Friday, December 02, 2016

Did I just read that?

This is for real. Also funny. The whole article is actually quite delightful, from peanutbutter covered M&Ms all the way to raining chicken heads from the helicopter.

"GOVERNMENT DRONES WILL SHOOT VACCINATED M&MS AT PRAIRIE DOGS"

http://www.popsci.com/government-drones-will-shoot-vaccinated-mms-at-prairie-dogs-to-save-ferrets?con=TrueAnthem&dom=fb&src=SOC&utm_campaign=&utm_content=5841ccea19d6ba0006744a11&utm_medium=&utm_source=

Friday, November 18, 2016

Did I just read that?

"This once was the grand restaurant, bar and lounge in downtown Ritzville and could be once again. Ritzville is growing and is the need for a great downtown gathering place. Comes with two pool tables and full restaurant kitchen. Interior has been removed and ready for your imagination."  http://www.zillow.com/homes/for_sale/house_type/2096412449_zpid/1-225001_price/0-835_mp/5000-_size/globalrelevanceex_sort/48.516604,-90.131836,30.713503,-120.146485_rect/4_zm/0_mmm/

The fact that there is a town called Ritzville tickles me. Like some kind of a cartoon city for snooty people.


Also, the interior has been removed made me laugh out loud. Like--how did they remove the interior? What happens when you open the door--you walk into a wall because the interior of the building no longer exists? Reverse tardis building.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Arguments Against McMullin Answered: He's only out to stop Trump, not Hillary (I heard him say so).

There is a very short video clip being passed around as "proof" that McMullin is only trying to stop Trump, with the implication being that he is, therefore, obviously a Clinton plant.

This one is easy to answer with two words: Selective Editing.

You can make anyone seem to believe almost anything if you simply selectively edit their words. That's what happened here.

If you watch the full video, instead of the 50-second clip, you will see that Evan openly talks about stopping both Trump and Clinton. This is consistent with the hundreds of other interviews he has given.

The full interview is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2TKAwrKwgzY&feature=youtu.be


And you can see another interview that supports this one here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fv0MXhgLgXQ&app=desktop


Sunday, October 30, 2016

Arguments against McMullin answered: He's being paid by Hillary to help Trump lose

Evan and Mindy addressed this one best themselves:

http://ijr.com/wildfire/2016/10/723426-evan-mcmullin-has-some-straight-talk-for-conspiracy-theorists-who-think-hes-funded-by-hillary/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social


That rumor was based on a fake invoice produced and circulated by a man who admitted it was a hoax.

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2016/10/17/rumor-check-man-behind-clinton-foundation-invoice-circulated-on-social-media-admits-it-is-fake/

Besides, tell me again how this would be a good strategy by Clinton? This would be a waste of her money.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Arguments against McMullin answered: "He's Not Vetted"

"Vetting" a candidate is doing a thorough background check to see if there is anything in the candidate's background that would disqualify them or make them unelectable or unlikely to win.

People say, "I can't vote for McMullin because he wasn't vetted."

This is just blowing smoke for several reasons.

1. Presidential candidates usually aren't vetted. They send teams to vet the vice presidential candidates they choose. Neither Clinton nor Trump was vetted before getting the nomination.

2. The purpose of vetting is to figure out if there is anything in a candidate's background that would make them unsavory, unqualified, or unable to run. So what someone is saying when they bring this up is they can't vote for McMullin because there might be something awful in his past; he might not be "squeaky clean."  This coming from supporters of Trump and Hillary.... If having something in your background that is not all clean disqualifies you from running in this election, then we haven't got anyone left EXCEPT McMullin.

In short, if vetting is an issue for you, Trump and Clinton are disqualified on that point, too, both for the reasons that they have not been formally vetted and because they have unsavories in their backgrounds that should have disqualified them.


