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Rethinking Marxism

Posted by on Feb 20, 2020 in Blog, Essays, Politics | 2 comments

 

karl-marx-photo

 

de obmibus debutandum

(Translated from Latin, means to “doubt everything.”)

 

If Karl Marx was alive today, he’d be a frequent guest on news and talk shows.  He’d be a regular on CNN, MSNBC, and perhaps even FOX News.  Imagine Marx sitting opposite Sean Hannity or Tucker Carlson.

Think of Geraldo Rivera, only with brains and integrity.

Marx was not a political fanatic, nor was he an extremist — certainly not when you examine his many writings.  In fact, back in his day, during the mid-to-late 19th century, Marx is what we’d now call a social commentator. He wrote about politics, economics, and current events. Think of a leftist version of Jeanine Pirro, only much better looking.

Talking heads didn’t exist back then, not as a television entity nor with David Byrne.  So instead, Marx scribed all of his ideas.  Those ideas were published in various newspapers and periodicals, including even in outlets based in the United States.  He also wrote a few notable books, which weren’t particularly well-received when they were initially published, which is another way of saying Marx was way ahead of his time.  Too bad Marx didn’t have an agent.  He might have ended up as a capitalist.

Marx doesn’t merit our reverence, though he has come to personify a global movement.  Many patriarchs of what we now call “socialism” pre-dated his work and expressed similar ideas with far superior clarity.  Indeed, Marx is no ideological messiah.  But he doesn’t deserve universal scorn, nor any condemnation, either.  Based on several passages of his writings and his character revealed later by those who knew him best (and chronicled these encounters), it’s accurate to say Marx would have been mortified to see the terrors later perpetrated in his name long after his death, carried out more than half a century later in places like the Soviet Union, Mao’s China, East Germany, North Korea, and other bastard regimes.

The fact is, Marx only commented on the events of the 19th Century, a period of vast social upheaval, the industrial revolution, and grotesque inequity.  He couldn’t have foreseen the bloody horrors to come (done in his name).  Like Jesus or Mohammed fronting similar popular movements some millennia earlier, we don’t hold them responsible for horrors like the Crusades, Islamic terrorism, or the worst catastrophe in the history of the world — The Jim Bakker Show.  The mullahs twist Islam.  The Falwells and Grahams twist Christianity.  And Lenin twisted the hell out of Marx, worse than a dishrag.  Pol Pot would have been utterly inconceivable to this struggling academic from Trier, Germany living in the 1830s.  Besides, Pol Pot just sounds way too weird to be taken seriously, unless its a marijuana dispensary.

Marx got many things right.  He also got some things wrong, which goes with the territory when commentating on unstable political and economic systems with lots of moving parts.  He never proposed forming any kind of political movement, though several grotesque variants materialized which dragged his name and historical reputation through the mud.  He declined opportunities to join parties and organize revolts.  Marx became a victim of history.  I would go so far as to say he was a tragic figure.  The average (uninformed) American places him somewhere in the company of Adolf Hitler and Charles Manson.  Such is the fallout of a supposedly free society with allegedly the greatest access to information than any civilization in history.  America, fuck yeah.

Leninism, Stalinism, and Maoism have become the nuclear holocausts of political thought.  Like Marx’s writings, the idea of fission may have initially been scientifically correct.  What was actually done with the knowledge becomes a far more explosive topic.

But that’s not how our popular attitudes gel or how meanings evolve.  Ideology isn’t organic.  Rather, it’s evolutionary and politically pasteurized by the events of the day and then seasoned with bias.  We always seek simple answers to complex questions.  Capitalism = Good.  Karl Marx = Bad.  End of discussion.  Now, turn on the ballgame and grab me another beer.  U-S-A!

Indeed, real understanding takes work.  Why read or study or think when you can wave a flag?  Plowing through deliberate disinformation takes even more work.  Overcoming historical misrepresentation even takes courage.  Most of all, it requires an open mind, in a world that largely consists of nonsense barreling down the lunatic fringe assembly line. Like trying to pour wine into a corked bottle.  Nothing gets in.  Even the most advanced societies are a giant cork of ignorance.  Closed societies, especially those impoverished or tied to religion, are locked in a barrel.

Nonetheless, Marx and his ideas deserve to be understood accurately, instead of the amalgamation of knee-jerk emotions and the lightning rod for evil that they’ve become.  Marxist to contemporary politics what a pedophile is to daycare.  It’s an unthinkable prospect.

Given how loosely Marx’s name gets tossed around — especially with the misnomer of “Socialism” being such a timely topic — now is a perfect opportunity to look more closely at this fascinating man who lived from 1812 to 1883.

As you read further, I’ll later pose a question:  Is being a Marxist — that is, believing in the words and ideas expressed by this social commentator — really so extreme?  Ponder that question.  Then, take this short test I composed based on his life and his writings.

Here are 25 things about Karl Marx you might not know (taken from various biographies I’ve read):

(1)  Marx wasn’t Russian.  He never once visited any of the countries which would (allegedly) later come to practice his philosophy.  Marx was born in what’s now Germany.  He lived in one of the more enlightened societies in the world, a time and place filled with cultural and artistic expression.

(2)  Marx’s parents were Jewish.  However, they later converted to Christianity (Protestantism).  This was reportedly to avoid fears of rampant antisemitism in central Europe.  Young Karl Marx was baptized in the Lutheran Church.  Tell that to your Sunday School class.

(3)  From early adulthood, Marx openly claimed to be an atheist.  Oddly enough, that self-proclamation — highly unusual for its time — made him even more of a social outcast than if he were Jewish.  His rejection of religion certainly hurt him professionally and economically much of his life.

(4)  Marx and his wife had six children.  By all accounts, he was a devoted father.  Marx created funny nicknames for each of them.

(5)  Marx was burdened by health problems during most of his life.  He had severe liver problems, suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, endured migraine headaches, and complained constantly of toothaches.

(6)  Marx was an insomniac.  He often slept no more than three hours a night.

(7)  Marx loved the arts.  He initially wanted to become a theater and drama critic.  But his father talked him out of this career pursuit insisting there was no way to make a decent living attending opera and plays and writing about the theater.

(8)  Marx was immensely popular with his peers while studying in college.  He often paid for parties and nights out on the town with friends.  He dated often.  His out-of-control spending habits left him and his parents in debt.

(9)  Marx attended universities in Bonn, Berlin, and Jena.  He earned a Ph.D. and was a Doctor of Philosophy.

(10)  Marx lived in poverty during most of his life.  While they collaborated, his close friend Friedrich Engels provided him money on which to live every month.

(11)  Marx met his lifetime writing partner Engels at a street cafe while living in Paris in 1843.  After a two-year residency, they both moved to Brussels where they remained for another two years.  After that, they moved to Cologne along with their families.  Remarkably, the duo long associated with communism spent most of their lives in Germany, France, Belgium, and England — democratic countries that would become the bulwark against the movement during most of the next century.  However, one can also say these nations are among the models of modern democratic-socialism.  So, perhaps Marx’s ideas did gain fertile ground.

(12)  Marx’s personal hero was Spartacus.  He was a Roman slave and leader of a popular uprising and revolt during the Roman Empire.

(13)  Marx’s personal motto was “nothing human is alien to me.”

(14)  One of Marx’s early political writings was an expose on the gross mistreatment and exploitation of vineyard workers along the Rhine River.  The controversial story caused quite a stir and led to unskilled workers’ rights being debated seriously for the first time.

(15)  Marx did not invent communism.  This term essentially means private property rights are dissolved in favor of common (shared) ownership.  Such ideas were first proposed by French philosophers, including Jean Jacques Rousseau, in 1762.  Those ideas would spark the French Revolution, a generation later.

(16)  Karl Marx had drug problems, but that was much more common than is usually reported.  Because of his intense pain and multiple ailments, Marx often took heavy doses of arsenic and opium, which in those days were thought to cure for some health problems.  He found it so painful to sit down that he often wrote while standing.

(17)  Marx spent most of his life working as a journalist.  His writings were revolutionary at the time.  Some of his ideas included abolishing child labor, providing free public education to all citizens and making school attendance mandatory, and implementing a gradual income tax based on personal income.  Virtually all western societies would adopt these “revolutionary” ideas within the next 70 years.

(18)  Marx was a fast and prolific writer.  One of his most famous books, The Communist Manifesto, was completed in only six weeks.  Das Capital, the first edition of his masterwork was also written in a short amount of time.

(19)  Marx was an outcast and a refugee.  A year after The Communist Manifesto was released in 1848, Marx was expelled from Prussia (modern-day Germany) and stripped of his citizenship.

(20)  Marx was highly-principled and ideological.  At the time he was expelled from the country, Marx was the editor of a progressive newspaper that featured stories on economic inequity and unfairness.  When he learned that the paper would be shut down by authorities, the final issue of the paper was printed in red ink.  That act of defiance later became the basis of red being associated with communism.

