Monday, June 27, 2016

Brexit: I Smell Opportunity

The U.K. has voted to leave the European Union! Oh, shit! Sound the alarm! Sell off all the accounts! This is an utter disaster! Get Colonel K. to call Danger Mouse! This is undoubtedly the dastardly work of Baron Silas Greenback!

All right, seriously, hang on people. Let's all calm down. Chances are, good ol' Great Britain will get itself a do-over somehow, whether by Scotland and Northern Ireland suing in the courts, or by some other means, I predict it will happen. The millions who voted to leave in order to blow off steam have realized their mistake, and are experiencing a severe case of buyers' remorse. One way or another, the British will eventually do the smart thing, as is their reputation.

But in the midst of the chaos of the Brexit vote, I smell an opportunity. No, not a financial one. If I knew of a way a person of modest means like myself could cash in on the Brexit vote, I'd be doing it myself and not blogging about it to anyone so that I could horde it all. No, I mean a political one. It's a once-in-a-lifetime chance to fix the European Union's greatest fault, namely, the fact that it isn't a democracy.

Not a democracy, you say? That's right. Because the European Union is led by people who are elected by the leaders who are elected by the people. It's a politician-ocracy. A politocracy, if you will. And it isn't only the British who are fed up with having regulations imposed upon them from people living in an ivory tower whom they never had a chance to vote for.

Here in the United States, we have many separate governments united by a federal system. In a way, it's not dissimilar from the European Union's structure, except that the states were founded within a federation (or as a colony) and are all united by a common language and, to a large extent, culture. The states are not merely provinces! They could, if they really wanted to, break away to exist as their own, separate countries. (That very nearly happened in 1860, and only a war kept it from being permanent.) It might be better if they were provinces (yeah, I'm an anti-federalist to the core), but they aren't. And the American system works primarily because the people get to vote for the leaders at the federal level directly. Their votes get cast for the president, the Congress and the Senate without any middle-man.

And can't you just imagine how pissed off everybody would get if the only people who got to vote for their leaders in Washington D.C. were the idiots in their state assemblies, senates, and governors' mansions. Does that image piss you off? It should. And now you know how the Brits feel, along with significant factions in all European Union member states. And add to this the resentment that comes from those giving the orders coming from a different language and culture from your own!

This is really where the righteous anger comes from. The politicians who lead the E.U. never have to campaign in the areas they represent. They don't have to hear people give their opinions in town halls or glad-hand their way across the countryside hugging every widow and kissing every baby. And it is precisely this failing that led British politician Nigel Farage two years ago to disparagingly shout at Herman Van Rompuy, then-President of the European Council, saying, "Who are you?! I'd never heard of you. Nobody in Europe had ever heard of you! I would like to ask you, Mr. President, who voted for you?!"

The politicians voted for him. That was the point. Nigel may have been acting like a complete asshole, but that didn't prevent him from having a completely and unassailably legitimate point.

So let's fix that! Now! As long as the wrecking ball of the Brexit vote has knocked the whole shit to pieces already, let's rebuild it right instead of trying to rebuild the failed system that we had before!

Now, I know how all the pundits are saying that the E.U. will not give concessions in order to persuade Great Britain to come back, but I say why the hell not? This may be a financial disaster for the Pound and the Euro, but it's a golden opportunity for the E.U. to finally be a democracy.

Why not push for a change which allows the people to vote for their representatives directly? Oh yes, I know, the plebs are idiots. The fact that the Brexit vote happened at all, in fucking England, of all places, proves this. But if you don't give the common people their voice now, they'll get their voice later! The Brexit vote proved that, too! It's time to let the idiots have their turn at running the machine, or else they'll become Luddites who rip the machine apart.

I know, I know, it's ten times more terrifying than letting your teenage children drive the family car isn't it? But you know it has to happen someday. Might as well let the kids drive.

They'll love you for it. Even if they crash.



Sunday, June 26, 2016

So What's With All This "Pro-Hillary" Stuff?

Well, we've covered a lot of ground on this blog about Hillary Clinton. We've gone over:

  • Whether Hillary is a Goldwater Girl
  • Hillary's days on the Walmart Board of Directors
  • Hillary and Benghazi
  • The email scandals regarding her private server
  • Whether Hillary brokered arms deals in exchange for donations to the Clinton Foundation
  • The Clinton/Kissinger connection
  • Hillary's claim of being under sniper fire in Bosnia, 1996
  • Whether Hillary is too chummy with big Wall Street money
  • Whether Hillary is a war hawk
  • And various phony claims of election fraud

That's been a lot of ground to cover! And so far, it's been a fun ride. But a few might wonder why my usually pro-Bernie and pro-Hillary blog has suddenly gone decidedly Hillary-esque.

The answer to that is simple. I'm seeing a lot of irrational stuff out there regarding Hillary Clinton, and it's driving wedges in between me and my dearest friends on the Left. I don't much like that, and I want to do something about it. I also recognize that even if Hillary somehow were a corrupt, warmongering whore to big-money special interests, it would still be preferable to the dangerous insanity of Donald Trump. Unless you're an anarchist who wants to burn it all to the ground, I see no reason for voting for him.

Add to this the fact that many of my friends are Bernie supporters. Nothing wrong with that, but a percentage of them have drunk the Fox News Kool-Aid regarding Hillary with a gusto I have never encountered before. And this liberal-on-liberal cannibalism not only breaks my heart because it's threatening to break up some of the dearest friendships I've known, it also breaks my heart because it's tearing the entire Left apart.

I knew I had to do something to keep the family together. So I started doing a series of blog posts to help me with various anti-Hillary arguments. I knew I was going to have to stump, and do it often. So to make it easier, I wanted to have each of my arguments spelled out in a way that I could simply "cut & paste" and be done arguing my point. By simply re-posting from my own blog, I would save time and increase effectiveness. I could take on dozens of verbal assailants on Facebook at once this way.

I didn't start out thinking that I would do much more than cast Hillary as a viable alternative. I figured I was just going to make her palatable. In other words, make the case that, even though she might not be all that good, she was at least not that bad.

But I surprised myself. Instead of finding that Hillary was merely 'not that bad,' I found that she was actually pretty damned good! There was a small nugget of truth in most of the accusations levied against her, but that nugget was always hyper-inflated beyond reason. In the end, she is a woman who has walked the tightrope between being too ruthless and not feminine enough for her entire life. And while she has emerged scarred by a few landmines, she has, for the most part, avoided stepping on them herself.

What's that? The emails? Well, that's still a quagmire rather than a landmine. It could be a landmine if the FBI ever tells the Justice Department to indict her. But that hasn't happened yet, and even Bernie Sanders seems to realize that it's not likely to. But if it does, all I can say is that I wish the FBI would quit dragging its ass! Shit or get off the pot, FBI! You guys have had a year and a half. If you have something before the convention, use it. If you don't have something by then, at least wait until after November.

But that's getting off track. The fact of the matter is that Hillary is one of the best candidates to come along in quite awhile. Her husband Bill was a lying sack of shit, but Hillary has been fairly honest for a politician, and we do ourselves a disservice by equating the two of them as if they were somehow one and the same. Look at what has had to say about her.

Clinton's true and mostly true put her at 51% of her evaluated statements. Now let's look at another politician:

Bernie Sanders' true and mostly true statements put him at 52%, but his mostly true statements are a greater bulk of that, and his flat-out true statements are quite a bit less than Hillary's - 14% to 23%. Hillary also has had more statements evaluated than Bernie. Overall, it's safe to say that Hillary is one of the most honest politicians to come along in quite a long while. She's at least as honest as Bernie, and arguably more so.

Let's look at another one:

Trump rates only 2% true, 7% mostly true, 41% false and 20% pants on fire. Now, that's some serious lying! Relay that to the next person who tries to tell you that there's little or no difference between voting for Hillary vs. voting for Trump.

With each claim against Hillary I investigate, I repeatedly find lack of substance, egregious assumption, or outright wishful thinking. But I can't begin to defend her as well as a blogger named Michael Arnovitz. His blog post caught the attention of NewDealer who writes for Daily Kos, and it struck him as so profound that he re-posted it in its entirety. You can read it yourself here. But if you just want the highlights, here's the best of it:

Below is a chart compiled by none other than Nate Silver. It shows Hillary's favorable and unfavorable numbers going back to her early days as First Lady. It demonstrates fully how her approval numbers were high when she didn't seek power, but as soon as she sought power, her favorable numbers went down and her unfavorable numbers went up. In other words, it demonstrated an inner bias that society has against "uppity women."

