Saturday, February 27, 2016

238.6 - New study shows impact of voter ID laws on minorities

New study shows impact of voter ID laws on minorities

To wrap up the week, we can tell you that researchers at UC-San Diego are working on a study that so far shows what every sentient being who is not a right-wing ideologue already knew and which a lot of them knew as well but also knew it was to their advantage to lie about it: Voter ID laws do depress voting rates among minorities, particularly those of Latinos, and disproportionately affect Democratic voters.

That is, they are a program of trying to rig elections in favor of the reactionaries by keeping more liberal-minded people from voting. Just like we knew all along they are.

The report, technically a working paper, was based on research lead by political science professor Zoltan Hajnal and assisted by Nazita Lajevardi, a PhD candidate in polisci, and Lindsay Nielson, a post-Doc, all at UC-San Diego.

There have been some studies done that indicated voter ID laws have an insignificant effect on turnout, including among minorities, but in their paper the authors noted significant drawbacks to those studies, not the least of which was that only one is less than six years old, which means they were largely done before the wave of voter ID laws that followed the Supreme Court's approval of Indiana's photo ID law in 2008 and, more importantly, before the wave of strict photo ID laws, those the authors described as the ones "that prevent the voter from casting a regular ballot if they cannot present appropriate identification."

In addition, those earlier studies relied on self-reported voting statistics, that is, figures derived from polls asking people "Did you vote?" Such figures are notoriously unreliable as people - and the literature says this is particularly true of minorities - over-report their own voting histories. "Yeah, of course I voted! Sure!"

So instead, the researchers used more recent data and more reliable data, the "validated vote" numbers from the Cooperative Congressional Election Studies. Significantly, they also checked the data over a large number of elections cycles - over 50, in fact - over the period 2006 to 2012, this first time this has been done for so many elections.

So, after controlling for pretty much every factor other than the law that could affect turnout, what did they find? In a nutshell, in the words of Lajevardi,
where [strict voter ID laws] are enacted, racial and ethnic minorities are less apt to vote.
In general elections, states with strict photo ID laws show a Latino turnout 10.3 percentage points lower than in states without them. The law also affected turnout in primary elections, where Latino turnout decreased by 6.3 points and Black turnout by 1.6 points.

But it gets worse, because they also looked at something else that previous studies hadn't: not just the turnout, but the difference in turnout between minority voters and whites, who overall are less impacted by voter ID laws.

In primary elections, the gap between Latino and white turnout nearly tripled in states with the tough laws, from 5.0 points to 13.3 points. The gap between black and white turnout nearly doubled in primaries - from 4.8 points to 8.5 points. The effect on Latinos carried over to general elections, where the turnout gap more than doubled, from 5.3 points to 11.9 points.

What's more, very likely as a effect of those whose ability to vote has been hindered, the research also showed that in strict photo ID states, the turnout gap in general elections between Republicans and Democrats more than doubled from 2.3 points to 5.6 points.

So: Enact photo ID laws. Suppress minority turnout? Check. Suppress Democratic turnout? Check. Rig the system in favor of the really right wing? Check.

The right wing surely will try to dismiss these results while continuing to screech about the essentially non-existent crime of in-person voter fraud, which is the only type crime these laws could affect.

But behind closed doors, I have no doubt they are reading the authors' paper with glasses of champagne in their hands.

Sources cited in links:

238.5 - Footnote: open carry in Texas not getting the response the gun nuts expected

Footnote: open carry in Texas not getting the response the gun nuts expected

There is a bitterly amusing Footnote to that.

On January 1, an open-carry law went into effect in Texas, something long desired by the gun nuts, who drool over being able to parade around with everyone knowing they are packing heat. I mean, concealed carry is fine and all that, but what's really the point, I mean, c'mon, what's really the point of carrying at all if people can't by intimidated by your impressive, um, firepower because they don't know you have it?

However, things might not be going quite like they imagined.

A number of private sites and businesses, notably the Houston Zoo, have stepped up to say they will not allow open carry on their grounds which under the law they can do because they are private property.

But perhaps most notably, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, in what it says is "an effort to provide a safe environment and promote a family-friendly atmosphere," has announced it will not allow any handguns, concealed or open-carry, into the event, which has added importance because the whole rodeo thing recalls the (actually quite fictional) gun-loving mystique and lore of the cowboy.

Meanwhile, in order to comply with state liquor laws, Walmart is having senior clerks ask anyone who enters one of its Texas stores that sells alcohol who is carrying a gun to produce the paperwork proving the gun is licensed.

Of course the gun nuts groused about being "treated like a suspect" and one woman complained that "The whole time I felt like I was looking over my shoulder. I should not be stopped for something that I am not doing wrong."

Consider yourself lucky, ma'am: Instead of a white woman with a Bersa Thunder .380 pistol, you could have been a black kid with a toy.

Sources cited in links:

238.4 - New data on extent of US gun violence

New data on extent of US gun violence

There is another case in which Antonin Skeletor brought his baleful gaze to bear with predictably bad results. It was the 2008 Heller decision, properly called District of Columbia v. Heller, the one in which The Supreme Court, in a decision written by Scalia, declared for the first time in US history and in defiance of decades of precedent of the sort that people like him claim to adore that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to own a gun.

It was a thoroughly mendacious decision that not only ignored those precedents but engaged in precisely the sort of "living constitutionalism" Scalia claimed to abhor while completely wrenching the amendment into little pieces, first to claim that the whole passage about "a well regulated militia" was merely "prefatory" with no legal effect and second to split the phrase "keep and bear arms" into two unrelated parts, one about "keeping" and the other about "bearing" arms.

Which has lead, more or less directly, to our more recent experiences of white guys and a few equally white women walking around with semi-automatics slung over their shoulders and Glocks strapped to their hips, smirking about how no one can stop them because It's. Their. Right. (You know, surely, why I specified they are invariably white.)

Bear that in mind in considering a report by researchers from the University of Nevada-Reno and the Harvard School of Public Health which was recently published in the American Journal of Medicine. It used World Health Organization data to compare gun violence and murder rates across 23 developed (or "high-income," as they are also called) nations, including the US.

And the results are - well, I don't know if the right word is shocking or just depressing.

Among the findings are that Americans are twenty-five times more likely to be violently killed with a gun - murdered - than in those 22 other nations. We are six times more likely to be accidentally killed with a gun; eight times more likely to commit suicide using a gun; and overall ten times more likely to die by gun than residents of other developed nations.

