Could Sanders win as Trump did? by offering something really different…

February 23, 2020

To quote from a popular song from some decades ago:

Amie, what you wanna do?
I think I could stay with you
for a while… (song written by Craig Fuller, recorded by Pure Prairie League, 1975)

In a recent post I said I was all in for Amy Klobuchar in the Democratic primary. It’s still way early but currently fresh off a major win in the Nevada caucus, Bernie Sanders, that old socialist from Vermont, has surged to a clear lead in the pack.

The big surprise to pundits (and me too) is that polling suggests that Sanders’ appeal goes beyond a dedicated base.

But maybe it should not be a surprise. In 2016, a lot of folks were just plain tired of the same old, same old in presidential politics and voted for Donald Trump — not a majority as we all know, but enough to allow him to slide in via the Electoral College. And they got what they wanted: not the same old, same old.

And before I go further with the thought, let me get back to Amy. I saw her as a softer, moderating force at neither extreme of the left, right continuum, one who could appeal to both Democrats and Republicans. She could bring back a sense of stability and civility.

But you have to be able to win to do that. Still time, but Bernie is on a roll.

And now back to the original thought: Trump is anti-establishment and some form of a populist of the right (even though he does not fit into what I would normally think of conservatism). In my reading of history, populists were formerly seen as a phenomenon of the political left (they wanted to break out of the status quo). But Trump came along and called for a rejection of the status quo in the Republican Party and its conservative base, which maybe seemed like too much of a club in cahoots with the opposing party (they were all in it just to keep their cozy jobs by fooling the public). Trump had not been a politician and through the years he had identified with both liberal and conservative causes or issues. He was and is an opportunist, doing things primarily that appeal to his own vanity or narcissistic tendencies.

The phenomenon noticed in the last presidential election was that even though Sanders and Trump seemed to be, or were, identified as being on the opposite side of the political spectrum, they both engendered appeal among some of the same demographic, often identified as white working class and disaffected voters (ones who felt the Democrats had abandoned them after for so many years of at least claiming to represent them).

But Sanders’ appeal, then, and apparently now, seems to go beyond all that. For one thing, even though he is 78, he appeals to young people, who see the world far differently than their parents or grandparents. For many, the idea of upward mobility is hard to conjure up. Stability in the work place for most is all but a relic of the past. Affordable housing is a thing of the past. And one can have somewhat affordable health care if he or she is fortunate enough to have a job that provides a group plan — but more and more young people find themselves in jobs that do not. Many are in the gig economy, even with higher education. And they are paying off exorbitant student debt. They work as essentially independent contractors — independent of benefits and stability.

And another thing: young people tend to be more concerned about climate change. They want to have a future on this planet. Sanders is among those who are pushing for a stronger emphasis on the environment.

The old fashioned political right has sided with Trump, even though Trump is really apolitical I think. Much of the left is with Sanders.

Personally I would be more comfortable with someone in the middle.

I suspect that in the end, that is next November, voter turnout will be the key. A large turnout would augur well for, say Sanders, if he wins the nomination, of course. A low turnout means four more years of Trump.

Would Sanders turn us into a European social democracy? There could probably be worse fates, but I don’t see that anyway. Unless he had both houses of congress, he would be fairly constrained.

Meanwhile, of course, billionaire and former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg is trying to buy the election with his own money. But when I saw him on the debate stage, I saw a man who looked like he was having a hard time suffering common folks. He might be able to buy silence from harassed women employees, but not the votes needed to become president (if I am wrong about that, well there goes our democracy).

Former vice president Joe Biden did come out second in Nevada, so don’t count him out, except, while Bernie got 10 more delegates to the national convention out of Nevada, winning 46 percent of the caucus votes, everyone else, including Biden, got 0 out of it (yeah, I don’t know how all that works either).


The current delegate count from the three primary elections so far:

Bernie Sanders: 31; Pete Buttigieg: 22; Elizabeth Warren: 8; Amy Klobuchar: 7; Joe Biden: 6.


Elizabeth Warren is in there fighting. Way back, a Republican and a conservative, she has become a firebrand of the left. And she has a plan for everything. And she is quick witted and fast on her feet. And that is all I can say about her at this time.

And of course there is Pete Buttigieg, who I always feel compelled to mention is gay. I mean that has to be figured in when calculating electability. But times have changed and a high voter turnout could help him if he were nominated. He is one of the most articulate and reasonable sounding and moderate candidates out there.

No doubt, though, Bernie is on a roll. Nothing enables a candidate to win more than winning.

So, Amy was clear down in 5th place. Some political observers say she and some of the others ought to drop out for the good of the party, leaving maybe one strong center candidate to beat the lefty Sanders, who could then go on to beat Trump.

Amy, what you wanna do?


Socialism is the wrong path, but Trump ousting is the right path…

February 13, 2020

Right now I’m all in for Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, and I am glad to see she picked up the pace and came out among the top three in New Hampshire, at no. 3. And I am not at all unhappy that former vice president and king of gaffes Joe Biden took a drubbing and that Massachusetts Sen. and American native wannabe Elizabeth Warren is faltering — which is not to say that I would not eagerly vote for either one — anyone to beat Trump.

