All posts by subir

Why didn’t we demand justice and vengeance for last month’s Syrian dead?

The Assad regime, in alliance with the Russians has forced various factions towards Idlib, this includes ISIS and other rebel forces. This week, we learned that dozens of civilians died there, struck by a chemical weapons attack. The Assad regime is most likely responsible.

Dozens of people, including children, died — some writhing, choking, gasping or foaming at the mouth — after breathing in poison that possibly contained a nerve agent or other banned chemicals, according to witnesses, doctors and rescue workers. They said the toxic substance spread after warplanes dropped bombs in the early morning hours. Some rescue workers grew ill and collapsed from proximity to the dead.

The opposition-run Health Department in Idlib Province, where the attack took place, said 69 people had died, providing a list of their names. The dead were still being identified, and some humanitarian groups said as many as 100 had died. — NY Times

There was almost universal outrage and an outpouring of sympathy for the victims of this atrocity. US media provided wall to wall coverage, as is appropriate for such an atrocity. During an interview earlier today, Hillary Clinton said she had long advocated air-strikes against Assad’s air force and thought they were still a good idea.

President Trump has now ordered these strikes and over 50 missiles appear to have struck a Syrian air-base. I’ve seen numerous comments in support of this bombing on DKos. Several segments of the “Resistance” have rallied to the war-cry of President Trump in the name of dead Syrian children.

Well, that reminds me of something that happened last month involving Trump and dead Syrian children:

Iraqi rescue workers on Friday pulled dozens of bodies from the ruins of a building in Mosul, where residents allege a U.S.-led coalition strike killed 137 people a week ago. — Washington Post

So, where was everybody last month when OUR bombs buried dozens of Syrian children under rubble of our making? Why didn’t you ask that the runways our jets and drones take off from be pock-marked?

And this wasn’t the only US strike last month to kill large number of civilians. On March 16, US forces bombed Idlib, Syria, apparently targeting an Al Qaeda meeting. Almost immediately after the strike, human rights organizations on the ground said roughly 50 civilians had died in the strike and it had demolished a mosque during prayers while 300 people were inside. Yes, that’s the same Idlib Assad struck. Everyone is bombing the same town.

There are other reports that US led airstrikes in Raqqa hit a school sheltering refugees, leading to 33 deaths. And then before that, we had a US ground mission in Yemen that led to the death of 9 young children under the age of 12 and more than a dozen other civilians. The White House called it a “winning, successful mission”.

So why aren’t you asking for the US Air Force, which dropped the bombs that killed these people to be grounded? Why weren’t you outraged last month at what OUR government had done? Why do you only get incensed when it’s some other son of a bitch doing it?

“The use of chemical weapons against innocent Syrian men, women, and children is a clear violation of international law. The Syrian regime must be held accountable for this horrific act, and its actions underscore why the United States should embrace innocent people who are fleeing in terror.

But the Constitution gives the power to authorize the use of military force to the legislative branch. Expanded military intervention in Syria requires action by Congress. If President Trump expects such an authorization, he owes the American people an explanation of his strategy to bring an end to the violence in Syria. We should not escalate this conflict without clear goals and a plan to achieve them.” — Elizabeth Warren’s statement

— Cross-posted at DailyKos | @subirgrewal

Kansas Democratic Party didn’t have $20k to help a House special election 5 days away. Why?

James Thompson is running for a US House of Representatives seat in Kansas’ 4th district. The election is in five days. It looks like he might actually have a chance to turn this deep-red district. That’s partly because the Republican opponent seems inept and also because Democrats are very engaged. In a special election where turn-out and engagement will make the difference this is a real possibility. Cook report moved it to likely Republican today (from safe). The candidate is on DKos, and he has a real chance to win this seat, he’s a veteran and a civil rights lawyer.

If you haven’t already, please contribute at ActBlue or visit the campaign websiteto volunteer and share their materials on social media. If you’re in Kansas, volunteer to GoTV.

PS. The candidate is endorsed by Our Revolution and, as of today by Daily Kos. Volunteers (including yours truly) are urging Our Revolution to crank up its GoTV phone/text machine for James Thompson. That is likely going to happen.

The campaign has had to scramble for cash, partly because no one thought they could win. So unlike the much closer race for Georgia’s 6th district, where John Ossoff has raised over $8 million, Thompson has only manage to raise $300k or so. But suddenly, the race seems in contention, with 5 days to go. Something must have scared the GOP because they pumped money into ads in this district that Trump carried by 27 points.

Thompson’s campaign asked the Kansas Democratic Party to chip in with $20K for a mailer to counter the Republican efforts. The state party couldn’t do it because they are strapped for cash.

“I don’t think it’s atypical for campaigns to ask parties to chip in. We asked the party to pay for a $20,000 mail project that would essentially be an early voter outreach,” Curtis [Thompson’s campaign chief] said.

Curtis referenced the party’s latest filing with the Federal Election Commission, which showed the party had $274,111 cash on hand at the end of February.

That figure appears to be in error, however.

A Feb. 20 letter from the FEC to the party says the filing lists a $143,000 transfer from “Hillary Victory Fund.” But the FEC letter says a review shows only $14,300 was disbursed.

That would mean the party’s actual cash on hand was closer to $145,000.

Kansas’ Democratic Party has limited resources, and there are a lot of other races they want to support this year. We have to trust their judgement on this call.

But, there’s still the question of what happened to that $143,000? And why can’t Democrats commit resources to a House race that they might be able to win?

See below the fold for more.

The Hillary Victory fund was a Joint Fundraising Committee between the Hillary campaign, the DNC and all state parties. It allowed the fund to collect a single check from a wealthy donor of up to $350k. This is far in excess of campaign finance limits for the candidate, but it was based on the idea that this massive contribution would be distributed between all the joint fund-raisers (the DNC, state parties, etc).

Back in May last year, Politico broke a story that only 1% of the money raised by the fund was making its way to state parties. In fact, the fund was sending money to state parties (likely to meet FEC requirements) but the DNC was turning around and asking for up to 90% of it back the same day. We had a diary about it at the time. It is possible that is what happened here.

The end result state parties can’t fund small requests in an important congressional race. The real shame is that the money was raised by telling donors it would be used to rebuild state parties:

In the days before Hillary Clinton launched an unprecedented big-money fundraising vehicle with state parties last summer, she vowed “to rebuild our party from the ground up,” proclaiming “when our state parties are strong, we win. That’s what will happen.”

But less than 1 percent of the $61 million raised by that effort has stayed in the state parties’ coffers, according to a POLITICO analysis of the latest Federal Election Commission filings. — Politico

Donors believed what they were told about rebuilding the state parties:

After POLITICO revealed that the victory fund was asking for couples to donate or raise a whopping $353,400 in order to sit at a table with Clinton, Clooney and his wife, attorney Amal Clooney, at a fundraiser last month in San Francisco, Clooney admitted that was “an obscene amount of money.” But he justified it by saying “the overwhelming amount of the money that we’re raising is not going to Hillary to run for president, it’s going to the down-ticket.” — Politico

The Hillary Victory fund raised 530 million. 145 million was spent on expenses, 158 million was sent to the presidential campaign, 108 million was sent to the DNC. That left 119 million for the state parties (22%), though much of that seems to have gone back to the DNC. The DNC also disbursed funds to state parties during 2016, but the majority of its expenditures during the 2016 cycle was spent on the national race.

This is in the past. We can only learn from it.

Here’s what you can do now to help Thompson’s campaign win.

If you haven’t already, please contribute to Thompson’s campaign at ActBlue and share their materials on social media. If you’re in Kansas, volunteer to GoTV.

PS. The candidate is endorsed by Our Revolution and, as of today by Daily Kos. Volunteers (including yours truly) are urging Our Revolution to crank up its GoTV phone/text machine for James Thompson. That is likely going to happen.

— Cross-posted at DailyKos | @subirgrewal

Car insurers are charging more in minority neighborhoods as per Pro Publica investigation.

ProPublica has a major investigative analysis where they conclude that Minority Neighborhoods Pay Higher Car Insurance Premiums Than White Areas With the Same Risk

ProPublica bought data on average damage claims in white and non-white neighborhoods and compared them with the rates insurance companies are charging in these neighborhoods. They consistently find that auto insurers charge more in non-white neighborhoods even when average loss rates per vehicle are lower. To remove variations based on driving records, age etc. They focused on a mythical 30 year old woman with a good driving record and one four states, California, Illinois, Texas and Missouri.

The analysis is quite thorough, though they are working with industry wide data since insurance companies won’t release their own loss rates broken down by neighborhood. The report is quite damning. Insurance companies are bound by various state regulations that prohibit discrimination and require pricing to reflect risk.

