Saturday, October 31, 2015

When Next I Blog I Will Be Writing A Novel

Well, not on the blog itself, but I will be doing my NaNoWriMo novel attempt again this year.

If I do blog here during the month, it better be after I've earned by word count for the day - 1667 words a day equaling 50,000 words for the month - so you won't be seeing a lot of blogging this month anyway.  I am focused elsewhere.

With luck, this WILL be a novel I can finish all the way to publication, to join the ranks of self-published short stories and anthology collections that have published my works.

I will at least offer a warm Turkey Pagan Sacrifice Day greetings to all when the time is appropriate.

The Three Things You Need To Know About a Republican's Budget Proposal

Aside from all the sound and fury of the Republicans waging war against CNBC, something of actual substance came out from this past week's debate debacle: the Republican candidates were asked to talk about their proposed budget agendas they'd push if they ever made it to the White House.

Just remember: if a Republican does win the Presidency in 2016, the odds favor the party retaining control of the House and most likely the Senate, meaning any budgets on this table are likely to pass that first year in office.

Meaning we're all screwed as a nation, because as pointed out by Simon Maloy at

...the debt alarmism on display at the debate was part of a broader rejection of fiscal reality by pretty much every candidate. The federal deficit is going down thanks to a slowly improving economy and a series of ugly fights over tax hikes and spending cuts...
...But here’s the thing – while the Republican candidates were warning about the nation-ending threat posed by the allegedly out-of-control debt, they were also pushing tax proposals that would (pause for effect) dramatically increase the debt.
Let’s focus first on Marco Rubio, since he came out of the debate looking pretty good and also had a contentious exchange with moderator John Harwood about his tax plan. Rubio’s proposal calls for rate cuts on income and reducing the number of brackets, new tax credits for middle class families, and the complete elimination of taxes on capital gains and estates. Rubio insisted last night that this wildly regressive plan did not favor the wealthy – an assertion that is flatly untrue. With regard to its effect on the debt, the Tax Policy Center examined Rubio’s plan when it was first released earlier this year and it found:
They’ve proposed a tax reform that would add many trillions to the national debt over the next decade (a problem dynamic scoring is not likely to paper over). The Tax Policy Center estimated that an earlier, less ambitious version of the plan’s individual provisions would add $2.4 trillion to the debt. This plan would surely be even more expensive.
This is a common feature of most of the 2016 GOP candidates’ tax plans – they call for massive tax cuts on top earners, and they would (according to conservative estimates) cost more than $1 trillion dollars over the next decade, with some soaring as high as $10 trillion. And that’s just the cost of the tax cuts. Most of the candidates also want to dramatically increase defense spending from its current levels while also pursuing a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. That means they want to decrease the debt while cutting taxes for the wealthy and increasing military spending while balancing the budget. The only way this math could conceivably work is if you put in place deep, ruinous cuts to entitlement programs and the social safety net – something no one endorsed on stage last night because it would be political suicide. None of this works, none of it makes sense, and yet it’s the position of pretty much every candidate for the Republican nomination.

Ergo, the three things you need to know and need to remember about ANY Republican budget proposal:

1) Everything involves cutting taxes.

This is an axiom at this point in GOP ideology.  Every tax proposal has to be a cut (or has to look like a cut), much to the point that even new taxes on new revenue sources cannot be suggested.  Welcome to Grover Norquist's victory.  Even though our nation's federal system relies on - in fact was created on - the ability of government to raise revenues when needed to balance budgets and pay off debts.  The Republicans are convinced utterly that any tax hike is a disaster: not just for them personally as an election issue but that such tax hikes would kill businesses, take away jobs, and destroy planets.

With that mindset, the Republicans are convinced to go the other route, to cut taxes and keep cutting taxes (why they don't just go straight to ZERO taxes is answered by the fact most people understand THAT leads to utter anarchy).  And then they tell themselves that such cuts "pay themselves" by increased private-sector wealth across the board that would replace all lost revenues.  Except...

2) Every Republican tax plan skews to favor the very rich (which are very few), which means a majority of Americans suffer regardless of what the tax plan looks like.

Even the proposed tax plans last night that stick to a scaled/tiered tax rate system have rates on the upper incomes - especially large corporations - slashed at greater percentages than the lower incomes.  And the ones that pushed for a flat tax program - one that removes a ton of exemptions, credits and loopholes - argued for a flat rate that clearly profits the One Percenters at the expense of everyone else.

3) Republicans really don't care about balancing the budget or resolving the massive debt.  In fact, they want it all to fall apart.

Let's repeat what history has taught us: tax cuts don't work.  As I've written elsewhere, I've got anecdotal proof having lived through two massive tax cut plans - Reagan's 1981 budget and Bush the Lesser's 2001-2003 budgets - where the only real results I saw come out of both were massive deficits and massive unemployment.

For all the talk from the Beltway media about how "serious" Republicans are about deficits and debt, in practice these same serious Republicans act very much the way Dick Cheney did in 2003: that "Deficits don't matter."

The current roster of candidates are pushing more tax cut agendas that do nothing to balance a budget and in fact add to the debt. provided a nice little table graph from the Tax Foundation:

When you consider the Tax Foundation is a conservative pro-cut think tank, and even THEY are showing results in the red (except for Rand Paul's dynamic-scored revenue and one should be wary of dynamic scoring), that should be a huge honking clue that the ideology is not matching the reality.

Each plan relies on that GDP growth over ten years to be in double digits, but there's no guarantee of that.  Each plan makes assumptions into capital investments and jobs created that we've never seen in previous tax cut results.

Each plan still removes massive amounts of revenue to the federal government, essentially ensuring that either one of two things happen: the federal government borrows more money - increasing the national debt - to cover lost revenues to pay for sh-t, or else the federal government has to slash spending at the tune of billions of dollars.

If it ever gets to Option B, that's the win-win scenario for the hard-core Far Right.

Try to remember this one other thing about the modern Republican Party: they are anti-government.  They want deregulation across the board to free up private sector profits at the expense of safety and stability.  They want to end any and all civil liberties for minorities, for women, for the young and for the poor.

If they can slash the federal government's agencies to shut down their enforcement powers, the Republicans will view that as a win.  If they can get rid of the social safety net to ruin the lives of millions they view as "lazy rabble", the Republicans will dance in the streets without a care for the potholes they're leaving behind for any surviving generations.

Keep remembering that Grover Norquist is the Republican Overlord in charge of the tax cut agenda.  Keep remembering that Norquist is the one who brags wanting to shrink government down to a size where he can drown it in his bathtub.

Keep remembering that the Republicans keep talking about how bad and destructive government can be, and then wants you to elect them into offices that will let them act bad and destroy government just so they can prove themselves correct.  And leave everyone else holding the shredded remains when it comes time to pay the bills.

This is one of the many reasons why I keep saying here FOR THE LOVE OF GOD STOP VOTING REPUBLICAN.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Proof That GOP Polling Respondents Are Just Trolling The Whole Planet

Who knew that when the inevitable end of Trumpmentum - the slide of amateur pol and professional huckster Donald Trump - came about, the replacement candidate for Republican voters would be someone even worse?

The most current poll - as of October 25th - has Ben Carson with 26 percent of the voting base with Trump sliding to a respectable second place at 22 percent.  The Iowa poll - the official starting line of the Republican rat race - has Carson at 32 percent (!) with Trump falling to a sad 18 percent.

Which proves my other argument that we really should NOT have our primaries go state-by-state, because the early states - small-population and slanted to extremist voters - skew to Teh Crazy and it ruins the grading curve.  I'm still all-in for a nationwide One-Day Primary for everyone to vote the party candidates for President.

Ah, let's focus back on Carson.  Because now with him as the statistical front-runner, we have to pay attention.

Previously when I listed him for a Presidential Character review, I didn't even give him a serious look.  Carson was... is a neophyte rookie candidate for office that under normal circumstances of previous elections never deserved a serious look at all.

He still doesn't deserve it.  Carson is a disaster as a political leader, not just because he's brand new to the whole profession - and yes it IS a job - but because the sizable evidence of his ill-informed ignorance of history, politics, and social issues are massive disqualifiers.

And yet it is that very point - his disdain for historical facts, his need to distort reality - that is driving Carson's rising poll numbers.  Much in the same way the numbers went up for Carly Fiorina - another rookie at politics - when she lied and kept lying about her personal work history and about Planned Parenthood.

Are such numbers sustainable?  At some point won't he come down to Earth the same way Fiorina did - she's now back to a tolerable 6 percent or so in polling - and the way blowhard Trump slid to Second Place?

Would it matter?  Because think of it this way: If Carson slides down after this euphoric run ends, who will take his place at the top spot then?  Hint: it won't be Jeb.

