Saturday, January 14, 2017

Democrats are more afraid of Bernie Sanders than they are of Donald Trump.

Over the past 20 years, the Democrats have routinely ignored local and state and other down-ballot elections to focus on the presidency as their party becomes the GOP only with better Hollywood celebs to back it.  This has resulted in Republican control of most state and local governments, which has made a Republican majority in the House of Representatives an easy thing to maintain through voter suppression laws and gerrymandering.

That alone does not explain why Democrats also lose in elections where the districts cannot be rigged, though, including gubernatorial, Senate, and presidential elections, where popular votes cannot be redistricted every ten years into 'safe seats.' Democrats do not understand that they lose these votes because they are leaving behind (or have left behind) their base voters, a fact that is happening because the Democrats are, economically speaking, identical to the Republicans in all the ways that hurt the lower classes the most.

THAT is why Hillary! lost the election: Hillary! gave her voters no real reason to go vote for her by abandoning the principles most Democrats (say they) believe in.  Trump's voters were told he would build a wall to keep out Muslim Illegal Immigrants who force factory workers in Indiana to have abortions, and so they got to the polls for him.  Hillary!'s voters were told she... wouldn't be Trump.

But despite those cold, hard, easy-to-understand, fairly obvious facts, Democrats persist in shouting as loudly as they can that someone else is responsible for their losing. Now, the reason is Bernie Sanders, or, rather, the reason is the the reasons that Bernie Sanders stood for.

Writing for "The Root" or possibly for his 5th grade essay on the presidential election, writer Michael Arceneaux posted "Shut Up, Bernie Sanders" yesterday afternoon.  According to this bio, Arceneaux is

 a Houston-bred, Howard University-educated writer currently living in Harlem. He often covers issues related to culture, sexuality, religion, race, and Beyoncé.

Covering politics might be slightly more difficult than covering Beyonce, as demonstrated by Arceneuax's keep grasp of nothing in his post.

Arceneaux's thesis is hard to understand, but it appears to be 90% defense of Democrats' intense focus on being Republicans while not appearing to be, and 9% claiming the election was stolen, and 1% race-baiting.  Let's take a look.

If hubris and the successful pursuit of headlines were genuine indicators of political aptitude, perhaps Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) would actually be the Svengali he’s presently being sold as.
According to Wikipedia,

"Svengali" has come to refer to a person who, with evil intent, dominates, manipulates, and controls a creative person such as a singer or an actor.
So: Not a Sanders fan. Got it. Arceneaux says:

Of course, Sanders, like our president-elect, the Marigold Manchurian Candidate, can rightly lay claim to scoring huge, albeit majorly melanin-deficient, crowds that found kinship in campaigns rallying against a corrupt political system. 

"Guilt by Association" is one of the arguments listed in "An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments."  Note the race-baiting has begun in the second paragraph: "Sanders does not appeal to minorities."

In February 2016, Gallup noted that part of Sanders' image problem among black voters was that about 1/3 of them didn't know who he was. In a recent poll discussing who would win the 2020 nomination, 21% of minority respondents picked Sanders; 45% picked Joe Biden. Sanders was 15% ahead of the next closest among minorities (Elizabeth Warren, 6%).

Arceneaux again:

Unfortunately, only one of those men could seize a major political party’s nomination with a mostly white vote. So, while Sanders was successful in pushing political foe Hillary Rodham Clinton to more progressive stances, he was never a real threat to her campaign. Not only that, but he failed to make real inroads with the folks whose backs the Democratic Party stands on. This is the part where you conjure an image of a black auntie.

So much so wrong so quickly. While Hillary! won by a large margin the minority vote, she lost ground to Barack Obama in percentage of that vote. It would be asinine to assume that some minorities only voted for Obama because he was black, so one must assume that the minority voters who went to the polls for Obama in 2008 and 2012 but Stayed Home For Hillary! were doing so for some reason other than the color of her skin. Perhaps Hillary!'s inroads with "black auntie" were temporarily closed.

Did Hillary! take on more progressive stances? Does the Democratic Party stand on the shoulders of the black aunties of America?