OTIS NASH WORKS SIX DAYS A WEEK AT TWO JOBS, as a security guard and a pest control technician, but still struggles to make the $190.69 monthly Geico car insurance payment for his 2012 Honda Civic LX.

“I’m on the edge of homelessness,” said Nash, a 26-year-old Chicagoan who supports his wife and 7-year-old daughter. But “without a car, I can’t get to work, and then I can’t pay my rent.”

Across town, Ryan Hedges has a similar insurance policy with Geico. Both drivers receive a good driver discount from the company.

Yet Hedges, who is a 34-year-old advertising executive, pays only $54.67 a month to insure his 2015 Audi Q5 Quattro sports utility vehicle. Nash pays almost four times as much as Hedges even though his run-down neighborhood, East Garfield Park, with its vacant lots and high crime rate, is actually safer from an auto insurance perspective than Hedges’ fancier Lake View neighborhood near Wrigley Field.

— Pro Publica

Most insurance companies refused to respond to their requests. Some have responded with “we don’t discriminate based on race” boilerplate that does not address the specific issues around rating setting algorithms that the article raises. Some of the state insurance regulators and insurers pushed back on ProPublica’s methodology claiming ProPublica’s dataset is incomplete and doesn’t accurately reflect loss rates. Of course, insurers also refuse to release more complete data, or make it available for analysis, so there is no way to validate their claims.

They could release the data to independent researchers to exonerate themselves, but haven’t offered to do so as yet. The industry has a long history of covering up redlining practices. My own take is that Pro Publica’s methodology is reasonable, and they’ve identified a very strong pattern that requires further investigation.

ACTION: So what should you do if your concerned about this? There are three actions you can take.

  1. Call your insurance company, ask to speak with a supervisor and ask to provide ProPublica with a specific response to this article that provides details on their pricing algorithm. Tell them you will not be satisfied with boiler-plate, non-quantitative legalese that states “we don’t discriminate”.
  2. Call the state insurance commissioner. If you live in one of the states ProPublica investigated, their websites/numbers are below. All of them have consumer feedback hotlines and e-mails:
    1. California Department of Insurance1-800-927-4357 (@CDINews)
    2. Texas Department of Insurance1-800-252-3439 (@TexasTDI)
    3. Illinois Department of Insurance: 1-866-445-5364
    4. Missouri Department of Insurance: 1-573-751-4126 (@MissouriDIFP)
  3. Write to your representative in Congress and ask that they investigate this, especially if they are on the Housing and Insurance committee.

And please go read the entire article which also covers the history of redlining in the insurance industry, and the extensive efforts insurance companies and banks went through to cover up redlining and withhold data from investigators. ProPublica interviewed black insurance agents who related older practices that included denying coverage entirely in minority neighborhoods (redlining), to dissuading agents from working in black neighborhoods. They also descrieb the various excuses insurers have used to mask redlining practices. Thurgood Marshall was denied car insurance by Travellers because they said he lived in a “congested” area (Harlem). What are they odds they issued insurance at competitive rates on the Upper East Side, which is as “congested”? The NAACP and others advocated for the passage of anti-discrimination laws through the 40s and 50s:

most states passed laws stating “rates should not be inadequate, excessive or unfairly discriminatory.” The legislation defines discrimination as “price differentials” that “fail to reflect equitably the differences in expected losses and expenses.”

Of course, the laws didn’t immediately stop discrimination. In a thorough examination of MetLife’s history released in 2002, New York state insurance regulators catalogued all of the ways that the company discriminated against black applicants for life insurance — dating back to the 1880s when it refused to insure them at all, to the first half of the 20th century when it required minorities to submit to additional medical exams and sold them substandard plans.

In the 1960s, as insurers stopped asking applicants to declare their race, MetLife began dividing cities into areas. In minority areas, applicants were subject to more stringent criteria, according to the report. In 2002, MetLife agreed to pay as much as $160 million to compensate minorities who were sold substandard policies.

One plausible explanation for higher prices is “price optimization” algorithms which seek to maximize profits by predicting which consumers are less apt to shop around and quote them higher rates.

— @subirgrewal

The Deification of Hillary Clinton: Sarah Jones reviews Susan Bordo’s book.

Susan Bordo’s book “The Destruction of Hillary Clinton” (and an extract published in the Guardian), has been discussed extensively on DKos previously here, herehere and in several other less heavily commented diaries.

Sarah Jones has a review of the book up at TNR which is worth a read.

She begins:

Susan Bordo is right about one thing: Sexism is real and Hillary Clinton has been subjected to it. The spectre of Hillary-the-nasty-woman is persistent and familiar—but it’s only one of the many reasons Clinton lost her latest White House bid. The story of her defeat is a complicated one, encompassing rising anti-establishment fervor, campaign error, and yes, prejudice. But you wouldn’t know it from reading Bordo’s new book.

Sarah goes on to comment on various aspects of Bordo’s book, including the:

  • scapegoating of millennials
  • unwillingness to acknowledge Clinton ran as a pragmatic realist and knowingly took positions to appeal to Republican voters turned-off by Trump
  • claim that Monica Lewinsky “has steadfastly insisted that there was nothing abusive (or even disrespectful) about Bill Clinton’s behavior.”
  • attempt to minimize the “super-predator” speech by claiming it was about “older drug dealers”
  • studious disregard for “moments when the candidate seemed to misread the public mood—such as her repeated claim that “America is already great.” ”

And yes, she addresses Bordo’s focus on tweets by “Bernie Bros” (a pejorative invented by Clinton partisans as a sequel to 2008’s “Obama Boys”):

To Bordo, rude Twitter users prove Sanders’s inadequate commitment to the left. Bordo never asks if her one-sided framing is evidence that she lives in a bubble, and what a telling oversight. Female Sanders supporters would have told her that Clinton backers are also guilty of online harassment—and that the label “Bernie Bro” has been deployed to erase the very existence of left-wing women, drowning out valid critiques of Clinton’s platform.

Bordo’s book is having its fifteen minutes, and perhaps we should perhaps just let that pass.

If it weren’t for this observation:

It crystallizes an emerging tendency in liberal discourse: the notion that critics of Hillary Clinton are either trolls or naive children. […]

Destruction offers no real lessons for Democrats. It’s a hagiography, written to soothe a smarting party. That is precisely why they must ignore it: There is no path forward that does not account for past mistakes. Hillary Clinton’s destruction was at least partly her own making, and if Democrats want to start winning elections it’s time they saw the truth.

Sarah’s review is well worth a read.

What if he isn’t colluding, just clueless?

There is clearly a lot we don’t know about the role Russia’s intelligence agencies played in the 2016 election. Investigations continue, both in Congress and by US intelligence agencies. I haven’t seen much attention paid to one possible outcome of the investigations. What if it turns out that Trump himself didn’t actively collude with Putin or any foreign agencies seeking to influence the election. What if he was clueless about this as he is (sometimes intentionally) about many other things?

That’s Mark Cuban’s take, as he outlined in a series of tweets yesterday.

Cuban then goes on to speculate that Manafort and Flynn were recommended to Trump who brought them on without  much due diligence. This is plausible, Trump prides himself on making decisions based on “very little knowledge”. With the haphazard, home-grown nature of his campaign, it’s quite likely no one even knew what screening questions to ask when bringing people into the campaign.

Trump is clueless enough to have asked, during a campaign rally:

“Russia: If you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

Someone actively conspiring with Russian intelligence wouldn’t be expected to say that. It might however, be blurted out by a careless person who has associates whispering in their ear that another e-mail dump might help the campaign.

If the rot is limited to Manafort, Flynn and a couple of others in the Trump campaign orbit, then we need to temper our expectations of the result. Unless it’s clear that Trump himself colluded (like Nixon) on an electronic DNC break-in, it’s unlikely he’ll be forced to resign or impeached.

There is no process to remove a president who is lazy, uninformed, uninterested or vulnerable to psy-ops and social engineering by foreign agents. Congress can’t and won’t impeach a president for incompetence.

There is still a political benefit to such a result. It will damage Trump’s awful agenda further and dent his approval ratings even more. So, we should continue to push for thorough, independent investigations. But it is likely that all we end up with is a hobbled Trump presidency. That would still be a good result for 2018 and 2020, but it is bound to disappoint some who believe Trump’s not long for the White House.

FWIW, my own take is that the alt-right in general (Trump included) adores Putin because they see in him a like-minded strongman who has used the Russian equivalent of white-supremacist, Islamaphobic, Christianist rhetoric in a quest for power.

“The Destruction of Hillary Clinton” has few lessons and heaps of condescension.

Susan Bordo published an extract from her forthcoming book in the Guardian, under the title: The destruction of Hillary Clinton: sexism, Sanders and the millennial feminists.

A quote from the piece:

They didn’t witness the complicated story of how the 1994 crime bill came to be passed or the origins of the “super-predator” label (not coined by Hillary and not referring to black youth, but rather to powerful, older drug dealers).