President Donald Trump, with the help of his senate lackeys, is destroying our democracy and even the notion that there is something called “truth”. He seems to think it is in his power to choose whether to follow the law and the constitution. More than his policies, it is his attitude and his boorishness that concerns me. There really is a place and need for manners and decorum in a civilized society. And the truth thing. While making a false or misleading statement here and there or exaggerating is the stuff of politics, Trump has shown a willingness just to lie and stick with that lie as long as it serves him or to even change his story in midstream if that seems to serve him. He has conditioned followers to simply believe that he is somehow their only protection and that truth really has no relevance anyway.

But what really concerns me is Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders being considered the front runner in the Democratic Party. I have a hard time getting my head around the concept that an avowed socialist can win the presidency in the United States of America.

(A November matchup between Sanders and Trump might resemble McGovern vs. Nixon in 1972 — people sympathized with McGovern’s anti-Vietnam War message but in the end they just could not vote for him — he of course lost in a landslide, only winning one state, and not even his own).

There is a difference between social programs, which can do good, and socialism. I think Sanders considers himself something like a European socialist and that he would love to see a Scandinavian-style social democracy. But I think our constitutional format and our history does not fit into that.

There are different types of socialism models. There is European social democracy at one end and communism at the other. They are not the same of course. However they do have something in common. The good of the people is supposedly at the center. Well that sounds fair — but the people are represented by the “state”. And there you go, it is you the individual against the state or visa versa.

To the extent that the United States leads the world, it is because of individualism and the freedom that allows individuals to move ahead with new ideas and ways of doing things that make life better for all.

It may well be that in some places, Europe for instance, and in third-world nations, it is necessary for the state to take a more active role in protecting people because there is little room for individuals to advance, especially if they are not from wealth or the landed aristocracy.

To an extent we have that problem in the United States, so, yes, we do have social programs to address that. But our nation developed with the spirit, if not always the reality, that you could move west young man and strike out on your own. Yes, the frontier is settled, but we still have that frame of mind.

What do I know about it? Not more than you the reader, perhaps. But I do have an undergranduate degree in political science. But it so happens I am an over-the-road truck driver. So using that experience here is my take on socialism vs. capitalism:

Socialism –A driver goes to a warehouse where the employees are union members to unload his trailer. It’s 15 minutes before lunch. The forklift driver decides, too close to lunch to start now and just sits idle for that time. And he might have even had a recent 10- or 15-minute rest break, maybe not more than an hour previous.

Capitalism: On the other hand, a driver goes to a non-union warehouse. The forklift driver with only 15 minutes to lunch at least gets 15 minutes of work done, because, well that’s his (or her) job, and besides he might want to impress the boss, and beyond that he knows somewhere in his mind that if it were not for the business of the trucks coming in and out he would not have a job, that’s our non-socialist capitalist system. And maybe, get this, in a non-union warehouse they might even split lunch breaks so not everyone is at lunch at the same time (although I don’t see that much in real life).

But back to Sanders and socialism: free health care for all. Pay everyone’s student debt and free college for all. Except in reality nothing in this world is free. Someone will pay. Usually it is those who are diligent in their work and prudent with their money.

One thing that bothers me about free college for all is that we have already dumbed down our colleges and universities with students taking remedial English and math courses (not sure what happened in grade school and high school). Back in the day those students were not considered college material or they were offered community college to catch up. And, yes, I would support free (to the student) or almost free community college. They are great. They serve as both trade schools and prep for higher education and a combination of the two. Oh, and I realize free is not free, but they are a good investment for taxpayers.

But on the other hand, we can hardly afford to pay for everyone’s degree for a four-year college or more, nor should we. Not everyone is up to going the route of higher education or at least what higher education ought to be. And a good thing that is true. How would anything get built or repaired or moved or cleaned? And that is not put down. Skilled work, needed work, can command good pay. And although I a paragraph or so previous put unions in a bad light — they have their purpose for looking out for the interests of workers (although some just look after the interests of crooked union leadership).

One problem may be that the upper echelon of education has become a kind of trade school. It’s mostly about how much money one can make (not that making money is not important) and a lot less about understanding and appreciating the world and its history and various cultures and having an appreciation for all of those who make up our society.

We now have a president in office who on paper I guess is college educated but who seems to be lacking an educated world view beyond his desire to be seen as the most powerful man on the planet. The worst part of it is that he seems to have no notion of the rule of law — something he might have learned in college. It is something that separates true western democracies from other forms of government.

The president of the United States by virtue of his office and the reality of America’s position in the world power structure is the most powerful man in the world and, really, even with our constitution, there is not much to stop him from becoming a dictator but the rule of law. But the rule of law only really has its power as long as all in the government believe in it. We do not have a system with military coups.

People within the government (and elsewhere), the president included, have to agree with each other on one thing, the rule of law. President Richard Nixon refused to hand over his what turned out to be incriminating tapes, at first, but the Supreme Court ordered him to do so. And he did, with still some resistance. But what if he said no? There would have been no mechanism or practical way to make him. In the end it was that unwritten agreement to follow the rule of law.

I’m not at all sure that Trump in the same situation would break down and follow that rule. He would more likely just declare unilaterally that any court order was unfair or illegal and refuse. He of course did refuse to work with congress in the recent impeachment proceedings and ordered his administration officials not to as well.

