Friday, February 21, 2020

Giving Guns A Shot

The town hall events held separately for Democratic candidates by CNN are largely one hour unpaid political advertisements. Whatever they're intended to be, they provide little or no news nor additional information about the candidates. The best response to having watched any one of them is "an hour of my life I'll never get back."

Most of the questions are of the softball variety and the presidential hopefuls are rarely pressed. Nonetheless (or maybe "because") Anderson Cooper's friendly chat with Joe Biden Thursday evening provided at least one moment of drama while revealing a missed opportunity for Michael Bloomberg the night before.

During Wednesday evening's debate, the former Delaware senator and vice-president was asked "what would you do about these companies that are responsible for the destruction of our planet?"

Biden began

What would I do with them? I would make sure they, number one, stop. Number two, if you demonstrate that they, in fact, have done things already that are bad and they've been lying, they should be able to be sued, they should be able to be held personally accountable, and they should -- and not only the company, not the stockholders, but the CEOs of those companies. They should be engaged.

But then he added

And it's a little bit like -- look, this is the industries we should be able to sue. We should go after -- just like we did the drug companies, just like we did with the tobacco companies. The only company we can't go after are gun manufacturers, because of my buddy here. But that's a different story...

Actually, there is at least one, as a contemporary news report in 2011 noted that the Supreme Court had ruled "that a federal law prohibits lawsuits against drug makers over serious side effects from childhood vaccines." However, there is a National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program which gives at least some financial relief to injured children. And of course, used properly, childhood vaccines save lives while used properly, firearms end them.

Still, it was a stinging- or should have been- rebuke to Vermont senator Bernard Sanders, whose mixed record on gun safety has reflected his conflict between leftist ideology and representing a rural state.

Then on Thursday, Biden told  the audience and Anderson Cooper (beginning at 5:20 of the video below)

I'm not suggesting you have to vote for me, but what I'm saying is, how about if I said to you, you know what, drug companies should be immune from being able to be sued. They put out 9 billion opioid pills in a matter of years, but they shouldn't be able to be sued. They misled advertising on television saying that you in fact can get -- they don't point out you can get hooked in five days on everything from -- that they advertised. And I said, but we can't sue them.

How about if I said that about the tobacco companies? I said, we shouldn't be able to sue the tobacco companies when they're misleading about how it caused cancer and the like. Or the oil companies that are out there polluting the ground? But guess what? The only industry in America that is not able to be sued are the gun manufacturers.

Now Bernie talks about my record. It's appropriate. It's not -- I'm not being mean. He voted to exempt gun manufacturers from any liability, zero. They can't be sued. And I tell you what, I'm not joking. I've sat there and looked in the eyes of those parents, as recently as today, talking about their kids and how they died, and they died at the hands of -- why can't we sue these manufacturers for advertising, for misleading, for glorifying, for promoting this godawful -- you know how many people have died since 2007 of murder with guns? Three times as many people have died in the Vietnam War and every war since. Three times as many, 150,000 murders, 150,000 murders. Those lives have crushed families. I was on the phone on the second anniversary with Fred Guttenberg down in Florida. He is the guy who lost his daughter, to just call him because I know what it's like to lose a daughter, lose a son.

And guess what? You know, he has devoted his whole life to try to make sure. And all they want, let me sue these guys who have done this stuff, this carnage on the street. Look at the people here in the greatest mass shooting in American history, the worst mass shooting at Mandalay Bay.

A guy has 12 assault weapons with bump stocks, which means you can fire it faster. You can pull the trigger faster. And 100 rounds. Why in God's name should anyone, anyone, anyone, anyone be able to own that? It's just wrong. And we've got to -- and I promise you as president...

And upon being applauded

... I am going to get these guys. I want to let them know, promise you. I'm the only guy that has beaten the gun manufacturers. I'm the only guy that has beaten the NRA nationally, and I did it twice, nationally. And gun manufacturers, I'm coming for you, period.

Maybe he would and maybe he wouldn't. Only time will tell and even time probably won't because his election is a long-shot at present. Yet, it arguably was the best moment of his campaign.

Former mayor Bloomberg has spent tens of millions of dollars of his own money supporting pro-gun control groups, and helped bankroll  Moms Demand Action and Everytown for Gun Safety, which recently merged  His gun safety credentials are solid and on Thursday in consecutive tweets had condemned Sanders for being "corrupt" for having helped protect firearms manufacturers from legal immunity. Still, he missed a golden opportunity in the debate because, though no question pertained to gun control, he could have pivoted to making a point about firearms- as did Biden.

Perhaps Michael Bloomberg is such an inexperienced debater that he failed to exploit the one issue on which he is superior to all of his opponents.  More generously, he may have found that one issue he needs to exploit.  Or it's possible that Joe Biden has regained his mojo with a strong line one evening, and a rally and eloquent statement the following day, all on the same topic.

The best possible scenario: both Michael Bloomberg and Joseph Biden zero in on the one issue on which Bernard Sanders falls to the right of most Democrats.It might not do either of their candidacies any good but would at least focus the attention on an issue which in the past few months had received inadequate attention in the campaign. 

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Thursday, February 20, 2020

The Last Refuge Of A Democratic Scoundrel

Wednesday evening in the debate in Las Vegas, Nevada we heard

Senator Warren, I have a question for you. On Sunday, on "Meet the Press," Vice President Biden accused Senator Sanders' supporters of bullying union leaders here with, quote, "vicious, malicious, misogynistic things." You said Democrats cannot build an inclusive party on a foundation of hate. Are Senator Sanders and his supporters making it harder for Democrats to unify in November?

Senator Warren replied "Look, I have said many times before, we are all responsible for our supporters. And we need to step up. That's what leadership is all about."

