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my 2018 election predictions: part deux.

VoteAbout 48 hours from the time I’m writing this, we should have a pretty clear idea of what the House and Senate will look like when they reconvene in January. Will Republicans hold onto both chambers in Washington, or will Democrats gain control of one or both? Before we get to that, a bit of historical perspective is worth a look.

The White House Usually Loses Seats in the Midterm
Traditionally, yes. This is mostly true. Going back to 1982, the party that holds the White House has lost seats in both the House and the Senate in seven of the nine previous midterm elections. The only outliers are 1998 and 2002.

Screen Shot 2018-11-05 at 7.31.11 AM

source: FairVote.org

Why does this happen? Good question. The public can be fickle, I suppose. It’s also true that the party out of the White House has more campaign ammo to unload. That was evident in 2010, when Republicans destroyed Democrats over the Affordable Care Act. Ironically, that same set of laws is coming into play again in this midterm election; only this time, Republicans are getting beaten over it. Seems people who were once against it are now for it.

Like I said…fickle.

Voter Turnout is Much Lower in the Midterm Elections
Historically speaking, voter turnout in midterm elections is always lower than in presidential elections. For example, 60.1 percent of eligible voters participated in the 2016 election. The 2014 mid-term election? 36.7 percent, which was a sharp decline from previous mid-terms. The highest mid-term voter turnout in modern times was 48.7 percent in 1966. Since 1982, however, turnout has cracked 40 percent only four times.

Voter Turnout

source: FairVote.org

What to Expect Tomorrow
Turnout is anticipated to be high. Already we’ve seen high turnout for early voting around the country. Here in my home state of Nevada, for example, 40 percent of registered voters have already gone to the polls. That’s a massive increase over 2014, which barely cracked 25 percent.

My prediction: national voter turnout will be somewhere around 45 percent. That’s purely a hunch. Even with all the hyperbole and rhetoric around this being “the most important election of our lives,” some people simply choose to not vote.

High Voter Turnout = Democratic Party Wins
Though that’s been true in the past, I’m not so sure it’ll be a clean sweep tomorrow. Yes, Democrats are predicted to win enough seats (they only need 25) to reclaim the majority in the House of Representatives, but the Senate is another story entirely. That seems odd, considering Republicans are clinging to a 51-49 majority, but several factors favor their Senate races (we’ll get to that later).

For now, here’s how you’ll be able to tell if Democrats are truly leading the turnout: winning in Trump districts. If Democrats are competing and winning in districts and states that Trump won in 2016, then Democrats have momentum. We’re seeing many signs of Republicans in trouble in the House as well as gubernatorial races, but not the Senate. Again, we’ll get to that.

Before We Get Into it…
Here’s what I expect overall tomorrow: Democrats will win back the House, but not the Senate. In fact, don’t be surprised if it ends up Republicans gain a Senate seat. There. That’s the overall prediction. Now then, let’s look a little bit deeper at some races.

The House of Representatives
House Of Representatives Allows Media Rare View Of House ChamberAll 435 seats in the House are on the line tomorrow. You already knew that. There are far, far too many races out there and there’s no need to handicap them all. A handful of races, however, could be bellwether elections that may predict the intensity of the so-called “blue wave.” In fact, BallotPedia has a list of several key battleground House races on its website. Spoiler alert: most of these seats are currently held by Republicans.

As mentioned previously, the party that controls the White House traditionally loses in the mid-terms. Some degradation of Republican power is predicted.

Current House

Here are the House races I’m highlighting to watch tomorrow:
California 48th: Dana Rohrbacher (R-incumbent) vs. Harley Rouda (D)
Rohrbacher’s been in that seat since Christ was a corporal (as my dad used to say). True, California is a deep, blue state. But Orange County is a traditional Republican stronghold with Rohrbacher representing it for 30 years now. Why is this a fight right now? Ol’ Dana’s been the subject of some potentially naughty dealings with Russians of late. That hasn’t helped. Will it be enough to unseat him? We’ll see.
PREDICTION: ROHRBACHER STAYS

California 49th: Mike Levin (D) vs. Diane Harkey (R)
Republican incumbent Darrell Issa is stepping down after nine terms in office.
PREDICTION: LEVIN FLIPS 49 BLUE

Indiana 6th: Greg Pence (R) vs. Jeannine Lee Lake (D)
Yes, Pence is part of that Pence family. He’s the arrogant, lazy, entitled brother to the dimwit vice president. Yes, I called him a dimwit because he is a dimwit. Greg Pence is going to win this race going away. He has zero political experience and is running a campaign in name only. He refuses to debate his challenger. He refuses to make appearances. He’s running a lazy campaign because he’s a lazy, lazy man who doesn’t deserve to win. But he will win. And voters who pull the lever for him should be embarrassed they did so. Greg Pence represents everything that is wrong with politics. Everything. This is why I sometimes despise my former home state.
PREDICTION: PENCE WINS. PENCE SUCKS. IN-6 SUCKS

Michigan 8th: Mike Bishop (R-incumbent) vs. Elissa Slotkin (D)
Just looking at this district makes you want to scream for impartial re-districting. It looks conveniently drawn. Just sayin’. Though Bishop’s only held the seat for two terms, MI-8 has been a red district for 18 years. Until now.
PREDICTION: ELISSA SLOTKIN WINS

New York 14th: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D) vs. Anthony Pappas (R)
This is a solid blue district that Ocasio-Cortez is likely to win in a landslide. That’s not the story. The story is the fact that she primaried Democratic incumbent Joseph Crowley by running to his left and grabbing more than 56 percent of the vote. Ocasio-Cortez is poised to become a darling of the left and (I’m guessing) a favorite target of Fox News because she uses the evil ‘s’ word to describe herself. That’s democratic socialist, in case you wondered. At 29 years old, I expect Ocasio-Cortez to be the far left’s favorite voice in Washington.
PREDICTION: DUH!

