Clinton vs. Sanders

sandersSanders pumped his fist and smiled broadly. “That’s being human,” he said. “If you see stuff that is bad and you don’t respond with – what did King call it? – ‘the urgency of the moment,’ then you are not alive.” Last line of a complementary  article in Bloomberg Busunessweek titled Bernie Sanders Doesn’t Want Your Vote.   

Michele and I watched the last two-thirds of The Hillary Clinton/Bernie Sanders debate and it occurred to me that I agreed with every answer that Bernie gave and I agreed with much less of what Clinton said. A typical example was when they were asked if they supported Capital Punishment. Clinton said, “I do for very limited, particularly heinous crimes believe it is an appropriate punishment” and Sanders said “in a world of so much violence and killing, I just don’t believe that government itself should be part of the killing.”


Watching Iowa waiting for Downton Abby

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“Thank you. So, this is the moment they said would never come”
“Unbelievable, unbelievable, I have to start by saying I absolutely love the people of Iowa. Unbelievable, unbelievable.”
“God bless the great state of Iowa. Let me first of all say, ‘To God be the glory, tonight is a victory for the grassroots'”
“What a night, unbelievable night, what a great campaign.”
“Thank you Iowa, nine months ago, we came to this beautiful city. We had no political organization, we had no money, we had no name recognition, and we were taking on the most powerful political organization in the United States of America. And, tonight, while the results are still not known, it looks like we are in a virtual tie.”
Opening lines from the Iowa caucus victory speeches by Marco Rubio, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders, in the order they were given last Monday.

The Iowa caucus is over, the results are in and, probably nobody – not the alleged experts or the candidates themselves – know what the results actually mean. Listening to the various candidates spin the results and trying to manipulate their meaning is fascinating. The post caucus wrapup started with Rubio, who channeled Obama’s “They said this day would never come” Iowa speech of 2008, with “this is the moment they said would never come” and that, in itself, is fascinating. Rubio painted himself as an outsider who exceeded expectations and that was “the day that would never come” part, but he also inferred he  was an outsider like Obama and then went on with the main thrust of his speech which was a vicious attack on Obama. He told us, in effect, that Obama is not just a lousy president, but that he is actively trying to ruin the country, and that he, Rubio, is an outsider just like him and, in effect, the only one who can beat the dreaded Hillary who wants to continue the evil Obama ways. Marco Rubio comes across as young and fresh but the longer he talks, the less likable he seems to me.

Trump was next and had been leading in the polls and expected to win. That was his main pitch, he “is a winner, they are losers”. He was also running as a unbeholden outsider using his own money to run,  and, since he didn’t win Monday night, he emphasized the outsider bit. Trump talked about how everybody – everybody – told him not to run because he would never crack the top ten in Iowa but and he did so well that he almost won. It was a better speech than I expected and the “unbelievable” bit was probably more heartfelt than rhetoric. As an aside, when Trump said he liked Iowa so much that he might buy a farm there, he must have forgotten about the other meaning of “He bought the farm”, which, in a way, he did by skipping the debate. End aside.

A couple of weeks ago, a liberal friend said that he would prefer Trump over any other GOP candidate and I, reluctantly, am starting to agree. Like Bob Dole said, he could “probably work with Congress, because he’s, you know, he’s got the right personality and he’s kind of a deal-maker.” The thinking of both my friend and Bob Dole is that Trump  may be an asshole , but he is a rational player. I agree, but he is a scary rational player. He reminds me a little of Mike Freesmith, a fictional politician running a gubernatorial campaign in California, in the political novel, The Ninth Wave, by Eugene Burdick, the author of Fail-Safe which became the movie Dr. Strangelove and The Ugly American. In The Ninth Wave, Mike manipulates by fear. As I remember it, his pitch was I’m going to win and you will be very sorry if you don’t vote my way. 

Ted Cruz also ran as an outsider and he was the big winner of the night and, to my of thinking, the scariest candidate. He is a True Believer and he came from behind with a big push from the Evangelical political machinery. I’m not sure how much this will help Cruz, however, as both Huckabee and Santorum won here and neither won anything else. I read that Cruz is hated by the GOP establishment and I can understand why, he is slightly to the right of Ghengis Khan and more than willing to shut the government down to get his way. Cruz’s victory speech went on and on, and just when I was beginning to wonder if he would ever leave, Hillary cut him off with her speech.