Homicide is the second leading cause of death for Americans 15 to 24 and the third leading cause of death among those 25 to 34. Americans 15 to 24 are 49 times more likely to die from gun murder than similarly aged young people in other high-income nations; for those aged 25 to 34, the risk is 32 times greater.

Despite having only half the total population of the other nations studied, the US accounted for 82 percent of all firearm incidents. What's more, the US accounted for 90 percent of all women, 91 percent of children aged 0 to 14 years, and 92 percent of youth aged 15 to 24 years who were killed by guns either through murder, accident, or suicide.

Bottom line, in the words of lead author Erin Grinshteyn of the School of Community Health Science at the University of Nevada-Reno:
The US, which has the most firearms per capita in the world, suffers disproportionately from firearms compared with other high-income countries.
Our guns, she added, are not protecting us. They are killing us.

By all that's decent and humane, how many more have to die before we as a people come to our senses?

Sources cited in links:

238.3 - Antonin "Skeletor" Scalia dies

Antonin "Skeletor" Scalia dies

Antonin "Skeletor" Scalia
Okay, so that happened. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, known unaffectionately around here as Judge Skeletor, died on February 13, apparently of natural causes. He was 79.

As much as I disliked and I'm tempted to say detested the man, know now that I am not going to celebrate his death. As John Dunne wrote, quoting,

No man is an island,
Entire of itself, ...
Any man's death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind....

I will celebrate no one's death.

But then again, even though it is said one should not speak ill of the dead, like Mark Antony, I come to bury Scalia, not to praise him. The difference here being that I really mean it.

I have been mystified for some time as to why people described Scalia as having this brilliant mind. I found his rulings, those of them that I read - admittedly, I didn't read a great many but I did read some - I found his rulings and particularly his dissents, to be plodding and uninformative, written with a bludgeon when a rapier was called for, and uncreative even in the sarcasm and witticisms that supposedly marked his writing, with the former being nasty and sneering rather than incisive and the latter thudding and pedestrian rather than revealing.

Judge Skeletor
That he had an effect on American jurisprudence, that he affected the way the laws and the courts have shaped our present predicaments, is unquestionable. That his effect has in any way been positive is baloney.

His advocacy of "textualism," the argument that you should look to the actual words of a law rather than to, for example, legislative history to resolve questions of meaning is in itself inoffensive, but the extreme ends to which he put that principle, where what he claimed was the "plain meaning" of a given law's text - if it was really that plain, why is it the subject of a legal dispute - but that "plain meaning" that he saw had to stand even if it was in direct contradiction with legislative history or committee reports or other documents speaks less of a commitment to a principle and more to arrogance - where his understanding is of course the indisputably correct one - and to laziness, to being unwilling to put in the effort to grasp nuance.

Even worse was his fanatical embrace of "originalism" or "original intent," the idea that provisions of the Constitution must be understood and interpreted in the way they would have been understood at the time the document was adopted, 227 years and some months ago. That is, we must live by the social and moral precepts of over two centuries ago and any broadened or deepened understanding of human rights or justice developed in that time is irrelevant to the Constitution. He once declared the the idea of a "living" Constitution, one that allowed for changing interpretations and society changed and (hopefully) matured, was "dead, dead, dead."

So let's run down some of his greatest hits, to get a sense of into what dark spaces his rigidity of thought lead him and I'm not even including his vote to award the presidency to Dubya in 2000 or the Citizens United case.

For one thing, if he had had his way in a 2005 case, the US would have maintained its position as the only nation in the Western world to legally execute juveniles. Fortunately, he lost that one.

In 2009, in a stunningly amoral dissent in the case of a convicted murderer who was seeking a new trial on the basis newly-discovered evidence and the recanting of several witnesses, he wrote that "This Court has never held that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who has had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a habeas court that he is 'actually' innocent." That is, even if we have learned you are innocent, hey, you had your trial so we're going to kill you anyway.

His fanaticism extended to religion. Back in 2004, the Court found that just because a government program subsidizes a secular activity, that does not mean it must also subsidize the comparable religious activity. Scalia claimed in dissent that this amounted to "discrimination against a religious minority" - in this case, the minority being Christians. More recently, he was part of the 5-4 majority in the notorious Hobby Lobby case, allowing at least some private employers who claim religious objections to deny birth control coverage in their employees' health plans, despite the requirements of the ACA.

On at least two separate occasions he declared in a speech that the First Amendment provides for freedom of religion but not freedom from religion, that the government can favor religion over non-religion - meaning, to put it differently, that if you are an atheist or an agnostic or a follower of a non-theistic philosophy or in any other way non-religious, he says you can be denied full participation in American life with the blessing of the Constitution.

Perhaps connected to that, his disdain for LGBTQ rights is almost legendary. In 2003, when SCOTUS struck down sodomy laws, he called it "surrendering to the homosexual agenda."

He compared laws against homosexuality to laws against murder, incest, child pornography, and bestiality.

When the Court struck down central parts the the so-called Defense of Marriage Act in 2013, his dissent charged that the majority had labeled DOMA's supporters "members of a wild-eyed lynch mob" and "enemies of the human race."

He claimed that Obergefell v. Hodges, the case the struck down bans on same-sex marriage, was a "threat to democracy."

In 2013, he was part of the majority that ripped the heart out of the Voting Rights Act, calling it a "perpetual racial entitlement."

He was a reliable vote on the court in moves to limit, curtail, or undermine affirmative action programs of any sort, capped by (and perhaps explained by) his bigoted assertion from the bench in December that affirmative action in college admissions was in fact hurting minority students by getting them into better schools "where they do not do well" and how if would be better if they went to "a less-advanced school, where they do well."

He was also a faithful friend of corporate rights and privileges, including such as the notorious Citizens United Decision and, earlier this month, his dissent in a case that blocked a corporate attempt to short-circuit class actions suits.

Sometimes, his opinions were just bizarre, as when he argued in a 2012 case that individual states were entitled to their own immigration laws, which if it means anything means at minimum that states can ban members of disfavored groups from living there and have border patrols to control entry.

To give you an idea what I thought of the man and his supposedly great legal mind, one example involving religion prompted me to call him "that beacon of buffoonery, that incubator of inanity, that epicenter of egregiousness."