Utah 4th: Mia Love (R-incumbent) vs. Ben McAdams
An interesting battle between a pair of potential darlings of their respective parties. Mia Love made headlines four years ago when she won this seat because she’s a young, African-American, conservative woman who toes the party line. Her challenger is the current mayor of Salt Lake City and considered a moderate. Personally, I know nothing about this race, other than polls have it tied or McAdams leading. Keep an eye on this one.
PREDICTION: NO LOVE FOR MIA; McADAMS WINS

Senate Chamber.jpgThe U.S. Senate
This is a tough map for Democrats. They’ve got to defend 23 of the 35 seats up for election tomorrow. And they need to flip a net total of two seats to gain the majority. Not so easy, considering 17 of those seats (nine of which are held by Democrats) are in states Trump won in 2016. This is why Democrats have never been confident about their chances.

Senate Breakdown.pngRealistically, about five or six of these races are tight. And Democrats would need them all to break their way to win the majority. Chances of that happening? About 1/7, according to FiveThirtyEight.com. And I agree with them. But who knows. Perhaps Democrats thread the needle just so and produce their magical unicorn. I’m not betting on that, but there are a handful of races worth watching tomorrow. These will likely determine if the Senate goes red or blue.

NORTH DAKOTA: Heidi Heitkamp (D-incumbent) vs. Kevin Cramer (R)
Heidi’s in deep, deep trouble. Polling shows Cramer’s lead has widened over the past month. Unless something crazy happens—and, really, how often does something crazy happen in North freakin’ Dakota?—Heitkamp is likely one-and-done as a senator.
PREDICTION: CRAMER

TEXAS: Ted Cruz (R-incumbent) vs. Beto O’Rourke (D)
This has been an intriguing race to watch. Cruz, for the record, is a slimy, sweaty, chinless weasel. He’s a first-term senator that even his fellow Republican senators don’t like. But he’s a national brand (and Donald Trump’s latest lapdog). O’Rourke has become a national brand, too. Young, popular, hip, pulls in crowds of young people…sound familiar? Yeah, don’t your hopes up. Obama was smart enough to be in Illinois. O’Rourke is running to unseat a deep red senator in a deep red state. Unless all the polling data in Texas is wrong—which I don’t expect—Cruz will win tomorrow.
PREDICTION: SIX MORE YEARS OF THE SWEATY, CHINLESS WEASEL

INDIANA: Joe Donnelly (D-incumbent) vs. Mike Braun(R)
Indiana Democrats are something like el chupacabra. You hear about them, but rarely see one in person. Donnelly is a Democrat. An Indiana Democrat, so he’s really not all that liberal. But that doesn’t seem to matter anymore in the Hoosier State of Mind. Outside of two or three counties, Democrats don’t fare well in Indiana. But I think those two or three counties will come through for Donnelly tomorrow. Why? I have no idea. Hope, I guess.
PREDICTION: DONNELLY

NEVADA: Dean Heller (R-incumbent) vs. Jacky Rosen (D)
This is one the Democrats need if they want to flip the Senate. Rosen is in her first (and only) term as a House rep. Heller is clinging for dear life in a state that seems to be going from red to purple. This race is truly neck-and-neck. Being as how I canvassed for Jacky Rosen, I will not make a prediction; just advise you to watch this one.
PREDICTION: YOU DECIDE

ARIZONA: Martha McSally (R) vs. Kyrsten Sinema (D)
This is the first real chance in a long time Democrats have at an Arizona Senate seat. Republican Jeff Flake (who lives up to his last name, if you ask me) is stepping down. Again, this is a race Democrats need. Sinema’s been leading most of the way in polls, but McSally’s narrowed the gap in recent days. I’m predicting a shocker here.
PREDICTION: SINEMA

MISSOURI: Clair McCaskill (D-incumbent) vs. Josh Hawley (R)
This one has Democrats genuinely nervous. McCaskill’s vying for a third term in a state that hasn’t voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1996…but did elect Democrat Jay Nixon for governor in 2008 and 2012 (thanks, Obama!). Two problems for McCaskill this time, though. 1: Trump destroyed Clinton in 2016; and 2: she doesn’t have a moron like Todd Akin to run against this time. Hawley is a young Republican whom I’m sure has designs on something greater than the Senate. This could be his steppingstone.
PREDICTION: TOO CLOSE TO CALL

There you have it, kids. Now get out there and vote!

Alice Elected

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my 2018 election predictions: part i

VoteI was going to try and pull a Steve Kornacki and put together a highly-detailed, well researched analysis/prediction of Tuesday’s midterm election. I was going to do that, but then I decided to pull back and focus more on the 10,000-foot view of it all.

I’ll start with a quick look at some hotly-contested gubernatorial races around the country. There are a handful of truly interesting ones that I’m sure you’ve heard about on the news. I’m also going to continue my tradition of making predictions…because my election-night predictions have always been stellar, right? Hey, I nailed 2012! 2016? Not so much, but I’ll redeem myself with some magic this week.

