All posts by Greg Laden

Who Killed JFK for $1.99?

And by that, I mean, for a limited time only (I assume) you can get the book Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK* by Gerald Posner for $1.99 in Kindle form, probably just from the US.

Many years ago, when I was Junior High age, there was this older kid who was convinced that JFK was still alive, and being kept on life support in Dallas. He was convinced Lee Harvey Oswald had been a patsy, and JFK was killed by the Mob, the Russians, the Cubans, and LBJ. In some combination. The grassy knoll. All of it. The moment he graduated from school he disappeared to Texas to run down his suspicions.

I was sufficiently impressed that I went out and got a JFK conspiracy book and read it. I was shocked as to how many different ways this conspiracy could have played out. At first, anyway. But by the time I was done with the book I realized that the author had no theory, just a lot of little pieces of theories that contradicted each other.

So, I read The Warren Report: The Official Report on the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy*, which I think I still have on my shelf somewhere. It was also confusing and somewhat contradictory, but there was a clear effort to make a fulsome statement about the evidence, and it was hard to contradict the conclusion that Oswald acted alone. But, the argument, while the only argument one could come up with, was not compelling. It was just there as a likely conclusion.

Then I forgot about it and didn’t care for a while. Then, I ran into Case Closed, read it, and realized how simple the argument is. There is a small number of key facts that really focus the mind with respect to this event.

For example, Oswald had attempted to assassinate a person earlier on, and that attempt explained why he had the rifle, why he had the ammo, and why he was practicing. It also explained why he was in possession of fewer bullets than the rifle would actually hold at the time the opportunity to kill JFK presented itself. Those two facts together jive with the number of shots fired, the number of shell casings that the people downstairs from the sniper’s nest heard hit the floor, and the number of bullets accounted for.

And of course there is other evidence.

If you think JFK was killed by someone other than Oswald acting alone, you must read this book so you can disabuse yourself of whatever misconception you labor under at present. If you understand that Oswald killed JFK but are annoyed at the occasional conspiracy theory that pops up, get this book and read it, and you can snap back clear and irrefutable refutations at such arguments. If you find conspiracy ideation interesting, get this book because it is a key argument regarding what we generally see as the first in a diverse family of modern conspiracy theories.

2021 will be an excellent year

If 2021 involves a tragic airplane crash killing 27 beloved celebrities, has half a US state burn to the ground because of global warming, a medium-bad flu season, and fewer than 8 devastating tropical cyclones, it will be a good year compared to 2020. But I think it will be better than that.

President Biden will not be able to form a cabinet since Mich McConnell will not let him, unless the two Democratic Senatorial candidates in Georgia win, so do work on that. But either way we’ll be fine. If Georgia sends two Democrats to Washington, we can get a national clean car law, start building out utility scale wind and solar, see some real farm support funding that both reduces fossil Carbon release and cleans up farms while reducing debt. We’ll see movement on health care reform (thought that is going to take a more progressive Senators) and major changes in electoral reform. It is not going to be a progressive’s wet dream, but 2021 will not be the political nightmare each of the last four years has been.

If Georgia fails us and we end up with two years of McConnell stopping every little thing Biden tries to do, that two year period will be the final two years of the Republican party, forever, and we’ll see that deterioration so fast it will be a memorable feature of 2021.

During the course of 2021 more than three different Covid-19 vaccines will be deployed and by the end of the year, enough people will be vaccinated that this plague will end. That will be a record breaking plague ending, compared to the other big ones, which usually have gone at least a few years. All plagues end, on their own, or at least have so far. Notice that we are not having a Bubonic Plague right now, and we are not having a 1918 flue pandemic right now. But that usually takes a bit longer. School will be back in session next school year, though perhaps normalcy delayed by a month or a month and a half. By the end of November all the kiddies will be in classrooms.

I suspect the spring back of the economy will be strong. In particular, I’m hoping that at a global level the spring back happens in areas that are now suffering from the kind of para-apocalyptic strife that breeds terrorism and war. Torn up regions of the Levant may become centers of energy production or other economic boom behavior, and less cauldrons of discontent and radicalization. That will take a few years, but it will start in 2021.

