Days of Change

Behavioral Sink

August 25, 2016
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There is a truly amazing correlation between population density and party affiliation. many have noted this before. There’s a graph in this article that basically says between 800 to 1000 people per square mile, a United States Congressional district goes from being likely Republican (low density) to likely Democrat (high density). This is pretty apparent when you look at places like Alaska and Wyoming, big, sparsely populated and deeply Republican. Then you have places like New York, increasingly controlled politically by densely populated New York City and Washington DC, basically a city that has never voted Republican.

You can read into the reasoning in different ways. My take is that self-reliance is required when you don’t live near a lot of people or not in an apartment building. Here’s something I used to wonder about. What does it do to people who live in big cities?

At the start of the American experiment, we were part of an agrarian society. The majority of people were farmers. For people in cities, farm to table wasn’t a concept, it was the way to keep from having rotten food. Infrastructure and mass production eliminated the need for multiple small farms and people started to move to cities to be near work. This often involved factories. Apartments sprung up to support a growing population. Other people were able to open small businesses selling food and other goods to the people working in the city.

Over the last 50-60 years, big cities have been synonymous with danger, poverty and social breakdown. Much of that has either been attributed to the race of the people living there or to institutional racism. However, there is a theory that the population density itself is a problem. That and what Democrats did to encourage population density.

An animal behaviorist named John Calhoun created a number of utopia environments for rats and mice during the middle of the last century. The most famous is probably Universe 25, or what Calhoun called “mouse heaven.” He created a contained ecosystem that had various rooms and a common area. Food and water was always available, and the box was cleaned regularly. He started on day 1 with 8 mice, four breeding pairs.

The mouse population increased in that environment every few weeks until it reached about 600 in less than a year. The environment could support 1000 mice effectively, but the population growth started to slow. Still, in another 5 months, the population peaked at a dense 2200 inhabitants.

During this period, mice became less like mice. Female mice abandoned their young and eventually stopped breeding altogether. Males found that being territorial was useless because there was no territory left. The majority of mice collected in the common area where they waited for food. They occasionally turned to homosexuality, random fighting and eventually asexuality. A small number of mice with an aversion to other mice segregated themselves into smaller rooms where they spent their time eating, sleeping and grooming themselves away from everyone else.

Calhoun deemed this activity “behavioral sink” and it spelled the beginning of the end. Mice no longer bred and as the population died off, the ability to replenish was not even attempted by the mice left. The results of this and other experiments were published and became fodder for the media in the 1970’s. Other psychologists became famous supposedly disproving Calhoun’s conclusion about this applying to man, mostly with short, meaningless experiments with college students.

It’s pretty easy to draw parallels between rat heaven and the massive rates of abortion, joblessness and sloth in the inner city. While population density is not a good thing, Calhoun did something that may have been even worse for rat society. He gave them all their material needs without any responsibility. Every socialist in history has predicted the freeing of the human spirit when the need to put food on the table is eliminated. Instead, the human spirit is destroyed. In Universe 25, rat society was destroyed around the same time as the average lifespan of a mouse. After long enough, young  mice had no elders who had been outside the universe.


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Projection Election

August 24, 2016
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I made the comment the other day that Donald Trump is actually only 5% of the vote short of flipping all the states he needs to win the Electoral College. This is true, but right now the only reason Trump in only 5% (now 8%) behind in states like Florida is that the Hillary Clinton campaign is redeploying resources toward a 50 state strategy.

I felt the same way about Mitt Romney in 2012 that Trumpers want me to feel about their candidate. I thought Romney was going to lose the general election, but when he became the nominee, I went all in. I won’t do that now. Donald Trump is a horrible Republican who burned down his primary opponents so personally and unnecessarily that most of them want nothing to do with Trump.

In my Romney days four years ago, the candidate had Obama down to a 27 Electoral Vote margin of victory and only needed a 3% shift in the voting population to win at this point in 2012. At least you could plausibly argue that Romney was within striking distance. The pinnacle of the campaign may have been October 4th, when the news media scrambled to downplay Obama’s embarrassing debate performance the night before. Ultimately, it may have only taught Obama’s base that they would need to fight for victory.

