Easter Sunday

Luke 24:1-12
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, "Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again." Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.

He is risen!

He is risen indeed!

Holy Week Reflections - Holy Saturday and Liminal Space

Psalm 31:1-4
In you, O LORD, I seek refuge; do not let me ever be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me. Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily. Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me. You are indeed my rock and my fortress; for your name's sake lead me and guide me, take me out of the net that is hidden for me, for you are my refuge.

In the churches I have been a part of, the emphasis has been on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. A few churches I've been a part of have included Maundy Thursday services.

But what about Holy Saturday, what shall we make of that practice?

Maybe we in less liturgical churches could gain something from our more liturgical fellow Jesus followers?

At this point, would like to toss out another SAT word - liminal. Excerpt from the URL:
What happens if you lose what appears to be your “everything” and you do not know what to do next? If you feel that you are anxiously floating in the in between perhaps you are in The Liminal Space. [.......]"It is when you have left the tried and true, but have not yet been able to replace it with anything else. It is when you are between your old comfort zone and any possible new answer. If you are not trained in how to hold anxiety, how to live with ambiguity, how to entrust and wait, you will run ... anything to flee this terrible cloud of unknowing." 
- Richard Rohr
After Jesus died on the Cross, the followers of Jesus were in that Liminal Space. Their "everything" was gone and even if they remembered those words about resurrection they didn't know if it would happen. And so they waited ...
Peter replaying in his mind his three denials.
John watching Jesus die and receiving instructions from him to care for mother Mary wondering what was next for the whole group.
Thomas questioning himself about what he had said.
Simon of Cyrene wondering how he found himself helping carry Jesus' cross - did he know who Jesus was? Was he already a follower?
The feelings of guilt and shame the 12 felt having fled Jesus at his arrest.
Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus perhaps in muted conversation about the shocking events.
And let's not forget the women who were there and what they were thinking and feeling.

All of these people were in liminal space, "anxiously floating in the in between." And as good Jewish people, they may have turned to the Psalms for comfort, for a way to put into words their feelings, for some way to shake replying in their minds the grisly events that had unfolded, for turning their souls toward God. Specifically, they would turn to Psalms of Lament.

How about us?

Though we know the story (Resurrection) after the story (Cross), we in a sense live in Holy Saturday not just today but every day. We know the story (the Incarnation Jesus and the Outpouring of the Spirit) but we await the story (Jesus return). We live in the already-but-not-yet.

And so, we too turn to the Psalms of Lament like Psalm 31:1-4 on Holy Saturday and on many other days .....
In you, O LORD, I seek refuge; do not let me ever be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me. Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily. Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me. You are indeed my rock and my fortress; for your name's sake lead me and guide me, take me out of the net that is hidden for me, for you are my refuge.

Holy Week - Good Friday

Good Friday as remembered in John 19:16-30

Then he handed him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus; and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them. Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews." Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, "Do not write, 'The King of the Jews,' but, 'This man said, I am King of the Jews.'" Pilate answered, "What I have written I have written." When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. So they said to one another, "Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it." This was to fulfill what the scripture says, "They divided my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots." And that is what the soldiers did. Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, "Woman, here is your son." Then he said to the disciple, "Here is your mother." And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home. After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), "I am thirsty." A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the wine, he said, "It is finished." Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Good Friday as remembered in the hymn "And can it be that I should gain" by Charles Wesley

And can it be that I should gain
An int'rest in the Savior's blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain?
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! how can it be
That Thou, my God, should die for me?

Amazing love! how can it be
That Thou, my God, should die for me!

'Tis mystery all! Th'Immortal dies!
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine!
'Tis mercy all! let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more. [Refrain]

He left His Father's throne above,
So free, so infinite His grace;
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam's helpless race;
'Tis mercy all, immense and free;
For, O my God, it found out me. [Refrain]

Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature's night;
Thine eye diffused a quick'ning ray,
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free;
I rose, went forth and followed Thee. [Refrain]

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him is mine!
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th'eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own. [Refrain]

Good Friday remembered in a painting by El Greco "Jesus Carrying the Cross"

Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Good_Friday

We remember.

Holy Week - the Lord's Supper

image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Last_Supper_(Leonardo_da_Vinci)

1 Corinthians 11:23-26
For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me." For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.

Each church practices their Lord's Supper remembrance a little differently. Some use regular bread while others use unleavened bread. Some use grape juice while others use wine. Some churches conduct it weekly and others monthly. The Lord's Supper can also be called Communion and others call it the Eucharist. In some churches, only the pastor or priest can handle and serve the elements while in others it is passed from participant to participant.

Regardless of all the variations on how the ritual is performed, the core of its meaning is remembering what our Lord Jesus has done for us.

Think about how many facets of the Christian story is embodied in this practice?

