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:

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!

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.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

A House Divided Against Itself.....Can't Do Much of Anything

Lincoln said, "A house divided against itself cannot stand." We have a worse situation now. Under GOP management, the House of Representatives is so divided against itself it cannot do much of anything. Except destroy the country. (More on that shortly.)

Let's start where the House Republican majority is right now. It cannot even pick a Speaker! It's driven John Boehner out and, as of this week, has scared Kevin McCarthy out of trying for the job. (Kevin McCarthy)

The House GOP is so divided within itself that we don't really have a Congress anymore. The House is simply not functioning, and without it the Senate is virtually a nothing. Face it! Other than approving treaties and appointments, the Senate can't do anything alone. It certainly can't pass laws or touch the purse strings. Spending and getting are the sole province of the House. If the House doesn't function, neither does the Senate, and there's no Congress.

And so we teeter along on two crutches and no legs, headed toward the specter of not raising the debt ceiling next month and thereby plunging the entire world into economic chaos.  Next comes the December deadline for passing a budget and keeping the government open. Of course, if we have plunged the whole world into economic disaster in November, maybe we should just let the government disappear in December.

Why are the feuding House Republicans so fraught with froth and foaming at the mouth? The 40 hard-core rightist members want their group to run the House. They don't want a Speaker with any power, nor do they want any other leadership doing its job. They want control themselves. No captain on their ship! They want "a principle-based, member-driven Congress." This phrase, so innocuous on its surface, actually means a bare-knuckle free-for-all. There will be no Speaker having the power to move the nation's business in an orderly fashion. Without a Speaker, getting anything done will be like herding cats. Except there won't be anyone trying to herd the cats! Just cats!

Well, you say, so what? Let the GOP destroy itself. Let the people see a House which does NOT represent the people, has no leaders, and is run by nonsense. That's certainly what it would be.

But it's worse than a disgusting spectacle.  A free-for-all by this House means not only chaos but tyranny by a minority.

Get this straight. This so-called House of Representatives does NOT represent the American people. It has a phony majority of Republicans. The Democrats running for the House in 2014 tallied ONE MILLION MORE votes than did the GOP candidates. But the gerrymandering done by the GOP after the 2010 census gave a lot of House representation to comparatively empty land. Thus we end up with a House of Representatives that doesn't represent a majority.

We have lost our grounding in the most fundamental Constitutional principle of all: government by the majority.

Compounding this nastiness is the fact that the minority party now in charge is being run by a minority within it. A mere FORTY people are now largely in control of this country and our government. On top of that they are mostly whackos and racists out of the South.(Graphic The Power of the Hard-Line Republicans in the Race for House Speaker) They don't want a government. They have repeatedly said they want to get rid of the government. What in the world is this!

Well, my friends, none may dare call it treason, but I will.

Our government has been taken over by a small segment that deprives us of constitutionally based representation, and this group is avowedly set on destroying our government. Further, in its ignorance and blind ideology it is set on a course that will not only destroy our government but will casually take down the world economy on its journey to craziness.

John Boehner, PLEASE STAY! Do not desert our poor country. After you, comes the deluge.

As for the rest of us, what in the hell are we going to do about the distorted map of Congressional districts that has brought us to this chasm? Can we hold together for another 5 years until the next census? Can we get sanity back into enough state legislatures so that we have honest, fair representation again.

God help us, I hope so.

Meantime I can't snicker at the self-destructive shenanigans of the House GOP.  Because they are going to destroy us along with them. Even their list of "maybes" for House Speaker is discouraging.

What Lincoln called "the last great hope of humanity" may be about to die.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Hey, Putin: Clowns to the Left of You; Jokers to Your Right

NOTE: I drafted  this posting three days before the New York Times called Syria "a quagmire". It's always nice to get the jump on the NY Times. It's even better to get the reassurance that I'm not alone in perceiving Syria as I do. You can see the NYT piece at:
Mr. Putin’s Motives in Syria

"Clowns to the left of you. Jokers to your right." And you're stuck in the middle of Syria, Putin.

That's where you're headed. You're going to be in a mess in Syria, with no good way out.

This is what President Obama believes will happen if Putin insists on propping up Syria's hated dictator Aasad. As Pete Seeger used to sing during the Vietnam War when the U.S. was propping up one South Vietnam leader after another: "We're knee deep in the big muddy and the damn fool says to push on." But Syria won't be our big muddy. Per President Obama we are leaving that stupid position to Putin alone.

We are not going to fight Russia over Syria. We are not going to send in ground forces as long as Obama is president. (Hillary is another story on this point.) There's nothing in Syria's future that merits our intrusion. It's already rotten with ISIS versus Aasad and can't seem to pull together enough sane forces to rid itself of these demons.

With such a wobbly situation, if we send in weapons to anti-Aasad forces, how do we prevent them going to pro-ISIS groups? When we armed Afghans against Russia we created the Taliban.