Edited: Sue Fritzler pointed this out, and I think it's important: "McMullin is the only candidate who has been fully vetted. The CIA vetted him and gave him top security clearances. The House Republicans vetted him when they hired him as their Chief Foreign and Domestic Policy Director, where, again, he had top security clearances. The primary process gave us Hillary and Donald, who 79% of Americans disapprove of and who both have either FBI, civil or criminal cases pending against them."

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Evan McMullin and the Elections, part 2: Will Voting for Evan McMullin make the guy I dislike win?


So the last blog post was focused more on the theoretical, giving people information they need to answer (often harsh) accusations they are encountering online on a regular basis. (You can read that here: http://beccajones.blogspot.com/2016/10/evan-mcmullin-and-elections-part-1-is.html)

This post, in contrast, is for people (and there are many of you--you keep talking to me about this) who want to vote for Evan McMullin but absolutely cannot do it if it means that Donald Trump/Hillary Clinton will win the presidency. Let's cover them one at a time. I'm going to focus on the reality here in Colorado because everyone who has expressed this concern to me is in Colorado. The analysis of this varies based on what state you are in.

Will voting for Evan McMullin accidentally make it so Donald Trump wins? Because you don't want Donald Trump to win above all else....

The Fear:You like what Evan McMullin stands for, and you like the idea of a viable third party having a foot in the race in the future, and you want to send a message to the party bosses that McMullin is more in keeping with what you are looking for in a candidate. But you are only a #NeverTrump person, not necessarily a #NeverHillary person, and you are afraid to vote for Evan because you don't think Evan can win outright (reasonably), and you fear your protest vote might mean Hillary won't get enough electoral college votes nationwide, and Trump will win.

The Reality:
I've done a lot of research on this over the last few days, trying to determine if there is a chance that Trump could possibly win the election if Colorado goes to Trump instead of Hillary.

I combined the information from this article: http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/longshot-path-donald-trump-win-270-electoral-votes/story?id=42971946 with the information at these two polling/prediction sites: http://www.270towin.com/2016-polls-clinton-trump/ and http://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/2016-election-forecast/.  I chose that article because it is reasonable and balanced and focused on how Trump could win, not all the reasons he is losing.  And I chose those two sites for polling information because they are widely accepted and respected, and they pull their information from carefully vetted, widely-respected sources. 270toWin.com uses polling averages from the last 5 polls, minimizing the chances that I was just getting an anomaly or a bump or dip day. FiveThirtyEight, run by Nate Silver, is one of the most well-respected statistical analyses of elections there is. He has something like a 99% accuracy in his predictions, and he's open on his methodology and mistakes.

In the article, it mentions Trump has to do 4 things in order to win (whereas Clinton has dozens of paths to win): 1. Take every single state that Romney won in 2012; 2. Win Ohio. 3. Win Florida. 4. Win 17 other random electoral college votes from states in play or states that could be wildcards (PA; or IA+NV+NH+1/2ME; or WI+1/2ME+NV or IA; or VA+NV or IA or NH; or CO+IA+ NV or NH). Without doing all four of these, Trump can't reach 270 electoral college votes.

So what's the breakdown?

1. UT has been called by Nate Silver for Evan McMullin, so Trump cannot take all the states Romney won in 2012.  But even if he wins UT....

2. Ohio is all over the place. Clinton and Trump are neck-and-neck there. It could go either way. Let's call it for Trump, just for the sake of our analysis here.

3. Florida is projected to go to Clinton. Five of the six most recent polls in FL show Clinton winning even with third party candidates included in the race. And the sixth had Trump ahead by only 2 percentage points--and then only if the third party candidates act as spoilers.

4. Even including potential 3rd party spoilers, Clinton is ahead by 6% in PA; In IA, Trump is ahead, but for this option to work he'd also have to take NV, NH, and half of ME, and he's losing in all three of those states, although NV is close; Clinton has a strong lead in VA, so that option won't work even if Trump wins IA; and even if Trump were to take CO (he's polling to lose here) and IA, without NV or NH (where he's losing), he still can't get these.

