Category: politics

Defining Other People

I don’t have a specific event to blog about today. It’s more of a snowballing thought that’s been gathering momentum in my mind as I continue to watch so many aspects of American society roll around in the dirt. I continue to (try to) maintain friendships on both sides of the political spectrum, but that’s something that’s becoming increasingly difficult. Not because I don’t want to be friends with people, but because it feels like more and more, people on either side are insisting we live in a polarized world where it’s clear what’s right and what’s wrong.

It’s not enough to just define yourself these days. There’s a tendency to define people you disagree with, and more and more, some corners seem to want to define themselves by defining other people. The tendency to insist on defining others is something I’ve had a fair bit of experience with, having grown up as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “Mormons” were often referred to as being cult-ish and strange and deluded. When I went on my mission to Germany, I met with many people who insisted they knew my religion better than I did.

One of the more bizarre things I routinely ran into over there were the people who had confused us with the Amish somehow. I was told it was due to the Harrison Ford movie Witness. When they’d done the German translation, they’d figured not enough people knew who the Amish were in Germany. But they had heard about Mormons, so they just translated it as Mormon instead of Amish. I still haven’t seen the movie in German, and I can’t help but think that story is way off, but the fact remains that I had multiple conversations with Germans who were convinced I couldn’t use electricity.

It’s a humorous example, but it serves to illustrate my point. I know full well what my religion believes and doesn’t believe, but there was no arguing with people who were not of my faith and yet were convinced they knew better than I did. The defined me as Amish, and nothing I could say to them would persuade them otherwise.

From a religious perspective, this is something that definitely continues to day in pop culture and society at large. People who would vehemently attack anyone who would disparage someone for being Jewish or Muslim will casually deride Latter-day Saints without a second thought. You only have to dip a toe into any Reddit post that touches somehow on the religion to see the throngs of people showing up to throw stones. According to them, it seems all members of the religion are either completely duped or deluded or bigoted or sexist or [insert another slander]. As a faithful, practicing member of that religion, I can both see why some would accuse it of those things and still be hurt for having people blithely claim I’m a simpleton or a con-artist, without ever having met me.

I know my religion is not alone in this. There are people on both the left and the right who do the same thing with any religion. Evangelicals. Muslims. Catholics. Jews. What’s the result of all this name-calling? Speaking as a Latter-day Saint, it definitely has a tendency to drive believers closer together. Yes, some leave the faith, but many dig in deeper, bristling at the attack.

This post isn’t about religion, however. I see this same principle at work in the political spectrum right now. Liberals define conservatives, claiming they’re all bigots or (at best) bigot-enablers. Soulless hypocrites bent on oppressing women and minorities. Angry, sad, white people who cling to guns and religion and the empty memory of an ideal country that never existed in the first place. And what’s the result of all this defining? I only see conservatives digging in stronger. Insisting that they aren’t trying to take the vote away from minorities. They’re trying to protect free elections.

Pick any of the arguments liberals make against conservatives, and conservatives have a simple explanation for why they’re doing what they’re doing, and why they’re being unjustly accused by the other side.

This goes the other way, of course. Conservatives insist liberals are baby-killing maniacs hellbent on ripping apart the entire American way of life, tarnishing our heritage, turning us toward Communism and Socialism in an ill-conceived effort to take money away from those individuals who have earned it and give it to people who want to sit around and do nothing all day and be paid for the privilege. And once again, the liberals bristle at being defined this way, pointing out that each of those arguments is misguided and unfair.

I believe stereotyping people is wrong, and that includes stereotyping political parties. I sometimes wonder why I even try to keep writing these posts that go down the middle. They’re not generally well-received by either side, and when the posts are even tolerated, it’s not like they make a change. But when I’ve had real conversations with people on either side of the aisle, I’ve often found there are many similarities between each side. There are genuinely good people in each political party, no matter how easy it may be to want to paint with a broad brush.

