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impeachment, and more!

busy week in US politics. Looks like some cards are getting flipped over now.

  • House Judiciary drafts Articles of Impeachment, committee to vote later this week, full House vote next week?
  • FBI Inspector General Horowitz releases report. Repeated subversion of FISA rules by FBI. Makes a liar out of House Intel Cmte. Chairman Schiff (among others). Nothing-criminal-going-on-here conclusion. Horowitz recommends additional follow-up work to correct deficiencies in following rules. Republican defenders of Trump, Barr and Durham, suggest there is more dirt to come via counter-investigations.
  • Giuliani goes to Ukraine and gets a nervous-looking Viktor Shokin on camera. Clips were briefly popping up from a right-wing news outlet, One America News, which I won’t link here. If authentic, this would be troubling for Biden. Shokin was Ukraine’s Prosecutor General (similar to an Attorney General in the US), and was forced out at Biden’s specific request, but “not because of Burisma”. In the clips, Shokin (via a translator) appears to state that he was in the process of investigating Burisma when Ukr. President Poroshenko asked him to resign, that this happened after Poroshenko spoke to Biden who expressed displeasure at the investigations and was witholding $1B of loan guarantees, that Poroshenko said Burisma is the main part of the reason he was asked to resign, and that Shokin thinks there is a telephone record between Poroshenko and Biden that is relevant.

I have a feeling this wasn’t supposed to happen, usually there is a backroom deal to settle these matters out of sight of the public. It may yet disappear, which would be a sign of a deal.

  • Oh, and out of nowhere, the “New NAFTA” is suddenly ready, with House Speaker Pelosi ready to jump on it in an incongruous show of bipartisanship.
  • Also, some report about Afghanistan, but I’m not sure who even considers that news at this point

Chris Hedges interview-talk [Chris Lydon / WBUR / WGBH]

Former NYT journalist and prolific writer, talks about the subjects of his new book America: The Farewell Tour. Hour and a half, picking up a bit as they go.


Hedges and his interviewer take the longer view, going back to their scholarly and spiritual roots to anchor their sanity amidst the difficult outlook, as they touch on many topics relevant to the dysfunctions of the day.

Increasing inequality, disillusionment, and despair feed proto-authoritarian tendencies in our government and economic system. Both political parties are complicit, and Hedges sees few signs that our trajectory can be changed through reforms from within the confines of the the power structure, as it exists. [however, that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth trying. -p.]

I am not as convinced as he is that the US is close to another serious financial crisis – but the rest of his message rings true. Perhaps the one thing that I think is likely to save the US from the vicious cycle of crises ending with authoritarianism, is the possibility that the economic conditions of working class Americans actually have potential to improve somewhat compared to 2012-2016. However, any improvement would be happening along with a continually growing list of economic sectors adopting the structure of a McDonald’s kitchen.

Still, mending the current divide, by lulling the working class back to sleep, would relieve the pressure on the political system. The generational nature of the working-class/middle-class divide would imply that one could buy perhaps 15 years time by letting the middle class deplete, thereby shifting balance of political power back to the stereotypical working class. As a way to “stop the bleeding”, so to speak. After that, the societal problems would be unsolved (and likely worse), a financial episode not unlikely on the decade timescale, political crisis would surely return, or we would simply morph into an “illiberal democracy”. Without a vibrant middle class, we’re looking at a diminished standing in the world, and the US would be a far less attractive place to live. So this scenario is not as bad as analogies to the Weimar Republic. But still fairly miserable if you ask me.

In the final question of the Q&A, Hedges calls for a radical restructuring of power in the US, suggesting that non-violent revolution is actually the least unrealistic path to a better future. It’s hard to dismiss this conclusion, as we already have all the resources we need do much, much better for everyone than we currently are – i.e. deliver a middle class life with health, education, work spread around evenly, a clean environment, and a society in which there is a good chance to build secure human relationships. Resources, processes, values – to shift gears, and mix metaphors a bit [from a popular corporate self-help book with a brilliant final chapter]. We have the first in abundance, we are discovering the third, slowly and painfully……

 

2020 Primary: Bullock, Sestak, Harris drop out

Finally, the field is starting to thin out.

  • Steve Bullock, MT governor
  • Joe Sestak, former PA representative and retired admiral
  • Kamala Harris, CA senator (term ending 2022). Just dropped per cnbc

Bullock and Sestak had negligible impact on the race (below 1% in Morning Consult poll released yesterday [538]).

Harris, on the other hand, was a relatively big name from a big state. I thought she might stay in just to have a shot at VP, which would be an especially sought after position this year, and her profile is ideal to be paired with a conservative white guy like Biden or even Buttigieg. Although unclear to what degree that is still a possibility after she took a shot at Biden in the first debate.

It will be interesting to see where Harris’ support will go, especially in CA. It was as much as 3-5% nationally (e.g. yesterday’s MC poll), and 6-10% in CA (e.g. Nov26th SurveyUSA poll).

Continuing to look at yesterday’s MC poll, Booker, Klobuchar, and Bennet have another 5% national polling between them, and a Senate seat to go back to.