No male politician would ever have to endure the kind of shit she has had to go through, even over her e-mail server. A male Secretary of State would have had that resolved one way or the other in only a few months, if that. But her emails make for big news, and combing through them in endless fun. And so the beat goes on, with hundreds of thousands of emails leaked, and no smoking gun found yet.

Don't believe me? You can look through them yourself. The Wikileaks archive of Hillary's emails can be found here. But search and search though you might, you cannot find any connection between selling arms to nations like Saudia Arabia in exchange for donations to the Clinton Foundation, or indeed any other example of Hillary leaking classified information. And yet the cartoon shown on the Wikileaks page looks like this:

Why show a cartoon depicting something that your own searchable database does not reveal?

It's no secret that Julian Assange, the man behind Wikileaks, has his own views of Hillary Clinton and does not want to see her become president. As Secretary of State, Assange was a thorn in her side, and bad blood built up between the two of them during her tenure. An interesting article about that and a connection with Google can be found here. But had Hillary been male, Assange would likely have merely seen Hillary's actions as just doing her job. Her gender, in my opinion, led to Assange taking things a little too personally.

People will disagree with me on that, I understand. But putting a cartoon depicting an act of corruption next to a searchable database which proves that such corruption does not exist is a new bottom-rung of stupidity. Yet it is also a twisted kind of genius. Assange assumes, quite correctly, that many people will find the database page, see the cartoon, and assume the rest, not bothering to do any actual searches. It's a sneaky, dirty trick that, in my mind, tarnishes the reputation of a man who I might otherwise defend as a servant of the people's interests.

Fuck you, Assange. Your job is to expose. Not to advance your own personal vendettas.

But I will let Michael Arnovitz defend Hillary further by quoting from his own blog post. He put it so much better than I would have.

Compare for example the treatment Hillary is getting due to her private email “scandal” to that of General David Petraeus. Hillary has been accused of hosting a personal email server that “might” have made classified documents less secure, even though the documents in question were not classified as secret at the time she received and/or sent them. (Side note: some government documents receive secret classifications “at birth”, while other can be retroactively classified as secret.) In order for Clinton to have committed a criminal act, she would have had to knowingly and willfully mishandle material that was classified at the time she did so. After months of investigation no one has accused her of doing that, and it doesn’t appear as if anyone will.

General Petraeus on the other hand, while he was Director of the CIA, knowingly gave a journalist, who was also his mistress, a series of black books which according to the Justice Department contained, “classified information regarding the identities of covert officers, war strategy, intelligence capabilities and mechanisms, diplomatic discussions quotes and deliberative discussions from high level National Security Council meetings and [Petraeus’] discussions with the president of the United States of America.” Petraeus followed that up by lying to numerous government officials, including FBI agents, about what he had done. And lets not forget that according to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, adultery is itself a court-martial offense. And I remind you that none of this is in dispute. Petraeus admitted to all of it.

Petraeus’ violations were significantly more egregious than anything Clinton is even remotely accused of. And yet Republicans and other Hillary foes are howling about her issue, wearing “Hillary for Prison 2016” t-shirts while insisting that this disqualifies her from public office. Meanwhile even after pleading guilty to his crimes Petraeus continued to be the recipient of fawning sentiments from conservatives. Senator John McCain stated that, “All of us in life make mistakes and the situation now, I hope, can be put behind him…” Politico quoted a former military officer who worked with Petraeus as calling the entire situation “silly”. Prominent Republicans have already made it clear that they would call him back to work in the highest levels of government if they win the Presidency. And some are still attempting to convince him to seek the Presidency himself.

Why is Hillary Clinton being held to such an obviously different standard than Petraeus? Is it really only politics?

Yes, Michael, it is. But worse, it's gender politics. This is the kind of shit the first woman president will have to put up with.

This is the kind of shit we have to recognize as shit.



Friday, June 24, 2016

Is Hillary A War Hawk?

The accusation that Hillary is a war hawk is one of those odd accusations I find rather unfair, because it holds Hillary to a standard that no male politician ever has to face. As a senator aiming for a run at the White House someday, or as Secretary of State even, if she had taken a peace-loving approach to foreign policy she would have been attacked as a weak-willed bleeding-heart female, or perhaps even a wimp. Instead she took tough-line approaches on some, but certainly not all, foreign policy issues, and got attacked as a war hawk instead. And Hillary had the bad luck to serve as Secretary of State during one of the most turbulent periods in world history, forcing her hand regarding the use of military forces. It's a classic "damned if you do, damned if you don't" type of situation, and it's not fair play.

Still, Hillary took the more militaristic approach and received the war hawk label. If your only two choices for a label are 'liberal, naive peacenik' vs. 'war-loving agent of the military industrial complex,' I suppose the warmonger one is the lesser of two evils, especially if you're a woman gunning for the highest office in the land. But is there any real truth to it? Is Hillary really a war hawk?

Those who say she is point to four main examples: Iraq, Libya, Syria and Israel. In each case, she has indeed not been gun-shy. In the case of Israel, while advocating a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestine conflict, she has clearly played favorites on the Israeli side. Her position on Syria while Secretary of State was to topple Assad by arming the rebels. In fact, she generally sided with toppling dictators in general, as her most well-known example of this was when she persuaded Obama to join in NATO bombings to help topple Qaddafi in Libya. "We came, we saw, he died," she later joked. People who strongly felt the United States should not get involved in yet another Arab military conflict were appalled.

Now, I see no reason why I should have to defend Hillary's desire to push for regime change in Libya, but I must. Too few don't remember or aren't aware of the realities that Libya faced at that time. Qaddafi was a bad man with a long list of prior offenses, and he had to go. The result afterwards in that nation was chaos, and Libyans are still struggling to stabilize their nation.

But Libyans love us! How many Arab nations can we say that of? We helped them get rid of their dictator, and then got out. They appreciated that, and still do. Yes, they have their problems, but they are their problems, and wouldn't want it any other way. From that standpoint, Libya was a tremendous success.

Bombing and then getting out is not the action of a warmonger. Zero boots on the ground is not the action of a warmonger. And staying out of a nation's conflicts after removing its dictator is certainly not something any warmonger would do. The wisdom to leave a nation alone to find its own path is the action of one who uses military might only when absolutely necessary.

But the accusations of Hillary being a warmonger continue. The example everyone points to the most is her Senatorial vote in favor of the Iraq war in 2002. Surely, someone who was in favor of Sonny Bush's invasion of a sovereign nation is evidence enough that she relishes using American military might as a solution!

Or is it? Remember, back then, it was not a vote for war. It was only a vote for the authority to invade if certain conditions based on U.N. resolutions were not met by Saddam Hussein. It was thought to be a vote for peace. The world wanted unilateral United Nations inspections to verify that Hussein did not have a program for Chemical, Biological or Radiological weapons. It was common wisdom that only the threat of United States invasion could force Hussein to the negotiating table. But for that threat to exist, Congress had to authorize the president. It was a tough decision, and Hillary sided with those who wanted to give the UN some teeth so that Hussein and other dictators would stop thumbing their noses at the rest of the world.

A beautiful write-up on this difficult decision is given in The People's View, which you can link to here. The resolution ultimately passed the Senate by a 77-23 vote, meaning Hillary was siding with a popular opinion among both Democrats and Republicans alike.

"This is a difficult vote," Hillary said on the Senate floor. "This is probably the hardest decision I have ever had to make. Any vote that may lead to war should be hard, but I cast it with conviction...My vote is not, however, a vote for any new doctrine of preemption or for unilateralism or for the arrogance of American power or not a vote to rush to war; it is a vote that puts awesome responsibility in the hands of our president. And we say to him: Use these powers wisely and as a last resort."

Of course, as we all remember, Bush used those powers foolishly as a first resort. The betrayal was not just against Clinton, but against the entire nation.

What about Iran? She convinced China And Russia to go along with more severe sanctions against Iran in order to force it to the negotiating table to give up its nuclear program. The long-term strategy was to achieve an agreement like the one which was finalized last year, in which Iran would give up its nuclear weapons program for ten years in exchange for the lifting of trade sanctions. It worked. Secretary John Kerry might have finalized the deal, but the workings got started under Hillary.

A warmonger would not have taken this approach. A warmonger would have located the suspected sites of the Iranian nuclear program and strategically bombed them. Many Republicans have been calling for exactly this sort of thing. But Hillary didn't. And the result was peace with Iran rather than war. And possibly even an Arab Spring event in that country, as the Iranian people have only one enemy left - their own government. The "Great Satan" is not threatening them with bombs anymore.

