he’s gone to bat for Trump numerous times...
...Inside Fox News, the Journal editorial (Note: which Murdoch owns) is clearly seen by some as a message to Ailes. It seems doubtful, however, that he is listening. “Roger claims not to care,” an insider said... 

You might remember Roger Ailes if you've read The Selling of the President: he was one of the media people handling Nixon's 1968 campaign and was a major figure in McGinniss' classic book.  He is one of several legacies left behind by those Nixon years, a figure who spent decades trying to create a purely conservative media outlet and finally got one in Fox. Who is now reveling in the final end-game of the much-vaunted Southern Strategy weaponized under Nixon's tenure: the rise of a conservative populist figure devoid of reason and full of emotional pandering.

What is happening now between Murdoch and Ailes is akin to watching a pro football team owner trying to tell his Head Coach-slash-General Manager to think of improving the team's talent with smart free agency signings and drafting a highly-scouted defensive lineman, only to wail in horror on the Rookie Draft Day as that Coach/Manager goes and drafts a PUNTER in the First Round. (for those of you who don't follow football, let the experts tell you that drafting a Punter in the First tends to be a REALLY BAD IDEA)

The other part is the debate itself.  Terrified of what Trump could do on the stage, some party players are urging the big names - Jeb, Walker, Rubio - to boycott if Trump garners an official invite:

...One idea that came up was to urge three leading candidates — Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor; Mr. Walker; and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida — to band together and state that they would not participate in any debate in which Mr. Trump was present, using his refusal to rule out a third-party bid as a pretext for taking such a hard line. The thinking, according to a Republican involved in the conversations, was that the lesser-funded prospects who have been eclipsed by Mr. Trump would follow suit, and the TV networks airing the debates would be forced to bar Mr. Trump in order to have a full complement of candidates.
But none of the campaigns have shown any appetite for such solidarity, for reasons ranging from their strategic interests and not wanting to make Mr. Trump a martyr, to fear of making an enemy of Fox News, the preferred cable network of conservatives and the host of the first debate...

Another problem with that boycott idea is obvious: in a crowded field where the ONLY major front-runner (so far) will be Trump, avoiding the first debate for the other major names would be akin to shooting off your own foot.  The remaining candidates - most of them struggling for ANY media attention - would gladly join the same stage as Trump and try to pilfer Trump's fanbase through their own pandering.  Just because Jeb Bush or Scott Walker might not show won't mean the likes of Carson, Cruz or Huckabee would also avoid the moment.

There's a bigger problem as well: having set up the rules of the debate - whomever hits the Top Ten in average of the major polls, and filed proper with the FEC - the Republican Party is going to look like fools trying to change in public the rigged game days before the table is set.  They knew full well going in that Trump was polling relatively high among the party base.  They knew they had the likelihood of inviting someone who had no political experience and a potential to embarrass himself and the party.  They could have earlier set a tougher guideline such as actual campaign wins - which would have knocked Trump, Carson, and Fiorina off the list - and not a lot of people would have complained then (save for Carson's and Fiorina's backers).  Either they figured Trump - when it was time to put up or shut up - wouldn't have risked the potential business losses or he wouldn't have risked public humiliation.

But Trump is now blowing those hopes to pieces: he's clearly willing to swallow his short-term losses in exchange for long-term infamy, and he's proven there is no level of shame that can humiliate himself.  And being a self-assured billionaire, he's under no obligations to listen to anybody as there's no financial backers or potential threats from the national party to keep him in line.

Now the Republicans are stuck with a blowhard con artist dominating the first debate while more qualified political figures - Governor Kasich in particular may well miss the starting round unless his fortunes change in a week - sit at the little kids' table in frustration.

What's happening here is that the Republican Party leadership - both the organization itself and the media outlets openly associated with them - tried to rig the game after the relatively embarrassing fiasco that was the 2012 primary season.  But they've tried doing this after having rigged everything else: having mounted a massive obstructionist program against Obama and the Democrats by vilifying them as the evil opposition, which enforced a partisan anti-everybody agenda that Trump is easily exploiting; having pushed for more rich-people's money flowing into campaigns via court rulings like Citizens United that Trump can use to basically keep himself afloat and even threatening an independent run if the Republicans reject him; using media outlets like Fox Not-News to script and shape the Republican message to shill to an ever-angered and ever-gullible audience, now attuned to Trump's calls towards hatred and outrage at the Republican leadership itself.  Now they're finding that all the tricks they've used to set this all up are now tripping their own efforts.

That quote above about how that rigged game was the only one in town?  The guy saying was a con artist himself: leave it to a con artist to try conning the con, much like con artist Trump conning the rigged Republicans.

Murdoch, the Bushes, Reince Priebus and the RNC, their financial backers like the Kochs, they all have to live with the fact that they created the only rigged game in town with these GOP Primaries and the public debates... and NOW they're no longer in control of the fix.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

It Has To Be Done: GOP Debate Drinking Game 2016 Edition

(Update 10/15/2015: there is now an October drinking game in place, please link over to that, danke)

(Update 8/30/2015: Final note to everyone still looking.  I'm posting a September drinking game for the GOP Sept. 16 debate that I just finished and linked here.  I can't hide or shut down this page, which I figure is still gonna get views thanks to the search engine algorithms out there, but hey the September rules are up now please get drunk using that.  And Pinku-Sensei has the drink orders you can use...
I am now convinced this is not a clown-car race, this 2016 campaign is an endurance test for people's livers.  In the interest of fairness I hope to get a Democratic drinking game up before their October debate.  Meanwhile, keep checking the blog for all the other stuff I'm writing.)

