Thursday, November 29, 2018

The J is for Genius




Time and time again we hear Trump profess how smart he is.  At one time he was ready to challenge Rex Tillerson to an IQ test when it was revealed the former Secretary of State had called Trump a fucking moron.  He may have topped that audacious challenge with his recent proclamation that he is too intelligent to believe in climate change.

Tillerson wasn't the only political ally or close adviser to call him an idiot.  The list is pretty long.  You might notice that all of these persons are now gone.  He doesn't take kindly to anyone questioning his intelligence.

We've come to understand that the White House doesn't like facts that counter its policy decisions.  You can call it the inconvenient truth or whatever you like, but the most recent report on climate change was released by the White House.  Trump, however, chose to openly refute it, as he did a previous CIA assessment that the Saudi Crown Prince was fully aware of what transpired at the Saudi embassy in Turkey.  Never have we had a White House that so regularly disputes its own findings.

When Bush wanted a favorable assessment of Iraq's WMD's in his build-up to his war with Iraq, he got the CIA to provide him one.  The report was disputed by the UN and other international agencies, but the WH and the CIA were on the same page.  Similarly, Bush formed an Energy Task Force to provide him with a favorable report to support his push for environmental deregulations that would allow the US to tap into more of its oil reserves, initiate fracking, and build more oil pipelines in environmentally-sensitive areas to counteract rising oil prices.

Trump seems to have no idea what is going on in the White House, and for that matter neither do his closest advisers, who were similarly blindsided by this 1600-page report, compiled by 13 federal agencies, which obviously took months if not years to prepare.  Most likely it had been commissioned by the previous administration and no one was smart enough to cancel it when Trump came into office.  Just like no one seems to have discovered the solar panels on the WH roof that Obama had reinstalled after Reagan had taken them down in the 80s.

Our brilliant president seems clueless about a great many things, yet he continues to promote his "natural instinct for science," his ability to see through CIA and military intelligence reports, as well as his general disdain for troublesome news that cuts into his television time.

The climate change report is a little more difficult to dismiss, but Trump is once again relying on American skepticism to back him.  He also has his talking heads at Fox and CNN doing their best to downgrade the report to that of paid scientists promoting worst-case scenarios that most likely will never happen.  Katherine Hayhoe, who co-authored the report, was "bumped" by CNN in favor of paid contributor Rick Santorum, who accused Hayhoe and other scientists of being paid to produce these "alarmist theories."  Trump, who recently called for a "government-run TV news network" appears to have his friends at Fox and CNN.

Trump is also unaware of PBS and VOA, both news agencies of the federal government.  In addition there is the American Forces Network.  For someone so intelligent, he seems oblivious to the range of news his own government provides.  Instead, he has turned Twitter into the Voice of the President.  I guess we can call it VOP for short.  The whole world is hinged or rather becomes unhinged on his every tweet.

We could dismiss this all as the madness of a preening president if it didn't have such dire consequences.  Climate change is real, just as the Crowned Prince was fully aware of the atrocious killing of Jamal Khashoggi.   Trump can deny the laws of gravity for that matter, but it doesn't make it any less real.  He will still fall flat on his face tripping over his own statements.

The key is not just to point out Trump's many false declarations but to quit allowing paid shills like Rick Santorum, David Urban, Andre Bauer and many others to echo these ridiculous statements on CNN and other mainstream news networks.  What's worse is that you have television syndicates like Sinclair Broadcast Group that own an inordinate share of local television stations and shove Boris Epshyteyn onto unsuspecting audiences in the form of "must-run" commentary. This forces us to have to recognize these absurd positions rather than gain a deeper understanding of how climate change is impacting our lives, and why we should be more concerned with what Saudi Arabia is doing.

One can argue, as Rachel Maddow often does, that Trump is fully aware of the game he is playing on the American public, but more likely we are dealing with a man in the deepest stage of dementia, no longer accountable for anything he says, recently comparing himself to Elvis.  This maybe why his lawyers are so afraid to have him directly confront Robert Mueller, preferring instead to answer the special counsel's questions for the president.

It will be interesting to see what a new Congress has to say about our "stable genius," as more and more information comes available in the coming months on a wide variety of his affairs.  Maybe reality will finally have a chance to kick Donald J. Trump in the ass?

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Where Do We Go From Here?




Bernie appears to be channeling Martin Luther King Jr. in his latest book.  The title is derived from one of King's landmark speeches in the wake of the Civil Rights Act.  Pretty hard to top that powerful speech.  Not that Bernie really tries.  For all I know, he's a fan of Peter Sarstedt.

His is an account of his ongoing campaign against corporate America, venting his frustration on the Trumpian world we now live in and taking credit for liberal upstarts like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who he thinks give his "movement" legitimacy.   He is particularly scornful of corporate media for constantly belittling his brand of social democracy.  However, this NPR reviewer wasn't overly impressed, noting that the book is a slog offering little insight into the man or his mission.

Bernie is another Eugene McCarthy, who ran for president in 1968, and actually won more votes in the primaries than Robert F. Kennedy, only to lose on delegates at the convention to Hubert Humphrey after RFK's untimely death.  Ironically, Humphrey never really entered the campaign.  He had a paltry 116,000 votes to McCarthy's 2.9 million, but the Democratic establishment didn't like McCarthy and so gave the nomination to Vice-President Humphrey instead.  The convention ended in chaos, just like the campaign, but amazingly Humphrey almost beat Nixon in the general election.  We will never know what would have happened if McCarthy had won the nomination.

One would think Bernie would provide some historic footnotes to his never-ending campaign, but instead he likes to refer to the social democratic governments in Europe.  I suppose in his mind these governments are a success, whereas rehashing McCarthy would only make him look like a loser.  No one likes a loser in this country.

Bernie is the latest incarnation of the Democratic "lost cause."  Before McCarthy there was Henry Wallace and before him William Jennings Bryan, all of whom campaigned on the theme of the common man. Bryan was famous for his "Cross of Gold" speech, before sullying himself with the infamous Scopes Monkey Trial. He had wanted America to switch to the silver standard so that more persons could share in the American dream, but in the end the country stuck with the gold standard in voting for McKinley in 1896.

It seemed to me that the only reason Bernie ran in 2016 was to deny Hillary the Democratic nomination by acclamation.  There were no other serious candidates.  After her failed effort in 2008, the mood among many Democrats was that it was her turn.  Maybe if Bernie hadn't been so critical of her during the primaries, she would have fared better in the general election?  Or, maybe if he had miraculously won the nomination, the Democrats would have kept the White House?  We will never know.

What we do know is that Bernie rekindled a social democratic spark in the party that seemed to ignite in 2018 with a surprising number of young social democrats winning House seats.  Alexandria was just the one Fox "news" chose to vilify.  It is hard to say what impact this will have on the party.  There was some discussion that Pelosi would cede her role as party leader to someone younger and more in step with this movement, but in the end the social democrats chose to support Pelosi rather than risk a contentious fight within the party.

Some would say this is a smart move.  It presents a unified front in what will be a very contentious two years.  Hard to say what Bernie thinks from the short review in NPR, but I imagine he has his concerns, as he always does.

There is no denying Bernie gave the Democratic Party a badly needed emotional lift, but given the unprecedented number of Democratic women who were elected to Congress,  #MeToo played a strong factor as well.  This owes its genesis to how badly Hillary was treated in 2016, far worse than anything Bernie had to suffer through.