Okay, but these are still aggressive tactics in dealing with world affairs. Has Hillary done anything truly lasting that brought about peace without leaning on the military or using severe sanctions?

There are. For example, when Kyrgyzstan emerged from civil war to establish a fledgling democracy, she worked with Russian president Medvedev to ensure that it would not descend into conflict again. The result is that there is one more democracy there today that might not be, had it not been for Hillary. And also her efforts in Myanmar (formerly Burma), and her correspondence with the revolutionary leader Suu Kyi, helped to transform that little nation, just north of Vietnam, from a military Junta into a new democracy. Yes, the land of "The King And I" now has no king, and no dictator, thanks to Hillary.

These are small victories, to be sure. But they are significant ones, and examples that prove that Hillary is not the war hawk she has been presumed to be.

Perhaps the charge of warmongering comes primarily from those with significant pull who are convinced that this is indeed her modus operandi. For example, an article in the Huffington Post by Jeffrey Sachs lent significant weight to the charge of Hillary being a war hawk. You can read that article here. Sachs, a top-notch economist from the political left and director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University, has quite a following, and so when he made his accusation against Hillary of warmongering, many took notice. But Sachs is an adviser to Bernie Sanders, and like many who support his campaign, is quite bitter towards Hillary in ways that are not merited. In his article, he makes many of the arguments I have refuted above. But when pressed for additional warmongering accusations to add to Hillary's list, he piles on with items which are questionable at best. For example, he cites the Iraq Liberation Act, signed by President Bill Clinton on October 31, 1998, that made it official US policy to support “regime change” in Iraq. It read:

"It should be the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove the regime headed by Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq and to promote the emergence of a democratic government to replace that regime."

Sachs then says, "Thus were laid the foundations for the Iraq War in 2003."

Fucking what?! Bill Clinton makes it a policy to merely "support efforts" to remove a brutal dictator, and Sachs sees that as, what, a declaration of war? The United States government had, and still has, such policies for nearly all dictators, worldwide! And this he takes for warmongering by Hillary? A woman who wasn't even in power? A woman whose husband's infidelities with Monica Lewinsky had just been confessed to her the previous August, and who therefore was nowhere near Bill Clinton, or even talking to him, when this policy item was signed?

But this isn't enough of a reach for this otherwise brilliant man. He then cites the 1999 Kosovo war, in which NATO elected to bomb select targets in and around Kosovo when diplomatic solutions proved unable to stop the fighting. Although it didn't have the sanction of the UN, NATO called it "a humanitarian war."

"I urged him to bomb," said Hillary, as Sachs quotes her in an interview she gave to Lucinda Frank.

So did we all. Sachs calls this an example of Hillary's "warmongering." But in the strife in Kosovo, Albanians and Serbs were fighting fiercely, and in some cases were engaging in ethnic cleansing. Thousands were dying, and nobody could put a stop to it. A NATO bombing was the only thing that would stop the combatants and break their supply lines. So bomb they did, and the fighting finally stopped.

Sachs apparently thought it would have been more humane for America to sheath its sword and let them all continue to kill each other. But sometimes one really must resort to war in order to maintain peace. Pax par tridentum. Hillary understood this. I think she still does.

But to Sachs, stopping others from warmongering is apparently being a warmonger too.

I get it. We don't want America to get involved in any more foreign wars we can't win. But if we aren't willing to use the military to protect the interests of peace now and then, the result is often a descent into war. Sometimes the wars are civil wars, other times religious wars, but too many areas of the world are unstable for us to take an isolationist view.

I don't think our choices are as stark as a war hawk vs. an ostrich with its head in the sand, but I do think that an objective analysis shows that Hillary is somewhere in between the two.

Right where a potential president should be.



Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Loony Charnin Is At It Again.

I exposed Richard Charnin's nonsense numbers in an earlier blog post, but that hasn't caused Charnin to change his tune. He's still playing the same old song, dissonant, off-tempo, shrieking notes and all, and nothing seems to be able to snap him out of his dream-world where he sees himself as some kind of rock star.

In yet another of my blog posts, I exposed the so-called "Stanford" study (read, paper) that claimed Hillary did well in states without a paper trail, but did not win in states which did have a paper trail. When I corrected that paper's math, it was shown that Hillary still had a large margin in non-paper-trail states, but that she won in paper-trail states as well, thus nullifying the argument of the poorly-written paper.

Well, wouldn't you know it, stupidity loves company. Not long after the fake Stanford paper came out, Richard Charnin posted to his blog on June 15th. And what did he claim? Why, he made exactly the same sort of argument that the fake Stanford paper made, but did an even worse job!

He opens with:
"This [link to the original paper]  is an excellent analysis of the Democratic primaries from Axel Geijsel of  Tilburg University -(The Netherlands) and  Rodolfo Cortes Barragan of  Stanford University  (U.S.A.) ."

Oh it is, is it? Just wait until you see what happens next.

First he points out that Hillary did quite better in the non-paper-trail-states, implying that the paper-trail states showed a truer percentage of the actual vote. Never mind demographic differences between the states. Never mind the differences in urban concentrations in non paper-trail states. And never mind that many of the non-paper-trail states are also significantly bigger. Having a paper trial in gargantuan states like Texas or Pennsylvania is a logistical nightmare! Yet Charnin would have us believe that it's all part of a Clinton conspiracy.

Now, Hillary did do better in states without paper trails, that much is true. Taking a look at which states went her way, it is easy to see why. Hillary's measured strengths are well documented. She does well with older Democrats and minorities. And the states without paper trails where she got these votes big-time were Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. A mix of big and small states, but most of them with big percentages of older Democrats and minority voters. Florida is a very geriatric state. Mississippi's Democrats are largely African-American. Georgia follows Atlanta, a very black city. Arkansas, the state where Bill Clinton was once governor? Naturally home turf! The only state on this list which Hillary lost was Indiana, and she didn't even campaign there.

But as I showed in my previous blog post, she also did quite well in states that did have a paper trail. In both cases, she won quite handily. The biggest states, New York, Illinois, Ohio and North Carolina, which are the 4th, 5th, 7th and 9th largest states by population, were all won by Clinton. When you tally the percentages based on actual number of votes, Hillary beats Sanders by a healthy 8 percentage points. Geijsel and Barrigan, in their paper, made the mistake of merely tallying the percentages of each state together and then simply dividing by the number of states, giving them an obviously wrong number.

But Charnin, when he did his calculations, took a slightly different tactic. He correctly weighted the totals based on the percentage of the actual number of votes, but he did so using the exit poll respondents to weight his averages instead of the actual vote totals. This gives a percentage of 47.4% for Hillary and a 52.6% percentage for Bernie.

Meaning he saw the mistake, and refused to comment or correct upon it. Why? Because it agreed with his own conclusion, of course.

Charnin's results still show an apparent win for Bernie. But unexpectedly, he blew the lid off any purported reliability of unadjusted exit polls, because by putting the two "studies" close together, we see a problem. The pre-adjusted exit poll data does not match in each "study." For example, in Alabama, Geijsel and Barrigan showed 73.16% support for Hillary, whereas Charnin showed only 70.6%. In Maryland, the G&B numbers showed 65.64% in pre-adjusted poll numbers for Hillary, while the Charnin numbers showed only 63.8%. In Wisconsin, the G&B show early exit polls were 37% in favor of Hillary, whereas Charnin showed that they were 43.5%.

Just whose unadjusted exit poll data is right, here?

Conspicuously, 37% was also the exit poll number given for Arizona.

Wait a minute, Arizona? I thought Arizona didn't have any exit poll data.

That's right! Arizona didn't have any exit poll data! Arizona's figure of only 37% support for Hillary, a state she won with 57.6% of the vote, is a number which Geijsel and Barrigan completely pulled out of their ass! That absurdly low number then was used to pull Hillary's percentage down to one that seemed to show a clearer win for Bernie.

The 37% assigned to Wisconsin was also probably pulled out of their asses. You know, if you're going to cheat while accusing someone else of cheating, at least pick a different number! Or use one with a fucking decimal!

Charnin must have noticed this. But he didn't care. In his spreadsheet, which he foolishly allowed people to see here, you can clearly tell he used the Geijsel and Barrigan numbers faithfully, knowing damned well they were wrong!

Conspiracy theorists are apparently of a unique mindset. They will play along with other people's bad information if they feel that it will gain their cause additional exposure, if not credibility. So Charnin went along with the antics of Geijsel and Barragan, noticing their mistakes and yet ignoring them, using their bullshit numbers and ignoring that too.