We see the humanity of Jesus. He dwelt among us. He ate food. For the disciples and various followers who knew Jesus, he was as real as real can be. They heard the sound of his voice, they could see his facial expressions, they could feel his hands when he touched them to bless them or heal them. They could taste the water that he had turned into wine, they could enjoy the five loaves and two fish he multiplied. The aroma of the ointment used to anoint his feet would float through the room. He was as real as real can be.

And he died.

That is ultimate expression of the human condition. He was as real as real can be.

For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes...

Let's lean into this. In this statement is bundled a whole lot. A whole slew of "theological" SAT words can be used to unpack this simple phrase:
Christology - the humanity of Jesus in the incarnation, the divinity of Jesus in his title as Lord
soteriology - salvation is the mission of Jesus of which death, resurrection, and return is included
ecclesiology - the story of the church that is to remember Jesus and to proclaim Jesus to the world
eschatology - future things as Jesus is coming back

All of this meaning built around the simple act of taking some bread and some wine. Getting down into the very basics, we eat food and drink fluids to survive. But the Lord Supper points to life abundant and not mere survival. And so Jesus has invested into this simple ceremony a way for us to remember the reality that eternal living - a relationship with God - is possible because of the free, complete, and costly work of Jesus.

We remember.

Holy Week Reflections - Suffering and Vindication

image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaiah

Isaiah 50:4-9a,
The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. Morning by morning he wakens - wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught. The Lord GOD has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I did not turn backward. I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting. The Lord GOD helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame; he who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who are my adversaries? Let them confront me. It is the Lord GOD who helps me; who will declare me guilty?

Over the years, have not read too much of the OT prophets. One of the things I have found challenging at times is knowing when is God speaking and when is the prophet speaking? In this passage, since God is referred to in the third person, I figure Isaiah is speaking.

Isaiah declares that he has tried his very best to do what God wants. We know from Isaiah 6 that he knows he is a flawed man but he one who has experienced God's forgiveness. He enters God service and suffers for his obedience. But through it, he remains confident in God for his vindication.

I was recently reading Job and I found his situation to be similar. He was recognized as a righteous man by God in Job 1. Yet he suffered. And his friends in the various speeches in Job think he has secretly sinned leading to his suffering. Job's story is a window into the struggles of a faithful man trying to make sense of his situation. He puts into words what many have felt and do feel looking at the world where injustice appears to have the upper hand. Yet, amidst all this, Job is still wrestling with God. He won't stop talking to him and about him. He is honestly pouring out his heart in sorrow, anger, and confusion. Underlying it all, he was seeking vindication that comes from God.

In Holy Week, Jesus was headed toward the culmination of his vocation. He is a righteous man who has suffered. One can imagine the circumstances of his birth resulted in behind the back whispering. Perhaps, some of the commentary was not so behind the back! In his ministry of teaching and healing, he runs into opposition. Some even say his good deeds are done with the power of Satan! Things come to the collision course in Jerusalem. He is betrayed by one of the disciples. His closest followers abandon him at his arrest. He is headed toward the cross.

Jesus all his life opened his ear to the Father and was not rebellious but fully obedient and dependent on the Father. He was insulted and struck down by those who call for his crucifixion and those who conduct the crucifixion. In the eyes of the world he was disgraced and put to shame with a death on a cross, the punishment for criminals. But on Easter Sunday, he was VINDICATED by RESURRECTION and the Father has exalted him!

As one who is trying to live for God, I'm wrestling each day to put off my old self and put on the new self. I cannot claim the fidelity to God like Isaiah and Job. But I can receive the work of Christ on my behalf. I can yield to the work of the Spirit to empower and guide my life. In addition to my internal struggles, there is the external world with its difficulties and its opposition that I live in. Christ's Easter Sunday and vindication has happened. It is applied to us and to me by grace through faith. Our life experience is still on this side of our ultimate vindication. But that vindication is sure and it impacts life now and it was made possible by the free, complete, and costly work of Jesus that we remember this Holy Week.

May we have the same kind of trust and confidence as Isaiah to be able to say:
The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. Morning by morning he wakens - wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught. The Lord GOD has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I did not turn backward. I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting. The Lord GOD helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame; he who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who are my adversaries? Let them confront me. It is the Lord GOD who helps me; who will declare me guilty?

Disclaimer - 2016 Presidential Nomination

If you have mouse clicked to this blog to look in on politics, you could probably guess I'm supportive of the Republican viewpoint but in the #NeverTrump #NeverTrump category. Nonetheless, I do try to write as objectively as I can. And so, thinking about the practice of objectivity, I should disclosed that I'm a classic "small donor" to several campaigns.