The sooner we can all somehow remember that, the sooner we might start making real progress again. Until then, I worry we’ll just be caught in a never-ending loop of name calling.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Things More Worthwhile than Refreshing the News

This might be more a post for me than for you, though I’m guessing some of you could use the reminder as well. As I sit here fighting the urge to compulsively refresh the voting totals in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Arizona, and Nevada, I’m reminded that up until today, most people would scoff at anyone who became seriously invested in watching a snail race. And yet here I am, doing essentially that and somehow feeling like if I turn away, I’m going to miss some thrilling action.

I might as well start watching paint dry, for all the good this is doing me. What good is knowing what happens five minutes before my friends if it comes at the cost of being glued to results for three solid days or more?

Of course, it would be easier for me to step away from the results if I didn’t have a job that required me to be online most of the time. Especially since we’re still in the middle of a pandemic, and I’m still working from home as we wait for Tomas to get out of precautionary quarantine.

Think about how much good we could get done as a nation if we stopped worrying about the results and instead devoted all that time to something else. It’s been around 42 hours since the polls started closing. In that amount of time, we could have

  • Binge watched the extended Lord of the Rings trilogy more than three times
  • Read the whole Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit around 1.5 times
  • Be three quarters of the way through all the James Bond movies, in honor of Sean Connery
  • Hiked almost a sixth of the Appalachian Trail
  • Baked more than 3,000 chocolate chip cookies (a dozen at a time)
  • Eaten more than 5,000 chocolate chip cookies. (Then again, I might have done that and watched the results at the same time. Don’t judge.)
  • Done more than 84 crosswords
  • Stacked about 42 cords of wood
  • Gotten the majority of the country to understand how to pronounce Kamala Harris’s name. (It’s Comma-la, folks. Comma-la. Think of the punctuation mark, and you’re halfway there.)
  • Listened to Stairway to Heaven over 300 times

And those are just off the top of my head. The bottom line is that maybe I should cut back from refreshing every minute to something more healthy, like refreshing once an hour, or even once every couple of hours. (The horror!)

Then again, I also recognize it would be in my best interest to floss every day, get a full night’s sleep, avoid candy all the time, and sit up straight instead of slouching. My track record with those hasn’t been stellar either, so maybe I just need to lower my expectations.

Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s been at least fifteen minutes since I checked the tallies in Georgia. They might have counted four more ballots already, and I won’t know until I go check!

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

How I’m Feeling: 2020 Election Aftermath

Like many of you, I’m pretty bleary eyed today. I went to bed around 11:30pm, but it took quite some time to fall asleep (and a whole lot of willpower to resist the urge to check my phone again for new results). Today, much of my down time has been spent refreshing news pages to see the latest updates. Not like it does a whole lot, but it somehow feels somewhat reassuring to know the latest about what’s going on.

Of course, all of this is proof that I was spectacularly wrong yesterday when I thought we’d have a pretty good idea who won by not too late in the night. Now it’s looking like we won’t have concrete answers until Friday

That said, you’ll recall that yesterday I indicated there would be one of four outcomes:

  • The polls this year are accurate. In that case, Biden has a strong win: 319 to 219 according to RealClearPolitics.
  • The polls this year are skewed in Trump’s favor, meaning the reality favors Biden even more. If that’s the case, then this is a landslide victory for Biden. 375 electoral votes or more wouldn’t be out of the question.
  • The polls this year are skewed in Biden’s favor. But even if they’re off by 2016 proportions, that’s still not enough for Trump to win. I think Biden would squeak out a win with around 275 electoral college votes.
  • The polls are just plain wrong. Either the pollsters significantly underestimated how many Republicans would turn up to vote, or the “shy Trump voters” are really a thing and have been consistently lying to pollsters. This is the one way Trump wins at this point. It will take something much more than typical polling errors.

