Staying Neutral in Face of Impending Fascism

Anand is, like his peers, a decent journalists and will report on facts and be fair to both sides. But this concern for fairness has often led to him and his peer equating false equivalence with being fair or as he calls it, neutral. Max Weber’s value-free judgement often has molded these views that you ought to let your personal values not color your work. In this case, journalists often treat Trump’s crazy ramblings that can best be described as raving bigotry and rampant racism as just another view from the right. That has let most journalist to slot Hillary Clinton’s views as the other side without even acknowledging that Trump’s views are so far removed from normal discourse that it wouldn’t be tolerated in the public sphere.

Liberal Media Staying Neutral

As I’ve always said, calling it “liberal media” has been the conservatives’ masterstroke. By terming anything that the media says as ‘liberal media bias’, they sow doubt into the self-introspecting minds of professionals who are unnecessarily trying to stay value-free. It makes them couch every issue into the two-sides argument leading to false equivalence. Trump calls Mexicans rapists but hey, Clinton had a private email server. Trump encourages anti-semitisms leading to online witch hunts but hey, Clinton had a private email server.

I wonder what broke the camel’s back when journalists like Anand were committed to adhere to “norms of neutrality” when Trump was maligning Hispanics, blacks, Jews, and women for the past year. Did the “norms of neutrality” compel them to equate blatant bigotry and sexism so they would be told that they’re doing their job by people least qualified to do so?

But maybe better late than never, lets see if you can call Trump out on the blatantly false statistics he quotes as soon as he quotes them. Do not let him proceed to his next talking point unless he admits that the claim was false. If need be, let him throw a tantrum and walk out of the interview. You can tell your advertising supervisor that you may just get more eyeballs on that interview. Let’s see if he is willing to forgo ‘free airtime’ walking out on every interview.

All it takes is to not stay neutral on obvious falsehoods. I’m sure that will make your journalism professor will be proud instead of the drivel you shovel every day.

Motivations behind Brexit

The United Kingdom decisively voted (52-48) to leave the EU and has now caused massive economic uncertainity at the least. However, the underlying sentiment that drove natives to vote for ‘Leave’ was immigration. Like in America, they “wanted their country back” whatever that meant. In fact, it was nothing but approaching the tipping point of hetrogentity.

Europe has often prided itself on its liberal culture and attitude but just a whiff of immigration in recent years from the so-called undesiable parts of the world shatters that fragile image. Given its colonial past, Europe has never been friendly to other cultures and been accepted in some circles due to its economic benefits. A slight downtick in economic fortunes and like in the U.S., the native rush to blame immigration when in fact, it’s the one of the successes of globalization. Several dog whistles such as “cultural identity” have been used to justify tempering free mobility of people but that’s just a facade of shifting blame for declining economic fortunes on to people you know won’t fight back.

Heck, some people even thought when they’re voting for ‘Leave’, it meant that immigrants would’ve to leave UK. Naturally, the vote has led to several public displays of bigotry and prejudice. The sentiments always existed on the underbelly but it can only be manifested when the bigots feel empowered by people in power to freely express their racism.

It has happened in the U.S. for generations and its an on-going battle every year but so far saner heads have prevailed. UK just let the crazies take control and underestimated the power of hate to get the vote out. People point to the Scandanavian countries as places of bliss in terms of tolerance. I say, give it a few years, let in a few brown people, and then we’ll talk.

[image source: Freestocks at Flickr]

I guess I’ve been so out of the blogging world that I never knew this existed. Or is it new?

PS. Notice anything different?

Math of the Democratic Primary

Finally, our long national nightmare is over. Yesterday, the last of the states voted in the Democratic Primary. Although Washington D.C will vote on the 14th, no one cares about them because, one, it will vote overwhelmingly for Clinton and two, because taxation without representation still holds true for the nation’s capital ironically. Anyway, to summarize the results of the primary:

Hillary Clinton now has:

  • Won a majority of the popular vote count
  • Won the most states
  • Won the most primaries/contests [1]
  • Won the most closed primaries
  • Won a majority of the pledged delegates

Bernie Sanders has:

  • Won a majority of caucuses

Ergo ‘super delegates’ will and most already have pledged support for Hillary Clinton (571 to Sanders’ 48) pushing her over the edge for securing the Democratic nomination quite comfortably.