Warren then pivoted to blasting Bloomberg. Perhaps as someone who has largely avoided criticizing the front-runner during the campaign, she may be rooting for a Sanders nomination. In contrast, Steve M. argues "her specific line of attack, a critique of Bloomberg's sexism and use of wealth to avoid consequences, seemed heartfelt. (Where's the word 'authentic' when you need it?)"

The pivot allowed Sanders then to wail "if there are a few people who make ugly remarks, who attack trade union leaders, I disown those people," as if there is any question as to "if." He also played the race card because Democrats can play it as well as Republicans (in a different manner), remarking "talk to some of the African-American women on my campaign. Talk to Senator Nina Turner. Talk to others and find the vicious, racist, sexist attacks that are coming their way, as well."

Now that Senator Sanders has invoked race for political advantage, we will take note of the obvious, that his press spokesman is a black woman, Brianha Joy Gray. And Ms. Gray pulled out the race card herself when she

doubled down in a CNN interview on Wednesday, insisting that the onus is on Sanders only to be as forthcoming as the rest of the 2020 Democratic field.

“I think the American people deserve to know exactly as much as every other candidate has released in this race currently and historically,” said Gray.

“What you’re seeing right now is really reminiscent of some of the kind of smear, kind of skepticism campaigns that have been run against a lot of different candidates in the past, questioning where they’re from, aspects of their lineage,” continued Gray, in an apparent reference to “birther” conspiracy theories that said Obama was born outside the United States.

The similarities between criticism of Bernard Sanders and criticism of Barack Obama are a) they're both Democrats; and b) nothing else

It always was obviously untrue that Barack Obama was born in Africa. However, it is true that Bernard Sanders suffered a heart attack in recent months.  Birtherism directed toward Obama was prompted in part by racial bias. Demanding that Sanders release full medical records has been prompted by an actual event, a heart attack, and not by racial, religious, gender, or any other bias.

Whether through lack of self-respect or of courage, Mr. Obama remains silent as a request for a candidate to release his medical records is compared to the birther attacks upon himself. This failure is even more glaring in light of the apparent hostility between Obama and Senator Sanders.

However, Elizabeth Warren inadvertently opened the door a crack. Responding to a question in last night's debate about climate change, Warren asserted "Look, I'm going to say something that is really controversial in Washington, but I think I'm safe to say this here in Nevada. I believe in science."

That was not humblebrag. It is controversial. If it weren't, she and other Democratic candidates would demand that the medical records of each contender be released.  And Bernard Sanders should be the first to be transparent for two reasons. He has released less information than has Warren or Joe Biden. Additionally, it isn't every four years that a 78-year old man with a recent coronary event, the severity of which is unknown to the public, is the front-runner for his party's presidential nomination.

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Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Where's Elizabeth?

There is great timing and then there is even better timing.  While considering Elizabeth Warren's strategy for the Wednesday evening debate in New Hampshire, Charlie Pierce noted the senator is "running on how monopoly power and the money power have had a corrupting influence on how we do politics in this country in the 21st century." He added

Sanders, of course, has leaned into this issue for decades as well, because his heart is in the right place. The difference between the two, I think, is that SPW knows far more about how the mechanisms of the money power work to sabotage the institutions of politics and government. In her own phrase, she knows how the tricks and traps work better than a lot of the people who set them up. She’s been one of the principal diagnosticians of financial thievery for going on 30 years now, in and out of government. I believe that’s why she worries them more than does Sanders, whom they believe, perhaps falsely, they can simply blow off.

Pierce doesn't say whether he  believes that the idea that Sanders can be disregarded is because he ultimately will not get the nomination or- more likely- because there is a notion that he hasn't thought through his ideas and doesn't know how he'd implement them.

A few hours later we have this:

Buzzfeed reports

Elizabeth Warren was left out of a national poll question Tuesday that pitted Democratic candidates against Donald Trump, angering supporters who have protested that the media has erased her candidacy in the wake of her showings in Iowa and New Hampshire.

The poll, from NBC and the Wall Street Journal, found Warren was effectively tied for second place nationally, with 14% of the vote.

But pollsters excluded her from a series of match-ups between Trump and top candidates. The poll include Pete Buttigieg, Joe Biden, and Mike Bloomberg, who all polled within a point of Warren, and Amy Klobuchar, who trailed significantly behind them

Peter Hart, whose firm conducted the poll, told BuzzFeed News that the poll had “space and time” for just five candidate match-ups.

"Space and time?" Hart didn't even claim to have erred but went with an excuse that's very odd. Alternatively, maybe the firm didn't want to have, nor does it want voters to have, anything to do with one of the nation's principle diagnosticians of financial thievery.

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Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Step Up

An NBC/MSNBC host:

It's a good bet that Bernard Sanders won't be answering those questions.  After several debates, in which Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, and Pete Buttigieg were the main targets of other candidates, Sanders won one-half the caucus in Iowa, came out on top in New Hampshire, and is the front-runner in the Democratic primary race.

He now is the prohibitive favorite to win the caucus in Nevada later this week. Thus, the Vermont senator would be the obvious target of the candidates in the debate on Wednesday, the evening before. Then in the nick of time Michael Bloomberg becomes eligible for the debate and, if Sanders has a lot of questions to answer for, the centrist Republican turned Independent turned Democrat ex-New York City mayor has even more.  Sometimes it's more important to be lucky than good.

So Sanders may have little to gain and much to lose by addressing the constant vitriol of his supporters on social media. He simply does not have to respond in full. On Sunday, The New York Times reported that the controversy in Nevada pertaining to the criticism of Sanders by the Culinary Workers Local 226.

began last week after the union began distributing fliers to members, comparing the candidates’ stances on policy.

“End Culinary Healthcare,” reads the first bullet point beside Mr. Sanders’s name on a flyer.

