This 2020 Election is Terra Incognita, There’s No Map, Nobody Knows

This election is a year old even though primary voting just started. There were 25 candidates at one point and people were miserable, screaming about 25 CANDIDATES UGH!!!.  And now we’re down to a handful of legit candidates and people are still miserable I DON’T CARE WHO I JUST WANT TO WIN UGH!!! All of life is now like a Cathy cartoon.

From the beginning the absurd emphasis on electability and the panic about finding the one chosen candidate who can beat Trump was nuts.  Nuts but inevitable because, there is no end to the stupid.  And as stupid herd animals we cannot stop ourselves from illogically going over the cliff following the polls and the pundits and the neighbor who had a take that was so weird that you normally would have just ignored it, but this year – MAYBE IT MEANS SOMETHING.  UGH!!!

Do not impose your 1972, 1988, 2000 or 2016 takes on this election, they are not applicable.  There is no conceivable way 40 states vote for Trump if he’s running against a “socialist” as some have said.  The country is remarkably polarized and the part that is against Trump will vote for any Democratic nominee.  So panicking about electability may just be silly.  Note I say “may”.  I’m stupid too.

Think about this:

The two top vote getters so far are a Jewish man and a Gay man.  And the white knight spreading around money like it was water, because to him it is, is also a Jew.  For anybody over 40 this seems nuts, but they just want to win.  Under 40 they do not see it that way and they too just want to win.

Every one of the legit candidates left have issues with non-white people, especially the white knight.  But that white knight has the mayor of D.C. (black) as his campaign co-chair and on the day he was confronted with audio of racist comments from his not so distant past he added the endorsements from three members of the Black Congressional  Caucus (definitely black)!  Black people for the most part will not care that he led stop and frisk and was a terrible mayor of NY for non-white people. They just want to win.

Could a socialist win?  Yeah he could, because lots of Americans have been hurting for a long time and been ignored and thought that government was largely ineffective.  After three years of seeing that government can be wielded in harmful ways by a Trump, they may just imagine that it could also be used for good.  Lots of pundits likely do not know anybody who has not gone to the doctor because they couldn’t afford it.  But most Americans are someone like that or know someone like that. So the word socialism is not going to bother them if it means an effort to make healthcare more democratic and affordable.

Could a Gay man win?  Yeah, why not?  The religious right won’t vote for him, but they’re already on the Trump train.  The vast majority of the country has seen attitudes about gayness change entirely since 2008 when both candidates were against marriage equality.  Once again, it’s this belief that there’s a persuadable group of people who could vote for Trump or the Democrat, but only if its a certain Democrat whose beliefs are more Republican lite.  Guess what the Gay guy is as Republican lite as it gets in this election.  He is a progressive, but next to the socialist and the anti-corruption grandma in this election, he’s a sound, safe, cuddly college Republican from Indiana. The hard core socialists hate him, but they’ll largely vote for him too because they too want to win.

The biggest question is whether a woman can win.  Well, yes, if she’s a non-threatening Midwest woman who, again, is rather progressive, but is perfectly willing to spout Republican talking points in order to get elected.  She went to Yale, but nobody knows that.  She was a cop, and had issues with locking up innocent people of color, as we already explained black people do not care.  Yeah the socialist followers won’t like her but they’ll largely vote for her because they too just want to win. Unless she hits the same wall Warren did, eventually.

There’s that really smart, really energetic, former college professor, anti-corruption grandma woman who may or may not be a legit candidate at this point, but one can imagine scenarios where she could leap up again.  Why not?  Remember – Terra Incognita! She took a hit in the two white states, but white people are a terrible judge of character.  53% of white women voted for Trump and white men are a disaster.  Going into more diverse states means that her more substantive folksiness may get a fresh hearing.  What she has going against her is that smart former college professor thing.  Ask President Adlai Stevenson if the American people will elect a college professor?  The most bullshit part of The West Wing was that the fictional POTUS was a super smart polymath of a former college professor.  That’s not just fiction it’s fucking science SCI FI! Apparently grandma is threatening.  Men can’t imagine sleeping with her (she is 70) or working for her and women with less self-esteem probably just hate her because women hate other women, they just do.  So no, she can’t win.  The best candidate can’t win.  Okay, that’s probably true.

