maxomai: dog (Default)
2017-09-23 07:36 pm

News and Comment for Sept 23, 2017

  • The most important thing to know today: ACA repeal is not over, not by a long shot. Andy Slavitt lays it out for us here.

  • Facebook is blaming their AI for the fact that you can targets ads to "Jew Haters" on their platform.. On the one hand, between this and other betrayals of privacy, there is a good case for abandoning Facebook entirely. On the other, there is a case that Facebook's problems are just the tip of the iceberg. Remember Total Information Awareness? Do you think that's gone away? Or, on the other hand, do you think that maybe someone at Homeland Security is doing exactly the same analysis that Facebook is, but geared towards rooting out enemies of the state instead of selling advertising?

  • Lots of people among my Facebook friends and anti-war buddies supported Trump on the grounds that he would be better for brown people overseas (even if worse for brown people in the United States)
    than Clinton. This proposition looks silly yet again as Trump tries to do away with Obama-era restrictions on drone strikes.

  • Today's award for Best Troll goes to Slashdot user phantomfive for this piece about weakly vs. strongly typed languages, wherein he adds a parting shot, "Does this make you want to avoid Python?" Why is this trolling, you ask? Because the definition of strongly typed is ambiguous and often misunderstood. Python, for example, is considered a strongly typed language, albeit a dynamic one. The resulting thread would make my programming languages professors want to drink to forget.

  • If you're going to the H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival in a few weeks, you should know that Liv Rainey-Smith will have screenprints of Shub-Niggurath, Cthulhu, and Krampus for sale. These are not woodblock print originals, but screen prints on wood veneer!

maxomai: (mouse)
2017-04-25 02:18 pm
Entry tags:

Introducing WikiTRIBUNE

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales is launching WikiTRIBUNE, a new site of actual journalism designed to fight fake news. Quoting CNN:

The site will publish news stories written by professional journalists. But in a page borrowed from Wikipedia, internet users will be able to propose factual corrections and additions. The changes will be reviewed by volunteer fact checkers.

Which of course leads to a problem: what if a swarm of people who want to promote an alternative theory, not supported by the facts, takes over the discussion on WikiTribune?

Of course, Slashdot has a discussion.
maxomai: dog (Default)
2017-04-25 09:14 am
Entry tags:

Tuesday Miscellany!

Medium doesn't work with my workflow, so it's back to LiveJournalDreamwidth for me. Here we go kids!

maxomai: dog (dog)
2016-12-29 11:51 am
Entry tags:

This is goodbye...and hello.

Well folks, it's time for me to retire from LiveJournal. It's been almost 14 years and thousands of posts, and I've lasted here longer than a lot of people, but this place isn't what it used to be.

I am going to continue blogging, however, on Medium. It doesn't give me the same level of control as LJ, but it does give me the sense of community that has all but disappeared from LJ outside the Russophone world.

I hope you'll join me there, or on Twitter.
maxomai: dog (dog)
2016-12-28 05:41 pm
Entry tags:

2016 Predictions Scorecard (UGH)

This was a terrible year for just about everyone and everything, and that includes my predictions for this year. That said, I did better this year than last, scoring 6 out of 14 correct predictions. Let's go through what I predicted for 2016, where I was right or wrong, and why.

  1. Hillary Clinton will be elected President of the United States --- DID NOT HAPPEN

    This seemed like a slam dunk given the polls at the time, and the dynamics of electoral politics since 2006. So what happened?

    The Clinton campaign blames the Comey letter to Congress for shifting undecided voters to Trump. Post-election polling shows about half of Clinton voters blame Russia, because Russia hacked the DNC and the Clinton campaign (which is supported by the intelligence community including the FBI), and also because they believe Russia somehow changed the vote tally (a hypothesis for which there is no supporting evidence).

    I think what really happened is simpler and more prosaic and depressing. The DNC and the Bill Clinton people resorted back to their old ways and fucked up a perfectly winnable Presidential race, a la Al Gore in 2000.

    In particular, they fucked up on messaging. Most of their television ads were about what a horrible person Donald Trump is, rather than why Hillary Clinton should be President. They adopted a slogan, "Love Trumps Hate," that once again made Donald Trump, not Hillary Clinton, the center of attention. Everyone involved in the campaign --- and I mean, everyone from the lowest level canvassing and phone banking volunteer to the candidate herself --- needs to go back and re-read George Lakoff's Don't Think of an Elephant, which spells out in plain terms why this is an inexcusible fuck-up.

