Sunday, June 30, 2019


For quite a while now, Americans have had a sense that something has been going wrong in their country — but they're not at all sure what it is.  In 2008, they took a chance on "Hope and Change." Those voters got cautious incrementalism, and the banks that had tanked the economy got a bailout.  In 2016, America wanted change again, and got Tr*mp and his insane reality show of a presidency.  Corporate America got its massive tax cut, political polarization sharpened, and that sense of "wrongness" grew more acute.

While the super-rich might prefer a Republican candidate with a more rational approach to international relations and trade, they are stuck with Tr*mp for 2020.  Meanwhile, Democrats are sorting through two dozen contenders — but the basic choice they have to make is binary: either a return to the cautious incrementalism of the reigning Democratic establishment, or a sharp move to the left.  Those worried about "electability" have to figure out just what it is that will motivate voters this time around.  Are they still hungry for change, or sufficiently traumatized to long for the unsatisfying but predictable patterns of the past?

Joe Biden, widely considered the anointed candidate of the Democratic establishment, looked terrible in the first debate: not just old, but confused and unprepared.  Perhaps he'll do better next time, but it's hard to imagine him ever being exciting.  Still, it's not too late for some other "moderate" to gain institutional support.  On the left, Sanders would be the easiest target for Republican scare tactics, but Republicans will happily call Tulsi Gabbard a  socialist should she somehow happen to win the nomination.

Personally, I believe we should reserve our strategic voting for general elections, and cast primary votes based on our beliefs and values. If we don't, our beliefs and values might never matter at all.

Sunday, June 23, 2019


Joe Biden had a long, successful political career in Delaware; in part because he's good at local retail politics, in part because of consistent support from corporations and LLCs that flock to Delaware for tax advantages.  With regard to legislative decisions, Biden's approach has been "go along to get along" — a habit he likes to call "bipartisan cooperation."

Joe and Clarence, 1991
In national contests, Biden has been far less successful, due in large part to a bad case of foot-in-mouth disease.  He is notoriously gaffe-prone, and not especially good at explaining himself afterwards.  Needless to say, political junkies are gleefully anticipating his performance in the upcoming debate.  With nine others on the stage, though, he won't have time to say much of anything at all – so he's likely to survive.

So far, in the current presidential campaign, Biden's missteps have not resulted in any crippling pratfalls, but they haven't passed unnoticed.  For Anita Hill, it was much too little, much too late.  Then, there was his overnight reversal on the Hyde Amendment — just a little too fast to claim he'd "evolved" — and one only can wonder how he'll defend his strong support of the pro-bank, anti-consumer "bankruptcy reform" legislation of 2005.

As for working with arch-segregationists Eastland and Talmadge, he really had no choice: they were senior legislators at the time, and Biden was very junior.  Still, it was totally tone deaf to choose them as his examples: and anyway, they were Democrats.  Couldn't he name any conservative Republicans to trot out as his examples of collegiality, like Ted Stevens or John Tower?  That's what his campaign managers would have advised — if he'd asked.

Yes, it's understandable that many long for the relative sanity of the Obama administration, but too many people had had enough of that by 2015 — and Biden is unlikely to inspire the younger voters Democrats will need to win back the Senate.  Americans wanted change in the last presidential election, and they want it even more this time around.  Biden is just more of the same.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Déjà vu all over again

Clearly, I'm not the only one who started flashing back to 2003.  Remember Colin Powell at the UN with his tube of fake anthrax?  (We geezers also remember the Tonkin Gulf "incident" of 1964.)

This time around, the pastiche of "evidence" consists of a grainy black-and-white video and a lot of "trust us" from a pack of known liars.

Apparently the earlier attacks, discussed in my previous post,  were not sufficiently impressive.  The attackers escalated a bit – enough to create some better visuals and edge up oil prices, but not enough to impede traffic through the Straights of Hormuz.  Nobody died.

Most of the rest of the world is extremely skeptical of the claim that the Iranians are going out of their way to provoke a war with the US; a war that would be a lot more damaging to Iran than Tr*mp's punitive sanctions.  That leads many of TV's talking heads to opine that the attacks were carried out by "the more radical elements in Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps" rather than its central authorities – slightly more plausible, but not by much.

According to Mike Pompeo, intelligence sources have concluded that no non-state actor could have launched the attacks, presumably excluding the Houthis and Hezbollah; but certainly not excluding the Saudis or the Emiratis, who have purchased more than enough high-tech weaponry from the US.  As for the skill set, Erik Prince and his Academi mercenaries are conveniently located in Abu Dhabi.

Of course, there is another state actor with very close ties to Erik Prince: the Tr*mp Administration, which may see open conflict with Iran as a means to gin up nationalist sentiment and distract from its leader's increasingly apparent dementia and/or psychotic breakdown.

Yes, this is a conspiracy theory: I have no solid evidence of its validity.  It is possible that Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who turned 80 in April, is battier than Tr*mp; or that somebody else's conspiracy theory is closer to the mark.  What is certain, though, is that the whole truth remains unavailable.