Thursday, December 11, 2014

Post-Winter Meetings 2015 MLB Standings Projections

American League EastAmerican League CentralAmerican League West
Toronto Blue Jays92-70--Cleveland Indians90-72--Seattle Mariners88-74--
Baltimore Orioles87-755Kansas City Royals89-731Los Angeles Angels87-751
Tampa Bay Rays80-8212Chicago White Sox88-742Houston Astros81-817
Boston Red Sox75-8717Detroit Tigers87-753Oakland Athletics77-8511
New York Yankees73-8919Minnesota Twins78-8412Texas Rangers70-9218
National League EastNational League CentralNational League West
Washington Nationals94-68--St. Louis Cardinals92-70--Los Angeles Dodgers99-63--
Miami Marlins79-8315Pittsburgh Pirates86-766Colorado Rockies78-8421
New York Mets77-8517Milwaukee Brewers80-8212San Francisco Giants76-8623
Atlanta Braves72-9022Cincinnati Reds75-8717San Diego Padres73-8926
Philadelphia Phillies69-9325Chicago Cubs74-8818Arizona Diamondbacks64-9835

Monday, December 8, 2014

On Cynical Manipulation, Self-Sufficiency and the Value of Human Death

If nothing else, I hope that this essay reveals the immense power that a single Calvin and Hobbes comic strip can have.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Illusion of Progress

One can only imagine what Henry David Thoreau would think of modern society. He would see a world of superhighways connecting suburbs to the cities, on which people drove their gasoline powered cars from home to work and vice versa. He would see a world of industrialized agriculture, of tractors and trucks, of hydrocarbon based fertilizers and pesticides. He would see a world of corporate advertising, of mass media, of consumer culture. He would be, I think, rather appalled.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Some Comments on the Election Results

Man, what a disaster. Turnout was the story, hands down. In New York, less than a third of registered voters actually voted. The reason may be quite simple: the man at the top of the Democratic ticket, Andrew Cuomo. He drew no enthusiasm from his base, so they didn't bother to show up. Cuomo's victory was underwhelming, to put it mildly. In the Capital District, for example, he carried only one county (Albany) and even then by only a 44-42 margin. Even more stunning is that at the same time Tom DiNapoli won the county by over 40 points. This was clearly a rebuke of Mr. Cuomo, his policies, and his methods (see: Moreland, LIPA, fracking study).

Cuomo's weak performance likely hurt Democrats running in congressional races down ballot. Lee Zeldin defeated incumbent Rep. Tim Bishop by almost 10 in the 1st district. Michael Grimm (despite indictment on 20 federal counts) easily beat his weak opponent in the 11th. Dan Maffei lost reelection in the 24th, a district that handily went for Obama in 2012. Most stunningly, Louise Slaughter is (as of this moment) barely holding on in the 25th, a district every commentator regarded as "Safe D".

But the real loser undoubtedly was the Working Families Party. For the most part, they got what they had coming to them. They nominated Cuomo in May (I was there). He did nothing but screw them over afterward. Now, they're relegated to row E for the next four years (their vote undermined in part by Cuomo's "Women's Equality" line). Even worse, the state senate fell into Republican hands outright. Democratic control of the senate was the whole point of endorsing Cuomo; he didn't deliver. The WFP's complaining after the fact seems awfully weak, considering that they knew (not should have known, but knew) that this was likely to happen. In other words. they dug their own grave

The real winner (well, besides the Republicans, obviously) was the Green Party. Howie Hawkins drew nearly 5% of the vote, many times over what he got in 2010. They drew double digits in several upstate counties (Tompkins - 16%, Albany - 13%, Columbia/Ulster - 11%, Otsego/Rensselaer 10%). The party will now occupy row C on the ballot. This despite limited campaign cash, little media attention, and only one debate. Moreover, Matt Funicello captured 11% in the 21st congressional district.

Nationally, it was a disastrous evening for Dems. They lost the Senate, not all that surprising but ugly nonetheless. Mark Pryor in Arkansas did worse than Brad Hutto in South Carolina. Mitch McConnell outperformed his 2008 marks. David Perdue avoided a runoff and won outright. Dems lost in Colorado, Iowa, and (most disappointingly) North Carolina. Virginia proved to be a nail-biter, and still isn't quite over. They're losing in Alaska, and likely to lose the runoff in Louisiana. Even Pat Roberts managed to win reelection by double-digits. A bloodbath most definitely.

