Saturday, April 30, 2016

ANS -- Why Bernie Is Losing* (* Is Losing Means Lost)

So, here's the other side of the story.  It's a well-written article and makes good points, but its basic assumption, that Bernie is losing, is wrong.  (see previous posting)

Go to the profile of MamaJeanB
MamaJeanB2 days ago5 min read

Why Bernie Is Losing*

(* Is Losing Means Lost)

While there are a handful of races to come, looking back at the primaries makes it pretty clear where Bernie lost. Both sides have their passionate supporters that transcend categories but it was fairly easy to see the percentages broken down by gender, or race, or age, or income. Certain groups, like much of the LGBT community, also seemed to break for Hillary. Why? Why didn't Bernie's message resonate with the majority of women, and the poor, and the senior citizens, etc., etc. After all, his proposals would benefit all of them, right?

But these groups of people, while not the only ones to support Clinton, are often the ones most reliant on the government — whether in social services or in protections that the federal government has been providing. Further, these are the areas most under siege by Republican forces. In short, these are our most vulnerable citizens. And Bernie failed to get them to trust him in significant numbers.

First, he couldn't get them to trust him to go up against the Republican machine and win. It's possible he would have flourished. It's also possible he would've wilted. But if someone feels like their entire livelihood is at stake in this election, that's a big risk to take. Especially when his competition is still standing after decades of the worst they could throw at her.

But even if they took the risk and believed that he could win, then these groups had to decide if they could trust him to succeed. Not even so much in terms of his big plans but could he actually govern against Republicans who would attempt to block him at every turn? By refusing to acknowledge that he would need an actual coalition, and not just people standing on the lawn, the risk just got bigger and the trust just got a little harder to come by.

However, even if they managed to risk this much and decided that Bernie could in fact win and could in fact govern, there is the still the big enchilada. Could Bernie get his revolution to turn out in 2018 and maintain the momentum? In all honesty, seeing what happened with Barack Obama made this an even larger hurdle for Bernie. Obama's turnout was stunning in 2008 but it did not help in 2010. Things were worse in 2014. And this is a task that wasn't completely on Bernie's shoulders. It was on his supporters. And they failed him spectacularly.

Bernie-or-Bust was a flashing neon sign that they would not be there for the most vulnerable. They signaled that their priorities were the only priorities that mattered. They even argued, and continue to argue, that blowing up the whole system was the only way to make people see the light. The system that expanded healthcare to cover millions of people. The system that has made gay marriage legal. The system that provides social security. The system that currently maintains Roe v Wade. The system that maintains welfare to keep people from being completely destitute. If someone is willing to sacrifice the system and therefore the security of millions upon millions of people because they think there's too much money in campaigns then they can't be surprised when the most vulnerable don't support their guy.

And this is bound to lead to the complaint about Hillary's trustworthiness. There is utter confusion that so many of these groups have granted her this trust when she has become, in their eyes, the symbol of all that is wrong with the American system. Do you want to know why they trust her in spite of corporate contributions or Super Pacs? Because in 2008, when she could've been a completely disruptive force who split the party in an attempt to achieve her own ambition, she chose instead to unite. She thought of those most vulnerable in the most unselfish way possible. At that time, she couldn't have been certain that she would have run again. After all, primary season is grueling. She not only worked for the greater good, she championed it.

The frustrating thing about government and politics and parties is that it can take so long to make significant change and then, one day, a huge leap forward will be made. People see that leap forward and question why we can't do it all the time without realizing that the giant leap was only accomplished by often years of work. Sanders accomplished more than anyone thought possible. But the problem with candidates who flash on the national scene in such a way is not that the establishment is trying to keep them down. It's that they have to convince people that they are worth the risk. Obama barely did it and he's one of the most incredible politicians in modern history.

But unless you can clear that hurdle, you will lose to the person who has put in the time. These groups know that Hillary will have their collective backs. If all these new voters flitter away in two years, these groups know that she has already worked to preserve the system that will maintain the progress achieved. And with her tireless work in supporting down-ballot candidates, these groups know that she is doing everything possible to get the team that she will need around her to move even farther forward.

This is a time where the Supreme Court supports gay marriage and then hears a case that would seriously curtail the right-to-choose in several states. A time where a city passes LGBT friendly ordinances only to have a state legislature call a special session to strike them down. The most vulnerable always have the most to lose in any election. Progressives, true liberals, the far left wing or whatever other group that touts their purity of thought, must remember that they will continue to lose if they refuse to acknowledge how the Democratic party has protected and championed these groups for decades.

