Sunday, December 27, 2015

A Year in Review: 2015

The year 2015 is quickly coming to an end. This year had a lot of news coverage that will be relevant to the 2016 presidential election. In my opinion, these are the most important political topics to take away from the year:

The Republican Battle Royale

At the height of the Republican nomination race, there were seventeen major candidates running. Only four have dropped out so far (Rick Perry, Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal, and Lindsey Graham). The New York icon and real estate mogul Donald J. Trump has led the polls for months now. The first voting begins in the Iowa caucus on February 1. The question on the minds of many political analysts is who can defeat the Donald. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio seem to be his biggest rivals, but Chris Christie is putting all his eggs in New Hampshire is doing well in the polls there. This race will also be remembered for how angry the Republican base is at the establishment. The choice of the establishment, Jeb Bush, has run a failed campaign. I doesn't look like he can recover. Other candidates like John Kasich, Rand Paul, Ben Carson, and Carly Fiorina have small pockets of support, but not a lot to get momentum. January could be a month where the majority of Republican candidates drop out.

The Democratic Dinner Table

There were five major candidates running for the Democratic nomination. Two of these candidates (Jim Webb and Lincoln Chafee) dropped out after the first debate. When a sixth candidate, Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig, entered the race he ran a very short campaign because of the little support and funds he received. The failure of these three showed that the Democrats were aiming for a very small race. It is likely that the establishment didn't want their choice, Hillary Clinton, to have any major opposition. There was moment, however, when many people thought she would lose in another presidential bid. A scandal was produced over her using a private email server for important government emails when she ran the State Department. This fueled the rise of Bernie Sanders, but the anti-establishment Vermont socialist has started to sputter. Meanwhile, Martin O'Malley is desperate to rise in the polls, but so far that hasn't materialized. By the time Iowa hits, it might be too late for both of Clinton's opponents.

ISIS Advances

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has continued to expand in the Middle East. This year has only added more violence and confusion to the problem. Terrorist attacks inspired by their radical ideology have hit Paris twice this year and another in San Bernardino, California. On the battlefields, ISIS has killed thousands of people and has destroyed stability in the region. Ancient historical structures that have stood for centuries are being demolished by them. Vladimir Putin, president of the Russian Federation, is now involved, but his interests are in supporting Syria's dictator Bashar al-Assad. President Obama says that he will continue to bomb the enemy with airstrikes, but it looks like that isn't enough. I'm currently reading a book about former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger. I read one of his commentaries recently in The Wall Street Journal. His thoughts on ISIS are exactly what we need to do now.

The debate isn't just about how to handle ISIS, but also about our own national security. Republicans don't want the United States to allow Syrian refugees because it is too risky that terrorists could infiltrate them. Democrats prefer to allow the refugees in for humanitarian reasons. Then there's debate over going after Assad. He's a brutal dictator who is influenced by the Russians. Would it be wise to go after him once ISIS is defeated or to let him remain in power? Should we continue to spread democracy throughout the region or favor dictators who are pro-American? The media will ask these questions to the candidates.

America's Energy Revolution

While there's bad news in the Middle East, there's good news at home. The shale oil boom, courtesy of fracking, has plunged gas prices rapidly. Prices could stay at this low for many years to come (maybe even lower). Many liberals are worried that this new form of production could increase climate change and destroy the planet. They shouldn't be worried. Mark J. Perry, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a professor of economics at the University of Michigan, has been tracking the many effects of shale for some time. He has found that shale gas has reduced CO2 emissions from the electric power sector to its lowest year since 1993. Unleashing this new way to produce energy wasn't some government initiative from the Obama administration. It was created by the private sector and free market capitalism. In 2016, Democrats and Republicans will debate about government regulation in the energy sector and the Keystone pipeline. This energy boom raises the question: Since entrepreneurs can do better at lowering pollution, should the government be involved at all?

American Enterprise Institute

The Truth vs. The Minimum Wage

David Neumark, an economist at the University of California, has published an important article on how the evidence is piling up that the minimum wage hurts the economy. Neumark is one of many economists who has spent years studying the minimum wage policy and have proved that it's a bad idea. Unfortunately, many young liberals think that a $15 minimum wage would be a splendid idea. It might seem good because they are getting paid more, but what they fail to realize is that it would increase the cost of labor. Businesses that specialize in retail and fast food have small profit margins. Doubling the minimum wage at any level will damage their business and cause heavy economic strains on the country that led to rising unemployment. A spike in the cost of labor wouldn't just hurt young people who have jobs now, but also children who aren't in the workforce yet. The worst part of the minimum wage is that there will be jobs that will never be created, thus limiting employment opportunities of students in high school who are looking for their first job to get experience.

Race Relations

African-Americans that will vote in the next presidential election are likely to prioritize race relations. Many Americans believe that race relations in the country are getting worse since Obama became president. The two major presidential candidates will have explain how they plan to ease relations between whites and blacks. Minority voters are not prioritizing other issues as the statistics show. One example is how the Black Lives Matter movement disrupted a Bernie Sanders campaign event months. Sanders clearly focuses on economic issues, but minorities aren't having any of it. That's why they currently support Clinton. Ben Carson, the only major African-American candidate running, would have drawn black voters to the GOP at a record pace, but his poll numbers are falling and his lack of experience has hurt his chances at becoming the Republican nominee.

"Lame Duck" Obama

A while ago I was at my local Barnes & Noble and I saw the cover for The Economist magazine's special edition on what to focus on in politics for 2016. The cover included many political figures with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the front and in the center of a group. She was flanked by Hillary Clinton and Federal Reserve Chairman Janet Yellen. Next to them were China's Xi Jinping and India's Narendra Modi. Obama and Putin came after them followed by Japan's Shinzo Abe and Britain's David Cameron. The most fascinating part of this cover is that Obama has been moved several places back. On the cover featuring what to expect in 2015, which was published a year ago, he was where Merkel was. It just goes to show that Obama is on his way out as America's commander-in-chief. Germany has no term limits for their chancellors. Merkel has led the Germans since 2005. Obama was elected president when I was in middle school. He will be out of office when I'm a college junior in January 2017. This election is an "out with the old, in with the new" moment for the country.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Problem with the GOP Establishment

Jeb "Sad Face" Bush - Huffington Post
In any presidential campaign, there is going to be an establishment candidate. The establishment candidate tends to be more centrist and is usually favored by moderates, big donors, and important party leaders. This goes for both political parties. The establishment is a powerful faction in any competition for the nomination, but usually there are other factions in a political party who oppose the establishment and would prefer a candidate that is ideological to the core. I have always felt the solution has been to find someone who can broaden support between the many factions in the Republican Party. This candidate is someone who can unify the party and get up to 60 percent or more votes when the primaries have finally concluded.

Unfortunately, there seems to be little hope that the party can be unified. The establishment picked someone who was too moderate in Jeb Bush. He had a good, mostly fiscal conservative record as governor of Florida and does want to take the fight to ISIS, but at the same time there were weaknesses. His support for initiatives like Common Core and amnesty led to his lack of appeal with the Tea Party and that sunk his presidential bid when Donald Trump rose to prominence. I want a presidential candidate who can appeal to the Tea Party and the moderate establishment. In December of last year, I posted about Bush getting into the presidential sweepstakes. Some weaknesses I cited were his lack of populism and rank-and-file conservatism. Those problems hurt when he became a presidential candidate.

