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Bernie Sanders is what I thought Obama was in 2008 (also, how he can win)

My favorite meme right now.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has finally announced his candidacy for president. After working for two years pressuring Amazon and Disney to raise their wages, fighting for Puerto Rico, trying to end the war in Yemen, and inspiring many of the now freshman Democratic congresspeople to seek office, he released this ad:

There is so much to say about Bernie. Let me just say that in 2016, I was a volunteer for his campaign during the New York primary. I knocked on doors, handed out flyers, attended rallies, etc. I am very proud that I did my part, despite the shenanigans that took place during that time. His platform is widely known now: Medicare-for-all, free public tuition, raise taxes on the wealthy, break up the big banks, anti-interventionism, path towards citizenship for the undocumented, reform/demilitarize the police, end the War on Drugs, expand social security, infrastructure spending, common sense gun safety, pro-union, end corruption and get rid of money in politics, pro-choice, pro-LGBTQ, what is now known as a Green New Deal, and others I’ve forgotten about. These are issues that this old guy has been going on and on about for decades. Unlike most politicians, he is uncompromising in his stances, and trades nearly all style for substance. Here is a compilation of speeches he’s given in the past:

He’s been consistent on everything… hell, he’s been old since the 80’s

As you can see, Bernie slumps in his chair. He lurches over the podium. His speaking voice is at 100% all the time. His hair looks like a bird’s nest. He is everything the “ideal” politician is not.

I remember in 2008, when I was a high schooler, I was amazed by then Senator Barack Obama. Obama had great posture, a vibrant presence. He would rarely ever trip over a word or (god forbid) point at the audience. Obama’s speeches were hopeful, and as a teenager growing up in the Bush era I bought into the idea of hope.

Just watch five minutes of this guy. No matter what you think of him, he’s good at this.

And after he was elected president, I figured he would “change the way Washington worked”.

Just a couple years later, in college, I learned more about the power of large financial institutions. The Koch Brothers began influencing my school, Florida State University, by installing their own teachers and funding the school’s president. I watched the protests on campus, and the gathering in Manhattan called Occupy Wall Street. And my friend President Obama bailed out the banks after they crashed the economy. My friend President Obama did nothing to stop billionaires from influencing the system. My friend President Obama was tepid on Occupy Wall Street. I used to agree with him when he said that we should work together with Republicans. But as time went by, it was so obvious to me that the GOP had no interest in compromise or working together. But I would defend him relentlessly from BS attacks on his birthplace, his moderate policies, and whether or not he might be a demon.

So why am I talking about Obama in a Bernie-centric article? Because after years of disappointment there was something real happening. Bernie Sanders was, like me, a Jewish American with roots in New York, and somebody who has often felt like an outsider. I learned more and more about his background and his platform, identifying with all of it. I appreciated that he shunned corporate and millionaire donors. I knew he would only be beholden to the grassroots. I compared that to Obama’s reliance on the financial sector to fund his campaigns, and the subsequent unwillingness to take a damn chance.

I went back to Obama’s speeches, and realized that there was a serious substance gap between the two. While Obama’s speeches made me feel good, it was ultimately empty… with few details about his policies. I walked away from them hoping we could leave Iraq, close Guantanamo, and switch to renewable energy. None of those things were attempted earnestly in the first couple years Obama had a majority in the Congress.

Bernie’s speeches didn’t make me feel happy… they upset me. He was talking directly to his audience about wealth inequality, running off a laundry list of statistics on youth unemployment, CEO salaries, and wage gaps. He wouldn’t talk about his personal story or his identity as the first Jewish guy to win a primary. And I could see his authentic passion for the issues.

Bernie was the guy I thought Obama was in 2008.

This is not to say that Bernie is perfect, by any means. Yes, I wish he were ten years younger than he is. I wish he would be more aggressive towards his opponents. He’s made a few questionable votes, like voting for the 1994 Crime Bill. That bill was responsible for a huge number of incarcerations, and Bernie even crapped on it back when it was up for a vote:

He explained that he voted for this Crime Bill due to the Violence Against Women Act attached to it. I would suspect that he would have been called a misogynist today if he voted against it. It’s really a no-win situation here.

Then there’s that imperfect record on gun laws (though having a D- rating by the NRA is still better than any Republican).

Of all the people running right now, I am most likely going to agree with Bernie Sanders.

Can he win the nomination?

I know I am biased, so I’ll try to be realistic about this. Bernie has a massive advantage this time compared to 2016. He has enormous name recognition, high favorability ratings, a loyal base of supporters/donors, a nation-wide organization, and a huge pool of competitors to split the vote. He consistently shows up in the top two of recent polls (though we all know how reliable early polls can be).

A criticism of Bernie’s campaign is that he cannot seem to get the support of women or people of color. If you have made it this far through the article you’ve probably seem this recent study showing the high level of favorability from women and POC.

In 2016, he won 22 states and 40-something percent of Dem voters. He won states in New England (Maine, New Hampshire), the Midwest (Michigan, Wisconsin), and the West (Colorado, Washington). In many of the states Bernie lost, he actually came within just a couple percentage points (Illinois, Missouri, Massachusetts, Iowa, New Mexico). However, he was completely decimated in the South… gaining less than 30% of the vote in several contests. This was due to combination of conservative-minded Democrats, Clinton loyalists, and Bernie’s lack of presence in the African-American communities. Due to the inability of the campaign to grow fast enough, some places were unfortunately ignored. By the time Bernie became a well-known public figure, it was too late for him.

What he would need to do now is expand his operation everywhere. That means: ensure blowout victories in his safe contests, capture states that were close, and crack at least 30% in all the places he is expected to get clobbered. And win in New York (an AOC endorsement can help with that).