Go ahead, watch the video:

Your lying ears are probably telling you Hillary Clinton just said “they’re often the kinds of kids that are called super-predators”.

That’s because you’re an empty-headed, inexperienced, young millennial who doesn’t have the benefit of Bordo’s spidey-senses. Which is why you don’t know “kids” is actually a secret code-word for “powerful, older drug dealers”. Silly you.

Sanders’s branding of Hillary as establishment, however, seemed vastly unjust and corrosively divisive to me, especially when delivered to a generation that knew very little about her beyond what Bernie told them.

Not only are you too dumb to understand what “kids” means when Hillary Clinton says it, you’re also largely ignorant about politics in this country over the past 25 years. This generation doesn’t know much about politics or the Clintons and so abjectly failed to recognize HRC as the superior political product.

It’s really quite lamentable how impressionable and stupid we are, to fall for the rock-star charisma of a 75 year old grandpa, and that too only eight years after we fell for the rock-star charisma of a 47 year old black guy:

As I watched Sanders enchant the crowds, it was something of a deja vu experience to see a charismatic male politician on stage telling women which issues are and aren’t progressive.

The entire extract is meant to tell Bernie supporters they’re rubes without any agency of their own, incapable of discriminating between candidates. Apparently, millennial feminists weighed down by student debt were seduced by Bernie’s charisma, not his steadfast call for public colleges to be as affordable as when he (and Bordo and Clinton) attended.

On the off-chance that someone remembered there were substantive policy differences between Bernie and Hillary, Bordo is standing by to explain how silly we are to think that should matter.

As Jonathan Cohn wrote, in May: “If Sanders is the standard by which you’re going to decide whether a politician is a progressive, then almost nobody from the Democratic party would qualify. Take Sanders out of the equation, and suddenly Clinton looks an awful lot like a mainstream progressive.”

Let me paraphrase Jonathan Cohn’s prescription, quoted admiringly by Bordo:

First, forget that strong tea you tasted yesterday. We’re going to give you this weak tea, and just to make sure your little young heads don’t get all confused about it. The weak tea is what you get, and you will and should like it.

Earlier in the piece, Bordo is incensed that Bernie claimed the mantle of “progressive” from HRC, going into a long explanation of what “progressive” has meant over the years. And a couple of paragraphs later, she admits that you can only get Hillary to “mainstream progressive” if you remove Bernie from the data-set.

There’s a rank stench of paternalism, yes paternalism, wafting from this piece.

Bordo knows what is progressive and the silly Bernie supporters seduced by his “charisma” know less than nothing, we were just easy marks for a slick Burlington salesman. That paternalism might explain the next phenomenon that catches her attention:

too many young Democrats made it very clear (in newspaper and internet interviews, in polls, and in the mainstream media) that they were only voting for Hillary Clinton as the lesser of two evils, “holding their noses”, tears still streaming down their faces over the primary defeat of the person they felt truly deserved their votes. Some didn’t vote at all.

Ah yes, the crime of insufficient enthusiasm, which all Bernie supporters are forever guilty of. Of course, this couldn’t have anything to do with the candidate, it’s a product of Bernie supporters’ inherent moral failings, along with their youth, ignorance and inexperience as explained above.

This whole line of thinking is so ridiculous that even Bordo manages to lose the plot:

He was the champion of the working class (conveniently ignoring that black and white women were members, and that their issues were also working class issues)

Yes, for once I agree with her. Working class issues are indeed issues that impact black and white women, and all working people. Bernie reminded us of this throughout the campaign. For example, in his announcement speech:

Now is the time for millions of working families to come together, to revitalize American democracy, to end the collapse of the American middle class and to make certain that our children and grandchildren are able to enjoy a quality of life that brings them health, prosperity, security and joy – and that once again makes the United States the leader in the world in the fight for economic and social justice, for environmental sanity and for a world of peace.

Or when his campaign developed a comprehensive position on racial justice (before HRC’s did). Those are all reasons his campaign spoke to me, and why I knew he was more “progressive” than HRC. Jonathan Cohn’s attempt to adjust the curve and make HRC a “mainstream progressive” wasn’t compelling during the primary. Bordo echoing him a year later won’t do it either.

HRC had an opportunity to join the Congressional Progressive Caucus during her eight year senate career. It counts several dozen representatives as members. She did not.

Which allows me to remark on another prejudice that Bordo has managed to imbibe:

if Clinton had more support from the Democratic party, that was due in large part to the relationships she had cultivated over the years, working with others – something Sanders was not particularly good at.

By the way, that is the same CPC that Bernie helped found when he arrived in the House. So much for not being “particularly good at” working well with others. It’s also worth noting that the CPC overlaps significantly with the Congressional Black Caucus.

The fact is, HRC is a relatively “conservative” Democrat who inhabits a space between the right (on economic issues) and the left (on social issues). During her ascent (as part of a power couple) to the height of political power in our country, she had to make hard political choices, and there were reasons for making those choices. Some of them had to do with her priorities and what she believed, others with the circumstances. For instance, while serving as a board member at Walmart:

Fellow board members and company executives, who have not spoken publicly about her role at Wal-Mart, say Mrs. Clinton used her position to champion personal causes, like the need for more women in management and a comprehensive environmental program, despite being Wal-Mart’s only female director, the youngest and arguably the least experienced in business. On other topics, like Wal-Mart’s vehement anti-unionism, for example, she was largely silent, they said.

HRC was appointed to the board while her husband was governor of Arkansas (where Walmart is headquartered), to address the criticism that the board was composed entirely of white men. While in that role, she advocated for women in managerial roles, but not for rank and file working class women at Walmart who would have benefited from a union.

Some of those choices have been personally taxing for Hillary. For instance, her support for the Welfare Reform act caused a long-lasting rift with Marian Wright Edelman that has never been repaired.

In the end, Bordo’s long essay boils down to, us young ones don’t know what Hillary Clinton had to go through. If we accept that argument, then why not make it in defense of Lindsey Graham? Do we really know what Lindsey Graham had to go through, why he made the political compromises he did? Maybe we should cut him some slack and vote for him for president? Of course that’s a bad idea because much as there is to admire about Graham, his politics don’t align with ours, which is why we’re not enthusiastic about the prospect of voting for him.

The sad fact is that HRC was the wrong candidate for 2016. This was an anti-establishment cycle and she was the establishment candidate. She would have been the establishment candidate with or without Bernie. Without Bernie in the primary, her campaign might have made an even stronger pitch for suburban voters, by down-playing progressive economic issues. Would that have enthused millennial feminists?

There is much to admire in Hillary’s career and life, and even her two unsuccessful campaigns. Appreciating that does not require infantalizing those who supported Bernie as Bordo does.

The medium is the message.

Twitter Network Graph: Occupy Wall Street mentions

There were multiple notes yesterday discussing variations of the term “low information” and how Internet access impacts the race in different parts of the country. The furore over those comments obscured something that I’d like to discuss.

The distinction in this cycle is not between voters/observers who are less or more informed (as in understanding the issues, the resumes and the candidate’s positions they most care about). It’s about where their information is coming from and how that source amplifies or dampens the anti-establishment sentiment driving this cycle. The significant distinction is between those who are primarily informed by and trust the mainstream media, and those who do not. It’s not just what people consume either, it’s about the medium they are comfortable with and the level of interaction they have with it.

That doesn’t mean the medium is the only factor, or even the primary factor. It’s a big country with a lot of strange wonders in it.

One to Many communication

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Pravda means Truth.

One person talks, many people listen. This describes most traditional media like newspapers, television and radio. Feedback from the audience is necessarily limited.

The medium’s nature supports the rise of a limited number of voices who accrue an audience (fragmented or broad). That audience, and access to it, makes them desirable targets for cultivation. PR firms serve as the cross-pollinators of this ecosystem. Their success is measured in the number of TV interviews set up for clients, the number of positive newspaper articles etc. The “journalist” bags a big get, everyone’s happy.

The relentless dynamic of the market does the heavy lifting, collapsing the range of views to those deemed desirable. We’ll never get Jeep to buy airtime if we’re talking war crimes! So Kissinger becomes an elder statesman. But everyone loves a reality-show train-wreck so let’s run Trump 24/7.

One to Many communication:

  • gravitates towards an elite point of view. The great unwashed aren’t hosting cable news shows, they’re on Twitter or screaming at the car radio.
  • is built on relationships, breaking them is costly, so there’s built in resistance to change.
  • values “experience”.
  • is very risk-averse (big stakes).
  • is conservative (devalues big changes).
  • it dampens the anti-establishment sentiment (at least in the Democratic race).

