Ranking the Rankest of the Ranks

Republicans in Disarray!

Here I rank the Replicant Republican front runners in the order of their likelihood to start a war. This ranking is graded on their likelihood of getting elected, or more to the point capturing the nomination, and subsequently getting beaten like a pinata in the general, but who knows, Hillary could choke on a pretzel at a campaign event in late October.

Trump refuses to be bound by past traditions! by outmoded ways of thought! by outdated and crippling notions of comity, fair play, factual accuracy, or morality. Trump is the Republican triumph of the will. He means to win at all or any cost as long as he doesn’t have to pay it. He’d start the hugest classiest world war ever, about a minute and a half after Putin makes a joke about a bad toupee.

Ted Cruz is at the intersection of tremendous self regard and dominionist fantasy. He directly appeals to the “let’s turn America into a theocracy and the middle east into a glowing crater” crowd. Like they used to say about Goldwater, “In your guts you know he’s nuts”.

Rubio is the standard bearer of Establishment Republican goals e.g. continued looting of the treasury by rich people, continued bellicose interfering foreign policy, and continuing to sell out the rights of women and Muslims to pander to the evangelical right wing. “Sadly”, it’s not selling. Republican primary voters like the gravy of racism and nativism, but aren’t particularly excited by the mashed potatoes of the establishment Republican policy goals. The super Tuesday results are one or two states eating the actual meal trying to set a good example while the rest of the states have a gravy chugging contest. Rubio would start world war three because one of his creditors tells him to. Strangely, he’d do it by invading Cuba, maybe even at the Bay of Pigs.


The Weak Tea Rebellion

In the ongoing shit show that is the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, the last four holdouts have livestreamed the final hours of their quixotic pointless and boneheaded quest to light off the second American revolution. It was more pathetic than I ever thought possible. Nevada legislator and gun rights calendar model Michele Fiore tried her level best to interfere with the FBI negotiations, engaging in a lengthy phone conversation with the occupiers and offering to “lead them to safety”, I assume “safety” meaning “towards the news cameras in the best possible lighting”. Noted televangelist Franklin Graham, Billy Graham’s more political son, has also volunteered to cover himself in publicity by negotiating with the occupiers. But in the best news I’ve heard in days, Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher, bigot and tax cheat that inspired this whole fiasco has been arrested in the Portland airport where he was on his way to join up with the remaining occupiers. He is being charged offenses related to both the current standoff and the one at his ranch last year. source: http://www.ktvz.com/news/first-look-the-latest-on-day-40-of-malheur-refuge-occupation/37923590

For a deliberately ignorant and boneheaded review of the occupation, you could turn to Kimberly Fletcher at “The Blaze”
I mean seriously:

I find it interesting that the occupiers of the refuge were labeled as militants while the occupiers of Wall Street were simply “protestors.”

I will spell it out for her in small words. The Occupy movement, and the Black Lives Matter movement are unarmed and want reform and accountability. That makes them nonviolent protesters. The boneheads in Malheur are armed to the teeth and talking about coups, and revolution. That makes them militants. It the weapons and embrace of military rhetoric and tactics that makes them “militants”. They are militants because they self identify as a militia.

Yesterday I realized that this movement could be compared to the Luddite revolts of the early 1800s. There, skilled weavers and spinners revolted against factories and factory owners whose output meant that the craft these professionals used to feed their families was effectively worthless, and without income they faced eviction and starvation. Ranchers and their political allies had depended on BLM policies that ignored any kind of environmental considerations for the land which it leased out to ranchers, miners and other extraction industries. I think the “new” (most of which date back to the 1970s) environmental rules, while more burdensome than the previous BLM policy of “feh, whatever”, wouldn’t even be a big deal if there hadn’t been 40+ years of free trade agreements to accompany them. I seriously doubt many ranchers would care if they could only run X number of cattle on their allotment if that X number gave them anything like the return they used to be able to get before they had to compete with beef from South America. Even so, “the government” and “the BLM” are convenient scapegoats for every factor that has made ranching less powerful politically and less profitable in places where it has traditionally been the largest industry.