I have been tinkering with potential matchups for weeks now, from two-way races all the way up to four-way races. Here are some maps that can ensure a majority of delegates:

Bernie vs Kamala:

Close loss in CA, wins in NY, OH, PA, PR while closing the gap on the South.

Bernie vs Joe:

Joe does better than Kamala in the rust belt, but his centrism won’t help in CA or NY.

Bernie vs Elizabeth:

Liz makes the Midwest and New England close, but won’t take the South by large margins.

Bernie vs Beto:

Beto wins big in Texas and makes the caucuses competitive, but that’s it.

Bernie vs Kamala vs Joe vs Elizabeth vs Beto

Assuming all four candidates refuse to drop out before the last primary. Bernie and Liz consolidate their delegate count to 2,131. Kamala, Joe, and Beto consolidate to 1,616. This is probably not going to happen… I suspect Beto and Joe drop out quickly to endorse Kamala. And Liz endorses Bernie before Super Tuesday.

Can he win the general?

Take a look:

303 to 235.

Bernie has proven to be popular in the Rust Belt, where Trump squeaked out victories in 2016. Add in his popularity with Trump’s unfavorable ratings. He won’t be winning in any unusual area like Arizona or Texas, but just wait till that demographic shift. Arizona, Texas, and Florida might lean blue next time around.

That’s my take. I am completely fine with being wrong. I really can’t wait for that June debate.

The first Democratic debate of 2020: Who will make the Top 20?

The Democratic National Committee announced their debate schedule for the 2020 primary, and I am relieved at how different it looks when compared to 2016’s calendar. The first debate will take place in June, while the first debate of three years ago was all the way in September of 2015. 12 are currently scheduled, and there will be a maximum of 20 candidates that could qualify. Thankfully, you won’t see 20 politicians all standing at podiums next to each other; the first two debates will be planned on consecutive nights with two random groups of candidates. To my estimation, there are almost 30 people who have either announced or are thinking about it:

  1. John Delaney, that one guy who’s already been running since 2017
  2. Andrew Yang, an entrepreneur who centers his campaign around UBI
  3. Elizabeth Warren, the second most progressive senator
  4. Julian Castro, famous for having a twin
  5. Tulsi Gabbard, an anti-interventionist hated by the media
  6. Kirsten Gillibrand, who did a 180 on her stances just for this race
  7. Marianne Williamson, a self-help guru because why not?
  8. Kamala Harris, an Obama/Hillary hybrid
  9. Pete Buttigieg, one of the candidates with weird names
  10. Cory Booker, who also did a 180 on his stances just for this race
  11. Amy Klobuchar, boring but notable for also having a weird name
  12. Bernie Sanders, the most progressive senator with the worst posture
  13. Beto O’Rourke, the so-called “white Obama” who lost to Ted Cruz
  14. Joe Biden, the VP everyone has nostalgia for… the poor fools
  15. Michael Bloomberg, that billionaire mayor who banned Big Gulp
  16. Terry McAuliffe, nothing to note here except his love of the Clintons
  17. Michael Bennet, whose crowning achievement was yelling at Ted Cruz
  18. Tim Ryan, a congressman
  19. Seth Moulton, also a congressman
  20. Sherrod Brown, another slouching progressive
  21. Jeff Merkley, who has a good Senate record but no name recognition
  22. Jay Inslee, a governor
  23. Steve Bullock, also a governor
  24. Eric Swalwell, seriously… another congressman
  25. Eric Holder, the former Obama Attorney General
  26. John Hickenlooper, and of course the last guy with a weird name

Yeah, there’s a lot. And if you don’t recognize the names of most of them, I do not blame you. According to the DNC, the qualifiers to make it to the debates will combine data from polls and from grassroots organizing. You have to score at least 1% in three or more polls. These need to be between January 1st and two weeks before the debate starts. And according to the DNC, candidates must have also received 65,000 unique donors and 200 donors per state in at least 20 states.

So who is getting the cut? Let’s assume for the sake of this article that all 26 of these guys run, and no one drops out before June. Morning Consult just released an article filled with information related to current polls. It includes 20 candidates in the methodology, and Buttigieg, Delaney, Inslee and McAuliffe were the only ones to receive zero percent. Real Clear Politics shows aggregated polls from the beginning of January, and it looks like Biden, Sanders, Harris, Warren, O’Rourke, Booker, Bloomberg, Castro, Brown, Klobuchar, Gabbard and Gillibrand all currently qualify being that they all have scored 1% in three or more polls. Now, this is obviously super early, but why not make sweeping generalizations? I can tell you these ones will absolutely make it to the first two debates:

  1. Elizabeth Warren
  2. Julian Castro
  3. Tulsi Gabbard
  4. Kirsten Gillibrand
  5. Kamala Harris
  6. Cory Booker
  7. Amy Klobuchar
  8. Bernie Sanders
  9. Beto O’Rourke
  10. Joe Biden
  11. Michael Bloomberg
  12. Sherrod Brown

That leaves us with eight more to go. Based on that Morning Consult Poll, Bullock, Holder, and Hickenlooper scored 1%. Since we have such little data so early, I am going out on a limb and saying that in two future polls these candidates will also score that percentage.

13. Steve Bullock
14. Eric Holder
15. John Hickenlooper

There would be five more to go, but as I’m looking at my remaining names (Bennet, Inslee, Swalwell, Ryan, Moulton, Merkley, Williamson, Yang, McAuliffe, Delaney, Buttigieg), I honestly cannot imagine that, in such a crowded field, any of them could break through the ranks and get into a debate. I could be wrong, and I’ll be happy to see data that proves me wrong, but those are the 15 I see getting in. I will make the prediction that they will be split with eight on one night and seven on the other. That would help to not overcrowd the stage, starting with less present than the overwhelming 10 slots during the GOP 2016 primary debate.

