Saturday, March 06, 2021

Side-View Mirror

What Was Tolerable 

(... Specifically in 2020)

There's a fairly high bar for something to have been tolerable last year.  Whatever's present, will have been present day after day for indefinite duration, so it had better not have been very annoying.  

Cooking - (but not cleaning up afterward) - the best of the many options in these latter days of the Golden Age of Global Food (supply chains permitting).  

Stretch corduroys - I find them superior to stretch blue jeans, though that's also a notable innovation, for those long stretches sitting.  And who cares about the "whoosh-whoosh" walking around the house anymore?  Apparently no one. 

Robert Fripp/Toyay Willcox Sunday Lunch- performances on youtube and elsewhere, King Crimson guitarist Fripp covers rock classics in brief form while Willcox performs in her own chosen way.  Here they "do" Metallica.  That and memories of the Crimson tour in the last years of the decade just finished provide a Hurrah! that will resound from this era. 

Sirius XM.  My cars (Hyundai) had the bug on top for it, so they tracked it down and gave it to me, practically.  It works in the Gorge when KTAO cannot be found.   If you listen to one station exclusively, it is repetitive an a couple hours' hearing will bring duplication.  So, keep changing!  My most frequent listens 1st Wave, U2, Real Jazz, Alt Nation, Sirius XMU, and that English football one.  Now, Hyundai--that's a different story, for another day.  

Talenti Gelati e Sorbetti.  It's just Unilever, but they are packing some good gelato and sorbet flavors.  My current favorites are the Hazelnut Chocolate Chip Gelato and the Cold Brew Coffee Sorbetto.  My answer to the "unpacking" going on in talks all over. 

...And What is, Now 

The picture's practically self-explanatory, if it's all readable.  Our local cinema reopened yesterday after about 12 months, and we had to go see a movie in the theater.  Locally, we were being rewarded for low number of Trump Virus infections ('green' status), something likely not to persist:  we are being deluged with out-of-towners from various Neanderthal-leaning states (and California).   We were so charged to be there, with the popcorn and the candy, and 25% maximum-capacity seating, and good ventilation.  

As for the movie, it was a good choice for us.  See my review for more about it; we knew next to nothing going in, but were not up for a police procedural or some kind of tear-jerker.  We wanted action, and sensory stimulation.   

One other comment:  The trailer for upcoming movie "Dune" flattened me.  Streaming services have their place, for TV-type viewing, but this is one I commit to seeing on a big screen (not in my home). 

Remembering the Heroics of "Ballers" Who Mattered to Me -   (Factual Statements below are Unchecked)

Westley Unseld - Wes, the player who I wanted to be.  The master of the defensive rebound/outlet pass, and of scoring in the low post. A humble, hard-working, effective Hall of Famer. I saw him in the semifinals of the Louisville Invitational Tournament as a child (his Seneca team suffered a tough loss to Carr Creek in the final, or was it the other way around? )  He was the franchise player for the (US) Capital area NBA team for a decade or more and got at least a title there. 

John Thompson - never saw him play (a backup on some Celtics teams) but his effect on basketball, through his coaching and recruitment, made a permanent difference to the game.  His teams earned a great deal of respect and generate major NBA stars. 

Gale Sayers - He was a hero whose abilities were beyond imagining for me.  His specialty was the broken-field run, avoiding tacklers and cutting back and forth, but always forward.  His style reminds me of some of the modern 'footballers" like Messi, DeBruyne, or Pulisic.  Like them, defenders have to go for the knees; Sayers' career was all too short.  

Joe Morgan - The man who added the magic, simply by doing everything right, to make the Big Red Machine into the world champions of '75-76.  The best trade the Reds ever made in my lifetime was to get him.  (The worst, obviously, was trading Frank Robinson, which happened before i was even aware of it.)

Diego Maradona - Pele was a bit before my time, or at least before my attention was drawn to international football, but we got to see and experience from afar Maradona's roller coaster career and life, rising from the slums, dodging enemies external and internal, to achieve exceptional glory.  My last memory of him was a cameo in Paolo Sorrentino's "Giovinezza" (Youth), in which he plays a retired, rehabbing footballer who still boasts some incandescent skills, playing with a soccer ball. Not much of a stretch, as a role. 

Alex Trebek - We admired his skills as game-show host and erudite enunciator, but we did not realize what a beautiful role model his kind, generous behavior presented.  One of my regrets was that I never got on Jeopardy! when I was young and my factual recall was ferociously intact. 

And John Lewis/Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  Why not include them?  These two played their game(s) as it was meant to be played. They put the lie to cynics who deride their profession(s).  

Friday, January 08, 2021

Events, and Consequences

 Google informs me this will be the 1000th posting.  Appropriate to wrap up the decade's news on this blog. *

Whaddaya Know?  We Won, After All!

I feel kind of like the fictional soldier of Gondor on the field outside the Black Gate of Mordor for the doomed, hugely out-numbered battle with the orc horde, when our Frodo (Jon Ossoff, I guess) crushed the evil menace with one unlikely success. 

I am among a minority,  those who believe that the Georgia runoff outcome is more significant than the Capitol riot, which was basically announced publicly ahead of time and had no material effect on the outcome.  So, why were there not more precautions and reinforcements provided?  'Somebody' decided 'for some reason' that the Trump mob was not a threat.  Those 'somebodies' are responsible for the desecration of our shrine to representative democracy, as is Death Star. 

But more to the point, the combination of the defilement of the Senate chamber and, worse, causing the Republicans to lose their majority, has really pissed off Mitch McConnell.  There are many ways for him to slip the knife to Death Star, and he, working with the Biden Administration, will find some of them. 

Not to the point of removing D.S. (also short for Dumb Shit)  from office early, though.  

Here's my ranking from a May, 2018 post: 

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...)

So, #4 is out, #5 is out (for the time being, anyway), and the timing is slightly wrong for #1 and #2, but otherwise the order of likelihood remains.   I think the notion of impeachment/conviction/legislation to prevent his return will neither happen, nor work if it did happen.  If some more of the rank-and--file Senate Republicans would back it, that could put him in a corner where he would negotiate a "deal" to leave--that may have happened already.  His price, clearly, would be the Pence pardon; he won't get it (Pence is just about as angry with D.S. as Mitch is), so in the words of Howie Mandel's great game show: "No Deal"!

Plaudits, Taunts, and a Humble-Brag

First, to Stacey Abrams and her Fair Fight organization.  I was among those who criticized her for staying with her voter registration/empowerment efforts instead of going after one of these juicy seats.  I was wrong, and she is vindicated, totally.  Governor of GA next?  Or, going bigger (national)?

Next, to Raphael Warnock.  If Ossoff is Frodo, Warnock is Sam Gamgee--I'm reminded of the scene in Lord of the Rings when Sam literally carries Frodo to the pit at Mount Doom.  I'll also give credit here to the Georgia Democratic party, as they made the unity ticket a reality to voters--there were very few split tickets or undervotes.+ 

Obviously, to the voters in Georgia, I give a vigorous salute and my gratitude.  They had to suffer through two additional months of wasteful TV ads, as well as defying the pandemic and voting again. 

Death Star gets his just desserts, the Peach State told him to stuff it.  Generating confusion and excessive cognitive dissonance has been proven dramatically to be a lousy electoral strategy.  

Mitch, I think, was overconfident in his suppression of more substantial assistance to the people in the days leading up to the runoff.  His inaction and Death Star's whining and flailing probably only had marginal real vote effect, but both these races turned on marginal gains and losses.  So, he loses, as much as Death Star does, and they both get to blame each other.  Ideal. 

Finally, my Senate predictions ended up being reasonably accurate (I said 51 Democrats; it will end up being 50, plus VP Harris, or +3 gain for Democrats), and with regard to the overall outcomes, the sweep of White House, Senate, and House did happen.  But that does not mean I hit the mark, or missed on a technicality.  My position on predictit going into the election centered on +3 and +4, but I long since abandoned those bets. I tended toward the position the Republicans would hold both GA seats until polls in the last week showed Loeffler falling back noticeably. At least it wasn't +2, which would have been agony. 

Back to Shedding Virus #2

If you look above to the excerpt from 2018, you may notice that I was heralding the "End of Trumpism". Actually, that hasn't happened, at all:  the events relate to the end of the Trump Administration, proper.  Somehow, Trumpism may still be surviving as a malware phenomenon, even if its influence will be drastically reduced.  This Capitol riot is emphatically not a post-Drumpfenreich event, though it may be the last one (apart from the last pardon tsunami), and as such, is not a good indicator of the future course of the disease of Trumpism. 

One thing about the Trumpism Virus that differs from Trump Virus:  it does not mutate--it cannot; that is both a strength and a virtue.  Another characteristic of the malady is the difficulty in curing an individual of it.  It takes a shock of enormous voltage to jolt it out of one's brain and electrocution cannot be ruled out. 

