The Next Two Years Start Now

Dear fellow Democrats. I know that right now you are still in mourning. Many of you are just now starting to come out the shock that was last week’s elections. Others have been taking to the streets and getting your voice heard. I am not here to tell you how you should be handling these results. Everyone deals with loss in their own way, and as long as you are staying safe, and not engaging in violent behavior, then you do you.

You are allowed to grieve.

And that is why I hate to ask this of you, but I feel as if I must: It is also time to start working. America needs you more than ever right now to be prepared to work together to a degree never seen before in national politics. Anyone who thinks that the only thing left to do is sit back until 2018 and hope for a better congress will be in for a rude awakening when things don’t just magically get better on their own.

In January, the Republicans are set to take hold of the Executive Branch, the Legislative Branch (Projected: House 240:195; Senate 51:48*), and gain a massive edge in taking over the Supreme Court which is still holding onto a vacant seat, but there are still important steps that we can take now to soften the blow.

1. Louisiana Senate Race
Why should I care?
Currently the Senate is sitting at 51-48. The missing seat belongs to Louisiana who has a special run off in December between its two top candidates. A win here for Democrats would not tie the house, but it would mean one less seat we need to win in what is looking like a tough 2018 for Democrats (There are 23 Democrat seats up for re-election, and only 8 Republican seats). If we want any hope of getting back a lead in two years, it starts now with Louisiana.

Who are the players?
Foster Campbell (D)
John Kennedy (R)

How to help?
Reach out and volunteer, or donate to Foster Campbell’s campaign. There are just over 3 weeks left until this election, and he needs every bit of help he can get in this uphill battle.

2. Supreme Court Vacancy
Why should I care?
The average tenure of a modern Supreme Court justice is 26 years and growing. Whomever is appointed will likely still be making decisions during the 2044 elections. This impacts past social progress as well as any future challenges to our freedoms. There is no other issue with more significant long term implications on the table at the moment.

Who are the players?
The US Senate
President Obama
President-elect Trump

How to help?
There are three very different scenarios that could play out over the next couple months. They vary in likelihood, but it is worth being aware of all of them.

I) The first, and probably least likely scenario is a recess appointment. There is a lot of debate on this method, and it would almost certainly be contested, but if the Senate decides to take a recess of at least 10 days (say from Dec 24th through January 3rd), the President is within his constitutional rights to make a recess appointment. This would be a temporary fix, but temporary in this sense means until the end of the NEXT session, which is better than nothing, and gives us time to regroup for a permanent option.

II) Another unlikely situation, although much less contestable, would be for Obama to work with the new Senate when they take office on January 3rd, 2017. This gives Obama just under three weeks to convince the new session of congress to appoint his nominee. If the previously discussed Louisiana race could turn out blue AND if the committee pushes it to a vote, only one Republican senator would be needed to confirm Obama’s nominee (with Biden’s tie breaking vote). This would go a long way to improve the animosity felt across America right now, and is also the most desirable outcome for rebuilding. To help with this, you should be contacting your Senators, ESPECIALLY if they are on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and push them to find a compromise. Republicans in Congress held our country hostage this past year, and we need them to show some good faith that they still want to represent all of America.

III) Unfortunately, the most likely of all scenarios is with a Trump nominated appointee. If this happens, we need to push our representatives (again, Senators) to do everything they can to prevent an extreme view on the court. I know that the Republicans refused to listen to reason and even hear our nominee, but they were also in power, a luxury that we do not have. The truth is that it is very unlikely that we could withstand two years of blocking a nominee, even if we wanted to be petty. However, we still can use the power we do have to fight for a fair and moderate appointee. Even with Louisiana, we would still need two republicans to vote against their party to prevent any votes on a nomination; This leaves us with only one option, the filibuster route, but it has to be used wisely and not at every juncture. This option should be withheld for unacceptable nominees to the Supreme Court. This means we need to be very vigilant against any potential appointments, and be vocal to our Senators that we expect them to take the same stand.

3. Democratic National Committee
Why should I care?
Democrats can argue all day about how much of an impact the actions of Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Donna Brazile had on the Primary and in turn the General Elections, but it won’t accomplish a damn thing. Regardless, we can all agree that it was not handled appropriately, and that trust for the party is at an all-time low. This needs to be addressed, and it needs to be done in a public way with the entire party feeling as if they are included.

Who are the players?
Keith Ellison (US Congressman MN-5)
Howard Dean (Chair from 2005-2009; 2004 Presidential Candidate)
Martin O’Malley (former Gov. of MD; 2016 Presidential Candidate)
Democratic leaders across America

How to help?
Get informed. Do your research on everyone who is running, and then look up who your state party leaders are and reach out to them. The DNC chair is elected by a few hundred Democratic leaders (and gender balanced counterparts) across America. State party leaders, chairs and vice chairs from dozens of committees you probably have never even heard of, and Democratic leaders in Congress, all will meet in a couple months to vote on the issue, and this can’t be something we let happen without discussion. Both Howard Dean and Martin O’Malley represent a more traditional approach to the Democratic party. Their plans will most likely include attempting to revive the party to its former state, but will do little to address the major concerns of those who felt disenfranchised by the past DNC committee. This is where Keith Ellison stands above the rest. Ellison is a devout progressive who not only cares about the traditional platforms of Democratic party, but also about making the changes needed to push us to where we need to be. He is innovative and has an increasingly rare ability to look at where things are headed (He was laughed at on TV in 2015 for trying to tell people to take Trump as a serious threat. He was also the second person in Congress to endorse Bernie Sanders). He is against the TPP, NAFTA, Citizen United, and is for Universal Healthcare, a higher minimum wage, and student loan reform. He is also the only currently proposed candidate who is from the Midwest, an area that the Democratic party drastically under performed in this past election and should probably look into bringing back into the fold.

4. Don’t Stop
Why should I care?
I think the fact that you are still reading this shows that you already do.

Who are the players?
You!