    That's just one way in which the campaign fell apart. There's dozens of others, from not bothering to engage the Democratic apparatus in Madison, WI, to presuming Pennsylvania was safely in their column, to continually writing off the Bernie people at an organizational level.

    The end result is a mess. Donald Trump is a thin-skinned, grossly incompetent President-Elect, whose actions post-election might have asuaged the investor class but have terrified and angered half the country at the same time that it has galvanized the white supremacist so-called "alt-right." He shows all the signs that his administration will be corrupt, brutally racist, and unrepentantly authoritarian and antidemocratic. There are even signs that he might be a Russian puppet.

    Trump is a weak PEOTUS in a lot of ways, but one that should not go ignored is his level of support. His approval ratings are at an historic low for Presidents-Elect. He has negative coattails such that the GOP lost House and Senate seats. And, his popular vote margin is at about negative 2.9 million.

    This gives the Democratic Party a narrow path to avoid extinction. It needs to win big in local and state races, and hold its ground in Congressional races, in 2018, if it wants a shot of winning the White House in 2020 or getting back control of Congress in 2022. Trump's unpopularity gives them a shot, and it's already produced results in the form of a flood of new volunteers and apparatchiks. What's needed to capitalize on this new blood is a return to the fifty state strategy espoused by Howard Dean in his tenure as DNC chairman.

  2. The Democrats will gain seats in the US House of Representatives, but nowhere near enough to take control in the next Congress. --- HAPPENED

    This actually happened, and it's one of the most underreported political stories of 2016.

  3. The Democrats will score a net gain of at least four US Senate seats, enough to control the Senate in the next Congress. --- DID NOT HAPPEN

    Long story short, Democrats blew a lot of easily winnable races by assuming that the Great Lakes states were in the bag.

  4. Kate Brown will be elected to finish her predecessor's term as Governor of Oregon. --- HAPPENED

    Oregon Democrats did worse this election season than expected, but Kate Brown won in a shoo-in. Dennis Richardson's win as Secretary of State should sound alarm bells for 2018.

  5. Augustus Invictus will NOT be Florida's next US Senator. --- HAPPENED

    In fact, Marco Rubio went back to run for his old seat, and won. That said, it might well have been that Augustus Invictus was simply before his time. The events of the next few years, and in particular, the success or failure of fellow authoritarian Richard Spencer in Montana, will tell us more.

  6. Tammy Duckworth will win the general election to represent Illinois in the US Senate. --- HAPPENED

    And so Barack Obama's Senate seat repeats the pattern in which it has been since Alan Dixon lost the Democratic primary to Carol Mosley-Braun; that is, switching parties every six years.

  7. Black Lives Matter will dominate the Presidential race --- DID NOT HAPPEN

    In fact, what dominated the Presidential race was two even bigger manifestations of America's deeply rooted racism: anti-Muslim and anti-Latinx sentiment espoused by Donald Trump. It's not going to get better without a lot of work.

  8. Gun sales will continue to reach new records; prices of both guns and ammo will increase. --- HAPPENED

    Gun buyers assumed that Clinton would win and kept buying guns in anticipation of a Clinton administration AWB. New records were met each month. Now that Trump is going to be in power, I expect the gun market, which is usually driven by fear and anxiety, to level off, even as it gains new customers on the left.

  9. ISIS will execute a Paris-style attack on the United States. --- HAPPENED

    This would be the Pulse Nightclub shooting of June 12th. This focused the gay rights movement briefly on the cause of gun prohibition. I suspect that's over now that there are bigger fish to fry.

  10. ISIS will lose half their territory between 1/1/2015 and 12/30/2016. --- DID NOT HAPPEN

    ISIS has lost territory, but only by about a quarter, not a half, as measured in square miles.

  11. Oil prices will go back up to $70/barrel this summer --- DID NOT HAPPEN

    In fact, OPEC kept the spigot open. Demand has increased thanks to the cheaper oil prices, and prices never got above $50.

  12. The Oregon Ducks will win the Alamo Bowl. --- DID NOT HAPPEN

    What should have been an easy game turned into a stunning, horrifying collapse, presaging a dreadful 2016 season. Cue sad trombone. I remain a fan.

  13. The Carolina Panthers will beat the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl --- DID NOT HAPPEN

    In fact, the Panthers played the Broncos, and lost. The look on Cam Newton's face when the clock expired says it all.

  14. The Chicago Cubs will return to the postseason. --- HAPPENED

    A lot sucked about 2016, but it had great sports stories. The biggest is that Leicester City, a perennial underdog in British soccer, won the Premier League championship for 2015-2016. A very close second to that is the Chicago Cubs coming back from three games down, and eeking out a tough, harrowing win in game seven, to win the World Series and end a 108 year championship drought.

