Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Turkey Downs Russian Fighter. No, Lafayette, the Yanks Aren't Coming

No, Lafayette. And sorry, Charlie Hebdo. The Yanks aren't coming to rescue the world everywhere from the so-called "Muslim menace".  We are not even going to get heavily into Syria.
And here is just one reason why, as reported today in the New York Times:
            In a clash with Cold War overtones, Turkey shot down a 
            Russian warplane that it said had strayed into its            
            territory. Russia called the incident a “stab in the back,” 
            and NATO called for calm.

Now what? Will ISIS have succeeded inadvertently in getting the two countries to fight each other, a sort of side-pocket bonus of its terrorism?

Isn't this shoot-down by Turkey exactly the kind of thing that could happen between the USA and Russia if we try to enforce the no-fly zone in Syria that Hillary Clinton wants? Unless we establish such a no-fly zone in cooperation with Russia, we are setting ourselves up for a possible real war, i.e. one with nuclear weapons, conducted by two actual super-powers.  I don't know any sane person who would want US and Russian fighter planes circling each other over Syria, each committed to an opposing side in the Syrian war. The Russians want Assad to continue as ruler of Syria. And we don't. And how is the "safety zone" Hillary wants in Syria to be enforced so that US and Russian troops aren't shooting each other?

Risk a full-scale round-the-globe major war because Paris took a really nasty hit a couple of weeks ago? Other places have been hit hard too. The roster is indeed grim:  Madrid, London, Mumbia, Bali, a Russian school full of children and a Russian theater full of patrons, and in the last few weeks a planeload of Russian citizens over the Sinai, plus the recent attack in Beirut and many more in recent years in Pakistan, Iraq, and Afghanistan even though we supposedly had stabilized the last two. The USA has taken a hit too. It was called 9-1l, and it had a total of more dead than all of the foregoing put together.

Actually we vowed right after 9-11 to make "global war" on the violence-embracing fundamentalist Muslims. We then spent a trilllion dollars, lost about 5000 dead American military personnel, now have maybe 100,000 wounded and maimed vets, killed an estimated  200,000  Iraquis and wounded a huge number. But the other side is still up and running and killing and maiming.

The hard truth is that a determined guerilla enemy can make trouble indefinitely and you can't stomp them out quickly without being so vicious that you create more of them. We often used our own forested land as cover in the Revolution, shot from behind trees  -  not considered proper warfare anywhere else in "civilized" places  -   and thereby we beat the Brits, the most powerful military force in the world. But a century later when we beat the Spanish in the Spanish American War in conventional fighting, we still couldn't eliminate the Phillipine guerrillas who continued to oppose us from the hills and thickets of the jungles. Then, fifty years later, came Vietnam. A comparatively tiny country beat the hell out of the mightiest power in history by being determined guerillas, shooting at us from behind trees. And the more we bombed them, the more determined they became.

Up against today's guerillas, President Obama has the right basic strategy:  quietly and steadily pick them off, denying them the glamorizing of being "a major enemy". The more "major" we make them, the more impressive they are to the young men they seek to recruit. We mustn't be the recruitment tool of ISIS propaganda.

By the way, the Irish beat the Brits in the 20th century by blowing up buildings and shooting people in a guerilla war. After 400 years of conventional battles for Irish freedom, they had no choice but to do the sneaky thing. And it worked. The Brits stupidly opted to run their own version of Guantanomo, used mass arrest, hauled the Irish "rebels" before firing squads, etc. Until the IRA made life in London very dangerous with bombs. Then the British sat down with the Irish and gave them what they wanted.

We can't sit down with ISIS because it wants what we can't give, a caliphate, a huge state run by them under grim and barbaric rules.

And we cannot, must not give them the other thing they want: status as terrifying boogeymen. Let us not ennoble them nor tremble in fear. Let's go about eliminating them deftly and quietly.

And let us remember the mistakes the Brits made in fighting against our Revolution and against the Irish rebellion. Let us also be aware that the Brits' mistakes with the Irish actually created ISIS and its guerilla predecessors. Because of the Brits, the Irish were so desperate for arms for their guerilla warfare that they taught tactics to the Islamic extremists in exchange for weapons for their fight against England. Because of England, the Irish created the Muslim terrorists.