I assume the press will give Trump his due, which means, basically, ignoring him. The oxygen of attention starved of his Covid-streaked lungs will kill him, as public entity, and his followers, now the biggest threat to national unity, will forget he existed and crawl back into their politically dark holes. Every year the political orientation of the US shifts from deplorable to reasonable by about 1% (because of differential death rates vs. immigration and education). That means that after an 8 year long Biden-Harris administration with mostly Democrats in Congress, we will be done with them.

We need to see changes start that will take two decades to complete. The coming year, 2021, will be the year the seeds are planted.

Kids Self Help Meets Everything Is A Narrative

Humans not only know a story when they see one, but they are stories. This revelation, that our symbolic, linguistic mind is also our culture and that we are products of that culture, has been slowly seeping into areas outside the obscure halls of academia, and has finally reached the kids self help book market in the form of the new volume The Life Heroic: How To Unleash Your Most Amazing Self by Elizabeth Svoboda.

Zvodoba is a science writer who leans towards psychology, and the book is illustrated by Minneapolis based artist Chris Hajny.

The book is marketed for kids 10 and up. There is a lot of good advice, using the “Hero’s journey” model for how all things must be as a framework. However, the book is not written for the 10 year old reader. The style and focus of the writing is for an adult, with no obvious adjustment for younger kids. I’m not talking about themes (the book is kid safe). I’m talking about sentences. Sentences like,

The Greek philosopher Aristotle called this kind of lasting happiness eudaimonia–and he called short-lived, ephemeral happiness hedonia. Eudaimonia is much more profound than the momentary pleasure of hedonia, such as eating and ice cream cone or pranking your best friend. Eudaimonia is the lasting satisfaction you get from knowing that you’ve lived up to your highest potential. “As it is not one swallow or one fine day that makes a spring,” Aristotle wrote, “so it is not one day or a shor time that makes a man blessed and happy.

There are many kids who could use a good self help book that won’t fit into a model of “read this book and improve” that all kids-oriented self help books follow, which means most books (including this one) have to be tested on a a given kid to see if there is any help to be had.

There is also a certain amount of Southern California Privileged soaked reality disconnect here. For example, we are told that one does not have to safely land an airplane in the Hudson River to be a hero. One merely has to develop program to distribute soccer balls to poor children in Mozambique.

Having said all these negative things, it is possible that this book will work for some kids, with certain adults moderating or mediating. From the supporting information, consider this:

“Aimed at kids, this book is also fascinating for adults. With thorough research and drawing on her expertise writing about science, Svoboda offers some remarkable takeaways about heroism”:

  • Most heroes are ordinary people
  • There is a hero inside everyone
  • The ability to be courageous can be strengthened, just like a muscle
  • Going through tough times can sharpen heroic instincts
  • Being a hero doesn’t have to involve tackling an intruder or fishing someone from an icy lake—and in fact, most often doesn’t!

This thought provoking guide can be read chapter by chapter or by skimming through the bolded font. Svoboda’s book is a powerful read for tweens and teens interested in the big questions in their minds about what kind of life to lead and what actually creates meaning.

If this feels right, The Life Heroic may be a good investment.

Encyclopedia Of Animals: Time to upgrade the science shelf in your library

When I was a kid, I had an encyclopedia of animals. I cherished it, read it several times. For a long time, until I was in middle school, I knew more about animals than anyone else I knew because I had read that book. I also used it as a jumping off point to learn more about each type of animal, looking them up in the two general encyclopedias we had in the house, taking notes, drawing pictures, all of it. That one single book probably is the reason that I went in certain academic directions. In fact, I had flashbacks to the pages on the leopard and the Cape buffalo while poking around actual wild leopards and Cape buffalo in Africa.

There have been a lot of encyclopedias of animals in print, and now there is a new kid on the block, and it is probably the one you should get for your emerging naturalist. Encyclopedia of Animals by Jules Howard, illustrated by Jarom Vogel*, covers 300 species. Unlike my old volume, which only had large mammals and a snake or two, this volume gives a much more uniform treatment of “animal” with roughly equal treatment for six Classes. The book uses bleed-tags to quickly find the inverts, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, or mammals.

There are over 500 illustrations across 192 nicely laid out pages, interesting facts about each animal exemplar, including Latin binomial.

It is hard to define the age range for this book. Adults will find it useful as a reference. Kids from about 3rd grade and up will browse it. It aligns with the kinds of science taught in fifth grade and up (10-11 years old.) A middle school science teacher will want this handy in the classroom library.