(21)  Marx knew English and lived in England for a time.  After being expelled from Germany, he found a job as a reporter in England and moved to London.

(22)  Marx even wrote for American readers.  While in London, Marx wrote for an American newspaper called The New York Daily Tribune.  He served as one of the paper’s European correspondents.  Marx initially wrote in his native German language which was translated into English once it reached New York.  However, Marx learned English well enough to eventually write all of his columns in the English language.  He was fluent in at least four languages.

(23)  Marx had a strong grasp of American history and society.  Among the many topics covered by Marx was the issue of slavery in America.  He wrote passionately about its terrible inhumanity.  When The New York Daily Tribune changed management prior to the American Civil War, it also changed its editorial position on this issue and was no longer an abolitionist paper.  Despite needing the job at the time, he parted ways with his employer.

(24)  Marx got the geography for his ideas wrong.  His ideas were intended to be applied to the most modern industrialized societies, such as England, Germany, and France.  Instead, they were adopted in Russia (and later China) which were overwhelmingly agrarian societies and lacked the proper political and economic infrastructure to achieve success.

(25). Marx saw the signs of what was to come.  Late in his life, Marx attended a political rally that had formed and taken his name.  When he found out what they believed and wanted to accomplish, he famously proclaimed, “If they are Marxists, then I’m not a Marxist.”

While writing about this topic, I came up with a couple more:

(26)  Marx loved poetry and often wrote about romance.  He penned dozens of poems, later judged to be quite respectable.  These poems were discovered after his death and were published in 1929.

(27)  Marx is buried in England.  His body rests in London, at Highgate Cemetery.

So, do these revelations change your idea of Marxism?

In this poisonous political climate of such grotesque historical ignorance, enlightenment clouded by the poisonous shroud of social media, let facts be separated from fiction.

Next time someone is labeled as a “Marxist,” it would be wise to remember who Karl Marx truly was and reflect upon those beliefs.  Demagogues who insist on using Marxist as a slur reveal a lot more about their own ignorance than the target of their derision.  In fact, based on the points above, the Marxist tag might rightfully be construed as a compliment.

__________

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Grading Each Candidate in Tonight’s Nevada Democratic Presidential Debate

Posted by on Feb 19, 2020 in Blog, Essays, Las Vegas, Politics | 5 comments

 

las vegas nevada

 

Here’s what one Nevadan thinks about tonight’s Democratic debate in Las Vegas

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First, let’s get one thing out of the way.  Anyone who says or believes tonight’s debate was bad for Democrats or harmful to party unity simply doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

That attitude smacks of someone with zero political instinct and no knowledge of American political history.

Fact: Debates are a pressure test and a cleanse.  They are one of the best ways to reveal weaknesses, just as the questions and answers/give and take allows the best candidates to show strength.  Moreover, instead of canned scripts and predictable stump speeches which are all too common nowadays, candidates were forced to engage and think on their feet.  Some Democrats shined in their moment.  At least one candidate melted under the spotlight left a puddle in the middle of the stage.

Party infighting is often good for the party and the eventual nominee. As evidence, I give you the following historical markers

2016 Republicans (won) — 21 candidates began, brutal personal attacks and infighting….resulted in Trump win

2008 Democrats (won) — Clinton, Edwards, and Obama were locked in a three-way dead heat early on. Debates got testy. Eventually, Obama got the nomination and won big.

2000 Republicans (won) — The McCain-Bush primaries got very personal. Things turned ugly. Result? Bush ended up winning a razor-thin victory.

1992 Democrats (won) — Clinton was hammered early on, and thought to be dead in NH. Other candidates piled on, and the party was divided until Clinton’s nomination. End result: Democrats won the election.

1988 Republicans (won) — Jack Kemp and VP Goerge Bush Sr. were in a knock-down-drag-out primary. Kemp forces did not like nor trust the Bush establishment. Outcome? Republicans won big.

1980 Republicans (won) — Reagan initially competed versus a dozen candidates and even had to face a split off wing led by John Anderson (Republican) who ran as an Independent. At one point during a debate, Reagan grabbed the microphone and said, “I paid for this microphone, so I’m going to speak!” Rival George Bush eventually took the VP slot. Divided party? Yes, in February.  Then, they won big in November.

Sure, there have been divided parties that lost presidential elections a number of times. But let’s look at the actual historical record and agree with some balance. Again — tonight’s fierce debate is GOOD for the party and makes eventual nominee tougher. Politics isn’t softball. It’s hardball time. I want serious answers, passion, and pressure testing of candidates. I want to see which candidates can take and throw a punch because a cage fight is what’s going to happen in the general election.

Now, on to my grades for each candidate:

Elizabeth Warren: Grade — A+
I thought Warren might be finished. But she stole the show. Warren was on target all night long, had just the right tone, interjected herself into the debate at the perfect moments, and may have obliterated Michael Bloomberg in a 5-minute stretch that was cringeworthy for the New York billionaire. She destroyed Bloomberg, and that alone keep her in the race. I wish I had seen this fire earlier. Mad props to Warren tonight, the clear winner, by far.

Joe Biden: Grade — B
Biden did well by Biden standards. He didn’t knock anything out of the park, but he hit a clear single and then stole second base. Biden has been lagging on the campaign trail but we saw some fire from him tonight, persuasively arguing he’s been on the right side of many political battles and was there in the trenches with Obama. I didn’t expect much out of Biden, but this was one of his better performances and natural displays of energy. I also thought his command of subject knowledge and experience shined through tonight.

Amy Klobuchar: Grade — C+
Klobuchar needed to perform better but she got tangled up with Buttigieg and others and needed to be rescued by Warren at one point during the exchanges. Again, Klobuchar and/or her staff seem unprepared for questions and controversies certain to be exposed. Why not have a scripted response read to launch? This is the first class of Political Campaigning 101. Klobuchar was semi-effective when talking about her Senate record, but are her votes as a Senator really going to sway any votes? I did not see her connect with the audience tonight in the same way she’s done over the past week, which was effective. I call it a push for Klobuchar. But as the third- or fourth-leading candidate in the race she now needs to take some chances. Playing it safe isn’t a winning strategy.

Bernie Sanders: Grade — C
Since Sanders is the frontrunner, the fact he was only attacked by Bloomberg for the most part, is a win for him. He fought a draw, which is okay when the race remains so fluid. I think Sanders hurt himself somewhat with some fumbling and repetitiveness. Sanders has opportunities to connect with people on a more personal level but often comes across as angry and even militant. I personally like anger and militancy, but that won’t win a nomination or an election. I also think Sanders has to leave some things alone when he’s attacked. Let the desperate attack him, but stay on message. Sanders appears to get flustered on occasion, which is a concern. I tend to watch Sanders more closely for obvious reasons, so perhaps my critique is a bit more sharp towards him.

Pete Buttigieg: Grade — C-
First time we saw Buttigieg attacked repeatedly tonight, and while he remained very much in control, for the most part, we also saw some cracks in the emotional china cabinet. I didn’t think Buttigieg reacted well when pressed by both Warren and Klobuchar, and his anti-Washington bullshit is hick stuff. Buttigieg has been refreshing throughout the campaign, but tonight was his first miss. Nothing catastrophic happened But we might have seen Mayor Pete topping out.

Michael Bloomberg: Grade — F
I cannot fathom a worse more unprepared performance than we saw tonight from Mike Bloomberg. I thought these New York types were supposed to be smart and tough? Bloomberg was horrendous. He was utterly destroyed by Warren during one exchange and then made the controversy (about his background and treatment of women) worse with an answer that made the audience groan. His calling Bernie Sanders “a communist” at one point was straight out of the Republican playbook, and even the other candidates were shocked. The billionaire emporer has no clothes. As I said, thank goodness for debates. They exposed this fraud quick. He’ll be around for a while and might even be a force, but Bloomberg lost everyone’s respect tonight as a serious choice in the race. Just a horrific performance in every way.

Heading into Saturday’s Nevada caucus, my scorecard now reads:

KLOBUCHAR — 45
SANDERS — 45
WARREN — 10

* note: percent chance I will vote for the candidate in the caucus

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Updating My Nevada Caucus Vote (Three Days Away)

Posted by on Feb 19, 2020 in Blog, Essays, Politics | 2 comments

 

Bernie Sanders

 

UPDATING MY 2020 NEVADA CAUCUS VOTE

A week ago, my lean was 60-40 in favor of Amy Klobuchar over Bernie Sanders.  What I mean is — there was about a 60 percent chance I’d vote for Klobuchar and 40 percent chance I’d vote for Sanders.

Here were my thoughts at the time:  Announcing My Lean in the Nevada Democratic Caucus

Three days ago, my lean declined to 54-46 in favor of Klobuchar, based on her fumbling some major issues here in Nevada.