We're witnessing not the rise of a particular candidate, we're witnessing the desire of the Republican primary voters to express their hatred of their own party's Establishment and their eagerness to promote dangerous radicals with no governing experience.  For months now - longer than any sane political race needed it to be - the front-runners for the Republican ticket were the likes of Trump, Carson and Fiorina.  Meanwhile, the "sane" Establishment choices like Jeb, Rubio and Kasich sank and currently languish in single-digit purgatory, and the likes of Scott Walker - the preferred Midwest Savior choice of the Beltway elites - dropped out altogether.

The regular dynamics of a Republican primary have changed: the mass of voters having been told for years (decades) that government is bad have turned against the very idea of competency as a political necessity.  When you put Trump and Carson's polling numbers together you get around 48 percent, near half the polling population.  Throw in Fiorina's 7 percent we're now talking 55 percent, a clear majority of voting Republicans.  That's not even including the likes of Huckabee, Cruz and Jindal who would love to take a chainsaw to the Constitution in the name of God and Guns.

That 55 percent of the Republican voting base is what's worrisome: it's large enough to make a dent in the primaries by confirming the likes of Trump or Carson as the winner come convention time.  It's large enough to make the general election against the Democratic candidate a troubling matter.  Despite the potential for a Dem blowout - I would like to think the threat of a disastrous Trump/Carson regime would drive all the Indy and moderate Republican voters over to an energized Democratic bloc - there runs the risk of a close and messy campaign depending entirely on how effective the Democrats could be in GOTV efforts.

Hoping for a campaign collapse among the Republicans isn't going to cut it.  The party itself is now beholden to a radical anti-government agenda regardless of who their main candidate will be.

The Democrats have to work harder than expected to stop that Far Right voting base.  This is not going to be an easy run.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Benghazi Hearing: the Abridged Version

For those who somehow missed ten hours of this mess, here goes:

Chair, Congressman Trey Gowdy: Will you confess at long last to being an evil person, Hillary?
Hillary Clinton: Nope.
Gowdy: Dammit.

Ten hours.  It almost got to be ELEVEN hours of pretty much the same attempt again and again by hard-headed, conspiracy-minded Republicans to make Hillary Clinton trip over her statements or even admit like a stupid comic book villain she had an evil scheme.  The committee leaders obsessed more over Clinton's emails during her tenure as Sec of State than about finding out the security failures during an embassy attack in war-torn Libya that left four Americans dead.

There were more questions about serial e-mailer Sidney Blumenthal (sp?) than about Ambassador Chris Stevens, the top man on the ground who died at Benghazi.

Tennis matches don't go this long.  Well, there was this one a few years back at Wimbledon, but at least it captivated the world.  This gowdy gaudy spectacle bored audiences to tears.

Driftglass wrote a more prolonged mockery of a show trial uh enhanced interrogation ah Congressional inquiry that demonstrated in better detail the utter foolishness of about ninety percent of the entire day.  He did it in separate updates to pace himself.  I'm doing this all in just one so you can all get to your breakfasts before the cereal gets soggy:

Gowdy: Admit that you weigh the same as a duck, meaning you're made of wood, and therefore...?
Hillary: I'm not a witch.
Gowdy: NI!

Most of the drama was between Gowdy and Elijah Cummings, the lead Democrat on the Benghazi Committee to Embarrass Hillary And Obama.  Cummings kept trying to point out that if the Republicans wanted to attack Hillary using Blumenthal, they should include Blumenthal's prior testimony into the record (the Republicans on committee refused).

Hillary pretty much spent the time flicking dandruff off her shoulders and sitting with an almost bemused, annoyed expression.

Here are the facts: there's been EIGHT different committee hearings over the last three years over what happened in Benghazi, and the first SEVEN all essentially found the same thing.  Libya had turned into a massive mess after the fall of Quaddafi (sp?), we didn't have enough security in place (which is more the fault of a fund-cutting Congress), and Stevens (and others) died on the ground trying to wade into an unstable situation to do what he could to calm things down.  Benghazi is a genuine sign of the complex and bloody disaster that has been the Middle East for decades, and yet somehow none of these committee hearings seem to want to focus on that.  These committee hearings keep going into "Let's convince everybody else the Democrats were more obsessed with the optics of the disaster" crap.

Gowdy: Is there anything this Republican-led Congress hasn't asked you yet, Mrs. Evildoer, about your evil deeds that you would care to admit to now while you may yet have the chance to earn our mercy?
Hillary: You haven't asked me which fashion designer I'm going to be wearing at my swearing-in ceremony in January 2017.

Yesterday's hearing will not change many people's minds.  Hillary has been a polarizing figure since before Pat Buchanan's Culture War speech at the 1992 GOP Convention.  If you hate her, this hearing was another moment to point out her evilness and reinforce why you hate her.  If you support her, you're still supporting her after this, doubly so.

However, the hearing will convince people what they already know about the committee: A majority of Americans already believes - by 72 percent - that this setup is politically motivated, and this 10-hour endurance march proved it.  What is going to happen is that a lot of people sitting on the fence about her - especially a lot of Democrats worried that she's going to be another target of divisiveness for another four (to eight) years - are going to be impressed with her patience and bearing during an interrogation session that was clearly designed to break her.

A majority of Americans going to accept the proof of what Democrats have been saying all along about all this Benghazi obsession, and understand what never-Speaker Kevin McCarthy meant when he admitted that the investigations were all about hurting Hillary.

Even Bernie supporters - remember, even Bernie himself said during last week's debates "people are sick of hearing about your emails" - are going to have to admit that Hillary handled herself, and can begrudgingly accept her as a Democratic nominee.

Gowdy: Admit it.  You're a witch.
Hillary: Trick or treat, suckers.  And it's pronounced "Wingardium lev-ee-OH-sah".  Khaleesi, out.

Update: someone shared this image from Lawyers Guns & Money on Facebook just now.  Dude, I tweeted something similar last night during the debacle...

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Failure Yet Again For Our Nation's Media Regarding Accuracy and Facts

As mentioned earlier today, Joe Biden decided not to put his hat in the ring to run for President on the Democratic ticket.

This despite the fact a lot of highly-paid mainstream media pundits from the Beltway (the Washington DC circle of power) were chatting up - with eager grins and happy feet - the FACT - based entirely on unnamed sources running rumor mills non-stop - that everybody was telling everybody else Biden was gonna run.

The most guilty party was Bill "Always Wrong" Kristol, who kept tweeting gems like this:

You might see my reply: "I don't feel any Joementum at all. You might have to get out of the car and push, Bill."

So why?  Why why why did the media elites keep getting this story - out of so many other stories they screw up - wrong?

1. The mainstream media wanted it to be true, rather than factual.

This is the primary sin.  The simplest explanation.  There are several reasons WHY they wanted it to be true, but it all comes down to this.

2. The mainstream media want political horse races because campaigns are easy to cover.

The give-and-take of politicians fighting each other for coveted seats of power - topped by the big chair of the Presidency - provide reporters and editors personal conflict, driving narrative, winners and losers.  There are reasons why we now have constant political campaigns even in off-years - one major reason is the massive cash-flow involved - and the media's desire to keep campaigns going and going and going is the other major reason.

Sober Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight nails that part:

A Biden run would be a great story for the media — it would get to sit back and watch the fisticuffs between Biden and Clinton, who is otherwise something of a dull, predictable story (“inevitability” is boring). That probably biases the media toward reporting on the few Democratic insiders who would have liked to see a Biden bid, and ignoring the large majority who were satisfied with Clinton.

The joker show that is the Republican field of Presidential candidates is chaotic and thus entertaining.  Without Biden in the race, the Democratic field is pretty much Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders (Webb dropped out, and O'Malley and Chafee are polling below zero at this point).  Which brings us to the next point:

3. The media does not like trust Hillary and does not know how - or want - to cover Bernie.

Nearly every pro-Joe Biden reporter / pundit cheering Biden to enter the race just happened to be reporters and pundits who despise Hillary at a personal level.

This came in two ways.  You had one group of pundits who feared the possibility that Hillary would flame out somehow.  The fact that Hillary's list of enemies - not the ones she hates but the ones who hate her (from Limbaugh on down) - scared these pundits into fearing that Hillary would get hit with scandal during the campaign and hurt the Democrats' chances to keep the White House (and even win back part of Congress).  That group wanted Biden to run as insurance, to have a solid Democratic leader they trusted to be there up to November 2016.

You had a second group of pundits who hates her.  You know them as the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy that's pretty much the whole Far Right media (pretty vast) and openly disdainful of anything Obama Clinton (which isn't much of a conspiracy nowadays).  They wanted Biden to run in order to hit Hillary and wound her during the primaries, so that way she would be bloodied and weak for the general election.  They wanted division within the Democratic campaign the way they are suffering the chaos of their own party's primary cycle.

