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Weekly update

Looks like fall, cold enough to be winter. Good time to be indoors. Here we go

  • In election results, some truly encouraging news this past week, as New York City adopts Ranked Choice Voting [Vox], by referendum. I strongly believe RCV is an absolutely necessary technical fix to our electoral system, as it eliminates the phony lesser-of-two-evils game that is so often played. It is not enough by itself to fix everything, but is an indispensable step. For US national politics, states currently have the power to implement it and Maine recently has. So no constitutional amendment required. Seeing it in major cities like NY will give other states the confidence to do the same. (A successful ballot initiative in California would be the watershed moment, but perhaps too soon). By the way, the DNC should have it too – if Sanders is in a position to ask for concessions next summer, this should be one of them!
  • The big Democratic Primary news: We got a new candidate! Former three term NYC Mayor Bloomberg, who is also a billionaire (#8 on the Forbes 400). He is also a former Republican, but hardly the only one. Bloomberg is greeted in the media with a bit of confusion, or even hostility. Which is how I think “establishment” Democrats should feel. Bloomberg can realistically hope to get votes from white fiscal-conservative-Democrats, which would otherwise go to Biden or Buttigieg. It is doubtful that all three will be in a position to collect delegates per the 15% threshold. Perhaps Bloomberg will knock out Buttigieg, and that may be his intention. But I’m not sure why, as he would also take white voters away from Biden. Anyway, it is great news as it shifts the discussion squarely back to spending priorities, which is where I think it should be. (for example, the wealth tax and Medicare-For-All both have a majority of Democrats supporting them). This seems to be good news for Warren and Sanders. It could, maybe, indicate that Bloomberg knows something about Biden that he thinks will undermine the former VP. Alternatively, if one were cynical, one may think Bloomberg is just in it to position himself for some backroom deal in exchange for NOT running.
  • House Intel Committee Impeachment Investigation … moving along. They really seem intent on taking it to the Senate before the election, i.e. before there is any possibility of Dems controlling the Senate proceedings. Why? Don’t ask me. Looks like there’s a theme here, and it’s lack of common sense.
  •  Polls… recently released general election polls by NYT/Siena, conducted in mid-October, have Biden ahead of Trump in the swing states, but by perilously thin margins (i.e. not statistically meaningful). Biden’s RV margin vs Trump as follows– WI:+4  NC:-2  FL:+2  PA:+3  MI:-1  AZ:+5  …  Sanders is close to that, the others are not. The poll also provides a “LV” model typically shifting by -1 (toward Republicans), which itself is optimistic in my opinion. I expect FL,AZ,NC to go to Trump, WI, MI to go to the Democratic nominee, and PA as a toss-up. I also think Sanders would actually do better than Biden, because he attracts Democrats who do not normally vote – the working class and the Hispanic demographic. Biden can’t do that.

Taibbi/Halper podcast – Whistleblower John Kiriakou [Rolling Stone]

If you have an hour and a half to fill with some audio, the Nov 1st episode of the Matt Taibbi + Katie Halper podcast [Rolling Stone] is a good one. I like this one better in audio format.

Kiriakou, the interview guest, is the one and only person punished in the US for the Bush era CIA torture program. He did 2 years in prison for revealing it (was threatened with 45 years as originally charged…). He talks about his own experiences, which I think are actually the more important part, but of course also about the current whistleblower in the House Intel Committee’s investigation into Trump’s phone call with Ukraine PM Zelensky .

Additional nuggets include:  A brief discussion of Max Blumenthal’s arrest, the story of John Brennan’s rise in the CIA, the technical meaning of the term “asset” (as in Clinton vs Gabbard), and remarks on the so-called deep state (think “federal bureaucracy” with a members-for-life mentality).

Democratic Primary update

It’s November, election day 2019 is coming up in the US (go vote). We are a year from the 2020 general election, and 3 months before the first primary in Iowa! So I’ll try to do a little more blogging, at least a monthly post.


First some schedule and geography. Below is the primary schedule for the first month (per NY times) and number of DNC delegates. Note the enormous weight of Super Tuesday on the 3rd of March.

Feb 3: IA (41 delegates)

Feb 11: NH (24)

Feb 22: NV (36)

Feb 29: SC (54)

Mar 3: CA (416), TX (228), NC (110), VA (99), MA (91), MN (75), CO (67), TN (64), AL (52),  OK (37), AR (31), UT (29), ME (24), VT (16)

Next, the very important “15% threshold” rule (from 270toWin.com). This will be VERY significant this year. Note that delegates correspond to electoral votes, some per-state, some per-congressional-district. Thus the 15% rule is applied at one of these granularities, in accordance with the number of congressional districts in the state.

Pledged delegates are allocated in a proportional manner based on the vote share received by each candidate.  This is at both the statewide and congressional district level.