In the beginning there was Usenet

In the early 1990s, if you wanted a good pie-fight, Usenet is where you went. Venues for many-to-many communication are as numerous as snowflakes in a blizzard today. But the game is the same. Radically different views are presented, the more radical the better. No matter how banal your observation, someone, somewhere, will find you and let you know they don’t agree. The range of possible views is expanded.

Anonymity or pseudo-anonymity changes the type of information produced. Considered judgement rendered by pundits is not highly valued. Perhaps rightly so, those sonorous tones are so often just a cover for group-think. Feedback is ubiquitous. So the standard bearer’s claim that candidate A was not an active participant in Civil Rights is undercut by footage showing young candidate A being arrested at a civil rights protest five decades ago. Another standard bearer accuses candidate A’s supporters of shouting “English only”, within hours video is up contesting the claim. Democracy in action, E Pluribus, cacophany.

Many to Many communication:

  • gravitates towards a non-elite point of view. It is the conversation you would find in a pub or a state fair.
  • loves iconoclastic insights that challenge the narrative (viral ideas).
  • relationships are low-value (I have 945 other FB friends).
  • does not value “experience” (a blue check is just another image).
  • rewards risk-taking in dialog(very low stakes).
  • is anti-conservative (does not value the status quo).
  • it amplifies the anti-establishment sentiment (in all the races)

Respect the Challenge

Political coverage in the mainstream media thrives on “respect”.

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1568: When print was revolutionary.

Respectable opinions are aired. We expect everyone to respect each other. Respectable people are covered. Respectable ideas are presented and outlandish ideas are laughed off the stage. This is a value system that privileges the privileged.

Those who are molded by this world believe mastering it is the only way to move towards a better future. A respectable candidate is one who has gained the respect of the respectable media and will present respectable proposals to achieve respectable goals. They deliver the goods by respecting the process.

The new media, call it social, call it Usenet, is about challenge. You post something, I post something better. Someone says this person is worthy of respect and within minutes you will learn the many ways they have failed. The endless feedback loop ensures no spin will go unanswered. No plea for respect will go unchallenged.

And those who are molded by this world believe a better future can only be forged by challenging and therefore necessarily dis-respecting sacred cows.

That’s all.

Empire State of Mind: Yes, New York can FeelTheBern!

Map_of_New_York_congressional_districts_from_2013_to_2022.jpgWelcome to New York! The state so nice, it was covered in ice (until 22,000 years ago).

NY_Congressional_Districts_110th_Congress.pngTo your left you can see what the map of NY’s congressional districts looked like in 2008. If you look up, you’ll see the current CDs scraping the sky. We have 27 districts. Howaboutdat!

12 of our 27 districts are in New York City (5-16 roughly speaking).

Did you know that every faucet in NYC serves the champagne of tap waters? And they run 24×7.

So what is New York about?

We’ve got Niagara Falls (so named by the Haudenosaunee/Iroquois), we’ve got the Finger Lakes (best Riesling in the country!), the Adirondacks (hike the High Peaks!), and the Catskills (Nobody puts baby in a corner! and Woodstock!). We’ve got Lake George (Andiatarocte to the Mohawk), Lake Placid (John Brown is buried here but his soul keeps marching on), the Thousand Islands (Manitouana to the Haudenosaunee), West Point and the Hudson River. The Mohican tribe called the Hudson the Muhheakunnetuk, or “river that flows two ways”. That’s because the lower half is virtually flat (2ft elevation at Troy), making it a tidal estuary sitting in a fjord. The Hudson is also called a “drowned river”, the rising tide sends salt water all the way up to Poughkeepsie, 75 miles north of NYC! And yes Virginia, we have fjords in New York, mother nature carved out some skyscrapers for us too! Alexander Hamilton died on the banks of the Hudson. We’ve also got some of the best public beaches in the world, plus the Hamptons!

Oh yeah, almost forgot, we also have New York City. That means we’ve got Central Park, Van Cortlandt park, Prospect Park, Alley Pond Park has the oldest tree in New York, it’s 400 years old. We’ve got Hell’s Kitchen, Washington Heights, and Harlem, which used to be the Dutch village of Haarleem, just as the city itself was New Amsterdam before it was New York, and it was Manhattan to the Lenape before that. We’ve got a county for Kings, and a county for Queens, two baseball teams, two basketball teams, two airports (three if you count Newark, five if you count Teeterboro and Westchester) five boroughs, and I’m sure we have hobbits, because Frodo Lives!. We’ve got the Empire State Building, the Verrazano Bridge, the Brooklyn Bridge, a bridge (renamed) for RFK, the Throgs Neck Bridge and the Whitestone Bridge and a bridge for Ed Koch. The Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority is a front for the Men in Black. We’ve got Times Square, Broadway, the West Village, the East Village, Chelsea, the Bowery, Madison Ave, Fifth Ave, the Avenue of the Americas, the meatpacking district and Soho. We’ve got the place where Lincoln gave the speech that sent him to the White House, and after that we built Union Square, Grant’s Tomb, and Grand Army Plaza. We’ve got Loisaida, and Alphabet City, Sugar Hill and Spanish Harlem, we’ve got hipsters and hasidim in Williamsburg, Greenpoint used to be Polish now it’s condos, Bay Ridge is still Italian, and Bayside used to be but the Koreans are moving in. Flushing is Asian and Astoria is still kinda Greek Opa!, Elmhurst’s little public library has books in dozens of languages and Jackson Heights has the rest, the Russians are in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn Heights is genteel and Park Slope has valet parking for strollers. The longshoremen are long gone from Red Hook, Bushwick is still edgy, Bed-Stuy is gentrifying and East New York may someday too. We’ve got Columbia, NYU, Cooper Union and FIT, CUNY (25 colleges, 400,000 students), Fordham and the New School (Bernie’s an alum, it’s a socialist utopia in the den of Mammon and Senator Bob Kerrey was once it’s president). We had Zika and Ebola, and everyone still rides the subway! Coz you only live once.

You name it, we got it. And I’m not even going to start on the art, or the literature, or the music, or the fashion, or the money.

We’ve sent a half dozen presidents to DC (you’re welcome America). Grover Cleveland was sworn in twice, but he won the popular vote three times! Teddy Roosevelt had the best result of any third-party candidate in a Presidential election, plus he was fit as a Bull Moose. We sent Franklin Delano Roosevelt to rescue the country from the Great Depression and you liked him so much you elected him four times! Then you had to amend the constitution to make sure no one ever did that again.

And I’m leaving out a lot of stuff so we can begin to…

Talk politics!

Both candidates can claim NY as home. Hillary relocated to Westchester. Bernie was born in New York. He left, but we forgive him for that. Brooklyn had the Dodgers back then, three baseball teams! So you could say we attract and produce the best. It’s a big state though, and we do have our share of idiots. Sorry for Drumpf (and Peter King)!

The last time Hillary Clinton ran for general election in New York was November 2006, her last primary was February 2008. Bernie Sanders hasn’t lived in New York since 1968. He doesn’t know subway tokens are history! But we love him anyway, he reminds us of so many opinionated, passionate New Yorkers we know.

Lots has changed in New York since 2008, and we’re going to have a debate in a week, a key question is whether the candidates can tailor their message for NY. New Yorkers have finely tuned bullshit detectors, pandering won’t help either candidate. It has to be from the gut.

The state is typically divided into two segments. Upstate is anything north of Westchester/Dutchess counties. Downstate is anything to do with New York City. But I’m going use a three part division, NYC, NYC suburbs and Upstate. That makes a lot more sense to me when thinking of New York in political terms.

Virtually every major New York politician has endorsed Hillary and she can count on their organizations. Bernie has an uphill struggle, but a very large number of dedicated volunteers and supporters who can help him bridge the gap.

Broad strokes, Bernie’s got a good chance to run away with New York. Depends on how quickly he can introduce himself to NYers. Upstate is pretty much his for the asking. The suburbs are probably out of his reach. Winning New York City will depend on whether he can hit the right notes for the city’s issues.

I’m going to look at 2008 primary results as a base and make some projections using them. In 2008, New York went for Hillary:

VOTES DELEGATES
HILLARY 1,068,496 139
OBAMA 751,019 93

Obama won only 3 congressional districts back then. They were the old CD6 (South-East Queens), CD10 (Central Brooklyn) and CD11 (Central Brooklyn). These roughly correspond to today’s CD5, CD8 and CD9. All three of those districts are majority African American. He lost Harlem/Upper Manhattan (old CD15, current CD13) 53-47.  That’s Charlie Rangel’s district (he’s my rep), it’s 30% Black, 25% White, 5% Asian, 8% Mixed and a whopping 35% Other. In reality 55% of it is Hispanic.

Obama did very poorly in upstate rural/industrial areas (mid 30s). He didn’t do much better in Nassau (lots of white flight here) and Suffolk (rural). He hit the 40s in the Northern suburbs (Westchester, Putnam etc).