That leaves the white Jewish knight.  He has $50,000,000,000.  So really, he can win.  And in fact, his electability is so self-evident because of all that money that the other facts of his life, every other data point that would make him unelectable if he didn’t have that $50 Billion is completely ignorable.  Lots of people who may have hated the guy 6 months ago love him now, imagining all that money swamping Trump, beating him at his own game. The real billionaire trolling Trump 24/7 while using his wealth to blanket the country with anti-Trump propaganda.

We are definitely on foreign shores without a map or a guidepost or a trusty guide who won’t eat us when the sun goes down.  It’s the C-Span version of Naked and Afraid.  So find some potable water, figure out a crude shelter, with and hunker down for the next 9 months.  Dammit I lost the fire starter.  Fuck me!

I’m Invoking Pitmaster Privilege and Pushing some Elizabeth Warren On Ya

All I have to say about last night’s SOTU spectacle is that if you say any damn thing about ripping up speech pages when fucking Rush Limbaugh got a Medal of Freedom, then we have to step outside.

I’m a Warren supporter for the simple reason that I think she’d be a great president.  She’s right for the office, right for the moment. Period. Her speech on Monday night reminded me again why I love her. While media melted down and conspiratorial panic took over, as Buttigieg was singing a false note by claiming victory, Warren calmly thanked her staff, her dog and reiterated why we’re all here and where we’re going next, whatever happens. She looked, how you say, presidential?

  1. Post- Iowa Caucus Speech

2. She released a new ad that’s smart and uses the words of Barack Obama to remind people who she is and what she did.

3. But also, too, in addition, there’s a piece in the Nation by Joan Walsh that also states what I see and why I am still kinda sorta optimistic that she can persist. Linked here but I’m reprinting in full in case you don’t have a Nation subscription, it’s a good investment.

Elizabeth Warren Has a Movement. You Just Don’t See It Yet.

Nobody knows who won the Iowa caucuses—but Warren’s support was powered by the feminist spirit of 2018.




Stick it to an Autocrat – Watch Oscar Nominated “Edge of Democracy” on Netflix

The documentary by Brazilians about their country’s slide to autocracy is really amazing. Filmmaker Petra Costa had remarkable access to present and past leaders of the country as she documented Bolsonaro’s attacks on anything that represented democracy, including arresting previous presidents on corruption charges (Trump’s wet dream). Bolsonaro is the Brazilian Trump and so, of course, he and his surrogates are attacking the filmmaker (for whom Bolsonaro did interviews for the film) and the film (which he hasn’t seen).

From the Guardian: Bolsonaro government attacks Oscar nominee Petra Costa as ‘anti-Brazil activist

And there’s always a Trumpian connection too:

“I don’t usually waste time rebutting scumbags like Mrs Petra Costa but the level of her absurdities is criminal,” tweeted Eduardo Bolsonaro, the South American representative of Steve Bannon’s far-right group The Movement, alongside the hashtag #PetraCostaLiar.

It’s really worthwhile to see what a country with a fragile democratic tradition can descend to rather rapidly. And as we’re finding out, all democratic traditions are fragile democratic traditions.

The Return of the Hummer – It’s About That Girth Baby

Yes, everything is about sex. The Hummer always was a massively thick phallus of a car. The electric version of it is admitting that wielding a powerful electric device can also be satisfying.  They sell way more Hitachi Wands than they ever sold Hummers.

Vice explores the history of the worst Earth destroying SUV of them all.