Before I start, let me preface this by saying none of these predictions are endorsements. I’m not that influential and I know it. But I like to follow politics for the horse race of it all. With that in mind, here goes…

The Gubernatorial Races to Watch
There are a few interesting ones to watch: Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio and Wisconsin. Yes. Many of those are Midwest states that were once thought of as an impenetrable “blue wall” in presidential elections. But all these states have one thing in common: all their governors are Republicans. One interesting wrinkle, though: only two (Iowa and Wisconsin) have incumbents seeking re-election. The rest are up for grabs. Will any of them change hands on election night?

Florida: Ron DeSantis (R) vs. Andrew Gillum (D)
This one has gotten ugly…reeeeeeaaaalllllly ugly! DeSantis is a Trump disciple. Gillum is a young (39 years old) mayor of Tallahassee. The politics of race and race-baiting has come to the fore in this election. Will it make a difference to Floridians? Not sure if that’ll be the tipping point, but I’m guessing there will be change in the Sunshine State.
PREDICTION
Headshot_Gillum
GILLUM

Georgia: Brian Kemp (R) vs. Stacey Abrams (D)
Who would’ve ever thought deep red Georgia would be in play? Well, it is. Along with the national attention it’s attracted, this race has also led to Will Ferrell and Oprah freakin’ Winfrey knocking on doors, canvassing for Abrams. Will she win? I think she’ll make it a close race, but Georgia isn’t ready to turn blue just yet.
PREDICTION
Headshot_Kemp
KEMP

Iowa: Kim Reynolds (R-incumbent) vs. Fred Hubbell (D)
I haven’t followed this race at all. Iowa is a fickle state, though. They’re sometimes red, sometimes blue. This might be the year of blue corn. I’m tossing a coin on this one, honestly.
PREDICTION
Headshot_Hubbell
HUBBELL

Kansas: Kris Kobach (R) vs. Laura Kelly (D)
Kris Kobach is a slimy character. He really is. But Kansas hasn’t elected a Democratic governor since 2006. You’d think, after the sheer and utter disaster of the Sam Brownback Reign of Stupidity that Kansas would say, “hey…maybe we should try the other guys this time.” Wrong. They won’t.
PREDICTION
Headshot_Kobach
KOBACH

Michigan: Bill Schuette (R) vs. Gretchen Whitmer (D)
I have vivid memories from my Michigan youth of Bill Schuette’s campaign commercials back in the 80s. “Bill Schuette on duty.” It was very clever and very smart because it made a rhyme out of his name; made an otherwise hard-to-pronounce name into a brand. Smart. Very smart. Currently serving as Michigan’s attorney general, Schuette’s in a bit of hot water of his own right now (though I don’t recall all the particulars). Aside from that baggage, Michigan has been wont to flip back and forth on governors (though I’m still shocked they re-elected Snyder in the first place). Anyway, Whitmer seems to have a commanding lead right now. Another element, I imagine, is Flint’s water crisis. That can’t be helping any Michigan Republicans just now.
PREDICTION
Headshot_Whitmer
WHITMER

Nevada: Adam Laxalt (R) vs. Steve Sisolak (D)
My home state. Nevada is a purple state. While Clark County is a stronghold for Democrats, it’s not a runaway train. Yeah, Dems lead in Vegas and the surrounding areas, but Republicans hold their own. Outside Clark County, the vast majority of Nevada is rural and red, which offsets the Clark County Democrats. That’s why Nevada went blue in 2016, but outgoing GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval won re-election in 2014 in a landslide. And while Dems hold three of the state’s four congressional seats, the senate is split (and Democrat Kathleen Cortez-Masto eeked out a victory in 2016). Like I said, purple. This race is truly a toss-up. Full disclosure: I’ve been out knocking on doors on behalf of Nevada Democrats this election season. My hope: Sisolak wins. But I will not make a prediction on this race. Just as Kirk Herbstreit will not give a prediction on a game he’s calling, I shall do the same. The bottom line: voter turnout.
PREDICTION
Question Mark
?

Ohio: Mike DeWine (R) vs. Richard Cordray (D)
I’m a little surprised this is such a tight race. Republican incumbent John Kasich seems like a popular guy (although his performance in the presidential primaries didn’t show that). Kasich left a good legacy behind, so I have no idea what’s going on here. My gut tells me Ohio stays red, but in a tight one.
PREDICTION
Headshot_DeWine
DeWINE

Wisconsin: Scott Walker (R-incumbent) vs. Tony Evers (D)
Democrats have been screwing up in Wisconsin for the better part of a decade. Walker rode in on the 2010 red wave and summarily went to war against unions. He’s a weasel, if you ask me. But Democrats screwed the pooch by forcing a recall election in 2012 that was confusing, messy and lacked a message. Walker survived that and won re-election in 2014. Though Walker’s benefited from liberal voter apathy in his previous elections, he may not be so lucky this time. One can hope. Weasel.
PREDICTION
Headshot_Evers
EVERS

Coming soon…part ii: predictions on key House and Senate races. Stay tuned.

Truman Waving "Dewey Defeats Truman" Headline

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survivor recap: no jacket required.

Probst-Meme_JacketThe immense sense of satisfaction a Survivor fan feels when that one player you’ve decided to despise finally gets her comeuppance after weeks of skating by is a moment I look forward to with every season of Survivor. It’s like waiting for Christmas morning…or your ear to pop after a head cold. Either way, the gratification is both immediate and somehow self congratulatory, even though you had nothing to do with it.