But do you know how Sanders supporters can make progress on their issues? Prove that they won't run at the first sign of defeat. Prove that they will keep fighting for their priorities but they won't abandon those with the most to lose. Earn the trust that will provide an even greater coalition in the future. Spend the time. Take the long view. Continue to participate. If not, then don't be upset if the rest of the Democratic Party dismisses the tantrum, knowing they were right in not putting their trust in Bernie.

ANS -- This is What Will Happen at the Democratic Convention

This is a mathematical proof that Bernie can still win the nomination for President.  Read it.  What this tells you also, is the incredible bias of the media, which has been giving us the impression that it's all over but the shouting.  It's not.  
Fairly short article, the math is pretty simple -- just arithmetic.  

This is What Will Happen at the Democratic Convention

bernie math article

Can Sanders do it? Or is Clinton truly inevitable?

Bernie Sanders has vowed to fight relentlessly for the 2016 Democratic Party's nomination up to the convention and, despite the apparent consensus of the media's talking heads that the campaign is a lost cause, he has held fast to his claim that there is a "narrow path to victory." I am reminded of Galadriel's ominous words of advice, in the Fellowship of the Ring: The quest stands upon the edge of a knife — stray but a little, and it will fail… ÷

It has even become something of a weekly occurrence for Hillary Clinton and her Wallstreet-backed campaign to imply, insinuate, or flat-out demand that Sanders withdraw his bid for the nomination — they are growing increasingly indignant about the fact that Sanders is trying to win. Which brings us to the heart of the issue — can Bernie Sanders–can we–win the delegates needed for the nomination?

The answer to this question is as simple as it is misleading — No. No, my friends, we cannot. And yet–! And yet, neither can Hillary Clinton — and I am going to show you what the media is willfully hiding from you. I am going to show you why, using the one thing that even the media can't hide: Math.

Why Clinton Will Not Secure the Nomination, According to Math

According to the Green Papers, Clinton stands (today, April 28th) with 1,664 pledged delegates, while Sanders has gathered 1,371. The amount of delegates needed to secure the nomination is 2,383 and, if you'll pardon me for my use of arithmetic, I will now demonstrate why that number is hopelessly out of reach for the Clinton campaign.†

Hillary needs 719 more delegates to reach 2,383 because:

2,383 – 1,664 = 719

Now, the pledged delegates that are available to grab in the remaining states all-together amount to 1,016 and in order to attain that blessed number, Clinton will have to win an average of 70.7% of the remaining states. This is because:

719 ÷ 1,016 = 0.707677 or approximately 71%

You might be thinking that 71% is not such an unattainable number for Hillary and her powerful Wallstreet backers — you might be thinking that but you'd be betting against longer odds than would be wise. You see, of the 1,016 delegates remaining, 475 of those delegates are to be won in California, alone — California, which has a semi-open primary. California, where Clinton is polling at a mere 49%. California, where Clinton's support has been declining as the Sanders Campaign gains visibility and momentum. California — the ace that Sanders, as much as the media, have concealed up his sleeve.

It is no secret that Sanders, a previously invisible independent senator from the tiny state of Vermont, consistently climbs in the polls as he begins to campaign in the weeks before each state has had its primary. You don't have to take my word for it —check the poll-histories for yourself or read this.

Because Bernie Sanders performs at his absolute best in open primaries and because he consistently rises in the polls, while Clinton consistently falls, it is extremely unlikely that Clinton will perform better than 49 points, let alone win the contest. Let's do some more math:

Of the 475 delegates available in California on June 7th, lets say Hillary takes 49% of those (even though she will almost certainly take less). That would give her 232.75 delegates, which we'll round up to an even 234.

475 x 0.49 = 232.75

Next, let's add that to her current total of 1,664, bringing her up to 1,897. Now, she needs an additional 486 delegates to reach the magic number of 2,383, right? Let's find out how many delegates Clinton would have to win in the remaining states (besides California, of course).

