Cold day.

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No, this isn’t a post about the weather (though it is cold as hell out there). I just wanted to make a couple of points about the possibility of bipartisan cooperation in 2018 – something that’s being kicked around the corporate media as if it were somehow desirable. This is consonant with the oft-stated desire to see “things get done” in Washington, as if the precise nature of the things being done was somehow irrelevant; that legislation passed is a good in and of itself, abstracted away from the substance of the bill. Another piece of conventional wisdom, served up daily. I expect I’ll pass on this, and I would recommend my fellow left-leaning Americans do the same.

Why the GOP loves Trump. As far as I’m concerned, the GOP has demonstrated its bad will in about as many ways as can be imagined. And before anyone gives me a lesson on how politics works, on how you can disagree from morning to evening but at the end of the day you need to work together, etc., let me just say that the Republicans have become an extremist party bent on wrecking the country, and the only thing to be done with them is to beat them at the ballot box and then drag their sorry asses into the future along with us, kicking and screaming if necessary. Nothing short of that will do.

I know there are many in the Democratic party who feel that we need to provide a positive example and be willing to compromise as a stark contrast to the other side’s absolutism. There’s some of this sentiment circulating around discussion of an infrastructure bill next year. This is ludicrous. The Republicans just voted to blow an enormous hole in the federal budget, diverting a trillion and a half dollars from essential programs and handing it to the richest people in the country. If they want to make a deal on infrastructure, tell them to cancel that bill. And while you’re at it, tell them to stop working overtime to pack the federal judiciary with twenty-something Nazis. Change course and we can talk.

If the GOP says no, just say “see you in November”. Let’s let the people decide what kind of country this is going to be.

luv u,

jp

Three percent solution.

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Some election news this week. Jon Ossoff, Democratic party candidate in the Georgia 6th congressional district “jungle” primary topped 48% of the vote tally, which is impressive in Tom Price/Newt Gingrich territory but still a couple of points below an outright victory. As always, the Republicans furiously worked the refs on this race, establishing the easy-bake narrative that Ossoff needed to win an outright majority and that anything short of that would be an abject failure. The mainstream media, of course, adopted this line because it’s simple and requires zero analysis (a lot of stories run this way), so the news shows the morning after the election were full of Democrats falling short postmortems. Useful.

Actual Tenney quote.Okay, because I am at heart a fair person, I will admit that the likes of Joe Scarborough said something that I actually agreed with this past Wednesday – something to the effect that Democrats need to rediscover getting out the vote, knocking on doors, calling people, etc. I agree. If Dems are ever going to return from the electoral wilderness, they need to start building their ground game right now. With the Georgia race and the contest in Kansas for that open House seat (lost to the GOP by seven points), that point has now been underlined and circled in red. (Okay, you can go back to despising Scarborough again.)

This doesn’t amount to a repeat of the same “air war” strategy the national Democratic party keeps running over and over again, dropping TV ads at the last minute. Democrats need to be a factor on the ground; they need to be a positive force in people’s lives. In my region, the congressional seat is held by a tea party Republican, way to the right of her district. We have only elected one Democrat in my lifetime – Michael Arcuri back in 2006. The only reason why he won was that the Democratic party invested in the race. They sent paid, seasoned campaign organizers to the district. They invested in a sizeable call center. They ran phone banks and knocked on doors. That – not the ads – was what put Arcuri over the top. I remember one of the party organizers giving a pep talk to the volunteers, telling us that a good ground game can add three percent to the vote total on election day. “We’re going to need that three percent,” he said.

There’s a coda to that story: two years later, there was none of that. Calling was done out of a cramped room in the local labor council office, and Arcuri just barely squeaked by in a presidential election year. In 2010 he got knocked off; same problem. This past fall, I was dialing for the Democratic candidate at the labor council again, working from a pretty crappy list. It’s not just lack of investment – it’s lack of the right kind of investment that kills our chances.

We have to start winning elections. It’s not the only thing we have to do, but it’s goddamned important.

luv u,

jp

Small “d”.

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Political Rants

You’ve already heard enough about Tuesday’s election, I know. My feeling since that night has been pretty much, the struggle continues – move on. I’ll take a few moments, though, to share a few thoughts about Trump’s win.

