Category Archives: Politics

Second U.S. Civil War Unlikely

There will not be a second civil war. Sure, racial and ideological tensions are escalating. However, I find it highly unlikely that a civil war on the level of the one in 1860s will occur.

First off, the Civil War of the 1860s had very well-defined cultural regions that were highly polarized. In the election of 1860, most Southern slave states so strongly opposed the Republican’s antislavery stance that they excluded its candidate Abraham Lincoln from the ballot. Needless to say, when Lincoln ended up winning, these states seceded from the Union and formed the Confederacy.

Today, the South is still largely conservative, but it’s not a monolith. There are pockets of liberalism forming what is the New South. Northern Virginia today would shun its Confederate battle flag. A lesbian couple can comfortably hold hands in Asheville, North Carolina. Modern professionals dominate the Research Triangle of central North Carolina. Northerners un-ironically enjoy Atlanta. Southern Florida is not even remotely “Southern.” It’s more likely you’ll hear New York accents than a Southern drawl. Miami is a hub for Spanish-speaking immigrants. Austin, Texas, is one of the hippest cities in America. Oxford, Mississippi, is a hub for poets and authors. Nashville, Tennessee, is one of the few places you can spot an African-American man wearing a Tupac shirt and a cowboy hat. Meanwhile, there are several counties in Pennsylvania that voted as strongly for Trump as those in Alabama.

In reality, division in America doesn’t simply come down to regional differences but rather differences in population density, income, and education. Democrats can pull a lot of votes in cities, even in much of the South. Republicans rely on rural voters who oppose much of the change occurring in cities. With the election of Trump, more discussion over class differences has occurred, primarily professionals vs. working class Americans. In many cases, these groups segregate themselves geographically. Cities and suburbs attract professionals, and rural areas attract working-class Americans. In addition, wealthier white families often send their children to private schools while lower-income families of color remain in public schools. Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is notorious for having a mostly white private school system and a mostly black public school system. For some reason, white separatists promote further separation of the races despite the fact that entire school systems are de facto segregated already.

Next, soldiers stationed at any military base in the United States originate from several regions not just the base’s region thereof. In other words, soldiers stationed at Fort Drum in New York state will not just be from the North but also from the South. Soldiers stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina will come from not only North Carolina but also from the North. This lowers the possibility of another Fort Sumter incident (wherein Southern sympathizers easily took over the fort in South Carolina because most if not all soldiers were from the South.)

A war between the U.S. government and a Southern separatist government is highly unlikely. Unlike in 1860, the powers that be in the South won’t secede when they support the current president (Donald Trump). Liberal voters elsewhere won’t rise up against the U.S. government in military fashion. Their opposition toward gun use means they would be thwarted easily, and the government can simply throw them in prison for disturbing the peace.

Even if opposing ideologies become militant, groups will be local as opposed to regional. This is because there are opposing ideologies within one state and even one metropolitan area. There may be self-declared militias that attack their opponents, but you won’t see separatist tanks rolling through city streets. Politicians themselves won’t commit individual acts of violence, but their tolerance of oppression can further divide our country. America will not plunge into a second civil war, but we need to condemn hatred, fight systematic oppression, and understand why people support a position that opposes ours. If we don’t do this, there will continue to be more instances that make us say, “I don’t want to live in America anymore.”

Voter Fraud: The Facts

By executive order, President Donald Trump launched the Pence-Kobach Commission to identify and combat potential voter fraud.

The Commission requested access to voter lists, addresses, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, political party registration, felony status, military status, prior states of residence, and a list of elections in which a voter previously participated.

Despite 1.8 million registered voters being deceased, the Commission did not request the death certificates thereof.

If the Commission wants lists of registered voters, many states already offer them publicly.

However, the Commission requested access to Social Security numbers and political party registration.

In most states, releasing this information is illegal.

As such, at least 41 states have declared they will not share private voter information even if the Commission requested it.

Additionally, the Republican Secretary of State of Louisiana said that Donald Trump is trying to politicize voting fraud with the Commission.

The Republican Secretary of State of Mississippi shared the sentiment, saying, “They can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico.”

Kris Kobach runs the Commission, and the spokeswoman for his office of Secretary of State of Kansas said they would only provide public information.

In effect, Kobach did not even comply with his own request.

In reality, voter fraud is extremely uncommon. If you would like more information on voter fraud, please click here.

An Open Endorsement of War with North Korea

By PATRICK WOOD

I’m no hawk. I opposed military action in Syria and Libya and call myself a progressive humanitarian with respect for international law and norms.

I am completely convinced that going to war with North Korea to depose the Kim regime is the right thing to do for the world as a whole.

North Korea is desperately trying to pose a larger threat to the international community than it currently does. Its current floundering and almost comical attempts to intimidate the rest of the world with missile launches and bomb tests, most of which fail, is a temporary stage. Given enough time, North Korea will discover how to use its arsenal successfully.

It would be wise to quash this menace in its infancy. The North Korean regime has given ample justification for its destruction, including direct threats to South Korea and the United States, as well as humanitarian justifications by starving and killing their own people. North Korea’s neglect of its own people is so extreme and the malnutrition of its own people is so severe that we are beginning to see human beings born in the country develop smaller statures to compensate for the lack of nutritional intake. While this is a fascinating glimpse at human evolution and adaptation, the cause and effect of this change is quite grim. On average, North Korean men are already an entire 3.25 inches shorter than South Koreans. North Korean males born today will attain an average height of only 5’2″, earning this generation the nickname “The Stunted Generation.”