Of the 541 delegates left, once the 475 CA delegates have been subtracted from the 1,016 delegate total, Clinton is going to have to win almost 90% of the remaining non-California delegates! This is because, when you divide the number of delegates that Clinton needs after California by the number of delegates remaining after California, you get 0.898 or 89%, rounded down:

486 ÷ 541 = 0.898 or 89.8%

Now, how likely does that sound? It's not likely in Oregon, a fairly progressive state that shares its general attitudes with Washington, a state that Sanders won with about 70% of the vote. It's not likely in West Virginia, either, where Sanders is currently leading in the polls. Nor is it likely in Indiana where Sanders and Clinton are almost neck-and-neck, which votes on May 3rd. That nomination is feeling a lot further away now, isn't it?

Okay, okay — maybe you're thinking, "John, I think you're being unfair, Clinton could certainly win California." To which I would reply: I admire your optimism, my friend — and since you're so optimistic, let's run those numbers again — but this time, let's assume that Clinton, for whatever reason, defies the consistent trends that have prevailed over the entire primary season. Let's say, she jumps up 11% now, winning the California primary with 60% of the vote. So:

475 x 0.6 = 285

Now, add the 285 delegates to Clinton's current total:

285 + 1,664 = 1,949


2,383 – 1,949 = 434

So, Clinton will still need to scrape up 434 delegates somewhere other than California, some how. Which means — Hold on, first we have to figure out how much of the remaining delegates she'll have to win:

434 ÷ 541 = .802218 or 80%

Wow! Even if Clinton actually wins California with 60% to Sanders with 40%, she will still have to secure about 80% of the remaining vote! Again, this certainly doesn't seem likely in Oregon, West Virginia, or Indiana, which means the actual percentage would climb each time she failed to take 80% of a state! Now, are you starting to see why I am saying that Clinton will not be securing the nomination before the convention?

Part Two: Why Sanders Will Win, According to Math

If you've found yourself thinking, "Well, Sanders won't secure the nomination, either!" You are almost 100% right! Well, 99.6% right, anyway. Because, if we take Sanders' current delegate total of 1,371, subtract that from the magic 2,383, then divide that by the remaining available delegates, we get 0.996, see:

2,383 – 1,371 = 1,012

1,012 ÷ 1,016 = 0.996 or 99.6%

Therefore, Sanders would have to secure a whopping 99.6% victory in all remaining states to secure the nomination! I think this may be one of the few things that both Berners and Clintonistas could agree on: that that is impossible. But to those of you that are thinking, "John! This is terrible" or "Haha! Take that, Sanders!" I would reply: You are both wrong. Mostly. Let me explain:

First off, let's acknowledge that the math seems to prohibit both candidates from securing the nomination before the convention — so what does this mean? This means that, since Sanders will not give up before the convention, there will almost certainly be a "contested convention."

"Um… But John…" you may be saying, "Won't Hillary still be miles ahead of Sanders in votes at the convention?"

To which I would reply: I'm glad you asked, my paid Hillary-supporter friend! Allow me to demonstrate how that will also not be the case, no matter what the media would have you believe. Follow me!

Since neither of them will be securing the 2,383 needed for the nomination, let's take a look at another number that has been hiding in plain sight for far too long. I'd like you to meet the number, 4,051. That's the number of total pledged delegates that are available from all 50 states, plus DC, US territories, and the Democrats abroad. As it should be obvious, a majority of these delegates would be 2,026 because:

4,051 ÷ 2 = 2,025.5

At the convention, this number is going to matter more than the unattainable 2,383 delegates that no one will have. That being the case, let's take a look at what Bernie Sanders would have to do to get there. If Sanders won 60% of the remaining contests (and remember how 475 of 1,016 are in California, where Sanders will do well), then the numbers at the convention would look like this:

1,016 x .60 = 609.6

Round that to 610 and add it to Sanders current total of 1,371, then divide that by the total delegate count, 4,051:

610 + 1,371 = 1,981

1,981 ÷ 4,051 = .489 or 48.9%

So, in the scenario where Sanders takes about 60% of the remaining vote, we're essentially looking at a 49 to 51% vote total at the convention — not so bad, eh? And that's easily within Sanders' reach, if we do well in California (which we almost certainly will). Let's look at what happens if he takes 70% (just like he did last time we went to the West/Left Coast):

1,016 x .70 = 711.2, round it down to 711, then:

711 + 1,371 = 2,082

2,082 ÷ 4,051 = 0.513 or 51.3%

If Sanders took 70%, the convention would look like 51.3 to 48.7%, in favor of Sanders! But 70%, while possible, is a bit of a stretch — the new magic number, for Sanders anyway, is actually 64.4% of the remaining states, which would mean winning 655 of the 1,016 remaining delegates, pushing his total up to 2,026, the bare majority of delegates, leaving Clinton one delegate behind at 2,025.