And as for Bernie Sanders.  The mainstream media has him mostly in "out of sight out of mind" mode.  If they ever think of Bernie, the Left-leaning media views him as too Left and thus unelectable and the Right-leaning media views him as a Stalinist doombringer.  He brings too much of an ideological difference from Hillary that makes the Narrative too easy even for the media to cover.  They'd have preferred a similar-minded Centrist Dem like Biden as a mirror contrast to Hillary.

4. The mainstream media's prized "sources" and insiders did not have the facts, if these insiders even existed.  There's even the likelihood the Biden stories were just the media elites telling each other what they wanted to hear.  And these same media elites do not care if those sources or right or wrong.

Here we get to the nub of the problem I have with these media elites.  There is no accountability in Washington DC for ever being wrong.

It is easy for a pundit to tweet informally or write formally an article full of hearsay based on information passed on by a "reliable" confidant.  Given the nature of politics - and the sometimes sensitive information needed to stay secure within the halls of government - that pundit doesn't have to give a name to the source, and barely even a rank within the bureaucracy.  Just labeling that "source" a "senior advisor" or "high-ranking official" is all they need for cover.

With that power, that pundit can pretty much publish whatever they want within the foggy range of journalistic ethics.  As long as the pundit doesn't publish something demonstrably false, something libelous, or something criminal they're untouchable.  And their source - whoever that may be - remains untouchable as well.

In one regard, this is a necessary part of journalism - and good governance.  Tales of corruption or bad behavior by our elected officials need to be told, and due to the nature of political reprisals and even legal ramifications, those types of sources - whistleblowers - need all the protection they can get.

However, that journalistic cover is more and more abused by savvy politicians and their handlers who use that need for secrecy to spread rumor and questionable data.  More often than not, they tell stories "off the record" as a way of getting their version of the Narrative out there, and then use the media's telling to reinforce that Narrative even further.  The pundits either fail to recognize how they're getting used for that, or else fear the loss of access that would happen if they started fact-checking their "buddies": either way, the media elite lets it happen again and again.

It's a mutually self-indulgent relationship.  The politician leaking his/her false reports gets to shill to the public without getting caught: the pundits shilling these lies get to enjoy "being in the inner circle" of being in the know, and sell their exclusive "access to the powerful" to all outlets who will hire them and invite them to talk shows, even after a pattern of years proving those pundits are constantly ill-informed and incapable of doing an honest job.

There needs to be an ethical system of handling faulty, ill-informed, consistently false sources.  These reporters and pundits do not need to name who these sources are, but they do need to admit when those sources are wrong and above all these reporters and pundits need to STOP LISTENING TO BAD SOURCES.

At some point, you idiots in the Beltway media bubble need to get this through your epistemic closure.  You are being used.  You are getting lied to by self-serving bastards.  Just stop it.  Just stop it.  You don't seem to remember that old saying Scotty told us on Star Trek: "Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me."  You don't even shame the unreliable sources when they are wrong, and you keep letting them fool you multiple times in a row.

There's supposed to be ethical standards in every profession.  Journalism should have ethical standards towards accuracy, attention to facts, and the necessity of informing the public to the best of your ability.  Right now, the Beltway elites are FAILING at all three standards.  Shame on you.

Predicting Character: The Jocularity of Joe B... Oh Wait, Biden's Not Running

After months of speculation by a mainstream media eager for a blood-filled horse race among Democrats for the 2016 campaign - and his addition to my drinking game rules that now no longer apply to him - Vice President Joe Biden (D-DE) has decided NOT to run for President of the United States.  Via the Atlantic:

Biden made his long-awaited announcement in the White House Rose Garden with President Obama standing by his side. Speculation about his decision had reached an almost comical pitch in recent days, as his camp repeatedly left allies and reporters alike with the impression that he would make a dramatic entrance into the race.
As recently as Tuesday, the vice president delivered a speech seen as a none-too-subtle dig at Clinton, the Democratic frontrunner and his former colleague in the Obama Cabinet and before that, in the Senate. He challenged Clinton’s account of the recommendations that the two of them made to Obama before the president ordered the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in 2011, and he implicitly criticized her remark during the first Democratic debate that Republicans were her “enemies.”
Biden considered running just months after the tragic loss of his eldest son, Beau, who succumbed to brain cancer in the spring and reportedly urged him to make a third and final bid for the presidency. But all along, the vice president acknowledged that with his family grieving, he might not be able to make a decision in time for the 2016 race.

I was at lunch when the announcement came.  My twitter feed went from chiding comic artist Stephan Stjepan Sejic about his well-received series Sunstone (NSFW) to one filled with political commentators waging a snark war against the many pundits out there who pined for a Biden run (for most of those Biden hopeful, for no other reason than to debunk Hillary).  I'll get into the failures of those pundits in another article with the appropriate scorn.

With regards to the political race for the Presidency, this is good news for the lead Democratic candidates.  Hillary is the obvious winner as Biden was the one Establishment candidate who would have pulled away support from the center.  Bernie also wins because Biden would no longer be there as the "respected" alternative, making him the alternate choice for the overall party should Hillary falter.  The other candidates O'Malley and Chafee are still stuck in the shadows.  Jim Webb left after realizing he looks like Alec Baldwin he's too conservative for the Democrats anymore.

As for Biden, I've listed his strengths and weaknesses as a candidate before, which is now an academic "what if" topic.  His strengths this particular election cycle would have been running as the logical successor to the presidency of his boss Barack Obama.  Despite the noise from the Republicans, Obama remains a popular leader: some polls have Obama over 50 percent favorable again, and for a President this late into a second term being in the mid-40s is still a remarkable feat.  Any successor candidate for a popular sitting President tends to get a favorable boost for it - SEE Bush the Elder campaigning in 1988 - which is why some pundits considered it an easy go for Biden if he threw his hat in.

In truth, I didn't see Biden making any impact on the race or even getting a decent shot at winning the nomination.  Partly because he waited too long - giving up too much lead time to Hillary and Bernie - but mostly because previous attempts at running for President - 2008 in particular - went nowhere.

On paper, Biden has the professional resume you want in a President: long-standing elected official with a relatively clean reputation with the halls of power, having worked from the House to the Senate with a track record of legislative work.  His biggest knock was a history of plagiarism, and that blew over years ago.  I originally marked him as someone with a personality flatter than drywall: in reality he's noticeably approachable and slightly off-kilter (he's akin to the wacky uncle your father tolerates at Turkey Day rituals).  But that impression never developed for me - and apparently for most voters - because Biden just ends being unremarkable, kinda easily forgettable.

He lacks that charisma.

In may be that this cycle for 2016 there is no one else as charismatic as Obama running for Dems - Hillary has some charm but is limited to a more determined, competent manager role; Bernie is the eccentric college professor; O'Malley the standard bureaucrat; and Chafee, thanks to SNL, does remind me of Frozen's Olaf, Gods help him - but that wouldn't have helped Biden.  His history of gaffes didn't help: his overall appearance puts him between Sanders and O'Malley.  No, no.  Biden was better off not jumping in.

What Biden gets out of this move - and that move is "not to play" - is subtle but far-reaching.  By not getting into the mudpool that is a Presidential campaign, Biden remains unsullied as a political leader within the Democratic ranks.  He can retain cachet - even former Vice Presidents can maintain reputations - among younger Democratic figures needing a mentor figure or a helpful campaign fund-raiser.  He could conceivably head back to Delaware or the Mid-Atlantic states as a regional power broker aiding the state Democrats to organize and win local races (running for Governor would be an interesting option down the road).

He helps the Democratic race by keeping the fight simple between Hillary Clinton as the Establishment (Centrist) candidate and Bernie Sanders as the Radical (Left) candidate.  This hurts the Republican race because their campaigns are still clogged with like-sounding opponents fighting over personalities, old slights, and damaging actions of the past they'd rather not dredge up.  By staying out, Biden ensures the Far Right and their media allies can't stir up the wrong kind of dissension within the Democratic ranks.

It may not be a good move for Biden's ego to stay out of the race, but it looks a lot like a sound choice for his soul and well-being.

Getting The Vote Out EVERYWHERE Matters

I have to say: Finally.  I've been blogging about this for years.

Somebody else is paying attention to the real problem we're having with elections in our country.

The problem we've been having when the Democratic Party ignores its' responsibility to run candidates and challenge seats everywhere at the state and Congressional levels.  Take it, Matt Yglesias at Vox:

...The presidency is extremely important, of course. But there are also thousands of critically important offices all the way down the ballot. And the vast majority — 70 percent of state legislatures, more than 60 percent of governors, 55 percent of attorneys general and secretaries of state — are in Republicans hands. And, of course, Republicans control both chambers of Congress. Indeed, even the House infighting reflects, in some ways, the health of the GOP coalition. Republicans are confident they won't lose power in the House and are hungry for a vigorous argument about how best to use the power they have.
Not only have Republicans won most elections, but they have a perfectly reasonable plan for trying to recapture the White House. But Democrats have nothing at all in the works to redress their crippling weakness down the ballot. Democrats aren't even talking about how to improve on their weak points, because by and large they don't even admit that they exist...