Caucuses versus Primaries

As Five Thirty Eight projects, if the caucuses were primaries instead i.e. voters cast a ballot instead of spending time debating for a few hours before casting their vote, Hillary Clinton would end up winning a majority of those as well. A grand total of 10,000 people caucused in Alaska. If it was a primary, an estimated 57,000 would cast their ballot.

But why estimate when Washinghton State provides the perfect experiement. It held an official caucus that awarded the delegates on March 26. Bernie Sanders won 73% of the vote compared to Clinton’s 27%. Nearly 237,000 votes were cast in this caucus. The state also held a primary on May 24. This time, however, Hillary Clinton won 54% of the vote compared to Sander’s 46%, and even though these results wouldn’t matter and it was purely a symbolic primary, more than 800,000 votes were cast in this primary. I’ll leave it up to you to decide which method gives the opportunity to the most people to exercise their choice.

Even though Clinton won most of the open primaries i.e. open to non-Democrats, I would argue that all primaries should be closed. If you want to elect a nominee for the Democratic Party, you should be a member of the Democratic Party. It’s that simple. If you want to claim youself as an Independent, you’ll have to wait until the General Election to cast your vote. There are umpteen third-party candidates in the fray if you are not satisfied with the two major party candidates.

On to the General

However, remember that, given the structure of the country’s winner-take-all Electoral College, unless your third-party wins the majority of the electoral votes, your vote will benefit the eventual winner from the two major parties. This year, such votes will help elect Trump. You can still exercise your choice but that’s the unintended consequence whether you like it or not and nope, this is not being passive-agressive. It’s just the way things play out.

there is a chance

This Democratic Primary wasn’t really close although it went through to June. But that was mostly because California hadn’t voted hence giving the person who was behind a probable although very unlikely chance. If California had voted on Super Tuesday, we wouldn’t be having this conversation today.

Congratulations to Hillary Clinton. Now onward to beating Trump in the general.

Footnotes:
  1. includes territories that vote in primaries but not in the general. A total of 57 geographic contests were held this year []

Grand Canyon Vistas

I wrote about my first glimpse of the Grand Canyon previously which unfortunately was in fading light at the end of a long day plagued with travel delays. However, the next day was perfect and we started off with gifting my parents a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon for their 40th wedding anniversary. [1] By their accounts, it was nothing less than spectacular and I can only imagine given what we saw later standing at the rim.

Grand Canyon vacation

View from Desert View Watchtower - Grand Canyon

We started out by first driving to the Desert View watchtower which is about 20 miles from the park entrance and then driving back to stop at various points for views of the canyon. Fortunately, the crowds weren’t bad since school was still in session and the season wouldn’t begin until a few weeks later. It was a slightly cloudy day and we even got a few drops of rain as we stood on the edge of the precipice taking in the sights of the canyon. I hestitate to repeat but the grandeur of the Grand Canyon cannot be understated and it lives up to all the hype you hear before visiting it. The watchtower is a newish structure built on the framework of an older rudimentary building by the Native Americans. This vista was discovered way before any white man stepped on this continent and I’m sure it must’ve been worshipped.

Desert View Watchtower - Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon vacation

We stopped at two more points – Lipan Point and Moran Point – on the way back to the Visitor Center for more of the spectacular views. As you trace your eyesight down the serrated edges of the canyon, you see the river below that carved it as a thin green line making its way out. I wondered for a moment if the river will continue to burrow its way and the canyon would look different after couple of hundred years but the plaque on the edge said the river had literally reached the foundation of the continent and wouldn’t make the Canyon any deeper. Now it’s up to us to be as minimally disruptive as we can to this amazing natural wonder.