Tomorrow, I will state my predictions for 2017. See you then!
maxomai: dog (Default)
2016-07-26 12:47 am

The Cranky Liberal's Case for Clinton

Today the Democratic National Convention will vote on their candidate for President, and it's virtually certain that Hillary Clinton will win the nomination. Let me explain why she will have my enthusiastic support, even though I think she's far less than ideal.

Read more... )
maxomai: dog (dog)
2016-07-09 07:44 am
Entry tags:

Michael Strickland and The Case That He's Been Over-Charged

EDIT August 4, 2016: Strickland has since been indicted by a grand jury on 10 counts of unlawful use of a weapon, 10 counts of menacing, and one count of disorderly conduct. I still think he's being over-charged on each count of unlawful use of a weapon, as per below.

As delighted as I am the Michael Strickland (of Laughing-at-Liberals and Asshole-who-pulled-a-gun-at-the-BLM-march fame) was charged with two counts of Unlawful Use of a Weapon, my guess is that he will almost certainly see those particular charges go away.

There are two ways one can commit Unlawful Use of a Weapon (per ORS 166.220):

1) "Attempts to use unlawfully against another, or carries or possesses with intent to use unlawfully against another, any dangerous or deadly weapon as defined in ORS 161.015"

2) "Intentionally discharges a firearm, blowgun, bow and arrow, crossbow or explosive device within the city limits of any city or within residential areas within urban growth boundaries at or in the direction of any person, building, structure or vehicle within the range of the weapon without having legal authority for such discharge."

He didn't discharge his firearm, so (2) is out, leaving (1). And that's where it gets interesting. The prosecution has to argue that Michael Strickland either (a) carried a firearm with the intention of using it unlawfully, or (b) that he attempted to use it unlawfully when he pulled it. Now, they have to demonstrate mens rea, or intent. And that's going to be a pain in the ass.

If I had to guess, if the prosecution is serious about arguing their case, they will focus on the fact that Strickland had five extra magazines on him (for a total of about 80-100 rounds, including the ones in his gun), and argue that was excessive. But given the other charges (menacing and disorderly conduct), this looks like the prosecution over-charged him for being a troublemaker. As much as I despise Michael Strickland, that kind of behavior from a prosecutor can't stand. I doubt a judge or jury will disagree, even in liberal Portland.

As usual, IANAL, I just obsess over this stuff.
maxomai: dog (dog)
2016-05-28 09:46 am
Entry tags:

Most Sanders supporters will eventually come around to back Clinton.

Recently a friend of mine asked:

"But do you really think even if the DNC makes this compromise that Sanders supporters will vote Blue in the General Election?"

My answer is, yes, because part of that deal will be that Sanders rallies his supporters behind Clinton.

Sanders supporters talk a big game about how they won't back Clinton even if Sanders tells them to do so, but we can also look at a similar situation that happened in 2008 and see how those sentiments will eventually play out. Let's check polling data for how Clinton supporters (so-called PUMAs) felt about Obama at this time in the 2008 elections versus how Sanders supporters feel about Clinton now. A CNN exit poll conducted in May 2008 indicated that Clinton supporters would support Obama over McCain by 48-34. Gallup polled the same group before the Democratic Convention and found that support for Obama had improved to about 70%. By the time the convention was done it was over 80%. We can credit Clinton's "No Way, No How, No McCain" speech for that ten point rise. Eventually Clinton supporters backed Obama over McCain, 83-17.

As of this week, Clinton has 69% support amongst Sanders supporters, and their underlying sentiments are mostly hostile towards Trump. Sanders's job of getting his supporters to back Clinton is somewhat easier than Clinton's job was getting her supporters to back Obama. If we presume that Sanders knows (a) he won't be the nominee and (b) his legacy will be in how he makes the Democratic Party more progressive, then it's reasonable to assume that he'll conclude that a Clinton Presidency is better for his legacy than a Trump Presidency, and that he will, therefore, be one of Clinton's best advocates during and after the convention.
maxomai: dog (dog)
2016-05-24 07:58 pm
Entry tags:

Why I think Al Franken should be Clinton's VP candidate

For a long time now, progressive Democrats like me have hoped for a Clinton-Warren ticket to storm its way to the White House in 2016. Unfortunately, Harry Reid has put the kabosh on that. His reasoning is as follows: if the VP is a Senator from a state with a Republican Governor, that Governor is likely to pick a Republican to replace the VP-elect, leaving Democrats at a disadvantage for winning back the Senate, even should they win the White House.

