The Chinese Hoax that affects the globe

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Something wicked this way comes (R. Bradbury)

Our Dear Leader took to Twitter, his favorite media form, some years ago (and one would presume that it is his favorite because reading or writing more than 140 characters may be beyond his ability to concentrate), and said the following:

“The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”

This is about the most absurd statement ever made, and of course patently false, as are many of his statements. For millions of years, the planet has been undergoing cycles of warming and freezing roughly every 10,000 years, regardless of humankind. So even without the arguments against the contribution of greenhouse gases, it is clear that we are in a cycle of global warming. But it is also clear that over the past 100 years, greenhouse gases are enhancing the rate of global warming at an alarming pace.

I will leave it to climate scientists to continue to make the case for for this in peer-reviewed research. But as a non-climate scientist, who is also a trained observer, I will herein provide a few anecdotal points regarding climate change.

For those who don’t know me, I have lived in the great state of Nebraska for the past 14 years. Coming here in 2003, I became fascinated by the massive storms that occasionally roll into this area of the country during the spring-to-fall season. They consist of massive winds that can reach up to 150 mph (even without the rotation of a tornado), torrential rains that frequently bring golf-sized hail that can be as large as oranges, and skies that turn black in mid-day and are littered with lightning and thunder.

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But apparently there have been many changes in recent years. Calling my car insurnace agent to ask why my premiums are increasing every year in the absence of new claims, she told me that one of the reasons was the massive amount of hail damage seen in the last 10 years. Naively, I noted that the midwest has always been subject to such weather. She asked me whether I grew up in Nebraska, and when I said that I’d only lived here for 14 years, she told me that 20 years ago, while storms certainly occurred, hail was virtually unheard of here. In fact, she couldn’t recall ever seeing hail in her Nebraskan childhood. Although I could not find good records in support of that claim, it did appear that numbers of hail days in midwestern states have been changing (up or down) this century.

While there are clearly long-term trends in weather pattern changes, from my perspective I can say that we are experiencing a significant number of “severe weather situations” every year.

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The quiet after the storm…

It’s time now, not to be quiet, but to stand up and reject this government’s anti-science policies.

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Even a blind squirrel sometimes finds a nut—or does he?!

The new Emperor, Dear Leader, or as he is known in this country, President of the United States of America, is on the verge of proving that even age-old sayings are no longer sacrosanct. Since inauguration in January, we have collectively witnessed an elected official to the highest office who has bungled everything that he has touched. He has lied outlandishly and perversely to the American people (the size of his inauguration crowd, the size of his electoral victory, the claim that Obama is sick and evil and wiretapped him, that the Russian interference in our election is a hoax, that 5 million illegals voted and otherwise he would have won the popular vote, and on and on…), picked unnecessary fights and disagreements with allies and friendly foreign leaders (Germany, Australia), continually praised our adversary, Russia, at all costs, displayed terrible judgment in hiring someone who may yet be accused of treason as the National Security Adviser (Flynn) and refused to condemn him even after firing him, hired an Attorney General who may be accused of perjury (Sessions), messed up with travel bans, healthcare and many other issues. Come to think of it, has he done anything that the country can be proud of?

An old adage is that even a blind squirrel sometimes finds a nut—meaning that even the worst president, even randomly, should be able to do something right. No one is completely bad (or good)—there must be something positive that he does. So now is the opportunity: a no-brainer. Do NOTHING and win. Stay in the Paris Accord on climate change! How difficult is that?

An overwhelming majority (61%) of Americans support it. Only 17% want to exit the accord. Big business—even Exxon—wants the country to stay in the deal. Even if you are obstinately anti-science, and maintain that the climate is not changing due to human pollution, would you not want your children to breathe cleaner air? Can you doubt that facts that there are more people just in California who work in the clean energy sector than all of the current coal workers? That the US will benefit economically from staying at the cutting edge of energy technology? I guess “alternative facts” have taken over this conversation too…

Our Dear Leader has shown that he has no trouble backing away from other promises; everyone will be covered with much better healthcare! Except for the 23 million who won’t. So why not back away from this particular pre-election pledge, especially with so much pressure from business to stay with the accord? After all, he claims that he could shoot someone in broad daylight on the street in New York City and it wouldn’t detract from his following.

