Friday, September 27, 2019

An Open-and-Shut Case

The Democrats in the House will open it, and soon.  But then the Republicans in the Senate will shut it down.

Why are the House Democrats suddenly moving so fast with their "impeachment proceedings"? One simple answer:  Speaker Pelosi has unleashed the caged beasts--it is now OK to be actually "proceeding".   The second is that Trump has gifted his opponents with a superb opportunity, one that forced Pelosi to act.

While the nuances ("quid pro quo" or no? Is there a Biden thing, and does it matter?) remain to be fleshed out, the facts seem clear.  Trump asked for something he should not be requesting, in a manner that is incriminating.  Private citizen/Trump personal attorney Giuliani compounded the legal problem by purporting to act on behalf of the US Government, something illegal for him to do. The decision on this one, for most House Democrats, is going to be way too easy.  And because their votes are not needed, House Republicans will hardly be troubled to vote No. 

This will take it to the Senate, where the Republicans would like to use their majority to quickly vote No and end it, but it will not be so easy.  There will be witnesses who must be heard: Giuliani, Toady Barr (who tried but failed to cover it up), Secretary Pompeo, and the senior people in the State Department who want Pompeo pushed under the bus like the other two lackeys.  One very important witness, especially with regard to the question of the existence of any Senate Republican votes for conviction will be the whistleblower, and the character of that person (as yet unknown), and the manner in which that person's story unfolds. Chief Justice Roberts will be on his best behavior, trying to seem as even-handed as possible.

What kind of defense can the Republican Senate leadership put up?  In a normal trial, it would pretty much be "defense rests"--they'd know they have the votes in the jury to prevent conviction.  This is overtly a political trial, though, and their objectives in the process will be complicated.  They will debate the facts, they will debate whether these rise to "high crimes and misdemeanors", but those are weak arguments, made for the record, that will be discounted.  The main argument will be "I'm running for re-election; why are you wasting my time?   It doesn't mean anything--we were always going to give Ukraine the assistance, just as we are doing. It's just Trump being Trump--who knows why he makes these confused tactical gambits?"

That last part--his total incapacity for the job, his faulty understanding of the laws and the Constitution he is sworn to apply, along with a refusal to learn--must be part of the articles of impeachment in my view.   As for Trump, it is quite interesting to learn now that the White House knew all about this weeks ago, and that his seeming off-the-cuff remarks  recently were just ones hastily prepared by a depleted and discouraged White House staff.  For example, he remarked, "I know, as the President, one has to be careful on the phone.  There are a lot of people listening."  That sounds exactly like what those who attempt to handle him would have told him afterwards.

Though much of this Thing is destined, what bothers me about it is that everyone can now go out and campaign on this imitation of justice, while most of Trump's malfeasances will not be fully exposed  in Congress or before the public.   It's not that there isn't time before the election; it's that most Congresspeople have to go out and raise money for their campaigns.  That's what has to be fixed, and it's a bipartisan problem.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Censure Immediately. Impeach--Maybe Later.

The bill should come from the Ethics Committee, it should stick to the variety of established facts regarding Trump's conduct while in office which have harmed it and harmed the balance of powers fundamental to the Constitution he is sworn to protect.

There is plenty of material, and each, or each category--emoluments, obstruction of investigations, violating rules on disclosure (both personal and administrative disclosures), failure to maintain the function of government agencies, disregarding appropriations law, failing to protect the integrity of American elections-- should be framed in a separate count discussed, at length, on the House floor.  Let's see if Republicans have his back on behavior they have often condemned already.

A rider to it should censure his toady Attorney General William Barr for intentionally deceiving the public and Congress on the contents of the Mueller report and his testimony about it.

A censure motion would pass--it will be very interesting to see if any Republicans vote in favor of any of the counts, or the motion itself--and it will be dismissed by Trump, probably publicly so (because he has no sense of shame or sensitivity at all); however, it will not be meaningless.  A censure motion states unambiguously that the behavior described is unacceptable.

The other question is whether to impeach the President for abuse of his office.  In order to do this, a lot more information is needed, information that is going to be very difficult and time-consuming to extract from the Administration.  The debate on the censure motion would help guide how broad the potential articles of impeachment should be composed.

Today's thrust forward by Speaker Pelosi is on a single, narrow violation:  Trump seeking Ukrainian President Velensky to "collude" with him in interference with the upcoming election, and refusing to allow the release of the whistleblower report to Congress.  It may not be enough, in itself, especially when the White House finally releases the report to Congress, after spinning it as much as is humanly possible.

Obviously, I support Pelosi's action and her tactics, as well.  I rise to suggest that there is another option; that beginning the inquiry does not lead necessarily to impeachment (and subsequent failure to convict) , and that there is a way to shame the President, publicly and definitively, without falling immediately into that trap.

Censure completed this fall allows the court processes, etc. to continue, all the way through the election.