So, with those hard criteria in mind, if Clinton is going to pick a sitting Senator for her VP nominee, who should she pick? The ideal candidate would be a popular progressive from a purple state with a lot of electoral votes, who can also stand up to the pressures of a Presidential campaign. That's quite an ask, but I think we have three good candidates for the job: Mark Warner, Claire McCaskill and Al Franken. Of those, Al Franken would be, by far, the most popular choice, and I think it makes the most sense for Clinton to give him the opportunity.

Click for the details! )
maxomai: dog (dog)
2016-04-29 07:16 am

On the passing of Don Dodson

Long time readers of this LJ will recall that [ profile] dondodson and I used to argue with each other on this page and his. Despite our disagreements, I considered him a friend, and a valuable one, because he taught me a point of view that was completely alien to me --- that is, that of a hard-nosed Southern Baptist theoconservative and partisan Republican --- having grown up in a nominally Roman Catholic, partisan Democratic family in Chicago.

It pains me to report that last week his wife Hua let it be known that Don took his own life on April 19th.

Don and I started arguing from the day we met at Shreve Hall at Purdue University. We argued, respectfully but sometimes heatedly, about everything from religion to politics to changes in society and culture. We argued via signs on our dorm room doors, then over email, then over LiveJournal, then over FaceBook. I won’t rehash those arguments in this post, except to stat that there are only three things upon which we strongly agreed. The first and least important is that we both despised the darkly comical horror show that is Donald Trump's run for President. The second is the importance of the Second Amendment for the strength of the Republic. The third and most important is that he found a magnificent and capable partner in Hua.

I do have memories to share here, and they go to that third point of agreement.

By twenty-two years ago, meaning the first half of 1994, Don had already graduated college and had moved to Phoenix, Arizona, to start his career. Hua was still finishing her degree at Purdue, and the distance between them was clearly painful to him. On Valentine’s Day of that year he asked me whether I could do him a favor, that is, to print out a letter to Hua that he would email me, and also pick up some flowers, and deliver both of them the printed email and the flowers to his future wife. Of course I agreed. He thanked me profusely, and wrote a letter to his future wife where he testified to his love in glowing, almost embarrassing terms. I picked up a dozen flowers at the local supermarket — I can’t remember what they were but I’d like to think they were roses — then printed out his letter to Hua in the computer labs, then (I think) put the letter in a card for Hua, and then delivered the lot to her at the residence hall where she worked as a counselor. (I believe it was, again, Shreve.)

Hua, of course, missed Don, and of course wanted to return the favor. So for his 22nd birthday, which was going to be April 9th of that year, she wanted to make a video tape of some of his college friends joking around. Hua was kind enough to invite me to participate, which I did gladly. It was April 3rd — I know the date well, and I’ll tell you later how I know that date. It was a Sunday, and I had just finished studying in the Union building when I started my hike to Shreve to participate in the video.

Now, remember, this is April we’re talking about. It's Spring, the campus is in full bloom, the pleasant weather makes it hard to concentrate on one’s studies, and life is grand. So naturally, when I left the Union building, it was surprisingly very cold. As I passed underneath the math building, which was about a third of the way on my journey, it started snowing. And snowing. And snowing. And snowing. And snowing. By the time I got to Shreve the snow was about two feet deep. Fortunately I had a biker jacket and combat boots and a healthy layer of fat to keep me warm. We made our video in an afternoon — I remember doing some improvised routine with a clown friend of his — and I presume it got to Don in time for his birthday.

The love they had was unmistakable then. It continues to be unmistakable today, even in his current and more profound absence that once again separates them but temporarily.

To Hua, and to hers and Don’s children, I hope that the his love and the memories of his love bring you peace in the coming years.
maxomai: dog (dog)
2016-03-11 06:21 pm
Entry tags:

Chris Hayes on the Trump Phenomenon

In the wake of the Trump Un-Rally unfolding in Chicago, Chris Hayes just posted four tweets about the Donald Trump campaign that are critical to understanding the dynamics of American politics since 1968, and why it's falling apart now.

This is a particularly on-point observation by Hayes, especially given Pat Buchanan's calls for the GOP to unite behind Trump or risk losing to Hillary Clinton.
maxomai: dog (dog)
2016-02-29 07:41 pm
Entry tags:

Super Tuesday Predictions: The Fat Lady Warms Up

Here are my predictions for the Tuesday, March 1st primaries and caucuses.

Clinton: Alabama, American Samoa, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia.
Sanders: Colorado, Minnesota, Vermont.