England's imperialism yet casts a long shadow.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Ben Carson So Dumb He Makes a Weak Field Look Good

I can't believe the GOP is stuck with its current field of potential nominees. Are there no basic qualifications for running for president in a major party?

Ben Carson especially takes my breath away. Most people think all doctors are smart. Not true. I taught pre-med students for ten years. Some pre-meds were smart; others weren't. The latter were, however, good at memorizing, which is extremely helpful in learning body parts and prescription names but isn't worth much in terms of thinking. So I wasn't as surprised as many were that Ben Carson is an unthinking person who accepts and regurgitates really nutsy ideas about history and other things.

Such things as the income tax.

In the Republican debate this week he proposed eliminating the tax deduction for home mortgage expense. May his immortally stupid words be chiseled on his tombstone:  “But the fact of the matter is, people had homes before 1913, when we introduced the federal income tax, and later after that started deductions.”

Gosh. That is such a stupid statement it almost defies explication. For starters, it's a huge example of mixing apples and oranges. Or is it a non sequitur? Or maybe there's no label for such nonsense.  First he actually says that people had homes before there was an income tax, thus idiotically indicating people don't need an income tax in order to own homes. Why say such a thing? No one has ever made the preposterous claim that we need an income tax in order to encourage home ownership. So why does he attack that premise? Yikes! 

Then it gets worse: "...and later after that started deductions."  Well, yeah. Deductions do in fact get established after a tax is established. So what? What's the point? 

God help us that this man should ever be trying to enunciate orders from the Oval Office about whether or not we're going to start World War III.  Or do anything of any consequence whatsoever. No matter his intent, he would end up either inadvertently surrendering to Iceland or ordering an anchovy pizza.

All that Carson has to offer is that he speaks more softly than Donald Trump.  Other than that he's the worst one on the stage. I have to believe that the Republican voters will tire of him. I just have to believe that.

I said in the title of this piece that Carson makes the rest of the weak GOP field look good. Well, almost but not quite. Jeb Bush is still wallpaper. Rubio is offensive to many of the GOP base because he is Cuban. Plus he is not going to appeal to Latinos in the general election, and for the same reason — being Cuban.  I notice these phenomena, but I don't create or approve them. To Latinos, being Cuban is not being Latino, a distinction in American politics that the GOP doesn't understand. (I've explained this distinction before and will again if Rubio stays around.) Donald Trump? He is a horn blower who currently is running out of sour notes to trumpet. Fiorina? The GOP will never nominate a woman.  

Is there anybody else in the  "top tier" of GOP wannabes? If there is and I can't remember who that is, that says a lot about him, doesn't it? Oh yeah, Kasich. He's okay, not a wild man.
But he doesn't gain traction. 

Cruz? Yeah, I forgot Cruz. Forgetfulness is contagious. There he was in the debate, gallantly upholding a Texas tradition: he forgot one of the five departments he will eliminate from the federal government. In 2012 Rick Perry forgot one of the three departments he would have eliminated from the federal government. Therefore you can forgive me for forgetting Cruz. But observe:  Texas and the GOP nominating process are improving. We now have a Texan who can remember two more things than did a prior Texan.

Real progress, folks! ........Now watch this!..... Remember the Alamo! Remember Pearl Harbor!.... and what was that third one? ..... Got it!....Remember the Maine!...... 

Do I get to be president? Or do I have to move to Texas?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Really? Sanders Can Beat Any GOP Candidate? Really?

How about a dollar for every time someone has said to you: "Bernie Sanders is a great guy, but he can't win the general election"?

Ha! Not true according to the newest poll from McClatchy/Marist. With one slight exception — and it's one that doesn't count — Sanders does just as well as Hillary Clinton in beating the Republican field.