Now, does Sanders winning 64.4% sound too far-fetched? Not particularly, especially when we consider his advantages on the Left Coast, in California's 475 delegate semi-open primary. An uphill climb, though? Certainly. Remember, though: it is all but certain that Clinton will not secure the nomination, while Sanders supporters are going to be pouring into Philadelphia for the convention by the tens of thousands. Even if Bernie fell short by a few points, we're still essentially looking at a tie. And that's when all hell is going to break loose.

Things are going to become very interesting if we have a near-tie at the convention to be decided by the super-delegates.

Things are going to become very interesting when they look back at the many states that are still crying out for a re-vote, states fraught with "voting irregularities," polling station closures, and voter roll purges — all states which Clinton won and all states which so far have not received justice.

Things are going to become very interesting when the DNC and the super-delegates realize that Sanders, unlike the Wallstreet-backed Clinton-Machine, will bring in not only millions of independent voters that were unable to vote in the primaries, but even defecting Republican votes, sealing the GOP's utter defeat in November.

Things are going to become very interesting when, while they are thinking about all of these things, they are doing so to the earth-shaking, thunderous chants of"Sanders! Sanders!" from his tens of thousands of supporters outside, who have time-and-again proven their ability to rally by the tens of thousands — do you think that we won't do the same at the convention?

And finally, things are going to become very, very interesting when the super-delegates and the DNC are forced to choose, publicly, whether to hand the nomination to Clinton and watch the millions of independents walk away, along with millions of former-democrat Sanders-supporters, basically handing the general election to the neo-fascists Trump or Cruz — or, to hand it to Sanders, a leader who will have the support, not only of the entire Democratic Party, but of millions of Independents, Green Party voters, and — yes, indeed — even Republicans defecting from the extremist GOP. That will be the most interesting part, I think. I'll see you all in Philadelphia.

In Solidarity,
John Laurits

P.S. Please feel totally free to reproduce this article, re-post, re-use, re-cycle, or whatever, in whole or in part — credit would be lovely but, ultimately, I don't really care! Do as ye will! Peace!



†I have not counted the so-called "super-delegates" because they do not vote until the convention, which you might not know because of the media's disgustingly corrupt attempt to warp the public's perception of the election.

*All numbers pulled from the Green Papers, today 4/28/2016, at:


Thursday, April 28, 2016

ANS -- Two despised frontrunners, two dying parties and a deeply broken system: How did we get here?

This article is a bit dated, being almost two weeks old, but it's still good.  It's about what is happening in the two parties, which are sortof dying, but aren't noticing it.  

SUNDAY, APR 17, 2016 03:00 AM PDT

Two despised frontrunners, two dying parties and a deeply broken system: How did we get here?

Trump and Clinton may be the two most hated frontrunners in history, dueling symbols of a duopoly in decay



Two despised frontrunners, two dying parties and a deeply broken system: How did we get here?Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton (Credit: AP/Gerald Herbert/Star Max/Photo montage by Salon)

To paraphrase a great American poet of the 1980s, this is not our beautiful house.We get a tiny breather in the political calendar this week, and it's a useful moment to take half a step back from the most chaotic and disordered presidential campaign in living memory and ask ourselves the big question: What in the name of Jiminy Cricket is going on here? I spent the week digging into the past for clues to the strange dynamics of the present: To be clear, I did not conclude that Donald Trump is a new Hitler or that Bernie Sanders is a new Lenin, only that the parallels and the discontinuities were instructive.

So here's what's happening: Our political system is profoundly broken, and although many of us have understood that for years, this has been the year that fact became unavoidable. Both political parties are struggling through transparently rigged primary campaigns that have made that ludicrous process look more outdated than ever. Nobody cares about the Democratic vote in Wyoming and it's not going to matter, but when Bernie Sanders dominates the caucuses in that empty, dusty and Republican-dominated state and wins seven of its 18 delegates, doesn't that sum up the whole damn thing?

Both parties are also struggling to control long-simmering internal conflicts that have come boiling to the surface this year, and in both cases the leadership caste is wondering whether it's time to burn down the village in order to save it. In the larger analysis, both parties are struggling to ignore the mounting evidence of their own irrelevance. One of them is struggling with that in a more public and more spectacular fashion at the moment, but the contagion is general. In my judgment, Democrats would do well to cancel the Champagne and refill the Xanax.