It was an unwelcome criticism, made worse by the reaction among some of Mr. Sanders’s supporters. Geoconda Argüello-Kline, the union’s secretary-treasurer, said she received hundreds of emails, phone calls and texts calling her names and threatening her. Her home address was posted online, she said, and her adult children were worried about her safety.

“I believe in the democratic process, and to have this happen is very scary,” Ms. Argüello-Kline said. “After many years as an activist, after many strikes, I have never felt that way in my life. And we are not telling people how to vote — they can make their own decision.”

The vile language prompted Mr. Sanders to issue a statement, in which he said “harassment of all forms is unacceptable to me” and urged “supporters of all campaigns not to engage in bullying or ugly personal attacks.”

But his general reference to “all campaigns” only further angered some of the union leaders, who, like many of the rank-and-file members, are women of color. Ms. Argüello-Kline said that she wished Mr. Sanders would have spoken out sooner to help quell the threats.

Union leaders were angered for good cause.  Sanders did not apologize.  His statement in full read

Harassment of all forms is unacceptable to me, and we urge supporters of all campaigns not to engage in bullying or ugly personal attacks. Our campaign is building a multi-generational, multi-racial movement of love, compassion, and justice. We can certainly disagree on issues, but we must do it in a respectful manner.

The problem is not "all campaigns"; the problem is his campaign. Sanders merely applauds himself when he combines "harassment of all forms" everywhere with a boastful claim that such campaign "is building a multi-generational, multi-racial movement of love, compassion, and justice."

Even the CNN correspondent appearing in the video (from 2/7/19) below, reporting criticism of the excessive online supporters of Sanders, quotes the Senator as condemning "racist bullying and harassment of anyone." But it's not of "anyone"- it's of his opponents done in his name.

Generalizing the issue is a means to avoid responsibility because the other campaigns are not his responsibility. As Senator Warren realizes, the candidate is accountable, or should be held accountable, for condoning the excesses of his supporters, whose disappointment or anger Bernard Sanders thus far has been unwilling to risk. It does not bode well for an effective presidency.

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Monday, February 17, 2020

Act Like A President

This alone tells us relatively little about Amy Klobuchar, but anyway:

Klobuchar is not necessarily "dumb" nor especially ignorant. Many US senators probably know little about Mexico. And she is qualified to be President of the United States of America.  The senior Minnesota senator is now serving her third term, whereas when he was elected President, Barack Obama had been a senator since approximately last Tuesday (four years into his first and only term).

Nonetheless, Klobuchar's appearance on Bill Maher's Real Time on Friday exposed her as unprepared for the presidential transition period (as probably all the other Democratic presidential aspirants are).  At 8:10 of the video below, Maher can be seen broaching a subject all other interviewers havebeen too naive, timid, or cowardly to raise. After  Klobuchar takes a dig at Trump, Maher begins with

So that's what we have on our side- rapier wit, sweets, very enthusiastic audiences in liberal cities. Here's what he has: miltiary, police, and he throws in the bikers.

O.K., I'm going to ask this question because I ask it of every Democratic politician that comes on here. (Here, Klobuchar interjects with her talking points because she has no clue what Maher is getting at.)

That's not what I'm talking about. I'm saying you win, you win. That's different than him leaving. That's what I want to know what is the plan and I think we need to start talking about it now.  It's very hard for me to imagine you winning the popular vote fair and square and him sending out a congratulatory telegram, "so great that you won, we had a good match and, uh, let me tell you where I keep the important papers."

Trump is not only not sending out a telegram, he's issuing no tweet to that effect. The host continues

He's not leaving. His people are not going to give up power. What is the plan if he says "I found irregularities. The people who ran it in Iowa screwed it up again. I have to stay. It was rigged." He's already said this many times. What do you do then?

The only question is whether Trump will be able to squeeze "Hillary" or "James Comey" into his tweet. It would be amazing that no Democrat has addressed this near-certainty (if the incumbent is defeated) except that it appears no one in the media has raised the issue. Klobuchar responds

The first thing you do is you start now. Win big, which I believe will help. Secondly- come on, you win all these states in the country and it's harder. Second, you make sure we have backup paper ballots, you push for- that's my bills. You do everything to protect elections.

Ballot security is extremely important. However, the "win all these states in the country" is not only a dangerous mind-set, it's bizarre coming from a candidate whose calling card is that she has won in a swing state adjacent to swing states. Hillary Clinton wanted to win a lot of states, to establish a mandate, and in so doing failed to secure the party's electoral base.

When Maher notes "We're living in the era of fake news. There's no facts anymore. It's just about power," Klobuchar states "we have always had a peaceful transition of power in this country."

Memo to Senator Klobuchar: this is Donald Trump- Donald Trump. "Have always had" is inoperable. Emphasizing "have," Maher responds "have had. We're now in a different world."

Languishing in the old world, Klobuchar maintains "when you have the people on your side in a big way...."

That big way would be 50%-58% of the 60% of Americans eligible to register to vote, those over 18.  So that would be approximately 35% of American adults who would have voted for a victorious Klobuchar. Trump would surely stress that most Americans did not vote for his opponent.

However, there is an additional reason "the people" may not prevail, for Maher points out "oh, he has a lot of people on his side- the ones with the guns."

The Democratic nominee will need to assemble a team of lawyers prepared to do battle with a defeated Trump who would refuse to leave the White House. Promptly after winning election, the victor's team should issue press releases- in the name of "President-Elect" and signed by the 46th President. Within days, the President-elect should start announcing cabinet nominees, which would reinforce the (accurate) public perception that the incumbent had been defeated.