First, this was a low turn-out election, plain and simple. Though Clinton won the popular vote by about 400,000 ballots Tuesday night, she received about six million fewer votes than Obama did in 2012. Trump received a million less than Romney’s 2012 totals. Some of that difference can be attributed to turnout in large states like California, but many of the swing states – Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, for instance – were significantly down from 2012. People did not show up to vote for either party, but their absence was most keenly felt by the Clinton campaign, which was trying to call out the Obama coalition and failed miserably. So don’t let anyone tell you this was a historic groundswell of support for Trump – far from it. He under-performed his party’s unsuccessful (and notoriously uninspiring) candidate from 2012.

All is forgiven? Well ... Second, there’s some reason to believe that Trump’s success, in the absence of a traditional ground GOTV campaign, was based in large measure on free media in the form of speeches and appearances that ran on practically every news channel for hours a week over the last year. I have heard NBC reporters (sometimes referred to as “journalists”) connect this Trump phenomenon with the large number of Trump signs they saw in rural communities. That, of course, was just a symptom of the mental disease that afflicts non-rich Trump supporters. The vector by which the disease spread was their own “reporting” – namely, serving up hours of this man’s bullshit on multiple platforms to millions of hungry minds, hence the signs. But they are no more reliable an indication of the level of support than the number of people showing up at Trump rallies. Sure, he had large crowds. So did Bernie. So did Ralph Nader in 2000. When the day came, the numbers were pretty flaccid.

So there was no phenomenal groundswell on either side. The warning signs for the Democrats were apparent during the primary season, when voter turnout was relatively low. There has obviously been an enthusiasm gap, but that is a failure of organizing – we need to work harder to convince people of how vital it is to vote as a means of advancing policy goals, not as some kind of rough demonstration of your values. We may never know why tens of thousands of Democratic voters in key swing states – people who put Obama over the top twice – didn’t show up last Tuesday. There are no exit polls on no-shows. But it places in stark relief the fundamental injustice of our presidential elections, which value some voters over others. There is no justification for not having one-person, one-vote nationwide; we no longer need the training wheels of the electoral college. Pundits are fond of describing our presidential elections as a series of 50 different elections, but if that were the case, the winner would be president of only those states that supported him/her.

The presidency is a national office: as Americans, we should all have an equal say in who holds it. If you agree, find one of the petitions circulating for abolishing the electoral college and sign it.

Next week: The consequences of Nov. 8, 2016 (part I).

 

On the brink.

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Here we are, once again, staring down the electoral precipice, praying for salvation. It’s a quadrennial tradition, though sometimes more acute than others. This is certainly one of those times, though count me as among those who considered John McCain to be an existential threat to the nation back in 2008; his seemingly insatiable appetite for warfare would have led us in a very dangerous direction, to say nothing of his economic proposals. (He likely would have been a one-term president, but I’m not sure we would have lasted four years.) Now, of course, we’re sweating out a resurgent Trump, buoyed by bad news for Hillary Clinton. This is a reactionary, climate change denialist detour we most certainly cannot afford at this juncture, but … here we are.

Just make her do this. Then move on.The fact that we so often find ourselves on the edge of disaster is an indication that we need to do something about not only this process of electing leaders, but also about the magnitude of power they wield in office. It is simply unacceptable that a single person should have the ability to make enormously consequential policy decisions and even blow up the world without having to consult with anyone else. The fact that an unstable, hyper-narcissistic creep like Trump can be elevated to such an office indicates a fatal flaw in our system. If we cannot raise the bar on who can be admitted to the presidency, we need to constrain the destructive power of the office by some means.

What also gives me heartburn about this election is the sense that I cannot rely on my countrymen to do the right thing. I have to wonder what it would be like to have that kind of confidence in the wisdom of the electorate. The history of the last 40-50 years is not encouraging on that score. How many election years have I thought, god no, that fool would never be elected, only to be proven disastrously wrong? Too many, and we are still living with the consequences of each and every instance. If Trump is elected, he will do¬† damage that we will be grappling with for decades. (Well, perhaps you will. I don’t have a lot of decades left.)