(Note: Getting some traffic for this entry, so I see a need to update with fresher drinking rules as the gaffes pile up...  
Update to the Note: if anybody has a suggestion for a drinking rule to this game, by all means add it via Comment below or else tweet me @PaulWartenberg okay?  
Revision to the Update to the Note: I F-CKING LOVE YOU GUYS visiting my place.  
Addendum to the Revision to the Update to the Note: Now it turns out even Lindsey Graham is encouraging the use of drink during debate viewing: "Well, when I’m in the first debate, which is the ‘Happy Hour Debate,’ at five o’clock, start drinking. By nine o’clock, Donald may make sense to you, if you drink enough." - Graham.
Correction of the Addendum to the Revision to the Update to the Note: It's Tuesday evening (8/4/15) and Fox Not-News has announced the final cut!  TWO DAYS, SHEEPLE!  More below, including changes to the lineup and some additional drinking rules!)
Also Wik: Crazy Eddie's Motie News has custom-designed drinks specific to Trump, and we are promised custom drinks for each of the other debators, so check that place for updates as well.  Big shout-out to Pinku-Sensei!
Also Also Wik to Everything Above and Below and On This Blog: Final word from Pinku-Sensei is that the other candidates' drink orders are on the Crazy Eddie site now!
OKAY AMERICA, IT'S UP TO YOU NOW.  Just remember, DRINK RESPONSIBLY and be wise when selecting your Designated Driver!  The drinking rules are below, I hope you've found a nice selection of lagers and brews, and be sure to tip your bartender/wait staff ('cause that was something Mitt Romney never did, the cheap bastid)!
Just so you know, I am only accountable for 3189 of you getting drunk tonight (total official number of article visitors).  For the remaining 284 million Americans and countless others overseas of legal drinking age, I am not your alibi.  So there. ;)

So this came up.  Oliver Willis of Like Kryptonite To Stupid and contributor to Media Matters brought up how Jeb Bush's campaign was selling watch party tickets for about $2700.00 (!) and I joked about how it would be cheaper to just stay at home to watch, order $40 in pizzas and sit around with drunk friends mocking the whole shindig.  Then this idea came up:

Yeah, I'm kinda thinking up a few rules for a drinking game meself.  And I don't drink alcoholic beverages, and even I'm thinking about how to get drunk enough to watch the coming circus act.

So, the drinking rules to the August 6th Republican Debate for the 2016 Presidential Nomination shall be thus:


  • If any candidate talks about meeting Ronald Reagan in person, take a drink.
  • If any candidate talks about kneeling before St. Ronnie and asking for his blessing to serve the cause as THE CHOSEN ONE, take two drinks.
  • If any candidate shares a passage from his erotic Reagan fanfiction involving light bondage and tax cuts (we live in a Fifty Shades world now), throw bottle at screen.
  • If any candidate praises Fox Not-News for "honesty and credibility", 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.
  • If any candidate says nice things about Jon Stewart and suggests Jon shouldn't retire this year from the Daily Show, quit drinking and stay sober because you've just witnessed the impossible.
  • (Update: from @word_34 aka SkarkWeekSneak) "Hillary" "email" or "server", you have to do double shots.  Throw in "Benghazi" here too.
  • (Update) 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.
  • (Update) 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.
  • (Update) 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: As of Tuesday August 4th we know the ten contestants on the next "Prience Is Right Drunk!"  The names are in order of the Fox Rankings)

For Donald Trump
  • If Trump says something insulting, take a drink.
  • If Trump says something demonstrably false, take a drink.
  • Actually, don't do either.  The second he opens his mouth under those rules, you're pretty much gonna be passed out by the fifth minute of the debate.
  • If Trump says he respects Latinos and can easily win their votes, take two drinks from any Dos Equis brand in front of you and laugh your ass off.
  • If Trump complains about China in any way, take the Made In China tab on any Trump-labeled designer wear and tear it off, then take a drink.

For Jeb Bush:
  • If Jeb says nice things about his brother's administration, take two drinks - one for Dubya and one for Cheney - and yell at the screen.
  • If Jeb brings up school vouchers, take three drinks.
  • If Jeb says there shouldn't be immigration reform, drink whole bottle.
  • If Jeb says Obama is a terrible foreign policy President, take a drink from every bottle made by the 2003 Coalition of the Willing, and then vomit on a picture of Bush the Elder. Please have towels and trash cans handy. 

For Scott Walker:
  • If Walker brings up his union-busting habits, take a drink.
  • If Walker brings up his recall survivial, take two drinks.
  • If Walker brings up how he squashed his John Doe investigation, drink whole bottle.
  • If Walker tries wearing a Packer Cheesehead foam hat, drink from a Chicago microbrewery label and shout "DA BEARS".
  • If Walker calls himself a "job creator", throw bottle at screen.

For Mike Huckabee:
  • If Huckabee claims he's a strong judge of character, scream "you hang out with child molesters!" and throw bottle at screen.
  • If Huckabee talks about jamming with Ted "I Worship My God-Gun" Nugent, take two drinks and throw bottle at screen.
  • If Huckabee tries to compare anything to the Holocaust, light a memorial candle and throw bottle at screen.
  • If Huckabee tries to talk about stricter prison laws, or looser law enforcement rules to "fight crime", take a drink for every cop who died because of his asinine pardons as governor (5, at last count) and throw bottle at screen.
  • If Huckabee appears on the screen, throw bottle at screen.