In a primary election, all the candidates are on a sort of even playing field. Go to a state, meet some people, do some ads or a debate on TV. Wait for the results. Repeat in another state. This pattern works until you get to Tuesdays with multiple primaries in bigger states. You either have to have bid data, big get out the vote or big media. Donald Trump had big media without the big check usually required.

During the presidential election, this all goes out the window. The only rallies that really matter are the three you hold before election day. Among the undecided, your first real introduction is during a debate a month from Election Day. You can’t win every state one by one. Everyone votes on the same day. The ones who don’t are why there’s big data.

Democrats used the results of 2000 and their anger that Bush bested them again in 2004 to create a system where Democrats had the maximum number of opportunities to vote. When Democrats talk about giving a vote to the “disenfranchised,” they always seem to make it more difficult or impossible for American military deployed overseas to get their votes to count. Besides greater access to absentee ballots, people off the street are allowed to vote for weeks before the election and have the opportunity to register the same day they vote, opening the door to rampant fraud.

We all know about polling, targeted polling and targeted advertising. The Democrats are also using data to see who voted early, find Democratic Party voters who haven’t voted early and harass them until they vote early. Then they take buses into densely populated neighborhoods and chauffeur people to the polls until they have a margin of victory in a swing state. Mitt Romney only won a single state by less than 6%, North Carolina. All the others (7 with a 5% margin or less) broke for Obama.

Donald Trump and probably Stephen Bannon are seeking validation rather than valid data. Trump loves big rallies because he can see lots of people cheering him. He likes fancy rented jets and big, gold-trimmed apartments in buildings he only partially owns because they are things he can see and sit in. I think he really doesn’t understand how Hillary Clinton can win when Trump has more people at his rallies.

Elections are a long game and a Trump loss will give me a new respect for the measured strategy of the GOP. However, they also need to understand that results and not promises are the way to keep conservatives. As of today, Trumps’ electoral map looks a lot like McCain’s on Election Day 2008. Ironically, on this day in 2008, McCain was within 14 Electoral Votes of beating Obama.


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Killing Breitbart, Part 5

August 23, 2016
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Note: This is final part in a series on what happened to the Breitbart name and legacy after Andrew Breitbart’s death.

The End of Online Breitbart

Glenn Beck is the competition.

Beck created a TV network after putting it online first, something that hasn’t happened before. Beyond that, he is ready for the transition from linear television to a subscription-based online content creation and distribution. He’s already doing it. His radio show is a simulcast of video on his network The Blaze and his 5 pm show is the continuation of his 5 pm show when he was on Fox News. His website rivals other online aggregaters like Breitbart.com.

Glenn Beck was the only major “conservative” Andrew Breitbart attacked publicity. Besides making accusations toward Breitbart, Beck had hired Breitbart.tv people away for his site The Blaze in 2011. Beck himself had essentially put himself in another sphere by then by broadcasting private communications between him and Sarah Palin which subsequently ended all communication. Every couple of years, Beck predicts (promises?) some global calamity that will only be survived by perseverance and faith. I mentioned earlier a modified historical tale Beck recycled.

Over the last few years, Fox News has gone from the source of fair but conservative news to a mainstream news operation that hires increasing numbers of left-leaning personalities and upsetting more ideologues. The visionary behind the network has resigned in disgrace. Now, we have an aging Bill O’Reilly, a ridiculously biased Sean Hannity and Megyn Kelly, who has been shown to be useless outside 9 pm.

One theory is that an unholy alliance between Trump, Stephen Bannon, Robert Mercer (the only big GOP donor who wants to donate) and a rumored Roger Ailes helping with debater prep want to form a right-wing network that will push propaganda down America’s throat. This, of course, presupposes that Trump will lose.

If Trump wins, Bannon becomes the new Karl Rove (or, gulp, Valerie Jarrett) and the Mercers are the only ones Trump owes loyalty to. A Trump win will shake up the paradigm of the political campaign, even if the actual presidency may be a hot mess. The Republican Party may never be the same. Plus, Sean Hannity’s contract is up this year.

Either way, my only hope is that the name Breitbart is put to rest in its current incarnation. More and more, different people are claiming ownership of Andrew Breitbart’s supposed thoughts and beliefs on a matter. Even I played clips to prove points. No matter what happens, I fear my beliefs will be in the wilderness again.


