Saturday, April 30, 2016

Meanwhile On the Soap Opera "As the Florida Churns" A Tense Meeting Goes Full Schadenfreude

This sort of slipped under the radar, but here in Florida things are not well for the King of Unethical Douchebaggery Rick "Medicare Fraud" Scott.

One of the things Scott has been doing throughout his two terms has been to drive out long-time heads of the various state agencies to replace them with his own people. Whether or not Scott's people are/were qualified and able to do those jobs were not really relevant to him.

But this past year, Scott ran into conflict with his own party and the other Republicans in the governor's Cabinet. In particular, Scott's attempt to replace the chief Insurance Commissioner with his buddy Jeffrey Bragg conflicted with Chief Financial Officer (think Secretary of the Treasury) Jeff Atwater's own nominee for that post. And the CFO is the one who has direct control over the office, so Atwater has a kind of veto power over what Scott was trying to do. Scott, as governor, had veto power of Atwater's chance to put HIS guy in that office. Standoff.

So they went through the hassle of having a public review process, interviewing a set of candidates including Scott's choice and Atwater's choice. Once they finished the interviews, Scott just... well, I'll let Tampa Bay Times' John Romano describe it:

In a second attempt at hiring a state insurance commissioner, the Cabinet listened to four candidates speak for a little more than an hour on Tuesday.
When the interviews were wrapped up, Gov. Rick Scott took a few moments to thank all of the candidates, and then immediately launched into a prepared statement that nominated Jeffrey Bragg for the post.
"Is there a second?" Scott asked the other three Cabinet members.
1, 2, 3 …
Scott turns to his left to look at Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, who, like the governor, has to affirm the selection of a new insurance boss. Atwater, avoiding eye contact, looks straight ahead.
The beauty of this exchange is that it has been a month in the making. Four weeks earlier, Atwater had moved to appoint Bill Hager as the new commissioner and Scott immediately shot it down by saying he would not second the nomination. He wanted Bragg.
So, presumably, the four Cabinet members spent the next month looking at new candidates and reassessing Bragg and Hager. But Scott's immediate nomination of Bragg on Tuesday made it clear he expected Atwater to simply bow to his demand.
There was no discussion. No give and take. No pretense of esprit de corps.
4, 5, 6 …
Scott straightens in his chair. Then he reaches for a bottle of water.
By now, the governor must already know his ploy has failed. And the realization has to be dawning that the titular leader of the GOP in Florida, who has already been dissed by a Republican-dominated Legislature on his budget demands, is now being ignored by an all-Republican Cabinet.
7, 8, 9, 10 …

You should read Romano's article, I'm just posting the juicy, sweet early part of it as setup.

Just to note, I've been on committees, and usually most groups are already in agreement on a few issues, and then it's just the nuts-and-bolts disagreements that get argued out, and then a decision is informally recognized, and then there's a call on a vote and a request for a Second. And getting that "I Second It" is a pro forma thing, everyone's mostly good with it, there may be a few dissenters but at least the issue was argued in good faith and done.

Scott didn't even have a give-and-take talk. He wanted the vote then and there and on his terms. That's not how the Force decision-making in a committee works.

Just to add this one more thought Romano puts out there, which I totally agree with:

What's amazing is, six years into the job, Scott still does not understand the art of governing. He has a receptive audience in both the Legislature and the Cabinet, but he sabotages his own cause with edicts and commands.

That is the problem when you put a crook like Rick "No Ethics" Scott in charge of something. He takes on the CEO mindset of "my way or the highway" and eventually finds out that kind of mindset does not sit well with other people who have the power to do their own thing in spite of him.

Sweet, sweet Schadenfreude. I hope the rot boils in Scott's stomach for 1000 years.

According to a follow-up report I found in the Miami New Times, the cabinet finally settled on a compromise candidate, as these things usually play out.

And I'm willing to bet Scott still hasn't learned a lesson. He's probably just thinking up how to get some revenge on Atwater for the public humiliation.

I'd love to see how Scott handles a potential Florida Legislature where the state Senate is under Democratic control thanks to the voting districts being redrawn to weaken the gerrymanders. One can hope. One can definitely keep calling on the Democrats to challenge every district and GET THE DAMN VOTE OUT.

Friday, April 29, 2016

The Danger of Trump's World View

(Update: Oh hey, Crooks and Liars readers linking in from Mike's Blog Round Up! Welcome back. Please check out the latest blog offerings if you can, and by the by I think I got a message from the family of the Port O San guy from Woodstock I blogged about back in 2009 so OMG OMG OMG I am a little distracted at the moment...

Follow-up to the Update: Thank you as well, Infidel753 for the link here!)

Recheck on the Follow-up to the Update: Hello everyone linking from Skippy the Bush Kangaroo! Welcome to my blog, try the veal it's the best in the city...

You seven - I should be saying eight now - regular blog followers know I am a fan of James David Barber's work on Presidential Character. On how it can determine the basic performance of an incoming or sitting or historical President: on if said President was/is/will be Active or Passive in office, and Positive or Negative about the power of the office towards achieving goals.

What he based that Character on were a set of factors, one of the key factors being "World View": how the person running for the Presidency perceives the world based on previous experiences, learning moments, and developing philosophy.

Barber's own definition from his book Presidential Character goes like this:

A President's world view consists of his primary, politically relevant beliefs, particularly his conceptions of social causality, human nature, and the central moral conflicts of the time... these assumptions or conceptions help him make sense of his world, give some semblance of order to the chaos of existence. Perhaps most important, a man's world view affects what he pays attention to... (p.5)

That World View gives us an idea both on how the potential President views his political allies and enemies, and on how he/she will act on the global stage of the world itself.

Well, we've got a really hard case of Presidential Character with Republican front-runner Donald Trump at the moment. My original estimation of Trump being Active-Negative - and in the worst way imaginable - remains intact: he's been the self-centered, boasting, bullying, ill-informed blowhard that one would find at the most extreme edges of being Uncompromising and Self-Serving (two key A-N traits).

One of the things Trump has been avoiding has been explaining or codifying his World-View to the public at large - at most he's made clear signals about degrading Hispanics, Asians, women, and anybody who doesn't genuflect to the Trump (tm) brand - by usually hand-waving off questions regarding foreign policy. Now that he's essentially the lone runner for the delegate majority count, Trump has to establish more specific policy goals to define the upcoming convention's platform, so he and his handlers decided on making a "bold" foreign policy speech.

To say it didn't go over very well is a bit of an understatement.

If we can refer to Adam Silverman's article in Balloon Juice:

...I will leave the fiskings and point by point takedowns of the contradictions, flaws in logic, petty vindictiveness, and inconsistencies to others. I want, instead, to focus in on the core of the address, which could, perhaps, be referred to the Trump Doctrine. The Trump Doctrine, at its core, can be boiled down to America (we) will be treated fairly. As I wrote yesterday in my initial impressions, this is essentially National Security Narcissism...
...More than that, however, is that the Trump Doctrine is really the animating force or theme of the entire Trump campaign. The other candidates had better treat Donald Trump fairly, the Republican National Committee better treat Donald Trump fairly, the Republican establishment better treat Donald Trump fairly, the media better treat Donald Trump fairly, the state level parties that handle the primaries and all the delegates chosen better treat Donald Trump fairly. And Donald Trump will make them treat him fairly! And the only candidate, nay the only person in America who can ensure that you are treated fairly is Donald Trump. And if he isn’t treated fairly or the US isn’t treated fairly, then he will get even...!
The average American, in some cases even the above average American, really does not know how policy is formulated or strategy is developed for domestic issues, let alone for foreign or defense issues. Donald Trump’s speech yesterday cut through all of that reality – that how the official business of America at the Federal, state, and municipal levels is done is often arcane and messy – and reached right for his supporter’s guts. Donald Trump has consistently been telling Americans... that they are being taken advantage of and that only Donald Trump can stop this. All he’s now done is formally extend it into the realm of foreign and defense policy and connect the pieces together...
The only people that should be happy with Mr. Trump’s foreign policy remarks are Vladimir Putin, the leadership of the People’s Republic of China, and the Islamic extremists running the Islamic State and Al Qaeda. Mr. Trump’s doctrine of America will be treated fairly screams a revanchist approach to foreign and defense policy. Should the US not be treated fairly, the US will then retaliate. Maybe that’s taking our things and going home. Maybe that’s getting even. Maybe its something else, but because Donald Trump’s emphasis is on unpredictability there is no way to really know...

Silverman's point is that Trump is projecting his own World View - his narcissistic belief in his own superiority over everyone else - and applying it to foreign relations that cannot and should not kow-tow to such ego-stroking.