In other words, 1 is unlikely, 2 is possible but not a given, 3 is unlikely, and 4 is highly unlikely.

Here is a map illustrating this:


Click the map to create your own at 270toWin.com

You can see that even if Trump collects 18 from Ohio and 15 from UT and CO (33 all together), he still cannot reach 270 electoral college votes.

SO...

Even if Colorado goes to Trump because Evan McMullin gets all the undecided plus enough of Clinton votes to pull her down that much, Trump still cannot win the national vote.

So you can safely vote for McMullin in Colorado and know that Trump won't win anyway.

So what are the numbers in Colorado? Will McMullin make a difference here?

We don't actually know. There hasn't been a poll done in Colorado that includes Evan McMullin's name. Apparently one is being done here tomorrow (Monday, Oct 24) that includes McMullin, but we don't know what it will say. Recent polls show Clinton winning Trump by 5-10% in Colorado. What is most interesting is the polls also show over 18% of the voters choosing a third party candidate or undecided. This is dramatic, and enough to make Trump win if those voters moved to him, but given that they are supporting Johnson and Stein primarily (and "other"), who are more liberal than Trump, it doesn't seem likely they would go to Trump should they decide to vote major party instead of protest.

But, like I said, even if they did tip the scales and Trump won here in Colorado, it wouldn't make a difference nationwide.

And what if Evan McMullin takes the three states he's most likely to take? (ID, UT, and AZ):




Click the map to create your own at 270toWin.com
As you can see, Trump still cannot win, even if he wins IA, OH, and Colorado. In fact, this gives us a buffer and makes it possible for Trump to win Florida and Colorado and still lose the election.


Will voting for Evan McMullin accidentally make it so Hillary Clinton wins? Because you don't want Hillary Clinton to win above all else....

The Fear:You like what Evan McMullin stands for, and you like the idea of a viable third party having a foot in the race in the future, and you want to send a message to the party bosses that McMullin is more in keeping with what you are looking for in a candidate. But you are only a #NeverHillary person, not necessarily a #NeverTrump person, and you are afraid to vote for Evan because you don't think Evan can win outright (reasonably), and you fear your protest vote might mean Trump won't get enough electoral college votes nationwide, and Hillary will win.

The Reality:At this point, Trump's numbers are rapidly sinking. He is not projected to win enough electoral college votes to even approach 270 votes. Consequently, even if Colorado goes to Trump, that's not enough electoral college votes to stop Hillary nationwide. Either way (Trump or Evan), you're voting for a losing candidate, so why not send a message that you like with your vote?

Or, better yet, bank on the implausible-but-not-impossible idea that if all the people who are abandoning Trump because he can't win anyway band together and join another candidate, they can still stop Hillary. Join Evan McMullin and encourage your friends to do the same. If your goal is not to support Trump, but merely to stop Hillary, then jump to the candidate who is most likely to do that and campaign your guts out! At the very least, wait until the 8th to vote instead of voting early so you know more clearly what's going to happen.

So why not campaign your guts out for Trump and hope for a rebound--can't he recover and beat Hillary that way?

I don't think he can. Why? Because he keeps opening his mouth. The more he talks, the less appealing he is to many voters. He cannot regain the trust of the hispanics, women, muslims, Mormons, or many black voters. Without any of those blocs voting for him, he can't win. And he's offended them all too deeply to say or do anything to change their minds. In short, the only thing keeping him from sinking into nothingness is everyone's fear of a Hillary presidency--and it's looking like we're going to have that anyway. Since the establishment candidate can't stop Hillary, it might be time for the Hail Mary pass.

Evan McMullin and the Elections, Part 1: Is Evan McMullin a Spoiler this election?

This is the most complicated blog post I've ever worked on. I'll try to make everything clear, but there's a lot to cover! I'll do it in two parts: "Is Evan a spoiler?" and "Can I safely vote for Evan and not make my most disliked candidate win by accident?"