Love this para about the psychological break down of the Hummer purchaser:

Rapaille, a French emigree, believed the SUV appealed—at the time to mostly upper-middle class suburbanites—to a fundamental subconscious animalistic state, our “reptilian desire for survival,” as relayed by Bradsher. (“We don’t believe what people say,” the website for Rapaille’s consulting firm declares. Instead, they use “a unique blend of biology, cultural anthropology and psychology to discover the hidden cultural forces that pre-organize the way people behave towards a product, service or concept”). Americans were afraid, Rapaille found through his exhaustive market research, and they were mostly afraid of crime even though crime was actually falling and at near-record lows. As Bradsher wrote, “People buy SUVs, he tells auto executives, because they are trying to look as menacing as possible to allay their fears of crime and other violence.” They, quite literally, bought SUVs to run over “gang members” with, Rapaille found.

Certainly the perfect car for the Trump era.  With it you can run over machete wielding MS13 members, run over the hordes of undocumented, run over Maxine Waters, crushing their bones beneath your wheels. And now with an electric engine you can hear the lamentations of their women.

One Year Ago I Wrote This

“Saddest of all is the GOP Senate may very well continue to protect him and stonewall his removal, believing that they are electorally invulnerable in 2020 and 2022.  That’s the only firewall to get him, or Pence, limping into 2020 still in the WH.  But that firewall would doom their control of the Senate.  Like every tragic character felled by overconfidence, they never see that their invulnerability is overrated until its too late. We’ve always been able to count on Republican arrogance leading them to shooting their damn feet off, eventually.  This group of political morons is several generations more deluded by the Fox News base than the group of statesmen (read: realists) that forced Nixon out.”

I would only add one thing:  I think they know that they’re vulnerable in 2020. I think they’ve calculated that it’s more important to be a member in good standing in the Trumpist party even if an ex-Senator. Being a Trumpist ex-Senator is way safer than being an apostate Senator.


Iowa – Caucus Interruptus

After all that time concentrating on Iowa, so much time, so much money, so many corn dogs and butter cows – a much anticipated result DID… NOT… HAPPEN. And people went nuts.

Of course the caucus is undemocratic, an oddity where a teeny tiny, disappointingly small slice of Iowans actually show up for the main event after a year of candidates crisscrossing the state with rallies, town halls, diner visits, living room talks, etc. The ones that show up politely horse trade with each other so that their neighbor isn’t disappointed by their candidate’s lack of viability.  Despite pundits corralling the candidates into the progressive or centrist pens, Iowans looked at them and judged them by who they liked, or who had Midwest values or not, whatever that is.  So “my first choice is Amy, but she’s not viable so I’m going over to Bernie” can happen and did happen and pundit heads short circuited with all that Midwest political acumen.

Ultimately it was a year of foreplay with no release, AND THAT WILL DRIVE PEOPLE NUTS.

There will be results. They just may not be as dramatic as people hoped for because it will happen a day later with no cameras on it – an Iowan form of masturbation to finally clear up that nasty backup after a bad case of blue balls.  If the results are what is believed, Biden and (certainly) Klobuchar are not viable (to use Iowa speak). But likely they’ll go to NH and have that proven again there.

So what happens in 2024.  Likely nothing, although maybe, mercifully, they’ll add a primary to their beloved caucus (that can be totally ignored).  Iowa will remain first because of all the money that gets spent in Iowa over the course of a year. Just think upon all the money spent on advertising, housing, food, etc, by the candidates and the media not over a few weeks, but over an entire year in the state of Iowa.  Iowa’s GNP probably doubles 1 year out of every 4, so they will fight  any effort to move them out of that spot.  But a primary with an actual result at the end of the night, where a much larger number of 90% white people came and voted and went home and actually recorded their choice after all those corn dogs, would be nice.

45 of 50 States Tax the Poor at Higher Rates Than the Rich or How Conservatives Have Perverted Economics

Why do we need a transformative presidency, and overall politics, rather than a merely restorative one in 2020? Duh!  The continuing, long lasting damage that Reaganomics wrought on the poor and middle class must be recognized and addressed.  Too many members of the political class believe that the current state of things where the rich get richer and everybody else struggles is normal. They’ve come to see that inequality is an issue, but can’t really comprehend how bad it’s got because (1) the current economic status quo is all they’ve known, and (2) they don’t actually know anybody working 3 jobs and juggling bills to get by.