Let’s remember that “ranchers” are being used as a proxy for every person or company that wants to get its hands on free government land. Despite being relatively big deals at the local level, there really isn’t enough money in ranching to get the kind of legislative support they receive. That money comes from extraction industries like mining and oil drillers and fracking companies, that stand to make billions if they can get the feds to give up its ownership of millions of acres of western land. It would not surprise me if some people hang on to unprofitable ranches solely for the value of the minerals and water beneath the ground in anticipation of the day when a republican administration lets them buy the land for pennies on the dollar. The ranchers are only the most photogenic of the groups that want to hoover up federal land, mining and other extraction industries don’t get the same kind of nostalgic preferential treatment from the public.


How do you like me now?

As we look to the results in New Hampshire, I can’t help but be reminded of something:

“The Jeb[!] 2016 campaign has never made Iowa a centerpiece to winning the nomination. We have long viewed Iowa as just one of 56 contests,” it reads, adding, “The Granite State [of New Hampshire] has a much better track record in selecting the Republican nominee.”

This is clearly a case of “Sadly, No!” not being appropriate.


Rarely means… whatever the hell you want it to mean

So — either you need to win the Iowa caucuses or you don’t. But as Steve M. writes, the Jeb!® campaign is cranking it up to 11 12 (fuck yeah!):

In a memo Bush’s top advisers sent this morning to supporters and prominent donors, which was obtained by ABC News after first being reported by Politico, the campaign downplayed the Iowa caucuses because the winners rarely go on to win the nomination.

So what does rarely mean? Since 1976, there have been 7 contested caucuses. And the winners were:

  • 1976: Gerald Ford+ (45%) and Ronald Reagan (43%)
  • 1980: George H. W. Bush (32%), Ronald Reagan+ (30%)
  • 1988: Bob Dole (37%), Pat Robertson (25%), George H. W. Bush+ (19%)
  • 1996: Bob Dole+ (26%), Pat Buchanan (23%)
  • 2000: George W. Bush+ (41%), Steve Forbes (31%)
  • 2008: Mike Huckabee (34%), Mitt Romney (25%), Fred Thompson (13%), John McCain+ (13%)
  • 2012: Rick Santorum (25%), Mitt Romney+ (25%)
  • So it would appear that rarely means 4 out 7 times (if you count the Santorum-Mittens tie as a co-win). And of the remaining 3, one featured a 2% difference between the winner of the caucus and the eventual winner. What seems more important though is the question: How many times has a candidate who losed it up* by finishing 6th with 2.8%** of the vote go on to win? Someone should do the research on that one.

    * This is not proper English — or proper anything really.
    ** Seriously you guys, Jeb!® finished 6th behind Ben Carson and Rand Paul.


    My theory that I have follows the lines I am about to relate

    Again something along the lines of “arguably true but shouldn’t the examples given support the theory?” Over at The Huffington Post, Jay Newton-Small asserts:

    The GOP’s Biggest Problem: Women

    So leaving aside the many other problems of the GOP, what have we got?

    As Trump heads into Iowa and New Hampshire leading in the polls and looking likely to be the nominee, he risks doing permanent damage for Republicans with the largest of voting demographic groups: women.

    Riiiiight, permanent damage. Explain how!

    The only times Republicans have won the White House since Ronald Reagan is when George H. W. Bush and his son appealed to security moms and soccer moms; they still lost the women’s vote but narrowly enough so that their big male turnouts won the day.

    So again as was the case with Iowa, we have a “the only time except for those other times that it also happened I  noticed variable x had some value or another.” Which is great if you’re a guest contributor on Fox & Friends, less so otherwise. The “only times” in this case number 3 out of a total of 7 — seems we’re a few data points away from a clear trend. It’s also worth nothing that the smallest gender gap in presidential elections since Reagan was 4% — when Clinton beat Bush in 1992.

    In recent [?] elections the numbers are moving against the GOP. Even with a female running mate, Republican presidential nominee John McCain lost women to Obama by seven percentage points; four years later, Republican challenger Mitt Romney lost them by 12 percentage points.