Broad brush, I expect:

  • Rural counties to flip from Hillary to Bernie.
  • Cities hit by industrial decline to go for Bernie (Buffalo, Rochester, Troy)
  • I think Hillary’s strength is limited to Suffolk, Upper East Side, Westchester, Staten Island and possibly, just possibly Harlem, central Brooklyn.

The complete 2008 results at Congressional District are at The Green Papers, you can also view them by county and by congressional district at elections.ny.gov.

Comparing voter registration figures between November 2015 and April 2016, the news doesn’t look good for Hillary. Three district now have between 14,000 and 22,000 fewer registered Democrats. They are:

  • CD7: Nydia Velazquez (LES, Chinatown, Brooklyn waterfront)
  • CD8: Hakeem Jeffries (Central and S-E Brooklyn)
  • CD9: Yvette Clarke (Central and South Brooklyn)

The last two are districts we would expect to go for Hillary. CD7 depends on the Hispanic vote, we’ll talk about that a bit more when we discuss NYC.

On the other hand, upstate and rural districts (CD1-4, CD17-23, 25, 27) now have a few thousand more Democrats each. I would expect Bernie to outperform here.

Okay, let’s talk numbers first and then we’ll delve into explanations.

Where are the Votes?

I’ve pulled together a table below that shows you each Congressional District. You can see the percentage of the vote Hillary got in 2008. These are my own rough estimates based on a reading of how districts were redrawn. They are not as precise as a precinct level tabulation and re-allocation to new CDs would be. Life’s short, don’t have the time to do that.

I assume turnout is the same as 2008, with 1.82 million out of 5.27 million registered Democrats showing up. If turnout is much higher than this 35% estimate, then we may see Bernie up by more.

The columns below are Congressional District, Representative, Delegates Available, Region, HRC Vote Share in 2008, Forecast Vote share for Bernie, Forecast Delegates for Bernie, Forecast Raw Vote for Bernie, Net change in Democrats over last 6 months, Median Household Income for CD. Keep an eye on the median income since we will talk about that a bit.

REP DEL REGION HRC 08 BERN BERN BERN VOTE NEW DEMS INC
CD1 Lee Zeldin-R 6 Suburb 65% 60% 4 23466 3221 85K
CD2 Peter King-R 6 Suburb 67% 60% 4 28220 2951 86K
CD3 Steve Israel-D 7 Suburb 70% 40% 3 16202 2466 101K
CD4 Kathleen Rice-D 6 Suburb 60% 50% 3 26788 3491 92K
CD5 Gregory Meeks-D 6 NYC 62% 55% 3 31105 -1190 59K
CD6 Grace Meng-D 6 NYC 70% 60% 4 46335 59 59K
CD7 Nydia Velazquez-D 7 NYC 64% 55% 4 36177 -14416 48K
CD8 Hakeem Jeffries-D 6 NYC 56% 30% 2 29190 -21874 42K
CD9 Yvette Clarke-D 6 NYC 65% 30% 2 16085 -19362 49K
CD10 Jerrold Nadler-D 6 NYC 56% 60% 4 54182 -2005 81K
CD11 Dan Donovan-R 5 NYC 65% 30% 2 28381 -3776 63K
CD12 CarolynMaloney-D 6 NYC 60% 35% 2 23141 6252 94K
CD13 Charlie Rangel-D 6 NYC 53% 45% 3 18681 -2718 38K
CD14 Joseph Crowley-D 7 NYC 62% 55% 4 53556 921 52K
CD15 Jose Serrano-D 6 NYC 68% 50% 3 56869 -3316 24K
CD16 Eliot Engel-D 6 NYC 55% 40% 2 26321 647 63K
CD17 Nita Lowey-D 6 Suburb 55% 45% 3 34203 3567 91K
CD18 Sean Maloney-D 6 Suburb 55% 50% 3 37871 3888 77K
CD19 Chris Gibson-R 5 Upstate 60% 60% 3 31004 4814 57K
CD20 Paul Tonko-D 7 Upstate 64% 45% 3 18877 6386 62K
CD21 Elise Stefanik-R 6 Upstate 68% 65% 4 41513 3702 52K
CD22 Richard Hanna-R 5 Upstate 70% 60% 3 32574 3645 49K
CD23 Tom Reed-R 5 Upstate 60% 60% 3 21006 3533 47K
CD24 John Katko-R 6 Upstate 68% 60% 4 27202 1 52K
CD25 Louise Slaughter-D 6 Upstate 63% 65% 4 33155 6335 51K
CD26 Brian Higgins-D 7 Upstate 60% 65% 5 29597 -1531 43K
CD27 Chris Collins-R 6 Upstate 60% 65% 4 42238 1600 59K
PLEO 30 14
AT-LARGE 54 26
TOTAL 247 47.5% 128 863,935 -12,709

I didn’t include racial composition in the analysis above. The suburbs are pretty white (70-80%) with sizable Asian populations, the city is very diverse. Upstate New York has a sizable black population (10-20% in many CDs), but is largely white. Clearly, the Democratic electorate may not match the racial composition of the larger population. There are a lot of immigrant population centers within the city and outside it. CD6 is over 40% Asian, CD7 is 20% Asian, 40% Hispanic. CD13 has a number of big Universities (Columbia, CIty College, Yeshiva) so does CD10 (NYU, New School, FIT) and there are a number of CUNY campuses sprinkled across the city with hundreds of thousands of students enrolled. If they turn up and vote for Bernie, he could exceed expectations.

One other thing. No one has a great read on the Jewish vote in NY (which can be up to 20% of the primary vote in NYC). There’s a lot of support for Bernie among younger and more progressive Jewish voters. But older and more religious voters don’t seem to be fond of his largely secular stance. Some people may be turned off by his take on the Israel/Palestine conflict and his insistence that the US deal with both even-handedly. He is getting particularly bad press in Israel for his comments to the Daily News on the Gaza conflict last year. The former Israeli ambassador is accusing Bernie of ‘blood libel’. Both issues are probably going to hurt him with the Orthodox population, concentrated in Williamsburg and Borough Park. About 40% of Jews in NYC identify as orthodox, that number has grown in recent years. Orthodox voters could impact CD7, CD9 and CD10. 10 is balanced by the largely secular/liberal Upper West Side (Jerry Nadler’s district). 7 has a big Hispanic population, 9 is majority African American. I have Bernie winning 10 and 7, but losing 9.

What about the Polls?

The latest Quinnipiac poll has this breakdown of support for a Clinton/Sanders primary among likely voters:

18-44 45-64 65+ WHT BLK
CLINTON 36% 60% 73% 48% 66%
SANDERS 63% 35% 22% 47% 31%

The polls says Hillary leads 54-42, or 12 points. Hillary has a net unfavorable rating in NY, 45-49 while Bernie’s is favorable at 54-30.

I forecast Bernie winning 47.5% of the vote, but walking away with 128 of 247 delegates. That’s largely because I think the delegate math can work out in Bernie’s favor and I wanted to show this path. See Torilahure’s excellent diary on NY delegate math which presents an alternate scenario, a Clinton blowout. I expect Bernie to do well enough to get a 4-2 split in a number of rural districts (1, 2, 21, 24, 25, 27) and some uber-liberal districts in NY (6, 7, 10). That accounts for the lopsided result in delegates.

I think he could do much better than that, but it depends on whether he can hit the right notes in NYC. Also note that NYC is very diverse economically. It has some of the richest, and some of the poorest districts in the state. Lots of working-class people in NYC and the small, though active Working Families Party has endorsed Bernie. More on that below as I discuss each region and what went into the forecast.

Current polls have Bernie and Hillary separated by 10-12 points. When asked about this, Bernie said:

“Well that’s an interesting point. In my home state where the people know me pretty well, I got 86 percent of the vote,”

Upstate (CD19-27)

Our big population centers here are Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Albany, Schenectady, Utica, Troy and Binghamton. We used to have a lot of industry upstate thanks to cheap transport and great waterways. The decline of American manufacturing has hit the region hard over the past few decades. We have a number of universities upstate, and a lot of agriculture. The eastern part of upstate New York borders Vermont and looks a lot like it. The Western part sits on top of Pennsylvania, and shares a lot with it.

On the CD map, it’s districts 19 through 27. I figure all of them except CD20 (Albany) go for Bernie by various margins, mostly in the 60s. Hillary swept them in 2008, but the dynamic in this race seems different to me. Think of the Massachusetts/Vermont/New Hampshire primaries, Bernie won virtually all the rural counties. Much of upstate New York is adjacent and has the same demographics/economy. Bernie should theoretically appeal to three key demographics upstate, industrial working-class families, rural/farm families, and students.

