Tag Archive | Michael Wolraich

Primary Snapshot II

According to FiveThirtyEight’s delegate targets, here’s where the candidates were on March 3rd, after Super Tuesday when a Trump vs Clinton contest looked inevitable:

Candidate – Won/Target – Percentage of Target
Trump – 338/297 – 114%
Cruz – 236/384 – 61%
Rubio – 112/242 – 46%

Clinton – 609/529 – 115%
Sanders – 412/492 – 84%

Here’s where they are on March 28th:

Candidate – Won/Target – Percentage of Target
Trump – 754/789 – 96%
Cruz – 465/882 – 53%
Kasich – 144/657 – 22%

Clinton 1267/1174 108%
Sanders 1037/1129 92%

Trump is no longer a lock for the Republican nominee, not because of votes, but because the RNC seems to be considering rule changes that would lock him out. Cruz has fallen off pace, Rubio dropped out and the lone remaining establishment candidate, Kasich, has no path to winning on the first ballot.

But the Republicans are truly trapped. If they finagle Trump out, they will openly alienate the blue collar segment of their base, and could become an irrelevant third party. If they allow Trump’s win, though, they risk becoming an extremist American Ba’ath party. They would probably lose the election, but as Michael Wolraich described in a recent Salon interview, even losing elections can signal the start of a powerful movement. Wolraich was talking about progressives, but the Tea Party movement has been smoldering for almost a decade.

Clinton has dropped by seven percent, is out of Southern states, but still is considered the presumptive nominee by both the mainstream and much of the new internet media. Sanders has risen by eight percent, has momentum and solid fundraising, but is out of caucus states. Sanders must continue to win decisively but his main hurdle will be winning New York, which is his home state, but Clinton’s adopted state.

The Democrats are not trapped, but do risk alienating those millennial voters that should be their future core constituency. Since Arizona, the shadow of voter suppression looms large. One of my office friends thinks Hillary will have to ask Bernie to the prom, as VP, to keep her party together. Sanders has already said he would not look to include Clinton in his cabinet, so I would have bet against him being part of a neoliberal Clinton ticket. But she needs him much more than he needs her, and in a recent Young Turks interview Sanders cited a long list of policy demands that would reconcile him with the Clinton platform. So it is at least possible.

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Swimming with Unreasonable Sharks

We are back from summer vacation, and boy do we have slides to show you.

As we did last year, we joined my wife’s daughter and her family in renting a beachside house. Oak Island NC is a barrier island – separated from the mainland by the Intracoastal Waterway – and is near Myrtle Beach SC. The ocean side shoreline runs East to West, and faces South, so you can sort of watch both the sunrise and the sunset. We drove in through lightly-flooded West Beach Drive just as the weakling Hurricane Bertha was passing far out to sea. Last year the air was hot and the water was chilly. This year the air was warm and the water was mild. So I was not surprised to read, New Study Sees Atlantic Warming Behind a Host of Recent Climate Shifts, in Dot Earth:

Using climate models and observations, a fascinating study in this week’s issue of Nature Climate Change points to a marked recent warming of the Atlantic Ocean as a powerful shaper of a host of notable changes in climate and ocean patterns in the last couple of decades — including Pacific wind, sea level and ocean patterns, the decade-plus hiatus in global warming and even California’s deepening drought.

Other climate scientists question whether the Atlantic is actually a mover and shaper, or just part of a complex system, but the article confirmed my sense that the ocean felt like bathwater this summer. Once Bertha moved away we had clear sunny days, but fewer and fewer strong waves to surf.

The house was ten lots away from the one we had last year, and far more comfortable. I would wake up, lurch into the surf and swim up and down while trying to forget all the media buzz about Jaws and sharks and gators. One doesn’t have to venture far out to feel terribly alone in the water. After breakfast I would surf the internet and read. After lunch we men would pile into the waves for body-surfing. Rinse and Repeat. Sometimes the women interrupted our swimming, eating, drinking (and my reading) to drive them places. The idea is supposed to be that everyone gets to relax, but in practice the women kept busy planning and preparing meals, dressing to hunt shells on the beach, dressing to go shopping for t-shirts, dressing to sit on the beach, dressing to go to the Food Lion, etc. And the boys dragged their poor grandmother out to the mall or the WalMart or the Surf Shop.

When they weren’t in the water, the boys played an online war game called Call of Duty almost constantly. I think we had a connection delay because our guys could run around a corner and empty a clip into an opponent – who, unbloodied, would then take them down with one shot. That game features a background voice that barks commands at the players as they coordinate an assault in an urban battlezone. I grew to hate that voice. “Domination!” “Secure the objective!” “We’re losing A!”  “We’re falling behind!” “We’re being dominated!” That insistent voice reminded me of Harlan Ellison’s Twilight Zone episode, Soldier, where Michael Ansara is a heat ray-wielding warrior from the future, wearing an earpiece that urges him, “Find your enemy. Attack, Kill. Attack, Kill.”