Can't we be grown-up enough to let the Syrians figure out what to do by themselves? They won't have to put up for long with Russia hanging around helping Aasad because Russia has a lot of troubles of its own. Like Syria, its economy rests primarily on oil. Already drowning in the world's oil glut, Putin will have to realize that hanging on to his sort-of-satellite Syria, which has nothing to offer except oil, makes no sense. Once Russian soldiers start getting killed in Syria, the Russian people are going to blow a whistle.

Putin recently used aggression-by-proxy in the Ukraine and the Crimea, and the Russian people were delighted to be back in the empire game because it costs them no friends and relatives. And, golly, those two places were once part of the Soviet Empire. But Syria? What nostalgia can Russians drum up about Syria?

Better for Putin to do as China is doing: trim the military force and instead focus state funding on the  burgeoning industry of the 21st century, i.e. developing equipment for non-fossil fuel generation. China now leads the world in solar panel production.

Oil is over, Putin. Yours and Syria's. You can't distract your people forever from their sinking economy by playing military big shot here and there. Further, we have a smart president who won't play into your game. You want to be a big shot in a stinking mess. Well, go right ahead, mister. You're like North Vietnam, desperate to immerse South Korea in the tottering make-believe of communism just in time to watch that train pull out of the station.

Yeah, that's a messy mixing of metaphors, but not as messy as your mess in Syria, Putin. Have fun with the clowns and the jokers. We will have the last laugh.

Let's be content to just let Putin be Putin.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Hillary Clinton and "Don't Do Stupid Stuff"

" 'Don't do stupid stuff' is not an organizing principle."

That's what Hillary Clinton said this past week in dismissing President Obama's refusal to increase our involvement in Syria.

Compared to what Hillary wants to do in Syria, doing nothing actually looks pretty darn good as an alternative.

On its surface, what Hillary proposes sounds minimal and humane. She wants us to establish a no-fly zone to halt the bombing and to set up "humanitarian corridors" as some sort of safety zone for  civilians.

But how do we enforce a no-fly zone? And against whom? Russia has begun bombing in Syria. Are we going to start confronting Russian war planes and possibly shooting them down? Gosh, I hope not. Such confrontation makes me very uncomfortable. It makes me think of World War III.

What about the humanitarian corridors? How do we set those up? Won't we have to send American personnel into Syria to do that? How do we protect those Americans? How do we keep them out of the hands of Isis and its beheadings and burning people alive? Won't that require our Army in Syria?

Hillary had her chance with these ideas on Syria back when she was Secretary of State. The President rejected her ideas back then and rejected them again last week. There are always some ideas that sound interesting until you ask "how".  Like going over the rainbow.  Do we really want ideas that involve tornadoes? Both of her suggestions involve possibilities that can get out of control and be very destructive.

I don't want to go to war in Syria. Aside from the likes of Dick Cheney, does any American want us putting ground troops in Syria or starting an air war with Russia in the skies of Syria? Absolutely not.

Hillary has learned nothing, zip, zero from her wrong vote to get us into war in Iraq. Nor did the drawn-out mess in Afghanistan teach her anything.  Write it large on the blackboards of America. Post it on all the computers. The three rules of a good life: (1) Don't walk on glaciers. (2) Don't enter a land war in Asia. (3) Don't presume to "help" Arabs or their like to decide which government they want.

The Arabs and others of that area are grownups and they can figure out for themselves what government they want and how to get it. We may not like their choices and we may not like their process, but we have absolutely no duty or right to take over their show. In strictly formal diplomatic language, we should just butt out.

Maybe if we butted out of other people's business, those people wouldn't hate us so much. We no longer have an "oil interest" to protect in that part of the world. Oil is a glut, with a lot of the glut right here in our fracting of the Appalachians. And the need for oil is going to keep shrinking. We have reached the golden door for which I have prayed for decades! It's the door OUT of the Middle East and environs. Let us flee through that door now and forever. And what about Israel? Nothing about Israel requires us to be in a land or air war in Syria.

We have to face a sad fact, folks. Hillary Clinton is possibly not all that bright. In my last posting I hit her hard for having messed up the chance we had back in 1993 to get health insurance coverage for millions of Americans. She couldn't see how idiotic it was for her to grab away one of Congress' Constitutional prerogatives and duties and then expect the members of Congress to enact "Hillary's health plan". No First Lady every barged in like that on the legislative process. Let's admit it. Hillary is a barger-inner, a bulldozer in a china shop. She's not reflective and she's headstrong. She belongs to another era, the era of "America runs the world".

We can't afford her brand of being half-baked. Actually that's the term that President Obama used this past week to refer to critics of his Syrian restraint, all the mouths that want us to do more in Syria. When asked if he was calling Hilary's ideas half-baked he said no.

But he was. And I'm saying it here.

So what do you think of her brainstorming? Bit too much tornado?