In response to his comments about affirmative action, I said he had "once again proven himself an embarrassment to his position and an affront to reason."

And I described his dissent in Obergefell as, "like most of his opinions, quite Shakespearean - that is, 'a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.'"

This is not to say that I think he was invariably wrong, I did agree with him sometimes, it's just that he was like the joke about the broken clock.

So I'm sorry he is dead, I'm sorry for the pain and his family must be going through - but although I have to say I would much rather it have been through retirement, I will not for a moment pretend that I am anything other than delighted that he is no longer doing damage to our society from his perch on the Supreme Court.

Sources cited in links:

238.2 - Hero Award: Nic Marchesi and Lucas Pratchett

Hero Award: Nic Marchesi and Lucas Pratchett

Still trying to start on upbeat notes, we have a Hero Award, something we give out here on occasion to someone who just does the right thing on a matter big or small.

This time, it's a joint award and it's going to two young Australians, Nic Marchesi and Lucas Pratchett.

In 2014 they came up with a simple but brilliant idea to improve the health standards of and offer some self-respect to homeless people in their home city of Brisbane. It began with an old van, a generator, and, most importantly, a washer and dryer. With that, they founded Orange Sky Laundry, a free mobile laundry service for the homeless.

The pair, who had previously worked in a food van to help feed those in need, realized there were mobile organizations that fed people, offered medical care, and so on, but nothing to help people maintain clean clothing. They set about to fix that.

In no time, the program expanded and now has five vans operating in 36 locations in five cities in Australia with the help of more than 270 volunteers, washing and drying over 350 free loads of laundry every week.

It's one of those things we don't often think about, one of the more hidden burdens of homelessness and poverty, that a simple thing we take for granted, like putting on a clean shirt, is something denied to so many.

Nic Marchesi / Lucas Pratchett
Does Orange Sky Laundry - the name came from the song "Orange Sky" by Alexi Murdoch - provide a home for the homeless? Of course not. Does it provide some dignity to the homeless? Absolutely.

In recognition of their work, Patchett and Marchesi just became the first-ever joint winners of the Australian of the Year Award.

Now they are talking about going global: They intend to introduce the service to Europe next month and the US later in the year, where it will no doubt be sneered at by some as just encouraging dependency.

Doesn't matter. Nic Marchesi and Lucas Pratchett are, without doubt, heroes.

Sources cited in links:

238.1 - Just for fun: Epic fail of anti-Beyoncé demo

Just for fun: Epic fail of anti-Beyoncé demo

I didn't find a lot of Good News to go around this week, but still trying to start out on the up side, I thought I'd do this just for the fun of it.

So at the Superbowl halftime show, Beyoncé nodded to the Black Lives Matter movement and, symbolically, to the Black Panthers, which, like the Superbowl, was born right about 50 years ago. And the right wing was outraged, outraged I tell you!

How dare she! Rudy Guliani, he of the "a noun, a verb, and 9/11," blustered that it was an "attack on cops." Parenthetically, he also said Superbowl halftime entertainment should be "wholesome," which I expect is true, coming as it does between two 30-minute timed segments of made-for-TV concussions. Still, he was outraged!

In fact, some outfit called "Proud of the Blues - civilian fleet" ("blues" meaning cops, of course) issued a call for a protest!

Beyoncé's performance was "a race-baiting stunt," they said. It was "hate speech and racism," "a slap in the face to law enforcement" and what's more, "the Black Panthers is a hate group!"

They encouraged everyone to protest! this grievous affront by picketing at the New York City headquarters of the NFL on Tuesday, February 16. "Wear blue!" attendees were told. "As much blue as possible!"

Crowds protest Beyoncé
Oh, the buzz! And it built until D-Day, when, according to Glenn Schuck, a news anchor for New York's all-news radio station 1010WINS, the image on the right describes the scene:

A total of two anti-Beyoncé protesters straggled in over time, heavily outnumbered not only by the pro-Beyoncé counter-protesters across the street but by the number of news outlets that came to cover the, um, event. Actually, three anti-Beyoncé protesters if you count the one who wound up pretty much agreeing with the concerns of the pro-Beyoncé counter-demonstrators.

Some members of the anti-Beyoncé crowd are now claiming that the call for a protest was a hoax - which is admittedly possible, but still doesn't explain why those anti folks didn't show up.

We still don't know the answer to the question from the '60s "What if they gave a war and nobody came?" But now we do know the answer to the question "What if the reactionaries called for a protest and nobody came?" This is what the word "FAIL" was invented for.

Sources cited in links:

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Left Side of the Aisle #238

Left Side of the Aisle
for the weeks of February 18 to March 2, 2015

This week:

Just for fun: Epic fail of anti-Beyonce demo

Hero Award: Nic Marchesi and Lucas Pratchett

Antonin "Skeletor" Scalia dies

New data on extent of US gun violence

Footnote: open carry in Texas not getting the response the gun nuts expected

New study shows impact of voter ID laws on minorities

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

237.9 - RIP: Paul Kantner and Signe Toly Anderson

RIP: Paul Kantner and Signe Toly Anderson

Finally for this week, we have an RIP and these are becoming uphappily frequent.

Paul Kantner, one of the giants of the San Francisco music scene, a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, died January 28. He was 74 and had suffered a heart attack, leading to death by multiple organ failure and septic shock.

Although later in his career he worked with different people, he is likely best known as a founding member of Jefferson Airplane, a group that defined what in the mid-'60s became known as the San Francisco sound.

Paul Kantner
The group, often known to its fans by the shortcut name Airplane - and by the way, the name was Jefferson Airplane; if someone called it "the" Jefferson Airplane, you knew they weren't really a fan - anyway, Jefferson Airplane was the first headliner when Bill Graham opened the Fillmore Auditorium and they played at the three most famous music festivals of the era: Monterey Pop in 1967, Woodstock in 1969, and, a few months later, the tragic Altamont concert, which some folks say was in Don McLean's song "American Pie" the coda to "the day the music died," a long slow death of the innocence of music that began with the death of Buddy Holly.

Originally intended to be a sort of folk-blues-rock group, Airplane's biggest hits such as "Somebody to Love" and "White Rabbit" owed more to psychedelia than to folk. Still, when they turned out a ballad such as "Today" - which Kantner co-wrote with fellow band member Marty Balin - or "Comin' Back to Me," those folk-blues roots came through.