Progressive stances really only matter if they are economic progressive stances or concern what is loosely referred to as "social justice."  Hillary! as Secretary of State pushed TPP, which may or may not be a good thing but it's not considered a progressive thing. In her presidential run, Hillary! wouldn't comment one way or the other on whether she'd support the deal. Trump opposed TPP, but so did Sanders.

2008 Hillary! didn't want to lift the current cap on income which is subject to the social security tax. In 2016, Hillary! said she would agree with raising the cap to just under $120,000, which would hurt middle-class voters a bit more, while not affecting the poor or rich at all. Progressive!

Clinton did get more progressive in terms of cops versus incarceration and student debt, but arguably those were responses to the mass shootings of black men by white cops, and the student debt crisis looming large over millenials, not a response to Sanders' campaign.

Arceneaux then starts blaming the system, more or less, for Hillary!'s loss, while faulting Sanders for continuing to believe that Democrats should stand for something more than Republicans With Better PR:

Sadly, Sanders can’t stop, won’t stop, doling out bad advice. 

The advice in question is what Sanders believes Democrats should do if they want to govern, and/or if they want to govern as liberals.  Arceneaux doesn't want Sanders to say this stuff, because he (presumably) doesn't want Democrats to do this stuff.  Arceneaux takes a few more false-equivalency potshots at Sanders:

Moreover, much like the Colby-Jack Führer-in-waiting at his first press conference as president-elect, Sanders can’t stop taking shots at Clinton. Perhaps losing the popular vote is that damaging to one’s ego.
Sanders! What a loser! He's just like Trump!

In any event, speaking to NPR’s Morning Edition, Sanders argued, “Look, you can’t simply go around to wealthy people’s homes raising money and expect to win elections.” The Vermont senator went on to declare, “I happen to believe that the Democratic Party has been not doing a good job in terms of communicating with people in cities, in towns and in rural America, all over this country.”
This is the same man who lamented that having so many Southern primaries in the early months of the Democratic primary “distorts reality.”
Arceneaux provides no argument or evidence for asserting that Sanders is wrong about how the Democrat's inability to communicate with Americans is hurting them. He simply lists it as a thing that Sanders said which Arceneaux thinks is wrong, and then brings up what seems to be a non sequitur: What, one wonders, does Sanders' disapproval of the timing of the primaries have to do with the Democrats' losing elections because they can't get their message ("I'm Not Trump" -- Hillary Clinton, 2016) to Americans?

Well, everything: By front-loading Southern primaries, Democrats make the nominee have to appeal to Southern voters early on, when fundraising is based primarily on name recognition and thus favors 'rock star' candidates like Hillary!.  This in turn helps those 'rock star' candidates seem very successful early on, which then pushes the idea that a Sanders-like candidate simply 'can't win' the nomination, because he's doing poorly in the early primaries.  Put more simply, the more a candidate wins early on, the more likely the public will see that candidate as the one that should be backed. And the more a candidate wins early on in primaries depends heavily on how well-known that candidate is before the primary.

The Democrats, then, ensure that their candidates must be well-known, heavily-backed candidates who have a strong appeal to Southern voters in order to have a shot at being nominated.  Then, when a candidate locks in the nomination (or appears certain to do so) the campaign in other states winds down, so later-primary states get less primary focus. When Wisconsin held its primary, I voted for Sanders, knowing it was all but certain he could not get the nomination by then. (Sanders won Wisconsin, but nearly every story about it noted that Sanders almost certainly could not win the nomination, based on how the Democrats' nomination system works.)


Hillary Clinton ran an unsuccessful campaign, but to say she ran a bad campaign is disingenuous. 

Why? "We didn't win the game, but to say we lost is disingenous." Hillary!'s campaign was hacked because her workers had bad cyber security. She didn't campaign nearly enough in many states. She picked as a VP nominee a near-unknown whose only appeal was that he was from the South, it seems. Grassroots supports expressed dismay with nearly everything Hillary! did. And you: name a Hillary! campaign position (other than one I told you about in this post.) You likely can't.

