Voting in America redux

I wrote about voting in a historic election eight years ago. Since then, California has become more blue, there are even more political fliers, and the only thing the left wing can seem to agree with the CAGOP on is what this state needs is even more propositions on the ballot.

Even though, back then, I strongly suspected I’d be casting this vote eight years later for Hillary Clinton, I didn’t realize how this day would hit me.

Marie got dressed in a pantsuit and we walked across the street to the community center to vote. Unlike me, she was homeschooled as a Christian conservative and voted for George W. Bush in 2004—her vote is more meaningful than mine.

Marie voted in her pantsuit

But my vote wasn’t mine, it was Mom’s—not to celebrate or affirm women’s right to vote or anything like that, but because I love her, she always admired Hillary Rodham, and, most importantly, because she only would go to the polls to cancel out Dad’s vote. 😉

Not this time! I called Dad yesterday and he said he’s with her—quite possibly his first vote for a Democratic candidate for President of the United States, definitely his first vote for a woman for that position.

I started blogging with the purpose to “write to create context for another to think” just after argument with my father about politics in 2004. He said:

“Nobody said democracy is perfect. It’s just the best thing we’ve got. Terry, maybe you’re right, and I’m wrong. But if you are, then have some faith in our system that the truths will come out. Have some faith that people can change. They just don’t have to change on your timetable.”

I honestly never thought Dad would change. But my father, with his vote with mom now, and a lifetime of past votes against, finally won an argument with “mom’s lawyer”: I have faith, and people can change.

No matter the outcome, this election reaffirms that faith in the conversation that is our democracy.

One Bad Hombre and one Nasty Woman (in a pantsuit) went to the polls and voted!
San Francisco, California, United States

So lucky she and I can split the workload of sifting through all those ballot propositions. Now that’s love. 😆😍

I don’t care who you support, if you can vote, Vote!

@Tay.AI predicts the next Pulitzer

I love articles like this. After all, I’ve been saying for the better part of a year that Donald Trump is Microsoft Tay made flesh and stuffed into an ill-fitting suit:

Note to self: Add Sanjiv Rai to this tool and this one to list of people that we won’t have to hear anything about ever on November 9.

I seriously wonder how these reporters find these whack-a-loons, because they deserve whatever the Ig Nobel-equivalent there is for a Pulitzer. Who knew there is such a large market for liberal bed-wetting? 😀

Political courage

Last week, no less than eleven people on my facebook shared this “confession” from Mike Rowe, with positive comments.

I can’t believe people think this deserves anything other that derision.

He’s more “Hollywood” than the people he denigrates. It takes real political courage to potentially alienate half your viewers, it takes none to opt-out with the tired “I won’t say, other than our politics sucks”-cop-out. It is pure pandering to use ill-thought-out platitudes like “voting is a right, not a (civic) duty” and “most people are too stupid or uninformed to vote” in a manner crafted so that **all** sides can retweet, repost, and feel self-righteous about it.

Pathetic.

If you take his philosophy to its natural and logical conclusion, we as a country should reinstitute literacy tests and poll taxes to disenfranchise minorities and other such undemocratic measures. After all, what better way to ensure a enlightened democracy than to allow only those with the requisite amount of education and capital to make the “right” decision? Plato agrees, fuck this thing called democracy.

Here is the truth: The United States has been an experiment in whether a democratic republic can ensure liberty. Yes, even if that means risking its failure under a Trump presidency because more people voted for him. Taking that risk is courage; abdicating it, like Mike Rowe, is cowardice.

Ignore the cowards, if you have the right, even if you believe Hitlery will destroy America and needs to be stopped (heck, because you believe she will destroy America), go vote on November 8 this election. That’s an act of political courage and another test of this two hundred and thirty year experiment.

Who they are, who we are

I understand Trump appeal, he is a man who speaks for the “people”. The question for me is not Trump because there is away going to be some asshole who comes along, what bothers me is the alt-right movement altogether. It’s like why is there so much hate that is being taken as logic among this group?