Jules Howard is science writer and presenter, regularly contributing to The Guardian and BBC Wildlife Magazine. Jarom Vogel is an illustrator, designer and digital artist.

An Excellent Science Oriented Book About Horses: The Horse, a Natural History by Busby and Rutland

How much do you know about the natural history of the horse? Not enough, I’ll wager, considering that the horse is a key, central element to much (but not all) of human history. The evolutionary story is classic, and central to much interesting conversation. The spread of the modern species across the globe, its domestication and eventual diversification through breeding are fascinating stories.

Consider The Horse: A Natural History by Debbie Busby and Catrin Rutland*. Most books about horses are about how to take care of your horse, or how to learn to ride your horse, or some other thing about your horse. This book is about the horses themselves, about their biology, behavior, and history.

This volume is loaded with excellent illustrations including graphs, charts, and photos. If you leave it on your coffee table, people will pick it up and thumb through it, and be glad they did, once you start letting people into your house.

This is the best horse book out there currently, and is a perfect holiday gift for your horse loving relative who, once they recieve it, will surely not look it in the mouth.

Debbie Busby has degrees in applied animal behavior and welfare and psychology, specializing in horses, and is certified by the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. Catrin Rutland is associate professor of anatomy and developmental genetics at the School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Nottingham, UK, and writes for a number of outlets including the Telegraph and the Guardian.

Excellent Book Series for Kids and their Adults

An odd group of adults, including Mr. Benedict, his two live-in assistants, and his usually not at home spy, contrive to attract and collect an odd group of children, each with a unique and stunning set of abilities, in order to enlist them in a dangerous and critically important adventure. Then they do that again and again several times until there are four volumes of this engaging, must read story.

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Steward is an award winning young adult mystery series dating to the last half of the 2010s.

The process of introducing the characters and the story settings results in a hilarious first third of the first book in the series, then it settles down a bit. The side-plot twist found in the first volume (no spoilers) is one of the most gut-wrenching I’ve ever read, as in my gut is wrenched because I’m laughing so hard. The plots are good and quirky and the the characters are quirky good.

Oddly, the books teach that families can be made up of people that are not really related, and that at the same time some of the most closely related people can be so opposite that one can embody true good and one can embody true evil. There is nothing too edgy here for kids, the only lower limit on age is the complexity of the plots. There are very vague generic parallels to the Harry Potter series, in that unrelated kids become thick as thieves, and do battle against a powerful enemy who seems to not be defeated again and again. Unlike Harry Potter the characters don’t really age through a long period of time, though there is definitely growth and development. Then suddenly they are adults in the last book.

A key feature of the stories is the frequent need to solve puzzles or interpret vague clues in order to save someone, get away from the bad guys, etc. One of the characters is extremely good at figuring out riddles. Another has a didactic memory and reads a lot, so he simply knows everything, at a factual level. Another character exhibits stunning physicality for a kid, and will climb to the top of a building or through a series of vents to discover the answer to a question while the other kids are busy thinking it through. The fourth kid’s main super power is to be very whining and complaining, and she is also unnaturally clumsy. These features end up being startlingly important, though it takes a while to figure out how. The four children survive and solve the mysteries they are faced with by being different, each contributing something unique to the problem, while the Mysterious Mr. Benedict himself seems to have the big picture in mind, but not in control, the whole time.

The story is laid out in four books following the same main characters. Then, there is a prequel that explores the origin of the main adult character (Mr. Benedict himself). A sixth book is a collection of puzzles and fun activities that are inspired by the riddle and mystery based nature of the books themselves.

I’ll also mention that there is yet another book not in the same series but with a similar look and feel (but I have not yet read it) by the same author. I’ll include it in the list below.

You can get a a boxed set of these books (as far as I know in paperback) but that won’t include the quiz book. I found a very good used copy of each of the books in hardcover. If you know a family with kids between 8 and 14 (roughly) who don’t have these books, this is an excellent Covid-era bunch of reading for a holiday gift. Start it in mid January, finish them all, then go get your Covid vaccination!