After saying Hillary! didn't run a bad campaign, Arceneaux goes full hypothetical question:

Should she have campaigned more in black neighborhoods? According to the results of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan, sure. Could she have made greater attempts at reaching out to rural voters, even though they’re not exactly Democratic strongholds? It’s fair to say yes.
"Should Hillary! have campaigned hard in states that were battlegrounds and which could turn the election? Yes. Could she have tried to expand the Democrats' message to new constituencies? Yes."

Did she do those things? No. She ran a bad campaign.

That said, Clinton had nearly 3 million more votes than our president-elect
"That said, if the election had been run in some way other than the way we've run them for 238 years, Hillary! would have won." Was Hillary! unaware of how the electoral college would work in 2016, and therefore unable to try to win the election that would be held, rather than the election she wished we would hold?

and lost by about 80,000 votes in three states heavily affected by voter suppression, an issue that the likes of Sanders and others failed to truly speak on, at their own peril.

Republicans can pass voter-suppression laws because Democrats let Republicans win state elections and control state legislatures. The Republicans openly say they are doing this, and it helps them win elections. Democrats continue to ignore that. Many people disagree on the effects of voter suppression laws vis a vis the 2016 elections. But more to Arceneaux's point: Sanders did attack voter suppression laws. Sanders' attack on Wisconsin's law was called "relentless[]" by The Hill.

Referring to Clinton's loss in the election, Arceneaux says:

Clinton achieved this feat despite a media consumed by a nonissue about her email server as it gleefully reported on stolen material secured through hackers so ordered by the Russian government.

Arceneaux is a part of the media, as is Jezebel (the blog hosting his column, loosely speaking.) Jezebel frequently reported on the Clinton emails.

Political losses should yield a real examination of what went wrong, 

yes they should...

but Sanders is someone who, on par with a robot, just repeats what’s already been programmed. The man is not saying anything new or remotely insightful. Clinton performed far better than he arguably ever could have with a diverse coalition that he never enjoyed or made a real effort to build.

... but not by Arceneaux.  Is his argument really "It's better that Democrats narrowly lose with Clinton than lose by a lot with Sanders?" Seems like it. Arceneaux is the reason why the coach of your favorite NFL team, down 20-0 in the 4th quarter, kicks a field goal.

Sanders’ lil’ media tour, in which he sings another sad love song like he’s Toni Braxton, is good for Bernie Sanders, but what about the party, and what about the rest of us?

First off, Toni Braxton is a hateful person who views her son's autism as a punishment for Toni Braxton. She's said so.  Secondly,

To wit, during a recent town hall with CNN, Sanders was asked if the Democrats, like the Republicans immediately following the swearing-in of President Barack Obama, should obstruct the new commander in chief. “I don’t think that’s what we do,” Sanders answered. “I think where Trump has ideas that make sense that we can work with him on, I think we should.”
Where exactly is that? Trade policy, a grievance shared by both men, came up, and Sanders said that he would be “prepared to sit down and work on a new trade policy which is based on fairness, not just on corporate greed.” One of the great loves of the reality-TV version of Ebenezer Scrooge’s life is greed, so what is the point of saying this?

Secondly, both Trump and Sanders oppose TPP, as I noted. More importantly, Arceneaux's point here is literally this:  If Trump proposes something the Democrats like the Democrats should still oppose it because it comes from Trump. This is the politics of nihilism the Republicans excel at.  What if Trump proposed single-payer universal health care, because he personally would benefit from it? Should the Democrats say no way man? 

Republicans were wrong to obstruct Obama, 

You have just undermined your own last point.

especially when you consider how willing he was to compromise for the sake of the greater good. ...

The Democrats expressly did not compromise on Obamacare, forcing it through using the same Congressional procedure that they now fault the Republicans for using to try to repeal that law.

Now, as we look at a man building an administration very much in line with the demagoguery and exploitation his campaign was known for, Sanders is scolding Democrats based on mythology while pretending that he can get something down with the bigot ruler-in-waiting.

What is even  going on in that sentence? I don't understand this at all, but if you are following the box score, it is:

1. Sanders is wrong to say Dems can compromise with Trump.
2. Republicans were wrong not to compromise with Obama.
3. Sanders is wrong to say Dems can compromise with Trump.