The key question about the Trump Doctrine - America should be treated fairly - should be this: What the hell is fair? Who gets to determine what actions are fair or not? Given the person involved, the likeliest answer of Who determines is going to be Trump himself. If it comes down to it, what Trump is advocating is an American foreign policy where all of our dealings ought to go entirely to HIS favor and not even the American citizenry (who will only benefit by proxy in Trump's estimation), which violates a lot of precepts about deal-making and international agreements.

What Trump is pushing is a World View where everyone else HAS to Respect the hell out of US, while our nation won't have any reason to show any Respect to them.

This is troubling on multiple levels.

Our existing alliances would come under scrutiny, and the political situations in Europe and Asia would collapse over the first sign of slight in Trump's view. Which could be over anything that would tick off his ego.

Said allies would rather cut ties up front over coping with any conflicts with Trump's administration down the road. As Silverman pointed out, that would weaken NATO's stance against Putin's Russia, and it would certainly be a death-knell to any NATO attempt to support Ukraine against Putin's border war with them. The Middle East, another flashpoint where NATO and Russia are occasionally at odds, can turn into a greater cauldron of hell than it already is.

As others pointed out, Trump's dealings in Asia would agitate an increasingly dangerous China, and if Trump were to pull out of our alliances with Japan, Taiwan, even the Philippines it would grant China greater control of the water trade routes of the Southeast Pacific at best (at worst, good God, is full out invasions of Taiwan, Japan, and anywhere they like).

It's a variant of the strand of Isolationism that is common to the United States' political discourse. As much as an "America First" mindset - which has some pretty sick associations - as it is a kind of arrogant Nativist stance that places the nation above all mundane concerns to everyone else's destruction (there's a kind of "Let 'Em Crash" smugness to it).

What Trump is selling here is the argument that the United States is unfairly treated by other foreign powers including our allies, and that our national pride is at stake if we do not elect him to make those foreign powers respect us. What he's not seeing - because his willful ignorance of anything that doesn't serve his immediate needs - is that our foreign policies should not be based on PRIDE but on political and economic stability at a global level. We can't gain that stability if we destabilize our own alliances and create more chaos.

How far Trump can go on this message and World View, all depends on how many American voters buy into the same World View. The best we can hope for right now is that those numbers are way below 40 percent of the electorate currently backing his run.

This is not good politics. This is not good foreign policy. This is not good for America. And we're two steps away from being stuck with him.

All that joking about what a Trump Presidency would look like? It's not funny if he gets elected. Not one damn bit funny if that happens.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

BREAKING NEWS: Ted Cruz Assumes All His Eggs Are Chickens, Puts Cart Before Horse, Rearranges Titanic Deckchairs Into Pleasing Patterns

Is this seriously happening?

Via CNN:

Ted Cruz will name Carly Fiorina as his vice presidential running mate on Wednesday, according to two sources -- a last-ditch move to regain momentum after being mathematically eliminated from winning the GOP presidential nomination outright.
The Texas senator will make the announcement at an afternoon rally in Indiana, which votes Tuesday in the next GOP contest. Cruz must have a strong showing in the Hoosier State to help block rival Donald Trump from securing the 1,237 delegates necessary to win the nomination, and keep alive his hopes of a contested Republican National Convention.
Cruz is trying to recapture the narrative and keep himself relevant after Trump seized momentum in the 2016 race with a sweep of all five East Coast states on Tuesday, which puts him closer to having enough delegates to win the Republican nomination. The unusual move from the Cruz campaign also comes just hours after the billionaire businessman, who is trying to look like the presumptive nominee, gave a high-profile scripted speech on foreign policy...
Okay, having lived through the past year of absolute crazy political campaigning news, even with half the crazy stuff Trump has thrown out there and some of the more embarrassing things Jeb? ever tried before he disappeared, THIS has to be the craziest WTF moment yet.

How is this crazy?

For starters, Cruz doesn't have the nomination locked up.

You're supposed to pick your Vice-Presidential choice once it's been confirmed you have the delegates in place to win the Convention. Traditionally, the Vice President was picked at the convention itself as part of the back-room deals the party bosses worked out to keep the factions happy, but ever since the Primary system eliminated such deal-making the Veep choice has been left to the winning nominee.

Cruz is not the winning nominee. Granted, neither is Trump at the moment, but at least Trump has the chance to be.

Second of all, selecting the likes of Carly Fiorina does not help Cruz's case that he is capable of making sound decisions. He's going with a choice with a failed political campaigner, in that Fiorina lost both her earlier Senate campaign and her recent attempt for the Republican Presidential nomination. Fiorina's resume of being a "successful" businessperson is itself flawed: she's well-known for having mismanaged Hewlett Packard as CEO and was ignobly fired from that job. There's nothing there of merit or confidence for voters to like.

Third, this move reeks of desperation. The CNN report itself is claiming Cruz is doing this to jump-start his campaign and regain momentum to win over the few remaining states not yet siding with Trump. Problem is, who's going to buy this move? Carly's home state of California? She couldn't win there as a Senate candidate. The number of people who are moved to switch votes based on a Veep choice are few: nobody is going to run away from Trump all because Fiorina is teaming up with Cruz.

The only way this move makes any sense is that Cruz is convinced he already has his path laid out and he's already winning that July convention. Either that means he's already planning on cheating with the delegates to turn on Trump even if Trump wins outright, or he's convinced Trump can't win enough delegates period.

Either way, Cruz is courting self-destruction. If he steals away the nomination from Trump, it'll be civil war within the GOP. If he wins out a legitimate fight over unbound delegates because Trump didn't cross the threshold, Cruz still has to answer to a majority of Republican voters who believe the candidate with the most delegates ought to be the nominee.

This is too crazy for even this Florida Man to contemplate. I'm going to go wrestle a gator or something to bring myself back to my senses.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Fantasy of a Third Party Savior... AGAIN

As I write this, Donald Trump is crushing the Cruz-Kasich coalition in five state primaries and pretty much making it impossible for Cruz in Second Place to ever reach the needed delegate count. Trump hasn't won outright, but he's the only one who can.

As such, the Conservative Beltway Media Punditry of Both Siderism and Dubya-Never-Happened have moved their freak-out to Defcon 2.

Terrified of the likelihood of an amateurish, bullying, Id-driven, failed businessman becoming the Serious Candidate of the Republican Party that these pundits cannot honestly shill to the general electorate, more and more of them are pushing more and more their incredible fantasy of having a "respectable" True Conservative rise up from the shadows of history and declare for a Third Party independent run. This True Conservative can then rally all the Honest Common Man voters crying all for a REAL LEADER to drive away the horrors of a Trump or Hillary or Bernie Presidency, and bring the nation back to a united harmonious new era of Reagan-esque patriotism and nostalgic delight.

Insert headdesking here.

Never mind the obvious evidence that if there were such a candidate - a True Conservative to save the Republicans from their Trumpian fate - don't you think he'd (and it's usually a guy) have run by now and was stopping Trump already in the primaries?!

The Republican Establishment had their chances: Hell, they have five of them in Jeb!, Rubio, Scott Walker, Chris Christie and Kasich. If that was the cream of the crop, the BEST that the Republicans could rally to run for 2016, and they STILL couldn't outpander and outwit and outrun Trump... there is something seriously wrong with the quality of Republican leadership today.

And yet here we are with the likes of Jim VandeHei - a founder of media outlet Politico and writing in the Wall Street Journal op-ed - dreaming up a scenario of a military general (and it's always a man in a uniform that attracts the fantasy) coming in as a Third Party savior to mock the legacy of 98-lb weakling Obama and bitch-slap Trump into a whimpering heap. But lemme have Daniel Drezner at the Washington Post point out all the follies:

Over the past few months and years, the hard-working staff here at Spoiler Alerts has tried to make a few useful suggestions for improving the quality of punditry during this campaign season. For example:
Don’t use Donald Trump as a vehicle for your particular hobbyhorse — you’ll just get tarnished.
Don’t call for a military leader on horseback to rescue the country — the ones interested in the job are probably the last ones who should be president.
Don’t use Silicon Valley buzzwords to describe anything with respect to politics or policy — it means those words have been played out.
Don’t assume Americans care too much about foreign policy or national security. They don’t.
Don’t call for a third-party candidate to enter the race because: (a) that candidate won’t win, and (b) even if the candidate wins, the new president still needs to cope with a Congress that will remain a product of the two-party system.
To be fair, I never actually wrote that last point up, mostly because I thought it was so obvious that it did not need to be said out loud.
I bring this up because Politico co-founder Jim VandeHei’s Wall Street Journal op-ed manages to ignore all of these warnings. Praising the plain language of Donald Trump? Check. References to disruption? Check. Calls for an “Innovation Party?” Check. VandeHei also leans hard on the “Normal America vs. D.C. bubble” trope, which will be a topic for another column...
So the poster boy for VandeHei’s new leadership is … a recently retired admiral who challenges civilian control of the military. I would be uncomfortable with this person in charge of determining the proper allocation of war powers between the different branches of government. By exploiting the fear factor...
I get the suspicion VadneHei didn't do any research or any due diligence, or have any concern to the actual inability of his Dream Candidate to bring the nation under the united banner of a kinder gentler machine gun hand.