I think Sanders will perform worse than expected tomorrow. He needs a win in Massachusetts and the polling says that it just isn't there. Recent polls have showed Sanders doing well in Oklahoma, but those polls are VERY recent, and I'm not convinced they reflect reality.

Obama won more delegates than Clinton on Super Tuesday 2004. That won't happen this year, and Sanders will continue to fall behind Obama's 2008 pace. This won't be the end of the Sanders campaign by a long shot, but it will be the end of any serious discussion of Sanders being the next Obama. Clinton knows this, and she's already started focusing on her campaign against Donald Trump.

Cruz: Arkansas, Minnesota, Texas.
Trump: Alabama, Alaska, Georgia, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia.

Cruz is kicking ass in his home state of Texas, and that's bleeding over into the somewhat culturally similar state of Arkansas. He had a good showing in Iowa, which I think will also pan out in neighboring Minnesota. But the bottom line is that Donald Trump is crushing the competition everywhere else. I think he will finish tomorrow night with enough outright 50%+ wins to build an insurmountable delegate lead.

Once Trump becomes the clear winner, the GOP establishment will then be faced with a dilemma: whether to embrace a Trump/Cruz ticket with no establishment anchoring whatsoever, or try to foist Rubio on the Party in a brokered convention and risk Trump running as a third party candidate. If I were them, I'd back Trump. There is no good scenario now that will win the White House for the GOP. However, a two-major-candidate race at least gives the GOP a chance to save the Senate. A three-major-candidate race would doom the GOP in the Senate, and could cost them the House and many state legislatures.
maxomai: dog (Default)
2016-02-23 03:28 pm

On the Republican pledge not to hold confirmation hearings for Obama's nominee to replace Scalia on

In the last paragraph of this post, I outlined how I saw, and continue to see, the nomination of Antonin Scalia's replacement playing out. Let me take this opportunity to break it out into a numbered list.

  1. Republicans pledge to do everything they can to keep the seat open until after a new President is sworn in on January 20, 2017

  2. Republicans pin their hopes on winning the White House in 2016.

  3. After Clinton wins the White House and the Democrats take the Senate, Republicans continue to obstruct any nominee that Clinton offers up.

  4. Majority Leader Schumer breaks the gridlock with a "Nuclear Option" (or as Democrats will call it, a "Constitutional Option.")

  5. SCOTUS has a new 5-3-1 progressive-conservative-moderate split for a generation or two, with shocking consequences.

Today, we saw stage one play out.
maxomai: dog (dog)
2016-02-22 08:55 am
Entry tags:

The shape of the 2016 Presidential Election, and predictions for next Tuesday

This is shaping up to be a Clinton v. Trump election, despite the best efforts of the GOP establishment, on the one hand, to find a common candidate such as Marco Rubio, and the progressive and Millennial wings of the Democratic Party, on the other, to keep the Sanders revolution going.

A few weeks ago the thought of this match-up would have given me, as a partisan Democrat, great comfort. The conventional wisdom is that a Trump candidacy would be a trash fire to herald the demise of the GOP, because the voters would realize what a terrible, racist, fascist candidate he is, and he would lose in a landslide.

There's a lot of hyperbole in there, so let's straighten some things out.

First of all, disastrous elections do not sink political parties in America. Neither Wendell Willkie nor Barry Goldwater could sink the GOP permanently; the Democrats managed to survive Walter Mondale. In fact, the only thing that could sink one of the two political parties would be for the party to self-destruct over an issue, the way the Whigs did in 1860 over slavery, and the way the Democrats almost did in 2000 over the environment. So, even if Trump is an electoral disaster, the GOP will continue, even if they have to do some soul-searching to do it.

More importantly, I'm no longer convinced that Trump would be an electoral disaster. Check out the aggregate head-to-head polls of Trump v. Clinton; it shows Clinton beating Trump by only four points.

But what's really scary is what happens when you only include the polls with likely voter ("LV" for short) models. By way of background, polls with LV models only include registered voters that they believe are likely to participate in the general election, either because the voter participated in past elections, or because the voter meets a demographic profile. They tend to present a better picture of the general election outcome than Registered Voter ("RV") or voting-age adults models. And here's the thing, kids: when you only include LV polls in your aggregate, Trump leads Clinton by two.

(For what it's worth, Sanders ties Trump in LV polls, which may mean that the GOP just hasn't had enough time to go negative on him yet.)

Now, here's my prediction for tomorrow's primaries:

GOP Nevada Caucuses: Trump
Democratic South Carolina Primary: Clinton
maxomai: dog (dog)
2016-02-18 05:31 am
Entry tags:

Saturday SC Primary and NV Caucus predictions

This Saturday (Feb 20) there are two contests: the Republican Primary in South Carolina and the Democratic Caucuses in Nevada.

