Monday, October 31, 2016

The FBI Strikes Back

Hillary Clinton campaigns in Florida - Patrick Farrell/Miami Herald
Once again, Hillary Clinton is dealing with her notorious email server. The FBI has created a new October surprise by reopening the investigation on her email server. Director James Comey, the head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, decided to reopen it after new emails were discovered on the devices of Clinton aide Huma Abedin and her husband Anthony Weiner, the disgraced New York politician, who is in trouble for sending sexually explicit photos to underage girls. The obtainment of a warrant opens new worries for her.

It's almost comical if it wasn't so disgusting. Here's Hillary Clinton, a career politician who believes that she can get away with so much, constantly having to deal with scandal after scandal. What's her answer? More dishonesty! I truly believe that the only thing keeping her afloat is that she's facing an even weaker candidate.

Her supporters are now peddling conspiracy theories like some of Trump's are. Paul Krugman is assuming that not immediately hearing anything from Comey equates to attempting to "swing" the election. Other Democrats have responded by attempting to downplay the investigation, simply saying that the election is exactly with regards to where it started on Clinton's credibility.

The investigation arrives after the release of emails from WikiLeaks, which have contradicted many of the talking points put forward by the Clinton campaign. For example, President Obama said that he only became aware of the email server through news reports. It has been proven that he does have emails from her server. Additional emails show what staffers think of Clinton. Some called her conduct at the State Department "crazy" when she was trying to "get away" with the private server.

With only a handful of days left before the election, the only real question to ask is what the damage will be to her candidacy. Some recent emails coming through WikiLeaks proven collusion between several media outlets and her campaign. For example, reports allowed members of her campaign to edit quotes and approve articles. Others, like MSNBC's John Harwood, had close communication with her and loved to shower praise.

It's safe to say that the media will continue to defend her, but that doesn't mean she will get no coverage. The new investigation has already led polls to show a tightening race, but she's still ahead. As of today, Clinton is leading in the RCP average by 3.1 percentage points in a two-way race. Her support has decreased, but not by enough to hand Donald Trump a win yet. The only poll showing him ahead is the LA Times/USC daily tracking poll, but it has always showed him with a leader. All the other polls show him behind.

One of the advantages Trump has now is that he can focus on Clinton with new attacks because she has been put in a precarious position. If he wants to win, then he needs to spend more of his own personal money on ads and campaign offices in order to get more voters on his side. The last week will be very important for Trump. He has a chance, albeit a slim one, to turns things around.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

America 2016 will be like Canada 2015

Stephen Harper's October 2015 concession speech - Canadian Press
As the end of the 2016 campaign approaches, I think that one of most interesting aspects of it were the key warning signs of Donald Trump as the Republican nominee. I regularly posted that he was a weak candidate because of his lack of political experience, conservatism, and discipline. From my perspective, these three factors guaranteed a defeat in November, but other voters didn't see it that way. While Trump and his media allies regularly claim that the election will be like Brexit (the polls before the United Kingdom's referendum showed most voters wanting to remain), I think a more accurate comparison comes from our friends to the north.

In October of last year, the Canadians elected Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party to power for the first time in sixteen years. It wasn't even close. The Liberals went into the campaign as the third-largest party in the House of Commons with only 36 seats. They gained 148 seats coming out of it for a total of 184. Trudeau was successful on two fronts. He united left-wing voters, which were divided between his party and the New Democratic Party while also defeating the Conservatives.

On the surface, the Conservative government led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper was quite successful when it came to public policy. Harper was first elected prime minister in 2006 and won two more elections during his tenure. He presided over a surge in global oil prices and didn't heavily interfere in the market. A champion of free trade, he signed key agreements with other countries to further expand his nation's economy. Harper was also of the supply-side discipline, acknowledging that tax reductions provide incentives. During his time as prime minister, Canada was fiscally solvent.

Unlike other countries, Harper's party remained in power before and after the recession that began in late 2007 because he handled it perfectly. Here in the United States John McCain lost his election, which would have continued Republican governance. The same could be said for Gordon Brown and the Labour Party in Britain.