What's really happening here is projection. These insulated Beltway media types, thinking themselves the only sane ones in a kingdom of madness, are fantasizing about their ideal leader playing out a game-plan that makes perfect sense only to themselves. Each one of these pundits aren't really selling a military hero, or a political savant, or a philosophical genius: they're selling themselves as the God-Chosen Savior. It's only the realization no one will take THEM seriously as a candidate that they're forced to call up General McAwesomesauce as the Insert Savior Here guy.

But I've noticed this before: this fantasy is just that, and it's a fool's fantasy to think that this unheralded Insert Savior Here can just show up and have 60 million Americans swoon for him. It's a fool's fantasy to think there IS such a Conservative candidate after more than a year finding out the Republicans don't have anyone like that anymore. It's a dreamer's denial to think that this Third Party Insert Savior Here can break the Electoral College enough to bring this Pundit's Paradise to the Real World.

And how disappointing is it going to be if said Insert Savior Here guy does show up on the stage and turns out to be yet another dud?

Not disappointing at all. All these pundits will do is wail the lost opportunity and move on to the next sucker willing to pose for their fantasies.

I wasn't joking four years ago when I said there needs to be a term limit on the MEDIA more than on our elected officials. At least we can kick the officials out by vote. These pundits will not stop until they drive their publishing agencies into bankruptcy, and then move on to the next million-dollar book deal.

It's a good racket like Driftglass notes over and over again, if that exclusive club of always-wrong media elites invite you in. Problem is, you pay out your integrity as you go.

April Mini-Super-Tuesday Primary Today, Just Saying

There's five states from the mid-Atlantic/Northeast voting today, most of which are kind of foregone conclusions for both parties: Trump's polling has him sweeping Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Connecticut and Rhode Island; Hillary's poised to secure four of those states while Bernie is in the lead in Rhode Island.

The way the math works, a Trump victory in even one state - especially a big one like PA - should pretty much eliminate Cruz from outright delegate victory. All that is at stake from this point is Trump needing to clear the delegate majority hurdle and secure the nomination on the first ballot.

Clinton's not going to win outright tonight, but a solid win in delegate counts in most of the states will pretty much affirm her inevitability as the nominee: this is the point where her momentum does kick in and the later states - California especially - will lean for her just to wrap things up. It will also wreck the narrative that the Sanders' followers have been pushing: by winning in obviously liberal-leaning northeastern states, Hillary will prove her broad appeal to the party as a whole and not by region (so SHUT UP about the Deep South states not counting).

Tonight's broadcasts are going to be drawn-out media back-patting affairs as usual, and likely the Fox Not-News people and fellow media elites on CNN and MSNBC (sorry, folks, this ain't your daddy's librul channel anymore) are gonna be spoon-fed the narratives about Trump becoming more "presidential" for some godforsaken reason. Just keep the channels on to watch but put the volume on Mute, and finish writing that damn novel everybody (or is that just me?)!

I'll be writing something else later today. Damn, I have blogged like a mofo this month...

Monday, April 25, 2016

Missing the GOP Queue For the Lifeboats

I've been seeing the other bloggers listing this as "too little too late," such as Rude Pundit:

In a display of too-little-too-late-ism that ranks up there with "Flowers from a cheating husband," John Kasich and Ted Cruz have agreed on a kind of alliance of f-ckery, a Megazord of fail, if you will. Said a spokesturd for Cruz, "To ensure that we nominate a Republican who can unify the Republican Party and win in November, our campaign will focus its time and resources in Indiana and in turn clear the path for Gov. Kasich to compete in Oregon and New Mexico..."
...And after Trump wrecks both of them in Pennsylvania and mocks them relentlessly for this strategy (which he's already doing), it's gonna be pathetic watching those campaigns limp around until they finally have the sense to just lay down and fade away...
I can see the intent by Cruz and Kasich to try and generate enough delegates for themselves - and not trip over each other to do so - to prevent Trump from winning outright, but this sort of move is almost impossible to coordinate because voters are going to make up their own damn minds in these primaries and they may not want to play this game.

It gets more interesting when Jennifer Rubin at the Washington Post considers the ramifications:

...It emphasizes the degree to which the most likely alternative to Trump — Cruz — has failed to unite the GOP. He can either work hard at crafting an agenda and message directed at “somewhat conservative” voters, or he can make the case that Republicans are not going to win Oregon, New Mexico, Maryland and the like in November, so it shouldn’t matter...
...Cruz’s perceived weakness in turn leads to another unintended consequence of the deal: It will heighten interest in a third candidate. It is now evident that neither Cruz nor Kasich is a sterling candidate. The odds of a Trump nomination are high, so shouldn’t backers of a third candidate get cracking...?
The argument for there being a Third Party candidate that can SAVE the Republican Party from itself is getting more dire: and it turns out there ARE deadlines for a Third Party to file that are due BEFORE the July convention in Cleveland. From what I'm reading here on the Ballotpedia page, it looks like you have to file as an Independent in Texas by MAY 9th! That's two weeks away.

Before all this, there was the fear among Republicans that Trump would go Third Party on them out of spite and ruin their chances to secure any Electoral College AND Popular Vote wins. NOW the fear among Republicans is that they're going to have to run a Third Party candidate because having Trump run at the top of their ticket will (not could) ruin the entire ballot for them. Even though if they do this Third Party move, the Republicans run the very real risk that Trump will - again out of spite - tell his voters at the least to refuse to vote for ANY Republican down-ballot.

Very much a Lose-Lose situation at the moment. Time to remind the readership about the phrase involving the deck chairs of the Titanic.

The only thing the Republicans can hope for now is out-and-out voter suppression, and even THAT can blow up in their faces.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Poll: Throwing Out Book Title Ideas

I've mentioned once or twice before that I'm putting some of the essays I've written here - good lord, I'm almost to the 10-year anniversary - into a collection for print as a book. I decided to use the stuff I've written about Obama, his administration, and his tenure against a wall of GOP obstructionism that future historians may want views on.

As such, I'm a little stumped for a possible title for the work, so I'd like to waste more time creating a survey and asking all seven blog followers to tell me what looks SHINY AND CHROME and what is MEDIOCRE.

Create your own user feedback survey

I've wrapped up a few of the other writing projects I've been juggling - the story to Florida Writers Association, getting something published to teach the self-publish class I taught last week at the library, etc. - so I have time to finish collecting and editing the essays (also adding endnotes to cover the fact print books don't link to websites of info) hopefully by next month.

Oh, and I'll need to hire a cover artist. If there's a cartoonist who can draw Obama standing atop a pile of GOP elephants whilst waving the American flag and flashing the Vulcan salute, I'll pay about $49.95 for the cover rights...

Update: Creating an alphabetical index in OpenOffice Writer is messier than it looks.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Guessing the 2016 Veep Picks, Because I Have Nothing Better To Do Today Other Than Laundry

(Update: thanks for the link, Infidel753!)

One of the downsides of recognizing that the Presidential campaigns are winnowing themselves to the likely nominees is that the chatter quickly switches to the next phase of the damn horse-race.

Predicting who gets picked to serve as Vice President on each party's ticket. Yeah, we're getting there now:

Reporters are feeling secure enough to start pestering Clinton surrogates about her VP choices. John Podesta promised the Boston Globe that Hillary’s short list would include a woman (because of course they asked, and what else was he gonna say?) The Washington Post‘s premier horse-race tout Chris Cillizza likes Amy Klobuchar, Tom Perez, Tim Kaine, Sherrod Brown, and Julian Castro, and his explanations are reasonable enough to consider them the Conventional Wisdom picks...

For the seven readers of this blog, you know my views on the Vice Presidency itself: It's an antiquated relic of a failed electoral concept by our Founders, a process of party ticket-balancing that can often go wrong, and something that can be easily supplanted by changes to the 25th Amendment and by adding more seats to the Senate to compensate the VP's duties. Like Anne Laurie notes in her Balloon Juice article above, this Veep stuff is merely worrying over who gets to be the Backup Prom Queen/King.