I realize that the nights will be randomised, but I would be thrilled if this was the roster for each night:

Debate 1:
1. Bernie Sanders
2. Joe Biden
3. Kamala Harris
4. Michael Bloomberg
5. Julian Castro
6. Amy Klobuchar
7. Eric Holder

Debate 2:
1. Elizabeth Warren
2. Beto O’Rourke
3. Sherrod Brown
4. Tulsi Gabbard
5. John Hickenlooper
6. Steve Bullock
7. Kirsten Gillibrand
8. Cory Booker


But we’ll see what happens as the months unfold. Maybe Delaney comes in first next week (probably not).

Netflix’s Russian Doll is not your average time loop story (SPOILER REVIEW)

Nadia Vulvokov leans heavily on the bathroom sink, head low. Her curly mop of hair falls over her face. Nadia stares into the mounted mirror with a look of existential dread. After all, it’s her 36th birthday. And her mother never made it to 36. And her cat has been missing for three days. Forceful, impatient knocks can be heard on the door, and Harry Nilsson’s “Gotta Get Up” happily chirps on in the background. This is how Netflix’s Russian Doll begins… over, and over, and over again.

Developed by Natasha Lyonne (Orange is the New Black), Amy Pohler (Saturday Night Live), and Leslye Headland (Bachelorette), Russian Doll season one is only eight episodes long, with each episode running about 25 minutes. After it premiered on Netflix on February 1st, I was very excited to see what some of my favorite creators in the entertainment industry made. I am happy to say that it exceeded my already high expectations by all accounts.

The concept of Russian Doll is that the main character, Nadia (Natasha Lyonne), is stuck in a time loop. She walks out of her friend’s neon-lit bathroom, enters a New York hipster party, and inevitably dies in multiple, random ways. She gets hit by a car, falls through a grate, freezes to death, drowns, etc. If you are averse to extreme violence, do not worry. The camera will rarely indulge in those moments. Before you start thinking that this show is a ripoff of Groundhog Day or Happy Death Day, think again! Human beings borrow story ideas from each other all the time. It is not a detriment that Russian Doll uses the time loop gimmick; what matters is the execution of that idea.

The first three episodes tell their story through comedy more so than drama, helped by Lyonne’s hilarious performance and solid writing. Nadia leaves her party to search for her missing cat Oatmeal (played by a cat), but unfortunately gets run over while crossing the street to grab the pet. She wakes up in the bathroom, fully aware of the moments before. At first she thinks its either from a joint given to her by her clueless friend Maxine (Greta Lee), that it’s a case of inherited mental illness, or that the building is haunted. As she relives her life, we get to know Nadia deeper than those around her. She suffers from severe anxiety related to her relationship with her mother. As a result, this inability to allow loved ones to be close to her hurts those in her vicinity. The biggest example is ex-boyfriend John (Yul Vazquez), who broke his relationship with his wife to be with Nadia, and was subsequently left hanging. Symbolism plays a role in these episodes; the bathroom door and Nadia’s pipe is shaped like a gun. She is metaphorically killing herself.

Russian Doll takes a crazy shift towards the last few seconds of episode three. After helping a homeless man named Horse (Brendan Sexton III) at the local shelter, Nadia finds herself trapped in an elevator that is plummeting down to Earth, Tower of Terror style. While the others are panicking, she notices a man next to her is just as calm and over it as her. Nadia asks why he isn’t scared of dying. The man say he dies all the time. That man is Allen (Charlie Barnett), also trapped in the same time loop. In fact, after re-watching the season, I noticed Allen several times throughout the first episodes. We then switch perspectives in episode four to his background, and it becomes clear that Allen has his own set of problems. Unlike the carefree and distant Nadia, Allen is a sensitive control freak. He must relive an important moment in his life, just as she has to. On the night he was about to propose to his girlfriend Beatrice (Dascha Polanco), she breaks up with him. After a night of unhealthy drinking and cheesecake eating, Allen throws himself off a building (a fact he subconsciously knows but chooses to forget until later).

As Nadia and Allen interact with one another and put the pieces to the puzzle together, they eventually realize that they must finally contend with their own personal demons. Nadia needs to stop blaming herself for the downward spiral of her mother and to make things right with John and his daughter, allowing herself to be vulnerable and connect with her inner child. Allen needs to accept his own flaws: his implied alcoholism and emotional immaturity was driving Beatrice away long before that night, and that a marriage proposal was nothing more than a desperate Hail Mary. Towards the end of the season, they finally deal with these problems head-on, and fix the time loop… for themselves.

In the final episode, it becomes clear that their timelines diverged; Nadia finds the original, drunk Allen on the verge of suicide. Allen finds the Nadia from the first episode… cynical, self-destructive and about to be struck by that car from the beginning of the show. Both of our protagonists succeed in helping the other, and the timelines converge as the two couples approach a parade led by Horse.

Russian Doll ends on a happy note, with a few great messages for the audience to consider. One is to embrace the chaos. Accept your flaws, and refuse to run away from your problems. The other is that we all need each other. Nadia and Allen wouldn’t have survived that night if it had not been for their emotional and mental support.

Despite the boatload of spoilers I just laid out, I refrained from revealing the many more aspects to this show that make it special in my eyes. I would absolutely recommend watching the first season yourself; honestly, you should have seen it before reading my review. I would give Russian Doll season one a 9/10.

