Aug 192020
 


Joel Meyerowitz New York City 1963

 

 

No, no matter how much I read and watch, I can’t shake the idea (less so as I go along, actually) that the Democrats don’t really, honestly, want to win the 2020 presidential election. Obviously, there are many in the party who do, and voters too, but not the ones pushing the levers and pulling the strings. Those, whoever they may be, that are picking candidates, setting policy, maintaining media contacts, doctoring spins.

Because is there anyone among you who has ever seen a worse candidate than Joe Biden? I’m not just talking about his dementia and gaffes, but you’d be very hard-pressed to find anyone who can use Biden and enthusiasm -let alone inspiration, or even better: exhilaration- in one sentence that doesn’t include the word “no”. And isn’t that the #1 requirement for a candidate?

They ostensibly went with Kamala Harris to provide some of that, if we may believe the press. She’ll whip up the voters into wild bouts of inspiring enthusiasm! Only, Kamala bowed out of the primaries even before 2020 started, after spending $40 million -part of which is still not paid off- because she was stuck at 2% support and couldn’t generate … any enthusiasm.

What you got is a really old man who couldn’t get a toddler excited about ice cream, and a token black woman who nobody even in her own party likes. Mix those ingredients into a convention that attracts just half the viewers of the 2016 one and generates the excitement level of an infomercial for kitchen appliances, and is it any wonder I doubt that the “behind the curtain party” is in this to win?

As for the political program, the agenda, there is really only one item on it: Donald Trump. And no matter how many millions of times it may be repeated in speeches and news articles, NOT being something is in the end NOT a positive message. You’re supposed to win on your own merit, not someone else’s perceived lack of merit. Newsflash: “MOST BIDEN SUPPORTERS SAY THEIR VOTE IS AGAINST TRUMP RATHER THAN FOR BIDEN – WSJ/NBC News poll”.

This bit from the Guardian on Monday sums it up nicely, and it veers into late night comedy territory while doing it (what more can one ask for?):

Virtual Democratic Convention Kicks Off With Emphasis On Unity

The Democratic national convention begins on Monday with a star-studded lineup and heavy emphasis on unity aimed at presenting Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as the US’s best hope for healing a deeply divided nation[..]

The Dems have a hard enough time uniting their own party, let alone the nation. And there’s not a Trump supporter who would move into their camp – other than the odd washed up GOP politician.

An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released on the eve of the convention found Biden with a nine-point lead over Trump nationally [..] According to the survey, Biden holds a wide advantage over Trump on nearly every issue except the economy, which voters say is a priority this election.


[..] Biden’s selection of Harris has exhilarated supporters, who showered the campaign with a stunning $48m in the 48 hours after she was announced as his running mate.[..]

What, so now they’re only $50 million or so behind?

Democrats anticipate the excitement around Harris’s historic candidacy as the first Black woman nominated for national office by a major party, will build momentum around the convention [..] Adrianne Shropshire, the executive director of BlackPac, a super Pac focused on Black Democrats: “I think there is also real relief that there is a ticket people can believe in, and get behind and push over the finish line.”

Excitement, exhilaration are words that don’t seem to mean anymore what they used to.

[..] the people who were in the Bernie campaign, the people in the Biden campaign, and people outside of both of those campaigns – have really worked hard to create an effective and genuine popular front against Donald Trump,” Weaver said, adding: “Trump is a very unifying factor.”


[..] Howard Dean, a former chair of the DNC who has attended every party convention since 1980, said the new format could work in Biden’s favor. Unlike Trump, who feeds off the energy of crowds at rallies but can look wooden and uncomfortable when reading from a teleprompter, Biden, Dean said, “does better on television than he does at a podium”. “This helps him because he will be on TV projecting calmness, reasonableness and thoughtfulness,” he said. “And that’s what people are desperate for right now.”

Isn’t it great that not feeling comfortable reading from a teleprompter 24/7 in your basement has now become a negative quality? I know, it’s hard to keep up.

But then there was the reality check from CNN on Sunday. Double digit leads vanished (coincidence?) just as Kamala caused all that exhilarating excitement:

Biden and Trump Matchup Tightens As Enthusiasm Hits New High

[..] on the eve of the party conventions, a majority of voters (53%) are “extremely enthusiastic” about voting in this year’s election [..] 50% of registered voters back the Biden-Harris ticket, while 46% say they support Trump and Pence, right at the poll’s margin of error [..]

Among the 72% of voters who say they are either extremely or very enthusiastic about voting this fall, Biden’s advantage over Trump widens to 53% to 46%.