I keep thinking back to when Howard Dean - having been embarrassed off the stage by the mainstream elites in 2004 - got control of the Democratic Party chair and initiated a 50-State Strategy to motivate down-ticket campaigns and challenge more seats.  It energized the base, won a lot of local elections, and helped break Republican control of Congress in 2006.

For some asinine reason, the current Democratic leadership dropped that idea by 2010.  And the nation's been screwed again as more state legislatures were abandoned to Republican control.  I spotted over a third of state legislative seats here in Florida in 2014 were NOT EVEN CHALLENGED.  The rampant gerrymandering might be an excuse, but the failure of nerve by Democrats to even TRY in likely districts is inexcusable.  As Yglesias notes:

The worst part of the problem for the Democratic Party is in races that are, collectively, the most important: state government.
Elections for state legislature rarely make the national news, but they are the fundamental building blocks of American politics. Since they run the redistricting process for the US House of Representatives and for themselves, they are where the greatest level of electoral entrenchment is possible...

Those gerrymanders exist in the first place because Republicans draw the maps and screw the Democrats as much as possible.  It becomes a self-defeating problem because Democrats aren't even directly challenging it.  The party and their supporters may try for other ways to break those gerrymanders, but as long as there's a Republican-held state legislature that profits from their own map-making nothing will get fixed.

Another problem - one that Yglesias does not directly note - is that the Democrats are failing to build up a farm system of young and rising talent that at the state level would build up to Congressional elected officials and higher offices.

And this lack of activity at the state and local elections hurts voter turnout period.  As Digby herself notes:

If 80 percent of life is just showing up, Howard Dean had it right with his 50-State plan. Mark Warner got close when he told Yearly Kos in 2006, "[W]e cannot just go after 16 states and then try to hit a triple bank-shot to get Ohio or Florida." Of course, Warner meant Democrats should field a presidential candidate that could compete in 50 states. What Democrats need to do instead is strengthen state parties and compete down-ballot in 50 states. Dean understands this. If you don't show up to play, you forfeit. While we bicker about Hillary vs. Bernie, the GOP shows up to play in states where the DNC doesn't dedicate resources the way Dean wanted to.

This should be a no-brainer.  It worked in 2006 and the Republicans themselves pursue state-level motivations to win local seats.  But the Democrats keep proving themselves unable or incapable of making the same moves to recruit local talents to run for office and thus encourage local voters to support them.

A perfect example I know was the Florida Congressional District 13.  For 2014, the Democrats could have placed a reasonable candidate to challenge a vulnerable district that covered South Pinellas County with its urban and moderate population.  Yet the state-level party failed to recruit anybody and in fact fought against potential local candidates:

Ed Jany, the Marine and former police officer hailed by national and state Democratic leaders as an ideal challenger to newly elected U.S. Rep. David Jolly, dropped out of Pinellas County's 13th Congressional District race Tuesday...
Jany entered the race at the last minute, after Democrats aggressively moved to keep a prominent African-American minister from St. Petersburg, Manuel Sykes, out of the contest. In a statement, Jany said he realized he does not have the time to run for office...
The 13th Congressional District, which includes much of Pinellas County, is one of the most competitive in the country. But it appears now that Jolly will walk into a second term without a serious challenge...
In one of the other twists noted in that previous article, Jany turned out not to have been a registered Democrat nor a resident of that district at the time the party tabbed him to run.  The party was so desperate to find an appealing centrist candidate that they ignored common sense and tried to push the envelope hoping no one would notice...

It's as though the Democratic leadership is afraid of their base.  Yglesias thinks it's overconfidence at the national level - "hey if we can get Obama elected we can win with anybody for the Presidency and let the Republicans flame out" - that's hurting the Democrats.  I think it's fear.  The party leadership flinches whenever they get bullied by the Republicans and the national media about being "librul" to where they avoid the appearance of pandering in that direction.

There's a logic to that, sad to say.  If you look at the Republicans themselves: with that party, they stoke their voter turnout for local elections by bringing up appropriate Far Right candidates to fill those seats.  While they win those elections, they have the bad habit of promoting crazy-wingnut types who turn toxic at the national level.  There's a reason the GOP House is full of Far Right radicals now looking to tear everything apart.

The Democrats fear their own wingnut faction of Far Left: however, rather than address or confront that fear, the DNC tries to mollify by sticking to centrist-moderate candidates who don't appeal as well to the base, and fail to stir up enough interest to get the voter turnout.  Which becomes the self-defeating problem we as a nation (not just Democrats suffer because of this) face today.

The Democratic party leadership needs to cowboy up, as it were.  They need to trust the local organized voters in their own party to find local candidates willing and able to make the time - and deal with the stresses - of running for those state and Congressional seats.  Even if the best-possible candidates are Far Left tree-hugging pro-people safe-sex anti-war single-payer-healthcare types.

Every race should matter.  Every vote should matter.

Back To The Future Day

This is it.  FINALLY.  That we Gen-Xers from 1985 would live to see this day.

From now on, the entire trilogy is now back in time.

And we're still waiting for our hoverboards.

Well, admittedly, I never learned how to ride a skateboard in the first place.  Still, it's the principle of the thing!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Final trailer for The Force Awakens Unleashed Upon The World

This will be a night long remembered in Canada, but more on that later.


I am kind of cross-posting because I have this on my librarian/writing blog as well.

I am soooooooooo geeking out at the moment.

Unraveling the Lies About Bush and 9/11

Let's state this first: Trump is a con artist.

Let us also state that a successful con artist is not only a good liar, he knows how and when to mix in a troubling fact (more than truth) in order to convince his audience he's not (always) a liar.  It helps to make that truth-based-on-facts statement even when it costs him nothing to say it, or that it could cost him something (that he's willing to trade off for a bigger scam later).  The suckers would view it as a sign of integrity.

Hence, Trump's weekend endeavor to undermine his primary opponent Jeb Bush's foundation.  Jeb had been campaigning - haphazard and unconvincing - about being the legacy heir to his older brother George W. Bush's administration.  Jeb is trying to trade off on the meme that Dubya "kept us safe" during and after the terror attacks on September 11, 2001.

During a discussion about foreign policy with Bloomberg News, Trump nuked Jeb's position from orbit (via Digby at

This past weekend, the Donald finally pushed a button that was too much for Jeb to bear: He made the factual observation that Jeb’s brother had been president on 9/11. Well, all hell broke loose, as every GOP establishment figure rose up in untamed fury that Trump would be rude enough to bring such a thing up. Why, that’s sacrilege...

For a day, Trump ignored the follow-up questions and Twitter outrage over his statement.  And then Trump swung around with another punch saying (link to CNN):

...He took another shot at Jeb Bush for claiming that Bush's brother, the 43rd president, kept the nation safe.
"I'm not blaming George Bush," Trump said. "But I don't want Jeb Bush to say, 'My brother kept us safe,' because September 11 was one of the worst days in the history of this country."
It wasn't just on the Sunday shows that Trump attacked Bush over his brother's tenure.
On Twitter, as the "Fox News Sunday" interview aired, Trump tweeted: "Jeb, why did your brother attack and destabalize the Middle East by attacking Iraq when there were no weapons of mass destruction? Bad info?"

Here's the thing: Trump's attacks are not only against Jeb and not only against George W., the attacks are against the entire neoconservative narrative surrounding 9/11.

The neoconservative movement had been wounded by the reality of their failure of policy covering Iraq, Afghanistan, the mistreatment of our allies, and their inability to stop or even contain remaining rogue nations like North Korea and Iran.  They still had their media allies, however, and those neocons kept arguing their points based on the Narrative that the neocons were the only strong and smart foreign policy experts on the market.

That Narrative is why the likes of Wolfowitz and Cheney still get invites to talk shows and private speaking events.  That Narrative is why the Republican Party itself is still dominated by neocons on foreign policy matters, to the point where the neocons are the party Establishment.

And the modern Republican Party is more about Narrative - the outrage, the disconnect about fear-mongering and war-mongering, sticking to their talking points instead of enacting policy - than anything.  Unravel the Narrative for the lies that make it, and you unravel the party.