I have no explanation—except to say that this firmly proves that blind squirrels may not always find a nut. And the Emperor may not find out that he has no clothes. Until it’s too late for us all on this planet…

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The March for Science: Can and should politics be absent?

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Since the crowning of the current US administration, the scientific community in the US has not only been reeling from the proposed cuts to almost every type of scientific research in this country, but also from the quandary of what to do about it. Scientists have been all over the map, embracing everything from encouraging active scientists to run for public office, to quiet, behind the scenes attempts to advocate the economic value of scientific research, with the notion that this will be a more palatable argument to those in power.

As a member of the American Society for Cell Biology’s Public Policy Committee, I was aware of discussions that went back to the earliest days of the administration, when immediate attacks were made on the Environmental Protection Agency, NASA and other agencies that deal with anything related to the effects of mankind on our planet. At the time, many biomedical scientists that I talked to were of the opinion that “this can’t happen to us;” that whereas the environment has become a politicized issue, pitting big business and industry against environmental protection, there nonetheless remains overwhelming support for biomedical research. I disagreed with this approach then, and I disagree now.

For anyone who doubts the historical tendencies of people in power to ‘divide and conquer’—to start with “easy targets” and attack them first, followed up by attacks on more and more targets, hitting closer and closer to home—until finally almost everyone but the attacking party is targeted, please have a look at this poignant reminder from the “Life of Brian.”

In other words, scientists should come to the rescue of their fellow scientists, whenever they are under attack—and not sit on the sidelines hoping that the importance and value of their work may (strong emphasis on the word “may”) enjoy a more general consensus. As I have implied, it does not work like that.

Science is society’s ongoing attempt to understand things, to get to the truth of the matter. It is an elusive goal, with moving goal posts. As technologies advance, our understanding and interpretations of science often becomes even more complex. Always moving forward, in the long run, although often subject to the 1 step forward—2 steps backward phenomenon. But at any given time, there will always be the most rational, logical and explanation, and that interpretation based on scientific evidence, falls under the jurisdiction of principles devised by our namesake, William of Ockham, back in the 1300s. In layman’s terms, his ideas have been paraphrased as “The simplest and most logical explanation is the most likely one.”

Scientifically, how would that work? Well, as an example, if one were presented with 2 photos taken from an identical vantage point, with A showing masses of people covering the entire print from top to bottom and side to side, while B showed large gaps or areas where no people were present, what could we conclude? Yes, in the millisecond that the photo was taken, all of the people in B may have simply ducked their heads and thus are not viewed properly in the photo. Or they may have been momentarily abducted be an alien spacecraft before being returned to the throngs of people immediately after the photo was taken. We can find many such “explanations,” but it is obvious that there were simply more people present in photo A. So when people in a position of power explicitly lie, and claim that there were more people in photo B, scientists, and the general population need to rise up in relentless protest. Because once such lies have become acceptable, the rest of society will be lost—and science of course will be among the severe and immediate casualties.

Having said this, it is incumbent upon each and every one of us, scientist and non-scientist, to continue our protests on the attack against the truth. In every way possible. Letters to congressmen and women, senators, the president, newspapers. Science, and truth must be made a national priority. But in today’s March for Science, my view is that we should refrain as much as possible from singling out individuals and administrations. That we should refrain today, in this mass rally for science, from affixing blame and turning the march into JUST a protest. We should give the citizens of this country and all administrations, at least to date, credit for wisely, and in many cases, apolitically, supporting many branches of science with much foresight—and encourage today’s leaders to continue these policies that have served this country—and the world as a whole—so well until now.

And tomorrow, should the message not be internalized—we need to fight like hell.

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Back to the cranes

Although it feels almost treason-like to momentarily hold my tongue and write a blog  unrelated to the war being waged on science and truth in the US, the annual crane-fest is as good a reason as any to distract oneself with nature’s wonders.

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The sandhill cranes at the Iain Nicolson Audubon Center at Rowe Sanctuary

It’s been over a decade since I last drove out west, about 2.5 h from Omaha, Nebraska, to view the spectacle of ~500,000 sandhill cranes congregating along the Platte River to feed, rest and bulk up before continuing their annual spring migration to the great white north.