He was advised not to on his own order the assassination of another nation’s (which we were not at war with) general, but he did so. Even if most agree, despite the questionable legality, it was probably a good thing because of the man’s role in terror and supplying weaponry that ended up killing Americans, still it is a president acting seemingly outside the rule of law.

A better example is that Trump has managed via tweet to overrule the Justice Department and get a lighter proposed sentence than originally suggested by prosecutors for a former associate convicted on federal charges. If all involved believed in the rule of law, that would not happen. But what is the remedy here? It’s that people follow the rule of law. But if they choose not to, all is lost.

Trump has also called for military discipline against an impeachment witness who testified against him. That’s almost like witness tampering after the fact.

Trump probably would not get away with anything if he did not have the protection of his enablers in the Republican senate majority.

Moving on:

Then there is second-place currently in the just beginning Democratic presidential primary race Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana. Finally some commentators are acknowledging that rightly or wrongly his problem is that he is gay, gay not as in happy as it meant when I was younger, but gay as in, he is homosexual, and he is married to a man. This will be mentioned a lot by his Republican opposition (and Democratic too?) throughout the campaign, directly or indirectly. I’d likely vote for him against Trump, even so. How many others would? Not enough, I imagine.

And finally, lots of glowing things said about Klobuchar, even a highly laudatory opinion piece on her in the Wall Street Journal. But why does everyone say how great she is and proclaim that surely she will be on the Democratic ticket — as the “vice president”? Why not president? I mean isn’t that the office she is running for?

As the legendary FDR vice president John Nance “Cactus Jack” Garner once said: the vice presidency is “not worth a warm bucket of piss”. Hell, just ask Mike Pence. It has to be tough when your only real job is to look glowingly at the president and act as his unthinking puppet as if you are made out of wood. Yes, he can break a tie in the senate too. And that is not to be scoffed at, I admit.

(I know Pence has a mind of his own, though. I’ve heard him. That is what scares me.)

Well, sometimes by accident or tragedy of course the VP becomes president and in recent years vice presidents have been given more duties and stature — but still. I mean what an insult to say you are qualified to be vice president (not president?).

Another reason I like Klobuchar is age. I’m 70, she is 59. I’m holding my own, but I am not president with the weight and fate of the whole world on my shoulders — we need younger blood folks. But not too young (Buttigieg is only 38).


For the Democrats, winning in November is the key, and a woman president is a good idea…

January 21, 2020

First it was the Russians who apparently were doing their part to get Donald Trump elected president (whether Trump hinself actively sought help or not), then Trump looked to Ukraine to get help for his re-election.

From what has been reported it seems crystal clear that Trump tried to presssure the Ukranian president to investigate his political rival Joe Biden and his son for suspicious connections to an energy company there whose boss was known to be corrupt. Trump withheld congressionally-approved military aid to Ukraine, which faces military incursions by Russia and Russian separatists. He made it sound as if the aid was conditional on the Ukrainian president announcing he was investigating the Bidens (although the Ukrainian president declined). The aid was withheld for a time but eventually supplied. Trump supporters argue that there was no real hold-up in aid, that in fact any delays were just normal. And they argue that there is nothing wrong with the president suggesting corruption be investigated (although it seems a little suspicious that a political opponent was the target for investigation and that Trump himself made the suggestion).

The Demoratically-controlled congress has leveled two impeachment charges against Trump, abuse of power, over the Ukraine matter, and obstruction of congress, stemming from Trump refusing to cooperate with the congressional investigation, not supplying documents and directing administration officials not to testify or otherwise cooperate with the investigation.

I would not shed a tear if Donald Trump is removed from office via impeachment by congress and conviction by the senate — but that is doubtful, what with the senate Republican majority still solidly and quite opening supporting Trump — even though they are now supposed to be sitting as jurors in the impeachment trial that is under way. I think there are four Republicans who could be swayed a little, from what I have been hearing and reading.

But the key for the Democrats really is to win the White House in November. Perhaps the impeachment will help emphasize why that should happen.

But just like in sports where the old saying is it is not whether you win or lose it is how you play the game, but the reality is winning is everything, so too is the case in politics.

(The recent sign stealing scandal in major league baseball seems to indicate how important winning is, and then there was the deflated ball thing in football a couple of yeas back, was it?)

There have always been scandals and skullduggery of course in politics, but we used to have some semblance of propriety, but with the cover the Republicans are giving to Trump (even as they say they don’t always approve of his behavior) as he flouts the law and standards and protocol of the high office, that all seems to be gone. Standards of decency are for losers apparently.

It seems apparent that the Trump campaign either “reached out” (and that is the new way of saying “contacted” in today’s parlance) for the help of the Russians to win the election in 2016 or just took advantage of their help. That coupled with the fact that Trump seems to go out of his way to heap praise and trust on Vladimir Putin, who has just made himself dictator for life in Russia, should make anyone question his loyalty.

It seems Trump was willing to let Ukraine go to his hero Putin if it would not help him dig up dirt on Biden.

And I would not let Biden off the hook, but that is another matter. Trump was not trying to fight corruption, he was more like engaging in it himself, using the power of his office to fend off a political opponent. Trump would do anything to get re-elected.