I am not a fan of Impeachment 2.0, for any purpose.  The combo of Impeachment/conviction/legislation to preclude his running again, apart from whether the votes could ever be there (even after Death Star's power has been broken), would not be permanent.  I don't think even a felony conviction would prevent his running in 2024.  The way to end his menacing presence on our landscape is through dispossessing him (and family, Trump Org.)  of all US assets, through civil suits public and private, along with massive fines.  He would take his business elsewhere:  I see there is a deserted Trump hotel dumped on Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan (which just was allowed to wreak vengeance on Armenia by Turkey).  He can camp out there, with all his family. 

Baku 8 (17562810018)


The Georgia result makes possible some real legislation coming from the Biden Administration.  I'm cogitating furiously on what could be, asking "why not?" about each idea. 

The past is polog. I need to get back to work on getting my retrospectives and prospectives written up, now. 

 *Official end of the decade, for me, was Dec. 31, 2020, but the real "new decade" begins Jan. 21, 2021.  Just as the "new millennium" really began Sept. 12, 2001. 

+Really, for either side, but the Dems get the credit because of 50%+1 rule. 

Sunday, January 03, 2021

Nonpartisan Initiatives--Pt. 2

(The first part of this series was my proposal for a National Institute of Home Health Work, which I would re-purpose as a nonpartisan initiative. Disclosure: It was originally partisan in my motivation, supporting Biden's chances in Florida--which is to say, basically nonpartisan.)

The January 6 Rejectionist movement will not succeed. This is not 1876, much as that bunch of reactionaries would wish it were. 

Once this Drumpfenputsch is rebuffed, Biden should immediately turn around and announce a commission to "recommend electoral standards reforms", making every effort to make the composition of commission members diverse, with true nonpartisan representation--and third-party advocates.  It won't be hard to find takers. 

Here are my suggestions for recommended Electoral Reforms.

$$ -Catalyst for Reform No one of any political stripe, or of none, should doubt the need for change.  What happened with this election should make that crystal clear:  we are as transparent as artificial mud.

But the Constitution mandates states' responsibility and power to conduct elections, which even applies to the Federal elections (President and Congress).  Ultimately, the choice to adopt the recommendations will belong to individual states, but funding to implement the needed reforms is the kind of incentive which will win acceptance of the standards package.   As we do with safety or with environmental protections.  Or, memorably, as the Department of Transportation (Buttigieg's new gig) did with the drinking age for states. It's just hygiene.   

How much are we talking about?  A few billion, at most.  Less than the PAC's will waste in the next midterm.  

I.  The Simple Compromise - Voter ID,  Ready Access, Election Day holiday.  

The tricky part is the voter ID part; there was legislation passed a generation ago (the NVRA, or "Motor Voter Act'), but it lacked enforcement.  The passport license update mandated for this year has been postponed; it's time to get security into the 21st century, and noot based on driving a car.  With any limitations on its use as ID specified, but clearly establishing citizenship, or, if not that, the legal status.  That's what you need to present when voting, like a $20 bill (or just bring your phone close) if you wanted merchandise.  (All persons can get replacement ID's, restoring the information from our national systems; replacement requires something like a retinal scan to preclude future abuse.)  It might seem shocking, but it's the minimum requirement, really. 

The basic standards to facilitate the process involve an adequate but not excessive time period for Early Voting, a similar, different one for necessary absentee voting, and the standards must account for accessibility in terms of hours, ADA requirements, protection from hazardous conditions, etc.  So, this is not a simple task, but not one that is political in intent, except to honor the principle of allowing all possible legal voting. Something very hard to oppose in these terms. 

2.  A More Elaborate Reform - 

The Electoral College, and all its procedures, resembles a petrified sketch on the back of an envelope, written in pencil and laminated. No Constitutional amendment of any kind is needed to fix it, though.   I wouldn't dare advocate changing that: Something like that, or regulating dark money contributions to elections, is an Impossible Dream at this time.  The media would not allow the latter, for one thing, and the amendment process is difficult even with bipartisan support.

Instead, take development of the standards regime described above.  Throw onto it another, optional enticement (with additional money) for two, linked reforms:  

a)  Go the Maine/Nebraska route! 

b) Accept non-partisan Congressional districting in the next four years!

a) The fundamental problem with the Electoral College, apart from  all its clunky processes, is the winner-take-all nature of states voting "to maximize their influence".   This is simply bad Game Theory; it names a few winners, with the rest having next to zero effect.  

Even those who vote for the ticket(s) winning in most of the big states feel useless, as their electoral votes are taken for granted (unless you are Florida, or one of the Rejected Six).  California Republican voters (all of them, useless) feel little differently from Texas Democratic ones, but also little differently from New York Democrats (whose votes are taken for granted), let alone New York Republicans (useless, even if in favor of those they only despise).  

The answer for all these big states is to represent their vote more accurately, allocated by Congressional district winners (along with the two statewide winner-take-all votes, as is done in the two states currently using this approach, Maine and Nebraska).   Contrary to conventional wisdom, that will increase the significance of voters in those states, though it will only work if done in concert. 

As for the smaller states, they still may see a mirage of having their relative importance magnified in the current system, due to their disproportionate representation (compared to population).  It is a mirage, as their importance is illusory:  Nevada's case illustrates that in this Presidential election; nobody really cared too much about undoubted irregularities there, because it was not in a position to influence the outcome--six Electoral Votes is too small to matter, let alone for the many states with 3-5 EV. 

It shows just how important this reform can be for otherwise unimportant voters' new significance, though,  that the EV chase brought Trump-Pence to Maine's Second, and Biden-Harris to Nebraska's Second.  Both campaigns won the district, countering the statewide result.   Neither state would draw the slightest attention from either campaign without that provision. 

Obviously, all these improvements require serious attention to the technology required to implement, which is money well-spent, as it will protect our republic from some of its self-destructive impulses.  I have been advised that Floridians and Texans have already upgraded their systems, so all they need to fix are their voter suppressions. That's how this thing works. 

b) The necessary reform to accompany this change to district-based Presidential voting must be having a nonpartisan approach to determining congressional seat boundaries.  There are methods already in some states; those would be the model for those being gerrymandered most recently. These objectives would be the basis for the money offered to adopt this additional package, which should be generous.  

Many states would take this offer right off the bat, final terms unseen:  the small ones have to change little to nothing, but get their systems upgraded.  Many of the large ones would see the benefit; the terms could be couched similarly, but better, to the approach taken with the National Popular Vote Act* (only taking effect in their states when 270-X have adopted, X being the number adopting conditionally).  The states getting all the attention currently would "get less attention", which most people in those states would consider a benefit, and the side perceiving itself on the short end in those states would still have some voice. 

OK, I admit some states would choose to make stupidity a virtue, as for example some have done with the Medicaid assistance coming out of the ACA.  But consistently defeating bad policy could become a habit once more in America (some steps in forming that habit have been seen in 2018 and 2020). 

I am generally opposed to magnifying the effects of our broad powers still reserved to the states ("States Wrought") , but here I have to give credit to states for innovating meaningfully.  The thing is, I want those good state innovations to be brought broadly to the nation, but without permanently disempowering the states' own true responsibility. ++


*Can you imagine if we had the National Popular Vote Act in effect?  Well, we couldn't have had that and the current Rejectionist party, which may be good, but what if Trump had won more electoral votes than Biden with that thing in place?  It would only have been worse.  

++Note: Ranked-choice voting would be a small addition to this package that would assist the significance of independents and third-parties, to satisfy nonpartisanship requirements, and would eliminate additional cost.  So would 'jungle primaries' or 'jungle general elections', but those are bit more demanding bargaining chips, once commissioners sit down and work things through.  Kudos to Alaska for moving on ranked-choice. 

Saturday, December 05, 2020

Last Rants for Drumpfenreich

Q: What's massive, round, very white, and leaves behind planet-scale destruction, devastation, death and despair?  

A:  Death Star. 

The villainous symbol of the tyrannical Empire in the Star Wars series shares two critical weaknesses with our celebrity specializing in collateral cruelty, who personifies for us the Death Star.  One is lack of self-awareness, the other is delusions of omnipotence. 

Still no change in the status quo: Biden still won, Trump still a sore LOSER.  

Scurrilous Rumor Creation

I am willing to throw out an unfounded suspicion that the reason that the DIA and NSA were not permitted to meet with the Biden transition team today was not merely petty recalcitrance but something  more serious.  Let's entertain the notion for a moment that the US spy agencies were more involved in the assassination of the Iranian nuclear scientist than I thought. *  Without the proper cover from the President, that would be illegal.  In that case, they might need a few days to get their stories lined up, to get backdated orders, to destroy all trace, or to figure out who would need a pardon from Trump when he goes into his orgy of forgiveness for all crimes, real or imagined, past, present, or future (limited only to Federal ones, though...)

I will say that Trump has taken the trouble to fire the Secretary of Defense and a number of people in the national security area and replace them with typical Trumpian stooges, when there seemed to be little practical use for such changes in these last days.  Unless there is some kind of mischief Trump intended, once again going beyond mere vengeance.  Like poisoning the chances for any new agreement with Iran to get them to end any nuclear weapon development.  You know, the thing Trump blew up. 

As you may have seen before, I don't fully subscribe to Michelle Obama's credo of "going high".  Of course, I do, when it suits me; however, I reserve the right to attack my enemies in the way that may be most effective.