As noted over on The Atlantic by Peter Beinart, the neocon Narrative about 9/11 has always hidden the real disasters and miscues that happened under George W.:

(Trump's) latest ugly truth came during a Bloomberg TV interview last Friday, when he said George W. Bush deserves responsibility for the fact that “the World Trade Center came down during his time.”
Politicians and journalists erupted in indignation. Jeb Bush called Trump’s comments “pathetic.” Ben Carson dubbed them “ridiculous.”
Former Bush flack Ari Fleischer called Trump a 9/11 “truther.” Even Stephanie Ruhle, the Bloomberg anchor who asked the question, cried, “Hold on, you can’t blame George Bush for that.”
Oh yes, you can. There’s no way of knowing for sure if Bush could have stopped the September 11 attacks. But that’s not the right question. The right question is: Did Bush do everything he could reasonably have to stop them, given what he knew at the time? And he didn’t. It’s not even close...
...During that same time period, the CIA was raising alarms too. According to Kurt Eichenwald, a former New York Times reporter given access to the Daily Briefs prepared by the intelligence agencies for President Bush in the spring and summer of 2001, the CIA told the White House by May 1 that “a group presently in the United States” was planning a terrorist attack. On June 22, the Daily Brief warned that al-Qaeda strikes might be “imminent.”
But the same Defense Department officials who discounted Clarke’s warnings pushed back against the CIA’s. According to Eichenwald’s sources, “the neoconservative leaders who had recently assumed power at the Pentagon were warning the White House that the C.I.A. had been fooled; according to this theory, Bin Laden was merely pretending to be planning an attack to distract the administration from Saddam Hussein, whom the neoconservatives saw as a greater threat...”
...Finally, on August 6, the CIA titled its Daily Brief: “Bin Ladin Determined to Strike the US.” The briefing didn’t mention a specific date or target, but it did mention the possibility of attack in New York and mentioned that the terrorists might hijack airplanes. In Angler, Barton Gellman notes that it was the 36th time the CIA had raised al-Qaeda with President Bush since he took office...

This is the real scandal - not Trump hitting Jeb and George - in all of this: we still haven't resolved the glaring failure of leadership of the previous Bush administration when it came to handling legitimate terror threats.  And now Jeb is touting that failure as a success he can build on to be President himself.

It's already had an effect: Jeb has gotten questions about his attempts to compare 9/11 to Benghazi - trying to paint his brother George as effective and triumphant and Obama/Hillary as complicit criminals - and was unable to reply well.  As noted by Amanda Marcotte, also at Salon:

...Bush’s weakness on this front was embarrassingly evident in a weekend interview on CNN with Jake Tapper, where he tried to blame Hillary Clinton for the four deaths in Benghazi because “had a responsibility at the Department of State to have proper security” but then denied that his brother had any responsibility for the 3,000 deaths on 9/11, because, “It’s what he did afterwards that matters.”
In other words, if you’re a Democrat, you are obligated to prevent violence, but if you’re a Republican, there is no obligation to maintain security so long as you wear flight suits after thousands of people die horrible deaths on your watch. Tapper pointed out that this is a double standard, but Bush’s response seemed more petulant that somber in the face of so much tragedy...
In short: Jeb can't defend his brother's mishandling of 9/11 and attack Hillary - the likely Democratic nominee in 2016 - about Benghazi (and the Republican obsession about that is another scandal backfiring on them, but I digress) without coming across as a hypocrite or an idiot.

This is in some respects a brilliant move by Trump.  He's in the lead in polling by comfortable margins.  Fox Not-News CAN'T ignore him, nor any other media outlet right now.  He can afford in some respects to take the hit from outraged neocons: partly because the neocons are themselves more discredited in the reality-based world than he is, but mostly because at this moment the GOP primary base is more aligned to Trump than to the neocons who are viewed as the Establishment wing.

Trump's own foreign policy stances are troubling, if not insane and offensive: He himself argues that 9/11 wouldn't have happened on "his" watch because his anti-immigrant policies would have stopped the terrorists from even being here.  But he can attack Jeb and his neocon allies on this matter and - so far - get away with it, because as a true Outsider of the GOP he's not tainted by their disasters.  He's able to critique the failures of Bush the Lesser - as a means of kicking the platform Jeb is standing on to knock his likeliest opponent out of the game - because he was never part of them.

This is a fight long overdue, not because it hadn't been happening - Democrats have been attacking the Republicans and the neocons in particular for these failures for years - but because this is now a fight within the Republican ranks itself.  Republicans and their media partners could shrug off Democratic complaints as mere rants by conspiracy-driven hippie libruls.  Not now, not with the top-polling candidate for 2016 breaking out the "Truther" chainsaw on themselves.

Thing is, going after the neocons is a risky move.  These guys do not play fair or selective: we're talking about a group of know-nothings who bullied every critic they had between 2001 to 2006 out of office and ruined reputations of anyone who crossed them.  They even broke laws and scuttled CIA covert ops doing so.  Granted, Trump is shameless enough and rich enough that he may be untouchable, but I guarantee you that the knives are coming out for this alley fight.  Trump is pissing on neocon turf, and they don't take kindly to that level of disrespect.

This is going to get messy.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Jeb Campaign Zombie Apocalypse

(Update below)

In some respects, this thing will not die.

Jeb Bush started his campaign to buy out to serve as yet another Bush President with all the positives: He had the political pull behind the scenes; He had the financial backers in his pocket; He had the marquee name that still had some value among Republicans at least, and the ability to buy off everyone else with shaky memories about 2001 to 2008.

Jeb Bush was supposed to be the front-runner right now.  Jeb Bush was supposed to rally the Republican base and inspire the Establishment.

Instead, the calls for Jeb to stop campaigning increase by the day.  Even Far Right blogs are in "countdown to corpse" mode.

How bad is it getting?

Jeb's campaign spent millions in an ad push in New Hampshire.  The Politico reports that after $4.8 million spent in-state and taking up 60 percent of ad time on television, Jeb's polling numbers there dropped from 9 percent to 8.7 percent.

Money is not buying votes like it used to.

How bad is it really getting?

Donald Trump, savoring the safe spot of a polling lead across the board, just attacked Jeb's campaign position about how brother George W. "kept us safe" during a TV interview:

..."When you talk about George Bush, I mean, say what you want, the World Trade Center came down during his time," Trump said on Bloomberg TV.
Bloomberg anchor Stephanie Ruhle interjected, "Hold on, you can't blame George Bush for that," before Trump stood by his comments.
"He was president, OK? ... Blame him, or don't blame him, but he was president. The World Trade Center came down during his reign," Trump said...

Jeb tried to punch back, arguing that Dubya did "keep us safe."  It may yet hurt Trump among the primary voters, but so far nothing has put a dent in Trump's push.  And it doesn't look like Jeb is convincing a lot of folks of that whole "safe" thing.  If Trump can successfully convince enough GOP primary voters that Jeb's narrative over 9/11 is wrong...  Jeb has nothing left to sell.  He won't even be able to use his own family as a crutch or marketing point.

Over the last two weeks, I've been fighting with myself with the urge to write a "What If" scenario where "What if Jeb wins the nomination?"  I keep tripping over it because the scenario only works one way: when Trump implodes - it's still a likelihood - AND (this is important) if Jeb can convince enough primary voters to put him back into double-digit polling numbers.

It's that last part after the AND that I can't reconcile to reality.  It just does not look like Jeb is winning over the base.

They're not impressed anymore.  It used to be the front-runner would rack up all the endorsements and the campaign funding and the primary voters would fall into line and back the "right" guy because all the narrative and political muscle is behind him.  That's changed.  The Republican base has found a horse to back that doesn't need the Establishment and can pander to them just as well as the mainstream candidate(s).

The only sane reason for Jeb to stay in this race is the hope - which is growing more doubtful the closer we get to the real primary season - that when Trump is expected to implode - or the Republican Establishment force him to implode - someone credible in the party has to be there to pick up the pieces and win the nomination next July.

But even that is looking less likely.  If Trump goes, there's still Ben Carson sitting there in the Number Two slot as the next Amateur Candidate.  There's still Carly Fiorina in the mix as the third Amateur.  And then there's Marco Rubio, either polling even or ahead of Jeb as the most "credible" candidate the primary voters would like.

All the sane reasons aren't there for Jeb.  Only the insane reasons are left.

Jeb is now running on pride.  Having seen his father become President... Having his rival older brother become President... Jeb wants his turn in the big chair.  That's all he's got to motivate him.  Actually winning no longer seems possible.  Quitting now would be a terrible admission of failure coming from a man - from a family - who can never admit it.

He's also likely convinced himself he's the only hope the Republican Party has of stopping Trump before his nativist bull-in-a-chinashop routine wrecks everything for the party brand.  He's not: he's really one of several opportunists - Rubio, Cruz, Huckabee, Kasich - waiting for the amateur trio of Trump/Carson/Fiorina to lose their audiences, waiting for a miracle to wash the usurpers into the sea.

