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Sunday, February 23, 2020

Advice for Mrs. Warren

Following on my recent endorsement, i'm just trying to help my candidate by offering these suggestions.

 ( If you're pressed for time and want to skip ahead to the advice itself, it's in Bold, large type, at the bottom.)

The upcoming debate Tuesday is Sen. Warren's last, best chance to give herself a decent outcome on Super Tuesday.  She has suffered through a long period when she was either scorned or ignored; she was a good trendy pick for imminent demise for quite a while.

That turned around at the last debate, in Las Vegas last Wednesday.  The occasion was the entry onto the debate stage (far right, from the view of the stage) of Mike Bloomberg.  Warren shed her appeal for unity, just for the night, and attacked him viciously, and successfully, on a variety of topics.  She was even ready with attacks for the lesser healthcare plans put forward by Buttigieg and Klobuchar, revenge for the attacks she suffered, back when hers was tied too close to Bernie's Medicare for All.

As has been the case throughout this ridiculously long pre-campaign, the attacker derives an immediate benefit; I would say that has been true even when the actual attacks were not thrust as effectively as Warren's were.  It's a one-time lift, and it mostly has led toward mutual destruction in the long term.   There was no mistaking the intention; she wanted to take Bloomberg out of the consideration set for as many as possible.  Finally, a share of popular support she could win back!

She finally got some consideration in the post-debate discussion of winners and losers, and it was mostly positive.  (A notable exception was the Queen of Snark herself, Maureen Dowd; as a connoisseuse of the genre, she was Not Impressed)  The evidence of a lift, though, has been hard to detect.  The timing of the last debate in the run-up to the Nevada caucuses was such that the majority of votes there had been cast early, and she had been polling poorly there previously.  Worse for her developing some momentum in the days before the Mar. 3 vote bomb will be the South Carolina primary results this Saturday.

Here, though, is a glimmer of real hope that has gone unnoticed.  The poll is by CBS News/YouGov, and it has an unusually large national sample:  6,495 likely Democratic primary voters.  It was conducted Feb. 20-22, i.e. after the last debate.  It is the only national poll on the RCP chart conducted after the debate. *
Long story short, Elizabeth Warren is in second place, narrowly ahead of Joe Biden (19% to 17%), with Bernie in first place at 28%.   Bloomberg is at 13%, a bit of a dip for him.

I recommend reading the full report, which is well and clearly written.  It doesn't have all the crosstabs of the Quinnipiac reports, but it reproduces the survey itself.  The (online) sample may be a bit biased despite their weighting efforts, so massage the numbers a little if you must.  The bottom line:  Progressive Takeover is underway, due to the failure of the moderate wing to generate a single viable alternative, and there is complete alignment between her supporters and Bernie's.

Those who said Warren's problem was that she peaked too soon may have been way wrong:  if she makes a successful move upward on Super Tuesday, there is still very much of a path all the way.

Strategy of the Debate Itself 

Do not take the bait of the commentators, who are looking for you to bare claws against Bernie.  Continue what you are doing:  pounding Bloomberg silly.  (Get some new material, though:  everyone saw the lines you had last time.) 

When the inevitable Stop Bernie?  question comes, this should be your response: 
"Stop Bernie--No!   Bernie is my friend, I love his passion.  I want him to join with us--then we will truly be unstoppable." 

Just stick with that.  Let Mayor Pete go after Bernie, for now.  Your point of view is that you should be the one to lead the way forward, this time, and his digital machinery should be joined with yours.  The more subtle point is that Bernie, alone, cannot win--which, whether or not it is true, is a concern many people share.

Additional Strategic Points

Build more endorsements from the other candidates:  Steyer, Klobuchar (after Super Tuesday, or before, if she prefers), Booker.  Accept the reality that supportive PAC's will do what they do. (such as Steyer's)
Kamala should be Kourted. 

Warren already has Jay Inslee's, and Julian Castro's.  She gets enough endorsements, she can return to the unity candidate line, which should work (for someone) as the field shrinks.  She doesn't need to play the gender card anymore; now she's got her "meme", and the identification will stick.   But it could earn her endorsements, and generating enthusiasm from women voters will be far more important in the general election than the few white men that might be pried loose by someone like Sanders.

Money Stuff
Looking at it "from a CFO perspective", Warren has to gamble on something resembling an inside straight:  focusing media efforts and also paying bills, but not paying them for too much longer.  She has to count on others' opposition to Bernie keeping him from a clear majority, but none of them emerging well beyond her support level. What happens after that will then all depend on how the next three weeks go.  If they go well, money will be much less of a problem, as the field will surely be less crowded.

Spend the money in five states, but one must be California.

California is super-Tuesday-critical:  I saw a poll last week which had no one, at all, over 15% besides Bernie.  He could win a margin of +300 delegates just in one state, if he is not effectively challenged.  After a result like that, nothing else will matter.   Sanders' team is doing expert analysis at the Congressional district level; nothing less will be acceptable from yours.  Spend money to target media well in the biggest of all states.

Picking the other four states--targets to win one or more, in Super Tuesday and in the week following--now that's real strategy.  Warren has the advantage of choosing her terrain, and now she has some money, too. In terms of choices--She telegraphed that Washington (state) is one by going there straight from Nevada, which totally makes sense to me.  I'd recommend Colorado (ST state), Massachusetts (go big--no choice), and Michigan (Mar. 10) as good choices.  If she can show a good result in Michigan, that augurs well for her being The One who can Hold The Wall.+
The timing for the release of her (awesome!) Cannabis Legalization Plan fits well with these choices, too.

Her objective must be is to maintain a position, one not at the bottom, at each of the winnowing processes that will occur:  from 6 to 5 to 4, from 4 to 3, and then, crucially, from 3 to 2.  If she makes it to the final two, she will win.

Mrs. Warren as a Candidate
I have been crying out in the past weeks, as I really didn't understand why she was going down in the polls and in people's estimation of her chances.   She is clearly the candidate who has done her homework the best, who has the best content in her policies (and the most), and who is articulate and sharp as a debater, who reaches out to others and who listens (a rare skill among politicians).  Many have acknowledged she could be the best President of the lot, while still dismissing her chances.

My conclusion is that the perception of her "electability" suffered, because some don't feel she is "likable".  There's a whole ugly history about this kind of stuff, and I have explained that I believe that I, at least, don't know what electability may be, and I doubt others' expertise as well.  One thing that I do know is real is that some have a visceral, inexplicable (I know, because I've asked) distaste for her.

Here's my theory on this:  she "comes across" (the very subjective, yet perceptive, way that people assess others at an intuitive level) as a schoolteacher.  Which she was, before she was a professor. Not just any schoolteacher, though:  she's that really good teacher, the one who can motivate you to do better than you thought possible.    My theory is that the people who hate her instinctively did not like any of their teachers in school; she reminds them of those hated teachers, in the school they did not like attending.   Let me know whether your interaction with others confirms this theory, or not.  I know that support for her tends to correlate with education level.

My advice, based on this:
Don't try to educate; be sure to relate.  You can do it. 