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During the day, these cranes feed on leftover corn from the harvest of the many farms in the area, but each night, they collect along the river, and eco-tourists (like me) can reserve a spot in a protected “blind” and view this incredible scene.

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On the other hand, each morning (5 or 6 am), we can also reserve a spot at the blind to watch as the cranes noisily awake and begin their typical “lift-off” to head for the fields to feed.

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Need I say more? Take a look and take a listen! (click on the last photo to see a short movie or try this you-tube link https://youtu.be/IYP32K49nm0 …)

 

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Back to the Middle Ages

The current administration under the direction of Trumph has published a new budget proposal for 2018 discretionary spending. It does not take a Ph.D. in economics to realize that aside from a huge 54 billion dollar increase to the military (and with the exception of Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs), all of the domestic departments have been targeted for massive cuts. This includes the Department of Health and Human Services, which is the department that houses the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The NIH currently has a budget of about 31 billion dollars, which it uses to supports competitive grant programs that are the mainstay of this country’s research enterprise. These are grants in basic science and biomedical research as well as so-called ‘translational grants’ aimed at translating basic research findings to bedside treatments, and of course purely clinical research such as drug trials in patients. Trump has proposed a draconian cut in funding of about 18% or 5.8 billion dollars, that would reduce funding to 25 billion dollars—a funding low not seen in this millennium.

Just for context, for the last ~15 years, NIH funding has remained fairly stagnant, with the exception of a much awaited bipartisan-supported 2 billion dollar increase last year. The flat budget has seen a severe decline in US-led research advances, as mounting costs for equipment, research tools and reagents, and of course, personnel, have dramatically decreased the ability of researchers to make significant new discoveries. This, coupled with the natural growth of the number of biomedical researchers (without increasing funding for more grants) has led to low success rates for grant applicants.

There is little doubt that such a cut would have a devastating effect on our biomedical research program, which until now, has been the envy of countries around the world. The US has been able to draw the best and the brightest to its shores, to take advantage of the critical mass of brainpower and outstanding research infrastructure that we have enjoyed. This has fueled and incredible satellite community of biotech stat-ups and advanced equipment, all of which have a huge impact on our economy.

Of course, the major concern is not merely the negative impact on the economy, it is the overwhelming hit that biomedical research may suffer. Nobel Laureate Arthur Kornberg once said: “Without advances, medicine regresses and reverts to witchcraft.” Former director of the NIH appointed by George W. Bush, Elias Zerhouni, said that the cuts would be catastrophic, and said the following: “It will be a catastrophic event because the NIH funds grants over four or five years and therefore only has 20% of its budget to give at any one year. Therefore, if you cut it by $6 billion it means next year there will be no grants. It’s really ill-advised, I think, to change budgets so drastically so quickly. It will be very detrimental, especially on young investigators or new investigators, new science.”

Fortunately, the NIH enjoys broad-based bipartisan support from the US Congress and Senate, and representative from both parties have started to voice their serious concerns with the budget proposal overall, and the NIH budget cuts specifically. As scientists, the time has come to stand up for science and objective truth. Every one alive suffers or will suffer from disease, and without biomedical research, we will regress to the middle ages.

 

 

 

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SAVING ONE–my 4th lab lit novel is now available!

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After a hiatus of nearly four years, my fourth novel featuring biomedical researchers as protagonists has finally been published, and is now available in paperback and Kindle formats from Amazon. Or you can get an autographed copy if you purchase through my website.

In SAVING ONE, I return to the setting of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), where I spent just over 4.5 terrific years and nostalgic years (along with thousands of other enthusiastic post-doctoral fellows)–and where I have been returning for grant-review sessions every 4 months for the past 5-6 years.

Jeffrey Coleman is a successful principal investigator who has recently lost his wife to breast cancer. But he faces an even worse dilemma: his twins are both ill with polycystic kidney disease–and both are in need of a kidney transplant.

Described by a fellow author/reviewer as “a fast paced medical thriller,” I think that SAVING ONE is my best work yet (I know all authors say that about their most recent novel, but in this case, I really think it’s true). It’s also my second time publishing with Robin Stratton at Big Table Publishing Company, which has been a superb experience. Robin is a wonderful editor, and a joy to work with, and having read a number of the novels published through this small press, I feel honored to have been selected from the throngs of wannabe writers.