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Killing Breitbart, Part 4

August 22, 2016
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Note: This is part 4 in a series on what happened to the Breitbart name and legacy after Andrew Breitbart’s death.

The News Toilet

Lazy bloggers probably still have links to Big Government or Breitbart that no one uses. I just looked, and I have one as well. I used to go to the site every day and I put the link on my website so I could jump right to it after editing or posting on my own page. I also felt a sort of duty to continue looking at Breitbart.com after its founder’s death. That didn’t last very long.

I still see links to Breitbart on other blogs, especially by Trumpers who love validation of their own opinions. I rarely click because the site is loaded with margin ads, pop-ups, autoplay videos and enough visual noise to qualify as a Homer Simpson website.

I used to mock the ads on sites like DailyKos that needed the revenue to keep the owners in Cheetos. In fact, most conservative sites have a fair share of ads, but Breitbart takes the prize for most revenue sucking while locking up your browser. Are they in that much financial distress?

When there is no breaking news, networks with 8-9 hours to fill with live anchors cause something called a “news hole.” When that happens, the repetition of content goes up while the quality goes down. Breitbart.com is a veritable news toilet, where the content is similar to that of a toilet, except the frequency and consistency is less reliable.

On the Friday night following the Bannon announcement, Breitbart.com featured 4 stories rehashing Clinton outrage, one story trashing Glenn Beck for being against the Trump campaign and two stories praising Breitbart employees. One is about the winning strategy of Steve Bannon that was all of 20 hours old and one about the popularity of Milo Yiannopoulos, the gay alt-right icon who says racist and sexist things to increase his media profile (except on twitter, where he is banned for life).

It is literally unbelievable how much Trump could lose on Election Day this year. It is so hard to believe, especially this early, that Trump supporters don’t believe it. In alt-reality, Trump is within the margin of error in all the states he needs and people who support Trump are shrinking violets who won’t talk to pollsters, but will show up in droves on Election Day. Add the fact that the media is skewing all the polls by 10% and hiding the fact that Hillary Clinton has several degenerative neurological disorders. It’s a wonder they even worry about the failed loser NeverTrump crowd supposedly costing them the election.

With a new message and a media empire behind Trump, supporters will have fewer sites that actually promote the inevitability of Donald Trump. Most likely, they will have to upgrade their laptops and open Breitbart.com for their safe space validation. Bannon has to hope he’s gotten to them before they all turn off theelectronics that shake them from their delusion.


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Killing Breitbart, Part 3

August 21, 2016
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Note: This is part 3 in a series on what happened to the Breitbart name and legacy after Andrew Breitbart’s death.

All Hail the New King

2012 was a tough year. The Tea Party had multiple Republican contenders for the nomination, but none really caught fire. Unbeknownst to most people at the time, Tea Party donations never materialized due to IRS stonewalling and vultures starting “victory campaigns” to take donations and give about 5% to an actual candidate. Mitt Romney seemed anointed and locked up the nomination by April. One man who was especially unhappy about that turn of events was Stephen Bannon.

While it is primarily a cat video aggregator, Buzzfeed did manage a story featuring an exchange between Bannon and Ben Howe, a former Breitbart employee and current punching bag of the website.

On May 29, 2012, conservative filmmaker Ben Howe emailed Steve Bannon a video he was planning to debut that day on Breitbart TV. The stylized web ad featured Andrew Breitbart — the site’s piratical founder who had died unexpectedly earlier that year — delivering a speech in which he urged conservatives to rally around the Republican nominee to “fight the progressive left.”

“I will march behind whoever our candidate is, because if we don’t we lose!” Breitbart was shown preaching to an audience of activists.

Bannon, the inheritor of Breitbart’s web empire and appointed keeper of his legacy, hated Howe’s video — and he told him so in a series of heated emails that were recently obtained by BuzzFeed News.

“Couldn’t disagree more,” Bannon wrote. “Romney has gone out of his way to show complete contempt for the tea party…and u r acting like a bootlick.”

“Are we not going to push for an Obama defeat?” Howe asked in response.

“No Ben,” Bannon shot back. “I’m pushing for conservatives to have a fu**ing place at the table … What don’t u get about the running gun battle we have had with the republican establishment over the last 3 months[?}” In a later email he added, “This is about power Ben, and who is going to exert it.”