* Disclosure:  I am on the YouGov panel and did the survey.
+ A bit too Game of Thrones, maybe.

Monday, February 03, 2020

Decision Time

Vote to Convict, Then Move to Censure
I didn't watch much of the so-called trial, but that was too much. 

There was a huge amount of discourse, from the counsel of the defendant in particular, about whether the two articles approved in the House were "impeachable" offenses.  Logically, that was completely erroneous:  the House approved the articles, and they, not the Senate, decide what is impeachable and what is not.  By definition, the House determined that "abuse of power" and "obstruction of Congress" are impeachable offenses.

I would argue that the Trump Impeachment* neither raised, nor lowered, the bar of what is impeachable; however, I would have preferred they include Bribery--specifically named in the constitution as grounds for impeachment, and very arguably an offense committed by Trump. That would've changed the more asinine of the Defense arguments to specifics of "the bribery statute in the US Code" instead.  That would've more successfully focused the debate, such as it was, on the venality of Trump's behavior.  This Year's Model was consistent with precedent and has specific similarity to the cases posed during the administrations of Nixon and Andrew Johnson.

The Senate trial should have been about a different question:  What is the bar for removal from office of a President?  For conviction? For this question, there really is no precedent in the affirmative, though Johnson's case, Bill Clinton's, and now this one will show history precedents in the negative.  Nixon's arguably presents an example of what would have resulted in conviction (or in an obligatory resignation, as Nixon's was, which functionally works out the same), but that doesn't help too much because of the huge difference in evidence which ultimately was available to Nixon's prosecution after nearly two years of investigations.

The proper way to view this is one of risk management:  How much risk do we face by allowing this impeached individual to remain in office?  And how severe is the damage, if things go wrong?

The calculation is one which combines time remaining in the term (so should be most strict for lifetime appointments) along with assessment of the degree of damage, conditioned by the facts revealed in the case.  In that regard, those Republicans who reverted to the argument against removal in an election year, one which appeared stupid on its face, had the germ of a correct idea.  To give an extreme example, the last month of a lame duck Presidency would be a waste of effort for an impeachment-driven trial.  That argument in this case might have had value if it were not for the direct threat Trump's admitted interference posed to the looming election; in this regard we have to credit Pelosi's judgment.

What's the risk that Trump is going to do something unthinkable and damaging to the Constitution of our democratic republic? (alternately, to our society/our humanity/our planet)  It's quite high, as the recent fiasco-doppio of his rash decisions in the Middle East prove.  Not to mention appeasement of That Country Invading Ukraine. We have a new Trump Unilateral Israel Peace Plan much more likely to spur a violent result than to bring any more peace.  I could go on--the risk is high, and compounded the longer we face it.

So, yeah, there are only arguments for removal, though the risk for acquittal at this moment is much less than it would be, say, in March, 2021+ .  That one about "63 million votes" I find especially shaky. 

Anyway, immediately after the vote to acquit Wednesday**, some intrepid Democratic Senator--Schumer would be the normal one, though I'd prefer someone like our Senator Tom Udall do it--should introduce a motion to censure the President.  The denunciation should be a simple statement that enlisting a foreign government to attack our election in any way is not permissible behavior for a President, nor anyone with an official capacity in the US government.  (Rudy Giuliani's crimes should already be covered elsewhere.)  It should be wordsmithed to maximize the number of Republican Senators who could support it. 

The second censure motion should address the recurrent problem of the disregard the Executive branch has proven to have of the Legislative one, particularly as regards the exclusive prerogative of Congress to control expenditures.  The third should address Attorney General Barr's intentional efforts to mislead the public and Congress on the meaning of the Mueller Report before it was released.

That's enough--for now.  Of course Trump will veto or ignore any censure motions, but they will be on the record, will provide guidance to those who come later, if not to the Dickhead, and should be approved without delay.  At least the first one.

Endorsement for President (20/20 Preface)
I begin by saying, first, this is not a prediction but an expression of my own personal preference.  Second, I have an impressively bad record of picking the person who is ultimately elected President.  I would describe it as disastrous.  Some examples:
  • Hillary, 2016 -- OK, I'm in a lot company, both good and bad;
  • Gore, 2000 and 1988 -- In '88, Koch's endorsement killed him (and my hopes to repeal the Reagan Revolution);
  • John Glenn, 1984;
  • Wesley Clark, 2004. 
  • Tom Harkin, 1992 (?)
The one exception has been Barack Obama. So, I write this in spite of my fear that my endorsement  may be like Ed Koch's proverbial kiss of death.  I hope not.

One thing you may accurately conclude is that "electability" was often a factor in my past considerations given where I lie on the political spectrum.   (Another is that I have been really inept at identifying electable candidates.) "Strongly liberal", as they often suggest as the leftmost option in online polls, is not so accurate; I would describe myself as closer to the feared and nowadays unused term "radical", in the sense of seeking fundamental changes. So, my choice each cycle tries to balance the political climate and my sense of possibilities.  (Clark in 2004 was a particular example--I thought he was the perfect guy to deal with Bush's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and his positions were not at all obnoxious.  He just wasn't right for the times, politically, in the party--like Glenn was not just the Cat to catch the Rat Reagan, my theory in early '84.)

The Much Ballyhooed Endorsement 
My preference for Elizabeth Warren relies on the belief that she is the best candidate to unify the Democratic party and maximize turnout of its supporters in the general election vs. Donald Trump. Among other characteristics, she is a person who is inclusive in her approach, a person who is open to ideas, and one with strong convictions and obvious passion and energy.  In terms of her approach to policy, she goes to the root issues--corruption, inequality, injustice--and develops both the right maximal objectives and the short-term strategies to move toward them. 

I have had a firm intention to avoid criticism of the other Democratic candidates here, as I may be passionately supporting them as the nominee later.   I will go so far as to say that my personal preference is that our "viable" choices not be limited to what I would call the "old B-boys"  (Biden, Bernie, and, yes, Bloomberg). The media seems to me to be prematurely fixated on the story that it is down to Biden vs. Bernie (unless Bloomberg can buy it).

In that regard, I agree with the choice of the New York Times to endorse Warren and Amy Klobuchar.  Warren is the "not B-boy" progressive (leaving aside Tom Steyer), and Klobuchar is the "not B-boy" moderate (leaving aside Pete Buttigieg).  If you believe that women can be a choice that is just as good, if not better, to oppose the Dickhead, then these are sound choices, depending on your degree of "aggression" (as Charles Barkley said the other night, reaching unsuccessfully for the word "progression").   For me, that's Warren, but, as you may see by the above, my second, third, and fourth choices are Klobuchar, Buttigieg (whom I suggest as the VP nominee, for almost any nominee), and Steyer (who I now recognize has added value to the campaign, apart from the mega-dollars he has spent).

New Mexico's primary is not until June 6;  95% of delegate numbers will have been determined by then.  So, my vote is about 95% likely to be meaningless, in that someone will have won the nomination by then.  That 5% that remains, though, could be significant in the big picture if no one has established a majority of delegates won.