It is narrower, however, among those voters who live in the states that will have the most impact on the electoral college this fall. Across 15 battleground states, the survey finds Biden has the backing of 49% of registered voters, while Trump lands at 48%.

The movement in the poll among voters nationwide since June is concentrated among men (they split about evenly in June, but now 56% back Trump, 40% Biden), those between the ages of 35 and 64 (they tilt toward Trump now, but were Biden-leaning in June) and independents (in June, Biden held a 52% to 41% lead, but now it’s a near even 46% Biden to 45% Trump divide).

 

The picture painted, especially amongst the most dedicated anti-Trumpers, is of course that Biden can’t lose; that’s what they all want, right? Well, think about it: CNN lives off of Trump, and so does a large part of the MSM. But then again, they made their beds and they’ll have to lie in them. The Democratic Party, however, does not. They are free to sabotage their own campaign.

And as I said above, there are many signs that MAY indicate that they are doing just that. The selection of Joe Biden, the basement strategy, the subsequent “appointment” of Kamala Harris, the near-dead convention. Do appreciate, please, that we have no idea how Biden and Kamala were “selected”. How did Biden all of a sudden rise to the top of the crop from seemingly nowhere? Where did Kamala come from post-primary mayhem? Did Joe personally pick her? Do you believe that?

But okay, if you don’t think that they would sabotage their own campaign, flip things around: if they WOULD have wanted to make sure they’d lose the election, what would they have done, you know, the donors behind the veil, plus maybe the Obamas and Clintons? Wouldn’t they perhaps have picked Biden and Kamala, whom very few people appeared to actually like, find sympathetic, prior to them being selected for their respective roles? Why not select people that DO resonate with voters without you having to forcefully shove them down their throats?

Why would a bunch of power-hungry folk (as all politicians and their sponsors are) want to screw up their own chance at obtaining power? Well, the lack of good candidates may well be a factor, but there’s something much bigger: the US economy, like most if not all western economies, is wobbling precariously on a precipice, and about to fall off. As I labeled it recently: The Bottom Is Falling Out.

Our entire present reality is still somewhat new, the COVID pandemic, its fallout, the bailouts, the government checks, the sick and the dead, but at some point it will all start to become a “normal” part of life. That doesn’t mean, however, that the economy will return to “normal” (whatever anybody ever thought that meant).

An enormous number of businesses will never reopen, entire fields will be obliterated, re: tourism, airlines, a large swath of retail stores. The unemployment that generates will be with us for many years. The Great Depression will become a mere footnote in most history books.

And the parties in charge in various countries, including the GOP in America, will be the ones blamed for most of the ensuing problems. If you’re a Democrat behind-the-curtain wizard, wouldn’t you at least consider saying: I think I’ll pass for this round, and let Trump take the heat?

Just so, you know, you can continue your cooperation with CNN, NYT, WaPo, FBI, and blame Trump every single day and 1000 times on Sunday for everything that falls apart, while continuing to generate clickbait profits ? If all you got to show for your grand ambitions is Joe Biden, it must seem a really appealing course of action.

Besides, you don’t appear to have any better candidates than Biden -at least not centrist ones-, but don’t forget that neither do the Republicans once Trump is gone. Da Donald is set to leave a huge hole behind where he once pontificated. And just about any Democrat except for Joe Biden could step right into that hole (pun intended).

 

 

 

We try to run the Automatic Earth on donations. Since ad revenue has collapsed, your support is now an integral part of the process.

Thank you for your ongoing generous support.

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

Jul 262019
 


Edward Hopper Sailing 1911

 

It’s a development that has long been evident in continental Europe, and that has now arrived on the shores of the US and UK. It is the somewhat slow but very certain dissolution of long-existing political parties, organizations and groups. That’s what I was seeing during the Robert Mueller clown horror show on Wednesday.

Mueller was not just the Democratic Party’s last hope, he was their identity. He was the anti-Trump. Well, he no longer is, he is not fit to play that role anymore. And there is nobody to take it over who is not going to be highly contested by at least some parts of the party. In other words: it’s falling apart.

And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s a natural process, parties change as conditions do and if they don’t do it fast enough they disappear. Look at the candidates the Dems have. Can anyone imagine the party, post-Mueller, uniting behind Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders or Kamala Harris? And then for one of them to beat Donald Trump in 2020?

I was just watching a little clip from Sean Hannity, doing what Trump did last week, which is going after the Squad. Who he said are anti-Israel socialists and, most importantly, the de facto leaders of the party, not Nancy Pelosi. That is a follow-up consequence of Mueller’s tragic defeat, the right can now go on the chase. The Squad is the face of the Dems because Trump and Hannity have made them that.