Here were my thoughts as to why Klobuchar lost some of my confidence.

After last night’s Town Hall (CNN) which featured both Sanders and Klobuchar onstage for an hour each, my lean has shifted again, to a razor-thin 51-49 margin with Klobuchar now perilously close to losing my vote.

Looking ahead, two more things will likely shape my final decision.

[1] Tonight’s debate is absolutely critical for Klobuchar. I have watched Sanders actually improve on the campaign stump in recent months. He seems to have more passion and energy than anyone could have expected for a 78-year-old candidate. I’ve also been impressed that he’s found a better way to explain his complex positions with some clarity. Klobuchar, on the other hand, remains a serious concern to me. I need to see something from her tonight that makes me confident she can front a national campaign in the fall against Trump, the nastiest possible adversary, and if not knock him out at least prove she belongs in the same ring. Klobuchar’s waffling Midwestern PTA meeting demeanor isn’t going to cut it at this point in the race, either tonight or in the future. I need to see some fire, without pandering to the usual Democratic establishment. That’s a huge turnoff, to me.

[2] I had three different people from the Bernie Sanders campaign personally reach out to me and invite me to be part of the media scrum who attends and covers his speech this Friday night at 7 pm in Las Vegas. I have met Sanders before, seen him speak, and was long-ago a fan way before he was known nationally (as an avowed socialist Senator). I don’t need to shake hands with Sanders or see him speak live to be starstruck. I already know and respect the man (and generally agree with 9/10 of his positions). Still, what impresses me is the small things; that Sanders’ campaign is so on top of the race that they would text me with invites to join the press pool and cover the candidate. That’s a well-oiled machine that can win an election.

Meanwhile, despite my professed public support for Klobuchar, including multiple tweets, several Facebook posts, and an article explaining my lean (which got several thousand hits), not a single person has reached out to me from the Klobuchar campaign, certainly not in any media capacity, and not even with an invite to come to see her speak. I realize Klobuchar’s campaign is still in the formative stage, but these little things at the grassroots level do matter.

Oh, but I did get several robocalls from Klobuchar, as well as Biden (more than anyone else), and various Democrats professing to endorse Biden. Sanders did not robocall me — that lone should tip the scale 3 points in his favor.

So, tonight’s debate will weigh heavily. I’ve given up on Klobuchar’s operation in Nevada so far as outreach. I don’t take that personally, but I do have to credit Sanders’ people for being far superior in terms of the ground game here in my state.

Meanwhile, all I see from Biden is cozying up to the big union and running a campaign through robocalls. As for Bloomberg, he’s just spewing money with ad buys. Buttigieg has my respect and has also done some solid groundwork in Nevada. Warren’s ground game is also very good, but her attempts to win my support through ads showing her working closely with “Dirty Harry” Reid were a huge turnoff. If a campaign is using that corrupt fossil to attract local votes, I’m totally repulsed by the campaign.

Current scorecard: Klobuchar 51-49 over Sanders (and subject to change). My vote takes place this Saturday.

Here’s a detailed account of what happened when I caucused here in Nevada back in 2016, in favor of Sanders.

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Parasite — A Short Move Review

Posted by on Feb 17, 2020 in Blog, Essays, Movie Reviews | 0 comments

 

Parasite-Movie

“PARASITE”

A Short Movie Review

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I made the mistake of seeing Parasite last night, a week after it won the Academy Award for Best Picture. All the accolades for the South Korean film catapulted my expectations to an unreachable height, no fault of Bong Joon-ho, who co-produced, wrote, and directed this gritty capper masterpiece.

My expectations were lifted even higher by the enthusiastic comments and recommendations of people I trust on social media and friends who I know have discernable taste in movies. Some of the posts on Facebook first brought Parasite to my attention a few months ago. I wish I had listened to their recommendation sooner.

Parasite is a well-crafted thriller, texturally engrossing, with heavy undertones of class struggle — the privileged versus the desperate. There are no “good guys” in the film. The story’s the thing.

I rate the first half of the movie as brilliant. A masterful black comedy set in Seoul, South Korea — but which could take place anywhere in post-modern urbania where gross inequities exist. The guilty pleasure of watching a mannerless viper’s nest of lowlifes-turned-con artists who methodically integrate a rich unsuspected family of victims with their own demons and secrets is shocking and often hilarious. The writer-director’s juxtaposition of tragedy and comedy is a marvel of perfectly paced moviemaking.

The second half of the film, when the mood turns considerably darker and more violent doesn’t match the brilliant set up. I also had some doubts as to believability towards the end of the movie. But these criticisms weren’t enough to dissuade me from saying it probably deserved the Best Picture Oscar.

I tend to like movies about con artists and scams. When they’re done right, they’re among the more enjoyable topics explored in cinema. Parasite will take its rightful place alongside films like The Sting, American Hustle, and others as a caper where we don’t know who to cheer for.

In the end, I suppose the lesson is — we’re all parasitic in one way or another.

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100 Years of Presidents — Ranked from Best to Worst

Posted by on Feb 17, 2020 in Blog, Essays, Politics | 10 comments

 

Presidents Day

 

ON PRESIDENTS DAY (FEBRUARY 17, 2020)
100 YEARS OF PRESIDENTS — RANKED

There have been 18 American presidents over the past century (1920-2020). Our presidents have served short terms (Ford-just 2.5 years) and much longer multiple terms (Roosevelt-13 years). Here’s my ranking from best to worst:

 

Franklin D. Roosevelt
— America’s greatest president since Abe Lincoln, and it’s not even close. Probably saved democracy both from collapse from within and by his steady leadership during WWII. Launched the New Deal, saved tens of millions from starving via govt, programs, began Social Security, mass civil works programs and government projects; repealed prohibition; inspired and lifted the nation during its worst economy in history

Dwight D. Eisenhower
— Centrist non-politician; great leader; and national father figure; always fair-minded. Slow on civil rights, but presided over the decade when the US was at its economic and global peak; warned future generations of the military-industrial complex and left office highly-respected by both parties

Lyndon B. Johnson
— America’s most liberal president on domestic policy; ambitious advocate for the Great Society; civil rights pioneer; far too many domestic accomplishments to name here–including the creation of Medicare, the “War on Poverty,” govt.-funded scientific research, education, gun control, expansion of immigration –but his legacy remains badly tainted by the drastic escalation in Vietnam.

Harry S. Truman
— Strong record as a Cold War warrior; common man approach to governing; what he lacked in charisma he made up for in honesty. Outstanding leadership in post-War Europe and Japan while holding a fragile situation together while the Cold War ramped up to dangerous levels

Barack Obama
— Inherited an economic disaster and helped to turn around the country; was a “first” in so many ways that inspired people all over the world; steady economic growth during every year while in office; health care bill passed; advanced gay rights and increased government protections; gets negative marks for lapses on civil liberties, use of drones, and poor use of diplomacy in some parts of the Middle East (Syria)

Woodrow Wilson
— Guided America through a tough period of growing pains; minimized US casualties during a global conflict; an idealistic visionary; scholarly; incapacitated in his final years

Gerald R. Ford
— Short tenure, but held the nation together after the worst constitutional crisis since the Civil War; didn’t have sufficient time to accomplish a lot, but generally gets high marks from historians (and was the target of TWO assassinations–poor Ford). Like seriously, who would want to kill Gerald Ford?

George H.W. Bush
— Received one of highest approval ratings in history during the late 80s, then a deep recession hit; receives positive marks on foreign policy following fall of USSR and building a coalition to counter the threat in Iraq

Ronald Reagan
— Inspiring; regal; ideological, and charismatic, but also tainted by arms-for-hostages scandal; criminal acts in Central America; begins to look worse as we distance ourselves from the “Greed Is Good” Reaganesque-’80s

Bill Clinton
— After failing to pass universal health care early in his first term, then governed as a centrist, with very strong economic numbers; presidency plagued by personal scandal, including impeachment; Not looking as good in retrospect

John F. Kennedy
— The most overrated president in American history, hands down. Witty and charismatic, for sure. But a disaster on foreign policy (failed Vienna talks, Cuba, Bay of Pigs, Berlin, escalation in Vietnam), completely silent on civil rights for more than two years while Black churches were being bombed, very average record on domestic economic policy; Final Assessment: all style but little substance

Richard M. Nixon
— Very mixed grade….extraordinary foreign policy achievements, but criminal conduct in Southeast Asia responsible for untold numbers of needless deaths in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and elsewhere; remarkably liberal on domestic policy, but destroyed by his own inner-demons revealed during the scandal of Watergate

Calvin Coolidge
— A big fat do-nothing free-market conservative who governed in the midst of prohibition, isolationism, neglectfully silent on the rising tide of racism and segregation; guilty for his Laissez-faire economic affairs

Jimmy Carter
— A good man but a bad president–or at least a weak and ineffective leader; he suffered devastating effects of the energy crisis, high inflation, the Iran hostage ordeal….but is also widely considered to be the best ex-President by many

Herbert Hoover
— Brilliant man who, based on other parts of his life, should have been one of America’s best presidents; but remained stubbornly wielded to conservative economic policies and small government, even after the ’29 stock market crash nearly destroyed the country; now looked upon as a complete failure

Warren G. Harding
— Dumb and dirty: Scandal-plagued failure of a president who was utterly neglectful of his duties while in office. He let the markets run wild, gave unnecessary tax cuts, championed America’s isolationism; slashed immigration; and hired corrupt cronies

George W. Bush
— Launched two pointless unwinnable wars in the Middle East, presided over deregulation and lack of proper government oversight of markets which resulted in the global economic collapse of 2008; legacy tainted by approval of torture, loss of civil liberties, and increased govt. surveillance

Donald J. Trump
— Inherited a strong economy and has been a disaster ever since; increased national debt–now a record high, repeated foreign policy disasters, unprecedented personal and cabinet scandals, record staff resignations-firing-criminality; impeachment and trial, intentional divisiveness, appalling ignorance, and unapologetic corruption. By comparison, Trump makes George W. Bush look like George Washington.