I won't use the word never, but it is rare to see a candidate suffer so much abuse for things she didn't do.  Hillary wasn't a bad candidate. She had a horrible campaign manager, John Podesta, who didn't do enough to challenge these absurd claims.  He decided to play it safe in the general election rather than take the campaign to the heartland of the country, where ultimately it was fought.  How else to explain a one million vote swing between 2012 and 2016 in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin?  These were all states Obama won handily before.  Obama had also won Ohio and Florida, but just holding onto these three "Rust Belt" states would have been enough to put Hillary over the top.

For some reason, Hillary doesn't criticize Podesta in her book, at least not that I've read in reviews.  He had served as her husband's chief of staff from 1998-2001, so they were old friends.  Yet, Podesta was probably the last person she should have picked to run her campaign, given he didn't seem to have a single imaginative bone in his body and in the end his "play it safe" strategy cost them valuable Democratic real estate.

Bernie saw this, but couldn't quite generate enough excitement to get the party to recognize the dynamic had changed in the last four years.  This had been true for McCarthy back in 1968, who wanted to see a more liberal Democratic Party really take on the corporate establishment.  Instead, we got Humphrey.  It wasn't like Humphrey was a bad guy, but he was too conservative, too mired in the old way of doing things, and ultimately too boring for the American electorate, even if he did only lose by 500,000 votes, or 0.7 per cent, to Nixon.

Now we have fresh young faces like Beto O'Rourke, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and Julian Castro to choose from in 2020.  Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is too young to run for President.  She will have to wait until 2024 or beyond.  This casts a decidedly different glow to the next Presidential election, one in which youth will hopefully be served.  Democrats have usually fared better with younger candidates.  Bernie can claim to be the godfather of these political young turks.  The Clinton dynasty finally appears over, although there remain rumors Hillary is not done yet.

Whatever the case, we could all learn from Martin Luther King Jr.'s great speech back in 1967.  One it appears Beto took to heart in running his surprising grass roots campaign in Texas.  You can't put out darkness with darkness.  Only light can do that.  You must show people a light, a ray of hope, you must show them love.   Above all things, you must appeal to the common good in people.

Don't be afraid to borrow a few words from Jesus as MLK Jr. did, or William Jennings Bryan long before him.  After all, this is a country where 70% of the population professes to be Christian.  There is no reason to cede the evangelical vote to the Republicans.  Go out there into the heartland and stir them up with a few religious parables of your own.  They are just as much frustrated by the current state of things as we all are.

As MLK Jr. so evocatively said in acknowledging a greater creative force in the universe, "Let us realize that the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Who killed the American car?


The Beast


Shades of 2008 as we see American auto companies struggling again, largely because their attempt to shift to smaller, economical cars hasn't taken hold of the American imagination, which remains obsessed with gas-guzzling SUVs and trucks.  GM announced it will close down eight auto plants, at least five in the "Rust Belt" because its sedans aren't selling.  This includes the Chevy Volt, its venture into electric cars.  Ford is similarly struggling.  Chrysler remains a work in progress, relying largely on Fiat to keep it going.  It too sees most of its sales in SUVs and vanity cars like the Charger and Challenger.  None of these companies have been able to market a successful electric car.  Ford has its economical Focus, with an EV version, but isn't a high-demand car.  Ford has had more success marketing its super-charged Mustang.

Of course, our Jobmaker-in-Chief is none too happy about this turn of events.  He had promised more industrial plants, not less in the Rust Belt, which he carried in 2016 largely on these false promises.  It was known then that these auto companies wouldn't deliver, but he tried to strong arm them into doing so, and now vents his wrath on twitter.  This doesn't bode well for 2020 but somehow Trump will manage to foist the blame on the auto companies.

To some degree it is the automakers' fault for not using the last ten years to more successfully market small cars.  Instead, it catered to the insatiable American demand for bigger engines and bigger vehicles.  Dodge boasts that its 2018 Challenger has a Hellcat V-8 engine that can produce 707 horsepower, which translates into 16 miles per gallon.  No wonder Americans complain about gas prices as they continue to buy these gas guzzlers.

The funny part is that the Tesla Model 3 has far better overall performance and is an electric car.  Yet, these auto companies won't invest in high performance electric cars, which are all the rage now.  There is even a Formula E world championship that began in 2014, featuring fully electric Formula racing cars.

This is what happens when you get a new president who doesn't make any attempt to follow up on his predecessor, who had urged American auto companies to get in on the game before it was too late, and offered tax incentives to do so.  Instead, Trump would like to see the "Big Three" bring back coal-powered cars.

The absurdity of the situation is not lost on auto experts.  Unless you are an aficionado of muscle cars there isn't much to rave about in regard to the cars the Big Three are putting out these days.  Even among compact trucks, the Honda Ridgeline and Toyota Tacoma beat out American trucks.

Lack of innovation, lack of marketing strategies, lack of any sense of what is really driving the automotive industry is once again leading to the collapse of the American automotive industry.  Another bailout is on the horizon.

When it comes to electric cars, which are all the rage in Europe, Chevy never saw the Volt as anything more than a concession to Obama's demand for more environmental-friendly cars.  For decades, the oil and automotive industries tried to kill the electric car until Tesla came along and made the electric car sexy.  The Volt is the bucktoothed country girl of electric cars.  GM has done little to make this car more appealing, focusing instead on SUVs and trucks, which it continues to push on the public.

Americans have grown up on this idea of big cars and big trucks, and no oil crisis or government mandates will deter them from the dream of owning the ultimate muscle car or six-wheeler.  The electric car is seen as a Hollywood fetish and of no practical use on the open road.  It doesn't matter that you can find EV charging stations in almost any Walmart parking lot, and Tesla offers superchargers throughout the country, except in oil-rich North Dakota.  We continue to live with this pre-1973 view of the automotive world because it suits our fantasies.

No one is more lost in these fantasies than Donald J. Trump.  His administration froze fuel-efficiency requirements on the automotive companies in August, using some of the most absurd claims you can imagine.  This from a guy who rides around in the Beast courtesy of GM.  I guess he figures General Motors owes him, although this new fleet of Presidential limos was ordered by the previous administration as a good will gesture to the bailed-out company.

As the old saying goes, you reap what you sow.  Trump went out of his way to accommodate the American auto companies, despite the fact these companies are woefully incapable of managing themselves.  They have repeatedly failed to keep up with automotive trends around the world, and the taxpayer is left to pick up the tab.  GM cost the US government $50 billion in 2008, $11 billion still outstanding.  Chrysler cost nearly $11 billion, with Fiat picking up most of the tab when they bought the company in 2011.  Now, we will have to go through this process all over again as these companies struggle to keep afloat in a rapidly changing automotive world.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Say Goodbye to the Big Box

... while supplies last




Fortunately, Black Friday isn't the stampede in Lithuania as it is in America.  You are relatively safe going to the shopping mall.  Never could figure out why so many persons go batshit crazy over this day other than it has become a rite of passage in America, imagining what it is like if actually this was the last run on the stores before the Apocalypse. 

Many Eastern European countries actually had to go through this in the waning days of the Soviet Union when there were long lines for just about every product, as so few were available.  Even in the early days of independence, or restoration as they call it in Lithuania, supplies were limited, and persons tended to stock up on essential items.  There were long lines at gas stations because you didn't know if Russia would issue another oil blockade.  Even still there is fear that Russia could launch an attack at anytime given its oversized military base in Kaliningrad, which is sandwiched between Lithuania and Poland.  Hence the popularity of large supply outlets at discounted prices.

