Bernie Sanders’ ego-trip decision to run for President again

Bernie Sanders announced this week that he is running for President again in 2020.

Good grief!

I was a Bernie supporter in 2016 (although to be fair, I supported both Bernie and Hillary). But in the Massachusetts primary I voted for Bernie because, as I explained at the time, I couldn’t resist the temptation to “vote for a septuagenarian socialist Jew for President.”

Bernie did something very important in 2016, and that is that he changed the conversation. He made ideas like Medicare-for-all not only acceptable, but actually attractive to the Democratic mainstream.

But this time around it’s just an ego-trip, and he’s not getting my vote. The left wing of the party is already capably represented by Elizabeth Warren (and maybe Kamala Harris). And this time around Bernie will practically be an octogenarian socialist Jew.

Sorry Bernie, the first time was great. This time you’re succumbing to your own celebrity, and it’s just going to be one long ego trip. Like Muhammad Ali before you, you don’t know when to quit.

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What El Chapo proves about a border wall

As we know, last Friday Trump declared his fake “state of emergency” with respect to the southern border so he can get his wall funded. In a rambling press conference Trump mostly lied and dissembled, keeping the fact checkers busy (as usual), contradicting himself and the need for an emergency declaration on several occasions. He cited drug smuggling as one of the major reasons that he needed to build the wall.

Now here’s what I love about this: pretty much everyone (including his own Drug Enforcement Administration) agrees that the Mexican cartels transport the bulk of their drugs over the Southwest Border through “ports of entry” using passenger vehicles or tractor trailers. In other words, not at places where a wall would make any difference. But even if it did, we’re talking Mexican drug cartels here.

They are endlessly inventive.

I mean, we’re talking about the people who twice got their #1 guy, Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán to ecape from Mexican jails.

  • First, in 2001 he escaped from a jail in a laundry cart, with generous help from jail officials who had been bribed.
  • Second, in 2015 he escaped from the maximum security Federal Social Readaptation Center No. 1 when members of his cartel built a 1.5 km tunnel under the prison into which Guzman was able to jump from the toilet area of his prison cell.

Do you know what kind of engineering skills it takes to build a tunnel that accurately without anyone noticing that you’re doing it?

And these are the people that Donald Trump thinks he can stop with a simple wall.

Good grief, El Donaldo!

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The President finally declares his long-awaited National Emergency

Well, it’s been a while coming, but the President finally did what he had been threatening to do for quite some time, and declared his national emergency relative to our southern border so that he can divert funding for his completely unnecessary and mostly symbolic border wall.

Along the way, let’s note that the government has finally been funded for the next fiscal year, including some additional funding for border security, and that we can stop (at least for a while) with these completely petty and disruptive government shutdowns.

So the question that naturally arises is whether this is a legitimate use of the President’s power, and whether he will be able to divert funds to build his border wall?

To answer that question, we should first note that the law that gives the President such authority is the National Emergencies Act of 1976. That law was ironically designed to bring some order out of chaos (and really clarify when a President can use emergency powers). Previously emergency power had been distributed throughout a number of confusing and inconsistent acts.

Presidents have used these powers more frequently than one might have expected — as of this counting, 58 emergencies have been declared — but mostly for very specific things. So, for example, Obama declared a National Emergency With Respect to the 2009 H1N1 Influenza Pandemic, which allowed the Secretary of Health and Human Services to issue waivers allowing overcrowded hospitals to move swine flu patients to satellite facilities or other hospitals.

Trump is going much larger than this, of course. Moreover, he’s specifically disregarding the negotiations that Congress engaged in before coming to agreement on the continued funding of the government.

Now, I’m no Constitutional scholar, but I know where to find some of them. So, let’s listen to Elizabeth Goitein at the Brennan Center for Justice, who is an expert in these areas, and see what she has to say. In short, in an article published in January of 2019 (when Trump first started threatening to use emergency powers) she wrote:

  • While Trump can declare a national emergency, it would be an abuse of power in this instance (because there clearly is no emergency at the border);
  • Congress is supposed to vote on whether the emergency still exists every 6 months, but with respect to previous emergencies Congress has largely abdicated that responsibility
  • Congress could change the National Emergencies Act to make it more difficult to declare an emergency (but probably does not have the votes to do so).
  • If it had the votes, Congress could also just pass a bill countermanding Trump’s commandeering funds for his great wall.

More recently Goitein wrote that the courts will likely let Trump declare an ‘emergency,’ even if it’s made up. (But they might not let him shift funds and contravene the will of Congress.)

My prediction? It doesn’t get resolved before 2020.

In any case, I’m happy Trump is trying to do this. It works for me, because:

  1. Trump is setting a broad precedent that Democratic Presidents can use in the future.
  2. It makes the Republicans out to be hypocrites once again, given the uproar they made over Obama unilaterally protecting DACA recipients.
  3. It’s going to make for great courtroom theater as advocacy groups and Attorney Generals around the country challenge Trump on the legality of declaring this as an emergency.