It would help to visit states to thank voters publicly for helping elect a new President. Rallies can be held with banners emblazoned with the Electoral College vote of each candidate.  Meetings should be held with congressional leaders, though GOP legislators probably will refuse to participate. Visits with foreign leaders can be scheduled.

The ball doesn't have to be spiked in the Trumpian manner, but voters need to know the Democratic nominee has (with their help) reached the end zone. The winner must act like he/she has won and change is a-coming.

When there is only one Democratic candidate who has asserted that charges against a Donald Trump would be investigated in her administration, it isn't only Amy Klobuchar who doesn't understand on the deepest level that things have changed dramatically. As Bill Maher understands, the rule of law has given way to the primacy of power. If he loses, Donald Trump is going nowhere until and unless he is forced to vacate the White House.

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Saturday, February 15, 2020

Her Objective

Steve M argues what some of us believed all along (italics his, favorably quoting Jonathan Chait):

ordinary Americans don't care about the fate of Ukraine. They cared about the Cold War, and about the hot wars we've fought over the years. They care about fighting terrorists. They may know Russia is a bad actor, but it's not a bogeyman the way Hitler, the Soviet Union, and Osama bin Laden were. If your car is in the shop and you just found out your kid needs braces, concerns about Ukraine's security seem very, very remote. And behind that simple summary is an ungainly, convoluted narrative. (A September post by Chait was titled "The Ukraine Scandal Is Not One Phone Call. It’s a Massive Plot.")

Presidential buckraking is extremely easy to understand: Trump takes advantage of his office to channel money to his own businesses. Presidents aren't supposed to personally profit from the presidency. Some of this money comes from foreign governments. The Constitution specifically forbids that. To comprehend this, you don't need to have a grasp on geopolitics. Also, when Trump pockets this money he can't claim to be engaging in a noble act, the way he can when he says he's very concerned about corruption in Ukraine.

The crimes for which Trump was impeached were serious -- but they were remote from most Americans' experience. Trump's profiteering is much simpler to understand. If House Democrats wanted to grab the attention of the public, that's where they should have turned.

"If."  If House Democrats wanted to grab the attention of the public, that's where they should have turned. Nor was the objective to undermine the President's re-election campaign nor to enhance the prospects of the eventual Democratic challenger.

Quite valid. But House Democrats- spelled "P-e-l-o-s-i"-  did not want "to grab the attention of the public."

The time frame tells the tale.  The House Speaker had been opposed to launching an impeachment inquiry despite the growing number of individuals in her caucus urging a probe.

Then on Monday, September 23, official Washington awoke to read

Our lives have been defined by national service. We are not career politicians. We are veterans of the military and of the nation’s defense and intelligence agencies. Our service is rooted in the defense of our country on the front lines of national security.

We have devoted our lives to the service and security of our country, and throughout our careers, we have sworn oaths to defend the Constitution of the United States many times over. Now, we join as a unified group to uphold that oath as we enter uncharted waters and face unprecedented allegations against President Trump.

As became clear in the Washington Post op-ed, that was because of Ukraine and only because of Ukraine, in which "the president of the United States may have used his position to pressure a foreign country into investigating a political opponent, and he sought to use U.S. taxpayer dollars as leverage to do it."

The short piece was written by seven freshmen, none of whom previously had endorsed an inquiry and all six of whom had "flipped" their seats, turning them from Republican to Democratic.  (Even better, to Pelosi, six are women.) Pelosi flipped on September 24.

Pelosi held her caucus together, with only two Democrats voting not to indict Donald Russia on either of the two counts of impeachment.

Virtually no one (with the "virtually" being questionable) thought there was a significant chance that the President would be convicted in the GOP-majority Senate.  The Senate fell nineteen (19) votes short of throwing Trump out of office which was arguably a marginally better showing for Democrats than expected.

For that reason and others, Steve M is right. The public would have better understood greed and corruption than an attempt to enlist a foreign government in subverting an American election. It also would have cared more because the vast majority of Trump supporters (unsurprisingly) are unopposed to Trump investigating a political enemy. And no one cares about the nation of Ukraine (an exaggeration, but barely).

However, that is none of Nancy Pelosi's concern. She is not the party's leader in the Senate nor is she a presidential candidate.

She is Speaker of the House and fulfilled her role. The chamber she leads did what it had to do, investigating the President's apparent high crimes and misdemeanors, holding the caucus together, impeaching the President, and sending the charges to the Senate.

It was only after the seven national security Democrats announced their support of the inquiry that Pelosi acted. The op-ed was highly influential, not only with the Speaker but probably also giving other centrist/center-left Democrats cover for impeachment. And Nancy Pelosi wants very much to maintain control of her chamber and to remain Speaker Pelosi.  Victory of these Democrats in the next congressional cycle is crucial to fulfilling that objective.

The American people were denied the opportunity to view, in a very visible arena, Trump family grift and greed. Had this been the focus of impeachment hearings, the Trump presidential campaign would have been undermined and the campaign of his eventual challenger enhanced.

But that was not Speaker Pelosi's calling, at least as she understood it. And despite the probability that the alternate approach would have been deleterious to President Trump's political health, thus favorable to national security, a note of caution is needed. Warring against corruption may not always stir the public. Just ask Elizabeth Warren.

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Friday, February 14, 2020

Those For Whom Losing Is Not An O;tion

Were I Blair LM Kelley, the African-American historian who is an assistant dean at North Carolina State University, I would have written the same article that she did. But I'm not, and I will tell you what she- and others- won't.

Kelley echoes the concerns of many Democrats about the  "harsh policing tactics and gentrification policies" New York City mayor Bloomberg imposed and which he defended "as recently as five years ago." She recognizes that Bloomberg's apology for stop-and-frisk "felt staged — and it came well after a change of heart would have made a substantive difference." Moreover, she understands

most of my neighbors don't track NYC politics as closely as they do local politics (and) their focus is often on their place in a city and the state, not urban politics hundreds of miles away. They have probably heard the term "stop-and-frisk," but it likely isn't as front of mind as the coming school board election.