*Trump I Impeachment, I mean.  Hard to tell how Trump II Impeachment will go at this point.
+Don't even!
**If you check back, the vote will be just a few days sooner than I thought; it will probably not be as good as the 47-53 I predicted, and the focus, instead of on whether there were 50 votes to convict, ended up being whether there would be witnesses allowed (and whether Mitt Romney would volunteer for a starring role in a chapter in the next volume of Profiles in Courage).  So, while it basically went as I expected, there were surprises.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Notes on the Impeachment Trial: 20/30 at Best

(I need the reading glasses for the close-up stuff, like fine print, or in bad lighting.) 

The Dershowitz Slant
Prof. Alan Dershowitz' dismissal of the legitimacy of the trial itself on constitutional grounds was good prime-time fun confusing the "poorly educated" in the base, while also providing, as Jeffrey Toobin said, a "fig leaf" for those who need a constitutional-based justification, not just for voting to acquit, but to prevent any witnesses from being heard. In that sense, it was well-designed:  the actual content of the two articles finally selected, though they were chosen for being incontestably provable, suffers from being less than optimal as a constitutional basis for conviction..

Dershowitz particularly went after Abuse of Power as being a weak standard for impeachment, though we all know it was exactly the kind of thing* that ultimate sanction for the President was meant to address.  Dersh cited the example of Ronald Reagan, who could have been impeached for it (for Iran-Contra).  On the contrary, it shows the difference;  while Reagan's Administration allowed illegal actions, the proof of Ronnie's direct involvement never emerged, with the high-water mark of implication for the Ollie North escapade reaching no higher than the NSC and Defense Secretary Weinberger.  In this case, Trump's authorship of the directives to withhold aid and a White House meeting were evident to those a full Degree of Separation away who examined the handwriting, and the closer Trumpsters were to the idiotic rants that accompany his improper directives, the more certain they were of it.   Abuse of Power is what the Founding Fathers knew about Mad King George of Britain and they wanted to protect our republic from its variegated form.+

Hear ye, Johnny"Thunder" Bolton!
He is almost the ideal witness for the impeachment case, which is why it is so critical for the Republican Senate leadership, working hand-in-hand with the White House, to prevent him from ever taking an oath before the Senate.  He is a lawyer who takes organized notes, and beyond that has excellent recollection for facts, especially for the "errors" of others.  He will have detailed information on where and when our POS Conman-der-in-Chief made it clear what he wanted. And how awful it was, from every standpoint.

I was afraid that Bolton was going to take the middle road and insist that that despised aid conditionality was simply a policy difference, or a ruse of some kind, and within the purview of legitimate Presidential prerogative, at least temporarily.  Not a reason for Bolton himself to leave the Administration.  Instead, none of this seems to be the case, if we can judge from the published leaks from Bolton's unpublished manuscript.

Turns out he has some ethics, too. Such an improbable hero!  It may not play out to his benefit, and the Trumpists will circle the wagons on him, at least until such time as their Fearless Twitter falls.
I like Sen. Doug Jones' suggestion to simplify and subpoena the manuscript, seeing as how it seems to have been circulated widely within the White House:  why shouldn't the Senate get its look (in closed quarters, if necessary, as it has not had all sensitive material redacted)?

There is a simpler solution:  revive the tabled resolution to subpoena Bolton and approve it by voice vote.  No recorded vote needed; it would be an appropriate rebuke to the would-be Caesar that would not change the ultimate outcome, which is destiny itself. ** Mitch's whip count is binary:  either the votes are there, or not; and if not, unanimous consent motions give him more power, in the form of control over proceedings, which is what he craves.
 
Additional: 
If I have one suggestion for the House staff, it is to prepare cases for some second impeachment  round: articles on Bribery, the Impoundment Control Act, and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (in his capacity as ex official chairman of the Trump Organization).  Or maybe also Obstruction of Justice, with regard to--yes!--the Mueller case.  If not to bring them forward--and just unveiling them in a timely way might compromise some of the Republicans' arguments, requiring of them the nuisance of inventing new ones--then to keep the House staff in working condition to prepare for the worst.

  
* "Da Kine"
+ Like the Devil (to cite the Church Lady).  SNL started a theme they can use in the future, of visitations in Hades by those assisting the Drumpfster. Dersh got his turn last weekend, played incompetently by Jon Lovitz.  It was intentional, I'm sure:  Acting!  Divine Comedy!  In that series, I'd like to see Alec Baldwin as a Witch from Hell. 
**Beware the Ides of March, Drumpf!  

Sunday, January 19, 2020

20/20 Vision: SXSW

The title does not lead to a a clear-eyed review of country music--its degradation, its vast untapped talent, its isolated shining stars of independence.  Instead, it's a misleading reference to the classic photo framing the progressives' dilemma in 2020: Tom Steyer, coming over to Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders after the debate. 

 Steyer, by Sanders/Warren.
   S by S/W.   Sorry!

I would insist on the inclusion of Steyer in the picture.  He represents a potent force (TV ads) which will be available to the winner of the Sanders/Warren competition for leadership of the progressive movement for the campaign.  His look of awkward recognition provides the clearest evidence possible of the tone of the interaction Warren and Sanders had.  Now, CNN has provided us a covert audio tape which discloses the content:  They accused each other of calling them* a liar.

The subject of the debate question, the meeting our progressive leaders had just after the 2018 election, had been reported publicly at the time. Afterward, I anxiously awaited the gracious announcement by one that they* would not be running (with or without implicit, or explicit, endorsement of the other).  Such announcement was not forthcoming, and since then both have made their current intentions known.

First, no one is or was lying.  Sanders did not say "a woman cannot be elected President".  And Warren did disagree with what he said.  It is now quite obvious almost precisely what was said.

The topic, of course, was The Movement:  Who is going to lead it in 2020?  Warren made an appeal for it to be her.  She passed on a draft movement and stood down in 2016 and let Bernie run.  Now, it is her turn.  We join in progress:

Warren: Anyway, you're not getting any younger, Bernie...
Sanders:  Now, now.  You're hardly a spring chicken yourself, Elizabeth.
 (I'm guessing that, rather than "Liz")Besides, this Trump is no one for a lady to run against.  Look at what he did to Hillary Clinton.  I don't want to see you go through that.  Let me take him on.
W (agitated):  Wait, you told me last time "Stay back"**  Are you telling me I can't win?
S:  No!  He would rip you open.
 (The actual source of the misunderstanding.  Bernie was not saying "No" to the question, but to the idea of her running against Trump.  The horror!) 
W:  I'll tell you what:  let's both run, and whoever can't win, endorses the other.
S:  You're on. 
And that's where we stood--until last weekend.  Elizabeth Warren needed to take action, as she was bleeding support on the left to Sanders and on the right to Buttigieg.  Warren is conflating the progressives' need for a champion in these primaries with the need to demonstrate that a woman can indeed be President--in the only way it can be proven, by doing it.  The strategy may work.