In my view, this does not change the order of the ways in which Drumpfenreich comes to an end (see below, from a May, 2018 post), though I am thinking "suicide in the bunker" might end up being part of the rankings.
End of Trumpism--the Headline
(as I would rank order on likelihood) 
1. Trump Defeated!  ( in the 2020 Election)
2. Trump Quits! (Before 2020)
3. Trump Dies!  (anytime OK)
4. Trump Announces He Will Not Run Again (most likely in early 2020, when the recession hits)
5. Trump Wins Re-Election, Civilization Crashes, Drumpfsterfire Blazes until Snuffed in Resulting Chaos... (I'd guess late 2022)
6. Trump Is Impeached and Convicted! (could even be in second term)
7. That 25th Amendment Coup-because-Trump-is-Crazy Thing! (Since it didn't already happen...)

Trump did go too far this time, though he was understandably emboldened by the outcome of the Mueller report, which was contemporaneous with the egregious phone call with Ukraine.   One thing I heard tonight which bothers me is that I heard one analyst saying that this scandal would imperil the vital military aid to Ukraine--that must not happen. 

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Sunset for Netanyahu--The Finale!

The election results this week mark the beginning for the final act of this comedic drama.  Benny Gantz' Blue and White party has edged Benjamin Netanyahu and Likud, in the number of Knesset seats 33-31, and he will get first crack at forming a government.  There is the beginning of a glimmer of an idea of a happy ending.

It will not be easy for Gantz to get to a parliamentary majority of 61 seats.; there are so many oaths sworn not to ally between this and that group.   He speaks of a "unity government": I see a potential coalition of parties united only by a desire to get Netanyahu out of office; that may be enough.  To specify in gory detail:

 Kahol Lavan, 33 seats; Labor-Geshen and Democratic Union (allies to the center-left), 11 combined; Avigdor Liberman's Yisrael Beitanu 8, Yamina (led by right-wing former ministers now opposed to Netanyahu) 7. 
That gets you to 59; get the silent support of the Israeli Arab Joint List (13 seats) through abstention, and you have a working, if temporary, majority.

That allows Gantz to get past the first hurdle, getting Netanyahu to accept that he will no longer be Prime Minister.  A sort of intervention.

After that, Gantz' team may have a lot more maneuverability, with the possibility of strengthening that bizarre initial formation.  Lieberman's role I have explained in the past.  He would hate having to depend on Arabs for his role in the new government, which I grant would be both malign and substantial, but this actually makes more sense for him than the thing he claimed to want:  Kahol Lavan and Likud and him (preferably without Bibi).  If those two parties came together, they wouldn't need him!

Gantz could possibly maneuver him into a lesser position later if he can get some Likud defections, post-Bibi.  Or he could even let Likud into the government in a more complete way, with Bibi getting a role, if he doesn't get indicted.  He could agree to a rotation with Likud coming in after a couple years. Any of these would relieve him of the stress of depending on the Arab Joint List for a government they planned to oppose. But the one thing that is non-negotiable for Gantz is that Netanyahu is not Prime Minister (or Justice Minister, or Interior) in the new government.

That one proviso could prevent any government from being formed, if Gantz and his team are not flexible and persuasive.  Netanyahu will dig in, hard.  He will deny it publicly, but his play is to try to prevent any government being formed, stay in as caretaker, all the way through a third round of elections early next year. He risks going to jail if he gives in, though I suspect any penalty would be fairly minor if he were convicted.

What impact will this have on Israel?  Initially, not much; the group I described would produce a government which continues overtly Zionist policy through a strong and active military, though probably less willing to grant special favors to the Orthodox or illegal settlers, and which would not move aggressively on annexation of the West Bank.  One that could be a partner for peace negotiations!

As for Netanyahu's old buddy Trump?  Drumpf has already dumped him, cast him from his personal dumpsterfire.  "Our loyalty is to the state of Israel", Chief Twit clarified, in lieu of the congratulations he woulda twit otherwise.  He's working on the disclosure that he found Benjamin's wife, Sara, to be "nasty".

Trump's Iran Policy

We are now in a spiral of escalation in the Saudi-Iran proxy war.  President Trump's failed policy of aggressive sanctions against Iran has now produced responses that threaten to raise the level of violence.  Can he find the means to keep the US from war?  It seems even he shows reluctance to take that fateful step, of direct attack on Iran, for which we are grateful.

Saudi Arabia has indeed suffered an injury in this case--the attack on the oil field, which was done by targeted missiles, possibly augmented by other fire. Some of the missiles fell short and were not fully exploded; that and the angle implied by the fallen missiles pinpoints the launch near the Iraq-Iran border, and intelligence estimates are fairly clear that Iranian technology has been utilized.

The response has been typical of the subtlety of the Iranian approach.   Responsibility for the attack was immediately claimed by the Houthis, the breakway faction in Yemen which receives some Iranian support in its war against the recognized government "coalition" of foreign forces led by the Saudis. The claim appears spurious on its face, but it helped to distract.

The Iranians, of course, deny responsibility; the science points to the border area.  I'm guessing the Iranians arranged for the attack to be launched from Iraqi territory, by one of the militias, Iraqi in name, over which they exert control. They are probably puzzled that we can't figure that out--maybe we can, but we choose not to reveal that because of the complications that would cause there (near ex-ISIS territory, where there are still US advisors and volatile camp situations).

Now President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif are coming to the US, granted visas for the purpose of attending the UN General Assembly.   This is, of course, a great opportunity to turn the corner and head back toward peace.  I don't expect Trump to meet Rouhani directly, at least until US Secy of State Pompeo and Zarif  have a satisfactory initial, private, meeting.