We didn’t see any loggerheads hatch this year. Around high tide, we watched brown pelicans diving for fish and flying in tight formations against the wind, and looser formations with the wind. The pelicans were frequently escorted by gulls. Around low tide, tiny Sanderlings and longer-legged and -beaked Willets would scour the beach for anything that might be edible. The women noted that there weren’t as many shells to pick from this year. Once while they looked for conch, whelk and scallops shells, I scored a Corona bottlecap, a rubber band, two rubber hairbands and a charred cigarette. One of the boys found an almost full plastic bottle of Mountain Dew. In the low tide surf there was also a lot of what appeared to be clear, decomposed plastic foam, much like you’d find in the Pacific and Gulf dead zones. My wife found an intact crab, and was wondering what killed it, but we didn’t see any live crabs in the surf.

Last year we went to Pelican Seafood, picked through all sorts of seafood and had a great dinner at the house. This year, Pelican said the boats only brought shrimp, scallops, one salmon and one snapper. It could have simply been a slow day, but it made me wonder what will be available next time. In The Bottleneck Years, HE Taylor’s speculative fiction novel (also posted on Science Blogs), the recently deceased author predicts that the fishermen will sink their boats complaining that the sea had become populated by nothing but jellyfish.

I first read the next chapter of Brown Dog,  a collection of James Harrison’s stories – tall tales really – about a simple soul who lives in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, passes himself off as Native American when it suits, works only when he must, drinks when he can and chases pussy when it wanders too close. Then I started Unreasonable Men, Michael Wolraich’s third person omniscient retelling of the rise of the Progressive Movement in the early 1900s. I met Michael and many other folk online several years ago at the defunct TalkingPointsMemo Cafe. Sometime later he invited me to join his political blog, dagblog, which I did for a few years. I eventually met him in person when he presented his first book, Blowing Smoke, at a Washington DC bookstore.

Unreasonable Men is well organized – each chapter has a clear date, and many omniscient assertions about the inner motivations of Speaker of the House Joe Cannon, Senate Leader Nelson Aldrich, House and Senate Gadfly “Fighting Bob” LaFollette, President Teddy Roosevelt and President William Howard Taft are supported with footnotes. Michael’s assertions may open him to challenges from conservatives who interpret history differently, but the active voice does make one feel in the moment and moves the story along. His descriptions, citing of facts and use of quotes bring life to figures that usually repose in the dust of the passive tense.

Michael opens by describing a political landscape in 1904 that could easily be mistaken for 2014. Rich vs poor, dwindling resources, financial crashes, and congressional paralysis sound like topics on Meet the Press, The Daily Show or Democracy Now. But in telling about the past he leaves us to make our own comparisons with the present. I knew from high school that Roosevelt had fallen out with Taft, and had started the Bull Moose Party, and I knew that Taft eventually became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, but Michael fills in the back story. Learning about Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot’s breakneck assignation of 16 million acres of woodlands into the US Forest Service’s national reserve before an appropriations bill stripped them of that power was worth the whole book. Conservatives lost interest in conserving when it became clear that the land wasn’t being set aside for their future exploitation.

While reading about the tariff debates, I was reminded of a press conference at the Green Party Convention in 2012, which I covered for dagblog:

Each time, as [Dr Jill] Stein or [Cheri] Honkola was answering a question, [Ben] Manski was floating behind, waiting to add a few comments. I stopped trying to figure out the signals and simply raised my hand. Based on Manski’s comment about corporate money, I asked whether the Green Party had accepted or would consider accepting contributions from an environmentally-responsible corporation, if say, Patagonia wanted to support them. Stein hurriedly said that they accepted no corporate contributions or PAC money, and that even if money was found to be from a high ranking company official it would be returned. Manski chimed in that corporations had offered money in the past, but that Patagonia had not.

At the time I wondered which of us was being naive. In my opinion, government serving only business is a kind of fascism, but for government and business to be completely independent would be wasteful if not chaotic. Unless you favor anarchy, the trick seems to be a balancing act between corporate fascism and populist chaos. LaFollette and his brethren led a Progressive movement of the middle class against too much business interference, but one wonders if there is any sort of mechanism to do that today when every politician depends so heavily on corporate contributions to stay in office.

Guessing the Name, Guessing the Verdict

Aristocrats don’t go in for trendy names, so I doubt that Kate and William will name the newest British royal Trayvon, or Nelson. Edward is possible, but Snowden is unlikely, even though there have been Lords and Viscounts named Snowden and a Snowdon married to Princess Margaret. Andrew would be quite a nod to the Wimbledon champ, but they might want to wait and see if Christopher wins the Tour de France. Boris is right out. If they have a daughter, don’t expect GaGa or Lena or Angelina. Laura or Heather would also be a nod to tennis, but Robson and Watson have done little more than stir hopes for the future. Virginia would be nice, as if anyone remembers Our Ginny. Libby or Rebecca would be cool, but I doubt the parents follow swimming that closely.