Canada's Conservatives led in the polls for most of September 2015 while the left was split between the Liberals and the New Democrats. However, Harper stumbled as the election got closer. Part of the problem was that his economic message had become less appealing because Trudeau was advocating for somewhat similar policies, including a tax cut. With the difference between economic proposals closing, Harper shifted to social issues.

I don't think engaging in social issues is a problem assuming it doesn't become the campaign's priority, but that's exactly what the Conservatives did. He attacked cultural Muslim garb, particularly the niqab worn by women. It was a political miscalculation as his poll numbers started to decline while the left embraced Trudeau. One of the virtues of western civilization is the lack of regulating religion. Harper's views didn't follow western principles, no matter what you think of Islam.

Additionally, Harper gave the media an odd treatment during his time in power. He isolated himself from interviews on media outlets, extensively restricted questioning at press conferences, and was hostile to debates hosted by major networks. No matter the media organization, a candidate should take every chance he gets to explain his or her message. Harper didn't do that in 2015 and it cost him.

Now let's look at the 2016 election. My first point about the Canadian election was a lack of diversity on economics, but that was because of the clear evidence that the Conservative supply-side strategy was working. Trudeau was smart enough to realize this, so he took a centrist approach and subscribed to some of Harper's principles. In our election, there are some surprising similarities between Trump and Hillary Clinton. Clinton has supported the continuation of President Barack Obama's policies, while Trump is known for having liberal economic views. When it comes to trade, both of them are campaigning on protectionism, no matter how wrong it is. On the minimum wage, both candidates are planning to raise it.

Since the economic debate doesn't have many differences, Trump has focused on many social issues to fire up his base. This has not helped him to gain support from key demographic groups like racial minorities and voters with college educations. He famously announced a temporary ban on all Muslim immigration, with would be unconstitutional. He didn't help himself with Hispanic voters when he lashed out at a judge's Mexican heritage after a ruling on Trump University. These are just two comments that have constrained his opportunity to form a coalition of voters.

Trump has treated the media in similar way Harper did. He has routinely walked away from reporters during interviews or has been unable to answer questions. He also narrows himself to conservative media personalities, like Sean Hannity. Megyn Kelly has noted Trump's preference for certain shows, which led to a feud between the two Fox News stars, even though she was trying to give the Republican nominee helpful advice. If Trump wanted to expand his support, he should have done more interviews with other networks.

There are less than two weeks left until the day of the election. Trump's campaign has dangerously paralleled Harper's campaign. Trump's disregard for minority voters and the media has tremendously hurt his campaign. I don't believe any defeat is impossible, but the window is closing on him. Republicans should have observed the federal election in Canada as a guide for their own election here. Unfortunately, too few even bothered.

Is the Sky Falling on Angela Merkel?

Angela Merkel - Bernd Von Jutrczenka / EPA
If there is one European leader who is dominating the continent, it's Angela Merkel. The German chancellor has been in power for over a decade and she has been celebrated as the most powerful woman in the world. I even remember one German on social media calling her the "Iron Frau." Indeed, there were times that I was a fan of Merkel. During the euro crisis, she wanted to install fiscal discipline on other countries like Greece. She generally holds a center-right view when it comes to economics.

On refugee crisis, however, she has badly miscalculated. Merkel has been iconic for her moderation on an issue, but when it came to the refugees everyone heard her stance loud and clear. She decided to take in as many as possible. That decision has torn apart Europe and it has put her position of power in jeopardy. In the local Berlin election, her Christian Democratic Union received only 17.6 percent of the vote. The CDU was in a coalition with the Social Democrats, but they also lost seats and now the coalition government that was functioning in the Berlin state is unable to govern. The benefactor was the new Alternative for Germany.