Modest suggestion: do the right, if hard, thing. Vote to defeat Trump. There’s only one way to do that in a contested state: Hillary. Swallow hard, do it, then turn to something more useful … like organizing.

luv u,

jp

Burning man.

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Watching the Trump campaign this week, I am reminded of a collection of bad movie scenes my brother curated back in the 1990s under the title, Destination: Brain – we informally referred to it as “The Greatest Hits”. As bad sci-fi movie aficionados, Matt and I loved to watch select passages from some of mankind’s worst films but found it tiresome to sit through 90 minutes of boring dreck just to get to that “sweet spot” of bad acting, cheap specials, horrible dialog, etc. Matt cut together Destination: Brain so that we could enjoy those poetically bad movie moments extracted from context, and yet given new meaning by their juxtaposition with other poorly-wrought scenes.

Winning!In any case, one of our favorite scenes was from a cheap-ass Frankenstein knock-off with a bunch of no-name actors and the clumsiest monster you ever saw. There is a climactic laboratory scene in which the monster’s arm catches on fire, and he runs around the lab, screaming, trashing the place from end to end. That’s what I think of when I look at where Trump has gone over the last week or so – a crazy-ass Frankenstein’s monster set on fire and spreading his conflagration to everything he touches. Better that he should do it during the campaign than in the oval office, am I right?

I am no fan of Ross Perot, but watching the news cover these serial sexual abuse allegations brings to mind the Texas billionaire’s studied but folksy rejoinder, “This is just sad.” Every minute spent covering this pissing match is another minute of not talking about the serious issues that face us. Not that the mainstream media and the dominant political culture need any excuses to avoid discussion of global climate change, or the ongoing threat of nuclear weapons, or the continuous state of war we’ve been embroiled in since 2001, or you name it. The notion that anyone should need more information about Trump’s past in order to vote against him is … well, it’s just sad. (The idea that any of these allegations would surprise any sentient American over the age of 25 is in itself beyond absurd.)

Tomahawk Thursday. We’re firing missiles into Yemen, nominally in response to missiles fired at our vessels in the Gulf. Of course, we are in so deep with the Saudis bombing Yemen into the stone age that the Houthi rebels (or as NBC calls them, the “Iranian-backed Houthi rebels”) do not distinguish between the U.S. and Saudi. You can kind of see why. That war sucks, and we can do something about it. The fact that we don’t is a crime.

Veep debate postmortem.

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I know most people did not watch the quadrennial spectacle of the vice presidential debate this past Monday. For those who missed it, you didn’t miss much. That said, it appears as though the corporate media in particular is intent on scoring this match-up on the basis of style points, thereby awarding the debate to former right-wing talk show host Mike Pence, one of the most reactionary men ever to adorn a major party presidential ticket. He was smooth and relaxed, the commentary goes, whereas Kaine was somewhat agitated and even rude. Well … glad we’re focusing on what matters.

centrist, reactionaryI have, however, heard some more interesting points made outside of the beltway punditocracy. Majority Report has been particularly good on this. Much of it confirms the impression I had at the time that Kaine was basically setting Pence up to defend, point by point, the most ridiculous and intemperate statements Trump has made during the campaign. Not rocket science, right? He was being pretty systematic about it, getting Pence on the record as denying that he and Trump had said things they had obviously said on camera, getting him to take positions at odds with those of his running mate, and drawing him out on some of his own well-documented extremism. That content was subsequently cut together into Clinton campaign web videos. And all of Kaine’s interrupting? Some have suggested it was to deny Pence usable soundbites. Basically all the Trump campaign could do was clip together Kaine’s interjections in kind of a whiny little ad about him being rude. Kaine – so the thinking goes – basically threw himself under the bus for the good of the order. Why not? Does it matter who “wins” the veep debate?

This is completely aside from the content of what was discussed. That was abysmal, for the most part. The moderator had some kind of Russia obsession, asking at least three questions about it and zero about climate change. Even more irritating was the unchallenged claims by Pence that the Obama administration “paid ransom” to Iran for the release of a detained journalist, that they had some option with regard to the Iraq status of forces agreement George W. Bush had signed with Baghdad forcing a U.S. withdrawal in 2011 (or that to remain would have been either desirable or effective in some respect), and that the “Russia Reset” led to the annexation of Crimea and Russian involvement in Syria. Worse, both men appeared to endorse the creation of a “safe zone” in Syria, which would require a no-fly zone, which would demand a U.S. fighting force of tens of thousands, plus the destruction of Syria’s air defense capabilities and its aircraft. That would put us into direct conflict with the Russians. Something to look forward to?