What's the deal?  Surprisingly straightforward:  Iran back in the nuclear treaty, rapid release of sanctions, no more arms for the Houthis (to "punish" them for the attack on the Saudis).  We can't touch Hezbollah, and nobody gets to Hamas in Gaza, so don't even think about it.   As for Assad and the various forces struggling for power in "his" Syria,  our interest is in the safe areas to be developed near Turkey to allow reintegration of refugees without life-threatening risk, and ensuring no WMD remain in Assad's hands.

All right, have I given you enough?  Go out and make it happen.  President Trump, I will raise your grade from F+ to D-.  A passing grade, in some school systems!

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Sunset for Netanyahu? --Take Two--

When we last visited this story, in April, Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu was completing yet another successful parliamentary escapade.  In a vote dominated by security issues, his Likud party (I say "his" because, as Trump does the Republican party, he owns it now) narrowly won a plurality over the centrist Kahol Lavan, headed principally by ex-heads of the military staff, and dedicated to the single objective of forming a government without Bibi.  Netanyahu got the nod to try to form a government and had reached the point of claiming a government with a fairly safe majority from an alliance of the center and the right (without Kahol Lavan).  Gloom descended generally at the realization of a new term, clouded from the outset by Netanyahu's legal jeopardy, with an indictment of him for corruption remaining likely (as if Trump started a second term without resolution of the threat of impeachment for his old misdeeds).

Then was heard the sound of thunder.  One of Netanyahu's key allies and Cabinet ministers, Avigdor Lieberman, leader of a rightist, secular party (more openly Jewish-nationalist than Likud) balked, due to a dispute over a bill to make Yeshiva students subject to military service.  He wanted it; Netanyahu's Orthodox allies did not.  Without Lieberman's party, there was no more coalition majority for Netanyahu.  At this point, he decided to gamble:  If he allowed the control of government formation to pass beyond him, there was every possibility of a unity government, one that would pull various parties (possibly with Lieberman's) using the draw of a government without him.

So he called for new elections.  There was a subsequent head fake, a week or two later, when it appeared he had a new plan and wanted to cancel them, but no dice, the election was ruled to be on--definitively.  The date of the voting will be September 17, with electoral lists locked down early in the coming week.

The Israeli parliamentary system provides for proportional representation of each list--a party-determined list, or one formed by multiple parties in coalition--with 3.25% or more support.  This has helped lead to a multiplicity of parties, and much fluctuation of party loyalty among individual MK's (Members of Knesset).  Some prominent names ran more-or-less vanity party lists in the April  election and did not reach the threshold; these have tried to trade their couple of percent or so of support--not enough alone to get representation, but able to move the needle significantly for some of the smaller parties.

One party to make such a deal was the reconstituted Labour party, whose leader in the last election bowed out after a shockingly bad result in April followed by one too many ham-handed political moves.  His replacement, who won out over some more charismatic younger contenders, is a veteran, Amir Peretz.  Peretz has now dived into the a muddy pool and come up with a partner, Orly Levi-Abekasis, something of a center-right media diva who ran a failed solo effort in the last round. 

Tactically, the move could have made sense, if one anticipates a post-election scenario where control--between the contesting Likud and Kahol Lavan--turned on a few centrist seats.  But the fact that it was Labour--the great left-center party of the early days of the Israeli state--that was eyeing a secondary role--a role of a type that has led to failure, internationally, for party after party taking it on in recent years--shows how that party has fallen and lost its way.

The Israeli Left--without Labour--has scrambled to correct its failure in the last election, when each of the many parties basically went its own sub-optimal way.   There are no less than four parties of the Israeli Arabs; they first united in 2015, with substantial shared progress, but failed to do so earlier this year.  As of now, three have united and the fourth's accession to the deal seems almost certain. Meretz is a party on the "fringe left"--essentially continuing the democratic socialist policies which Labour progressively abandoned in search of political expediency during a period when security--which Likud has owned, at least until recently--mattered most, and capitalism flourished in Israel.
Meretz maintained some representation, but in an isolated way--until now, when they announced an alliance with Ehud Barak, and his floundering political comeback effort.

Yes, that Ehud Barak, the former Prime Minister, the one who came closest to making the two-state deal with the Palestinians (or at least that is the legend; probably Rabin was closer in spirit, though not as far along in the details).  Barak has been 'named' with regard to the Jeffrey Epstein scandal--they are, in fact, business partners on a substantial level.  His planned re-entry vanity project was about to go up in smoke, but he seriously wants to help depose Netanyahu, so he has joined with Meretz.

And the parties to the right of Netanyahu?  Some of them have also combined to consolidate electoral forces, behind a woman (Ayelet Shaked) whose improvised party failed to reach the threshold in April.  There are Orthodox parties still further to the right--for whom a woman leader would be anathema--and Lieberman's party, it seems, will remain outside this alliance. Lieberman's motives for the coalition-breaking action remain unclear, though he said at the time that the bill had been promised to him.  Is it that he only needs this reform, or is it that he has had enough of Netanyahu's machinations?