In South Carolina, Trump will win the primary, easily.
In Nevada, Clinton will win again, but it's going to be VERY close.
maxomai: dog (dog)
2016-02-17 03:57 am
Entry tags:

On Scalia's Passing, and the Future

Liv and I were in the middle of vending at Pantheacon when news came that Justice Antonin Scalia had passed. As such, I didn't have time to comment on it until now. To put not too fine a point on it, his passing, and the timing of his passing, is a Big Fucking Deal, with minor implications for the 2016 election, but huge implications for the next few decades.

By way of background, Scalia was part of a four-Justice conservative bloc (with Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Alito and Thomas), which is opposed by a four-Justice liberal bloc (Justices Breyer, Ginsberg, Sotomayor and Kagan). Justice Kennedy represents the swing vote. Kennedy's social liberalism has helped on a few issues along the way (gay marriage for example), and Roberts was a surprising vote in favor of Obamacare. Other than that, the conservatives plus Kennedy were reliably pro-business, anti-union, pro-gun, and at best a mixed bag on the environment.

With Scalia dead, we have a three conservative, four liberal, one swing vote court. At best, the conservatives can tie. If Obama or his Democratic successor appoints a liberal to replace him, we have a three conservative, five liberal, one swing vote court. And that, for the conservative movement, is a complete disaster that threatens to roll back decades of work:

  • While Scalia lived, this court was hostile towards campaign finance reform and efforts to preserve voting rights. Many of the new laws to prevent "voter fraud" came about after the court gutted the Voting Rights Act, and today's billionaire-driven campaigns would not be possible without Citizen's United. With Scalia dead, the worst the courts can do is uphold whatever the decision the lower courts made; with a liberal court, both of these decisions could be reversed, and anti-gerrymandering laws could also see new life.

  • The relatively recent Heller decision was 5-4, with Scalia writing the opinion for the majority. Also, Federal 4th Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled that the Second Amendment includes the right to keep an "assault rifle." Had Scalia not died, and that case had gone to the Supreme Court, SCOTUS might have ruled that ALL US Citizens have a right --- subject to background checks, etc --- to an assault rifle. With a liberal justice, not only would the Court uphold an assault rifle ban, but Heller itself is in danger.

  • The Supreme Court's conservative bloc couldn't overturn Roe v Wade outright --- Kennedy wouldn't have allowed it --- but they could nibble at the margins of abortion rights. With a tied court, they can nibble a little less. With a liberal court, abortion rights are safe for at least another generation.

  • Labor unions were bracing for the impact of a likely ruling that would have gutted "fair-share" provisions, in which union non-members that benefit from union bargaining pay union dues anyway. With Scalia dead, we now have a likely 4-4 tie, which means the court would effectively uphold the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision in favor of the unions. With a liberal majority, that same ruling would hold for the entire United States.

Guns and abortion are red meat for American voters, but the rest --- campaign finance reform, voting rights, and labor laws --- are the life and death of the Republican and Democratic parties. The Republicans are busy building a new multi-generational hammerlock on state legislatures, particularly in the Midwest, and Congress. Either party can win majorities with the issue du jour and a lot of money, but neither the Republicans nor the Democrats can keep a majority without gerrymandering, voter suppression. The Republicans have the advantage in state legislatures, which is how they're able to gerrymander and suppress the vote. The Democrats have the disadvantage, which is why they need to reverse gerrymandering and get out the vote. The Democrats are also at a monetary disadvantage, which makes campaign finance reform absolutely critical for them to not get shut out of power.

With Scalia on the Court, the Conservative Movement's lock on the House and state legislatures meant that they were sure to solidify power; from there, they could proceed to dismantle the New Deal, undermine environmental protections, and slowly turn the United States into a corporate republic. Without him, that project is in jeopardy. The Republicans need to do whatever it takes to keep the Supreme Court from a liberal majority, or their project is sunk. Unfortunately for the GOP, they need to win the White House and keep a Republican Senate majority to ensure that Scalia's replacement is a conservative. Right now, that looks rather unlikely; in fact, I would bet on the Democrats taking both the White House and a majority in the Senate in November. The most the GOP can do is keep Scalia's seat open until 2017, hope for the off chance that they capture the White House, and failing that, filibuster whoever the next President picks until Majority Leader Schumer uses the "nuclear option." From there, the progressive movement, for better and for worse, will be in the driver's seat.
maxomai: dog (dog)
2016-01-29 09:59 pm
Entry tags:

A review of "The Zoas! I Have Seen The Future"

I saw The Zoas: I Have Seen The Future! Wednesday night at The Secret Society. Basically, it's Welcome to Night Vale meets The Muppet Show, wherein we see the guts of a variety show on a network run by an evil, mad god. I was very impressed with what I saw, which isn't to say that it was all great. Which brings us to "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly."