That's a sound, important point to make. However, she ultimately argues

Bloomberg's strength, surely crafted by some smart and experienced staffers, is the direct appeal to black people. Black voters don't want to be taken for granted. They don't want to be ignored. They don't like campaigns where none of the issues affecting their lives are addressed. They like campaigns that talk about investing in black communities that have been poisoned by pollution and neglect. They care about investments in our schools. They desperately want to see an end to gun violence. They want to close the racial wealth gap. They like to be recognized and heard.

Crass calculation or not, Bloomberg has been putting black voices front and center in his advertising.... The time to invest directly and boldly in engaging black audiences is past due for the rest of the Democratic field.

It shouldn't be necessary to point out that the other candidates have but a small fraction of the money Bloomberg has to invest in the campaign.  They cannot have the a staff as large or as well paid, nor saturate the air waves as Bloomberg has done, nor serve swanky hors d'oeuvres at campaign events. Money talks- and sometimes it says "I'm a winner."

Black voters are recognized and heard in the Democratic process. As a white, let me assure Kelley: white voters know that African-Africans are front and center among the concerns of white Democratic politicians.  There is a reason more whites have voted for the presidential nominee of the Republican Party than of the Democratic Party in the last twelve (12) presidential elections and that no part of what may be considered the civil rights, or black, agenda ever is directly opposed by any Democrat in any presidential nominating contest. Blacks are not stupid, and neither are whites.

The popular base of the Republican Party is white evangelicals, who were wary of Donald Trump in 2016 until he emerged as the clear favorite to win the party's nomination. Now, they are his most loyal constituency- not only because they approve of his policies but also because he is their president. He attacks their enemies- Democrats, liberals, the media, and others- constantly and has demonstrated that he can win. 

A similar dynamic holds sway in the Democratic Party. The popular base is generally black voters. It is, more specifically, non-young African-American women.

Bernie Sanders clearly is the favorite of young blacks, for whom party- the Democratic Party- is not the highest political priority. (Not coincidentally, young whites also are particularly fond of the Vermont senator.)

Joe Biden  was the early and undisputed favorite of middle-aged and elderly blacks. He had been not only the loyal vice-president to the first black president, he was more than any candidate the face of the Democratic establishment.  More than anyone, he represented the party of which blacks are the most loyal supporters, and for which they are the party's popular base.

Way back then- a few months ago- Biden also was widely (though not here) viewed as the most electable Democrat and the one most feared by the incumbent GOP president. He was the one seen as most likely to bring it on home, to secure victory for the Democratic Party. It was only logical and reasonable that African-Americans, the engine of the party, were partial to the Delawarean.

No longer.  There now are serious doubts about Biden's electability.  Further, as his numbers decline, he now is no longer perceived as the face of the party, nor even the figure clearly representing the party establishment.

Enter Mike Bloomberg, with his billions to spend on nomination and election, which in turn persuades voters he can win.  In general, the election is viewed by fewer blacks as a theoretical exercise or one that must be dominated by ideological preference.  Call it "white privilege" or whatever you will, but many of us whites have the luxury of supporting the more progressive candidate (which is certainly not Bloomberg), who is most likely to enact policies which are beneficial, especially fopr African-Americans

However, among a significant percentage of blacks, victory is key.  A political scientist lays out the perspective of many Bloomberg supporters and- although unspoken- that of black voters especially:

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Thursday, February 13, 2020

Think Education

You'd never know it from the media obsession about the stop-and-frisk policy of New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, but the worst of Bloomberg is missed by this:

No, in isolation, they are not "one of the most racist stats" ever. Even excluding Nazi Germany, and slavery in our own country, they are not near the top. We don't know, among other things:

- how many white people were stopped- and what percentage of them were innocent. (The percentage of whites who were stopped undoubtedly is lower than of blacks, perhaps even at a statistically significant level. However, it's conceivable that

- on what basis were blacks stopped? (It might have been simply because of their color, a bulge in their pocket, or suspicious behavior- whatever that might have been.)

- in what neighborhoods the stops took place- and at what times of the day.

- of those individuals of whatever race who were not innocent, for what they were found guilty. (Possession of marijuana for personal use does not rise to the level of illegal possession of a weapon.)

Stop-and-frisk, about which Bloomberg is legitimately questioned, took place from 2003 to 2010. However,  in 2014 the New Yorker

criticized the large fines meted out to banks in recent years. "Some of these fines I think are outrageous and shouldn't be allowed to take place," he said.

Bloomberg adamantly defended the industry in the face of its pre-and-post crisis scandals. "Things have chagned dramatically for the better for the public," he said, but "you wouldn't believe that if you read the newspapers." And he said more regulation could mean a financial system that does less to stimulate the broader economy. "If you reduce the risk, they can't make the money, they can't provide the financing that this country and world needs to create jobs and build infrastructure and all of those things."

That was merely five years ago (video, from 2010). Further, we learned only last month

Bloomberg will soon roll out an education plan that will include backing the privately managed schools as an option for families, his campaign office told The Post — drawing a contrast with other top-tier Democratic presidential rivals.

“Mike’s education plan will absolutely promote charter schools,” Bloomberg campaign spokesman Stu Loeser insisted.

“The record number of charter schools opened under Mayor Bloomberg is clear. That isn’t changing.”

“Few if any people in the country have opened more charter schools than Mike Bloomberg,” he continued.

Under pressure, the former mayor has walked back advocacy of his stop-and-frisk policy.  But it was less than six weeks ago- as a presidential candidate in America's reputedly liberal party- that Bloomberg's campaign has bragged about plans which will further undermine the public school system in the USA.