Not surprisingly, when asked if he would run for president again in 2020, Sanders wouldn’t offer any definitive response. He likes the attention too much for that. 
Sanders will be 76 this year. So far, I don't know of any candidate that has definitely committed to running in 2020, so it's obvious that not just Sanders, but every single politician enjoys the attention of the media too much to say they will definitely run for the next presidency when the newest one hasn't even been sworn in.

Although Sanders may be sincere in his stances on the evils of classism, 
Yeah, just because he's publicly espoused these beliefs for 3/4 of a century is no reason to think the guy is sincere.  By the way, Bernie Sanders' net worth of $528,000 is roughly 1/100th of Hillary!'s $53,000,000 net worth. Those figures might seem important to you, if you were the type of person who thought possibly someone was not sincere in their public statements about the evils of classism.
for all the admonishment he’s offered Democrats, he’s shown no sign of learning about his own shortcomings. At this point, he very much just enjoys the sound of his own voice and the attention. 

I'm sure that is precisely why Sanders continues to doggedly insist that Democrats pay attention to the problem of income distribution, health care, and political voice. He likes the attention! I'm surprised he hasn't dated one of the Kardashians, the attention hog!

Arceneaux of course does not say what shortcomings Sanders should be aware of, or any support for the notion that Sanders is pushing back solely to get attention.

In recent days, Bernie Sanders has been speaking out about the repeal of Obamacare, helped work to get new blood into the Democratic party to push populist programs, given a town hall speech to promote his agenda, announced he was seeking areas to work with Trump on, and was lined up to speak at a tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Many nascent political movements die at the first sign of a setback. In recent decades, "Perotistas" never made much of an impact, and the Tea Party's political influence has been pruned down considerably, with establishment Republicans again running the show, albeit from a spot a bit more to the right than they were 8 years ago.  It is heartening, then, to see Sanders continue his own drive, and to not just do so by attempting to seize the brass ring, as Hillary! does, but by actually energizing the grass roots and looking to foment change at all levels of the political hill.

There is reason to think Sanders could be successful in pushing back against 50 years of redistribution of wealth to a smaller and smaller group of people in society while children literally die in our streets for lack of a social safety net. The vast majority of Americans, when polled recently, back Sanders' stances on nearly every single issue. The article that sentence links to points out that the reason Americans don't have the programs they support is because the political elite have consistently diverted voters' attention from those issues that matter to so called 'culture war' issues.  In this, the Democrats are as bad as the Republicans: both desperately want to distract you from the fact that the 1% who make up the power structure in both parties benefit from economic policies that balance megawealth on the backs of the poor and middle class.  Michael Arceneaux is simply another tool in the hands of people like Hillary! and Trump, and it is Michael Arceneaux and the people like him who should shut up.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Sittin' around one day with a camera and some pretzel M&Ms

A Minute With Mr Bunches: Haiku Edition

Mr Bunches wrote some haiku for a class at school!  Here they are!

Peter Pan, Wendy
John and Michael all went to
Neverland. Magic

Winter has snowflakes
Falling out of the sky clouds
Ice frozen on lakes

Toys are fun to play
All kinds of toys in toy shop
Or find at Target

Monday, January 09, 2017

Hey how about "The Man Comes Around" covered by one guy on five tubas?

sure why not

I actually found this song last June but set it to delay post as a birthday present from past me to future me.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Book 3: Kickin' in the front seat Sittin' in the back seat Gotta make my mind up Which seat can I take? It's ...

Who is the greatest science fiction writer of all time? Apparently a lot of people say Robert Heinlein is.  If you google that phrase (which is how we decide things now) the first three images that show up are Isaac Asimov, Arthur Clarke, and Robert Heinlein (with Phillip K. Dick and Ray Bradbury rounding out the top 5.)

I've never read anything by Asimov, and I've only ever read 2001: A Space Odyssey and Childhood's End by Clarke, the latter being a book I was assigned to read in Advanced Placement English in 12th grade. I've read a lot of Heinlein, some Phillip K. Dick, and only a few Ray Bradbury.