How to help?
Donate. Volunteer. Encourage discussion! We can’t sit back and hope the future fixes itself for us. We need to take control of it now. And I mean Right Now. Start by making a pledge for the next two years. You set the terms, but make it and stand by it. It could be something as simple as donating $10 a month to a candidate, cause, or party that you want to support. Or maybe, just maybe, you decide here and now you are going to stop waiting and take action. Commit to volunteering two hours a month to a local campaign or organization, because that is where it starts. Reach out to some local groups that are going to be severely impacted by this election and ask them how you can help. And if they don’t need you, ask someone else. I guarantee you there is a need for you out there right now, and I am asking you to seek it out. Encourage your friends to do the same. Be vocal about your action, and share your experiences. Tag your story with #twoyearplan and if you are comfortable, share it publicly so that we can be reminded that we are not alone, and that we are here to support each other.

We have the rare chance to influence the next generation of politics, and no one to blame but ourselves if we let that slip away.

(Cover Image: Michael Paul Olson; Lumnivore

To My Friends and Family who Voted for Trump

Dear loved ones with opposing views. I know this is not an easy time for you right now either. You have probably been called racist, sexist, bigoted, ignorant, or a slew of other profanities not worth repeating.

I know some of you very closely. I know you are filled with love, hope, and truly want a better country just as much as the rest of us, and to be called such things may not only seem out of line, but it is hurtful. And I know it isn’t fair to you. Having somewhat conservative values, or wanting to shake up the system doesn’t mean you should automatically be branded a racist, and I want to fix that. I want to help bring us back together, but I need your help with a couple of things.

First, we need to talk about the elephant in the room. Trump has said some awful things. His recording describing sexual assault, calling immigrants rapists, and mocking disabled people are just a few of the many inappropriate things he has done these last few months.

I know that you, my loving, caring, rational loved ones, didn’t vote for him because he said these things. That these were not the positions you stood behind, but the sad truth is, for some it was. You can see it in extreme cases, but it is there. The previously quiet and voiceless extremists, the KKK, the neo-nazis, and just your garden variety closeted racist, they think they have found a voice in Trump. And the sad reality, even if you believe he doesn’t stand for that himself, he has yet to stand in opposition of it. And we need him to. We need you to constantly hold him to the high moral standards that you yourself uphold. For whatever reason you voted for him, it wasn’t to support hatred, so don’t let it stand.

Next, we really need you to stop it with the posts calling the losers “whiny.” Stop complaining about safe spaces and people being easily offended. If you don’t need them, don’t use them, but there is something you need to understand. Yesterday, less than 24 hours after Trump won, racists have vandalized school grounds and public spaces, homophobes have chased, mocked, threatened, and even violently attacked members of the LGBT community. Women across the country continue to feel that the rest of the country thinks of them as objects. This not an opinion, this is reality. And in the recent domination of every branch of government, these people now feel like they have no one to hear their concerns. So I ask you, prove them wrong.

Trump was elected to become President of the United States by the so-called “silent majority,” and I’m asking you to stop being silent. America needs you to stand up against racism and sexism. I know you are against those things, so please stop defending them. Stop shaming those who feel neglected. Stop telling people to get over it when they are experiencing something you can’t even fathom.

I know how hard this can be. And with the protests and high tension that will surely grow over the next few months, it is probably only going to get even harder. But I implore you to remember, just like how some racists voting for Trump doesn’t make you a racist, please don’t lump everyone against him together too. Most of us are scared of what we have to lose. You don’t have to agree with why we are scared, but please don’t invalidate this feeling. I know that to simply describe the tension in our country as ‘palpable’ right now might be a bit of understatement, but we need clear minds on both sides if there is ever a chance of getting through this in one piece.

So here it is. The deal I propose. I can’t promise I won’t complain, that I won’t speak out against our new President or Congress, or that I won’t join rallies when I feel they are warranted, but I do promise you this: I promise to analyze each and every idea proposed with an open and rational mind, and to NOT protest or complain just for the sake of dissonance, but I need you to promise something as well. I need you to promise to continue to fight for equality.

In his victory speech Trump promised to “be President for all of Americans,” and I need you, as his level headed base, to hold him to this. It’s up to those who put him in power to remind him of his word.

Your majority is no longer silenced; the world is listening. Now make sure you use that power for making this a better place for all humankind, and help us leave this as best a place as we can for our next generation.

What is at Stake on Tuesday

So I’ve been relatively quiet on posting about the upcoming election lately. Really, I’ve just been trying to figure out how to put everything down in a neat nice way, but..

I can’t. Nice doesn’t seem to be a word that applies to any aspect of this election. Everywhere I look is just hate. Trump’s a racist, Clinton’s a liar, Johnson doesn’t know which way is up, Stein is an anti-vaxxer, etc. etc. etc…

My God. I thought Memes reached their insufferable limit when that stupid Minions movie was coming out, but seriously, you have all outdone yourselves these past few weeks.

Now, it is no secret that I have always been an adamant supporter of Sanders. In my opinion, he had the most progressive and honest platform, and could have started a completely new generation of politics in America. He was treated unfairly, the party that claimed to be impartial worked against him, and he was robbed of an honest chance. It is unacceptable.

But that is not what Tuesday is about.

If you try and make Tuesday about Sanders or the Primary, you are failing. You’re failing the movement, you’re failing your fellow citizens, and you’re failing the generations that will come after you.

At this point in the election, there are four things you can do. You can vote for Hillary. You can vote for Trump. You can vote Third Party. Or you can stay home.

Please do not stay home. Even if you can’t stand any of the people at the top of the ballot, we need your input down the ticket. There is so much more at stake here than merely who is set to be president. 469 members of Congress will be chosen in 4 days. Thousands of others for state and local positions. These things matter. Your vote matters. Whatever you do, don’t throw that away.