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Sahara Poker Room (Las Vegas): A Short Review

Posted by on Feb 16, 2020 in Blog, Essays, General Poker, Las Vegas | 1 comment

 

sahara-poker-room

 

SAHARA POKER ROOM (LAS VEGAS) —
A SHORT REVIEW

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Yesterday, I visited the new Sahara Poker Room, which opened the previous day. Sahara management’s bold decision to dedicate considerable space and cost to poker deserves praise. If you are a Las Vegas poker player (or a visitor), it seems to me this is the sort of thing that should be supported. At the least, the Sahara Poker Room deserves a visit.

This is the first poker room to open in Las Vegas in ten years. The Las Vegas poker market, which has been flat for quite a long time, has experienced consolidation. The biggest rooms have done fine. Meanwhile, several smaller rooms have been reduced in size or have closed.

Typically, a new poker room opening would not interest me. However, two key attributes attracted my attention.

First, this was my first visit to the new Sahara property since it was rebranded from the (previous) SLS Resort. That failed experiment turned into a half-billion-dollar disaster. Bringing back the classic Sahara name and updating the property is certain to jump-start enthusiasm for the northern area of The Strip, which has been a ghost town for anything north of the Wynn. Once some other properties in the area open up (namely Resorts World across the street), the Sahara should do quite well with both hotel stays and foot traffic.

Second, I’m a big fan of Steven Pique, who is hired as head of poker operations at the Sahara. I worked with Steven for years on the WSOP Circuit traveling around the country. He was always thoroughly professional and knowledgeable. His impact on the new room should be both immediate and long-lasting. I’m glad to support Steven, who deserves every bit of success.

So, what is it that’s special about the Sahara Poker Room. Here are a few observations:

1. Free parking and easy access from the garage. Other casinos charge for parking or require long walks. I was able to get into the parking garage easily (from both Paradise and Las Vegas Blvd.), park on the 4th Floor, and walk to the poker room within 5 minutes.

2. Comps are awarded at $2 per hour, which is a nice perk. Check with the room on exact hours, but during the day shift, the comp rate is $3 an hour.

3. I really like the giant screen television on the wall. Most poker rooms have TVs with sporting events high overhead. It’s not always easy to see the action. For those who enjoy playing poker while watching sports, the giant screen is an attraction (see photo). Whoever made that decision got it right.

4. While I was visiting, a player ordered food inside the room. Imagine that, a cart with a plate and silverware was wheeled up next to the player. So, instead of fast-food garbage brought to tableside, the Sahara offers real food with a wide range of menu items combined from several restaurants. I’m really big on food served at tableside, and this right up there with the Aria (best food service in the city) in terms of poker and dining options.

5. The room is new and will take a little while to develop a loyal fan base. However, I noted they’ve already spread Pot-Limit Omaha and are eager to expand to more games than just Hold’em. Talk to Steven or any of the managers, and I expect they’ll do everything possible to accommodate a request. Once again I stress, these are POKER people running the room, not flunkies assigned from other areas of the casino floor.

6. Tables and chairs are spacious and comfortable. I can’t stand cramped poker rooms where players are sardined into seats. This is common in Las Vegas, where players are treated like chattel. Smoking is banned, of course, and there were no signs of second-hand smoke.

7. The Sahara Poker Room initially was advertised to be a room that would close at 2 am. However, the first night one of the games lasted until 7 am the next morning. Steven noted that no poker game will ever be shut down. So, the room might close overnight during slower times midweek, but so long as a game is going, it will run as long as players want to play.

8. Not really poker-related, but I love the restaurants at Sahara. The steakhouse (Bazaar Meat by Jose Andres) is probably the best in the city. The Italian restaurant is also very good. There are also some burger places, including one inside the race and sportsbook. Again — this is another difference: Most sportsbooks don’t offer food. But Sahara has a full-scale restaurant inside the sportsbook (a carryover from SLS).

9. I love the location of the poker room. It’s right next to the casino floor, but still far enough away not to be bombarded with the noise from slot machines. It’s always a good indication as to how management feels about poker by the placement of a poker room, and it’s obvious this establishment is taking the game and its players seriously.

Let me be clear. I’m difficult to please. I’m opinioned. I don’t do fluff pieces. I blast failure. But I also praise commitment and effort. At the Sahara what I see is exactly that — commitment and effort.

I wish the new Sahara Poker Room well. They’ve spent serious money and have designed a beautiful room. If they build it, let’s hope they come. I recommend making a visit.

__________

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Updating My 2020 Nevada Caucus Vote

Posted by on Feb 15, 2020 in Blog, Essays, Politics, What's Left | 1 comment

 

amy-klobuchar

 

UPDATING MY NEVADA CAUCUS VOTE (15 FEB.)

To use a sports analogy, I put her in the game, and she’s fumbled twice and thrown two interceptions. I’m looking over to the bench to see what”s available, and there sits BERNIE SANDERS.

Last week, I wrote and posted here and on Facebook for the first time about my lean in the 2020 Nevada Democratic Caucus.  I finally announced my support for a candidate.

Based on several factors and weighing the evidence, I calculated the percentage that I would vote for AMY KLOBUCHAR in next Saturday’s Nevada Democratic Caucus at 60 percent. BERNIE SANDERS stood at approximately a 40 percent chance. No other candidate was on my list of considerations.

Here’s an update:

I now assess my support for KLOBUCHAR at 53 percent. She dropped seven points. That means I still lean slightly to KLOBUCHAR over SANDERS in the race, but that lead is fragile and subject to change.

Four things have hurt my support for KLOBUCHAR, all within the last 48 hours:

(1) KLOBUCHAR’s appearance on Real Time With Bill Maher last night was a disaster. Actually, she did very well in the 14-minute sit-down interview with the host, for 12 minutes. Then, the final two minutes were a political train wreck.

Maher’s pet issue the past two weeks has been “what happens if Trump loses the election and refuses to concede — then what’s the plan?” He’s done entire monologues on this. Each candidate gets asked this question. It’s a tough question, but one that a presidential candidate must be anticipating if anyone on KLOBUCHAR’s staff was doing their job.

So, KLOBUCHAR was smiling and about to wrap up a successful appearance in front of likely the biggest audience of her career, 12 million mostly sympathetic Left-leaning viewers. Even Maher was practical about the race and seemed to lean to KLOBUCHAR. She was two minutes from the finish line.

Then came the question everyone in the audience was anticipating: “What will you do if…….”

KLOBUCHAR might as well have been a deer caught in the headlights. She paused and fumbled. In fairness, this wasn’t KLOBUCHAR’s fault. She doesn’t have time to watch Bill Maher on HBO. She’s kinda’ busy right now. But someone on her staff had to know that question was coming. Maher even prefaced the question with, “I ask this question of all the candidates….”

This is the job of advance people.  Researchers.  Campaign staff.  A competent manager.  They blew it.

Then, to make matters even worse, KLOBUCHAR gave the answer that made Maher cringe and the audience groan. Viewers of the show know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s was a disaster. Unfortunately, we couldn’t see the look on Maher’s face. He was bent over with his head tilted down towards his lap, his face covered by his hands as if to say. “OH NO!”

It could have been a great night for KLOBUCHAR. Instead, it was a disaster. Oh, and she also forgot the name of the President of Mexico, but I’ll cut her some slack there on a fatigue lapse of memory.

(2) Some of the comments posted in favor of SANDERS to my previous thread on Facebook did resonate with me. I do listen to reason and weigh the evidence.  If you don’t do this also then, excuse me, you might be in a cult.  I won’t call out anyone by name, as you know who you are when I responded to the posts on social media. However, one significant counterpoint that was made did neutralize one of my concerns about SANDERS.