I will say no more, and hope that this topic may be of interest to some of you–and I’d be delighted to hear any feedback!

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Narcissistic Personality Disorder in the White House

Full disclosure: I am not a psychiatrist.

But it doesn’t take a board certified psychiatrist to see ominous parallels between the behavior of the recently elected president of the United States and a mental illness known as Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).

The Mayo Clinic describes NPD in the following way:

Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for admiration and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of ultraconfidence lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) which is a sort of “Bible” of psychiatric illness published by the American Psychiatric Association, lists several of the following criteria for NPD:

Having an exaggerated sense of self-importance

Expecting to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it

Exaggerating your achievements and talents

Being preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate

Believing that you are superior and can only be understood by or associate with equally special people

Requiring constant admiration

Having a sense of entitlement

Expecting special favors and unquestioning compliance with your expectations

Taking advantage of others to get what you want

Having an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others

Being envious of others and believing others envy you

Behaving in an arrogant or haughty manner

Sound familiar?

Many Americans maintained that Trump would become “presidential” and change his tone once he assumed the responsibilities of the job; once he was sworn in. But that moment has come and gone. And we are left with a person who is all-consumed by the most significant issue facing the United States in decades: whether the crowd at his inauguration was larger than that of President Obama’s two inaugurations. (Requiring constant admiration, Having an exaggerated sense of self-importance, Expecting to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it, Exaggerating your achievements and talents). Anyone recall his taking issue with Marco Rubio’s taunt about his hand size?

This issue is so cardinal to Trump, that he attacked the press from CIA headquarters, and had his press secretary viciously and, with blatant lies, read a statement claiming that the press was lying on this matter. The same Trump, after incessantly attacking the CIA and US intelligence services for their analysis that Putin and the Russians interfered in the US elections, blamed the press the his “supposed” discord with the intelligence communities. Just a few days after comparing them to Nazi Germany. Why does he do this? Because this apparently undermines his sense of being admired for winning the election. There is no other reason for this behavior.

I could go on and on with countless examples. Unable to stomach criticism from anyone on any matter. Examples that fit every single one of the criteria listed above. And so blatant and clear, that it’s hard to imagine how those near him, those in the Republican party who willingly or unwillingly have come to support him, fail to see it.

Fail to see it? Of course they see it. Of course they know it. It is the elephant in the room. And while I hope that as a country we get through the next 4 years unscathed, if things devolve into chaos and trauma for this country, in the words of Emile Zola: J’accuse.

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No escape from the geeky scientist phenotype–or is that stereotype?

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Professor John Nerdelbaum Frink, Jr., scientist from “The Simpsons.” A familiar stereotype.

For years I’ve been trying to combat the misconception that all scientists are, generally speaking, a geekish bunch who have little or no interest in anything but their own miniscule scientific worlds. Such a perception has been trumpeted in films, the media, and books, and has been challenged to some extent by those of us who try to portray scientists as ordinary people—albeit in extraordinary careers (author’s view!).

For this reason, I became incensed several days ago as I listened to music on “Spotify” during my morning exercise routine. An advertisement for the Exxon oil company popped up. As an aside, do they really need to advertise? For what? So people will pull into their gas stations and purchase their gasoline? Hard to imagine. To drum up public support for Trump’s Secretary of State nominee and former Exxon CEO, Rex Tillerson? Who knows… What really irritated me was the stereotypical depiction of scientists—not brave seekers of truth and explorers of new worlds—but as geeks.

The advertisement starts with the announcer noting that “This is the sound of seven Exxon scientists hard at work.” There is, of course, no sound. The scientists must be focused exclusively on their impossible-to-understand-for-normal-folks work, and patronized as those idiots that none of us would want to be, but necessary fools to keep things moving. The announcer goes on to say “They sure know how to party,” further distancing the listening public from those introverted fools, until one of the scientists utters an irritated “Shhhhh” in the background.

Some might conclude that this is a flattering depiction of brilliant scientists hard at work for the good of–well–for the good of an oil company. I do not. Such depictions neither portray scientists accurately, nor in a positive light. They do not foment empathy with scientists and science, and only serve to further distance the general public from science. It’s time for scientists to take a stand and reject such stereotypes. Otherwise how can we convince the general public of the importance of scientific progress, not to mention the integrity and understanding that science is the frontier of truth–with a characterization of bumbling, doddering introverted fools?