In time, of course, the band broke up, followed by several incarnations of Jefferson Starship, as people moved on personally and musically. Paul Kantner became something of a landmark on the San Francisco music scene, the only member of Airplane or Starship still living there, still singing, still touring, until his health failed.

Signe Toly Anderson
So RIP, Paul Kantner.

And as a sorrowful footnote to that, on the same day that Paul Kantner died, we also lost Signe Toly Anderson. She a vocalist with a voice described as a soulful contralto and another original member of Jefferson Airplane. She also was 74 and had been suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Anderson left the band after its first album to be a stay-at-home mother because she couldn't imagine touring with a newborn, a decision she said in 2011 she never regretted.

So RIP, Signe Toly Anderson.

Sources cited in links:

237.8 - Clown Award: Steve Schwarzman, CEO of Blackstone private equity firm

Clown Award: Steve Schwarzman, CEO of Blackstone private equity firm

Now it's time for our other regular feature, the Clown Award, given for meritorious stupidity. Oh, and we have a real one this week. A callous jerk and a brain-dead bozo in one fatuous package.

The winner of the Big Red Nose this week is Steve Schwarzman, the CEO of his own private equity firm, called Blackstone.

Schwarzman, a billionaire and one of the world's richest people, was attending the annual gathering of corporate and government honchos in Davos, Switzerland - a meeting I still want to call Davros - and told Bloomberg TV that he just can't understand why American voters seem discontented.

He expressed astonishment at "the amount of anger whether it's on the Republican side or the Democratic side" and said of Bernie Sanders in particular "How is that happening?"

Steve "The Clown" Schwarzman
Well, let's see. Pew Research has found that the wealth gap between upper-income and middle-income households in the US is the biggest it's ever been, that between 1983 and 2013, median household net worth for middle-income families went up a paltry 2%, for lower-income families is went down by a stunning 20%, which for upper-income families, it doubled.

That is an inequality that is growing as wages have stagnated and health care costs, despite the promises of Obamacare, continue to rise.

And yet Steve Schwarzman, who back in 2010 likened the prospect of a tax increase to Hitler invading Poland yes literally, he just can't understand, can't fathom, what those angry people are on about.

And you know what's really very sad and even more telling? He probably doesn't understand. He probably is that out of touch with the basic reality that exists beyond his well-insulated bubble.

Steve Schwarzman. If it wasn't for the enormous power buffoons like him wield, I could almost feel sorry for him. My gosh, what an utter clown.

Sources cited in links:

Monday, February 15, 2016

237.7 - Outrage of the Week: study proves corporations deliberately choose poor and nonwhite neighborhood for toxic waste dump sites

Outrage of the Week: study proves corporations deliberately choose poor and nonwhite neighborhood for toxic waste dump sites

I had several candidates for Outrage of the Week, including some things I've already mentioned here. But this one seems to me to be so morally offensive, to display such callousness, to be so indifferent to consequences, that I had to talk about it.

It has been known for some time that there are clear patterns of racial and socioeconomic disparities in the placement of environmentally hazardous sites. Hazardous waste sites, polluting industries, and other such unhealthy and unwelcome uses are disproportionately located in depressed nonwhite and poor communities.

The question has been: Are these sites there because these depressed communities are nonwhite or poor (or both) or did those communities become depressed because the nearby placement of the hazardous or polluting sites drove anyone who could leave to do so, leaving behind only those with nowhere else to go? It was considered a type of chicken-and-egg problem.

It turns out that just like in the case of the chicken, there is an answer.

In the case of the chicken - science sidebar here - egg-laying creatures have existed long before there were chickens, which means that chickens must have evolved from some earlier egg-laying creature. The egg came first.

In the case of communities, well, Paul Mohai at the University of Michigan and Robin Saha of the University of Montana have given us the answer.

They analyzed 319 commercial hazardous waste treatment, storage, and disposal facilities sited in the United States from 1966 to 1995 along with the demographic composition of the neighborhoods at the time the facility was established and well as considering demographic changes that occurred later.

What they found was, quoting them,
a consistent pattern over a 30-year period of placing hazardous waste facilities in neighborhoods where poor people and people of color live.
What came first, the waste dump or the depressed neighborhood? The neighborhood. Our captains of industry sought out neighborhoods where poor people and people of color live, sought them out as places to truck in their noxious waste and pollution.

Why? Simple. If they tried to put this sort of crap in a more affluent community, they would meet resistance. They would have to deal with all sorts of objections, all sorts of demands for all sorts of guarantees if not - and more likely - outright rejection. They would face delays and potentially lawsuits, all of which cost money even if the company were eventually to win.

But poor communities and minority communities - which are often both because minorities are disproportionately represented among the poor - usually lack both the resources and the political connections to mount an effective resistance against corporations waving plans and promises in front of city governments. These communities are simply are, as the researchers said, "the path of least resistance."

Which means, and I want to emphasize this, the siting of these facilities in these neighborhoods is not, despite what some would say, racism. It is not classism. It is capitalism.

This is what will make me the most money at the least cost, this is what will net me the biggest profit with the least inconvenience, and I really don't care about the impact I have on the communities where I operate because after all I don't live there so why should I. The research showed that these communities, already depressed, became even more depressed, became even poorer, as time went on but I don't care because I am indifferent to their fate so long as it doesn't affect my profit.

That's what this is. Not racism, not classism, but the cold-blooded logic of the marketplace and this is the sort of result that logic inevitably leads to.

And if you don't think that's an outrage, you need to reevaluate your worldview.

Sources cited in links:

237.6 - Not Good News: North Carolina fighting suit against its new moves at voter suppression

Not Good News: North Carolina fighting suit against its new moves at voter suppression

At the top of the show we had some Good News about the restoration of voting rights for some people in Maryland.

Unfortunately, we also have some Not Good News about the right to vote. For one thing, New Hampshire's voter photo ID law has gone into effect.

For another, if a suit now before a federal district court fails, voters in North Carolina will soon face that same sort of hurdle, a hurdle that in North Carolina as elsewhere is faced disproportionately by the poor, the elderly, and people of color.

The law was passed within weeks after the Supreme Court ripped the heart from the Voting Rights Act, ruling in 2013 that states with a history of discrimination no longer needed federal approval for voting law changes affecting minorities.

The law has a number of other provisions with the effect of suppressing voter registration and increasing the ability of rich donors to influence elections, several of which are the subject of a separate suit.

