Thursday, June 2, 2016

Hall of Shame

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Today, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said he would vote for the bigoted, misogynistic business failure. It seemed a good time to list others who have now put party above principle (or country). Here are the most prominent with their former quotes about the man.
(Note: updated as the Hall of Shame grows)

06 June, 2016 Update
Lindsay Graham removed from the Hall of Shame. His comment today:
      Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, another former primary rival of Mr. Trump’s, urged Republicans who have backed Mr. Trump to rescind their endorsements, citing the remarks about Judge Curiel and Mr. Trump’s expression of doubt on Sunday that a Muslim judge could remain neutral in the same lawsuit, given Mr. Trump’s proposed ban on Muslim noncitizens entering the country.
     “This is the most un-American thing from a politician since Joe McCarthy,” Mr. Graham said. “If anybody was looking for an off-ramp, this is probably it,” he added. “There’ll come a time when the love of country will trump hatred of Hillary.”
Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House
"This is not conservatism," Ryan said. "What was proposed yesterday is not what this party stands for, and more importantly, it’s not what this country stands for...I told our members this morning to always strive to live up to our highest ideals, to uphold those principles in the Constitution on which we swear every two years that we will defend."
Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has prepared an alternate plan to run Republican Senate candidates separately from Donald Trump, should he be the GOP presidential nominee, according to a report. "We'll drop him like a hot rock" in the general election. (Washington Examiner, 2/27/2016)
John McCain, Arizona Senator
"I would also echo the many concerns about Mr. Trump’s uninformed and indeed dangerous statements on national security issues that have been raised by 65 Republican defense and foreign policy leaders."
 Chris Christie, New Jersey Governor
During a January event in New Hampshire, Christie called Trump one of the "carnival barkers of today. Showtime is over. We are not electing an entertainer-in-chief. Showmanship is fun, but it is not the kind of leadership that will truly change America."
Marco Rubio, Florida Senator
“He is a guy who has been protected his whole life, and privileged his whole life, and insulated his life. There’s nothing tough about any of that. This is a massive fraud that he is perpetuating.” 

"If Donald Trump is the nominee, that’s the end of the Republican Party." 
Reince Priebus, Republican Party Chair
(Never criticized the business failure.)

Newt Gingrich, Former Speaker of the House
"very, very destructive" and an example of him going "off the deep end."

And there are too many more. Today, Karl Rove announced he's meeting with the business failure and will presumably fall into line. All who do are complicit.

Notably, there are a few holdouts, a few prominent Republicans who if not outright opposing the business failure, are refusing to get in line. 
Mitt Romney, former GOP presidential nominee 
Jeb Bush, former Florida governor
George W. Bush, former president
George H.W. Bush, former president
Bill Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard
Lindsay Graham, South Carolina Senator
Arnold Schwarzenegger, former California Governor
The question remains: will these have the courage to step out and actively oppose him?

Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Revolution will be Tweeted

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March, 1972: Shankill Road, Belfast, Northern Ireland

We set up our TV camera on a street corner in the Protestant section of Belfast for man-on-the-street interviews. The corner was empty but curiosity won over the passers by and they stopped to ask what was happening. With the wired microphone in my hand, I began asking questions. The woman asked who we were. I answered we were with an American politician, interested in learning about "The Troubles". I got an earful. There were two of us interviewing and gradually a crowd materialized. Most flowed out of the pub on our corner.

Someone asked again who we were and I shouted (it was getting louder), "We're with ABC." "BBC!" someone shouted back. And the tension rose as Protestants felt misrepresented by the UK's dominant media. "No, Americans!" I yelled over the voices. "Americans! Kennedy!" and it got even louder, more claustrophobic as people crowded in. Senator Ted Kennedy had just visited Belfast and was seen as too sympathetic to the IRA. My father's campaign manager shouted over the crowd in his booming voice, "Ask them what they think about the IRA!" He was tall, good-looking and not very bright.

That's when we realized we were in the middle of a full-fledged riot. The five of us were outnumbered by a couple hundred of them, all angry and many intoxicated. A group of women surrounded my husband Scott, protecting him from the angriest in the mob. I continued talking to people, trying to reason, calm, soothe. Idealistic college kid. Then I felt someone pulling me, my father shouting in my ear, "Let's go!" I started to say "just a minute" and turned to see dense, angry humanity stretching all the way to our cab. My father pulled me back to the cab and struggled to get the door open against the press of angry people surrounding the car.

As my father finally shoved me into the back seat, the crowd kept pressing and the door slammed on my hand. Back home, the California headline read "Candidate's Daughter Injured in Belfast Riot". Our riot. I learned then that television could create events.