9/10

Cory Booker is a waste of time

Welcome, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker. I understand you have been running for president since you were elected mayor of Newark in 2006. I understand you want Democratic voters to believe that you are a man of the people. I understand that it will never happen for you, my friend.

On February 1st, Booker announced his candidacy and I’m already uninspired. He exhibits the standard qualities of your average Democrat. Booker is good on social issues like LGBT rights, women’s rights and marijuana legalization. But on issues that would risk hurting his corporate donors, the NJ senator falls in line with the rich and powerful, every time.

For example, in 2017, Bernie Sanders sponsored a bill that would reimport pharmaceutical drugs from Canada. America pays the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs, and pharma companies are to blame. These companies legally bribe politicians like Cory Booker to vote in their interest and halt any legislation that could control their greed. Canada’s government isn’t perfect either, but they regulate their prices better than we do. So yes, Booker voted with Republicans to protect the pharmaceutical industry’s profits. He later gave a lame excuse about how the FDA had no way of regulating those drugs. But studies show that Canada does a better job with this as well.

Then, there’s his long held support for charter (private) schools. According to The Nation, charter schools hurt unionizing teachers, encourage discrimination and cost taxpayers more money than public schools. Cory Booker teamed up with Trump’s now Education Secretary Betsy Devos and the Walton family (of Wal-Mart) to privatize schools.

Remember that one time he defended Mitt Romney and Bain Capital (the predatory firm that took advantage of failing businesses) from Barack Obama during the 2012 election?

Cory said it was nauseating to attack “private equity”…

There’s also the overarching problem intertwined with all of this: money in politics. Cory Booker takes a ton of corporate money, regardless of his no-PAC pledge. In fact, he is the biggest recipient of Wall Street’s checks than any senator in Congress. More than the Republicans. So no matter what he says in his ads, or what some guy on Twitter tells you, Cory Booker is not for the 99%.

Can he win the nomination?

In the context of the Democratic race, Booker does not have many places to go. Millennials only have to look up his record to see his very pro-establishment leanings. I am not going to be that guy who assumes people of color will instantly flock to Booker (or Kamala Harris for that matter) just because. The upper middle class and rich will like him, but if the GOP primary in 2016 is any indication, this will be a crowded field of fellow establishment candidates. There’s simply no way for him to stand out other than his speechifying and his ads.

If he needed one state to launch him, South Carolina and its large African American population is the way to go. But Booker will still have to compete with Kamala Harris (AA woman), Joe Biden (Obama’s VP) and Bernie Sanders (so far has high popularity in non-white communities).

Can he win the general?

Nope.

Here is my map, now powered by yapms.com:
https://www.yapms.com/?i=7923


My guess is that Booker will concede before South Carolina even casts a vote in the primary.

The mythical roots of the “Chosen One” trope

If you had read a book, watched a movie, or played a video game, you’ve come across The Chosen One. He is the heroic protagonist that the story revolves around. While there are slight variations to this trope, he oftentimes falls into patterns related to his lineage and destiny. The Chosen one is an outsider, born to one or more magical parents. Being part god, this character inherits special abilities that separate him from the rest of humanity. He is also given a prophesized task to complete, whether it is to be crowned king or to bring peace to worldwide conflict. In most stories involving The Chosen One, he beats the bad guys and sets the world right once and for all (until the inevitable sequel).

This is a popularly used character, spanning thousands of years of folklore. While reading this, you are probably thinking about Harry Potter or Frodo Baggins, two outsiders gifted with powers who were destined to beat the bad guys and right the wrongs of the world. But these stories go much farther than the last 100 years. I wanted to enlighten the evolution and stagnation of this character trope throughout history, starting all the way back to Ancient Greece.

Achilles, one of the first superheroes

The Iliad is one of those ancient stories that were passed down orally, meaning it took quite some time before it was written down. And those who are familiar with The Iliad know just how long and exhausting that story can be. However, it produced one of literature’s first Chosen Ones: Achilles. You most likely know him from the movie Troy, and from the tendon in your foot associated with him. But Achilles’ character inspired a whole stream of tales that passed down to the Romans, and eventually to all of Europe. Alexander the Great was said to carry The Illiad with him and geek out over Achilles. His Chosen One status becomes immediately clear when you read the original stories.

Achilles was born to a human father and a nymph mother, Thetis. Zeus was close to getting together with Thetis, but Prometheus warned him in a prophecy that Achilles would be greater than his father… In other words… If you want to continue ruling Olympus, don’t be typically creepy. His mother dipped him in the River Styx, a river that led to the underworld of the dead. She did this to grant him supernatural invulnerability and protection… but famously forget to dip his heel. So right off the bat, we are introduced to a superhuman with a destiny.

To summarize the story of the Iliad, King Agamemnon disgraced Achilles by stealing his girlfriend from him in the middle of the Trojan War. At the suggestion of his mother, Achilles removes himself from all battles and conflicts. It becomes clear to everyone in the Greek army that the war cannot be won without the super powerful Achilles. It isn’t until his best buddy Patroclus gets killed in battle that Achilles steps in and wipes out the Trojans… and fights a sea god because the waters were filling up with so many dead bodies. Though he eventually died taking an arrow to the heel, he proved to be the greatest warrior of Greek mythology, and a pretty clear Chosen One.

Arthur and Galahad, two medieval Chosen Ones

Fast forward to medieval times. The Roman empire fell, leaving a vacuum for the Germanic tribes to seize power in places like England and France. When the Celtic people of England, the Britons, were being invaded by Anglo-Saxons, a tale arose of King Arthur. This was a noble man who defended the land and kept stability throughout the territory. The historical accuracy of this is pretty foggy, but what is important to me is the trove of folklore surrounding this Chosen One character. So for the sake of simplicity, I will be referencing L’Morte de Arthur, a Renaissance-era book by Thomas Malory.