The most common question I get, working on this campaign, is "Is voting for McMullin going to get _______ elected?" Sometimes it comes in vitriole from Trump supporters. Sometimes it comes in quiet, private conversation from concerned friends. Sometimes it's online. But everyone remembers Ross Perot, and everyone has heard that old, tired line that a vote for a third party is a vote for _____ (whoever my enemy is).

I keep hearing people worried that McMullin is a "spoiler" who will push the election in a direction they don't want it to go.

So what is a Spoiler?

A "spoiler," in election terms, is a candidate who shows up and takes enough of the vote to prevent someone else from winning, without actually winning themselves.

There are actually two fairly common (as far as an uncommon thing can be called "common") scenarios that illustrate the concept of a spoiler making it so a good candidate doesn't win.

The First Scenario  There is one really lousy candidate who happens to have a steady following. It's a small following, like 30% of the voters--not enough to win, but steady.  One single other even tolerable candidate could easily beat this person, but there is not just one other candidate in the running. Instead, you have 3 or more candidates opposing this person. Instead of one person getting 60% and trouncing the bad apple, each of them gets 20% or less. Nobody gets over 30%, and the worst candidate wins. (These numbers are obviously oversimplified, but you get the point.) All of the too-many candidates are spoilers for each other--none have enough pull to win outright, but they keep the votes away from everyone else, allowing the least-liked (or less-liked) candidate to win.

This is exactly what happened in the Republican Primaries in 2016. There were more votes cast against Trump than any other candidate in the history of the Republican Party. But because they were not all cast for one or two other people, the candidate the majority did not like won the nomination.

This is usually the case with third parties as well. If all the people who dislike a single candidate cannot coalesce behind a single other candidate, the disliked major party candidate will still win.

The Second Scenario
There are two fairly decent candidates running who are close to evenly split in their following. Let's say one has 53% of the vote and the other has 47% of the vote. Clearly the one with 53% is winning, even though it's close. But then along comes a third party candidate. He pulls in only 8% of the vote, but it all pulls from the guy who had 53%, dropping him down to 45% of the vote. The person who the majority did not want therefore wins the election.

This is the situation people cite all the time in 1992 where Ross Perot siphoned votes off George Bush, letting Bill Clinton win.

So when people hear you are voting for a third party candidate and they say, "But a vote for him is just a vote for my enemy," this is what they're talking about. It isn't actually a vote for the enemy, but it's a vote that allows the so-called enemy to win simply by preventing enough votes from going to the favored candidate. "You might as well just vote for ___enemy," they say. And they have a point, whether you vote for ____enemy or not, you have prevented someone else from beating them.

Limitations of the Spoiler Concept

There are some clear limitations to the concept of a spoiler. Not all third party candidates who get votes are spoilers.

For a third party or independent candidate to be able to "spoil" the election for someone, these conditions have to be met:

A. The two major party candidates have to be in a close race.
B. The third party candidate has to hit a sweet spot in the vote percentages. They have to be able to pull enough votes to unbalance the race, but not enough for it to be considered a three-way race. In other words, they can't have a chance of winning, but they have to get enough votes to make a splash.
C. The third party candidate has to primarily or exclusively pull votes from only one of the major party candidates.

If all three conditions are not met, the third party candidate cannot be considered a spoiler.

If condition A is not met and the two major party candidates are not  in a close race--one is clearly winning--the third party candidate did not spoil the race for the loser because the loser would have lost had the third party candidate not existed.

If condition B is not met because the third party candidate has too few votes to change the outcome, they are not a spoiler because they didn't change the outcome.

If condition B is not met because the third party candidate has enough votes to potentially win outright, the race is considered a competitive three-way race. They are not, therefore, spoiling for anyone but merely competing on level ground. Remember, a spoiler has to spoil someone's chances of winning without having a legitimate chance to win themselves.

If condition C is not met because the third party candidate is pulling from both major party candidates or from somewhere else (like from other third parties or from undecideds or from people who had decided not to vote at all), they are not a spoiler because they didn't unbalance things in favor of one major candidate in a way that caused the other (and only the other) to lose.