Virus Duo

I never liked the odd, not-catchy-nor-meaningful name for the vector of our pandemic.   What's a "covid", and "19" is not really the relevant year, is it?  (I know, that's when it was discovered.)  Coronavirus is a better term, it has a good ring to it, and it has already given way to the cool nickname 'rona (and references to the one hit from The Knack), but in reality it is a class of viruses, not one, and not all of which are even infectious to humanity.

I propose that we put this shoe where it fits.  It is The Trump Virus

Donald has been putting his brand on acquired objects for most of his career; it's a point of pride.  He has acquired the virus, literally, but he owns it in a much more substantial sense.  Without his "downplaying" of its serious threat, his mocking of the necessary public health measures to control it, and even his actions which have helped it to spread domestically--not to mention the miserable example he provided for other autocratic types around the world to imitate--the pandemic might have been contained, which it most assuredly is not the case today.  

The request to rename it is coming directly to me from the virus itself, as it gives Donald full credit for its successes this year.  See "The Overstory" for a tree-based version of this concept.

I feel that the Biden Administration will conquer the Trump Virus pandemic.  As the vaccine comes on line, he will have the tools he needs, the people who are eager to combat it in the most effective ways, and he will get the money he needs for that.  Or else. Actually, I do not think Mitch will allow himself to be the roadblock for vaccine distribution money. Other things, yeah.+

The question for Biden is whether he will be able to defeat the other one, the Trumpism Virus.  He will have plenty of help in shedding that load of snake oil, including a growing cadre of Republicans, and even moreso from Independents, who by definition have no leadership cadre, but who are very frustrated now and will want to move on.  I expect the business community's attitude will be very similar to that of Xi Jinping:  "the baubles were nice, but we prefer dealing with someone who has a stable mind". ++

It's about breaking the Cult of Personality.  Some are convinced that he can do whatever we want; either he's chosen, or he's invincible.  To those people, I usually invoke their deity, the Old Testament God who brought plague down upon the Pharaoh (or now, the would-be Pharaoh).  Isn't that maybe the case here? 

Not all are like that, though. Those of us familiar with American history can't be too supercilious about a large portion of his devoted followers whose attitude is something like "He may be a snake, but he's our snake, and he does what we want, so that's good."  That's where you have to turn them away from the charm.  A shiny object won't do it, as many have been tossed their way without distracting them.  The gas lamp is lit, always, in Trump Tower, and it is somehow fascinating enough.  We got to put out the lights. 

No, I didn't mean that.  What I meant is an effort to show the people what a real government is like, what it can do.  It may or may not happen, beyond just the defeat of the Trump Virus, in the short time before the 2022 midterm elections--that is the best case scenario.  But surely a proven recovery of the economy within four years, in a new and improved form, would lead to a re-election of a Democratic administration, which would be the end for that germ.   

It's not quite exile in disgrace, but it would allow us to resume normal life.  Which brings me to the last rant. 

Will It Really Just Disappear? 

There's been a lot of attention--too much--to the question of whether Trump will appear at the Biden-Harris inauguration, which it appears will be held in the classic location on the steps of the Capitol, damn it all.  I'm about 95% positive he won't; what will stop him is the fear of a bad reception by any members of the public.  As far as that's concerned, I would encourage all of them to boo--loudly and repeatedly, but only for several seconds--at his first appearance.  Hold onto your shoes, though. 

Biden could get him to come if he wanted--just throw a big party in the new Trump International Hotel Washington, D.C., in the converted old Post Office building, and make a big deal about his presence.  Biden doesn't want to, though, even if he says the right thing and points out that the whole world will be watching, very important to showcase the peaceful transition, that sort of thing.  

No! Trump should slink away in disgrace, put on his sideshow somewhere to compete with it, and have no respectable agency cover it at all. The world should understand that there are penalties for his kind of behavior, that he will be shunned. 

When Dubya left office, I promised to leave him alone if he kept himself under wraps and didn't make trouble, and he and I have been deliriously happy with that arrangement.  With Drumpf, though, it's different:  I promise to ignore anything he says or does to get attention after he leaves office.  I reserve the right to refer to him, not as an active anything, but as an example to avoid.   If I do, he will be referred to as Death Star.  

And any further reference to this thing currently causing so many to die before their time will be as the Trump Virus.  

But I really hope not to need to do either.   

* I considered writing in the piece about the assassination that the notion of US involvement should be excluded, but decided not to mention that aspect at all.  We the people don't have proof either way; I'm just exploiting certain coincidences to coin a conspiracy, if anything to show I can create one that's more plausible than the stuff going around. 

+I will discuss the prospective Biden-McConnell relationship in another post, a critical consideration and limitation on Biden's possibilities, and I add now that its criticality does not depend on the Georgia runoff.  

Here on the eve of the arrival in Georgia of Death Star, much is uncertain about that, as it may remain even for weeks after the January 5 runoff.  These conditional considerations may not even be resolved by the January 20 Inauguration!

++I will try to address briefly the jolt that Trumpism's America First policy has put into our foreign policy, permanently.  It will be reversed, but the memory of it will linger.  Strangely, that is not all entirely bad, from the despicable but inevitable mindset of realpolitik; better that all understand our potential for mindless hostility and selfishness, with no regard for the consequences.

Friday, November 27, 2020

Faulty Strategies

Assassinating the Iranian Nuclear Scientist

Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was a known objective of Bibi Netanyahu, and the action was almost certainly done (arranged or directly implemented) by Israel's Mossad. This operation had been carefully planned and was executed brazenly.  There had been rumors that Israel would strike at Iran's nuclear facilities before Trump left office; this seems to be the chosen method to get at them.  

If I can read Bibi's mind correctly, this was an item on his bucket list and there's no better time to cross it off.  (Tick, tick...he is surely going one of these days/months/years, though still not at this time.) Apart from that, he wants to provoke Iran, with the objective of creating enough tension that the US, under the Biden Administration, would never be able to get Iran back to the table to resume the agreement to limit Iran's nuclear program that Trump trashed. 

Although Trump probably has some delusional thought that if war starts between Israel and Iran in the meantime he can declare an emergency and stay in power, what he thinks is almost irrelevant now. Except for the damage he can still do; this is a good example of his opportunity for mischief:  he can easily aggravate this if he wants. 

I think there is faulty logic in the whole thing here:  killing the scientist no doubt sets back Iran's chances of rapid breakout to a weapon--something that Iran had been making a significant feint toward doing since the agreement was breached (by us).  That might buy Biden a few months if things go really badly, but I don't see this contretemps as likely to cause any serious impediment for his policy, which is to get Iran back to voluntary limits on its nuclear program.  Biden can simply state US policy against assassination of civilians (or even suspected terrorists without a "finding") and demur from any comment on the action itself. 

If we try--for just a moment, please--to look at it from the Iranian point of view, though, this would suggest more reason for Iran to return to the table than to refuse it.  They don't have to indicate whether the murder affects their program, they just need to show willingness to return to limited nuclear development, which would be the easiest course for them going forward.  Especially if this setback is a real one, not merely in perception of their regime's prestige. 

Iran will feel a need, though, to respond to this assassination in some form, for the sake of that perception, as they did when Trump bumped off Qassem Soleimani.  Only better than they did last time, I can hear the Ayatollah telling his Revolutionary Guard.  I expect to see a rocket or two lobbed at Israel from one of Iran's allied units closer to the front (in Lebanon, Syria, Gaza, etc.)  Beyond that, Bibi better go back to quarantine--I'm sure someone on his staff will test positive, or a positive test otherwise arranged.  That is probably easy as pie for a spy. 

Republicans Destroying Their Chances

Most of the Republican Congressional corps (House + Senate) has remained on the sideline in the Trump "Reckless and Feckless" campaign.  They stay out of the retreat/regroup action, implicitly supporting his bootless claim to retain the Presidency.  Trump's claims are an impossible mess of imagined conspiracy and failed accusations of misconduct in the count, and they know it.  I can sympathize with these Congressional Cowards' reluctance to drop fealty to the cratering predatory beast in the White House, at least until he is declawed when he loses control of the Seal of the Presidency.  Even then, his fangs will be (figuratively) real enough.  

The error they are making in this strategy of inertia and silence, though, is that it gives them a difficult set of challenges in creating a strong argument for Republican-leaning Georgians to turn out in the critical runoff test for control of the Senate.  

First, many of their voters may conclude from the Presidential race fiasco that elections (including those, specifically, in Georgia) are untrustworthy; why bother?  I'd say that might resonate particularly with Republican-leaners in the suburbs or cities.  The Trump campaign has shown a great willingness to dispense with the legal votes of hundreds of thousands if they are from the wrong precincts. 

Second, the current policy invalidates one of the most cogent arguments, one that Mitch McConnell would surely love to employ forcefully with the PAC money he can command to preserve their majority:  That the Georgia runoff is the last, only chance to prevent total control of Washington by the (fill in slanderous labels) Democrats.  Mitch has to wait for that one until it is clear to all that the future President is not Trump.  We may think it is "as clear as an unmuddied lake" that Biden won and that all realize it, but that is not so. For whatever reason they are told or tell themselves, most Republicans Out There believe Trump's allegation about the attempted theft of the election, and more incredibly, many believe he will somehow still squeeze out a win.  