Where are we today? Well, definitely not the second outcome, otherwise this post would be a very different one. But at the same time, I don’t think we’re as much in the fourth outcome as you might think, despite the fact that we’re still here scratching our heads. Of the states that are still too close to call, here’s how I read the lay of the land:

  • Georgia–Trump is up by 83,000 votes, with about 200,000 votes to go. To make up that split, those votes would have to favor Biden 70% to 30%. For a state where Trump is leading 50% to 49%, how likely is that? There’s actually a decent shot. The bulk of them come from DeKalb and Fulton County, which are voting for Biden 83% and 72%. These are absentee ballots, so they’re even likelier to be skewed more than that. The question is how many of the votes from elsewhere in the state might dilute the strong Biden vote. The New York Times gives Biden a 64% shot of winning. We should have a lot more clarity on this by the end of the day. Georgia was a toss up going into today according to the polls, and it’s still a toss up. Go figure.
  • North Carolina–I honestly don’t see Biden pulling off an upset here. Biden’s down by 80,000 votes, with around 290,000 estimated votes to go. Biden would have to win the remaining votes by around 65%, if my math is right. Then again, the bulk of the outstanding ballots are once again from Democrat leaning areas, where he’s pulling anywhere from 60-75% of the vote. So it’s possible it still swings to Biden, but I certainly wouldn’t hold by breath. The New York Times gives Trump an 86% chance of holding on.
  • Alaska–Trump’s up with 63% of the vote, and he was favored to win it at the beginning of the night, with 85% odds. As far as I’m concerned for now, this is already Trump’s. The only reason it’s not red right now on everyone’s maps is because only 45% of the vote is in.
  • Nevada–Biden only has an 8,000 vote lead, with around 200,000 votes still to count. These aren’t absentee ballots that skew heavy to Biden, however. These are votes that were mailed and received yesterday or later. Also, because Nevada apparently doesn’t like counting cards, they’re not going to start counting those until tomorrow. (Boo!) Still, for Trump to come from behind here, he’d have to win 52% of the remaining votes(!) That’s much more close than I’m comfortable with. The silver lining is that the vast bulk of these votes come from Biden leaning areas: Clark County and Washoe County. Biden’s up in Washoe with 51% and in Clark with 53%, with around 85% of the vote in. Still, if these are dominantly Trump votes, it’s in the realm of possibility that the state flips. Not hugely likely, but still . . . Fox News gives Biden a 75% shot of holding on.
  • Michigan–Right now, Biden is up in Michigan by 37,000 votes, with about 340,000 votes to go. Seem good for Trump, right? Except the missing votes are both absentee (which skew Biden) and from Wayne, Kalamazoo, and Kent Counties. True, Kent is going to Trump right now, but the missing votes are from Grand Rapids there, which skew (you guessed it) heavy to Biden. Biden’s up in Wayne with 67% of the vote and in Kalamazoo with 54%. Fox News pegs Michigan with a 95% chance of going Biden, and I agree with them. We should know tonight, I hope.
  • Pennsylvania–Ah, my home state. Trump is up by 393,000 votes, with about 1.2 million to go. To overcome that gap, Biden needs around 65% of the votes. Where are they missing? You guessed it: primarily Biden-leaning counties like Philadelphia (78% for Biden right now) and Allegheny (55% for Biden). There are many missing votes out still, and it’s hard to get a real read on the situation, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see Biden ending up in the lead when the dust settles.
  • Arizona–As a footnote, there’s AZ, which has been called by some places (including Fox News). The Trump camp insists they can come back here, but I don’t see it. They’re down by about 95,000 votes, with about 450,000 votes to go. To make up that difference, they need to win about 65% of the vote, give or take. The bulk of the missing votes are in Pima County and Maricopa County. Biden is up there by 60% and 52%, respectively. Looking at exit polls and taking into account the projections already made by others, I think this is a real stretch for Trump, but he’s insisting it’s possible to give credence to his other arguments. We should know by tonight.