The “alt-right” almost ended our revolution before it was declared. They tore at our republic before it was founded. We fought the bloodiest war in our history with them. When it was finally over, they found a way to void it within a decade so their sin would forever be our sin. Even as recently as 1968, George Wallace carried five states solely on their message. After that, the Republican Party rebuilt their entire party around them. Heck, the anti-abortion movement is their proxy contrived for polite company.

They had many guises and went by many names: slavery, “fit vs. unfit”, “separate-but-equal” “states rights”, movement conservatism, “cognitive elite”, “religious freedom”, and, most recently, yes, the alt-right.

Even before they became “Redeemers” at the first hint of threat to their power, they embedded a nomination rule to ensure they had veto power within the Democratic Party. When that was finally excised to elect FDR, they migrated to the Republican Party and they are only now just discovering that their tiny plurality in their former party comprises the majority of the motivated base of their new one (hence Trumpism).

No, the “alt-right” under some name has always been with us and will always be with us. It is our original sin and a part of the American identity. When they rear their ugly head, they need to be fought and “roundly defeated by the abiding decency and good sense” of the rest of us. And yet, at the same time, sadly, we must admit, they are us: We, the People.

Nobody said democracy was easy.

Comfort yourself with the knowledge that they have always been the losers in our history. They were the losers when they said a black man is three-fifth of a person, they were (are?) losers when they said that a woman couldn’t vote, they were losers when they sent blacks to the back of the bus, forced birth on women, and kept gays from marrying. And, yes, they will be the losers again—they that say build this wall, deport that Muslim, and show your birth certificate at the bathroom door.

The Apostles Query

Saw this on my feed the other day:

Beautiful queries

“Just wrote the most complex SQL statement I have ever written. It won’t scale, but it’s so beautiful. :)”

Cal’s query brought tears to my eyes. When a finch landed on it, I saw it pivot. It was deeply religious…

START TRANSACTION;

I believe in Codd, the Father Almighty,
CREATE‘r of OLTP and OLAP;

and in MySQL, His PRIMARY KEY, our INDEX:
Which was established by the DB driver,
born of the Open Source;
suffered under Larry Ellison,
was TRUNCATE’d, DELETE’d and was DROP’d.
It INSERT’d INTO NULL;
ON DATEDIFF = 3, It TRIGGER’d again FROM HEAP;
It RAISE()ed into non-TEMP, RIGHT JOIN’d with Codd the Father Almighty;
from thence It shall come to SELECT FROM the relational and non-relational.

I believe in the DB driver,
the Fourth Normal Form,
the relations of tables,
the ROLLBACK of failed transactions,
the RESTORE from logical backups,
and the persistence of storage.

COMMIT;

Next up: Ave MariaDB.

When statistics say the opposite

This article shows how discussions of political statsitics is in the dark ages. Here is the relevant graph:

Both polls, released on Sunday, showed Mr. Trump in worse shape than he had been a month ago… Despite his woes, not all the results of the new polls were heartening for Mrs. Clinton. The Journal-NBC survey found that her lead essentially disappears when candidates from the Green Party and Libertarian Party are included. She essentially tied Mr. Trump, with 39 percent to his 38 percent. Together, third-party candidates grabbed 16 percent of the support.

Actually, that’s even worse news for Trump than polls showing that Clinton has opened up her lead. To understand this, let’s look at the conservative WSJ-NBC News poll mentioned.

That poll has Clinton at 46% and Trump at 43%, a three point lead nationally. This is one of the most conservative two way polls out there as aggregate polling (which includes three way polling) has her ahead by 6.8%, so we can see the understandable Republican bias in a Wall Street Journal poll. But even taking that into account, we see a 11% undecided/non-reporting account so the real question that all the early reporting needs to answer given how well known both candidates are is: which way is are these huge number of non-reporters going to break?

What the three way race shows is a window into these undecideds. It says right now Clinton has the larger number of holdouts than Trump: about ~60% of these people would rather vote for her than Trump, making her lead much bigger than the numbers are showing.

It reminds me when people say stupid things like, “It’s okay to vote for a third party in a blue state” when studies have conclusively shown that the best way to push policies in a direction is with a bigger margin of victory because the more competitive the election, the more moderate the politician’s position irrespective of incumbency or how “fixed” their candidate position seems.