The good is twofold. First, this production showcases the substantial talents of the cast quite handsomely. Portland theater doesn't do this often enough. Matthew Feranda, Caitlin Nolan and Jennie Spada particularly shined. The second is that the writing is energetic, often weird, and very, very funny. The Night Vale influence is obvious, but The Zoas tones down Night Vale's occasionally cloying political correctness. The show timed in at three hours, and it was well worth the investment of my time.

The bad is that this is a very complicated production --- particularly considering that Wednesday night's performance was supposed to be just a reading --- and the quality of the end product suffers for it. There were technical issues and rather obvious missed queues along the way. A lot of this is attributable to the intention to have a multi-media extravaganza for an end product. IMO if they re-wrote it as a radio show rather than a television show, they could remove a lot of the complexity without hurting the premise or the quality of the remaining writing. The H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society and Welcome to Night Vale both know how to pull that off.

The ugly The Zoas promises the next episode will come in May. That's a very ambitious timeline to carry out a very ambitious project, and I'm concerned that we'll see the same issues in the next episode as in the last. If I were them, I'd give it six months, not four.

There's also the more fundamental matter that this story line shows every indication of falling into the same trap as most weird tales these days, most of all Welcome To Night Vale, which the master of the weird tale, H. P. Lovecraft, described thusly:

We have millions who lack the intellectual independence, courage, and flexibility to get an artistic thrill out of a bizarre situation, and who enter sympathetically into a story only when it ignores the colour and vividness of actual human emotions and conventionally presents a simple plot based on artificial, ethically sugar-coated values and leading to a flat denouement which shall vindicate every current platitude and leave no mystery unexplained by the shallow comprehension of the most mediocre reader. (Source)

I congratulate the entire cast on putting on a hell of a good show despite the difficulty, and I wish them the best of luck next time.
maxomai: dog (dog)
2016-01-29 06:57 am
Entry tags:

Friday Miscellany!

It's been a while since I did one of these. Let's get to it.

  • My predictions for the Iowa caucuses: Clinton, Cruz. Sanders and Trump look good on paper but they suffer from the same fundamental problem, that is, a comparative lack of organization and less experienced supporters. The period between Iowa and New Hampshire (Feb 9th) will be the first big test of whether Trump is really as unstoppable as the paleocons say he's become, or whether, on the contrary, he's the new Howard Dean.

  • Why has housing, particularly in Oregon, gotten so fucking expensive? Progressives like to blame gentrification, but in fact, it might be simple good old fashioned anti-competitive behavior by home builders. This is why having a government that "knows the difference between antitrust and antifreeze" (M. Dukakis) matters, kids.

  • We won't know for sure until the Fed releases their 2015 Q4 GDP numbers later today, but the evidence is that we're not entering a recession. More here.

  • Five years later, post-mortems of the Arab Spring abound. Check here and here and here and here for good ones. For an opposing point of view, one analyst notes that the Arab Spring was probably just the beginning of a period of Arab world revolutionary fervor, driven as much by ideology as by socioeconomic factors.

  • Iraqi Kurds are about to hold a referendum on sucession from Iraq. The Iraqi government is already warning that such a referendum is likely illegal. If it passes, which I think it will, then IMO war between Iraq and Turkey on one side, and the Kurds on another, is inevitable. I would count on the Kurds getting crushed unless they manage to get help from Iran or Russia.

  • An analysis of the radio communications of the Malheur occupiers here. The gist of it is that they relied on "secret frequencies" to keep their communications secure. The problem is that these provide no protection whatsoever against an FBI agent or State Police officer with a HAM radio that has a Seek button. I would go as far as to say that their de-facto open communications probably led directly to their arrests. I suppose they could have fixed this by encrypting messages with PGP or GnuPG and sending via packet radio, but they didn't have the gear for it, and probably didn't have the expertise, either. I'm also not sure that's legal on the frequencies they used. (It's a violation of FCC part 97 to send encrypted transmissions as part of amateur radio operations, but I'm not certain that applies to all the frequencies they used.)

maxomai: dog (Default)
2016-01-12 04:39 pm

The State of the Union Address I'd Like To See.