I noted SANDERS winning the presidency in November would create an inevitable backlash in 2022 where Democrats would get hammered and probably lose the House and certainly lose the Senate.  That would set up another impasse, and the perception that Sanders was a bad choice and Democrats can’t govern.

Short version of this is, even a SANDERS victory could be perilous to the long-range goals of the Left (basically, wrong candidate at the wrong time). SANDERS’ backers noted that it doesn’t matter which Democrat wins the White House — the Republican slime machine will kick into high gear. Any Democrat will be called a “socialist.” It doesn’t matter if Bernie Sanders or Mike Bloomberg or Jimmy Carter is in the White House, the dirt-dumb simpletons who know nothing of political terminology will label anyone a socialist. So, SANDERS or whoever, it won’t matter. The 2022 prospects are the same. I hereby concede on this point.

(3) KLOBUCHAR supported last year’s anti-BDS bill which means she backs criminalizing American citizens’ criticism of Israel. This is totally unacceptable. It’s anti-free speech. The bill has to be unconstitutional. She was the only Senator to vote in favor of the anti-BDS bill, which is an AIPAC initiative. Whatever someone believes about the Israel-Palestine conflict, suppressing free speech is wrong. The ACLU is on our side of this, but unfortunately, the anti-BDS bill passed in the House and the Senate and is now in limbo as states and courts battle it out. I was not aware of KLOBUCHAR’s position on this and find her support to be very troubling.

(4) Here in Las Vegas, KLOBUCHAR gave two speeches (I saw clips on television) where she slams “socialism.” This isn’t a way to win my support. In fact, it’s repellant. I almost flipped against her on this issue alone.

If KLOBUCHAR wants to use the evils of “socialism” against her rivals, I’ll listen and be prepared to chalk up some of the rhetoric to political opportunism. But if she’s going to trash the core principle of government as an agent of social and economic justice (the essence of socialism), then I’m prepared to bolt from her campaign and march to BERNIE SANDERS. Anyone who uses socialism in the pejorative is an automatic strike-against with me.

My updated assessment — she’s on a serious tightrope with me right now, and the wind is blowing.

To use a better sports analogy, I put her in the game, and she’s fumbled twice and thrown two interceptions. I’m looking over to the bench to see what”s available, and there sits BERNIE SANDERS.

With seven days still to decide, I welcome input. If you don’t live in Nevada, consider me your proxy. Feel free to try and persuade me who I should support in the Nevada Caucus. I will post again if my opinion significantly changes.

Follow the latest dicussion on FACEBOOK.

__________

 

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Election 2020: My Experience in the Last Nevada Democratic Caucus (2016)

Posted by on Feb 14, 2020 in Blog, Essays, Las Vegas, What's Left | 0 comments

 

Nevada Democratic Caucus

 

Writer’s Note:  The 2020 Nevada Democratic Caucus is only a week away.  For those unfamiliar with how exactly a caucus works, here’s a detailed, and sometimes humorous account of my last experience, which happened four years ago.

 

The Self-Indulgent, Highly-Detailed, and Occasionally Funny Story of My Nevada Caucus Experience  in February 2016

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This past Saturday morning, I attended the Nevada State Democratic Party caucus for Precinct #6672, which covers The Lakes section of Greater Las Vegas.  I take great pride in boasting I reside in The Lakes.  That means we’re better than everybody else, except for those rich pricks that live in Anthem.

My precinct includes mostly single-family homes, plus some nice condos and a few apartment complexes in the area just north of Desert Inn and west of Durango.  For those unfamiliar with Las Vegas, that’s about 7 miles off the Strip, heading west towards Summerlin.

Democracy in action.

 

What’s a Caucus?

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A state caucus is a very different experience from attending either a primary or a general election.  Most of us have participated in both primaries and elections before, in which procedures are familiar:  (1) we check in with a poll worker, (2) enter a voting booth, and then (3) cast a ballot in secret.  On most occasions, voting takes no more than a few minutes if the line isn’t long.  However, caucuses take considerably longer than that and require much more of a commitment.  For this reason, caucuses don’t generate nearly the voter turnout as primaries and elections.  Good.  Keep out the doddering dimwit dirt-dumb masses.  They vote Republican, anyway.

About 80,000 Nevadans caucused this year, which was down from 117,000 the last time there was a real contest back in 2008.  Given the clear decline in statewide turnout, it’s becoming apparent that Barack Obama had a serious impact on overall enthusiasm when he initially ran back in 2008 which this year’s Democratic candidates are not matching.  That could spell trouble for the Democratic nominee, come November 2016. [EDITOR’S NOTE:  Wow, what I right or what?!?]

 

Pros and Cons

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Nevada’s state caucus has both pros and cons.  It brought both good news and bad news for those of us proud to call “the Silver State” our home.

It was good for us because we’re only the third state (on the Democratic side) to hold a primary/caucus.  That means our votes really matter this time, more than in past years, when we voted much later in the primaries, by the time the races had already been decided.  Nevada has a reputation (deserved somewhat) as a state that’s politically indifferent, apathetic even.  Accordingly, there were some valid concerns Nevadans might not be the best voting block to determine party nominees in the privileged spot of early primaries and caucuses.  Nevada’s reputation certainly isn’t enhanced any by its reputation where just about anything goes when it comes to vice.  Fortunately, holding this “first caucus in the West” may have turned a corner, symbolically speaking, as Nevada’s population increasingly becomes more diverse and representative of the nation as a whole.

As for the bad, caucuses can be intimidating for some voters, especially those who aren’t as involved in the political process or up to speed on the issues.  For one thing, participants are required to pledge their support for candidates publicly — in front of friends, neighbors, and others in their local community.  While many of us proudly wear out political stripes on our sleeves and have no hesitation supporting a candidate, others could be less enthusiastic about the process and even dissuaded from attending.

[Another quick note about caucuses:  As an activist, I prefer this option over simple voting because it weeds out some lightweights who aren’t as dedicated or informed (with exceptions — some voters may have legitimate conflicts with work, school, or family and cannot attend a process that takes a few hours).  The downside is losing all privacy in a caucus.  I have serious questions about the biggest unions in the state and membership which turned out heavily for Hillary Clinton.  Were some workers who caucused at polling places such as the big casinos intimidated from possibly supporting Bernie Sanders?  In response to criticism that a Saturday caucus would penalize lots of service industry employees who are at work during the busiest day of the week (many of whom are in unions that support Clinton), local Democratic Party officials set up caucuses as several casinos on The Strip.  That’s fine.  What’s troubling here is the potential for intimidation in a work environment when it comes to pledging public support for candidates.  How many union bosses were dutifully overseeing their flocks making sure their subordinates turned out for Clinton?  Yeah, those are sour grapes — but valid questions.]

 

Standing in Line

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Marieta and I arrived at about 10:45 am.  We heard people that would be allowed in at 11 am.  However, the doors were open and registration had already begun by the time we arrived.  Our precinct caucus was held at a local elementary school — MJ Christensen — who turns out is a local diamond merchant and jeweler.  Only in Las Vegas would you see a public school filled with impressionable children named after a diamond dealer, an end-of-the-line financial empire built on the backs of native Africans laboring away in dangerous mines for less than a dollar an hour and monopolistic practices of the global diamond market-based in Antwerp, which artificially creates the lunacy of allure for these buffed up coal deposits.

But, I digress.  We were discussing the caucus.  Here’s what you would expect to see:

IMAG1822

 

We waited about 10-15 minutes in line before finally clearing registration.  While standing in line, we were surprised to see volunteers from both the Clinton and Sanders campaigns actively engaging those of us waiting to reach the front in order to check-in.  They were polite.  Each volunteer tried to pass out stickers and buttons in support of their respective candidates.  I thought it somewhat odd that campaign workers are allowed to actively engage voters who wait in lines, but this was only a minor annoyance.

Once at the table, we weren’t asked to show any form of identification (voter ID laws are a controversial issue in many states).  Instead, we were asked various personal questions such as name, date of birth, address, and so forth and then once our identity was confirmed, each given a ballot.  The photo above shows the line at check-in, with perhaps 20-30 people lined out the door and standing outside.  Later on, I was told the line reached more than a hundred.

Surprisingly, our local school was the polling place for not just us, but eight precincts on the west side of Las Vegas.  So, the long line was somewhat misleading since it includes a much larger geographic area than I had initially realized.

After some confusion, we were shuffled into a first-grade classroom at the end of the hall.  This was to be the official “caucus” of Precinct #6672.

 

Back to School

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Here’s where the situation turned comical.

