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“The Unfuzzy Math”: Bernie Sanders’s Final Few Days of California Dreamin’

So here we are. It all comes down to Calif—hey, wait. No, it doesn’t all come down to California.

That’s how Bernie Sanders has been framing next Tuesday, and the media have completely bought into it. Watching cable news, you’d think that if Bernie wins California, Jerry Garcia’s going to rise from his grave and the Dead will reunite and Sanders will be the nominee.

California’s big, and California’s razor close, and certainly it makes a difference whether Sanders or Hillary Clinton wins it. But not that big a difference. A whopping total of 475 delegates are at stake, but if it’s as close as the polls suggest, the winner stands to net a mere 20 or 30 delegates. Using this excellent delegate calculator, let’s go through all the remaining races and then circle back to the big prize, bearing in mind that right now, among pledged delegates, it’s Clinton up by 268, 1,769 to 1,501.

Saturday June 4, Virgin Islands. Seven delegates are at stake. The U.S.V.I. are three-quarters African American and just 15 percent white. So say Clinton wins it 75-25. She’ll take five delegates to Sanders’s two, netting three.

Sunday, June 5, Puerto Rico. I’ve been banging on about Puerto Rico being important because it has 60 delegates, which is a pretty big prize. Let’s say Clinton wins that one by, oh, 65-35, which doesn’t seem crazy. She’ll win the delegate contest 39-21, netting 18.

Then come all the contests on Tuesday, June 7:

South Dakota has 20 delegates. Say Sanders wins 60-40. He’ll win the delegate race 12-8, netting four.

North Dakota has 18 delegates. Give Sanders another 60-40 win here; again, he’ll win 11-7, netting another four.

Montana has 21 delegates. Give Sanders a third win of about that size. That’s 13-8 in terms of delegates, so he nets five more.

New Mexico is a little more interesting. It has 34 delegates. A poll came out earlier this week showing Clinton with a 26-point lead. I can’t quite believe that, but about half the turnout is expected to be Latino, so give Clinton New Mexico by 14 or 15 and she wins the delegate race 20-14, netting six.

Now we come to New Jersey and its 126 delegates. Not much polling. There was one in early April that showed Clinton +9, but early April was a long time ago. An early May survey had her +28, and a mid-May one +17. Sanders certainly hasn’t been competing there much. Let’s be if anything a little conservative and say Clinton wins it roughly 58-42. That translates into delegate totals of 73-53, so she’ll pick up 20 delegates.

So if these totals are about right, Clinton will win another 170 delegates, Sanders another 136. That would put her at 1,939 and him at 1,637. Which brings us to California.

California’s 475 pledged delegates are awarded in a pretty complicated way (here’s a PDF of the whole plan, if you’re interested). Most of them, 317, are awarded within congressional districts based on who won that district. There are 53 of those. In 2008, according to Bob Mulholland, the veteran California Democratic insider and a Clinton supporter this year, she won 42 of them. “But that’s an eight-year-old race,” as he noted to me, so who knows if it means anything for this year. Another little wrinkle is that all congressional districts aren’t created equal—some have as many as nine delegates, others as few as four. Just 105 delegates are awarded on the basis of the total statewide vote, and then there are 53 elected officials and party operatives who are pledged according to the results. That’s your 475. Then there are 73 superdelegates, from Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer on down.

But put them aside. This is about pledged delegates, right, because that’s what’s up for grabs when people vote. This brings us to one of the great obfuscations of this primary season.

You always read that a candidate needs 2,383 delegates to clinch the nomination. And that is true if you include superdelegates. Hang with me here, this matters. There are 4,051 pledged delegates and 713 supers. Add those two numbers together, then divide that by two, then add one (i.e., 50 percent plus one). That gets you to 2,383.

But if you’re talking pledged delegates only, 50 percent plus one is 2,026. You never see that number, and I guess I understand why—2,383 is the number, officially. But 2,026 is a majority of pledged delegates—you know, the ones you win by persuading voters to pull the lever with your name on it. I’ve been mystified as to why the Clinton people aren’t pushing more awareness of the 2,026 number. If the situation were reversed, we can be sure that Jeff Weaver would be all over cable denouncing the mere existence of 2,383, that strutting harlot of a number!

So it’s next Tuesday night in California. The state-by-state delegate scenario that I played out above has occurred. Clinton is at 1,939, needing just 87 delegates out of California to hit 2,026. Do you know how badly Sanders would have to beat her to limit her to 86 delegates? No, you don’t. But I do. He’d have to win by 82 to 18 percent. That would net Bernie 309 delegates out of California and would get him to 2,026, while she’d have 2,025.