If he's that shoddy with the numbers he got from Geijsel and Barragan, just imagine how shoddy he is with his conclusions.



Monday, June 20, 2016

Is Hillary Too Chummy With Big Money?

Ah, this one's hard to refute, right? Hillary is in bed with big money. She's a corporate whore, a Wall Street insider, an oligarch seeking highest office within the oligarchy. Hell, her nickname is even $hillary. Who can argue with the fact that she'll sell out Main Street for Wall Street?

Um, actually, I can. And the surprising thing is, it's not that hard.

The accusations fall into three basic categories, which I will deal with individually. First, that Hillary gave speeches to large corporations in exchange for exorbitant compensation. This translates to Hillary owing favors to such large corporations, and therefore she cannot be trusted. Second, that Bill and Hillary conspired with big banks and corporations to loosen regulations during Bill Clinton's tenure, thus leading to the Great Recession of 2008. Third, that Hillary has been more than willing to accept the big-money donations for her campaign and allow superpacs to operate on her behalf. She is therefore part of the corrupt oligarchic system and is ruled out as a viable candidate.

Let's start with her speeches to the big banks, since that's the one we hear the most. Yeah, I kind of wonder what she said in that speech she made to Goldman Sachs too. That event earned her $225,000, and her typical going rate is upwards of $200,000. She gave 92 speeches between 2013 and 2015, earning 21.6 million in only two of those years. She gave 8 speeches to big banks, earning $1.8 million dollars according to CNN. Surely she must feel obligated towards the interests of those big banks, right?

Well, no. Because the truth is that while that amount of money is pretty substantial for a woman, it's not at all an unusual fee for big-name male speakers generally. Donald Trump, for example, will not even take your phone call for a speech if you aren't willing to pony up $200,000, and that's doing him a favor. He charged $1.5 million per speech at The Learning Annex’s ‘real estate wealth expos’ in 2006 and 2007,” according to an article in Forbes. That same article points out that Ronald Reagan gave a speech for $1 million in 1989. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair charged $500,000 for a speech in 2007. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani commanded a speaker's fee of $270,000 back in 2005, and former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan gave a $250,000 speech to Lehman Brothers in 2006. In fact, former Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke tops even that, charging between $200,000 and $400,000 per speaking engagement. Former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner typically charges $200,000 per speech. George W. Bush and Condoleezza Rice both charge about $150,000 per speech. Al Gore and Sarah Palin both command fees of about $100,000. Larry Summers commands a speaker fee of $135,000, and I'll bet you never even heard of that guy! (He's and economist, former Secretary of the Treasury under Bill Clinton, and former president of Harvard University, 2001 - 2006.) David Plouffe is somebody I'll bet you haven't heard of, either. (He's the guy who ran Obama's 2008 campaign.) He makes about $100,000 per speech. All this and more was confirmed by ABC news not long ago. The website zFacts reports the only other high-earning female speaker out there (that I could find, at least) is Lady Gaga, who also commands about a $200,000 fee. That's about the same as what Jerry Seinfeld charges. Comedian Bill Maher tends to charge upwards of $100,000 for each comedy speech he gives.

There's more from other articles. Carly Fiorina made $786,000 in speaker fees in 2014. She may earn even more after her failed presidential bid and brief vice-presidential nomination to run alongside Ted Cruz. Richard Branson, the CEO of Virgin Galactic, usually gets $100,000 to give a speech. Shark Tank host Robert Cuban typically charges $50,000 to $100,000 to give a speech, and Mitt Romney's usual fee is about $70,000.

What the fuck could they be talking about?

Regardless of whether anyone is worth that kind of money, it's clear that the fees Hillary charges are comparable to other A-List celebrities and even some B and C list ones. $100K to $150K is about right for a male celebrity. It's more than $200K for a major male celebrity.

And for the most visible first lady in history? Honey, asking $200,000 isn't taking a bribe. It's breaking a glass ceiling!

Add to this the fact that Hillary gives most of that money away. She may have made 21.6 million in a couple of years worth of speaker fees, but she also gave away 17.6 million to the Clinton Foundation and other charities.

There's no pay-for-play here. Hillary is not beholden to Goldman Sachs or any other big bank. In fact, the $225,000 she received from Goldman Sachs is lower than what she usually got in 2014, which was her most profitable public speaking year. That year she usually got upwards of $300,000, such as what she got paid from the Biotechnology Industry Organization, which paid her $335,000.

Goldman Sachs actually low-balled her.

So we can breathe a sigh of relief about that much, at least. Hillary doesn't owe a damned thing to the big corporations, especially Goldman Sachs, because 1) her speaker fees were comparable to that of other celebrities, 2) Her speaker fees send the message that women are also worth that level of public speaking money, and 3) she gives most of that money away.

Great, but what did she say to Goldman Sachs and others in those speeches? Why doesn't she just release the transcripts and be done with it?

Because public speeches like that probably say a bunch of flattering things to the target audience that are not at all sincere. (Duh!) If Hillary released the transcripts of the speeches, people would pick apart this or that flattering thing she said about Goldman or Lehman Brothers or whomever, and say, "See? She's a corporate puppet!" Her defense would be, "But I didn't mean it when I said it!" And that would be 100% factual. But you and I both know that nobody would give a damn about that. It would be the equivalent of another email scandal all over again. Hillary is absolutely correct not to release those transcripts! She'd be a fool to do so.

"But Hillary is still chummy with Wall Street!" I hear you say. "Didn't Bill and Hillary cause the Great Recession of 2008 by deregulating the banks?"

We on the left first heard this back in 2008 when the economic collapse hit just in time for the November election - the ultimate October surprise. And we all laaaaaaughed! We laughed and laughed that anybody could blame the Clintons, of all people, for the economic inanity clearly visited upon a hapless population by George W. Bush! Silly Fox News!

And now so many from the left are saying it! What the fuck!

Let me remind you now of what you knew back then, but have apparently forgotten.

Bill Clinton did much to promote prosperity during his tenure, but he also did pass some deregulation bills. These are the ones Fox News tried to point to as the real causes of the Great Recession of 2008. So let's recap what Bill did so that we can take a good look at how they factored into what happened eight years after he left office.  Certainly one of his biggest mistakes was the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999, which repealed the Glass-Steagall Act. Glass-Steagall had been cornerstone of Depression-era regulation and an important check upon over-aggressive bank investing for nearly three quarters of a century. He also signed the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, which exempted credit-default swaps from regulation. But back in 1995 Clinton also loosened housing rules by rewriting the Community Reinvestment Act, which put added pressure on banks to lend in low-income neighborhoods. And it was sub-prime lending, you may recall, which was a key component to the 2008 financial crisis.

These things had a role later on, true. Bill allowed them because he wanted to pass other measures, and the only way to do that with a Republican congress was to give them something in exchange for what he wanted. But by themselves these trade-offs could not have caused the kind of economic collapse that happened in 2008. Far from it. And this is proven by the housing bubble not manifesting itself until well after 2000. For the kind of massive calamity we saw in 2008 to happen, Bill's concessions to a Republican-led congress had to be multiplied together with an ultra right-wing conservative economic agenda of deregulation led by George W. Bush. A few seeds were planted by Bill Clinton as a concession to a congress which refused to play nice. But Bush watered those seeds and cultivated the resulting weeds instead of pulling them out by the roots as he should have done. And even if he didn't pull them, they couldn't have gotten very big on their own. But by cultivating them to the extreme, they grew out of control.

No sooner was Bush in office than he passed the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000. This allowed derivatives and credit default swaps (CDSs) to flood the market. By 2003, Warren Buffet was already sounding the alarm, calling derivatives "financial weapons of mass destruction." But Bush didn't stop there. Knowing they had the green light from the White House and a Republican Congress, the Securities and Exchange Commission loosened the net capital rule. This allowed banks to vastly increase the level of risky debt they were taking on, and they did.

So that was the one-two punch. Republicans forced Bill's hand in setting up the economic time bomb, then they added the explosive and detonated the fuse during Bush's tenure. To blame Bill Clinton for this travesty is ludicrous and irresponsible.

Oh, I almost forgot. Where was Hillary when Bill was signing away Glass-Steagall? Why, she was still recovering from the lies her husband had told her regarding the Monica Lewinsky scandal. In her book Living History, she describes the months of estrangement between herself and Bill after he confessed everything to her in August of 1998, and how she really didn't begin talking to him about matters other than their relationship until she began her run for the United States Senate. That means that when Bill gave Glass-Steagall away, Hillary was giving him zero advice. Hell, she was barely talking to him at all! And who can blame her? She went after those who accused her husband with the viciousness of a pit viper, and when she discovered that his infidelities were true... Well, it was too horrible to even contemplate. That level of betrayal! (I'll do a whole separate blog post on this one.)