Grand Canyon vacation

Moran Point - Grand Canyon

We made it to the Visitor Center by 1pm but unfortunately, it started pouring and we had to shelve our plans to continue and had to start driving back to Vegas. We’ll definitely back and maybe visit it from Phoenix to take in more of the dry and arid landscapes of Arizona.

Grand Canyon vacation

Moran Point Panorama - Grand Canyon

Footnotes:
  1. It’s at least $200 a pop so obviously, we all couldn’t go plus it was meant to be something exclusive and special for them. More on experiential gifts rather than material gifts later. []

White Californians were much more likely to emphasize GPA when they perceived black people as their competition. However, when they compared themselves to Asian applicants and were told that Asian students are overrepresented on college campuses, white Californians deemphasized the importance of GPA.

Source: Vox. Ha! You can’t use the merit-based excuse when you’re squeezed from the top by stereotypical Asian-Americans raised by tiger moms.

The Grandest of All Canyons

Thanks to an hour and a half delay due to a high-speed chase that culminated in a shootout on the famed Route 66 – now an interstate, go figure – we were racing down route 64 to catch a glimpse of the canyon that’s referred to in the grandest of the terms, before sundown. Add to that a wailing toddler frustrated at being strapped in a child seat for 6 hours and a fuming parent whom we never can make happy, nerves were frayed all around. Unfortunately, we wouldn’t make it as light failed rapidly as the sun went down at 7:30pm. We parked our car in the now-almost-deserted parking lot and rushed to Mather Point, the observation outlook near the Visitor Center. The biting cold, very different from the hot weather in Las Vegas that we left a few hours ago, hit us but we made it to the edge. All the frustration and tiredness simply vanished.

The view was even more spectacular than I had imagined. The Grand Canyon has never been described in subtle tones (hues maybe) but in spite of the hype, it completely lives up to it. “Holy shit” were the first words out of my mouth as I saw the vast expance from the South Rim of this gigantic chasm in the earth. I’m not sure what makes an impression. Maybe it is the sudden explosion of space after driving thru uncharacteristically tall trees, or the hues on the layers of the rock weathered by time, or the literal edge of the continent you’re standing at, or simply the stark beauty of the harshness of nature.

This is the view I got that evening. Not much of a picture considering the circumstances and the light and better pictures and vistas would come the next day but nevertheless that first sight of the canyon cannot be experienced again.

Grand Canyon Mather Point

More later.

A Third-Party Run for Sanders?

By now, Bernie Sanders has all but exhausted his options for winning the Democratic nomination. Even after his win in West Virginia today that had its inordinate share of idiosyncratic voters [1], he trails Hillary Clinton by 285 pledged delegates. He would’ve to get three-fourths of the votes in California to even get tantalizingly close.

However, the super delegates who often vote in favor of the candidate who wins the majority of the pledged delegates, will put Hillary over the top and some more. After dissing the super-delegates as undemocratic and as ‘the establishment’, he cannot count on their support especially if it is to countermand the majority of voters’ wishes [2]. So what’s the next step for Bernie Sanders?

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Footnotes:
  1. Registered Democrats who are in fact Republicans and have been for a long time []
  2. Hillary Clinton currently has nearly 3 million votes more than Bernie Sanders []

It has to do with resting metabolism, which determines how many calories a person burns when at rest. When the show began, the contestants, though hugely overweight, had normal metabolisms for their size, meaning they were burning a normal number of calories for people of their weight. When it ended, their metabolisms had slowed radically and their bodies were not burning enough calories to maintain their thinner sizes.

Source: NY Times. The body has an amazing mechanism to adapt to…keep things as they were?

The poverty line for a family of three is $20,090 a year. The median household income in America is $53,657. Politicians draw $250,000 as the line between the middle and upper classes. And the true starting point of real wealth remains a cool $1,000,000. We asked four more or less typical men, each of whom earns one of these incomes, to tell us about the lives they can afford.