Merkel has taken personal responbility for the CDU's recent defeats, but she there's going to be more to come if her party and the Social Democrats continue to slump. The AfD, led by Frauke Petry, is basically Germany's UKIP. It probably has no chance of winning a majority in the Bundestag, but they are continuing to rise in the polls. A clear message would be sent if the grand coalition government of the CDU and SPD is defeated the same way it was in Berlin's state election.

Adding to the refugee pressure is economic uncertainty. Germany, like many other European nations, has a large welfare state. Like the United States, a large share of Germany's workforce is set to retire in the coming years. This will strain the social programs that exist and demand more of the remaining taxpayers. This may have been why Merkel was interested in opening the doors to 1 million refugees. The correct economic policy for the future of Germany has been debated between the nation's politicians and the European Central Bank (ECB). The ECB believes the Germans should borrow more money and boost demand, but doing could end Merkel's budget surplus and raise the national debt.

The refugee crisis and economics are the two biggest issues of the upcoming 2017 federal election. With the CDU and the SPD on the decline, both parties will need to focus on a new message and halt the expansion of refugees. Merkel could focus more on her fiscal conservatism, but it isn't clear that an economic message will sway the voters anymore. Luck could help. If foreign policy events occur that go her way, then Merkel will need to take advantage of them if she wants to remain chancellor.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Clinton would lose 2016 if Trump wasn't Running

We're almost there folks. In less than three weeks, we will find out who will be the next president of the United States. According to the RealClearPolitics national poll average, Hillary Clinton has maintained a comfortable lead over Donald Trump. The Republican nominee lost in all three debates according to polls conducted by CNN. There is very little in the way of a Clinton victory. Her campaign can see the White House on the horizon.

It seems to me that Trump's campaign knows that November 8 isn't going to look good. He seems to have resigned himself to defeat without saying it. Instead he goes on and on about how the election might be rigged, which is practically impossible to do in the country. Voting is organized by all fifty states. A majority of these states are run by Republican governors and many have voter ID laws to avoid fraud. Although it might occur in other states, it is unlikely that there will be enough of it to decide to fate of the election. I argue that because this election doesn't seem to be getting close. It would be decided by less than 1 percent. Clinton holds a powerful lead.

This election is a dark moment for the Republican Party. The campaign season originally started out with so much promise, but when Trump was nominated I didn't think he was likely to win. This has proven true throughout the campaign. There have also been a few times where he was ahead of Clinton in the RCP average, but overall she has been leading during the election. This is a result of Trump simply being a weak candidate who doesn't understand politics and doesn't know how to win an election.

I didn't think Trump's defense of vulgar language towards women as "locker room talk" was going to work and it didn't. Then again, it is hard to defend boasts about groping women altogether. There isn't much that can be done to defend allegations of sexual assault with so little time left. On election day, women will make up the majority of voters and all of them will know what he's said. Part of his problem was that he didn't allow his own campaign managers to dig into his past in order to prepare for such attacks. Any decent candidate wouldn't have allowed their campaign to do a background check.

What's sad about this whole thing is that bad news continues to spill out about Hillary Clinton. WikiLeaks has continued to release emails from inside of her campaign. Her campaign manager, John Podesta, sent emails that revealed his contempt for people of the Catholic faith. These revelations say something about his character and Clinton's. New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan has requested an apology from her campaign. There's more from Podesta and aide Cheryl Mills relating to President Obama's knowledge of the emails, which they wanted to cover-up.

I'm 100 percent certain that if the GOP nominee was Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio (you know, people with experience and charisma), then this election would've been over by now. That's partly why it was so difficult for Trump to win the nomination in the first place. It also has also been revealed that Breitbart coordinated with liberal activists to tear down Trump's two main opponents by creating disruptions at the Cruz and Rubio campaign events. More than anything else, this strips Breitbart of being a conservative media organization. It also shows that many "Republicans" were so disillusioned in nominating Trump that they attempted to destroy more credible candidates. In the future, voters need to question the conservatism of some media outlets and that of the candidates, to ensure that a true Republican is nominated and not a phony.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Who won the Third Presidential Debate?