Um, not that I need to remind any intelligent people about this at all, but Bill is also not on the ballot this time. All Hillary ever did after failing to help reform healthcare was travel around and give speeches about "It Takes A Village." She publicly supported Bill, true, but we all know that's just standard operational bullshit. Let's not blame Hillary for the things Bill has done. His role as First Gentleman will not translate to her taking his advice seriously.

Hell, I don't think Hillary has taken Bill's advice very seriously for decades.

But what about Hillary accepting the big money for her campaign? What about all the superpac money she is refusing to oppose?

Welcome to the realities of the horrible Citizens' United ruling of January 1, 2010. Also known as the day democracy in America was transformed into an oligarchic plutocracy. On that day, candidates who refused to accept the big money were virtually guaranteed to lose. On that day, candidates who pledged to oppose such corruption would end up shooting themselves in the foot before the race.

Oh, yes! There are exceptions to this, as people have often pointed out to me. Bernie Sanders had a good cash-raising run. Until New York, that is. Then, suddenly, the donations dried up. He still held huge rallies, and even did well in some remaining states, but the money? Gone! And yes, there was that thing with Jeb Bush. Nobody had more superpac money than he did, not even Hillary. And it didn't help. He lost and lost big. But these exceptions do not prove the rule, in my opinion. They came about as a result of the anger festering over the Citizens' United ruling. That's good, but unless that anger can actually win a primary, it's not yet enough.

In other words, you can decry the dirty money all you want, but in order to change that, you first have to win! Losers never get to change anything, and those who don't take the dirty money nearly always lose! Yes, sometimes the Minnesota Twins beat the New York Yankees for the pennant, but it's pretty fucking rare!

Am I saying that Hillary, for all the accusations of her corruption, is our only chance this term at rescuing our democracy from being totally digested by oligarchy and plutocracy once and for all?


Let her be chummy with the big money. Then watch her stab the big money in the back! You heard it here first.

But what if I'm wrong? What if this fails? What if we elect Hillary, and she turns out to be exactly the sort of oligarch everyone fears she is?

In that case, we saved the Supreme Court. And that means we get to save democracy long enough to fight another day. For a purported "betrayal" that wouldn't be half bad.

Bernie Sanders said it best: "On her worst day, Hillary Clinton is 100 times better than any Republican." (Late Night with Seth Myers, NBC, April 7, 2016.)

Hillary or not, it's not over yet. The groundswell against the oligarchy has begun, and begun big. All is not lost if Hillary fails us. We have one silver bullet left, and that's the changing demographics of the country. Young people get it, and every four years even more of them who get it become registered voters, and more members of the old guard die off. The outsider vote was the big story this election cycle, and it will be an even bigger one in the next election cycle. Don't worry. The revolution will not be over.

The revolution is never over. You know your vote counts because they keep trying to steal it! When elections are nullified - that's when to start worrying!

Trump might just do that.



Saturday, June 18, 2016

Did A Stanford Study Prove Election Fraud? HELL, NO!

"A Stanford study proved it!" seems to be the latest battle-cry of the die-hards in the Bernie camp. They point to an article widely distributed on social media that demonstrates what the authors believe to be mathematical proof. One or two have mentioned a Harvard study as well, but that hasn't made the kind of headway the Stanford article has. So pervasive has this purported "study" been, that it's swayed even comedian Lee Camp, who cited it as a source for his news & comedy show Redacted Tonight. You can see the entire episode here.

"Yet more evidence has come to light that this election was stolen from Bernie Sanders," he opens. "And it's getting to the point where a lot of us are going, 'How much evidence do you need?!' It's like, we're trying to prove a guy's dead, and there's, like, a body lying on the ground for days, with no pulse and he stinks and there's like, flies, and like, a medic-alert bracelet that just says, 'This guy's gonna die for like, no reason!' And yet still a lot of Americans are like, 'Let's not jump to conclusions! All right? Maybe he's just inspecting the floors, for cracks, for like several days. Has anyone tried asking him whether or not he's dead?'
"The latest evidence is from a little out-of-the-way community college called Stanford."

He then goes on to share one item from that "study" which I will reference below.

Ah, Mr. Camp! I love you. You're one of us. But you are as hilarious as you are flat-out wrong!

I don't make this accusation lightly. When smart people get fooled by not-so-smart stuff, I tend to get pissed, but with the stakes as high as they are now, it seems even more obscene. Honestly, I haven't had to deal with this much information since I took up the odd hobby of debating creationists, and believe me, they come up with some serious mind-bending twists on what they think is "evidence" that evolution is fraudulent.

We humans are good at fooling ourselves.

But let's get down to brass tacks. You can read the "Stanford study" for yourself here. Except it's not from Stanford, and it's not much of a study, either.

The paper actually comes from two people: Rodolfo Cortes Barragan, a student (Possibly a masters student, but who knows? Could be an undergrad for all we know.) from Stanford University, and Axel Geijsel, another student (Grad? Undergrad?) from Tilburg University in The Netherlands. These two kids, operating without any endorsement from Stanford or any of its faculty members, assembled a small summary report and submitted it to a website called The Bern Report, along with a link to the complete study (as cited above). The Bern Report article can be seen here.

The paper is comprised of two basic parts. The first part shows that states which did not have a paper trail showed better results for Hillary Clinton than Bernie Sanders, while states that did have a paper trail showed the exact opposite. The second part claims to show that exit poll anomalies indicate that the final vote tallies don't jibe with the actual vote. Sound familiar?

Let's deal with the first part. A widely-shared pie chart that breaks down the argument into an easy-to-understand glimpse, and it's the item which was shown on Lee Camp's program. (See? I told you I'd reference it down here!) Here it is:

So the basic argument is this: It's easier to cheat in states that don't have a paper trail. Hillary won big in states that don't have a paper trail. Therefore, Hillary must have cheated, right?

The fallacy should be obvious. Potential for cheating does not equate to actual cheating, nor are lax rules any guarantee that rules will be broken. True, when the cat's away, the mice will play, but the absence of a cat does not automatically produce mice!

Imagine being a high school football player. You go out on a particular play, catch a pass, and score a touchdown. Right after the game, the state high school athletic association suspends you and your team for the use of steroids.
"But that's not fair!" you say. "I didn't use steroids! None of us did! I scored that touchdown fair and square!"
"Yes, but it's easier to cheat with steroids in high school sports than it is in college or the NFL. Clearly your success means you cheated."
"What?!" you shout. "That's ridiculous!"
Of course it's ridiculous. But it's exactly the same logic used in Geijsel and Barragan's report. Convicting someone of anything based on no more evidence than opportunity is a miscarriage of justice, and we should all be pissed off that anyone would assume such a thing.

But all that is just common sense. There are also solid numbers of my own which contradict the conclusion that these two students half-assedly slapped together. Conveniently provided with their report is a link to the spreadsheet containing their data. Big mistake, because now I get to apply my spreadsheet mastery, and I AM the master!

Geijsel and Barragan's data has a glaring error immediately visible to all who know anything about percentages. See if you can spot it:

In case you missed it, here it is: Each state is listed with its winning percentage. To obtain the percentages that Geijsel and Barragan put on their pie chart they break out the non-paper trail states (for example), add up all the percentages of those 10 states (for a total of 656.85%), then divide that by ten for a total of 65.685% This is where the pie chart gets 65% (rounded down for some reason).

BUT SOME STATES ARE BIGGER THAN OTHERS! Holy shit-fucking-DUH! A so-called Stanford student missed that?

Yes! If one is to do the calculation properly, one must give each state the actual weight based on the actual number of people who voted. Thus Texas has way more people, and had way more votes, than let's say Mississippi. So Hillary's huge win there would be tempered by the smaller margin of victory (but a clear victory) in Texas. The weighted percentage including the actual number of votes cast in each state looks like this:

Oh, shit! As you can see, the percentages shift a little bit when the actual population size of the vote is factored in. Clinton still shows a significant lead in states without a paper trail, but look at the states that DO have a voting paper trail! Hillary wins there too! Why? Because she won big-population states with paper trails like Ohio and New York!

Oops! Somebody needs to re-do their math homework.

Now let's see another pie chart that shows the percentage of actual votes cast in paper-trail states vs. non-paper-trail states.