This seems pretty typical of the Clintons. Cutting into another guy’s speech is not forbidden, of course, just a little untoward. Like Trump, I think that Clinton expected to win but, unlike Trump, she was willing to give it a push. Before all the votes were counted, the Clinton campaign, preemptively, announced that she had won, “screw the actual counting”. That taking control of the message, which had echoes of another Clinton calling himself the “Comeback Kid” while coming in second or third in New Hampshire twenty-four years ago, is both admirable given the goal and scary, given the goal. I suspect her happily saying “what a night, unbelievable night” with a big smile with probably more relief than anything.

If nothing else, Hillary Clinton wants to win and I think that she will. I am not a Bill Clinton fan, I didn’t like his trashing of welfare or the Defense of Marriage Act among other things and I may be tarring Hillary with a brush that is meant for Bill, but I am concerned that, like Bill, Hillary will do almost anything to get and stay in office including selling out her progressive ideals.

Bernie Sanders was the last to give a victory speech and he came across as, well, Bernie Sanders, an outsider who would rather not be president than sell out. I like Bernie Sanders and agree with his position on everything, so I am not very objective here. He seems disheveled, but urgent, always on message because he actually believes the message. He believed in it when nobody else did and now that a big hunk of the country is catching up, he has moved from the margins to center stage. I don’t buy the argument that what Sanders is calling for is unobtainable so don’t waste a vote on him. Maybe it is unobtainable, but, at least Bernie sees the problem and is pushing for a fair solution.  That is a big step ahead of somebody who doesn’t really feel or understand the problem or doesn’t even try to solve it because the solution isn’t easily attainable. But Bernie comes with alot of baggage, he has called himself a Democratic Socialist so long it would be disingenuous to change and he is 74. Seventy four years old! that is old.

At the end, nothing changed my mind, maybe I feel a little more inclined to dislike Trump a little less, but probably not. If Bush, Christie, or John Kasich spoke, I missed it, but there is no way I would ever vote for them. They all ran as competent insiders and this is not the year for that. Even though they sound more reasonable than the Republican pack leaders, they are even worse. Trump says his hateful speech is not PC and that’s true but the politically correct speech of somebody like John Kasich has the same nasty message only it is in code. I am fascinated by politics and this year is more fascinating than ever. It is America on a big stage, and this year that is an America in which a large part of the citizenry feel the country is in decline and are pissed and want somebody to blame. Politics is the best spectator sport in the world and I love it but it reminds me of an old saw that I think was originally attributed to golf, Politics is nothing if you don’t love it and, if you do love it, Politics will break you heart. 

Binge watching “Mozart in the Jungle”

Mozart in the Jungle
If Mozart in The Jungle wins any more awards someone will have to see it. Tweet at? from? The Golden Globes by Albert Brooks.

Over New Years, before THe Golden Globes, Richard Taylor and Tracy Grubbs, jointly,  recommended the Netflix Amazon series,  Mozart in the Jungle, so we put it on our list of TV to try. Then it won A Golden Globe for Best Musical and Gael Garcia Bernal won for best actor in a musical and we moved Mozart in the Jungle to the top of the list. Then we watched it, both seasons over about five days.

That is not as impressive as it sounds because each show is only a half hour (and probably less so it can fit on pay TV, later I guess). Mozart in the Jungle is based on the book Mozart in the Jungle: Sex, Drugs, and Classical Music by Blair Tindall and it is chock full of sex, drugs, and classical music. First, the music is great. That may be biased because I love everything about Classical Music except the name, but this is a TV show about a young oboist sort of in an orchestra in New York City and the soundtrack is full of greats. Not just Mozart, but Bizet, Rossini, Rimsky-Korsakov, Mahler, Berlioz, Mendelssohn, everybody you could possibly want.

Gael Garcia Bernal is delightful as a young, brilliant but impulsive, orchestra conductor and the female lead, the oboist, played by Lola Kirke, is enchanting. The program is charming in a magical realist sort of way. It would be perfect for a snowy or rainy night.


Americana (1 of 1)
Antibodies are produced by the immune system in response to the presence of an antigen. …Any substance capable of triggering an immune response is called an antigen. PDL BioPharma website

“During anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices, we must resist that temptation. No one who is willing to work hard, abide by our laws and love our traditions should ever feel unwelcome in this country.” Nikki Haley talking about Donald Trump rather than Obama in the Republican answer to Obama’s State of the Union speech.