Despite the unkillable Whack-a-Mole candidacy of Sanders — who, as I argued this week, has channeled an insurgent and quasi-revolutionary class-consciousness that other politicians didn't even know existed — we are likely to end up with a general-election campaign between the two least popular major-party nominees in political history. OK, I suppose we can't know that for sure: We don't have polling data to consult from the infamous election of 1828, when Andrew Jackson accused President John Quincy Adams of procuring hookers for the Russian czar and running a gambling den in the White House. (Adams accused Jackson of being a bigamist and an adulterer, and also hinted that he might be partly black, despite his overtly racist views.)

But I imagine you take my point: Jackson and Adams were intensely divisive figures who represented competing class and regional interests within the all-male, all-white electorate of the time, and were loved and hated accordingly. In fact, that election effectively marked the invention of the two-party system after several decades of chaos. If the past is prologue, we could be in for some excitement as that system implodes: The election of 1800 produced a constitutional crisis, by way of an electoral-college tie between Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr, and then 19 more tied ballots in the House of Representatives before Jefferson was elected. At the opposite extreme, James Monroe ran for re-election unopposed in 1820, which must have made for a boring year on social media.

Numerous noteworthy American presidents or presidential candidates, from Lincoln to William Jennings Bryan to John F. Kennedy to George W. Bush, have been divisive figures who excited strong passions on both sides and split public opinion roughly in half. Contention is the essence of politics. But what we're facing this year, in a likely fall campaign between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, is something different and quite likely without precedent that symbolizes the terminal decay of politics. It's not contention; it's more like universal distaste.

Of course polling data is not sacrosanct, and ambiguous perceptions like "favorable" and "unfavorable" tend to wobble around even more than voter preference. But by any standard the CBS/New York Times poll published three weeks ago was remarkable. It sort of blew through the news cycle and then out again, like an indigestible fast-food meal: more weird and crazy numbers in a weird and crazy year. But just take a whiff, and tell me it doesn't smell like democracy dying on the vine. Donald Trump was viewed favorably by just 24 percent of the voters surveyed, and unfavorably by 57 percent, making him by far the least-liked major-party frontrunner since CBS began asking this question in 1984.

Who's in second place, in this historic sweepstakes of hate? Hillary Clinton, in the same poll: She was viewed favorably by 31 percent and unfavorably by a mere 52 percent. I see you in the back of the room waving your slide rules, eager-beaver Democrats. And yes, you're right: Every national survey so far, including that one, shows Clinton beating Trump easily. Math was never my strong suit, but 31 percent is more than 24 percent, as I understand it. But are you guys really going to act like that's a cause for high-fives and #WeGotThis retweets and celebratory glasses of Sonoma Chardonnay? If that's a silver lining, it's made out of aluminum foil from the bottom of the cat box. We've got the second least-popular candidate ever — that's what time it is! Winner-winner chicken dinner!

Just to review, those Trump and Clinton numbers are the two highest unfavorable ratings in the 32-year history of the CBS poll, and also the two largest "negative net ratings," meaning the difference between the positive and negative numbers. The only previous candidate to come close was Bill Clinton in March of 1992, when he was surrounded by allegations of multiple extramarital affairs. (He came back from that minus-17 nadir to win the election, of course, but even at his low point his negatives were nowhere near as high as Trump's or Hillary Clinton's are now.) In the previous eight presidential cycles, there has never been a poll showing both major-party candidates with negative net favorability ratings, let alone double-digit ones.

The nationwide Clinton-Trump hate-fest can be viewed as the continuation or culmination of a long-term downward trend that is easy to summarize: Americans don't much like either political party or the people they nominate. There are peaks and valleys within that downward arc, to be sure, and significant deviations from the mean: Sometimes people dislike one party considerably more than the other (right now the Republicans are in the doghouse) and occasionally an individual candidate breaks through the antipathy, like Ronald Reagan in 1980 or Barack Obama in 2008. But the data suggests an awful lot of blah: At this point in 2004, John Kerry's numbers were a smidgen negative and George W. Bush's a smidgen positive; in the spring of 2012, Mitt Romney stood at minus-7 while Obama's up-down balance was dead even.