Now, many of my friends I have heard are planning on voting third party. I get it. Some of you feel burned (no pun intended), some feel they can’t, under good conscience, vote for either candidate, and some were planning on voting third party all along. For the past few months, all you have heard is people telling you that you are throwing away your vote, that you’re blind if you think your candidate has a chance, that a vote for a third party is a vote for [insert opposing front-runner here], and from day one you’ve been treated like you don’t know what you are doing. That is completely unfair, and I am sorry. Truly I am. I am not telling you to change your mind, but I do ask that you make sure you are doing it for the right reasons. At this point in the election, neither Stein nor Johnson have even a remote chance of winning. They have already lost. However, there are reasons to vote third party. Perhaps you want them to get to 5% of the vote so that we can start getting funding to other parties. If that’s the case, then take a look at the state you are in. If you’re in Texas and left wing, then vote your heart out. Conservative and living in California? Why not throw some votes to Johnson. But if you are in a state where a vote may actually make the difference (I’m looking at you friends in New Hampshire…) please make sure you are making the right choice. The term ‘protest vote’ has been thrown around a lot this election. Some saying that’s their goal, others saying it doesn’t exist. Well, it does exist, but a vote for Jill Stein or Gary Johnson is not one. In order for it to be a protest vote, both other options would have to be equally as bad. Now many people can argue about who is worse, but if you truly think there is no difference between Clinton and Trump, you’re just being obstinate. Stop that. There are many differences. If this is your thought for voting, then at least do me the favor of reading what I have to say below. 

To those who are planning on voting for Trump, you probably fit into one of two categories.

To those who are anti-establishment, are screaming about a rigged system, and want to see politics as we know it burned to the ground: If you have ever once said the words “Make America Great Again” without three coats of irony, or if you see Trump as the man who is going to “shake up Washington,” you have been duped. Trump is a business man first and foremost. He may be trying to take the reins from the government, but it is just so he can hold onto them for himself. He does not have your interest in mind, and there is no time in the history of America where things were “Great.”

However, if you are a Conservative, or if you believe in the policies that are more right wing, then it makes sense that you might vote for him because he is the only shot at getting any of your ideas addressed. But stop defending him. You don’t need to agree with someone, or even like someone for that matter, to vote for them. He is exhaustively deplorable as a human being. The things he has done and said about minorities, women, practically anyone who doesn’t fall in line behind him, are awful. They are awful for a decent civilized human being, but more so, for a President, they are unforgivable. So stop defending him as a person because it weakens your argument and it encourages that behavior both in him and in others who look up to him. Simply admit you have conservative values and are voting him out of default because that is the only (some-what) acceptable reason.

And then there is Clinton. I have never voted for Clinton. I voted for Obama in ’08, and caucused for Sanders in ’16, both on voting day and again at the district level. I do not support all of her policies, both domestic and abroad, but she is also not the evil entity that her opposition has laid out. To all my progressive friends out there who were all about Bernie when he was around. Don’t you think if half the accusations against her were worth discussing, Bernie would have put more emphasis on them? Especially as things got heated towards the end? Yes, the way the DNC and Clinton campaign handled the whole primary system is an embarrassment to the democratic process, but you can’t fix the system by bowing out of the discussion.

Regardless, I doubt anything I or anyone else can say about Clinton at this point will really change your mind about her. Her image is poisoned for many of you, so instead of trying to undo what you have clearly already accepted as truth, please decide if any of the following are important to you:

Women’s Rights
Immigration
Healthcare Reform
LGBT Equality
Racial Disparities
Gun Violence
Freedom of Speech
Overreach of Religion
Hate Speech
Minimum Wage Increases
College Tuition

Many, if not all, of these Clinton has a stronger stance on than Trump. But more importantly, if we are able to get ANY of these passed in the next 20 years, there will be a fight, and that fight will almost certainly be brought to the Supreme Court.

This Tuesday is not only about deciding if Clinton is better or worse than Trump. It’s not only about what she may or may not get done in the next 4-8 years. It’s about what direction we are trying to head in for the next few decades.

There has been a lot of talk about Clinton not being progressive enough for many Democrats. What do you think will happen if we put forth a Conservative court? The House of Representatives will almost certainly remain Conservative, and the Senate will most likely bend the same direction as the president along with the Supreme Court. This means that if the country allows Trump to take office, he could be doing so with a Republican controlled Congress, and allowed to set up the most Conservative Supreme Court in modern history.

How easy do you think it will be to continue to make progress in this country if that happens?

This isn’t just about Trump or Clinton. This is about laying the foundation for what is to come, and we cannot afford to take a chance on our future.

Clinton was not my first choice, but she is still hands down the most qualified presidential candidate on the ballot. Trump said so when he wasn’t running. Weld (Johnson’s running mate) said so DAYS ago. Sanders has said so. It is a near unanimous belief in the political field for both Republicans and Democrats alike. With Supreme Court openings (one currently, and maybe even three or four more in the next eight years), a more liberal congress, and a mandate from the people showing her support, Clinton could end up being one of the most impactful and influential Presidents of not only the past century, but in American history.

So I ask you this one last question. Do you want to be part of the group that stands in opposition to the only chance of progress we have just to make a statement? or do you want to move on from the wrongs made, and be a part of finding a solution by standing with Her? Being with her doesn’t have to mean blindly following, or even necessarily ignoring past mistakes; instead it allows for you to be part of the discussion of improving our country. Because right now, that is the only statement that really matters.

For me there is really no discussion or choice left to be had. I easily stand with the only clear choice for progressive values. #HillYes #ImWithHer

Using Science to Take a Look at Police Violence

With the current climate in our country, regardless of what side of the debate that you are on, it is very clear that something incredibly awful is happening. Almost every day we are hearing about another attack either on or by officers. Innocent lives are being lost in what is turning into a war that no one seems to want. The whole thing is dripping with racism, hate, fear, and very little comprehension of how both sides seem to be making the whole thing worse.

But I’m not here to write about the racism or hate. Not because they aren’t important (in fact they are the foundation for much larger areas of causality here), but because Racism isn’t something that can so easily be boiled down into numbers. Racism is not binary. Actions are. So bear with me as we take a look at dismantling two of the biggest arguments in favor of excessive force that are not directly attached with racism.

1. “An Officer Has a Right to Defend Him/Herself”

Now this is a big one. And on the surface, it is very hard to argue without sounding like I do not think an officer’s life matters. It does. I know it does. So just hear me out. To wean us into this topic, let’s first start with a little talk on Signal Detection Theory [1].