Put Bloomberg's support of for-profit educational enterprises together with his record of running interference with large financial institutions, we may have the beginning of a pattern of support for continued privatization of the economy, a subject which disturbingly has gotten no attention in the Democratic primary race.

People care about education, as do even voters. Most understand it plays a greater role in their lives than does race. If other Democratic campaigns confront Michael Bloomberg about his promotion of the destroy public schools movement, it probably would help derail his primary campaign. And if it doesn't, it will at least have the benefit of proving wrong my hypothesis in the first sentence of this paragraph, and give us yet another reason to fear for the future of politics in the country.

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Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Not With A Thunderbolt

Bitecofer's recollection is the point Bill Maher made in his closing commentary on Friday when he noted beginning at 52:16 of the video (albeit with bad sound) below:

....that's in the old American- the nation of laws. We're living in the new America with only one law- make me. You know, when a country slides into authoritarian rule you don't get a text alert. Things will look the same on the surface. The buses will still be running. The cops will still be patrolling. You can still get your hair done. Your favorite show is still on TV- unless maybe it's this one.

Americans are always worried that we lose our freedom it'll look like the movie Red Dawn with tanks in the streets. That's not how our republic ends. We keep the names on the institutions, we just change what's inside. We still have trials- we just put up witnesses and you still subpoena people. They just don't show up. There's still an EPA; it just works for the coal companies.

Now it's like the way TV channels sometimes completely change format but keep the name. MTV- music television- hasn't had music videos for years. The Learning Channel has no learning; The Learning Channel has Honey Booboo and America's Worst Tatoos and Family by the Ton. That's us now.

When Rome stopped being a republic it didn't stop having a Senate and neither have we. It's just more like student government now because that's what dictators do. Russia has a pretend parliament; so does China and North Korea. Just about every week here I ask some Democrat "what's the plan for dealing with this new paradigm that I believe we're already living and invariably they just laugh it off.

Here's Mayor Pete last week. (Maher) "You win but Trump says there are irregularities and he can't give up the office. What do you do?" (Buttigieg) "Well, it's gonna be awkward when Chasten and I are moving into the White House."

And I like Pete, I'm a big fan and I'm glad he sort of won Iowa. But this is not funny.

Maher then went on to place faith in the Bernie mobs to force a defeated Trump out of the White House. That strategy is the one least likely to force Trump to vacate, but that's an issue for another day (maybe).  Nonetheless, Maher points out what few if any people have. If President Trump is re-elected, the "slow-moving coup" (as Maher has at other times put it) will be well on its way to completion.

And as explained, it generally won't be with soldiers in the streets or a declaration by the Attorney General that the Constitution is no longer operative. The buses will still be running while most individuals still will be driving their car to work.  The cops will still be patrolling, probably with a more widespread stop-and-frisk procedure than Mayor Bloomberg ever dreamed of.  You will still be able to get your hair done, then shop for the latest fashions. Your favorite television program will still be telecast- even if it's a news program, although only with hosts and guests the regime approves of.

The roughly 245-year old experiment in representative democracy will end not with a bang but a whimper, and so only occasionally will we stop and call up memories of the way we once were.

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Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Unity Fetish

In this excerpt  of the Democratic presidential debate, ABC News; Linsey Davis can be seen asking

We come to you, of course, just 48 hours after the acquittal of President Trump. A process that has certainly crystallized the divide in our country. Senator Warren, want to start with you. You have said that on day one of your presidency, one of your first orders of business will be to order your justice department to launch new investigations into the Trump Administration. After a grueling impeachment, and what is likely to be a polarizing election, is investigating President Trump the best way to try to unify the country?

Warren responds

I believe in an independent commission, in our justice department that investigates crimes committed by our own government. It is an important part of accountability. It is an important part for every administration, that we hold ourselves accountable to the American people

Unfortunately, only three other candidates, two with no chance of winning the nomination, responded to this question.  Tom Steyer, asking "is he (Trump) a crook?" answered his own question with "Of course he is. But the job of the people on this stage is to beat him in November, and that’s going to be based on what we can deliver for the American people."

His answer to Davis' question, obviously, is a "no." Worse was Andrew Yang, arguing "We move the country forward. We don’t focus on the mistakes of the leaders that are leaving office."

That leaves Bernie Sanders, the leading candidate, who at a huge rally in New Hampshire on Monday evening declared (as seen at 1:55 of the "Morning Joe" video here)

The reason that we're going to win is that the American people, no matter what their political views may be, are sick and tired of a president who is a pathological liar, who is running a corrupt administration, who is a bully and a vindictive person, who is a racist, a sexist, a xenophobe, a homophobe, and a religious bigot.

Strong words- strong words, and largely empty. Sanders' response to the debate question, which impelled Warren- alone among her colleagues- to say "no one is above the law"- was

Along with Elizabeth and Amy, we sat for two weeks listening to the impeachment process, and here’s what I think the horror and the danger of what happened was not only the acquittal of Trump, who in fact committed impeachable offenses, and obstructed Congress. It is the precedent that it set. The precedent that it set. And what that precedent is about now is in the future, you’re going to have presidents who say, “Hey, governor, you want highway money? You better support me, or you’re not going to get it.” Because I am the president, I can do anything I want.

 Hey, Congress, you want to investigate me? Don’t be ridiculous. Who cares about the Congress? Who cares about the separation of powers? Who cares about the constitution of the president? I’m the President of the United States. I have all of the power, and I’m able to intimidate members of my own party. The saddest aspect of this whole thing, is you have Republicans in the Senate who knew better. They knew that Donald Trump is a crook. They knew that Donald Trump is a cheat, but they didn’t have the guts, with the exception of Romney to vote against him. That is a sad day.