There is a 15% minimum threshold to receive any delegates. Those not receiving the minimum are excluded, with the delegate pool divided proportionately among those candidates receiving 15% or more.

Got it? Now let’s look at how this impacts the strategy.


First of all, all the “mid-tier” candidates polling at 5-10%? They will have little impact if they don’t get any delegates. But remember the state-level polls still have 20% or more undecided voters, so when analyzing current polls, we should translate them into expected results that are a little higher.

Of note:

Kamala Harris has been at or below 10% in the half dozen polls done in CA in the  past month, not to mention nationally. She will be lucky to get a single delegate outside her home state and she may fail to place even there. In terms of media coverage, it looks like they “pulled the plug” on her after she attacked Biden. Result: Good news for Biden.

Beto, who dropped out, had over 15% in TX in the most recent polls (Sept), and would’ve had a good chunk of delegates just from there. But he just dropped out of the race! This is not what I would’ve expected – he would’ve been “useful” in terms of keeping TX delegates away from Warren or Sanders. However, maybe he was annoyed that they had earlier “pulled the plug” on him also, probably after he made off-script remarks sympathetic to Palestine in March 2019. Result: Good news for Bernie and perhaps Buttigieg.

Klobuchar, I expect her to clear 15% in MN, but few other states if any. She seems funded well enough, and is actually a pretty likable candidate as far as the “moderates” go (i.e. lack of exposure, blank slate, no negatives thus far). For whatever reason she never got a chance.

Buttigieg, I think, is the only candidate outside the top-3 who has a shot at breaking 15%. He is already above 15% in recent polls in Iowa, since it is a more “moderate” electorate and close to his home state. As of now, I expect him to pick up more support, and I expect the media to help him a lot – More on that later. Also note that Buttigieg is generally close to the DNC and was seriously considered for the DNC chairman position in 2017.


Biden – the most recent polls have him below 20% in IA and NH. If he slides more, it is possible he may fail to place in one or more of the first four states! (ah that would make me happy, but not holding my breath). His “firewall” is SC, of course – it will be do or die for him. If he does not make up ground in SC, his “electability” argument will be critically wounded.

Sanders – I think he will have a very strong start, top-2 in each of the first 4 states. Looking at Super Tuesday, TX and CA which dominate it have a significant Hispanic population, which is a very strong demographic for Sanders. Net result, per current polls I expect Bernie will be roughly tied for 2nd place after the first month, close behind the leader.

Warren – She looks set to win at least 2 of the first 4 states. Super Tuesday, we shall see. All depends on whether they manage to keep Biden away from the cameras. I expect her to be roughly tied for 2nd place, but she and Biden may well change places.


This state of events should make the Biden quite nervous. Extremely nervous, in fact, if the number of candidates clearing 15% is 3 rather than 4.

If it is a 3-way race, and I understand the DNC rules correctly, The Sanders candidates can endorse Warren (or vice versa), and together their delegates will have a convincing numerical advantage over Biden’s delegates. Biden doesn’t get the benefit of superdelegates (who are about 15% of total delegates) in the first round.

Note: I haven’t read the fine print (DNC rules per ballotpedia) on that… It wouldn’t surprise me if there are other obscure rules that apply when no single candidate has 50%, as will likely be the case. For example I’m 100% not totally sure that the rules are actually set up for candidates to “join forces” when the superdelegate-free first-ballot is a 3-way situation. Although I think they are, since for example candidates who drop out of the race can “release” their pledged delegates, etc). We may be revisiting this in painful detail 9 months or so.

UPDATE: Here (The Week 9/17/2019) is an additional article on DNC strategy in a 3-way race that explains it better than I did.

In a 4-way race, however, Biden + Buttigieg (or whoever is 4th) could hold out into more rounds, bring the superdelegates into play, and then we know what they will do.


Thus the DNC / Biden will want to do one of 3 things:

(1) get Biden’s numbers back up, high enough to beat Sanders+Warren together. (unlikely)

(2) get Bernie below 15% (very unlikely, committed Bernie supporters are I think 20%+ of Democrats and 30% or more of the most enthusiastic primary voters).

(3) get a fourth candidate (Buttigieg?), above 15%. Then offer that candidate whatever they need to have their delegates vote for Biden at the convention. This is possible, and the DNC-allied TV/press could push for it by giving him lots of exposure. If they are going out of their way to put him on the air, we know this is what is happening.


Oh yeah, the Impeachment. As it would be politically suicidal for elected Republicans to support it, the number of Senate Republican votes will be at most the number of Senators who are about to retire.

Also state level polling tentatively suggests that it will push FL and AZ into Republican hands in the general election. If that happens, it would give Trump a second option on the electoral map besides having to win PA. Namely, winning NC + WI + all the toss-up individual electoral votes awarded proportionally per-congressional-district in ME and NE).