What do all these maneuvers mean for the next election, and what will that mean for Israel, and for Netanyahu?   It would seem to mean that these combinations will present more coherent alternatives for voters on the left and right, other than the two centrist parties--I would expect the shares of seats for those two to dip somewhat.  Still, if one adds up all the seats that parties to the right of Likud will get, the potential will still be there for Likud to form a new center and right government. These larger blocs will perhaps provide for a less chaotic negotiation to form a government, though Netanyahu will still have to prove that he can bring them all together.

If he can unite these groups and form a new government, he can be expected to put forward a bill which would give him the immunity he seeks from prosecution; right now, his indictment is expected late this year, which would jeopardize his own continuation as Prime Minister.  The coalition might be able to continue on without him, and in fact, this may be the unwritten understanding many of them would make around him.

There is another possibility:  if Kahol Lavan should gain a larger number of seats than Likud, its leader (Benny Gantz) may get first shot at forming a government.  In that circumstance, he would look to ally with some parties to his left, and possibly some to his right, too.  My suspicion is that Lieberman may feel his personal ambition would benefit from pushing Netanyahu out, and that even some Likud members may abandon him.

But does Kahol Lavan have the means to win the election?  The basic idea of its formation this year was to present a centrist alternative to Netanyahu and Likud that could provide sufficient assurance to Israeli voters on the critical security dimension.  It remains that, and nothing more.  Current polls have Kahol Lavan and Likud projected to win the same number of seats, but it is a long way still to the September 17 election date, and Netanyahu can be relied upon to create what we in America would call an "October surprise"--an incident, a timely crisis, which could drive more voters into his camp. 

Thus, I would say that it is not a fair bet whether Likud or Kahol Lavan will "win"--which means being the lead party in a new government:  Likud must be the favorite at this point.  The market that relates to this is simply whether Netanyahu will be Prime Minister at the end of the year, and it is currently running at 73% yes.  At that price, betting on NO looks somewhat more attractive, and it is possible to win the bet without Bibi's losing the election--if he has to resign, for instance.  It is also possible, though, that he would still be in the job in a caretaker role if the new government--to be led by either side--has not completed its preparation and gained Knesset endorsement.

Why does all this matter so much?  After all, Israel is a small country, with a relatively small population.  For me, though, the parallels between Netanyahu's status and Trump's are such that I can see Israel's path and outcome as being a harbinger of what may happen in 2020.  In a still broader sense, the peace effort in the Middle East between Israel and the Palestinians has been stuck in neutral throughout Netanyahu's 13 years as PM, and he is, without any doubt, adverse to any agreement which would raise the Palestinians' status or give them any national sovereignty, even on unfavorable terms (such as the ones proposed in Trump/Kushner's still unannounced "plan").  So, his leaving the job is a prerequisite for any progress--necessary, but not sufficient.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Senate: Three is the Number

The most direct route to ending the Mitch McConnell Machinations which have been the greatest single source of the partisanship divide that has opened, through which the Chief TWITtch snuck in, is to defeat the Kentucky senator in his 2020 Senate re-election campaign. With the entry into the race of Amy McGrath, such speculation becomes justified.

The arithmetic of Democrats' gaining control of the Senate requires a net gain of +3 for the Democrats, assuming they regain control of the White House. So, the Democrats need to eliminate the likelihood of loss of any of their (47) seats, and find three to take from the Republicans.

The 2020 map of Republican incumbents to attack is what Rumsfeld would call "a target-rich environment". That being said, it must also be admitted that many of the targets are hardened beyond the Democrats' ability to atttack successfully. The Democrats' policy-rich national campaign should translate well to local races, but the firmly anti-Trump posture won't work against the likes of Republican senators in Idaho, Wyoming, Arkansas, Oklahoma, etc.

The Plus-Three strategy needs to begin with the Southwestern states of Colorado and Arizona. Cory Gardner and Martha McSally are incumbents with weak holds on their Senate seats, representing states where the balance has been shifting toward the Democrats. The Third One is Susan Collins', in Maine. She is the New England holdout among moderate Republicans, a voting bloc of one. She will be challenged severely for her vote to confirm Kavanaugh.

There are others, like GA, NC, TX, and IA, where the right candidate can make the NRSC sweat, and strong challengers will make them use heavy resources there. Each is a must-hold for the Republican side; similarly, states like NM, MI, and NH for the Democrats must be safely held. Taking one of those four would be a huge result for the Democrats; losing any of the three would be disastrous for them.

The toughest hold for the Democrats, though, is Alabama. The best hope is that the Republicans fracture in this race., in which case Democrat incumbent Doug Jones' 45% or so of likely voters would prevail. In that regard, the threatened entry of Jeff Sessions (to regain his seat! Oh, Patron of Lost Causes!) drew a counter-threat from the Dimwit (who was going against his own interests). One can hope there, but the Democratic strategy must aim at four takeaways or more and not rely on holding Alabama.