And what that precedent is about now is in the future, you’re going to have presidents who say, “Hey, governor, you want highway money? You better support me, or you’re not going to get it.” Because I am the president, I can do anything I want.

No Democratic president will do that. But that's not the issue. Sanders uttered 17 sentences, In none was he sufficiently bold to assert "no one is above the law" or "I expect the Attorney General in my administration to treat Trump as she would any apparent lawbreaker" or anything else to suggest that there will not be a carve-out in a Sanders administration for Trump's transgressions. This is the "authentic" candidate in a Democratic primary campaign- and he won't commit.

Richard Nixon was pardoned by President Gerald Ford. Later, Barack "We don't look backwards, we look forward" Obama turned a blind eye to possible crimes committed by members of the Bush Administration. As Sanders might say- but evidently won't- these set a bad precedent. Nonetheless, thus far we have only one presidential candidate in a Democratic campaign willing and able to state definitively that election to the presidency does not shield an individual from consequences..

Donald Trump may be defeated at the polls, but it appears he nonetheless will be riding off into the sunset, unscathed.

Sunday, February 09, 2020

Vice-President Klobuchar

After Friday's debate in New Hampshire and before he transitioned into a rant against socialism, Chris Matthews gushed about Amy Klobuchar

I'm with the people here so far. I thought Klobuchar was wonderful. I'd never seen her this good. I think she's shown in this last week audacity. What you want to see in a politician is audacity, spontaneity.

You don't have it on a damn script. Be someone home with the lights on, somebody who's there, a human being and that's how she came across tonight. She never raised her voice. She was confident. She looked- I'm sorry it's weird to say this- she seemed like a President tonight. She seemed like the President I would like to have as President.

It was weird, Chris- but only because Amy Klobuchar is not running for President.

Oh, she'd take the nomination if it were handed to her. It is her goal- but has not been, and still is not, her intention. In Westerville, Ohio in the fourth Democratic debate of this presidential cycle, the Minnesota senator slammed her colleague from Massachusetts, the "capitalist to the bone," with "I want to give a reality check here to Elizabeth, because no one on this stage wants to protect billionaires. Not even the billionaire wants to protect billionaires."

A few minutes earlier, after Warren had made the (strategic) error of vouching for Medicare for All, Klobuchar had stated

At least Bernie's being honest here and saying how he's going to pay for this and that taxes are going to go up. And I'm sorry, Elizabeth, but you have not said that, and I think we owe it to the American people to tell them where we're going to send the invoice.

Responding to the bait from Klobuchar, a couple of weeks later Warren did explain how she would finance her health care plan.

We still don't know the details of Bernard Sanders' health care plan and partly as a result, Sanders now leads the Democratic field. His main rival currently is Pete Buttigieg, like Klobuchar a center-left candidate whose health care notion is closer to that of the Minnesota senator than to that of either Sanders or Warren.

When Warren was Sanders' main challenger, Klobuchar took on Warren rather than condemning Sanders, with whom she also has major disagreements. While Warren and Sanders have avoided criticizing each other, Klobuchar has charged after Buttigieg

At the debate in Manchester on Friday, Klobuchar took a quick shot at Sanders and Warren for their health care plans, then argued

And Pete, while you have a different plan now you sent out a tweet just a few years ago that said, henceforth, forewith, indubitably, affirmatively, you are for Medicare for All for the ages. And so I would like to point out that what leadership is about is taking a position, looking at things and sticking with them.

Later in that debate, she commented

Okay, there you go. Meeting the moment, meeting the moment, we had a moment the last few weeks, mayor, and that moment was these impeachment hearings. And there was a lot of courage that you saw from only a few people. There was courage from Doug Jones, our friend of Alabama, who took that tough vote. There was courage from Mitt Romney, who took it very, very difficult vote. There was courage, as I read today, about Lieutenant Colonel Vindman being escorted out of the White House, what he did took courage. But what you said, Pete, as you were campaigning through Iowa, as three of us were jurors in that impeachment hearing, you said it was exhausting to watch, and that you wanted to turn the channel and watch cartoons.

It is easy to go after Washington, because that’s a popular thing to do. It is much harder, as I see Senator Shaheen in the front row, such a leader, it is much harder to lead, and much harder to take those difficult positions. Because I think this going after every single thing that people do, because it’s popular to say, and makes you look like a cool newcomer. I just, I don’t think that’s what people want right now. We have a newcomer in the White House, and look where it got us. I think having some experience is a good thing.

At a party dinner on Saturday

Sanders' supporters were quiet or applauding during most other candidates' remarks. Amy Klobuchar even played along during her remarks, turning to the Sanders section and saying, “Hi, Bernie people!”

Amy Klobuchar may look like a President to Chris Matthews, and she wouldn't mind reaching that office. However, playing second fiddle to an elderly president from Vermont is not a bad gig and her audition has been going quite well lately.

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Saturday, February 08, 2020

He Has Only Begun

Wishful thinking.

Politico noted "The purge of impeachment witnesses has begun" as it reported

Late Friday, news emerged that Trump had ordered the recall of Gordon Sondland, the U.S. Ambassador to the European Union — "effective immediately," the ambassador noted in a statement. Hours earlier, the White House escorted out Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the top Ukraine policy officer on the National Security Counsel — along with his twin brother Yevgeny, who was not an impeachment witness.

It won't be only impeachment witnesses. Five days prior to the Politico story, investigative reporter Gabriel Sherman had written

With Senate Republicans on track to acquit Donald Trump on Wednesday, Washington is bracing for what an unshackled Trump does next. Republicans briefed on Trump’s thinking believe that the president is out for revenge against his adversaries. “It’s payback time,” a prominent Republican told me last week. “He has an enemies list that is growing by the day,” another source said. Names that came up in my conversations with Republicans included Adam Schiff, Jerry Nadler, Mitt Romney, and John Bolton. “Trump’s playbook is simple: go after people who crossed him during impeachment.”

