Showing posts from 2016

Trump's "Surprise" Victory and the Bernie Factor

I rushed to publish a bunch of election-themed posts on this blog the night before Election Day, (actually Election Day morning), and one of them was this one: My Electoral College Prediction: 329 to Clinton, 209 to Trump.

I didn't spend much time thinking about my prediction, but simply used the assumptions from polling websites like FiveThirtyEight about which states were "safe" and then guessed that Trump would win Ohio while losing North Carolina—only two changes from the results of the 2012 Romney-Obama election.

That's pretty hilarious (or bittersweet) to look at now, considering the election result—almost the inverse of my predicted Electoral College score, with Clinton expected to take 232 and Trump 306. Trump won with a wide margin by taking states that pollsters considered "safe" or "leaning" for Hillary—Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan—primarily through low turnout among Democrats and greatly increased support from lower-income vot…

My Electoral College Prediction: 329 to Clinton, 209 to Trump

It is a little after 1:00am on Election Day morning in Alaska, so it's time I published my prediction for the results of the presidential election before any real results arrive this evening. Using the great tool at, here is my prediction:

I don't pretend to have any special skill in making this prediction; I made my guess rather quickly, just based on what I've been seeing in the news lately and my gut feelings.

Clearly, I believe Hillary Clinton will win in an Electoral College landslide. The popular vote may be much closer, but she should almost certainly become our next president. You may note that this guess is almost exactly the same as the result of the 2012 election, with the only exception being that President Obama took Ohio in 2012 and Mitt Romney took North Carolina, while I believe Hillary will take North Carolina and Trump will take Ohio. This difference gave Obama three more electoral votes (332) in 2012 than I'm predicting Clint…

Crook vs. Fascist: France 2002, USA 2016

In their 2002 presidential election, French voters were forced to choose between Jacques Chirac, a man at the center of numerous corruption scandals later convicted on several counts, and Jean-Marie Le Pen, a rightwing demagogue decried for spouting racist views. Protestors across France were noted as saying they had to "vote for the crook not the fascist."

Now that we've come to the end of the 2016 US election season—the unbearable, over 18-month-long election season—I'm really just surprised I didn't see more comparisons between America today and France fourteen years ago. There are a few pieces out there on the similarity, (one of the best is this one), but none seem to have gained attention in the US media.

Le Pen's victory in making it through the first round of the French election and Trump's victory in the Republican primary both came as huge surprises many people. Both victories were fueled by white citizens who felt threatened by immigrants and e…

Media Abdicate Responsibility On Ballot Selfie Laws Violating the First Amendment

Laws banning ballot selfies—or any photos people might take of their completed election ballots—are absolutely, undeniably unconstitutional.

Unfortunately, most media outlets don't seem to care about that clear legal reality; they've decided to simply sell the story "Uh oh, look! You're not allowed to take ballot selfies in these states!"

Just look at the results for googling "ballot selfie":

Most of these articles—or at the very least, their headlines—follow the premise that states banning ballot selfies have legitimate laws that readers (and Justin Timberlake) need to fear and obey. The writers therefore abdicate any journalistic responsibility of informing readers how the laws are obviously unconstitutional and should be actively opposed. Some mention later in their articles how courts have ruled some states' laws unconstitutional recently, but if that information is buried well into the article, where many readers never arrive.

The only article I…

Speak Truth to Power; Don't Cover for the Powerful

I meant to make this my "election season resolution," but now that it's already Election Day, I'd better make it a resolution for at least the next four years: I don't want to say anything that covers for the powerful. I want to speak truth to power in whatever little ways I can.

"Speak truth to power" is a phrase often used by activists on the left, but it's a meaningful act no matter what your politics are. All it means is that we should confront the lies of those in power by speaking out and speaking the truth. All of us should feel compelled to speak truth to power, and we should feel good about doing so.

The problem is, we're surrounded by people who do the exact opposite. So many people—family and friends, writers and pundits in the media—actually spend their time covering for the powerful. They create and spread talking points that justify wrong actions. They promote apologia for how those in power have to do what they have to do, no matt…

My Lifetime Language Learning Plan

Some time ago, a friend posted on Facebook about choosing a new language to learn. He said he was aiming to learn seven to nine languages in his life, so he needed to be careful about what he chose to spend time on. I was struck by his words because I'd never really considered that I should consciously limit the number of languages I'd try to learn. Now I think about it all the time.

It makes sense, of course: Growing up, we all realize in one way or another that everyone has limits to their knowledge of different languages. If you intend to learn several languages over the course of your life, then, it should help to plan deliberately and conscientiously how to meet those goals. I love languages, and I do intend to keep learning many throughout my life—so it's about time I made a plan.

The War on "Political Correctness" Is a War on Common Decency

"Political correctness" is a buzz-term that draws millions of haters. It's not a new phenomenon, either. The concept has been lambasted for decades, in the United States and elsewhere, accused of attempting to quash free expression and truthful discourse in favor of sugar-coated, politically convenient language. If you search around online, you'll undoubtedly find far more sites devoted to attacking political correctness than defending it.

Spoiler: Political correctness doesn't deserve all the hate it gets.

When politicians criticize "political correctness," they're just using it as what one author calls "the mother of all straw men."

In the end, being politically correct is mostly about just being a polite, decent person. It's about being conscious of the words you use and open to changing your language to be more widely acceptable and respectful. Some people hate that, apparently, and Donald Trump's been waging a constant war on i…

You're Free to Vote Your Conscience!

An enormous number of Americans do not like either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, the major parties' 2016 candidates for U.S. President. Most of these Americans will probably end up voting for either Trump or Clinton anyway, or they'll stay home and won't vote at all. Those who ultimately vote for Trump or Clinton will justify their choice as "tactical voting," a chance to avoid the greater disaster they think the other candidate will bring, or in other words, a vote for the "lesser of two evils."