That’s how I feel about last night’s episode of Survivor. Watching Natalie’s torch get snuffed by Jeff Probst was my ear-popping moment. Of course, I’m also left saying, “what took you so long?” I’m still saying that. Some players get to the island and just can’t find their place in the game. Initially, we may have wondered if Christian and Gabby would end up on the outs with the Goliaths—and Gabby still has reason to worry, it would seem—but there was no question with Natalie. She just never found her footing but seemed to always find her way to piss off every member of her tribe to the point I thought they might kill her and feed her to an octopus or something.

Jackets and EggsBut then, at Tribal Council, she would turn on that smug, faux sincerity act and throw just enough doubt on any plan to vote her out and live another day. It made me want to puke blood. Her tribemates were obviously only keeping her around as an insurance policy, but is that really the best strategy in Survivor? Is that really playing the game?

Using a stooge as a human shield works, but not with a person who makes life so insufferable for others that they want to kill her. You don’t start dragging along a stooge in single-digit days. You do it after the merge when, within your alliance of four or five, two of you take control and bring in a No. 3 whom you prop up as the brains behind the operation. Remember Shambo? Russell Hantz perfected this strategy.

Survivor 37_Natalie

Natalie Napalm burned out before it ever ignited.

Anyway, no more worries that the Goliaths were going to pull this off because Natalie got the boot. Finally. You might say strategy took a holiday on this one, since the vote came down to preserving some level of civility on that teeny-tiny Jabini tribe. But I wouldn’t be so quick to call it unstrategic. Overdue? Yes. Easy? Yes. Strategic? Perhaps. More on that later.

In the meantime, here’s where we are now:

Vuku (Orange): Alec (Goliath), Davie (David), Elizabeth (David), Kara (Goliath), Carl (David).
Jabini (Purple): Angelina (Goliath), Lyrsa (David), Mike (Goliath), Nick (David).
Tiva (Green): Alison (Goliath), Wrestler John (Goliath), SWAT Dan (Goliath), Christian (David), Gabby (David).

Welcome to the Jabini Tribe: No Jacket Required
Let’s talk about Angelina for a moment. Early on, she struck me as a smart, crafty player who could very easily win this game. That still may be the case, but last night, she came off like she was running for the Asshole of the Year Award, making everything about trying to vote out a Lyrsa AND take her jacket. Turning that into a bargaining chip was one of the dumbest moves ever. What player on the chopping block would give up a personal item under duress in the hopes it will buy him or her anymore than three more days? That wasn’t strategy. That was arrogance, pure and simple.

Survivor 37_Jacket

Sorry, Angelina. Not this one. It says “Members Only.”

Angelina thought she was the puppet master and controlled all the moves…right up until she got blindsided and the strings of her puppet (Natalie) got cut. Natalie’s ouster was even more delicious because it completely blindsided Angelina. And then, after her cloyingly disingenuous embrace of Natalie on her way off the island, she immediately turns into “all about me Angelina” by begging for Natalie’s jacket. By completely ignoring Angelina’s whiny pleas, Natalie bought back a little respect from me. Thanks for that, Natalie!

Was it a smart vote? I don’t think you could classify it as smart or dumb, but it definitely made sense. Camp life harmony does matter in Survivor. Anyone who’s ever worked alongside a difficult co-worker can relate. There’s only so much acrimony you can tune out before the pot boils over. And again, why did they wait so long in the first place? I’m of a mind that getting rid of bad seeds early makes for a much cleaner, sharper game. Keeping them around only prolongs the inevitable and, if you ask me, benefits the real targets you should be worrying about. Natalie was a distraction. Distractions favor the weasels. They don’t help your game.

Meanwhile, over at Tiva…
SWAT Dan is showing himself to be a crafty, unassuming player with more savvy that I initially expected. By finding a second Immunity Idol—by choosing to look for it in the first place, while no one else was looking—Dan is lining himself up to become a power player. He’s still got Kara as a partner in the game if they both make the merge.

The biggest problem with such an embarrassment of immunity riches is complacency. Dan’s already setting his sights on voting out Gabby, but that’s going to be a tough needle to thread. For better or worse, Dan is still thinking in terms of David vs. Goliath. Unless he pivots and realizes he’ll need to rope in a David or two, Dan could very easily get blindsided.

Vuku’s Alec Problem
The post-blindside fallout behind Alec’s back is exactly what I predicted would happen. But winning immunity buys him precious time to talk Kara and others off the ledge. I still think he’s a man without a home until the merge, if he makes it that far. And if he does, it’s clear the Goliaths are not all that loyal to one another. Without having to sacrifice too much, the David tribe finds itself in a slightly powerful position just now. Goliaths are viewing their own as a threat more than any of the Davids. In my mind, you ignore them at your own peril. At least on Vuku, the Davids hold all the cards. We’ll see if they wield the power to their own advantage, or pile it into a tree as Goliath is currently doing.

Survivor

Two Immunity Idols = EOTW

Survivor Employee of the Week: SWAT Dan
You already have an Immunity Idol and are sitting in a relatively comfortable spot within your tribe. So what do you do? You take it upon yourself to find another idol. And you do. AT THE IMMUNITY CHALLENGE!

I still think SWAT Dan is a bit of a chucklehead, but he’s got a nose for Survivor and keeps proving that. If he can keep this second idol to himself and not blab about it, he’s got a shot to get deep into the game.