The governors races, however, are what really proved shocking. It was thought that Democrats might pick up a seat or two; instead, they lost seats on home turf. Only dead-man-walking Tom Corbett (and perhaps Sean Parnell, to an independent) went down for the Reps. Meanwhile, Democrats lost not only Arkansas (a tough race to begin with) and Illinois (thanks to the extremely unpopular Pat Quinn), but also Maryland and Massachusetts, two open seat races in blue states. They lost to Tea Party wavers in Maine, Florida, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin, all states that twice went for Obama. Sam Brownback, who has completely wrecked the economy of Kansas, somehow won reelection despite trailing in almost every poll. Once promising targets like South Carolina and Georgia (where Nathan Deal avoided a runoff) proved to be duds. Even newly minted Texas Democratic superstar Wendy Davis underperformed her counterpart from Oklahoma! Even the races they won were unimpressive. Democratic candidates won only pluralities in Rhode Island, Oregon, and Vermont (where the legislature will have to vote to officially elect soon-to-be-former DGA-chair Peter Shumlin).The only real bright spots were that Democrats held on in Colorado and Connecticut, two very tough races indeed.

This was truly a "tornado" election. Republicans will almost certainly hold their largest House majority since the Herbert Hoover administration. As for state legislatures, Democrats will control their fewest since 1860 (!). Meanwhile, Republicans will likely set a record for the most seats they have ever held, as they picked up the lower chambers in WV, NV, MN, and NM (and perhaps CO and WA), along with the upper chambers of NV, NY, ME, CO, and WA (and tied WV). Dems also lost other crucial local and statewide races (perhaps none more important than the Secretary of State of Ohio, a key 2016 battleground).

The next few years will be very red (tea?) flavored indeed.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

How to Transform Society

The world is in a state of crisis. Warfare, epidemic, economic disaster, and impending climate catastrophe pose existential threats to societies around the globe. Something must be done. For too long, the people of this planet have waited for our political leaders to solve our problems for us. Now is the time for us to take matters into our own hands, to empower ourselves to make the necessary changes. 

To ask an age old question: what is to be done?

First, we must create alternative instituions in order to recreate society. Banks must be replaced by credit unions, supermarkets by farmers' markets. Workers' and consumers' cooperatives must replace the corporate model. Neighborhood and tenants' associations must be established. Political parties that represent our interests, not those of the corporate oligarchy, must be built. Students' unions must be created in schools to raise the voices of our young people. Creating these institutions will empower us to take further, more fundamentally transformative actions.

Among these would be to take control of existing institutions through the democratic process. I do not mean the US Congress or the White House, at least in the near-term. More immediately, we must win back those bodies closest to the people: school boards, city councils, town boards, and eventually state legislatures. From here we can enact direct changes in our own communities, instead of operating according to the directives of corporate party officials. Processes like participatory budgeting would empower people and encourage them to partake in the new civic process. We must break the cycle of cynicism that has justifiably gripped the people.

The ultimate step would be to overtake the entirety of the government of our country. This would allow for us to finally dismantle those institutions that serve only the corporate interest. From there we can implement policies both domestically and internationally to redistribute power back to the people. This, however, is a very final step, and can only be achieved once popular institutions have been established and lower entities controlled. This is governing from below, a nonviolent revolution that must realize the limitations as well as the values of the ballot box. In essence, we must "overgrow the government", not overthrow it. Only then can a truly participatory economic and political democracy be established.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A New York State of Politics

Today's revelations by the New York Times regarding Governor Andrew Cuomo's interference with the Moreland Commission is not exactly surprising, but it has the potential to shake up the campaign for his reelection. As of now, this report can only strengthen the candidacies of Cuomo's three main challengers: Zephyr Teachout, who is running against Cuomo in the Democratic primary; Rob Astorino, the nominee of the Republican and Conservative parties; and Howie Hawkins, the Green Party nominee. All three campaigns issued statements earlier today condemning the Administration's actions, and Teachout is circulating a petition calling on Cuomo to resign.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

2014 Midseason MLB Awards

American League

Most Valuable Player: Mike Trout, LAA
Cy Young Award: Felix Hernandez, SEA
Rookie of the Year: Masahiro Tanaka, NYY
Manager of the Year: Mike Scioscia, LAA
Reliever of the Year: Dellin Betances, NYY
Comeback Player of the Year: Phil Hughes, MIN
Hank Aaron Award: Mike Trout, LAA

National League

Most Valuable Player: Troy Tulowitzki, COL
Cy Young Award: Adam Wainwright, STL
Rookie of the Year: Billy Hamilton, CIN
Manager of the Year: Ron Roenicke, MIL
Reliever of the Year: Pat Neshek, STL
Comeback Player of the Year: Josh Beckett, LAD
Hank Aaron Award: Andrew McCutchen, PIT