I think it’s going to be tough going for Hillary upstate, even though voters there supported her in her senate bids and the 2008 primary:

Hillary Clinton’s political ascent can be traced to the time in 1999 when she expressed her support for dairy farmers in the upstate New York village of Endicott. And the summer that year when she shunned Martha’s Vineyard to vacation in Skaneateles, and promised voters in the depleted industrial city of Schenectady that as a New York senator she would revive the upstate economy.

The strategy helped Mrs. Clinton win her 2000 Senate race by double digits, a victory fueled by the unlikely support of white working-class voters in upstate New York who had previously voted Republican but were won over by the first lady’s attention to their underserved area.

I’m not so sure this is going to work again. After all the talk about speaking fees and the Clinton’s nine figure net worth, I suspect many voters upstate will view Hillary as being somewhat out of touch. Hillary hasn’t driven a car since 1996, while Bernie describes his car as a “red Chevy” and doesn’t know how old it is.

In general election matchups Clinton beats Cruz 53-32, Kasich 46-41 and Trump 53-33. Bernie’s margins are better at 56-28, 47-37 and 56-32 respectively. Much of Sanders’ improvement in margin comes from upstate New York where Sanders does 3-9% better in head to head match ups with the three than Clinton does.

Fracking is a big issue for liberal activists upstate, they managed to force a state-wide ban on the practice (protecting NYC’s champagne of tap waters). And the issue can lead to election victories:

Both the Clinton and Sanders campaigns are said to have studied the progressive Democratic primary challenge to Mr. Cuomo two years ago by Zephyr Teachout, an unknown law professor who won a surprising 33 percent by challenging Mr. Cuomo from the left, partly by highlighting her staunch opposition to fracking.

Ms. Teachout carried counties on the Pennsylvania border and in the Finger Lakes region, where grass-roots anti-fracking groups mobilized voters.

By the way, Hillary Clinton endorsed Teachout’s male opponent Andrew Cuomo, even though Zephyr would have been the first female governor of New York ever. I guess that glass ceiling just wasn’t important enough to smash through.

Down-ballot plug: Zephyr Teachout has endorsed Bernie and is running for Congress in the 19th district. If she wins, she’ll turn the district blue (the incumbent, Chris Gibson-R is retiring). Show her some love folks, primary is June 28th!

College impact: Two bright spots for Obama upstate in the 2008 primary were CD26 and CD28. CD26 was anchored by Binghamton, which has a big SUNY campus with 17k students. CD28 included Niagara Falls and Rochester which has two big colleges RIT and U of Rochester with 30k students between them. Those districts have been redrawn and look very different, their population is spread between today’s CD25, 26, 27. Bernie should do particularly well there.

The Suburbs (CD1-4, 17-18)

Westchester (CD17, 18) and Nassau (CD3, CD4) are solid Hillary. CD3 has the highest median income in the state, at 101k, CD4 (92k) and CD17 (91k) are not far behind. Many commuter towns with a lot of professionals who work in NYC. Wall Street bashing detracts here and in CD12 which is anchored by the Upper East Side.

CD1 and CD2 are a blend of the suburbs and upstate NY. They don’t have many commuter towns since most population centers are over 50 miles from NYC. They have a fair amount of agriculture and fishing and are actually whiter than the Westchester/Nassau. That said, they have high median incomes. They both have Republican reps, the Democrats in the area are either working class or socially liberal. I have them both going for Bernie.

The Big Apple (CD5-16)

In the table above, I included median income to give you a sense of how wealthy different CDs are. NYC contains both extremes. In some cases, median household income (half of families are below, half above) obscures even greater disparities. For example, median income in CD1 is 85K while mean income is 108K. All those Hamptons beachfront mansions drive up the mean/average. CD3 is even more extreme, 101K median and 142K mean. CD10 goes from 81K to 145K. CD12 is the big kahuna though, 94K median, 154K mean. A few blocks on Park Avenue account for that surge.

You want to talk class disparities? New York lives class disparity extremes every day. We have people making billions, literally billions a year and we have people getting by on minimum wage (soon to be $15 yay!). We have several dozen 100 million dollar apartments, and giant towers built specifically for absentee Russian and Chinese billionaires to use as savings accounts or tax dodges. Meanwhile, we have people living on the streets, including families, and thousands in shelters every day because they can’t afford rent. We even have a political party named The Rent Is Too Damn High!

There’s a big local political story that ties some of this together. The former speaker of the NY State Assembley, Sheldon Silver (D) was convicted and is awaiting sentencing in a corruption scandal. He received millions in no-show “consulting fees” from a number of law firms representing real-estate developers. In return, clients of these firms got bills passed reducing property taxes on luxury apartments they were building. That’s just the beginning. The speaker of the NY Senate, Dean Skelos (R) has also been arrested and convicted on bribery, corruption and extortion charges, again related in part to real-estate developers. Our governor (and Clinton ally) Andrew Cuomo (D) abruptly shut down an anti-corruption investigation that looked like it was going to focus on Silver. The US Attorney for southern NY, Preet Bharara (D) led all these investigations and others into Citibank, JP Morgan and Madoff. He said there were no federal charges to be filed concerning the closure of the commission, though he was critical of Cuomo and their investigation continues.

If Bernie were to tackle this as a pattern of political corruption that erodes our tax base, that may strike a chord. Thanks to various property-tax abatements, some of the multi-million dollar apartments going up in NYC have their property taxes reduced by up to 95%. It took a special bill in the state legislature to get an abatement for One57, the 90 story building on 57th street with numerous apartments priced close to or over 100 million dollars. I’ll let the NY Times explain what this meant:

The penthouse at One57, which offers panoramic views from 1,000 feet above 57th Street, recently sold for a record-setting $100.5 million.

But it is not the price that has grabbed the attention of housing advocates, policy analysts, developers and city officials. Rather, it is one of peculiarities of New York real estate: a billionaire’s lair that comes with an incentive that cuts this year’s property tax bill by 95 percent, or an estimated $360,000.

The Real Deal, a NY real-estate blog said this about One57:

But tax breaks at One57 cost the city $65.6 million in property tax revenue, according to a damning new report from the city’s Independent Budget Office. And those subsidies, which underwrote 66 affordable units in the Bronx, could have produced nearly 370 affordable units instead.

In most other parts of the country, wealth is hidden away behind high walls and gated communities. In New York it walks the street accessorized with a tall trophy in Manolo Blahniks and a Hermes tote. Or looks at you from the back seat of a chauffeured Bentley on Madison Avenue. What I mean is, New York is ripe for a conversation about class in a way much of the rest of the country isn’t. We have families with large staffs of nannies, housekeepers and fitness consultants. But they’re outnumbered by families living on a train-conductor or bus driver’s salary of 60k.

If Bernie can connect with families living on fixed incomes for whom the monthly rent payment is a big deal, he will win NYC. I know he can do this convincingly because he’s spoken about his parents’ financial struggles under similar conditions. Affordable housing is a huge issue in New York. You can become mayor of NYC if you can convince folks you’ll deliver on affordable housing and reduce the waiting lists of tens of thousands of families looking for a decent apartment within the city limits. BTW, DeBlasio has walked back some of his campaign promises on affordable housing. If Bernie addresses the issue as well as he has in his platform, and relates it to his work on affordable housing in Burlington, ears will perk up.

If he can find a way to speak to the 38% of NYC residents who are foreign born, he will do well with those of us who came here from somewhere else. He can talk to this with authenticity and has, because his family is an immigrant family.

Bernie is a recognizable character in New York, even if he hasn’t lived here in a long while. He’s someone we as New Yorkers have known all our lives, even if we’ve never met this particular incarnation. All over our great city and state, we have earnest Bernies who have turned their talents to the greater good and spurned the allure of riches. Some of them are young, others have been fighting the good fight for decades. We know them and we admire their rectitude. If Bernie can connect with New Yorkers, and I think he can, he could walk away with NY.

A lot of people around here have suggested Bernie’s critique of Wall Street will hurt him in NYC. They are mistaken. That is only true of small pockets in the city and the suburbs. Roughly 350,000 people work in Financial Services in New York and I’m one of them (some of my colleagues are registered Republicans). Many of us saw the crisis up front and center, and saw friends and co-workers lose jobs. There were over 50,000 layoffs in our world during that period and many thousands of careers were set back years. We are not keen to see it repeated.

That 350,000 sounds like a big number, but we have 5.26 million registered Democrats and there are numerous constituencies among the 350k. We have a few thousands Masters of the Universe pulling serious money who are probably unlikely to vote for Bernie. We have a lot of mid-level executives in revenue and non-revenue roles who probably feel more comfortable with Hillary’s tone and presentation and won’t be voting Bernie (not yours truly). We have a lot of younger people in the ranks who are more receptive to Bernie’s message and saw a lot of friends get hurt in 2008-09. A number of industry jobs are in commercial/retail banking and these folks know they aren’t on Wall Street (they may want to get there since pay is generally better) and most don’t see Bernie as attacking them.