The lack of support for the establishment is entirely understandable. The last two Republican presidential candidates were centrists, but both of them divided voters in the primaries. Neither John McCain or Mitt Romney got over 53 percent of all Republican voters in the primaries and caucuses. I believe their lack of unity hurt them when they were nominees (although I'm not sure there was much McCain could have done to win in 2008 against a major wave of liberalism). Their defeats led to anger in the Republican base, which has fueled the rise of Trump, a man who is very anti-establishment. It would have been a better strategy for the establishment to choose someone who was more conservative than Jeb Bush to be their standard bearer.

I wouldn't say that Trump is opposite of Bush when it comes to policy positions. The reason is because he held positions in the past that were more liberal than Bush's. Conservative columnist George Will is concerned that Trump's candidacy could end the GOP's position as a conservative party in America. I'm not with him at this moment, but that could change. Trump's current rhetoric would indicate that he is a very conservative presidential candidate, but that's just rhetoric. He has held so many liberal positions that it isn't even funny. He has supported everything from a wealth tax to abortion. His current tax policy would indicate that he is a supply-sider, but it's difficult to trust him and he hasn't explained how he managed to go from an extreme position on the left to a generally reasonable position on the right. Abortion is very different. He was once pro-choice, but became pro-life in 2011 (as cited in the hyperlink above). Flipping positions on Planned Parenthood is even more frequent. He said in August that it should be defunded if they continue with abortions. He recently said in October that he would defund it no matter what along with "many things" that should be cut.

The latest polls from Iowa show Ted Cruz against Trump leading on average. Cruz would be much better than Trump because his conservatism is more credible. Trump's rhetoric has won him a lot of support, but the polls show that it doesn't work in a presidential election against Hillary Clinton. Cruz provides more competition against Clinton as the polls indicate. Another good choice would be Marco Rubio if Cruz proves to be too conservative for moderates. Rubio also has credible conservatism and both men a very charismatic. I can believe the fiscal conservatism of both senators and I know they would be great nominees. The question now is will the voters realize it by the time voting begins and will other presidential candidates drop out to give others better poll numbers.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

What Polls are the Best Polls?

PBS
If you're a political junkie like me, then you've probably noticed that one prominent polling firm has not been conducting any polls over the primary season and hasn't declared that they will do so in the general election. That polling firm is Gallup, which gave the Republicans too generous a lead in the 2010 midterms and was highly inaccurate in the 2012 election when they put Mitt Romney ahead of Barack Obama. The 2016 presidential election could lead to the death of more inaccurate pollsters.

Polls are released by many institutions in the United States. Media organizations (like Fox News and NBC) are able to use their own polls because they have a vast amount of resources and several universities have their own departments that publish polls. Only a few colleges, like Quinnipiac University, have the money for national polls. Most universities only do polling research for their states. Additionally, Gallup is supposed to be a professional polling firm. Other examples include Rasmussen Reports and the Public Policy Polling. A casual viewer who watches the news will probably hear about several polls during political news, but he or she might wonder how accurate these polls are. Well, now anyone can know which polls are accurate and which are not by going to FiveThirtyEight, which has graded every pollster. This was a published a year ago, but I think it would be relevant with the current election for all of you to know what polls are the best and which are not.

I've decided to display some of the more famous and common polls, as well as certain pollsters who only work in important battleground states. Next time you see a poll on the news, these grades will give you an idea of how accurate they are:

SurveyUSA: A
ABC News/Washington Post: A-
CNN/Opinion Research: A-
Monmouth University: A-
NBC News/Wall Street Journal: A-
Marist College: B+
Quinnipiac University: B+
CBS News/New York Times: B
Fox News/Anderson/Shaw: B
Investor's Business Daily/TIPP: B
Marquette University: B (Wisconsin)
New England College: B (New Hampshire)
Public Policy Polling: B-
University of Wisconsin - Madison: B- (Wisconsin)
Gallup: C+
Philadelphia Inquirer: C+ (Pennsylvania)
University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee: C+ (Wisconsin)
Columbus Dispatch: C (Ohio)
Gravis Marketing: C
Ramussen Reports: C
American Research Group: C-
Roanoke College: C- (Virginia)

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Lindsey Graham Drops Out

Graham on the early CNN debate - Slate
Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina is the fourth Republican candidate to drop out from the presidential race. He did so with a video on YouTube yesterday:


Graham's biggest problem was that the field was so crowded this election cycle. He was one of several presidential who did not stand, so he never did well in the polls. His low poll numbers ensured that he was only allowed to participate in early debates. He tried to gain more attention and support by attacking front-runner Donald Trump, but it didn't work. With his funds running out, Graham has decided to leave presidential race. 

I know that Graham certainly doesn't want Trump to be the Republican nominee, so he's probably doing this so other moderate Republicans get more supporters (even though he doesn't have many). The establishment knows that their favored moderate candidates are failing. Graham is the first of many who will drop out. They will have to find someone who does appeal to the Tea Party or else they will be stuck with Trump. Graham's legacy from this campaign is that he was an establishment senator with decades of political experience who had very little going for him. That's he was highly unlikely to be the Republican nominee.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Who won the Democratic Debate on December 19?

The Nation
I barely got to see this debate last night on ABC because I was vacationing in Chicago and we had a Christmas party to attend. A word of advice to the Democratic National Committee: Don't hold debates on a Saturday before Christmas. You won't get a lot of viewers and it's just dumb. As a political party, you should want people to watch your debate. Your candidates won't make me a Democrat, but that's not the point. It's a debate for Democrats who will vote in the caucuses and primaries. You're doing a disservice to them by putting the debate on this weekend.

Most Democrats will like Hillary Clinton coming out of this debate. She looked the best when it came to foreign policy questions regarding ISIS. She was able to deflect her opponents when they attacked her. On the scandal over a data breach into her campaign by Bernie Sanders workers, she decided not to attack him. She's getting better with a sense of humor (like the Star Wars reference at the end) and received wide applause from the audience. A great performance from her.

Since Clinton won, Sanders and O'Malley lost. If you like Sanders, then nothing will change you from supporting him after tonight, but he lost with many Democrats who are on the fence. He got "Berned" by Clinton over the cost of his domestic programs His continued rhetoric of taking on the elites and the wealthy will be enjoyed by many leftist grassroots Democrats, but that's it. He has no gains. I get what O'Malley was trying to do last night by continuing to attack both candidates, but it made him look bad and he got booed by the audience. Negativity does not guarantee victory at debates and I think many Democrats will continue to overlook the former Maryland governor.

In conclusion, this debate won't change anything.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

ABC Democratic Debate Tonight

Wikimedia
The three Democratic candidates will participate in a debate hosted by ABC at Saint Anslem College in New Hampshire tonight. This debate comes after some big news from the Bernie Sanders campaign. It turns out that some of his campaign workers were able to take important private information from the Hillary Clinton campaign on strategies and data on the nomination race. A question is expected to be asked about this tonight.

Hillary Clinton continues to remain the front-runner of the Democratic nomination. When the question on the Sanders campaign is asked there are two things that she can do: say that she believes Senator Sanders in order to appear nice and positive or go on the offensive when he's vulnerable. Both actions will work in my opinion. No big news has come out of the Democratic race lately because of Donald Trump's attention in the media. She should just remain positive for most of the time and defend herself when she needs to, but if asked a question about one of her opponents then it helps to attack. Take shots at Trump and other GOP candidates always guarantees applause as well.

Bernie Sanders needs to go after Clinton since she was widened the gap in the polls. He needs to do this in New Hampshire because he has a close lead there. A good performance will also help him in Iowa. He has played nice, but he won't be able to continue unless he gets more aggressive. He also needs to put more detail into foreign policy questions, where he lacks depth. Martin O'Malley will need to do a similar strategy since he's very low in the polls. The only way to get more support is to take down Clinton.