In Signal Detection Theory, there are two main variables: a “signal” and a “response.” To best understand the difference, let’s take a look at airport security. Imagine you are walking through a metal detector (The old kind, not the new fancy scanners that remind the TSA agents that I have, in fact, not been training for my marathon). The detector can be set on a range of sensitivity, meaning it could pick up everything as small as a foil gum wrapper if it is too high, or miss a block of lead if it is too low. So how does the airport decide where to draw the line? Well they come up with what is called a criterion. They try to find an acceptable middle ground in which most of what they are trying to catch is caught, and most of what they don’t care about is let through. However, this still will make mistakes on both ends because the detector cannot be specific enough. This means that every single time someone walks through a detector, one of four scenarios plays out:

A) Nothing in pockets (no signal); Nothing detected (no response) = Correct Rejection
B) Nothing in pockets (no signal); Threat detected (yes response) = False Alarm
C) Something in pocket (yes signal); Nothing detected (no response) = Miss
D) Something in pocket (yes signal); Threat detected (yes response) = Hit

We want ‘A’ and ‘D’, but need to limit ‘B’ and ‘C’. In any case in which such a criterion must be made, there has to be a decision about what is worse. Are we more worried about someone having to remove the gum from their pocket and try again (False Alarm), or a gun accidentally making it onto a plane (Miss)? In the case of airport security, we have a very low criterion because having 10,000 people empty their pockets again is worth it to prevent even a single gun on a plane. Easy.

Now let’s convert this to the topic at hand. Police interactions. For this, we need to consider every single time an officer interacts with a citizen. Granted, this number seems impossibly high, but it’s okay, since the VAST majority of them fall into Correct Rejections, and are therefore not useful to determining if a criterion is being met, remember, that is the job of the misses and false alarms.

First, we need to set a criterion. And, I am not going to lie, this is going to be hard, and may seem insensitive, but for the sake of getting to the bottom of this question, this is a must. To determine the criterion, we need to answer the question, “What is worth more, an innocent life, or the life of an officer?” Anyone want to tackle this one for me? No? Okay, well I’ll give my take on it. I say the innocent life, by a hair. Not because I think an officer is less important, but that it is part of the job to risk their life (and most do day in and day out) for the innocent lives around them. If you don’t like my answer, try to answer this impossible series of questions:

Situation 1: Two men stand in front of a police officer, and the officer knows BOTH plan on shooting him if he doesn’t act immediately. Should the officer shoot?

Situation 2: Two men stand in front of a police officer, and the officer knows NEITHER plan on shooting him at all. Ever. Should the officer shoot?

Situation 3: Two men stand in front of a police officer, and the officer knows ONE man plans on shooting him if he doesn’t act immediately, but he doesn’t know which one. Should the officer shoot them both or neither?

Most would agree the officer should fire in the first, not in the second, and may feel torn in the third. If you feel this way, good, you’re a complex human being with complex human emotions. But really look at that third option. Does an officer have the right to shoot an innocent man because he wants to live?

This gets even more complex when you increase the number. What if there were ten men, NINE of which were planning on shooting the officer. Should the officer shoot them all?

If you are looking at your screen right now refusing to even consider these options, you are being clouded by emotion, and not allowing yourself to actually make the straight answer, when all else are equal, whose life is more important. The officer or the innocent person?

We may all differ on our level of a criterion. Me? I think that the minimum idea of criterion is that innocent life = that of an officer. That is, at most, an officer should only be able to endanger the public to the level in which he/she is in danger him/herself.

So how does this look when we place it in SDT? Let’s consider this in an encounter between an officer and someone else. The signal will be whether or not the “suspect” intends to kill the officer (more specifically, the signal is whatever the officer perceives as life threatening); whereas the response will be whether or not the officer uses lethal force. So we have:

A) No threat (no signal); No threat detected (no response) = Correct Rejection
B) No threat (no signal); Threat detected (yes response) = False Alarm
C) Actual threat (yes signal); No threat detected (no response) = Miss
D) Actual threat (yes signal); Threat detected (yes response) = Hit

Or more specifically:

A) Correct Rejections: 99.9999999% of all police encounters
B) False Alarm: Innocent people SHOT by officers
C) Miss: Officers murdered by any method
D) Hit: Officer successfully neutralized a threat

(Note: Because this post is about officers using their weapons in a moment of danger, only officers using their firearms are being counted for false alarms, but ALL murders of officers are counted for a miss. This also considers an event in which an officer perceived the threat, but not in time, as a miss.)

Now remember, there MUST be a criterion, and it has to be balanced; if it were too low, it would mean all hits and false alarms (anytime an officer saw a quick movement, he/she would shoot), but if it were too high, it would be all correct rejections and misses (the officer would never shoot, even if a gun was pointed at him/her).

We can’t really use 2016 data for this exercise, because it is still constantly shifting, and it is still barely halfway done, but we do have accurate data from 2015.  Unfortunately, the difference between a False Alarm and a Hit is sometimes hard to determine (i.e. was the person really a threat or not?). For this part of the exercise, I am going to go ahead and do something that we all know is not accurate, but let’s just say, that 100% of the time that someone had a deadly weapon, they would have killed the police officer (again, this is not even remotely true, and as my 2nd amendment loving friends don’t shut up about, it isn’t illegal to carry around a deadly weapon). Here are the results:

A) Correct Rejections: 99.9999999% of all police encounters                    (Some huge number)
B) False Alarm: Unarmed/Toy gun people shot by officers                         (127) [2]
C) Miss: Officers murdered by any method                                                      (41) [3]
D) Hit: Officer shot someone with a deadly item (inc. unknown)      (863) [2]

Look at ‘B’ and ‘C’. This means with the current level of criterion, Officers are 3x more likely to pull the trigger too quickly, than to miss the threat. And this is if you decide, across the board, to say that all deaths in which the person had a weapon were in fact valid threats. With this criterion, we are saying that it is okay for an officer to kill up to 3 innocent people if his/her life is on the line. And this just isn’t acceptable.