    Hmm, Sadly, No! Since 1980, the gender gap has been 8-7-6-4-11-10-7-7-10. The 2012 figure is the highest of the last 3 — but lower than 1996, and at the same level than 2000. It seems also rather cruel to state that “even with Sarah Palin” Republicans still lost the women’s vote by 7 percent. Sarah Palin! (Besides, having a female running mate didn’t seem to do wonders for Mondale in 1984: 6% gap).

    It’s also worth noting the use of this statistic:

    A Quinnipiac University survey released December 22 found that among all female voters — Republicans, Democrats, and independents — Trump’s favorable rating was 25 percent, and his unfavorable rating was 68 percent, producing a net measure of minus 43 percentage points.

    One could instead look at a poll of voters rather than favorable ratings, in which case one might find stuff like this:

      • Men prefer Trump over Clinton by a 41% to 31% margin, while women prefer Clinton by a similar 42% to 31% margin. [A 9% gap, in line with results since 1980 –Rasmussen] Or you could dig through this CNN poll (PDF) and find Clinton leading Trump by 4% among women voters.  

    Did I miss something?

    But that wasn’t enough to overcome President Obama’s 20 percentage-point lead among single women, one of the largest voting blocks when they turn out and key to his winning the women’s vote by 12 points.

    You lost me at when.


    May I just say I have a new theory about Iowa?

    Over at Vox, Andrew Prokop has a theory about why the Iowa caucuses matter:

    Every winner of a competitive major party presidential nomination contest since 1980 except one started off by winning the Iowa caucuses, the New Hampshire primary, or both.

    Which would be a great point if you wanted to argue that to eventually win the nomination you have to win one of the first two states. Except that this isn’t what is being argued. Looking at the Vox table, 7 of the 13 nominees won in Iowa. Indeed, starting off like this pretty much gives the game away:

    Like it or not, the Iowa results appear to be hugely important in determining who the major parties’ presidential nominees will be — particularly [!] when considered alongside the impact of fellow early state New Hampshire. 

    Getting to first base is hugely important in determining whether you will score — particularly when considered alongside the impact of getting to second base.

    For extra entertainment, the article is also full of quotes along the lines of “but only x number of people will vote so who cares?”:

    “What is the difference between first place and third place in Iowa going to be, 4,000 votes? It’s like a student body election,” says Stuart Stevens, who was Mitt Romney’s chief strategist in 2012.

    In the past I have been very unkind* to this type of reasoning. But really: Unless you have a convincing case to make that the people who did vote are not representative of the overall electorate, what’s with the obsession with size? Why not just go all in and remark: “What was the difference between first and second place in Florida in 1992, 537 votes? It’s like a Manhattan co-op board election.”

    Throwing out the 4,000 number out there also does a good job of distracting from the fact that 120,000 voted in the 2012 Republican caucus there. This isn’t a large number (unless you were attacked by a group of dogs holding a total of 120,000 bees in their mouths, in which case: run away) — but let’s look at the 10 states that vote after Iowa: New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida, Nevada, Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri, Maine, Arizona, and Wyoming. Half of them don’t even come close to matching Iowa’s total number of votes Colorado came closest with 66,027 in 2012).

    If you want to argue that the Iowa results “appear [!] to be hugely important in determining who the major parties’ presidential nominees will be,” it would make sense to produce such evidence before moving on to asking me this question 3: 

    But why, exactly, does this small-time contest affect the larger race so much?

    Personally, I don’t think war is unforeseeable.

    * Meaning I have been a total asshole.