Stay tuned as the Great Wall drama unfolds in the upcoming weeks and months.

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Only in America: tiger found in a Houston home

This morning I came across the following headline in my hometown newspaper: Pot smokers find caged tiger in abandoned Houston home.

In brief the story indicated:

  • Some local goombahs in Houston went into an abandoned house to smoke pot.
  • Inside they found a Tiger in a cage.
  • The Tiger was well fed (thank God) but the cage was secured only by “a nylon strap and screwdriver.” The tiger could easily have busted out.
  • Our smokers actually had the good sense to call the police.
  • The tiger was “taken to an animal shelter and will be transferred to an undisclosed animal sanctuary in Texas.”

The story also noted (1) it’s legal to own a tiger in Texas if the owner has a wild game permit, but (2) notwithstanding all of that, it is illegal to have a tiger in Houston.

Only in the effing United States would it be legal to have a tiger in your effing home.

When these idiots abandoned their house, didn’t they think to themselves, gee, maybe we should do something about the effing tiger.

This is why the United States will always be on the fringes of the Wild West. God help us if some crazy precious “freedom” might be compromised in some way. Like not owning 47 guns and a bunch of bumpstocks.

No wonder we voted for a malignant narcissist and deluded Überclown like Donald J. Drumpf.

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Not a fan of manufactured holidays, such as Valentine’s Day

Personally, I’m not a fan of manufactured holidays, such as Valentine’s Day. Originally, Saint Valentine was a Third Century Christian martyr who was killed for ministering to Christians in Rome before that great city state had adopted the Christian religion. The day first became associated with romantic love within the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the 14th century, when the tradition of courtly love flourished.

Now it is, of course, mostly a Hallmark holiday, like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Or much worse, Grandparents Day, Sweetest Day, Boss’s Day, and Secretary’s Day.

Good grief Charlie Brown!

Valentine’s Day is mostly a day to embarrass the single people in our lives. Those of you who are partnered up should already know how to express your love to one another. If you haven’t figured that out yet, your not destined to stay in relationship for much longer.

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The Republicans have permanently forfeited their right to complain about investigations

I hate to break the news to my Republican friends, but they have more or less permanently forfeited their right to complain about any Democratic investigations.

Why do I say that? Because between the House, Senate, and Executive Branch, Hillary was investigated at least a dozen times over Benghazi and her email server, which are nothing compared to what Trump’s administration is being investigated for.

The Benghazi Investigation

Let’s start with the Benghazi investigation. Nobody actually remembers what Hillary was being investigated for.

  • The US military response was slow and confused, including questions about whether the US should wait for the Libyan regular forces to head up the response action. The American Ambassador (John Stevens) and three other Americans died in the attacks.
  • The U.S. Senate Select Committee and five House Committees (Armed Services, Foreign Affairs, Intelligence, Judiciary, and Oversight and Government Reform) all investigated the attack, and in particular whether the Obama administration willfully perpetuated a deliberately misleading and incomplete narrative that the attacks evolved from a political demonstration caused by a YouTube video (the Innocence of Muslims).

While there were aspects of the U.S. response that were unsatisfactory, nothing was ever uncovered by any of these investigations (and those conducted by the State Department or FBI) that ever found any fault with Hillary Clinton.

The Email Server Investigation

As we know, Hillary Clinton’s use of her family’s private email server for official communications (rather than using official State Department email accounts) drew criticism and was found to have used “poor judgment” by James Comey and the FBI. The practice was also criticized by the Inspector General for the State Department and by Committee’s controlled by Republicans in the House and Senate. However, it should be noted that:

  • While Hillary’s private server was at risk, there is no evidence that the server was ever hacked.
  • The emails that WikiLeaks leaked during the 2016 Presidential campaign were not pilfered from Hillary’s email server, but from DNC campaign accounts.
  • Donald Trump uses an unsecured Blackberry on a regular basis, and Ivanka Trump has also used a private email account for official business.

This was clearly a mistake on Hillary’s part, but not a mistake that had any obvious consequences.

The Mueller Investigation

The Mueller investigation is about something much more serious: it is a United States law enforcement and counterintelligence investigation of the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

And in particular, it addresses the question of whether members of Trump’s campaign team and Presidential administration colluded with the Russian government — our #1 enemy, lest we forget — in trying to get Trump elected.

In short, there is no comparison between the relatively inconsequential things that Hillary was charged with doing and the very serious allegations against the Trump administration.

Since January 2019, Mueller has publicly initiated criminal proceedings against 34 people—seven U.S. nationals, 26 Russian nationals, and one Dutch national. (And how many criminal proceedings were brought against Hillary and company? Zero!)

Of course, Mueller’s investigation is not finished yet and he is not done yet indicting those being investigated.

Trump’s Complaints

Donald Trump did, of course, poetically complain in his State of the Union address:

If there is going to be peace and legislation,  
there cannot be war and investigation.
It just doesn't work that way!

I got news for you Donald: fuck you. You and your cronies are being investigated for something real, something consequential, something which undermined our democratic system, not the two-bit shit that Hillary was investigated for over and over again.