That certainly puts a different spin on the Bannon-led attacks on Howe for being NeverTrump. Bannon was NeverRomney and Romney actually had a chance to win.

The current Breitbart staff has little connection to four years ago. People like Howe and Dana Loesch, who lasted six months there after Breitbart’s death, were among the first . Compare the photos of Breitbart regulars at a memorial service in this Slate article with the picture of Bannon’s Bulldogs today from Bloomberg. Alex Marlow is the only person in common. Those like Loesch and Ben Shapiro, the former editor-at-large, had public falling outs.

Steve Bannon has stepped down as the head of Breitbart.com to avoid the incredibly obvious appearance of collusion and only project the merely obvious reality of total agreement between the two. He will be the man whispering in Trump’s ear, telling him to be Trump. Or maybe not. Trump almost apologized in a speech Thursday.

Campaign managers have some experience in creating a battle plan that gets their client to victory. Not all of them are good at it, and many of the ones working for Republicans work hard just to make sure they get hired in 2 years. Manafort was already at the bottom of the barrel in the profession. Now, we have a guy who was editing wild animal footage into news video of conservative figures just a decade ago.


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Killing Breitbart, Part 2

August 20, 2016
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Note: This is part 2 in a series on what happened to the Breitbart name and legacy after Andrew Breitbart’s death.

Bannon Becomes Breitbart

When Andrew Breitbart died, the staff of Breitbart.com understandably took up the #war mantle created by Andrew’s electrifying Tea Party speeches. However, one of the greatest aspects of Breitbart was that he was a happy warrior. He had liberal and conservative friends. He enjoyed what he did and the way he did it. I think that was best expressed on Red Eye the day after Breitbart died. And yes, that is Ben Shapiro in the teaser frame.

Andrew Breitbart was full of ideas and energy. His presence filled a room. While it is very little consolation, he seemed to fit 40 years of life into 20 years as a movement conservative. The downside is that Breitbart was not very interested in money. He didn’t become a media darling and money he made from Breitbart.com was invested into the business. When you’re not rich, rich people can come in and take over.

Stephen Bannon is a hard-core right-wing ideologue who also happened to make some decent money working at Goldman Sachs. He became a producer, which meant he bankrolled films (and, fortuitously, Seinfeld). Producers often start thinking their money gives them the ability to have more say in movie making and Bannon eventually became a director of his own movies. By 2004, he was making propaganda documentaries about how great conservatism is. He also met Andrew Breitbart.

Years later, Bannon arranged financing for Breitbart News and took over when Andrew Breitbart died. By 2012, Bannon seemed to be an unhappy, bordering on angry, warrior. His film, the Undefeated, about Sarah Palin’s accomplishments and struggles against the media, got him close to Palin, but yielded little political action because Palin never took the spot most people were expecting her to take in the 2012 Republican primary contest. Much like the Tea Party groups targeted by the IRS, money for a Palin campaign didn’t seem to be there.

Bannon steered Beitbart News from supporting Republicans in general to drawing a line between the good mavericks and the bad RINO establishment Republicans. As Republicans made gains in the Senate, the balance shifted from conservative iconoclasts to pragmatic free market Republicans.

By 2015, a candidate emerged who was both endorsed by Sarah Palin and capable of either self-financing or getting enough free media to offset lower fundraising totals. Donald Trump was the perfect Steve Bannon candidate. He was the honey badger that Bannon wanted Breitbart to emulate. Trump was also wildly popular and made the $100 million that went into the Jeb Bush campaign disappear with nary an impact on the election. Trump eschewed political professional for passionate specialists. In that way, Stephen Bannon finally got a seat at the big table.


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Killing Breitbart, Part 1

August 19, 2016
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Note: This is part 1 in a series on what happened to the Breitbart name and legacy after Andrew Breitbart’s death.

The Rise of Andrew Breitbart

Around 2007, I wasn’t a big consumer of conservative media. I was working a “real” job and didn’t have time to listen to Rush Limbaugh. I was also less inclined to read conservative websites in the waning days of the Bush Administration, especially since the right decided to eat their own and start complaining about Bush.