North Korea has admitted to placing members of its population in labor camps. Refugees reveal that their crimes, notably escaping the country, will subject three generations of their family to death or imprisonment in a labor camp. The Kim regime has taken authoritarianism as well as restriction on freedom of thought and expression to a twisted high.

When North Korea allows foreign nationals to visit, these tourists are typically only allowed to see Pyongyang and are accompanied on any excursions by a government minder. The U.S. State Department warns that the government has subjected Americans to “arbitrary arrests and long-term detention,” but Americans are still technically allowed to visit and generally avoid trouble as long as they follow all the rules.

Pyongyang may be the only city in North Korea where starvation isn’t completely rampant. Of course, if the Kim regime doesn’t like you or your family, you don’t get to live in Pyongyang.

After World War II and the Holocaust, an international principle called R2P (“Responsibility to Protect”) was articulated. The objective was not to allow a genocide like the Holocaust to occur again.

Admittedly, the actions of the North Korean regime may not meet the strict definition of genocide (some definitions exclude anything less than an attempt to completely exterminate a demographic group), but the similarities to a genocidal regime are apparent and in my view strong enough to invoke the principle of R2P.

Hundreds of thousands of North Koreans have died or are dying of starvation due to the government’s unwillingness to concentrate on feeding its people. Labor camps, resembling concentration camps, are operating in North Korea, and political critics and their families are being butchered by the state without so much as a trial.

The safety and security of North Korea and the world depends on the toppling of the Kim regime. The American government, frequently speaking through Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Vice President Mike Pence, has done a lot of posturing and line-drawing on this issue recently. Mike Pence has warned North Korea that “the sword stands ready.”

For the sake of “The Stunted Generation” and the world, I hope we are one missile test away from the sword swinging.

Tuesday Talks: Tuition-Free College and Education in General

JOHN BUTERBAUGH:
The main argument Governor Cuomo makes for tuition-free college is that it prepares the workforce of the state for the future. It is quite clear that automation and outsourcing has put pressure on American workers to seek employment outside of manufacturing. More and more jobs will require college degrees. However, what this bill doesn’t do is combat rising student loan interest rates that can keep students in debt for decades. Sure, it helps prevent debt. Yet for many New Yorkers, this bill comes far too late. College graduates who are in debt now will still be unable to renegotiate their student loan interest rates. College students will continue to have to pay for room and board which is becoming more expensive.

This bill also doesn’t seem to acknowledge a very large group of people – blue-collar workers. The state government and society often claim that college is the way to go. It often seems it is the only way to go. However, for many workers, college is irrelevant and a waste of time. It doesn’t achieve their goals. This comes at a time when many trades cannot be outsourced. You can’t, for example, send a bridge to China for a worker there to weld it. It’s impractical. Welding is an insanely high-demand job. We place a lot of emphasis on education, but where is the leadership for training people for these jobs?

Governor Cuomo realizes that his plan doesn’t help a lot of people. He even calls his plan a “fight for the middle class.” It doesn’t provide free tuition to wealthier families who should be able to foot the bill themselves. But, what about the working poor? What about concerns about dwindling social mobility in our post-industrial economy? What about the fact that there continue to be people who work long hours every week and still cannot make ends meet? My qualms over this bill are not related to the residency requirement after receiving the tuition scholarship. This requirement is pragmatic in that it aims to make a return on its investment through taxation of graduates’ income. Plus, 80% of graduates in New York state stay anyway. My real issue with this bill is that it does not address key concerns facing working-class New Yorkers. They will also be paying the taxes that support the ability of young middle-class Americans to remain in the middle class.

My hope is that this bill, despite its imperfections, shines a lot on our true intentions when it comes to bettering our society. My hope is that low-income high school students will have more of a reason to graduate high school so that they can go to community college or a four-year program. Many students give up because high school diplomas aren’t good enough for most jobs, and they couldn’t afford college anyway. However, we can’t always predict future decisions. Humans are irrational beings after all. Despite all this, I support this bill because it is leadership in the right direction. It understands that education is not an entitlement program but rather an empowerment program. We invest in students so that they have the skills and power to improve our society. I pray that this actually happens, and if the program fails to deliver improved outcomes, we must be mature enough and courageous enough to demand some changes.

PATRICK WOOD:  Well said, John. The bill isn’t perfect, and leaves a lot of issues unaddressed, but before delving into that, I think it’s important to celebrate this monumental step forward. After many of our peer nations offered free 4-year university for citizens (and in the case of Germany, even non-citizens), the USA finally has a state that has gotten its priorities straight and offered the same. Hopefully this gives credence to a movement and the momentum of the free college movement spreads. I absolutely agree that we are continuing to overlook the great value of vocational schools.

Unfortunately, most bachelors degrees are worth less than they used to be in terms of relative earning potential and the proportion of graduates who find work in their fields quickly. Those who know they don’t want to pursue a STEM field or a graduate program may actually be in a better position having taken a couple years to learn a trade than the person who spent four years getting a bachelor’s degree. There will always be a need for mechanics, beauticians, plumbers, electricians, and other specialized services – it’s a wrongheaded approach to push high school graduates away from these careers.