Neither she nor Bernie stood in critical condition as the voters begin to weigh in for real. Their combined vote in polling always tops Biden's, but rarely do they lead him individually.  The need for them to settle the dispute, definitively, is great, but it's not going to happen soon.  It will make it tougher if they end up taking both the top spots in either Iowa or New Hampshire (the latter seems particularly likely to me).   The Super Tuesday combined delegate haul for the two competing may top Biden's, but he'd be the leader in the count, and the effort to stop him early will have failed. The betting consensus seems to be more that Sanders will survive, or thrive, in IA and NH and Warren will finish third or fourth, and not the opposite, though I'm not buying it or betting on it.

Getting to the meat of the matter, though, the question remains:  who should be the progressive champion to face down Biden (or his successor in the moderate lane, if he implodes), and, what is to some degree the same question, who (between Sanders and Warren, or Steyer for that matter) is the progressive who can best face down Trump and win big in 2020?

I can answer it from my personal point of view, but I think a fair way to examine it is on the crucial distinction in their approach.  Sanders is the thought leader of the Movement, while Warren's approach is to apply the principles of the Movement in the most practical way to the challenges we face. Sanders continually broadens and makes deeper the reach of what he aims to achieve (in the last debate, though it went unnoticed, he called to "rebuild the United Nations"--a huge, idealistic, unpopular, and even somewhat arrogant challenge for the next President), while Warren tends to glom onto her original set of planned reforms the most popular formulations others develop.  I would suggest that US history has many examples of committed idealists who governed pragmatically (Lincoln, FDR, JFK/LBJ), while the closest I can think of as governing movement leaders were Reagan and Teddy Roosevelt.  Both are possible routes to the White House (though TR succeeded in after McKinley's assassination, then won re-election).

The objective data from head-to-head polling (vs. Trump) suggests Sanders polls slightly better than Warren (or Buttigieg), about equal to how Biden does, both nationally and in most in-state polls. We've been advised, though, that these polls do not predict outcomes well so far away from the election.   The objective data favoring Warren is more subtle and comes when the second choice among candidates is considered.  She seems to have recognized this, and is positioning herself as the best chance to unify the party for the general election.  Her previous endorsement from Jay Inslee and the more recent ones from Julian Castro and Ayanna Presley support that line of argument.  Sanders' script which started this mess went at this perceived Warren strength, suggesting her (first-choice) support was limited to educated elites and did not include other segments of the base.  That was the first shot which set off this important side battle.

As for Steyer, his chances to replace both Sanders and Warren as leader of the Movement are long and will depend on their being unable to resolve their dilemma, and the chances of both being buried as a result, so a late move after IA and NH.  More likely, he will be able to put his immense resources behind the winner of the face-off.


* Non-gendered single person subject and object pronouns. 
** I heard Bernie say in the debate, "Stay back", though the transcript says, "I stayed back".  I don't see as how he stayed back--she did. 

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

20/20 Vision: Democratic Scenarios

In the interests of my Clear Vision initiative (20/20), here are views of how the Democratic primaries could go. I would argue that the enunciation of these different sequences of results is clear and factual, though the weights on them are totally subjective. That being said, I'm trying to be as objective as possible here.


1) The Standard Scenario (40%)-
IA and NH look like the equivalent of four-way ties (with Klobuchar in the 'coveted #5 spot'), and SC an easy Biden win (with a battle for the 'coveted #2 spot'). None of those states have meaningful numbers of delegates, except as regards whether any candidates other than the leaders can score any of them.

So, the focus moves instead to CA to provide direction on the national sentiment, and for CA, the caucuses in Nevada (third round of voting) will provide a preview. Secondarily, on Super Tuesday, it will be on TX (to see whether that state will truly be a difference-maker in the general election--turnout is the question there). The winner in CA is likely to emerge from Super Tuesday as the delegate leader and becomes a clear favorite to take the nomination. To me, that means Biden, unless Warren and Sanders can come to agreement on who will stop him before then.

Right now, with Bernie's resurgence, that doesn't seem likely. I have seen those who have suggested Warren may not make it to Super Tuesday; I think that's impossible. Instead, the current trend has dampened expectations enough that she can take a favorable spin from second in either IA or NH, which I think is highly doable.

With that configuration of forces, Biden takes a substantial lead, though winning less than half the total delegates awarded. The duration of the candidacies of Klobuchar, and eventually Buttigieg, will be critical in determining the degree of dominance Biden has in moderate delegates. If they stay in, it could still make it tough for Joe to go the distance.

Outcomes -- Biden 80%; Sanders 10%; Warren 5%; Klobuchar/Buttigieg/Field 5%.

2/3) Biden Explosion/Implosion (10% each)-
In the first case, he rises to substantial victory in Iowa and gets a draw or better in NH. That done, it becomes a question of the VP nominee, little more. The events that could lead this might include prolonged national security threat, or even more outrageous behavior coming out with regard to Trump in upcoming weeks. But more likely the next crisis comes later. (see below)
In the second case, that of Biden Implosion coming out of whatever source (health/scandal/dementia), it becomes a free-for-all, with either Sanders/Warren or any of the remaining moderate wannabe's, even in the Field, getting a chance to seize the momentum at a phase that is suddenly critical. That could lead to indecision, but that's a different scenario.
Outcomes -- Biden 50% (the first part); Sanders/Warren/Buttigieg 15% each; Klobuchar/Field 5%.

4) Takeover by the Progressive Wing (20%)-
It's about turnout and who can generate it.  The key indicator would be a 1-2 quinella of Sanders and Warren in IA and/or NH.   It would then need to be demonstrated again in NV, and accompanied by fresh flows of donation money that could convince a primary electorate hungry for change that it is, actually, possible in 2020.  If these two dominate in the delegate contest, at some point they will come to agreement as to who has won.  In that scenario, I think Warren's chances may be just as good as Bernie's, as the name "George McGovern" will appear for the first time in decades and moderates panic at the thought of Bernie as the flagleader.  There could also be a Stop Bernie (or Stop Liz, as applicable) movement with an outside chance for a late comeback, which would be disastrous for the party's chances in the general election, in spite of the intention (think Humphrey in '68).
Outcomes - Warren/Sanders 40% each; Biden 10%;  Klobuchar/Buttigieg/Field 10%. 

5) A Surprise Outcome (15%)-
In times of great stress such as these, surprising things can happen in our electoral politics. Think Wendell Wilkie, 1940, or FDR's decision to run for an unprecedented third term that year (and the US had not even declared into WWII at that point, though it had started).  So that 15% estimate is a lot higher than what would be the norm. A winning surge by Buttigieg or Klobuchar would qualify, or someone from the Field (Bloomberg; Booker; Yang!) makes a move from next-to-nowhere all the way to the nomination itself.  Booker, thy name is The Black Swan!  One indicator could be something particularly crazy and stress-inducing from Drumpf, but it could also be some kind of groundswell of love that sweeps the nation.  (Think: unexpected Oprah endorsement)
Outcomes:  Buttigieg 35%; Klobuchar 30%; Field 35%.  