NY Times notes that State and Local Taxes are Worsening Inequality.  Illinois, now under complete Democratic control is moving to make their taxes more progressive, reversing a 40 year trend.

That gap between the poor and the wealthy in Illinois is one of the largest in any state, but the poor pay taxes at higher rates in 45 of the 50 states, according to a 2018 study by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.

Yeah, even in blue states. And again, look back to those 1980s Reagan tax cuts that so drastically cut federal coffers, resulting in massive cuts to state aid and subsequent higher state and local taxes and service fees to make up for the federal cut backs. Because of the tried and true American way of government by the privileged, for the wealthy, of the powerful, those higher local taxes and fees were often hella regressive. Blue states should honor their citizens and reverse these bad economics (while red states continue to screw their people).

In 1961, Americans with the highest incomes paid an average of 51.5 percent of that income in federal, state and local taxes. Half a century later, in 2011, Americans with the highest incomes paid just 33.2 percent of their income in taxes, according to a study by Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman published last year. Over that same period, the bottom 90 percent of Americans, ranked by income, saw their tax burden increase from 22.3 percent of income to 26 percent of income.

Also, too, as well, in addition, check out Jared Bernstein’s piece in Vox:  What economists have gotten wrong for decades: four economic ideas disproven by reality.

Starting with the supposed connection between inflation and “the natural rate of unemployment” (the people on Twitter who want to believe that AOC is dumb should not see her questioning the Fed Chair unless they want to be disabused) Bernstein notes a few economic shibboleths that need to be ignored for our economic sanity.

  • that globalization is a win-win proposition for all, an idea that has deservedly taken a battering in recent years;
  • that federal budget deficits “crowd out” private investments; and
  • that the minimum wage will only have negative effects on jobs and workers.

Over 40 years we’ve had low unemployment and high unemployment but the inflation rate has been steadily low and oh so friendly for the wealthy (who predominantly care about inflation, not unemployment, for obvious reasons.) Nevertheless, anytime anyone agitates for higher labor costs the specter of not just inflation but RUNAWAY inflation (OMG!) is invoked.

Globalization is the word we can use to explain how Wall Street and Main Street got so disconnected.

Bottom line for Bernstein on all of these economic fails:

In every case, the costs fall on the vulnerable: people who depend on full employment to get ahead; blue-collar production workers and communities built around factories; families who suffer from austerity-induced weak recoveries and under-funded safety nets, and who depend on a living wage to make ends meet. These groups are the casualties of faulty economics.

In contrast, the benefits in every case accrue to the wealthy: highly educated workers largely insulated from slack labor markets, executives of outsourcing corporations, the beneficiaries of revenue-losing tax cuts that allegedly require austere budgets, and employers of low-wage workers.

The wealthy get the benefit of the errors. Go figure. Funny how that happens 100% of the time.

It Took One Mass Shooting To Ban Assault Weapons in NZ. American Exceptionalism Means Exceptionally Corrupt, Fearful and Suckered

Just one really big shooting and done.

We know why it hasn’t happened here.  Money in politics, legal bribery, made the NRA  an exceptionally powerful lobbying group.  Using that money to keep politicians from listening to the majority of their constituents, along with stoking a constant banshee yell from the rabid gun owning minority has kept both parties (although now it’s largely just one party), has kept US from achieving the obvious.

Americans who are used to their government reacting to mass shootings with no more than “thoughts and prayers” may be surprised by the swift reaction. It’s partly because the National Rifle Association (NRA) and its sway over the gun control debate is an American phenomenon. But the fast changes are also possible because New Zealand’s parliamentary system makes it possible for the ruling coalition to turn ideas into reality quickly.

