Monday, November 14, 2016


'"I used to be really into nostalgia." --Demetri Martin'

"I used to be really into nostalgia."--Demitri Martin

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Election 2016

It is the last weekend before this contentious and bizarre Presidential election season culminates with voting day on the second Tuesday in November. Most people I know have spent more time following polls, watching debates, and trying to ignore political ads over the past two years than in all previous elections combined. And most people admit to being a little tired of the rhetoric and partisan bickering.

However, it's probably incorrect to hope that November 8th will be the end of this. Those who say, "I just want this over" are in for some more disappointment. The election is very close. The popular vote on November 8th determines who the Electors vote for when the Electoral College convenes in December.

  • Should Clinton win, the allegations of corruption will follow her into office and undermine her credibility further. A fractured Republican party could actually reunite in its effort to stymie the Clinton administration while rebuilding for the 2020 election. 
  • Should Trump win, he will have the advantage of Republican-party majorities in at least the House and perhaps the Senate. However, the party is hardly unanimous in its support for their nominee. 
  • One unintended consequence of a Trump victory is the probable demise of the Republican party. I believe some moderate Republicans and all of the Not Trump Republicans will join voices with the moderate Democrats to stall Trump's agenda. Trump himself is so unpopular that some elected representatives will be compelled to break from party loyalty. The Republican party cannot withstand a split on Trump / Not Trump lines. Independents and Libertarians stand to benefit if they can find a leader more presidential than Gary Johnson, and get some support in state and federal offices in the 2018 election. 

Regardless of who wins office, this rancorous political environment will not blow over anytime soon.

Most polls predict that Clinton will win the popular vote. The Real Clear Politics average of major national polls shows a narrow Clinton victory. Only one major poll gives Trump an advantage. Notice that the largest sample with the smallest margin of error is inconclusive.

This particular race has always been a close two-way race with Trump playing the spoiler and Johnson never really breaking through. Trump is rising in the polls and has closed the gap to less than 3% as of this writing.

Bear in mind that the popular vote does not determine the winner. On the morning of November 9th, polling will most likely show a Clinton victory. However, the popular vote is conducted to choose electors in the Electoral College, and the Electoral College actually will actually determine the winner, if and only if one of the top three candidates manages to get a simple majority of the EC votes. That number is (538 / 2) + 1 = 270.

Above is a snapshot of projected EC votes based on current polls. Below is a trend of EC vote predictions over time.



PredictWise by David Rothchild is a site that looks at polling data but also the data from predictive markets. The data from PW indicates that RCP may have a slight Republican skew, meaning that if RCP gives a small edge to Clinton, the actual advantage may be much larger.

Accessed November 5, 2016 from:

The consensus indicates a victory for the Democrats on Tuesday. But I think that the confidence is misplaced. This race could be much closer than polls indicate. Here is how Donald J. Trump might become the 45th President of the United States. I am not going to say whether this is good or bad. I'm not going to get into the why of this outcome, but I will describe how, and a little bit of when, this will happen.

First, a disclaimer: Here on PhilosFX, I don't discuss politics, per se. Rather, I focus on decision analysis, hoping to enable informed decisions. You probably won't see me advocating for a candidate, but you may see me delving into data collection and analysis.

I am personally non-partisan and to my recollection, I have never voted a straight ticket. I'm an issues-based voter. I am such a label-avoiding pragmatist, I have not registered with any party, not even the Independent Party. I vote. I take a stand when I vote. Before I vote, I consider the issues important to me, and how I would enact policy on those issues if I were in a position to decide. Then I select the candidate that comes closest to what I would do on the slate of issues that matter most to me.

That disclaimer out of the way, I get the impression that the Electoral College will decide this election. The popular vote will likely go to Clinton, but the EC is far from a lock for the Dems. I once thought that if Johnson won just enough EC votes to prevent either Clinton or Trump from getting to 270, then Congress would decide the election. According to the Constitution, if the EC cannot determine the winner of the election, the House selects the President from the top 3 finishers, and the Senate chooses the VP from the top two finishers.