    Smells Like Leadership

    It’s been a long time since Flint Michigan was a prosperous city. At it’s most populous, nearly 200,000 people lived in Flint and 80,000 of them worked for GM. Fifty or sixty years of disinvestment, outsourcing and globalization means that the city barely has 100,000 people of whom only 8,000 are working for GM. That’s why there was a financial crisis in the first place. It’s like Detroit but worse, they are trying to maintain services originally designed for a city twice as large, on a tax base that has been shattered by white flight, disinvestment and relentless hostility towards the well paid union jobs that built the city in the first place. Enter Rick Snyder. Republican governor of the state of Michigan. His signature piece of legislation was a “Emergency Financial Manager” law that allowed him to dismiss the democratically elected municipal government of any local government unit when “probable financial stress” was found and appoint an Emergency Manager. This law was fully and completely rejected by a referendum of the voters in Michigan. Subsequently the bill was re-introduced and passed in a form that was not subject to voter referendum. In practice what this has been is a usurpation of local control, and a disaster for local residents. For a more in depth breakdown I recommend this article: Republicans Trashed Democracy in Michigan. Now They Want To Trash It in Your State, Too. Remember the Detroit water crisis? Where the city of Detroit had almost two hundred million dollars of unpaid water bills outstanding? The reason that suddenly became an emergency instead of an ongoing crisis, is that the Emergency Manager thought it would be a good idea to privatize the water utility and they couldn’t even think about selling an asset with a 175 million dollars of uncollected and frankly uncollectable bills. Detroit Shuts Off Water To Thousands Of Broke Residents The city of Flint got their water from Detroit. The city of Detroit has been raising their water prices in an effort to balance their books. The City of Flint was building a pipeline of their to draw water from Lake Huron in order to not have to buy the suddenly more expensive Detroit water. Until the pipeline was complete, the city of Flint had the option to pay more for water from Detroit, or use the water from the Flint River. The same Flint River that was too corrosive for GM to use for washing auto parts: General Motors shutting off Flint River water at engine plant over corrosion worries. That’s what the Emergency Manager of the city of Flint and Governor Rick Snyder thought was a better choice as revealed in the FOIA requests quoted in this article from the Michigan ACLU Flint Water and the No-Blame Game .

    From what I understand, the river water in Flint isn’t particularly clean, but it isn’t contaminated with lead. The lead comes from the ancient waterworks that delivers water to the city’s 100,000+ residents and the ancient plumbing of their housing. Clean treated water doesn’t pull (much) lead out of lead pipes and lead based solder. The witches brew that flows in the Flint river has been contaminated by flowing through what amounts to a 150 year old industrial dump. Flint’s been a manufacturing hub for almost 150 years. The EPA and the clean water act were passed in the early 1970s just when GM was reeling from the energy crisis and foreign competition. They thought it would be easier to shut down Buick city than clean it up and keep operating with union workers, and I’m sure on some balance sheet somewhere it looked great. But by shutting down their factories in Flint, by sourcing their parts from abroad, GM sidestepped their tax obligations to the city that was the cradle of both Buick and Chevrolet. Now of course in addition to lead contamination, the water in the city of Flint is suspected of contributing to an outbreak of Legionnaires disease: Snyder: Flint has seen spike in Legionnaires’ disease

    So what does this ongoing train wreck look like to the best minds in journalism today? I couldn’t say. but to Ron Fournier who will never be counted among those ranks, it looks like leadership. A Refreshing Approach to Politics in Michigan in this revolting tongue bath, he paints Rick Snyder as a data driven visionary. A bold leader who can create simple order out of bureaucratic chaos. I see it as something different. I see it as a revolting disregard for human life. I see it as outright hostility to the well being of the residents of Michigan and an all too cozy relationship with the privatize the profits and socialize the costs model of disaster capitalism. It looks pretty similar to outright sabotage of public utilities and schools so that he can sell privatization to the citizens of Michigan as the cure to the ineffectiveness of deliberately mismanaged public institutions.

    So that’s what leadership is. Selling out the welfare of the most vulnerable, poisoning an entire city, to create the appearance of fiscal prudence.