That isn’t going to happen. What’s going to happen, even if Sanders wins the state by, say, three or four points, is that he will net about 20 delegates, but she will still have won around 225 or 230, meaning she will exceed 2,026 by about 150 delegates, and Sanders will be short of the magic number by about the same amount. And then there’ll be a little cherry placed on the sundae the following Tuesday when the District of Columbia votes and Clinton wins big and nets another 10 or so delegates.

So that’s the unfuzzy math. It has nothing at all to do with the superdelegates Sanders and Weaver have spent months traducing. It’s pledged delegates, earned in the voting booth (or at the caucus hall). Superdelegates will never, ever, ever undo such an outcome, and they never, ever, ever should. In a season when Sanders people have alleged a rigged system and sometimes outright theft, that would be the only actual case of theft in this season—for superdelegates to tell the voters sorry, you made the wrong choice when you chose your candidate, who is (incidentally) the first woman nominee in our party’s history.

And then California Democrats will meet after the fact at the Long Beach Hyatt Regency on June 19 to formalize everything, just like that recent meeting in Nevada. But let’s not even go there.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, June 3, 2016

June 5, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, California Primary, Hillary Clinton, Pledged Delegates | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“As Evidence Grows For Climate Change, Opponents Dig In”: GOP Has Abandoned Science For The Siren Call Of Their Monied Backers

Water, water everywhere.

Here on the nation’s Gulf Coast, where I live, we’ve got precipitation to spare — severe thunderstorms, overwhelmed sewer systems, and flash floods. It’s hard to remember I’m not living in a land with regularly scheduled monsoons.

Meanwhile, the great state of California is desperately dry as it endures the fourth year of a drought that has already burned through every historical record. It’s been 1,200 years, according to a recent study, since the state has experienced anything like this.

As different as the manifestations are, though, both regions are likely grappling with the effects of climate change. As the Earth warms, droughts will become more frequent and more severe, leading to devastating fires, water shortages and, in some areas, agricultural collapse, according to climate scientists.

At the same time (and this befuddles the layperson), a warmer atmosphere holds more moisture, so areas that tend toward rain will have more of it, leading to more floods. There may also be more snowfall in colder climes, so don’t let a blizzard or two fool you.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2014 was the hottest year on record, with continents and oceans warmer than any year since 1880. And despite a bitterly cold winter in the Northeast and Midwest, 2015 is vying to best that. January, February, and March were the warmest on record for the planet, scientists say. Climate change is real.

Jerry Brown, California’s Democratic governor, knows that. He is living through its havoc and trying to meet it squarely. After enacting rigid new regulations about water use weeks ago, he has just issued new rules on carbon emissions — even though his state already had pretty tough requirements. Good for him.

In a speech, Brown said he wants California to stand out as an example for how to deal with global warming. “It’s a real test. Not just for California, not just for America, but for the world. Can we rise above the parochialisms, the ethnocentric perspectives, the immediacy of I-want-I-want-I-need, to a vision, a way of life, that is sustainable?”

President Obama is also doing what he can. He has called for increased fuel efficiency for vehicles; cars and light-duty trucks should be getting the equivalent of 54.5 miles per gallon by model year 2025. And, in a more ambitious move, the Environmental Protection Agency has set new rules for power plants, requiring them to limit the amount of carbon dioxide they dump into the atmosphere.

But those commonsense measures have met fierce resistance, not only from industries and the billionaires who own them (think the Koch brothers), but also from their lap dogs in the Republican Party. Several GOP state attorneys general — in apparent collusion with energy companies — have sued the EPA to prevent the regulations from taking effect. “Never before have attorneys general joined on this scale with corporate interests to challenge Washington and file lawsuits in federal court,” according to The New York Times.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), for his part, has urged states to refuse to cooperate in setting targets to limit emissions from power plants. In other words, he has — shades of the Old South — advised them to rebel against federal authority.

(In April, one of his state’s largest newspapers, The Lexington Herald-Leader, printed a powerful editorial rebuking him for that stance. “Mitch McConnell and others who are trying to obstruct climate protections will be regarded one day in the same way we think of 19th-century apologists for human slavery: How could economic interests blind them to the immorality of their position?”)

While the scientific consensus on climate change — that human activity is causing it — grows stronger with each week’s evidence, so does Republican resistance to measures to combat it. Though conservatives once held science in high esteem, they have abandoned it for the siren call of their monied backers.