These circumstances, and the general spectacle of Trump's thrashing about and destroying some of the most sacred faiths of the American Creed, are giving the Democratic Senate challengers in Georgia a real chance, where there was little of it just a month ago.  Reverend Warnock is at parity, or better, with the broadly-despised Kelly Loeffler:  despite a lot of sucking up, her Trump-loving credentials are viewed suspiciously by the Trumpist clan, enthusiasm for her is lacking, and her image has taken a beating because of her grifting (insider trading allegations).  David Perdue is in slightly better shape vs. youngster Jon Ossoff, in general, and the Democrats need to win both races.  

But, the more the race is nationalized--and it is very highly so already, before Trump enters the fray--the less the characteristics of the candidates will matter, and the more it will be about whether the potentially demoralized Republican throngs will turn out to the degree they did in November.  Also, the more universal will be the tendency for voters, of both parties, to vote the straight party ticket. There is little doubt the Democrats will turn out well, even though past history of Democratic turnout for Georgia runoffs is poor.  This one is different, and there has not been enough time, or sufficient success, for Democratic leaners to feel complacent about the defeat of Trumpism. 

There is still time for Trump to acknowledge defeat and then show up, bigly, to support the faltering notion of a Perdue-Loeffler Republican Unity ticket.  (By the way, where is Doug Collins, the Trumpist who got snubbed and edged out by Loeffler for second spot in the jungle primary in November?)  That would require Drumpf to think more broadly than the short-term question of 'What do I feel is Best for Me and TrumpCo Right Now?' that is generally the only relevant consideration for him.  He could be a hero there, and with the Republican Senate Majority Leader, if he can help pull this one out.  Can he ever truly be anyone's hero, when he doesn't understand the notion of self-sacrifice?

He will be resented if he "screws the pooch" for Mitch, though, and that will matter if Trump truly still holds political ambitions.   I see him somewhat grudgingly trying to straddle the questions of his own failing bid to retain the Presidency with the notion of Georgia as being the Last Stand of his party's hold on any Federal power for the next two years.  He will try to make his late entry seem dramatic, and the margins are assuredly very tight.  

For me to look at this from 30,000 feet, I look first to Aristotle's politics and the example of ancient Athens.  This situation we are in now contrasts with his criticism of democracy as often leading to tyranny of the majority through populist demagogues, as opposed to the more sober methods and objectives of those benign oligarchs, or the simple but ultimately faltering illogic of monarchy.  Instead, our demagogue works with the oligarchs to try to use mob rule to impose tyranny of the minority.  

Perhaps the more relevant comparison is to ancient Rome, and the stresses  popular oligarchs created for its Senate, which led to their resolve that, to save their Republic they had to assassinate Julius Caesar.  We know how that turned out for their Republic. Republican Senators are not that far backed into a corner yet, but they still may have to strike the lethal blow against Trump by shifting towards accepting that their Boss Don Corona was The Biggest Loser. 

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Photo Finish Analysis

The starting point for this is the interview between New York Magazine's Eric Levitz and David Shor.  It's a good contrarian argument to start the post-mortem, though I don't agree with him that TV is the most cost-effective channel to buy votes.  It's not even something to consider increasing, from these obscene levels. The objective of reform should have as one necessary effect a reduction in both the length and cost of political campaigns, so that idea works against all concept of efficiency. 

I recommend the interview in particular because his research convincingly answered all my major questions coming out of the election that I wanted to research.  In particular, he asserted the following:

  • Ticket-splitting is at an all-time low; this applied even at the House level, which I had thought might be counter to the nauseating nationalization of the election. 
  • The Democrats' huge get-out-the-vote (GOTV) efforts resulted in a boost that was largely countered by Trump's improvised, superspreaders-and-disinformation effort, most effectively in areas with high numbers of white non-college marginal voters in battleground states (Florida, Wisconsin)  .  
  • That red-state surge saved most of the numerous borderline and challenged Republican incumbents.  Democrats had to fight uphill in states like Montana, Kansas, South Carolina, and Iowa.   
  • In terms of the all-critical Senate races, the only exception to the party line outcomes was Susan Collins' surprisingly easy win in Maine, a state Biden won handily. 
  • We're in trouble for 2022, or even more if we dare to increase taxes--something that might seem necessary after the orgy of deficits in the Trump Administration.   The only way to move forward is to moderate our aims. 

My Turn

My take is that Joe Biden is the very best President we could hope to have found in this messy situation we now have.  Putting aside for now the happy ending of a sweep of the two Georgia runoffs by Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, giving the Democrats a last-minute majority in the Senate, we have to deal with Mitch McConnell.   Biden is the best possible negotiator for what will come, the triangle with Mitch and Nancy Pelosi, both with shaky majorities. He will reduce the level of fear that has prevailed, especially since Drumpf's impeachment. It will take courage from all to face all this. 

We should have the courage to take on the big, necessary reforms.  It would be good to know, for example, what the effect of Trump's absurd suspension of the employer/employee contributions to Social Security ended up being--does anyone know?  What Committee will take that up?  

You see the point:  if we bring Mitch into the clean-up, to find out where all the money went that was wasted and misspent (often intentionally), he will begin to cooperate. He's not riding unconditionally on the Trump Train:  He may detrain after the January 5 runoff election, win or lose. We need to re-do Medicare's funding, no? I see potential for a Grand Compromise that could affect both redistricting and the now-perennial Electoral College randomization, concerns for both major parties, while opening the door even to third party efforts.  (Note:  I'm thinking of the Republicans as a future Third Party; I still think they should, too.) 

Once again, the Republicans have dumped on us all the responsibility, in the midst of the crisis they have facilitated. But once again, all is set up to have the Democrats end up looking good by saving the economy, simply (!) by ending the pandemic's devastation. The logistical challenge these new miracle vaccines are presenting look like something that is going to drive everyone crazy, in more ways than one. Developing the chain of command that is going to replace Trump's slap-dash Survivor game is going to take a lot of time: Biden will have just enough.   

We just have to avoid the pitfall into which the Obama Administration fell, in spite of everything, in 2010.  One difference:  Rather than coming into power with the usual surge of new House seats, we just had some of our most vulnerable ones stripped away, so that won't happen again in 2022. The Senate battle looks promising to me.  I will take 2021 off from all campaigns, but 2022 will, once again, be both trench warfare and open-field engagement. The political war continues.  

"I see the road leads back to you....."

Georgia, Georgia.  Once for each Senate seat runoff.  The most expensive Senate race in history--hopefully ever--will at least have the benefit of being a 2-for-1.  BOGW - Buy Ossoff, Get Warnock.  And Vice versa.  BWOG. Or whatever.   Runoff recapitulates ontogeny. 

Yes, I'm a bit punchy about this denouement to the endless 2020 election.  The call of Georgia to Biden, reaching the promised land of 306-232, followed the hammer blows to the failing Drumpfenreich of the call of Arizona, and before that, of Pennsylvania.  I was highly critical of the coverage Election Night, which featured far more confusion about the Red Mirage than should have been allowed, but I guess they had to say something. 

The achievement in Georgia and that of Arizona are real reasons for hope for this nation. The road is long, and we should be glad of that.  Also, they represent the potential success through grassroots development, contrary to the mass spectacle thesis of Shor.  They must be sustained. 

Wednesday, November 04, 2020

There's Got to Be

 Wednesday, November 4 -- 11 am.

At this moment, there appears to be a good chance Biden could exactly reverse Trump's elected E.C. votes from 2016*, which would be a nice irony.    

That would require that Biden adds to his current 227 EV  Arizona (11) Nevada (6), Georgia (16), Michigan (16), Wisconsin (10), and Pennsylvania (20)--that leaves Maine CD-2 (1), Alaska (3) and North Carolina (15).  All of which are not only possible, but the most likely outcomes.  With the exception of PA, for which we just don't know at this point. 

The great thing about that 306-232 margin continuing to be likely is that the Biden lead, or hold on 270,  is not imperiled by the potential reversal of one state.   One major condition is Georgia, which should be determined by the size and shape of the next release of votes, mostly from Atlanta's county and its suburban De Kalb County, expected by the end of the day.  My rough calculations suggest that may bring the margin within 10k votes, one way or the other, and make Georgia the closest of all the close races. 

As for the Senate, the less said the better.  I hedged most of the close states on, successfully (more about that later, maybe), but clearly I suffered in markets for the net change in seats and control of the Senate.  I played it as being a 60-40 Democratic chance; this outcome was on the low end, from the Democratic side, of that 40% of probability. It could've been worse:  Peters could have lost Michigan.  

*(so, prior to the final totals changed by 'faithless electors'), 

Saturday, November 7 - 8:45 p.m. 

 You lost! You're a LOSER!!  Now, Get Lost, Loser!

Now that I've said that, I'm going to turn over a new leaf.  I will never again call for Trump to be burned as a witch. The demonization must end, as our President-Elect has said. 