    Happy New Year

    I’d like to look back on a year that in a lot of ways was shit-tastic. 2015 disappointed me in lots of ways. Mass shootings were everywhere in the news, in fact according to some sources they happened at a rate greater than once a day. Want to review the greatest hits? Here you go: mass shootings As a sick complement to that, police shootings are up too. police shootings We lost a bunch of beloved celebrities, among them Leonard Nimoy and Lemmy of Motörhead. The thin mask of humanity covering the GOP was finally discarded as every single candidate for the Republican nomination have gone full Voldemort, every single one of them is cartoonishly evil, they have abandoned their century-old “frugal steward of the public’s funds” pose and gone full austerity sadist. Any program that helps anyone without a billion dollar bank balance is somehow now an unaffordable communist subsidy of people they see as no better than morlocks. And our Democratic candidates are so goddamn timid in their repudiation of the Republican platform that it makes me sick. How hard is it to not be a reluctant apologetic leftist and “bleeding heart liberal”? Get a freaking megaphone and shout at the top of your lungs why being a liberal is the smart, sane and compassionate choice. Pick up a slogan that works like “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” and hit the conservatives over their head with it whenever they freak out about terrorism or ebola or the possibility that some poor person somewhere might be getting helped by the government. Get on every soapbox you can find and hit the republicans over the head with their chummy relationship with the worst people in the world from oil industry titans desperate to stop any kind of action against global warming, to billionaire plutocrats who’d prefer to be autocrats, to evangelical weirdos with dreams of turning the US into a horrifying mix of George Orwell’s 1984 and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s tale, to firearms manufacturers selling home massacre kits under the guise of protecting our 2nd amendment rights.

    It’s enough to make me despair. And yet I can’t be the guy that calls for all of the wingnuts and likely Trump voters to be stripped of their voting rights or worse. The conservatives, reactionaries, evangelicals and others who vote reliably republican aren’t space aliens, they aren’t sheep, they aren’t zombies. I don’t know how to reach them though, especially given how many of them seem to think that any attempt to address the issues that are of an actual existential threat to the USA and humanity as a whole are met with accusations of communism or worse. A statistician of my acquaintance introduced me to a saying common in her line of work, “all models lie, but some models are useful” And I think that statement is true across a far broader range of subjects than just statistics. We all have in our heads a model of “how the world works”. But the model in the heads of conservatives is so different from my model it’s hard to believe we both live on the same planet. And since some of the most powerful figures on the right have gained that power through a lifetime of fearmongering and pandering to the worst instincts of the American electorate, none of them are going to be eager to reverse course unless they think they have to.

    Even now they are silent on the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge center by the same group of assholes that stood off the feds at the Bundy ranch. It’s not clear to me if they really want to start some shit with the feds or more likely, want more publicity for on line fundraising so they don’t have to go back to their dead end real life jobs. I’m not even going to criticize the Obama administration’s handling of the situation, as I’m sure the last thing they want heading into an election cycle is the publicity disaster of a shootout with a bunch of guys that have been claiming for years that Obama is a tyrant. By not giving them the violent confrontation they are seeking, the Obama administration saps the legitimacy from their movement. The trouble is, that strategy of refusing confrontation can look a lot like weakness. So once again, a fraction of the country is like the Coyote getting outraged that the road runner isn’t stepping into his crude and obvious trap.


    Happy Life Day

    Sorry for the slow posts, it’s now our other dog’s turn to be sick and in need of ’round the clock care. Here’s hoping the little guy can get better soon.

    In other news, there’s a new Star Wars movie out and it’s like 1977 all over again. I assume all of you are wearing corduroy pants and velour shirts with collars big enough to be makeshift airplane hangars, and tube socks up to the knee, to really get the full effect. I saw the new film, I liked it, and I think it’s just about the best Star Wars movie, one could expect out of JJ Abrams. Although I’m still kinda sad they passed over Jodorwsky again. And David Lynch, Woody Allen, Quentin Tarantino,and Werner Herzog too.

    So just for fun, how come they can’t show a planet that doesn’t have earth standard 1g of gravity? What about a scene set with the characters wearing spacesuits in space? (the answer to that one is probably “they have droids for that sort of thing”). Now that we’ve seen desert planets and water planets and planets entirely covered by a single city, to extend the single use per planet zoning, are we going to see the strip mall planet? The light industry planet? The offsite data storage planet? The suburb planet? The farm planet? The amusement park planet? The call center planet? Since the Galactic Republic has existed for thousands of years, there have been spacecraft for thousands of years, and more than a few giant space battles, how come these planets aren’t covered by craters from falling space wrecks? Orbital velocity for a planet the same mass and size as earth is 17,000 mph. What keep all those wrecked spaceships, some of which are miles long, from hitting the planet below like the Chixulub meteor that killed the dinosaurs? And that’s not even counting hyperspace accidents, a ship traveling at light speed could pulverize a planet just as well as the Death Star for one billionth of the cost. Or are planets being popped like an overripe pumpkin every other week or so and it’s so common it doesn’t make the news? Why do bad guys keep thinking that blowing up planets is the ultimate expression of military might given that any jackass with an extra hyperspace capable spaceship and a brick to lay on the gas pedal could do the same?