Still, it's part of the process, and I might as well put my two cents in on the topic (okay, guilty admission here, it's a little fun to mess with the Conventional Wisdom by messing with the picks).

Just note the rules of the game: The Veep pick has to fulfill the Constitutional obligations - over 35 years of age, Natural Born Citizen, and full-time residency in the US itself for 14 straight years - as well as Electoral College obligation of NOT being from the same state as the President: it has to do with the complex nature of Electors, a rule to prevent candidates from the same state dominating the Executive office. It's a rule that was in place back when there were fewer states and there was a legitimate fear large-population states like Virginia could dominate the Federal government. Past that (barring scandals), it's an open market.

With Hillary Clinton, the likely scenario is that she picks someone from the roster of known Clinton allies - both Hillary AND Bill are, after all, practitioners in quid pro quo - but someone with enough of a separate reputation from their Inner Circle to avoid open accusations of cronyism - which they'll get hit with regardless. This is why names like current Housing Secretary Julian Castro come up often.

Castro in particular covers a lot of things a Presidential candidate has on a checklist: he's young meaning he can become the banner carrier for the Party for the next two-three decades (and reach the White House on his own campaign), he's from a large Electoral state that happens to be on the verge of demographically shifting Democrat (Texas), and he's still relatively unknown enough that he's not going to be drawing attention away from Hillary.

Funny enough, Julian has a twin brother Jouquin serving in the US House, and his name comes up often as well. But Jouquin is less likely to get the nom because of political calculus: every House seat is vital for the Democrats to hold, and with the slight chance this 2016 election could tip the gerrymandered House away from the Republicans, the Dems are going to want to cover their seats to improve their odds. What's happening with Jouquin is the reason to avoid considering a Congresscritter for Dem Veep.

The US Senate is a different matter: only a third of those seats are up for a vote this year, which means a sitting Senator not running in 2016 could be tabbed for the Veep slot and not get distracted. In this, names like Michael Bennet of Colorado and Patty Murray of Washington get discounted ( up for re-elections), but names like Sherrod Brown (he's up in 2018) get elevated.

Governors come in for consideration, but because of Democratic failures during midterms to get the vote out - and midterms are when a lot of Governor seats are up for vote - there's not a lot of Dem Governors to choose from.

Like Julian, there's a possibility Hillary would tab someone young-ish and reasonably popular from Obama's Cabinet - Labor Secretary Tom Perez has been gaining attention - but there's few names there Hillary can view as viable.

One argument is that given the close race Bernie Sanders has been running against her means that Hillary needs to consider a Progressive, left-leaning Veep nominee to placate the Far Left voters that will be angry when Bernie drops out. Tabbing Bernie himself is unlikely: he's too old (given Hillary's own age, a younger candidate is needed), and too geographically close to Hillary's New York (with regards to ticket-balancing, she needs to find someone from the Midwest, Pacific Coast, or Southeast, especially a key toss-up state).

Just in case, if Bernie were to pull off an upset... In his case, he can go in any direction he'd like for picking a Veep - he could even consider House members that Hillary wouldn't - and would likely go with as Progressive / Leftist a candidate just to signal his victory as a Far Left standard bearer over the Democratic Party establishment. If he does go with an Establishment-backed choice, it would signal a rapport with the moderate voters who might still worry about a too Far Left platform.

If I had a list of nominees, it'd go like this:

Sherrod Brown (well-known Progressive Senator, key state of Ohio, would be viewed as an olive branch to the Bernie supporters)
Penny Pritzker (current Sec of Commerce, from Illinois, Jewish family, would make it an all-women ticket)
Julian Castro (current Sec of Housing/Urban Development, key state of Texas, Hispanic)
Anthony Foxx (current Sec of Transportation, key state of North Carolina, African-American)
Thomas Perez (current Sec of Labor, technically from Maryland, Hispanic)

And for the Republicans?

Considering the likely nominee is Trump, this can go one of two ways:

1) Trump will actually behave himself and oversee a formal, almost professional review of likely nominees before selecting one who has a political resume that would alleviate the fears of the general voting electorate while keeping his Far Right base happy.

2) Trump will do his own thing, probably do it as a one-night televised special variation of The Apprentice where he lines up prospective Veeps and have them beg - BEG FOR MERCY I TELL YOU - for the damned job, and end up with the best suck-up he can find.

I doubt in 1). Despite the fact the RNC and party leadership will INSIST on a proper vetting, Trump is all about getting attention, and messing with everybody's heads. For him, 2) is more fun, more satisfying to his Id (more than his Ego). Trump has already stated he's holding off on starting the vetting process until the delegate count is finalized.

In that regards, consider this list of likely Republican Veep nominees to be woefully short. In Trump's case, he can go in any possible direction - within the Constitutional requirements -  he likes.

Trump should look at getting a Veep who is different to him in attitude and experience: considering his complete lack of political history and gravitas, he'll need a ton of that in his running partner.

While common sense tells us that any of his primary opponents would reject any offer, the fact that Trump turned Chris Christie into his puppy within a week of Christie dropping out of the race suggests otherwise. Common sense would also tell us that given the likely train-wreck a Trump general election can get (polling in the low 40s AT BEST), that nobody will want to take a bullet for the team and ruin his/her resume, but again ambition is a cruel and demanding boss.

If I had any say in this... well, I wouldn't have Trump as the Presidential nominee (where have you gone, Teddy Roosevelt, our nation turns its lonely eyes to you). But anywho, just to give the Republicans a fair chance:

Susana Martinez (governor of New Mexico, Hispanic, Woman, would help counter a lot of the damage Trump's done with those voting blocs)
Nikki Haley (governor of South Carolina, Woman, of Sikh ancestry but currently Christian faith)
Chris Christie (governor of New Jersey, still relatively popular among the punditry, already sold out)
Marco Rubio (from key state Florida, Hispanic, would require Rubio selling his own soul - again - which would make for great television)
Jeb Bush (from key state Florida, would be an act of public humiliation you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy... well maybe a little)
Sarah Palin (because she's sucking up to him, and brings a lot of media attention with her, and it would really piss off the RNC big time)

If Cruz were to pull off an upset getting to the nomination, the situation changes a bit. This would require a major political coup with the delegates and rules of order at the convention at this point of the campaign, meaning Cruz had to break more than one promise and start riots in all the worst ways. But he'd do it if he was convinced enough of his inevitability as the candidate, and that would mean his extreme Christianist world-view brought him to this.

That would suggest he would seek a "pure" campaign of True Believers in his camp, meaning his Veep nominee is going to be a Bible-thumping social warrior of anti-abortion, anti-gay, anti-rights bent. That actually narrows the list a lot, mostly down to his few allies in Congress. That would bring to his Veep list the likes of Steve King (House, Iowa), Jeff Sessions (Senate, Alabama), and/or Tim Huelskamp (House, Kansas).

If it's Hillary, I'd like to see her consider Priktzer, but she'll likely stick with Castro. If it's Trump, he'll likely do what he can to browbeat Rubio just to humiliate him, but he'll likely end up with Haley just to appease the party Establishment with someone sensible (and as an attempt to win over the women's vote that he can't imagine losing, 'cause all the ladies love the Donald...).

Okay, so let's see how wrong I am by the time June rolls around.

Oh, if I had to go with a Vice-Presidential nominee for MY Presidential run... I'd look for a moderate tax-friendly pro-peace candidate from the West Coast for geographic balance. Anybody got suggestions?

Thursday, April 21, 2016


So I was helping a library patron with his laptop syncing to iPod when the patron's phone blinked.

News flash: Prince died.

Just to let you know, yes that cat Prince could indeed ball (was an above-average high school b-baller).


I ain't joking about this right now, but 2016 (actually at some point around December 2015 it really became noticeable) is turning out to be one of the worst years for celebrity deaths since 2009. I may be biased, it may be a thing about my Generation (Xers) being more attuned to the media and being on the Internet moreso that earlier generations, but this sh-t is upsetting man.

I mean, here's the list off the top of my head, now with Prince and Chyna (if you followed wrestling in 1990s like some of my co-workers in Broward County Libraries, you'd know who that was) today.

David Bowie
Alan Rickman
George Martin (Beatles producer)
Natalie Cole
Angus Scrimm (Phantasm movies)
Dan Haggarty (Grizzly Adams)
Glenn Frey (Eagles)
ABE VIGODA! I mean, seriously God, when Abe died that was the literal f-cking end of a meme.
Paul Kantner (Jefferson Airplane)
George Kennedy
Maurice White (Earth Wind and Fire)
Larry Drake (I will always remember him as Durant from Darkman)

And those are the ones I can recall off the top of my head (I had to be reminded of Frey on Twitter awhile ago).