Someone who can never admit their weakness is destined always to be a loser.  Trump is the proof of that. 

I don't believe that The Donald will be back as a serious national electoral candidate, but there will be someone who will try to claim the Trumpist mantle, jettisoning as much of the stinking baggage that hangs from it.  Probably someone who is able to learn from the mistakes.  

But can that person win the nomination in 2024?  I do not venture to guess what the mindset of the Republican base will be then, but I got a very strong reminder that base is always larger than I may think. 

2024 will be a challenge as great as this one.  But first 2022--and 2021.  The fact there are two races in the runoff in January for Georgia is the best news possible--it means that white Democrats and black ones can compete for turnout to break the Southern runoff schneid.  Assume any polls will understate Republican turnout by 5-7% (the David Duke Effect). 

Saturday, November 7 - 11:25 p.m. 

Kate McKinnon's portrayal of Rudy Giuliani, post-election, in the  classic Gilda Ratner Rosannadanna guest commenter on Weekend Update role, is one for the history of video comedy.  Dave Chappelle's monologue will probably get more attention, as it was outlandish, as promised, but her properly over-the-top impersonation topped Carrey's Biden (he got to do the Big L!), Rudolph's pitch-perfect Kamala, Chappelle's own impressive Dennis Haybert, and Baldwin's impressionistic Whiny Loser.  

Saturday, October 31, 2020

5-D Preview of Election Night and the Hereafter

The focus on Pennsylvania in the Presidential contest has become intense, with both campaigns going all-out to win it above and beyond all others. It is justified, though, when you consider the math of electoral votes. For either side to win in the various scenarios which arise directly from recent national election results, Pennsylvania's 20 electoral votes are crucial

 There's a problem for us election result consumers, though; if Pennsylvania is close, it won't be called for days, due to a number of pending absentee ballots which may or may not show up after Election Day and may or may not be challenged. And it looks as though it will be late on the count of the mail-in ballots received by Election Day, anyway. 


                             * * * * * 

Five Ways Biden Can Win Before PA is Called (Viewed as One Play in the Game of Craps)

1) Come Out with a 7. (Florida)
The ideal outcome for a short play. It is only mathematically possible for Trump to win without it, not realistically so. Most likely outcome for FL is very, very close, though it still may be called Election Night, one way or the other. Just don't expect it to Come this way.

2) Roll an 11. (Arizona) 
AZ is very much a necessity for Trump, just as Florida is. 
There is really only one minor exception from it being mandatory for a Trump victory (see below), unless Trump can pick up two of the Blue Wall states (PA, MI, WI, and MN).  The dice will just have to roll around until a bit later in the night for the trend in AZ to show up, and once again, it may not be possible to call a winner. Biden was clearly ahead a couple of weeks ago, but it's tightened. 

 3) Get the Point (4,5,6,8,9,10) - (North Carolina)
 Always dicey to rely upon, but could hit. Real hard for Biden to lose if he wins there; it will tend to make up for any shortfalls. Looks to be extremely close, judging by the polls. 

 4) "Doin' It The Hard Way" - 
There are a bundle of other states in which Biden could effectively clinch a win Election Night, despite not clearly winning any of the above. Georgia, Ohio, Texas are all possibilities and should count quickly. Iowa's status is similar, though probably slower to count and less likely to matter.* 

 5) Sweating It While Having to Wait for PA - This is the one we want to avoid. Think of it as a long, drawn-out play of several rolls, with side bets eating away from the final result, whether or not we win or lose the play. It could be a win, but not the kind of satisfactory result that will make Trump go away. 

 In this scenario, Biden doesn't win NC or FL, or any of those others, but doesn't Crap Out (rolling a 2, 3, or 12, or in other words, lose WI, MN, or MI), and is ahead, but not decisively so, in Pennsylvania itself. In that case, we wait--either with or without Arizona**--for PA to produce final, unofficial results. Which they are now promising by Friday. 

Just to remind, but if the Democrats Crap Out and lose WI, MN,or MI, all may be lost while waiting for PA.  So we play with that risk accepted. 

                         * * * * * 
 The outcome of the Senate is as critical as that of the White House, and there's more reason to doubt it. Considering that, this view integrates the most important states for both races.  

The Five States to Watch Election Night 
(Besides Florida, of course) 

1) North Carolina - is the only critical Presidential battleground state that also has a closely-contested Senate race.  NC will report fairly quickly, though one shouldn't be surprised if there are charges of voting irregularities (coming from either side).
2) Iowa - has an even closer Senate race, perhaps the most critical test for control of that chamber. Though this Republican-leaning state is polling dead even between Trump and Biden, with just six electoral votes it is not as critical to the outcome.  Iowa officials claim to have their counting act together, different from the debacle in the Democratic primary. 
3) Arizona - If you're still up, it will either confirm the eventual Biden win late Tuesday night or throw things back into doubt.  Mark Kelly would seem to be a prohibitive favorite in the special election for McCain's old seat, but if he doesn't win Democrats' dreams of Senate control go up in smoke. 

4) Georgia - An unprecedented opportunity for the Democrats in the state: Three chances for a major statewide win, something they haven't had for decades.  Biden could surprise, but he might also be able to bring in enough turnout to make a difference in one or both Senate races.  Jon Ossoff flat-out defeating the incumbent David Perdue is no longer a shocking idea; while Raphael Warnock seems likely to show a substantial lead in the general election 'jungle primary' for the special election of the other Senate seat, though without getting a majority.  Both races would go to a runoff in January if there is no candidate getting an absolute majority, which, if the control of the Senate is still in doubt, would attract unprecedented levels of national attention and spending. 

5) Michigan - It may be early a.m. Wednesday, but when Michigan comes out with projectable results statewide, it will be worth watching.  In the Presidential race, analysts will be looking at the margin so far vs. the number of absentee ballots not yet counted and make a probabilistic calculation of whether the outcome is determined.  If and when it is called for Biden, it will narrow the possible paths to a couple--or only one.  Meanwhile, Gary Peters' Senate race is a critical piece in the Democrats' plans to regain control--he is likely to win, but Democrats' control is unlikely to be clear unless his victory is. 

                         * * * * * 
Five Secondary and Downballot Stories 

A Surprise Senate Outcome --There are so many possibilities that the odds favor that there will be one.  Alaska, South Carolina, Montana, Kansas--each of those is a real, though outlandish, possible Democratic win to pick up a seat.  On the other hand, trouble for the Democratic incumbent in Michigan or Minnesota would cause Democrats great anxiety about their chances to win the Senate back.  Beyond that, there are also longshot chances for an upset in Mississippi, Kentucky, Texas or even Alabama itself, with Democrat Doug Jones repeating the kind of upset win he had in 2018.  
State Legislature Battles  -  The 2020 Census, itself a chess piece in this year's election, will set the stage for allocation of the number of House of Representatives by state.  Most states' legislatures have critical, highly-politicized roles in designing the boundaries of those seats.  We're also seeing how important is control of the legislatures by the governor's party.  Key battles include PA, TX, FL, NC, and AZ. 
Montana - There are battles at every level down the ballot, though the Presidential race is not particularly close.   The big one is the contest for a vital Senate seat held by Republican Steve Daines, challenged by current two-term Governor Steve Bullock, who's battled uphill to reach parity in the polls. The state's single Congressional seat (it's likely to pick up another after 2020-based redistricting) is even closer.  There is also a competitive Governor's race and for control of the state's legislature.  And....

Ballot Measures - Direct Democracy is on the march, with a variety of measures.  Montana is voting on marijuana legalization (as are Arizona and Massachusetts), which may boost Democratic turnout there and help their chances in those races mentioned above.  There's a whole host of measures to increase democracy itself,  including open primaries and ranked-choice voting in Alaska and Massachusetts, and measures in some states to try to de-politicize Congressional and state legislature redistricting after 2020.  Most of these will win; a majority of Americans are reacting to the current 'tyranny of the minority' and want change to it.  I am not generally a fan of States' Rights arguments, but I have to admit that some states are taking the lead where our elected Federal officeholders have not yet dared to stray. 

NE-2 and ME-2 - Two states, Nebraska and Maine, have eschewed winner-take-all for their Electoral Votes and separately award them by Congressional district (with two going to the statewide winner).  Most states have chosen not to dilute their voting power this way, but because each of these two have one very competitive district (the one in and around Omaha in Nebraska, and the rural northern part of the state of Maine), both have been visited in the campaign by the candidates.  NE-2 is seen as strongly leaning Democratic, while the Maine district leans Republican, both radically different from the state as a whole.  Note also that the Congressional races in these two districts differ from the Presidential ones:  the Nebraska district has a Republican incumbent in a tight challenge, while the Maine district has a popular Democratic incumbent expected to be re-elected. 

                     * * * * *  
The People's House 
Despite what Trump may say, continued Democratic control of the House of Representatives is not seriously in doubt.  Look for certain close House races to indicate trends emerging that are counter to statewide trends.

NM-2 --My state's downstate district tends Republican but has a Democratic incumbent, Xochitl Torres Small.  It's a large district bordering on Texas, Arizona and Mexico, and is a test of strength for Republican efforts to win back seats. 