California’s governor has called this era a “test,” a challenging moment in which we are called to rise above greed, partisanship, and selfish convenience. So far, we’re not doing so well.


By: Cynthia Tucker, Pulitzer Prize Winner for Commentary in 2007; The National Memo, May 2, 2015

May 4, 2015 Posted by | Climate Change, GOP, Science | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“The Fact That I Don’t Like Her Is Irrelevant”: Don’t Be Blinded By The Hillary Clinton Hologram

I argued last week that left-of-center pundits who are demanding someone in the Democratic Party pose a challenge to Hillary Clinton are not offering arguments. Instead, they are expressing anxiety. Fears, not reasons. They worry that Clinton won’t earn the party’s nomination, but instead seize it as a birthright, which runs afoul of liberal commitments to merit, competition, and fair play.

Because the Republicans have no such concern (despite Jeb Bush’s urging to the contrary), I argued that the stakes are too high for restarting debate over first principles. Unlike 2008, Hillary Clinton now stands alone with no significant opposition in sight. That may change, of course, but for now, she is the best choice for maintaining Barack Obama’s broad voting coalition and for protecting the hard-won progressive gains of the president’s administration.

It was a cold-blooded analysis, perhaps made colder by the fact that I wasn’t writing from the heart. I was instead writing as a voter, and voters must, I contend, try to pierce, as much as possible, through the “hologram” of American politics, as the late great populist Joe Bageant put it. So I’m getting in line behind the Democratic frontrunner even though I personally prefer a dialectic over values, issues, and ideals; even though I personally believe that ideological duels among like-minded partisans is healthy and good; and even though I personally dislike Hillary Clinton.

I realized this dislike in 1991 when I was 17 years old. Arkansas governor Bill Clinton was running for the nomination against Jerry Brown (who had been, and is once again, governor of California). Brown had accused Clinton of “funneling money to his wife’s law firm for state business.” Pressed to respond, his wife said: “I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession.”

This comment is usually seen as an artifact of the “culture wars” and the “debate” over the legacy of second-wave feminism. But there’s more to it than that. At the heart of Clinton’s “cookies-and-tea” comment was a kind of rank classism that drove a wedge between voters who would otherwise find common ground in advancing mutually beneficial agendas. Labor is labor, whether done in public or in private, but the Ivy League-educated wife of a presidential up-and-comer was too elitist to see the truth of the matter. The result was stay-at-home mothers — like my own housekeeping mom — splitting from the Democrats and running into the waiting arms of GOP conservatives.

Even so, I believe Hillary Clinton would make a decent president, maybe even a good one, despite her elitism leaving a memorably bad taste in my mouth. People are usually surprised to hear that. They are surprised, I suspect, because the parties and the media, consciously and unconsciously, encourage voters to view candidates as if they were products — as a brand whose image embodies a vast web of psychological phenomena. This despite the fact that familiar candidates like Hillary Clinton are mere mortals whose views and policy positions have long been known. Even so, if you buy a product, the assumption is that you like it. And indeed, candidates have been “sold” to voters for decades. In The Selling of the President, a classic of the 1968 presidential election, the late journalist Joe McGinnis wrote that once politicians and ad men “recognized that the citizen does not so much vote for a candidate as make a psychological purchase of him, [it wasn’t] surprising that they began to work together.”

Since 1968, that profitable alliance has grown in size and sophistication. Anyone can see that. What we can’t see is our political blindness. As Joe Bageant put it, we don’t see the candidates; we see their “hologram.” “All things are purchasable, and indeed, access to anything of value is through purchase. Even mood and consciousness, through psychopharmacology, to suppress our anxiety or enhance sexual performance, or cyberspace linkups to porn, palaver, and purchasing opportunities. But most of all, the hologram generates and guides us to purchasing opportunities.”

The hologram draws much of its power from the fantastical desire for the perfect candidate. Case in point: Barack Obama. He was going to bring change to Washington. How wonderful! Though he did try, the president soon learned he could not transform politics as usual. No way. Indeed, the man who promised to overcome partisanship became, thanks to total Republican obstruction, a pure partisan.

Democratic voters must try to pierce through the Hillary Clinton Hologram, as much as they can, to see the person. The mere mortal. The flawed, maybe tragic, human being. The woman who once thought herself too good to bake cookies at home. She has baggage and can be found ideologically wanting. But none of that matters. What matters is that she’s a Democrat who will protect social-insurance programs, defend higher taxes on the wealthy, and continue peace talks with Cuba and Iran. And what matters is that her campaign has become a juggernaut that has the potential to roll over her Republican opponent.