It seems so long ago that the argument was over how to get more people to vote. But that was before the right wing realized that the fewer people who can vote, the better it is for them.

Sources cited in links:

237.5 - People in Laos still dying from unexploded bombs from the Indochina war

People in Laos still dying from unexploded bombs from the Indochina war

And as long as we're talking about wars and rumors of wars, a little Footnote to all that:

On January 25, the US announced it was considering increasing its financial aid to help Laos clear its countryside of unexploded bombs dating back to the Indochina War.

Such bombs still kill about 50 Laotians a year more than 40 years after the official "end" of the war.

I sometimes wonder how we live with ourselves until I remember that it's because we don't think about it.

Sources cited in links:

237.4 - Bernie Sanders, just like Hillary Clinton, is more hawkish than people think

Bernie Sanders, just like Hillary Clinton, is more hawkish than people think

More hawkish than you think
Okay, speaking of the military budget, I have to go back to something I said last week because I have to give it a fuller context.

Last week, I listed among my criticisms of Hillary Clinton that she is more hawkish that most people seem to realize. What needs to be added here is that the same is true of Bernie Sanders. He's not as hawkish as she is, but the difference is much less than a lot of his supporters seem to think.

Both of them support the bombing in Syria; both of them support keeping several thousand US troops in Afghanistan until at least 2018; both of them support the drone program that has killed far more innocent civilians than it has suspected "terrorists."

And Sanders has been every bit as syncophantic about Israel as Clinton has and that's saying something, including having supported the 2014 Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip that lead Human Rights Watch to accuse Israel of war crimes.

Yes, he voted against the Iraq war and yes he was opposed to US military action in Libya and yes he is less hawkish than she is about Syria. But overall it has to be said that there is not what you could call a significant difference between them on present US wars.

In fact, here is a way they might draw a difference between them that doesn't depend on sound bytes or rehearsed slogans.

The Obama administration is drawing up plans for a new military intervention in Libya. Which makes sense, of course, because the first one, which we were told was about protecting civilians but was in reality about getting rid of Muammar Kaddafi, went so well, what with Libya descending into the chaos of a multi-sided civil war from which it has not emerged.

Oh, but it's different this time! This time it's about opening a third front in the fight against ISIS! And taking "decisive military action" against some groups in Libya claiming the name!

It's being planned without any debate in Congress, without any remotely plausible claims of lawful authority, without regard to the fact that it was Barack Obama himself who said in 2007 that "The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation," and without, it seems, any consideration of how similar "decisive actions" have lead only to deepening US military involvement in Syria and Iraq, with "boots on the ground" in both places playing an increasingly hands-on role.

What could go wrong?

I'm sure this will come up sometime, somehow, in the primaries. See what Clinton says. See what Sanders says. And see how much, if any, daylight you can see between them.

Sources cited in links:

237.3 - Why has the left stopped talking about cutting the military budget?

Why has the left stopped talking about cutting the military budget?

I've been wondering about something for a time, and I'm glad to see some others are starting to raise the question: When did we on the left stop talking about the military budget? When did we stop saying the DOD budget is too big - which it is? When did we stop calling for cuts in a bloated military establishment that both drives and enables a militaristic foreign policy? When did we stop saying things like "fund human needs, not wars?"

This is how bad it's gotten, this is how far off the table the issue of military spending has fallen: In 2013 and again in 2014, the Congressional Progressive Caucus, in the alternative budget that it prepares each year, called for Pentagon spending to be cut back to 2006 levels, projecting that would save nearly $1 trillion over 10 years - that is, an average of $100 billion per year. Last year, in 2015, it proposed a 1% cut in military spending and you had to search to find a reference to that.

But military spending is the elephant in the room.

The U.S. Treasury divides all federal spending into three groups: mandatory spending, discretionary spending, and interest on debt, with the first two making up over 90% of the total budget. Mandatory spending is just that; it is spending that is set down in law. For an obvious example, Social Security spending is mandatory. Medicare spending is mandatory. Unless the law itself is changed, the government can't just say "oh, we're going to spend this much on Social Security this year and we'll see how far that goes." Mandatory spending accounts for well over half of the federal budget.

Discretionary spending comprises less than one-third of the total federal budget - but is the portion of the budget that decisions are made about each year. It is the part that you argue about each year. If you want to expand housing programs, if you want to push renewable energy, if you want to expand education benefits, if you want to do a whole range of things, this is where you argue it.

And here's the thing: Military spending makes up 54% of discretionary spending. No other item - not agriculture, transportation, unemployment, energy and the environment, veterans' benefits, education, none of it - gets more than 6%.

But for some reason we have stopped talking about cutting the military. Is it because we really think that President Hopey-Changey (been a while since I called him that) really deserves his "aspirational" Nobel Peace Prize? Is it because we have been struck with political cowardice, afraid to even hint at a criticism of Obama for fear of giving succor to the right-wing wackos? Is it because we have been stampeded by the drumbeat of ISIS ISIS ISIS until we are politically terrified of looking "weak" - or even worse, stampeded into embracing the world of perpetual war, of bombing runs and drone strikes becoming so normal that they don't even get reported on any more?

I don't know. But I do know we have to break out of this spell.

Because on February 9, the Amazing Mr. O proposed a budget for the Department of Defense (which was, more appropriately, called the War Department until after World War 2) of $582.7 billion while asking for, by way of comparison, less than 1/8 as much for education. It would increase funding for fighting ISIS ISIS ISIS by 50% and quadruple funds for US military presence in Europe.

And that, by the way, is not all of our military spending. Veterans' affairs, the military-related activities of the State Department, the nuclear weapons program (which is under the Department of Energy), - by the way, still have nearly 5,000 nukes - and more can easily add an additional nearly $200 billion to that total.

Despite that, and despite the fact that the proposed budget is in line with last year's congressional budget deal, GOPpers are screeching that it's too low and we need to spend even more on killing and preparing to kill people even as we should, they say, spend less and less on keeping people alive.

If we do not break out of this self-imposed silence, there will be no counter-narrative and a nearly-$600 billion military budget - or, more properly, a nearly-$800 billion military budget - will become a floor, not a ceiling - while for example Amtrak continues to die the death of a thousand cuts and someone proposing something like an expansion of community health centers will be told "there is no money - unless you steal it from some other domestic program," and anyone suggesting anything like a national jobs program for infrastructure repair will be laughed out of Congress.