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Absurdity of College Campus Protests

Campus protests in California - Breitbart

A series of protests on college campuses has struck the nation with a lot of curiosity. These protests have led to the resignations of several deans and apologies from universities. It sounds like these fellow millennials are fighting for social justice, but what does that mean exactly? What motivates these students to go out and protest? When I looked into the issue, I found that what they are advocating for is essentially a totalitarian state so other people do not hurt their feelings with opposing views.

In one case at Yale University, students are demanding that two administrators resign over offensive Halloween costumes. They were outraged when one administrator responded that students who are offended by certain costumes can simply look away or tell the individual wearing it that they are offended. The administrator, Nicholas Christakis, who serves as the master of Sillian College, was yelled at by the protesters for not creating a place "of comfort and home" (basically what is being commonly known now as a "safe space" where students want to remove everything that they dislike).

Another example of recent student protests comes from Colorado College. The pro-gay film Stonewall was supposed to be shown on the campus. It's a historical film about the gay rights movement in New York City. Several students decided to take action and argued that the film shouldn't have been shown because it is too offensive. At first I thought that these students were Christian conservatives, but they were actually activists from the college's LGBTQIA+ group, who said that the film reinforced social hierarchy of white males and didn't examine women and racial minorities who were involved in the protests. Colorado College's film department understood this and thought that the film could offer discussion about the depiction of certain groups in movie. The student activists didn't care because it is a "threat" to their identity and safety.

Protests like these would be hilarious if they weren't taken so seriously. Across the United States, students are trying to turn campuses into safe spaces that makes universities devoid of any opposing views that are supposedly threatening to their well-being. If that's what they're concerned about, then I don't think there's any hope for them in their future lives. I don't want universities to be places where students aren't challenged. The whole point of one is to create a venue for debates between multiple worldviews. Safe spaces have existed before, particularly for gays over fifty years ago, but they haven't advocated for at such a high rate and at such populous places. Charles C.W. Cooke, a correspondent for National Review, has published an article explaining why safe spaces are not compatible with the purpose of a college:
One can instinctively understand why the gays of the 1960s would want to conduct conversations away from a hostile world. One can comprehend, too, why they sought refuge in private groups devoted to a common political cause. But students? At a place of learning? That makes no sense at all. Unlike gay bars or feminist workshops, colleges are inherently pluralist, and they cannot therefore devote themselves to “a common political project” or “movement” without abandoning their purpose. At a stretch, there is an argument for permitting the establishment of “safe spaces” within universities — traditionally we call these “clubs” — but there is no case whatsoever for turning the entire place over to a particular set of ideological presumptions and for punishing or excluding those who decline to acquiesce.
There's nothing wrong with starting a club. I run the College Republicans on my campus. There are many clubs on my campus that allow students to join with others for a common cause or purpose whether it be those who enjoy gaming or those who want to pursue careers in business. We can hold events to get our message out, but we would never impose our views on the university. That's why I think these student protests are so ridiculous.

Niall Ferguson, the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard, posted his thoughts on the protests in The Sunday Times. There's some good historical information in his column. He has noted many differences between the 1968 protests which focused on the Vietnam War and the 2015 protests that are an extension of the Black Lives Matter movement. Many student protesters think they are addressing the apparent problem of institutional racism on universities. They want mandatory college courses on "marginalized peoples" in history.

At Princeton University, students want the name Woodrow Wilson struck off from the School of Public and International Affairs because he believed in segregation, but it's hard to not find Ivy League colleges linked to racism because of how old and historic they are. Does striking off the name of a president who was racist matter? Does it do anything to actually end racism? How many even knew that Wilson was a racist until it was brought up? While I knew he was a racist, it isn't the first thing I remember about him. That would be his concept of liberal internationalism and the League of Nations. Yes, Wilson was a racist, but can we really ask someone to be ahead of their time?

While a lot of protests are focused on issues that really don't matter, that doesn't mean they are dangerous. Ferguson found that some of these protesters don't care about evidence for their own arguments. They don't care about proof for their own case, they just have arguments that may not even be true if they cannot be verified. To Ferguson, these people aren't protesting for liberty at all, but instead for something entirely different:
With their craving for “safe spaces”, their revulsion against rational discussion (not to mention Halloween), their fundamentally illiberal and indeed irrational state of mind, the protesters strike me not as “little Robespierres” but as the natural heirs of the Puritans who founded the British colonies in New England.
It is a rich irony that their antics are disrupting life at Yale and Harvard, for the old universities had to fight long and hard to establish the spirit of free inquiry in the hostile intellectual climate created by the zealotry of the early settlers.
The Puritans were escaping religious persecution in England, but they created a world where opposing views were left out. They had little trust for the Quakers in Pennsylvania and Maryland or the southern planters in Virginia and North Carolina. That sounds exactly like student protests today, who hold no regard for the First Amendment. At the University of Missouri, a student photographer was attacked by protesters for simply taking pictures. Such actions remind me of a picture from middle school, which was from the civil rights protests of the 1960s. In it, a Ku Klux Klan member was beating up a journalist so the KKK's actions wouldn't get any negative attention:

Pop History Dig
These students aren't fighting for freedom or social justice. They're fighting for their own totalitarian society. Freedom of speech and freedom of the press are core principles of American society, but 40 percent of Millennials (those born in the late 1980s to the early 2000s) are okay with censorship according to a poll from the Pew Research Center. Compare that to the 27 percent of Generation X (those born in the late 1960s to the early 1980s) that want censorship and the 24 percent of the Baby Boomers (late 1940s to early 1960s). In this case, the gold standard demographic is our elders. Of those who are in the Silent Generation (late 1920s to the early 1940s), only 12 percent want the government to have the ability to censor the masses. I pray that people in my demographic get better at respecting a key ideal of the Enlightenment because all I see now is the development of a bunch of little Mussolinis.

On a business note, what's most ironic about these protests is that they will benefit college administrators. The college protests are expected to cause universities to increase the number of administrators they have to handle concerns from students. Yale has decided to double the funding for cultural centers and will construct a new multicultural center. They will spend an additional $50 million to increase diversity among the faculty (this could undermine more skilled candidates who want to become professors). Claremont McKenna plans to create new positions in their administration that will work on diversity and inclusion. This will accelerate a trend that has continued over the last three decades. From 1990 to 2010, the number of non-teaching professionals at public research universities increased from 53 per 1,000 students to 73 per 1,000 students. For private universities, the numbers have increased from 72 to 102 over the same period. Maybe some of these millennials have a future as campus administrators.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A Brokered Convention is a Long Way Off

The 1976 GOP Convention - Wikimedia
Talk is going around among the Republican establishment to prepare for a brokered convention at the Quicken Loans arena in Cleveland, Ohio in July 2016. To explain it simply, a brokered convention is where a party cannot decide on one candidate by the time the convention is held. Conventions are where a candidate is officially made the nominee. Usually this is decided months in advance during the primaries and caucuses, but there are cases where the race goes all the way to the convention and the nomination is decided by party bosses and delegates. One such case is during the 1976 Republican nomination, where incumbent Gerald R. Ford had to defend his presidency against former Governor Ronald Reagan of California. In the end, Ford won the nomination, but barely. It's important to remember that this convention was contested, not brokered, because the nomination was decided on the first ballot even though it was not clear who would win until all votes were counted.

When the primaries and caucuses are held, state parties are instructed to allocate delegates in two ways: proportionally or winner-take-all. Winner-take-all is simple because the winner gets all the delegates, but some state parties prefer to distribute delegates by proportion. There are a total of 2,472 delegates that will attend the Republican convention. Whoever wins where will determine who those delegates will be, but a candidate needs a simple majority of 1,237 delegates to win the nomination. A candidate like Donald Trump has the resources to stay in the field for a long time, but many candidates have plans to stay in the race as long as possible even if there's little chance that they could win. Ron Paul was that kind of a candidate.