In comparison, the fact that I don’t like her is irrelevant.


By: John Stoehr, The National Memo, April 29, 2015

April 30, 2015 Posted by | Democrats, Election 2016, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Pipeline And A Pie In The Sky”: The Challenge Is To Build For The Future, Not Steal From It

The Koch brothers Congress, purchased with the help of about $100 million from the political network of the billionaire energy producers, got down to its first order of business this week: trying to hold off the future.

Meanwhile, here on the other coast, one of the most popular politicians in America, Gov. Jerry Brown of California, bounced into his fourth and final term by trying to hasten that future. The contrasts — East and West, old and new, backward-looking and forward-marching, the beholden and behold! — could not have been more stark.

The 114th Congress is trying to rush through the Keystone XL pipeline to carry oil from the dirty tar sands of Canada to the Gulf Coast. The State Department has estimated that the total number of permanent new jobs created by the pipeline would be 35 — about the same as the handful of new taco trucks in my neighborhood in Seattle. This, at a time when the world is awash in cheap oil.

Governor Brown, having balanced a runaway California budget and delivered near-record job growth in a state Republicans had written off as ungovernable, laid out an agenda to free the world’s eighth-largest economy — his state — from being tied to old energy, old transportation and old infrastructure. He doubled down on plans to build a bullet-train network and replumb the state’s water system, while setting new goals to reduce dependence on energy that raises the global temperature.

“The challenge is to build for the future, not steal from it,” said Governor Brown, who is the embodiment of the line about how living well is the best revenge — political division. He is 76, but said he’s been pumping iron and eating his vegetables of late so he can live to see the completion of the high-speed rail system, about 2030, when Governor Brown would be a frisky 92.

Russia, which is ranked below California in overall economic output, is teetering as world commodity prices provide a cold lesson in what can happen to a country tied to the fate of oil’s wild swings. The Republicans should take note. The Keystone pipeline, though largely symbolic in the global scheme of things, does nothing for the American economy except set up the United States as a pass-through colony for foreign industrialists. Well, not all foreign: The Koch brothers are one of the largest outside leaseholders of acres in Canadian oil sands, according to a Washington Post report. I’m sure that has nothing to do with the fierce urgency of rushing Keystone XL through Congress now.

At the same time, the Republican hold-back-the-clock majority announced plans to roll back environmental regulations. Fighting hard for dirty air, dirty water and old-century energy producers, the new Senate leaders are trying to keep some of the nation’s oldest and most gasping coal plants in operation, and to ensure that unhealthy air can pass freely from one state to the other. One strategy is to block money to enforce new rules against the biggest polluters.

For intellectual guidance, Republicans can count on 80-year-old Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the incoming chairman of the environment committee. Inhofe calls the consensus scientific view on human-caused warming “the greatest hoax.” He plans to use his gavel to hold back regulations aimed at reducing carbon emissions, fighting the obvious at every turn.

The headache, for the rest of us, will come when the nations of the world meet in Paris at year’s end to discuss how to address the problem that knows no nationality. We’ll talk about China and its climate-warming coal plants. Critics will point to the United States, its knuckle-dragging Congress and the industries it is shielding from responsibility.

The Republican agenda is frozen in time. It’s all frack-your-way-to-prosperity, and Sarah Palin shouting, “Drill, baby, drill.” The problem, of course, is that the world doesn’t need any more oil, not now; the price is down by 50 percent over the last year with no bottom in sight. Cheap petro is killing not just Russia but Iraq, Venezuela, Saudi monarchs and, soon, assorted other dependencies — like Alaska and Texas. At some point, the only way the Keystone XL can be profitably built and operated is with a huge subsidy from taxpayers.

Nature, also, is weighing in. Earthquakes in Texas and Oklahoma are raising alarms about the relationship between the hydraulic byproducts of fracking and the temblors rolling through a huge swatch of land that’s been perforated for oil and gas drillers.

Governor Brown and another West Coast governor, Jay Inslee of Washington, view the cheap oil era as a golden opportunity for an energy pivot. Inslee wants to tax the biggest carbon emitters to pay for new infrastructure. The motto is tax what you burn, not what you earn.

Governor Brown is quick to note the big forces at play between the West Coast and the pollution panderers along the Potomac. “California is basically presenting a challenge to Washington,” he told reporters earlier this week.

A big piece of that challenge is the $68 billion high-speed rail project, which would zip passengers between San Francisco and Los Angeles in just under three hours. It’s bogged down in legal and financial muck, and critics call it pie in the sky.