The upcoming Horowitz and Durham reports on their respective probes into “meddling into the meddling” will target many people in the Democratic Party, US intelligence services, and the media. In that order. Can the Dems survive such a thing? It’s hard to see.

 

There’s Bernie and the Squad, the declared socialists, who will never be accepted as leaders by a party so evidently predicated upon support for the arms industry. And they in turn can’t credibly support candidates who do. The Democratic Party will never be socialist, they will have to leave the label behind in order to share that message and remain believable.

But without them, what will be left? Joe Biden, or perhaps Hillary silently waiting in the wings? I don’t see it. Not after Mueller, not after two-three years of gambling all on red anti-Trump. At least the Squad have an identity, got to give them that. Whether it will sell in 2019 America is another thing altogether.

I personally think the term socialist is too tainted, on top of being too misinterpreted, for it to be “electable”, but I also understand there are large swaths of the US population who are in dire straits already with a recession on the horizon, but 2020 seems too soon. And I would ditch the term regardless. It’s like painting a target on your back for Trump and Hannity to aim at.

If you remember the 2016 campaign and the clown parade on stage with the likes of Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush glaring at the headlights, you know that the GOP has issues that are very similar to those of the Dems. But Trump came along.

The Dems have no Trump. They do have a DNC that will stifle any candidate they don’t like (Bernie!), though. Just think what they would have done if Trump had run as a Democrat (crazy, but not that crazy).

 

The UK’s issues are remarkably similar to those of the US. Only, in their case, the socialists have already taken over the left-wing party (if you can call the Dems left-wing). This has led to absolute stagnation. Tony Blair had moved Labour so far to the right (which he and his Blairites call center, because it sounds so much better), that injecting Jeremy Corbyn as leader was just too fast and furious.

So they labeled Corbyn an anti-semite, the most successful and equally empty smear campaign since Julian Assange was called a rapist. Corbyn never adequately responded, so he couldn’t profile himself and now the Blairites are again calling on him to leave. Oh, and he never gave a direct answer to the question of Brexit yes or no either. Pity. Corbyn’s support among the people is massive, but not in the party.

Which is why it’s now up to Boris Johnson to ‘deliver the will of the people’. And apparently the first thing the people want is 20,000 more policemen. Which were fired by the very party he at the time represented first as first mayor of London and then foreign minister, for goodness sake. His very own Tories closed 600 police stations since 2010 and will have to re-open many now.

Some survey must have told him it polled well. Just like polling was an essential part of pushing through Brexit. There’s a very revealing TV movie that came out 6 months ago called Brexit: The Uncivil War, that makes this very clear. The extent to which campaigns these days rely on data gathering and voter targeting will take a while yet to be understood, but they’re a future that is already here. Wikipedia in its description of the film puts it quite well:

 

After the opening credits, [Dominic] Cummings rejects an offer in 2015 by UKIP MP Douglas Carswell and political strategist Matthew Elliott to lead the Vote Leave campaign due to his contempt for “Westminister politics”, but accepts when Carswell promises Cummings full control.

The next sequences show Cummings outlining the core strategy on a whiteboard of narrow disciplined messaging delivered via algorithmic database-driven micro-targeting tools. Cummings rejects an approach by Nigel Farage and Arron Banks of Leave.EU to merge their campaigns, as his data shows Farage is an obstacle to winning an overall majority.

[..] In a eureka moment, Cummings refines the core message to “Take Back Control”, thus positioning Vote Leave as the historical status quo, and Remain as the “change” option. Cummings meets and hires Canadian Zack Massingham, co-founder of AggregateIQ, who offers to build a database using social media tools of [3 million] voters who are not on the UK electoral register but are inclined to vote to leave.

[..] In the final stages, high-profile senior Tory MPs Michael Gove and Boris Johnson join the Vote Leave campaign emphasising the need to “Take Back Control”, while Penny Mordaunt is shown on BBC raising concerns over the accession of Turkey. Gove and Johnson are shown as having some reticence over specific Vote Leave claims (e.g. £350 million for NHS, and 70 million potential Turkish emigrants) but are seen to overcome them.

 

Dominic Cummings, played in the movie by Benedict Cumberbatch, is an independent political adviser who belongs to no party. But guess what? He was the first adviser Boris Johnson hired after his nomination Wednesday. Cummings didn’t want Nigel Farage as the face of Brexit, because he polled poorly. He wanted Boris, because his numbers were better. Not because he didn’t think Boris was a bumbling fool, he did.