 

Predictions for Next Week
Goliath will continue to cannibalize itself. Angelina will go into overdrive, trying to ingratiate herself with Nick, Mike and Lyrsa. Jeff Probst will wear a blue shirt.

Survivor Probst

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survivor recap: gabby gabby hey!

Survivor S37E04Survivor is at its best and its most entertaining when the game is unpredictable, when there is a villain you love to hate, when tribes are swapped, when the underdog you love succeeds, when alliances are broken, big moves shake everything up and blindsides are afoot. Episode 4 of Season 37, Time to Bring About the Charmpocalypse, checked all those boxes.

Time to Bring out the Charmpocalypse

Survivor: Not the Bee’s Knees. David tribemate Bi had to drop out due to a sprained MCL.

So much was packed into that hour, I bet you already forgot Bi tapped out of the game at the very top of the show. Disappointing, only because I think she could’ve been fun to watch in the challenges, given her MMA background.

Drop Your Buffs
Thirty-seven seasons into Survivor, the #DropYourBuffs moment no longer shocks players or fans. The only stunner about this last night is it broke into three tribes of five and Truckdriver Carl walked buffless to Exile Island. The trio of new tribes, chosen randomly by the players themselves, put three Goliaths and two Davids on each tribe, eliciting Christian to astutely refer to the exercise as “gerrymandering.” He was right, since the David Tribe got cracked-and-packed into permanent minorities alongside their Goliath competitors. But Survivor is rarely so tidy, is it? Just because Goliath maintained majorities doesn’t mean the alliances carry over. There are always fissures to be exposed and the one thing a majority alliance needs the most in these tenuous times—patience—is usually washed away by torrential rainfall, sleep deprivation and personality clashes.

For those of you scoring at home (or if you’re alone*), here are the new tribe rosters:

Vuku (Orange): Alec (Goliath), Davie (David), Elizabeth (David), Kara (Goliath), Natalia (Goliath).
Jabini (Purple): Angelina (Goliath), Lyrsa (David), Mike (Goliath), Natalie (Goliath), Nick (David).
Tiva (Green): Alison (Goliath), Wrestler John (Goliath), SWAT Dan (Goliath), Christian (David), Gabby (David).

Tiva: Will Dan’s Heart Go On Without Kara?
While SWAT Dan initially fretted over losing his schmoopy, Kara, in the tribe swap, this is actually the best thing that could happen to him. Their two-headed monster strategy has a chance to lie dormant and be forgotten while they build reinforcements. If I’m a former Goliath, I would be working hard to get rid of whomever is nearest Dan or Kara right now. If Dan and Kara make it to the merge, they become a much stronger alliance to defeat. Mark my words.

survivor-Christian-Hubicki-Gabby-Pascuzzi

Christian & Gabby. The most adorable pair in Survivor history.

The best thing for the viewing audience to come of this switch is Christian and Gabby remained together. Honestly, I love everything about these two and love watching their interactions together. Both are easily fan favorites because we all can relate to feeling like an outsider. Christian is able to channel it and make it work for himself by finding commonality with everyone. Gabby, on the other hand, still struggles with it. And who can’t relate to that? Like she said, it’s like she’s trying to ask for a seat at the cool kids’ table.

But the divisions aren’t as stark and concrete as it might seem. John, a professional wrestler, is clearly a good performer, but he doesn’t take himself too seriously and seems like a sincere and nice person. In fact, all the players at the so-called “cool kids” table are like that. Nevertheless, it was a readymade awesome moment of reckoning for Gabby in the Immunity Challenge when she cooly and calmly directed her tribe to a first-place finish. She is this season’s Little Engine That Could and, thus far, has succeeded with flying colors.

am-goliath-strong-natalie-cole-on-the-third-episode-of-survivor-david-picture-id1052203060Jabini: Natalie Being Natalie
Over on Jabini, everyone seems to be getting along just fine. Well, almost everyone. Natalie is still Natalie and, in all honesty, I’ll give her a lot of credit for not flexing her personality. She is who she is and she’s going to ride that pony as far as it’ll take her. Perhaps it’s stragery to be a prickly pear carried to the end of the game to make someone else look better to the jury, but I doubt it. I think Natalie is at a stage in her life where she doesn’t feel the compunction to apologize or change for anyone. On some level, I respect that. But as a Survivor player, it must be a challenge to not confront her more about it. After all, “bossy” players (women, especially) usually don’t fare too well in Survivor. But if Natalie can white-knuckle her way through one or two more votes, she could be a dark horse in this game. It remains to be seen if her tribemates are willing to continue putting up with her, though.

Tribe chemistry aside, School of Rock Mike rightfully identified Jabini as the tribe of misfits, at this stage of Survivor. But he found a quick and easy alliance with Nick, who had to act fast after his Mason-Dixon Alliance with Christian got separated. This was a smart move for Nick. Similar to Dan and Kara, Nick and Christian have a strong alliance. If Nick brings in Mike after the merge—you know Gabby will be there, too—and suddenly, this foursome could become a power alliance.