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The Autopsy, and what next?

I began this blog on Nov. 13, less than a week after the elections. It was too painful for me to continue. Not that there are many bright spots on the horizon that have appeared over the last 6 weeks, but the time has come for me to put this blog to rest and move on. So here it is, no less painful, but blunted slightly by mankind’s ability to adapt to new and stressful situations, time and time again…

The polls were wrong. The statistical aggregators were wrong. The pundits were wrong. The Democratic party was wrong. And the Republican party was wrong. And I was wrong. And while I won’t be eating any bugs, I am tremendously worried about the future of this country, the free world, and the planet.

What happened? There is no simple answer. And every one of the ~120,000,000 voters probably had a slightly different reason for casting her/his vote. One thing is clear, though; a large number of those who cast votes, did so with emphasis on outcomes that differ from what most analysts thought.

Some comments on the situation: The Irony: Early on in this election, it is clear that the Democrats realized that this election should first and foremost be a referendum on the character and temperament of Trump. It isn’t hard to understand why, or to fault this strategy. As noted by Clinton and the Democrats, does the country want a man who can be baited by a tweet? Whose anger at criticism boils over until he vents his frustration at common citizens in the middle of the night? Who cannot control his temper, frustration and anger during debates? The democrats, seemingly wisely, made this a key element of the campaign for Clinton for president. This left little time to really contrast policy.

And now, Americans are realizing that into the Oval office will go a Republican ticket that wants to turn back the clock on a woman’s control over her reproductive rights, that wants to annul gay marriage and (at least the Vice Presidential candidate) apparently supports “conversion therapy” for gays. Ironically, such ‘policies’ are largely considered to be anachronistic in American society, and surveys show that the vast majority of Americans are reject these attempts to infringe on the rights of minorities, women and LGBT community members. This irony can be extended for the environment–the new administration has put a climate change denier in control of the transition team of the American Environmental Protection Agency (*note: this has gotten far worse since Nov. 13), and I suspect that when millennials and many who were apathetic during the election realize the extent to which the Trump administration will ignore environmental concerns. *Additional irony since Nov. 13: Trump’s self-declared “landslide victory” includes a loss of the popular vote by nearly 3 million voters. Of course, he maintains through his post-truth ignorance of data, that this defeat in the popular vote stems from the “millions of illegal immigrants who illegally voted against him.” An ego such as his has no clause for losing.

Why did Hilary Clinton really lose the election? Was it the famous server in her basement? The perception by the working person that democrats took them for granted?  The growing loss of faith in institutions?  Was it FBI chief Comey’s two interventions? The Russian hackers? The tremendous smear campaign waged by the Republicans? The accumulation of “Fake News” and elevation of its significance to that of “Real News?” The desire for something different? Even as different as Trump, with 67% of the American public of the opinion that he does not have the skills, abilities and temperament required to be president? Or–is it all–“The economy, stupid!” *As an aside, significant numbers of people who voted for Trump are now very concerned about losing their healthcare insurance through “ObamaCare.” Some of these people, when interviewed, even said that they didn’t take Trump literally when he said he would repeal the act. Guess what?

I remain optimistic. I hope that these next four years will be better than I predict–despite tremendous misgivings regarding the president-elect–and I will not forgive any of the bigot-racist statements (in particular the birtherism and stirring of hatred towards President Obama) or “Locker room talk” and sexist behavior–but I still hope for the success of the government and country. After all, I live here. My goal is not to say “I told you so” in a few years (or months)–but rather–if at all possible: well, we are still moving forward.

At the same time, demography, the popular vote, a perceived weak democratic candidate,  a desire for change after 8 years and attention by the working classes all combined, in my humble opinion, to make this an exceptional and unusual election–with an unexpected outcome. Social issues, science, technology and equality for all people cannot be erased and the clock cannot be turned back. Let’s hope that the president-elect realizes that the clock needs winding.