For Ben Carson:
  • If Carson gets a non-Obamacare question, take a drink.
  • If Carson actually answers a non-Obamacare question with a reasonable-sounding policy suggestion, drink whole bottle.
  • If Carson talks like he's taken notes from Rick Perry, take three drinks.

For Ted Cruz:
  • If Cruz attempts to suck the soul or eat the heart of Donald Trump live on-stage, drink whole bottle.
  • If Cruz says anything about the legislation he's nuked in the House - while serving as a SENATOR - take a drink.
  • If Cruz employs oratory tools that rely heavily on the teachings and practices of Cicero and Pericles, take two drinks.
  • If Cruz not only panders on the issue of a Government Shutdown over Planned Parenthood, but also claims to have locked every door to the Capitol Building and threw away the key just to make certain, drink whole bottle.
  • If Cruz fails to joke about Obama being born in Kenya, drink the entire bottle of whatever Canadian brand is in front of you and throw empty bottle at the Calgarian Candidate.

For Marco Rubio:
  • If Rubio talks about his exaggerated family story where his parents fled Cuba well before Castro took it over, take a drink. 
  • If Rubio speaks against the opening of relations with Cuba, take two drinks.
  • If Rubio finishes the whole night without saying one word about immigration, finish off the bottle.
  • If Rubio any says anything in Espanol, drink whole bottle.

For Rand Paul:
  • If Paul mentions the gold standard, take a drink.
  • If Paul discusses the need to end American interventionist activity, take a drink.
  • If Paul still says we need to bomb Syria though, take four drinks.
  • If Paul lights up a blunt on-stage, do the same (in legal states only).
  • If Paul revs up a chainsaw, switch the TV over to Evil Dead II and watch a real expert - BRRRRRUUUUUUCCCEEEEEEE! - wield one.

For Chris Christie:
  • If Christie tries to quote Springsteen, throw bottle at screen.
  • If Christie tries to punch somebody on stage, take a drink.
  • If Christie tries to punch one of the debate moderators, take three drinks.
  • If Christie tries to punch a teacher in the audience, finish whole bottle.
  • If Christie gets arrested during the debate over his ethics failures and dragged off-stage, drink whole bottle.

For John Kasich:
  • If Kasich is even on the stage, take two drinks right off the bat because it probably means Christie got arrested beforehand and there was an opening.  Okay, it looks like Laughing Boy from Dayton made it.  Go ahead, Ohio, take a drink right off the bat.
  • If Kasich talks about immigration reform, take a drink.
  • If Kasich defends his time working for Lehman Brothers, throw bottle at screen.
  • If Kasich mentions how he was with the bipartisan team that got a balanced budget going in Congress back in the 1990s, take a drink and pity the poor guy because he just used the word 'bipartisan' in front of a GOP primary crowd that considers it a trigger word.

The rest of the list is now set aside for the sad, doomed players who got played.  There's still a debate taking place between this sorry lot, so if anybody wants to get an early buzz on before the Main Event, you're happy to apply these to your wasted afternoon.

For Rick Perry:
  • If Perry flubs a debate answer (again), take three drinks.
  • If Perry says anything about a "Texas miracle" involving that state's economy, take a drink, and then prepare to pass out because that's all he's got.
  • If Perry keeps looking over his shoulder, gazing into the distance, sighing repeatedly like a poor child missing his favorite roller coaster ride, take a sympathy drink.

For Rick Santorum:
  • If Santorum is even on the stage, it means Rick Perry got lost on the way to the auditorium, so take three drinks right away in honor of Perry.   Oops, Perry's gonna be standing right next to him.
  • If Santorum mentions gay marriage as the cause of all natural disasters, take a drink.  If the rule was to drink whole bottle, you'll end up dead from toxic effects (even if you substituted water! True story).
  • If Santorum mentions man-on-dog marriage as legal now, kiss Fluffy and take a drink.
  • If Santorum asks people to stop Googling his name, finish whole bottle.
  • If Santorum brings up the fact he won primaries in 2012 and DAMMIT he deserves better than getting seated at the little kids' table, take a drink for every primary he won (11).

For Bobby Jindal:
  • Seriously?
  • No, really, seriously?
  • He's getting the Happy Hour invite, which isn't going to be too happy for him.  And for all he'd done to try and wipe out Planned Parenthood in his own state, tsk tsk.
  • If Jindal ever openly begs Grover Norquist to end his misery, take a drink.

For Carly Fiorina:
  • Seriously?  I just can't even give you a snarky answer because you lost your only other campaign attempt.  At least with Carson and Trump they're gonna qualify for the debate, but... Seriously, no, sorry Carly, this is it.
  • If Fiorina tries to bring up her California Senatorial campaign - which failed, miserably - take a drink.

For Lindsey Graham:
  • This is where the rules of "top 10 polled" gets ridiculous.  Experienced politicians who paid their dues like Graham, disagree with them or not, it's not fair for them to sit out while amateurs like Trump and Carson get the spotlight.
  • If by the off-chance Graham makes the Big Dance, if he argues for bombing half the Middle East as a means of convincing our enemies and allies of our manhood, take a drink, break out a map, and start crossing off the NATO allies that are going to stop taking calls from our State Department.
  • If Graham riffs off his earlier joke about drinking heavily to watch these debates, toast him for his sincerity at the least.
  • If Graham refers to this drinking game, finish the bottle, 'cause damn.