And how about this? They each beat the whole GOP field! Quite startlingly, each does it by almost the same amount. The one exception is a match-up against Ben Carson. Hillary beats him by 2 points; Sanders loses to him by 2 points, both numbers well within the margin of error. But this is the exception I mentioned as being irrelevant, i.e. Carson is not going to be the GOP nominee.

You're wondering how good this poll is. Looking at its approach and its "frame", as its called, it doesn't look too bad at all. Unlike the many polls that are still behind the times, this one included a sizable number of cell phone calls.  Cell phones are in use as the sole household phone in about half of households, so cell calls being used for one-third the sample was pretty good. This alone may account for this poll differing from two Iowa polls recently that were badly constructed to virtually exclude the two groups most likely to be Sanders supporters.

Admittedly, there are more Democrats in this McClatchy/Maris poll than Republicans.  In 2012 there were polls with similarly more Democrats than Republican, and these showed Obama winning. Predictably the GOP screamed about the edge in Democratic numbers among those polled, but the pollsters shrugged it off, insisting their polls were sound. They were right. Obama did indeed win.

We have to keep in mind that more Democrats may show up in polling than Republicans simply because there are more Democrats in the population.  It's this fact that gives Democrats the edge in the presidential election voting. And it's an increasing edge. The Republicans just continue dropping in numbers as a percentage of the population.

A radical thought I keep having:  Has the GOP already shrunk so much in numbers it just can't win the presidency at all?  And/or is the GOP field just so weak that — dare I say it? — maybe any Democrat can win the presidency next year?  And is the field so weak because somewhere some potentially strong GOP candidates looked at the declining number of Republicans and the growing number of crazies on the GOP right and said, "Hell no! I won't go!" (Honestly, however, I can't think of who such Republicans might be. Any ideas?)

I pose three possibilities now, maybe pretty wild ones: To wit, Bernie Sanders does as well as Hillary in beating the GOP because (a) the GOP ain't got nobody, (b) people don't like Hillary all that much so Bernie is about as strong as she is even though less known, or (c) nobody knows nothing no more no how about politics because it's a weird year.

It may be more than a weird year. I think we are living in one of the strangest political times ever. Not for 130 years has America witnessed the death of a major political party, but I think that's what we are seeing now. It's been going on for about a decade, and it's painful to watch. I think it has in fact actually killed people.

But more about that another time. Meantime try googling "Whigs".

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Seriously Flawed Iowa Polls Show NY Times Has Lost Its Mind

Normally, I love the New York Times. Maybe it's not as solid as it once was, but it tries hard to be really good journalism, and I cite it a lot.

So it grieves me when it screws up badly. As it did today. It has an article buried in its "Politics" section claiming Hillary Clinton is suddenly nearly 40 points ahead of Bernie Sanders in Iowa.

Wha? That doesn't seem possible. And, indeed, the NY Times master of polls, Nate Cohn, tore one of those polls apart a couple of days ago in the Times, explaining why it was worthless.

Here's his article: why-an-iowa-poll-is-unfair-to-bernie-sanders.html.

Good for the NY Times in spotting a bad poll!

So how explain the Times' about-face today when it runs an article citing this poll as important and featuring a second similarly flawed poll by an equally obscure pollster.

Perhaps the reporters at the Times don't read their own paper? Or there's a shortage of editors at the Times? Or someone gave an unqualified reporter an assignment over his head? The reporter in this case is a Patrick Healy, who appears to also be a theater critic for the Times. Given that politics is a lot like theater, I suppose he's sort of qualified to cover politics some of the time. He's just not qualified to evaluate political polls.

The sad thing is that most media people aren't. So - sure enough - this morning's TV news picked up the "story" Patrick Healy had "broken", and now lots of Bernie supporters are reportedly scratching their heads. The NY Times still generally defines a lot of what is "news".  Therefore, don't be surprised if your TV or radio starts blathering about Clinton's huge new lead in Iowa.

It isn't true. It isn't even news. These same two ridiculously bad pollsters (profs at two minor colleges) put out polls months ago that showed Hillary with a similarly huge lead. It wasn't true then; all the reputable polls then showed Sanders ahead.  And it sure ain't true now.  In fact, she has gained only 4 points over where one of these obscure polls had her in August. She didn't lead him then by 30+ points, and she doesn't lead by about 40 points now.