The Mysterious Benedict Society Books In Order


with links to Amazon*

The Mysterious Benedict Society

The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey

The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner’s Dilemma

The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Riddle of Ages

Prequel: The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict

Activity book: The Mysterious Benedict Society: Mr. Benedict’s Book of Perplexing Puzzles, Elusive Enigmas, and Curious

The other book by Trenton Lee Steward: The Secret Keepers

Games in the Covid Era

I’ve been thinking about games (mainly two person or more board games) as a great idea for gifts in this era of Covid. So, I asked my Facebook friends to suggest some, and that resulted in about 90 comments so far. I’m put many of them here. I skipped a few games because they are fairly common yet not classic, included the classics, and focused more on games I’ve only recently heard of. Pandemic, Arboretum Codenames are newish and great. I try to indicate if I’ve had personal experience with a game, or in some cases, if the recommendation comes from a recommender that I would automatically fully trust. I’ve included Amazon links* but note that in many cases there are multiple versions of a given game, and I’m only linking to one. You’ll want to look laterally at the alternative versions and see if you want a traditional Stratego or a Star Wars Stratego, for example. The deluxe versions of the “traditional games” I’m suggesting here are simply taken off 2020 lists of deluxe versions of games, so again, just a suggestion, not really a recommendation.

Traditional games that would make a great gift if you get a nice one

Chess is only fun for some people. I’ve noticed in my own personal life that people who like to play chess and who are good at it have a knack for making the people they beat feel bad. And, it takes a lot of work to learn to play it well. For this reason, chessphobia is common. Don’t get a chess set because you think you can get someone to play with you. But, if you know someone who likes chess, an upscale chess board such as this “Handmade Chess Set European Ambassador with 21 Inch Board and Hand Carved Chess Pieces WEGIEL” may be just the gift. Or, perhaps a Harry Potter Wizard Chess Set for the person who already has a nice chess set but not a Harry Potter chess set. Also consider the less stressful No Stress Chess.

Cribbage is one of the more fun and challenging card games, and it requires a Cribbage board. It is way underrated and worth the time it takes to learn it.

There was a time when everyone played Backgammon all the time. Maybe that time will come again. Get your Backgammon set now and get good at it so when the Return of Backgammon happens, you are ready.

Go is a classic game, and people who like it probably a have a set, but they might not have something fancy like the Brybelly Go Set with Reversible Bamboo Go Board.

Similarly, everybody has a Scrabble board, but the Scrabble enthusiast might need something like a Scrabble Deluxe Edition with Rotating Wooden Game Board.

Strategy board games.

I don’t know Tiny Epic Galaxies Blast Off! – A Game of Cosmic Combos but it comes recommended by a trusted friend. Same with Castles of Burgundy Strategy Game.

Stratego is one of my favorite games. It is from ancient days but modern humans seem to like it. The version I link to is absurdly priced, but it gives you a hook for your own search for a version you may like. There is a Star Wars version, and probably other versions as well. I like the traditional form just fine, and I also like games that when you put them away they fit on a bookshelf. (Most versions of Stratego do not do that.)

You’all against the game.

For these games, the players play against the house, as it were. This is an interesting break from the usual games where one person tries to win against all the other players.

One of the best games I’ve played recently, and recommended by my FB friends as well, is Pandemic. You are on a team trying to save the world from a rapidly spreading deadly disease (as if that would ever happen!). This is you against the pathogen, and in my experience, the pathogen usually wins, but it is fun anyway. Pandemic: The Cure is a version of this game that is somewhat simplified and uses a different randomization and play direction strategy. I’ve not played it but it has been recommended to me.

You must check out one or another version of this game: Codenames.

Design and Strategy games. This is a category of games I’m not too familiar with but may of my FB friends recommended.

Azul and the variant, Azul Summer Pavilion look fun. Blokus might be in this category as well.

Patchwork: Americana Edition seems to come in different forms, so look laterally in your search for variants.

The one game in this amorphous category that I do know is Arboretum. It is very hard to explain how this works, and frankly, you’ll do best by playing it a time or two, and even discussing strategy with your opponents the first time. Highly recommended, and I think it is new enough that it could make a good gift.

I’ll put the classic Mastermind Game : The Strategy Game of Codemaker vs. Codebreaker (Packaging May Vary) in this category as well. If we weren’t’ already committed to other plans for Huxley’s birthday, this is what I would get him.

Card-based strategy games.

Recommended by FB friends: Race for the Galaxy Card Game

Pegasus Spiele Fungi may be good practice before actually looking for wild mushroom.