“Let Syria and ISIS fight. Why do we care? Let ISIS and Syria fight. And let Russia, they’re in Syria already, let them fight ISIS.Look, I don’t want ISIS. ISIS is bad. They are evil. When they start doing with a head chopping… these are really bad dudes… Let Russia take care of ISIS. How many places can we be?… Russia likes Assad seemingly a lot. Let them worry about ISIS. Let them fight it out.” Donald Trump.

A couple of days ago, I was listening to a radio program in which they were talking about the culture of Silicon Valley and how much cash it has brought into this part of California. Among other things, they talked about how various politicians and businesspeople have tried to get a part of that cash by replicating Silicon Valleys in other parts of the world. The speakers agreed that it doesn’t work because the local antibodies come up. One guy used a liver transplant as an example and how the body tries to reject the foreign liver. I had never thought about it in that way and it explains something I’ve always – in a low grade way – wondered about.

Back when we were building houses in Blackhawk, we sold a house to the new manager of NUMMI, a joint manufacturing partnership between GM and Toyota. When I congratulated the new manager on his new job, he said something to the effect that “nobody ever gets promoted from NUMMI, this has pretty much tanked my career.” I was shocked and we talked for a few minutes during which he told me that nobody, back at the Mothership in Detroit, would want to have him working for them when he rotated back in four years. GM had paid big money to learn Toyota’s superior manufacturing and logistic processes techniques ways culture, but the host body, the entrenched culture of GM in this case, was rejecting it.

It seems to me that the both the Republican and Democratic Parties are doing the same thing. And they are doing it in almost diametrically opposite ways. The Democrats are ignoring Bernie and the Republicans are attacking Trump.

When I say Democrats, I mean the Democratic Establishment. And when I say Democratic Establishment, I mean important Democrats; influential politicians, big donors, newspaper columnists and owners. I am sure that there are hundreds of exceptions, but, generally, the Democratic establishment does not like Bernie and they have dealt with that dislike by trying to make Bernie as invisible as possible. They scheduled the few debates on Sunday nights – one in the middle of the MLK holiday, no less –  to give him the least amount of exposure and Bernie get almost no daily press. A couple of weeks ago, the Sander’s Campaign complained that Trump had 59 minutes of national TV on a given day and Bernie got 1 minute; the New York Times, among others, didn’t cover it. When he is mentioned by an Important Democrat, it is always to subtly, but affectionately, point out that Bernie is a cranky old man way out of the mainstream and can never get elected. His platform, or details thereof, are rarely mentioned. This is classic passive-aggressive behavior  and it works best when the aggressor is the mainstream press.

Conversely, the Republicans, and when I say Republicans, blah, blah….attack Trump. In my opinion, attacking is almost a knee-jerk reaction for the Republicans; from Bush the Younger’s Shock and Awe  to Ted Cruz’s Carpetbombing; attacking is usually the preferred Republican solution to a problem. But, in this case, they also attack Trump because he is impossible to ignore. The Republican Establishment, despite Fox News, have less control of the press than the Democratic Establishment and The Donald is a first-class self-promoter. There is nothing passive-aggressive about the Republican Establishment and, in this case, it wouldn’t work anyway, so the Establishment sent Governor Nikki Haley to go after Trump, in broad daylight, allowed Governor John Kasich to break the Eleventh Amendment of not attacking fellow Republicans by saying that trump is “dangerous and bad for America, ” and Jeb! even called him Unhinged (which, as an aside, is a word I love).

Interestingly, in this new Internet world where the candidates can bypass the Establishment and contact the voters directly, even while being ignored or attacked, both antigens keep doing better, this should be a fascinating primary.

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Listening to the Republican Debate, thinking about the Middle East

cwjmo160114“What makes illegal immigration hard to fix is not that it defies law, but that it defies the minimum wage regulations, health care regulations, safety & employment regulations & avoids the employment taxes that all hinder the job creators from growing the economy. The job creators try to get rid of, or reduce these job-killing regulations & taxes whenever they can, the legal way, but they are blocked by leftists who don’t believe in capitalism. So, not being stupid, the job creators found a way to prevent these socialist laws from destroying the economy. The result is that we now have a good, solid, tax-free, unregulated, cheap labor pool to drive the economy AND an “illegal” foreign racial group, that can’t vote, to motivate lower middle class & poor white voters who might otherwise support the socialists. The socialists can’t shame these whites for not being “politically correct” because the foreign workers are not “following the law.” They’re following the money, which is what anyone who wants to understand law & the politics that shapes the law it must do. Anonymous.