P.S. Guess what? The Huffington Post HuffPollster has just written an article about this "news" of Clinton's lead but dismissing it as flawed because of too much calling of landlines.  Landline Telephones, 'Moral Tone,' and Negative Favorability Undermine Clinton's Lead Over Bernie Sanders. The hard truth is that most polls these days are worthless. I'll try to bring you data from the respectable ones that use good criteria and proper methods.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Hillary Is Where She Was in October, 2007. The Bounce That Wasn't!

The experts have it wrong again. Hillary Clinton may be having "a good month" in their opinion but she hasn't significantly improved her shot at the Democratic nomination. In fact, she seems to be doing worse than in October 2007 when she ran against Obama.

Let's check out her actual prowess this month:
 1. This month the media acclaimed her the winner of the first Democratic debate. But, according to CNN polling, 81% of voters thought Sanders won.

2. Joe Biden dropped out, and he had been drawing voters from her. But seemingly-sweet Joe Biden doesn't like Hillary at all and virtually pledged to lie in wait for her and scald her for any disloyalty to Obama. When an Irishman says, "I will not be silent", BEWARE! The Irish make the best friends and the worst enemies. Keep an eye on Biden!

3. She got through the Benghazi hearings without throwing the water glasses, but a big-time movie is coming out just before the Iowa caucuses that blames Clinton for the Benghazi debacle. Keep in mind that more people watch movies than watch Congressional hearings.

Reality seems to say that the gifts of October for Hillary were all wrapping paper and empty boxes.  This is reflected in Hillary's not-so-great poll numbers. So far she's got only a slight bump out of all this supposedly good news, about 6 points. That's on the measly side after so much media flaunting of her triumphs.

Maybe that's the reason the commentators are so non-jubilant about her current numbers.  It's now almost two weeks since the Democratic debate. Where's the hooting and hollering? Only a couple of polls have been published, then quickly whisked from sight.

Her bump is also diminished by the fact that the post-debate commentary by "the experts" may itself have caused the bump. Its smallness suggests this. So does "538", the on-line zine of a true poll expert, Nate Silver, formerly of the NY Times. His cohort Harry Enten explained on October 22:

             "Clinton gained in five of the six national polls taken after the debate. This shouldn’t be too   surprising: Media spin is what matters most after a debate, and Clinton received very positive coverage. That’s in contrast to her media coverage before the debate, which was very negative. What’s a little bit uncertain is how much ground she picked up. The average has her up 6 percentage points, but CNN found her down 1 point, and the Emerson College poll* had her up 15 points."
Hillary Clinton Got The Biggest Post-Debate Polling Bounce  10/22/15, "538".
(* Emerson college is an excellent theater/film school but is new to polling.)

So what's the bottom line for Hillary?
Let's compare with October 2007 when Hillary was running against Obama. Like now, the media were proclaiming her nomination a sure thing. At that point they seemed to have some reason for their drum-beating: the RealClearPolitics average of all polls had Hillary 17 points ahead of Obama. Now she has about a 20 point lead over Sanders. Surprisingly that's only a 3 point improvement vis-a-vis 2007 even after her triple "triumphs" of this month. And this time, unlike 2007, she has no one draining away possible votes as were John Edwards, Joe Biden and a clutch of others back then. She thus should be much farther ahead of Bernie Sanders than she is.

It seems therefore like she's actually in a worse position than in 2007-8.

And we all know how that turned out for Hillary!

——Next time or soon thereafter (depending on the news):  "Does Hate for Obama Help Sanders Get the Democratic Nomination?"

Friday, October 16, 2015

Dancing Bernie Beats Hillary on Campaign Cash! And More To Come!

SHHH.... I've got a secret to share with you. Though money was supposed to be the forte of Hillary and Jeb Bush, those two bastions of wealth, it's actually the very unwealthy, unconnected Bernie Sanders and his campaign that have outsmarted Jeb and Hillary on campaign financing. And Bernie's done it six ways to Sunday!