Vuku: Goliath’s Self-Inflicted Wound
After losing the Immunity Challenge, Vuku predictably went into scramble mode. More accurately, Davie and Elizabeth went into scramble mode. For Davie, this had to be the most stressful of Tribal Councils yet. He’s sitting on an Immunity Idol that no one even knows about. Given the numbers, he knew his name would come up tonight. The blessing and curse of an idol is you don’t want to play it when you don’t have to and you don’t want to go home with it in your pocket. Fortunately for Davie, some Goliath members had big moves on their minds.

maxresdefaultSure, this resulted in one of the most entertaining early-game Tribal Councils I’ve seen in awhile. As a fan, it was fun and exciting to watch. But if I put on my Survivor Strategy Hat, it was really dumb game play on the part of the Goliaths: Alec, Kara and Natalia. In a vote that, at its easiest, could’ve been a slam-dunk, turned into a self-inflicted wound borne out of emotion, paranoia and overzealousness.

Think about it. Early on, Natalia got paranoid over Kara and Elizabeth bonding over horses. Horses! She immediately hit the panic button and branded Elizabeth her Public Enemy No. 1. By pushing everyone at camp so hard—Davie included—to vote her out, she got branded as bossy and rude; the one thing that happens too often to competitive women in Survivor. Even her bestie, Kara, could see it. That was all it took for Davie to expose a crack in the armor. He smartly played it up to Alec. By the time they got to Tribal Council, Natalia was already on the spit and didn’t even know it. I don’t know if Alec planned it this way all along, but his whispering campaign at Tribal led to a big, loud blindside of Natalia that completely changed the dynamic of this tiny little tribe.

Appearances Are Deceiving

That Moment When…Alec realizes that THIS was the alliance he should’ve trusted.

The #CluelessKass Moment of This Season
Alec’s blindside of Natalia was a shock, especially to Kara. It was big. And it was completely unnecessary. Voting out Natalia falls into a category I call #CluelessKassMoments (I refuse to call that amateur player “Chaos Kass.” She was a self-absorbed moron). Yes, it was a big, bold move. But did it really improve Alec’s lot in the game? Not even a little. If anything, it hurts him both in the short-term and the long-term. Had he, Kara and Natalia stayed the course, Elizabeth would’ve been voted out and Carl would’ve joined. The numbers woudln’t have changed. They’d still be in control. And if this trio could make it to the merge along with Dan, they become a powerful alliance of four.

As it stands, though, Alec has lost the trust of Kara, the numbers to David and, if he makes it to a merge, his former Goliaths will regard him as a Benedict Arnold who can’t be trusted. Alec will be on an island. And for what? A big move on Night 11? Please.

NataliaNatalia’s Heart > Natalia’s Head
Natalia also has only herself to blame. I loved her competitive spirit and wish she could’ve tempered her paranoia about Elizabeth, but she just couldn’t get out of her own way. Instead of feeling threatened by the bond between Kara and Elizabeth, Natalia should’ve made it work to her advantage. She was already tight with Kara and Dan. The smarter move would’ve been to embrace Elizabeth and, along with Kara, pick off Alec or Davie and seize control of the tribe. If there’s a lesson to be learned here: don’t let emotions guide your strategy. It’ll get your torch snuffed out.

I can’t say I blame her for her grumpy exit from the game. I’d probably be just as pissed off, too. Sometimes, I wish more players stared daggers into their blindsiders while Probst snuffs their torches. It was an honest reaction. By now, though, I’m sure Natalia recognizes where she went wrong. And it wasn’t trusting Alec. It was making Elizabeth a vendetta.

Meanwhile, on Exile Island
Carl comes into Vuku with a whole lot of power. He can rejoin Davie and Elizabeth and also has the sweet-ass new Survivor advantage: Idol Kryptonite! It’s a tricky, risky advantage to play and I can’t wait until the night he plays it. If Carl is smart, he’ll keep his mouth shut until it’s time to play the advantage. Mostly, I just want to see the looks on everyone’s faces when it gets played. It will be better than Russell Hantz and his plethora of idols.

Gabby Bikini

Gabby Gabby Hey! Being a challenge beast earns you our first EOTW honors of the season!

Survivor Employee of the Week
Even though I give Davie credit for quietly orchestrating Natalia’s ouster, the Employee of the Week is Gabby. If anyone needed a victory for purely personal reasons, it was her. And it wasn’t an artificial win at all.

She was literally and figuratively in the driver’s seat of that Immunity Challenge. In a do-or-die challenge, Gabby calmly and deftly guided her blindfolded teammates through a maze and a puzzle to win the challenge like she does this for a living. You don’t have to be a Gabby fan to appreciate that.

Predictions for Next Week
Natalie continues to drive her tribemates to the brink. Alec gets too big for his britches and Christian continues to say things that make me love him.

Survivor 37

EDITOR’S NOTE: The line, “for those of you scoring at home (or if you’re alone),” belongs to Keith Olbermann. It was one of his signature lines when he was a Sportscenter anchor on ESPN. It always made me laugh, back in the day.

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election 2018: the battle for texas.

O'Rourke vs WeaselOf all the battles currently taking place among the 35 Senate seats up for grabs on Nov. 6, it’s the Battle for Texas that’s grabbed the most national headlines. Republican incumbent Ted Cruz is running for re-election against the national liberal heartthrob, Beto O’Rourke. Challenger O’Rourke hauled in more than $38 million from July – September, more than triple Cruz’s meager $12 million.

Despite all the attention, all the money and all the love from national liberals, Real Clear Politics has O’Rourke trailing anywhere from 5 – 9 percentage points behind Cruz. Surprised? Don’t be. No Democrat has won a senate election in Texas since 1988. With the exception of the city of Austin and Willie Nelson, Texas is deep, deep red.