I have donated to the following:
Ben Carson - I appreciated his calm manner of presentation even if I did not think he would win. We need more calm voices in the political process so I was disappointed when he endorsed Donald Trump.
Marco Rubio - I thought he exhibits the solidly center-right policy views I think is prudent for the USA. He is one of the more articulate spokesman for the party. His biography is also fantastic.
John Kasich - My preference in presidential candidates are governors as they have served in executive branch roles. Bush had the disadvantage of being the 3rd Bush to run. Christie was too combative for my taste although clearly the GOP electorate is in a combative mood. Kasich has a solid history of effective service in various levels of government.
Ted Cruz - Cruz is solid center-right in his policy views that are generally in the mainstream of the conservative political side of the aisle. His experience is a bit on the thin side but at this point, he is the most viable alternative for the #NotTrump #NeverTrump voter. I suppose you might say I'm a "realist" at this point.

Below is a TED talk by Arthur Brooks that captures a lot of the sentiments I have about politics.

GOP Nomination Race: For the Establishment It May Be Too Late

The numbers don't look good for the #NotTrump movement.

If Trump runs the table with victories of various size, he clears the 1237 bar. In the chart below, I make some guesses on his delegate hauls on the assumption he runs the table.

In the next scenario, I make the assumption that the #NotTrump side wins everything except Arizona where polling data shows Trump is leading, New York, where Trump has a strong presence, and New Jersey, where Gov. Christie who endorsed Trump is from. This is probably the most rosy scenario for the Cruz/Kasich side. I suppose if Cruz/Kasich were to go on such an epic win streak, Trump might collect less than 35% of the delegates in the contests he loses. Nonetheless, using that assumption, this scenario keeps Trump below 1237 and 175 delegates short. The contested convention scenario is plausible in this case since it would reflect a serious case of buyer's remorse by the voters.

The final scenario is where Cruz/Kasich manage to gain a few victories here and there. Utah being a strongly Mormon state may find Trump too much to take and so Cruz wins it. Wisconsin being mid-westerners like Ohio may gravitate to Kasich or if Gov. Walker endorses Cruz, Trump could be defeated here. Connecticut, Maryland, and Rhode Island are fairly moderate high-income states where Trump's trade protectionist and anti-immigrant message may not sell as well opening the door to Cruz/Kasich to knock off Trump. Nebraska being next to Kansas could be Cruz country. Montana as a neighbor to Idaho might be Cruz country as well. And finally, as left-leaning California is, the California GOP itself is hard right and may also be Cruz country. Being a border state, Trump's anti-immigrant stance may play well. As you can see, if California goes for Trump, that could put him very close to or over the top of the 1237 threshold. Likewise, a Trump defeat in California, as in the scenario, Trump is kept slightly below. Could he arm twist 74 more delegates? I would think so. The #NotTrump side will have to have more wins and bigger wins than this scenario to make the contested convention a realistic scenario.

As you can see, the path for Trump is looking fairly good. For the Establishment, it may well be too late......

Stayed in bed all mornin' just to pass the time.
There's somethin' wrong here, there can be no denyin'.
One of us is changin', or maybe we've just stopped tryin'.
And it's too late, baby now, it's too late,
Though we really did try to make it.
Somethin' inside has died, and I can't hide,
And I just can't fake it, oh, no, no.

Liverpool Klopp Episode 38 - Twist and Shout

Sunday morning coverage here in the USA of the match with Southampton is on NBCSN Extratime. Have turned on the TV to see LFC has gotten off to a two-goal lead over the Saints. In the build up to the game had read that it was likely that Moreno, Firminio, and Henderson might not feature due to injury and that Milner would be out due to red card suspension.

Recap of the match thus far:

Comments on watching the halftime highlights:
Southampton got robbed on the no PK call early in the match!
The two goals by LFC were wonderful strikes from Coutinho and Sturridge!

Welcome back to the 2nd half. LFC has sent in Skrtel for Lovren. Don't know if Lovren has pick up a knock or it is an opportunity to get Skrtel some playing time. It is a 2-0 lead for LFC but they did give up two goals to Sunderland not too long ago.

46' Southampton is coming out with possession and have put a shot on goal but Mignolet was ready and the shot didn't have a lot on it.

48' There you go Southampton, LFC Skrtel's challenge in the box is rightly called a penalty.
Mignolet leaps to the right and parries the PK attempt!

55' When LFC have had the ball in the Southampton side, Origi has been the reason for them to get nervous.

63' Southampton Mane gets the goal top right corner from a pretty steep angle. Its 1-2. You can sense that Southampton was on the front foot and would soon cash in an opportunity. You can hear the crowd sing "When the Saints go marching in" over the voice of the NBCSN announcers.

73' Argh! Benteke near miss on the counter attack.

77' Flanagan dispossess the Southampton player!

82' ARGH! Southampton have tied it 2-2.

85' 3-2 Southampton!