You won't see this covered in the media because, oddly enough, money management in political campaigns seems to bore the political "experts". They pipe on and on about the raising of money and about Citizens United, but they don't pay attention to how money is handled in campaigning. For example, they looked at Obama's campaign trouncing Romney in money-handling in 2008 and never caught on. Then they woke up at the end of the campaign season and wondered why Romney was way behind Obama in advertising.

But let's stay with Bernie and Hillary and Jeb. It's hilarious.

Jeb Bush has sucked up $133.3 million in campaign contributions. Hillary has scooped up $97.7 million. But Bernie Sanders has actually whipped their whatsises! Get this: Jeb Bush has only $14.5 million cash on hand to spend. Hillary has only $33 million cash on hand.

Bernie, however, has $27.1 million cash on hand! He's got twice as much on hand as does Jeb and almost as much as Hillary.

No wonder he's dancing! Let's take a time-out here for fun! Bernie dancing on the Ellen DeGeneres show:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SXq-hU5d2bc#t=147

Keep in mind now, by comparison with the much-hailed political behemoths Hillary and Jeb, good old Bernie had raised $41.5 million by the time of the first debate. And it's ALL in individual contributions. Setting aside their untouchable pac monies which Hillary and Jeb cannot use, Hillary had raised $77.5 million from individual donors, almost twice what Bernie had raised form individuals. A pathetic Jeb Bush had raised only $24.8 from individuals.

But Bernie has been careful with his spending. The $27.1 million in cash he has is TWICE what Jeb has and almost as much as Hillary. Bush has spent $10 million more than Bernie has and has nothing to show for it. Now he has only half the cash on hand Bernie does. Hillary beat Bernie in fund-raising by more than DOUBLE but he's only $4 million behind her in cash on hand and may have made up most of that in the days immediately following the Democratic debate by pulling in another $2 million. And he is going to have LOTS MORE from that source and she isn't!

What is going on! Two things. First, both Jeb and Hillary have been spending a lot of money. Bernie hasn't. Presumed front runners of wealth, like Jeb and Hillary, have to pay high salaries to the campaign pros. You can't get off on the cheap when you are known to have stuffed pockets and are presumed front-runners. Also, keep in mind, that the "cash in hand" category includes only the balance of money the candidates raised through their campaigns. Most of the monstrous sums Jeb and Hillary have raised was actually raised by their super-pacs.

And they can't touch that pac money for actual campaigning! For real campaign expenses — organizers' salaries, phones, travel, pizza for volunteers, etc. — they can't use pac money.  About all pac money can do is buy ads.  Believe me, massive advertising doesn't win elections. Volunteers guided by organizers for precinct work and get-out-the vote — that's what wins elections. And pizza fuels the volunteers.

Bernie Sanders is now in as good a position financially as Hillary Clinton to build a campaign throughout the country.

In fact, he's in a better position! Here's why. The average contribution he has received is $38. The limit on contributions an individual can make is $2700. Therefore, Bernie can go back to those same contributors and get more money! Again and again and again.

By and large, Hillary can't. Her money came in much larger chunks. Many of her contributors have already "maxed out". They have given the $2700 limit and legally can give no more.

But maybe a whole new bunch of Hillary contributors will emerge. You really believe that? If so, where are they? Wouldn't they have begun to emerge significantly after the Democratic debate this week? Bernie's new supporters certainly did. With the headlines yelping that Hillary had "won the debate", wouldn't her new admirers have jumped on board?  And if Hillary actually was being inundated with a new round of contributions, wouldn't she have let us know about it?

Bernie certainly did. He literally danced out onto the set of Ellen DeGeneres' show when the new contributions hit $2 million within two days after the debate. Here he is again! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SXq-hU5d2bc#t=147

So this is the money stuff you look for in campaigning. Not who piled up how much, but what they did with it. Not who has how much left but what they can legally do with it. And never forget Scott Walker, the experts' favorite a year ago and now a GOP dropout. He had the Koch brothers and their billions but they couldn't pay the rent on one headquarters or buy one round of pizza for volunteers. Bye-bye, Scottie.