Brokered and contested conventions have historically hurt political parties because it shows a lack of unity. Today conventions are used to present presidential candidates, their visions, and the beliefs of a political party. Conventions that are divided hurt a presidential candidate's chances at winning the presidency. Gerald Ford did not win another term and looked weak coming out of the 1976 convention. The Democrats had a bad convention in 1980 and President Jimmy Carter lost by a landslide. That's why political parties hope to avoid brokered conventions.

Even though many Republican Party officials are becoming concerned about the real possibility, I'm not worried. Part of it might be that I don't think Trump will be the nominee, but even if he is then it will be clearly decided by voters in states throughout the spring of 2016. By the time Super Tuesday is held, many presidential candidates will have already dropped out because they performed poorly in the first four states. The GOP will probably be down to just three or four presidential candidates. Those who do badly in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada will no longer have any reason to stay in the race.

To be fair, Trump's lead leaves him more likely to become the Republican nominee as the days go by even if he still categorize him as unlikely. It isn't like dark horse candidates haven't won before, but the odds are usually against them. That's why there is an increased possibility over a brokered convention among many political analysts. We know the establishment absolutely hates Trump, but if he does dominate the primaries and caucuses then the possibility is real. If I was Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus I would not go for a brokered convention because it could make the party look bad.

There are rumors that some Republican leaders would actually be willing to lose the presidential election if they cannot take down the Donald. Political scientists know (based on the poll numbers) that Trump does badly against Hillary Clinton even though there has been a slight improvement over the months. If there is no way to stop Trump and he will be the nominee, then that would be the only opportunity for the establishment. This is the reason why I preferred a candidate who could unite the center-right and the conservatives, but that doesn't seem to be happening. I think it would be of poor mentality for the establishment to take a loss. If they do go down that road, then where's the hope for winning any future elections? As of now, I considered the possibility over a brokered convention low and I hope it won't come to that.

Who won the CNN debate on December 15?

Republicans debate in Las Vegas - New York Times
The CNN debate last night focused on foreign policy in the wake of terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California. Overall, the candidates did stay engaged in foreign policy and most of them offered details to what their foreign policy plans would be. There was a lot of criticism during the debate, which I knew was inevitably going to happen. The debates next year will include more clashes between the candidates on both sides in order to win the nomination. You might not want them to do this, but it's simply expected. After all, isn't the debates between the two nominees simply going to be a battle of ideologies and policy?

Donald Trump didn't stand out the most during the debate last night. That doesn't mean he lost, but that doesn't mean he won. Trump did what he needed to do in order to keep his supporters happy, but I still didn't like how debates. Usually he engages in ad hominem attacks (he calls Jeb Bush "low energy" for example) rather than specifics with foreign policy. Last night he continued with the strategy, but I can't blame him if it works. The problem with Trump is that he isn't charismatic, which is why Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are gaining on him.

Cruz and Rubio both won points last night. I'd continue to bet on them to win the nomination after the debate. Both men deeply understand public policy and are determined to prove why they're right. This led both candidates to attack each other over issues like immigration. I can't say who I thought won the debates between those two. I thought they both did well. Rubio might have some trouble in future debates with his liberal position on immigration. This debate will prepare for him for similar attacks in the future. Cruz was attacked by Rubio for opposing the National Defense Authorization Act, a bill that approves programs in the U.S. military. The Texan's response was that it violates the rights of Americans to be detained with due process, but Rubio fought back saying that he won't defend the rights of citizens who collaborate with ISIS because they have become traitors. Cruz could be vulnerable depending on how hawkish the GOP voters are right now.

Ben Carson continued to hurt himself during the debate by not being excited. The moderators didn't pay much attention to him and he didn't excel when he got time to answer questions or give an argument. Carson continued with his current style, which I think constantly hurts him. Jeb Bush decided to be more aggressive than he has ever been against Trump. I liked when he said that Trump couldn't "insult his way to the presidency" but I don't think he will get a boost from attacking the Donald. Bush had his chance and he blew it. Being aggressive would have helped him earlier in the race, but his moment has probably closed.

Chris Christie does have a chance to rise in the polls, but I think his boost will be in New Hampshire where he's dependent on a victory. Christie seemed tough and right on target throughout the debate last night. He avoided attacking any other candidates and was able to use his credibility as someone who has prosecuted terrorists to his advantage. I believe that if not betting Rubio or Cruz, I wouldn't have a problem with betting on the New Jersey governor.

Carly Fiorina and John Kasich seemed out for most of the debate. They weren't as bad as Carson, but they won't be talked about much after it. I think Fiorina will stay in the race until after Iowa. Kasich is focusing on New Hampshire, but there can only be room for so many moderates. I think Kasich knows he isn't going to win, but I do think he wants a Cabinet position. He might get it if he decides to drop out to hand his supporters over to another candidate. As for the last candidate during the debate, Rand Paul just seemed rude. His opening statement is the perfect example, where he decided to attack Trump and Rubio rather than have voters learn more about his vision for the country. His position is worse than Carson's.

This debate involved more disagreement between the candidates than ever before. I think this shows an important divide in America between hawks and doves. It's not that any candidate believes America needs a weak foreign policy. Every candidate has a different way for how they want our country to be strong. I think Trump will remain at the center stage for the next debate, but no one seems to know how to after him. Jeb Bush will go on the offensive, but he can't be helped much by it. I think not attacking the Donald is a huge gamble, but only time will tell if it was right for candidates like Cruz and Rubio to not start something with him.

Monday, December 14, 2015

CNN Debate in Las Vegas Tomorrow

Venetian
The next Republican debate will be held tomorrow by the Cable News Network and Salem Media Group at the Venetian in Las Vegas, Nevada. This debate will be one of the last before voting begins in Iowa. After the caucus, several debates will be held before certain states vote. Many casual voters are now becoming more interested in watching presidential debates, so it will be the most important one yet. It's a debate where there will be ten candidates thanks to CNN's generous rules. It will be imperative for those candidate who are polling very low to do what they can to breakout through the field.

Donald Trump continues to lead in the polls. His speaking style works and he has a lot of followers, but can he keep up against Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio? The New York billionaire has recently criticized Cruz, so the love affair between those two candidates is starting to collapse. This will be confirmed during the debate if they go at each other. I anticipate that there will be less time for the moderators to ask for specifics, so I don't think Trump will be pressed there. Cruz has been able to keep his cool, which somewhat mimics Ben Carson's style. Cruz is significantly more energetic than Carson, so that's going to be important to see during the debate. If Cruz gets the best of Trump, then he can easily become the conservative favorite.

Marco Rubio has stalled in the polls, but has stayed in the double-digits. It's to his benefit to remain positive during the debate, but someone if attacks him then he must strike back. While Rubio has battled with other candidates in the past, those remarks have not made major headlines. Rubio's performance should be just as good as Cruz's. The establishment has lost faith in their favored candidates, so it's time for them to find a compromise. That would be Rubio, but if only if he proves himself.

Ben Carson continues to fall on a downward spiral. This could be his last gasp to regain his lost ground, but that means breaking away from his own style. As for the rest of the field (Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, John Kasich, and Chris Christie), it's time to go big or go home. All of these candidates might as well be George Custer fighting his last stand. There's only a slim chance that they'll be the British garrison at Rorke's Drift. Christie, Kasich, and Huckabee have the most to gain from these debate because they have not been in double-digits this year nationally. Rand Paul's libertarian lingo doesn't get him anywhere. Fiorina and Bush both had their moments, which have passed.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Star Wars: Empire at War is still Great

Moddb
The arrival of Star Wars: The Force Awakens into theaters on December 17 has put me in the mood for playing many of my favorite Star Wars games. While I have been enjoying EA's Star Wars: Battlefront, another game I decided to purchase (or more precisely repurchase) is the gold edition for Star Wars: Empire at War. While this came out in 2006, it's still one of my favorite games. The old disk version I had was gone, but Steam had a Black Friday sale, so I decided to buy it and the expansion for a very low price.