In other words, if Bernie Sanders really wanted the outcomes he espouses, he’d be endorsing Hillary and pushing hard for a large electoral win, because that, more than anything, would give President Clinton the freedom to move to the left. Instead, he acts in direct opposition to his stated outcomes and pushes her toward the middle.

Everything is a remix

Hitler, in addition to his oratorical and organizing abilities, has another positive asset—he is a man of the “common people”…
But several reliable, well-informed sources confirmed the idea that Hitler’s anti-Semitism was not so genuine or violent as it sounded, and that he was merely using anti-Semitic propaganda as a bait to catch messes of followers and keep them aroused, enthusiastic and in line for the time when his organization is perfected and sufficiently powerful to be employed effectively for political purposes.
The New York Times, November 21, 1922

Stephen E. Ambrose’s supposed thesis of Band of Brothers was that American citizen solders were better than the Germans because uniquely “American” autonomy and attitudes in lower officer corp gave them battlefield superiority due to flexibility in tactics and decision-making. This thesis is refuted in the same book by fact that it mentions that after soldiers were in combat for more than six months, they started to fall apart. The Germans, by this point, had been at war for six years.

An interesting side note was who the American servicemen found it easiest to relate to: not the English they trained and fought with, nor the French or the Dutch they freed at Normandy and Arnhem, but the German soldiers they fought at Bastogne and who surrendered to them at Berchtesgaden.

In the end, the real lesson of that book is a far deeper one: when Easy Company rolled into Dachau concentration camp, they were staring at a human horror that none of us are above because we are no different then our enemies.

Someone recently tweeted that if you ever wondered what you would do in 1930’s Germany, now you get to find out.

About gerrymandering

I was surprised that the betting markets had the Democratic Party with a 19% chance of retaking Congress. To do so, they would have to flip nearly 50 seats!

In the modern era, the Republicans have pulled this off twice (1994, 2010), while the Democrats have only reached this number in 1974 (Watergate scandal). That’s because wave elections of the magnitude needed usually occur only in midterm years when the sitting president has an ebb in popularity and the Republican party is stronger voting patterns during midterms.

Perhaps an interesting way to look at the current situation is: right now the Republicans have their largest House majority since just before the stock market crash kicked off the Great Depression.

The challenge of flipping that seems insurmountable in an electorate as polarized as this one.

The press has mostly been focused on Donald Trump dragging down the ticket and Paul Ryan’s attempt to dance with him. So the articles focusing on the chances of the House flipping have actually decreased from previous years because the conventional wisdom is the only incumbents who actually are at risk are Republican U.S. senators in blue or battleground states like (Illinois, Wisconsin, New Hampshire), and (Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio).

But the betting markets are capturing something the press isn’t: a wave is a wave is a wave, and this year is looking to be a Democratic wave due to raw demographics, being a presidential election year, and Donald Trump. This is compounded by the fact that strategically the Trump campaign is planning on funding and running its logistics by piggybacking off the Republican National Committee. This exacerbates the problem because: 1) it siphons funds and resources from congressional elections to the general; 2) battleground states are ones with large electoral vote counts and have no correlation with contested districts; and 3) the Republicans have increasingly depended financially on large donors via Citizen’s United and outsourced most of the voter outreach and research to third party organizations, so neither the money, nor the knowledge for the republicans is actually in the RNC.

By giving 5-to-1 odds, the markets are saying, “Yeah, it’s going to be a wave, but that’s not enough. But hey, we could always be wrong!” My instincts say it should be closer to 25% than 19% — akin to saying, “It’s possible the wave will be big enough, but it’s still far more likely it’ll take another election year for this wave to crest.”

That’s because I think betting markets have not (yet? ever?) correctly priced in the non-linear impact of gerrymandering. Right now everyone is saying that gerrymandering favors the Republicans. This is certainly true: through gerrymandering, Republican state houses in 2010 has acted as a deep red firewall against a Democratic demographic wave and districts are more partisan than ever because of it. Evidence certainly backs the power of gerrymandering up as, nationally, there were more votes for Democratic congressional candidates than Republican ones in 2012 and 2014, and yet the Republican party gained seats.

Continue reading about the double-edged sword of gerrymandering after the jump