Thus, impeachment is either a waste of time or worse, unfortunately.


All in all though, I think this is pretty decent news for the primary. Better than I expected at this point.

Happy fall!

 

Journalist and anti-war activist Max Blumenthal arrested [Grayzone]

Here’s how the anti-venezuela program rolls…

Blumenthal, by the way, has been doing some great journalism via The Grayzone, along with Aaron Mate, and several others courageous enough to take on our out-of-control militarist foreign policy, which hasn’t changed much under Trump.

link: https://thegrayzone.com/2019/10/28/this-charge-is-one-hundred-percent-false-grayzone-editor-max-blumenthal-arrested-months-after-reporting-on-venezuelan-opposition-violence/

Podcast – Matt Taibbi and Katie Halper interview Abby Martin

Taibbi and Halper’s “Useful Idiots” Podcast – Oct 24th 2019 episode

subjects: Hillary Clinton vs Tulsi Gabard, Abby Martin’s experiences, and film on Gaza

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/abby-martin-on-hillarys-neomccarthyism-gaza-fights/id1476110521?i=1000454793955

Trump, Biden, Ukraine [Max Blumenthal / Grayzone]

Max Blumenthal, with Aaron Maté, goes over the Ukraine-Trump-Biden situation that is behind the current impeachment investigation, adding several pieces of the puzzle that were missing for me.

https://thegrayzone.com/2019/10/07/trump-meddled-in-ukraine-and-hes-not-alone/

 

House impeachment effort

I guess i’ll put down a few words about the “big political news”.

As of last week, an “impeachment investigation” is under way in the House of Representatives. Although the center of effort is the House Intel committee rather than House Judiciary, the seriousness of the effort is indicated by the fact that House Majority leader Pelosi went to the trouble of getting nearly every Democratic member of the House (224 out of 235) to go on record as supporting it.

I hadn’t realized at first that Pelosi went and got so much support, but she did. Even Democrats who just barely got elected, who really risk paying a price come the next election – they had to go somewhere public, maybe their local media, and go on the record stating their support for the impeachment-investigation (although not impeachment itself). It’s fairly easy to tell which Representatives are uncomfortable with it, it’s when the statement is phrased something like “I believe we should follow the evidence and see where it leads”. Regardless, such high support for the investigation is a tremendous show of support for Biden.

Another aside is that no such support was evident earlier this year, in June, when Representative Al Green (D-TX) tried to introduce Articles of Impeachment in the House. At that time, the cause was Trump’s plainly racist twitter statement telling several US Representatives something like ‘they should go back to whatever crap countries they came from’.

So I would point out that the likelyhood of Mitch McConnell removing Trump is exactly the same now as it was in June, but the evidence in June (the tweet) was not at all disputed, and there was no collateral damage to Biden. Not that I have much sympathy for his politics.

In contrast, this time we have Trump asking Ukraine’s president to revive an investigation into the company of Biden’s son. Obviously intended to damage Biden. Except the investigation was previously halted at Biden’s request – which Biden himself characterized as a threat he personally made to Ukraine’s then president to withhold IMF funds if Ukraine did not halt the then-investigation (i.e. fire the prosecutor). With the prosecutor getting fired immediately according to Biden.

So I’m having a really hard time understanding why Pelosi (or whoever) picked this particular one. Since we’re talking about Trump here, there is no shortage of semi-ethical or entirely-unethical things to choose from. I mean, after the hysteria dies down, maybe in a year, the actual details of the story will do as much damage to Biden as Trump. The Republicans will never let it go. And not only does it validate the playing-the-victim that helped Trump get elected last time (would be true of any impeachment effort), it is actually kindof hard to say that what Trump did in this case was worse than what Biden did.

This strikes me as a spectacularly myopic move.

Rant off… The decision is made, the die is cast, and this is the story that’s going to be sold for the next year probably, so get comfortable.


 

The effect on the primaries is of more immediate interest. Leading up to last week, it looked like Biden was slipping in the polls. There wasn’t really enough data to say how much. But in the early primary states, IA, NH, and NV, but not SC, he does seem to be falling behind to Warren. And with California’s primary now on Super Tuesday (March 3rd), the primary will require a good “start” more so than previous years’ races. (Biden isn’t doing great in CA either).

Biden’s primary campaign is about his claim of electability, essentially. And the near-unanimous support from House Democrats does in a way address that – it shows Biden has the D party leadership solidly behind him. But everyone already knew that. Actual electability, in the general election, it will be about popular appeal. No superdelegates to save the day. The nominee will need votes in a handful of swing states.

So what will independents think of impeachment? What will independents in PA, FL, AZ think, specifically? Especially PA? PA just had a redistricting prior to the 2018 race, which makes it a bit confusing to analyze at the congressional district level. Hopefully there will be more info coming out of the keystone state. That’s where all eyes should be.