We have got to break that spell. We have got to get back to demanding real cuts - not smaller increases - real cuts in military spending.

Because as long as we can find money for Humvees but not for housing, the military budget is too big.
As long as we can afford hi-tech drones but not hi-speed trains, the military budget is too big.
As long as "more jets" outranks "more jobs," the military budget is too big.
As long as we splurge on F-35s while we skimp on Food Stamps, the military budget is too big.
As long as hostilities eat up more of our resources than hospitals, the military budget is too damn big. And must be cut.

Sources cited in links:

237.2 - Passing thought: Will the US denounce the government of Japan as "tyrannical" for threatening to close "biased" media outlets, as it did in the case of Venezuela?

Passing thought: Will the US denounce the government of Japan as "tyrannical" for threatening to close "biased" media outlets, as it did in the case of Venezuela?

Just a passing thought here. The openly Marxist Hugo Chavez was president of Venezuela from 1998 to 2013. During that time, across the administrations of Bill Clinton, George Bush, and Barack Obama, any time there was a threat in Venezuela to close down or suspend a newspaper or broadcast station, the US government declared it was proof that Chavez was or at the very least was trying to become, a tyrant and a dictator.

On February 9, Sanae Takaichi, the Internal Affairs and Communications Minister of Japan, told a parliamentary committee that the government can order broadcasters to suspend operations if they continue to air TV programming that the government deems politically biased.

Takaichi told a Lower House Budget Committee that the government is legally authorized to order stations and networks to cease broadcasting if they ignore official calls to remain "politically neutral," a term that Takaichi hinted could include the meaning "do not criticize the government."

I wonder how long we'll have to wait before some US government official says that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is looking to become a tyrannical dictator.

Sources cited in links:

237.1 - Good News: some voting rights restored in Maryland

Good News: some voting rights restored in Maryland

Well, there wasn't a lot of good news to start the week, but I did see this:

After a long fight, over 40,000 people in Maryland just got the right to vote.

In Maryland, a convicted felon loses their right to vote until their sentence is completed, including any time on parole or probation. Last year, however, the legislature passed a bill that would restore voting rights upon release from prison - that is, parolees could vote.

Governor Larry Hogan vetoed the bill, insisting that existing law strikes "the proper balance."
Last month, the Maryland House overrode the veto but prospects in the Senate weren't as bright: Last year's bill passed with the minimum votes necessary to override a veto, meaning advocates couldn't lose one vote. It was close enough that Senate president Thomas Miller delayed the vote last month to give time to fill a vacant seat and again last week to give two Senators time to attend.

But when the vote came, there were 29 to override - the minimum necessary.

Which means that about 44,000 people can now register and vote instead of having to wait however many years it might have been.

And yeah, that's pretty good news.

Sources cited in links:

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Left Side of the Aisle #237

Left Side of the Aisle
for the week of February 11 to 17, 2016

This week:

Good News: some voting rights restored in Maryland

Passing thought: Will the US denounce the government of Japan as "tyrannical" for threatening to close "biased" media outlets, as it did in the case of Venezuela?

Why has the left stopped talking about cutting the military budget?

Bernie Sanders, just like Hillary Clinton, is more hawkish than people think

People in Laos still dying from unexploded bombs from the Indochina war

Not Good News: North Carolina fighting suit against its new moves at voter suppression

Outrage of the Week: study proves corporations deliberately choose poor and nonwhite neighborhood for toxic waste dump sites

Clown Award: Steve Schwarzman, CEO of Blackstone private equity firm

VIP: Paul Kantner and Signe Toly Anderson

Sunday, February 07, 2016

236.4 - A rare (and potentially my only) commentary on the Democratic primaries

A rare (and potentially my only) commentary on the Democratic primaries

In the wake of the Iowa caucuses (and written before the New Hampshire primary), treasure this: It surely will be one of the few, and may well be the only, comments you will hear me make on the primaries. That is, the Democratic primaries; I won't even bother with the GOPper ones.

And a lot of what I have to say will be about the media, not so much about the candidates, although their differences to a good extent drive the differing media coverage.

But I'll start by confessing my biases. Not my political biases, which I expect will come as no surprise and are likely well known to anyone who has watched my show or followed this blog. But this is about purely personal biases.

Okay, first off, I have to admit that I personally don't like Hillary Clinton. I don't dislike her, I just can't take to her. This a pure, unreasoned, visceral reaction. She feels too staged, too constructed, to me. Those moments when in interviews or on the stump when she's being cheerful or chipper or a "good sport," as when in that last Iowa forum she was shown Bernie Sanders' closing ad and called it "great" and "poetry," at times like that it feels posed, it feels like she's playing a role, as if this is a character she wears in the same way Stephen Colbert wore his right-wing character. I feel that she would rather come off like a serious policy wonk like Sanders does but has learned to put on this facade because it's better politically.

If that's not true, if she really is by nature the cheerful extrovert she presents herself as, if she really is, ala Hubert Humphrey, the "happy warrior," then I'm sorry for misreading her.

I will also say that I don't think I misread her and I'm aware that the reason she does it is because there is still more than enough sexism that if she as a woman didn't come off as cheerful and a good sport that she would face a backlash that would have a serious impact on her support. Which means that she does it out of necessity. And even though I understand that, I still find she puts me off. Which is why I called it an "unreasoned, visceral reaction."

That said, I don't particularly like Bernie Sanders, either, not on a personal level. But it's for a very different reason.

I have friends in Vermont who know or at least knew Bernie Sanders. They worked closely on some of his early campaigns in Burlington and for Congress. They told me that the way he comes off in interviews and on the stumps is really him, he really is like that. It's not posed.

Hillary Clinton
Bernie Sanders
They also said he has a good sense of humor but that for him everything comes back to policy, that he really is a real policy wonk and he comes off that way.

Here's the thing: they also told me he loves to argue. In fact, he loves to argue so much that sometimes he would argue a point - just for the sake of arguing a point. He would argue things just to argue things.

I don't like people like that. I find them irritating and it feels like they are forever trying to prove to you that they are cleverer than you are.

I suppose now some people will be saying I'm too particular about who I like. Which is perhaps true, but the point here is that my preference between Clinton and Sanders is based on policy, not personality. I don't particularly want to get to know either of them.