Its a final 3-2. The team lost focus in the 2nd half sitting on the 2-0 lead. Was Lovren injured leading to the Skrtel substitution? Turns out Klopp was concerned that Lovren might pick up a second yellow and thus be expelled with a red card. Don't think the loss could be blamed on Skrtel. Looked more like the team as a group lost focus. May also be that some of the players having played last Thursday were a step slow in the 2nd half. Benteke came in at 70 and Ojo at 87. Perhaps substitutions should have been introduced sooner to permit fresher legs on the LFC side. Southampton went with 2 subs at 45 and they were a handful.

Liverpool snatches defeat from the jaws of victory.

We have seen this script before! LFC fans were able to twist and shout in the first half but in the end, the fans at St. Mary twist and shout all the way home with the victory.

The Delegate Hunt and What is Rule 40?

Have been checking in on the Hugh Hewitt radio show to keep up with the "behind the scenes" aspects of the nomination race in addition to the top-level issues of policy and personalities of the candidates.

Hunting for delegates in California was discussed with the man who wrote the rules of the California State GOP. The state does winner-take-all by Congressional District in addition to a small clutch of state-wide delegates.

There was also a discussions of Rule 40 in the same interview. As it stands, it will have to be altered for the 2016 convention. However, how the rule will look will be hard fought to accommodate the various situations of candidates (Trump, Cruz, Rubio, and Kasich) holding more than just a handful of delegates. A front runner, if clearly ahead but short of the magic number, could use it to box out the other three candidates. Also, the top two could use it to box out the 3rd and 4th place finishers. All sorts of combinations of deal making will go into it.

There is also the matter of persuading delegates to join your side which may take place prior to the first ballot - after all, how strong is the "binding" of delegates? And certainly, if there is a second ballot, wooing of delegates will be necessary.

See this item with Republican elections attorney Ben Ginsburg talking about scenarios of how "binding" the rules are and what could be done to "encourage" delegates to change their commitments.

Magic number = 1237

The Democrats allocate all their delegates proportionally. On top of those delegates, there are super-delegates to be won over. In any case, barring some very strange turn of events, Clinton is coasting to the nomination.

The Republican delegate allocation system is highly diverse since they leave it up to the state parties to set the rules of how to divide it up.

Broadly, there are four types:
Winner-take-all (Florida and Ohio were recent examples; Arizona coming up is another; there are few more)
Winner-take-all by Congressional districts (Illinois and Missouri were recent examples; California will be the biggest example at the very end)
Proportional by Congressional districts (many)
Proportional by state-wide (many)

The basic outline above can be modified in a myriad of ways. For example, there can be thresholds that must be crossed before delegates can be awarded to eliminate low vote getting candidates from picking up any delegates. Some states that allocate by Congressional districts may also offer a batch of delegates based on state-wide results. It can get quite complicated!

The net effect of these modifications to the basic format is to magnify the delegate collection of candidates who perform well throughout a state. For example, in Alabama, Trump got 36 out of 50 delegates (72%) because he won throughout the state even with only 43% of the vote overall.

And there in lies the danger to the #NotTrump movement: if Trump consistently pulls ~ 40% throughout a state and Kasich and Cruz split the remaining 60%, Trump wins far more than 40% of the delegates in those states. Thus, by dividing the #NotTrump vote between two candidates, Trump could get a "back-door" winner-take-most of the delegates in many states.

Bracket Picks

Of course, I'll make a bracket even though my Bruins (UCLA) and Anteaters (UCI) aren't in it! Have Kansas winning the whole thing. KU, UNC, Mich St in the Final Four with Texas A&M as the long shot. First round upset winners: VCU, Michigan, So. Dakota St., and Iona.

Liverpool Klopp Episode 37 - Star Trek (reboot 2009)

Leg 2 against Manchester United in the Europa League. Manchester United has had a tough season but remains above LFC in the Premier League table and will "fire everything" at LFC not wanting to be beaten at home and tossed out of the Europa league competition.

Roger Bennett of MIB says that on the train ride between the two cities, you can tell which city you are closer to by the graffiti you see denouncing the opposing city's club. So even though LFC has a 2-0 lead from leg one, nothing should be taken for granted in this long standing rivalry. Interestingly, this is the first time the two storied clubs have faced off in the Europa League.

If all the players are healthy and so far haven't seen any reports of new injuries, will figure the same line-up that took the field last Thursday will do so again. The only possible shift is to plug the recovered Milner in for Lallana. However, my feeling is that Klopp will use Milner as first substitute off the bench before returning him to a starting role in the EPL match against Southampton this Sunday.

Late news suggests that Moreno might be a scratch due to a hamstring. Brad Smith is suggested as the likely replacement. Wonder if Milner has ever played at left back? A Google search says that he has!

UPDATE: Took a look at the comments over at UK Guardian....  Manchester United is definitely FIRING EVERYTHING (at 25' MUFC has out possessed LFC 3-to-1!) and LFC is being pushed to the edge but so far still hang on 0-0.