Recommended by an actual game maker friend of mine: Lost Cities

Small, clever games that abuse animals.

Not really, but you get the picture. These are all good: Pass The Pigs, Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza, and Exploding Kittens.

Not easily categorized but recommended by the Game Master herself, Rachel:

The 7th Continent. Looks really good.

Our own brief Medieval Period: Covid and Cabin Fever

Wikipedia drops the ball: The entry on Cabin Fever does not mention Covid.

Two possible outcomes of long periods of relative social isolation:

1) Loss of distinction between inner and outer voice.

2) I can’t remember. Might be something about memory loss.

Well known stories with cabin fever: The Royal Game by Stefan Zweig*, Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and the 1980 film, The Shining.

The Mythbusters:

~

But never mind all that, things are looking up. Here’s how:

1) The carnage caused by Trump’s Disease is getting much much worse. Soon there will be images of extra dead bodies with no place to go in hospital lobbies, and news stories of right wing radio talk show hosts and elected officials succumbing to their own disease. This won’t have any positive effect on the disease (because their followers will just double down on their stupidity) but it will be amusing and satisfying. (Welcome to the world of Hieronymous Bosch, in case you had not noticed. Our Earthly Delights will be morbid indeed.)

2) The darkest (Northern Hemisphere) day is in late December, and that will be here before you kmow it. After that, winter gets colder and colder but at least it stops getting darker and darker.

3) There will be a vaccine -maybe two, maybe three- being distributed by the end of December, and that will be uplifting.

4) If Donald Trump hasn’t eaten a bullet yet, he will be deposed on January 20th. Soon after actual Covid policy will be deployed in the US.

Consider a jigsaw puzzle

Tabouli Recipe

The ingredients are pretty standard, but there is some technique, which I focus on here. Best if the main ingredients (parsley, cucumber, and tomato) are fresh.

Take one cup of (dry) Bulgar wheat, and add one cup of boiling water. Measure the water out while cold and don’t let any boil off, so it will be a bit more than a cup while boiling. Let that sit for a while.

Two or three bunches of parsley (any kind, fresh, curly is better) with most of the stems removed, cut into small bits. (You can use some cilantro in here if you want.)

One bunch of fresh mint, leaves only (no stems) chopped up very small.

Three bunches of scallions, or one or two bunches and some shallots, or a small to medium very sweet onion. Some combination of these, experiment, figure out what you like. You’ll eventually settle on scallions. Chip this onion-ish material into small bits. Meanwhile, heat a dry skillet/fry pan (no oil) not quite hot enough to fizz a drop of water, turn off the heat. Take the pan off the heat and throw the chopped up onion substance on that fry pan and stir it around. DO NOT COOK IT. This is just to force out some of the syn-propanethial-S-oxide.

Dice up about the same volume of tomato that you’ve already go with the parsley and onion, plus a bit more. It is a matter of taste. This is about six Roma tomatoes, or any other combination. Nice alternative: Cut a big pile of cherry tomatoes in half.

Two small or one larger cucumbers. Mostly peeled, remove most of the seeds (just cut in half long wise and scrape across the seedy area with a spoon). Does not need to be perfect. Diced.

Squeeze three or four limes and one lemon, run the liquid through a screen to get out any bits of seeds. You can skip the lemon, that’s just a think I do.

I go heavier on the spices than other recipes:

1/2 tsp – 1/3 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
3 tablespoons virgin olive oil (yes, olive oil is a spice in this dish.)
2-3 tsp cumin.

Throw it all together and mix it up.

Best if it sits for a while, but only a little while. Doesn’t really keep that long, so eat that day and the next day. (It will still be edible but cucumber doesn’t last).

Serve with Naan or Pita.

The strongest cyclone known on this planet just happened.

According to Jeff Masters, “With 195 mph winds, Goni is the strongest landfalling tropical cyclone in world recorded history. Previous record: Super Typhoon Meranti, September 16, 2016, Itbayat Island, Philippines, and Super Typhoon Haiyan, November 8, 2013, Leyte Island, Philippines (190 mph winds).”

Here is Jeff’s blog post.

In case you didn’t know, Jeff Masters moved from the Weather Underground to Yale Climate Connections a while back.