It’s not just guns, it’s of course why we’re behind the rest of the industrialized world on climate change, health care, child care, worker’s rights, etc. and why trying to bring us up to the level of the happier nations in the world seem so radical. We are suckers. We are absolutely being taken by our own society, owned by the elites or self-owned by our own cowardice, but we are living like rubes.

What this phenomenon feeds is the soul shattering fear that trying to do what we need to do, what other countries did decades ago, is radical and we have to shy away from asking for too much from our government.  Even advocating for these very simple things will make you unelectable.  Of course that’s a self-fulfilling prophesy whereby the  modest,  so-called centrists are said to be more serious and more electable.  So we’ve elected them and they’ve accommodated the fearful and achieved little.

By the way, this is mostly a phenomenon for Democrats and leftists.  Being archly conservative has made you more electable to the Republican base without all that much push back from the media who are loathe to call way out of the mainstream Republicans or their proposals “radical.” Lots of very radical, profoundly damaging legislation has been passed over the last 40 years, on a state and federal level, that caused the great disruptions to the middle class, the rising inequality, the diminution of unions, the rollbacks on access to health care for women, etc.

Initiatives to fix the improvements, ie. restore the middle class and common sense and just fucking make American life easier, less stressful and happier are always a hard sell even to the people who recognize that they’re fine ideas… but, you can’t try to push those ideas or we’ll looooooooose.  Starting to ask what winning means if the winners won’t fix anything and we continue down the conservative/neoliberal road to middle class serfdom.

For the third year in a row, the U.S. has dropped in the ranking and now sits at No. 19, one spot lower than last year, according to the report produced by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, a U.N. initiative. The top three spots this year were occupied by Finland, Denmark and Norway. At the bottom were Afghanistan, Central African Republic and South Sudan.



When a Neoliberal Makes the Case For the Left, You Listen

As we get into the 2020 Democratic nomination fight it’s important to get into the nitty gritty of policy, not just who is hard on their staff or whose single payer healthcare plan is more progressive.  Of course it will be awful, we’re already splitting hairs on whether a candidate that prioritizes economic fairness for everybody is not sufficiently devoted to racial equality, when they marched and protested for such racial equality before the other candidates were born.  We’re approaching that fork in the road where “Morning Joe” resumes being unwatchable for liberals again as they go from 2 years of “we hate Trump as much as anybody” to “you better nominate a moderate or you’ll give us more Trump” for the next 2 years.  Well, that’s a debate we will have between now and July 2020.

Brad DeLong is an economist I’ve read for a long time despite being a reasonable, but reliable neoliberal on a lot of issues.  He was part of the Clinton administration and teaches at U.C. Berkeley.  He describes himself as a “Rubin Democrat” referring to Clinton Treasury Secretary and Citigroup Chairman Robert Rubin – which must be to neoliberals as redheads named O’Riley are to the Irish – hardcore brother, hardcore.   In an interview in Vox, DeLong explains why neoliberal policy thinking has been an utter failure and “the baton rightly passes to our colleagues on the left.”

DeLong largely recognizes that the political reality that made any sort of bipartisanship, or what Clintonites called “triangulation,” the savvy, inside the beltway way to govern has been rendered foolish because of the militarization of the Republican party.

We were certainly wrong, 100 percent, on the politics.

Barack Obama rolls into office with Mitt Romney’s health care policy, with John McCain’s climate policy, with Bill Clinton’s tax policy, and George H.W. Bush’s foreign policy. He’s all these things not because the technocrats in his administration think they’re the best possible policies, but because [White House adviser] David Axelrod and company say they poll well.

And [Chief of Staff] Rahm Emanuel and company say we’ve got to build bridges to the Republicans. We’ve got to let Republicans amend cap and trade up the wazoo, we’ve got to let Republicans amend the [Affordable Care Act] up the wazoo before it comes up to a final vote, we’ve got to tread very lightly with finance on Dodd-Frank, we have to do a very premature pivot away from recession recovery to “entitlement reform.”