Several sources said Bolton is at the top of the list. Trump’s relationship with Bolton was badly damaged by the time Bolton left the White House in September. Trump has since blamed his former national security adviser for leaking details of his forthcoming memoir that nearly derailed the impeachment trial by pressuring Republicans to call witnesses. In the book Bolton reportedly alleges Trump told him directly that Ukraine aid was tied to Ukraine announcing investigations into the Bidens (Bolton has denied being a source of the leak).

The campaign against Bolton has already begun. On January 23, the White House sent a cease and desist letter to Bolton’s lawyer demanding that Bolton’s publisher, Simon & Schuster, not release the book in March without removal of certain information. Trump intends to ratchet up the pressure, and some Republicans close to the White House fear how far Trump will take things after he’s gotten off for a second time (Trump famously made his July 25 call to Volodymyr Zelensky the day after Robert Mueller testified before Congress.) “Trump has been calling people and telling them to go after Bolton,” a source briefed on the private conversations said. The source added that Trump wants Bolton to be criminally investigated. A person familiar with Trump’s thinking said Trump believes Bolton might have mishandled classified information. According to a former official, the White House is planning to leak White House emails from Bolton that purportedly allege Bolton abused his position at the National Security Council. The official said that West Wing officials have discussed releasing emails “showing [Bolton] was doing pay-to-play,” the official said. A person close to Bolton dismissed the story. “John plays things straight,” the person said.

The White House declined to comment.

Now we learn that Trump has started to put his plan into action:

Four days before the latest event, Sherman was ahead of the curve. Now a CNN legal analyst, who is likely to be proven prescient:

This probably won't be immediate. It's more likely that the President, who needs to be re-elected to carry out his full autocratic agenda, soon will pull back before eventually resuming his purge.

But even Honig's tweet doesn't get at the full extent of the police state Trump is planning to impose. First, he's coming after the witnesses against him. Then it will be (perceived ) enemies in federal law enforcement.  Then, politicians and afterward, journalists, after which we won't know what happens.

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Friday, February 07, 2020

This should not go unnoticed:

To be fair (as I always am to Donald J. Trump), the full context of use of a common profanity by the President should be presented. Therefore

We can take that home, honey, maybe we’ll frame it. It’s the only good headline I’ve had in the Washington Post. Every paper is the same, does anybody have them, because they’re all like that and I appreciate that. Some of the people here have been incredible warriors, they’re warriors. And there’s nothing from a legal standpoint. This is a political thing, and every time I say this is unfair, let’s go to court, they say, sir, you can’t go to court, this is politics. And we were treated unbelievably unfairly, and you have to understand we first went through Russia, Russia, Russia. It was all bullshit....

We then went through the Mueller report, and they should have come back one day later...

Wikipedia notes

Free-to-air networks in the U.S. can be divided into four categories:

Commercial networks – which air English-language programming to a general audience (for example, CBS);

Spanish-language networks – fully programmed networks which air Spanish-language programming to a primarily Latin American audience (for example, Telemundo and Univision);

Educational and other non-commercial broadcast networks – which air English- and some foreign-language television programming, intended to be educational in nature or otherwise of a sort not found on commercial television (for example, PBS);

Religious broadcast networks – which air religious study and other faith-based programs, and in some cases, family-oriented secular programs (for example, Daystar)
Each network sends its signal to many local affiliate television stations across the country. These local stations then air the "network feed," with programs broadcast by each network being viewed by up to tens of millions of households across the country. In the case of the largest networks, the signal is sent to over 200 stations. In the case of the smallest networks, the signal may be sent to just a dozen or fewer stations.

Most notably missing are Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN. That is of no little import because as cable networks, they are broadcast on the basis of subscription services. Therefore, the Federal Communications Commission does not regulate cable networks.

Still, it wouldn't be wise for a host, or even a contributor, on a cable news network to begin spewing profanity.  But that is not what happened yesterday. The President of the United States of America, until at least recently the leader of the free world, uttered a profanity in the opening scene of his victory lap following failure of the US Senate to convict him of abuse of power or contempt of Congress. Moreover, he did it in context, denouncing the probe of the Special Counsel into interference by Russia in the 2016 election.

It's not as if Donald Trump's response to the Mueller probe is being ignored by cable news. We've heard, both in his own words and those of reporters, that he believes it was a "hoax" or a "witch hunt" and yesterday that "we went through hell unfairly." The President thus gets his point across and he does so forcefully, reinforcing his image as a guy who won't back down to his enemies- whom he defines as enemies of the USA.

It's a masterful strategy, demonstrating yet again that Donald Trump is not stupid and probably not deranged.   Cable networks which should know better- MSNBC and CNN- broadcast President Trump's message delivered with what appears to be righteous indignation- and without profanity.  He gets to have it both ways, with his supporters, disproportionately elderly, exposed to his storyline without being exposed to the crass language.

The public needs to hear the President's words, unsanitized. Reporting that Donald Trump used profanity, blotting out part of the word- as in "bull****," doesn't get it done.  He has said it, and he's President of the United States of America, president of the 359+ million people of the country.

Cable news networks could ignore the President's speeches entirely, which understandably they won't do. So they should broadcast all of it and treat Trump's use of obscene language as newsworthy- because it is. They do sometimes but far too infrequently (video from March, 2019).

To do less is to give Donald Trump a free pass. They normalized him in 2016 and repetition in 2020 likely would have far greater, more devastating, consequences.

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Giving Guns A Shot

The town hall events held separately for Democratic candidates by CNN are largely one hour unpaid political advertisements. Whatever th...