At-the-half: 1-1 (agg. 1-3)! MUFC was pushing hard and eventually LFC broke down surrendering a penalty. Martial cashed it in at the 32 minute mark. However, late in the half, LFC was able to counter-attack and had a couple of near misses. As the half wound down, Coutinho pulls a rabbit out of the hat to tie it at the 45 minute mark!

Murray of UK Guardian describes the scene at Old Trafford: Well, that’s changed the picture somewhat. Coutinho’s goal was pretty much the last kick of the half, and you could hear the atmosphere sucking out of Old Trafford as the ball nestled gently into the net. It’s a quiet stadium all of a sudden, though Liverpool’s travelling support are currently banging out the Johnny Cash songbook.

Wonder what Van Gaal will say to the team in the locker room? They will now need 3 goals to zero in the second half to win the match. Look for MUFC to FIRE EVERYTHING right from the start. LFC needs smart defending and be crafty on the counter-attack when Man U pushes up more attackers to press for the goals. Would look for Origi for freshness in the counter attack and then eventually Allen for fresh legs on defense.

FT: 1-1 (agg. 1-3) Yes! LFC advance to the next round of the Europa League!

Super Tuesday Round 3 - Is this it?

Illinois, Ohio, North Carolina, Floria, and Missouri.

Ohio and Florida, winner take all.
Illinois and Missouri, winner take all by congressional district.
North Carolina, proportional.

The race may have more drama on the Democratic side.

Clinton looks to win Florida and North Carolina.

However, it looks competitive in Illinois, Ohio, and Missouri. If Sanders can take all three there will be major panic in the Clinton Camp. Likewise, if he is blanked, then there will be more calls for him to drop out though I suspect he has no political reason to do so. My prediction: Sanders takes two of these states - Illinois and Ohio.

ACTUAL: Sanders edged out Clinton in Missouri by 1 delegate and Clinton edged out Sanders in Illinois by 1 delegate. Clinton rode to easy victories elsewhere.

Meanwhile, on the Republican side, Trump appears to be on the edge of pushing the opposition off the stage.

Kasich looks like he will take Ohio. Rubio's campaign has run out of gas and Florida goes to Trump. My prediction: Kasich edges out Trump by a percentage point or two and Trump easily takes Florida with about 36/37%.

ACTUAL: Kasich won easily by 11% in Ohio and Trump won easily in Florida with a stunning 46% and Rubio 19% behind. Rubio has suspended his campaign.

Cruz's goal at a minimum is to pick off as many delegates as he can in Illinois, Missouri, and North Carolina. In his dream scenario, he actually takes one or two of these states. My prediction: though Trump will get a lot of press for winning 3 states, his delegate haul will NOT put Cruz away. Cruz edges Trump out in Missouri.

ACTUAL: Cruz came close in Missouri to winning but fell a little less than 2000 votes short.  In terms of the delegate hunt, not all the data is in for Illinois and Missouri. Cruz did collect a good number in North Carolina. 

What is next?

538 has estimates of what level of delegate collecting each candidate needs to get the nomination. As it stands, Trump is best positioned to reach the 1237 magic number while the others aim to deny him the magic number.

Kasich and Cruz are in delegate collection mode to keep Trump from 1237. However, will there be back channel communications with the Cruz team so they won't compete too strongly in the same states and wind up dividing the vote allowing Trump to collect delegates too easily?

Where is Kasich's most favorable ground? Where is Cruz so strong that Kasich would skip campaigning? 

March 22 is next with Utah and Arizona. My guess is that Kasich will concede Arizona to Cruz to fight Trump in this winner-take-all primary. On Kasich's web page (as of Wednesday afternoon PDT), he plans to appear in Utah where it is a proportional primary where it could be a close three-man race.

Looking further into the calendar, April 5 Wisconsin win-take-all by congressional district and April 19 New York proportional by congressional district is likely to be favorable to Kasich. And Kasich will definitely (resources permitting) go all-in for the NorthEast Super Tuesday on April 26.

If Kasich hasn't made inroads (e.g. a few (four?) victories and strong second place finishes otherwise) by this point, the rationale for his candidacy will be over. His practical goal must be to overtake Cruz as the number two delegate collector and keep Trump below 1237.

The mystery is how much below 1237 must Trump be for the contested convention to be a truly viable option? And how close must the second place candidate be?

1000 is a nice "psychologically round" number for Trump. Get over 1000 then he could probably arm-twist and wheeler-dealer get the last 200+ to get over the magic number.

But what if Trump is below 1000?

If Trump had 999, then there would be 1473 delegates left to divide among the rest. If the second place finisher had ~ 800, a contested convention is probably possible.  But if the second place finisher was only at ~ 700, it might be harder.

Liverpool Klopp Episode 36 - The Martian

Leg one of Europa League match against rivals Manchester United!

First off, the injury report. Looks like Milner is not an option for Thursday's match. However, Sturridge looks to be fit and lively in training and should be available for the XI.