Now, normally, I trust what the polls tell me. Yes, even in 2016, when the national polls were accurate (they were). The only reason I wonder if the current polls are tracking correctly is because O’Rourke is pulling MASSIVE numbers at his rallies. He is igniting audiences all across Texas unlike most politicians. In some small way, it’s highly reminiscent of Obama’s 2008 campaign and, yes, Trump’s 2016 run. If elections were won and lost on enthusiasm alone, O’Rourke would clearly have this one in the bag. But that’s not how it works. Looks can be deceiving.

Remember all the electricity and excitement around Bernie Sanders in 2016? He didn’t lose his primary bid because of rigged elections as many opined (without merit). In many cases, he lost because he ran a national campaign strategy without motivating enough people to register to vote for him when it counted. After all, Sanders was trying to appeal to voters who reject party labels. That’s a tough needle to thread when winning requires voters to declare a party when voting in a primary or caucus.

O’Rourke doesn’t have those same problems, though. This is not the primary. It’s the real deal. And it would appear the Cruz-O’Rourke Battle Royale has cheesed up the voters. The Houston Chronicle reported last month the Lone Star State’s voter rolls are up to 15.6 million people, a 1.6 million increase over the 2014 mid-term elections. And then there’s this:

“That includes nearly a 400,000-person increase since March, election records show. To put that number in perspective, from 2002 to 2014, the state added just over 100,000 voters a year, on average.”

That’s why I wonder if the tracking polls are missing something. It’s not as though Texas Republicans ever have trouble turning out the vote. Cruz won his seat comfortably in 2012 with more than 56 percent of the vote. He defeated Paul Sadler by more than 1.2 million votes. Of course, 2012 was a presidential election year and more than 7.5 million people voted in that particular senate race. By contrast, Texas Republican John Cornyn defeated Democrat David Alameel in 2014 (midterm) by a similar margin, but fewer than 4.5 million Texans voted in that election. How many voters will turn out three weeks from today?

Perhaps past is prologue here, though. Are there enough Democratic Party voters in Texas to unseat Ted Cruz? Better question: will they all vote? After all, midterm elections rarely turn out the vote like general elections. And Democratic voters are known to skip elections, unlike Republicans.

For O’Rourke to prove the polls are wrong, he would probably need to garner most of those 1.6 million new voters; a feat that is not likely. Perhaps it’s my own wishful thinking that refuses to concede just yet, but I’m hoping Beto O’Rourke can shock the world on Nov. 6, though the odds are long and time is running out.

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survivor: ghost island prediction.

Ghost IslandTonight’s season finale of Survivor will bring to a close one of the least interesting seasons of the reality show we’ve had in awhile. Survivor: Ghost Island started off promising enough: 20 castaways, no returning players and a slew of second-chance immunity idols, game advantages and tribal council extra votes. It was billed as a season to wash away past sins. It amounted to a season of predictability, passive game play and an overall convoluted mess of middle-ground personalities seemingly locked into a battle for third place.

Throughout the entire season, players Dominick and Wendell have called virtually all the shots without the slightest challenge and it makes no sense; none at all. It hasn’t been this predictable and this boring since Survivor: Worlds Apart, where selfish weirdo Mike Holloway walked away the winner.

What Went Wrong?
Too many gimmicks, that’s what. Too many diversions and distractions have made the game nearly impossible to play. Sure, one or two immunity idols makes sense. But the inclusion of Ghost Island threw the entire game out of balance. I’m all for the occasional tribe swaps and whatnot, but every week a new twist?

That took away from the game play, if you ask me. I mean, where are the blindsides? Where’s the cutthroat game play? Where are the vicious personal battles? In other words, where’s the game of Survivor? Instead of all the ups, downs, ins and outs that make Survivor fun and interesting, we’re left with six pairs of khaki pants, all vying for your vote as Best Pair of Khakis. I want a do-over, but I won’t get one. So, let’s just get on with it and decide who’s going to take home the million dollars tonight.

The Likely Winner is…
Domenick. He’s been in control since Day One (well, sort of). He’s been conniving, scheming, plotting and planning. He’s been moving all the pieces around the board on his own. And he’s also got himself an immunity idol or two. The fact that he engineered a finale with a bunch of also-rans means he should win. Unless, of course, the also-rans pull off a legitimate blindside.

Finalist with a Chance.
Wendell. He’s smart. He’s likable. He’s athletic. But he’s attached himself to Dominick from the beginning. If he’s in the Final Tribal Council with Domenick, Wendell comes in second. It’s as simple as that.

How the Hell Did You Get Here????
Laurel. She is a promising player who hitched her wagon to Dom and Wendell. At multiple points throughout the season, Laurel had chances to assert herself, take control of the game and eliminate some of her biggest threats. She balked. Every single time, she balked. To make such a move right now would be expected and very nearly pointless.

Could’ve Been
Angela. She was a tough competitor whose back was to the wall from the very start. Seems she could never get a true alliance working. But she’s hung in there…and she ate a shit ton of really gross stuff to win immunity. That, alone, should earn her high marks. But not enough to win.

The Trouble with Donathan
Easily my favorite player in the game from the start because he was the little engine that could. Donathan’s trajectory in Survivor emulates with many viewers who like to root for the misfits and the underdogs. Underneath his wide-eyed, homespun demeanor, though, is a fierce, vicious Survivor contestant. Unfortunately, his strategy is to throw gasoline on the campfire and watch it burn. Still, I like the kid. But he seems to have no winning strategy.