JOHN: I think one possibility is that it might open up unintended consequences. If a lot of students go for the scholarship, it might make the value of their degree lower than before. This is because job markets are competitive in that you must be “more qualified” than another person. Social sciences have a lot of students, but you need even more education to stand out because an undergraduate degree is simply not enough in most cases. For a political science major, you might need to get a law degree. Most psychology students will need postgraduate education, maybe for research, therapy, or a school psychologist.

We know automation is happening and we know outsourcing is happening. I definitely believe that we should promote professions or vocations that are the least prone to those happening. We need to prepare students for a world that has less routine skills and more critical thinking and creativity. Instead, in many cases, we are teaching students to simply accept information and not challenge it. This is setting them up for failure. If not failure, we set them up for a career where they only have to accept orders. In many cases, this is law enforcement and the military.

PATRICK: I don’t see NY state providing free higher education as a bad thing, even though it certainly puts a vocational schools and a private colleges in a worse position. Teaching students to accept information and not challenge it is more a problem related to current campus political atmosphere and less inherent in the concept of university.
If these are the only jobs, the government will have a lot more motivation to conduct military operations where we don’t need to be.
JOHN: What I’m talking about isn’t necessarily college’s fault. I’m discussing education before that. In many cases, schools are run like businesses where we value productivity far more than creativity. Why? The students aren’t going into fields like manufacturing where they do something repetitive. “Do your work” is the mantra far more than “Oh, that’s unusual and interesting. Tell me more about that.”
PATRICK: I agree. I think students feel very constrained in how far they can push boundaries in expressing themselves. Both just in expressing opinions and in their formal work.
JOHN: I’m not encouraging disrupting class. The students have to remain on topic. What I am saying, however, is students should have an opportunity to look at an issue in new ways.
PATRICK: I think my issue here is that students are typically afraid to go against the grain. They think they’ll it’ll be a stain on their record and rightly or wrongly often believe that more creative and unique thinking isn’t “what the professor is looking for.”
A friend of mine at law school told me on the day of the final “just quote the damn professor in your essay and you’ll get an A.” Whether that’s the truth of not, it’s the prevailing belief.
JOHN: I think a lot of it comes down to how we assess student learning. It’s far easier and more objective to grade a student using a Scantron. It’s far more difficult to grade a student on creativity or critical thinking through essays or projects. I also don’t believe everything needs to require novelty in thought. Sometimes common sense suffices. I think the common sense perspective should remain a part of the discussion to keep people grounded. I also believe people should seek out new information and new ideas.
I think in scientific research, for example, it helps to take risks. You are required to find something new. If you just memorize a textbook, you’re not really contributing much to the field.
PATRICK: I think introductory level classes should be structured to develop basic understanding of underlying principles and common sense, trying to stick to objectivity
JOHN: But absolutely you need a scientific foundation
PATRICK: And upper-level classes are for seeking something new and really branching out.
JOHN: You have to be able to connect new information to old information.
PATRICK: Exactly!
JOHN: I think there are simply excellent, excellent universities with a lot of talented faculty members and students. I think America has some of the best-performing students in the world. But we also have a lot of low-performing students who are impoverished and might act out because they don’t feel school can do anything for them.
It’s very difficult, and I work with these students personally, to teach them positive behavior. In many cases, teachers will outline expectations and then the students go home to a difficult home life that unteaches them everything school did about behavior.
It feels like a battle honestly. What can we do?

PATRICK: I’m not a great person to ask, but I think part of the value of school is keeping kids safe while they are attending.

JOHN: What do you mean by safe?
PATRICK: Mostly physical safety but perhaps also refuge from a difficult home life
Even if, as you say, a lot of what is taught in school is unlearned.
JOHN: A lot of students take pride in demonstrating challenging behavior because they see it as power. And a lot of students don’t want to come off as vulnerable, they act tough. Or they are so used to conflict and drama that peace and quiet is boring; so, they engage in drama to keep themselves entertained. It’s a big deal when kids get into a fight because it’s exciting.
PATRICK: Fair point but I think the fights and conflicts are perhaps better had within the confines of the school building instead of the home or the street. There are more adult figures who care about the safety of the students there.
JOHN: I haven’t seen as many physical fights, but students often battle teachers to refuse work or deny that they were talking when the teacher was trying to do a lesson. I will say the students are much better behaved 1 on 1 because they aren’t trying to perform. What I mean is a lot of students act bad because it makes them cool to their friends. So, they’ll talk back to the teacher or even curse at them. Then there’s the times the teacher talks to the student, and the student doesn’t even respond to the teacher and continues talking to their friends.
PATRICK: Right. Better to look “hard” than like a suck up to the teacher.
JOHN: I don’t need students to suck up to me or another teacher. I just want the students to focus on learning.
PATRICK: That can be perceived as sucking up or worse. You certainly face a real challenge.
JOHN: A lot of the students come to school and want to learn and get good grades, but then you have a handful of kids who don’t care about that. They end up disrupting and distracting other students. Just a handful of students in a class can make a big difference in the classroom environment.
PATRICK: It will be interesting to see how New York’s private colleges respond to SUNY tuition becoming free. They will most likely have to up their scholarship offers considerably to keep enrollment numbers up, we’ll see how they respond to this narrowing of their income stream.
JOHN: They definitely don’t like the bill because it will hurt their enrollment, but they might end up having to reduce their tuitions to compete.
PATRICK: We’ll soon found out just how heavy that blow is, and what they plan to do to compensate.
JOHN: They might want to boost their postgraduate programs because the Excelsior Scholarship doesn’t apply to postgraduate studies. I think a shift is very likely.
PATRICK: Their hand will be forced.
JOHN: Postgraduate tuition is higher than undergraduate tuition anyway. Prospective jobs requiring postgraduate coursework are generally higher-paying and more competitive.