An early advantage he had - the fund-raising - might be slowing up and does nothing against a deep-pocket candidate like Trump, but he does have enough money on hand to crawl along into the primary rounds.  Given his lousy performance stirring up supporters to vote, however, Jeb may not see enough delegates distributed to him to force a brokered convention.  Right now, there's no way he can secure the Winner-Take-All states like his home state of Florida that could clinch the delegate count.

We are bearing witness to the first of its kind: the Zombie campaign.  A political operation promoting an unliked and unhappy candidate all the way to a Finish line that campaign has no hope of reaching first.  It's already being declared dead before the starting pistol goes off, yet the person(s) behind it are either deluded or desperate to think the campaign can win.

We've had long campaigns before go to the wire, but those were races between candidates who still had a hope.  The race between Obama and Hillary in 2008 comes to mind.  There, the race did indeed go back and forth until June, when the superdelegate count turned for Obama.

This is not the same situation.  Trump right now looks unbeatable and if he keeps a double-digit lead on Jeb in particular well into January he can well win the nomination (insert scream of terror here).  That poll I linked to: right now Trump is polling 24 percent, Jeb is at 8 percent.  TRUMP IS TRIPLE THE COUNT on Jeb.  If Trump even stays about 20 percent heading into January 2016, Dear GOD there is no sign Jeb can catch up.

We can't really call the other candidates zombies just yet.  None of them were expected to be front-runners in 2016.  Many of them - Graham, Jindal, Paul, Christie, Santorum, the other non-percenters - are just as easily expected to drop out.  It's just none of the remaining likely names - Rubio, Cruz, Huckabee, Kasich - are campaigning with serious and open wounds the way Jeb has.  Well, Huckabee keeps dropping the most offensive crap outside of Trump's press releases: but the Huckster wasn't expected to make it to Cleveland anyway.

I doubt Jeb will drop out - not until it's clear he can't win - and even then he'll try something - his people or backers will try something - to rig the rules again to favor him.  The only thing I can see is him trying to rig the balloting somehow: However, that would mean rigging the polls first so that there's no discrepancy to make people question the results.  And if Jeb hasn't rigged the polling by now, I can't see how he can rig the ballots.

So we're stuck, because he's now a zombie running a dead campaign.  Wasting all that Citizens United money.  Wasting ad space and people's attention spans.

Removing Trump is not going to change this.  Fighting Rubio for more funding is not going to change this.  Everyone out there is immune to Zombie Jeb's bite.

It'd be funny if it weren't so scary in a multitude of ways.

Update: I am not the only one making the Zombie Jeb Bush comparison.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

GOP Debate October 2015 Drinking Game: the Mocktoberfest for Republicans (And the Democrats Laughing On the Sidelines)

Shall I?  Must I?

The rules haven't changed that much, have they?

Has it all changed much since this epic opening salvo for the August debate?

We're still stuck with the remaining delusional uh well-regarded fear-mongers that we had in September.  Well, okay, Walker's out (and Perry had departed just before the September cringefest).  But there's still not enough room to fit all of the Jokers to the Right onto one stage.  And there's still not enough sanity to filter out the ones who REALLY shouldn't be up there (yes, I am looking at you Christie and Jindal and Huckabee and Jeb?).

I am sorely tempted to just create a permanent page to this blog for reference, but the search engine algorithms are already targeting the original posts so I can't mess with that.

So I might as well add one for the Mocktoberfest GOP Debate then.

As always, for your alcoholic requirements, drink orders are available (including drinks for the zombie apocalypse, coincidence I think not) through my partner-in-crime Pinku-Sensei's website.

Update: Pinku-Sensei has informed me he's gotten drink orders for Graham and Pataki lined up.

Follow-up to the Update: Thanks again to Batocchio at Crooks & Liars to linking to this blog!  If this is your first time here, please try the veal it's the best in the city. If you've been here before just remember to check all the links 'cause those people deserve some traffic love too. :)  Oh, AND PREPARE FOR NANOWRIMO!  I wanna verify a hundred of ya writing 50,000 words towards your novel this November, bwhahahaha.

Continuation of the Follow-up to the Update: What is this about CARSON leading the polls?  ...CARSON?!?!  He's going to be in the center of the podium line now?  Trump's gonna be PISSED about this...

The rules, as before and so below:

1. Respect your liver.  Have the decency to pass out before you drink to death.
2. Choose a designated driver to make sure you can get home safe.  Also have buckets and towels ready for any vomiting.
3. Get your declaration of love for your friendly toilet bowl done while you're sober.  Make sure the crawl path between your chair and that toilet is free of any sharp objects that can cut your kneecaps.
4. Even if you drink only water for this game, be aware that too much water is toxic.
5. Do not be surprised if something insane, insulting, and inconceivable not even covered by this drinking game happens during debate night.  We're now into the Third Round of Self-Implosions by the Republican ranks, and all of this happening in the shadow of the GOP House scalping their own leadership over who gets to wreck the nation as the next Speaker.  Trump is in a commanding lead and none of the Establishment "sane" candidates are near breaking double-digit polling numbers.

And now, for the Republican Presidential Pre-Primary Punchout Planned for October 28th somewhere in the mountains of Colorado, here's your LET'S GET DRUNK AGAIN AS THE REPUBLICANTS DRIVE US TO DRINK list of rules:

General Rules

  • If any candidate talks about meeting Ronald Reagan in person, take a drink.
  • (Update) If any candidate tells a tall tale about how he/she and Reagan once pulled a prank on Grover Cleveland, take two drinks.
  • (Update) If any candidate praises Fox Not-News for "honesty and credibility" even though THIS debate is Live on CNBC, throw bottle at screen.
  • If any candidate tries to out-pander Trump, take a drink. This also applies to Trump, who is allowed within the rules to pander as much as inhumanly possible.
  • (From @word_34 aka SkarkWeekSneak) If "Hillary" "email" or "server" are mentioned in the same sentence, you have to do double shots.  Throw in "Benghazi" here too.
  • If any candidate accuses Obama of being the Worst President Ever, throw a dart at a photo of Dubya taped to the wall and take two drinks.
  • If any candidate calls for the defunding of Planned Parenthood, take a drink.  If the candidate calls for the arrest of Planned Parenthood staffers, take two drinks.  If the candidate calls for the arrest of women who go to Planned Parenthood even for basic women's health care needs, turn off the TV and get stinking drunk because the Republicans are pretty much writing off the women's vote even in Red States.
  • If any candidate calls for the impeachment of Barack Obama over:
    Executive orders, take two drinks;
    The Iran treaty, take six drinks in honor of the other nation signatories;
    Disrespecting Congress, take seven drinks for each year Obama's had to deal with their sh-t;
    Being an illegal Marxist Muslim Kenyan, finish whole bottle;
    The way Obama ties his shoelaces, even though Obama wears loafers, finish whole bottle;
    (Update) How Obama is handling the gun safety crisis, start new bottle and finish it;
    (Update) The failure of House Republicans to settle on their own Speaker leadership, even though Obama has nothing to do with who the Speaker is, start a whole new bottle and finish that.
And now, this is by general order of polling placement, although this list may fluctuate during the next two weeks:

Donald Trump

  • Just take a drink already.  It doesn't matter what he says because whatever it is will drain the soul and break the heart.  When he speaks, just BOOM one shot, slam the glass / bottle down on the table, and wait for the next one.
  • If Trump brags about owning a USFL team, drink whole bottle and then throw the empty thing at the screen because it's HIS fault the USFL is dead now.
  • (Update) Did Trump just question the neocon narrative about WMDs in Iraq?  Take a drink and pass the popcorn!
  • (Update) If Trump tries to stand at the middle podium thinking he's still in the leads with the polls, drink whole bottle because the fun public meltdown is getting warmed up.
Ben Carson

  • If Carson tries to discuss history again, take a drink for every error he makes.
  • If Carson tries to blame the victim on any topic again, take a drink for every victim he blames.
  • (Update) If Carson offers up a horrifying revisionist take on ANYTHING, drink whole bottle.
  • (Update) If Carson is indeed at the middle podium for this this debate, make note of how this is proof the polling respondents are just trolling the whole planet now and drink whole bottle. 
Jeb? Bush

  • If Jeb even flashes for a brief moment a form of body language that tells everyone he's actually happy to be there, drink whole bottle.
  • (Update): If Jeb petulantly tells the audience "you should be GRATEFUL I'm wasting my time with you lot, I've got better things to do," cheer and take two drinks.
  • (Update): If George W. comes out on stage and not Jeb it means the Bush family is REALLY worried about Jeb's chances, so cheer and drink whole bottle.
  • (Update) If Jeb tries to pull on a hoodie jacket to look cool, just shake your head.
Marco Rubio

  • If Rubio has roses thrown at his feet by the fawning Beltway media as he comes on-stage, take two drinks.
  • If Rubio gives monosyllabic answers to debate questions that has the Beltway media complimenting him on his clear intellect and oratory skill, drink three times.
  • If Rubio gets escorted off the stage in a commandeered Popemobile by David Brooks, drink whole bottle.
Ted Cruz 

  • I STILL think it's possible if Cruz attempts to suck the soul or eat the heart of Donald Trump live on-stage, you should drink whole bottle.
  • If Cruz merely attempts to fellatio Trump on-stage instead, take two drinks and spit.
  • If Cruz puts on a top hat and evil goatee and openly gloats about how he'll get the House GOP to shutdown the federal government over the surplus cheese supply anything, drink whole bottle.