What makes Black Friday even more ridiculous is that all the online stores have Cyber Monday, pretty much negating all those great deals you thought you were getting at Target and Best Buy and whatever.  I suppose with so many of the big-box stores closing down there were some great stock clearances.  Sears, JC Penney, Kmart and even Macy's are closing a big number of their superstores around the country.  It is pretty much the end of an era as more and more people shop online.  Why wouldn't you when you can have all these items delivered to your doorstop or nearby package drop box, saving you the hassle of going to the mall.

Malls still try to find ways to lure you in with their huge cineplexes and crazy attractions.  The first mall in Vilnius was built around an indoor ice rink and is still quite popular.  Others offer carting, roof top dinosaurs and all kinds of special attractions like a 3D Van Gogh exhibit.  There are also food courts, featuring KFC and Pizza Hut, and fitness centers to keep the malls lively.  Kids still like to hang out in them.

I suppose it is the same in America.  The Mall of America, located in Minneapolis, Minnesota, even offers a one-stop Chapel of Love where you can fit yourself for a wedding and get married all in one outlet.  It seems people still love malls and superstores when they become events.

Nevertheless, we are increasingly moving toward a cyber economy.  What started as a trickle has now become a flood with many of the old big box stores struggling to keep up with amazon, which gobbles up 40% of the online sales in America.  The writing was on the wall when amazon pushed many of the big book stores out of business ten years ago.  Now the surviving big boxes fight to keep alive, including Walmart, the once invincible bastion of the big boxes.

If you live abroad like I do, you can get pretty much anything you want through amazon, and get some pretty good deals through amazon marketplace.  Scrutiny has finally been brought to bear on amazon for its low wages and undercutting prices, much the way Walmart continues to stifle its competitors.  Amazon is a trillion dollar company today, bigger than Walmart or any other former giant retailer.  Still, there is room for the small retailer, selling his or her goods through marketplace, with a nominal user fee.  Walmart crushed the small retailer with its superstores.  There was no way to compete with its "everyday low prices" at one time.

Some people still pine for the old days, angry that more and more stores now use automated check out stations and that you are hard pressed to find assistance in the vast warehouse spaces.  Mom and Pop stores are making a comeback by specializing in hard to find items.  This is especially true of  vinyl shops, eccentric bookstores, and shops that peddle the latest fashionable items like Fjallraven backpacks, which is probably already out of style if I'm aware of it.  I saw this in Budapest where specialty shops are thriving.  I imagine it is the same in America.

This has forced some of the big box stores to scale down and offer more cozy shopping environments.  After all, you can always have big warehouses or use logistic centers to store your items and ship them out on demand.  In many ways, this is throwback to the old catalog stores where you could order your item and wait a few days to get it.  Today, it is only a matter of hours, but then you can do the same thing online.  You can even literally flip through catalogs on Ikea and other websites.

Competition is tough.  Victoria's Secret is feeling the heat with so many rival lingerie companies now available with your favorite bras and panties from petite to plus sizes.  Buyers aren't so much interested in angels as they are fun undergarmets that capture their mood.  Take Happy Socks as an example.

The Big Store will soon be no more, except maybe in a few select locations where it can pull out all the stops and turn shopping into an experience, like it used to be in the good old days.  However, is the effort worth it?  It costs a lot of money to keep a giant flagship store like Macy's going, and the return on investment is making CEO's skittish.  That Thanksgiving Day parade doesn't come cheap.  Soon there will be no more social barriers to exploit.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Turkey Day




Trump spends the weekend in Mar-a-Lago while 5200 troops are stationed along the Mexican border.  Our President called to remind them to stay vigilant, but where they are stationed (Texas) and where the migrants finally arrived (Tijuana) are well over a thousand miles apart.  Just one of the many absurdities highlighting this Thanksgiving weekend.

At least the troops will get a huge repast with over 51,000 pounds of turkey, 16,000 pounds of sweet potatoes, 81,000 pies, 19,000 cakes and 8000 gallons of eggnog.  They can watch the Dallas-Washington football game on big screens, as there won't be much to worry about along the border.

With the President under fire again, House Republicans provided cover by handing subpoenas to James Comey and Loretta Lynch for one last go-around in regard to Hillary's e-mails before they are shown the door at the end of the year.   The do-nothing Congress, whose only notable accomplishment these past two years was a $1.5 trillion tax cut that put our government a further $1.5 trillion in debt, would like us to think they are still on it.  Yet, no mention of Ivanka similarly caught using a personal email account to conduct government business or five other advisers who did the same, thereby potentially exposing government records to foreign agents.

We've come to expect this double standard from Republicans.  The infamous email scandal was nothing more than an attempt to undermine Hillary's 2016 campaign, just as sending troops to the border was a brazen attempt to stoke fears among the conservative base during the midterms.  In this Age of Trump everything is out in the open and no one seems to mind.  What is odd is that it apparently only works for Trump.  When other Republicans adopt the Trumpian in-your-face politicking they fall miserably flat on their face.

It will take a big Thanksgiving weekend boost to lift Cindy Hyde-Smith's campaign after multiple missteps since the general election.  She edged out Mike Espy in the statewide election, but in Mississippi you need 50% to be declared the winner and Confederate Cindy fell well short of that mark.  Not only was she extolling public hangings but photos have appeared of her in Confederate regalia at the Jefferson Davis memorial home in 2014.  What's a Southern girl to do?

She was forced to apologize for her hanging remarks, which cut to quick in Mississippi, infamous for all its Jim Crow era lynchings.  Trump dismissed it as a joke while stumping for her in Tupelo, but corporate sponsors weren't laughing.  Whether Espy can pull a monumental upset next Tuesday remains to be seen?  Confederate Cindy's faux pas pale in comparison to Roy Moore's scandals that plagued him last November.

It seems like Republicans are slowly waking up to the fact Trump isn't doing their party a lick of good.  He may have been able to drag some high profile Republican senators across the line in this past election, but the GOP suffered staggering losses in the House, and an Espy surprise win would be one for both the Clintons and Obama, as he worked in both administrations.  Even if he loses, he made the race far too close for comfort.

The rhetoric that fueled the Republican victories in 2016 no longer holds in 2018 and will be even more worn and tired in 2020.  I don't think many Republicans buy it any more, as Democrats outpolled Republicans in the midterms by a whopping 9 million votes nationwide.  This far exceeds the numbers Republicans polled in 2010 when they staged a massive turnover in the House.  Trump being Trump is oblivious to these numbers, or just chalks them up as fake.  In his mind, he is still riding the 2016 wave that carried him to the White House.

Reports say he is more surly than ever, lashing out at everyone around him.  This has made him prone to outrageous remarks on everything from the California fires to Khashloggi's murder, but no problem.  His base continues to support him.  After suffering so much twitter abuse over his rake comment, his trolls have bombarded social media with images of wheel loader root rakes to illustrate what Trump really meant by "rake."  The only problem is that logging crews use these "rakes" to clean up the roots and debris after clearing forests, not to manage them, as Daffy Donald implied.  As for Khashloggi, he has now been linked to every terrorist organization known to man, including the Washington Post.

All this from a President who gave himself an A+ for his first two years in office.  Regrets, he may have had a few but then too few to mention, as the song goes.  No doubt we will now be hearing all about how he put Christmas back into the Holidays, having witnessed the arrival of the White House tree before heading down to Mar-a-Lago.  A staple issue of the religious right wing.

The only thing we have to be thankful for politically is that we start 2019 with a Democratic House.  Whatever more dirt the Republicans manage to dig up on Hillary will be soon forgotten in the wake of the White House investigations we can expect to see from Democratic-led House committees.

It's just too bad his followers will never see the light of day.  They blindly follow their Commander-in-Chief through the charred forests of their once grand old party, with a heavy duty stacking rake on their front-end loader at the vanguard.  Onward Trumpian soldiers!