So who is really looking like a winner?  Why, it's the guy who came out dancing, that's who. The old guy from Vermont, the non-capitalist who just beat financial hell out of the wealthy, well-connected Jeb and Hillary.

You gotta love it!
For a complete collection of the data I have cited (but not this kind of analysis),
see the New York Times story "Which Candidates Are Winning the Money Race" at

For the NYT tardy update that now begins to notice some of what I just told you, see:

Friday, October 9, 2015

Uncopying the CopyCat Killings on Campuses

What should we do?

Suspect Is Held After 4 Are Shot at Arizona University

Shooting at Texas Southern University Kills One

We are in the middle of a series of copycat killings on college campuses. There have been three this week.  One was near me here in Oregon, now another in Arizona, and one in Texas.

The timing of these indicates copycats. We also know from the writings left by their predecessors, young males all, that being some kind of imagined hero or celebrity is a lot of the motivation for these  killings. Repeatedly these young men have actually said they are shooting people because they want "to be somebody".  So said the young killer of nine in the Charleston, South Carolina church. Yes, he was racially motivated, but the principle appeal of being a killer of black people was that it would, he believed, elevate him to hero status. "Some white person has to be hero enough to do it," he wrote. "I guess it has to be me." They see all the publicity the other killers have had and they confuse that with fame or heroism.

Let's go back to the prototypical killer of the modern era: Lee Harvey Oswald, killer of President John Kennedy. Before the assassination, when he came back from having briefly disaffected to Russia, he was crushed that he was not met at the plane by a clutch of reporters. He made sure, therefore, that fame/infamy would not continue to pass him by. He desperately wanted to be somebody, be known. Killing a president would be just the ticket.

We create these people.

We go nuts over "celebrities" who have absolutely no real claim to fame. They aren't great scientists or humanitarians or artists. They are just celebrities. Right now we have been celebrating celebrity in the person of Donald Trump. He has been all over the media ad nausea. But he is a nothing. Just a nothing who took some money from his father and made more money. Big deal. He has one small ability, i.e. to be a smart ass. Nevertheless, for years NBC has had him on screen all the time on the MSNBC show "Morning Joe". This made him a somebody.  He was on TV.

This is what we teach the lop-sided young men who kill to be on TV.  You gotta be somebody. "I coulda been a contender, Charlie," Marlon Brando whimpered in "On The Waterfront". "I coulda been somebody." At least the boxer character Brando played was willing to take some punches to be somebody. Of course, I'm not suggesting that today's monstrous killers are Brando copycats. They have no idea of anything as arcane as "On the Waterfront", more's the pity. Perhaps there is just something perpetual in America's young men, a yearning to be more than a face in the crowd.

We feed this. We play up celebrity generally to a ridiculous level. We then reward these killers with exactly what they wanted. They get played up enormously in all the media. Their names and faces are everywhere. They are pseudo-psychoanalyzed on TV and in the press. They are more famous than God.

We have to stop this. We have to stop publicizing the names and faces of these monsters. We must not reward their inhuman, maniac killing. We can certainly report on the killing. We can say the killer was a male of such and such age. But never a picture of the scum nor his name on TV or in print.

This will be hard to achieve, but not as hard as keeping weapons out of their hands. There are an estimated 238 million guns in the USA, which is enough for every two out of three Americans. Anybody can get a gun. Further, we have no apparatus for identifying these potential killers, denying them guns, and providing them effective psychological care. Worst of all, we have no prospects of ever getting "gun control" or good psychological care.

But we can prohibit publicizing the identities of the killers. We already do this in other types of crime. The media are prohibited from identifying rape victims in many jurisdictions and are prohibited almost everywhere from identifying juvenile offenders.

Stop rewarding these killers. It is a solid principle of law that criminals are not allowed to profit from their crimes. Why let the worst of criminals profit in exactly the way they wanted? More to the point, why continue to hold out to wannabe killers the prospect that they can reap the reward they want for their killing.

We  have to do something. They are killing our children. Our elderly. Our beloved.

We have to do something.