Believe it or not, though, you probably have no real reason to vote for a candidate you dislike. For the vast majority of Americans, "tactical voting" won't make any difference whatsoever in the outcome of the election. Instead, you are perfectly free to vote your conscience and choose the candidate that you most admire and agree with, even if they have little chance of winning the race. You won't have to hold your nose and vote for the &qu…

Is the Fourth of July Really "Independence Day"?

We Americans all celebrate the Fourth of July, but how many of us take the time to consider the real events the holiday does or does not commemorate?

Here are two reasons the Fourth of July may not really be our "Independence Day":
July 4th 1776 is not actually the day Americans declared the United States independent.The day that the independence of the United States was declared seems much less important than when the United States became independent—that is, the day Americans truly secured their independence, rather than just declaring it. First, let's just get the facts straight: The American Continental Congress voted to declare independence from Great Britain on July 2nd, 1776. Yes, the Founding Fathers of the U.S. officially decided that they wanted an independent country on July 2nd. July 4th was only the date when the Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence as an official statement. We Americans may love the Declaration of Independence as a document, but …

West Coast vs. East Coast City Choices, Round Two

Wherever you might live in the United States—north, south, east, west, or middle—it's important to know whether you're a West Coast or East Coast person.

If you haven't done so already, please take round one of the poll right now. This second round will settle things once and for all. Choose which city you'd prefer to live in out of the following pairs to determine whether you're West Coast or East Coast. (Keep track of the number you choose on each side.)

*Note: Again, these cities are not meant to be perfect counterparts to each other, just interesting choices. Not all of the cities are on the coast themselves, either, but they're all part of the West Coast or East Coast regions.

So, are you a West Coast or an East Coast person? Leave a comment and let me know.

The Final Clinton-Obama vs. Clinton-Sanders Map

In March I posted a map I created overlaying the state-by-state results of the 2008 Democratic presidential primary between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton with the 2016 Democratic primary between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. There are four colors: dark green for states that went Obama-Sanders, light green for states that went Clinton-Sanders, light blue for states that went Obama-Clinton, and dark blue for states that went Clinton-Clinton. Now I've updated that map for the last time:

Unpopular Opinions on Revolutionary History: The Easter Rising and the American Revolution

Today is the 100th Easter since the 1916 Easter Rising in Ireland, when republican revolutionaries rallied to fight for independence from the British. The actual dates of the rebellion were April 24-29, but Easter's come a bit early this year, and Ireland has chosen to commemorate the centennial now rather than in a month. It's doing so with unprecedented ceremonies, as it should. The Easter Rising was brutally crushed, but it was a critical moment that soon led to the rise of the Sinn Féin republican party, the Irish War of Independence, and ultimately Irish independence in 1921.

On Twitter a few days ago, I noticed people were upset about coverage of this history from RTÉ, Ireland's national broadcaster. I never got the chance to see any video of the coverage in question, but here are some of the relevant tweets:

Not All Native History Is "Ancient"

The Aztec Empire—was it "ancient"?

I hope your answer is no, because no empire formed less than 600 years ago qualifies as an "ancient" one. If it does, I guess we need to start calling Leonardo da Vinci an "ancient" artist and scientist.

(Leonardo's life, by the way, was fully contemporaneous to that of the Aztec Empire, and he died the same year that Cortés landed in Mexico.)

On two occasions this week, I saw the word "ancient" used in reference to indigenous histories that are anything but. The first example was what you just read: I saw someone refer to the Aztecs as "ancient" and it just made my head spin.

Clinton-Obama 2008 vs. Clinton-Sanders 2016: The Map

Many political commentators have made connections between the current Democratic primary and the one in 2008, fought between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. After all, one of the candidates in each race is exactly the same person (even if her political experience and some of her positions have changed in the intervening years).

One thing I haven't seen, however, is a map showing how well Clinton has done compared to her race in 2008, and how well Bernie Sanders has done compared to Barack Obama.

So, I decided to make my own. Here it is:

What If We Let the South Choose the President?

I haven't blogged here at all yet about the 2016 presidential election, but the primaries for both parties are at very important turning points right now, so I thought it was about time.

There are now three candidates left in the race for the Republican nomination—Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and John Kasich. Trump has a sizable lead, and he most likely will become the Republican candidate. No one really expected that months ago, but his ability to excite voters with his nationalist rhetoric has been pretty powerful.

If you look at the map of the Republican primary so far, you can see the South has gone overwhelmingly for Trump, with the exception of Texas, Ted Cruz's home state. The only way Ted Cruz has a shot is if he wins the majority of the West in the upcoming primaries, and perhaps if Kasich is able to pick up a win or two in the Northeast, cutting Trump's advance. Given the results so far in states as diverse as Massachusetts, Illinois, and Nevada, though, that seems un…

Are Spoilers Actually Good?

The new movie Star Wars: The Force Awakens was released about a month ago, and it's made nearly two billion dollars so far. In fact, it made a billion dollars faster than any movie in history.

It would seem that anyone who cares about Star Wars must have obviously seen the film already. Not me. I do care about Star Wars: I watched Episodes IV-VI as a kid and loved them, and watched Episodes I-III as they came out while I was a preteen and teen. (I mostly loved them, too, but later—like most fans—realized they had some significant failings.)

Instead of watching The Force Awakens, though, I accidentally spoiled one of the major plot points for myself, and then the internet spoiled another for me. However, now that I think about it, I'm actually happier knowing the major surprises of the movie without having seen it, and I can wait even longer before I take the time to watch it. Perhaps—and hear me out on this—spoilers actually a good thing.