All of these with the idea that you would then collect a broad political coalition behind what is, indeed, Mitt Romney’s health care policy and John McCain’s climate policy and George H.W. Bush’s foreign policy.

And did George H.W. Bush, did Mitt Romney, did John McCain say a single good word about anything Barack Obama ever did over the course of eight solid years?

No, they fucking did not. No allegiance to truth on anything other than the belief that John Boehner, Paul Ryan, and Mitch McConnell are the leaders of the Republican Party, and since they’ve decided on scorched earth, we’re to back them to the hilt.

What Obama didn’t seem to learn until his second term was that when the other side is taking scalps, there’s little room for moderation and accommodation.  The situation with the GOP has only gotten more dire since then with the party’s further devolution to a cult of personality around a madman.  There is no dealing to be made. There is only winning and losing and that is only done by convincing the broader electorate that you have policies that will make their lives better and inspiring them to come out to vote in overwhelming numbers.

DeLong notes an interesting nuance to what works in politics now that is relevant to the moderate’s cry that you better not go too far or you alienate the mushy middle of the electorate.

The first lesson is the Gingrich lesson: If you’re in a swing state, you lose your seat if the president of your party is perceived to be a failure. The highest priority for Blue Dogs in red and purple states — in 1994 and in 2010 — ought to have been making it clear the president of their party was a great success.

If there is a good state of the world in 2021 — the Lord willing and the creek don’t rise — everyone and all Blue Dogs in office needs to recognize that and act on that.

2020 should be a continuation of the 2018 Blue Wave as the GOP has to defend an ocean of indefensible failure and corruption.  The impulse of the Morning Joes and, yes, many many Democrats  will be to play prevent defense – just don’t overreach and you’ll win this thing.  Any sports fan will get my reference to “prevent defense” as a pejorative – it rarely works and it’s a bad strategy for Dems too.

DeLong’s observation absolutely applies to the Dems in this election cycle as it did to the outsider party in 1994 and 2010 midterms.  In 2020 those moderates across the country in purpler districts will not succeed if they abandon their party and go mealy mouthed.  It’s go big, and stay united in a cause – get the Senate and the WH and expand the majority in the House.  To do that you get on board with the Green New Deal and Medicare for All, etc. and explain the fuck out of it to their constituents in ways they can grasp as being important and beneficial priorities for a country that needs big bold ideas.  Ideological collaboration with the GOP will doom them.  That will seem counterintuitive to many who are fearful of the Sanders/AOC left.   But time has come to trust the left, they have the baton.  Root like hell.

Little Trinity Church in the Middle of Wall Street is So Quaint… And Has $6 Billion Bucks!


Trinity Church, Lower Manhattan circa 1850.

Trinity Church is a little marvel because it was built in Colonial times in lower Manhattan and is still standing there as it has been surrounded and shadowed, more each year, by the glass and steel skyscrapers that represent the heart of modern capitalism.  For perspective, in 1885 the Trinity Church steeple was the tallest building on the island of Manhattan.  It was surpassed by the Woolworth Building and now it’s like a toddler in the middle of a giraffe stampede.

Besides being a curiosity in the Financial District as the Church and its ancient cemetery persisted through centuries, besides its great claim as an anachronism, its greatest calling card is as the last resting place of Alexander Hamilton, our first secretary of the treasury.  He would be so proud of the little Church as it now has a trust fund that has $6 billion dollars in real estate holdings.

Trinity’s current affluence can be traced to a gift of 215 acres from Queen Anne in 1705. (The church was first chartered, under King William III, in 1697, a few decades after the British took over New Amsterdam.) Trinity still owns 14 acres of that original land grant, mostly in Hudson Square.

It’s a very interesting story.  But it must be kept in mind…

Trinity has been able to do all this because it’s been a savvy manager of its resources. It is also, as a church, exempt from taxes.

But some wonder about the ethics of a religious institution being such a power player in the world of New York real estate.

Yes, let’s wonder about that.  Why does freedom of religion mean freedom from taxation?  That anachronism should probably be rethought.