For George Pataki:
  • Who?
  • If even he shows up at the door with ID proving he can get on stage for the 5:00 round, take a drink.

For Jim Gilmore:

  • Bro, dude, seriously?  NOW you're putting in for this?  Bro.  THERE ARE NO SEATS LEFT IN THE GOP CLOWN CAR.  There are LIMITS even to the Clown Car.  Even *I* know Kasich was late getting into the game.  What are YOU drinking, Jim, to make you think you can even get in on this?  /headdesk
  • If he shows up in a clown outfit, just so he can pretend he belongs there, throw bottle at the screen.

This is it, folks.  We are less than TWO DAYS AWAY from the third-best sales day for alcoholic breweries across the globe we will see in our lifetimes!

And this is, again, coming from a guy who don't drink.  I will be the only Designated Driver left standing after 10:00 PM EDT.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Predicting Character: You're a Little Late to the Party Kasich

So here we go officially, getting the 16th name on the list so we can get our free-for-all Thunderdome battle royale.  Today Ohio Governor John Kasich announced his run for the Republican nomination for 2016.  Back to David Graham at the Atlantic who decided at some point this year to be a masochist and document the cheat sheet:

...In fact, Kasich might not make the stage, either—even though the first forum is being held in Ohio, the state where he’s governor. Despite a reputation for policy smarts, Kasich seems like a longshot, too moderate and technocratic for a Republican primary electorate, and possibly too peevish to handle voters and donors alike. But he’s a brainy candidate, his super PAC has raised a decent sum, and the fact that he hails from an important swing state will give him an outsize impact...

Another writer at the Atlantic, Molly Ball, goes into a little more detail, and points out how Kasich might actually stand out from the other 15 names in the field.  Because he's one who has not stuck to the orthodox Far Right script:

Kasich’s transgressions against conservative orthodoxy are many. He supports the Common Core educational standards, which the right loathes; he says he would consider allowing undocumented immigrants to become citizens; his state budgets have cut a lot of taxes, but raised others; and spending has increased on his watch. Conservatives’ primary complaint is that Kasich singlehandedly accepted the Obamacare-Medicaid expansion for his state, thus making him complicit in the most loathed policy of the loathed Democratic president.
But Kasich’s heresy is bigger than these specific ideological transgressions. It is tonal—he has golfed with Obama and generally declines to attack the president personally; he has justified his Medicaid decision on the basis of Christian compassion for the poor. And it is philosophical—Kasich is witheringly dismissive of the anti-government absolutists in his own party. “There's a sort of fantasy out there, or a myth, that we can just cut all the government and that'll give us our lower taxes,” he told me when I visited him in Ohio in February for a profile I was writing. “It doesn't work that way. You can't just get rid of all these programs and say, ‘People, just spontaneously do it!’”

Kasich still got two problems: 1) He's running in a primary for a political party that skews so far Right Wing with its voting base that there are not enough moderates inside the ranks to side with him, and 2) He's nowhere near - at the moment - making the cutoff line for the all-important first debate in August.

Calling Kasich a moderate might not be the right word to use: but compared to the rest of the field, his demonstrative faith in a functional bipartisan government - the fact he accepted dreaded Obamacare funds for Medicaid, that he's raised spending in Ohio during his tenure - puts him to the left of nearly every Republican leader out there.

Kasich is still at heart a Republican.  He's demonstrably pro-business in favor of mass deregulation, still favors tax cuts in general as policy, and tends towards social conservatism as a personal world-view.

He was also at Lehman Brothers during the build-up to the economic collapse of 2007-08, which doesn't exactly give him credit points for fiscal wisdom or smarts.

So who is Kasich?  In what respects should we identify his world-view and establish what Character traits he could employ as President?

The biography shows a son of regular middle-class parents from the Great Lakes region born of the Baby Boomer generation.  Interested in politics since college - he made the effort to meet with Nixon, something he openly prides in - he'd been involved in elected offices from the state level up to Congress.  From there he gets tabbed for House Budget Committee chair duties when the Republican gain control of the House in 1994.  From there (via the newspaper Columbus Dispatch): 1994, new House Speaker Newt Gingrich tapped a 42-year-old fiscal hawk named John Kasich to lead the House Budget Committee.
He chose Kasich, Gingrich told The Dispatch, because he had “courage, intelligence, drive, ambition and a willingness to dream big...”
...He was the brash young lawmaker who managed to annoy virtually every interest group in Washington, on either side of the political spectrum. But he also forged a series of unlikely and sometimes startling alliances in his quest to get things done...
“...Just because party leadership was thinking one way didn’t mean John would follow blindly,” said Bruce Cuthbertson, a longtime Kasich aide who now is a GOP consultant. “But along with that independence was the idea of always trying to build coalitions, trying to find reasons to work with people rather than find reasons to work against them...”

His tenure as governor since 2010 gives us an idea how Kasich would perform as a national executive: slashing taxes but also keeping government functioning and serving the needs of the public.  Kasich's most notable moves on the national stage highlight the fights and follies of being a modern Republican: his first term focused on dismantling the power of unions in his state, which failed when a voter-driven referendum overrode his efforts; his second term focused on accepting Obamacare's Medicaid expansion, which the party base viewed as betrayal.

Oddly enough, Kasich's remained popular both terms.  Which means he plays well for Ohioans despite the rancor of the national political figures in his own party.

So how would I chart Kasich?