Source: Esquire Magazine. So enlightening. We monitor and log our expenses conscientiously too so it’s always good to compare yourself with people with differing incomes to see how good you have it.

A Zero Sum Voting Game

I love Glenn Greenwald and his work. He is one of the more honest journalists out there and heck, I even agree with most of his Clinton criticisms although these days he’s a tad too obsessed. In the tweet above, he’s correct, criticism of Clinton doesn’t equate support for Trump but when it comes down to voting, if you don’t vote for Clinton, it’s effectively a vote for Trump. In most multi-party democracies, that wouldn’t be true but in a republic like America where there’s effectively a duopoly, that’s an unfortunate side effect.

As much as Bernie or Trump supporters would say, it’s not exactly a conspiracy by the Republicans and the Democrats to maintain their stranglehold. The main culprit is the winner-take-all electoral system in the general election. Given this system, voters align themselves strategically and you eventually end up with just two main options. Even if it may seem that the parties themselves have at least two factions, eventually both factions vote for the party nominee and the election boils down to the few battleground states with the small number of undecided swing voters. It’s not easy to change the system since it depends on each individual states to do so. Right now, only Maine & Nebraska divvy up their electoral votes. If any large states especially battleground states like Ohio or Florida choose to do so without others following suit, they would instantly lose their importance. It can only be done if all states do it which seems highly improbable.

The Democratic primary is a proportional system and that’s why Bernie is still in the race because theoretically although highly improbable, he can still win. If the Democratic primaries were also winner-take-all, Hillary would be the nominee after New York. I made the following tweet just before New York primary and New York has 29 electoral votes [1].

The Republicans have a mishmash of proportional allocation, winner-take-most, and winner-take-all. This was done primarily after 2012 when Romney couldn’t lock down the nomination but now it has come back to bite them in the ass coz it’s helping Trump. The race would be wide open if it was proportional allocation.

Getting back to Greenwald’s tweet, this general election, it’s going to come down to Hillary or Trump. Either you vote for one of these candidates or you’re effectively risking seeing the other person winning even if you choose to stay at home. It all boils down to which candidate you do not want to win and how bad and not really about whom you want to see as President. This time the stakes are that high.

This Quora answer makes a great case on whether voting for someone because they’re the lesser of two evils is a good reason and the author says that, “it’s not just “a good reason”. It’s the only reason“; mostly because whether you vote or not, someone among the two is going to be President. So if you along with your purist friends don’t vote while waiting for the perfect candidate, you may end up with a candidate who is the greater of the two evils. In that case, you along with others suffer the consequences for a long time [2]. There is no perfect candidate and even if there is, unless you’ve the majority of people thinking that, you’ve to make hard choices and go with the pragmatic choice. If you don’t show up to vote, you’re part of the problem and would’ve no legitimate reason to complain later.

In this election, it’s more than clear on who is the lesser of the two evils although I don’t think she’s in the same ballpark to even compare. Hillary Clinton would still be better than any generic Republican candidate in today’s era. That said, if you still find faults with here, there is no reason to stop criticizing Clinton even after she is sworn in as President. But vote you must.

Footnotes:
  1. She’s at 315 right now []
  2. The next President may nominate as many as four Supreme Court Justices thus leaving a legacy for more than a generation []

An excellent refutation or rather expression of skepticism of Bernie Sander’s top hits. Even from my professional point of view, the ‘free college’ promise is fundamentally wrong.

Running to Not Win

Bernie Sanders has performed admirably. That’s a fact. He has given Hillary Clinton, the presumptive nominee before the primaries began a figurative and even a literal run for the money. But I’ve always believed that he was never in it to win. Going back to his “I’ve to get back to work, let’s get this over with” announcement for the candidacy of the Democratic Party, his half-hearted campaigning until the primaries began never gave me any inclination that he wanted to be the Democratic nominee much less the President. We were given confirmation in this NY Times article that used quotes from within his campaign staff.