No Winner--Brokered Convention (5%)
This is always a low-probability outcome, and I think it is so this year as well.  The probability is higher in 2020 for the Democratic party, because of its rules that will drive dispersion, or even close division, of delegates in specific states.  Right now, public support in polls is similarly evenly divided. Still, you have to think this situation will not be stable at all. The media is already trying to force a Biden vs. Bernie showdown, and there have been no votes cast.  Or, whatever becomes the trend becomes inevitable, in some minds.
If it does happen, though, the chances of Field rise dramatically.  Sherrod Brown, since he won't actually have to run for it?   Bloomberg throws his wallet behind a candidate for the VP slot?   The other thing to note is that most or all delegates will be pledged to a specific candidate still in the race for the first ballot, but after that, they will migrate at will, and superdelegates (elected officials) will now get to vote. 
More likely, though, it will be more like the last one that was contested going into the convention, when Reagan challenged Ford in 1976--the obstacle course will have narrowed to two or three, with one near the finish line and willing to compromise for the lift over that final wall.  First ballot victory.
Outcomes - Biden 30%; Sanders 30%; Field 30%; Warren/Buttigieg/Klobuchar 10%. 

Betting the Come
Overall Outcomes:
               Biden 45.5%
               Sanders 16.5%
               Warren 13.17%
               Buttigieg 9.75%
               Field 8.58%
               Klobuchar 6.5%

The high chances for Field do help explain why Bloomberg and Deval might bother to enter so late.

I should bid accordingly on predicit.org.  Though the markets there are understating Warren's chances by this calculation, still I am overweighted on outcomes favorable to her as thing stand now.  As for Bernie, I'm betting against it, which puts me somewhat at risk, and in a sliding position, at present. 


Thursday, January 02, 2020

2019: A Year in Review (and Meta-Review)

You won't see a "best of the decade" from me this year, for the simple reason that I insist that the decade has one year left in it.+  This CNN article recites some very good arguments that our obsession with round numbers drives an illogical view of when a decade (century/millennium) begins and ends, though it finishes with a disappointing "bothsiderist" compromise conclusion.  The short version of that argument: There was no 0 A.D., between 1 B.C. and 1 A.D., because when those terms were invented in the sixth century, use of the number 0 had not yet reached the West.

A Washington Post article (by James Hohmann) announced that the "decade that started with Arab Spring ends with widespread protests".  I agree with him, if the point be that these upheavals put the lie to Nicholas Kristof's NY Times argument that "2019 was the Best Year Ever" (as Kristof would have it, due to reductions in global poverty, mortality, etc.).  The defeat of rising expectations is usually the cause of revolutions, and the counter-revolution to the Arab Spring (which began in, you guessed it, 2011) is moving steadily toward a regional-level proxy war sponsored by competing tyrannies (ours, and Israel's, not exceptions to that generalization), and that can't be good. 

Anyway, I've read a lot of recent "Best of the Decade" articles and a few other reviews of 2019.  The decade-level article I liked best was an Esquire piece on the best restaurants.  This truly is a Golden Age of Global Food--I don't know if it can last much longer--and the selection, though limited to US restaurants opening in the last 10 years, makes the mouth water and my wallet itchy to open.  As for 2019 reviews, I take my "Happy New Year!" hat off to the version by Dave Barry, the frequently corny and bothsiderist humorist, who had me laughing heartily several times reading it, and who concludes he had nothing good to say about the year.

I'm not quite so empty when it comes to praise, and here are a few choice tidbits.

My Sentence of the Year
Overheard on MSNBC recently:
"Their 'there is no there there' is what they're selling..."
(referring, of course, to the House Republicans' so-called defense in the impeachment process).  Includes five words (three different ones) with the same sound in a five-second sound bite.

Phrase of the year
"fairy-tale fantasies of eternal economic growth" - Greta Thunburg, Sept. 23 speech at the UN Summit on Climate Change.  
I think the Time Magazine Person of the Year will be winning the Nobel Peace prize next year. She raises a challenge which very few people (and approximately zero politicians) have dared even to identify.  And, if they did, even fewer have been able to propose any solution.  

Event of Long-term significance 
I would opt for the importance of the mass demonstrations in Hong Kong.  Though the casualty count pales in comparison to others (Iraq, Iran, Chile, Venezuela), or even to several of the many mass shooting incidents this year, there is now a huge question mark about the course of the "one nation, two systems" solution the Chinese and British set up for the handover of the colony in 1997.  We are now almost halfway through the 50-year transition period envisioned, and the 'Hong Kong people' suddenly noted that there had been absolutely no progress toward true democracy, and that, most importantly, they were not satisfied, as demonstrated in the (otherwise almost meaningless) elections they held recently for the public's share of the electoral body which chooses Hong Kong's Chief Executive.  

I have followed the events in Hong Kong fairly closely since The Handover (from Britain to China) in 1997.  Mostly, there were no events.   Things went on as they went before.  There were changes, but they are the ones we might expect:  Innovations, a fabulous new airport, new stores, new stacked apartments, new escalators, new highways, bridges, and tunnels.  There were economic cycles, good and bad, and there were major weather events (typhoons, landslides).  These were occurrences that the former colony, always improvised and hacked from coastal island hillsides, could easily--ahem--weather.
This year, something changed.  I have some idea what it is, because I resided in the region during the months before Handover and the years immediately after, and it was present there at the time.   What returned was Fear of the People's Republic of China.

The Chinese Communist regime is very willing to let Hong Kong be a mercantilist, free-trade haven, surrounded by their own government-sponsored enterprises.  That works for them.  What they are not willing to have is any Chinese entity with meaningful political opposition, because if they allow it there, it will be difficult to prevent in the "mainland".  I am glad, though, that the siege of the Polytechnic Institute did not end up in a Tienanmen- or Les Miserables-type massacre.  


Album of the Year
That's a little tough for me, as my listening behavior is not all-encompassing (especially, anymore).  I would propose Lana del Rey's  NFR: that's short for "Norman Fucking Rockwell", an ironic view of relationship bliss.  Her lyrics are brittle, profane poetry, and her musical composition, though often simple in the extreme, fits the music very well. 

Word of the Year
The non-gendered singular "they" was deemed so by Merriam-Webseter.  Not bad, but not so new; it's a usage I have preferred for decades over the also-not-specifically-human "one". My friends and I came up with "shey", a combination of he/she/they, some forty years ago, but it didn't catch on much.  
My Word of the Year is more provocative:  "wypipo".  Say it aloud.  First time I saw it in print I was wowed--it seems exotic, but is thoroughly US domestic.  In case I need to explain, it is used, by people of color, to refer to the generic 'Murican people of non-color, usually attached to some behavior, trait or belief which would be incredible, if not pertaining to those wypipo. (It's a collective noun, like "cattle".)

Favorite Round-Number Anniversaries 
50: Release of "In the Court of the Crimson KIng" - King Crimson.  We are just now realizing the truth of "21st-Century Schizoid Man".  And they are still playing it, better than ever. 
OK, and I do believe there was 'A Man on the Moon' (see the inside cover art). 