The game is just as entertaining as it was almost decade ago and I'm currently playing a galactic conquest as the Galactic Empire. Unlike the Battlefront series, where the player is a soldier on the battlefield, Empire at War makes you the general of either faction. That means you can control countless amounts of armies and fleets for dominance over the entire galaxy. It means controlling famous characters in the Star Wars universe including Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker.

There are two campaigns for the original game and another for the expansion. The original allows you to play as either the Rebel Alliance or the Galactic Empire in plots that take place before and during the events of Star Wars: A New Hope. The Empire is working on the construction of the Death Star while the Rebels are preparing to prevent the space station from destroying any planets. The expansion is even more interesting as it involves the player taking control of a criminal organization called the Zann Consortium that intends to become the crime leaders of the galaxy. Their motivation is not control of the galaxy, but simply credits (the Star Wars currency). The expansion (titled Forces of Corruption) adds new vehicles, ships, and leaders to all three factions.

After playing the campaigns, there are several maps for galactic conquests. These maps vary in size, but I usually like to play on the largest. In every game, each faction has an economy that's easy to understand. New credits are transferred to a faction every day from the planets a player controls, but they aren't large enough to immediately organize forces that can go on the offensive. You can build mining facilities on any planet to add more income to your treasury, but that will reduce the number of factories, recruiting centers, and defensive system that can be constructed on the planet. More money is nice, but they reduce the variety of forces you can build for a garrison. If an opposing faction attacks, you might not have adequate defensive capabilities like shield generators and turbolaser turret defenses.

Picking what you want for an army or a fleet involves a lot of strategy. If the Rebels attack a massive Imperial fleet that includes the Death Star, then they will need to provide a load of expensive Mon Calamari capital ships that can counter the Empire's star destroyers. The biggest ships aren't always the best. They can be slow to react to bombers and fighters that can destroy their core systems. It's always good to bring support frigates and fighters of your own. The Millennium Falcon is always handy in a space battle.

The ground assault will be just as important. The Empire has AT-ATs that can easily destroy Rebel soldiers and light vehicles, but they become useless against T-47s that can tie steel cables around the legs of those supposedly impregnable war machines. A good imperial officer will provide vehicles that can take out T-47s. It would be wise to bring Boba Fett to the battle, who can destroy whole squads of Rebels. Just watch out for Rebel leaders like Yoda. Your opponents won't stand a chance against fierce dark troopers.

If you are someone who loves the Star Wars universe and strategy games, then this is one you have to get. The graphics are old, but they still look fine for playing. The gameplay is easy to understand once you finish the tutorials. The campaigns are very enjoyable and exciting. This is a Star Wars game that should remembered. I hope that one day there will finally be an exciting sequel or they at least update the old game with new graphics.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

How Everyone is Helping Donald Trump

Donald the Invincible in South Carolina - Business Insider
Everyone who reads my blog knows that Donald Trump is certainly not my first choice on the list of candidates I want to see my party run in 2016. The Republican Party has a lot of political talent that has to be transferred into real public policy once they have a nominee. The problem is picking a nominee who can perform the best at advocating conservative principles and able to unite the base. When this race started, I ranked all the GOP candidates on a list to see who I thought would be the best nominee. Trump wasn't one of my top candidates, but he has been very successful with his presidential campaign so far.

Call me crazy, but I still think it is unlikely to win the nomination. Even if he does pull through in Iowa and New Hampshire, I think the establishment will be ready to use their greatest asset: delegates and the convention. A party convention, which is usually held for several days, is where the official nomination will take place. A presidential candidate can't just win primaries and caucuses, but also collect delegates that will support him or her when the convention finally occurs. A lot of these delegates are influenced by party officials. That's why endorsements matter.

There is still a lot of evidence against Trump. He might have support in the polls, but can he get those people to vote? It seems that most candidates have forgot Trump's flip-flops on various issues, but what happens when they do attack him on key issues rather than just taxes? What happens when debate moderators press for more detailed answers? The next Republican debate, hosted by CNN and Salem Media, is just days away. We can expect the moderators to ask more pressing questions. Either way, Trump is leading right now and I honestly think everyone who is part of and affecting American politics is helping Donald. Yes readers, that includes you. The next several paragraphs will explain how everyone is benefiting his campaign and why.

Donald Trump

Obviously Trump is doing a great job with his presidential campaign. If he wins or loses, no one will ever forget him and this period in American history. It pulls the rug under some of the most outrageously famous campaigns that existed over 150 years ago, like when William Henry Harrison's campaign falsely attacked Martin Van Buren for riding in an English coach or enjoying some decent wine over hard cider. The Andrew Jackson campaign once attacked John Quincy Adams for buying a chess set and a pool table for his leisure.

Trump has proven to be a master of the media from his years of experience on television. He can set the media topic for every week and be on television shows daily. He talks like most people do in political conversations and throws the book at anyone who criticizes him. He doesn't attack other candidates for their policies, but more for their characteristics and uses ad hominem. I guess there is an additional benefit to his speeches: he doesn't pull an academic lecture like Harrison tried to do. We all know how that went for "Tippecanoe."

I will vote for whoever the Republican nominee will be, but I've already explained my problems with Trump. He lacks specific. In fact, there are only five detailed policy plans on his website. I care the most about the economy, but even more specifically on reforms for colleges in order to reduce heavy expenses (while not having the deficit bonanza Sanders wants). Trump has said something has to be done, but he never says what needs to be done. He constantly flip-flops on political issues and isn't that conservative when it comes to core American ideals in the Bill of Rights. One example is his support for eminent domain and lack of support for property rights.

Trump Supporters

I only know a few Trump supporters, but they seem to be the most stubborn of people. They are willing to justify and defend Trump whenever they see fit. Most people who support Trump are just normal and typical voters who don't watch a lot of politics, but the his biggest loyalists are the worst. In their opinion, he can simply do no wrong. Some of these people are very conservative, but they fail to see that Trump's political history is more left than Mitt Romney's or John McCain's.

It really is annoying to see what some of these Trump supporters think. One supporter I remember on a talk radio show said that he will not waver his support no matter what is reported on his favored candidate. I'd hope people can be more rational with candidates they support. No presidential candidate is perfect, yet these people seem to worship him. He's a candidate, by the way, who is getting trounced by Hillary Clinton in many polls. One of the latest from Quinnipiac University has Clinton with 47 percent and Trump with 41 percent. It makes me curious how many of these supporters will feel if Trump loses the nomination or the presidency to Clinton of all people.

The Democrats would love Trump to be the nominee. In an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal, Republican political analyst Karl Rove has explained why his nomination would help Clinton's candidacy. Trump continues to do terrible in polls that ask voters various questions. Most people don't see Trump favorably and don't think he shares their values. These are problems the party will have to deal with if he is the nominee.

Trump Opponents


You might be an establishment Republican consultant criticizing Trump's candidacy on television or a flaming liberal who shares Facebook memes accusing him of being a fascist bigot (or somewhere in between), but chances are that no damage is being done to his campaign through those actions. Trump has become an obsession for almost everyone who is interested in politics on Facebook, but all it seems to do is embolden his supporters.