New York’s Tuition-Free College Plan

Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed tuition-free college in a rally beside progressive populist Bernie Sanders last January. This month, the New York Assembly and Senate overwhelmingly approved the plan as part of the budget and Cuomo is expected to sign it into law. Bill A03009 aims to prepare New York’s workforce for the future through higher education. The plan is to provide free tuition to eligible applicants at one of its many public universities and community colleges.

The Excelsior Scholarship provides certain students with an award that covers the cost of their tuition at a public university or community college. This program will receive $87 million in state funding.

To be eligible for the Excelsior Scholarship, applicants must…

  • Be a resident of New York State at the time of application
  • Have an adjusted gross income of less than $100,000 for the 2017-2018 school year, less than $110,000 for the 2018-2019 school year, and less than $125,000 for the 2019-2010 school year.
    • This means you and your parents (or if you’re married, you and your spouse) must make less than the numbers provided to be eligible for the scholarship.
  • Not already have a Bachelor’s degree if they seek a Bachelor’s degree or not have an Associate’s Degree if they seek an Associate’s degree
  • Not already have a scholarship that pays for their full cost of attendance
  • Enroll at least 12 credits a semester and completes at least 30 combined credits a year
  • Attain the grade-point average needed to successfully complete your coursework
  • Complete a two-year, four-year, or five-year program within two, four, or five years, respectively. Allowable interruptions to this requirement are the death of a family member, medical leave, military service, and parental leave.
  • Live in New York state and not be employed in another state for as long as you received the scholarship. For example, if you received an award for a four-year program, you must remain in New York state for four years. Exceptions to this rule are completing undergraduate coursework and attending graduate school. If the applicant violates this rule, you must the scholarship becomes a loan the applicant must repay.
  • Apply for the scholarship before the deadline the college president sets. The college president can also decide which students will receive the scholarship if funding is insufficient. Priority goes to current students of the college.

The Enhanced Tuition Awards provide certain students with a scholarship that covers the cost of their tuition at a four-year private, not-for-profit college. This program will receive $19 million in funding. The sum of these awards, student TAP funds, and institutional scholarships would be equal to $6,000.

To be eligible for this program, you must meet the same requirements as those above for the Excelsior Scholarship. However, fewer students can take advantage of these awards as the state only allocates $19 million to this program.

Greater Scheme will discuss the potential consequences of this bill in a separate article.

1/23/2017 Composite News

Attendance at the Trump inauguration ceremony was much smaller than that of Obama, who had an estimated 1.8 million in attendance (Source). The White House Press Secretary told reporters that the media reports on the true attendance numbers were false (Source).

inauguration-crowd-photos

Photo – Reuters. Left is Trump’s attendance. Right is Obama’s attendance.

On his first “real day in office,” President Trump signed an executive order taking the U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). He also signed orders imposing a “federal hiring freeze” and a directive to prevent American NGOs from using federal funds for abortions abroad (Source). Many populists within both the Republican Party and Democratic Party agree with Trump’s opposition to TPP. Trump also plans to renegotiate NAFTA and meet with foreign leaders (Source).

On January 21, 2017, millions of women participated in the Women’s March and sister marches in hundreds of cities around the world (Source). Trump has stirred strong discontent due to controversial comments about women. Before Trump’s inauguration of January 20, anti-Trump riots broke out in Washington, D.C. Protesters broke windows of such establishments as Bank of America (Source). Vandalism of cars and businesses as well as property damage have been reported in the nation’s capital as well (Source).

The Need for Speed: Are Faster Trains the Solution?

Pictured: Amtrak train on the Acela Express service, which runs from Boston to Washington.

By John Buterbaugh

I was riding around in my parent’s car and somehow the topic of Richard Hanna, a former Republican congressman from the Utica area, came up. My dad’s support for him has grown as he has flown with him on a plane. He’s learned he is a common-sense guy who makes enough money not to owe anyone favors. He thinks he should run for Governor of New York. However, he said the only downside of him would be that he wouldn’t support funding high-speed rail construction in New York state (even though the federal government would provide most of the funding, if at all). My dad thinks this would be a cool idea, and I agree. We disagreed on how feasible it is.