Whistleblower & Politicization of Intelligence [Scott Ritter / Consortium News]

Detailed article by the former Iraq weapons inspector

link: https://consortiumnews.com/2019/11/27/scott-ritter-the-whistleblower-and-the-politicization-of-intelligence/

[via NakedCapitalism (in the comments)]


 

Before I say anything else, happy thanksgiving to all!  Wherever you are, relax, try to take it easy, and be kind to one another.

The article paints a picture of the difficult situation the originators of the current impeachment effort found themselves in. (the whistleblower was not alone in the views he held.)

As 2016 rolled into 2017, the whistleblower found himself in an administration about to roll back policies that were his. He and colleagues now reported to Flynn, who they were not only suspicious of, but had just been investigating and trying to keep from becoming their boss.

Ritter’s problem with this is that in such a situation, the whistleblower and like minded colleagues weren’t working for the current administration any more. The article doesn’t specifically say so, but essentially they are acting in the interests of the former administration, or if you like the opposite political party – the divisions happen to coincide here. Entering into the arena of politics (i.e. impeachment) is the avenue the whistleblower etc had available to resolve their predicament. This is a big no-no for the “IC”, but they decided that the level of wrongdoing (as they saw it) justified breaking this rule. Without even judging whether they were right in their judgment of the Trump administration, bringing the “IC” into politics opens up a heck of a can of worms right there.

My problem (actually I have several, but I am looking for an angle that can also be broken down without making a judgment about the actual accusations – doing so would be about as useful as arguing over religion) – my problem isn’t so much with the acting contrary to orders or chain of command. After all, there are cases when doing so is justifiable – the very existence of the whistleblower concept is an acknowledgment of this. But even besides this, we now have, in essence, the two sides investigating each other for the crime of having investigated each other. That situation is kindof ridiculous. There can be no resolution besides firing everyone on both sides and starting from scratch. And to be honest, that doesn’t sound so bad, as many of them deserve it for other reasons that are vastly more serious. (like starting wars, killing lots of innocent people, covering it up – that kind of thing).

Harvey J. Kaye interview [Maximillian Alvarez]

Historian Harvey Kaye (U of Wisc., Green Bay) talks history, politics, the present, and how American audiences are and have always been primed for a radical message, such as one now carried in many ways by Bernie Sanders. Audio, hour and a half.

link: http://workingpeople.libsyn.com/unlocked-bonus-episode-26-harvey-j-kaye

alternate link: https://player.fm/series/working-people/unlocked-bonus-episode-26-harvey-j-kaye

Dem Primary: TX and CA polls

Brief look at Primary polls for Texas and California.
(using fivethirtyeight‘s handy collection of polls.)

California:

  • Biden, Warren in mid 20’s, Sanders around 20%
  • Warren + Sanders together more than double Biden in nearly every poll
  • Harris is down to single digits, hasn’t cleared 15% in any poll since August
  • Buttigieg is in the 10% ballpark, within striking distance of 15% which would be a big deal
  • Total for candidates highly likely to drop out before super tuesday: ~6%

Texas:

  • There’s one poll since Beto dropped out. Biden=28 Warren=19 Sanders=18
  • This seems to be slight deterioration for Biden in relation to Sanders+Warren,
    vs when Beto was in and getting 15%. Sanders and Warren seem to have picked up a good chunk of his support.
  • Buttigieg not getting much traction
  • Total for candidates highly likely to drop out before super tuesday: ~10%

These states are going early (Mar 3 Super Tuesday), have high spanish population, high population overall, and will set the tone for the rest of the race.

Reminder: The 15% minimum threshold for scoring delegates is an important part of strategy here. At the moment, it looks like only Biden, Warren, and Sanders will be going home with delegates. Harris looks to be on her way out, and Buttigieg, although moving up in CA, isn’t there yet.

Candidates who are likely to stay in the race thru super tuesday, but unlikely to clear 15%, will probably add up to 15-20% of votes. (i.e. Harris, Yang, Gabbard, probably Buttigieg). These are split pretty evenly in terms of conservative vs progressive, with Buttigieg being the wildcard, since he has a shot at 15% in CA. Also Gabbard is kindof in her own category, as she defines herself with her anti-war foreign policy.

Also take all state polls with a grain of salt. LV models are prone to being wrong when there are candidates who find their support among voters who would otherwise be inconsistent to turn out. (such as Sanders, or Trump for that matter).

Dylan Ratigan interview [Jimmy Dore]

2.5 hours and they take their time, but Ratigan is a great interview guest.

Topics: brief bio, then media, wealth/income inequality and especially the scam surrounding the 2008 bailouts, how it created Trump, politics, etc etc…

Dem Primary: Centrists losing confidence in Biden?

Former MA governor Deval Patrick announced his candidacy this morning. I have to conclude that whatever “centrist” consensus there was around Biden’s candidacy, is no longer a consensus.

Some combination of losing condfidence in being able to get Biden the nomination, and maybe even a few influential centrists actually realizing that Biden represents a reversion to history that is better left behind.

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).