The Limitations of Data-Gathering During Elections

Obviously, we can't actually know what is going to happen in the future. We can only guess.

Consequently, we cannot declare beforehand with absolute certainty whether a candidate is a spoiler or not. We can only discuss whether they are likely to be a spoiler or not.

Unfortunately, our only sources of information about where a race is going are polls and expert pundits. And both are notoriously imperfect. However, many are not as unreliable as candidates who are losing would like you to believe.

Some polling organizations are more reliable than others. You can see an analysis here: http://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/pollster-ratings/.

Some reasons, briefly, why a poll might not be a reliable indication of where the race stands:
     *The poll didn't even include a candidate who actually is impacting the race
     *The pollsters asked the wrong question. "If the election were today, would you vote for Trump or Clinton?" will get you very different results from "If the election were today, who would you vote for?"  Even just asking "Clinton or Trump" vs "Trump or Clinton" can skew your results.
     *The poll is too old
     *The poll is not scientific (they only called people with landlines when most people use cell phones; they didn't poll a balanced and broad demographic sample--like they failed to ask any women or hispanics; they had a completely open poll on an internet website; it was a twitter poll; etc.)
     *The poll doesn't figure out "likely voters" accurately

Reliable polling organizations will take all these and many more factors into account and use established, research-based methodology to determine their questions, their sampling methods, their reporting methods, etc. You can read about the challenges here: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/21/opinion/sunday/whats-the-matter-with-polling.html and about how polling works in this election here: http://www.bbc.com/news/election-us-2016-36947558.

So, the million dollar question:

Is Evan McMullin a Spoiler?

The short answer is no. He doesn't appear to be in a situation that will qualify him as a spoiler on election day.

Let's look at the three conditions.

Condition A: The race has to be close.

The race was close. But mid-October, the Trump Tapes hurried an already established decline for Mr. Trump. Currently (Oct 23), all the experts are predicting a Clinton win--and not a close one.  Even if McMullin takes the two states he is most likely to win--ID and UT--it won't change the outcome. Even if he were to take a couple of "blue" states from Clinton, she would still win. In short, if the prognosticators are correct, Trump is losing all by himself, without third parties included in the equation. That means Evan McMullin cannot be considered a spoiler. Anything he does doesn't look like it will change the outcome of the race. (This doesn't mean it's a waste of time to vote for him, of course. There are many valid reasons to vote for someone who might not win. It does mean, though, that if Trump loses, it's Trump's own darn fault.)

Condition B: McMullin has to hit the sweet spot in the votes, where he spoils it for someone but can't win it outright himself. If you go on a state-by-state basis, it appears he is outside that range, getting too many votes in some states to be spoiler (he's competitive in UT and ID) and too few in others (he's behind other third party candidates in some states). This is hard to know, though, because Evan McMullin hasn't been included in most polls. So there is no data on how he's actually doing. ID finally included McMullin in their polls just this week and were shocked to discover he is polling in double digits there. Nobody had any idea because they weren't asking the right questions. So we can guess about whether he's in the sweet spot nationwide, but we can't know without more polls that include him as an option.  Because Condition A isn't being met anyway, it doesn't matter. He can't spoil a race that isn't close.

Condition C: McMullin has to be pulling voters only from one candidate. Again, without polls we can't know for sure, but informal polls and surveys of McMullin followers indicate that this is not the case. While Trump supporters love to say that McMullin is "stealing" votes from Trump, that doesn't appear to be the case. People who are voting for McMullin are generally people who report they were not going to vote at all, they were going to vote for Clinton (holding their noses), they were going to vote for a different third party candidate, or they were undecided. McMullin is very definitively not pulling votes away from only one candidate, but collecting them from all over.