And for my Republican friends who don’t like that the Donald and his administration is being investigated this much, suck it up, snowflakes. We’re just getting started. You ain’t seen nothing yet!

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The curious case of Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren is my Senator, the senior Senator from Massachusetts, sitting in the chair once occupied by Ted Kennedy. She is the Howard Metzenbaum of her generation, the most pro-consumer member of the Senate that we have. She is, in my view, an exceptionally good Senator.

So why am I not supporting her for President?

Because she can’t win.

Okay, this is a somewhat sordid tale, that involves both likability and also misogyny. Personally, I like Elizbeth Warren. She’s kind of goofy, and it definitely doesn’t work when she tries to be cool.

The Likability Factor

Hillary Clinton was not elected President of the United States for one reason: not enough people found her likable.

Okay for two reasons: not enough people found her likable and the electoral college.

Okay for three reasons: not enough people found her likable, the electoral college, and Russian interference.

Okay, for four reasons: not enough people found her likable, the electoral college, Russian interference, and the idiocy of James Comey.

Put the point is that one of the reasons is that not enough people found her likable. And I understood that, because while I liked her well enough, I didn’t love her the way I loved Obama.

She seemed like the smart girl at the front of the class, always raising her hand before anybody else. She was Tracy Flick in Election. She so evidently felt entitled to be President. In this respect she was very much like Mitt Romney, who also felt so entitled to be President that he was willing to flip and flop on any position (especially abortion). He ran away from his signature achievement – the Massachusetts universal health care law – during the 2012 election because Republicans had demonized the Affordable Care Act.

So there are both men and women who can be so nakedly ambitious, so obviously entitled, that it doesn’t wear well on them.

But let’s face it, especially in Hillary’s case, there was also a lot of misogyny going on.

Which brings us back to Elizabeth Warren. She’s like a schoolmarm, someone about whom one has the sense that she always knows a little better than you.

I know this is unfair, but this is what it is. There are a lot of people who are not going to like her because of this quality alone.

The Mysogyny Problem

I’m not in the camp that I think every woman politician is unlikeable. Far from it.

  • I think Kamala Harris is likeable. She seems tough as nails.
  • I think Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is likeable. She seems genuinely cool. (And the women can dance!)
  • I think Kirsten Gillibrand is likeable. She also seems very tough.

Now, I recognize that if these women (or any others) were to become a genuine threat to be President, the misogyny problem is likely to raise it’s ugly hand. It already has. But still, I think it’s different for Elizabeth Warren and some of these other women.

And let’s face it, we elected at least two Presidents — Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush — because people thought they would enjoy having a beer with them.

The Liberal from Massachusetts Problem

By now it should be a rule of politics that no liberal Democrat from Massachusetts should be allowed to run for President. The road is littered with those from my home state who attempted this feat, ever since Jack Kennedy ran (and let’s face it, Kennedy wasn’t really a “liberal” by contemporary standards). These include:

  • Ted Kennedy
  • Michael Dukakis
  • Paul Tsongas
  • John Kerry

It’s not just Democrats from Massachusetts who have failed in this respect. Mitt Romney (arguably mostly from Utah) and Bill Weld (who ran for Vice President on the Libertarian party ticket) have also tried and failed.

The Pocahontas Problem

And then there’s the Native American “Pocahontas” thing. Warren mishandled this issue from day #1. Of course she used the “Native American” designation to buy herself an advantage as a potential minority, so that she would have a better chance at landing a job at places like Harvard. And when she was applying for the bar in Texas back in 1986.

That’s taking nothing away from her ability. By all accounts, she was a phenomenal professor at Harvard Law, and the other schools where she has taught (the University of Houston, the University of Texas at Austin, and the University of Pennsylvania). The point is that she didn’t need the Native American designation. She could have (and would have and maybe did) get there on ability alone.

What I don’t want her to do is capture the nomination and lose to Donald Fucking Trump, to be the second overqualified woman to lose to this effing quackjob. But a quackjob who still has a remarkable and disheartening amount of support in middle America.

Other Democrats Who Shouldn’t Run for President

It’s not like Warren is the only candidate that’s running that I think shouldn’t run. Others that I don’t think should run include:

  • Joe Biden: too old (76) and his moment has passed (let’s not forget that Biden ran in 1988 and again in 2008, and that his 1988 campaign died on the plagiarism issue).
  • Bernie Sanders: too old (77) and his moment has passed (lightning struck in 2016, but it’s not going to strike again).
  • Tulsi Gabbard: too young (37) and inexperienced.
  • Marianne Williamson: too new agey and without any political experience.
  • Pete Buttigieg: too young (37) and inexperienced (Mayor of South Bend, Ind?)
  • Howard Schultz: too much a billionaire businessman without any political experience, and potentially running as a spoiler.

If 2016 taught us anything it should be while it’s possible that anyone can grow up to be President, it’s not necessarily a good idea that anybody (especially those with no political experience) actually be President.

It’s a serious job and should only be for serious candidates.

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