So the task for those who do not want Trump to continue as president is to make sure he does not win the election in 2020, because winning is everything, or at least it is a prerequisite.

While it would be fine with me if he is kicked out of office by conviction in the senate, it might leave me and other Trump non-supporters with the feeling of illegitimacy, just like when Trump realized he had won the election not by popular vote but by the quirk of the Electoral College. That’s when he had to lie about crowd size and then everything else.

And I am beginning to think it is high time a woman is elected. But not just because she is a woman. And like I just read from someone else, the women candidates would do best to emphasize what they can do for their country rather than the fact that they are women.

Women tend to be more pragmatic than men, making decisions after looking at all the options, and yes, looking for consensus. In that way they are more likely to come up with decisions that are best for the largest number of people (almost no decision is going to be be good for or supported by everyone). And in that way, once announced, their decisions on policy are more likely to get support.

Woman don’t have to worry about being seen as macho. On the other hand, they can make the call. Margaret Thatcher dispatched the British fleet to recover islands that were and still are in British territory off of Argentina. Golda Meir was known for her strong leadership of the nation of Israel.

But since women don’t really have to act tough (although they must exude a strong will in politics), that is strut and act out in public, it seems there would be all the less chance for a knee-jerk reaction on the world stage that could ignite the spark that sets off World War III (which could be short but world ending).

Of course women are just people, and they can be just as corrupt as any man.

We really need to get a handle on this corruption thing. Trump came into office promising to drain the swamp, but only polluted it more with the gangster-like characters he has employed. There were some stalwart public servants but they were run out when they refused to be simply Trump toadies or dared to suggest that the emperor has no clothes. What did that one general say? Trump is an idiot. You just then realized it sir?

One important task for anyone wanting to ensure hers or his victory over Trump is to appeal to the disaffected, I suppose primarily white working class voters who feared they were losing their foothold in society and that politicians, particularly Democrats, who used to be their champions (yeah really), had abandoned them.

I think the Clintons started all that. At first it seemed like a clever and not-so-bad move. They would turn the Democratic Party into are more broad-based organization that recognized and supported the interest not only of workers but business who employs those workers. They were the “New Democrats”.

But in the election of 2016 it was realized that Hillary went a bridge too far. It was reported that she had been making a pretty comfortable living making speeches to Wall Street types, at millions of dollars at a pop (what was she promising them?). She was not talking to labor groups, as far as I read. And out of context or not, she did sound like she meant to put coal miners out of business (oh, yeah she was going to send them all to training school to be computer programers or maybe work at McDonalds). Even so, she probably would have made a fine president, but you have to win first.

As it turns out, winning is everything, at least in the short term.


In politics the terms right and left have lost meaning; deficits seem tolerable as long as money flows to the deserving…

January 6, 2020

The old idea in political science or U.S. politics is that liberals want to spend government money and conservatives want to rein it in and balance budgets.

In reality, voters care more about where government spending goes rather than deficits.

Despite the promise of politicians from both the major parties to balance the federal budget in the interest of prudent economic practice, each year the government spends more and more, and each year it spends more than in takes in. Therefore it has to borrow money and thus raise the national debt.

Like most non-math people I get into trouble when I use or attempt to use precise figures, but here goes anyway:

For the fiscal year of 2020, the federal budget is $4.75 trillion but projected revenue is only $3.65 trillion, leaving a deficit of $1.10 trillion.

Now the federal government’s actual spending is hard to track, because the budget is merely a plan (that can be violated and I guess always is). There are spending bills and continuing resolutions congress passes to pay the bills. For instance, the cost of our wars (or military actions) are basically all but hidden in continuing resolutions.

(I wanted to cite my source for the foregoing figures but I lost it — even if they are off, you get the idea. We spend way more, governmental wise, than we take in and the debt just keeps piling up.)

The national debt (as opposed to the deficit) is nearly $24 trillion (Wikipedia).

But is debt such a bad thing? The vast majority of Americans live with their own personal debt and spend more than they take in each year. The culture or public attitude around debt has changed since your parents’ or grandparents’ time. That is not to say this is a good thing — I suspect it is not.

Stay with me here, a kind of awkward segue, but somehow this is all connected, if loosely so (this is not a term paper or master’s thesis, it’s a blog post):

The Republican Party is in the White House thanks to right-wing populism. The Republican Party is supposed to be our more conservative party or just plain conservative party. But in order to get the support of so-called working people they have turned to what is called the right-wing populist movement.

The old left-wing populists wanted money for the poor and the jobless. That dated back to the Great Recession of the 1930s when things were desperate (well before that too but that is too long ago for this). Although some people alive today might not admit it, they were even considering socialism, or communism. Fortunately, things got better.

Unionization of the work force and the post-World War II expansion that saw the United States take both the political and economic lead in the world greatly lifted up the working class in America and put a lot more people into the vaunted middle class. That is not to say all working people benefitted, but in general.

So many working people became so comfortable with their suburban homes and their two-car garages and boats and eventually RVs and giant pickup trucks they became conservatives. They got there’s so why is any change needed?

But once the Republican Party had them in the bag it tended to the needs of the economic elites far away from the rabble.