Fast forward to the 2016 election season. 

It's 2016 and the economy is rolling along strong. Unemployment is low, the stock market is high and America is once again well regarded around the world. While 1972 Northern Ireland was in the midst of a Civil War, tied closely to a struggling economy, the United States is enjoying relatively good times.

So why the vitriol and violence in the presidential campaign? How did the bigotry and misogynism of Trump rallies propel him to be the GOP nominee? How has the Bernie Sanders campaign derailed into similar vitriol and violence against "the establishment"? Why are they so angry? How did the Nevada Convention get so out of control?

In 1972, we inadvertently started a riot with a TV camera. Today, the media -- and especially social media -- has stirred up passions and convinced those on the left or right to move still farther from the center. Surrounded only by our own echo chambers and "blocking" or "unfriending" those who disagree is what we do instead of discussing, arguing or listening. No one has to listen today to anything that doesn't fit her world view.

I'm learning now that social media can also create revolutions. And not just the Arab Spring.

If a civil war is upon us, it's of our own making and completely devoid of setting. This is not France in 1789, not Russia in 1917, not China in 1949. Are we in for a whole slew of pointless conflicts, fired by our collective imaginations?

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Hitchhiker

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I do pick up hitchhikers sometimes, especially when I drive alone on long trips. I have space in the car, they need a ride, and I enjoy having company. Usually it helps to pass the time. 

A while back, I picked up a man with his thumb out. We were heading down the same freeway and he seemed like a nice fellow. As he climbed into the passenger seat, he thanked me for the ride and settled in. We had a nice conversation for a while and discovered we had a lot in common. 

After a while though, he opened my glove compartment and started digging around. "Don't you have any granola bars? I'm hungry." I apologized and said no, I did not. So he dug into his backpack, pulled out a bag of chips and ripped them open. Some spilled on the floor and he didn't bother to pick them up, carelessly grinding them into the carpet with his boots. He didn't offer to share so I didn't ask. 
When I wasn't watching, he began searching through my road maps and took two or three and slid them into his backpack. I was listening to a favorite CD but he must not have liked it, because soon he was fiddling with the dial until he found a radio station he liked. He couldn't hear well so cranked up the volume.

Over the next few hours, he complained about the uncomfortable seat, why I didn't pass that truck, and he wanted me to pick up every other hitchhiker we passed. The complaints continued so I asked him, "So why don't you just get your own car?"

That's when the lecture began. Cars are evil. Cars will destroy the planet. There should be fewer highways and more public transportation. How could I defend contributing to the destruction of our world? I wondered why he chose to ride in my car instead of buying a bus ticket but tried to be polite and kept my thoughts to myself.

I needed to stop so pulled off the highway. "What are you doing?" he demanded. 

I replied that I needed to buy gas and that I wanted to stop to stretch my legs a bit. As we pulled out of the gas station, I wasn't that surprised he didn't even consider contributing to the cost. But as I headed for the rest area, he insisted that this was unfair, he needed to be in Philadelphia in an hour and that it seemed I was deliberately trying to interfere with his plans. I stopped anyway, walked a bit (glad actually to be away from him for a few minutes), and then returned to the car. 

When I got back to the car, he had slid into the driver's seat and told me he would take over, that I was not a good driver, was not being considerate enough of his needs, and that he wasn't going to stand for it. Not only that, but he had rounded up some people from the Rest Area, convinced them I was treating him poorly, and all of them were yelling at me to let him drive the car and to stop conspiring against him.

I clutched the keys in my right hand and refused to surrender them. "You didn't want your own car but you want to condemn me for having one. You don't like how I do things but you're happy to take all the advantages you can."  

"Listen, Bernie," I said, "you don't get to hijack my car."

Monday, April 11, 2016

Is the DNC Undermining Bernie's Campaign?

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When asked if he would officially join the party on April 30, 2015, when he announced his candidacy, Sanders said, "No, I am an independent who is going to be working with the —" cutting himself off mid-sentence. (Source)

I've read a good deal from Bernie Sanders' supporters about how the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and especially its chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, are undermining his campaign.

There are two questions here. The first is whether Democratic Party leaders are neutral between the two candidates. Given Sanders' history as an independent, even as one who openly chastised Democrats, and his unwillingness to share either his time or his fundraising with candidates for other offices, I see no reason to think that leaders would be much sympathetic to his campaign. The second question is whether the Democratic Party has treated him unfairly in their official role. Sanders' supporters certainly say they have. I did some digging, trying to determine exactly what their allegations were.

