Thanksgiving Unstructured Commentary 2017

I was perusing my Thanksgiving posts from the last several years and adding them to a new category called “Thanksgiving” so they’d be more easily searchable for me. Unfortunately, adding the new category and updating added them all to my Twitter feed. My apologies to the four people who follow that feed. Though, likely, it’s not the same four people who follow this. So they’ll never know I apologized. Oh well, enough about them. This is about us.

In last year’s post, I mentioned that the annual harvest had been “a bag of dicks”. That was ugly! I’d say I’m feeling more positive this year. 12 month’s ago, I, like many normal humans, was concerned about what the future would be like with our new insane president. Fortunately, it turns out, life is exactly the same. Well, the news is different, but the actual day-to-day part of life seems unchanged. That’s good enough, right? Let’s celebrate with a feast!

Thanksgiving feast is the only feast officially recognized by this blog. I eat until I’m sick 176 times per year, but this is the big one. This one is planned. It’s also the one time a year that I’m voluntarily social. I would be fine with a hundred people in our home for that one day only, provided most of them leave pretty quickly after eating. I wouldn’t go to someone else’s home to be with those people. Let’s not be crazy. But I’ll share our food with them in the comfort of my own home… because I know all the places I can hide if I get uncomfortable.

This year we have the added benefit of our college bound son coming home for the whole week. This is the beginning of the next stage in life. The one that eventually develops into adding a daughter in law and then grandchildren into the mix. We’ve already had “the talk”. The one about making sure any woman he dates doesn’t have conflicting Thanksgiving traditions. That’s a deal breaker for us, and we would destroy her.

So there you go. The year has been better than bag of dicks, we’re all getting older and while it’s not completely impossible, it’s probably unlikely that we’ll all die in a nuclear holocaust any time soon. Let’s eat!


A Wedge Too Far

Last year wrecked us. Election obsession eclipsed our decency, and there’s no indication we can recover.

Among my friends on Facebook, I count a Reverend and several educators. They’re trained, called even, to open closed minds. The rest of us aren’t. So we took the tactics of fanaticism (Cowboys vs Eagles, Marvel vs DC) and translated it into political discourse. We taunted our opponents, buried them in virtual information that supported our opinions or refuted theirs. We painted our souls in the colors of our team and hurled insults at the opposition.

What I learned: You can’t change someone’s mind by sharing blog posts, articles and memes. You can’t change someone’s opinions by degrading them. You can neither change the world nor be changed by it by belonging to groups of like minded people. Civil face to face discussions, meeting people who hold beliefs contradictory to your own, listening to another’s testimony with an open heart; these are how world views change.

I have deeply held opinions that are political, social, cultural and religious. My opinions have evolved dramatically over the years. I’ve been on both sides of the political and cultural issues that separate us, and my beliefs were unwavering… until they wavered. Want to know how that happened? Come have a drink with me and find out.

My advice: Quit purging your friends list. Don’t burn down the neighboring village. Visit it. You might find it’s your own mind that gets changed. If you insist on being a social warrior, please remember the golden rule. If you sincerely want to change the world, join a campaign, join a church, volunteer, or run for office. Get involved in the real world not the virtual one. If you just want to yell into the canyon to hear your echo, go to Arizona.

America Loses When Everyone Chooses

So many mentions of Federalist 68 in the news this week. So I read it. (Well, re-read it, as I’m sure this was suggested, if not required, reading in Mr. Strother’s History class.)

Federalist 68 is the argument made for adoption of the 12th Amendment by Alexander Hamilton. The 12th Amendment provides the procedure for electing the President and Vice President, which is through the electoral college.  Each state gets one elector for each member of congress (both houses). This is to provide fair representation for small states. In modern elections it’s been argued that it causes under representation of larger states, since even the smallest state gets two Senators and one member of the House, even if their population isn’t really big enough for a House member. Larger states get two Senators as well and House members portioned by population.

What stands out to me isn’t what the news keeps telling us, that the electoral college exists to protect us from ourselves. We weren’t meant to have a say. Hamilton never thought the general public would or should be allowed to pick the President at all. The voters were to select electors, who themselves were to be “men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation, and to a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice.” (I know… Hamilton was suuuuper wordy, and he seems to have never spoken in rhyme. Try to stay awake. This will be over soon.) In other words, electors were supposed to be wise men capable of deliberating and making the correct choice for President.

The electors represent the “sense of the people” not the will of the people. The voters in no way select a Presidential candidate. They select someone they trust to pick the best person to serve as President. It’s democracy once removed (or indirect democracy if we’re being pedantic). As an extra safeguard, in order to win the Presidency, the victor has to receive more than half of the votes from the electoral college. Anyone who can’t do that, can’t win. If no candidate gets a majority of the votes, the House of Representatives gets the names of the top five candidates and they choose “the man who in their opinion may be best qualified for the office.” It’s not clear that the ultimate winner has to be chosen from the top five finalists. There’s nothing there about all the electors from a state being required to all vote the same way. Each state is supposed to convene its electors, and they debate and deliberate and then each casts a vote. The votes from all of the states’ electors are then tallied.