I suppose it depends on what you mean by "Greatest" and "Writer," at least.  I noted that none of the people on Google's list were movie writers, but George Lucas' Star Wars is arguably the single most influential scifi work ever created.  Melissa Mathison wrote the screenplay for E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial and I don't see her on the list. So we don't include "screenplay writers" as "writers" in this category I guess.

I was in the ER for a blood clot just before Xmas, replacing my annual Xmas flu with something decidedly more potentially-fatal, but nonetheless easier to have. I told that to Sweetie, just that way: I said I'd rather have a blood clot in my leg that might kill me without much notice than the stomach flu because I'd been able to live my regular life with a blood clot, only slightly inconvenienced: I missed no work, went swimming with the boys, and did almost all my usual stuff including eating fancy doughnuts during our annual Xmas Shopping Day Of FunStravaganza (TM), while with stomach flu all you can do is sit around and wish you were about to die because then it would be over.  This story has a point. The point is this: To kill (morbid pun intended) time in the ER, I brought with me Robert Heinlein's book Friday, which I'd read a long time ago and was re-reading as part of 2016's 100 book.

The blood guy who had to take a sample to see what drugs would keep me alive until my insurance ran out (with insurance: 400 bucks a month for one kind of medicine, just to stay alive.)  He saw the book, with its provocative (slightly) cover, and asked what I was reading. I told him it was a scifi book about a sort of created-human who works as a courier and is trying to survive a weird sets of coups in what's left of North America. Who's it by? He asked.  Robert Heinlein, I told him.  Never heard of him, he said. The guy was about mid-20s.  I said Stranger in a Strange Land is probably his best-known book. He shrugged.

Number 3 on the list of all-time writers gets you a shrug.

I think the list of all-time writers is weighted towards 'golden-era' writers, and weighted towards those guys we think are important.  You have to go way down the list before you get to Larry Niven, Douglas Adams, and Kurt Vonnegut. China Mieville and David Brin are on there. Alan Dean Foster and Nick Harkaway are not. Why not? Too recent? To few books? Not deemed weighty enough?  I would be willing to bet that Adams has sold more books than Isaac Asimov.

Has Isaac Asimov Sold More Books Than Douglas Adams? A Thinking The Lions Investigation:

Answer:  Apparently, yes. Wikipedia says that Asimov's Foundation has sold 20,000,000 copies while Adams Hitchhiker series has sold 16,000,000. 

By sales alone, Jules Verne should be our most important scifi writer: 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea is said to have sold 60,000,000 copies. The next closest scifi book is 1984, which has sold only 25,000,000 copies.  That is closely trailed by The Hunger Games trilogy at 23,000,000 copies. As an aside, I would rather eat a copy of 1984 than watch anything with Jennifer Lawrence even vaguely associated with it.

I once argued that you could tell whether something was truly great by how many people had ever heard of the thing.  Greatness, I posited, was something that was known rather than understood, and if people repeatedly talked about something, it was probably great.  (The counter to that is lots of things that are demonstrably not great like Donald Trump and the Zika virus are also well known.)(The counter to that is this: would you rather be infected with Zika or have Donald Trump be president? Answer in the comments.)

(I would rather have Zika. To be honest I would rather that Donald Trump have Zika than be president, and I could just go on with my life, but I had to choose one or the other.)

So sales are actually probably a good measure of how great a writer was, as is the fact that people still know who Jules Verne is even though he died three centuries ago.

Did you know that Jules Verne was also a poet and playwright? Why is a play writer a 'playwright' and a book writer is an 'author?'  Verne quit being a lawyer to write, launching the Voyages Extraordinaires series, which was said to be 'well-researched," and I guess it was for the 1860s-1870s and actually nobody has ever proven that there are not people living in the center of the Earth, so take that.

Apparently one problem with the esteem in which we hold Verne is that his novels were written in French and are frequently poorly-translated as kidlit, so we don't think of him as a big-time author.  Verne himself argued that he wasn't writing 'science fiction.'