John Kasich - Governor, Ohio
Positives: Long-term elected official with more experience - legislative and executive - than every other candidate in both parties.  Won re-election handily in a toss-up state, one of the key large-population battleground states for 2016 that the Republicans desperately need to even have a chance at winning.  Unlike other governors during his tenure - Jindal, Christie, even Walker - has remained popular in his own state.  Is viewed as more fiscal conservative than anything else: while he's still pro-fetus he's openly pro-people on gay marriage, and argues a Christian faith - the reason he supports Medicaid for the poor - that avoids the demagoguery the social conservatives enable. Has a reputation for abrasiveness but somehow inspires personal loyalty where least expected.
Negatives: Is coming very late to the ongoing horse race, with far too many candidates ahead of him on the wait list.  Not exactly Mister Personality, has a reputation among his own colleagues for brusque and curt behavior.  While he's ambitious, has a blase attitude about campaigning for President.  His bipartisan focus may appeal to moderate and independent voters, but he has to survive getting through a primary system dominated by partisan voters who'll abhor such tactics.  Despite his tax-cut stances, is still hated by fiscals conservatives for increasing state spending (an honest question would be has Kasich been able to balance the state budgets on a consistent basis?). One of the few Republican figures to support Obamacare, for God's sake that's like a Democratic candidate openly supporting Dick Cheney's foreign policy positions.
Chances: Even with his name being floated for months, he hasn't broken into the Top 10 names on the polls.  It is likely he could see a boost now that he's official, but he's got to steal polling numbers from candidates viewed of the same cloth as himself, which aren't many (Jeb, Rubio, Walker, Graham).  His resume might impress but his own personality won't.
Character Chart: I keep coming back to how the Republican party itself leans so far over to Active-Negative behaviors - rigid Uncompromising attitudes above all - that every Republican candidate is pretty much going to fulfill that character.  Kasich is the only one so far making me re-think that position.  His case history, while conservative, highlights a political figure who acts as though government can be effective.  His willingness to buck national dogma over Obamacare points to a possible Adaptive trait.  Among the current Republican candidates, he's the closest any of them get to being an Active-Positive.

It's too bad he's got to go sell himself to a crowd of voters who want Active-Negatives demolishing everything about government just to tick everybody else off.  I doubt Kasich can win enough delegate votes to even justify showing up at the 2016 convention.

Some Notes About The Never-Ending Horse Race to 2016: It's ONLY July 2015 Edition

It doesn't finish, because I guarantee you on the Wednesday after 2016 Election Night someone is going to rev up a 2020 campaign.  /headdesk

But in the meanwhile, just these thoughts to consider before I delve into more dedicated writing:

  • You-Know-Who had an interesting weekend where his polling numbers jumped higher than all the other GOP reindeer, just as he was laying waste to the personal biography of one of his intra-party critics.  When The Donald insulted McCain by mocking his five years as a Vietnam War POW, the outrage among the Republican elite and their media allies went to Eleven on the hypocrisy dial. The polling may yet dip on Trump, going after McCain may be a bridge too far, but one of Trump's early campaigning strengths has been stoking the outrage among a party base that doesn't trust their party leadership in the first place: for every veteran voter Trump may lose he may well get two wingnut voters in return.  Additional polling may have to play it out.  Either way, Trump has not apologized and probably never will: he is playing a blunt style that may violate a lot of Machiavellian rules but it's working for him.  There *is* a point of no return, but for now nobody can yet tell what that will be...
  • I can't joke anymore about Scott Walker's John Doe investigation.  Wisconsin's Supreme Court voted to pretty much kill off the search into Walker's campaign violations, meaning he can now campaign just as illegally at the national level.  It's interesting to note that Walker is currently Number Two behind Trump.  It's also interesting to note that Walker's shaking the War Flag crying out to attack Iran on Day One if he makes the White House.  This is how extreme the primaries are going to get.
  • John Kasich, current governor of Ohio, is announcing for reals today, making it officially a Round of 16 for the GOP primrary roster.  More on him later when I can do a quick Character review.
  • I just started reading Between the World And Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, having paused in my reading of Go Set a Watchman, as the current discussions over Coates' work has priority.  I still plan on tag-teaming the reviews for both as I feel they are thematically appropriate.

Also, pro football season is warming up and they're already mocking my team the Bucs without mercy or care.  Ah well.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Can This Happen? The Numbers Of the Republican 2016 Chaos Theory

(Update to the update: oops, had the wrong link to the Mike's Blog Round Up.  Still, if you're visiting, HI THERE!)

I think I've linked before to National Review - more out of spite than anything, if I recall - but it's rare, so I have to note that in doing some digging into how crazy the GOP primaries are going to get I came across an article that was gleeful about the possibility the whole thing goes to the July 2016 convention:

How interesting? Top-tier presidential campaigns are preparing for the still-unlikely scenario that the nomination fight goes all the way to the 2016 Republican National Convention. There hasn’t been a brokered convention since 1976, but the strength of the GOP field (note: Joel Gehrke's words, not mine), when coupled with the proliferation of super PACs, increases the chances that several candidates could show up in Cleveland next July with an army of delegates at their backs.