So far as I can tell, they boil down to these:

1. The DNC lined up super-delegates to support Hillary Clinton prior to the Iowa caucuses. 

I can find no evidence that the party itself was involved, only the fact that the majority of the Democratic super-delegates -- who are Democratic office holders and party leaders -- came out for Hillary Clinton early in the campaign.

The next obvious question is why? Surely there was something underhanded about that?

Actually not. Hillary Clinton has been a member of the party for several decades, has served as a Democratic senator, and has criss-crossed the country raising money for candidates for Congress, Governor and other offices. Bernie Sanders on the other hand, has been a lifelong Independent, only lately joining the Party to advance his run for President. He has not been well regarded by his colleagues in Congress, though he has served for over 25 years. When one of the best-known fighters for liberal ideals, Rep. Barney Frank, speaks out against Sanders, liberals listen.
"Bernie alienates his natural allies," then-Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) told the Los Angeles Times just months after Sanders first took federal office. "His holier-than-thou attitude — saying in a very loud voice he is smarter than everyone else and purer than everyone else — really undercuts his effectiveness." -- Barney Frank (D), Mass
Taking a look at the most liberal members of the House and Senate, who are they supporting?
Of the eight most liberal senators, only one has endorsed Bernie Sanders. That senator is Sanders himself. Five have endorsed Hillary Clinton. Two have not committed.

Of  the twenty-three most liberal representatives, only two have endorsed Bernie Sanders. Seventeen have endorsed Hillary Clinton and four have not committed.
Perhaps Bernie Sanders does not have superdelegate support because his long-term colleagues do not have the same rapport with him they have with Hillary Clinton? Perhaps it's not nefarious, they just don't like him.

2.  The DNC temporarily cut off the Sanders campaign from its voter databases.

One of the advantages of campaigning as a Democrat (instead of an Independent) is access to the extensive voter databases maintained by the DNC. In December, a software glitch allowed Sanders' staffers access to Clinton's campaign database.
The Sanders team, which consisted of four people, ran multiple searches in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina and about 10 March states, including Florida and Colorado.  In Iowa and New Hampshire, the Clinton campaign ranked voters on a scale of 1-100 for turnout, enthusiasm and support, the senior Democrats said. The Sanders campaign ran two searches: "Show me all the Clinton people rated higher than 60" and "Show me all the people rated less than 30." This would be a key way of knowing who Sanders should target in the final weeks before voting: Ignore those above 60, while focus on those below 30, because they are looking for a Clinton alternative and might be open to Sanders. (Source)

When the breach was discovered, the Party immediately cut off the Sanders' campaign's temporary access to the database. We in education might call that a natural consequence.
“This was not an inadvertent glimpse into our data, not a mistake,” Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook said. “They made 25 intentional and targeted searches of our data.” (Source)
The Sanders campaign sued, claiming the suspension was unfair. Thus began the allegations from Sanders' supporters that the DNC is attempting to undermine their campaign. Database access was restored in less than 48 hours, once the breach had been fixed, but the lawsuit continued.

3. Democratic debates were limited by the DNC and deliberately scheduled during low viewer times.

In May of 2015, the DNC announced 6 debates would take place during the primary season. This is indeed a low number, given the numbers of primary debates in recent years. By contrast, the Republican Party scheduled 12 debates. More debates -- and the timing of the debates to maximize viewership -- tend to help lesser known candidates and can disadvantage the better known ones.

The Sanders campaign complained there were too few debates and that they were scheduled on evenings when viewership would be depressed. As a virtual unknown when he entered the race a year ago, Bernie Sanders stood to gain by the higher visibility. Hillary Clinton however would reap little advantage from the debates.

Under pressure from the Sanders campaign, the DNC added additional debates, bringing the total to 10. Some were scheduled on Saturdays against the Sanders campaign wishes. Yet viewership was high, though not nearly so high as the corresponding Republican debates. Those however, broke viewership records for all time. Given the number of candidates (17) and the anticipation of what kind of outrage one or another might spew, their viewership brought in not just politicos, but all the entertainment value one might expect from the World Wrestling Federation (WWF).

The assumption that it was the DNC limiting debates to thwart Sanders and elevate Clinton assumes that the Clinton campaign had no say of its own over the debate schedule. Keep in mind that incumbent presidents (such as Obama in 2012, Bush in 2004 and Clinton in 1996) never agree to participate in debates. Why should they? For similar reasons (wide familiarity), Hillary Clinton's campaign may have demanded a minimal debate schedule. The Party cannot schedule debates that the front runners refuse to attend.