Given the Republican majority in the House, Johnson could block a Clinton victory in one of two ways: First, and most likely, the Representatives would vote along party lines and elect Trump. Second, and only if the Trump campaign experienced a serious malfunction of some kind, the Representatives could reject Trump and vote for the other non-Clinton: Johnson. But I have come to realize that it is extremely unlikely that Johnson will capture even his home state of New Mexico. Even if he finishes third, it is unlikely that he will capture enough support to give Republicans pause. For better or worse, Johnson has become a non-factor.

That leaves the race in the hands of the EC. I think the polls are disproportionately representing the urban vote. Even if Clinton does end up winning the urban vote and the minority vote, she is not doing well in the great unwashed Midwest. Polls are under representing the older white voters who don't participate in polls for the simple fact that they don't have cell phones. They live in areas that may not have decent cell coverage. But they vote. They are angry, they have either been left out of the tech boom or they have opted out of it, and they vote. And so the election will come down to whether Trump can turn the grey states in the above map red. Watch Florida (29 votes), Ohio (18), Michigan (16), Georgia (16), and North Carolina (15).

Just so we're clear: Regardless of the popular vote, if Hillary Clinton does not get 270 or more Electoral College votes, Donald Trump will be the next President of the United States.  

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Behold: The Elvis Costello Song of the Week® from Trunkworthy, Rebooted!

The famous red shoes are passed to a new pair of Costellophiles determined to shine a light on the Elvis songs you need to hear. Meet Kevin Davis and Jorge Farah--new hosts of Trunkworthy's weekly feature:

The Elvis Costello Song of the Week®, Rebooted! 

Who is Elvis Costello?
"Declan Patrick MacManus began having the time of his life on Wednesday, the 25th of August, 1954. Declan was born at St Mary's Hospital, Paddington in London, England. He was the son and only child of trumpeter, vocalist and erstwhile bandleader Ronald (“Ross”) MacManus (born in Birkenhead, October 20, 1927) and record store manager Lillian MacManus.", the pre-Wiki fan page

Why should Elvis Costello matter to you?
"Steeped in wordplay, the vocabulary of Costello's lyrics is broad. His music has drawn on many diverse genres; one critic described him as a "pop encyclopaedia," able to "reinvent the past in his own image." He has won multiple awards in his career, including a Grammy Award, and has twice been nominated for the Brit Award for Best British Male Singer. In 2003, Costello and the Attractions were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked Costello number 80 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time." --Wikipedia/Elvis_Costello

Why does Elvis Costello matter to me?
As a high-schooler in the late 1970s, I steeped myself in Kansas, Styx, Boston, and Aerosmith. My hometown friend and artistic muse, Jhymn, used to make mix tapes for me to expose me to alternative music like REM, U2, and Elvis Costello. From the moment I heard "Pump it Up!" I was hooked. I bought "Get Happy!!" as a college freshman and, smitten, became a life-long collector and fan.   

Why am I excited about the reboot of Trunkworthy's The Elvis Costello Song of the Week?
Fandom is limitless. 
Just as I did with the original series, I'll be adding a tiny bit of value by collecting and compiling links to every weekly episode, and posting them all in one place--right here--for your convenience. I'm also maintaining a spreadsheet version of the selected tracks because I am geeky like that. I'll be adding to my compilation post. 
Bookmark Trunkworthy and sign up for their email alerts. Support the work of the artist and the original work of the authors. But check it out--no one puts it all together for you like I do!


Enjoy this continued and ongoing recapitulation of Elvis Costello Songs of the Week by Trunkworthy! 
November 2016

54. "It's Time"... to reboot the Elvis Costello Song of the Week. And I, for one, couldn't be happier!

55. "Fallen" is a torch song for hearts on the mend.

56. The quiet, contemplative, “Favourite Hour” almost got lost on an album that was anything but! Here are three shades of brutal beauty:
  • “Favourite Hour” Church Studios demo version (1992)
  • “Favourite Hour” Brutal Youth (1994)
  • “Favourite Hour” My Flame Burns Blue live version (2004)
57. A collaborative cry for unity from Costello and Toussaint: "Who's Gonna Help Brother Get Further?"