As you can see, the total number of votes cast in paper trail states is significantly greater than the number of votes in non-paper trail states. Which means, even if Hillary won a vast majority in non-paper trail states, it wouldn't have mattered much. She still won by a fairly decent margin!

But even after all that, we are only half way done! The second part of this paper claims that exit polls show that the official vote does not jibe with the actual vote.

Oh really? I asked if that sounded familiar earlier, and it should. The reason why is because I dealt with exactly that topic in an earlier blog post. And wouldn't you know it, what do I find in the second half of their paper but this:

"Data Procurement: We obtained exit poll data from a database kept by an expert on the American elections."

Oh, wonderful! And just who is this wonderful expert whom they cite? Wisely, they do not name him. But comparing the table notes, the source is made clear. Why, it's none other than asshole extraordinaire Richard Charnin! The same moronic idiot I debunked in my earlier blog post!

Oh, you've got to be kidding!

When Snopes investigated the claims of the article, it rated it a mixture of truth and fiction. You can read that Snopes report here. But Snopes did a half-assed job of it. They correctly caught the fact that it was not a Stanford study, but the claims in the article and the math behind it they rated as true.

Never mind that the conclusions based upon it were false, and wishful thinking to boot. Never mind if the pie-chart was based on data apportioned by state and not weighted by votes on the ground. If one weighs that in (as Snopes should have) it would be 100% false.

Mark Twain said it best when he said that there are three descending orders of falsehood: Lies, damned lies, and statistics.

As if I needed anymore ammunition against this doltish duo, they added this to their paper:

"Statement on peer-review: We note that this article has not been officially peer-reviewed in a scientific journal yet. Doing so will take us several months."

No fucking shit this hasn't been officially peer-reviewed in a scientific journal! Does anybody think this shit would pass a peer-review? They say it would take several months. Try ever! Half their report is shoddy math, and the other half is borrowed from the proven-false work of a proven-false conspiracy theorist.

Consider your asses peer-reviewed, you shitheads!

Here's what Snopes had to say about Charnin, and keep in mind, this person had not researched the asshole as thoroughly as I had:

"The expert whose numbers were utilized for the paper wasn't expressly cited by name, but his moniker appeared on the linked spreadsheet: Richard Charnin. Charnin indeed lists some impressive statistical credentials on his personal blog, but he also appears to expend much of his focus on conspiracy theories related to the JFK assassination (which raises the question of whether his math skills outstrip his ability to apply skeptical reasoning to data)."

No fucking shit. Jesus, how did this shit ever get taken seriously?!

One more point, and then I'm done. The "researchers" put in their paper one phrase I feel is worth taking note of. They claim to have made a comparison analysis with the 2008 elections and concluded that, "no such similar irregularities occurred in the 2008 competitive election cycle between [Senator] Clinton and [Senator] Barack Obama. As such, we find that in states wherein voting fraud has the highest potential to occur, systematic efforts may have taken place to provide Secretary Clinton with an exaggerated margin of support."

No such irregularities in 2008, huh? Well their guru, Richard Charnin, disagrees. In his own blog post, dated 16 Sep 2012, he shows what he believes to be systemic election exit-poll-related fraud beginning in 1988 leading up to and including 2008.

Now, I don't by any means consider Richard Charnin a credible source. But Geijsel and Barragan do, and that source flatly disagrees about exit poll discrepancies not existing in 2008.

As if to excuse any mistakes they may have made, the "report" opens up with this statement:

"Important Note: This document is a living document. We are updating the numbers as they become available."

Yeah, how about you update the WHOLE THING?!

I find it an odd coincidence that the tone and attitude matches that of every creationist I've ever faced off against. One mindset comes from the right, and the other from the left, but the breathless and manic anger is hard to miss. Okay, I exhibit the same anger, but primarily because my friends, my freethinking family even, are being seduced by this crap! So yes, I am justified in saying that it reminds me of a creationism vs. evolution debate. No, the two are not the same! I'm not making an equivalency comparison. But I am making a conspiracy theory comparison. Fraud-creationists (because that's what they are), are essentially chasing UFO's (unsubstantiated fraud opinions) which aren't really there, but the die-hard Bern-outs are convinced they are, and solely because of them and their shoddy fact non-checking. Maybe they're mixed in with the uncounted California provisional ballots! Or hidden inside Area 51!

Geijsel and Barragan have convinced people of the existence of such phoney fraud.

Well, fuck these guys. FUCK these guys!



Addendum, July 3, 2016:
I based by calculation on actual vote totals to do the weighted percentages. But the calculation in this fake Stanford study used the percentages from the exit polls. I discovered my mistake accidentally when leaving the weighted percentage out on a different project and found that Hillary wins using that calculation too! Only unadjusted early exit polls can skew the vote so much that it appears like a Bernie win. So I wasn't quite perfect in my criticism. However, I have thoroughly dealt with the subject of exit polls elsewhere. I can therefore stand by my work, because my conclusion was fundamentally correct, and the authors of the Stanford paper were still thoroughly wrong.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Hillary's Flip-Flops

There’s no doubt whatsoever that Hillary Clinton is very much a weather-vane when it comes to certain issues. Her history of flip-flopping is emblematic of the sort of thing that once led cartoonist Gary Trudeau, who draws the Doonesbury comic strip, to depict Hillary’s husband Bill as a living waffle. It’s fair to say that Hillary picked up this trait from her husband, if she didn’t already have it.

Do we really want someone this fickle running the country?

Let me first say that I’ve vigorously defended the right of any politician to change his or her mind. In fact, I’ve singled it out as a vital qualification for office. The last thing we need is a leader who sticks to his guns regarding a failed policy. We had that under George W. Bush, and while he was one of the worst presidents we ever had, nobody ever attacked him as a “flip-flopper.”

In other words, when the horse is going the wrong direction, you make sure your horse can turn in the right direction. If the horse won’t turn, you get a new goddamned horse!

The GOP calls it “flip-flopping.” I call it navigating with a rudder, and that means all those who do not flip-flop on occasion are completely rudderless.

But all that is just basic principle. Certainly there are some issues worth sticking to one’s guns about, and others that merit reconsideration and an altering of one’s position. Which is which? And more to the point, which is which regarding Hillary?

Let’s use the biggest attacks levied against Hillary as our examples and see if they pan out. How about Hillary’s complete flip-flop on gay marriage?

Yes, Hillary turned end-around on the gay marriage debate. But then, so did the entire American population. In 2004, Sonny Bush virtually won the election on opposition to gay marriage alone. Back in 2008, when Hillary supported DOMA, the Defense Of Marriage Act, the majority of Americans were against gay marriage. Even in hyper-liberal California, the sentiment against gay marriage was such that Prop 8, a bill to ban gay marriage, passed with 52% of the vote.

Only a few years later, the entire landscape radically changed. The younger generation had completely embraced the LGBT community, and they were now old enough to vote. They vigorously stood up to their parents on the issue of gay marriage and made them see differently. Parents suddenly found that some of their children were gay, and were put in the position of having to reject their own kids or rethink their philosophy. And if the kids weren’t gay, they at least had friends who were, and after meeting them, they couldn’t find much grounds for condemning them. The issue had landed in their back yard, and the gay community won them over with a combination of righteous indignation and sheer charm. It was such a paradigm shift that Mitt Romney suddenly found opposition to gay marriage to be a huge liability for him. The issue that won Bush II the election now helped drag Romney down below the threshold of victory.

We ALL flip-flopped, pretty much!

So we can’t really attack Hillary for that one. Her change of mind is one that those of us above a certain age all did. To attack her on this is to attack ourselves.

What about charter schools? There was a time when Hillary supported charter schools, and now she’s opposed to them.

Many people argued for a trial period to give charter schools a chance to show what they could do. Even I was in favor of this, so long as it excluded religious schools on the grounds of violating separation between church and state. After charter schools had been tried in various cities, including Milwaukee, they were shown to have failed in altering the outcomes of troubled schools, and have not succeeded in increasing the test scores of inner city children. It is a failed experiment. So I don’t blame Hillary for changing her mind, and neither should you. It’s a good issue to have changed one’s mind about, and many of us have.

What about gun control? There was a time when Hillary criticized support of “blanket rules” regarding guns. Now she supports stricter gun control laws, particularly on assault weapons. And what about immigration? There was a time when Hillary spoke very harshly about illegal immigration, and now she’s in favor of an expedited path to citizenship. What about mandatory minimum sentencing requirements? Hillary once was in favor of them, now she is against them. What about marijuana? She was once against legalization, now she's open to it. What happened on these issues?