In other selection questions, Flanagan may have displaced Moreno at full back but he isn't an option for Europa league play as he wasn't on the competition squad list that was filed a while back. Thus, the back four should be Clyne, Lovren, Sakho, Moreno.

Can and Henderson should patrol at central midfield.

Coutinho, Firmino, and Lallana on attack with Sturridge at the point of the spear.

And of course, Mignolet as the keeper.

The open question is who gets in if they need more striking power or a substitute for a tiring Sturridge? Origi or Benteke?

For fresh pace, I would guess Allen first and Ibe second.

Skrtel and Toure will be on the bench should any defensive substitutions need to be made.

Much has been made of the personality of Klopp as a big part of the "Klopp effect" on the club. However, not to be overlooked are his in-game tactical moves. This Echo item highlights some of his skills in that department.

Looking for the fans to bring the passion to Anfield and global fans via social media. But also looking for Klopp and his players to work the problem and put the pressure on Manchester United. This edition of Man U isn't the dominant team of old. No gimmicks needed, just simply concentration and a well executed game plan to force turnovers and transition into the attack. Do that and Liverpool should be competitive. Hopefully, they will be clinical with their opportunities like they were against Manchester City two games ago and put the biscuit in the basket or whatever the equivalent catch phrase is for soccer!

Here is a video clip of Klopp's comments. Over at ESPNFC this analysis of the match-up. Some excerpts below:

It is probably Klopp, however, who has more tactical options here. The return of Sturridge has changed things completely, giving him the option to play with a conventional striker going in behind the opposition to stretch the play, meaning Christian Benteke is now a Plan B and Firmino can play in his favoured role, just behind the main forward.[......]The most encouraging thing about Liverpool's play, however, is that their combinations in the final third are looking excellent. In last week's 3-0 victory over Manchester City, Lallana, Milner and Firmino all scored, and all claimed an assist too, a wonderfully neat way of emphasising their improved link play.[......]Liverpool must be wary of counter-attacks, particularly in behind Moreno, who doesn't seem to be improving his positional sense at all. Martial could be fielded on his flank specifically to run in behind. Depay could also be a threat, while Mata has a habit of scoring in this fixture.

Here is an item in the UK Telegraph about the contrasting styles of play of the two clubs. Excerpt:
Van Gaal will expect Liverpool to come out of the blocks on the attack for this one but will trust in his system and tell his players that patience is key to victory, as it was in the 1-0 victory in January. Both managers know how to beat each other but while Van Gaal has the advantage at the moment, winning three of the five games both have overseen against each other, there is no clear winner between Klopp’s attack, attack, attack and Van Gaal’s control, control, control. United fans may well wish their manager took a little more of an adventurous route at times, but he knows how to win games like these. If United pass the ball well and keep possession, Liverpool’s constant pressing will leave players tired and eventually lead to mistakes which United can capitalise on. Rooney’s goal in that last match came as a result of terrible defending from a set piece – Liverpool’s Achilles heel - something Klopp still hasn’t been able to fix. If Marouane Fellaini is fit, he will almost certainly feature to cause havoc in the air from free kicks and corners. Both systems have flaws which can be exploited.

YES 2-0 victory for LFC!!
Player ratings at the Echo. Solid all around! Minute-by-minute over at UK Guardian. Domination in most category of stats. Here is a video from LiverpoolFC.com recapping the match.

Open Convention?

When will a political pundit start talking about the 1964 film, The Best Man?

Premise of the film is that Fonda and Robertson are deadlocked going into the convention. Both candidates have liabilities. Deals are attempted and in the dramatic conclusion ........ sorry don't want to spoil it for you!

Click on this link to see the plot summary (with the spoilers). 

Saw the films eons ago. Can't find it on Netflix or on iTunes. Probably have to go to the library to find it. 

Will see if this is the year, more than 1 ballot is needed to determine the nominee. The last time that happened was in 1948 for the Republicans and 1952 for the Democrats

Medium sized Tuesday: Michigan, Mississippi, Idaho, and Hawaii

3 proportional primaries and 1 caucus (Hawaii).

At RCP, there appears to be no polling data for Hawaii as caucus states are hard to poll and small states usually don't get polled much anyway. Same can be said of Idaho. There is a stale Mississippi poll from late February. Michigan is garnering the most polling with Trump in the lead but Kasich on the uptick.

If Mississippi votes like its neighbors, it should be a close contest between Trump and Cruz. Cruz needs a win to keep his status as the one who has and continues to beat Trump. Cruz probably won't win outright but in terms of the delegate count from Mississippi, I would think he will get a tie or close to it.

UPDATE: Completely wrong here. Trump did very well.

As for Michigan, has Kasich become the anti-Trump for that state? Alas, Trump's lead was so large, it would be surprising if it evaporates to the point he loses Michigan. If Kasich were to overtake him, that would suggest the negatives of Trump are starting to take hold. Kasich probably won't win outright but in terms of the delegate count from Michigan, I think he will get a tie or close to it.