The real deal-maker--for both the 117th Congress and to end the Tortugafication of the Senate--is to chop McConnell's head off when he has to come out of his shell, as he will do in 2020. For the Democrats to win, they will have to counter his policy: insistent advancement of the Drumpfist agenda and suppression of all others. That will earn Mitch plenty of votes in white Kentucky. Unlocking the potential support for Democrats, which does exist, even on a statewide basis, requires uniting moderate whites and minority voters, but it could provide a shot for a vital fourth pickup, beyond Maine.
  • Amy McGrath is the strongest candidate the Democrats could field, so her announcement that she is indeed running this week is a very big deal, immediately followed by a big haul of online donation. Her initial ad, in which she mourned Mitch's failure to respond to her constituent-level appeal for help, was hugely effective. She immediately made a misstep on a question of her hypothetical vote on the Kavanaugh nomination. The correct answer is a) I did not have to make that decision--go away; or b) I would have voted against kKvanaugh, a partisan without principle, regardless of the sexual assault allegation. Probably because her suppressed instinct for b) confused her thinking, Amy made the mistake of first saying she would have supported him (a no-no for national Democrats, but OK for some Kentuckians) and then reversing her course.

McGrath will have a challenge threading the needle on policy and will need to focus on how 'Washington' Mitch has become, which is a strategy that has worked well for challengers of both parties. The question for Kentucky voters is whether the machinations of McConnell have done anything for them. If the economy there is strong in 2020--not just in the population centers, but in the smaller towns--he will probably win. If not, though, Amy McGrath could be the story of the year in the Senate races.

I could go on at length on the history of Mitch McConnell's strategic skill--another time, maybe. Let's just say that this architect of corruption has very strategically kept himself out of the dubious business dealings of his wife (a typical Trump Cabinet crony appointment). McTurtle makes for an easy target, but much is likely to bounce off his shell. This election could expose a strategic weakness, though, and this former Marine pilot and colonel has an edge that could slice him out of the picture entirely. I want to see him on his back, legs twitching uselessly.

Winning control of the Senate is hugely important--in terms of scaling election priorities, 50% weight would be on the Presidency, 30% the Senate, and 10% each for the state legislature contests and retaining control of the House. Without capturing the Senate, or at least decapitating the Republicans' leadership and looking to break control over time, a Democratic President will be hamstrung.

Saturday, July 06, 2019

POLOG--July 5, 2019

(Sorry for the blogging hiatus--I've been traveling for the last month, and I'm still deciding whether to post travel notes here or forbear.   I should be able to pick up the pace of new posts now.)

So, the big rally went off OK; the military resisted that impulse to 'AnwarSadat' him, and Trump resisted the impulse to go 'full Mussolini' and whip his crowd into a frenzy.  Congress surely will not do anything to end the rule by arbitrary Executive Whim, so it falls to us to vote him out. Maybe there's still the possibility that this can be resolved fairly through the electoral process.  There may need to be some civil disobedience in the meantime, though;, such as if Trump imposes a citizenship rider on the census by Executive Order.

I was traveling the nights of the June debates, so I didn't see them (and haven't YouTubed them yet).  It seems the major outcomes--Biden and Sanders down, Warren up, Harris tackling Biden on racial grounds, most of the rest crowded out--were predictable, but still, it will be the transformation of  results from among the many theoretical storylines that will become the history of this truly critical race.

My preferred candidate--the one I seek to answer when the email pseudo-polls ask me who I would like to see as the nominee--Sherrod Brown, that is, well, he's not running.  So, I am holding off completely on making a firm endorsement.  (OK, I did go "all-in" on Elizabeth Warren, back before she took off in the polls, but I am pulling back some of my winnings for the next round of betting.)

One point on which I am very firm is that the VP nominee should be Pete Buttigieg.  If not him, then Stacey Abrams.  It is time to make that clear signal that things are changing, and posing Buttigieg or Abrams against Mike Pence would make for a devastating contrast.  That said, I don't think Mayor Pete can or should win the nomination this year, though he has already established himself as a formidable nationally appealing young statesman. I'm endorsing him for 2028 (or maybe 2036) right now.

The Big Issue of this election is The Past vs. The Future.  Or, it should be.  That is why my preferences lean away from Biden and Sanders (though it must be said I can easily get behind a scenario in which either wins).   As for Warren, who's just a little younger, she has the look of someone whose time has come, though it is also arguable that it should have been 2016. Anyhow, i think Sanders will ultimately give way to her candidacy this time, as it is the movement that is the priority for him.  Or so he says.

My take on the big post-debate Harris emergence is that people have perceived she does indeed have the mental toughness to take on Chief Twit.  That alone takes her from a contender to a leading contender. *

So, Warren-Buttigieg.  Or Harris-Buttigieg.  Or Biden-Abrams.

You heard it (them) here.  Also postulated in the "Train Democrats" series of emails, among other ticket combinations.. What the heck is that 'group'--some kind of AI Machine Learning bot?  If so, it should be savvy enough to have a better name than that and disguise itself just a little:  even just switching the words, "Democrats Train"  would be a big improvement. Or "Democratic Train", which is almost inspiring.

* I would tend to agree with Trump, who wants Biden to run, that her actual argument of attack was not really so strong:  Biden's position on busing way back then was, indeed, centrist, though it does him little honor.  And Harris was fortunate; some have bitter memories of their experiences.  

Friday, May 24, 2019

"The Most Important Election of 2019"

So read the subject line of an email I received this morning, from a group (out of Chicago) called Progressive Takeover.  They are asking for money for the Democratic campaign in the special election for the NC-09 House district. They promise to help increase turnout for the September 10 voting.