100:  Chicago Black Sox throw the World Series to the Cincinnati Reds.  My team's first baseball world championship (since their initial world-dominating barnstorming in the late 1860's).  It's tainted, but I'll take it. 

200:  Sir Stamford Raffles founds the port of Singapore for Britain.  In fairness to his enterprise, there was little to nothing there before him.

500:  Tough call between Cortes' conquest of Mexico and Carlos V being crowned Emperor.  Both were of massive importance for this era. 

256 (or 2 to the 2nd to the 2nd to the 2nd power squared):  Mason and Dixon begin surveying the line between Pennsylvania and Maryland.  (For a full-length exegesis, and more, read Thomas Pynchon's masterpiece, Mason and Dixon.)

Person of the Year
It's Nancy Pelosi, of course.  She came to the first rank of the Resistance at the beginning of the year, defeating Trump in the shutdown standoff, and she finished the year outfoxing even the master strategist of the Senate, Mitch McConnell.  He will not get exactly what he wants--a quick shutdown in the Senate impeachment trial, though the ultimate outcome of it will certainly not be the removal of the President.  At this point, the whole process must be about smearing our Dick-Head of State and Conman-der-in-Chief, and preparing for the general election battle:  are we willing to tackle corruption? Or will we sell out, just like our Fearless Twitter?

The Year Ahead
I am honestly thrilled for the coming year.  As you may realize, not so much about the impeachment thing, though I am enjoying the US-style Mexican standoff Pelosi and McConnell are conducting.  The best way to resolve it would be to start drafting new articles of impeachment:  Trump is a never-ending fountain of illegitimate action.  No, the Democratic primaries and caucuses will start soon (finally)--of course, I will have a lot to say soon about how those may turn out.   
Then there will be the Olympics--the US will no doubt break the record for Gold medals they set the last time Russians were banned (see 1980, Los Angeles), which will be a Good Feeling.  

Ultimately, though, whether this decade--which, in US political terms, began with the "shellacking" Democrats got from the Tea Party-inspired reaction in the 2010 Federal and state elections--will end well depends if it will finish with the drubbing of Drumpf and some sort of control of the Senate. 

+ See my review of the last decade, dated December 31, 2010. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Today Is the Greatest Day

....of a pretty lousy year, but more on that later.

My recent status as a (self-)confirmed retiree gives me time to engage in more time-consuming pursuits; it even frees one from the need for accounting for that time consumed. For example, we have availed ourselves of the opportunity to catch up on a number of second-tier pro tennis championships we missed the first time around, now being shown on the Tennis Channel to fill time during this brief respite from their season before the next one begins. My wife is now quite expert on all the up-and-coming pros from both major tours, in case you need her opinions about them.

With that in mind, I suggest that it is a high-quality use of my time today to observe the House debate on impeachment, looking outside from time to time, while walking the dog, getting the mail, preparing a manufacturing tool for transport to my niece, and (of course) preparing this post.

I find the debate to be an unusually high-quality one, though it does show the usual level of absence of public interest evidenced in the public gallery. Both sides prepared their speeches well and are coordinating them well. After trying everything else they could throw out to defeat the charges* in the preliminary rounds, the Republicans have now finally settled on a clear theme for today: this is just a partisan circus. The minority party leadership has successfully unified its caucus on the strategy, which is a good one for its political objective, but it permits no dissent. Its great virtue is that it tends to make its own case.

It is totally tangential to the question of the substance of the charges, which is the sole and exclusive responsibility of the House for the case, and it would have no effect in dissuading Democratic representatives. The Democratic side anticipated that argument and has provided its members with a green light to present the full array of factual charges. Coming from obviously diverse backgrounds and constituent-driven concerns, they could present, in the manner that suited each, all of their arrows toward the corrupt and treasonous behavior of our Conman-der-in-Chief and beyond, to the mysterious 'hand of the new God' guiding his actions--to show that the motivations for the articles are not pure political partisanship. Chairman Nadler has had brief rebuttals on hand for every possible Republican red herring.

I imagine a future Shakespeare reviewing this transcript, as a crucial courtroom-type scene for their dramatic tragedy, "America", in its segment on this decade--there should be no doubt that analysis of the decade ending next year will be critical to that future time's historical assessment of the critical arguments of our time, a la' Mark Anthony in Juilius Caesar. I have a couple of suggested notes below for the dramatist. +

i anticipate the closing argument from Speaker Pelosi, meticulously set up for the beginning of prime-time in the East. She should simply assert that these were the two articles about which there were no doubts whatsoever with regard to both rising to the level of impeachment, nor of the President's guilt. The best the Republicans should be able to muster--though I am unsure they will--would be the defector, Rep. Van Drew.

I applaud defectors--such as Justin Amash (MI)--who have the strength to walk away. It will be unfortunate for the Republi-Cons, though, if Van Drew turns out to be, as I suspect, a clown.

Many from both sides today have sad it is a sad day; I hope I have made the case for the opposite. I am sure they are sad to be constrained, as they are, to their individual destines, many of them ugly.


Drawing Some Conclusion and Suggestion

If Pelosi does not put to bed the question of whether the level of offense reaches that required for actual removal of the President, then there is still something important to establish in the Senate, though I do not think there should truly be much doubt about it.

The content of the Senate trial I addressed previously.

Excerpt from an online chat I had earlier this morning ("calbengoshi")

c: "Prosecutors are free to present more evidence and testimony at trial." Me: Except, probably not in this case. Defense has the votes in the jury to acquit, so it will "rest" the moment it knows its number is satisfied. We are seeing what a weak check the Constitutionally-prescribed impeachment/conviction is upon today's Executive powers, and that should be one of the enduring lessons. The follow-up to this episode should be a serious review of the powers of Congressional oversight, during which, for example, it would be extremely appropriate to bring in--under subpoena, as he requested--John Bolton.
(One Republican member mentioned in passing the idea of a recall petition, as part of a group of ideas the Founders did not see fit to include. I forgot his name, because he went on to totally "impeach" his own credibility.)

5:45 pm Eastern Standard Time, Dec. 18, 2019
(prior to final edits and additional links)


Additional Notes
*Refuted arguments include:

  • No quid pro quo
  • Bribery (Ukrainian abuse of power) not completed
  • Why the hurry?
  • It's just because Democrats hate Trump--this was a more insidious attack than most, because true
  • To overturn ("attempted coup") the 2016 election: this was the weakest, first because it simply makes Pence the President (as Nadler noted), and secondly because their argument in favor of "the will of the people" is so weak


6:12pm - Forgot the absurd "The abuse of Power was the Democratic (Socialist) party and Nancy Pelosi, who should be the one impeached!" I have to comment on the comical approach of Republican floor leader Collins who chose to put some of his party's ugliest members in a 30-second-each clown show in the end.

557 p.m. - Rep. Hines (CT) pointed out something I forgot: the key emotion today is anger! I add his to the noteworthy names below (D).



+(One can be certain the victors will be able to guide its telling, if that means anything.)