The Democratic Party, meanwhile, lost a lot of its working base that got too comfortable. Much of that base was also revolted by Vietnam anti-war demonstrators who they felt were running down their country (even though public opinion across the spectrum turned against the war over time). They also became nervous about race riots. This drew them even more to the Republican Party which promised law and order.

Eventually the Democratic Party decided it was too far left and went more moderate, say in the time of Bill Clinton. Clinton and his wife cozied up big time to big business for big bucks.

And eventually the working class realized that both parties had been playing it for fools. Thus right-wing populism.

Farmers tend to be conservative but they love government largesse in the farm bills, and I bring that up because there you have it — some so-called conservatives are not at all against big-time government spending — even though the standard conservative line is against deficits.

A writer in a Wall Street Journal article put it this way:

“…In practice, working-class voters rarely favor limited government. They favor more spending on people like them and less on others, domestic or foreign, they regard as undeserving. Health care and retirement security are core government responsibilities, not to be trifled with. If hard-pressed farmers and workers need bailouts, so be it.”

(William A. Galston, in the Wall Street Journal)


And even though Republicans and conservatives are generally seen as pro big business and that was okay with many working people drawn to the GOP, there is some resistance to its excesses, most notably in what I think might be called “crony capitalism”. In other words the insiders take care of their own with the help of political connections (such as when the Clintons gave million-dollar speeches to corporate gatherings).

CEOs who run their companies into the ground are rewarded with golden parachutes worth astronomical sums when they are kicked out the door. The average working person or even small business person does not have that luxury.

Conservative pundit Tucker Carlson laments or warns that the unfairness of CEOs being rewarded for failure is evidence to the working class that the rules are in the favor of elites and that workers who may have been drawn to the Republican Party might now be drawn to those at the far left in that other party.

As evidence, Carlson cites the case of the recently-fired Boeing CEO who after leading his company downhill in the 737 jetliner fiasco gets a severance package of between $26 and $50 million.

Now I am not sure what government can do about golden parachutes, except I think it is all part of the culture run by elites who play the working class for fools. The phenomenon of being able to pay people so much for failure might be evidence that the system (including tax policy) is so skewed toward big corporations run by elites, that they can make money even by failure. Many large corporations pay 0 taxes, leaving the individual working class taxpayer to pick up the tab. Who made that possible?

Onward:

Free trade was supposed to be such a panacea. Both Democrats and Republican elites supported it. But in many instances working people were sold down the river, their jobs shipped across the border or overseas where people are forced to work for a lot less money. In some cases the labor is supplied by prisoners.

Here is a case when both left wing and right wing populists agree on a problem.

Personally I believe in free trade (in general) but not so free it abandons the needs of our own work force.

The political landcape is changing:

The Republican Party who went out of its way to attract working class voters simply for their numbers has found that it has taken on something it may not be able to handle. Working people are not a monolithic group in reality. But within that group are a lot of people whose world does not go beyond their daily grind. They pretty much believe that the government’s purpose is to serve their needs and otherwise stay out of their lives. They see government too concerned about protecting elites and dabbling into the affairs of foreign nations that have little to nothing do with them.

Protracted military interventions in the Middle East that have no end in sight are being seen for what they are: a collassal waste of money and lives that robs the U.S. treasury of funds it could use to directly serve its own people. Can you say health care or even lower taxes? And how about dealing with climate change (no matter what its cause)?

A misunderstanding of what voters really want I think led to the confusion that allowed such an unlikely candidate as Donald Trump to get into the White House. He played on the dissatisfaction of voters of all stripes and snuck in by way of the Electoral College.

Trump has spoiled relations of needed allies, disrupted world trade, obliterated the dignity of the office of president with his rants and name calling on Twitter and in campaign appearances, and now seems to have brought the United States to the brink of all-out war with Iran.

Oh, I know. It’s the economy stupid.

While current standard economic indicators are good it is hard to imagine they will stay that way with all the disruption. And like they say, Mussolini made the trains run on time. We know how that turned out.

And the standard economic indicators are kind of like the old fashioned way of observing politics. They do not necessarily apply to the real world or current reality.

Political alignments have changed. You really can’t read American politics in a right vs. left fashion.

People have a hard time figuring out where they belong but they are pretty sure that they don’t fit into the vison of politicians who adhere to the old alignments.

p.s.

I think political parties are necessary. They can serve a useful purpose in coalescing various ideas into workable solutions that meet the needs of the people, that are for the common good. But our current two major parties I think have an identity crisis. We need a third party at least but our constitutional structure seems to make that all but impossible. It seems that you must have a parliamentary system to accomodate more than two major parties. Well, then, maybe our only solution is to go for the middle of the old left and right alignment. I think we might have been there is the days of Eisenhower and then Kennedy.


As of now, Biden has the best chance, many Republicans secretly prefer him…

January 1, 2020

Election year is finally here. I’ll go out on a limb and predict right now that Joe Biden will be elected president next November. I did not mean he is my favorite candidate, although certainly I prefer him over you know who — I’m trying to not use you know who’s name so much this year (good luck to myself on that).

I think that the more reserved and elite Wall Street Journal type crowd of the Republican Party would rather see the president face Biden because they feel they could live with Biden more than the other Democratic Party candidates — in fact they may not so secretly prefer Biden than the current president.