Now granted, as a student of history, I would be intrigued to watch that most epic of political dog-fights (an intra-party civil war) that a brokered convention would be.  However, I'm a little skeptical about 2016 being divided up between candidates as a good thing for the GOP, due to several factors:

  • There isn't a serious front-runner - I'm talking someone with a double-digit lead over the next candidate - that can steady and solidify his hold on a brokered convention.  That could well mean three or more players fighting over one chair (the Presidency) with the peace offering (Vice Presidency) not even a satisfactory bargaining chip.
  • There are a lot of Active-Negative egos on the campaign trail this year: I cannot imagine any of the top vote getters - Jeb, Walker, Huckabee, Cruz, Trump - subsuming their egos/ids long enough to let a sane deal get hammered out at the convention.  Huckabee could under the circumstances, but if he's thisclose to being the nominee I doubt it.
  • There are no likable "dark horse" possibilities at the moment that could be a "safe" alternative for the party to back (mostly because so many of those possibilities are polling below 5 percent at the moment).
  • Any possible deal getting made would have to satiate - not just mollify, but validate - the Far Right voters who clearly did not give enough support to the Establishment GOP leaders' preferred choice (Bush... or Walker).  That means coming out into the general election with such a hard-core platform - not just anti-Obamacare and anti-taxes, but also anti-immigrant to the point of a declared race war vs. Latinos - that the general election could well drive all the moderate/no-party-affiliate voters screaming into the happy arms of the Democrats (even if Evil Hillary is the candidate and is openly Evil about it).

Let's just look at the scenario, how it might play out.  There's a site I found called Green Papers that goes into more detail about the convention rules and delegation counts, but let's stick to the basics.

  • There are 2470 total delegates planned out for the 2016 Convention in Cleveland.
  • It takes 1236 delegates to clinch the nomination outright.
  • Let's say that none of the major names likely to survive all the way to July 2016 are able to get over 25 percent of all delegates.  That means not only did the top two names not get enough to win, those top two candidates do not have enough to make a deal between themselves to snag the President and Vice-President slots... and that neither of them can even deal with any of the lesser delegate holders to pass the finish line.  This is why I'm thinking the Veep seat won't be a decent bargaining chip when the time comes.

Let's try this: Bush, Walker, Paul, Cruz, Huckabee, Trump and Rubio all survive to the last primary day.  But it plays out like this for the delegate count:
Walker = 568
Huckabee = 494
Bush = 445
Trump = 271
Cruz = 247
Rubio = 247
Paul = 198

You'll notice that Walker and Huckabee together can't break that 1236 count, so there's no team-up possibility there.  All of the possible combos won't work.  In this scenario, the back-room party leaders will have some difficulties: if Jeb Bush had secured the first or second spot on the list, given his family's connections he could easily make enough deals and make the "sensible" argument as the "Establishment" figurehead to control the convention.  But if he's down in third place or lower, he can't make any "sensible" claims in that regards, especially if it's clear the GOP voting base won't trust or accept him.

What is going to have to happen is that the top guys - Walker, Huckabee and Bush - are going to try and grab as many delegates from the bottom four as best as possible.  But you can't offer the VP spot to all four, so that's a no-go.  It's interesting to note that the lower four names have three of the furthest wingnut candidates - Trump, Cruz and Paul - more interested in pandering to the base than the top three (who are all pretty well-versed in pandering already, which should be telling).

That means a lot of horse-trading and a ton of concessions - giving into extremist positions that won't play well to a moderate/independent audience - from whomever makes the best offers.  Which is not a good thing for a political party already stuck in a dogmatic mindset: the Republicans can well end up with a set of agenda policies so Far Right than they already are it would unpalatable to the general electorate.  I'm talking platform policies that are openly hostile - rather than just dog-whistling - against Latinos, women, college students, even families that do not fit the purity worldview of the Far Right.

Of course, the counter to that scenario is "can that even happen?"

It depends on if delegation wins by state are Winner-Take-All or Proportional.  Some states do seem to be WTA (Florida and California) and so a winning primary candidate could well get hundreds of delegates rather than piecemeal.  But Texas seems to use a Proportional, and they're one of the bigger delegate-holding states for the GOP (esp. thanks to their bonus counts).  A lot of toss-up states like Ohio and Virginia are Proportionals as well.

There's also the factor that one candidate will do better in one state's primary and not another.  Trump may play well in North Carolina but I guarantee you he's going to get stomped in Latino-heavy states like Florida and California (he may God help us win enough anti-immigrant votes in Texas to snag proportional delegates from there).  Jeb Bush may get Florida as its his support base, but may not get anything from Wisconsin or Tennessee (or 40 other states).  Walker could well clean up in the Midwest where his brand of politicking may work, but could well crash in California or the Northeast.

That factor is now in play because the earlier primary method of weeding out weaker candidates can no longer work.  In this post-Citizens United world, a candidate can garner the love of a Sugar Daddy SuperPAC and stay in all 50 states without fear of campaign debts.  That means a candidate that would normally fail in the early rounds - Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina have been the Filter states since the 1970s - can power through to the states where they could thrive and garner enough delegates to earn a seat at the convention dealer's table.

The Republicans are going to have to pray for three things:

  1. That there's a clear front-runner - especially Jeb, maybe Walker - even if he doesn't win enough delegate counts
  2. That the top delegate winner has just enough - I'd say over 1000 delegates, enough to assert a lead but not enough to win outright - to secure the nomination by making a VP deal with a relatively sane lower-tier delegate holder
  3. That... aw, who am I kidding? I want the Republicans to suffer bwhahahahahaha

...except for the fact that given the nature of the Two-Party dominance in Presidential elections, I dread the likelihood of a wingnut convention winner coming out with a wingnut platform.  No matter how repulsive that platform could get, we run the risk of a close election - damn you, Debacle 2000! - that could haunt us for decades.