The third debate - HipHopDX
On Wednesday, both presidential candidates met for their third and final debate. Overall, I think Donald Trump debated more effectively this time than in his previous two debates. He seemed more on page compared to the last two debates. Hillary Clinton was still the more disciplined of the two, but she had problems with answering questions from moderator Chris Wallace (the best of all during this election in my opinion) about her speech transcripts to Wall Street firms and on the email scandal.

Unfortunately, I'm not sure this is enough to give Trump to win. He simply doesn't practice as much as Clinton and can't help himself. He was basically asking for negative coverage in the media when he called her a "nasty woman." Clinton was her conventional self, but I think independents will be more pleased with her than with Trump. I think he was good when he spoke in a way that would excite his Republican base, but debates are meant to expand support.

Trump defended pro-life and criticized Roe v. Wade, but it wasn't in a way that I think will get many women voters. I also think a defense of unborn children could've been made more passionately had a different Republican been running for president like Marco Rubio or Scott Walker. He did better on the Second Amendment while Clinton did a terrible job explaining the case that upheld the right own guns. Trump exposed that Clinton is a political hack when it comes to different issues.

My problem with Trump is that he can't help himself in these debates. My vote has already been decided (in fact I did vote early for him while in Milwaukee), yet Trump doesn't make others feel comfortable with voting for him. He didn't interrupt as badly as the first time, but he didn't stop. Saying the word "hombre" in an immigration debate won't convince Hispanic voters to get behind his campaign. Clinton was simply more professional than Trump and I think she is on path to become America's first female president. If Trump loses, I believe it is because he shot himself in the foot too many times. In a debate, candidates need stellar performances. Trump has never given that in my view.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Lessons from No Man's Sky

No Man's Sky
I did not play the highly disappointing game No Man's Sky and I'm happy I never did. The game is exhibit A of what happens when hype is turned up to the highest degree. The game was first revealed in December 2013 at the VGX Awards. It was being developed by a little-known indie game developing company out of Britain called Hello Games. The trailer and vast advertising of the game caught the attention of Sony Interactive Entertainment, which wanted to distribute it on PlayStation 4.

During those three years of development, the media became very excited over the development of the game. Sean Murray, the director of Hello Games, was interviewed several times and he was able to immensely hype it up before release. No Man's Sky truly seemed amazing to those gamers who love science fiction. The game's four pillars are exploration, survival, combat, and trading. As a player, you are part of massive open universe that has eighteen quintillion planets. Most impressively, there was going to be multiplayer. Could you imagine being in a such a large universe with so many players? Many buyers thought it would be amazing, so there were many preorders for the highly anticipated game. People were so outrageously excited about the game, that there were even death threats when a delay was announced for the release.

At last, No Man's Sky was released in the United States on August 9, 2016 and in Europe a day later. What's the result? What has everyone been waiting for? Only one of the worst games of the year. Virtually everyone who bought the game did so for multiplayer, which was going to be in the game according to Murray. There's only one problem: the game has no multiplayer! In fact, there are photos of the back of the game case showing that stickers were placed to cover up multiplayer as an indicated feature.

There was immediate outrage from consumers. You can find it in the comments section of any article on the topic. You can find it in the reviews of many gamers like Angry Joe and Pyrocynical. Defenders of No Man's Sky will say that people should look at the game without the multiplayer. I understand that some people will enjoy the game, but I don't think their reviews do justice to those who bought the game expecting a different experience. In fact, there's more to it than just a lack of multiplayer. Other features that Murray said would be in the game are also apparently missing. For example, players were supposed to have the ability to land on asteroids. It has been reported by players that this feature is not in the game.