Arthur, the secret son to King Uther Pendragon, is destined to rule Britain. Living with a foster family and oblivious to his heritage, Arthur happens upon a sword in the stone (yes, that one). He removes it, and on the blade reads a message saying that whoever pulls the sword out of the stone is proclaimed ruler of Britain. Surprise! He goes on to do just that.

In his Round Table, Galahad is another Chosen One. He is considered the most pious, most holy one in the court. He even gets his own prophesized sword in the stone. Oh, and he is prophesized to be the best knight in the world. Oh, and he is also prophesized to sit in a holy chair called Siege Perilous… and being able to sit in that chair means that you are destined to claim the Holy Grail. And he gets a magic shield that only he can use. Honestly, Galahad goes a little too far with his Chosen One status.

Rey, the not-Chosen One

So now, let’s end this analysis with our modern depictions of Chosen Ones. Neo is The One in The Matrix. John Connor is the one to bring an end to the future apocalypse in The Terminator series. Anakin Skywalker is prophesized to bring balance to the Force in the first six Star Wars films. Speaking of Star Wars, I’d like to talk about Rey and her relationship to the Chosen One.

In The Force Awakens, Rey is born an outsider with no knowledge of her parents. She periodically experiences visions, has weirdly exceptional ship-flying skills, develops an Arthurian fixation with Luke Skywalker’s Lightsaber, and possesses a huge potential as a Force-user. J.J. Abrams placed all the pieces in line with the assumed revelation that Rey was actually a daughter of Luke, or Obi-Wan, or some other character. She was going to be another addition to the Chosen One collection.

But then the series was turned to Rian Johnson, and The Last Jedi was released in 2017. Rey realizes that she has nothing special about her. Her parents are irrelevant. There is no prophecy. She’s just a nobody who got lucky with Force sensitivity. This combined with that last shot of the slave kid Force moving the broom sends a message that you don’t have to be a Chosen One to save the world. You don’t need to be a superhuman with important lineage. Everyday people are capable of being heroes. And I think that’s a good message for today’s world. Not that I’m saying that the Chosen One arc is bad, or needs to be abolished.

All I’m saying is that while the mythological roots of our stories are important, I believe it is crucial for our myths to evolve in response to today’s urgent issues.

Kamala Harris will be the Establishment Favorite

If you were to combine Hillary Clinton with Barack Obama, you’d get Kamala Harris.

To the surprise of literally no one, California Senator Kamala Harris announced her run for the presidency on January 21st. Here is her announcement video:

 
Now I wish The Rock was running…
 

Today, we will go over her proposals, her record, and her chances to win.

Stances

Truth. Justice. Decency. Equality. Freedom. Democracy.

No, but seriously, that was a cringey start! Her stances on the issues will be starting from the beginning of 2017, when she first began working as a senator. I’ve decided to write this in list form while providing sources for each position. That way it can hopefully be more readable.

  • Legalization of marijuana (as of 2018) Source
  • Medicare-for-All (as of 2017) Source
  • Gun safety legislation Source
  • Pro-choice Source
  • Pro-LGBTQ Source
  • Pro-death penalty Source
  • Pro-AIPAC Source
  • Free college tuition for families that make less than $140,000 Source
  • $2.8 trillion tax cut for middle class Source
  • No PAC contributions, but still attends big donor fundraisers Source
  • There are of course more stances than ten, but this gives a good overview of what to probably expect from Harris’ campaign.

    Record

    Before becoming California’s senator, Kamala Harris served as the state’s attorney general from 2011-2017, and as San Francisco’s District Attorney from 2004-2011. As a result, most of her record falls under the criminal justice territory. And unfortunately, this is where things get really bad.

  • She refused to prosecute Steve Mnuchin after massive fraud Source
  • She used to think marijuana legalization was laughable Source
  • Her anti-truancy measures Source
  • Allowed an innocent man to stay in prison over a technicality Source
  • She backed civil asset forfeiture Source
  • She actually defended using free labor in prisons Source
  • Whether you think these are acceptable positions to take is up to you, but Kamala Harris’s past cannot be dismissed.

    Can she win the nomination?

    Amongst the candidates approved by the Democratic Party and media establishment, she will absolutely be the favored choice. She has everything they could hope for: she’s a woman, she’s a person of color, she is relatively young compared to Trump, she actively seeks out the support of the donor class, she gives the appearance of progressiveness without being serious about changing the system like Obama did. I would not be surprised to see a coalescing of support for her as the primaries start counting votes. In fact, CNN just granted her her own town hall while declining to do so for Elizabeth Warren, Tulsi Gabbard, Julian Castro, Pete Buttigieg or Richard Oje- oh, he just dropped out. She will likely focus on platitudes and easy issues related to identity politics. I am curious how she will react to challenges to her record, but I expect she will try to dodge them. I don’t expect that she will excel in Iowa or New Hampshire, but since her home state moved its primary up to the beginning of the race, Harris will probably put more attention towards Nevada and South Carolina. There is no indication that she’d have a lock on African American voters, and considering her criminal justice report card… It’s really up in the air. However, the southern states are very establishment-oriented, so I would still say she has an advantage there. California is her home state, so she stands to pick up lots of delegates here. Being that Cali is as progressive as it is, I can imagine her being challenged by someone like Warren or Sanders.

    Can she win the general?