CO-3 Another such test in this region, from the opposite side, is the race in Colorado's Third district, where a gun-toting, bar-owning Trumpist woman is defending a Republican seat vacated by its incumbent. 

Texas Takeovers-- In general, I expect the usual "Close, but no Cigar" from Texas with statewide Democratic candidates (including Biden) to top off at 46-48%, as usual, but there is movement shaking at the ground level.  All of TX-21 through TX-25 are interesting battles showing the emerging Democratic strength beyond the major city centers.   This is one state where Democrats expect to gain multiple seats. 

Iowa - All four of IA-1 through IA-4 are closely contested races, including a couple that the Democrats picked up in 2018 they need to defend, and in the 4th district, a contest to replace disgraced right-wing extremist Steve King (who lost in the Republican primary).  If the Republicans are going to make a move in House seats, they need to make a mark here. 

New York (24th and 11th Districts) - The metro New York area dominates statewide elections, but outside that area, moderates have usually won election.  They are being challenged both from the right and the left.  The 24th district includes the city of Syracuse and its suburbs; Republican John Katko is challenged again by Dana Balter, and moderate Democrat Max Rose in Republican-leaning Staten Island faces a difficult challenge from Nicole Malliotakis. 

                     * * * * * 
Five Predictions 
Over-Unders  (median of my distributions):   National Turnout (Presidential election) - 156 million; 
                         Popular Vote  -- Biden 52.5,  Trump 45.2, others 2.3%
When will the Election be Called  (Fox and CNN) -- Primetime Nov. 4 

Rust Belt Strategy over Sun Belt (This Time)  -- AZ the only Sun Belt win for Biden; IA to Biden.  Several Southern states (GA, NC, FL) all go narrowly to Trump (<2%), TX and OH a bit more, but Biden wins all of the Upper Midwest states he lost in 2016.  

Democrats to 51 Senate seats -- There are many close races, and it will take awhile to settle, longer than the Presidential race.  It may even go to the runoff in Georgia, let's hope not.  The arithmetic works like this: 
--First, subtract Doug Jones' Alabama seat, very likely to be lost (D 46). 
--Democrats will win 3 of the 4 races in which they are leading in the polls (in order of certainty, CO, AZ, ME, and NC), losing one of them (D 49); 
--one out of two states where the odds are roughly 50-50 for a Democratic pickup (IA and GA, both seats)
--and one out of all the others.  It could even be two of them. 

Finally, the Electoral Vote count (prior to shenanigans):  Biden 296, Trump 242.
Trump loses despite several important successes in holding FL, NC, OH, GA, TX, and ME-2.
Biden wins the Clinton states plus AZ, WI, MI, PA, plus IA and NE-2.  

Winning Iowa--it may be very close and take awhile, even if they report quickly, and may not be at all critical to the Electoral College outcome--would be a great cap to a historic comeback for Biden and his unification of Democratic political forces.  His disappointing fifth place in the primary almost killed his candidacy, but that was just the Iowa caucus craziness we all love.  All the candidates came around fully to support him, and that's one big difference from 2016 this time.  

Dedicated to Jenifer Kelderman Stoner (a fan of 5). 

Click the map to create your own at

Notes on  Five Ways...: 
 *There are lots of other possible changes, such as Trump winning Nevada, New Hampshire, or Biden winning a state like Montana or South Carolina, but, like Iowa, the ones with less than ten electoral votes generally won't make a difference, singly. There are some permutations where Biden winning Iowa could make the difference, but they are hard to concoct (one is the combination of NC and IA, which makes 21 EV together, the same as WI or MN and AZ).  

 **The Nightmare Scenario, my own Personal Conspiracy Theory is Biden winning, 270-248, or leading, 269-249, and waiting for PA. 

 The possibility PA could be challenged later could make for a very nervous time, reminiscent of the election stolen from Samuel J. Tilden for Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876.+ 

 In the case when Biden has only 270 clear votes, any faithless elector (or other kind of slip-up) could be fatal for our domestic tranquility, and the second--any scenario, in fact, where Biden has 269 uncontested Electoral Votes--could lead to the Constitution's absurd "one state, one vote" House process, almost certain to be won by Trump.


Monday, September 21, 2020

When Heroes Fall

The lives of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Congressman John Lewis together show a very big truth about this country: There are many ways that one can make a difference in the great cause of "liberty and justice for all". Their examples suggest that the way can--or must--be a nonviolent one. 

  The Notorious RBG Justice Ginsburg had great abilities which allowed her, a true product of merit, to rise above her obvious disadvantages. In my view, her superpower was rhetoric, the ability to express herself precisely, concisely, and accurately, in order to persuade. Listen to her public speech: Every word deliberately chosen. 

 I leave it to others to flesh out her amazing biography, but I feel her writing will be studied as one of our greatest jurists (though too often in dissent). 

 She was very clever in the way she interacted with others, with humor and grace, and I feel she tolerated the worshipful praise she received because it did so much to encourage others. 

 It is sad that she was unable to complete this year on the Supreme Court's bench, which she loved and upon which she reflected so much honor. If only her last wish, to hold off on seating her replacement until after January 20, could be honored (see below). 

 John Lewis - The Modern-Day Social Justice Warrior? 
 You could say so, but it is a different kind of war. A nonviolent war.  Like Ginsburg, he worked within the framework of lawful challenge to legal injustice. 

 A friend of mine made the comment, referring to my condemnation of Republican hypocrisy with regard to the Supreme Court nomination, "Calling politicians hypocrites is like calling prostitutes whores." To which, my response was simply, "John Lewis?"

 I have not always been either fully aware or fully appreciative of all that he has done. I knew that he had led the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee when that was an accurate description of that organization's activity. I remember being shocked when he defeated Julian Bond in a party primary runoff for the Congressional seat that he then held for 34 years. Then there was a long time that we came to learn what John Lewis was about, what he had always been all about. 

And, to the greatest extent, what Ruth Bader Ginsburg's life and career were all about. Their 'brand', if you will, was about as solid as there was. Will there be those who can rise to that level, with the quality and purity of agency? At least they have opened doors. 

Ruth Bader Ginsburg - The post-mortem 
No morals, no principles. Just an unrestrained grab for power and money. 

There is a compromise, and it's not hard to find. 

 Trump has every right to nominate the candidate of his choice, but there is to be no final cloture allowed on the motion to confirm the nomination before the election. Thus the election can be conducted with the question of the acceptability of his nomination implicit in the verdicts of the voters, and the vetting of the candidate can go forward in good faith. If Trump and the Republican Senate should lose, they could go forward with the vote during the lame duck session, but at their own peril, knowing that the gloves would come off in terms of future Senate rules. 

Ideally, the new Congress can consider the qualifications of the candidate after being sworn in. Or not. All that is required is that McConnell agree not to close off the filibuster before Election Day. 

McConnell knows all this, but will give away nothing unless he must. 

He will attempt a hard line on starting immediately with the confirmation as soon as the person is named. There will be "concern" from several Republican Senators and within their ranks, maybe a thin group of binding No votes on a summary process (like the impeachment trial was). Sen. Collins can be relied upon to oppose an immediate vote, and so can Sen. Murkowski. Romney is more than just a possible roadblock.  
The fourth known potential defector (four are needed) is one who's specifically excluded a vote during election time in the past. South Carolina Senator Lindsay 'Gollum' Graham, in the electoral fight of his life, will choose the slimiest route toward the sea on this troublesome vote. His self-serving logic I believe looks like this: if he sticks with Trump on this one, he may or may not win his re-election, but if Trump wins and Graham loses, he could still maybe get a Cabinet post, specifically Secretary of Defense, a job which would certainly open up in that case. So the odds are better that way (in his calculation) than for sticking to the principle to which he invited all to hold him accountable. What that translates into in Graham's behavior will be a call for proceeding "with normal order" (as if an upcoming election does not always disrupt normal business) and then extravagantly praising the nominee and calling for approval by acclamation. 

This won't hurt McConnell in his contested re-election campaign, which for him is just about bringing home his state's base of support. It may hurt his chances of holding onto Senate control, though. Putting incumbents in tough races (IA, CO, AZ, and especially NC as examples) into a bind may backfire. My reading of his public statements does not commit him to a vote before the election, only before the end of the year. I will look for him to prepare the way (all the hearings and meetings that can be arranged), but actually hold the meaningful votes in the weeks immediately following the election, whatever the outcome. 

For Mitch, whether Donald Trump wins or not is irrelevant: Like he is for Putin, Drumpf is McConnell's useful idiot he can do without if necessary. But the SCOTUS seat for McConnell is of paramount importance. That, and somehow preventing the Democrats from reversing his weight on the scales of justice after he and his crew depart, as they must soon.

Post P-M:
  I should've posted the above last night (Sunday the 20th) but for some technical issue with the new interface on blogspot.   I watched the touching Mitch speech to commemorate RBG, followed immediately by his line in the sand.  I still see the confirmation vote being sometime in the range of Nov. 14-21, whether the election outcome is Yea, Nay, or still being counted.   That is about the best they can do, except appeal to hypothetical Republican consciences. 