UPDATE: Completely wrong here. Kasich wound up third narrowly edged out by Cruz.

Have no idea who has made efforts in Hawaii and Idaho. Sadly, the only news I've seen for the Idaho campaign is that one of the pastors who supports Cruz was shot in a church parking lot by someone for reasons apparently unrelated to the campaign. I would think Idaho would be a chance for Cruz to win and Hawaii would be a chance for Rubio to win. But I have no polling data to support these guesses. Rubio needs to finish strong somewhere tonight to build support for his last stand in Florida.

UPDATE: Got Idaho correct. Was wrong in Hawaii with Trump taking that caucus.

Clinton should have an easy night with big wins. The only question mark is Michigan. Probably more a question of the margin of victory than losing Michigan outright. But it has been a crazy year, who knows!

UPDATE: Wrong on Michigan as Sanders pulled off the upset no one saw coming. Clinton won Mississippi easily.

Poll closing times:
Mississippi 5pm PST
Michigan 6pm PST
Idaho 8pm PST
Hawaii 11pm PST

Galaxy 4 DC 1

The drubbing the Galaxy took in CCL was troubling. How would they fare against MLS competition?

Well, we found out!

It was the Magical Mike McGee Homecoming (LA Galaxy 2009-2013) Tour. He scored two goals, assisted in one, and drew the PK for Keane to slot in.

The line-up in the second half, when the Galaxy got all its goals, was somewhat different than what "plan A" was supposed to look like. Given the reality of injuries, it is good to know that Arena can plug in a plan B and win matches!

Liverpool Klopp Episode 35 - The Search for Spock

A little slow getting going this weekend. Things weren't looking good for LFC when I turned on NBCSN right when Milner got sent off with the second yellow! Down to 10 men and down 1-0 on the road at Selhurst against the dreaded Crystal Palace.

Can they draw level and snatch something out of a bad situation???

72' Firmino!!!!!!

79' LFC not content to sit back are still pushing even with 10. Benteke is in and gets off a shot but it is saved.

85' Free kick for Palace. It comes to nothing.

87' Almost! Moreno hits post.

88' Toure in for defensive purposes to see out this match hopefully holding onto the one-point.

+4 minutes to go!

90+2' Benteke gets off another shot but it is saved.

90+3' LFC has the ball and will try to run out the clock.

90+4' Benteke in the box is clipped. A PK! Benteke on the spot and its in! 1-2 LFC is now up.

90+6' Palace gets the ball at the half but there is essentially no time. LFC STEALS a victory at Selhurst Park with 10 men on a PK! The scriptwriters have been going crazy this season!

Certainly, there is a lot of discussion about whether the challenge on Benteke was deserving of a PK. Coach Pardew of Palace was furious at the call that cost them the game and the club remains without a win all of 2016. Watching the game at full speed, it did look like some contact. In replay, the contact did not look heavy. So how much contact is too much? UK Guardian Rob Smyth initially wasn't sure but thinks after seeing the replay that the right call was made. Smyth's comments:
That all happened so quickly that I didn’t get to describe the penalty decision. There are approximately 100 per cent of Palace fans who will think it was a dive from Benteke. It’s hard to be absolutely certain. Delaney slid in – a silly decision because Benteke was going nowhere – and may have brushed Benteke’s left foot with his knee or thigh. Andre Marriner didn’t have a great view, but after consulting with the assistant referee he gave it. At first I thought it was a dive, but the second replay suggested he may have clipped him. I can see both sides! Edit: the more you see it, the more it looks like a clear penalty.

Liverpool Klopp Episode 34 - The Godfather, Part 2

"This is the business we have chosen ..."

After the heartbreaking loss to Manchester City on Sunday, LFC has to turn around and play again on Wednesday. And guess who they have to play?

Yup, Manchester City!

The team will be without the services of a few players (Lucas, Sakho, Sturridge) from the Leauge Cup Finals. With the priority likely to be shifted over to the Europa League, Klopp will do a little mix and match for this EPL game. Will be interesting to see if any of the "youth" squad from FA Cup (Smith and Teixeira for example) may be on the bench or even in the starting XI?

Mignolet remains the keeper.

On defense: Clyne, Toure, Skrtel/Lovren (depending who is furthest along in fitness from injury), Flanagan.

Midfield: Coutinho, Milner, Henderson, Lallana.

Forward: Origi, Benteke.

Likely subs: Firmino, Can, Allen.

As expected a few changes to accommodate injuries and rest amidst the busy fixture schedule. Coutinho not in the XI but available to sub in. Origi gets the call but not Benteke who is on the bench. Good to see Skrtel available as a possible sub.