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

The Hapless Redskins




I don't know what's worse: Washington keeping its ridiculous moniker or the throwback uniforms that hint back to the 70s when the Redskins were led by Joe Theismann?  Owner Dan Snyder has refused to budge on the moniker.  He clings to it like one would an aging brand because of the nostalgic comfort it provides.  He even claims Native Americans accept the moniker, pointing to a poll taken in 2016 that showed few really cared anymore.  They have deeper concerns.

Just the same, Snyder should have dropped the logo and remade the team when he had the chance because the Redskins limp along from season to season, not having been to a Super Bowl since 1992.  That's a pretty long drought for this once formidable team.

To be fair, the Redskins aren't the only team with a Native American moniker.  Kansas City still goes by the Chiefs and Seattle fashioned its Seahawk logo after a transformation mask an artist took from The Art of Northwest Coast Indians.  However, these aren't pejoratives like Redskins, and just to emphasize the point, Washington slapped the face of a red-faced Indian on their helmet.  They used to just have an R.

It also makes sense for Seattle to have a Native American moniker since the name of the city is derived from a former local chief.  Kansas City is also derived from a Lakota Indian word, Kanze, meaning "south wind."  Washington has no Native American history to speak of.  It was a city formed from the swamplands of Virginia and Maryland as the national capital, and so one would think the sports team would opt for something more appropriate like the Nationals and the Capitals.  Hard to know where the Wizards came from, but at least it is better than the Bullets. 

If Abe Pollan could change the nickname of the basketball team because of the ugly connotations of the Bullets, why can't Dan Snyder?  Unfortunately, he has proven just as obstinate as Jack Kent Cooke, who formerly owned the team.  Many thought Snyder would usher in a new era when he bought the team in 1999, but Dan stuck with the Redskins, refusing to give into Native American groups who called for a new moniker.  You might say the team has been cursed ever since.  Snyder has hired a slough of coaches but has had only five winning records during his tenure and has been one and done in all but one playoffs, that in his first year as owner.

It had been a pretty good season so far, but that horrid injury to Alex Smith midway through the third quarter last week pretty much killed it.  Shades of when Joe Theismann went down in 1985, effectively ending his career.  Snyder thought the team had finally found the right magic after shuffling quarterbacks even more than coaches the past six years.  Now, he'll have to see what Colt McCoy can do against the Cowboys tomorrow.

At some point Snyder will give up.  He bought the team for $800 million, a princely sum in 1999, but it is now worth $3.1 billion, the fifth most valuable football franchise despite two decades of mediocrity.  He is almost universally loathed in the NFL, not just because of his inherit racism but also his misogyny.  Several cheerleaders have come out in recent months, describing all the perks Snyder gives his sponsors, like peaking in on a topless photo shoot in Costa Rica.

Again, Snyder isn't the only one to exploit cheerleaders.  The problem is endemic in the NFL and many past and present cheerleaders have come out with horrible stories in recent years.  However, Snyder somehow manages to personify all the worst instincts of the league in one man.  He is to the NFL what Donald Sterling was to the NBA before the basketball league finally forced him out in 2014 over a racist outburst.

If nothing else I would think Washington Redskin fans would have had enough of Snyder, given how badly the team has performed under his ownership.  This is one of the most loyal fan bases in the league, who go by the name Hogs, a soubriquet for the offensive line during the golden years of the team when they won three Super Bowls under Joe Gibbs.  Maybe they can just rename the team Hogs, or if they prefer Wild Boars?  Anything would be better than Redskins.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

All the President's Children




One of the most ironic elements of the Trump White House is how much his kids are involved in his administration.  We were supposed to be so deeply concerned by the return of Bill and the emergence of Chelsea in a Hillary Clinton White House that to vote for Trump was to vote against nepotism.  Yet, here we are with Javanka (Jared and Ivanka) serving as key advisers to the President.  Jared is in a quasi-official capacity as Innovations Director.  The role was made up so that he wouldn't need to have Congressional approval.  Ivanka essentially serves as First Lady.

It doesn't stop there.  Donald Trump Jr. is a very active surrogate on the never-ending campaign trail for his father. Eric and his wife Lara less frequently stump for Daddy, but can always be called on in a pinch.  Even Donald's ex has come to his aid, letting us all know he is not a racist and that he has the smarts to be POTUS.

The only ones not involved in Trump's administration are his youngest children, Tiffany and Barron.  In fact, Barron is kept largely under wraps, which has led to speculation he may be autistic, and some have suggested is why Trump is an anti-vaxxer, blaming his youngest son's autism on vaccines.  Others just think Barron is Damien from The Omen II.  However, we have been scolded repeatedly not to express such thoughts, not least of all by Chelsea Clinton.

So, we will focus on his adult children, namely Jared and Ivanka, whom we have been repeatedly told have such brilliant minds.  Jared was serving as the de facto Secretary of State when Rex Tillerson was around.  Since Mike Pompeo has taken over, we hear less from Jared, but he still has his special assignment, namely to bring peace to the Middle East.  We are led to believe he is busy drafting up what has been dubbed the "Deal of the Century."  News reports suggest he even has four Arab states who support the draft agreement, although no one has seen what this deal actually entails.  By news reports, I mean Sheldon Adelson's Israeli newspaper.  It's kind of like one of those hooks used to get you to buy into a condominium that has yet to be built on the West Bank.

Ivanka is often a beautiful stand in for her father.  However, he was seriously considering her for the US ambassador to the UN after Nikki unexpectedly stepped down in October.  The position is still open.  Trump always talks in superlatives about Ivanka.  She is without a doubt the apple of his eye, which have led some persons to speculate if there might be something incestuous about their relationship.

For all this talk about how smart she and Jared are, we have yet to see anything emerge from their brain trust other than Ivanka's We-Fi or Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative or more simply the Ivanka Fund.  No news yet as to whether it has delivered on any of its noble goals.  Jared's peace plans similarly remain under wraps.

You might remember how Republicans were so upset when Hillary got involved with health care during her husband's administration or Michelle pushed for healthy school lunches.  There was such a hue and cry that you thought this might lead to the impeachment of both First Ladies.  After the dust settled, Hillary went back to baking cookies with Barb, forced to recognize her role in the White House.  Michelle continued to push for healthy lunches despite all the protest from conservative Congressmen and television pundits, who thought she should also stick to cookie recipes.

Not a peep from the same Republicans when it comes to Javanka assuming such significant roles in the White House, or DJT Jr. heavily promoting his father at rallies.  You can surely bet that if a President Hillary had given any kind of role to Bill and Chelsea in the White House, they would have been severely scrutinized by the Republican Congress.  It just makes you wonder how these schmucks reconcile themselves with this double standard, especially when Jared refuses to give any accounting to Congress as to what he is proposing for the Middle East or anything else for that matter.

I do hope that the Democrats will take a closer look at what Jared and Ivanka are doing, especially Jared who has a very close relationship with the Notorius MBS.  Ivanka's numerous trademarks with China should also be investigated as they show a favoritism one normally would associate with insider trading.  Just imagine if Chelsea had a fashion brand of her own and worked out special agreements with foreign countries while her mother was President?

Like so many things about the Trump White House, the degree of nepotism is "unpresidented."  Other presidents have involved their grown children in WH affairs but none to the degree Trump has.  Jared and Ivanka are surrogates for Trump on many levels, to the point Trevor Noah used to speculate who was President this week.  Jared's name often came up.

For some odd reason, conservatives don't protest like they did the idea Hillary would be nepotistic leader.  In fact, many hail Jared as a "hidden genius" and other superlatives, as if we got a great bargain when we elected Trump to have such smart kids.  Who needs a cabinet when you have Javanka!