I grew up to all these people, as actors in my favorite movies, as musicians for my favorite songs.

I don't want to think it has to do with getting old. I can't. It just doesn't seem right, does it.

The 2016 Primaries: It's Almost Over Except For the Tears

Yeah, I know. Counting chickens, and Plus-size women at the end of operas, and what not.

But the funny thing about a game based on who gets the biggest set of numbers is that sooner or later the math can only go one way. With regards to the Republican 2016 primary, it's pretty much down to one reality with the delegate count and two ways this can end. From MSNBC's First Read:

as of the New York primary
Trump needs to win 57% of remaining delegates to reach 1237 magic number (was 61%)
Cruz needs to win 98% of remaining delegates to reach 1237 magic number (was 86%)
Kasich needs to win 158% of remaining delegates to reach 1237 magic number (was 140%)

Kasich simply can't reach the 1237 cutoff, while Cruz's chance to reach that delegate majority relies entirely on Trump falling into one of the biggest collapses of all time.

The only reason for this horse-race to continue is to stop Trump from winning outright: keep him from that 57 percent count. But that involves Cruz winning enough states or at least winning enough delegates in the proportional ones, which is becoming harder to see happening. Trump's polling in too many remaining states - especially the big prize California - is still too strong.

Cruz has his other advantage - that he's swiping control of the delegates themselves to have them on hand if the convention goes to second ballot* - but that only comes into play if Trump can't win outright. So in that regard, the Republican primary is still on, it's just that the likelihood of Trump being the winner is becoming too close a reality.

As the First Read article also notes, the Democratic race is almost wrapped up as well:
Clinton must win 29% of remaining delegates to reach 2383 magic number (it was 33%)
Sanders must win 71% of remaining delegates to reach 2383 magic number (it was 67%)

Being a two-player race pretty much from the get-go - Sorry O'Malley - there's still a lot of delegate numbers behind Sanders that gives him good reason to stay in this fight. But the numbers are getting too high against him. Bernie pretty much needs to win two states to Hillary winning one, but the polling for the upcoming primaries have Clinton ahead in the next five states - she's thumping him in Pennsylvania - while Bernie is struggling just to even get tied with her in even one of them. In the proportional states Bernie can still garner delegates, it's just Hillary can garner even more and increase her lead.

There's a reason why Bernie's people - well, Jeff Weaver - are openly talking about going after the Superdelegates - the very party leaders that they disdained early in the race - to try and flip this to them. But that's impossible: the very nature of Superdelegates is to do what's best for the Democratic Party, and if Hillary's winning the party's majorities, then they'll side with her.

So we're pretty much wrapping this thing up. All that's left is the Five Stages of Ending a Campaign: Blaming the media, Blaming the ground crew, Blaming the managers, Blaming the voters as you Quit, and Praising the eventual winner so you can grovel for a Cabinet seat later.

I'm pretty much with Charles Pierce at Esquire here: we've got the two nominees for the Republicans and the Democrats now. Deal with it.

I'd like to pay attention to other things, but there's still the whole car-wreck appeal this election cycle has... Morbid, yet engrossing.

*I need to learn how to add footnotes to a blog, but anyway as a dark thought to have here: there is a possibility of a delegate revolt at the convention even if Trump wins the majority. If Trump proves that unpalatable in Cleveland - if say he sticks to his vulgar campaigning style, or keeps polling under 40 percent for the general election, or if he chooses Palin (again?) to be his Vice President - there's a chance Cruz or the RNC can convince enough delegates to fight the rules that say they HAVE to vote first ballot for Trump. That will, of course, destroy the entire convention: But if it gets THAT bad... or if Cruz is that self-obsessed to use "his" delegates that way...

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Sound And Fury Of a BernieBro

There's been a lot to write about online about the more vocal defenders of the Bernie Sanders campaign, AKA the "BernieBro". (points of fact: not all of them are bros, and not all of them are named Bernie) Especially after this New York primary when Hillary thumped Bernie.

The Twitterverse and Facebook newsfeeds are full of the angry, adamant, and argumentative progressive followers who are fully backing the Senator from Vermont. Some of them are standing with him because he's pushing for breaking up the Big Banks, some of them are standing with him because he's arguing for universal health care, some of them are in love with how Bernie can summon birds to his will.

It seems though, from the ones I see on my feeds, far too many of those BernieBros are simply hating on Hillary.

It ties into that Hathos that revolves around her. The level of mistrust, of which barely a quarter of it - her secretive nature - is justified. The fact she has ties to the Wall Street and major corporate entities that Sanders is railing against. The - in my opinion wrongheaded - view of her as a drag on the Democratic ticket. That she is not sufficiently Liberal enough.

We've had this problem before, and I've seen it happen down here in Florida. Twice. A sizable faction of Democratic voters turning away from their own candidates for office because of that "questionable" Centrism. Never mind the facts that Betty Sink and Charlie Crist were experienced pols: they just weren't the perfect progressive paragons to save us all. And as a result, we've ended up with two terms of one of the worst governors of modern times: Rick "No Ethics" Scott.

And yet, here we are, lessons unlearned: a good portion of Sanders' supporters are online insisting that they won't vote for Hillary if she wins the party's nomination. Like Susan Sarandon, they've gotten it into their heads that there's no real difference between Hillary and a Republican candidate, and that it might be "better" to let the Republicans get back in charge to wreck things all over again (if only to spark the One True Revolution of Absolute Utopian Progressivism).

It's frustrating as hell around here. And it horrifies me to see it happening in the media for an election that's really going to matter. Because 2016 does matter: this is an election where Obama's entire legacy is on the line, where key political reforms and efforts need protection from the possibility of a Republican takeover of the White House to grant them the ability to take us back to the Dark Age of the Dubya years.

But I need to pay attention to other things, instead of the noise chambers of the Intertubes.

Despite all the wailing and rending of prayer vests and pulling of hair, the facts are that a very large set of Democratic voters are just happy with how things are going this primary season. If we go back to that Atlantic article about Sarandon's hope for revolution, the reality is that the voters are shiny and chrome:

For example, take a Quinnipiac poll released last week. In that poll, 78 percent of Democrats said they had a favorable view of Sanders. But 80 percent had a favorable view of Clinton. Now, more had an unfavorable view of Clinton than of Sanders—15 to 9—but that doesn’t suggest there’s a huge groundswell of anti-Clinton Democrats.
The latest CBS News/New York Times poll suggests something similar. There’s a definite enthusiasm gap between Clinton and Sanders. Forty percent of Democrats said they were “enthusiastic” about a Sanders candidacy, versus just 34 percent who felt the same way about Clinton. But add in the number who say they’d be satisfied with Clinton and the gap shrinks to almost nothing: 81 percent would be enthusiastic or satisfied with Sanders, while 79 percent feel the same way about Clinton...

Those are good numbers, and shows that for all the open and public hostility a lot of voters are actually level-headed about this election cycle. Not everybody is screaming about things. Not everybody, after all, is on Twitter or Facebook (they're on PornHub instead... well, BLOCKED in North Carolina anyway).

One thing keeping Democrats - and a lot of Moderates - grinning from ear to ear is the realization the Republicans are gonna wake up post-convention to either a Trump or a Cruz. Per MisterMix at Balloon Juice:

Like most New York Democrats, I’m perfectly happy with the choices, have no real concerns about the party falling apart, and I’m enjoying watching the Republicans crumble. I like the fact that we have a contest that gets us free media coverage – why should that f-cker Trump get all of the attention? As far as I’m concerned, the minor dust-ups on the Democratic side are nothing like the foundation-shaking disaster we’re witnessing on the Republican side...
...Yeah, there’s some nastiness, but remember that Republicans are fighting over how many hard-working immigrants to throw out of the country, how best to deny women abortions and birth control, and how to make sure that millions of people lose insurance they gained through Obamacare.
Keep that in mind when worrying about what some dumb Bernie Bro said on f-cking Twitter.

Happy Thoughts, People.

Conclusion: The BernieBro is a lot like the Moral Majority, a very loud and very over-hyped minority. It's up to the rest of us to, know you, let them vent a little when the time comes and the inevitable happens. But then we gotta keep them focused on the Big Game: getting the DAMN OUT VOTE for the entire Democratic ticket. 