Hah! The script-writers of the EPL season have tossed some love to LFC with a sweep of Man City! A wonderful 3-0 victory at Anfield to go with the 4-1 win at the Ethihad earlier in the season! Much maligned Lallana opened the scoring in the first half with a shot from distance. Milner received a pass in the box and blasted it into the goal just before halftime making it 2-0. Firmino put it away from a Lallana pass into the penalty area in the second half to finish the scoring 3-0.

With 11 matches left in the EPL season, LFC currently in 8th place could crawl their way up the table with more performances like this. Top 4 is asking a lot but maybe 6th? Of course many of the top teams can't seem to decide they want to challenge Leicester City.

Will this be the turning point for LFC to be more clinical? Liverpool go to Selhurst Park in South London for a Sunday match against Crystal Palace who beat LFC 2-1 at Anfield earlier this season. Hopefully, LFC will stay clinical and not lay an egg.

In any case, this victory is to be enjoyed after the heartbreak of the League Cup just a few days ago.

Super Tuesday - Known Unknown

The polling data says Trump should take everything except Texas tonight.

What I don't know is how many of these states have vigorous early voting mechanisms?

Thus, one of the "known unknowns" is how many votes Trump has through early voting prior to him setting himself on fire on the CNN Jake Tapper interview in regards to the KKK and David Duke.

And the flip side of early voting is how the "day of voters" turn out?

How many will now not vote for Trump and not vote at all versus how many will vote for one of the other GOP candidates?

Predictions in bold.

My guts tell me that Trump will lose some support but still win most of the states. Am figuring Trump isn't going to break 40% anywhere. But with Cruz/Rubio splitting the vote in the 20% range, Trump can still carry those states with low 30% vote totals. Don't see Kasich or Carson breaking 10% anywhere.

Cruz wins Texas allowing him to stay in the race.

Rubio needs to finish #2 more often than Cruz finishes #2 to stay in the race. Will be pretty hard to sustain support if he finishes third in too many states. I think he will be able to stay in the race.

Update: The 20% mark is important in some states as that is the cut-off for getting any delegates.

Actual: Red marks places where Trump exceeded 40%. His taking 7 of 11 with 2 > 40% finishes is a strong performance but not the knock out blow to his opponents he sought. Green marks states (6) where Cruz outpaced Rubio. Blue indicates where Rubio edged out Cruz (5). Purple shows where Kasich broke into the top-three. Carson hit the 10% mark in a couple of places but never got into the gold/silver/bronze podium.

The pressure on Carson to drop out will be pretty high with no top-3 finishes. If Kasich had no top 3 finishes, he would have been under tremendous pressure to exit the race as well. He will need to look long and hard at Ohio and decide whether he is confident he will win that state. Much as Cruz had to win Texas, Kasich needs Ohio. If he thinks he will lose Ohio, he will drop out. Rubio would have wanted to beat Cruz in 6 of 11 states as opposed to 5 of 11. However, he did get the win in Minnesota and had a very strong showing in Virginia. Like Kasich he has to look hard at Florida. Rubio can't survive a loss in Floria.

Prior to March 15 when Florida and Ohio vote, there are some contests for Cruz/Rubio/Kasich to evaluate their strength and to see if the "unsinkable" Trump is taking in any water from his gaffes and increased scrutiny.

March 5: Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine
March 6: Puerto Rico
March 8: Hawaii, Idaho, Michigan, Mississippi
March 12: DC

Galaxy in Leg 2 of the CCL Quarterfinals

0-0 at the moment. A road game so a win is a win but a tie is a win on away goals!

Even a casual newbie soccer fan like myself did sense the Galaxy got bullied by more physical teams last season. Thus, off-season, the brain trust at the Galaxy decided to bulk-up with some players with reputations for being on the edge/over-the-edge in terms of hard hitting. Baxter at LAT gave the run-down in this morning's paper in the run-up to tonight's match up.

Historically, the Liga MX teams dispatch the MLS teams at this stage and no MLS team has won the CCL in its current format. At the moment, 2 of the MLS teams are behind and 2 are even in goals. The Galaxy are best positioned with the 0-0 score line at the moment.

Certainly, the new Galaxy players have experience in playing big games but the time on the pitch of playing together as this particular group has been brief. Liga MX teams want to retain their dominance over the MLS and so they will be motivated. Am envisioning a punishing game. Will see how tight/loose the refs call it. What is the "prop bet" on there being a red card tonight?

Update: Watched part of the first half .... the part where the Galaxy gave up three goals on their way to a 4-0 mauling. The field looked tilted downhill toward the Galaxy defensive end. It was a out and out beat down. Clearly, at this stage of fitness and organizing on the field, this LA Galaxy team was not ready for prime time. The next questions will be can they improve and will it be enough to be competitive in the MLS? 

Heading into the October international break

LA Galaxy have dropped two in a row and in both cases their defense was the culprit. As a result, they go into the MLS playoffs in fifth pla...