    Much like my other predictions for establishment candidates, I don’t see Harris winning the electoral college. Voters want a populist, if the last couple elections make it clear. Harris did not buck the established order in California, and became very progressive… Seemingly overnight. People who pay close enough attention will see through that. This isn’t indicative of the popular vote. Check out my predictive map from 270towin: Click the map to create your own at 270toWin.com

    Kamala Harris would’ve been a great choice in 2008.

    Three ways the X-Men can enter the MCU

    Found on Pinterest. Daniel Maldonado saved this, but I don’t know if he made this himself.

    When Disney acquired Fox for $52 billion in late 2017, I had two thoughts:

    1. Corporate mergers like these create ridiculous monopolies that stifle the supposed goal of a competitive marketplace.
    2. The X-Men and Fantastic Four are finally back with Marvel! My dream of all the Marvel characters coming together is almost complete!

    Unfortunately, there are some serious storytelling challenges for the integration of these characters. The MCU has been going strong for over 10 years now with no mention of a mutant or a stretchy scientist. After over 20 films and numerous tv shows spanning hundreds of in-universe years, the emergence of the X-Men needs to be from something big. And considering the reality bending nature of Infinity War and probably Endgame, we will no doubt see the seeds of these character be sown. Here are three theories of how the mutants sprout from those seeds.

    Thanos converges the multiverse

    Old meme but a fitting meme.

    This theory is highly dependent on what will happen in Avengers Endgame. Multiverses are a concept introduced already in the MCU. In Doctor Strange, we are told by the Ancient One that there are many, many alternate realities that coincide with our own. The theory takes this information and claims that in another universe, the X-Men and mutantkind exist and take on a similar role that the MCU superheroes fill in their reality. However, an unforeseen consequence of Thanos wiping out half of all life occurred. It’s possible that a tear in the multiverse appeared after the Snap, and eventually the X-Men universe merged with the current MCU universe. I could certainly see this happening; the absence of mutants is quite glaring, and it would bring in an already established team of X-Men who don’t need a huge origin story. This could also distinguish these heroes from the Avengers by painting them as outsiders in the eyes of the public. After all, with years of exposure to super-powered people, why would mutants be feared in the MCU? Imagine you’re living your life as best as you can, what with New York getting invaded by aliens or robots every few years. You were literally turned to dust and then brought back to life (somehow). And now there’s a sudden influx of blue, furry weirdos from another dimension walking down the street that are stronger and smarter than you!

    The Quantum Realm awakens the X-Gene

    Janet has superpowers now because… reasons.

    Another avenue the MCU could go is through utilization of the Quantum Realm. What stuck out the most when I watched Ant Man and the Wasp was how they depicted the Quantum Realm. Through prolonged exposure, it granted Janet van Dyne healing powers, and gave Ghost her phasing abilities. In a surprisingly short explanation, Janet told Hank Pym that the Quantum Realm changed her, using the words “adaptation” and “evolution”. Now that Marvel has the rights to the word “mutant”, the writing team can conceivably use this as the precursor to the X-Gene. Lots of fans have speculated that the Avengers will be going into the Quantum Realm in Endgame, so it’s possible that genetic mutation occurs after the events of the film unfold. Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver could even be classified as the first MCU mutants as well, given that experiments were conducted on them using the Mind Stone in Age of Ultron (a stone which could unlock latent abilities in the mind). This is as “start from scratch” as it can get while still being connected to the larger universe. Therefore, I would categorize this theory as less interesting but safe.

    They’ve been here all along

    Xavier clearly doesn’t care about half of life on Earth disappearing. I mean, look at his face!

    Not all theories are created equal. This one purports that the X-Men have always existed in the MCU. Professor X uses Cerebro to cloud the minds of all humans, keeping themselves hidden from view in the X Mansion, Genosha, Avalon or somewhere else. The problems with this is obvious: this means that the X-Men refused to protect Earth when Norse gods, Chitauri, robots, Dormammu and Thanos threatened it. The entire point of the X-Men is that they protect humankind, even as humans hate mutantkind. This theory has no way to justify that kind of apathy. This one is straight up dumb.

    There are of course more questions about integrating the X-Men: how does Magneto’s backstory change for the 21st century? Who is on the MCU team? Should they hold off on Wolverine?

    I hope to get into these questions in the future!

    Comparing and contrasting Tulsi Gabbard and Kirsten Gillibrand

    In the last few days, two presidential candidates have emerged this month to take on Donald Trump in 2020: Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. Instead of performing individual analyses on each of them, I will take the time to compare the two politicians, as I have noticed similarities that shouldn’t be overlooked. I will of course go over their differences, and what Gabbard and Kirsten’s chances are to win the nomination and the general election.

    Tulsi Gabbard Kirsten Gillibrand

    Let’s start with the surface level analysis. Both Gabbard and Gillibrand are female politicians from incredibly liberal states. Both are relatively young (Gabbard is 37, Gillibrand is 52).

    They are also vying for Democratic base with support for ending money in politics, Medicare-for-all, and legalizing marijuana. However, Gabbard and Gillibrand have taken positions in the past contrary to how they wish to portray themselves today.