And now Cummings is back to finish the job. Far as I can see, that can only mean one thing: elections, and soon (it’s what Cummings does). A no-deal Brexit was voted down, in the same Parliament Boris Johnson now faces, 3 times, or was it 4? There is going to be a lot of opposition. Boris wants Brexit on October 31, and has practically bet his career on it. But there is going to be a lot of opposition.

He can’t have elections before September, because of the summer recess. So perhaps end of September?! But he has Dominic Cummings and his “algorithmic database-driven micro-targeting tools”. Without which Brexit would never have been voted in. So if you don’t want Brexit, you better come prepared.

Cummings and his techies weren’t -just- sending out mass mails or that kind of stuff. That’s already arcane. They were sending targeted personalized messages to individual voters, by the millions. Algorithms. AI. Tailor made. If you’re the opposition, and you don’t have those tools, then what do you have exactly?

Already thought before it all happened that it was funny that Boris Johnson’s ascension and Robert Mueller’s downfall were scheduled for the same day. There must be a pattern somewhere.

You can find the movie at HBO or Channel 4, I’m sure. Try this link for Channel 4. Seeing that movie, and thinking about the implications of the technology, the whole notion of Russian meddling becomes arcane as well. We just have no idea.

 

 

 

 

 

Jul 172019
 


Salvador Dali Mme. Reese 1931

 

The circus will be coming to town a week later, but not to worry, the show will go on longer and there will be many added attractions, including a full troop of 800-pound gorillas and an entire herd of 8000-pound elephants in the room. And once the balancing acts, the clowns and the ferocious beasts pack up and move on, America might find itself without a Democratic Party, or at least one it would recognize.

The circus is the testimony of Robert Mueller before the House Judiciary (extended to 3 hours) and Intelligence Committees (2 hours). The Democrats will aim to use Mueller’s words to finally achieve their long desired impeachment of Donald Trump. But is there anyone who’s not a US Democrat who thinks that is realistic? House Speaker Nancy Pelosi doesn’t seem to think so.

In order for the Dems to get their wish, Mueller would have to say a lot of things that are not in his report. It all appears to hang on the interpretation of his assessment that a sitting president cannot be prosecuted, which the Dems take to mean that there actually was a crime that could -or should- be prosecuted.

It’s not clear why the hearing was delayed from July 17 to 24, but don’t be surprised if it has to do with US District Judge Dabney Friedrich’s decision that Mueller must stop talking in public about a case that is in front of her, because his words might prejudice a jury. That is the case that Mueller brought in February 2018 against Internet Research Agency, Concord Management, their owner Yevgeniy Prigozhin (aka Putin’s cook), and 12 of his employees.

Mueller thought he could get away with presenting a case against them because they would not show up, but Prigozhin did hire a major law firm. Ironically, Friedrich has reportedly also decided that the lawyers cannot talk about the case to their own client(s). She hasn’t thrown out the case or anything, she’s simply told everyone including Mueller to stop discussing it in public.

 

So it’s quite possible that once the House Democrats figured this out (the decision stems from May 28 but was unsealed only on July 1), they had to change strategy. Mueller has been barred from saying a single word about it, including in the House.

In his report, Mueller tried to establish a link between the Russian firms and the Kremlin, but never proved any such link. They are accused of meddling in the 2016 election through emails and social media posts, an accusation that looks shakier by the day.

With that part of his report out of the way, what is left for him to talk about? He himself already gave up on the whole collusion narrative, which would appear to leave only obstruction. Well, there’s the Steele dossier, but with John Solomon blowing another gaping hole in it yesterday, that may not be the wisest topic to discuss on the House floor. By now, only the very faithful still believe in the dossier.

The Republicans surely don’t, and they also happen to be House members, and get to ask questions of Mueller on the 24th. The spectacle last night where Nancy Pelosi insisted on calling Trump a racist was nutty (you don’t do that in the House), but the Mueller hearings promise to be much much more nuts still.

 

In the background a second investigation is playing out: DOJ IG Michael Horowitz has been probing if DOJ or FBI officials abused their powers to spy on the Trump campaign. His report has been delayed, if reports are correct, because Christopher Steele at the very last minute agreed to testify. Those talks apparently were long and detailed. Wonder what he had to say.

And there’s a third probe too: AG Barr has tasked John Durham, the US attorney for Connecticut, to follow up on the Horowitz report and look at whether officials at the CIA, the NSA, and/or foreign intelligence agencies (think MI6), violated protocols or statutes.

That case is about whether the FISA court was misled to secure a warrant to put Trump campaign aide Carter Page under surveillance. It can also take a new look at the text messages between Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, messages that Trump tweeted about on Saturday: “This is one of the most horrible abuses of all. Those texts between gaga lovers would have told the whole story. Illegal deletion by Mueller. They gave us “the insurance policy.”