Just check the Congressional Record of the day (which must remain in print, even after the Internet version disappears in the ether, though it may be hard to find).
Noteworthy Intercessions:
R- Weber (TX) - wild but potent; Steube (FL) - for his clothes, nice cerulean vest and matching handkerchief; Womack (AK) - put it succinctly in the historical-dramatic tradition

D - Rep. Gallego (AZ); John Lewis (best Presentation skills); Sean Caster (one of most significant gains from 2018, where I formerly had residence); Rep. Engel, Maloney--both of them (NY).
I - Justin Amash!


Laughable:  Gohmert, Rick Allen (GA), many others

#1 Founder - Benjamin Franklin "a republic, if we can keep it"
#2 Maya Angelou, cited by Maxine Waters: "When someone show you who they are, the first time, believe them!" (check quote). It goes to her defense of being for impeachment early.


# OT: See this portrait of a defector in another critical area--our emerging electrocracy. It's a mixed review of the admirable Roger McNamee


Thanks to Billy Corgan for the phrase I adopted for title of this post.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xmUZ6nCFNoU

Thursday, November 07, 2019

Quid pro quo. So?

Some Serious Business
(Including Recent Historical Analogies)
Watergate was a clumsy attempt to get oppo dirt on a feared potential political opponent. Same here.

The Watergate investigation then revealed the dirty tricks squad, like the one Giuliani was working on building.  But that wasn't the thing that connected it directly to Nixon, and thus to certain impeachment--it took the tapes with the 'smoking gun' (Nixon's frank statements on the cover-up) to tie it up.  The beauty of the Ukraine case is that the participation of the President in the violation is certain, corroborated by all.

The particular significance of Amb. Taylor's testimony last week in the impeachment inquiry was the existence of a covert--unauthorized--foreign policy conducted by the White House using Rudy Giuliani as the showrunner. 

We are reminded of a White House-initiated escapade of criminal nature undertaken not so long ago, still within our foggy memory. The Iran-Contra affair of the mid-80's, in which a secret channel of dubious arms deals with Iran (in the midst of a brutal war with Iraq) went awry with the diversion of money to give military aid to the right-wing Nicaraguan Contra army in its civil war (by right-wing National Security Council rogues--Ollie North and Poindexter),  shows several parallels in the degree to which political aims created illegitimate foreign policy initiatives leading to massive brain farts. 

Nobody got jailed in the Reagan Administration for approving the diversion itself, though several high officials were indicted or convicted for variations of perjury, reaching as high as Defense Secy Weinberger (who, pre-trial, was pardoned by Bush I, as were several others previously convicted).  Reagan himself had plausible deniability because of his bad memory.  It seems he had approved the secret trading with Iran, but only implicitly OK'd the Nicaragua gambit. The diversion was illegal, but only because Congress had specifically prohibited giving aid to the Contras in Nicaragua.

The thing is, Trump could have had a valid reason for the parallel policy structure, keeping State and Defense out of the discussions with Ukraine, and "delegating" to Rudy Giuliani and the "three amigos".   Trump could have made this official,  with some sort of classified executive order or finding, if he were a good executive. When something like this happens, good policy administrators like Amb. Taylor ask questions, try to get clarity.  He got clarity, and what he understood was that the policy was to withhold the aid for a reason that was not due to national security, but instead something that offended his ethics.  It seems like John Bolton, bless his heart!, will show to have had a similar reaction.

As far as I know, the only law at the time requiring the aid be given to Ukraine was the appropriation.  It is something the executive is expected to spend, but it does not have to do so, entirely or even in part, though that change requires explanation from the executive to the legislative.  The "unitary executive" theory that Cheney's stooges espoused and still uphold gives Trump a reason to say that "foreign policy is whatever I say it is".   Congress has precious little to say about it, except by (constitutionally shaky) law and by the lack of positive allocation of money.  As we saw with the Stupid Wall, that has its limitations.

In theory, in the course of diplomatic negotiations the President can potentially withhold aid to foreign countries conditioned on some action that nation should make.  That can be totally legal but is normally done in the furtherance of US policy.  This--withholding the aid--was not only contrary to the bipartisan, legislatively-approved one of providing essential aid to Ukraine in the ongoing conflict with Russia, but it was seemingly incoherent (as Lindsay Graham tellingly suggested--the sarcastic criticism was actually intended to be helpful to Trump, but damaging to his real target, VP Pence). .

Its application of a valid concept, reducing governmental corruption in Ukraine, was duly cited, but the pressure was being applied against the interests of the new, anti-corruption Ukrainian President Zelensky.  Trump and Giuliani pursued an investigation of an energy company with VP Biden's son on its board, and the company targeted in a contrafactual 2016 election conspiracy theory.  It seems to be the only anti-corruption cause, worldwide, that has ever attracted Trump's attention.  So, what else was the purpose?  We are waiting to know if it were something else, something exculpatory.

There--the opportunity to get, free of charge to himself, some dirt on a potential opponent--is the corrupt intent of Donald J. Trump (, Inc., a legalized Criminal Enterprise) which makes it all illegal.  You hate judging someone based on your presumption of their motivations, and maybe we don't really know Trump's:  Once again, he does Putin's bidding. 

Some call it extortion, but I think that's incorrect; with extortion, it is the one with the dirt who approaches the mark, while here the approach went in the opposite direction (toward the hypothetical possessor  of the dirt).  I think it is more accurately described as an attempted bribe:  we give you money, you abuse your power.  Probably not the first time Zelensky was offered a bribe; he didn't take it, nor take offense particularly. Typical of the special Drumpf Touch, though--it all turns to shit.

I am less than satisfied with where this whole process is going:  impeachment, followed by acquittal As with Pres. Clinton's impeachment trial, there will be news focus on the meaningless question of whether a majority will vote for conviction, as the ultimate outcome will not be in doubt.

What I had advocated before was a motion of censure--for inappropriately disregarding approved US foreign policy for unsound objectives, and for obstruction of the oversight function--along with the initiation of the impeachment inquiry primarily "to determine if there was a quid pro quo".  To go on the record, in the House, and without cancellation by the Senate, that the activity was wrong and not within the power of even the enormously expanded range of executive power. Now that possibility, which would have achieved similar purpose and many more votes, has been obviated, by the House's peremptory bill setting up the inquiry's groundrules, and by the public admission of the horsetrading that went on between our national interest vs. Trump's.   No conflict, just interests!

We are in a (relative) hurry, and I would put the Over/Under on Mitch's Presidents' Day gift (of untrammeled executive power), winning 47-53, and just about at that date.   (Also the Iowa primary is close to then, no?)


Abu Bakr "Hoosier" al-Baghdadi Dead, Daddy!
His bid for a martyrdom of historical significance was declaring the Islamic Caliphate.  There was no way the outcome after that was ever going to be other than the one that occurred--total annihilation by the enemies that surrounded his "state"--but it was far from quick, uneventful, or sparing in human losses.  Which will continue.  He certainly got what he had coming to him.  Deathwish/fulfillment of destiny.

Another perfect operation executed by our national security team. Credit to all who made it happen or helped.