So when you look at all these races still to be decided, the deck is definitely stacked against Trump. Could he still come from behind? I suppose anything’s possible, but I think it’s very telling that one side of this election is arguing to keep counting votes, and the other one is sending lawyers to try and find votes they can ignore. When I watched CNN this morning, they were focused on the numbers of the votes. When I watched Fox, they were talking about where Trump might sue, and how wrong the pollsters were. One side is definitely telegraphing “we’re in trouble,” and it ain’t Biden.

So how do I feel? Cautiously optimistic. Hoping to know more by this evening, even as I rage at Nevada for being way too slow to count votes. (And Pennsylvania. Come on, guys!)

How are *you* feeling?

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Election 2020: What I Think Will Happen Tonight

Look at that! We somehow made it to election day without a gigantic meteor blasting the world into oblivion. I had my doubts, because 2020, but here we are. After months (and years) of waiting, we finally get to start seeing how this is all going to play out.

A few disclaimers before I go into talking about what I personally think will happen tonight. First, I am far from an expert. I’m not a political scientist. I have no formal training in statistics or the intricacies of polling. On the other hand, I *am* a trained information professional, so I consider myself pretty good at identifying quality information and sifting through that information to reach conclusions. And I am also very, very well read for this election. I’ve regularly been on a variety of sites since January, including FiveThirtyEight, CNN, Fox News, Drudge Report, and everything in between. In other words, I have not only been reading articles I already would tend to agree with.

And from everything I’ve read, there are basically a few ways tonight will go down. Biden is up significantly in the polls, but the polls are typically off by a bit, sometimes a fair bit. So let’s run through the possibilities one at a time:

  • The polls this year are accurate. In that case, Biden has a strong win: 319 to 219 according to RealClearPolitics.
  • The polls this year are skewed in Trump’s favor, meaning the reality favors Biden even more. If that’s the case, then this is a landslide victory for Biden. 375 electoral votes or more wouldn’t be out of the question.
  • The polls this year are skewed in Biden’s favor. But even if they’re off by 2016 proportions, that’s still not enough for Trump to win. I think Biden would squeak out a win with around 275 electoral college votes.
  • The polls are just plain wrong. Either the pollsters significantly underestimated how many Republicans would turn up to vote, or the “shy Trump voters” are really a thing and have been consistently lying to pollsters. This is the one way Trump wins at this point. It will take something much more than typical polling errors.

Of course, there’s been a lot of fuss made over just how long it’s going to take us to find out who won. Weeks or months have been bandied around. The good news is that in most scenarios, I don’t think that’s going to be the case, and we should know fairly early on which scenario we’re in, since the polling has been so steady. Many of the states are well into counting their absentee ballots, and so we’ll have pretty solid totals within a few hours of polls closing. Those results will point to which reality we’re dealing with. If the polls are accurate or skewed a normal amount, Biden wins, though it may take a while to get there if they’re skewed more.

Just look at this map and play around with the results for a bit. (This page gives you an overview of when to expect final results for each state, and CNN has a guide for when polls close and what sort of results we’ll have for them.) On that first map I linked to, you can check off who’s won each state and see what that does to the probabilities overall for Trump or Biden. Kentucky and Indiana close their polls first, but they’re both heavily favored to vote for Trump. If he takes them both, his odds just go from 10% to 11%. Georgia closes at 7pm, and that’s a much bigger horse race. The good news is that they’ve already been counting absentee ballots, and so we’ll have pretty reliable numbers out of them quite quickly. If Trump wins Georgia, his odds jump up to 24%. Not a disaster for Biden, but still significant. If, on the other hand, Biden wins the state, then his odds jump to higher than 99%.

Why is that? Going into tonight, 538 only gives Biden a 58% chance of winning Georgia. He’s slightly favored, but not by much. He’s up by about 1% in poll averages on 538, and down by 1% over on RealClearPolitics. If he actually does win, that will indicate polling is generally accurate or in Biden’s favor this election cycle, which shows us which of the options we’re dealing with above.