And that is within the industry. Outside the industry, views on Wall Street are much more of a mixed bag. Gentrification, changing neighborhoods and rising rents are a big story and people lay some or most of the blame on the financial sector with its outsized pay packages and a global elite who snap up second homes in NYC. Anyone who thinks bashing Wall Street is a death knell in New York doesn’t know New York. Heck, we elected Rudy Giuliani mayor partly because he was tough on white-collar crime.

Okay that’s it. You made it through one of the longer election diaries. Come visit us in NY sometime, we like people who pay attention.

Bottom line, Bernie can win New York, he can even win it by a yuuuuge margin. But only if we get out and do the work, canvassing and calling for Bernie. We have 12 days, that’s an eternity in New York. Work like your future depends on it. Because it does!

The Six Trillion Dollar Mistake

When someone asks me why I’m for Bernie rather than Hillary, I say it has to do with the Six Trillion Dollar Mistake.

It’s difficult to understand a figure as large as $6,000,000,000,000.

6 Trillion would buy us one of these four nice things:

  1. 50 years of tuition-free public college and 50 years of free universal pre-K.
  2. 7 years of free health-care for 100 million Americans.
  3. $20,000 as a gift to every man, woman and child in America.
  4. Bullet trains connecting every major city,  85 Nuclear-powered Aircraft Carriers, 10 Space Stations, 10 manned missions to Mars, ten million homes for the homeless plus the Starship Enterprise.

But instead of getting these nice things, we got one shitty thing. The war in Iraq. Which was followed by other shitty things like ISIS.

The war was dreamt up and executed by Bush/Cheney. It is their fault. But others acted as enablers:

  • 48 Republicans and 29 Democrats in the senate enabled the war.
  • 215 Republicans and 85 Democrats in the House enabled the war.

And some tried to stop them:

  • 21 Democrats, 1 Republican and 1 Independent in the Senate tried to stop them.
  • 126 Democrats, 6 Republicans and 1 Independent in the House tried to stop them.

The independent in the House was Bernie Sanders.

One little known Illinois state senator knew it was a mistakeand tried to stop it.

Among the 29 Democratic Senators who enabled Bush/Cheney was Hillary Clinton.

What a colossal mistake.

  • A 6 Trillion Dollar Mistake.
  • 500,000 Iraqis dead  mistake.
  • A 4,425 dead American soldiers mistake.

Hillary defended that decision for 13 years. Only admitting it was a mistake in 2015. Biden said he made a mistake in 2005, ten years sooner.

All that experience and it took 13 years to admit it was a mistake. How can you learn from your mistakes if you won’t admit them for three terms and you only get two?

I’ll take the politician who doesn’t enable such mistakes over the one who does.

That’s what’s at stake in this primary, and why you should be working you butt off to make Bernie the Democratic nominee and the next president of the United States.

McGovern, caucuses and Nader: trying to delegitimize Bernie

If Bernie exceeds Hillary’s pledged delegate count, I expect him to win the nomination. I do not believe superdelegates will be able to toss the nomination to Bernie. If they do, I expect the Democratic party to be damaged in this cycle, and perhaps many cycles to come.

However, that consideration has not stopped many Democrats from presenting various arguments meant to undercut the message of Bernie’s victories thus far. A 74-year old socialist from Vermont running in his first national race is beating a candidate who has run multiple national races and was considered so formidable that no other major politician thought to challenge her candidacy. That the challenger is doing as well as he is, having amassed 45% of the delegates awarded thus far, is a demonstration of extreme dissatisfaction with Business As Usual in the Democratic party.

The BAU faction of the Democratic party (let’s call them, the “establishment”) is in reality near panic over this threat. That was plainly apparent prior to super-Tuesday. Hillary’s wins on that day calmed people down a bit. But what everyone knows, is that this is an anti-establishment year, and the establishment’s preferred choice is a weak candidate. Whatever you may think of Hillary’s personal abilities and qualifications, by her own account, she is not a natural politician. That fact is driving fear within the party establishment.

It has led to various people making attempts to delegitimize Bernie’s success so far, or lay the groundwork to deny him the nomination if he secures a majority of pledged delegates. I do not think any of these attempts will succeed. But we must understand them, if we seek to prevail.

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Caucuses aren’t undemocratic, super-delegates are

There have been public calls for Bernie to step aside, for “the good of the party”. The calls are generally coupled with the suggestion that his path to securing a majority of pledged delegates is impossible. I’ve discussed before, how this is plainly untrue, and I will have updated targets later this week. But in one case, the person making a call for Bernie to step aside also said that his victories thus far don’t count for as much since many of his delegates were secured from caucus contests, and caucuses are “undemocratic”. This attempt to delegitimize Bernie’s pledged delegates is what I want to consider first.

We should recall that the Democratic party also held caucuses in 2008. The insurgent candidate, Barack Obama won or tied each and every caucus. These were the results in terms of pledged delegates:

STATE RESULT OBAMA MARGIN
IA 16-15 1
NV 13-12 1
AK 9-4 5
CO 35-20 15
ID 15-3 12
KS 23-9 14
MN 48-24 24
ND 8-5 3
NE 16-8 8
WA 52-26 26
HI 14-6 8
TX 38-29 9
WY 7-5 2
GU 2-2 0
TOTAL 128

Obama won the caucus contests by a net 128 delegate margin. Since Obama ended ahead by roughly 62 delegates, it’s fair to say the caucus contests (“mostly white” states by the way) handed him the victory. If you want to now claim caucuses are “undemocratic”, you should also have the courage and clarity to admit that Obama was chosen as the nominee in 2008 by an undemocratic process and unless you’re a PUMA, you didn’t really have a problem with it then.

But the fact is, caucuses are not “undemocratic”. At least no more so than any other system of democracy that requires some commitment of time and travel. If the Democratic party had a problem with caucuses, it should have revised its rules in 2009, or later. They didn’t.

I’ll tell you what is “undemocratic” though, superdelegates.

They are undemocratic in the sense that the Senate was undemocratic before the 17th amendment was passed and the popular election of Senators became the norm, in 1913.

They are undemocratic in the sense that the Presidency was undemocratic, before it became the norm to select presidential electors by popular vote. That change in the 1820s is incidentally, tied to the foundation of the Democratic party and the election of Andrew Jackson. The last state to adopt the popular vote was South Carolina, after the Civil War, you can read into that whatever you want.

The superdelegate system is undemocratic in its intent. It is explicitly designed to overturn the will of the people. It is based on the belief that party leaders know better when it comes to selecting a nominee.

And finally, it is undemocratic because it was motivated by fear of the people. Not a fear that the people would choose a demagogue who would then seek to destroy our individual rights. Not a fear that the people would choose someone unprepared for the presidency. Though to be honest, the other party is well on it’s way to doing both with Trump. It was a fear that the party would choose someone unacceptable to the party elite and their view of what the general electorate wanted.

Bernie’s campaign is absolutely on the money with their very public lobbying of superdelegates over the past month. What they are doing is raising the profile of superdelegates among the Democratic primary base. The better people understand how superdelegates work, the better position they’re in to judge their actions at the convention. So having a public discussion about what arguments work and don’t work on superdelegates is a good thing.

We do not have a system of direct democracy in this country, nor would I advocate one. We delegate to our representatives the authority to make policy and write legislation. But the people jealously guard their right to choose the representatives who then subsequently create policy and legislation.

If, at the convention, Democrats reveal that a single DNC member’s vote counts as much as the 15,000 individual citizens who elected each pledged delegate from Hawaii, it will not go over well.

The real goal here is to have Bernie drop out, so that itappears that Hillary has overwhelming support in the pledged delegate count and avoid any sort of real contest on the convention floor. In other words, keep the coronation on track.

All this is of course entirely acceptable. The Democratic party is a private institution which has no defined permanent role in our system of government. Parties have come, and parties have gone. We have seen six different party systems in this country. But if you are a Democrat, and wish to see a future for your party, you will want to ensure the pledged delegate count is the one that matters.

He’s winning because he’s spending so much money

Some commenters here and in the media claim Bernie is only winning because he has spent 2x, 3x or 10x the amount Hillary has in a particular state. I got an e-mail from the Hillary campaign this week saying:

If you think Bernie Sanders isn’t gunning for a comeback, take a harder look at his campaign. They outspent us on the air 27-to-1 in Washington, Hawaii, and Alaska, and after they won those three contests, they turned around and raised ANOTHER $4 million in just 48 hours.