No one considered the quirky logistics of large numbers of adults crashing into a classroom tailored entirely for 7-year-olds.  All chairs and tables were tiny, made for little people, raised no more than a foot up off the floor.  Moreover, the seats were made of plastic for bodies that weighed perhaps 70-80 pounds.  Watching 200-plus pound adults, some of whom were over 6-feet-tall trying to scrunch into these uncomfortable chairs with our teeth pressed into hour knees was unbelievable, until we finally decided to grin and bear it….remember, this is basically what flying coach is like.  So, we dutifully took our seats and toughed it out.  Also, seeing lessons posted up on the wall about being good little boys and girls would prove useful once the political debate started.

IMAG1825

 

A Party Divided

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The gathering included some serious drama.

As I said before, we were among the first to arrive.  Once we entered the classroom, a pleasant young man asked us who we intended to support.  When we answered “Sanders,” he insisted that we sit on the opposite side of the room.  This seemed like a strange request since the 10 or so people already in the room had gathered around a large table and were talking like old friends.  It was an odd feeling that we were asked to sit elsewhere until we learned the Hillary Clinton supporters were to caucus over here, and we were supposed to gather over there.

There we went.

Five minutes later, I took a quick headcount and it was 11 lost souls on the side of the room for evil Clinton, versus just 3 with wisdom on the side of good and decency, hardly enough of a quorum to belt out a chorus of “The Internationale.”  I whispered over to Marieta that this was going to be a very long day, insisting that the demographics of clueless old people who tend to reside in The Lakes were within the Clinton sweet spot.  I feared this was a very bad early sign for Sanders in Nevada, even with the ridiculously small sample size.  I’m a fatalist, remember.

But then, the winds of change blew (hey, I’m trying to make this interesting — we’re caucusing inside a first-grade classroom, so cut me some slack….I’m building steam).  The Sanders supporters began to flow in, presumably done with morning Pilates and utterly famished by granola bars.  Perhaps they’d partied too long the previous night and were just waking up.  A few minutes later, it was 16 awful people for Clinton and 14 heroes for Sanders.  We’d closed the gap!  From that moment forward, each time a new person walked into the room, there was a real element of suspense.  With noon approaching and the deadline for new attendees, it was deadlocked even at 23 supporters each.  The drama rose faster than anatomy parts under Bill Clinton’s desk.

Then and there, I realized Sanders was — what we call in sports betting — a mortal lock.  This was the perfect microcosm of a caucus.  The older and more traditional types, the stubborn party loyalists, the old guard — they would mostly tend to arrive EARLIER.  Just like the 5 pm buffets all around town that are packed with blue hairs, Clinton’s loyalists had already shown up and blown their wad.  Sailors the first hour of shore leave.  The druggies, the radicals, and the intellectuals like me who stood with Sanders would stumble in, either lost or late.  Gee, I wish I could have made a bet on this.  I knew my instincts were correct.  We were a lock.

Then, an old bitch walked in and nearly blew it.  An old woman with white hair who looked like she died five years ago doddered in like she’d lost her Social Security check, and we knew instantly that Clinton had taken the lead.  Fuck.  Okay, so that’s me thinking to myself.  I didn’t say it too loud.  Then, a youngish girl with pink hair and a giant nose ring accompanied by a boyfriend with lots of tattoos came in just moments later, and I knew we were back on top.  Rescued.  25-24 for Sanders.  If the blue hair dies while in caucus, we might be 25-23.

Just as the official proceedings were about to begin, three more people popped into the room.  At that instant, there was a deafening silence as they waddled the carpet towards the chalkboard.  Conversations stopped in mid-sentence.  Arguments ended.  We all knew that whichever side of the room they sat on would tip the scales and determine the outcome of our precinct (or so, we thought — ass-ripping spoiler alert ahead).

The three older white angry-looking latecomers walked down the middle of the classroom, seemingly caught inside a parking garage forgetting what level their car was parked.  When the precinct captain finally asked “who” they were supporting, someone mumbled “Bernie,” and 25 people on my side the room suddenly burst into loud applause like the Broncos has just scored the winning touchdown and covered the point spread.  If I had a football, I would have spiked it over the American flag.

Democracy rules.

 

The Caucus Begins

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Oh, wait.  Before I tell the story about the actual caucus (you still with me?), first I have to rant.  Hide the children.  Lock way the knives.  This is going to be ugly.

I love that people are engaged and interested.  I really do.  It’s so Norman Rockwell.  It’s so America-like.  I’m interested in what common people think about the issues.  Sometimes.  Occasionally.  Okay well, never.  But, I digress once again.  Let me continue.

The gibberish that flowed of the mouths of some of these people were gut-busting, bat shit baffling!  One woman, a Clinton supporter, got into an argument with a Sanders supporter.  The woman barked, “I will never support Sanders!  I don’t want to work hard and just give it away to people who don’t want to work!”  I should have retorted with caucus instructions for the next Donald Trump rally taking place this Tuesday night because she must have either gotten lost or she’s clearly in the wrong political party: however, it took me a couple of minutes before I could regain my ability to speak.  She’s bitching about supporting “people who don’t want to work?”  That’s really her biggest issue?  That’s what bother her most — not wars, nor income inequality, nor health care, nor the environment, not any of the other 189 issues that are more important right now?

Fuuuuuuuuuuuccccccccccckkkkkkkk.

Another Clinton supporter brought up the subject of foreign policy.  Well, not those words, exactly.  More like, “Bernie won’t keep us safe!” or something that you might hear at from Ted Cruz.  Somehow, I resisted the temptation to scream out “REMEMBER BENGHAZI!!!!!!”  But that would have Tea-Partied me straight off to Cliven Bundy’s psych ward.

I realize there’s some obvious bias here which is juicy cannon fodder for the haters, but when I chose to, I can speak with some bona fide objectivity when it comes to political discourse.  Without exception, everyone on the Clinton side of the room, particularly those who spoke out were very traditional old-guard Democrats very much used to support the establishment.  It sort of reminded me of what Palm Beach County’s nursing homes must be like on bridge night.  Don’t misunderstand me, these were loyal Democrats.  But they were not voters who thought much about issues or even seemed to have much of a grasp of current affairs.  They were voting for Hillary because Madge and Betsy were doing the same thing and that was the norm.  They hadn’t had an original idea, nor an outside the box thought since trying to decipher the hidden lyrics to The Platters when they were teenagers.

Meanwhile, Sanders’ supporters were far more intellectual, clearly more widely read, talked in far greater detail with facts and statistics about real rather than imaginary issues, and were even in some instances still not fully sold on Sanders, but at least swayed enough by his message of change of political revolution that the idea seemed intriguing and worthy of supporting.  I often judge a person’s intelligence on civic matters and the prospect of wanting to get to know them better (politically speaking) based on whether or not they can see shortcomings within their own philosophical persuasion.  Those who acknowledge a wide spectrum of likes and dislikes and prove themselves capable of POLITICAL INTROSPECTION are far more credible than blind sycophants who fail to see any flaws in their own leanings and favored candidates.  Doubt, and even self-doubt, are virtues, in my political wheelhouse.  Blind faith is the elixir of stupidity, proof of a close mind that desperately needs lubrication.

Yeah, it’s a small sample size.  Many Clinton supporters are very bright people fully capable of arguing a compelling case, I agree.  However, none of them were present at Precinct #6672.

 

The Caucus Really Begins

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Sorry for the caucus prick tease.  Time for action.

A nice woman with a Clinton sticker on her shirt stood in front of the classroom and called the meeting to order.  The first matter of business was to select a caucus precinct captain.  The lady mentioned that she’d attended three training sessions and that was why she was heading up this meeting.  She asked for unanimous consent to be “elected” as captain or chairperson or whatever she wishes to call herself.  I figured this was not the time to throw down the gauntlet and draw a line in the sand, fearing turning the whole room against me, so I too meekly raised my hand and went along with the rest of the crowd, agreeing to vote in a Clinton supporter as our leader.

Next, the vice something or other, the assistant, the second in command was to be chosen.  One never knows if the chairperson might collapse before our very eyes and die on the spot, necessitating a chain of command where the precinct is rescued by a backup.  To ensure against this dire possibility, a young man wearing a Bernie t-shirt offered himself up as the Biden of the group and he too was voted in with unanimous consent.  Now, we were rolling.  Ten minutes into the official caucus, we’d established our leadership.  Had both the chairperson and assistant somehow been wiped out or become disposed of in some kind of disaster, one presumes our caucus would have been suspended since we didn’t have a contingency for a backup to the backup.  Sort of like Grand Poobah in The Mikado, I role I once played by the way.

After that, the lady took out a large manila-style envelope and asked for contributions.  She noted the State Democratic Party mandated that envelope be passed around the room in the event some idiot was gullible enough to donate money someone might be so delusional, they might be inclined to pull out a checkbook.  I saw one lady drop a twenty into the envelope as it was passed around the room.  Too bad that was after it had already passed through my hands — as I might have been tempted to pilfer the loot.

Next, we had to count the number of attendees in the room and determine if we had a quorum, whatever that meant.  We took a headcount, by rattling off numbers one at a time.  Surprisingly, we all discovered we could count to 53, but even with 53 witnesses that weren’t enough clear evidence of an exact count, and so we had to do it all over again.