Now, remember that word I said I wasn’t going to bring up? Racism? Ok, well I lied a bit. But I promise it was for your own good, and this is important. What if we look at these numbers when it comes to white vs. minority encounters. The base rate is 3.097 (innocent lives taken per officer deaths). Now, it can be hard to tell who exactly was on the end of killing an officer, since some murderers are never found, but the FBI did a comprehensive study from 2004-2013 showing that roughly 52% of officer deaths during that time were caused by white attackers [4]. Applying that figure to 2015 (and still going with the borderline absurd assumption that all those with a weapon would have killed an officer) for encounters with white people we have a rate of  2.571, which is still unacceptable, but it grows for minorities to 3.65!

Let that sink in. Not only with the current criterion is an officer’s life worth more than 3 average innocent Americans. But the life of a person of color in America is about 50% more expendable than a white person? These numbers show the rates in which minorities are killed compared to when they are “actually” a threat. If race were not a factor, these numbers would not be so different. Maybe Racism CAN be put down into numbers.

Okay. Back to non-directly racism related points.

2. “If They Were Innocent, Why Did They [insert crime here]”

One of the most empty defenses in response to the Michael Brown case 2 years ago was that he had recently stolen items from a store. I heard this same despicable line of thought in the recent tragedy of Philando Castile when I heard someone say “Yeah, but did you hear they had weed in the car?” No. Just stop. None of these events or offenses bear any relevance. The ONLY time in which committing a crime could potentially be justified with a lethal response is in the case of a dangerous felony. Hell, most states already institute a Felony Murder Rule, which means if you are engaged in a felonious act, all lives lost in the proceeding events can be placed under your fault, including their own.

If someone is robbing a bank, or engaging in a high speed car chase, then yes, their actions may lead to their death. But we have laws (and penalties for breaking those laws) in place against smaller infractions, and NEVER should potential of death from a confused officer be one of those. Stealing a pack of cigarillos, or driving with marijuana in your car, does not make your life worth less. And it doesn’t justify anyone taking your life. Period.

Oh, and Don’t Forget the Racism

“What the hell! You promised!” I know. I know. But it really is impossible to separate this issue from racism. Not only because it is found in every stinking inch of the whole damned thing, but also because there is an even more insidious type of meta-racism being ignored in this mess. The racism of disparaging those who are suffering from racism.

All Lives Matter. Blue Lives Matter. Whatever you put in your catchy little hashtag or meme to try and draw attention to the fact that everyone matters. You don’t realize how awful what you are doing is.

Black Lives Matter is not about saying Black lives are better or more important than others. It is about drawing attention to an epidemic of American (read: white) culture that dismantles and devalues Black culture, opinion, and, most importantly, lives.

Saying “All Lives Matter” is like if you were in a swimming pool and you were holding little Timmy underwater. Then when he comes up and gasps “I need air!”, you laugh and say “Ohh, Timmy, we all need air!”, and then you shove him right back underwater.

That is what you are doing. Mainstream (again, read: White) culture is perpetuating a system of oppression and racism, which is Mathematically (see above for just one of many examples) devaluing Black lives. And then you have the audacity to mock their struggle by equating it with your own?

And stop the complaining about your precious roads being blocked. I see people post “They’re not going to win anyone over by doing that!” Really? Because you were going to call them up next week and ask them what you can do to help, but not now that I-94 is backed up? Not only is racism alive and well in America, but half of the country pretends that it doesn’t even exist. And you want those who are being oppressed, or those who are standing with them, to stay out of your way so that you can keep on believing that. Your roads are blocked because they are trying to force action. They are done caring if you agree with them, because you obviously already made up your mind that the final page in America’s racist history was written when we elected a Black man as president, and they are done asking for your permission to be treated as equal, because somewhere in your twisted logic you think that they already have equality, and they are done waiting for the next generation to hopefully come to their senses, because we are the next generation, and as a whole we are just as clueless as the last.

So the next time you complain about BLM, or dismiss the unregulated and legally accepted violence towards innocent lives, stop and ask what you’re really mad at. Try and listen with an open mind to what others are saying. Consider for just a moment, that they might have something worth being upset about.

Now, the events in Dallas, Baton Rouge, and, as of yesterday, Kansas City, are all disgusting acts of retaliation. Honest officers put their lives on the line every day, and all they ask is that we do not go out of our way to put their lives in danger. 

And although we do need to hold the system in which they live accountable for its actions, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that physically attacking the police is not the way to do that. 

Even from a preservational standpoint, this puts the police even more on alert, raises their sensitivity to threats, and will only lead to MORE False Alarms, and therefore more innocent lives.

Violence begets violence. MLK saw that half a century ago. He may not have understood Signal Detection Theory, but he knew that what is needed is compassion for each other, and that more can be done by bringing awareness and understanding than fear.

Now I know a few of you are rolling your eyes right now, thinking “Who does this white, straight, cis-gender, male think he is, quoting MLK and talking about equality?”

I have no personal skin in the game, and even I can look at this situation and know it is sickening. Shouldn’t that tell you something?

I’m bringing this to light so that maybe some of you out there can take a step back and take it at face value. I am not trying to sell you on anything. Just maybe open you up a little to what is really going on.

I don’t intend on putting guilt or shame on those who say ALM, or who do not understand why the protests are happening, but I am begging that you stop diminishing what is going on here.

Police violence is a symptom of the society we live in. And if we don’t change how we view others, and fight to break down our own irrational fears about those different than us, it will just get worse. And to be honest, I am not sure how much more it can take before it reaches a level worse than we all would have believed to be possible.

I just hope it it’s still not too late.

1: Signal Detection Theory: http://www-psych.stanford.edu/~lera/psych115s/notes/signal/
2: 2015 Officer Kills: https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/national/police-shootings/?tid=a_inl
3: 2015 Officer Deaths: https://www.fbi.gov/news/pressrel/press-releases/fbi-releases-2015-preliminary-statistics-for-law-enforcement-officers-killed-in-the-line-of-duty
4: Black or White killers: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2015/01/09/are-black-or-white-offenders-more-likely-to-kill-police/

Everybody Just Calm Down, Okay?