I can only conclude that many people who are embedded within the two-party system glance at that kind of data and shrug it off as a meaningless aberration, because it doesn't conform to their understanding of the world. They carry on pretending they haven't noticed the gorilla in the room of American politics, which is that their parties are visibly crumbling beneath them. (To be fair, Republicans are having a tough time ignoring that this year.) The proportion of American adults who identify as either Republicans or Democrats is at or near all-time lows. Much of this seems paradoxical: Democrats hold roughly the same slim edge over Republicans that they've held in opinion polling for decades, yet according to this year's Gallup poll, Democratic identification fell below 30 percent for the first time ever. (Another reason to cancel those "Emerging Democratic Majority" parties.)

Of course the X factor in this perplexing equation is independent voters, who have consistently been the largest chunk of the electorate since the early '90s, and now represent more than 40 percent of the total. Mainstream political science generally behaves as if independents don't matter or don't exist; there are only Democratic or Republican "leaners" who for mysterious reasons choose to stand aloof from either party. There's some crude validity to that when it comes to gaming out electoral scenarios, no doubt, but not when it comes to considering American politics as a system that no longer works, and that most people despise. As the CBS poll reveals, that big unaffiliated chunk of the electorate is where both Trump and Clinton have overwhelmingly unfavorable numbers, and where both parties are perceived with undisguised hostility.

It's also independent voters who decide presidential elections, a political truism that has typically led both parties to nominate boring, middle-ground candidates who are just barely acceptable to the ideological base but not too scary for the apocryphal suburban swing voter. But that really hasn't worked too well, at least not since the devious triangulation regime of Bill Clinton. Who was, after his own stealthy fashion — I mean this sincerely! — one of the most destructive presidents in recent history. If President Kerry and President Romney accomplished great things, I guess I missed them.

What independents "really" want, and whether it's useful or possible to make any general statements about them, is a bigger question than I can hope to answer here. It's safe to say that by definition they are dubious about the Republicrat duopoly, and many of them are eager for alternative options. Independent voters overwhelmingly supported Obama in 2008, when he ran as a non-ideological agent of historic change, and they have been the bedrock of Bernie Sanders' support this year. If all the Democratic primaries and caucuses had been closed to independent voters in 2008, Obama would probably have lost to Hillary Clinton. To turn that question upside down, if there were a nationwide open primary between Clinton and Sanders, the outcome would be very much in doubt. Indeed, the Sanders demographic is strikingly similar to the Obama '08 demographic, with the obvious (and fatal) subtraction of most of the African-American vote.

If there's a Democratic advantage amid the carnage of 2016, it resides in another paradox whose long-term consequences are unclear. What Jeb Bush recently and plaintively described as "regular-order democracy" has been conclusively demolished on the Republican side, where the nominee will presumably be one of two men who are loathed by the party leadership and nearly certain to lose in November. The Democratic process, on the other hand, has functioned approximately as it was designed to — as witness that result in Wyoming, where Sanders won roughly 56 percent of the vote and came away with 39 percent of the delegates. The establishment candidate with all the corporate dollars and the deep institutional roots is (probably) going to vanquish the crowd-funded rebel outsider, although not without a few hair-raising plot twists along the way.

At this point, it looks as if the Democrats' mainstream candidate, although widely disliked, is less terrifying to independents than either of the prospective Republican nominees, who have all but announced that they only want the votes of self-righteous and constipated white men. But that is entirely a testimonial to Republican confusion and disorder; anyone who tries to spin it as evidence of Democratic strength and clarity and forward thinking is deep in Debbie Wasserman Schultz's Land of Perpetual Denial. It's conceivable — not all that likely, but conceivable — that the Republican civil war of 2016, and the purge that is likely to follow, will permit the GOP to rebuild a viable party before the oncoming Democratic crisis can be resolved.

Poll after poll has suggested that Clinton would be in deep trouble against John Kasich, who has won exactly one primary and could only win the Republican nomination in a contested convention with multiple ballots (and an unknown number of felony assault charges). You can't say anything is impossible this year, but no convention in either party has been seriously contested since the Republican gathering of 1976, and none has gone to a second ballot since 1952. Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio also polled well against Clinton; they and Kasich would all be leading contenders in some third-rail, Koch-funded pro-business party that was less overtly hateful and racist and misogynist than the neo-Confederate monstrosity of the contemporary GOP. That party, I am sorry to say, would probably win the election this year.