Given that the two major party candidates are at historical levels on the "dislike" scale, this is not surprising.  It is interesting to note that Hillary Clinton is winning in Colorado right now with 45% of the vote, but Mitt Romney lost in Colorado in 2012 with 46.5% of the vote. The numbers of people who are undecided or voting third party are at record highs this election--close to a quarter of the population of many states--so there is quite a large pool of people for McMullin to pull from before he ever touches the supporters of either major party candidate.

So is Evan McMullin a spoiler for either major party candidate?

The answer is unequivocally NO. Unless something dramatic happens (what one newspaper called the "biggest comeback in presidential history"), Evan cannot possibly be a spoiler for Trump. Trump is losing all by himself, dramatically, and he (and his followers) cannot blame McMullin because the numbers just aren't there. Even if Evan's states went to Trump, Trump would still lose.

So if there is a dramatic comeback, then is Evan possibly a spoiler? No. That could only happen if all of Evan's votes were pulled from Trump and went back to him, and this is not the case. Even if Evan's voters were not voting for him, they were not voting for Trump either, so Trump would not benefit from those voters being released from Evan McMullin.

Evan McMullin does not qualify as a spoiler.

Friday, September 30, 2016

If God could close the mouth of the lions.....


I saw this picture on Facebook today. It is supposed to be encouraging and faith-promoting.

But this is what I thought as I read it,

God closed the mouth of the lions for Daniel--after he was captured and taken from his home, castrated (why else would he be under the care of the master of eunuchs?), was threatened with death for being wise (and saved by a miracle then, too), had his best friends thrown into the fiery furnace (and saved by a miracle), and his coworkers had him captured for praying after they manipulated the laws to catch him. And then he was thrown to the lions, and God didn't stop that from happening. And he could have. But instead, he sent an angel to stop the lions' mouths--but Daniel still had to spend a night surrounded by hungry lions. Just because he was unhurt doesn't mean it was pleasant. But then he had to watch women and children be thrown to the lions and get eaten alive.

God did part the red sea for Moses. But first, Moses was taken from his family and raised by the king. He watched his people being tormented as slaves, killed a man in anger (defending his people), and his adopted father tried to have him killed. He fled his home country and lived in another land for many years in hiding, but then God sent him back to where his life was threatened. He was initially unsuccessful at freeing the people, and had to endure the 10 plagues with all the rest of the people in Egypt, was lied to by the king (and failed over and over and over at the task God had set him to do). Even though the Israelite children were saved, Moses had to watch all the Egyptian families suffer (remember, he knew these families, too, because he was raised as one of them) when their children died. He failed, and failed, and failed again to get the Israelites free, and when they were finally free, the Egyptians changed their mind and chased them with his armies. And then the people he rescued almost turned back because they were afraid of being killed. And THEN the seas were parted. Only then, after all that failure and suffering and murder.  And, like Daniel, there were other miracles along the way. But, like Daniel, Moses had to stand and watch the Egyptian soldiers, who were there on someone else's command, drown. Yes, they were free. But the cost was high.

God did make the sun stand still for Joshua. But first, he had to endure 40 years in the wilderness with unfaithful Israelites. And then he had to lead the Israelites through the whole country and conquer it, one city at a time (and with many miracles), teaching a bunch of long-term nomads how to be an army in the process. And after they'd fought many battles and been rescued by hailstones, and were under attack by many armies at once--then God made the sun stand still. And they still had to fight the battles. He just gave them extra daylight to do it in.

You get where I'm going with this.

Peter was freed from prison, but not until many of his friends (including Jesus) had been murdered. And not until he'd been in prison for several weeks.

Sarah got a baby--but only after waiting, barren, for decades and going through menopause first.

Lazarus was raised from the dead--after God not healing him from a sickness so bad that he died.

So yeah, he can take care of you. But don't expect that it will be convenient, or right when you want it, or without some fear and suffering and failure first. And often not until the nick of time--or after when it would have been good according to our ideas (surely Sarah would have suspected her chance was over--and it would have been more convenient to have a baby when she was not an old lady....)

He does it His way. Not ours.