What happened was that society shifted as well. Attitudes in both gun control and immigration have shifted, both because of increases in Columbine-like tragedies in Sandy Hook Elementary School and now a gay night club in Orlando. Attitudes towards immigrants, and particularly Latino immigrants, have softened because American society has grown to like and appreciate Latin culture. Mandatory minimums, usually billed as "three strikes and you're out" laws, were very popular during Bill Clinton's tenure, and a vast majority favored them. It was only years later, when we saw the disastrous unintended consequences, that we changed our minds as a society. And marijuana prohibition played a role in that shifting attitude. When society as a whole decided legalization was a good thing (and it has), it looked back at mandatory sentencing for drug offenses and said, "Shit! What were we thinking!"

In fact, Hillary’s changes of mind and position are a reflection of our own in society. Her flip-flops are not so much a weather-vane as a mirror showing our own reflection. And WE are the weather-vane! Hillary changes when WE do!

“But wait!” you say. “What about the TPP! What about NAFTA! What about KAFTA and KORUS and all those other free-trade agreements which many on the left are so opposed to?”

I will do an entire blog post later dealing just with free trade agreements. It’s a highly complex issue which needs its own separate breakdown. For now, I’ll simply say this: Free trade ships some jobs overseas while creating new ones through lower consumer prices and an expanded market-base. No, it’s not a complete wash, but certain jobs will eventually go overseas anyway. Might as well get the additional customers for the new businesses too and get some of those lost jobs back. That’s the way President Obama sees it, and that’s the way I see it too.

Let’s not reject flip-flopping. Let’s embrace it! It’s healthy to change one’s mind. I flip-flopped from a conservative Christian to a liberal atheist, and while some people may not see that as a positive change, I certainly do. Most of my readers are fellow freethinkers who have flip-flopped on any number of things too. ALL OF SCIENCE is built on being willing to flip-flop away from a hypothesis once it has failed!

Flip-flopping is a good thing!

And let's also recall the things Hillary has not flip-flopped about: 
  • She's never flip-flopped about women's rights! 
  • She's never flip-flopped on providing affordable health care for everyone! 
  • She's never flip-flopped on protecting the environment!
  • She's certainly never flip-flopped regarding climate change! 
  • She's never flip-flopped on emphasizing and funding education!
  • She's never flip-flopped on promoting small business.!
  • She's never flip-flopped her stance on ending Racial inequality!

I guess she's not so fickle after all.

So let’s recognize that Hillary is indeed a flip-flopper. 

Just like you and me.



Monday, June 13, 2016

Was Hillary Under Sniper Fire In Bosnia in 1996?

Hillary's gaff regarding her coming under sniper fire on a tarmac in Bosnia in 1996 is one I truly find funny. Not because Hillary didn't screw this one up - she clearly did. But rather because of the sudden big deal everyone has made about it - and the real truth behind it.

This story broke way back in 2008 when Hillary was campaigning against Barack Obama. It hit the news wire that Sinbad, of all people, had discounted Hillary's story regarding her trip to Bosnia in March of 1996 and having to duck due to potential sniper fire. The way Sinbad told it, the tarmac was perfectly peaceful, and video later surfaced that the tarmac was quite tranquil as the First Lady was strolling across it with her daughter.

That story hit the news cycle - and died. Probably because by then, Barack Obama was all over the news and was in the lead for the Democratic Party nomination.

In fact, I never even heard about the story until 2015, and I'm a news junkie!

So what's changed? Why is this eight-year-old story suddenly such a big deal?

Why, it's good ol' Bernie! Or, rather, his followers. Because while Bernie's biggest fault is being unable to hold his fame-liquor and as a result being a sore loser, a certain segment of his followers are far more flawed in character, vitriolic and hot-tempered. They are convinced that Hillary Clinton is Satan, and will not let any evidence to the contrary sway them otherwise.

So naturally, when they got hold of this dusty old news story, they saw it as evidence of Hillary being the lying sack of shit they assume her to be. Suddenly the news story got blasted all over social media in a way that was never seen back in 2008.

So what really happened? Fortunately, the news media already figured it out, and told us, but then put it "below the fold" as they say in the news biz. A very nice piece in the Washington Post describes just what happened, recalls Hillary's claim from 2008 and how it got rated with with "four Pinocchios," then describes further that the security situation was indeed rather tense, and that the threat of attack was rather high. Here's an excerpt from two important updates to the article which was first published in the Post back in 2008:

UPDATE: March 21, 6:45 p.m.

Lissa Muscatine, who served as Hilary Clinton’s chief speechwriter in 1996 and accompanied her on the Bosnia trip, feels that I have failed to provide a full picture of what took place. She gave me her “vivid recollections” of the arrival in Tuzla, which I quote below:

I was on the plane with then First Lady Hillary Clinton for the trip from Germany into Bosnia in 1996. We were put on a C-17 — a plane capable of steep ascents and descents — precisely because we were flying into what was considered a combat zone. We were issued flak jackets for the final leg because of possible sniper fire near Tuzla. As an additional precaution, the First Lady and Chelsea were moved to the armored cockpit for the descent into Tuzla. We were told that a welcoming ceremony on the tarmac might be canceled because of sniper fire in the hills surrounding the air strip. From Tuzla, Hillary flew to two outposts in Bosnia with gunships escorting her helicopter.

UPDATE: March 22, 8:45 a.m.

Gen. Nash says that I misquoted him in saying he was unaware of any “security threat” to the first lady. While he was unaware of any “sniper threat,” he now tells me there were a couple of “security concerns” that day, which he found out about after returning to his headquarters after greeting Clinton at the airport. There was a “non-specific report” of a possible truck bomb in the area. The military also had information that “some of the communications associated with the First Lady’s visit were being monitored.”

“In both cases, we took appropriate security action,” said Nash, adding that Clinton’s visit was not disrupted.

But that's not all. The updated article goes on to include other new bits of information:


Michael Dobbs’s Four Pinocchio ruling – and the attention paid to Clinton’s false recounting – ultimately led her campaign to concede that “it is possible in the most recent instance in which she discussed this that she misspoke in regard to the exit from the plane.” But officials continued to insist that she was “going to a potential combat zone” – even though the war had ended three months earlier.

Finally, in an effort to put the controversy behind her, Clinton told the Philadelphia Daily News:

“Now let me tell you what I can remember, OK — because what I was told was that we had to land a certain way and move quickly because of the threat of sniper fire. So I misspoke — I didn’t say that in my book or other times but if I said something that made it seem as though there was actual fire — that’s not what I was told. I was told we had to land a certain way, we had to have our bulletproof stuff on because of the threat of sniper fire. I was also told that the greeting ceremony had been moved away from the tarmac but that there was this 8-year-old girl and, I can’t, I can’t rush by her, I’ve got to at least greet her — so I greeted her, I took her stuff and then I left, now that’s my memory of it.”

Over time, the incident became etched in the minds of Clinton’s detractors, which is why it resonates today.

There is one interesting update to the episode. Former ambassador Christopher R. Hill, who accompanied Clinton on the trip, published a memoir in 2014, “Outpost,” in which he recounted that just before landing in Bosnia, the staff and reporters received an unusually intense briefing about the security situation. Hill’s account does not necessarily excuse Clinton’s false statement, but it is an example of how memories can be forged in unexpected ways. Here’s what he wrote on pages 114-115:

[During the landing at Tuzla], I ventured over to listen to a member of the security detail briefing the first lady and her team on the situation we would likely encounter on the ground. As she did for every briefing she received, she listened attentively, glancing at her reading material as he talked and talked.

I found myself almost rolling my eyes as the briefer went on and on about the possibility of snipers and what the plan of action would be (essentially, making a beeline to the armored vehicles parked nearby). As the briefing continued for what seemed like half an hour, one of the journalists, a little worried, asked me if it was going to be that dangerous.

In other words, it was perfectly reasonable to remember this incident incorrectly. Was there sniper fire at one point? Yes. Did the First Lady and Chelsea have to don flak jackets? Yes they did. But what it on the tarmac? No.

Now comes my own contribution to this retrospective. In 2009, long after Barack Obama had won and Hillary had been named Secretary of State, a conservative group sued to have certain government documents pertaining to Bill Clinton declassified, and was successful. In them, they discovered that Bill and Hillary had very nearly been killed in an assassination attempt in Manila, Philippines, on Nov. 23rd of 1996, the same year Hillary had visited Bosnia. We know Hillary accompanied Bill on that trip because she delivered a speech to a women's forum in that country at the same time. A bomb had been planted beneath a bridge that the president's motorcade was expected to cross. But when the secret service received an alert about a potential threat, they rerouted the motorcade route at the last minute. Later, security personnel did discover that a bomb had been planted beneath the bridge. Had Bill and Hillary's motorcade crossed the bridge, they would both likely have been killed. You can read about the story in the London Telegraph here.