Monday, November 19, 2018




Somehow Trump manages to drag everyone into his alternative universe, even the President of Finland.  While in California, Trump brought up his latest reason for the raging wildfires.  We don't rake our forests like they do in Finland.  The White House has come up with a number of prevention tips but this one had everyone scratching their heads.

This follows up on earlier comments Trump made that California doesn't properly manage its forests, oblivious to the fact that the vast majority of forest lands fall under the jurisdiction of Ryan Zinke's Department of Interior.  Hence, Zinke felt the need to defend himself, blaming the fires on environmental regulations.

The most popular prevention tip is logging.  This is the one Zinke is promoting in an effort to open up more National Forest Service lands for exploitation.  Currently, spotted owls are stopping him from making wide tracts of old growth forests available to logging companies, but it goes much deeper than this.

Trees form dense canopies for a reason.  It allows them to better retain moisture, which they store in their roots and then spread to particularly dry portions of the forest during drought years.  Selective cutting would break the canopy and the vast underground network that trees use for their own forest management.  This was one of many interesting observations Peter Wohlleben made in his more than 30 years of studies as a forest ranger in Germany.  His book The Hidden Life of Trees is an international bestseller.  Don't expect Trump or Zinke to read it.  They prefer to work with popular myths, which have been perpetuated for decades largely to promote the logging industry.

Of course, the Maga crowd has fallen for the logging myth as it does all the crap flowing out of the White House.  If it wasn't for all those damn tree huggers trying to protect the spotted owls there would be no wildfires like we have seen raging in California.  Loggers would have long ago fixed the problem by clearing huge swathes of these old forests so that fires couldn't spread from one end of the state to the other.  Not like they care about California to begin with.

It was funny seeing Trump stand alongside Jerry Brown and Gavin Newsom as they surveyed the damage in Paradise, California, which he mistakenly referred to as Pleasure.  It must have been a pretty bitter pill for Trump to have to be with two ardent liberals, but he swallowed it just the same.

The fires are just the latest and most severe in an ongoing maelstrom that has ravaged the state over the last two years.  Scientists attribute the fires to global warning, as the state has suffered severe droughts and its forest lands are extremely vulnerable.  Trump, who feels he has a "natural instinct" for science, begs to differ.  He says "a lot of factors" are to blame for the fires, including the lack of raking, which he apparently picked up from the Finnish President in a WH meeting a week ago.

It doesn't matter that his comments drew almost universal condemnation from scientists, firefighters, survivors and even the Queen of England, who felt the need to write him a pointed letter on the subject.  Trump had initially threatened to withhold federal aid from California because he felt this was the state's problem.  When the fires spread wildly out of control and resulted in at least 80 deaths and 1000 persons still missing, Trump was forced to respond in a more proper, dignified manner, which the Queen laid out in her letter.  All he had to do was repeat it to the public.  I'm sure she wouldn't have minded.

This disaster like so many others we have seen the last two years underscores our President's inability to show any compassion.  He blamed Puerto Rico's woes in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria on its corrupt government.  He sees each mass shooting as something that could have been avoided if people had more guns.  He views the humanitarian crisis in Yemen as something it brought upon itself.  He only responds to a crisis when forced to do so, and then in the most superficial way.  Essentially, he is a psychopath.

What he said about the wildfires in California should give everyone pause because many of those 1000 missing persons are no doubt charred beyond any recognition.  For him to so glibly dismiss these fires as a management problem and then offer such inane remedies like raking leaves only serves to underscore his complete lack of humanity.

It wasn't any easier for outgoing and incoming Governors Brown and Newsom to stand beside this empty shell of a man and be forced to offer thanks to a President who should have responded much earlier.  After all, he felt the need to immediately mobilize troops to the border in defense of a caravan of migrants that he felt posed an imminent threat to the United States, yet allowed the California wildfires to rage for more than a week before responding with anything other than surly tweets.

I suppose in Trump's mind, it is better late than never.  He will know doubt take credit for bringing the fires under control with the federal aid he has now pledged to the state, just like he took credit for belated relief efforts in Puerto Rico and Northwest Florida.  What's done is done and now he will move on as he always does, hoping people will soon forget.

He doesn't take any responsibility for his words or actions.  Given the frequency he repeats himself in his tweets it is safe to say he doesn't remember from one tweet to the next what he said before.  Yet, Congressional Republicans and those in his cabinet that should know better continue to look the other way.  They treat Trump like a dotardly old granddad you have to visit time to time in a nursing home, which is where he should be, not in the White House.

These fires are just the latest tragic reminder of how out of touch our President is with reality.  As long as he makes appearances, federal and state officials will find a way to work around him. World leaders continue to pay deference to this blithering idiot just so they don't spoil their special relationship with the United States.  It seems the sanctity of the White House is more important than the man who currently resides there.

Sunday, November 18, 2018




Nancy Pelosi finds herself in a fight for the role of House Speaker.  Many Democrats campaigned on the theme they wouldn't support Pelosi for Speaker, knowing the animosity in their Congressional districts toward the Democratic leader.  Of course, most of this animosity was planted and cultivated by right wing demagogues over the last two years in an effort to make Nancy the Hillary of the 2018 midterms.  It didn't work, but still many freshmen Dems and a few senior ones have had their fill of Pelosi as their leader.

Marcia Fudge has emerged as the alternative to Pelosi, an outspoken Ohio Congresswoman who has the support of at least 17 renegade Democrats, if we are to believe the stories coming out of Washington.  Fudge has been in the House since 2008 and feels Pelosi is out of step with the new Democratic majority.  She has a point.  Pelosi endorsed many of the new class's opponents during the primaries, most notably Joe Crowley in New York's 14th Congressional district.  He was soundly thumped by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.  Democrats appeared to take the House in spite of Pelosi not because of her.

Making this fight even odder is that many Republicans are offering their support for Pelosi, including Donald J. himself, seemingly for no other purpose than to make her the "Theresa May" of Congress for the next two years.  They would love to dump their big sack of woes on her, much like the British Tories dumped Brexit on May.

Careful what you wish for, as Pelosi knows how to fight.  She wouldn't have survived the fallout from the 2010 Congressional debacle, when the Democrats lost the House in stunning fashion, if she didn't.  This was the last time she faced a major challenge within her own party.

One of the fears in Pelosi is that she will be too willing to strike a deal with Trump to promote bi-partisanship.  Trump has shown he will go anyway the wind blows, as he did last year when he teased "Chuck and Nancy" with an agreement on DACA to avoid a government shutdown.  We all know how that turned out.

The Democrats should brook no compromise that doesn't suit their interests these next two years, as they swept the House largely because of all the animosity directed toward Trump and Republican leadership in Congress.  They won big in suburban districts and even some rural areas that had traditionally been Republican.  In one of the biggest surprises of the midterms, the Dems stole a seat from the Republicans in South Carolina, where Joe Cunningham beat Kate Arlington, whom Trump endorsed in the primaries over Mark Sanford.  Cunningham is the first Democrat to represent the district in 40 years!

In all, the Dems gained 34 seats and are leading 5 other seats in recounts across the country.  What many news pundits dismissed as a ripple on election night, has in fact become a wave, especially given the uphill battle Democrats faced in gerrymandered states.  For once, CNN actually had a good documentary, The War on Voting Rights, which included a young Aussie lawyer and her American husband fighting gerrymandering in Wisconsin.  Careful she doesn't get her green card revoked.  Had it been a level playing field, these midterms may have rivaled the 2010 red wave, when the Republicans gained a staggering 63 seats in the House.