Haiku on our Withdrawal from Climate Preservation Accord Today

We deserve a badge.
Standing up for ignorance.
We are not alone



Sunday, October 27, 2019

Sports Commentary

Big Game Hunt
This year's World Series has been an enjoyable one for this fan, who has no particular emotional attachment except admiration for the talent on both teams (Washington Nationals for the NL; Houston Astros for the AL).  This year's outcome will either be the final realization of the Nats' potential, or confirmation of the 'Stros' dominance.  Quality, and low stress.

Today (Sun., Oct. 27) was supposed to be the climax:  a Game 5 matchup between two ace pitchers.  The Series being tied 2-2, it now becomes a Best-of-3 (1 in Washington, then one or two at Houston).  Max Scherzer for the Nationals and Gerrit Cole for the Astros are each candidates for the Cy Young Award (for best pitcher) in their respective leagues.  We expected a brilliant pitching duel.

Instead, hours before the game is to begin, Scherzer has been scratched.   Back problems, despite a day of treatment, he cannot raise his shoulder to pitch.  (No, we weren't notified of that!)

Now, the view of the game shifts, from one that was about even (Houston had the momentum, Washington the home field) to one hugely favoring the visitors, who will have Cole going.  Also, the view of the final outcome of the Series.  If Houston wins, the Nationals will have to defeat #2 Astros' ace, future Hall-of-Famer Justin Verlander, then win another, on the road.  The only real hope is for someone in the Nats' bullpen to step up and shut down the Astros long enough for some offense to emerge for Washington at some point.   If somehow Washington wins this Game 5, the Big Game will become Game 6, and then Game 7, if there is one, so in the interest of prolonging the entertainment, I have rooting interest for the underdog tonight.

The other day, one of my friends who doesn't follow baseball much asked me whether it was still true that good pitching shuts down good hitting.  The World Series is an excellent place to observe that it is (still true).  Major league baseball in the past 10 years or so (the "Moneyball Era") has changed in several ways.  Pitching standards have risen, in terms of the velocity (absolute, and variability) and spin expected ("good stuff").  Control of that kind of 'stuff' produces strikeouts or weak grounders (or, with good hitters, a lot of foul balls).  Mistakes, though, are hit out of the park with much greater frequency.

So, scoring is sort of a random event based on the frequency with which pitchers miss their marks.  The best ones have both the best control of their pitches and a shared understanding (with their catcher) of the best marks to hit for each hitter. 

The Nationals appear to be going with an emergency starter, Joe Ross, who has great stuff but erratic control.  He will have a very short leash in this high-leverage game, but if he shows that he is, it will be on Manager Dave Martinez not to ruin his odds by pulling an effective pitcher for one that has a certain likelihood of not hitting his marks. 

This tendency of managers, accelerated in the postseason, along with the inability of too many hitters to "go the other way" (hit the ball away from the angle they face, instead of around that angle--"pulling it"), are the two greatest laments I have in this era in which incredible talent has been emerging.  There are almost too many to name--multi-faceted young hitters with power, pitchers with 100+ mph fastballs and great spin control--but I will mention three stars in this Series:  the Astros 3-4 hitters Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman, and the Nationals' 20-year-old star outfielder, Juan Soto.  (5 pm MDT)

Hoops
The 2019-20 NBA season promises to be one of the most interesting of recent years, both in the regular season and in the playoffs.  The reason is the amount of uncertainty about outcomes, and the lack of an obvious single dominant team. 

Last season's surprise winner, the Toronto Raptors, will be diminished by the economic migration of their best player, Kawhi Leonard, to the well-heeled (but perennially disappointing) Los Angeles Clippers.   The Clippers will also have the player who was #3 in MVP voting last year, Paul George, who is moving from Oklahoma City after one of the most dramatic exhibitions of the power that individual star players have in the NBA.   Another one was the movement of star power forward Anthony Davis to the Los Angeles Lakers, basically at the request of their superstar, LeBron James (acquired last season).

Those two teams stand out and are the co-favorites, but there are many other contenders.  The Milwaukee Bucks had the best record last year and return intact.  The Golden State Warriors, the dominant team of the last few years, are reduced this year by the departure of Kevin Durant (who went to Brooklyn, but is out for the year) and an injury that will keep Klay Thompson out for the year.  The high-powered offense of the Houston Rockets, a serious contender in the Western Conference in recent years, got an additional charge of energy by adding Russell Westbrook (though Chris Paul moved to Oklahoma City).  The Boston Celtics and the Raptors are still formidable.

The Lakers and the Clippers met on opening night, and the Clippers, without George, were much the better team.  I think this just means that they found good chemistry from their new combination faster than other teams did; however, the season is long--very long--and there is plenty of time for all these other teams to emerge fully.

I have to comment on US men's college hoops, one of the most inexplicable, beautiful artifacts of a crazy society.  This unpaid (?!) semipro seasoning factory (for the NBA wannabes, from many countries) combines with an extremely diverse variety of schools competing for a place in the Big Dance (the NCAA tournament, something done to perfection every year) to produce March Madness.

The real business is the training of NBA potential; the pro and collegiate organizations have agreed on the necessity of one year of seasoning between high school and the pros, something which is more likely to be reduced than added to.

I admit to being a fan of the men's game, with several teams I follow, but one (U. of Kentucky) in particular.  The Wildcats have one of the longest and most successful traditions in the sport.  Under John Calipari, they have pioneered an adaptation to that rule, each year recruiting an oversized selection of the top talent coming out of high school.  The players come because they know they will get top competition and training in the fundamentals, preparing them well and showcasing them well for the NBA draft--preferably, after a single year--and future gainful employment.  As a result, the league is dotted with more than a dozen UK players, including several stars.  This year's crop of individual stars is no exception; they are rated among the top teams, but success will depend on finding well-timed effectiveness as a team.

International Football*
We can contrast the status of the NBA with the English Premier League in soccer, which has a stable championship scenario.  Manchester City won a second consecutive title in an impressive race with Liverpool that went down to the last game, and they remain the co-favorites this year.  There's plenty of suspense about how that will finish; unlike last year, Liverpool has taken the early lead.  The Reds emerged from the ranks of competitors into that of champions with a late-season surge which included an impressive run to win the Champions Cup.  They have come out strongly this fall, as well.

The team I root for, Chelsea, is at the head of a group of teams which, realistically, are seeking third place.  If not third, then fourth.  The Blues have a coach that they can love, Frank Lampard, a standout member of their all-time all-star team.  He was a heady player, and I have high hopes that he can be a successful--and stable--head coach.  The team has rallied with homegrown young talent when slapped with a ban which prevented their usual frenetic participation in the trading markets.  The most notable loss this season is the incomparable Eden Hazard; the notable addition, Christian Pulisic.  Pulisic is the best US player since the young Landon Donovan, a quick-footed middie who sees the field well and can score with the best.  Much like Lampard, but quick-footed!

*In the US' version which it calls "football", it's seems like the usual scenario:  Alabama, and the Patriots.  Tell me it's not so.




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.