Bernie Sanders has a loyal following and major fund raising ability but somehow I don’t see the whole nation going socialist  — even though I read that among the young socialism does not carry the stigma it once did.

Geez! Biden, age 77; Sanders, 78; Trump, 73, you can’t say this is “no country for old men”.

At 70 myself, I’d prefer someone a tad younger but not too young. How about Amy Klobuchar? She’s 59. No so old but not so young. That moderate midwestern gal should be able to attract Republicans and others who would prefer to turn back to normalcy, to a calmer more deliberate and for God’s sake civil form in our government.

Mayor Pete: you are certainly smart and quite articulate (wouldn’t it be nice to have someone sitting in the oval office who actually had a vocabulary?) but you are too young, way too young, turning 38 this month (the constitutionally qualifying age is 35, though). Get some more experience and at the higher levels than mayor of South Bend, Indiana.

Elizabeth Warren: you are full of energy, feisty, and you have a plan for everything, but maybe we don’t want every detail of our lives planned out that much. Weren’t the communists big on plans, five year plans? How’d that work out? (I did not really call Warren a communist, and calling someone a communist is passé anyway — you call them a socialist or a Democrat).

And what about a candidate of color? They have all but disappeared. But just as one should not dismiss a candidate because of his or her color one should not prefer one because of his or her color — at least that is the way I see it.

However, breaking barriers is good for our democracy and we did have a black president. It would be nice to have a woman president I think, or a black woman, but Sen. Kamala Harris of California tried that one but dropped out after people felt she was hedging her bets a little too much on policy stances. She might still be in the running for a VP spot I read. She is a former prosecutor and a hell of an interrogator. I’d like to see her stay in the U.S. Senate. We need here there. (I’d advise her to skip the VP spot as it is usually a ticket to political oblivion, Biden notwithstanding.)

And those billionaires running, self-funding. Thanks but no thanks. As evil as money can be in politics, though, donations from a wide spectrum of people is indeed a form of free speech and a measure of popular support. From Corporations with their narrow-minded interests, not so much — despite what the current ruling of the Supreme Court says, I think corporations are only people in the sense of business law, but I don’t want to get into all that — requires way too much legal research — but something I might do later.

And talking of those billionaires trying to buy their way in, I’m not sure that works. A billionaire named Michael Huffington running for a U.S. Senate spot in California tried that many years ago and it did not work. After all the money he spent, still most people never heard of him, even though he had served a term as a congressman (and I just read that; I didn’t even realize he had ever been in government). I just looked up the results of the 1994 election — well it actually was close, but I think he got partisan votes from people who may not have known much about him but that he was a Republican. I still doubt one can buy a presidential election with his or her own money (but who knows?).

And did you notice? Even the supposedly uber wealthy president did not buy his way in. You have to give him credit for being politically savvy enough to get fools to donate money (well, ok, maybe if you got what you wanted you are not a fool). And why not? That was his mode of doing business — using other people’s money (then bailing and leaving them hold the bag).


I wrote “supposedly wealthy” about the president because it is conjectured he is not nearly as wealthy as he brags and in fact could be over his head in debt and that is why he is so protective of his tax returns — that and irregularities.


All this of course was just an off-the-cuff first-day-of-the-new year prediction, and I have a rather poor record of correct predictions (if I in fact ever have made any).

Events during the coming year, as of yet of course unknown, can or will drastically change the landscape.

 

 

 


The silliness in witholding whistleblower’s name when it is already in the public domain…

December 29, 2019

So how long are we supposed to play out this farce of hiding the Trump whistleblower’s name?

I never thought that I would use the term “mainstream media” (well maybe I have previously, but sparingly) because it is code in hard-right speak for left-wing propaganda which it claims is the product of major news organizations, but nonetheless it seems that the mainstream media is acting absurdly by refusing to mention or write his name when it is publicly known.

I heard the name mentioned several weeks ago, a month or more, and I am sure it has been out there a lot longer. I heard it first from Ronn Owens on KGO Radio, San Francisco. He used to have a talk show but now just does a spot I think he calls the Ronn Owens Report. Owens is no far-right guy. I think he claims to be middle of the road but he leans to the left on most things.

But this is not about Ronn Owens. It is about a CIA analyst named Eric Ciaramella. There I wrote it, the alleged name of the alleged whistleblower. And if this is not true — and I cannot attest that it is for sure — then sorry for the error. I was in the news business at one time. If one had to wait until he or she was solid on everything not much would get reported — one does need to be careful and use good judgment, of course. The name and description is indeed on the internet on several places, which of course does not in and of itself support the veracity of it all.

I don’t know what the exact law is on whistleblowers but apparently the idea is to make it possible for some low-level person who witnesses wrongdoing to report it without fear of reprisals. I am also hazy on how far the ban on reporting the name goes in the law. Owens indicated the press (or “media” as some call it — I just think that tag is a pejorative when uttered by right wingers) is not prohibited from reporting the name. I mean that makes sense to me. If we have freedom of the press, as spelled out in the First Amendment, then it would be hard to prohibit an act of press freedom. Such prohibitions have been enacted at times — most famously by alien and sedition acts in war time.