Some people who like the game might attack me for posting about a game that I didn't play, but they fail to understand that the hype behind No Man's Sky has had a big impact in the business world of gaming.  Hello Games isn't the only company to advertise so heavily and end up with disappointed consumers. Many buyers of Ubisoft's Watch Dogs were not pleased with the game. These companies haven't gone as far as Hello Games, but my hope is that they do not in the future. Hello Games is not being investigated in Britain by the Advertising Standards Authority for misleading customers. This is warning for developers in the future. There's nothing wrong with advertising game, but they shouldn't go too far or else face retaliation from reviewers.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Mafia III Review

Mafia III
I loved the game Mafia II when it was released in 2010. Published by 2K Games, it's one my favorites. There was a great story, excellent graphics, and (above all) an amazing historical setting. Mafia II took place in late World War II and after. It explored the history of the mafia in fictional Empire Bay (basically New York City). I was excited when I heard that Mafia III was being developed. After buying the game, I can truly say that I believe it will be one of the best games of 2016.

In a previous post regarding the fury between Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare and Battlefield 1, I argued that one of the reasons the former was getting so much hate and latter was receiving so much praise is a result of the demand for more games with a historical setting. There's nothing wrong with science fiction, but I believe that consumers are eager for more games that take the past and create an interesting plot. Mafia III does just that.

The location for the game is New Bordeaux (New Orleans, Louisiana) in 1968. Just think of the history at the time. The country was more divided than now. The Vietnam War and the civil rights movement were tearing the nation apart. Political leaders like Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. were assassinated that year. In a heated presidential election began between Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey. The election was also similar to 2016 in that there was a major third party effort led by the southern segregationist George Wallace.

The main character is Lincoln Clay, a biracial soldier who has returned from the Vietnam War. When his friends are killed and his local crime organization is destroyed by the white Italian mob, Clay seeks revenge against crime boss Sal Marcano. He doesn't just want Marcano dead, he wants to takeover New Bordeaux and create his own crime syndicate.

Clay's war of revenge against Marcano is highly creative. As you play the game, you will have several lieutenants under you that want a piece of the pie. Each lieutenant controls their own gang and you give them control of different districts once Marcano's men are defeated. Giving a different lieutenants certain districts allows you to receive unique benefits while playing the game. For example, maybe one will reward you with bulletproof tires while another will supply you with special explosives. Sometimes the answer will be obvious, but beware. If you keep giving one of them territory and the others gets none, then your mob will become greatly divided. I have heard that some people find the process repetitive and is can be true at times. However, historically mobs did go to war over slices of territory, so the game can be commended for accuracy.

The gameplay is terrific. You have a dynamic path to defeat your enemies. You can choose stealth or go in loudly armed to the teeth. If you want to fight, then you can even bring reinforcements from one of your lieutenants to help in an epic battle between the two mobs. The violence is spectacularly brutal. Driving is fun too because there are two modes the game. The normal mode makes it easier to drive, but the simulation mode is similar to Grand Theft Auto V and offers more realism. Additionally, the music choice is excellent and certainly fits the era.

It's very early, but I would say right now that I believe Mafia III is one of the frontrunners for game of the year. If not, then the argument could be made that it should at least get best narrative or best soundtrack. That game is amazing and it's really fun. If there's one game that you want to buy in 2016, make it this one.

Monday, October 10, 2016

The October Surprises and the Second Debate

The term "October surprise" is used in American politics for new controversial information released on a presidential candidate as the election gets closer. It is usually released by allies of a presidential candidate in order to smear the other. In 2012, the surprise favored the Democrats when Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney apparently said he wasn't worried about "47 percent" of the nation. In truth, he was explaining political strategy on how there were 47 percent of voters who were guaranteed to support Barack Obama. Nevertheless, the news was considered damaging at the time.

With candidate so unpopular and the mudslinging on steroids, it looks like this October will be one of the ugliest as the two news reports have now come out. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assage promised to release damaging audio on Hillary Clinton. As I've pointed out before, she is seen as an elitist corrupt career politician. The released audio proves that point. Speeches with Wall Street firms that she didn't want released have now been posted by WikiLeaks.