I won't deny that the race, which if won by the Democrat would be a symbolic vindication of the party's struggles against voter suppression (in this case, outright fraud by Republican operatives), has its importance.  I have given for it and will do so again, but not now. There are other 'significant' off-year elections in the US (Kentucky governor, state legislature battles, other special elections), but I'm looking elsewhere.

A good case for the most important election of the year could be made for the Lok Sabha elections which just concluded in the world's greatest democracy, India.   The result--renewed mandate for the Hindu nationalist government headed by Narendra Modi--was something of a foregone conclusion, but it turned to be far more decisive than expected.  The opposition was headed by the Congress Party, which appears to be a spent force at this time, while Modi's party, the BJP, was buoyed by the economy and jingoistic emotions after a fresh military dust-up with Pakistan over Kashmir.

A case could also be made for the general election in Indonesia, the world's fourth (?) largest democracy (depends how you count them), held last week.  The incumbent, a somewhat Obama-like secular centrist, Widodo, claimed victory, but the defeated military/Islamic nationalist candidate Prabowo sent his supporters to the streets to challenge it. Hard to tell what it portends there; I hope that is not exactly the model to anticipate, post-2020 election here.

No, I would pull for a strange choice, the European Parliamentary elections being held in the next couple days throughout the European Union.  It will provide a thermometer reading on the global political battle in the liberal democracies, between the Right and the Center-Left, or between Nationalism and Globalism. As an example of the battles within nations expressed through these elections, the outcome I am watching most closely is between the party of French President Macron and the National Rally of Marine Le Pen.  (There will be no partial results; then they will all come out Sunday night, Europe time.)

Both the overall turnout level and shifts in the distribution of seats among the various groups will be important to monitor.  The social democrats and the liberal democrats (in English acronyms, the S&D and the EPP, respectively) have always been able to form a parliamentary majority between them, and will no doubt do so again after this time; however, many of those centrist parties have been weakened by centrifugal forces:  Greens, regional autonomy parties, and, especially far-right nationalist parties.

The Europe-wide number to watch is the size of the fledgling far-right alliance being championed by Italian deputy PM Matteo Salvini.  Salvini is a clever schemer, an opportunist of unusual talent.  He has led the realization that the power center of the EU has more potential for developing a ring-fence around Europe than what he can achieve in his country alone (where he is currently Interior Minister).  So, the nationalist leaders have largely changed their point of view, from lumping the regional authority with the hated global elite, to a useful target for their endless ambition.  If their parties, and their provisional alliance, are strong enough, they may be able to add some major groups like Hungary's governing party.  The question for this election will be whether the European far-right voters get the memo and turn out for their champions.

It appears they will do so in the election circus that is the UK's participation in these elections.  That was not supposed to happen:  In the original formulation, the UK was supposed to be out, and the deadline was specifically drawn to exclude their citizens' participation in this round.  The May Mess persisted too long, though, so now they are in it--sort of. 

Most UK voters have no clue for which party to vote to signal their opinion about the ongoing Brexit stalemate--with one major exception.  England's answer to Donald Trump, Nigel Farage, has formed a new, improvised Brexit party which, according to polls, will likely lead the voting in the UK over all the other fragmented parties.  (These elections are run proportionally, with party votes over large constituencies determining the shares of seats.)  In particular, the two largest parties in the UK, the Conservatives and Labour, are having their vote shares shattered by the Brexit controversy and the parties' ambiguous policies.  It is possible the Liberal Democrats, long taken for dead, may finish second, as the national party with the clearest pro-Remain viewpoint (though there are also significant Remain fragments going to a new party, Change UK, and to the Scottish and Welsh regional parties).

Labour's muddled straddle is not a success, but not a disaster, either, as the Conservatives are the ones that are (rightly) getting the most blame for the governmental crisis.  Corbyn wants Brexit to die without having to be the one who kills it.  A lot of Labour voters who do not want Brexit will either decode the message or just vote Labour anyway.  At the end of the day, the UK participation is a comic sideshow:  the EU would do well to deny them their seats (they won't), and nobody will care much about their votes on the EP's measures, if there are any while they're still around.

The European Parliament itself isn't all that important, as a governing body.  This is not to say the EU as an institution is not important:  EU rules govern the largest economy in the world, though US Americans are slow to realize it.   Other parts of the world--China, Russia, Turkey, even Iran--have recognized how attractive the EU markets can be, and are courting them eagerly (as the US government, in general, seeks lame ways to annoy them).  The EU punches below its weight in international affairs, but that has begun to change, as the threat of breakup recedes, and the ability to show increased turnout across the board would bolster the EU's bid to strengthen its roles in expressing the will of its people.

Bottom line:  the US' domestic sparring will continue with no resolution through 2019.  There is another special election in the same state (North Carolina) on the same day that will get no attention, though it has just as much relevance (the two, together even, are not critical for the Democrats' House majority).  The real action is abroad this year; the US' turn is next year.

Barr...the Door

A great tactic in  almost any tough negotiation is to show your counterpart the door.  Present to them what you see as that which it will take to escape this mess.