    Tulsi Gabbard

    Famous for dropping out of DNC leadership to endorse Bernie Sanders in 2016, Representative Tulsi Gabbard is a bit tough to classify. As it stands, her current record shows her to be an anti-interventionist progressive with social democratic domestic policy. But she has also supported the use of torture, explaining that she was “conflicted”. She used a hypothetical 24-esque example of a nuclear bomb set to go off in one hour and torture was something that had to be done to keep the country safe. Additionally, I have a serious problem with her decision to make it harder for Syrian refugees to seek asylum from the horrifying war taking place there. During World War 2, FDR and the federal government turned away thousands of Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany; as a result, a quarter of those turned away were dead by the end of the war. In my view, fearing secret terrorists within the ranks of refugees is akin to suspecting Jews of being German spies. One more thing on Gabbard: her support from Hindu nationalists. Steve Bannon, Tucker Carlson and David Duke like her too… which is weird. She has also had a past as an anti-gay advocate, changing her position as early as 2012. In this audio, she apologizes for her past years before announcing her run for president. This week, Gabbard further elaborated in this video:

    With all this being said, her record in Congress is quite good with regards to LGBTQ rights, PayGo, climate change, campaign finance reform, wall street regulation, and the Stop Arming Terrorists Act. If she didn’t have such a paradoxical foreign policy, she would be a great candidate, in my opinion.

    Can she win the nomination?

    Honestly, it will be hard for Gabbard, a relative unknown, to gain much traction in the Democratic party after the onslaught of articles detailing her mixed record. In the first debate this year, there’s no doubt that her first question will be either about Assad or her anti-gay past. Identity politics may help her as a military veteran and woman of color. Superficially speaking, her surfing skills and physical attractiveness may draw in voters unconcerned with policy substance. She would instantly stand out focusing on her non-interventionist talking points, unless fellow progressives Elizabeth Warren and (potentially) Bernie Sanders opt for the same foreign policy stance. It really feels like she will be overshadowed and pushed out of the primary early unless she shines in those debates. In terms of states, she would be guaranteed Hawaii… and that’s about it. Her main job would be to take Warren and Bernie’s base.

    Can she win the general?

    Looking at her policy positions, it’s hard to see her not winning the Midwest. Her baggage, unlike Warren’s, actually makes her look tougher and more conservative. Here is my prediction of her electoral map should she win the nomination:

    Click the map to create your own at 270toWin.com

    Yes, I gave her a huge chance of winning versus President Trump. Gabbard is Bernie-like in her domestic policy, which attracts disaffected Midwestern voters who considered both Bernie and Trump. She is a woman of color, which may play well in states with large non-white populations, like Nevada, New Mexico and Florida. My main problem with her is not if she’s capable of beating Trump; my problem is what she’ll do as commander-in-chief.

    Kirsten Gillibrand

    Like Gabbard, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is a bundle of contradictions. Before she became a senator, House representative Gillibrand opposed gay marriage, opposed gun control, and opposed amnesty for undocumented immigrants. However, Senator Gillibrand has flipped on all of these issues. She has sworn off corporate PAC money, yet still meets with rich donors. I do not go into as much depth here as Gabbard, because Gillibrand is a much simpler matter. As a House member, she represented a conservative constituency. As a Senator of a blue state, she shifted her positions accordingly. Regardless of whether you consider that a good thing or bad thing, what exactly is her position going to be if elected President? Also, check out this ad claiming that there is no better leader than her when it comes to fighting money in politics:

    Check out @SenGillibrand’s Tweet: https://twitter.com/SenGillibrand/status/1085333430571659266?s=09

    I can think of a couple, to be honest.

    Can she win the nomination?

    Her flip flopping will be front and center as the primary heats up. Her defense is that she evolved as a person on these issues (same as Gabbard and Hillary Clinton circa 2016). Gillibrand clearly wants to capture both the establishment wing and the populist wing of the party with her connections to powerful Democratic donors and leaders while also advocating for Bernie’s 2016 platform. She would need to convince the base that she is to be trusted. Going into the primary season, New Hampshire would likely be her jumping off point; she comes from nearby New York, and probably has more in common with the Northeast than Midwestern states like Iowa. Even then, she would have to compete with Sanders, Warren, and probably New Jersey senator Cory Booker. I don’t see her remaining viable if she doesn’t win there, as California will likely go to the most progressive candidate… Or Kamala Harris. Sometimes playing both sides doesn’t pay off.

    Can she win the general?

    I do not think so. Here is my map from 270 to win: Click the map to create your own at 270toWin.com

    Voters will feel like Gillibrand is Clinton 2.0, no question. It seems like she will, like Clinton, focus a lot on identity politics. That didn’t help Hillary.

    Final Analysis

    Both Gabbard and Gillibrand suffer from controversial past positions. Their ability to resolve these flaws will be very telling in the months ahead if they can build a movement behind them. And if elected, I don’t really know if either would pivot their positions again.

    Spider-Man: Far From Home Trailer Review (SPOILERS)

    If you thought Marvel Studios would wait until after Avengers: Endgame to promote Spider-Man: Far From Home, you’d be dead wrong. Speaking of dead, it’s important to mention that in the film’s first trailer shown above, Peter Parker and half the planet appear to be very much alive. This could either mean that Thanos’ snap in Infinity War was undone after Endgame (likely), or that this movie takes place sometime before Peter was launched into space with Iron Man (unlikely, and it would honestly be pretty disappointing).

    In any case, one line in the trailer actually hints at where this places in the MCU timeline. At 1:49, Happy Hogan seems to tell Peter that he’s “all alone”. Coming from him, a longtime assistant to Tony Stark, might imply that Stark is not around to protect Spidey anymore like in Homecoming.

    The appearance of Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury is refreshing, as he was an integral part of the MCU in its earliest days. And presumably, S.H.I.E.L.D. gives Peter those two suits featured in the trailer. The first is a beautiful homage to his first appearance in Amazing Fantasy #15:

    Notice the red and black on the new suit, plus the underarm webbing. Drawn by Steve Ditko.

    At 1:36, the spider on the back of the suit looks awfully like the redesign in Spider-Man PS4:

    A spectacular game, by the way!

    The second suit is what looks like the Noir suit from the Spider-Man Noir universe. Take a look at 1:51, and take a look at this:

    Not played by Nicolas Cage… and without the trench coat.