I don't see this changing the Presidential race much; I do see this impacting some Senate races, and raising the level of awareness of its importance.  Unlike some others, I think this "principled stand" Sen. Collins is taking might help her save her seat.  

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Policy Proposal for Joe

VP Biden should announce that he will propose a National Institute for Home Health Work.  

In doing so, he will allow us to address a critical future need of our society and develop the value of a widespread, under-trained and under-paid service. 

Why Home Health Work?  - It is a demographic fact that the numbers of retired people, at all levels of health, are increasing dramatically, and we should expect those to continue.  

The coronavirus epidemic in the US and other countries has shown us that concentrations of people with compromised health conditions can be explosively dangerous in the case of contagious disease.  Many or most retirees would prefer to live at home, if the right care can be provided to them. 

The quality of service provided by home healthcare providers is, in general, not good enough.  In the employment marketplace today, that work is understood to be underpaid and unstable, with its main advantage being easy entry,  great demand, and easy exit.  A few manage to land private placements with more stability, but most wash out or give up. 

That is not the kind of care that people need.  There is an identifiable range of necessary skills, from first aid, medication assistance, and making good judgement calls on emergency assistance, to practical things like assisting around the house, cooking, and helping with transportation for clients.  A nationally-recognized certification and training program would assist agencies in finding qualified employees, who would legitimately expect to be paid better than today's norm. 

How? and Where? -  Most of the training needs to be done remotely, through a thin network of accredited centers which primarily recruit and coordinate, providing technical communications assistance as needed, as well.

The rollout should look like this: 

  • Bring in a small group of experienced workers, public health and safety experts, and trainers from top-rated agencies and video training experts to develop curriculum. 
  • Recruit initial groups from among top-rated home health workers to 'train the trainers'. Ensure maximum diversity.  These trainers are the permanent employees of the institute and would create a new professional corps.
  • Fine-tune the balance of "lectures", "interactive discussions", and "hands-on monitored sessions", adjusting over time with feedback from trainers.  Provide secondary assistance in a variety of foreign languages, and create an additional language certification for workers able to assist in them. 
  • Testing of learners should similarly engage online, written, and hands-on demonstrations.  The goal is to provide valid credentials and guide learners to additional training where necessary before going or returning to the field. 

The location of the Institute should be in South Florida.  That's where the greatest numbers of both clients and potential learners reside.  Other centers should be in similar magnet areas where there is unmet demand for high-quality home health workers. 

I would make a rough estimate that the whole process to initiate and roll out the program would cost $500 million.  After that, the annual cost of the service should be no more than one-tenth that; clearly the service should charge a fee, but it should be one that recognizes the public value being created, and the length of the course--some 3-6 months for workers with previous experience, a year for those without--will make it cost-effective for tens of thousands. 

Someone who has access please pass this on to the Biden-Harris campaign!  


Wednesday, September 09, 2020

He Did the Kenosha Kid

Why Wisconsin? 

There are many possible paths for the Electoral College vote.  Some, like a Biden collapse, a Trump resignation, or a huge Democratic wave, are real but relatively unlikely.  If most of the states fall out in accordance with historical patterns and continuing recent trends, some number like the low 200's can be expected to fall out to each side.   This excludes surprise scenarios like Biden winning TX, GA, OH, or IA, and Trump winning states like NH, NV, NM, and, importantly, MI.  It has been reliably reported that the Trump campaign has pulled its TV ad buys there, and polls publicly reported are showing Biden's lead now just above the margin of error.  

So, the starting point for this main scenario is a 238-203 Democratic lead.  

Here's the visual image: Endgame scenario - pt. 1

The ones not assigned are the remaining "battleground states"--FL, PA, AZ, WI, NC, and (newly-added to the list) MN; also two single-vote congressional districts in the two states that divide their votes up that way:  the Second Congressional district of Maine and of Nebraska (ME-2 and NE-2).  Remarkably, both are expected to be close. 

Florida and Pennsylvania are two states both campaigns have at the top of their priorities:  if Biden can win both, in this high-likelihood scenario he has the win; if Trump gets both, with North Carolina Trump is at the verge.  Let's divide them, though, according to the preponderance of recent elections--FL and NC to Trump and PA to Biden.  

This brings it to the grim endgame scenario, Biden up to 258-247.  (Here's a link to see that scenario:   Grim endgame) In order to win, Trump needs two of the remaining states (MN, WI, or AZ), and one or two of the single-vote districts. (Or all three, of course).  Biden needs one of them, with one or two of the secondary targets.   

This is why Trump had to go to Kenosha.  The national Trump campaign is working the "Law'N Order tactic", and the purpose was not to console Jason Blake, paralyzed by multiple shots in the back, but to stir up more resentment among those who felt their security endangered by the uprisings against police violence. This was targeting the suburbs of WI, MN (shaken by the George Floyd killing and its aftermath), and all-important PA.  

As for AZ, I have heard that Trump has pulled ads there, and Biden continues to show small leads in this state, which is trending Democratic after a long, uninterrupted string of Republican Presidential wins there.  I predict the Republicans will try to regroup around a law 'n' order themed attack, especially if there is some kind of domestic strife in Phoenix's Maricopa County.   Finally, a tell that this endgame strategy is fully in play will be special effort in those two Congressional districts (ones Obama won that went narrowly to Trump in 2016), the Omaha area of Nebraska and rural upstate Maine. 

So far, though, there is little evidence the George Wallace-ite approach has moved voters enough in those  key states.  For this, I can give some credit to the much-discredited discernment of the electorate.   

Tuesday, September 01, 2020

Boiling Over

 If that new managed account is doing reasonably well, I'd look to move some additional money to it from the big Discover savings account (which is now paying only about 1% interest).  In the meantime, it can wait a few weeks.  Third quarter earnings reports in October will be watched unusually closely. 

* * * * 

Oh, sorry, wrong Clipboard.  

Here is a response I wrote on dailykos just now in response to an article citing Trevor Noah's " quote:

Enough with this "militia" bullshit. This isn't the Battle of Yorktown. It's a bunch of dudes threatening people with guns. 

“Dudes threatening people with guns” is bad enough; it leads to armed, violent encounters.  Like Kenosha, but worse.  

On the other hand ‘dudes with guns who threaten people’ is worse. 

We must expect that, in the leading nation of the day, in this technologized era,  ‘people’ are presumably unarmed.  Threatening unarmed people with even ‘unloaded’ weapons is a crime!  Unfortunately, in this nation at this time, we cannot assume that. There is one flaw: Can you find it? 

* * * * 

I've seen a lot of discussion and points being asserted with regard to two recent national polls showing a six-percent margin, as opposed to the nine-point ones in recent weeks.  The press release from Yahoo! was typical, highlighting this alleged trend, instead of this more interesting bit:  

The new Yahoo News-YouGov poll shows that nearly every voter in America has made up his or her mind, with 96 percent Biden and Trump supporters now saying they have decided how they will vote — up 2 percent from when the same voters were surveyed in late July. Only 8 percent remain undecided"

Despite the faulty math, the fact remains that there is only a small percentage of leaners to be decided in the debates and campaign shows.  The real game is about getting those votes in and counted. 

Response to bhatman

Oh, yeah.  Simple choice:  It's the Biden-Harris ticket, or shitting oneself on the toilet, once again.  No other choice. At some point, the flush is going to give out.  

Chinese and Russian tyrannies are looking for signs of decrepitude in our republic they can exploit.  Japan is going to be a surprise watchpoint in foreign affairs.   Meanwhile, our lawlessness is showing, once again.   Brazil is always the country of the future.  With luck, we could be Brazil soon.  

Ever see the movie 'Brazil'?  Great satire, one I usually forget to mention when making lists of my very favorite genre. 

* * * * 
One of Fareed Zakaria's best shows ever last week.  How the rest of the world sees us.  (Available on podcast.)  I find that our fellow humans are being somewhat patient, maybe seeing the end better than we; the fires of war abroad are smoldering, rather than burning, and they would prefer to have our "leadership" when the crunches come.  Translation:  regime change, please!

Edit--added 9/9/20: 
Comment (9/3) on a Haaretz article, titled "Netanyahu May Be Just as Corrupt and Disruptive, but He’s No Match for Trump in Terms of Crazy", by Chemi Shalev: 

who is the better con man, Bibi or Drumpf? Netanyahu's con deserves respect for its long run and complexity, but Donald trumps him with its world-historical audacity.
Can he succeed in the end, get away clean? His US holdings may be forfeit in the end, but the outfit can probably continue on thru JaredCo. As for exile, he's trying to swing Istanbul. In preference to a dacha in Yalta. I'm thinking Ankara.


Saturday, July 04, 2020

Pure (Prairie) Politics League--Short-Term Considerations

(In honor of the new PPP, the Paycheck Protection Program, a good bit of improvisation.)