    How come every redneck can afford a spaceship, but computer graphics are stuck in the 1970s while at the same time droids are rolling around with human level intelligence and the capability to (for example) speak in six million different languages? They can clone up an entire army but not a hand for Luke Skywalker, or if he had moral qualms, for Darth Vader who sure wouldn’t have?


    14 people Are Dead and it’s All About Rod Dreher’s Feelings

    Other people have already offered up quicker and no doubt more comprehensive coverage of the massacre in San Bernadino. And yet I am still going to write a post on it because people still kept painting after Leonardo daubed out the Mona Lisa. And if I didn’t keep trying to prop up the moldering remnant of Sadly, No! my supply of theoretical Soros bucks would dry right the hell up.

    So a few people shot up a county building in San Bernadino CA yesterday leaving 14 dead and leading to a pair of shootouts with the police that left 2 people dead. I’m told it was actually the second mass shooting yesterday, but I haven’t been able to find details on the first. This is exactly the kind of shit we will see more of until we can control access to firearms in this country. I’ve got some ideas. 100% tax on all firearms and firearm accessories (and devices similar to firearms like bows, crossbows and spear guns) and 1000% tax on ammunition including tools and supplies to manufacture ammunition, and using the proceeds to fund the BATF for more enforcement. Impose the same restrictions on firearm advertisements that already exist for tobacco products. For firearms owners, a maximum of two hunting firearms with a magazine capacity of five or fewer rounds. If they want handguns or non-hunting weapons, that’s where the “well regulated militia part comes into play” they have to qualify on their own dime annually at BATF ranges to a level equal to or exceeding that expected of infantry recruits and maintain a fitness level equal to that of expected of soldiers their age in the National Guard. Owning a firearm should be subject to similar licensure and insurance liability rules as owning a vehicle. Shut down gun shows that sell firearms without a background check. Clamp down on “firearms dealers” that only have the license so they can own a machine gun, or sell out of their home. Require a firearms dealer to operate a storefront, meeting minimum standards of security and record keeping. Gun buybacks. These are we should be doing. These are all examples of concrete action to reduce gun violence and the availability of deadly weapons. That is what we are demanding of our elected leaders, not stale platitudes and or hypocritical appeals to god to reduce violence.

    Naturally calls for action from our elected leaders instead of prayer, have Rod Dreher in a tizzy. He calls it ‘prayer shaming’. Prayer Shaming: The View From Jesusland

    We have reached the point in our culture in which leading voices on the Left feel compelled to shout from the rooftops condemnation on Christians for offering something as ordinary and decent as prayers for atrocity victims as a first response to news of the killings.

    Despite his theatrics, “people” aren’t being shamed for offering prayers. Elected leaders who chose to do nothing but publicly pray instead of doing their goddamn jobs are being shamed. People being paid off by the merchants of hot leaded death are praying in public for healing and an end to violence and think that’s all they have to do. I don’t think the American Left cares that Republicans are appealing to god on this issue like they do on every other freaking issue, it’s who they are, it’s what they do. But on other issues like, for example, abortion or access to affordable health care, they back up their tedious god inspired moralizing with legislative action. Granted, leftists and Democrats are horrified by that legislative action, but they aren’t praying and calling it a job well done. On issues where they actually want to make a change, elected Republicans are happy to pound a Bible and vote. So today Rod Dreher has a sad because people aren’t putting up with that kind of hypocrisy anymore, and once again he pulls out his ‘persecuted christian’ narrative to prove it’s all about him and his hurt feelings, and not the ongoing war on non-bulletproof Americans.