Of course, if it’s really really close in Georgia, then we won’t be able to have a real result to rely on, and it will provide us with no insights one way or the other. So are there other states we can watch? Sure. North Carolina or Ohio. Florida (obviously). The list goes on. All it takes is to get reliable numbers in any one of the closer states for the rest to likely snap into focus. If we see the picture remaining hazy, that’s a bad sign for a quick decision.

Personally, I think we’ll see some toss ups go to Biden tonight, and I don’t think it’s going to end up being that close. Trump managed to eke out a win in 2016 primarily by being a political unknown and by racing against a very unpopular woman. This year, he’s anything but unknown when it comes to his politics, and Biden is much more likeable, and a male. I think the only thing keeping everyone on the edge of their seat is 2016 and the shock many felt when Trump won. The pollsters don’t want to get caught with their pants down, and so they’re taking pains to remain cautious.

I remember in 2012 when it was Romney vs. Obama that the Republicans were saying all the same things they’re saying now. Republicans were supposedly being underrepresented in the polls. It was all skewed to Obama. Romney would win easily. All of that, of course, turned out to be hogwash, and that was in a much closer election. The thought that there are legions of “shy Trump voters” strains the imagination. I drank the Kool-aid in 2012. I’m passing on it today.

Some of this might be because I want this over and done with. If it’s not close, there’s no prolonged legal battles. No basis for wild accusations of cheating. (Though I anticipate those regardless.) The odds say I’m right, but this is 2020, so . . . I’m probably wrong. Either way, it should be an interesting evening.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Who Won the Vice-Presidential Debate?

First of all, I’d like to thank each of you for coming to my blog today. I realize there are a lot of different things out there that you could be reading, and it means the world to me that you’d choose to spend some of your busy life to read the thoughts and feelings I have about life, the universe, and everything. And there’s a whole lot of “everything” going on in the world these days, isn’t there? So many topics we could talk about. Wildfires. Taxes. Pandemics.

It can be bewildering, trying to sift through all these myriad different opinions. That’s why I think it’s important to really take a close, analytical look at those issues that are important to the American voter.

It reminds me, actually, of what it was like for me growing up. A young boy in America in the 80s. I remember having to do homework, even though all I really wanted to do was play video games. But eventually I had to realize life wasn’t all about video games. It was about something that’s more important. It was about the direction this country is heading.

Who won the vice-presidential debate? That’s an excellent question. And to really get at the heart of the question, we need to dig deep. Deep into the history and context of our wonderful nation. A nation that will no doubt return to greatness once we’re through with this election. But how, precisely, will we be able to heal the great divide that exists today?

You can look at any number of statistics out there that will back up each and every argument I’m making in this blog post. I’ve got enough numbers to make a math teacher go cross-eyed. Sort of like I felt when I was in school, reading about a train going north at 90 km/h while a truck full of carrots was driving east at 55 mph on a clear day into a headwind of 5 knots. You don’t get to answer tricky questions like that without knowing a whole lot about what makes carrots so important to a daily diet.

And I know how to answer questions. Directly. Succinctly. In a way that leaves no doubt in the mind of the American voter that what I was talking about had many syllables. You see, it isn’t enough to just answer the question that was asked. You need to understand its context to really be able to dig into the meaning behind the question. And that’s where America is right now, isn’t it? Behind?

Behind in so many different areas. All of which can be placed directly at the feet of the loser of the debate, who (if they were allowed to enact their damaging policies) would only drive us further behind the rest of the world. But thankfully, my presidential candidate is ready to ignore all those different policies and problems and instead focus on what Americans really want to know:

Who won the vice-presidential debate?

So to conclude, I’d like to reiterate the many ways in which the loser lost and the winner won. The loser lost not just by espousing terrible ideas, but by being such an incredible loser to begin with. Supporting wrong-headed beliefs since the day they were born, whereas the winner won with flying colors, many of them unrelated to anything that actually came up as a topic in last night’s vice-presidential debate.

Thank you, once again, for your time, and God bless America.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

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