But Governor Brown is undaunted. What he has going for him is an old strain in the American character, dormant for much of the Great Recession — the tomorrow gene. There’s no legacy, no long-term payoff, in defending things that are well past their pull point. And, seriously, which would you rather have: a futuristic, clean-energy train, or a pipeline that carries a product produced in a way that makes the world a worse place to live?


By: Timothy Egan, Contributing Op-Ed Writer, The New York Times, January 8, 2014

January 11, 2015 Posted by | Big Oil, Keystone XL, Koch Brothers | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Left Coast Rising”: California’s Success Demonstrates That Extremist Ideology Still Dominating Much Of American Politics Is Nonsense

The states, Justice Brandeis famously pointed out, are the laboratories of democracy. And it’s still true. For example, one reason we knew or should have known that Obamacare was workable was the post-2006 success of Romneycare in Massachusetts. More recently, Kansas went all-in on supply-side economics, slashing taxes on the affluent in the belief that this would spark a huge boom; the boom didn’t happen, but the budget deficit exploded, offering an object lesson to those willing to learn from experience.

And there’s an even bigger if less drastic experiment under way in the opposite direction. California has long suffered from political paralysis, with budget rules that allowed an increasingly extreme Republican minority to hamstring a Democratic majority; when the state’s housing bubble burst, it plunged into fiscal crisis. In 2012, however, Democratic dominance finally became strong enough to overcome the paralysis, and Gov. Jerry Brown was able to push through a modestly liberal agenda of higher taxes, spending increases and a rise in the minimum wage. California also moved enthusiastically to implement Obamacare.

I guess we’re not in Kansas anymore. (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.)

Needless to say, conservatives predicted doom. A representative reaction: Daniel J. Mitchell of the Cato Institute declared that by voting for Proposition 30, which authorized those tax increases, “the looters and moochers of the Golden State” (yes, they really do think they’re living in an Ayn Rand novel) were committing “economic suicide.” Meanwhile, Avik Roy of the Manhattan Institute and Forbes claimed that California residents were about to face a “rate shock” that would more than double health insurance premiums.

What has actually happened? There is, I’m sorry to say, no sign of the promised catastrophe.

If tax increases are causing a major flight of jobs from California, you can’t see it in the job numbers. Employment is up 3.6 percent in the past 18 months, compared with a national average of 2.8 percent; at this point, California’s share of national employment, which was hit hard by the bursting of the state’s enormous housing bubble, is back to pre-recession levels.

On health care, some people — basically healthy young men who were getting inexpensive insurance on the individual market and were too affluent to receive subsidies — did face premium increases, which we always knew would happen. Over all, however, the costs of health reform came in below expectations, while enrollment came in well above — more than triple initial predictions in the San Francisco area. A recent survey by the Commonwealth Fund suggests that California has already cut the percentage of its residents without health insurance in half. What’s more, all indications are that further progress is in the pipeline, with more insurance companies entering the marketplace for next year.

And, yes, the budget is back in surplus.

Has there been any soul-searching among the prophets of California doom, asking why they were so wrong? Not that I’m aware of. Instead, I’ve been seeing many attempts to devalue the good news from California by pointing out that the state’s job growth still lags that of Texas, which is true, and claiming that this difference is driven by differential tax rates, which isn’t.

For the big difference between the two states, aside from the size of the oil and gas sector, isn’t tax rates. it’s housing prices. Despite the bursting of the bubble, home values in California are still double the national average, while in Texas they’re 30 percent below that average. So a lot more people are moving to Texas even though wages and productivity are lower than they are in California.

And while some of this difference in housing prices reflects geography and population density — Houston is still spreading out, while Los Angeles, hemmed in by mountains, has reached its natural limits — it also reflects California’s highly restrictive land-use policies, mostly imposed by local governments rather than the state. As Harvard’s Edward Glaeser has pointed out, there is some truth to the claim that states like Texas are growing fast thanks to their anti-regulation attitude, “but the usual argument focuses on the wrong regulations.” And taxes aren’t important at all.

So what do we learn from the California comeback? Mainly, that you should take anti-government propaganda with large helpings of salt. Tax increases aren’t economic suicide; sometimes they’re a useful way to pay for things we need. Government programs, like Obamacare, can work if the people running them want them to work, and if they aren’t sabotaged from the right. In other words, California’s success is a demonstration that the extremist ideology still dominating much of American politics is nonsense.


By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, July 24, 2014

July 26, 2014 Posted by | California, Conservatives, Politics | , , , , , , | 1 Comment


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