Supporting high-speed rail will be met with a lot of popular opposition. First, it’s not a sexy idea — people find social justice or terrorism far more interesting. Second, people will complain that billions of their tax dollars will be wasted on a system that people won’t even use and will take too long to build. Third, people like the independence of driving around a car because they don’t have to stop for anybody and they can go exactly where they want. They don’t see the need for trains. That’s how most commuters in upstate New York and most of America like to travel. There is one thing most commuters don’t like — they generally don’t like driving to New York City and having to pay a premium for parking. It’s a pain. People in Long Island think you’re crazy if you drive into the city. The Long Island Railroad is the busiest commuter railroad in North America in large part because of its convenience.

If high-speed rail is going to happen, New York City will have to be a part of the equation. I don’t know what the number of people who would start using a train would be if it were high-speed. If high-speed rail is to work, it would have to connect the Megalopolis that is Boston through New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore to Washington. These cities have enough commuters to support this system — businesspeople and government workers can travel a lot. It would make airfare cheaper between these cities due to the increased transportation competition.

But I don’t know if high-speed rail is the answer. Is our goal to get people to places faster to show we can improve our infrastructure or discourage traffic, sprawl, and parking annoyances? If it’s the former, maybe we need high-speed rail. We put a man on the moon after all. We can put pieces of metal on the ground that makes trains go faster.

However, if it’s the latter, maybe we just need to make riding a train more pleasurable and give people more reasons to ride. Perhaps free Wi-Fi would do that. Maybe having a free movie would be nice. Maybe if the trains arrived on time. If people started enjoying trains more and had some entertainment to pass the time, we might not even need high-speed rail. It would be a lot less expensive, and we could accomplish the same goal.

Simplify Healthcare – Seriously

By JOHN BUTERBAUGH

Although the single-payer system may seem like a radical system, it is the system that would be most effective in simplifying the health care system and control rising healthcare costs. When hundreds of thousands of doctors want the single-payer system, the American people should listen. We have already observed the benefits of a government-financed healthcare system in countries such as Canada and the United Kingdom. Healthcare costs in those countries are much smaller than those in the United States. There are a number of reasons why this is the case.

First, doctors don’t have to waste money determining how much a private insurance plan will cover for medical expenses. As a result, more time is spent seeing a patient and less time is spent on paperwork and other administrative costs. We would be saving billions of dollars every year doing this.

Second, people would no longer delay treatments or operations. Treating an illness or injury as soon as possible prevents the medical problem from getting worse. When an illness or injury is untreated after a long time, it becomes more and more expensive to treat it. Many people avoid going to the hospital because of the mountain of debt that might ensue. In fact, the leading reason that Americans go bankrupt is because of medical bills. In this way, a single-payer system is the most fiscally responsible system.

Third, a single-payer system means that government insurance agencies can determine true medical costs, which are often not well-defined, and negotiate based on that. Patients have less leverage in negotiating for cheaper prices. They have to accept medical costs as they are because the other option is further deterioration of their health or even death. When the government is allowed to negotiate, it has more leverage because it can make certain professionals exclusive providers of a service so long as it is high quality.

Unfortunately, a big reason why we do not have a single-payer system is because private insurers would lose business and pharmaceutical companies do not want to cut drug prices. These entities are beholden to stockholders who invest to reap dividends. Healthcare companies cannot keep stockholders investing and keep prices low. Nevertheless, with all the complications caused by the Affordable Care Act and the industry itself, it becomes necessary to reconsider the system as a whole. Every system has its benefits and flaws, and we should develop a system regardless of ideology that gives people the healthcare they need.

Tuesday Talks: Trump’s Transition

John Buterbaugh and Patrick Wood chatted via Facebook regarding Trump’s transition and the future of the party system in America.

JOHN: Okay, we have to deal with the confusing situation that is Donald Trump’s presidency. Brought to you by Trump Industries. “If a politician does it, it’s corrupt. If I do it, it’s good business.” Let’s start off with his transition team. FiveThirtyEight is saying the nomination process is the fastest of all time. I think he’s rushing. I think he’s clogging the pipes for the swamp he’s trying to drain. Your thoughts on his transition and what his presidency might look like?

PATRICK: I can’t say conclusively what strategy he’s employing. I can say however that all his cabinet picks so far have been terrifying, and his potential picks for other positions are just as bad if not worse. This is a far-right cabinet.

JOHN: This is truly an awful Cabinet nomination process. You have alt-right Steve Bannon of Breitbart News as his Chief of Staff, an earshot from the presidency. He says he’s not a white nationalist, he’s a nationalist. Well, Steve, you’re white and a nationalist. And you say anti-Semitic things. So, stop splitting hairs. And you, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions? Were you frozen in an ice capsule in the 1950s with the strict instructions: “Do Not Open Until 2016”? Who jokes about supporting the KKK until he found out they smoked marijuana? Mnuchin as his Treasury Secretary will be a disaster. You don’t hire a Wall Street banker if you’re putting America first. You’re putting the top 1% first.

However, I am pleased that he is still strongly opposed to TPP. I am for free trade because China has things we don’t, and the U.S. has things they don’t. So, naturally we need to trade. However, you don’t sign onto a trade deal without knowing what the heck is in it. (I’m talking about you, Gary Johnson.) So, I’m hoping Trump is careful with trade. He also said that he wants to legalize medicinal marijuana and allow states to choose their policies, but he has a Attorney General nominee who wants to do the exact opposite.
Trump has not been consistent on most issues except trade. He has denounced trade deals since the 1980s. I think he’s biased though because he’s never had to outsource real-estate jobs. Most of his workers have to be on location pretty much.