For Democrats, it is important to keep that momentum rolling.  They can't afford any slip-ups over the next two years, as they hope to build on their gains in 2020 given the widespread antipathy toward Trump and Republican politics in general.   This is their chance to Make America Blue Again.


Friday, November 16, 2018

GoFundMe




It has become very common to reach out to the public for funds to cover court costs and a variety of other endeavors, even wedding costs.  Kavanaugh and Ford each raised over $500 thousand to help cover their legal fees and other costs during the controversial confirmation hearings.  GoFundMe has a special page for newlyweds.  Scroll down and you see honeymoons and first houses have been funded this way.  I suppose it is a convenient way for friends and families to contribute cash rather than worry about wedding gifts, but since these pages are public who knows who might choose to drop a few bucks toward your honeymoon in Barbados?

GoFundMe has also been used extensively to provide charity for people.  One of the more notable examples late last year was the case of a homeless vet helping a damsel in distress, which got international attention.  People were feeling sorry for all these poor veterans forced to live under bridges, so when a young New Jersey couple chose to set up a page for their good Samaritan, the money came pouring in.  By the end of the campaign, the couple had raised more than $400,000 for Johnny Bobbitt, Jr.  The only problem is that it turned out to be a scam.

The story began to unravel this past summer when Kate and Marc were spending all this money on themselves.  Bobbitt felt left out and filed a claim for all the funds in court.  The couple made up this story about how Johnny was a drug addict and if they gave him all the money at once he would just blow it.  Their fight became public, the local prosecutor became interested, and eventually they all were forced to come clean.  Now they each face jail sentences of up to 20 years.

For its part, GoFundMe says it will reimburse all those who unwittingly gave to this campaign.  This after the charitable company offered to pay Bobbitt all the money he claimed Kate and Marc fleeced from him.  Bobbit was indeed a homeless vet, but he was a willing part of the scheme.  He just got greedy and wanted the whole thing, which of course turned Kate and Marc against him, otherwise they probably could have gotten away with this caper.

I've always been leery of these pages.  Stories often sound too good to be true, and even if they are $400 K is a bit much for what appeared to be no more than a random act of kindness.  Never underestimate the power to tug heartstrings.

Not all crowdsourcing efforts are a success.  In fact very few of them are.  Here are some sad stories the Outline compiled.  You have to have a hook, get some exposure and then keep your fingers crossed when the money starts to roll in.  Yet, GoFundMe claims to have raised over $3 billion with the help of 25 million donors since 2005.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

The medium is the message




For all the talk of being social liberals, it seems our tech giants are closet conservatives.  Jeff Bezos is supporting Cory Gardner in 2020, and funds a Super PAC that supports former military veterans running for political office, many of them Republican.  It's odd for a man who has contributed heavily to defend gay marriage in Washington and donated $33 million to fund scholarships for undocumented immigrant high school students would support a party that has fought against both.

A lot of tech giants like to split their political contributions among Democrats and Republicans so as to benefit from whomever is in power.  Every once in a while you get a guy like Peter Thiel, who is an ardent conservative and actively supports Republicans.  However, their contributions pale in comparison to conservative mega donors like the Koch Brothers, Sheldon Adelson and Robert Mercer.  These guys throw around huge wads of money, some with political agendas, others as tax deductions.  How else to explain Adelson backing Newt Gingrich and Lindsey Graham in presidential elections?

Now add Mark Zuckerberg to the list, who has given to Republicans and Democrats alike, albeit in rather small quantities.  He did however invest heavily in the Newark school system back in 2010, while Cory Booker was still mayor of the city and Chris Christie governor of the state.  It was widely regarded as a failure, as the three tried to shift the focus from public to charter schools, which received the lion's share of the money.  One could say Zuckerberg had his heart in the right place, but had no idea what he was doing. Nevertheless, this was widely portrayed as a bi-partisan effort.  In reality it was a way for Booker and Christie to get what they wanted politically, a US Senate seat and another term as governor.  The money was essentially pissed away with Newark no brighter than it was before Zuckerberg and other big name donors poured in all that money.  Since then Zuckerberg has been more careful where he invests publicly.

You really have to scratch your head in regard to what Zuckerberg is now accused of.  Facebook apparently hired a Republican opposition-research firm to discredit activist protesters by linking them to George Soros.   Mark has been taking a lot of heat since the 2016 elections for making no effort to screen all the fake news that was spread through facebook.  It became several degrees hotter when it was learned that Cambridge Analytica had hacked over 50 million facebook user accounts.  The poor guy was having to answer all sorts of questions before Congress, and thought he might take some of the heat off by deflecting attention to the more outspoken critics of his social media empire.

Soros has become everyone's favorite bad guy, but you really have to wonder about the sagacity of Zuckerberg and Sandberg in going after Soros.  I understand they had an axe to grind since Soros himself has spoken unfavorably of facebook, but here were facebook's top two executives attacking a Holocaust survivor after claiming the attacks against them were anti-Semitic.  I suppose they figured they would never get caught, but in this day and age it is pretty hard to conceal your efforts on the Internet.

What's happened is that all these tech giants have become so fabulously rich that they now go to great lengths to protect their assets.  They prefer the compliant Republicans to the watchdog Democrats when it comes to laundering their money in offshore accounts and setting up shop in low-tax havens like Ireland.  Apple CEO Tim Cook is very happy with the current arrangement and has been hosting fundraisers for leading Republicans to maintain the status quo.  The last thing he and his fellow techies want are Social Democrats running the show.

Even the great philanthropist Paul Allen, who passed away recently, wanted to see the Republicans keep the House, although he offered very little toward this effort.  Allen made his billions off Microsoft and has used a large chunk of his money to fund charities, but it seemed for tax reasons he supported Republicans.  It's not to say all Republicans are bad, but supporting Kevin McCarthy's Protect the House appears to contradict everything he stood for.  The Republican House went out of its way the last 8 years to undermine health care and social security just so they could give huge tax cuts to guys like Paul Allen.  Why on earth would you want to protect this gang of thieves?

It no longer is so surprising that many of these tech giants were on Donald Trump's short-lived Manufacturing Council.  They probably would have stayed on that council if Donald hadn't stuck his big foot in his mouth in regard to the Charlottesville riots.  Nothing they like more than to cozy up to the President.  Even Bill Gates, who wasn't on the Council, had good things to say about Trump at one time.

For all their philanthropy, it seems these billionaire techies ultimately just look at the bottom line.  This is how Apple and Amazon have become the first trillion dollar companies on the stock exchange.  They didn't get there by practicing what they preach.

These CEOs still talk a great show.  Listening to Tim Cook on Amanpour you couldn't help but be impressed with his high-mindedness, especially when it came to protecting one's identity on the Internet.  Yet, no company is more cut throat than Apple.  They relentlessly go after competitors and form axes when it is favorable to them.  It's like one of those Medieval multiplayer online games.

As my Dad used to say, you can't trust any of these guys as far as you can throw them. Unfortunately, social media is the only means we have to express ourselves in an open forum.  Only now we know that whatever we say can and will be used against us.  Marshall McLuhan has to be rolling over in his grave.


Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Captain Bone Spurs




You figure Veterans Day would be a pretty easy call.  After all, Trump has said on multiple occasions how much he loves troops and that no one has done more for the military than he has.  Yet, here he was in Paris, commemorating the historic armistice, which the United States brokered 100 years ago, and he blew it.  In fact, he blew it bigly.