I usually watched some Fox News in the morning, but was up at 2am and saw something completely different. It was called Red Eye. FNC had decided to give a (really) late night show to former magazine editor Greg Gutfeld, a writer named Bill Schulz he dragged along through his career and Andy Levy, a commenter at Gutfeld’s website whose goal in life seemed to be fact checking what everyone else says.

Red Eye was how I was introduced to Andrew Breitbart. Breitbart started as a sort of unpaid gopher for Matt Drudge’s website “The Drudge Report” around the time the Monica Lewinsky story broke. Drudge introduced him to a fiercely right-wing 1990’s era Arianna Huffington. Breitbart worked on the Huffington Post in the days it was still bipartisan, and brought on magazine editor Greg Gutfeld as a contributor.

Breitbart appeared on Red Eye a number of times while his breitbart.com and breitbart.tv sites were starting to take off. By 2008, I was engaged in politics again and watched the missteps the McCain campaign seemed to make with Sarah Palin and McCain himself. Somehow an incompetent moron became president.

When the Tea Party came into being, Breitbart was a big booster to the movement. So was Palin. The bare minimum of filibuster-capable Republicans actually fought and that seemed to encourage the wave that gave the House a majority in Congress and put the Senate within striking distance of becoming majority Republican.

Besides aggregating news, Breitbart’s websites made news by performing stings on big government and exposing corrupt government officials. Andrew seemed ready to put all his efforts into getting Republicans elected in 2012. Around that time, he was asked about Donald Trump, who was failing to host a GOP debate, starring himself.

Sadly, Andrew Breitbart died on March 1, 2012 before even a GOP nominee could be decided. On top of that, his legacy was about to be turned on its head.


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Hillary is a Walking Corpse and Trump is Running a Fake Campaign

August 18, 2016
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Depending on how you feel about Ronald Reagan, he either touched up his hair or straight-up shoe polished it. In any case, age can be a factor in a presidential election. The one I refer to is William Henry Harrison, who was 68 years old for 23 days when he was inaugurated on March 4, 1841. Had he been inaugurated in January, he still would have been 67.

Harrison was a war hero and thought to be spry for a man his age. In order to maintain that image, he chose not to wear an overcoat on a long, cold afternoon when he was inaugurated. He caught pneumonia (or possibly typhoid) and it only grew worse as he was constantly interrupted in his recuperation by requests for action and favors. He died on April 4, 1841.

Reagan beat Harrison by almost 2 years. Trump would be even older. Hillary Clinton would be between the ages of Harrison and Reagan at inauguration, but rumor is that she will be dead by Election Day. Any number of edited and doctored videos exist of her falling, tripping, acting strange or being assisted by shadowy figures. While the health of a presidential candidate is important, I don’t think that supporters will find the “evidence” of her health to be all that convincing.

In the realm of total bullshit is the Huffington Post editorial posted as news by lying sack of crap Michael Moore. His claim is that Trump announced a presidential run because NBC was losing interest in the Apprentice and he needed to generate buzz. His buzz got him fired by NBC and lost business in other places. He realized that he would have to make due with being President. Then, he discovered his victory was not assured and started to sabotage his campaign as a way to force the GOP to give up on him. Actually, Moore’s whole column is just another “Republicans are all racist because Trump.” Trump losing would not have the same impact as a real Republican losing because it would look more like bad candidate selection rather than a party near the end.

Whatever else you want to say about Trump, he really thought he could win.


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Bye, Bye

August 17, 2016
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Since John McLaughlin started hosting The McLaughlin groups decades ago, he only missed one show. That was this weekend. He died a few days later. McLaughlin and his show, which were basically inseparable, were a major influence on my understanding of politics. With two liberals and two conservatives plus a host who was conservative, the show had a rare balance for a show that aired on PBS.

For me, a lot of the magic was in the classic lineup, Jack Germond, Elanor Clift, Fred Barnes, and possibly Pat Buchanan when he wasn’t running for president. That was usually the group in the Saturday Night Live sketches on the 1990’s. I happen to like this installment of SNL because it features Chris Farley doing a rare appearance as Jack Germond.

I stopped watching because of time slot changes and the newer crop of up and comers in the conservative movement who revolved in and out.  I guess John was still John until the end.


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Every Reason I Can’t Vote for Trump

August 17, 2016
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