Vice President Biden, Speaker Ryan, Senators, Representatives, Justices, Friends, Colleagues, and Fellow Americans. Today, I deliver my eighth, and FINAL, State of the Union address. (Wait for Republican applause to die down.)

And I can say that the State of our Union is a Hell of a lot stronger now than it was when the last son of a bitch handed me the keys. (Wait for Democratic applause to die down.)

Let's review the record. We turned around the economy fro the 2008 crisis, saved auto manufacturing, boosted green energy by 2000%, put millions on health insurance, slowed down health care cost increases to the lowest in decades, lowered student loan rates, and boosted Pell grants. (Wait for applause to die down.) And, we did all that while cutting the deficit. (Applause)

We opened diplomatic relations with Iran and Cuba, passed a trade deal with significant worker protections, ended a long war in Afghanistan and a dumb war in Iraq, and with the help of the international community we stopped an Ebola epidemic in West Africa from blowing up in our faces. (Applause)

Eight years ago Bin Laden called me a slave. I'd ask him what he thinks of me now, but he's been shark food for years. (Applause) So much for that asshole. (Wait for laughter to die down.)

So, we did a lot in the last seven years. But we didn't do enough. We could have done more. We CAN do more. And this is where I tell you-all (pointing to Congress) that we're GOING to do more.

I know, I know, this is an election year, and everybody wants to know who the next President is going to be, and who's going to run Congress next year. Spoiler alert: it's going to be a split Congress and Hillary's going to be President. I'm no psychic but I can read the polls, and so can you, so let's quit farting around and get to brass tacks.

First of all: let's talk about the Medicaid expansion gap. (Applause)

When we first started the Affordable Care Act, the idea was that we would expand Medicaid to cover more broke-ass people and then subsidize insurance for everyone else. Well, that shit fell apart fast, once the Supreme Court, in their infinite goddamn wisdom, decided that Medicaid coverage would vary on a state by state basis. (Boos)

Since we can't force the States to expand Medicaid coverage, why don't we subsidize insurance for broke-ass people at 100%? (Applause)

In fact, I'm here to announce that the Democrats are going to run on this. We're going to explain it to the people in sixth grade English, and we're going to rake over the coals every Republican who opposes it. (Applause)

Second, let's talk about background checks. (Applause)

This is a really simple proposition. If you buy a gun, you have to pass a background check. Whether you buy it from an FFL, or your friend, or a complete stranger, you have to conduct a background check.

"But Obama, you can't enforce that law without gun registration!" I'm sorry, that's bullshit. (Applause) We've been running sting operations for years to find straw purchasers. We know how they operate. The same principle applies here. If you're caught during a sting operation selling guns without a background check, you're under arrest and up on Federal charges. No ifs, ands or buts.

It's a simple proposition. It's a POPULAR proposition with over 70% support. And I'm here to let you know that we're going to run on it, and if you oppose it, we're going to beat you over the head with it. (Applause)

And fuck Wayne LaPierre too. (Laugher and applause) I'm not afraid of that Uncle Molesty sounding motherfucker. (Raucous cheers, applause)

Third, let's talk reproductive health care. (Applause)

In Colorado, teenagers and poor women can get free, reliable contraception in the form of an IUD, just by asking. And it was a huge success. From 2009 to 2013, the unplanned pregnancy rate fell 40%. The abortion rate fell 42%. And the program continues to work thanks to a two million dollar private donation.

Let's make that program nationwide. (Applause) We can do it with a simple change to the ACA, for example. And you'll see unplanned pregnancies fall, abortions continue to fall, and futures rise.

Congress might not want to do it, so guess what? We Democrats are going to run on this. (Applause.) And we're going to hold you to account if you don't support it. (Applause).

Finally, let's talk vote by mail. (Sustained applause)

In Oregon and Washington and California, voting by mail is easy, reliable, low on fraud and high on turnout. They are a model for the rest of the nation. So, let's work to implement it in the rest of the nation. (Applause)

Now, Congress isn't going to act on it, and they shouldn't. This isn't a Federal issue. This is a state issue. And I'm here to announce that the Democrats are going to run on vote by mail in state races from coast to coast in 2016 and 2018. No more standing in line for hours waiting for the one voting booth in the black majority precinct. No more having to decide between your job and your civic duty. And we're going to hold you accountable if you try to stop it. (Applause)

This is what we can do to make America better in the next year. It's not a lot. Then again, if there's one thing I learned as President, it's that sometimes it's the small changes that make the biggest difference in people's lives.

Are you with us, or are you against us? And in an election year with this as our platform, do you really want to be against us?

Thank you, God bless, and God bless the United States of America.