Now that Attorney General Barr has shown his true colors, and thereby permanently trashed his name in the history of this despicable episode, he has only one decent option:  to resign, and thus avoid further damage, through having to cravenly continue his dereliction of his duty, and the opprobrium--and worse--which will be due to him.  Also, to avoid further damage to his office, one which has frequently been compromised by politics, but rarely so overtly contrary to the public interest.  (OK, John Mitchell.)  After his astonishing act of public misrepresentation with his press conference to announce the Mueller report, some immediately raised the call for him to resign.  (Cory Booker, I know, was one of the first. )  Clearly, Barr will not do so.

Instead of bogging down themselves in proceedings involving him, which I am sure will get the House committees nowhere, the House Democrats should introduce immediately a motion of censure, for intentionally misleading Congress and the American public, and for failure to perform his duty to those who pay his salary.  (Maybe also a bill making Trump pay for his services.)  The motion to censure Trump should follow in due course.  Censure has the benefit of being an act the House can do, by itself, laying out the damning truths.  It has no practical effect, but neither does impeachment without conviction, and it will put on the record that these actions of Barr and Trump are not acceptable to the people or their representatives in Congress.

Impeachment inquiries should commence for Trump, Barr, and about half his Cabinet, with the general charge of investigating corruption and incompetence.  Legislative efforts should commence to change the law to implement the emoluments clause of the Constitution and prevent future Executive Branch senior-level officials from running their offices for personal gain.  Research for that legislation would be the reason to support the subpoena for Trump's taxes, though none is legally necessary.

Monday, April 29, 2019

The 'Writer Beat' Experience

Last November, I was invited to join a shared weblog called "Writer Beat'. (Thanks to Autumn Cote for her efforts setting it up, recruiting people, and dealing with their gripes.)  Something I said got noticed, appreciated, and more was sought from me, something I am too willing to provide.   I do regret starving this blog a bit in favor of the more interactive site in recent months, but now it looks as though it may dwindle.

Writer Beat's format was an article, with whatever visuals appended, and then an open comment session moderated by the author of the article.  Depending on the subject, opinions could be fast and furious, or the article could drop right through the site's front page into obscurity. 

I liked having my thoughts challenged by others, even though many of them were hostile--that was one thing you could count on happening. The preponderance of active posters/commenters were from various factions of the Party of the Right--not real joiners, in terms of Republican party activism,  but constitutionalists, libertarians, curmudgeons of all sorts (yes, including racists and bigots), with a sprinkling of foreigners of various nations and a couple of liberals.

 A friend of mine, an activist of progressive tendencies, asked me why I bothered with it.  Surely I don't expect to change anyone's mind there?  Well, no, though I do think I made some progress in humanizing some people's responses to normal progressive expression (and I rarely fell into some of the uglier habits and sunk for long into ad hominem name-calling, snark, and insults).

The post and the discussions that follow were response to a few articles in which these very non-Democratic folks tried to give advice about what the Democratic party should do.

Bring Back the Whigs! 

"Lots of people told me" that Abe Lincoln signalled down from Heaven that he was giving up his membership in the Republicans of today.  The phrase Party of Lincoln can no longer be applied to any but the Whigs. 

("Lots of people told me" =  in Drumpftalk, what follows is a total fabrication.  If not a lie, it is because he pays people to say it to him.)

How the Democrats of the future will respond to the Drumpfist Dilemma--the idea that there really is a "silent majority" which defeats the glorious idea of democracy--remains just that, a dilemma.  I thank all for the contributions they made to that debate, which, I repeat, is an ongoing one. 

Let's turn instead to the fate of their opposite, the elephant in the room, the party which has had its justification exposed as false and failing, which has now been replaced by something awesome and ugly and all-too-factual.  

Cleaning up my email file (as I must, every day, as it is about 5.5 lb. of mierda in a sacco of 5 lb.), I ran across a reference to this article from The Hill of July, 2016.  In it, various establishment-Republican types were bemoaning their party's fate, as in their view Hillary's win was inevitable and would be massive, due to the defection of major Republicans (like them).   

The result was even worse (for them).  It proved definitively that they no longer represent much of anything, constituency-wise.   Where will this disinherited mass of Washington stooges go?  (sounds like an episode of "Veep") The Biden campaign?  I don't think so. 

It's just--Can the whole conservative movement pin all its hopes and aspirations on the fate of that scoundrel? 

What a roller coaster, an incredible risk to take.  I find it hard to believe.  William Weld can light the way, but that is barely a candle in the wind.   Kasich, the Mittster (or a I call him, "The Suit")?--no stomach for the long haul.  Some NextGen Bush, willing to continue the vendetta?  Saddam is dead, my friend, so are his sons. 

There is a need for a Third Way, and it can succeed in being the successor to the "Republican" party of Trumpian legacy.  It needs a symbol, it needs a name, it needs....some disinterested advice from someone who has the least possible sympathy for their plight. 

It will soon be Time to Bring Back the Whigs, or something just like them.  The People who have some moral decency but reject the madness of the Democratic version of democracy need a place to go.  Resolutely anti-slavery (or at least its unconstrained spread throughout the country), against empire-building, a limited government constrained by laws and good sense.  The party of Tippecanoe (and Lincoln).  Numbers 9, 10, 12, and 13.  But that practically have to wheeze to say it

You talk about your False Flag operations:  Try a search for "Whig party symbol".  It brings you to the amusing battle for control of the Modern Whigs' symbol.  I give you a free space to give your version for its symbol--the Owl or the Eagle?   Or you could try to tell me how the Drumpfian vision will guide us into the uncertain future? 