I was an ActBlue junkie
I love ActBlue, and there is much to say in favor of it:   it is one of the Democratic party's most effective weapons, greatly facilitating impulse contributions from its sympathizers.  Contributors feel, correctly, that someone is listening.   Analysis of which responses elicit the donate reflex is sophisticated, subtle, multi-dimensional. If one believes that electoral competition is a dynamic synthesis of ideas, then the algorithms used will help make it so, in the interest of maximizing power (money).

My intention in 2019 was to encourage good arguments, causes I support, and electoral  participation.  My usual answer to an appeal I like was to give them the very small number they initially ask for, like to a mendicant ($3 is that most frequent ask amount), but if not, I give $20.20,  Then I like to see whether they have record of the previous amount(s) the next time(s).  Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't.  Sanders' database managers are one of the best, from this angle.

The bad news is the lack of strategic consideration in this impulse buying.  My objective in 2020 giving must be to assist specific electoral outcomes.  My budget for direct contributions is $1000--I have to stick to it, for hygienic reasons.  10 months to November, $100 each month, ideally two donation recipients, $50 each.  Sorry, that's it, though "in kind" contributions are certainly being considered. Progress report below.

The vice I have traded this one (reading 20-200 emails a day asking for money, and spending money on the ones I like) for is active monitoring of my hobby account.  It's cheap entertainment:  I have put in a total of $200 over five years, and I make lots of small bets, small comments on the site, and adjust constantly.  I will refer to it some below.

Four More Months
Four months ago, Joe Biden had just turned it around in South Carolina and was preparing to wipe out the competition on Super Tuesday, the endorsements suddenly flooding in.  The economy had not yet collapsed due to virus spread.  President Trump's favorability was nearing a record high after surviving the impeachment trial; polls showed a small Biden lead but the incumbent was generally favored.

That's how quickly things have changed, so they could change again.

It is possible to construct an electoral scenario in which Trump keeps self-destructing all the way through the election.  The popular vote margin, now polling at 10 points, could keep expanding, to 15-20 points.  The Electoral College vote for Biden could break 400 votes, a margin of over 250; Texas would be the tipping point for a real blowout, even bigger than Obama's win over McCain. It has happened before, though not yet in this century.

It's a hopeful thought, though it can only happen if this series of unfortunate events deepens.  It could happen; there are a variety of unpleasant October surprises no doubt lurking due to past Trump offenses, like the one that happened in late-June instead this week (with the revelation of bounty payments offered by the Russian GRU to Afghanis to kill our soldiers), with Trump once again looking to be the Mad King no one dares to cross.

I think it much more likely that the race will tighten.  Just as Democrats who didn't care for Biden have had to come to terms and back the guy chosen as champion for their side, many Republicans or Republican-leaning independents would love to come back to Trump if he earns back the confidence he has shaken in these months.  The economy will certainly show some improvement from its trough in the second quarter.  We should expect Trump's approval number to rise from the high-30's to the usual 42-43%.

The other change I expect is the effect due to the changes between registered voters and actual voters.  I don't see an enthusiasm gap at all, but I see a lot of potential obstacles, in many states, which will have disproportionate effects.  Voter suppression efforts, combined with disruptive coronavirus effects, could erode the Democrats' turnout more than their opponents'.

Here's a map of where sentiment lies now, backed by Predictit bettors' money, on the individual state markets (and Congressional district ones, where applicable), for the 2020 Presidential election:

Click the map to create your own at
Key:  Tossup--margin between Republican vs. Democrat in the market is 15% or less, either way; Lean - margin is 16-45%; Like is 46-75%; Safe is 76%or more. 

The Senate Map
(Same approach.  Keep this one in mind, too--it's just as important as how big Biden's win must be.)

Click the map to create your own at

If I (Joe Biden Campaign/DNC) had $200 million to invest right now (and they do), I (they) would see that the challenge is that the US is such a "target-rich environment" (as Donald Rumsfeld might say). This is how I'd spend it, by state: 

A. Primary Targets

Pennsylvania/Michigan--$25 million each.  Joe Biden must win these to justify his nomination, which basically rests on the assertion that his candidacy has the best chance to win back these two states, and their 36 Electoral College votes, that went narrowly to Trump and were critical to his victory.  If one looks at the map above, with MI (just moved to "Likely" over "Lean" in Predictit) and adding PA to the Solid and Likely sum, Biden gets to 268 electoral votes.  If he secures these, he needs only two more, from somewhere.

Florida - $40 million.   The state has surely frustrated in the past, but Democrats can win it--Obama did it twice. Trump, with the assistance of acolyte Governor Rick De Santis, has given Biden a golden opportunity, and some additional seniors have been persuadable about Trump's incontestable incompetence.  If Biden wins FL, it's pretty much OVER--it could even make up for inexplicably losing MI or PA (but not both).  Florida's population resembles the US' as a whole in many ways (though a few points more Republican), so the popular vote shift in Biden's favor (vs. HRC's in '16) should translate well in FL.

Arizona/Wisconsin - $15 million each.  These are the best opportunities for additional electoral votes, after PI, MI, and FL.  Biden needs only one of the two, and Arizona (like FL, a Covid-19 disaster area with a GOP Governor mishandling the pandemic) is very promising from all indications, also a huge Senate seat prospect.  WI will be a war, but it must be engaged, again.

B. Secondary Prospects
Georgia, North Carolina, Iowa, Texas - $7 million each.   These are the opportunities to make Biden's win truly historic.  They rise to the top of the many possibly blue-ing states because of the chances to win a Senate seat downballot.  GA has two seats that can be won, a rare opportunity that could be squandered without full support, while Iowa (the worst Biden state in the primaries) is now looking possible for both Biden and Senate candidate Theresa Greenfield to win.  North Carolina has 15 winnable EV and a winnable Senate seat, too, with a fair election.  (GA and NC money should go in large part for pollwatchers and lawyers).  Texas has the same opportunities--less likely, but even more transcendent in their potential historical impact.

C. The Rest 43 other states/entities - $1 million each.  This includes DC and Puerto Rico (in support of Carmen Yulin's run for governor there).  Bonus $1 million grants:  MT, ME, SC, AL, for their important Senate races;  MN, NH to defend competitive '16 Clinton states;  OH, just because; and Nebraska and Maine (again), $1 million extra for special effort in each of the two states' 2nd Congressional district.  In the bad-case scenario of 268 Democratic Electoral Votes described above, the door out of that room is winning those two marginal districts in states which have their electoral votes divided up by district.

"Slow Down on Testing"
No, he doesn't "kid"--though he's still one emotionally. He lies. With measurable and predictable frequency.

Rather, he makes stuff up--it just comes to him, usually from the Ego, but sometimes from the Id.  He doesn't filter it, not often, but just "says what he thinks".  The key for him is what he sees as the result of his trial effort.  If it seems to work for him (by his standards), it becomes part of his repertoire.  If the reaction doesn't please him, it's discarded.

This process is something that Donald Trump is incapable of understanding, lest it change "the way he thinks", which is the one thing that is all-important to him.  He could never be capable of explaining it coherently (or even 'covfefely'). So, when he got challenged on it, he came back with the "strong" response, which his conscious mind might have realized was the wrong answer, an idiotic one.

The latest indignity is the news that the E.U. is banning Americans, along with some other countries that are experiencing higher coronavirus infection rates than any of the European ones these days. This is to be a temporary measure, but I find it rather astounding nevertheless.  It is an administrative nightmare, to which penning Americans with the relatively-smaller number of other foreign travelers (not from East Asia) simply adds.   It would be a wonderful gift to the U.K., which is busy failing with Brexit and needs a boost badly (try London City Airport to avoid Heathrow), but the U.K. is theoretically still in the E.U. for this purpose--it will be interesting to see if the Brits follow F. Mac's advice and "go their own way" on this one. It would, of course, devastate many potential travelers' plans and give another mortal blow to airlines.

Europe, in theory, is justified in protecting itself, apart from any political consideration.  The US has reopened before it had the initial outbreak under control.  That is a fact. The answer is a testing regime for travelers, including post-arrival quarantine of 7 days, and evidence of a return ticket paid for.  For Trump, though, this is an embarrassment he richly deserved, and it may explain why he might plead for less tests, in his ignorant view.  The fact is that the E.U.'s evaluation required nations to show positive results, in terms of tests taken and low infection rates more proven.

Rolling Some Numbers
We have now blown out the projection I made of 80,000 Cv deaths in the US in the initial wave.  The way I was looking at it then, it should've trended, about July 1, toward zero, as many European countries have now done--something like the 110,000 number it busted through recently.  But now, it is accelerating once again and is projected, in Dr. Murray's new-and-improved forecasts, to reach some 190,000 by October.

It is arguable that what we are experiencing is the rolling continuation of the first wave as it hit more-densely populated areas less intimately connected to the initial sites of domestic infection, and less protected from rapid spread.  Because one thing we have learned of this virus is its great ability to spread, its R-nought.  It was initially estimated between 2 and 3 and projected based on that, but now I am hearing numbers over 5 among unprotected populations.  At that level, it's gonna spread, and eventually will overcome all but the strictest limits.  But these more remote areas now having the highest infection rates might have been protected if we had a plan to do so.

Happy birthday, Concept of the United States of America!