PATRICK: It was interesting to see Trump move to left for a quick second after being elected, only to make these cabinet picks after. He is suddenly okay with parts of the ACA, is rethinking the mass deportations but then appoints a white nationalist as chief of staff, a racist as AG, and is thinking about putting Sarah Palin in as Interior Secretary. Can you imagine? That’s the department that heads the Bureau of Indian Affairs! I’d be hard pressed to name ANYONE who would be worse pick. This is one of most marginalized demographics in the US. To put Palin in charge would be an insult.

JOHN: Really I believe Trump thinks the presidency is about negotiating everything. He’s claimed to be a negotiator in everything he does. He took a really harsh tone in his campaign and really harsh positions. Now he’s backpedaled on a lot of his big talking points (thank God.) Now he’s starting to move toward the middle because he’s opening up the negotiation process. And also because he is starting to face reality. Trump realizes he has a loyal following that will never leave him. Period. He can do whatever he wants, and they won’t leave him. I’m not sure people took his promises literally — although saying he would not pursue prosecution of the Clintons (which he can’t do by himself anyway) might ruffle some feathers, even with his diehard supporters.

PATRICK: I’m glad to see he’s not pushing for it, though. Maybe democracy will survive in this country after all! This man really has undermined American democracy by threatening to jail his opponent and refusing to accept unfavorable election results. That’s not behavior befitting a U.S. president.

JOHN: Fox News comments seems to show they are letting the “I don’t want to hurt the Clintons” decision slide. Hillary losing is enough OR other people can prosecute Hillary. However, I don’t believe she will run for president again. I honestly don’t see Republicans trying to take her down anymore. They only seem to do that when she is in a political position or seeking one.

I’m starting to see a pattern though. He is taking these really ridiculous statements like saying he will imprison political opponents, but then he backpedaled on that with Hillary. It’s good negotiating. He takes an extreme position so that he negotiates to where he actually wanted to be in the first place. Although I don’t see how you could negotiate on Cabinet picks. The Republicans control the Senate. Trump has some leverage there. I’m not sure compromising would be in his cards.

PATRICK: This is true. He takes an absurd position and then is applauded when he moderates it slightly. He plays that game quite well.

JOHN: “We’re gonna build a wall” became “Some of it might be a fence.” There is already fencing! “We’re going to deport all 11 million immigrants” became “We won’t deport all of them.” Obama is already deporting more immigrants than Bush did. Trump will probably take credit for all immigration reform when a lot of it was already taking place under Bush and Obama. I will add, you can see fencing on the border with Mexico on Google Earth. 580 miles of it.

PATRICK: It’s almost sad how little difference there is with regard to the physical border among our politicians. They pretend differently, but Hillary voted for a “fence” twice, I believe.

JOHN: Yeah, I think a non-Hillary candidate will be great next time. Maybe Joe Biden. Common touch, straight talker, good salesman, loves people. Only baggage is the plagiarism incidents (during his campaign and during college) and the fact that he is a bit of a loose cannon. But hey, America should be used to that by now. Melania and Donald have shown us the light. “All the words you just used were taken from the dictionary. Isn’t everything plagiarism?” Anyway, what is the left-wing equivalent of Donald Trump’s strategy? Tax Donald Trump at 100% and settle on $25 million?

PATRICK: There was a fair bit of demagoguery coming from my preferred candidate Bernie Sanders to be completely fair. He would have had to come to the center from his original positions if he was to get anything done.

JOHN: Do you think the Democrats should use the same strategy? They keep negotiating with themselves it seems. They have only gone right in the past 10-15 years, allowing the Republicans to go so far to the right they need to extend the wall so that the Republicans can have more space. But Sanders was right to say he will never compromise on key social issues like sexism, xenophobia, etc. I can live in peace knowing that he is what he stood for. I can live with compromising on tax reform as long as we the people get a good deal. It’s so unsexy and it’s so numerical, who really cares?

PATRICK: It’s also certainly less important than “who gets to be treated with dignity and respect?”

JOHN: The president is a role model. People watch. It’s important that Trump realizes that. Not sure he will. I’m pretty sure he’s simply a megalomaniac sociopath bent on using the presidency for personal gain and to subjugate historically oppressed people. But I could be wrong. Zootopia is about that situation. Have you seen it?

PATRICK: I haven’t, unfortunately!

JOHN: It’s funny and timely. A kid’s movie explains the fear of people who are different and the political exploitation of that fear quite poignantly.

PATRICK: That’s certainly extremely relevant to what’s happening and what has happened.

JOHN: However, I don’t think Trump’s only appeal to his voters was the race-baiting. A lot of Trump supporters didn’t want “another career politician” or bought all the theories of Clinton criminality and decided Trump was better than electing a criminal.
He spoke simply and toughly. That plays well with people who speak simply and toughly. If you’re not college educated, you don’t need jargon and nuance in your life. You just need a simple job like everyone else.

PATRICK: Right. Neither candidate was a person of the people or the working class. Trump however was much better at talking like it. You don’t win elections by talking at length about intricate details of politics unfortunately. That’s lost on most people; it’s the flashy headlines and insults that people remember.