With Hillary un-officially becoming the Democratic Presidential Nominee on Tuesday (I say “un-officially” only as a matter of formality. To anyone who thinks she is not the actual Nominee at this point, I am sorry to break the news, but you’re living in denial), there has been quite a bit of ranting from all sides.

I’ve had a few people ask me if I think Bernie should step down, or if I think the “Bernieorbust” movement is going to bring about the apocalypse by allowing Drumpf to sit on the Iron Throne.

What everyone really needs to do for a second is to take a deep breath, and calm the hell down. Now that that’s done, decide which of these groups you fall into, and please read accordingly:

To Bernieorbust’ers, or anyone who has ever supplanted Hillary’s name with some form of the word “shill”:

First and foremost: Hillary is the nominee. Seriously, stop. Barring any major (and I mean MAJOR) new legitimate scandal, she is and will be the Democratic Presidential Nominee. Now before any of you start talking about emails, or Benghazi, or one of the other dozen things being thrown around in an attempt to disqualify her candidacy, let me make one thing clear. None of this matters at this moment.

Your opinions on whether or not any of these things are grounds for disqualification are unimportant at this stage. Unless the FBI comes and surprises the world with previously un-released information, she is not going to be disqualified, and she WILL be the nominee. Bernie could not convince Superdelegates to come to his side when he HAD the momentum, and he isn’t going to be successful after the major defeats in NY and CA. So get all of that out of your head.

Secondly, and this is the most important. What now? If you are anything like me, you weren’t fighting, and debating, and caucusing/voting just to get another old white man into office. We love Bernie, but our fire, our revolution is not embodied by one man. We believe in his ideas and his vision. However building that movement, and laying the groundwork for a more successful 2020 (or more importantly, pushing this movement into congress) is still in the distant future. So again, I ask: What now?

I’ve heard from some that they plan to stay home. Others say they are going to write in Bernie, or vote for Jill Stein. I’m not here to tell you to do “X”, but please please PLEASE realize that today is not November 8th, and you do not need to be so damned stubborn about it at this point. Our movement is one about progress and acceptance. It is about hard work and dedication to make our ideas of better government a reality. Shutting down and blindly sticking to your rash decision just because of some wounded pride is against what the whole political revolution is about. Inaction is bad, but misguided action due to bitterness is even worse. You don’t need to make a decision today, so don’t. Research options on how to CHANGE the system that prevented us from having a direct impact in the first place. Get involved with your local government and see how you can help spread awareness of your position. Actively and Compassionately engage with those who have differing opinions.

You don’t need to get behind Hillary right now, but realize that those who are in her camp are not the enemy. They want better healthcare, women’s rights, racial and income equality. They want progressives in the Supreme Court, and they want more public services. Instead of drilling into what is so different between us, take a moment to see what we have in common, and seize that!

If we make Hillary the enemy, then we are saying that there is nothing left to fight for. We are saying that all that we stand for is lost. That Clinton or Drumpf, it doesn’t matter, because we have no way of making any progress, and that defeatism is not only deleterious to our movement, it is also flat out wrong.

To those firmly in Hillary’s Camp who feel the need to remind every Bernie supporter that Trump is the enemy:

Back off. Seriously. You don’t realize that you are doing more harm than good. This isn’t some case where two sides were arguing about something like “what is the most popular Starbursts flavor?”

Hillary winning did nothing to prove that she is the right candidate to millions of Bernie supporters. It proved that more people support her, and that’s it.

I have one question for you, and I ask that you truly think about this before answering. What is more important to you: 1) Proving that you were right about Hillary, or 2) Ensuring Hillary is elected in November?

If you answered 1, then please get out of politics. You apparently don’t care about what actually matters, and your competitive ego is going to be the death of your movement. You will never win over Bernie supporters and your candidate will lose to the least qualified presidential candidate in the entire history of Real and Fictional presidential candidates (and I am including Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho in this category).

However, call me optimistic, but I truly believe that the majority of you reading this (especially if you consider yourself a friend of mine) answered 2. So then why are you acting so god-damned like the former group?

Try, for a second, to look at things from the typical Bernie supporter’s viewpoint. Even if you disagree with these stances, if you want to bring people t your side, you have to try and see where they are coming from. We have been told from the very get-go that our candidate, and therefore our ideas and beliefs, are imaginary, pie in the sky, impossible, laughable even. We have heard in almost every major news outlet that “Bernie has already won because he never intended to even make it this far.” Fuck. That.

Seriously, do you even realize how condescending that is? We’re not in this for some participation trophy. We know the odds are against almost every single one of our platforms, but we also believe that despite the odds, they are the morally and ethically appropriate platforms for our government and society. So giving us a pat on the back and pretending like we exceeded everyone’s expectations is a middle finger to everything we have fought for these months.

Additionally, when you say something like “If you don’t vote for Hillary, Drumpf is going to win”, you are NOT convincing any of us anything we didn’t already know. Despite what you may think, we have a good idea of what is going on in the political world, and Drumpf is no surprise. Instead, it comes off like extortion.

Trying to secure our vote through the threat of Drumpf is quite literally extortion. So stop.

You want our vote? Give us something to vote for. Not by telling us who to vote against, nor by regurgitating Hillary’s platform to us verbatim. There is a reason we didn’t vote for her in the primaries, and it doesn’t excite any of us to vote for her in the generals. Instead, follow the same advice that I gave the previous group. You want our vote? Engage with us. We don’t owe you or anyone else our vote, so stop acting like it is our duty to support the candidate and the campaign that treated us like we are naïve children. It isn’t working, and trying to get us to come on board by threats of someone worse just serves as a reminder of how much of a joke this election cycle has been. Over 12 million people threw in their support for Sanders. And as sad as it is, you need as many of us as possible to help this fall to prevent Drumpf from entering the White House (See? that threat can work both ways), so do everyone a favor, and seek to work WITH us instead of telling us to get in line. That is the difference between 1 and 2.

Bernie supporters have to come to terms with the fact that Clinton is the Nominee, but we don’t have to sacrifice all of our beliefs. Likewise, Hillary supporters need to let Sanders’ supporters process the events of the last few months, and when they are ready, work with them to help elect our first Woman President, not lecture them about duty.