With that out of the way, let's get to the subject. Right at the top, I have to say that it's absurd to say anyone "won" Iowa. Iowa is not an election, it is caucuses to choose delegates to the Democratic national convention. You can say so-and-so got more delegates, but to say they "won" as if it were a winner-take-all election is nonsense.*

What's more, this was about as close to a draw as you could get. Clinton and Sanders were separated by 0.2 percent and the delegate division was, by latest report as I do this, 23 for Clinton to 21 for Sanders. And six of those delegates were chosen by flipping a coin, with Clinton winning all six, which means her margin was the result of random chance.**

The only way anyone "wins" or "loses" Iowa is in the purely political sense of doing much better or much worse than expected. You could claim on that basis that Iowa was a "win" for Sanders because just a few months ago he was over 30 points behind, but for the past couple of weeks the polls had been calling it a tossup so that argument won't fly, either. This was a tie or as close as you could expect to come to one.

But the media kept going on about how Clinton "won" Iowa. Her campaign even called it an "historic" win; I'm not sure of the basis for that but I figure it for standard campaign hyperbole, so leave it be. Sanders' campaign did much the same thing, suggesting it was a "win" for him by emphasizing the size of the gap he closed.

But it was the media that set the tone of "Clinton wins!" It was just another example of the media closing ranks about the preferred candidate of the political and economic establishment, a media that first tried to ignore Sanders, then to dismiss him, then to mock him, and now, as I predicted to my wife it would, to set the bar impossibly high:

Remember first that before Sanders announced his candidacy and even after, Clinton was the "presumptive" nominee, the "of course she's going to win" candidate. Remember next that a poll done of Iowa caucus-goers the last week of October showed Clinton with a 65-24 lead over Sanders: a 41 percentage point lead. And remember third that when the caucuses were held, that advantage had shrunk to, again, one-fifth of a percentage point.

So how did this New York Time's "Upshot" blog analyze the results?
But in the end, a virtual tie in Iowa is an acceptable, if not ideal, result for Mrs. Clinton and an ominous one for Mr. Sanders.
Why? Because "He failed to win a state tailor made to his strengths." Exactly why Iowa is "tailor made" for a New England democratic socialist with a Brooklyn accent went unexplained beyond noting that Iowa is white and rural - Just like Vermont! - which I suppose would make, say, Idaho or Montana also "tailor made" for Bernie Sanders.

The point is, the standard went from "he can't win" to "he must win or else."

Just how bad did the coverage get? Consider this:

A couple of days before the caucuses, Buzzfeed reported that the Clinton campaign was actively training its Iowa volunteers in a maneuver that could take delegates away from Sanders by making Martin O'Malley a "viable" candidate in certain precincts. This was confirmed to Buzzfeed by a Clinton precinct captain.

The rules in the Iowa caucuses are rather complex, but here is a very oversimplified example of how that would work, as I understand it. Suppose there is a precinct with four delegates up for grabs (I'm not even going to try to get into "delegate equivalents," which is how the choices are actually counted). Clinton's people know that Sanders has 60% support, they have 30%, and O'Malley has 10%, and as a result the delegates are going to go three for Sanders and one for Clinton. If you have 15% support, you are a "viable candidate" and have to get at least one delegate. So enough Clinton people caucus with O'Malley supporters to bring him up to 15%. The result is that now the delegates go two for Sanders, one for Clinton, and one for O'Malley - and Sanders has lost a delegate.

It's sneaky - but it's entirely within the rules.

Okay. In response to the Buzzfeed report, a site called put out an article headlined "Sanders supporters advocate using O'Malley as spoiler in Iowa" and subtitled "Bernie Sanders' campaign slammed Hillary Clinton's planned use of a political tactic, but his supporters are advocating the same strategy."

But if you get to the third paragraph, you discover that what Vocativ's "deep web analysts" - and yes that's that the article called them - what its "deep web analysts" had found was someone on a subreddit of Sanders fans suggesting it. Not Sanders, not the campaign, not any official, not anyone actually connected to the campaign, some individual supporters. With no indication that the campaign supported it or even less, trained people in how to do it.

By the time that that got to the splash screen of, the headline had become "Sanders accused of dirty trick against Clinton" with the subhead that it "has emerged that Bernie Sanders' camp may be trying to rob Hillary Clinton of supporters with a sneaky move."

So what began as a confirmed report that the Clinton campaign was training its volunteers in a sneaky but legal tactic had morphed into a claim that Sanders was using a "dirty trick" to "rob" Clinton of delegates.

While that is perhaps an egregious example, it's far from the only one demonstrating a mass media bias that having failed to kill the Sanders campaign with silence would now attempt to kill it by setting impossibly high standards of achievement and political purity.

Let's be clear: I'm not talking about secret media cabals or grand conspiracies here, I'm talking about the natural outgrowth of a shared worldview, a common way of looking at the world, a commonality of perspective that leads to a commonality of conclusion and a commonality of action. I'll say it again: The media is closing ranks about the preferred candidate of the political and economic establishment, the candidate that even though they might not be great fans of all their proposals is still the one which that establishment feels comfortable with, the one that establishment has confidence might rearrange the apples on the cart but will not upset it. And that candidate, clearly, is Hillary Clinton.

Because Hillary Clinton, bluntly, is not nearly as progressive as she has been painting herself recently with her sudden and much too convenient commitment to populism, a commitment that has increased in direct proportion to the shrinkage in the polling gap between her and Sanders.

Not as progressive as claimed
In fact, it's not hard to make a case for why anyone who considers themselves progressive should not vote for Hillary Clinton even beyond that fact that her recent conversion to populism can't be trusted: The last day of the Iowa campaign, she was insistently declaring "I'm a progressive" only to say the very next day during a disturbingly fawning interview with Chris Matthews that "We’ve got to get back to the middle. We’ve got to get back to the big center."

For one thing, she is far more hawkish than people seem to realize. As an example, back in 2011, as Secretary of State, she was one of the most hawkish voices about the bombing of Libya and actually went so far as to tell a Congressional briefing that the Obama administration would simply ignore any attempts by Congress to assert its Constitutional authority in matters of war and peace.

She has also been an enthusiastic supporter of the drone war that has killed thousands of civilians.