YOU BernieBros that seem to make up about 15 percent of the Hater Club don't wanna vote for Hillary? Fine. But PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD GET THE VOTE OUT FOR THE REST OF THE BALLOT. We need votes for getting the Democrats back in control of the Senate so we can seat Garland and future SCOTUS nominees to the bench. We need votes for taking the Republicans down a notch or twelve in the US House, and maybe even breaking their gerrymandered control of the House with a large enough turnout by enthusiastic, ENERGIZED voters.

All those elections matter in some ways more than the election for the President. As long as there's a solid, respectable, intelligent candidate in either Hillary OR Bernie for the White House that leans either Centrist or Leftist, as long as it's a candidate that will honestly build on the work Obama has done rather than knock it all down out of spite or fear, as long as it's a candidate we know will not blow up the nation and the planet the way Trump or Cruz will, we've got something to VOTE FOR.

Voting for Bernie or Hillary doesn't need any sound or fury. It needs focus, and it needs each one of us showing up this November to get it done.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

What If Cruz Is Worse At the Electoral Math Than Trump?

Well, the thing is Ted Cruz isn't bad at campaigning for the Presidency. He has an effective organization that just happens to be doing all the heavy-lifting of getting control of the state delegations, playing the long game of a possible contested convention where whomever REALLY controls the delegates wins the second ballot.

Where Trump - and everyone else - is or was playing for the whole ballgame of winning primary delegate counts outright, Cruz saw the landscape shifting towards the convention and got his ground teams to win the behind-the-scenes un-glamorous jobs of actually serving on committees and the delegations. He's putting into play the actual people who serve as delegates: not people in the abstract but those who will be free to vote how they choose if the first ballot fails to select the winner. For all the talk about a White Knight candidate showing up from behind the curtain, the reality is that Cruz could win despite being second-best.

All of a sudden, Trump is realizing that if he can't secure the first ballot he's screwed. While he's still yelling and screaming at the RNC for rigging the contests against him, he's now yelling and screaming at them for letting Cruz out-cheat him where it really matters: the actual nuts-and-bolts management of the party itself.

And even though Cruz could win out, the whole game for the GOP could still be tossed into the dumpster fire. As Infidel753 points out at his blog:

If Cruz takes the nomination on the second ballot, thwarting both Trump and the bosses who had planned to impose a hand-picked nominee like Ryan or Romney, the party will be left even more divided and confused than if the bosses had won.  The Trumpanzees Trumpshirts (sorry, Infidel) (and Trump himself) will be just as outraged at the nomination being "stolen", while the leaders may well balk at uniting behind a man whom they loathe and who cannot win in November.  They could end up split into three hostile factions instead of two.
Cruz, in his way, is just as dangerous as Trump, and just as doomed in November.  He's simply this cycle's Christian Right candidate, the avatar of the Bible-thumping, snake-handling, tongue-speaking element which has been growing in influence within the party for years.  He doesn't play well outside of that constituency; much of the support he's attracting now is really anyone-but-Trump sentiment...

I've posted before about Cruz's weaknesses as a candidate, and I've suggested earlier how bad a Cruz win would look in November. How factual are those warning signs? Can Cruz be as bad or worse to the general electorate the way Trump could be?

Don't forget that Cruz's favorability numbers are almost as bad as Trump: it's hard for a candidate to be over 50 percent Unlikes to do well in a general election. Thing is, it's not as bad, which gives Cruz in theory even odds in a campaign against Hillary (whose Unlikes are also over 50 percent).

It all depends on how the non-party ideologues voting in November are gonna lean.

Will the independent voters - will the moderate voters in both (still) parties - be won over by a Ted Cruz whose overt Christianity - a form called Dominionism - is on the far end of the extremist scale?

Will those independent / moderate voters - the ones who prefer political competency and effectiveness - be won over by a Cruz whose been the major obstructionist player in Congress the last three years?

There's signs there are enough Republicans who won't support Cruz as the nominee because of what he represents: the most extreme Far Right conservative candidate the party would yet have for the White House. Even Goldwater wasn't as documented as extreme.

And Goldwater got his ass kicked back when being a Far Right Conservative meant something.

Cruz will only appeal to certain types of voters: the Anti-Establishment Republican base, which is currently older white males with little education; and the Protestant Evangelical religious voters who are keyed to the belief of End Times and the Rapture. In most other categories - immigration, tax cuts, bombing foreign nations - he's playing to the GOP base same as Trump, but will find it hard to convince the general electorate to believe him if he switches gears and pretends to play nice.

'Cause Cruz already has a reputation for not playing well with others. And the general voters want to see that in their potential leaders: this was Obama's winning grace over Hillary in 2008, that he positioned himself better as a conduit for Change able to work with others. That was McCain's main appeal in 2008 (which almost worked in an election cycle where the Republican brand was mud) as well, as was Dubya's in 2000 and so on.

To be fair, I doubt Cruz will lose as many voters the way Trump will in November: there are entire states that are horrified by Trump the man as much as Trump the Candidate, which will skew the normal voting for the GOP downward.

But I don't see any signs Cruz will improve performance for Republicans over Romney's failings in 2012. Cruz's overt ignorance and smarmy lack of charm denies Republicans the hope of using a congenial figure to win voters back to them. Cruz's hard Right campaign would be a more difficult sell to a nation that wouldn't buy what Mitt was selling.

I have seen a post or three about how the liberal progressive bloggers and pundits are actively hopeful that Cruz wins the nomination and faces it alone against Hillary/Bernie in November. There's the belief that the Republican faithful have kept telling themselves that they would win the Presidency if only their candidate was a TRUE Conservative (McCain and Romney and Dubya all labeled as frauds).

If it's Trump in November and he loses, then those Republicans will keep telling themselves that. But if it's Cruz - he who is MORE Wingnut than the OG (Original Goldwater) - and he loses badly, those Republicans can't lie to themselves anymore.

Well, actually, they will keep lying to themselves, 'cause they've got nothing else to cling to. But they'll definitely be screwed as a national power, because how further Right can the Republicans go if even Cruz fails them?

Just think of the Red states Trump won as a Primary candidate: those will likely NOT go for Cruz, even if the party response is supposed to line up and be good soldiers. If Trump doesn't run as a Third-Party candidate, those states become toss-ups and Hillary could grab three or four or nine of them while Cruz holds only the Red states who sided with him. The states to flip Blue are likely Georgia and North Carolina, maybe Arizona and Tennessee and Mississippi and Missouri.

It won't be a deep electoral defeat the way Trump's will be - I've got Trump winning at BEST eight states - but it'll be serious, and a possible sign of cracking up the solid Deep South votes that have been reliable conservative counts for the last four decades.

The only question would be how badly Cruz might affect the down-ballot votes: it is possible Cruz would adversely affect the Senate races - he'll have a tough time campaigning alongside colleagues who will be fighting the urge to punch him in the face - to where the Republicans lose control, but in a Cruz campaign the GOP may well hold onto the House.

This will explain why the RNC is likely going to hold its nose and embrace Cruz at the same time. It gives them some kind of hope to stave off a possible Democratic landslide.

Which is why it's still so very imperative for Democrats and moderates to get the damn vote out this November!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Another Sign How the Republicans Are Going to Suffer This Election Cycle

(Update: hello again, Crooks and Liars readers linking in from Mike's Blog Round-Up. And as always, thank you Batocchio for the link!)

It's not just the unpopularity of the two leading candidates - Donald Trump or Ted Cruz - among the general electorate. The Republicans are about to lose on the issues as well.

Via Daniel Drezner's twitter, I saw this:

He links to a Pew Research poll on immigration as a topic, and the results were mind-blowing.

The numbers who view immigrants positively have gone up the last four years to 59 percent, with those viewing immigrants as a burden and job-takers sinking to 33 percent.

Along party lines, Democrats are clearly in favor of immigration while Republicans still only show over a third of their membership in favor (that means two-thirds of Republicans do not view it in a positive light).

In terms of generational views, the article shows how Millenials and Generation Xers now show overwhelming support for immigrants and immigration reform. But the real key here is this first poll: we're around 60 percent who see immigrants and immigration as a strength and would likely support reforms to keep it going.

That means whichever party is OPPOSED to immigration reform is going to have a rough go of it winning over 60 percent of the electorate.
62 percent oppose a border wall,
just saying...


While Trump's made the most splash promoting that damn wall of his - which the Pew Research notes is massively unpopular - the key thing to note about this Presidential cycle is how the whole Republican Party platform had been and remains fervently anti-immigrant. There's been other issues at the debates - which foreign nation to bomb, which tax cut to favor, which schools to close, which social safety nets to slash - but nearly every GOP candidate had come out hard against immigration. Even the ones expected to "play nice" on the topic - Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio and Cruz just on personal connections to Hispanics (a key ethnic group affected by this) - had to avoid the questions or come out opposed to any kind of reform solution for our current immigration issues.