Hitting Trump for every action is a huge overreaction that just makes his supporters laugh at you. I've criticized Trump on this blog for several things, but not everything. Adding to the problem is that I've noticed how no one in social media is attacking his public policy proposals with the exception of a few that are linked to immigration (some of those criticisms can be considered serious while others are just silly and add nothing of intrigue to the debate). I'm curious how many people right now actually know what his proposal is for reforming healthcare for veterans.

Finally, Trump is not the return of Adolf Hitler. I would ask everyone who doesn't understand fascism to read that about it and then read what Trump plans to do on his website. Expanding gun rights and enacting major supply-side tax reforms are not what the Nazis wanted to do in Germany. What I don't have a problem with is jokes made about the Donald. I enjoy one daily.

The Media

It really doesn't matter what form of media it is or if it comes from a liberal or conservative stance. Every time new polls are published and the Donald is at the top, the media freaks out because he is leading after one supposedly audacious comment after another. To be fair, the media is a business and it makes sense for them to focus on the candidates who garner the most attention and support, but now it's just becoming silly.

The media seems to treat every poll like The Bachelor and The Bachelorette treat their new seasons. They always spout off that every new season will be "the biggest one yet" in order to draw the audience into watching the show. George Stephanopoulos does that every Sunday when covering the latest polls, but all it proves is that they are consistent (which is good for the pollsters). It's better not to freak out over every poll when most Americans are't even following the election.

On the conservative end, talk radio is interestingly divided. I typically listen to Wisconsin locals Mark Belling, Jay Weber, and Vicki McKenna. They all oppose Trump, but influential national figures like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Mark Levin can't get enough of him. I think its fair to see that a lot of Republicans in Wisconsin are mad because Trump effectively sunk Scott Walker's chances of becoming president, but there's more to it than that.

The World


Everything ISIS does just gets more people angry at them. I'm not surprised at all because these aren't the kind of people who would negotiate for their independence. They are bloodthirsty barbarians who have killed thousands of innocent people through some of the most horrifying ways. In times like these, America needs leadership, but Trump doesn't sound like a leader. He says that he will destroy ISIS and control the oil fields, but foreign policy isn't that simple. What happens to all the refugees after we defeat ISIS? I'd hope they get to return to their homes. Do the current governments continue to rule Syria and Iraq? American foreign policy has been friendly to the new democracy in Baghdad, but not to the authoritarian state in Damascus.

That petition made by the British to ban Trump from their country does nothing. His supporters will just brush that aside. When chaos spreads throughout the globe, people want someone different if it seems that no one else can fix it. The Donald is very different from post presidential candidates, so that's why many people have decided to support him.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Watch Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio

Cruz at 2015 CPAC - International Business Times
If there were two Republicans I'd focus on in the race, they would be Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. These two senators have been campaigning very well and have been getting their messages across the best (bar Donald Trump). For strategic Republicans, these two rising campaigns matter. They are charismatic and can fire up a lot of voters. They are both Hispanics, which can help the GOP with a very valuable demographic. I think both of them are best positioned to defeat Donald Trump for the Republican nomination. I think Trump is becoming increasingly vulnerable, especially since his comments about Muslims. We have to wait for the next national polls.

The pathway has opened for both senators with the fall of Ben Carson. The establishment (and most moderate Republicans) do not want Donald Trump to be president. Since their favored candidates continue to fail on the campaign trail, their only hope is to go for someone who can appease the Tea Party. In my opinion, this is an ideal scenario for a candidate who can unite the party. Jeb Bush and John Kasich had not ability to rally conservatives to support them, but the Donald and the doctor haven't be able to attract many moderates. This is where Rubio and Cruz enter the ballpark.

According to the RealClearPolitics average, the poll numbers for Rubio and Cruz have continued to rise while Carson declines. Trump now holds a big lead over his three rivals, but we can expect the two senators to continue to rise. In the Iowa average, Cruz is catching up closely to the Donald. A recent poll now has the Texas senator leading the real estate billionaire. While the Republican National Committee led by Reince Priebus would prefer someone aside from Cruz, it might be time for them to start doing so. If the establishment wants to defeat Trump, then they need to fire up the religious right against him. Iowa has a lot of evangelical Christians and they can be a powerful demographic for any Republican candidate. They carried Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee to victory in 2008 and 2012. Now it seems that they want Cruz and all the Texas senator has to do is continue to excite them while not attacking Trump.

If Cruz is not the option, then it has to be Rubio. I would argue that the Florida senator is in a better position than Cruz. Rubio has the ability to unite the Tea Party and the establishment because he has roots in both factions. He is also from the very important state of Florida. Rubio isn't as socially conservative as Cruz is, but he does hold many credentials to get evangelicals behind him. Rubio would also do much better in New Hampshire and will get bolstered establishment support if they have to compromise.

There's only a few months left until the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary. Trump is still at the top of the polls, but his two most formidable opponents are just behind him waiting to strike. It's time for Cruz and Rubio to dominate the Republican field and have their best chances at defeating Trump's campaign. Meanwhile, Carson's decline could help Trump with supporters who don't want another politician.

Monday, December 7, 2015

No, Income Inequality is not a Problem

Income inequality protest - Examiner
Bernie Sanders and most of his supporters typically complain about the dire situation of income inequality that has apparently plagued the United States. A quick look at the research shows that their plight is actually very silly. Income inequality never has, and never will be, a problem for our country. Many people protest, even though a truly equal society requires the principles pioneered by Karl Marx. We spent billions of dollars to defeat the Soviet Union and I don't want us to become something that is rapidly eradicating across the globe.

The biggest issue with the income inequality argument is that it assumes the poor must be doing bad, but what's wrong with inequality if everyone is getting rich. Let's say individual A and individual B start with the same income of $20,000. Individual A decides to enter the private sector where he aims to open a business. Since he dedicates his time and work into the new business, he earns more money over time. With the addition of his own personal private investments, his income rises to $75,000. Individual B decides to become a school psychologist and his income rises to $40,000. Both individuals became more wealthy, but one became richer than the other because of the choices made.

This is what's actually happening. The top 1 percent of the population has had their income rise by 202 percent since 1979, but the bottom 20 percent of the population also had their income rise by 49 percent since that same year. The U.S. poverty rate is at historic lows as well. GDP per capita has continued to rise at a steady pace even with the setbacks from a poor economic recovery (it probably could have risen faster had the policy response not been so weak). This is all about the choices people make because the top 1 percent isn't the same group of people every year. Money never sleeps and moves quick, as does the revolving door for people who leave and enter the top 1 percent of the American population.

Thomas A. Garrett, an economist for the Federal Reserve, has claimed that income inequality is not that bad. He argues that income inequality shouldn't be addressed by policymakers at all. Garrett trashes the media for giving negative coverage on income inequality as if it is something new, even though income inequality is an important part of a healthy free market capitalist economy. Instead of trying to end income inequality, Garrett believes the government should encourage people to move up the income ladder.

There are many myths when it comes to people who are concerned about income inequality. Forbes journalist Jeffrey Dorfman has debunked many arguments that Bernie Sanders and the left makes. A lot of liberals cite income data before taxes, rather that income data after taxes. Dorfman writes:
If one looks at after-tax income, the increase in income inequality over time is greatly reduced. If one goes further and factors in the government’s attempts to redistribute income, income inequality is not increasing in the U.S. at all. This after-tax, after-transfer income essentially is a measure of how much stuff you can consume (either by buying it or because somebody gave you free stuff).  And, as demonstrated by Gary Burtless of The Brookings Institution (a center-left think tank), income inequality measured this way has actually decreased in the U.S. over the decade from 2000-2010.
A common argument from Sanders and his allies is that capital is amassing faster than the rate of gross domestic product and that this situation hurts labor. Even though the argument that the rich have been increasingly amassing an overwhelming concentration of wealth is still debunked by research, the increase in capital does not hurt labor at all. More capital means a productive labor force and allows businesses to pay their workers. That's one of the reasons why Americans make more money than other workers around the world.