Sebastian: Half Man, Half Alien
Seriously, that dude looks like an alien to me. And how the hell did he last this long. Of all the Top Six, Sebastian seems to be riding coattails. He hasn’t done much to distinguish himself in the game. I guess that’s why he’s still there, right? Nice guy, but not a Survivor champion.

We shall see if I’m correct.

And yes, I still believe i could win this game.

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an american badass.

What if I told you a story about an American who began life in captivity, broke free, then risked life and limb numerous times to save hundreds of men, women and children from a life of captivity. What if I told you a story about an American who fought for human rights? What if I told you a story about an American who worked as an armed scout and spy for the United States Army?

These are not different people. This is the same person. This person led a life dedicated to justice, freedom and ending human suffering; even if it meant dying for that cause.

You would call that person a hero. You would call that person an American badass. You would demand history tell this person’s story over and over. You would demand statues be erected and schools named in this person’s honor.

Who is this American hero?

Harriet Tubman.

a705fb06-4843-4a9c-904f-bfff8abf2d39.pngIf you’re surprised, it’s only slightly understandable. You probably didn’t hear much about Tubman beyond elementary school. That’s when I learned her story. We learned of her bravery in leading former slaves to freedom along the Underground Railroad. Sure, she was covered in Civil War history classes, but not to any great extent. Her life’s journey is an iconic story of triumph over evil and of American exceptionalism.

Yet these days, if you listen to the rancor across social media, you don’t hear people championing Tubman as a pivotal figure in American history. You hear people cheering the decision by U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to delay plans to put Tubman on the $20 bill.

Mnuchin claims this is not a high priority. Even if you take him at his word, the most troubling aspect of this story is the response from (white) people. At the low end, it’s ambivalence. But the most vocal proponents of this decision speak of Tubman as though she’s not an American, that she’s now worthy of the honor.

How did we arrive at this minor public debate? Last year, then-Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew announced Tubman would replace Jackson—seventh president of the United States—on the $20 bill. Tubman would be the first African American on the front of paper currency. The plan included keeping Jackson on the bill, but he’d be riding in the back of bus (on the backside).

For reasons beyond me, this seemed to cause quite a stir among conservatives. So much so, that rank-and-file conservatives cheered this week at Mnuchin’s announcement.

Personally speaking, I mostly don’t care whose face is on my foldin’ money. To me, the deeper subtext is more troubling; that people openly and vocally opposed this move with such vigor is disturbing to me. And, yes, the vast majority of the opposition is coming from white people, which confuses me. I’m a white guy (news flash!) and I don’t see the big deal about putting Tubman on the bill.

Some have argued Jackson, a former president, shouldn’t be pushed aside because Tubman was not a Founding Father or a president. My response: EXACTLY! There is no pecking order for whose face is placed on American currency. After all, did people make a stink over Susan B. Anthony coins? Probably, somewhere. But most people simply didn’t cotton to the idea of dollar coins in this country. Same thing with the Sacagawea coins. There might have been some quiet rumblings here and there about the person on the coin, but most people just seemed confused by the idea of dollar coins in circulation.

Fast forward to 2016 and the thought of a black woman on the $20 bill didn’t confuse people. It made people angry. In fairness, some of the backlash came from the left, as well. Some argued it was antithetical to Tubman’s legacy to place her image on currency. I’ll leave that to the liberal scholars and social justice warriors to hash out. You could say that argument is either absurd or warranted, but it’s not pernicious, like the not-so-veiled racist vitriol that flew around after the announcement.

Some said it was a form of “reverse racism” (which is both absurd and stupid). Others, like news commentator Greta Van Susteren, said it was “dividing the country.”

Huh?

Is this really where we are? People feel “divided” simply because a black woman will be on money? If that’s true, then those people seriously need to get a grip on reality.

At the end of the day, I honestly didn’t care one way or the other. Until Mnuchin made his announcement. By itself, the decision seems innocuous and, possibly, rational; until you look at the recent actions and decisions by this administration.

Before Mnuchin’s decision, you had the President of the United States referring to Confederate statues as “beautiful” and lashing out at decisions to remove them from public spaces. Prior to that, you had that same president give soft-pedaled denouncement of violence “on all sides” in Charlottesville. Oh yeah, he also said there were “fine people” on the side of Nazis, Klansmen and white nationalists (racists). David freaking Duke thanked him—THANKED HIM!—for his response. And let’s not forget the “build the wall” and so-called “Muslim travel ban” this president wants.

Never mind that we haven’t even discussed that this decision also feels oddly personal, since Trump is a self-identified fan of Andrew Jackson. That a president’s cabinet secretary would do the bidding of an American president based upon his own fancy vs. a decision that was put through a public vetting process during the previous administration is unsettling.

Now, I’m not saying this administration is overtly racist, but there is no question their policy decisions, their rhetoric and their actions clearly favor one group of people over others; so much so, that white supremacists have openly thanked the president.

Against this backdrop, Mnuchin’s Tubman decision—and those who applauded it—leave me feeling slightly queasy about people’s grasp of history and their understanding of what it means to be an American. Harriet Tubman is an American hero…FOR ALL AMERICANS. Her history is complex, brutal, angering and, at times violent. But it is also inspiring and champions those who made this country better for its sins. It is a testimony of how America is better for those who fought against tyranny in order to form a more perfect union.

Harriet Tubman’s history is American history. We all should celebrate her, whether she’s on the $20 bill or not.

HarrietTubman20-1

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