And as Owens himself said, there is a problem here. From what we or he or whoever knows about this whistleblower, he is not non partisan. And who is?

Even though I do not support Trump, the president’s side has a point that Trump should be able to face his accuser.

Being able to face one’s accuser is the backbone of our justice system. I mean how would you like to face false accusations out or nowhere and never be able to come face to face with who is accusing you?


Below all of this I relate such an experience I had.


The fact that the accuser is with the CIA (that is if we assume that is a fact) lends credence to the Trump accusation that there is an entrenched bureaucracy out to get him, he and his followers call the “deep state”.

Now it could be that all or most of the accusations against Trump are true even so. But so far most of what we have are second hand recollections. In some ways Trump has confessed to exactly what he is accused of, that is requesting aid in digging up dirt on a political opponent in exchange for congressionally-approved military aid to the nation of Ukraine. But Trump and his supporters either spin all that another way or just don’t care.

As I understand it, various partisan sites on the internet, Trump supportive of course, have reported the whistleblower’s name. Trump and his supporters, including I guess most Republican senators, who would take part in an impeachment trial, are calling for the whistleblower to testify.

Trump’s legal team is using the tactic of going after the prosecutors. They want one of Trump’s political opponents Joe Biden to testify — he being the subject of the requested probe by Trump. While that to me seems out of order, I am not at all sure whether it is wrong to request or demand that the whistleblower testify in public. After all, he started the whole thing — or at least that is the narative. The whistleblower complaint was used as the pretext for much or all of the investigation against Trump.

I’m a little shaky on the concept of whistleblowers but I see the logic of allowing low-level staffers within government who witness corruption to be able to report it without reprisal. But it seems here we are dealing with a member of a secretive organization, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), which leads to suspicion that the president is being attacked by an opposing force in government, much like what happens in non-democratic nations, such as a military coup or one by the secret police.

We have of course already learned that the FBI skirted or broke the rules in obtaining search warrants in the related Russia investigation in which some claim shows that Trump and his campaign colluded with the Russians in the 2016 election. Protections against illegal searches and seizures are a cornerstone in our Bill of Rights. While if you have nothing to hide one might say you have nothing to lose, the problem is that if government authorities can willy nilly search and seize your property and documents, you really are not a free person — someone or some body with an agenda can use searches and seizures as harassment and can twist things with them.

I have to realize that one reason for not using the whistleblower’s name is that then he becomes the story. That of course is what Trump the accused wants — change the subject, shift the focus.

Perhaps the whistleblower should testify in public. If he has the courage of his convictions, he can let the senate and the American public hear what he has to say and judge accordingly.

And if there is a value to the whistleblower law then he should not face any retaliation. Of course the White House does not have to let him work there, which he reportedly did at one time.

I think there are far worse things Trump has done and could face impeachment for. For one thing, treason comes to mind. His overly-friendly dealings with Russia and North Korea come to mind.

And maybe the biggie of them all is the indication that Trump cronies somehow capitalized or tried to capitalize on their government connections in shady business deals in Ukraine and elsewhere, ironically what they accuse the Bidens (former VP and son Hunter) of doing.

(That would be a good thing for a free press to sort out.)

And even Trump’s demeanor, his crude behavior, would be a reason to kick him out. He sullies the name of the United States. Yes other countries or people or leaders act like him and worse but we are the United States and should be better than that.

But in the end, if Trump is to be defeated it will likely come at the ballot box.

I just hope that impeachment does not become a common political tool in the future, such as the Democrats win the presidency and right away the Republicans counter with an impeachment probe.

No president so far has been removed from office via impeachment. Nixon came close but he ducked out on his own before he could be kicked out. Well, so in a way, impeachment did oust him, that is the threat of certain impeachment and conviction.

But how that came about is instructive. After the revelations of the Watergate hearings the public, across parties, had finally had enough of Tricky Dick. So the lesson is, it seems, the American people have to support impeachment.

And let’s be honest: Richard Milhouse Nixon for all his flaws was a patriot, a World War II veteran of the Pacific theater of war (not a draft dodger), a keen observer and tactician of international politics, and a man who devoted nearly his whole working life to public service — he had deep-rooted insecurities (don’t most of us?) and he got carried away with the power of the presidency. He paid the price.

I thought Nixon was bad at the time, but compared to Trump he seems like an angel in retrospect.

Trump has devoted his whole life to self-glorification and I guess gratification in a world of sleaze — sleazy business deals and sleazy sex.

I should not go on but I just want to say that even with all of this, Trump has managed to shake things up and make us aware.

So now that we are awake to what can happen when we are complacent, let’s do something about it.

p.s.

A link to the Ronn Owens Report:

http://www.kgoradio.com/2019/11/05/ronn-owens-report-the-whistleblower-has-been-identified/

p.s. p.s.

In my first job as a news reporter I had a boss who decided he did not like me for some reason (the feeling was mutual). So one day out of the clear blue he called me in, behind closed doors, for a private chat. He claimed that certain people claimed that my reporting on county Board of Supervisors meetings was not accurate. I was somewhat taken aback. I asked for examples. None forthcoming. I think I may have allowed that no matter how one reports things, someone is bound to claim bias but that I always did my best to be fair and objective. What I failed to ask was: who are these people who are accusing me? I would have liked to have heard first hand from them what the specifics of their accusations were, if indeed these people existed.