In any case, it hardly seems that Bernie Sanders has lacked for exposure. A year ago, only those who followed politics closely or lived in Vermont knew him. Today nearly everyone knows his key contentions: that millionaires and billionaires have rigged the game, that there should be higher taxes on the 1%, that tuition should be free, and that the ACA should be scrapped and replaced with single payer healthcare.

4. The Sanders campaign has been all but ignored by the media.

Though I'm not sure how this situation could have been orchestrated by the DNC, it is an oft stated complaint. The Sanders campaign has done an incredible job of using social media to attract record numbers of followers in a relatively short time. Rallies are packed with enthusiastic crowds and my social media pages certainly don't lack for posts from his supporters. He has ridden a wave of attention in spite of less "free media" than Hillary Clinton enjoyed.

But articles I have read on this subject tend to compare Bernie Sanders' free media with Donald Trump's. Trump has exploited the free media angle better than any candidate before him. Compare Sanders' $321 million worth of free media attention with Trump's nearly $2 billion and it looks (and is) out of whack. But compare him to the front-runner, and as of March 15th, Clinton had twice the free media as Sanders. Still a lot, but Sanders has enjoyed the 3rd most of all the candidates (both parties) and 20 times more than the Democrats' third place candidate, Martin O'Malley.

The Trump attention has been obscene but I'm finding it hard to believe the DNC is responsible for that.

5. The DNC rigged the primaries in Arizona and Nevada.

The Arizona primary on March 22nd was a disaster. Voter rolls were wrong, with lifelong Democrats listed as Independents. The number of polling places in Maricopa County (notorious for its nasty sheriff Joe Arpaio) were cut from 200 (in 2012) to just 60, causing voters to wait hours in long lines to cast their votes. The worst abuses were in Hispanic neighborhoods, depressing that portion of the vote. Additionally, provisional ballots were given to thousands who came to vote but were told they were not eligible. Some of those ballots have allegedly been destroyed already.

Mayors, the Governor, and legislators are all calling for an investigation into what is being called voter suppression in Maricopa County. The Republican county recorder (Helen Purcell) has responsibility for elections in the county. The Sanders campaign has asked for a do-over of the election. The US Attorney General Loretta Lynch has opened an investigation.

In Arizona, the results were 56% Hillary Clinton and 41% Bernie Sanders. Doubting the legitimacy of the results is reasonable. However, polling just before the election showed voters leaning 50% to Hillary Clinton and 24% to Bernie Sanders. 

The primary in Arizona may well have been an omen of things to come, given the levels of now legal voter suppression since the overturning of the Voting Rights Act by the Supreme Court. We all should be alarmed.

But when discussing this horrific situation, the Sanders followers I know have jumped to the conclusion that the DNC manipulated the situation. There's no evidence that the Democratic Party had anything to do with this. In any case, why would those who prefer Hillary Clinton want to suppress the Hispanic vote?

As for the Nevada caucuses, there were widespread reports of irregularities at caucus locations around the state. Clinton won there as well, though Sanders has carried the majority of caucus states (8 of 12). Curiously though, when I searched for Nevada caucus irregularities, my feed was full of Republican caucus complaints, not Democratic. I have some concerns about caucuses in general -- done well and according to the rules of neutrality in some places, much too lax in others -- but can't separate out the individual social media complaints from systemic problems. There was a recount, which confirmed the original results, but that doesn't prove one way or another whether the caucuses were conducted fairly.

I have heard the charges of unfairness so regularly over the past several months that I had to investigate on my own. Based on these five complaints, I'm not convinced.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

My 2016 Predictions

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Based on the bizarre Presidential race and equally bizarre Congressional behaviors lately, I am ready to put in ink (or virtual ink) my predictions for the 2016 Election.

1. There will be two Republican candidates: Donald Trump and some other guy.
They may select him at the convention or derail him. If selected, a more loyal alternative will be encouraged to run as an independent. If they pull a fast one and select Cruz or someone else, Trump will run as an Independent. This guarantees a GOP loss of the White House for four more years but will excite both the pro-Trump and anti-Trump voters to show up and try to get him in or keep him out. The GOP keeps their Congressional and statehouse majorities thereby.

2. Hillary Clinton will pick either Julian Castro or his brother Joaquin as her running mate. They're young, charming, male
and Hispanic. And they're from Texas. If not for extreme gerrymandering and voting restrictions, Texas would already be a Democratic state.

3. A New Yorker will be our next president. There are three to choose from.

4. Democrats will retake the Senate.
There are 34 seats up for reelection; 24 of those are currently held by Republicans. And several are in deep doo-doo.