Really.

So, we started again, this time counting ourselves as we raised our ballots.  One.  Two.  Three.  Four.  And so on.  Fittingly, this was a first-grade classroom.

 

The Vote

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During the merry go-count-around, we discovered one person was visiting from out of town and had come in as an observer.  I have no idea how someone stumbled in off the street into a caucus (talk about a bad case of getting lost!), but this actually happened.  Since there’s apparently nothing at all to do in Las Vegas, this person declared she was visiting and did not intend to participate in the caucus.  I resisted the temptation to ask where she was headed off to next — the joys of an insurance seminar?

Next, we were shocked to discover two people had been sitting on the wrong side of the room.  When it finally came time to count heads and take ballots, two people in the Clinton camp professed the intended to vote for Sanders.  That created some confusion, but at least we didn’t have to recount the room again.  Turns out, Sanders ended up with 28 votes to 24 for Clinton.  Sanders was the winner!

Of course, one pass through wasn’t enough.  We each raised our ballots once again, one at a time, and (shocker!) the vote turned out the same.  28 to 24.  The Sanders side of the room erupted in applause while the Clinton camp appeared disappointed and dejected.  As I said, democracy works.  Kinda’.

IMAG1827

 

This is Ologharchy Democracy?

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Turns out, our precinct was given 8 delegates to award proportionally, according to the vote (delegates to the county and state convention — not the national).  The chairperson pulled out a calculator and did the math according to her instructions.  Unfortunately, the 28-24 margin wasn’t within the formula to award delegates 5-3 in favor of Sanders.  Even though Clinton lost by 4 votes, the delegate allocation would be split evenly, 4-4.

Someone in our group protested.  Okay, that was me.  Then, another more vocal supporter stood up and demanded to know what it would take to get the delegates to swing 5-3 for Sanders.  Again, the calculator provided the answer.  The chairperson stated that if we could get ONE Clinton supporter to defect, that would tip the scales 5-3.  Since caucuses are different and give us that right, we pounced.

One of the Clinton supporters (to his credit) admitted he was unsure about supporting either candidate, but had made a rather quick decision to do what seemed safe.  The man, perhaps age 60 or so, dangled a carrot by stating he might be swayed to come over to the Bernie side.  That launched a remarkably interesting 15 minutes of dialogue which surprised even me.  The case for Bernie couldn’t have been argued any better than OJ’s lawyer, and I really thought we had a shot at swaying not just the weak link in the chain, but half the room.

Well, the man inexplicably became stubborn, unresponsive to logic and burrowed himself deeper into the Clinton camp like a fat tick on a farm mutt.  Had the ballot been secret, I’m sure he would have defected.  However, peer pressure can be a strong force — again — one of the problems with caucusing.

Final delegate count:  Sanders — 4, Clinton — 4.  

 

This Caucus is Adjourned!

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The final order of business was to select actual delegates to attend county-wide caucuses and register their votes.  Volunteers were taken.  I joined with Leon Trotsky and two others locked arm-in-arm as pledged delegates for Sanders, to be cast in Clark County sometime in April.  One guarantee:  At least I’ll have material for another column.

We departed and went off to lunch.  Even with the annoying quirks and time-wasting, I still felt satisfied with what I’d experienced.  I felt even better about Sanders’ chances of winning Nevada.  If he could carry my precinct, which probably has all of ONE Socialist actually living in the entire neighborhood, and few of the base demographic groups that tend to support Sanders strongest like students and free-spirited artists as you might see in other parts of town, surely he was pulling even bigger numbers elsewhere.  From my vantage point, the Sanders camp was representative of the heart and soul of the left, while Clinton attracted a far more traditional voter.  Then, I realized I’d forgotten about unions and the commotion that was probably taking place on The Strip, where turnout would probably be high since the caucuses were so convenient.

As I was enjoying the first part of my meal I checked my messages.  That’s when I lost my appetite.  Corky Parks, my fellow leftist comrade off of Facebook, messaged me and announced that NBC had called just Nevada for Clinton.  I wanted to punch the phone.

Fuck.

Democracy in action?  I guess I need to go back and repeat first-grade.

 

nolan-dalla

 

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Announcing My Lean in the 2020 Nevada Democratic Caucus

Posted by on Feb 13, 2020 in Blog, Essays, Politics, What's Left | 2 comments

TEN POINTS OF LIGHT

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I’m conflicted.

For the first time ever, I’m still somewhat uncertain as to who I will vote for in a major election.

With Nevada’s caucus now ten days away, however, I now have a lean. I am prepared to announce this preference in today’s column.  This is a fragile choice subject to change. I’m no longer on the fence, but the fence is still easily within reach. I never understood voters who said they made up their minds right before the election, in the past. Now, I’m part of that “semi-undecided” group.

[1]  First and foremost, my voting decision and activism are entirely predicated upon one thing. I’m only interested in removing the evils and dangers of Donald Trump and any other political leader associated with his toxicity. My ideology is totally irrelevant to the discussion. And since I’m an ideologue, this is a significant departure in practice for me, something that’s very difficult to do.

[2]  Every Republican — from the president down to local judges — must be defeated. Period. Exclamation point. Any candidate with an “R” next to their name is an automatic — FUCK NO. Indeed, I wish there was a “FUCK NO” box to check. I bring this up because the candidate at the top of the ticket has a huge impact on down-ballot races. The coattail effect will be huge in 2020 (i.e., there will be very little vote splitting, I believe). So, we need to get the top of the ticket right, by choosing the best candidate who will help the other races (which means keeping the House and perhaps even flipping the Senate).

[3]  I strongly supported Bernie Sanders in 2016. He’s the closest in philosophically to my own politics. However, I have several serious and justified concerns with Sanders. While he has done wonderful things to educate millions of Americans about (democratic) socialism and he has energized many young people, I fear he may tarnish the movement from this point forward. I would be thrilled to be wrong on this point. But I’m not wrong in having concerns. If Sanders loses in the general election, Republicans would certainly maintain control of the Senate (ensuring another six years of McConnell) and there’s even some chance Republicans might re-take the House. If this happens, the consequences for our country and democracy would be utterly catastrophic.

[4]  I’m glad Pete Buttigieg is in the race. He’s a fresh face. He articulates a centrist Democratic position, and I’m good with that politically speaking (though I don’t agree ideologically). His surprising success and national exposure will go a long way towards broader acceptance. I wish Buttigieg was running as a congressman, senator, or something other than an inconsequential mayor. I like having him as a choice, but don’t see any chance of supporting him at the caucus.

[5]  I might get sick if Joe Biden wins the Nevada caucus. He reminds me so much of Hillary Clinton’s failed 2016 campaign. If I thought Biden had any capacity whatsoever to re-energize his candidacy, I might be persuadable to supporting him or at least reserving judgment. But there’s nothing to jump-start here. He’s the old car battery that’s been sitting in the Dodge out in the driveway that hasn’t started in four years. Biden served his country well and is a good person. But he’s nearing his public service expiration date and would be a bad choice for the nomination. I can’t think of a single person excited about Biden’s candidacy. That said, given the dysfunction and corruption of the DNC and the role of superdelegates, I’m not sure he’s done quite yet.

[6]  Elizabeth Warren will drop out of the race after Super Tuesday, on March 3rd. It’s sad really. She’s had a good ground game here in Nevada set up for more than a year. There’s not a week that goes by that I don’t get a call or text from the Warren campaign asking me to come to see her speak or lend my support. I actually think Warren’s Nevada campaign has done a good job, and I have the frontline experience to say that. However, these first two primaries have been devastating and she won’t do well in South Carolina, either (which is next). I can’t see Warren finishing in the top three here, which is what it would take to get her back in the race.

[7]  I’m leaning towards supporting Amy Klobuchar in the Nevada caucus. I would measure this support at 60 percent certain. She’s more of a default choice at this point. She checks some key boxes — particularly on gender and being midwestern. I have some serious differences with Klobuchar on issues, but I’m willing to set those aside from pragmatism and practicality. Her third-place showing in NH was a breakout, and I really liked her speech afterward. That was the first time I’d seen Klobuchar catch any fire. I also like her personal story, which is now getting some press. She seems like the best chance to beat Trump at the moment, though I’m perhaps weighing the NH results too heavily.

[8]  Finally, all of this could change. I’m disgusted with the Culinary Union here in Las Vegas, which is demonstrably anti-Sanders. The disgraceful and corrupt practices of the Culinary Union in the 2016 race, rescuing Clinton’s campaign which was floundering, was scandalous. Right out of the old Chicago machine political playbook. Now, they’re trying to torpedo Sanders, astoundingly under the guise that universal health care (Sanders’ core issue) would disrupt the negotiated health care plans between casinos and their workers. In other words, “WE GOT OURS–SCREW EVERYBODY ELSE.” That’s the Culinary Union’s position. I’m generally a huge supporter of unions, but this backstabbing on universal health care smacks of perversion. Read on…..