If much of this analysis seems contradictory or incoherent — independents love the anti-establishment message of Sanders, but not the anti-establishment message of Trump; they'd probably support a center-right old-school Republican over Hillary Clinton — that's because American politics don't make sense, and are driven by subterranean fears and desires more than logic or reason. Clinton supporters will say, of course, that she has been unfairly pilloried by the BernieBros as a tool of Wall Street and a political land shark with no ideological soul, and that the real reason so many people to her right and her left hate her is widespread misogynist resentment toward a powerful and ambitious woman. My own perspective is that both things can be true, but never mind.

There could definitely be a dark historical irony at work here, if the year we elect our first female president — rather late in the day, it must be said — is also the year when our political system enters a period of unmistakable and perhaps terminal decline. If Hillary Clinton wins in November, it won't happen because America has gotten over sexism or because the Democrats have forged a pathway to the future. It will be because she was nominated by the party that is dying slowly and somewhat politely, rather than the one that just blew itself up in public with a suicide vest. It will happen because many people will conclude they'd rather have a president they don't particularly like or trust, but who is pretty much a known quantity, than a third-rate comic-book supervillain. Of such choices, history is made.

Monday, April 25, 2016

ANS -- Pseudoscience in the Witness Box

Here is an interesting article from Slate.  It says we have been convicting people wrongly on bad evidence and no one seems to care much.  The evidence is often less certain than presented, or completely wrong.  The labs apparently get paid for convictions, so they convict.  Crime shows on TV have convinced people that this science is much more reliable than it actually seems to be.  

APRIL 22 2015 5:09 PM

Pseudoscience in the Witness Box

The FBI faked an entire field of forensic science.

Hair sampleThe Washington Post reported that flawed forensic hair matches might have led to possibly hundreds of wrongful convictions for rape, murder, and other violent crimes.

Photo by Victorburnside/Thinkstock

For more stories like this, like Slate on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

The Washington Post published a story so horrifying this weekend that it would stop your breath: "The Justice Department and FBI have formally acknowledged that nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony in almost all trials in which they offered evidence against criminal defendants over more than a two-decade period before 2000."


Dahlia Lithwick writes about the courts and the law for Slate, and hosts the podcast Amicus

What went wrong? The Post continues:"Of 28 examiners with the FBI Laboratory's microscopic hair comparison unit, 26 overstated forensic matches in ways that favored prosecutors in more than 95 percent of the 268 trials reviewed so far." The shameful, horrifying errors were uncovered in a massive, three-year review by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Innocence Project. Following revelations published in recent years, the two groups are helping the government with the country'slargest ever post-conviction review of questioned forensic evidence.

Chillingly, as the Post continues, "the cases include those of 32 defendants sentenced to death." Of these defendants, 14 have already been executed or died in prison.

The massive review raises questions about the veracity of not just expert hair testimony, but also the bite-mark and other forensic testimony offered as objective, scientific evidence to jurors who, not unreasonably, believed that scientists in white coats knew what they were talking about. As Peter Neufeld, co-founder of the Innocence Project, put it, "The FBI's three-decade use of microscopic hair analysis to incriminate defendants was a complete disaster."

This study was launched after the Post reported that flawed forensic hair matchesmight have led to possibly hundreds of wrongful convictions for rape, murder, and other violent crimes, dating back at least to the 1970s. In 90 percent of the cases reviewed so far, forensic examiners evidently made statements beyond the bounds of proper science. There were no scientifically accepted standards for forensic testing, yet FBI experts routinely and almost unvaryingly testified, according to the Post, "to the near-certainty of 'matches' of crime-scene hairs to defendants, backing their claims by citing incomplete or misleading statistics drawn from their case work."

It was later revealed that one of the hairs presented at trial came from a dog.

NACDL executive director Norman Reimer said in an interview with Associations Nowthat the flaws in the system had been known for years now. "What we were finding was that the examiners … wouldn't just simply say that there was a microscopic similarity [between the two hairs], but they would go beyond that and say it was a 100 percent match, essentially misleading the jury into concluding that the evidence had a certain value that it didn't actually have," Reimer said.

This problem doesn't stop with the FBI labs or federal prosecutions. The review focuses on the first few hundred cases, involving FBI examiners, but the same mistakes and faulty testimony were likely presented in any state prosecutions thatrelied on the between 500 and 1,000 local or state examiners trained by the FBI. Some states will automatically conduct reviews. Others may not. Much of the evidence is now lost.

Systemic change, in other words, is being left to the discretion of the system itself.