In 2014, after leaving the administration, she declared a position on Iran's nuclear program that, had it been adopted, would have undermined the agreement that was reached and bemoaned that the US had not been more involved in Syria, including creating a "credible fighting force" and she has advocated a "no-fly zone" and a "safe zone," the latter of which, despite her flippant denials during a recent debate, would require ground troops.

Just recently, a couple of weeks ago she declared on Meet the Press that her policy on Iran would be "to distrust and verify." Sounding more like a member of Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet than a candidate for president of the US, she proposed new sanctions on Iran over a claim it's violating UN Security Council resolutions about its ballistic missile program. Which at least is consistent: During the 2008 primaries, she called Obama "naive" for saying he would be willing to talk to the Iranians.

In Congress, she supported both the Patriot Act, the one I dubbed the Traitor Act for its impact on civil liberties, and its reauthorization. More recently, she has defended NSA spying and called Edward Snowden an enabler of terrorism while saying she was "puzzled" why he fled the country when "we have all these protections for whistle-blowers" - apparently forgetting (no, of course she didn't actually forget) that the Obama administration has prosecuted more whistle-blowers than all previous presidents combined.

On the economy, suffice it to say that, as I said last time, she has so many ties to Wall Street it looks like some kind of kinky bondage party. Enough, in fact, that they are so comfortable with her that Tom Donohue, president of the US Chamber of Commerce said just recently that the only reason Clinton has come out against the Trans-Pacific Partnership is because Sanders has and that if she's elected, she will switch back to supporting the pact she once called "the gold standard" for trade deals before starting to waffle in the face of its great unpopularity with primary voters.

Until she was challenged by Sanders' campaign, she supported fracking and for months she avoided taking a stand on the Keystone XL pipeline, only to finally come out in opposition on the grounds not that it's a bad idea but that it's a "distraction." She has said some good things on the topic of climate change but favors boosting fossil fuel supplies, which pretty much undercuts the argument.

There's more, but that's enough to make the point that yes, a solid case can be made that Hillary Clinton does not deserve the support of progressives.

Here's the sad part: Even given all that and all the rest I didn't address, she is still light-years ahead of, light-years beyond, anyone running on the GOPper side. So much so that were she to be the nominee and I lived in a toss-up state - which I assuredly do not - I would have to choke back my bile and vote for her.

Doubts about Sanders
I'm hoping I wouldn't have to make that choice. I do have problems with Bernie Sanders. His rather fumbling defenses of his weak record on gun control disturb me and he seems to lack, in the absence of a better term, a good feel for issues around racial and sexual justice, particularly where those issues are not easily connected to a class economic analysis.

This is not to say that he is bad on those issues, in fact his record on them is a solidly good one. But when he talks about the billionaire class running the country, when he talks about economic inequality, when he talks about changing the nature of power in the country, you can tell that he feels this, this is not just analysis, this is passion, this is commitment, this is genuine belief, this is emotional, this is his heart. And he doesn't seem to have that same feel for issues of racial and sexual justice. Lacking that sort of emotional connection, it's too easy for such issues to keep slipping down the list of priorities, forever sitting in the "In" box without ever actually getting moved to the desk.

And that worries me.

On the other hand, it's also true that his encounters with Black Lives Matter protesters indicated that he has the ability to listen and even learn something.

On the economy, as I said last time, he is not the socialist he claims to be and even less the socialist he is often made out to be by the media. A number of his proposals are good but I think they clearly do not go far enough.

But ultimately, bottom line, this is what is comes down to for me:

A little while ago, there was a brief kerfuffle when Sanders was asked about the fact that Planned Parenthood and the Human Rights Campaign had endorsed Clinton, which seemed rather odd considering he had a 100% lifetime voting record with each of them. He responded by referring to those groups as part of "the establishment." He quickly backed off that, realizing it was a gaffe. But while a gaffe, not untrue; I think he was referring to the national levels of those organizations, which at that level focus mostly almost exclusively on inside-the-beltway Congressional lobbying. That is, they are part of that establishment which I have been, and I think he was, talking about. Which raises, for me, an important difference between Clinton and Sanders.

First things first: She is a former Senator and a former Secretary of State who gets paid bunches in speaking fees to corporate gatherings. He is a sitting US Senator, a former member of the House, with something like a 33-year history in elective office, 25 of those at the federal level. Which means, if we are to be fair, that both these people are members of "the establishment."

Which brings us to the difference I spoke of between them, and it's a fundamental one, a sort of political "he-said-she-said."

She sees that establishment as what you have to work within and which sets the boundaries of the possible. He sees that establishment as what you have to go beyond to generate pressure (his "political revolution") to make that establishment do what it would not have done otherwise.

All of which brings to mind a slogan from the dreaded '60s: "Be realistic - demand the impossible." Because that is the only way true progress has ever been produced. And I prefer to go with hope.

As Edward McClelland of Salon wrote just prior to the caucuses (paraphrased),
Clinton's campaign is based on fear – the fear that Republicans will return to power and undo any progress made. Sanders is running on hope – hope for what he calls a "political revolution" that will take power out of the hands of billionaires.
If our society were likened to a house with a leaky roof, Bernie Sanders would be the one saying "I know it's hard but we've got to fix the roof!" while Hillary Clinton would be the one to advocate placing flower pots under the drips in order to beautify the rooms.

He is the voice of the hope for real progress and she is, ultimately, the voice of the hope that things won't get worse or at least will get worse more slowly. Which is why I am seriously considering, for just the second time in my life, changing my registration just so I can vote in a Democratic presidential primary. The first time was in 1988 when I switched from "independent" to Democrat to vote for Jesse Jackson. This time it will be a switch from Green to Democrat and the vote will be for Bernie Sanders.

*It is true that a number of primaries are not winner-take-all, so the same argument could be made about them. I would in those cases make an exception (and so accept there is a "winner") for those where getting the most votes makes a significant difference in the number of delegates (i.e., they are not awarded, for example, in numbers equivalent to each candidate's percentage of the vote but disproportionately go to the top vote-getter) and, in political terms, where the final margin is significantly larger or smaller than expected. I suppose it would also be fair to say someone "won" a non-winner-take-all primary if they were double-digits ahead of their nearest rival.

**Later accounts said the difference was closer to 0.3%. Other reports indicted that there were additional examples of coin tosses and Sanders won some of those. That, however, does not change the basic point that given that the number of coin tosses significantly exceeded the final margin, that margin, whoever it wound up favoring, was the result of random chance.

Sources cited in links:
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