    The last quarter of the trailer focuses on Jake Gyllenhaal’s take as Mysterio. He is being portrayed as a benevolent wizard fighting against the Elementals (the sand, water, wind and fire monsters that bring back memories of Sandman in Spider-Man 3). Mysterio is a trickster in the comics, known for producing mass illusions and causing disasters only for him to step in and play the hero. He has even framed Spider-Man for crimes he never committed. This is a tactic that could very well be used in Far From Home.

    The Elementals are a little-known team of extra-dimensional beings that come from 1970’s era Marvel comics. They were never villains specific to Spidey, so it will be interesting to see where the film takes these characters. One plausible theory is that the Elementals are nothing more than Mysterio’s special effects tricks. Others have suggested Hydro Man is the water creature in the trailer, but that seems more like wishful thinking.

    So far, this is a welcome surprise and an exciting look at one of the most anticipated movies of the year!

    The Presidential Marathon, Part Two

    It is time to review another Democratic presidential challenger: Former Rising Star and HUD Secretary Julian Castro.

    “I was Obama 2.0 before it was cool…”

    Julian Castro

    Julian Castro is the former mayor of San Antonio and former HUD (Housing and Urban Development) Secretary under President Obama. He became known as a “rising star” after giving a speech at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. In it, Castro attempted to replicate Barack Obama’s 2004 DNC speech. But, after watching the 20 minute-long video online, it was clear that he couldn’t match Obama’s charm and speechifying skills. In fact, after being named HUD Secretary in 2013, Castro disappeared from the limelight. Until a few months ago, media outlets forgot all about the Democratic Party’s next big thing. To make matters worse, fellow Texan Congressman Beto O’Rourke has taken the mantle as “Obama 2.0”, as evidenced here… and here… and here. In a probable push to take that energy back, an announcement was made on January 12th, 2019 that he would be seeking the presidency.

    But what is more important than any of this political gossip? The policy proposals, of course! Up until just recently, Castro would be unspecific on most positions. In his DNC speech, his main talking points were, “move forward”, “everyone should get ahead”, and “the American Dream is a relay”. Even in this most recent speech shown above, Castro used the cliché of America needing, “new leadership… new energy”. Having heard this, immediate flashbacks of Martin O’Malley came to mind. He came across as a typically vague, establishment Democrat.

    Education

    Castro is in favor of Universal Pre-Kindergarten, as well as making the first two years of college “accessible and affordable”. This article claims that he is in favor of free college for the first two years, but there appears to be no specifics on this yet.

    Healthcare

    In the above speech, Castro said he is for Medicare for All. In an interview with Face the Nation, he proposed raising taxes on the wealthy to pay for it. This is a clear departure from the Democratic Establishment, though it is puzzling that he never mentioned Medicare for all in 2012.

    Justice System

    The former Secretary endorsed Black Lives Matter, bringing up the names of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland and others that were killed by police officers. He wished to “reform” the criminal justice system. Castro said that “innocent until proven guilty should apply to everyone”, which is positive… however no specifics were given.

    Immigration

    “Keeping families together, not apart” is Castro’s policy proposal on immigration. He gave the common Democratic talking point of comprehensive immigration reform without going into what he meant by that. Like all Democrats, he is against Donald Trump’s inhumane policies on immigration.

    Housing

    Here was an issue that should be mentioned more often by politicians. Anyone living in New York City would be aware that affordable housing is at the forefront of current crisis today. Castro claimed that as HUD Secretary, he cut veteran homelessness by half. He also said that he was in favor of investing in affordable housing projects. It was noticeable from the video that Castro became more animated and passionate talking about this, which was both good to see but also alarming. Housing is personal to him, but perhaps not as much as healthcare or education.

    Climate Change

    Castro claimed his first executive action would be recommit to the Paris Climate Accord. He would “say no to big oil and say yes to a Green New Deal”. That certainly be a positive change to Trump’s denial of climate change.

    Other issues that took up less time in his speech

    1. $15 minimum wage
    2. Pro-choice
    3. Right to organize labor
    4. Protect workers from discrimination
    5. End Citizen’s United
    6. no PAC money

    Can he win the nomination?

    Likely not. While staking out many progressive positions, there was no word from Castro on the boldest parts of his platform years ago. This gives the feeling that he is just pivoting towards the progressive wing of the party right now… and that he would pivot to the center after winning the nomination. There is a noticeable lack of specific policies to get voters excited… and nowadays the Democratic base is looking for bold, specific initiatives. At this moment, there is no page on his website julianforthefuture.com detailing what his proposals are (which should change in time). Aside from is lack of specifics, he really comes across as the typical smiling politician with nicely combed hair. In terms of the primaries, Castro will be in serious trouble if Beto O’Rourke runs as well. They are both from Texas, which can either launch or sink their campaigns. Currently, Beto is the establishment darling, so Castro needs to take out his opponent before the primaries officially begin. Besides Texas, Castro may have an advantage in states with large Hispanic populations such as Nevada, California, Arizona, and New Mexico. Unless he can prove himself to be as committed as Bernie or Elizabeth Warren to progressive priorities, there is little chance for him to win the nomination.

    Can he win the general?

    Using http://www.270towin.com, Here is a prediction of where Castro stands in 2020 against Donald Trump:

    Click the map to create your own at 270toWin.com

    He would probably lose. The only major improvement over Hillary Clinton would be in Florida, where Andrew Gillum nearly became governor in 2018. He would NOT win Texas, or the grassroots in the Midwest who become energized by Bernie Sanders. Perhaps this is inaccurate, but that is where it stands as of now.