Jeff notes:

Scientists theorize that a warming climate should make the strongest tropical cyclones stronger, since hurricanes are heat engines that extract heat energy from the oceans, converting it to kinetic energy in the form of wind. In a 2019 Review Paper by 11 hurricane scientists, “Tropical Cyclones and Climate Change Assessment: Part I. Detection and Attribution“, 10 of 11 authors concluded that the balance of evidence suggests a detectable increase in the average intensity of global hurricanes since the early 1980s; eight of those 11 concluded that the balance of evidence suggests that human-caused climate change contributed to that increased intensity.

All those 11 authors agreed that the balance of evidence suggests that the proportion of all hurricanes reaching category 4-5 strength has increased in recent years; and eight of them concluded that the balance of evidence suggests that human-caused climate change contributed to that increase.

And now, the movie version of that quote:

Who will win, Biden or Trump?

I believe that the worst case scenario, with no cheating by the Republicans, is that Biden will get 290 electoral votes. (270 wins it).
That is with Biden losing Florida, Ohio, both Carolinas, and Iowa.

If he also wins Iowa, North Carolina, Ohio, Florida (all possible), he gets 358. This is a bit extreme but possible. If he gets Georgia (which is on the table) Biden gets 373. For the record, Texas would put Biden at 412. Not likely but we always need to visualize a blue Texas. Someday….

How to save the world one gas station at a time.

Look at a map of your city or suburb. Search for the gas stations, you know, those places where you can buy cigarettes and petroleum products?

Now imagine going to each and every one of those locations and tearing it down. We don’t need them any more anyway, because we’ve electrified transportation and nobody smokes. Remove the pollution (they are all brown fields, and the government will eventually be charged for this cleanup, so that is where you get your money for this). Remove the above ground structure, remove the pollution, then look at that vacant lot (and the other one one katty-corner across the intersection). Imagine a transit and school bus stop at this location, with an indoor area to keep the kiddies safe during the very hot or very cold days. Imagine a 20 car charging station, a small cafe, and the whole thing is covered with PV panels. (For the entire US that would be upwards of 15,000 mW of generating power.)

That transition would happen eventually, or something like it, but it won’t get far. Do you know why it won’t get far? Because in all its glory and brilliance, the free market is slow and shy and stupid. It will not figure this out fast enough, it will not deploy the changes in time, and when we are about a third of the way through the whole system will collapse because we are being too slow — and too slowed down by deniers and Republicans, Trumpers and Big Oil, dark money and deplorables — to fix it before it fails.

Or, Governors and State Legislators and Presidents and the Congress can just make it happen. Set up a program that buys out gas stations, cleans them up, and inserts them into the new power and transit system. Take care of the job loss, which will be offset by the increase in clean energy jobs, but make that offset work for the victims of progress. Oh, and probably sell lottery tickets at the cafe.

Can we do this please?

Thanks. Get back to me when the blueprints are ready, next week if possible.

When Republicans Don’t Cheat, Democrats Win

Even our perception of partisan power politics is warped by Republican shenanigans.

Minnesota’s second district, represented by Angie Craig (a DFLEC endorsed candidate) is identified by the media as a swing district.

Is it?

In 2016, Jason Lewis got 47% of the vote and thus beat Angie Craig (first time candidate), but Paula Overby, running as a third party (Independent) candidate took 7.8% of the vote. I am certain that Overby took very few Republican votes. She acted as a spoiler.

The next cycle, with no spoiler in the race, Craig beat Jason Lews 53:47% That is not an overwhelming victory, but a 14% difference is not what we see in a “swing district,” or even a “leans Dem” district. It is what we see in a blue district.

The current cycle, Marijuana Now Party candidate Adam Weeks, a Trump supporting conservative, was recruited by Republican operatives to run explicitly as a liberal spoiler. “I can do Liberal” he confessed to a friend when he told him that he had been recruited to do this. He then died of a drug overdose and in so doing, “unofficially withdrew” from the race. I expect Craig to beat her Republican challenger by a greater margin than she won with last time, possibly closer to 15%.

The only reason Minnesota CD 2 is called a “swing district” or even “leans Dem” is because the Republicans were running a con game, and two cycles back, Paula Overby, for unknown reasons (I am not saying she was recruited by Republicans), acted materially to spoil the race and enough voters fell for it that the Republican, one of the most odious of the Republicans (now running against Tina Smith for Senate) won.