Heinlein's books are the sort of books that someone would hold in high esteem. They feel as though they are worth it. They're mostly long, very talky at times, have some hard science in them and some science that seems like hard science but maybe isn't? The first Heinlein book I ever read was The Number Of The Beast, which has a lot to say about non-Euclidean geometry and mathematics and computer science and random numbers, but also features busty blondes sunbathing naked and trips to other universes and the like. It was pretty good-- a good mix between Heinlein's too-talky works (Time Enough For Love, e.g., which I started to re-read last year but gave up on as too boring) and Heinlein's more basic short stories and scifi novels (like The Puppet Masters, which felt non-Heinleinian).  I had picked The Number Of The Beast up off the shelf of the UW Bookstore back when I first came to school here as an undergrad.

Stranger In A Strange Land is the one people who know Heinlein or know scifi or both remember, really: the story of Valentine Michael Smith, a man raised by Martians and then brought home to Earth who starts his own religion is, as I remember it, a great story full of vague references to sex, discussions of art and politics, and, ultimately, a discussion of humor that somehow works its way to a cannibalism scene about religion. So it goes, to take a Vonnegut line.

A lot of Heinlein books are vaguely tied together: The Cat Who Walks Through Walls and The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress and Time Enough For Love and To Sail Beyond The Sunset all combine with The Number Of The Beast to present a multiverse in which various dimensions exist including those dimensions which are created as fictional characters: a character in The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress grows up to be in The Cat Who Walks Through Walls, in which she meets a previously-fictional character she helped write stories about one time.  It's all pretty entertaining and has the feel of science.

"Pretty entertaining and has the feel of science" is how I'd describe Friday, which feels like it's set in that same universe but makes no reference to any of the other books. Friday is an 'artificial person,' a human created by gene splicing to be smarter, faster, and stronger than other humans. At the outset of the book she's returning from a mission as a courier, but soon gets sidetracked by a series of coups that result in border closings and trouble for her getting around on Earth (an Earth in which California is a democratic Republic, an area around Chicago is a tyranny, etc. and corporations are pretty powerful).  Much of the book is devoted to Friday's attempts to report in, and then the latter part of the book is her first 'mission' as an independent person outside of her organization.

It's a good book-- less talky than a lot of Heinlein, more action, and the exposition works well with the story. There's not a lot of explanation of stuff given that a reader of a memoir by someone like Friday -- the book is presented as a memoir -- would need explained, which works well. By that I mean, if Friday were a real person and wrote a real memoir, a reader of that memoir wouldn't need Friday to describe political systems and what "Shipstones" are (a kind of battery) and so on. I like that kind of scifi: where the stuff is presented as "I don't really need to explain this to you because you know it," making the book move better and feel a bit more real.  Luke Skywalker never stops to explain what the Senate was, after all.

Is it a great book, worthy of making Heinlein at least the #3 scifi author of all time? I don't know. When it comes to measuring greatness, it's not enough maybe to determine a writer's worth simply by how many books he's sold, or how many books he's written. Maybe we have to take that into account but also measure his impact on the culture -- not just by the esteem we grant him (or any writer) but by how the culture pays tribute to him.

Heinlein doesn't appear on that Wikipedia list of best selling authors. OMNI Magazine ranked him 10th (below, among others, Ursuala K. Leguin) but said he's the "Dean Of Science Fiction" and quoted Asimov saying that Heinlein was 'the best science fiction writer in existence.'

Heinlein seems to be revered for popularizing scifi (he was 'one of' the first to get a scifi story into popular magazines) and making social commentary in scifi commonplace. Someone founded a religion based on his Stranger in a Strange Land. Astronauts credited him with making a trip to the moon seem possible and he was a guest commentator for the Apollo 11 trip. He popularized some terms, like "Pay it forward" (which appears, in philosophy at least, in Friday.)  He was embraced by libertarians and hippies, but criticized for appearing to accept pedophilia and incest. Elon Musk says Heinlein was an inspiration. He is in the Hall of Famous Missourians along with Scott Joplin, Dred Scott, Bob Barker, and Betty Grable.

He also had a talking rat character named after him in a movie. So it goes.