Bernie going to the convention is not bad for the party. As long as he stays in the race, he holds onto millions of supporters, and when the time is right, he can help transition that group back into the party, providing the party is willing to hear us out. What is bad for the party is all these posts from both sides complaining about the other side.

I don’t care who started it. I’m about ready to turn this car around! Stop poking each other and arguing about things that can’t be changed. Instead, let’s work together to take care of the things we CAN change.

There is so much more left to work on in our political process, and in getting our country back up from this embarrassingly low point. Anyone who is throwing in the towel already really wasn’t ready for the long haul anyway. So let’s all stop telling people what they have to do, and work together to decide what is best for us all. Deal?

Or, at the very least, can we all just agree that pink Starbursts are the best flavor of Starbursts?

#pinkiswhereitsat #noonelikesyouorange #nowiwantcandy

So About That Popular Vote

Just under two weeks ago, in response to some protesters at an event of hers, Hillary Clinton shot back with a pretty serious and bold statement in which she claimed that “[she has] two and a half million more votes than Bernie Sanders.” This number seemed pretty high, so I felt the need to look into it (as everyone should do when they are unsure of the validity of a statement), and as of the time of her statement, according to thegreenpapers.com, Clinton did in fact have a commanding 2,512,598 vote lead over Sanders. Her statement was valid. But is it really true that despite an increase in National Polls that show Sanders is neck and neck, if not ahead of Clinton, that she is really poised to dominate the popular vote by this much by the end of the race?

Not Exactly.

Despite wanting to write this post since shortly looking into the larger scope of this issue, the impetus really came from a recent article on fivethirtyeight. First, during their live stream of Wisconsin, one of their journalists made a comment about the popular vote total. I posted a bit of my information in the comment section, but as one would suspect, nothing came of it. Then, yesterday morning, the same journalist, David Wasserman, wrote a very detailed article about the “Will of the people” and the popular vote. And while I respect what fivethirtyeight does with their data, when comparing two things that are of different values (i.e. primaries v caucuses), different methods must be enacted. In an attempt at doing this, I have some calculations of my own that shows a different story.

After taking a deeper look at the popular vote argument, I have discovered that if Bernie Sanders can pull off a pledged delegate win (not an easy task), that he is actually poised to hold the popular vote lead, or at the very least, the Will of the People, by the end too. Here are three reasons why.

1. The Total from Green Papers Is Incomplete

And this might seem minor, but the Green Papers total notes that it excludes IA, NV, ME, and WA. While IA and NV were essentially ties vote-wise from what we know about them, ME and WA were a bit lopsided. So much so, that based on estimates of turnout (over 230,000 and 50,000 respectively) and the win margins in each state, this would add an additional 120,000 votes into Sanders’ column. Additionally, since Wisconsin voted earlier this week, Sanders shaved an additional 135,000 votes off of that deficit.

But this is only about 10% of the ginormous lead that Clinton has amassed; what else ya got?

2. Clinton’s Best States Have Already Voted

This is not news. The only reason that anyone has considered Sanders even remotely in the race at this point, is because it was pretty clear that the states that Clinton was supposed to do best in were heavy loaded into the front of the race (Before anyone cries foul, this is not some sign of manipulation by the party, but comes from a variety of factors that has nothing to do with who is running). This means, that if Clinton and Sanders were meant to be tied nationally, at this point, Clinton should have a popular vote lead (albeit not by 2.25 million). While I would have loved to try and figure out some way of predicting how much Sanders should gain in the remaining states, I do not have as much resources, information, nor the statistical acumen for this task like someone at fivethirtyeight does. Fortunately for me, Wasserman did just this in his article. Wasserman looked at what the popular vote change would be, if moving forward, Sanders acquired the right amount of delegates to secure a pledged delegate win at 2026-2025 delegates (presumably using Nate Silver’s adjusted goal chart). This chart shows that if Sanders were to come back and win, he would acquire about 1.7 million additional votes over Clinton. Bringing her actual lead down to about 525,000 votes (which is less than Bush lost by in the 2000 General Election against Gore).

Okay, so the lead isn’t as demanding as Clinton and many outlets make it seem, but she still has a popular vote lead, and therefore, the will of the people… right?

3. Primary v Caucus

Before we get into the statistical mess that this entails, I want to ask you to imagine this situation for me.

Imagine there are two classrooms, each with 50 students, that need to vote on a theme for prom. The person in charge of counting votes tells each class that they can decide on how to vote in any way they want, but that they must provide a count.

Classroom A decides to allow students to come in and drop off their vote anytime during the day into a box.

Classroom B thinks that there should be a discussion, and plans to meet after school to talk about the themes, and then vote on it.

Classroom A gets 20 of their students to drop off votes, whereas Classroom B gets 7 or so students to meet after school and discuss what theme best fits the desires of their class. These are the results:

A: 12-8     Theme 1
B: 5-2       Theme 2

Popular vote places Theme 1 as the winner (14-13). But is this really the will of the students? If these vote totals were compared to the population they represent, Theme 2 would win 55-45. Because Classroom B decided to have a discussion about how to vote before they voted, do they no longer represent the same amount of people?

These questions are not rhetorical. What constitutes the “Will of the people”? If it is simply popular vote, then why do we have an electoral college?

In states with a Caucus, which Sanders happens to do very well in, there is a much lower turnout than those with a Primary. My example from above? Those numbers were proportionally based off turnout and voting preference of Virginia and Washington respectively.

The delegate totals for each state is determined by their democratic voting record in the last three general presidential elections, and that state’s overall electoral total. Which means that they are proportional to how democratic each state is and their population. The Democratic Party created these rules to say that the will of the people nationally should be determined by representation, not by popular vote. Because of this, many states decide how to do this differently, and those states’ citizens’ opinions should not be considered less than others because of how they choose to vote. Caucuses have less turnout, but each vote represents thousands more than some primaries.

Take my home state of NH and adopted state of MN for example.