So, yeah … it was pretty awful. But the fundamentals of this race are the same. We have to do the hard thing – vote for someone we don’t like in order to block someone who should never be president under any circumstances. Hard to swallow for many, but we should swallow hard, vote to elect Clinton, then continue the fight as soon as we leave the voting booth.

luv u,

jp

Week that was 3.0.

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It’s been another one of those weeks. Not sure how many more I can stand. This election is enough of a nightmare without the regular drumbeat of disasters, but I guess it always works like this on some level. Maybe I’m getting more sensitive in my dotage. In any case, this is what I’ve been thinking about this week:

Lives not mattering. Police shootings of black men in Tulsa, Charlotte, and outside of San Diego demonstrate that this is not getting any better and perhaps is getting much worse. Whereas there has always been a degree of indifference about these incidents, as more and more take place without just resolution, people will tend to become inured to the issue, just as they have with mass shootings. And of course, in at least two of these incidents, details about the dead man’s background have been made known, including brushes with the law. They did this with Patrick Dorismond back in the later nineties and it’s become a favorite tactic: If you’re black, you have to be an angel to deserve to live through a police encounter. That’s a high bar.

Lopsided matchupNot-so-great debate. I was witness to the nerve-wracking exchange between former secretary Clinton and Donald Trump, and I have to say that something about seeing the two of them on the stage of a presidential general election debate was disturbing enough even before they said anything. Clinton bested Trump, but that shouldn’t be hard. The guy literally knows nothing about anything. Honestly, the Republican party seems determined to convince people that there’s nothing to the presidency, that any dunce off the street can do the job. Count me among those who do not agree. That rambling wreck Trump would be a total disaster, to borrow one of his favorite turns of phrase. If Monday’s debate proved anything, it’s that.

Name one leader. Did I mention that Gary Johnson is a dunce? That should be obvious after blowing another softball question on MSNBC. With a brain that flaccid, he should have run for the Republican nomination. I don’t know how this guy ever ran a state without being possessed of even a little bit of knowledge about the world. What makes him attractive to hipsters must be the perception that he would legalize marijuana … or perhaps that he provides a titanic opportunity for irony.

luv u,

jp

Purism deconstructed.

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Political Rants

There seems to be considerable interest in third party candidates this year, even though neither of the major/minor candidates is anything to write home about. Jill Stein is a smart person with whom I agree across a broad range of policies, but her notion of how presidential elections work is severely stunted and bizarre. Moreover, the party she represents is almost a total waste of space – an environmental activist party that only appears once every four years to compete in the presidential race. When it comes to organizing, they’re not exactly Saul Alinsky.

Just do it, then move on.Gary Johnson, on the other hand, is clearly not the brightest ex-governor on the porch and hasn’t made much of a case for why young people should give their vote to a ticket that’s floated in part with Koch money, most likely. Perhaps his supporters are not aware that he would slash spending on just about any program that ever benefited them in any way. If American style libertarianism is about anything, it’s about that. Not that it’s likely to be much of a problem – he, like Stein, have no conceivable path to victory in this election. All they have is an extraordinary opportunity to hand Donald Trump and the hyper-reactionary Republican party an electoral victory this November that they don’t deserve and that will have repercussions for many years to come.

That is not an exaggeration. Elections have consequences, and I am saying this as someone who voted for Nader in 2000 (in New York state, of course). We are still living with the consequences of the election of Ronald Reagan, from the fallout from his Afghan “freedom fighters” (now called Al Qaeda and the Taliban), to his reactionary Supreme Court picks, to his war on labor. We also feel the effects of Dubya’s clueless reign, with troops deployed in all of the countries he invaded, a massively outsourced national security state, and our national budget buckling under the strain of his tax cuts for the richest Americans. If Trump wins, it will be because Democrats and progressives sat on their hands or actively voted for someone other than Clinton. That would be a disaster for poor and working people here and around the world.