Some factors of income inequality simply come from the actions of the government. George Will, a columnist for The Washington Post, has posted about this issue. Will finds four contributions to income inequality that are caused by the government or moral decline. The first is the entitlement state, which transfers wealth from workers to those who do not work. Will specifically targets those who are retired, since they have already worked to accumulate their own wealth after many decades. The second factor is the degree of regulations in the economy, which benefits those who are educated and have more resources to handle the costs. The third factor is the Federal Reserve's policy of zero interest rates, which drives liquidity into equities that are owned by the wealthy. Finally, the end of the traditional family among the poor causes the children of new generations to lose the habits of their ancestors. Many children that are in poverty today live with unmarried mothers.

As I mentioned in a previous post, higher taxes on the rich does nothing to solve income inequality (even though we now know that inequality is not a problem). Dorfman notes that the United Kingdom has higher taxes on the rich, but they have higher income inequality than the U.S. does. This also goes for Sweden, a country socialists love to cite. Next time you see a politician on TV talking about income inequality, remember that the evidence is against them. That politician probably has no understanding of economics or is just pandering for more votes from people with lower incomes.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Star Wars: Battlefront Review

Forbes
I have been playing EA's Star Wars: Battlefront for weeks now. It has been very entertaining and at first it felt like an ideal game after years of no sequel following Star Wars: Battlefront II, which came out in 2005. When I was in elementary school, the Battlefront series had my favorite games and I couldn't get enough of playing on any battle or any planet. My favorite map was the one for Hoth, where I could take charge of large Imperial AT-ATs and crush opposing Rebel forces hiding in trenches. I loved the campaign mode as well, but that's enough about a video game that's almost a decade old. After playing EA's new version, I can truly say that I like it, but I also feel that there are some important parts that are missing.

First off, I want to say what this game did right. I'm going to keep playing this game because I am enjoying it. It does give a real feeling that you are on a battlefield in the Star Wars universe. There are only four planets so far, but each one of them is amazing. The creator of game, DICE, put a lot of detail into the looks and sounds of the game. They went to actual places where the original movies were filmed and did great work recreating those scenes for the game. In terms of graphics, it is one of the best games I've ever seen and blows anything else out of the park.

There are many different multiplayer games to play. My favorite has to be Walker Assault, which involves defending AT-ATs as a stormtrooper or attacking them as a rebel soldier before it destroys either a base or an evacuating transport ship. The Rebel Alliance must keep uplink stations on the battlefield while the Empire's forces must control those stations in order to reduce the amount of Y-wing bombers that will hit the AT-ATs. It involves taking control of many vehicles and adds the importance of air support with Tie fighters and X-wings. It's a huge battlefield with forty players total.

Another game I like is called Drop Zone, which involves one team defending escape pods while the opposing team attacks to capture it for themselves. Whoever takes the most escape pods wins the match. This mode contains twelve total players. Heroes and villains are involved in all games. They are beasts on the battlefield who significantly help players on their teams. Each one varies with different benefits depending on who you choose.

Like I said before, I love this game for what it is, but I can also see where people will think that it needs work. Like I noted before, there are only four maps to this game. I like all of them and DICE should be applauded for the design, but some players would have preferred more. I have a feeling that DICE will add more and the reason they didn't was because of the work they already put into the maps that can be played. Future maps should be released with DLC, but many gamers are tired of EA's constant season passes in their games without any information pertaining to what the content will be in the DLCs. Even with this criticism, EA has continued to aim on season passes and I think it can be a huge damper on their business in the future.

The gun selection isn't that diverse. There are only twelve weapons to choose from. There is a way to customize your character, but it doesn't have that much depth. I'm a bit mixed on how to pick-up power ups on the battlefield. In Star Wars: Battlefront II, usually a vehicle would be standing idly somewhere until a player entered it. In EA's new game, there isn't a vehicle, but a small blue circular power up where you can access one. To be fair, they stay in the same location, so you won't have to search for them as other players try to kill you, but it would have been easier to just place all vehicles on the battlefields for the disposal of both teams. Unfortunately,  the game only has an emphasis on land battles. There are space battles, but DICE clearly focused on ground warfare.

Finally, I really wish there was a story mode with this game. Star Wars: Battlefront II had a excellent campaign that surrounded the history of the elite 501st legion, which served in the Republic during the Clone Wars and in the Galactic Empire. There is no such story in EA's game. It's all multiplayer and many players will probably find the game lacking a crucial element of past Star Wars games. Speaking of the Clone Wars, there are no Clone Wars in this game. It only has the era of Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker. There is no Mace Windu and no Jango Fett. There are no clone troopers and no battle droids.

So that's EA's Star Wars: Battlefront. I find the many multiplayer games fun to play, but I also know every player is different. The game does hold true to the Star Wars legacy, but if you wanted more than just many multiplayer activities, then you will be disappointed. There will be more content with the release of DLCs, but you might not want to spend the money. On the other hand, if you are a big Star Wars fan who does enjoy some multiplayer fun, then have at it! It really feels like you will be in a Star Wars battle.

Friday, December 4, 2015

State of the DNC: Clinton Continues to Lead

Clinton on the campaign trail - The Nation
The juggernaut that is the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign continues to steamroll on without interruption. While her position is weaker from where it was at beginning of the year, Clinton has been able to squash the doubt among many Democratic voters. She continues to have a strong lead over Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley. The more I watch Sanders, the more I see a candidate who isn't going to be nominee. I still think he has a chance, like every candidate, but that window is shutting. His campaign has come out with a statement saying they might not do any foreign policy speeches because they take "considerable time." That's one of the most bogus excuses from a presidential campaign I have ever heard. Meanwhile, Martin O'Malley hasn't made any major gains.

Let's examine where Clinton is in the polls numbers.

National

CNN/ORC (11/27-12/1): Clinton 58%, Sanders 30%, O'Malley 2% - Clinton +28
Quinnipiac University (11/23-11/30): Clinton 60%, Sanders 30%, O'Malley - Clinton +30
Fox News (11/16-11/19): Clinton 55%, Sanders 32%, O'Malley 3% - Clinton +23
ABC/Washington Post (11/16-11/19): Clinton 60%, Sanders 34%, O'Malley 3% - Clinton +26

In all the polls, Clinton has a powerful lead against Sanders. National polls are usually presented on television channels every day. She has nothing to worry about. The RealClearPolitics average has her with 58.3 percent, Sanders with 31.5 percent, and O'Malley 2.5 percent. She has nothing to worry about here.

Iowa

Quinnipiac University (11/16-11/22): Clinton 51%, Sanders 41%, O'Malley 4% - Clinton +9
CBS News/YouGov (11/15-11/19): Clinton 50%, Sanders 44%, O'Malley 5% - Clinton +6
CNN/ORC (10/29-11/4): Clinton 55%, Sanders 37%, O'Malley 3% - Clinton +18

The average has Clinton with 52 percent, Sanders 41 percent, and O'Malley 4 percent. As has been noted before, Iowa is a state where Sanders will have a great deal support because his campaign attracts many white liberals concerned with economic issues. Even so, Clinton's lead can be considered safe based on the average.