NH Democratic Primary 2016 = 256k
NH Democratic General Election Votes 2012 = 369k
or 66.67% of democratic general election voters voted in their primary

MN Democratic Caucus 2016 = 191k
MN Democratic General Election Votes 2012 = 1,546k
or 12.35% of democratic general election voters caucused in their caucus

It takes almost 5 NH votes to match 1 MN vote in delegate worth. If MN had the same turnout rate as NH, with its win margin, Sanders would have accumulated another 200,000 votes over Clinton. Had turnout in Washington been like NH? An additional 425,000 OVER the 104,000 that I awarded him earlier. Are you seeing a pattern? And, while in the general election WA may not have the same turnout at NH (65.8% to 70.9%), MN has one of the highest general election turnouts in the nation with 76.4%.

In an attempt at calculating this, I tried a few different measures. First, with data totaled after the WI primary, I calculated the AVERAGE ratio of turnout for primary states and compared it to their awarded delegates (the best representation for how democratic a state is). NH has a high primary turnout, and it wasn’t fair to compare each caucus to them so I felt the average was a better measure. In doing so, I discovered that had every caucus (not just the ones Sanders won) had the same turnout as the average primary, and maintained similar win margins, Clinton’s lead would be down to 1.6 million (this figure includes all races thus far), which when added to Wasserman’s goal sheet, would give Sanders a 100,000 representative popular vote lead over Clinton by the time that he wins the election IF he gets enough pledged delegates.

I am in no way saying that this is a guarantee, or even that it is the most likely of scenarios. But Wasserman’s article, as well as Clinton’s campaign, are misconstruing the information at hand by comparing two things that really have no business being compared. The Popular Vote is misinforming, and has zero impact on the general election, and anyone who tries to claim that the popular vote is the same as the will of the people without regarding the will of caucus states, is telling millions of voters in caucus states that their votes are worth less than the votes in primary states.

Are you really so sure that a popular vote count is an accurate portrayal of the will of the people? I’m not.

 

Sources:
Hillary Clinton’s Claim: https://t.co/yjjJu1ApOP
Popular Vote Tally: http://www.thegreenpapers.com/P16/D
National Polls: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2016/president/us/2016_democratic_presidential_nomination-3824.html#polls
Washington State Turnout: http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/state-party-democratic-caucus-attendance-topped-230000/
Maine Turnout: http://www.ibtimes.com/maine-democratic-caucus-results-2016-live-updates-bernie-sanders-hillary-clinton-2331215
538 Goal Voter Turnout: http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/bernie-sanders-is-even-further-behind-in-votes-than-he-is-in-delegates/
Nate Silver’s Sanders’ Goals: http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/its-really-hard-to-get-bernie-sanders-988-more-delegates/
Determination of Democratic Delegates: https://www.gwu.edu/~action/delallocat.html
2012 Voter Turnout by State: http://www.electproject.org/2012g

I Made a Chart

As many of you already know (and may also be guilty of), I follow fivethirtyeight fervently. Nate Silver and Co have a fantastic record of not only being unbiased in their data, but also right in their assessments. However, in many ways, they have fallen prey to what I see every major media outlet in America has been doing for months by spending almost their entire time talking about the complete circus that is the Republican Party meltdown.

Fortunately, despite their lack of discussion on the Democratic race (other than the often vague, yet true, Hillary is the front runner until she is not), they have created quite a few interactive tools to allow their readers to follow the action as it unfolds, rather than waiting for someone to write about it. This is exactly what I have been doing for the last few weeks with their Delegate Tracker.

Fivethirtyeight’s delegate tracker was created to draw attention to one MAJOR fact in the current primary season: A lead is not always a lead. Now I know that sounds like some “second place optimistic mumbo-jumbo”, but it’s true. Based on demographics and voting order, EVEN IF Bernie was in line to win the nomination at this point, Hillary should still have a lead. That is because all of her best states voted first. Now, a very important thing to note is that her lead goes beyond that, but that still doesn’t mean her entire 300 (prior to 3/26) pledged delegate lead is weighted the same. In fact, going into yesterday’s primaries, Hillary was expected to have a 65 pledged delegate lead when the two are tied nationally. That means almost 25% of her lead is based solely on convenience of order, and not on her actually having a demanding lead.

So how does one measure a fluctuating lead that has a built-in similarly fluctuating handicap? Well, like I said before. I made a chart.

Attached is said chart that shows the cumulative percentage of pledged delegates compared to the goal amounts for both Hillary and Bernie over the course of the primary season so far. As you can see, in every single election (except by 1 delegate in Northern Marianas) since South Carolina on February 27th, Bernie has actually been INCREASING his proportional delegate lead faster than Hillary. Even when he lost. Even on Super-Tuesday. Even when votes are suppressed, stations are closed early, and independents are denied the ability to vote. That means for the last month, despite anything else you may have been reading, BERNIE IS CONSISTENTLY GAINING ON HILLARY.

Now this doesn’t mean it is clear sailing for Bernie. He has a number of obstacles still in his path (I’m looking at you Wisconsin), but can we all do the democratic process a favor and cool it with the “Why hasn’t Bernie dropped?” or the “Hillary already won!” statements? There are 22 elections over 12 voting days left, and I think we owe it to the rest of the country to hear what they have to say before we call this one. There are still THOUSANDS of unallocated delegates, and over two months until the last primary, and this chart shows the direction that things are headed, despite what you might be hearing elsewhere.

(Source: http://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/…/delegate-t…/democrats/) (Numbers for 3/26 primaries are based on rough estimates and may have minor adjustments)

EDIT 1:10pm CDT 3/27: Well slightly even better news! I noticed that my graph had mixed the numbers for Bernie/Hillary in Alaska, giving Hillary a roughly .5% boost. This is the newest updated draft.

EDIT 3:43pm CDT 3/37: Based on discussion below, I added another graph to show what the new estimated win margins are for Bernie to not only meet his original targets, but to exceed them by the 10 or so percent he needs to to catch up. As you can see, it is not an easy road, but based on some recent wins, not necessarily impossible either.

(This story was originally posted on March 27th, 2016, on Facebook)

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