Unless Trump does well enough in the primaries to convince himself he can branch out as a third-party candidate.  His Id - more powerful than his already outsized Ego - could well go that impulsive route.  Instead of 2000 we'd be replaying 1992, when a rich egotist in Ross Perot split votes away from Bush the Elder's GOP to allow Clinton to win a minority popular vote / majority Electoral count.  I do imagine a number of Republican operatives are losing sleep over THAT possibility...

Friday, July 17, 2015

The Problem Facing the Republicans This August Debate

(Update: big hello to everyone visiting via Mike's Blog Round Up at and I hope everything is to your satisfaction.  Please take a moment to look at some of the other musings and rants I've got on the site, and if anyone asks tell them I'm trying to read both Go Set A Watchman and Between the World and Meat the same time for possible reviewing in the future)

(Update to the update: I Still Heart Pluto)

There's a few problems the Republicans are facing this 2016 Presidential cycle, above all their lack of a true Reagan-esque figure to shill for their increasingly unloved political agenda.

They're already facing the uphill battle over demographics, but everyone - including Mr. Strawman over there - knows that.

The Republicans have to cope with the current Electoral map that favors the Democrats in more states with more electors: all the 2016 Democratic nominee has to do is win the same states Obama did, which is looking more likely by the day.  (and the only ones to blame are the Republicans themselves, responsible for such polarization in the first place).

There is, however, on top of all this a big problem the Republican Party cannot avoid.

They have too many candidates for President running in this primary.

We're technically up to fifteen (15), unless there's been any more announcements just now, and the common consensus is that we might have sixteen (16) names seventeen (17!) names for the Republicans to consider once the actual horse-race is underway come January 2016.

These aren't just people floating their trial balloons.  They have filed, they are lining up SuperPACs and fund-raisers, and they're fighting for position for the upcoming cable news debates.

By comparison, the Democrats are around five (5) names filing for contention with a potential sixth, and while one of them - hi, Hillary! - is a dominant name there's at least one serious competitor - hi, Bernie! - and one possible competitor who can rally by primary season in O'Malley to make something of a horse-race for the Dems.  Throw in the likelihood of Biden and there's at least a reason to tune in and see who gaffes the most.

In theory, it's good to have choices.  Especially in politics where diversity of views on different issues need to get aired out to the voters.  That's why for the Democrats it's going to be a good thing to have front-runner Hillary Clinton face off against an obvious alternative in Sanders and a potential backup option in O'Malley (or Biden).

In practice, having too many choices clutters the field, creates too much chaos for people to make decisions.  It may also create other problems, but for now let's consider the chaos.

For Republicans, last cycle 2012 they did have thirteen (13) names on the ballot, but it got pretty clear by the first month that it was all down to Mitt Romney and the Not-Mitt Candidate of the Week.  Given the front-runner status of Mitt, the Not-Mitt option became less of an issue: all it did was prolong the primary season as the eventual Not-Mitt candidate in Santorum refused to drop out.

This 2016 cycle, the Republicans are lacking a clear front-runner.  It's currently just Trump and Jeb Bush in double-digits... and neither of them are over 20 percent (by comparison, Hillary is polling at 51 percent over Sanders' 17 percent, it's shrunk but it's still a major lead). Part of it has to do with there being too many choices too early.  While the remaining thirteen Republicans are polling at 9 percent or lower, they're still taking up space and they're essentially taking away potential voters from everybody else.  Let's round every non-Trump/Bush candidate to 5 percent... multiply that by 13 names and that's still 65 percent of the field which is kinda how the numbers play out today.  Neither Trump nor Jeb have momentum right now to claim a clear front-runner position that could stabilize the race.

Few other campaign cycles were this cluttered to my memory.  Going back to 1980 when I was old enough to pay attention, the Democrats had just three (incumbent Jimmy Carter vs. spoiler Ted Kennedy - who apparently did no-one any favors - and I think Gov. Brown from California) and the Republicans had ten (eventual winner Reagan vs. Bush the Elder and Anderson as the main opponents), but even then the minor-league guys dropped out pretty quick by the first month of actual primaries, and you had an idea early on who was winning (at least it was down to two-three names).  Most other cluttered races - even 2012's - had that scenario play out to where it went from thirteen names to nine to six to three within a couple of months.  This time...

While Jeb is pretty much the Given (Establishment candidate with the deep-pockets) and Trump the Upstart (oy vey), neither of them at the moment can even claim front-runner.  Both are seriously vulnerable even within the context of the primaries.  Past them are the solid names with both credentials and credit within the media (Rubio, Rand, Walker, Huckabee) still not breaking into double-digits, and then the "why are they running" crowd (Cruz, Carson, Jindal, Christie, Santorum) who can still turn into wild cards, followed by the "why are they losing" crowd (the "serious" candidates like Kasich and Graham who can't stir up interest above the statistical error range).  Thing is, by this point of a campaign - the early debates - at least SOMEBODY would buy a clue and drop out for the good of the party (and before they get caught in a worthless scandal).  The other thing is though, the ones most likely to drop out - hi, Carly! - barely have a percentage to their names already, meaning any boost to gain that support would be below negligible.  It would take a Rand or Rubio dropping out to cause a significant shift in the polling... and even then, it'd be about six or seven percent, still nothing to crow about...