This Man Deserves a Pardon

Of all the maddening stories of wrongful convictions, Michael McAlister's may be one of the worst. For starters, he has been in prison for 29 years for an attempted rape he almost certainly did not commit.

Paradoxically, Justice Antonin Scalia has emerged as a vocal early skeptic about the risk of taint in the work of crime labs, even though he contended in 2006 that, "It should be noted at the outset that the dissent does not discuss a single case—not one—in which it is clear that a person was executed for a crime he did not commit. If such an event had occurred in recent years, we would not have to hunt for it; the innocent's name would be shouted from the rooftops by the abolition lobby." It is clearer now than ever that crime labs and prosecutors' officers do make mistakes, shameful, devastating mistakes, and that they don't usually distinguish between capital and noncapital cases when they do so.

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vermont, and Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, the ranking Democrats on the Senate Judiciary and House Science committees, respectively, are looking for forensic-science reforms to hold examiners to meaningful standards. But this hardly helps the folks who are in cells for crimes they didn't commit, based on evidence that—according to scientific experts—is all but worthless.

This whole justice-disaster-on-wheels is not a problem that has gone unreported. AsConor Friedersdorf notes, state and national publications have been exposing the inadvertent errors and deliberate manipulations of forensic crime labs across the country for years now. We have covered these issues at Slate. But as long as crime labs answer to prosecutors, and indeed, according to Business Insider, in some cases they are compensated for each conviction, the incentives for reform are hopelessly upside-down. The problem, in short, isn't that we can't identify the problem.

There is no lack of good ideas for reform. (Journalist Radley Balko and Roger Koppl, a professor of finance at Syracuse University's Whitman School of Management and a fellow at Syracuse's Forensic and National Security Sciences Institute, offered up a laundry list of fixes in Slate—almost seven years ago.)* These solutions are not all that expensive or complicated. Among them: giving defendants their own forensic experts, untethering crime labs from the prosecutors and cops to which they now answer, verification and standards. But no matter how many times we may reiterate that the status quo is intolerable and that simple corrections would yield significantly better data, no real energy for reform exists.

University of Virginia law professor Brandon L. Garrett, who has been studying DNA exonerations and wrongful convictions for years now, had this to say in an email: "When I looked at forensics in DNA exoneree trials, I found more often than not that the testimony was unscientific and flawed. We know that whenever we look at old criminal cases we see flawed forensics wherever we look. And yet hardly any crime labs have bothered to conduct audits. Nor is the problem limited to bad hair cases—much the same type of eyeballed comparison is done on bite marks, ballistics, fibers, and even fingerprints."

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But we should still have the death penalty right guys?  More...


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Horror stories abound. George Perrot (profiled by Ed Pilkington of the Guardian) may have spent 30 years in prison based on erroneous forensic hair testimony.Mississippi bite-mark expert Michael West, about whom Balko has written extensively, was shown in a recent film jamming the suspect's dental mold into the body of a young victim. Santae Tribble served 28 years for a murder based on FBI testimony about a single strand of hair. He was exonerated in 2012. It was later revealed that one of the hairs presented at trial came from a dog.

And the reign of pseudoscience in the witness box hardly stops at hair and bite marks. It sweeps in the testimony of forensic psychiatrists like James Grigson, nicknamed Dr. Death for his willingness to testify against capital defendants, and flawed arson analysis that may have contributed to the execution of Texas' Cameron Todd Willingham. Jurors grass-fed on CSI-Someplace and Law and Order believe uncritically in experts who throw around words like "cuticle" and "cortex," and why shouldn't they? These folks are supposed to be analysts who answer to the rules of science, not performance artists trotted out for the benefit of the prosecution.

Since prison-crowding and justice reform are widely touted as issues that unite the left and the right in this country, going back and retesting the evidence of those who may well have been wrongly imprisoned should be a national priority. So far it isn't, perhaps because the scope of the enterprise is so daunting. Or perhaps because nobody really cares all that much about people who've been sitting in jail for years and years. Says Garrett: "These victims may remain unrecognized and in prison—if they still live—and the same unscientific testimony continues to be delivered without limitation. … But hey, these are just criminal cases right?"

Read more in Slate:

*Correction, April 23, 2015: This article originally misspelled Fairleigh Dickinson University and misstated that Roger Koppl is currently a faculty member there. He is now a professor of finance at Syracuse University's Whitman School of Management and a fellow at Syracuse's Forensic and National Security Sciences Institute. (Return.)