Not only did he fail to visit the American cemetery at Aisne-Marne, but he seemed completely out of touch with events taking place in Paris itself.  The only time he appeared to light up was when he saw Vladimir Putin, and probably when a topless protester tried to throw herself under his motorcade.  For Macron, Merkl and May, he could only look at them with contempt.

Our dear President was very upset that Macron called him out on his use of the term "nationalist."  The word had been haunting him for weeks ever since he first used it at a rally in Houston on October 22.  He later doubled down on it at a press conference, and still seems to view himself as a nationalist even after it was pointed out to him what the term means to a great many people, particularly when recalling WWI and WWII.

Trump equates nationalism with patriotism, which as Macron evocatively described, are the mirror opposites.  It's kind of like embracing both the US flag and the Confederate battle flag, which so many Americans do, failing to realize that these emblems are in stark opposition to each other.  This is what happens when you view history as something you had to take back in high school but paid virtually no attention in class.

Our President is utterly oblivious to history.  He was also oblivious to the events that took place on the day he posted his bitter tweets, leading to the French government to publicly chastise him for showing no respect for the terrorist attacks that took place on November 15, 2015. 

He pulled out a stupid conservative trope in his tweets, saying Parisians would be speaking German if it wasn't for the United States.  Not only does he conflate the two world wars, but France may not have fallen to Germany if the United States entered WWII sooner.  The war had been raging for two years before the US finally sent troops to Europe.  By then, France along with most of continental Europe had fallen under German occupation.  This has long been a sore point brushed over by the fact the allies ultimately emerged victorious over the German axis.  Trump had no problem trampling over this highly sensitive history because he has no knowledge of it.

If he had, he would have been much more respectful to European leaders.  Macron had done nothing to warrant the kind of attacks Trump launched at him on twitter, beginning with a surly response to the French president calling on European countries to form a united military to protect itself against foreign threats.  This was a rather odd, given Trump has repeatedly chastised European countries for not investing more in their own militaries.  It seems what he was most upset about was Macron suggesting European countries buy their military hardware in continent rather than from the United States.  Macron had recently called out Belgium for buying an American F-35 fighter jet as being "against European interests."

But, this was Armistice Day in Europe and the President should have saved all his petulant posts for after the events honoring those who had fallen in World War I.  For the most part, he looked disinterested in events.  The rain was no doubt a downer, as were the long-winded speeches about battles and men who fought bravely for their countries.  Subjects he is obviously not interested in.  Maybe someone should have screened Legends of the Fall for him, or at the very least Wonder Woman before going to Paris.

It seems that what really got Trump's goat is that he couldn't have a parade of his own on Veterans Day, which he had been promising ever since he had attended Bastille Day the summer of 2017.  The military advised him against it, largely because this was the centennial of the armistice and Europe was planning a large event in commemoration of WWI.  For a man used to having his interests come first, this was a big blow to his ego.  Add to that a young Macron teaching him about the meaning of nationalism, you can expect a full-blown twitter tantrum.

You really have to wonder how anyone can support the president at this point.  Not only did he disrespect our dearest ally, who has stood with us since the Revolutionary War, but he disrespected our troops.  Making matters worse, he didn't even show up at Arlington because apparently he was suffering from jet lag.  For all those self-professed "nationalists" out there who believe so strongly in the sacrifices of our troops this has to be very disheartening.  But, what can you expect from a president who managed to get five draft deferments on account of his studies and bone spurs?




Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Just the facts ma'am




I love the term "fact-free."  It seems Republicans no longer have to prove anything they say is true.  It is enough to simply shout election fraud to the masses and their base believes it.  Not just Trump, but Rick Scott, Cory Gardner and a host of other Republicans.  If you wonder why Cory Gardner is so worried by what is going on in Arizona, he's up for re-election in 2020 and Colorado looks more liberal than ever.  Gardner may have the support of Jeff Bezos but that won't help much in a state that just elected the first openly gay governor in the United States.

It isn't voter fraud but Democratic backlash that is killing Republicans.  They may have been able to flip a few senate seats in deep red states, but out West the Blue Wave swept Nevada and Arizona.  These were states the Republicans were banking on to increase their majority in the Senate.  Trump prematurely claimed victory Tuesday night but the best the GOP can hope for now is plus-one if Rick Scott holds onto Florida.  They seem to have forgotten they lost a Senate seat last December in the Alabama special election.

At one time Gardner was considered a moderate voice in the Republican Party, but he like Paul Rand and Susan Collins have all gone over to the dark side.  Jeff Flake dropped out in Arizona only to see his seat go to the first openly bisexual woman senator in Congress.

Kyrsten Sinema is a bit of an enigma.  She once wore a tutu to protest the war in Iraq, which Martha McSally made sure everyone knew, only to win the US senate race by running to the center.  Her record in the House is actually to the right of center, having voted with Trump 63% of the time.  That would almost make her a Blue Dog Democrat.  However, when it comes to guns, abortion, health care and immigration, she is clearly to the left of center.  She has an F rating from the NRA.

One of the biggest losers this year was the NRA, which saw a score of its staunch gun activists in the House go down.  Hard line positions, which Republicans love to run on, no longer have clout among the electorate, especially in the wake of the mass shootings we saw take place immediately before and after the election.  Republicans also took a big hit on immigration, and the Kavanaugh vote was a virtual non-issue.

This has Western Republicans in a panic.  Arizonans hadn't voted for a Democratic senator since 1988.  John McCain's seat, which Jon Kyl currently occupies, will be contested in 2020 in another statewide election.  Gardner's seat in Colorado now looks very vulnerable, as does Steve Daines' seat in Montana, given that Democrat Jon Tester held onto his seat despite Trump campaigning heavily in Big Sky country. Even Utah saw a Democrat win a House seat, blemishing this once solid red state.   The last Republican western strongholds are in Wyoming and Idaho.

The big winner was health care.  States sent a clear message to Washington that Americans want comprehensive health insurance coverage, not the emergency room health care coverage Republicans endorse.  This means no more fucking around with Medicare, Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act.  Time to come up with a comprehensive health care package that allows Americans to enjoy the same coverage Congresspersons get.  Medicare for All became a very popular refrain in this election.  After all, we pay into it for all our adult lives, why shouldn't we enjoy it before we reach 65?

2020 could be a big year for Democrats if they don't drop the ball.  The Republican disinformation campaign finally appears to have caught up with them.  For the most part voters want elected officials who are accountable for the things they say.  This fact-free universe that Trump has tried to create isn't playing well beyond deep red states, and even in these states patience is wearing thin.  Look at Iowa, which voted two Republicans out of the House, leaving Steve King as the lone Aryan, I mean Republican, survivor from the carnage that took place in the Hawkeye State on Tuesday.  Even he barely held onto his seat, 50-47 per cent.

For two years, we have seen perhaps the greatest assault on the truth in American history.  It wasn't just Trump, who has probably lied more than all other presidents combined, but many, many Republicans who backed his outlandish claims and made many of their own.  Look at our dear senator from South Carolina, who said there would be "holy hell to pay" if Trump fired Sessions.  Now that the President has, Lindsey Graham has positioned himself to be the next Attorney General.

This kind of brazen duplicity is what Americans can't stand anymore.  The Democratic strategy appeared to be to keep a low profile and let the Republicans try to defend their allegiance to the United States of Trump.  It worked.  There was nothing wrong with Martha McSally.  She was considered a moderate Republican in Arizona, but her awkward attempts to defend Trump during the primaries eroded her base of support in the general election.  You can't have it both ways.  You either condemn Trump's pernicious lies or you get out of the way.