The next problem related to all this: all the rules have changed.  For one, the horse-race mindset of the media covering elections are pushing the election cycle further and further ahead of the actual calendar.  The traditional point for candidates to really drop out - the early balloting that solidifies who's actually winning - is so far off most candidates can delude themselves into hanging on for months, keeping the field cluttered.  There is no reason for Rand or Rubio or any of the less-than-a-percent crowd to drop out.

The second thing changing everything was Citizens United and other rulings making it easier for the rich to spend unlimited amounts of cash on campaigns.  In this environment, even a third-tier candidate like Jindal and Santorum can find a deep-pocket "sugar daddy" to create a SuperPAC to cover most of the costs of campaigning.  Just enough to keep themselves in the race all the way to the summer convention.  Granted, the Democrats can work the same way, but for Republicans facing a crowded field the problem doesn't multiply it grows exponentially.  How Santorum did in 2012 - lasting all the way up to the end, and even securing enough Primary ballots in the late rounds with Mitt a lock - is the harbinger of this trend.

So why is a cluttered field of candidates a serious problem for Republicans?

Because it increases the likelihood of a candidate over-reaching to pander to the base, and getting caught on live camera or microphone saying or doing something that can taint the entire field.

Call it the Todd Akin Moment.  As a candidate for Senate, Akin made a massive faux pas commenting on rape, using ill-formed arguments and lack of knowing human biology that essentially killed his campaign. It reflected so poorly on Republicans - who were making insane claims about rape in other elections that cycle - in general that it hampered their attempt in 2012 to gain control of the Senate.

The Republicans run a huge risk of a similar Moment happening on the debate stage for August, or elsewhere as long as there's a massive field of candidates vying for podium space.  Only this time it will involve their Presidential race, tainting most of the likely candidates they're hoping to sell to the general voters (the ones less impressed with base-pandering and more impressed with, oh, basic logic and competency).

Trump is already a huge warning sign.  Just to get attention at his announcement last month, Trump went overboard insulting Mexicans in such a way that the much-needed Latino voter bloc is already refusing to look at the Republicans at all.  What do you think the August debate - on Fox Not-News no less, home of the Far Right voter base eager to get pandered to - could look like?

What can well happen at the first August debate - even capped off to just the top ten polling names - would be a free-for-all pander-fest.  You'll have attempts by the low-tier candidates with nothing to lose - Ted Cruz comes to mind right away - offering up bizarre statements and outright fear-mongering to get the audience's attention.  Think Trump's insults towards Mexicans are offensive?  Just wait until Cruz or Huckabee or maybe Jindal (if he makes the cut) say something about Planned Parenthood, or Gay Marriage, or bombing Iran.  Easy winning topics for the base and likely to push them into double-digit territory with Jeb and Trump, very bad ways to insult the overall nation with more than a year to go before the conventions even happen.

And the thing is, the risks for the Republican candidates to do this are low.  They have thirteen other candidates to beat.  The urge to stay in the race long-term - the urge to prove themselves "winners" in a purity contest well up into July 2016 - guarantees that.  Even Jeb is going to feel the pressure to pander early and often: maybe not on immigration, but certainly on something Far Right Religious.  The benefits are high: expanded interest by their base audience, and an increased likelihood of winning enough GOP Primaries to become a player at the convention in case there is no clear winner (which is likely if five to seven candidates keep going all the way and Jeb fails to impress the hardcore base (which is very likely especially if immigration remains a sticking point, it's an issue Jeb honestly cannot let slide without destroying his own biography)).

And despite the short-term memory for most voters, you can be certain the Democrats are TiVo-ing / DVR-ing the entire debate for gaffe-worthy material to broadcast later on by their unregulated SuperPACs well into October 2016.  Whereas given the smaller field of candidates for Democrats, they will run fewer risks of an onstage gaffe, as the risks of offending are higher and the odds of improving their numbers - Hillary is just too far ahead to run the risk - are lower.  The best the Democrats can hope for is Hillary imploding on herself in a way that doesn't hamper Sanders or O'Malley (or Biden) in securing a solid nomination before May, or else Hillary securing the nomination in a way that appeases the Far Left base while playing well to the general public.

The Republicans are facing a hard August, one of their own making.  As the major practitioners and supporters of the "unlimited money" campaigning that now clogs their system, this has to hurt in a real-ironic (not Alanis-ironic) way (although it's probably a bummer anyway).  Because they set up the debate rules tied in so heavily to polling, they are going to see more candidates pander early - like Trump did - and in the worst, potentially offensive ways.  That they're relying on their pander-propaganda network to do all this - hi, Fox Not-News! - makes it harder for the GOP to attempt any U-turns and re-adjust the rules to enforce some comity.

I won't necessarily crow about all of this.  I genuinely believe the nation benefits when there's sane choices to make come election time.  I worry that this current fiasco - that He (sorry Carly, you're just not gonna be in this race) Who Panders Most Leads Best is going to stay all the way into 2016 - is going to leave us with a Republican Party (tearfully behind the curtains) offering up a candidate in Ted Cruz who will cheerfully nuke the political landscape or else a Jeb Bush (whom I still view as an evil choice) trapped with a horrific and insulting party platform he cannot set aside.

While I hope for a decent Democratic candidate - yes, Hillary is evil but she is competent which is more than I can say for most of the GOP offerings - I do worry that a bad Republican candidate could win a contested and close contest - hi, 2000 Debacle! - that would put the worst panderer into our most important office.

It's gonna be a long year for the whole nation.  Please stay sane, and please FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DO NOT VOTE REPUBLICAN.