It is not at all unreasonable to say that Bill and Hillary left the Philippines under heavy guard when crossing the tarmac back to Air Force One. They may even have been told to duck down due to the potential of sniper fire. And it's also not unreasonable to think that Hillary probably accidentally conflated some of the stories garnered during her countless travels as First Lady, especially when retelling the story twelve years later.

Hillary's sniper fire in Bosnia gaff is a non-story. We all make mistakes. We all remember details wrong. And it's not like Hillary hasn't had bullets whiz past her head! Such as in 1994 when a shooter named Francisco Martin Duran fired at least 29 shots into the White House in hopes of killing Bill Clinton. Or on July 18, 2012, when Al Alam News reported that Secretary Clinton's motorcade had come under fire during a trip to Israel.

She's been under fire, both metaphorically and literally. She's earned her battle scars, Bosnia story or not.

Look, has Hillary deliberately lied? Sure! I have no doubt she's lied on purpose about any number of things.

Just not this time.

So she had a "senior moment." Big, fucking deal.



Saturday, June 11, 2016

Election Fraud? What Election Fraud?

In the numerous debates/arguments I've had with my Bernie supporting friends, and certain Facebook memes, I have repeatedly encountered a number - seven million. What's seven million? Allegedly, it's the number of voters who were suppressed from voting this primary election season.

Sometimes the number was six million - but that was before California and New Jersey. So, ever in search of verification of non-cited numbers, I went in search of where this figure might have come from.

Did it come from those whose voter affiliation mysteriously switched? From voters who were turned away by long lines? From fewer polling stations? From said polling stations running out of ballots? From voter I.D. laws? From registrations being mysteriously purged prior to election day?

All these things happened, and I'll address them later, but no. That's not where this figure originated from.

Now, seven million is a rather large number. It's nearly double the final-vote lead that Hillary finished with over Bernie. According to Real Clear Politics, the final vote tally (not including the caucus states of Iowa, Nevada, Maine, Washington State, and Alaska, who have no ballot data to share, or U.S. territories such as Guam, American Samoa, the Virgin Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands) is Hillary 15,729,913, and Bernie 12,009,562, leaving Hillary with an estimated 3,720,351 lead. She won Iowa and Nevada, but lost Maine and Washington State, but Washington is odd in that it has both a caucus (which counts) and a primary (which doesn't). Hillary won the primary, but lost the caucus by a large margin. She won all the territorial non-state contests except for Democrats voting abroad, which Bernie won. So it might be fair to give Hillary a 4 million lead, but to be as generous to Bernie as possible, we'll call it a wash and give Hillary a closing lead of 3.7 million (going into D.C., which has yet to vote as of this writing).

So, that means that 7 million votes suppressed could easily lead to Bernie winning instead of Hillary, right?

Well, first we have to confirm that 7 million figure. Then we can get to the probabilities. Where could 7 million come from?

The likeliest source is from Independent voters who do not get to vote in states with closed primary ballots. Twelve states have closed primaries: Delaware, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Wyoming. Florida alone has 3.2 million Independent voters registered. New York has roughly that same amount. That's 6.4 million right there! Add in the remaining states, and one gets a little over 9 million Independent voters.

But that 9 million figure comes from me being fastidious and doing lots of research into all 12 states. Some of them, Such as Nebraska and Kentucky, had very little reported data on how many Independents were registered, and I had to extrapolate the data by comparing estimated percentages (always between 20% and 30%), and then applying then to the number of registered voters, rounded up, from a previous election cycle, such as 2014. I highly doubt that many other Facebook posters did this. More than likely, they simply added up the three biggest states with closed balloting - New York, Pennsylvania and Florida, and came up with 7.5 million.

So there it is! 7.5 million votes were suppressed, right? And closer to 9 million?

Well, no. And here, I know some people will disagree with me on principle, but I find a closed primary system to be entirely fair. Each state party gets to decide its primary system through an open democratic process, and they are entirely within their right to want to keep Republicans (or any other registered party) from crossing over to vote in their primary to deliberately choose the weakest candidate.

What happens with Independents is that they say that neither political party appeals to them, and so don't involve themselves in the process leading up to the primary, including the process which sets up the rules. Then, when they see an outsider candidate who they like, they jump up and say, "Hey! I want this party that I don't belong to to select this guy!"

Really? You Johnny-Come-Latelys want to participate in the nomination process - something reserved, quite rightly, for those who paid their admission fee in blood and sweat over years or even decades, just because you became a fair-weather-fan of someone you only heard about a few months ago? GET REAL! How dare you outsiders want to crash the wedding party at the last minute when you don't even know the bride?

Okay, that's just me lashing out. But that's the honest mentality of many. For those who have followed politics a long time, it really is that bitter.

But shouldn't everyone get to participate in our democracy? Well, that's just it. A political party isn't a Democracy! It's an organization with a political platform of positions on specific issues that its members feel very strongly about. And quite understandably, they don't want people who might disagree with those issues they champion so vehemently to come in and upend the entire dinner table. Yes, the party proceeds democratically - within its ranks. But if they say to newcomers, "Sorry, members only!" that is entirely within their right.

But isn't a political party best served by appealing to the center? Well, yes, appealing to Independents does have its advantages. It tends to select the candidate who is the more popular with the swing vote. But that's why 38 other states have open or partially open primaries. Of those, Hillary won 22, and Bernie won 17. Of the 20 states with completely open presidential primaries, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin, Hillary won 13.

Independent votes or not, she won fair and square.

But just to make things extra certain, let's entertain the notion that the 7.5 million Independents who were denied the ability to crash the party got their say. Let's envision what might happen if they all got to vote. What would be the outcome? In fact, let's make it extra interesting and include all 9 million from ALL the closed primary states. What happens then? A Bernie victory?

Sorry to disappoint you if that's what you were hoping for, but no. Hillary finished with a 3.7 million vote lead. That means that Independents would have to not only overwhelmingly vote for Bernie, but do so in a way that overcomes that 3.7 million lead and then some! Is that realistic?

Unfortunately, no. Voter turnout, even among Independents, is rather low in America, even in this crazy election year. Typically, a high voter turnout year happens in a presidential election and a low voter turnout happens in a midterm election. The typical numbers are 60% for a presidential year, and 40% for a midterm. By way of example, 2008 shattered records with only 63% of the vote. 65% of Americans voted during the election of John F. Kennedy.

Primaries are even worse. During the 2008 presidential primary season, according to, voter participation during the primary season did not even break 31%. This year, poll tracking has indicated a voter participation rate of only 30.16%, despite some states breaking records for primary season totals. Among Independents, voter participation is even smaller.

So that means that out of the 9 million voters available, fewer than 1/3rd will participate. Michigan was likely a rare exception for voter participation because of the water crisis, and this heavily favored Sanders, but no other state has a similar crisis that would mobilize the center like that. That means that not even 3 million of the 9 million available would vote, and even if 100% of them voted for Sanders, Bernie would still not even tie Hillary, much less wipe out her lead!

But let's play along even on top of all that. Let's assume, just for argument's sake, that all 9 million mysteriously broke all records and all voted. What percentage of them would Bernie need? Running the numbers, in order for 9 million voters to wipe out a 3.7 million vote lead, Bernie Sanders would need to rope in 6.35 million out of the 9 million available. That's 70% of everyone! That's a number that Bernie has not been able to achieve this entire primary season. That's not realistic.

And that also assumes none of the 9 million would vote for Trump, which a minority of them almost certainly would.

And that unrealistic figure assumes miracle rule changes on top of miracle turnout, plus miracle percentages voting for Bernie over Hillary. And not Trump.

Not in this universe.

But what about disappearing voter registration? What about the voters turned away in Arizona? What about the voter purges in New York? What about the voters turned away in Michigan? What about Bill Clinton campaigning inside the neutral zone poll areas in Massachusetts?

All these are legitimate concerns. But they affected a plurality of voters in all circumstances. Some who got screwed, gave up or were turned away were Bernie supporters. Others were Hillary supporters. There's no way to quantify how many votes went one way or the other, and even if there were, it would not change the outcome. That's not to say that the voters who were suppressed are not material. Of course they are. The only acceptable percentage of suppressed voters is zero. It's an important goal we must all work hard to achieve.

But until then, let's understand that "fraud" is not the reason Bernie lost.

Democrats voting for Hillary was.