It is often said that when people show up, Democrats win. True. But it is also true that when Republicans don’t cheat, Democrats win. Ideally, people show up AND Republicans don’t cheat — really, are stopped from cheating because they always will — then Democrats win.

The United States Senate Races As They Stand Now

Democrats need five seats to control the US Senate. We assume one seat will be lost in Alabama, where having a democrat win that one time required that the Republican be about the most odious Senatorial candidate in the history of the nation, and that was nearly not enough, because Alabama loves odious.

Here is the current state of the races most likely to matter in this quest.

Arizona: Democrat Mark Kelly vs. Republican Martha McSally. Kelly has led McSally forever, coming close to even or behind in very few polls. However, the most recent polling is concerning. A long term 6+ point average lead has devolved since the middle of October to a present near tie, and in the most recent poll, McSally has pulled ahead.

Republicans often have a major negative push in a campaign during the last two weeks, and that often pushes the poll numbers closer, but often, that does not seem (in my opinion) to change the actual voting, depending on the local culture. For example, in Minnesota, that usually backfires. But I don’t know what is likely to happen in Arizona.

Conclusion: Tossup.

Colorado: Democrat John Hickenlooper vs. Republican Cory Gardner. Gardner was essentially elected by accident in 2014, and Hickenlooper is popular. This race is considered to be so obviously Hickenlooper’s that there is hardly any polling.

Conclusion: We’ll assume this is a Democratic takeway.

Georgia: Democrat Jon Ossoff vs Republican David Perdue. There is no particular reason to expect Ossoff to win this race, but right now Georgia is undergoing a shift that could put him in position. As of late, the polling puts the two candidates at dead even, but that is probably a temporary quirk.

Conclusion: Republicans retain seat.

Iowa: Democrat Theresa Greenfield against Republican Joni Ernst. Challenger Greenfield has shown strong polling since mid summer, but once again, due to some last minute Republcian mojo, the race is suddenly essentially tied. This is coming down to how annoyed people might be with Ernst for not cleaning out the swamp, vs how concerned Iowans are with protecting their way of life, which is silly because Democrats are actually better at growing corn than Republicans are.

Conclusion: Tossup

Maine: Democrat Sara Gideon vs Republican Susan Collins. Susan Collins is one of the most annoying Republican Senators, because she is always pretending she will ultimately do the right thing, then never does. Not once. Ever. Challenger Sara Gideon is taking the fight right to Collins and is going to wump her in the final vote.

Conclusion: Democrats win, followed with 18 months by an indictment against Collins. What for? I don’t know, but obviously somebody owns her and once the spell is broken, which is till be on November 3rd, that can lead to indictmentitis.

North Carolina: Democrat Cal Cunningham vs Republican Thom Tillis. Cunningham essentially threw this race away and guaranteed a Republican win, and thus, no Democratic control of the Senate, because he couldn’t keep his SMS in his pants. But, on the other hand, Republican Thom Tillis is so disliked in his state that he is still losing anyway. Cunningham’s indiscretion basically shifted polling from a farily strong chance of winning to a race that is within the margin of error.

Conclusion: Tossup. Anything can happen in this race, but either way, somebody’s gonna lose them a trailer.

South Carolina: Democrat Jamie Harrison vs Republican Lindsey Graham. Graham is a long time frequently re-elected figure in South Carolina, so it is his race to lose. But he could. Graham is ahead in most polls, but has tied in three Quinnipiac polls in a row. There are indications that there is a rapidly turning tide. I’m going to assume this will not be a change, but the race is interesting enough that I put it on this list so you will know what to fret over on election night (and a while after).

Conclusion: Republican win. Or will it be?

Most likely outcome: Democrats take Colorado and Maine, and maybe one other race, and Republicans stay in control of the Senate. This causes all useful legislation to stall for another few years, and global warming gets so bad it can’t be fixed.

Most hopeful outcome: Despite Democrats stepping on their own SMS, as it were, and that fact that in most sates Republicans can out campaign Democrats with their eyes closed, Democrats take Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Maine, North Carolina, and scare the bejesus out of Graham but he keeps his seat. That’s one more than needed.

Another possible scenario: Democrats also lose Smith’s seat in Minnesota. Suddenly, she is on the verge of falling behind. Minnesota voters are unreliable. It could happen.