Scott Walker

Carly Fiorina

  • If Carly lies again, take a drink.
  • If Carly exaggerates again, take half a drink.
  • If Carly's walk-in music is Pink Floyd's "Sheep", drink whole bottle.
John Kasich

  • If Kasich talks about a balanced budget amendment, take a drink.
  • If Kasich talks about a balanced Cincinnati Bengals unit that can take it all the way to the Super Bowl 50, take two drinks.
Mike Huckabee

  • If Huckabee demonstrates once again complete failure of basic American History knowledge, such as ignoring the legitimacy of the 14th Amendment or failing to recognize the No Religious Test Clause and the 1st Amendment's prohibition on Congress recognizing an established religion, throw every bottle at the screen.
Rand Paul

  • If Paul lights up a blunt on-stage, do the same (Hmm, two states in a row with legalized marijuana, coincidence I think not)
  • If Paul openly wonders why he's losing support when he's the current standard bearer for libertarianism, shout back "it's because libertarianism doesn't work!" and inhale a toke.
  • If Paul argues about how he'll plan to stop any budget deal from passing Congress this year, shout back "Cruz is beating you to that!" and toke it.
Chris Christie

  • If Christie roots for any New York City team during the debate, shout "TAKE IT TO BRIDGE, YOU CROOK" and take a drink.
Rick Santorum

  • I got nothing new. If Santorum punches out any Google executives in the audience during the debate, take two drinks.
Bobby Jindal

  • If Jindal open-carries onstage to promote the NRA, take a drink and dive for cover.
  • If Jindal goes full Truther on Newtown or any other school shooting, drink whole bottle.
  • (Update): If Jindal asks the moderator "can I call a life-line" and he dials up Grover Norquist to beg for help, pour everything into a (clean) bathtub and drink from that.
Lindsey Graham

  • If Lindsey openly whines about Steve Spurrier's sudden retirement from coaching the Gamecocks, openly shout back "Gator fans are feeling it too, you selfish bastard" and cry into your drink.
  • If Lindsey brags about using his Senatorial authority to threaten a government shutdown, shout back "Cruz and Paul are beating you to it" and take two drinks.
George Pataki and Jim Gilmore

  • Take a drink if either of them even show up for the preliminary "kids' table" debate.  'Cause man why bother?

Again, if ANYBODY has suggestions for new drinking rules for this month's debate, please add them to the Comments field here or tweet it to me at @PaulWartenberg

Getting To The Writing: NaNoWriMo Time 2015 Edition

We're coming up to November...

Which is another round of National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo).

As a personal note, I'm going to be busy this November working as a Municipal Liaison here in Florida, meaning I'm not only writing but organizing, getting Write-Ins up and running at various places for fellow NaNo writers to attend.

Here's hoping this year goes well, and that a lot of good novels get typed into existence.

So to the seven readers writers following this blog, GET WRITING.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

So What Did We Learn from the October 2015 Democratic Debate?

1) That we STILL shouldn't be having these debates more than a year away from the actual election.

Yeah, this is a bug up my butt.  I'm a staunch believer in having everything in the election be done in the actual year of that election.

2) The main candidates for the Democratic nomination are pretty much who we thought they were.

The post-debate talk from observers - from Driftglass to the Balloon-Juicers to the Atlantic crew - has been about the same.  To quote from The Atlantic's review:

...Hillary Clinton delivered a typically strong performance, much as expected; Bernie Sanders played to type, railing against corporations and inequality. Martin O’Malley kept to his strategy of hitting Clinton. And Jim Webb and Lincoln Chafee remained, for the most part, marginal to what was going on.
In the years leading up to the election, some Democrats worried that Clinton would be hobbled by not facing challengers in the primary, and Tuesday night’s debate showed the truth of that point. She’s a polished, experienced debater, and she profited from standing on stage with the four men in the field. Chafee and Webb seemed nervous and uncomfortable, while Sanders was—as always—Sanders: Fervent, grumpy, unfiltered, and righteously angry. The factors that have made him an idol to many Democratic voters and eroded Clinton’s polling also make her look more presidential when they’re standing next to each other...

In short: nothing changed.  Hillary remains the front-runner, Sanders the hardy Far Left challenger, and the other three guys clinging to hopes of getting a Cabinet position in a Hillary administration.

3) There were significant enough differences between the candidates to be able to tell one from the other, which points towards a more inclusive big-tent party that could win the moderate/centrist voters in November 2016.

Unlike the Republicans' candidates, where there are few differences on key policy issues - they all want massive tax cuts, an end to Planned Parenthood (as a proxy to ending abortion), and gutting the social safety nets - the Democrats could and did debate on the relative merits of issues like gun safety and the economy to where every concern could be addressed or confronted.  The Republicans risk running a Me-Too type of debate where the only way to win is to yell and shout louder than the other candidates: That has a way of tuning those centrist voters out.

4) Joe Biden is not going to find an opening to get into the race now.

The big reason the "Draft Biden" crowd kept pushing him as a late entry to the campaigning was out of fear that Hillary was going to be a weak front-runner.

The debate performance showed that Hillary can do just fine: she presented herself as a strong opponent, handled her main critics Bernie and O'Malley with few problems, and remained the front-runner of a small field.

Meanwhile, Sanders himself retained the Far Left position he's running with, only faltered big time over the gun safety debate, and ended the night as the strong alternative to Hillary.

If Biden jumps in, he will likely run into those two candidates like they were both brick walls.  The only ones who'll lose for certain with a Biden campaign are Chafee and O'Malley.  Webb is too far right on the social conservatism scale to be affected... which is why he's down around the one-percent support numbers in the first place.

5) The Democrats still need to ensure a massive Get The Damn Vote Out effort this 2016.

Because the only way the Republicans can win the White House right now is through massive voter suppression efforts.


Saturday, October 10, 2015

Killing The Florida Gerrymander 10/10/2015: Only Mostly Dead

So, this Friday the judge presiding over the Congressional redistricting to align with the state's Fair Districts amendments gave his final approval on a map.  Via the Tampa Bay Times:

...(Judge Terry) Lewis rejected the Florida Legislature's third attempt at redrawing its congressional districts and recommended a map proposed by the challengers to the Florida Supreme Court for its final review. His ruling adopted the bulk of the map approved by lawmakers in the northern and central portions of the state and reconfigured the three districts in Hillsborough County and split Sarasota County.
The challengers, a coalition of League of Women Voters and Common Cause of Florida and a group of Democrat-leaning individuals, agreed with the Legislature's configuration of 20 of the 27 districts proposed in a staff-drawn base map but asked the court to adopt their changes to the remaining districts. Lewis agreed.
"The Legislature has thus not met its burden of justifying the proposed versions of Districts 20 through 27," he wrote in a 19-page ruling. He said that a map drawn by the challengers showed no evidence of being drawn with partisan intent and "best complies with the directions" set out by the Florida Supreme Court in July...
...The recommendation will next go to the Florida Supreme Court which must review the maps, including the court testimony and record, and decide what will be the final boundaries for the 2016 election cycle. On Friday, the court gave the parties until Oct. 27 to respond to Lewis' ruling...

Problem with the Times article: does not provide a link to what the map will be, so I gotta go hunt down the map via another source.  Gimme a year.  Searching... searching... have you ever considered the benefits of owning a fine set of encyclopedias?  Searching... ah here we go.  Found a map at the Miami Herald article.

Okay.  Um... hurm.  I'm a little disappointed.

In terms of getting rid of the worst elements of gerrymandering - the long stretchy strings that cover ten counties - this map gets rid of two or three of the more obvious offenders.  Problem is, there's a new stretched-out gerrymander up there on the Florida-Georgia border.  Instead of having the Fifth stretch down to Orlando from Jacksonville it's now stretching from Jacksonville to Tallahassee.

We've traded one sin in for another.  Couldn't they have made a compact Fifth District out of that part of Duval County/Jacksonville down towards Alachua?  Something still roughly rectangular and geographically sane?