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Final Comments before (Armageddon?) Nov. 8, 2016

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My early vote cast weeks ago; couldn’t rest until the ballot was submitted…

On Tuesday Nov. 8, the United States will have one of its most crucial elections in the history of the nation. Yes, I realize that many will say that just as many people felt that way when Democrat Obama faced off against Republican McCain in 2008 or when the former competed against Republican Romney in 2012. Or when Republican George W. Bush defeated Gore by the narrowest of margins in the electoral vote in 2000. But the overall indecency, mendacious behavior, boorishness, misogyny, racism and complete lack of moral character of Donald Trump make this election cycle an entirely different beast. So much so, that in retrospect, regardless of very different policy positions, all of the former Republican and Democrat presidential candidates, Obama, Romney, McCain, Kerry, Bush and Gore, seem like the same thing when compared with such a horrific outlier as Trump. NONE of these presidential nominees and presidents, by the way, will support Trump on election day. Neither from the Democrat side nor from the Republican side.

Statistics and Bug-Eyed Recipes

To start with science—or at least statistics—going towards Tuesday there are very different outlooks among the pundits and pollsters. I have been clicking with a high level of obsessive-compulsive disorder every few hours, looking for trends and changes. My clicking usually starts with the New York Times (NYT) Upshot, which provides a percentage-based prediction for the likelihood of an electoral vote victory. This is regardless of the number of electoral votes (EV)—it provides the percentage of likelihood that, say, Clinton will obtain over 269 EV, which is enough (270) to win the election.

Right now, Clinton stands at 84% likelihood. This is based primarily on state polling data (and some national data, I believe) and there is a calculation of the relevance of each poll (its overall technique and quality, the number of people surveyed, how recent it was, etc.). Accordingly, based on these polls, a % prediction for the individual state is made. Once all 50 states have their specific prediction values, the election is simulated millions of times, and the likelihood of all possible outcomes is calculated. Thus, a histogram plot is obtained, and if Clinton wins more than 269 EV 84% of the time (and that could be 270 to 538), her election chances are given at 84%.

The NYT Upshot is in the middle of the pack, with Nate Silver’s 538 website currently the most conservative of the statisticians at 64%, whereas Prof. Sam Wang (a neuroscientist) at the Princeton Election Consortium (PEC) has calmly maintained that “the cake is baked” and lists a >99% likelihood for a Clinton win. In fact, he is so confident that he has tweeted that he will eat a bug if Trump wins over 240 EV. Admittedly, this was before the recent Comey/FBI affair, but Prof. Wang has said on CNN that he stands by his calculations—that he believes are more accurate than Nate Silver’s algorithms–and his contention that this election is actually one of the most statistically stable that he has seen. I hope he is right, although from my in Belize, I learned that termites are nutritious and taste a little like carrots…

Other prediction sites still waver between mid 80s to low 90s in terms of probability that Clinton will win. One interesting site, now at 87% probability of a Clinton win, is the PredictWise site that essentially doesn’t work by polls and statistics, but primarily uses betting markets to calculate possibilities. Starting near 60% for Clinton in Jan. 2016, this site has steadily climbed toward the ~90% range where it stands today.

And Yet

And yet, since this is no ordinary election, any prediction that leaves 35%, 16%, 10%, 5%, or frankly, even <1% possibility that Trump wins, is still enough to unsettle my stomach.

MTV and GOTV

The common wisdom at this point of the election cycle is that the key is now to Get Out The Vote (GOTV). Clinton has been using her strong support by popular President Obama, even more popular First-Lady Michelle Obama, and a slew of pop culture favorites who are (hopefully) going to sway the millennial and young voters to go vote on Tuesday. I did my share, volunteering to man the phone banks at the Democratic Party of Nebraska headquarters, here in Omaha. If the race turns out to be tighter than Sam Wang expects, pundits believe that a potential path to 270 for Trump goes through Florida, North Carolina, Nevada, and New Hampshire (as well as a single EV from one district in Maine), possibly leaving him stranded at 269 EV. Nebraska, like Maine, is one of only 2 states that can split its EV and isn’t simply all-or-nothing. While Nebraska is typically considered a “red” or Republican state, this is somewhat of a misnomer. We have 5 EV, and 3 districts, with 1 EV going for each district winner, and 2 EV for the overall state winner. Omaha largely constitutes a district, and in 2008 went for Obama, splitting Nebraska’s EV vote to 4 for republicans and 1 for Democrats. “Redistricting” (also known as Gerrymandering) likely caused our District 2 to support Romney in 2012, but the race is tight for our district now in 2016.