Despite what the news today says, Hamilton didn’t worry at all about an unfit person becoming president. He literally says, “It will not be too strong to say, that there will be a constant probability of seeing the station filled by characters pre-eminent for ability and virtue.” The problem is over the years we’ve lost sight of what the founding fathers had in mind. They didn’t want us picking the president. (Some of them did, but the compromise was that we shouldn’t.) They were totally okay with the occasional demagogue making it to Congress. Hamilton says “talent for low intrigue and the little arts” might charm a State, but with this electoral process in place no one like that could ever be President.

Prior to 1820 a limited number of states held popular votes to give direction to electors. Most simply chose electors and trusted them to do the job. By 1824 all states were holding popular votes, and of course, it immediately all went to hell. There were four candidates in the 1824 election. Andrew Jackson received the most popular and electoral votes, but he did not receive the majority of electoral votes. So the four names were sent to the House of Representatives, and they chose the most qualified man, John Q. Adams, to be president. Andrew Jackson was probably illiterate, and certainly irrational. John Quincy Adams was worldly, dignified and intelligent. No brainer. Four years later Jackson trounced Adams and we had our first potentially crazy person in the white house. (Yes, he was a war hero and a decorated general, but he was more George Custer than George Washington.)

In the intervening years, we’ve moved completely away from Hamiltonian democracy and toward the Jeffersonian ideal of a more direct-democratic model. In modern elections, each state’s electors are required to vote for whoever wins their state’s popular vote. The actual vote casting of the electoral college is ceremonial.

Based on state by state popular votes in 2016, Donald Trump should receive 306 electoral votes. Next Monday, the electoral college will convene in 50 state capitals and duplicate the state level popular votes in direct contradiction of Federalist 68. Barring a revolt of 37 Republican electors, and despite Hamilton’s prediction “that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications,” an absurd cartoon villain will win the presidency.

If 37 Republican electors cast their votes for someone other than Trump, the House of Representatives will convene to select our next president. I can say with 98% certainty that won’t happen, and with 100% certainty that a Republican would still win in that scenario. That Republican probably wouldn’t be Donald Trump, but would more likely be Mike Pence or Paul Ryan. Ryan is going to be President eventually. Now’s as good a time as any.

Thanksgiving in 2016

Generations from now, when historians look back on 2016, they’ll agree that it can eat a bag of dicks. This year’s harvest was a steaming pile of crap. Regardless, we’ll give thanks tomorrow and celebrate with a feast.

As a nation, we normally gather on Thanksgiving in large diverse groups of friends and family. We smile and nod at racist uncles and Fox News repeaters, indulge vegan cousins and ignore goth nieces. A large enough dose of tryptophan makes everything a little more tolerable. This year, however, many will gather in smaller like minded groups. Some won’t join any gathering at all. The weeks’ old wounds of election day are still too raw for tolerance to be allowed back in our homes.

I often wonder about Thanksgiving in 1963. President Kennedy was killed on the Friday before Thanksgiving. He’d already pardoned a turkey. Right before Thanksgiving is a shit time to die. What’s worse is he was on his way to lunch. I’m very structured about meal times. I would have been thinking about what I was having for lunch at that time of day, and at that time of November, I’d have been daydreaming of the coming feast. Maybe presidents have more to worry about, but maybe they don’t. Maybe the personal tragedy of November 22, 1963 is that a man was robbed of life, lunch and Thanksgiving feast. I’ve heard stories of some pretty horrible things said in the immediate aftermath of the Kennedy assassination. That must have been an uncomfortable year to share a table with people who had wicked words in their mouths.

There’s no moral to this stream of consciousness. If I’ve learned anything this year, it’s that you don’t need to make a point. Also a bag of dicks is a lot uglier than anyone could have dreamed.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Final Forecast

This is my final map prediction for 2016. I just went and double checked. It’s identical to the first map I made on Oct. 26. I should have stuck with my gut.
Just as a reminder… This is strictly electoral math nerdery and not a political opinion. I promise I’d be just as geeky about the map regardless of the outcome. My goal is to be right, not rosy.

Forecast 2

It’s new map day. A lot has happened since I shared my last prediction a few weeks ago. I’m hesitant to share this now, knowing that news tends to blow up on Friday afternoon.
A few notes…
1) This is not a political opinion post. It’s purely electoral nerdery. I geek out for the math of electoral politics.
2) The following red states may turn blue before I make my final prediction in the coming weeks:
     – GA (16)
     – UT (6)
     – IA (6)
     – though unlikely, it’s in the margin of error, TX (38)
3) The following blue states may turn red before I make my final prediction:
     – ME (4)
     – AZ (11)


This is not a political post. It’s a forecast.

For reference on my Electoral College street cred, I called the 2012 number accurately on the morning of election day (Scroll my timeline if you doubt me. It was 11/6/2012.), I spiked the ball at bed time and gloated the next day. TV pundits missed that call. I got it right.

For 2016, I’m still on the fence with Georgia and Pennsylvania, and Maine could split it’s 4 electors, but it’s close enough for me to make my prediction. I may still revise this as we get closer to Nov. 8.

Also, for the record, Clinton wins this race even if she loses Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. That’s unprecedented in modern elections.

If the Democrat were anyone else, TX would have been in play. Speaking as a Texan, that’s kind of exciting. If the Democrat were anyone else, the Democratic electoral count would be closer to 400. That’s landslide territory.

If the Republican were any other candidate, FL, NC, and VA would have given the win over to the GOP. If the Republican were Paul Ryan, WI would be red and MN would be in play. Something to consider for 2020.capture