5. Republicans will hold the House of Representatives. All that census year redistricting does mean something.

6. Within weeks after the election, the Senate will approve Merrick Garland. They know the next President will not offer them a better deal.

7. Several state legislatures and governorships will switch to the Democrats.
Repeals of anti-abortion, anti-gay, anti-Muslim and voter suppression laws will head the state dockets in 2017.

8. Jokes about having a First Gentleman will get a whole lot better. Not as good as if the risque Serbian model became first lady, but good nevertheless. 

9. Netanyahu, Erdogan, Putin and Mugabe will be tossed out on their ears. Okay, that's just wishful thinking. But a girl can hope.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Another Bernie vs. Hillary Post?

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We have an exciting Democratic primary. I can tell by my Facebook and Twitter feeds. The Bernie supporters are excited and passionate. They regularly report on their candidate's excellent chances, on Hillary's flaws, and yes, on a bird landing on his podium in Portland. The Hillary supporters are more subdued. They "like" pro-Hillary posts but don't show the same exuberance.

A little background. My first vote was for George McGovern in 1972. I spent the summer and fall that year walking precincts for a genuine liberal. I remember my excitement when we were first to submit petition signatures, putting his name (then the California rules) first on every ballot. That was worth, we were told, about 5% of the vote. McGovern lost by a landslide, giving us nearly eight years of Nixon. 1972 was the beginning of my principled, but losing, choices.


Here are my November votes for the next 20 years:
1976: Eugene McCarthy, Independent
1980: Barry Commoner, Citizens Party
1984: Sonia Johnson, Citizens Party
1988: Eugene McCarthy, Consumer Party
1992: Lenora Fulani, New Alliance Party
As you can see, I did not vote for either of the major parties and held no hope of voting for a winner. My oft-stated belief was that one should vote her conscience, not the polls.

1996 was the turning point for me. In 1996, the special prosecutor's ad nauseum investigations of the Clintons dragged on, disrupting governance and costing a bundle for four years. Like a lot of Americans, I was sick of it. Though Bill Clinton was well to the right of me -- supporting NAFTA, GATT, further escalation in Iraq, and the near demise of support for families in poverty -- I voted for him out of disgust for the muck-raking. My first vote for a winning presidential candidate.

For the next four presidential elections, I also voted for the Democratic presidential ticket, supporting Al Gore, John Kerry and Barrack Obama.

This year, we have a choice between ideology and experience. Twenty years ago, I have no doubt I would have been supporting Bernie Sanders' revolution. I would be excited about a candidate who speaks truth to power, an unconventional candidate without party support but who excites huge rallies.

Yet I believe experience, effectiveness and an insider's access are important too. Sanders has been on the right side of most issues (gun control being a glaring exception) but has accomplished very little in his twenty-six years in Congress. In 2016, he has focused on his own campaign, ignoring down ballot candidates and issues. Yet we know that this year, Congress, the Presidency and the Supreme Court are all up for grabs. It is imperative that he give time to candidates for Congress, state legislatures and governorships.

Contrast this with Hillary Clinton. She has been the most attacked woman in American politics, probably ever. While Sanders was standing for liberal principles, Clinton has been defending herself
against attacks that ranged from Whitewater to being too involved in her husband's presidency to her fashion choices to Benghazi. She has a history of fighting for children's issues, women's issues,
universal health care, and international development. Yes, she has had her eye on the presidency for many years, grooming herself and cultivating support from major donors and the Democratic party. She has experience at the state level, in Congress, in foreign policy and in the White House. She is likely the most well-prepared candidate we've ever had. And she has raised money for down ballot candidates and stumped for them. She realizes the value of the whole ballot.

But with that experience comes a history of compromise: sometimes hawkish on foreign policy, votes for both the Iraq War and the Patriot Act, friendliness with Wall Street. Are those troubling? Indeed they are. She has played the game that is American politics. I'm reminded of LBJ, rather an SOB but who else could have accomplished the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts?

Unlike my friends who support Sanders, I doubt his electability in November. It's one thing to take a poll now when Karl Rove is buying ads to support him and no one is attacking him. It will be quite another during the general election when $1 billion in attack ads will be leveled against the Democratic candidate. Those ads against Clinton will simply rehash old news; everyone has heard the attacks. The ads against Sanders (the GOP's preferred opponent) will have a greater impact.

Though I will support whichever Democrat wins the nomination in July, I lean toward experience, electability, down ticket advocacy, and the ability to accomplish change. I'd love to see Sanders' platforms implemented. I just doubt he could accomplish them -- any of them.

My younger self would have gone for ideology. My older self chooses effectiveness.