New Hampshire

Public Policy Polling (11/30-12/2): Clinton 44%, Sanders 42%, O'Malley 8% - Clinton +2
CBS News/YouGov (11/15-11/19): Sanders 52%, Clinton 45%, O'Malley 3% - Sanders +7
Fox News (11/15-11/17): Sanders 45%, Clinton 44%, O'Malley 5% - Sanders +1

The average shows that Sanders has 46.3 percent, Clinton with 44.3 percent, and O'Malley with 3.7 percent. This is where Sanders needs a win because the primary neighbors his home state. The latest poll from PPP shows Clinton with a narrow edge, but CBS/YouGov gives the Vermont senator a strong lead while Fox News give him a tiny lead within the margin of error.

Nevada

CNN/ORC (10/3-10/10): Clinton 50%, Sanders 34%, Biden 12% - Clinton +16
Gravis Marketing (7/12-7/13): Clinton 55%, Sanders 18%, Biden 15%, Webb 1% - Clinton +37

The average has Clinton with 52.5 percent and Sanders with 26 percent. Like the Republican Nevada polls, these are old and thus unreliable. These polls include Joe Biden and Jim Webb, but I still think Clinton is leading in the state. Sanders will have more trouble here unless he goes after more Hispanic voters.

South Carolina

CBS News/YouGov (11/15-11/19): Clinton 72%, Sanders 25%, O'Malley 2% - Clinton +47
Public Policy Polling (11/7-11/18): Clinton 72%, Sanders 18%, O'Malley 5% - Clinton +54
Monmouth University (11/5-11/8): Clinton 69%, Sanders 21%, O'Malley 1% - Clinton +48

This is Clinton territory because South Carolina Democrats are very moderate. In 2008, Barack Obama won the primary because of the large African-American population that votes for Democrats, but they aren't supporting Clinton's opponent this time. In the average Clinton has 71 percent, Sanders has 21.3 percent, and O'Malley has 2.7 percent.

With the exception of New Hampshire, Clinton holds leads on a national level in the three other early states. It is fair to say that Clinton can see the nomination on the horizon unless Sanders and O'Malley figure out how to defeat her. I don't think it's going to be easy for those two candidates to pull through against her and it looks like Clinton just need to put more resources into New Hampshire.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

State of the GOP: Anti-Establishment Wave

Trump on the campaign trail - Cleveland
It has been months since Donald Trump clinched the lead for the Republican nomination and aside from Ben Carson, no one is coming close to taking those poll numbers away from him. While Trump's poll numbers have fallen from his peak of 30.5 percent before the CNN Reagan Library debate, it is still clear that he would either take first or second place in the Iowa caucus if it was held today. New Hampshire is a slam dunk for him. Do none of the other candidates have a chance? Let's look at the polls.

National

Fox News (11/16-11/19): Trump 28%, Carson 18%, Rubio 14%, Cruz 14% - Trump +10
ABC/Washington Post (11/16-11/19): Trump 32%, Carson 22%, Rubio 11%, Cruz 8% - Trump +10
Public Policy Polling (11/16-11/17): Trump 26%, Carson 19%, Cruz 14%, Rubio 13% - Trump +7

The polls are not looking good for Carson, but he is still in second place. The largest beneficiary to Carson's decrease in the polls has been Trump. In the RCP average, he has 28.5 percent against Carson's 19.7 percent. Marco Rubio has 12.7 percent and Ted Cruz has 12 percent. While Carson continues to defend himself from media attacks, the damage may have been done.

Iowa

Quinnipiac University (11/16-11/22): Trump 25%, Cruz 23%, Carson 18%, Rubio 13% - Trump +2
CBS/YouGov (11/15-11/19): Trump 30%, Cruz 21%, Carson 19%, Rubio 11% - Trump +9
CNN/ORC (10/29-11/4): Trump 25%, Carson 23%, Rubio 13%, Cruz 11% - Trump +2

The fall of Carson in Iowa has corresponded with the rise of Cruz. The Texas senator could be Trump's strongest opponent. With exception of the CBS/YouGov poll, the Donald is only holding small leads. The average has Trump at 26.7 percent, Carson at 20 percent, Cruz at 18.3 percent, and Rubio at 12.3 percent.

New Hampshire

Boston Globe/Suffolk (11/17-11/19): Trump 22%, Rubio 11%, Carson 10%, Cruz 9% - Trump +11
CBS/YouGov (11/15-11/19): Trump 32%, Rubio 13%, Cruz 10%, Carson 10% - Trump +19
Fox News (11/15-11/17): Trump 27%, Rubio 13%, Cruz 11%, Carson 9% - Trump +14
WBUR/MassINC (11/14-11/15): Trump 23%, Rubio 13%, Carson 13%, Cruz 8% - Trump +10

Trump's poll numbers are stronger in New Hampshire than in Iowa. This is revealing because it is considered to be a more moderate state. Trump's rhetoric is very conservative, yet he may have managed to build a successful coalition with moderates because of his past positions. In the average, he has 26 percent, Rubio has 12.5 percent, Carson has 10.5 percent, and Cruz has 9.5 percent. Even though they do not show up on the polls, Jeb Bush and John Kasich both have better poll numbers here than anywhere else. Maybe the main base of moderates are split between them.  In 2012, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich did not win New Hampshire because they split the vote of the Tea Party allowing moderate Mitt Romney to win. This time, the Tea Party is united and the moderates are split.

South Carolina

CBS/YouGov (11/15-11/19): Trump 35%, Carson 19%, Rubio 16%, Cruz 13% - Trump +16
Public Policy Polling (11/7-11/8): Trump 25%, Carson 21%, Cruz 15%, Rubio 13% - Trump +4
Monmouth University (11/5-11/8): Carson 28%, Trump 27%, Rubio 11%, Cruz 9% - Carson +1

Trump still has a strong lead here as well. Carson held a small lead in the one poll, but that lead does not continue with more recent polling following his bad media coverage. On the average, Trump has 29 percent, Carson 22.7 percent, Rubio 13.3 percent, and Cruz has 12.3 percent.

Nevada

CNN/ORC (10/3-10/10): Trump 38%, Carson 22%, Fiorina 8%, Rubio 7% - Trump +16
Gravis Marketing (7/12-7/13): Trump 28%, Carson 8%, Bush 7%, Rubio 5% - Trump +13
Gravis Marketing (3/27-3/27): Cruz 18%, Walker 16%, Carson 6%, Paul 5% -  Cruz +2
Gravis Marketing (2/21-2/22): Walker 19%, Christie 8%, Cruz 6%, Huckabee 6% - Walker +8

Yes, that is Scott Walker in the lead from a poll early in the year. These are the only four polls on RCP. From this we can easily conclude that no one is interested in polling for the Nevada caucus yet, which is the fourth state to vote for the Republican nomination. Trump is probably still in the lead.

The most important part of this nomination contest is that Trump, a candidate who I think is a long shot based on political history, has been running an excellent campaign. I've never written Trump off as someone who couldn't win the nomination, but a candidate like him has never rose to prominence in modern American history. As the days tick by and Iowa gets close, Trump looks more and more like the presumptive Republican nominee.

At the same time, he could be the GOP's Howard Dean. In 2004, Dean was the front-runner for most of the Democratic race until just before Iowa when voters dumped him. The same happened to Rudy Giuliani in 2008. History would indicate that Trump will not be the nominee. I'm still not sure he will be, but his probability that he is has increase. Nevertheless, I'm still betting on Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. I wouldn't count out Carson just yet, but I do think there is simply no hope for all the remaining candidates.

The most important analysis of this election is the importance of how angry the GOP base is at the establishment. That's why candidates like Trump and Carson are flourishing in the polls, but they have to keep up this momentum all the way to February. Will Republicans dump the two in favor of Cruz and Rubio? We will just have to find out.