It then asks for money, because Hillary is having a tough time matching Bernie’s fundraising this year. He’s raised 63.5 millionin Jan-Feb to her 45m. But another goal is to create the impression that Bernie only wins where he outspends Hillary by huge multiples. Thankfully, OpenSecrets consolidates fundraising data for both Hillary and Bernie’s campaigns. So we can evaluate the claim that he’s spending more than she has:

HILLARY BERNIE
RAISED $159,902,013 $139,810,208
SPENT $129,066,926 $122,598,571
ON HAND $30,835,088 $17,211,636
SMALL DONORS $28,585,437 (18%) $94,162,132 (67%)
LARGE DONORS $116,826,391 (73%) $43,932,888 (31%)
$2700+ DONORS $75,500,362 (25,705 people) $4,001,068 (1,257 people)

In addition, Hillary has $63m raised by SuperPACs, of which almost $19m has been spent, leaving $44m (mostly in Priorities USA and Ready PAC).

In aggregate, Hillary has spent more than Bernie. Adding the SuperPACs, she has spent $24 million more than Bernie has. That 25% higher spending has resulted in 23% additional delegates. So thus far, they’ve both gotten roughly what they’ve paid for (ignoring external media impact).

What’s caught the establishment flat-footed is that Bernie has managed to raise as much as Hillary has. With most other candidates, the knock would be that they can’t raise enough money, therefore aren’t viable. With Bernie, the knock is that he can raise enough money, but he needs to spend it to win, so he’s unviable.

See how this works?

But aside from the bullshit arguments about who’s competing where and spending what, it’s also worth looking into where the money comes from. The vast majority (73%) of Hillary’s money comes from contributors who give more than $200. The vast majority (67%) of Bernie’s from those who give less. Roughly 47% of all of Hillary’s funds came from people who maxed out their contribution ($75 million). For Sanders, that number is far lower at 3% or $4 million total.

I want to talk about what it means to a campaign to raise funds in each way. To raise money, Hillary has to attend private fundraisers. The people forking over $2,700 to her campaign or twice that per couple aren’t going to join 20,000 other for a rally. No, they expect face-time with the candidate and a passable dinner in a private environment. Plus cocktails so it isn’t all boring politics. Those giving $669,400 expect even more. All that sucks up the candidate’s time. Time that can’t be spent with voters because campaigns have a definite end date. That creates a structural advantage that both campaigns are aware of:

I don’t have a super PAC and I don’t travel the country begging millionaires to contribute to my campaign. This is a grassroots campaign.

— Mar 14, 2016 @berniesanders

In contrast, Bernie’s fundraising is far more efficient. He spends a couple of minutes in a speech making an appeal for cash, and it comes rolling in. Many people are set to donate to the campaign on a regular schedule.

The end result is that Hillary is spending multiple evenings a week scarfing down shrimp cocktails at the homes of wealthy supporters, while Bernie is out campaigning. And he’s still raising more money than her.

McGovern lost, lefties can’t win in America

Numerous people point to McGovern’s loss in 1972 to Nixon to claim:

  1. America is not fertile ground for a “liberal” candidate
  2. McGovern’s primary win was therefore a mistake where voters (who we know are stupid and naive) chose someone too liberal to win
  3. To avoid this fate, it was essential to create the “superdelegate” fix to protect primary voters from their stupidity and naivete.

I will admit that most senior Democrats aren’t dumb enough to call primary voters stupid and naive in public. They might choose to say “carried away” or get “overexcited by unreasonable and unachievable proposals”. But make no mistake, what they mean is that primary voters are stupid and naive.

The problem is, this three stage argument falls apart when evaluated carefully.

McGovern was almost certainly the most “liberal” Democratic nominee in recent memory. But his loss cannot be ascribed exclusively to his policy positions or ideology. At least equally, and perhaps far more important, were his choice of Eagleton as VP and the subsequent revelation that Eagleton had undergone electro-shock therapy for “depression” (later diagnosed as bi-polar disorder). McGovern’s initially firm “1,000%” backing of Eagleton and later back-tracking hurt him immensely. The failed attempts to recruit Ted Kennedy, Edmund Muskie, Hubert Humphrey, Abraham Ribicoff, Larry O’Brien and Reubin Askew as replacements caused further damage. Many of them had run for the nomination against McGovern. Birch Bayh, Walter Mondale and Hubert Humphrey had refused to join the ticket earlier. All these refusals were a symptom of a broader problem, McGovern was abandoned by the Democratic party, in and outside the South.

Perhaps primary voters weren’t so stupid and naive to choose McGovern. Perhaps they just misjudged the lengths to which the party would go to sabotage a nominee considered too far to the left. Now, I should point out that McGovern won only a quarter of the popular vote, about the same as Humphrey. He did win over 50% of the delegates.

Looking at it this way, the “superdelegate” fix takes on a different meaning. It is not to prevent the party from being tripped by a “too liberal” candidate who is bound to lose in the general. It is there to prevent the primary being won by a candidate the “establishment” doesn’t approve of. Subtle difference, but it clarifies why this has bearing in 2016. The party looks at Bernie’s candidacy as a guerrilla campaign by someone who hasn’t “paid their dues”. Quite apart from the ideological position that Bernie inhabits, the bigger fear is that the party’s ticket will be headed by someone who is not enmeshed in the complex web of favors and collectible chits that would otherwise allow party grandees to exercise control over their agenda.

And we should not mince words here. If Bernie wins the nomination, he will be the first nominee in a number of generations who owes little to the establishment. If you believe this is a drawback, by all means you should oppose Bernie’s nomination.

By the way, at the time the superdelegate system was devised, the fear was not about nominating a “liberal” candidate, but about infighting within the party that would undercut the eventual nominee. The examples in everyone’s minds were McGovern, who had to deal with multiple contenders challenging him, and Ted Kennedy’s primary challenge to Jimmy Carter in 1980.

Bernie is going to be a spoiler, just like Nader

Some people have begun to point to the 2000 race (also a “third-term” run) and raise fears of a similar situation. That Bernie might undertake a “spoiler run” or fail to throw all his support behind Hillary in the unlikely event she wins the pledged delegate count and the nomination.

If Hillary wins the nomination and subsequently loses the election, you can bet your bottom dollar that the Democratic party will find a way to blame it on Bernie or his supporters.

Not that I think Gore’s loss can or should be blamed on Nader, or people who voted for him (or on Bill Bradley). Gore was a bad candidate, Liberman was a bad choice, Bill Clinton was unmentionable during the campaign because Gore didn’t want to be associated with blowjobs in the Oval office. The fact is, the Democratic party should have made better choices or run a better campaign. That they failed to do that cannot be blamed on Nader.

But they will say, whatever you think of Gore-W-Nader, you’ve got to admit it was a disaster, because Iraq.

Perhaps, though the thing is, we’re not talking about Gore or Nader, we’re talking about Hillary. Hillary voted for the war in Iraq. There was no apology in 2008 because it was seen as a political liability. She did not admit it was a mistake till her book was published in 2014.

The point I’m making is that whatever you think about Gore v. W, you can’t use Iraq to argue that Hillary would be better if another Iraq came up. Because she voted for Iraq! Imagine Hillary ran instead of Gore in 2000 and lost. Blaming the war on Nader would be nonsensical because we know today that Hillary voted for it.

In fact this whole line of argument is ridiculous on its face because Al Gore initially supported a confrontation with Iraq. In February 2002, he called for a “final reckoning” with Iraq, saying the country was a “virulent threat in a class by itself” and calling for Saddam Hussein to be ousted. By September 2002, he wasarguing against the war, claiming the focus should be on tracking down the culprits behind 9-11. We know he agreed with Bush and co that Iraq/Saddam were a key problem in the Middle-East, that the US needed to remove Saddam. We just don’t know what he would have done if he actually commanded the army. He might have joined the majority of Democratic senators who voted for war (including Hillary).

But blaming Nader is a very convenient way for Democrats to ignore our own faults and avoid making necessary changes. The psychological candy delivered by blaming it all on Nader means people will continue doing it.

Stealing Elections

I’ve had a couple of discussions about whether attempts have been made or will be made to steal votes in a primary, if Bernie begins to get close.

I don’t really think that is going to happen, nor will it be effective if attempted, for a variety of reasons:

  1. To steal an election, you have to control the machinery of the elections. You also have to demand and receive, absolutely, unquestioning loyalty. I don’t think the Clintons have any of that.
  2. The proportional delegate allocation system reduces the rewards from a stolen election, unless you can shift enormous numbers of votes.
  3. You could try to maneuver to gain additional delegates at the district/state conventions, but the Clinton campaign appears to be completely inept at this. All the upward revisions in delegate counts due to unviability or split delegate thresholds have gone to Bernie.
  4. Looking at the contests to come, I don’t know which states might be the most vulnerable.

Finally

None of this matters if Bernie doesn’t win the pledged delegates. Go out and phonebank, facebank and GoTV.