Look at this poll regarding that Trump Wall: Both Cruz and Trump supports favor building up border defenses (costly and won't work), numbers which go against that top Overall Voter number showing two-thirds of the nation oppose such a plan. Kasich's supporters are currently showing as the most pro-immigration of the remaining GOP candidates, but even HE can't shake the fact his party is adamantly against reforms on this (also, he's in no position to win the nomination right now: he's merely in it to keep Trump from winning delegates outright).

Trump's made so much noise pushing that Wall of his, it won't matter if it's either Trump or Cruz winning this July at the Cleveland convention. The entire GOP is in trouble if they campaign at a national level against immigration reform (among other issues that will turn the general electorate against them). The problem will be one of degrees: if it's Trump they'll lose everybody, if it's Cruz they'll lose MOSTLY everybody.

The Republicans have been so vocal against immigrants that any attempt to shift back to the center on this issue would be greeted with disbelief and disdain.

What other issue can the Republicans honestly run on that would counter the votes they'll lose over immigration reform? Their "tax cuts for the rich" plan will not find a safe haven this year of anti-Establishment anger. If they think running against gays and transgender will win over voters, they're wrong. The Republicans do not have a sane foreign policy platform - "Bomb ISIL" "Boycott China" and "Nuke Iran" are not winning stances with moderates/centrists who prefer working with allies - at the moment.

If Republicans think "repeal Obamacare" is going to impress anybody, it's only going to get their own voters nowadays. Have you noticed ANYBODY making noise about repealing Obamacare lately? That hasn't been a major topic: we've gotten to the point where the fight to repeal it has fled to the fringes.

No, let's be blunt: Immigration has been one of the top three issues of this 2016 election cycle, and the Republicans are poised to lose big because of their opposition to it. Maybe not with the House elections, but definitely with the Presidential race, and likely with the Senate races in EVERY state - even Red ones - where pro-immigration forces are in play.

A Brief Moment of Trumpian Zen: Getting Your Trump Score

I gotta hat-tip PM Carpenter for this one. Someone went and wrote up a faux credit-scoring site that instead rates your Likely Trumpian Fate in the possible Trumptopia awaiting us all.

So... What is MY Trump Score?

Well the joke's on Trump: I've never buttled. I have, however, read too many Jeeves books, so I have the snark powers to drive every rich person into jumping off the roof of that resort to their dooms.

We can, of course, avoid this fate by not voting Republican or Trump. It's that simple, America.

UPDATE: Hey, tell me YOUR Trump Score when you get the chance!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

When The Best Choice is The Parachute, Dave.

One of those questions I pose for myself from time to time is "How would I behave myself in public when confronted with two loathsome options?"

Let's say I'm booked for a flight on an airplane, and it's packed except for two last seats remaining. One seat is next to Grover Norquist, the second seat is next to Ann Coulter. Which seat would I choose?

And of course the correct answer is "I would choose the parachute, Dave."

(Just don't ask who Dave is)

I'm bringing this up as an opening bon mot to get you in the mood for this latest news bit from ABC News and what not.

The Republicans are not going to like this news one bit, because ABC hosted a poll on Favorable/Unfavorable numbers again on the current Presidential candidates... and both Donald Trump AND Ted Cruz - the two likeliest nominees - are working with some of the highest UNFavorble numbers in recent memory (PDF link here):

Donald Trump ranks as the most unpopular top-tier presidential contender in more than 30 years of ABC News/Washington Post polls, trailing only former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke among presidential candidates in any election year since 1984.
At the same time, the unpopularity of Trump’s main rival, Ted Cruz, has reached its highest level yet this election cycle. John Kasich breaks even in basic popularity, with many – at this late stage of the primary season – still yet to form an opinion of the Ohio governor.

Remember what I keep saying about Machiavelli's warning, kids: it's tough to be loved, better to be feared, BUT ALWAYS AVOID BEING HATED.

(And for those crowing about how Hillary is also hated, please note the hate for her is still less than for Trump and near-even for Cruz... and there's a growing likelihood that the Republican Establishment - along with everyone else - may settle for Hillary as a better option than a man who has alienated that Republican leadership like no other)

Right now the Republicans are looking at their two remaining serious options - Kasich is mathematically eliminated from winning outright, he's merely in this race to keep both Trump and Cruz from winning outright - and realizing that their only real choice is that damn parachute.

They can't lie to themselves that either candidate - Trump or Cruz - will turn into a beautiful swan post-convention and everyone in the party ranks happily smiling as they line up to support whomever the winner will be. The numbers we're talking about involve the general voters, the moderate and independent voters who have no party loyalty that can sway them to like candidates they already loathe.

And we're talking about the type of depth to such loathing that can have a serious effect on down-ballot races. We're talking about the possibility that an anti-Trump or anti-Cruz movement could give Democrats a chance to break the gerrymander advantage the Republicans currently hold on the US House.

The buzz over the Republican Establishment running their own third-party candidate - now swirling around a retired general with little political presence - to try and salvage the Senate and House campaigns will not abate, not after news like this.

An Apostate like myself feels a little warm in the part of my soul that cherishes schadenfreude like this: watching the very real possibility of a Trump-led Republican campaign that barely cracks 30 percent of the popular vote and wins only Wyoming and Alabama. With 68 Senate seats going to the Dems and enough wins in the House to embarrass the Republicans into realizing their obstructionist sh-t no longer impresses anyone.

Ah, a crazy Florida boy like me can dream...

And as always, that dream can become a reality if the Democratic voters remember to GET THE DAMN VOTE OUT.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Reclassifying Marijuana Would Be Game-Changing

A patron at the library just let me know about a news blurb that came out a few days ago, so I went online and checked on the reports.

The federal agencies responsible for how drugs are classified for use - especially ones that can be addictive and harmful - are considering reclassifying Marijuana from Schedule I drug - listed as one of the most dangerous drugs out there - downward to Schedule II - which is harmful but not as criminally severe. Link to ABC News report on this:

Federal authorities have announced that they are reviewing the possibility of loosening the classification of marijuana, and if this happens, it could have a far-reaching impact on how the substance is used in medical settings, experts said.
Marijuana is currently classified as a Schedule I drug, meaning it is listed alongside heroin and LSD as among the "most dangerous drugs" and has "no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse."
The Drug Enforcement Administration announced last week that it is reviewing the possibility of reclassifying it as a Schedule II drug, which would put it in the same category as Ritalin, Adderal and oxycodone.
Medical experts are welcoming the review, saying it could ease restrictions for researchers, so that they can better understand which compounds in marijuana could be used to help patients...
I'm amazed there hasn't been more talk about this in the major blogs or media outlets. This could be a major shift in not only medical research - which the article focuses too much on - but also our entire legal system and the 40-year-plus War On Drugs.

Marijuana (pot) is one of the more commonly used illegal drugs in the nation, and one of the more prosecuted by an aggressive legal system fighting that War On Drugs that shows no signs of ending. It's a drug that's listed among the worst of the worst, in a scheduled class containing drugs with a high incidence of overdoses and deaths such as heroin.

...And yet, marijuana isn't as lethal as heroin or even other lesser Schedule drugs like opoids (pain-killers). Here's a government website that's charting drug overdoses, listing even prescription drugs alongside cocaine and heroin. Notice anything? THERE'S NO CHART FOR MARIJUANA. There are no reported cases of overdose deaths (granted, there are some reports of overdosing related to pot but no-one's died from them).

In terms of the effects marijuana has on the human body, it's less harmful than alcohol. And yet we treat marijuana as a criminal offense while alcoholism - outside of DUI, which is a major public safety risk and deserves criminal treatment - is handled as a health care medical issue.

The reasons for marijuana being treated as a Schedule I has less to do with the facts and more to do with politics. It's even come out recently that the War On Drugs that began under the Nixon administration was purely political:

The April cover story of Harper’s magazine explains not just how counterproductive the drug war has been but also, and perhaps more importantly, its racist roots. Written by Dan Baum, the article lays out the case for legalization, which is worth absorbing on its own. But it begins with a startling revelation from John Ehrlichman, one of Richard Nixon’s close aides and a Watergate co-conspirator.
This quote is from 1994, when Baum was writing a book about drug prohibition. Baum tracked Ehrlichman down, hoping to get some insight into the drug war, which began in earnest during Nixon’s administration. Ehrlichman’s explanation was surprisingly blunt:
“You want to know what this was really all about?” he asked with the bluntness of a man who, after public disgrace and a stretch in federal prison, had little left to protect. “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black people, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.