[9]  If I arrive at my local caucus (The Lakes/ Las Vegas) and see the Culinary Union people there all wearing Amy Klobuchar t-shirts and marching around like Hillary Clinton’s failed flunky robots, I might bolt across the room and stand with the Sanders supporters in the caucus. I’m not sure how I will react. But I will have a very hard time standing with that union crowd against my ideological brethren. I hope it doesn’t come to this. I honestly don’t know what I’ll do.

[10]  If anything I’ve written causes you to rethink your position, then that’s good. I hope by sharing my own conflicts and decisions, this might help others going through the same thing. Thanks for reading.

VOTE BLUE!

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My Analysis of the Early Democratic Primaries

Posted by on Feb 11, 2020 in Blog, Essays, Politics | 0 comments

 

 

Writer’s Note: New Hampshire results are still unknown at the time of this writing.  My random comments here are non-partisan and do not reflect support for, or opposition to, any candidate. As I like to say, political science doesn’t care about your feelings.

— If Bernie Sanders wins the NH primary, and he should win today, DNC and old guard Democrats will become even more panicky. They’ll attempt to create a moderate-wing firewall in the SC primary (coming in late Feb.), where Sanders floundered in 2016. In the meantime, look for establishment Dems to become more outspoken in their concern and criticism of Sanders in national media. They’ll openly question his electability in the general election. Hillary Clinton has already latched onto this “stop-Bernie” resistance. If Obama speaks out as well, that weight might be enough to stop Sanders’ momentum and kill his chances of winning the nomination. This division between liberals and moderates will likely turn ugly, especially given there’s still resentment from the way Sanders was treated by the Dem establishment in the ’16 race. This divide should be very alarming to those who oppose Trump in Nov. Should he be the nominee, Sanders will need the Dem party establishment and moderates. And any presumptive moderate Dem will need Sanders’ 25-30 percent voting bloc to turn out heavily in Nov. to win.

— Pete Buttigieg continues to gain momentum and has become the wild card in the Dem race. This is totally uncharted territory. Experience used to matter in elections, but Buttigieg’s thin resume might not be a factor as he improves his stage presence on the campaign trail, sharpens his message, separates himself from the much older candidates, and continues to attract followers. With little or no voting record, there’s not much to criticize (one reason presidential winners often come out of nowhere — Trump, Obama, Clinton, Carter). Buttigieg’s being gay won’t be talked about by his opponents but lingers as a serious concern as to his electability. Given minority-support is absolutely essential to winning the nomination, and Buttigieg lacks significant Black or Latino support at the moment, combined with those constituencies being more traditional towards gay acceptance, it’s difficult to foresee any path to the nomination for Buttigieg. The March 3rd primaries will determine if he indeed becomes the “moderate” firewall to stop Sanders. My projection is, his percentages will top out at around 25 percent and then fade after Super Tuesday. Just way too many obstacles here.

— Ideally, Buttigieg wants a two-person primary race — himself vs. Sanders or Warren. He believes he’ll win over moderates and establishment Dems while also pecking away at some percentage of progressives. This is Buttigieg’s best chance to win the nomination (Biden and Klobuchar dropping out). However, don’t discount Bloomberg in the race.

— Joe Biden’s support continues to fade at an alarming pace. He stands the chance of finishing fourth yet again (Biden was fourth in Iowa). This would have been utterly unthinkable a few months ago. Ex-vice presidents aren’t supposed to be struggling on this level. Typically, they’re way in front or among the co-leaders in early primaries. Biden has run a horrid campaign, so far. While Trump’s attacks and phony allegations of corruption would be a factor in the general election particularly when fueled by the conservative slime machine, the disinformation campaign has no impact on the primaries. What’s ruined Biden has been his own repeated gaffes and probably more consequential, his failure to excite voters and/or attract new supporters His debate performances were uninspiring. And now, Biden has gone on the attack, even running ads targeting Buttigieg. Who would have thought an ex-VP would have to resort to blasting a mayor that was polling at just 5 percent back in December? This is a sure sign of desperation.

— Biden looks doomed. He’s looked upon as stale. But he could stage a comeback should he somehow finish in the top 2 in Nevada, which demographically is a good state for Biden. The old so-called “Harry Ried political machine,” which put gave H. Clinton a primary victory in ’16 seems to be Biden’s biggest lifeline. This is a shame, really. Nevada is one of the final caucus states and party insiders hold all the cards. Nevada skews slightly older (good for Biden), is wielded to unions (good for Biden), has a comparatively small student demographic (good for Biden), and doesn’t vote as an outlier (good for Biden). If Biden doesn’t do well in Nevada, that will foretell of serious problems to come.

— Elizabeth Warren appears frozen at 15 percent. Her percentages look immovable at the moment, unlikely to lose much support but even less likely to gain new supporters since Sanders is (arguably) the current frontrunner and has raised a huge campaign war chest. Short of some coup ‘de tat within the party ranks designed to stop Sanders, using Warren as the last firewall, I don’t see a path for her to the nomination. Warren has also committed some self-inflicted errors in the campaign which will be difficult from which to recover. If/when Warren drops out, that sets up a fascinating scenario: Her support is likely to split, with ideological progressives going to Sanders while the more feminist #NeverBernie contingent latches on to the opposing frontrunner (anyone but Sanders).

— Amy Klobuchar desperately needs Biden to crash. And fast. If Biden bombs in the Nevada caucus and somehow Klobuchar pulls off better Super Tuesday numbers than her moderate rival, she could become the presumptive Dem establishment favorite. This would be key to gaining endorsements and campaign donations, which will be essential. She also needs a win somewhere come Mar. 3rd, if possible (Minnesota, her home state, would be a nice start). Klobuchar should be playing a long game here, a sort of horserace scenario where she runs 3rd or 4th the first half of the race and then closes strongly down the stretch. There’s some concern Klobuchar will be able to get into the top three, but comparatively speaking, she looks like the far better runner over Biden (and perhaps Buttigieg, also). The major question is, can she whittle away support from Biden (and perhaps Warren)?

— Andrew Yang is the Liberal-to-Moderate-Pro-Business-Social-Libertarian candidate in the race, holding at 5 percent. He’s unlikely to extend his percentages beyond that, but given his message has resonated with a contingent of loyal followers, he’ll be taken seriously for another month or so. Yang is counting on getting at least 10 percent in Nevada, and perhaps finishing 4th or higher, which would keep him in the race into the spring. Yang’s problems are Buttigieg, Klobuchar, and Bloomberg — all of whom will gain supporters as rivals decline. It’s hard to foresee how Yang factors in this race, other than tossing his support to one of the other candidates and having a small role as a novelty speaker at the national convention.

— Michael Bloomberg is running a most unconventional campaign, carpet bombing the national airwaves with ads and using his vast personal fortune to set up a formidable political organization. While Bloomberg is polling poorly, his message (“I’m the only candidate in the race who can beat Trump”) is likely to gain some traction. Bloomberg faces obstacles, namely his lack of personal engagement with Dem primary voters and his vast wealth which is looked upon in some progressive circles with suspicion. Bloomberg needs Biden to exit also, as quickly as possible, in an effort to become the presumptive moderate frontrunner. Bloomberg may also be counting on a brokered Democratic National Convention coming in the summer. He’s got the money to ride out a series of primary defeats and even fade the perception of irrelevance until he possibly comes out of nowhere as the compromise choice among delegates.

— Tulsi Gabbard should have done much better in this primary race as a candidate. Early on, Gabbard looked to be a JFK-for-the-21st-Century Democrat — youthful, vibrant, military background, ethnic, female, effective as a speaker and debater — but she never caught on and has been little more than a distraction in the race. Gabbard has no constituency in the party at this point and is presumably staying in the race to posture for name recognition and future speaking engagements. Big mistake by Gabbard in deciding not to run for re-election in 2020 as a congresswoman.

— Tom Steyer might be relevant here if it were not for Bloomberg, who has both a name and a resume. It’s difficult to understand why Steyer stays in the race, other than the chance to get some free press. He’s certainly sincere in his beliefs, but one would think it’s time to throw his “support” behind another candidate. He should be out of the race after Mar. 3rd.

— Final Thoughts: This should be a three-person race so far as serious contenders go, after Mar. 3rd. Sanders will be one of the frontrunners. The other two are expected to be moderates. Sanders has unusually high negatives within the party at this point, as insiders remain mistrustful of him as a bona fide independent and self-described democratic socialist, a socialist sheep in democratic wool. However, none of the moderates, aside from Buttigieg, generates much enthusiasm. Michael Bloomberg seems poised to be the unknown factor in this race, particularly if he can climb into contention with some delegate support.

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