JOHN: Bernie Sanders was very much of the working class. But he didn’t really talk like it. He did every speech like a college lecture with passion, but it was still more professorial than conversational.

A Jewish carpenter who pays his taxes, includes people of all stripes, and wants to give to the poor. How did they not see him as Jesus? I suppose a prophet is never excepted in his hometown as they say, or home party as I say.

PATRICK: The DNC colluded against Jesus to prop up… struggling for an apt historical figure here.. perhaps King George?

JOHN: No, I’m thinking Biblical… King Herod.

PATRICK: The only advantage is the knowledge of statesmanship.

JOHN: Go on.

PATRICK: I said King George originally because there was a lot of distaste between the American commoners and the King. No secret. The King took a rather patronizing approach. But at least he had experience and knew something about statesmanship. But Americans then and now decided to flip everything on its head, to defy order and perhaps even conventional wisdom in the hope of attaining something GREAT and very new
In the name of avoiding taxes! And it sucked at first. Originally our leaders didn’t know what they were doing. We had to suffer through the Articles of Confederation (states’ rights!) Eventually we came to realize that “new” isn’t always good. Letting states coin their own currency was a mistake.

JOHN: You can’t do interstate commerce that way! Horrible idea.

PATRICK: And the best political system is one that protects and guarantees basic liberties for everyone including, especially, unpopular minority groups.

I think Hillary lost for five reasons
1. The Electoral College
2. She wasn’t exciting in the same vein as Obama — so this stifled favorable turnout at the polls
3. The opposition painted her effectively as a crook
4. Liberals overplayed their hand on campus safe spaces and transgender issues
5. The DNC is corrupt and was caught rigging the primary

In a way, this result was foreseeable. The DNC was always going to get caught. Hillary was winning mostly red states she had no shot at taking during the general election, and Bernie was polling better against Trump in the head-to-head polling.

JOHN: We need a palate cleanser and we need to fix the party. It keeps losing. It lost the presidency, Congress, and most state legislatures. How the hell are we supposed to reverse Citizens United with a party led by a supposedly populist billionaire running the show?

PATRICK: It doesn’t stand for anything. We need a popular extremist. A Bernie or a Warren. Someone fiery with solid, easy to understand convictions. I think Bernie would do well with working-class voters.

JOHN: How do you think Elizabeth Warren would do with them? I am not sure a liberal woman would be their cup of tea.

PATRICK: I actually agree. I hate to admit it, but our next champion may have to be male.
A lot of voters described Hillary as “shrill.” And honestly I think they just don’t like the female voice talking about leading the country.

JOHN: Hillary’s voice doesn’t strike me as totally unusual. It is a bit shrill and knowing Hillary says one thing and does another aggravates that view.

PATRICK: What do you think about Keith Ellison as chairman of the DNC? Do you feel that the Congressman’s religion makes it a better or worse choice? The DNC chair will be a response to Trump. And to a lesser extent, meant to address problems of corruption within the party.

JOHN: Politically? Possibly. Although I don’t think he’s a big name. He’s going to be more exposed as he becomes more famous naturally.

PATRICK: I think Howard Dean may have been too closely tied with Hillary to be a good pick.

JOHN: There needs to be some fresh faces — new blood. Also, Cory Booker needs to become a better speaker. I love him, but he is too loud all the time during his speeches to be the future of the party.

PATRICK: Good observation, I agree (and also share your affinity for him)
If that improves I think Cory could be wonderful. He has down to earth charm, youth, and is perceived as honest.

JOHN: Right. He is energetic, positive, and has no known baggage. But he is technically urban and he’s from a suburban state. He’s not the best face of rural voters.
There isn’t really a good representative for rural voters in the party other than Bernie. His state is among the most rural in the country.

PATRICK: I suppose this is all true, but most rural states go are deep red, beyond the reach of almost any Democrat.

JOHN: Right. But Wisconsin’s rural population was more Democratic than its suburban population. But then Trump changed that. Bernie would have won it. It’s important that we not take the Midwest for granted. The rural voters are more reachable in the Midwest.

PATRICK: I think that is an area where people actually do listen to both sides, before generally picking the one that seems most the most honest and the most like them.
Which one *would want* to have a beer with me?

JOHN: Ironically, Trump says he doesn’t drink alcohol; so, good luck drinking beer with him.

PATRICK: Haha!!

JOHN: I would say I would rather have a beer with Bush then Gore. Bush would be more easygoing I think. Gore is too stiff.

PATRICK: Stiffness is a major political liability. Candidates deemed robotic almost always lose.

JOHN: That killed Jeb Bush. He was too conscientious.

PATRICK: And many other people. Jeb appeared a little timid at the debates. And debates are about presentation more than substance. So Trump exuded strength, bullied Jeb with monosyllabic words, and won. It was over as soon as Jeb stuttered (which he did several times.)

JOHN: He also broke a rule the others wouldn’t — never speak ill of another Republican.

PATRICK: Trump broke every rule in the book. Originally wouldn’t even commit to running Republican.

JOHN: He briefly ran as a Reform Party candidate in 2000.

PATRICK: And he did the fake out quasi-runs in 2008 and 2012. Do you think we’ll be seeing Kanye in 2020?