(Make America Whig Again!)

Selection from the comments following 
That "Bush wing" that Thomas talks about--where will they go when they have been excised from the Trumpist party--even after Trump is gone?
I see our politics as 40% Trump (hopeless, deplorable), 40% Democratic (ineffective, due to infighting and being outmaneuvered), and 20% homeless never-Trump ex-Republicans and conservative/moderate ex-Democrats. It may be a small group, but what they do may determine the future course of our politics. That's why I think it's important.
When I look at the Writer Beat crowd, most are in that group that can't stand Democratic candidates but won't admit to supporting Trump. So, I ask you, where?

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      I... did not vote for Trump last time because he was not a conservative, and I had promised myself I would settle for nothing less (after being forced to vote for the likes of McCain and Romney).
      This time around, I may end up voting for Trump for two reasons.
      1) I see no acceptable candidate running against him. Personally, I think the Democratic Party is so far gone (left) that I doubt it can produce one.
      2) To send a message to the statist media, elite, deep state, and crazy left that has pushed all the overblown Russia collusion bullshit.
      All you guys give grief to those who held their nose and voted for Trump last time (2016), especially Christian.
      So, I ask you, where was the alternative? What candidate should they have supported instead based on their principles? Would you have rather they sat on their hands (and votes) and given the job to Hillary by proxy? (Actually, THAT is precisely what that particular criticism is about... Well, all I can say to that is we all hope those we despise and oppose are idiots.)

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        Stoner the problem I see is that you are asking wrong question/discussing wrong issue. Your concerns seem to centered on the parties. The parties are the problem. They are parties alright: theirs. We are not invited, except at election time. The parties are not going to be fixed. They both need to be destroyed. 

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          Little surprise coming from an "anarcho-libertarian gonzo". Political parties grow organically from the political milieu, and tend to evolve toward a two-party structure. Wishing that the two existing major parties "need to be destroyed" is about as constructive as wishing that Santa Claus was real.
          "Your concerns seem to be centered on the parties. The parties are the problem."
          Well, DUH! His concern is centered on the problem - how ridiculous is that?!
          Admit it, BH - you don't know or care what you are talking about...1

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          Fair enough, so I ask: How do you destroy the immobility of the two-party system as we have it? The answer has to be a third "force" (--Let's not call it a party, we can celebrate once it has succeeded.)--one that rejects the parties yet has some organizational quality to produce positive value. ( It is not the Trump movement, which is a clownlike parody of that idea.)
          I say in all sincerity (though as an outsider) that we need that moral force which conservatism could have to be restored to our politics to have any hope of resolving the stalemate. My best-case scenario for next year is discord between dRumpkins vs. the Repenticans, and the Democrat slide through. Sort of like 1992, or 1976. So my motives are dubious, however:
          As for the Democratic party, that would take care of itself quickly enough once the menace of control of the government by the Trumpist Republicans has receded. They (we) can't wait to have at each other, but the imperative is to hold off until Mordor falls. That could happen in 2020, in 2022, or it could take decades still, though we must believe justice will prevail.
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            Jim I appreciate your voice in the conversation. I strongly disagree with most of your premise on things, but you do seem to be starting to recognize the source of at least some of the problems. Just my opinion, but you seem to be an old school Chicago democrat unable to separate yourself from the party identity. You can take boy out of Chicago, not the Chicago out of the boy 😁

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                I'm more like one of the Chicago 7, but I can't pick just one. Maybe Bobby Seale (the one that was bound and gagged in the courtroom because he just wouldn't STFU). Not from Chicago, though.


                  With regard to taking up arms for the Democrats' nominating a radical before the process even begins, I suggest calmness--it will be a very long ordeal.
                  I would suggest one way to think about the process: if we think of Chief Twit as being the classic 'dorkhead' (a euphemism), then the Democrats' objective should be to nominate the least-dorkhead possible candidate.
                  That would suggest certain qualities: a non-misogynist, non-racist, well-educated and well-spoken, knowledgeable about foreign policies and scientific thought, a good manager of people, clear-thinking, forward-looking and consistent in philosophy. Not Barack Obama, though, unfortunately.

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                    Just as there are shade of differences in the words and actions of right-wing Republicans, there are variations in the positions of Democrats of the left (using the label for convenience only). Not to mention "the center", which is moving heavily against Chief Twit.
                    The young women you are criticizing (there are others of all the other spectra of Democrats) come from heavily Democratic districts (one of the by products of heavy gerrymandering) which have moved to people with more radical positions as natural replacements for others moving on.
                    The only moral of the story is: non-partisan redistriction after 2020. Nothing else to see here, move along.

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                      You are real short on understanding of the Supreme Court's view that district drawing is a patently political process and one made for valid constitutional reasons.
                      I suggest before you make a bigger fool of yourself that you review the case law on the subject and the Court's Court's recent rulings

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                        I know what it is, and why. I am advocating for change. We cannot leave this to the Court Court.
                         It could be done at the state level (as some have done), but it would be better to standardize principles of House districts across states, leaving it mostly to states to determine their legislative boundaries