Michele and I watched the Republican Debate the other night and, as each contestant bad mouthed Barack Obama’s job as President, I was struck at how simple they viewed the problems and how easy the solutions sounded. Every problem could be solved by an almost casual wave of the hand. Trump says “I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall.” and the immigration problem will be mostly solved. Ted Cruz tells us “We will carpet bomb [ISIS] into oblivion.” and problem over. But I was also very aware of the how persistent these problems have been and how they have gotten worse during the Obama Presidency.

I would not say the quote at the top in quite the same way but I completely agree. I couldn’t have said it any better (except for the socialist/job creater part). To me, the operative part of the quote is the implied complexity of the issue, the broad spread of the interested and entrenched players, and the difficulty of finding an agreed upon solution that really works. Immigration is not my issue but it probably would be if I were middle age and working in the trades and I suspect that it isn’t really Donald Trump’s issue either but it is obviously his supporters’ issue and it is a good issue to campaign on because the Obama Administration has been less effective than most of us would like. Global Climate Change and Income Disparity are two additional areas that are arguably worse than they were eight years ago. Of course, part of the reason for this is that the Republicans have made every effort to stop Obama from doing anything, but the bigger part of the lack of  solutions is that Immigration, Wealth Disparity, the Middle East, and Climate Change are unimaginably complex issues with entrenched, interrelated, and conflicting, vested interests.

The quote on Immigration, with a few minor changes could be about Wealth Disparity and the Middle East has many more players and is way more complex. The region is being polarized by the rivalry of the two local powerhouses, Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia. This polarizing Middle East, in which order – mostly Western imposed order – is falling apart was not caused by Obama. It was starting to fall apart years before Obama, even before Bush the Younger was elected who, while he may have accelerated the Middle East’s fall into chaos, didn’t really create it either. I like to believe think that the problems in the Middle east aren’t entirely – or even primarily – the West’s fault, still we have been poking at this hornet’s nest for over a century.

The British and French drew lines – in the sand – defining states that were arbitrary. As an aside, although I’m cynical enough to think the Brits and French drew their lines defining borders to keep the local populations fractured and thereby easier to control, it is possible that it was just bad luck that a Sunni Ba’athist happened to rule a primarily Shiite state in Iraq and a Shiite Alawite happened to rule a largely Sunni population in Syria. End aside. The Eisenhower Administration engineered a coup d’état to overthrow the democratically elected government of Iran because we didn’t like that the democratically elected Prime Minister and the democratically elected Parliament voted to nationalize their own oilfields. And the list goes sickingly on and on.

But we are not as pervasive and all-powerful as we think, the local interests run much deeper and stronger than we want to believe. There are old grudges to be settled. For seventy five years, those grudges were covered by a mutual hate of Israel but Israel’s closest neighbors, including the Saudis, have now made virtual peace with them. Religious fanaticism is blooming which I suspect is pretty normal when the Empire’s religion is different from the local religion and nobody can agree on the one true path. A prolonged drought is driving farmers from their fields into towns and cities, angry and rebellious. All this on top of the world’s biggest oil supply bringing incredible wealth to a few and displacement and poverty to most. The money from that oil is also providing a market for first class weapons because everybody wants swords to rattle.

These are not problems or conflicts that can be solved by carpet bombing. These are religious problems and political problems, aggravated by a changing climate. Everybody has their own version of what a solution would be or should be, and nobody, including us, is ready to give that up. As unAmerican as it is to even think this, there may not really be a solution. Change, uncontrolled change, change we probably don’t want, may be all that is going to happen here. The Middle East, of course, is simple compared to Climate Change.

Back at the Republican Debate, every time a candidate gave a simple answer, usually centered around Obama’s lack of success, the crowd cheered. In this atmosphere, admitting a problem is complicated seems weak. Thoughtful answers seem indecisive and actual experience is a handicap. It is sad and scary.