This is why the supposedly liberal Northeast re-elected three Republican governors, none of whom support Trump. Charlie Baker has kept his distance from the White House and become one of the most popular governors in the country, winning in a state that is considered the bastion of liberalism.  Kasich has done the same in Ohio, and the state elected a Republican as his successor.  Herein lies the blueprint for Republicans to save their party, if not by 2020, then certainly by 2024.  By then Trump will have become a bad memory.

The Democrats would have to put up a really bad candidate to lose the White House in 2020.  Trump won in 2016 largely as a result of the disdain for the Clintons.  His base was never that strong, and 2018 has proven it.  Republicans will lose somewhere between 35 to 43 seats in the House.  The biggest turnover since 2010, when they rode an exceedingly large red wave to victory.  It would have been much worse if there hadn't been so much gerrymandering since the last US census.  The disgruntlement in Trumpian politics is palatable.

Trump and his fellow Republicans can take some solace in that they retained the Senate, but you have to wonder if Western Republican senators will be so amenable to his policies when their own political future now appears in doubt.  Susan Collins saw Maine go Blue in a big way, which will affect her thinking these next two years if she plans to run for re-election.  Mitch will have a much harder time holding self-professed moderate Republican senators in line.

Who knows maybe Trump will swing Left in the second half of his tenure with his own political future on the line?  He's often switched course in mid-sentence, and if the only way for him to get a bill through Congress is to work with Democrats, it wouldn't be that surprising to hear him start singing praises for Nancy Pelosi.  After all, he proposed  $1.5 trillion for new infrastructure at the beginning of the year after suffering heavy defeats in Virginia and Alabama at the end of 2017.  Now's his chance to make good on that promise with Democrats controlling the House.  Wouldn't that be a hoot!

More likely Trump will dig in his heels, especially now that Democrats have threatened to ramp up investigations not only into his Russian ties but the way he handled the AT&T acquisition of Time Warner and prodding the US Postal Service to hike shipping rates for Amazon.  Then there's that pesky Robert Mueller hanging around.   This is going to very much be a White House on the defensive come January, 2019.




Sunday, November 11, 2018

The Morning After




The aftermath from Election Day 2018 is proving rather ugly with several key elections still disputed.  Trump and Rick Scott are crying voter fraud in Florida, and Trump is calling for a new election in Arizona.  The irony is not lost in Florida where Al Gore came up short in a very close election 18 years ago that was ultimately decided by the Supreme Court to stop a hand recount.  Rick Scott would like to do the same this year as his lead keeps shrinking as votes roll in from Broward and Palm Beach County, where Democrats have the advantage.

As for Arizona, the only thing unusual is that so many state residents chose to mail in their ballots, which is why we are having such a slow count.  You have right up till election day to mail your ballot, so it takes several days if not a week or more to receive all the ballots.  Krysten Sinema's lead keeps growing.  He thought he had the state in his bag on Election Night only to see a Senate seat slip away.  Little wonder he was surly at his post-election press conference.

Trump was bragging that the Republicans picked up three seats in the Senate.  Tentatively, they flipped four seats with Florida outstanding.  The Democrats have now flipped two seats if we include Arizona where Sinema appears to have an insurmountable lead.  Take away the Alabama special election last December, which the Democrats won when Doug Jones shocked the world, and the Republicans are left with only plus one.  Hardly a big difference.   If Bill Nelson is able to retain his seat in Florida then the net is zero for Republicans between 2016 and 2018.  Mississippi is also still in contention with a runoff between Mike Espy and Cindy Hyde-Smith late this month.   Pretty bad considering the GOP only had 10 seats to defend, counting Jeff Sessions' old seat, whereas the Democrats had 25 seats to defend.  The political math doesn't favor the Republicans in 2020.

So, was this a wave or just a ripple?  That's what pundits are trying to discern.  Democrats will pick up somewhere between 29 to 35 seats in the House, and bring in an unprecedented number of women.  Considering all the gerrymandered districts the Democrats had to overcome, that's a very good haul. Where they fell short was in the Senate.  Polls appeared to be breaking their way in Florida and Texas, so these were two seats they were very much hoping to pick up.  It would have fully legitimized the "blue wave."

Democrats fared well in state elections, which at this stage is more important than Congressional races.  They flipped seven governorships and six legislatures across the country.  This pretty much gives them a split with Republicans and allows them to hold their own when it comes to redistricting in 2020 with the new census.  Democrats still have a lot to make up for the huge losses they suffered under Obama, but this was a very good start.

One thing was made painfully clear again, celebrity endorsements don't help.  In the final week, Obama was joined by Oprah and many other celebrities on the campaign trail.  They were plugging Andrew Gillum and Stacy Abrams and Beto O'Rourke.  Taylor Swift made a big appeal to Tennesseans to vote for Phil Bredesen over Marsha Blackburn.  All these high profile races went to Republicans.

As Meghan Trainor might sing, "It's all about the base."  What works is grass roots mobilization and no fear of embracing traditional liberal values.  Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won by an even bigger margin than she had in the primary over two white male opponents with a whopping 75% of the vote.  Two Muslim-American women won House seats in Minnesota and Michigan.  An openly gay Democrat won the governorship of Colorado.  An openly gay Native American won a House seat in Kansas.    The Democratic candidates that embraced social democratic values won, and in many cases won big.  Even when they lost, they lost by razor thin margins in Florida and Georgia, and Beto made the best showing of a Democrat in a Texas statewide election in more than two decades.  This was "yuge" folks!

Running to the center may have eked out a gubernatorial win for Tony Evers in Wisconsin and helped Joe Manchin secure another senate term in West Virginia, but for the most part Centrists didn't fair well.  Joe Donnelly, Heidi Heitkamp, Claire McCaskill, Phil Bredesen and many others lost.  Bill Nelson sits on the bubble.

No clear indication from the Democratic Party that they will embrace all these new Social Democrats in their midst, but they are now a force to be reckoned with, particularly in the House.  The smart thing to do is to tailor your candidate to the state district, which is what DNC leaders Perez and Ellison successfully did at the House level.  At the statewide level, it was a little harder to push a strongly progressive candidate, but if Beto can garner 48 per cent of the vote in Texas, then imagine what an unabashedly liberal candidate can do in so-called "purple states?"

Beto did so well that some liberal pundits are comparing him to Abraham Lincoln, who lost a tightly contested 1858 Senate race only to win the Presidency in 1860.  Is Beto now the presumptive Democratic nominee for President?  He says no, but there will be a big push to get him to run.

There will also be the temptation to put another woman forward as the Democratic nominee, given how well women did in the midterms.  You can call it the revenge of Hillary, as many women were upset with the way she was treated not just by Trump but the media in general in 2016.  Elizabeth Warren has positioned herself as the heir apparent, but there are many other women to consider, maybe even Krysten Sinema, who defied all the odds in Arizona.

Whatever the case, the Republicans are now the ones on the defensive.  They can downplay the surge of the Democrats, but there is no longer any Scott Walker or Paul Ryan or Chris Kobach or Dana Rohrabacher or a host of other Republicans who stood in lockstep with Trump.  Devin Nunes barely hung onto his seat, but will no longer be the head of the House Intelligence Committee.  That honor will fall to Adam Schiff, making life much more difficult for Trump in the White House.

The key for Democrats is not to lose the momentum.  They've got the tide behind them, to use another maritime term.  There will be no more talk of a wall or sending troops to the border or the countless other distractions Trump and Republicans use to disguise their pernicious assault on social welfare programs in this country.  Americans were sufficiently alarmed that Republicans might gut Social Security and leave Medicare and Medicaid to wither on the vine, as Newt Gingrich liked to say.  Democrats must reaffirm America's social values!