What happened since the War started was a round of mass incarcerations, focused primarily on Blacks and to a lesser extent Hispanics and Asians, justified by the criminalization of certain drugs -marijuana - that those communities enjoyed over others. But marijuana had been vilified decades before - say hello to Anslinger - much to the extent that badly ill-informed movies about pot like Reefer Madness were made in the 1930s (if viewed objectively, the drugs the actors in that movie seem to be on is Meth or speed, not pot). By 1968, with the wave of civil unrest tied into a youth culture getting high, it was easy to exploit again.

The result has been long jail sentences for possession of pot for a large number of otherwise non-violent offenders that had led to overcrowded prisons and the downward spiral of the imprisoned into a life of crime (either to survive, or because their felony histories block them from meaningful jobs and livelihoods). The impact on entire communities - loss of employment, loss of income, loss of social aid, loss of voting rights - cannot be understated.

A lot of that is excused by having marijuana listed so high - erroneously, intentionally - as a lethal drug. So what happens if/when pot drops to the less-lethal Schedule II?

Actually, not a lot. The Federal government treats Schedule II drugs at about the same level of penalties as a Schedule I.

But this is where the medical aspect of the lesser Schedule comes into play: Making marijuana a Schedule II drug makes it EASIER for corporations and medical research facilities to access the drug for testing and pharma development. Most of what we know about marijuana's benefits are mostly anecdotal or on just-recent testing by other nations also loosening their penalties on pot. A more rigorous and thorough scientific research into the chemicals related to marijuana can quickly identify the medical/health aspects of cannabis consumption, and give cause to reduce the Schedule status for pot even further.

We'd have better scientific evidence that marijuana is no more harmful than alcohol, which we DO regulate with age restrictions, DUI laws, and other legal prohibitions. We'd have better evidence to drop marijuana even further into lesser Schedules that won't lead to automatic jail-time. And where we deal with alcoholism by treating it as a medical issue - and by creating social norms of alcohol consumption with moderation and common sense - we would treat any marijuana addiction as a health issue as well. And we wouldn't have a War On Drugs wasting everyone's time and money with needlessly excessive prison sentences.

Granted, this won't end the larger War On Drugs - there's still cocaine and meth and heroin and painkiller abuse to worry about - but dropping this one overwhelming part of that War could free up a lot of our resources, and bring some relief to our communities wrecked by an unjust pursuit against a mild substance.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Summer Movie 2016 Mayhem

Odd to note, but with one or two March films being released already as the package of BLOCKBUSTER Awesomeness for this coming summer, this isn't ENTIRELY correct. But hey we want blockbusters and we're gonna get blockbusters!

I am so keen for seeing Captain America: Civil War for my birthday weekend.

I may write about Batman v Superman when I find the time. I may write about Black Panther the comic book (yay Coates), so we'll how it goes.

There's Only So Much You Can Do With a Map: It's All About Voter Turnout

So you know I like messing with Presidential Electoral map generators. is kind of fun, but it's limited in that you make your own guesses as to which states are going to go for your candidate over the other one. It may be satisfying to have Hillary stomp the hell out of Trump in 47 out of 50 states (plus DC), but there's little actual evidence - unless you're Nate Silver and you have all the true numbers - to back you up.

I like how RealClearPolitics went and created their own generator based on the 2012 voter turnout. As you mess with the number variables on two columns - one for voter turnout favoring Republicans, the second for overall voter turnout - you get a better sense of how certain states are demographically aligned Red or Blue by four established blocs (White, Black, Hispanic, Asian), and a better idea of how voter turnout and support will actually create possible results.

Granted, it's still not accurate to predict for 2016 - demographic have changed over the last four years, and there are new variables each election cycle - but it's better than just your own guessing.

So it all comes down to how the numbers actually play out this election cycle.

One thing I've learned messing with the demographic calculator to that map is that while having Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians all solidly line up in favor of Democrats is a good thing, any discernible changes in BOTH their support for Republicans and overall turnout doesn't swing any states. It's a combination of two factors: most minority voters are either residing in heavily Blue states or else are so alienated against the Republicans that there's little chance they can flip states one way or another.

Bumping up Black voters alone to favor Republicans doesn't really flip any states until getting to 12 percent for the GOP, and that's with Florida. And there's little sign the Republicans are going to do THAT well with Blacks considering the GOP's voter suppression efforts and other policy beliefs openly affect Blacks.

Florida flips to Republican if the Hispanic vote favoring Republicans go up to 32 percent nationwide support. Considering the anti-immigration stance of the GOP - Trump's horrifying stances are bad enough, but Cruz will be just as oppressive as a candidate - there's no way Hispanic support goes that high (most polling is showing Hispanic support dropping).

Asian voting population numbers are the smallest of the four blocs, as such any noticeable shift in Republican approval AND disapproval is meager at best. All that happens if they favor the GOP is that Blue states turn lighter and Red states stay almost the same color (I think Texas darkened Red a bit) up until the support gets to 50 percent, at which point Florida flips Red (damn, Florida, you're on the razor's edge here).

Things may flip quicker if all three minority groups do start favoring Republicans more, along with growing overall turnout, but neither factor is realistic to contemplate. We're facing an election cycle in which Republicans have pretty much alienated every voting bloc - Blacks, Hispanics, Chinese, Muslims, Women, Youth/College - outside of the Uneducated White Male category.

What I'm finding going by RCP's Map Generator is that the real difference-maker is the White voting bloc. Where shifting the minority blocs gives you plus or minus half-percentages, shifting the White voter approval for the Republicans can get you a full percent shift, and states change their colors real quick.

If all other things remain as they were in 2012, if Republicans bump up White voter support from 60 percent to 64 percent, they flip the Electoral College to their favor (this is 4 percent to flipping Black voters up 6 percent to 12). That may sound simple enough... except the current polling is showing White voter support for Republicans dropping, likely due to the fact that White WOMEN voters are turning against the GOP.

And that's IF you keep voter turnout as they were in 2012. The odds of that - due to depressed voter turnout thanks to unpopular candidates AND that aggressive GOP voter suppression effort - for 2016 are unlikely: Overall voter turnout is expected to drop this year. The question is by how much.

Ironically enough, the voter suppression effort against minority voters can become meaningless. I can drop the voter turnouts for all Non-White blocs down to 40 percent and STILL the Republicans will lose the Electoral count. That is if White voting numbers stay static: if turnout goes up or GOP support goes up, then the Electoral shift happens differently. But THAT requires White turnout going up around 70 percent while dropping Black voters to 42 percent and Hispanics/Asians both to 40 percent. The impossible factor there is getting the White vote count up: there is no way they can get to 70 percent turnout like that, and still retain 60 percent Republican support...

The Republicans are going to have to deny the Black voters down like crazy to flip the Electoral College in any way. Considering Black voters turned out at 66 percent (best among the four groups), forcing that huge a drop into the low 40s is unlikely: Republicans can't suppress the Black voters in Blue states for one thing, and they can't deny that many insistent voters when the time comes in November. If Black voter turnout drops under 50 percent, it's a clear sign of voter suppression, and no-one outside of the hater groups will ever accept that result.

It'd have to be a combination of both voter suppression efforts AND getting minority to show up in favor of Republicans. But that's a paradox: if Republicans - and they're the ones doing this, so none of that Both Sides crap - suppress the vote, there's no way they are appealing to minority voters to turn against their own interests.

What will hurt is the White voter turnout for Republicans: having built an entire Presidential electoral campaign around courting just that voting bloc is now due to blow up in the GOP's collective face.

There's been the gradual demographic loss of White voters as a percentage of the national population for one thing: there's the fact that Whites are not a uniform voting bloc the way Blacks are (and how Hispanic voters can become a solid bloc in the face of a massive anti-Hispanic outburst by the Far Right). There's a surprising number of White voters who are Democratic at heart and Liberal by belief: there is a ceiling where the Republicans cannot appeal strongly enough to get the White votes they need.

And making their appeals more Far Right than ever - trying to keep their base happy and eager to vote - ensures more moderate/centrist voters among Whites turn away as well. It's a Lose-Lose situation for the GOP: Republicans can't gain enough minority voters to overcome the Electoral numbers, and they can't afford to lose White voters the way they are this election cycle.

And when that is all said and done, the RCP generator still proves one point:

It all comes down to voter turnout, as always.

The only REAL way Republicans can win the Presidency - any election for that matter - is if Democrats and Left-leaning voters refuse to show up. Even the act of showing up fights the voter suppression effort because there's only so many voters the Far Right can try to stop.

Get the damn vote out, America.