Clinton's allies came out with information that I think is even more damaging on Trump. Trump made comments in 2005 that are even more disparaging and degrading of women. They were recorded after Trump was on an episode of Access Hollywood. It appeared that he was unaware of the hot mic. He bragged about how he could get whoever he wanted and grope them. He apologized and responded that it was simply "locker room language" before the debate. However, that defense can only help Trump with male voters. Females aren't pleased. Neither were several Republicans including Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, who disinvited the presidential candidate from a political event at the Walworth county fairgrounds in Elkhorn, Wisconsin.

The latest Trump controversy was the headliner of the presidential debate, but there were also more discussions about public policy. After originally watching the debate, I wasn't sure of the result. At first I thought it was draw, but then I thought Trump won because he clearly improved from the first debate. After watching it again, I finally settled that the debate was a draw.

Indeed, Trump did improve at the debate. This was partly because he spent less time talking about himself and more on his opponent. He did a lot less interrupting, which I believe many voters disliked. That being said, there were times he screwed up. For most of the debate, Trump seemed odd and uncomfortable. He was standing up for most of the debate and often loomed next to Clinton as she was answering a question from a member of the audience. Saying that Clinton will be thrown in jail was throwing red meat to his base, but I don't think independents were fond of it. While the moderators were outrageous, Trump sounded like a complaining schoolboy rather than generously saying that he'd like time to respond.

Clinton's responses to Trump's attacks were bad. Then again, she is a weak candidate. Most of the time, she said his attacks weren't true, but she clearly didn't want to spend time on them. Clinton certainly played the audience better than Trump did, but there were times that she was confusing. In order to explain the process of creating a bill, Clinton went on about the movie Lincoln and the 13th amendment, but it was so brief that I think few understood it.

There were important issues discussed. Topics like healthcare, energy policy, and the crisis in Aleppo. Both candidates spoke as they have previously. Trump claims that he wants Obamacare replace with a free market system that has more competition while Clinton sees it as successful. Clinton talked about how she wants to save the environment, while Trump is concerned about the loss of traditional energy jobs like coal miners. Clinton is concerned that deploying ground troops to Syria will tangle the United States into another Iraq. Trump reminded the audience that she voted for the war in Iraq, but he wants to be more aggressive against ISIS.

Overall, this draw might tighten the polls, but I don't think it will be enough improvement for Trump. Some of the polls after the debate show Clinton slightly ahead. This means that the debate was not decisive and she can enjoy a continued lead to the third debate.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Who won the VP debate on October 4?

As I expected, this debate involved more policy discussion that the presidential one. The VP candidates did their best to defend their nominees. During the presidential debate, I said Donald Trump's biggest problem was that he appeared rude and repeatedly interrupted Hillary Clinton. This time Tim Kaine made the exact same mistake.

How candidates conduct themselves matters a great deal. It is helpful for voters to observe the style of both candidates. While Mike Pence mostly stayed on topic and discussed policy, Kaine's problem was that he seemed angry by interrupting the Indiana governor over and over. He wasn't helping his case by doing this. This even happened when moderator Elaine Quijano was more favorable to Kaine than to Pence at certain times. For her part, Quijano was better than Lester Holt. Unfortunately, there were times she lost control of the debate between the two arguing vice presidential candidates.

Overall, I don't think the VP debate will dramatically change the polls. Clinton is likely to maintain her lead because the vice presidential debate always gets fewer views. Nevertheless, the debate does show Trump how to properly act during the next two. The second of the three presidential debates will be on Sunday. It is a town hall format.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Vice Presidential Debate Tomorrow

I'm going to make a prediction. I believe that tomorrow's debate will be the most substantial in terms of policy as we approach the election. In my view, veteran politicians Mike Pence and Tim Kaine will offer a real debate between conservative and liberal principles. There are times, however, that I think both will be stuck defend their presidential nominees.

Both men have the advantage of not being famous. This debate will allow them to frame themselves and the messages they carry in a different light compared to the presidential nominees. Unfortunately, I think the VP debate will do little change current polling, which proves that Hillary Clinton won the first debate. Few people care about what the seconds-in-command think even though they are both passionate when it comes to American issues. There might be a slight adjustment in polling if Pence comes out on top, but I don't think it will be significant.