Competing aggressively against Mrs. Clinton in 2015 was not part of the Sanders strategy when he announced his candidacy last April. Rather, in early campaign planning meetings, Mr. Sanders made it clear that he was focused on bringing his liberal message to cities and towns across America while also fulfilling his duties in the Senate. Advisers said they warned him about the travel demands that a serious presidential bid would entail. They noted that Mrs. Clinton, who had left the State Department, would be working around the clock to campaign, raise money, nail down endorsements and develop policy plans.

All those decisions stemmed in part from Mr. Sanders’s outlook on the race. He was originally skeptical that he could beat Mrs. Clinton, and his mission in 2015 was to spread his political message about a rigged America rather than do whatever it took to win the nomination. By the time he caught fire with voters this winter and personally began to believe he could defeat Mrs. Clinton, she was already on her way to building an all but insurmountable delegate lead.

Without getting into the minutiae of Clinton’s and Sander’s policy positions although there are plenty of differences (in the means rather than the ends), the first and foremost criteria of any Presidential run is that you should want it bad enough to let it dominate every aspect of your life for at least 2 years. If there is any other motive for running for President then chances are that you’re not going to be President. Trump may be similar in that sense that he too never expected to catch on fire like he has within the GOP but the very things that made him popular amongst the GOP are the reasons he’ll never win the Presidency. If Sanders has succeeded then it is in pulling Hillary to the left, which ironically was the intent he began with. Considering the delegate math, by the time he realized that he wanted to win, it was too late. He pats himself on the back by saying he took on the Clinton machine and got nearly as popular. But if 2008 was any indication, it showed us that it was possible not only to take on the Clinton machine but also beat it. In that sense, he fell short. Difference is that Barack Obama wanted to win as soon as he stood on the steps of the courthouse in Springfield. You can probably become Speaker of the House if you don’t even want to, like Paul Ryan has, but running for being the President is a different beast and given the intricacies and arcane rules of the process, you better plan ahead.

Otherwise, you’ll be spent explaining away your losses by saying that you lost because you never campaigned there. Sure, I didn’t win the World Cup coz I never competed. The first rule may be is to show up but the qualifying rule is to want it really bad. I like Bernie Sanders, like most Clinton supporters but the man hasn’t given much thought to how he would govern if he won. That’s probably because he never expected or even wanted to win.

What ‘I Fucking Love Science’ actually means is ‘I Fucking Love Existing Conditions.’ But because the word ‘science’ still pings about between the limits of a discourse that depends on the exclusion of alternate modes of knowledge, the natural world of I Fucking Love Science is presented as being essentially a series of factual statements.

Plus a takedown of everyone’s favorite scientist, Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

Responding to authoritarianism with segregation

With the rising popularity of Donald Trump; at least within the GOP, I made the following observations on Twitter:

Responding to the tweet, Supremus sent me this link documenting the rise of American authoritarianism. Rooted in political science research, the article makes an effort to understand this recent fondness for Trump. It’s the perfect storm of having just the right bigoted/racist individual running at the time when racial diversity is on the rise.

In an influential 2005 book called The Authoritarian Dynamic, Stenner argued that many authoritarians might be latent — that they might not necessarily support authoritarian leaders or policies until their authoritarianism had been “activated.” This activation could come from feeling threatened by social changes such as evolving social norms or increasing diversity, or any other change that they believe will profoundly alter the social order they want to protect. In response, previously more moderate individuals would come to support leaders and policies we might now call Trump-esque.

Other researchers, like Hetherington, take a slightly different view. They believe that authoritarians aren’t “activated” — they’ve always held their authoritarian preferences — but that they only come to express those preferences once they feel threatened by social change or some kind of threat from outsiders.

But both schools of thought agree on the basic causality of authoritarianism. People do not support extreme policies and strongman leaders just out of an affirmative desire for authoritarianism, but rather as a response to experiencing certain kinds of threats.

I found this interesting because not only does it confirm our fears of what is happening right now in the Presidential race but it also confirms a theory in housing and neighborhood change; something that’s up my alley.

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