JOHN: Dear God, Trump vs. Kanye. What an absolute disaster. Just what we need. More narcissists. Kanye is the hip-hop Trump.

PATRICK: This really seems like the end of civilization. Rome 2.0.

JOHN: Our hubris will be the end of us. Or at least the hubris of a handful of idiocrats will be the end of us.

PATRICK: This will be our fate if we don’t take all this as a wake-up call and respond appropriately in four years. The electoral college worked exactly as it was designed to
and then plunged the country into the alt-right abyss.

The Colossal Polling Errors of 1948 and 2016

1948: Dewey Defeats Truman. 2016: Clinton Will Defeat Trump. Both headlines ate crow.

Pollsters incorporate multiple factors when painting a picture of public opinion. (Try not spit in my face when you say that to me in person.) They consider race, gender, geographic location, religious affiliation, community setting, etc. They also need to consider which voters are more likely to show up. The most common method is by phone. Pollsters will hire people to call a bunch of numbers hoping that people will answer. At least a few hundred will. A lot of people don’t answer. I’ve been called by polling agencies a few times. I’ve answered and responded to questions twice.

What is the point of all this? Some of it is intended to feel the pulse of the nation — to see what Americans really want. Of course, a lot of it is to fuel the horse race that is an election. The media cites polls left and right. Some of it ends up influencing people’s votes. People are biased toward winners. FiveThirtyEight rose to prominence as being a polling agency. In 2008, they said Indiana and North Carolina would go for McCain, if I remember correctly. They went for Obama instead. In 2012, their presidential forecast was spot on. A lot of this is that they adjusted their model. They realized that the polls didn’t tell the whole story. There are other factors like the economy and the fact that pollsters can’t reach certain people by phone. They’ve had difficulty reaching Latino voters and people who may not have a phone at all.

In 2016, the polls could not have been much more wrong. FiveThirtyEight had a projection of about a 71.4% chance of Hillary Clinton winning, one of the more conservative estimates. People were betting money on PredictIt.com that Hillary would win, giving her better odds. The LA Times had one of the more accurate predictions. To have the final outcome be off by 3% or even 4% is not uncommon. That’s the margin of error for a lot of these polls. The polls showed Hillary Clinton leading by 4%. She is currently winning the popular vote by only 2%. However, even that lead doesn’t win the presidency. The “how do I explain this to a five-year-old child” system of the Electoral College chooses the victor. FiveThirtyEight was predicting a comfortable win in the electoral vote, maybe even a landslide. They predicted that Clinton would win all the Obama 2008 states except for Iowa, Indiana, and Ohio – 322 electoral votes in total.

Not only were the polls wrong in some of these states, they also had no idea that Donald Trump would steal states from the Democrats. Results in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania showed that Hillary Clinton didn’t just have an Iowa and Ohio problem, she had a Rust Belt problem. The last time a presidential candidate only won two states in the Midwest and won the presidency was 1884. How could the polls be so wrong in states that hadn’t voted for a Republican presidential candidate since the 1980s? One theory is the “shy Trump” voter avoided expressing support for Trump for fear of judgment by the pollster, but this is crap because this wasn’t a factor in the primaries. What is more likely is that Trump supporters were less likely to answer the phone. Knowing Trump’s impatience, you can see why his supporters would be reluctant to talk to some stranger on the phone for 10-15 minutes. Another issue is that pollsters vastly underestimated the number of working-class whites turning out to vote. Trump ended up winning with 306 electoral votes.

Let’s compare that to 1948. All the polls were saying that the suave Governor Thomas Dewey of New York would defeat the fiery incumbent president Harry Truman. Truman’s own staff members left for other jobs because they didn’t even think he could win. Gallup had Dewey winning the popular vote by 5%. He ended up losing it by 4.5%. In terms of the popular vote, that is clearly a greater upset than the 2016 election. I don’t have much to compare the electoral vote results of 1948 and 2016 as state polling for 1948 is hard to find.

A similarity between both elections is that a swing of 1.25% in three states were all that were needed to change the results. In 1948, those states were Ohio, Illinois, and California.  In 2016, those states were Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania (alternate being Florida). Both elections would result in one party controlling the presidency and Congress. Additionally, polls in both elections showed a tightening race. In 1948, Dewey lost a double-digit lead, but experts still wouldn’t hedge their bets on Dewey. In 2016, FiveThirtyEight showed Hillary dropping from a 7% advantage to a 3.6% advantage.

FiveThirtyEight appeared to hedge its bets more than other predictions did and much more than most firms did in 1948. That still doesn’t excuse the fact that the polls did not capture the whole picture of what was going on the Rust Belt. The site even argued that 2016 probably wouldn’t be a repeat of 1948, and that Trump shouldn’t “bank on a massive polling error.” Earlier this year, polls showed Hillary Clinton winning Michigan’s primary over Bernie Sanders. Bernie ended up taking the state. So, a polling error in the Michigan is not without precedent. It’s almost as if we were supposed to see this coming, but we didn’t. Life goes on. We live and learn.

(Seriously, 2016 though. If I could go back in time, I would put money on DiCaprio, the Cavs, the Cubs, and Trump. How else could I become a millionaire?)