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Nebraska, striped purple in the middle, could potentially contribute a crucial EV

Remarkably, and unlike the previous elections here in Omaha, there are NO ELECTION SIGNS. NONE. Except for congress (Ashford vs. Bacon) and local legislature, which is also on our ballot. This is a sign that both candidates are deeply disliked; but in a typically red state, I would guess that it says more about Trump than Clinton.

Banking On It

Work on the phone banks was mind numbing. Given a laptop that automatically dialed potential democratic voters or independents to ask them if they were going to support Clinton and go to vote Tuesday, I realized how many Americans take our governmental system for granted and are largely unconcerned about what happens. Or uninformed. I was struck by people who honestly told me that they hadn’t yet made up their minds, or hadn’t really thought about who to vote for. To me, it seems as though they must be living on a different planet. But perhaps they look at me and wonder why I have high blood pressure. Perhaps one has to fear for the loss of the democratic process in order to appreciate how important it is.

Latinos to the Rescue?

As the pundits continue to push nervous viewers like me into sleepless suspense, worries crop up about low African American early voting levels (especially compared with Obama’s support in the previous 2 cycles), I feel my blood pressure spike and worries pop up about Florida and North Carolina, two key states that would seal a victory for Clinton—probably if she were to win either, and certainly if she were to win both. At the same time, Latino population growth (especially in Florida and also in another key state, Nevada) and early voting is reportedly at record highs—strongly supporting the democratic ticket. And racist “dog whistles” (although I resent the term, as my dog is an equal opportunity canine who loves all people regardless of skin color) are coming straight out of the Trump campaign in an effort to deny and complain about the Latino voters. Most recently it was a complaint that the polls are being kept open late to allow them to vote. Coupled with attempts to suppress African American voters in states such as North Carolina, and attempts to solicit intimidating “vote watchers” at the polls, it’s clear that the strategy of Trump is to prevent votes from minorities. Whatever happened to the party of Lincoln? Dead on arrival…

My Predictions for Nov. 8 and Afterward

Scientists need to be optimists—especially with the grant situation the way it is. Based on the data, and despite the emotional ups and downs and the changes in the scope of victory predicted from just a few weeks ago, I am inclined to predict that Clinton wins with 312-323 EV. The more the merrier, but any combination above 270 is sufficient.

I am almost embarrassed to note that I almost wanted Trump to win the Republican primary, as I thought that it would tear apart the Republican party for generations to come. That may still happen; or perhaps it has already happened, as can be seen by the number of high-ranking Republicans who have shunned him. It is entirely feasible that should he lose, the party will essentially be split, and an inner party war will occur with a fight over the future of the party between those Trumpists and alt-rightists, and those who are appalled by what the Republican party has become. Conservative columnist George Will of the Washington Post resigned his Republican registration in protest, and wrote a column discussing how the GOP needs chemotherapy. In a short email discourse with him in response to his column, he agreed about my take on the direction of the party and wrote that he had written in a ballot for the junior Republican congressman of Nebraska, Ben Sasse, who has consistently maintained staunch opposition to Trump.

What will Trump do if he loses, as I anticipate? His contention about “the election being rigged” does not bode well. He is neither a good loser nor a good winner (for that matter, he is not good at anything). The most likely scenario is a failure to concede gracefully, possibly coupled with calls of corrupt elections and more people-whistles. To what end? Some say for a TV-media empire. I don’t know—my guess is that like with most things, there is no particular plan except to satisfy his anger, frustration ego and greed, and to cover his incompetence. Just as he couldn’t refrain from tweeting lies about a former Miss Universe in the middle of the night, he will be unable to contain his embarrassment about losing (and to a woman!). What ramifications will that have for the country? I think that will speed the splitting of the Republican party. For now, many low-life hangers-on are awaiting potential political booty in case he wins (Giuliani, Christie). But when he loses, and becomes just another loser in the course of US history (as he has called Romney and McCain so disdainfully)—that’s when everyone will finally abandon ship.

On the other hand, if he does win? With a candidate who threatens to put his opponent in jail, and threatens the free press—this could very well be my final blog. Yes. It’s that serious. Take him literally.

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