No, Clinton isn’t a great candidate. But voting is a shitty way to protest. Voting should be strategic, and there is no coherent rationale for withdrawing support from the Democratic ticket that will lead to better policy.

The student prince.

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I missed NBC’s “Commander in Chief Forum” thus week, but caught the aftermath, and it wasn’t pretty. For one thing, never have a discussion about war and peace on any deck of a warship. It’s like, I don’t know, riding an H-bomb Slim Pickens-style, like it’s a bucking bronco. Second, don’t hire Matt Lauer unless you plan on making it some kind of variety show with a quirky meteorologist and people standing outside the window holding signs. Then, of course, there’s the problem named Donald.

The Student PrinceTruth be told, I have seldom been so gob-smacked by the stupidity of a presidential candidate. Sure, Dubya was a tremendous dumb-ass. Sure, Dan Quayle couldn’t spell and thought Mexicans spoke Latin. Sure, Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson apparently thinks “Aleppo” is the name of a new recreational drug. Donald Trump is in a whole other category. Basic concepts about the nature of the world appear to be beyond his grasp. At the forum, he repeated his opinion that we should have “taken the oil” when we invaded Iraq. Asked to elaborate, he poked around the notion of leaving a few people there to stand guard over it, as if it was a small, contiguous, manageable object and not a massive natural resource that’s part of the geology of that unfortunate country.

Pulitzer Prizewinning journalist David Kay Johnston says that Trump knows nothing, and the first time I heard that I thought it was hyperbole. But it really is true: the guy simply has no knowledge outside of what he absolutely needs to know to hold himself upright. His comments at the forum were evasive, full of blather, devoid of meaningful content, and remarkably incoherent. And yet people still support him for the presidency. Some of those attending that event later commented that they were still “undecided”. I can understand the reluctance regarding Clinton. But this is no longer a policy argument. This is different. Trump would be a learn-on-the-job president with very few constraints.

The salient issue in this campaign is now how to keep a rich-ass crackpot away from the most powerful office on earth. That is a simple binary choice, whatever ideology you subscribe to.

luv u,

jp

How crazy is too crazy?

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By most accounts, it hasn’t been a good week for candidate Trump. I say “most” because The Donald has die-hard ditto-heads, like the ones attached to Limbaugh’s ample ass (and there’s probably substantial overlap between those groups). His problem has been his mouth, as usual, though that’s just the thing that makes noise. It’s the policy implications of a Trump presidency that scares the hell out of me, not the fact that he has terminal foot-in-mouth disease. In with Trump would come all of the worst players in the Republican establishment – the war starters, the torturers, and so on – plus a substantial cadre of tea party freaks to fill in all of the gaping holes in his action plan as president. He took zero interest in the drafting of the GOP platform, tossing it off to these rancid constituencies. The result has been a remarkably reactionary document, far to the right of any the party has drafted before.

More likely? Well ... maybe.Does this bother the Republican establishment? Not at all. They get a little bothered by his off-hand comments and rejoinders to everyone who looks askance at him. Overt racist policies, ethnic cleansing, etc., inspires mild concern. I think the turning point was Trump’s reluctance to endorse Paul Ryan and other prominent Republicans – that’s getting their attention, and now the party is openly looking for ways to rein him in or read him out. I don’t think either will happen, frankly. His fellow Republicans worry about their seats, not about the planet – they don’t care that this hyper narcissistic man-baby who seems to have a fascination with nuclear weapons might become president.

Maybe it’s because we’ve had potential world-destroyers in the highest office before, right? Like Truman, who contemplated bombing the border between North and South Korea. Or Kennedy, who nearly blew us up over the right to keep some obsolete missiles in Turkey – missiles we had already secretly planned to remove. Or the unabashed racist Nixon who wanted to use nukes on Vietnam. Or Reagan who almost touched off a nuclear exchange with Russia by repeatedly probing their perimeter defenses until a miscalculation on the Soviet side nearly sent the missiles flying.

Or maybe it’s because they’re too craven to care about anybody other than themselves. My money’s on that one.

luv u,

jp