58. "Lipstick Vogue" is an explosive introduction to the Attractions.


59. For fathers, sons, and everyone else: "My Three Sons."

60. “Battered Old Bird” is a sort-of story-song pulled from a dark corner of Costello’s childhood.

61. "St. Stephen's Day Murders" is a merry, macabre post-Christmas carol. The Feast of St. Stephen (Dec 26) commemorates the stoning death of Christianity's first martyr. The story holds that a wren gave away St. Stephen's hiding place under a pile of straw. To this day, some people dress in straw clothing and parade around with captured wrens who are eventually executed as a proxy for the one that led to the martyr's death. This song, performed with the Chieftans, describes part of the modern day celebration of St. Stephen's murder--killing off the leftovers from excessive Christmas feasts.

January 2017

62, From a tempestuous tryst to its woozy morning-light regret in less time than it takes to find the aspirin: Wednesday Week.

63. A Voice in the Dark is a song so effortlessly meticulous, it’s as much a career culmination as a career highlight.


64. Don’t believe the (negative) hype: The Beatles-meet-Peggy Lee pop-noir of “Inch By Inch” is one more reason to give Goodbye Cruel World a closer listen.

65. "Hand in Hand": Bitterly brilliant from the first line.


66. Tramp the Dirt Down: political grave-spitting of the most personal kind.

67. Elvis looked in to the heart of Fiona Apple’s “I Know” and found a soul song; while Fiona communicates a quiet patience and calm resilience, Elvis sounds like a man at the end of his rope.

Compare the two versions:


68. Here's a rare track from the Juliet Letters era: pulling a heartbreaking "Skeleton"out of the closet.

69. Nobody at Starbucks expected to hear this! “She Handed Me A Mirror” is more complex and heartbreaking than anything folks expected to pick up with their venti Americanos.


70. “In The Darkest Place” is a masterpiece of anguish of adult heartbreak rendered with subtlety and sophistication.

71. A case for the best Elvis Costello song of them all: "New Lace Sleeves."


72. "Still to Soon to Know": A stark, stunning slice of adult balladry buried in the middle of Costello’s supposed “return to rock.”


73. The one that got (given) away:“Do You Know What I’m Saying?" Among Elvis Costello’s rarest songs are the “Gwendolyn Letters.” That's the name he gave to the collection of songs he penned for former Transvision Vamp singer Wendy James, all of which she subsequently recorded on her 1993 album Now Ain’t the Time For Your Tears.


74. Trunkworthy celebrates the 40th anniversary of Elvis Costello's debut album by highlighting a song that got left off of it: "Stranger in the House."

75. “Radio Silence,” the sad, jittery sequel to “Radio Radio,” is an eerie, overlooked, and too-rare bit of electronic experimentation from Costello.


76. “The Other End Of The Telescope” is a grand statement about things that turned out to be small.


(Apparently, Jorge and Kevin were a bit distracted. No new posts in the month of October.)


77. Elvis Costello doing a jazz duet on a big-band standard most of us first heard as a soul ballad? Bring it on! In comfortable collaboration with jazz legend Marian McPartland, “At Last” is brought beautifully back to its roots. This song could also be seen as a tribute to Elvis's father, Ross MacManus who recorded a version in 1958, and his wife, Diana Krall, the famous jazz pianist and vocalist whom he married in 2003. Compare these versions:


78. Is Elvis's latest one of his greatest? “You Shouldn’t Look at Me That Way,” from the forthcoming Paul McGuigan movie, Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool.

79. "My Mood Swings," Costello’s sneeze-and-you’d-miss-it soundtrack appearance in The Big Lebowski, deserves a closer listen.

January 2018

80. "Green Shirt"is powerful punk disguised as minimalist pop.


81. The gut-wrenching sadness of "Toledo" is offset by sly humor and an upbeat melody which, somehow, makes it even sadder.


82. To tell a story from his family’s past, Costello dug deep into his Irish roots: "Any King's Shilling"


(Nothing new from Jorge and Kevin this month.)