A verdict is due in the Zimmerman trial. At dag, my former co-blogger Michael Maiello urges us not to predict riots. I have to admit that I was wondering how largely black Baltimore would react to a not guilty verdict. Ignoring the advice of a coworker, I’ve been biking through mostly black neighborhoods since the early Spring without even a hint of problems. The mostly black crowd at Lexington Market, where McNulty and his kids tailed Stringer Bell, are blasé as I politely pedal behind jaywalkers during rush hour. But that could change. Bmore is not just an abbreviation, it also means B More Careful.

I haven’t been following the case at all. I hear stuff on the radio, and try to browse past the misinformation promulgated by well-fed trolls on dag. The introduction of a manslaughter option might be a face-saving compromise, but I suspect that Zimmerman being brought to trial was the only victory Trayvon’s family will see.

Several years ago, when I was compiling the end-of-the-year doomer predictions for an article, I was surprised that Sharon Astyk expected that a rift would occur between the young and the old. I couldn’t see any evidence then, but I filed it away in my long list of stuff to wonder about. I look back at the Arab Spring, and Indignados, and Occupy and now Egypt and Gezi Square and I wonder if there is a Young vs Old angle there.

In Waiting for the GOP to Die, Michael Wolraich, another former co-blogger, warns us that progressives can’t expect the conservative movement to wither away and, “wait a decade or two for the new golden age of Democratic hegemony …”. One does not simply sit back while Mordor implodes.

I expect that the new anti-progressive movement will be young, white Ron Paul libertarians – socially liberal for white people and for black, brown and yellow people that act like white people, socially archaic for minorities that don’t assimilate. They will smoke some weed, but support private prisons for blacks that use drugs. They will want to download free music, but will be against raising the minimum wage. They will defend anyone that defends their tribe.

Update: I ran across an incredibly affecting crime scene photo of Trayvon Martin’s body on Gawker. I thought briefly about posting the photo or a link here, but decided No. Although the photo is very moving, it didn’t make sense that I should post that image after paying scant attention to the case. Josh Marshall went through the same exercise, and only posted a link.

Good State, Bad State

Josh Marshall has an interesting post trying to make peace between himself and TPM readers that presumably support the NSA leak:

Here is I think the essential difference and where it comes back to what I referred to before – a basic difference in one’s idea about the state and the larger political community. If you see the state as essentially malevolent or a bad actor then really anything you can do to put a stick in its spokes is a good thing. Same if you think the conduct of US foreign policy is fundamentally a bad thing. Then opening up its books for the world to see is a good thing simply because it exposes it or damages it. It forces change on any number of levels. …

On the other hand, if you basically identify with the country and the state, then indiscriminate leaks like this are purely destructive. They’re attacks on something you fundamentally believe in, identify with, think is working on your behalf.

I would not conflate, “the country and the state” so readily. They are increasingly not the same thing at all. The state is becoming more and more a tool of the wealthy elite. One can certainly identify with and support the country of one’s birth but still oppose the bought-and-paid-for politicians (and media) that control the state.

Now, in practice, there are a million shades of grey. … But it comes down to this essential thing: is the aim and/or effect of the leak to correct an abuse or simply to blow the whole thing up?

Is it possible to correct the abuses – which occur in secret – without opening the whole thing up?

In contrast to Michael Wolraich at dagblog, who says I Don’t Give a Damn About Privacy because he has nothing to hide, a Dish reader wrote, Don’t Fear Government Malice, Fear Its Incompetence:

I’m not overly concerned that our government will abuse the info they’re collecting (for the moment at least). As a previous commenters said about people finding themselves on no-fly lists accidentally, I’m extremely concerned that our government will confuse the info of the innocent with that of the guilty. And the innocent will have no recourse.

It won’t only be the government mishandling your data. Democracy Now interviewed Tim Shorrock, who wrote, Meet the contractors analyzing your private data, for Salon:

With about 70 percent of our national intelligence budgets being spent on the private sector – a discovery I made in 2007 and first reported in Salon – contractors have become essential to the spying and surveillance operations of the NSA.

From Narus, the Israeli-born Boeing subsidiary that makes NSA’s high-speed interception software, to CSC, the “systems integrator” that runs NSA’s internal IT system, defense and intelligence, contractors are making millions of dollars selling technology and services that help the world’s largest surveillance system spy on you. If the 70 percent figure is applied to the NSA’s estimated budget of $8 billion a year (the largest in the intelligence community), NSA contracting could reach as high as $6 billion every year.

But it’s probably much more than that.