I majored in political science but usually avoid the subject…

December 26, 2019

I almost never talk politics with co-workers. That’s not hard since I am a truck driver working hour upon hour by myself at the wheel of a semi. I don’t even have a CB radio — used to but got tired of the profanity and nonsensical commentary, often filled with hate. Why do these people hate so much? They seem frustrated.

(If you were to ask one of them they would probably shout: “it’s people like you!”)

But two times in the past 48 hours I ventured accidentally into politics. In the first instance I made a silly comment about an incident during my army service and that brought on a comment from a fellow driver about how it might be better if there was still compulsory military service or the draft. I think the idea was that it would teach young people more discipline. I don’t know about that one. I was glad to get out of the army and away from such discipline, although I quickly found out civilian life has its own discipline. You’re never really free, unless you just drop all sense of responsibility. But anyway, I sometimes wonder myself if eliminating the draft was wise. My reasoning is that if people knew that they or their loved ones would be subject to the military draft we would not likely have so many foreign wars. We’d become a lot more selective. And I voiced that opinion. Not sure my friend bought that one, not sure. I know the subject was quickly changed.

The second instance was somewhat jolting. I stupidly mentioned that I subscribed to the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal (digitally I clarify for the reader here). I might as well have said I subscribed to the communist Daily Worker or some publication of a terrorist group such as Al-Qaeda or ISIS from the reaction I got from a security guard I was talking to. I asked him where he gets his news, and he answered Newsmax and Mark Levin, as his major sources. I should have left it there. But I commented that I had heard of Newsmax but did not know much about it (I later confirmed for myself that it is a right-wing publication). Levin is a beligerant radio host who spews hatred toward anyone and everyone who does not agree with his reactionary right-wing views — that at least is my take from hearing him on radio. I simply replied to the guy that I was aware of Levin and not impressed. He shot back that I must love Nancy Pelosi (crap! busted!). I said I was middle of the road. Then he claimed I must be a follower of Ron Paul — not sure if he said or meant Ron Paul or his son Rand Paul — who wants to let everyone do everything. Not sure what that was about, except that I know Ron Paul is a libertarian and that they tend to be fiscally conservative but socially liberal (ah, the best of both worlds — you really can have it two ways at once).

I joke around with the guy a lot, and perhaps we were just really engaged in lighthearted small talk. But the level and tone of his voice took me aback. I left it at that, and we parted ways with good-natured goodbyes, but not before he declared that Levin knows more about politics than I do. I did not dare mention that I had a bachelor’s degree in political science (which does not prove anything I admit, except that I attended classes and and was forced to buy those books professors write and require of their students). I know to quit when I am ahead, or behind, as it were.

We are indeed polarized in our politics in this nation. And maybe our news has always been slanted (I have some experience myself in journalism — I never tried to slant, consciously anyway). But the way to get to the truth and live peacefully with one another is not to stick to our own slant and wear blinders, but to be objective and weigh arguments for debating sides.

I try to stick to publications that appear to be balanced in their presentations but of course that is hard to determine these days.

While I have not conducted a survey or study, I have always felt that such publications as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, while they have certain stances on their opinion pages, tend to be fairly balanced in their news coverage (lately not as sure as I once was). The Times and the Journal usually have divergent official stances from one another on their opinion pages and also have outside opinions that counter their official stances. But both publications offer what purports to be straight news reporting not subject to the official editorial stances (the term editorial being kind of ambiguous in that it in some contexts simply refers to reporting and in others opinion).

There have been controversies from time to time at both publications concerning whether opinion was not bleeding into or running the reporting side. Even so, I have felt both in general are good and fair sources.

Fox News, the Washington Times, not at all.

And you just can’t beat PBS and NPR, public broadcasting — but even there I think there is a liberal bias. But then again, how does one detect liberal bias? I know that when a conservative hears anything about climate change or conservation or immigrant rights (legal or otherwise) he or she thinks: liberal bias. Going against the status quo is always suspect (and usually by definition liberal).

To further add to the confusion, we find out things like the FBI investigation into candidate Trump’s purported dealings with the Russians is tainted by the securing of surveillance warrants by use of misleading affidavits (creating the appearance that it was political rather than legal). And we find out that just like in the Vietnam era where there was the secret Pentagon Papers that revelaed that we had been steadily losing in a hopeless war and all the while our government was lying to us, we now have what are called the Afghanistan Papers where we are seemingly faced with the same predicament.

What’s that saying?

Something like: the truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.

But anyway, on this Christmas night of 2019 as I write this I hope that you all enjoyed Christmas and I wish you a happy and prosperous new year.

p.s.

Oh, my security guard friend also claimed that I must be a follower of James Comey. No, in fact I think that man was a little mixed up and overstepped his bounds as FBI director, not towards President Trump necessarily but by acting as a judge and jury before the election in the mater of the Hillary Clinton emails, with an on and off and on and off virtual conviction of her right up to the wire in the presidential voting. His job was to supervise investigations not make political statements. He should have been canned before Trump took office.