The benefits to this map is that it resolves some of the odder shapes of the old maps that congealed around South Florida and the I-4 Corridor.  Daytona's district makes sense.  South Pinellas is now all one district, and they put as much of Hillsborough County into one district as they could.  I'm still bothered by that part of the South Florida map - the purple blob to the west end of the population center - where it looks like they've split up spaces between cities rather than keep things compact.

All in all, it's a better map than before... but it still suffers from its own stretching issues.

Does this have something to do with ensuring there are minority-majority districts?  Looks that way, considering how the Fifth District is still a stretched snake.

If anything, this proves that the Constitutional provision to map out districts will create gerrymanders regardless of intent.  Requiring saner map-making alone will not resolve this problem of more effective, more accountable representation.

We need to look at other solutions along with this.

Going to a Proportional system for the House seats may be the only real thing that could fix this.

Otherwise, we may need to increase the number of representatives from the current 435 seats.  Considering we haven't increased that number since 1929 and considering that our nation's population has tripled since then, our need to increase representatives to cover more people would fix gerrymandering by tightening district shapes to mass population (read: Urban and minority) centers, ensuring minority districts while avoiding the geographic sins of stretching out into rural areas that would need their own representation.

In the meantime, this isn't over.  The state's Supreme Court has to give final say on this.  Which is likely, considering 1) the district judge is right in that the Republican-controlled legislature kept failing to abide by the amendments and 2) we're running out of time if anybody wants these maps usable for 2016.

In the meantime, for the LOVE OF GOD STOP VOTING REPUBLICAN.  Thank you.

Friday, October 09, 2015

Dear House Republicans: We Make Our Own Hells

"So this is hell. I'd never have believed it. You remember all we were told about the torture-chambers, the fire and brimstone, the burning marl. Old wives' tales! There's no need for red-hot pokers. Hell is—other Republicans!" - paraphrasing Jean-Paul Sartre's No Exit

This is what you wanted, Republicans.

You've spent almost 40 years driven by a political narrative that government simply doesn't work, that the federal government is bloated and unmanageable and bad for people.  "Government is the problem" is the essential message left over from the Ronald Reagan era, what the GOP campaigned on over these decades, and that mindset has given you a party full of elected officials eager to break the whole thing down to prove it.

This has led to one great embarrassing fact the entire world can no longer ignore: Your own party is now an ungovernable mess.  The Republican Party, having gotten to where it cannot govern the nation - that it refuses to govern despite trying to hide the damage done - is now at a point where it cannot govern itself.

Party discipline is next to non-existent.  Any semblance of seniority or merit no longer matters.  Nobody sane wants the leadership positions, and the ones that do cannot appeal to a voting base and subset of fellow politicians who abhor that sanity as though it were weakness.  What was once a coveted high seat of power - the Speakership of the House - it's become a mousetrap with a Sword of Damocles hovering overhead.

I never could bear the idea of anyone's expecting something from me. It always made me want to do just the opposite. - No Exit

The House Republicans are driven by one true narrative: Beat the Democrats. Drive Obama Out of Office in Disgrace.  No Compromise.  No Shame.  That the Democratic Party wants government to work for people is part of the Republican rage against government: Dare not allow the Democrats to be ever proven correct.

Instead of standing for ideas, for reforms, for action, the Republicans are now in defense of dogma, for obstruction and delay and denial.  The only action the base of the party wants is a full government shutdown to press their social agenda.

And those insurgent radicals truly believe the shutdown will give them everything they want. Unlike the last two four times our nation's gone through this since the Gingrich takeover of the House back in 1994.  And these radicals truly believe the doom-sayers terrified of the government defaulting on debts are wrong and that the nation's finances are untouchable.  And these radicals truly want it all to fail because they've been told all this time that government NEEDS to fail.

Instead, we're all seeing what this obsession with destruction is doing.  It is tearing their own political party the Republicans apart from the inside.  Their refusal to govern is making it impossible to govern themselves.

Can Americans accept leadership from a party incapable of finding its own leadership?

One of the ironies in No Exit: there's a door to Hell.  It can let people out.  It's not guarded.  It's not even locked.  The characters in Sartre's play are too emotionally twisted and spiteful towards each other - and themselves - that they refuse to even try walking out.

This is your Hell, Republicans.

I'd welcome you to it, but you're all still intent on dragging everyone else in with you.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

In The GOP Madhouse, The Last One Standing Will Be A Mad King...

So that escalated quickly:

Days ago, House Speaker John Boehner bowed out as their leader after a papal visit and now House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy is reportedly taking himself out of contention for the job.
Herding cats is apparently too difficult...
McCarthy’s announcement is a stunning development despite more than a week full of turmoil surrounding his inarticulate admission that the House Select Committee on Benghazi’s investigation is no more than a political ploy meant to harm Hillary Clinton’s presidential ambitions — an admission that Clinton and Democrats have hammered nonstop over the airwaves and in Congress...

I previously had an article about the sudden madness due to happen when Boehner resigned, and I was not far off.  I had figured McCarthy wouldn't win the Speakership because he was the "conventional" "Establishment" leader left standing... which the rebel Republicans would dismiss because he still would NOT be crazy enough for their taste.

I didn't expect McCarthy's own ineptitude damning himself.  As noted in the Salon article, McCarthy had made the gaffe of publicly admitting the ongoing Benghazi investigation was more to weaken Hillary's campaign efforts for the Presidency than for any justice of those killed during that tragedy.  It gave Hillary the excuse to play the victim, it justified the Democrats' ongoing argument that this Republican-controlled Congress was more about partisan objectives over genuine governance, and it underscored the overall waste that the GOP House has committed ever since 2011.

And while the notice is also stating the House is suspending the Speakership vote, sooner or later they need to have someone replace the departing Boehner.  This is problematic because - with McCarthy out - there is no one left with any reasonable expectation of sanity who wants the job.

Officially two Representatives - Dan Webster and Jason Chaffetz - put there names out there and are expected to stay in the race.  Problems with both: Webster is a social conservative of the Freedom Caucus with ties to a fringe religious movement that abounds in sexual hypocrisy.  Chaffetz just recently made headlines as the chair of the committee that tried to bash Planned Parenthood and did so in the most gross, ill-informed, over-the-top manner that NO ONE even the Far Right took as legitimate.

So in other words, right now the Republican House may get for its leader a religious extremist who'll push a "women submit" agenda (at the least) or an opportunistic liar still far too eager to pander to those religious extremists anyway.  It's not so much a rock and a hard place as it's all jagged ship-tearing rocks.

The delay McCarthy is forcing on the leadership vote looks for all intents an effort to give whatever leadership is left in the Republican ranks to find a "sensible" replacement candidate who can appeal to both the "normal" party members - the ones who DON'T want to commit mass suicide with a debt default or government shutdown - and the increasingly dangerous Far Right "freedom" usurpers causing all this chaos from the back benches.


If you poll the Beltway media elites, they'll all clamor for the likes of Paul "Death Budget" Ryan as the best possible candidate to appeal (to them and them alone, suckas).  Thing is, Ryan is proving how smart he is by refusing to put his name on ballot in the first place.

After seeing what happened with Boehner (and now McCarthy), the risk of getting your political career imploded - damned if you refuse to give the Far Right its pound of flesh, damned if you do and the country collapses from their self-destructive path - is much too high.

If you look at the field of House Republicans, too many of the public figures are radicals in the conventional sense - openly hostile to bipartisanship, constantly railing against Obama and Democrats as threats to America's safety, and eagerly pandering to the talking heads on the Fox Not-News channel - that would not appeal outside of their base audience.

We're even hearing talk about the Republicans in the House voting for someone outside of the whole building - legally, there's nothing in the rulebook that says an elephant can't play baseball uh run the Speaker's duties - but even that would be so out of the ordinary - and so against tradition - that most Americans would recoil from it.  So forget that, Cruz.

If the Establishment tries to find someone they can back, the likelihood is growing that enough of the radicals in the House will refuse to support him, leading to a divided House right at a moment - November requires a vote on the debt ceiling, December requires another attempt at a budget deal - where there would be enough chaos that the radicals win their battle no matter what.

It's getting to the point where the only sane move is for enough moderate Republicans to avoid voting altogether, and allow the Democratic caucus to vote for their Speaker candidate as a minority-controlled House (there is a way that can happen).  Otherwise they might cross the aisle and vote for Pelosi outright and end this debacle for at least this year.  But THAT move would be political suicide for many of those "traitors"... and the Republicans will easily go back into grievance mode - as if they ever get out of that mode even when they're in charge...

Crazy is growing crazier by the day in Congress, people.

This is what happens when the Republican Party let the crazies - the anti-taxers, the religious extremists, the haters, the war-mongers - drive the nation's car.  Car hits rail, rail gives way, car flips over cliff, and we're all in the back seat screaming our heads off as the jagged ocean rocks await us below.