The deletion reportedly may have been accidental. But it does set the tone. The door is wide open for the Republicans to go after Mueller. And he knows it, always has. He never wanted the hearings, he said it was all in his report. But the Dems wanted more, they want Mueller to say Trump is guilty of obstruction (of a probe that perhaps should never have taken place).

Personally, I wonder whether a Republican congressman/woman will have the guts to ask Mueller why he refused to talk to Julian Assange, the most obvious person for him to talk to in the whole wide world. But since the GOP hates Assange as much as the Dems, I don’t have high hopes of that happening.

What they certainly will ask is when he knew his probe wasn’t going anywhere. And if that was perhaps as much as a whole year before he presented his report. The Dems will tear into Mueller looking for obstruction. Like: if Trump were not the president, would you sue him? Problem with that is none of this would have happened if Trump were just a citizen.

But I lean towards Ray McGovern’s take, who says that the circus may not come to town on July 24 either. Because there’s no there there (something Peter Strzok himself said about the Steele dossier), and because the Dems know this is their last shot at glory. And the GOP doesn’t mind another week or so of preparation.

Since the Democrats, the media, and Mueller himself all have strong incentive to “make the worst case appear the better” (one of the twin charges against Socrates), they need time to regroup and circle the wagons. The more so, since Mueller’s other twin charge — Russian hacking of the DNC — also has been shown, in a separate Court case, to be bereft of credible evidence. No, the incomplete, redacted, second-hand “forensics” draft that former FBI Director James Comey decided to settle for from the Democratic National Committee-hired CrowdStrike firm does not qualify as credible evidence.


Both new developments are likely to pose a strong challenge to Mueller. On the forensics, Mueller decided to settle for what his former colleague Comey decided to settle for from CrowdStrike, which was hired by the DNC despite it’s deeply flawed reputation and well known bias against Russia. In fact, the new facts — emerging, oddly, from the U.S. District Court, pose such a fundamental challenge to Mueller’s findings that no one should be surprised if Mueller’s testimony is postponed again.

And I was serious when I said before that once the Mueller hearings are done, “America might find itself without a Democratic Party, or at least one it would recognize”. Because if and when the Mueller circus fails to provide the impeachment dream (try elections!), where are they going to go, what else is there to do?

They’ve been clamoring for impeachment for collusion (big fail), for obstruction (Mueller wouldn’t have it) and now racism, but that is merely based on interpretation of tweets. Nancy Pelosi wrote about ‘women of color’, not Donald Trump.

America needs a strong Democratic party, and it certainly doesn’t have one right now. The Dems should be calling for an end to regime change wars, that is a popular theme among their voters. But they don’t, because guess where their money comes from. They are in a very deep identity crisis, and Trump just has to pick them off one by one. They should look at themselves, not at him. Do these people ever do strategy?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jul 162019
 


Gustave Moreau Orpheus at the Tomb of Eurydice 1891

 

“Don’t Take The Bait”, said 4 young congresswomen yesterday in a press conference in Washington DC. They were referring to comments Donald Trump had made about them earlier. However, just the simple act of calling the press conference meant they were … taking the bait.

Yes, Trump was out of line, way out of left field territory out of line. But he did that on purpose, and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, were voluntarily following him into that same left field.

I’ve been saying for over 3 years now that the role of Trump is to expose the -inherent and longtime- failures of the US political system. But when I see things like that press-op, how can I possibly think the system has learned anything at all?

If Trump’s role is to reveal the failures of the system, and that same system turns around and blames Donald Trump for all of those failures, how are we ever supposed to take the next step out of here?

 

Trump has been especially vicious against the 4 women, and it’s simply not enough to put that down to his racism or anything like that. There’s something else going on; how obvious would you like it?

What is happening here is not Trump pandering or virtue-signalling to his base -that’s just an added feature. The reality is that Trump, in say (re-)election mode, sees a divide within the Democratic party, drives a wedge into that divide, and twists it.

His strong if not vicious attacks on the 4 women are aimed straight at Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer and Joe Biden, plus all the rest of the centrist Dems. Trump is calling them out. So they will have to either end up supporting AOC and co, or they will not.

If they don’t the Dems are seriously split. They might have been anyway, but Trump makes it impossible for them to keep hiding that. He forces Pelosi et al to either stand behind AOC et al, or to leave her alone, as Nancy was sort of trying to do last week by saying (paraphrased) that “they are just four women”.

And then these girls take the bait to the extent that they call a press conference, which gets tons of attention, but not because they are so newsworthy, as I’m sure they believe, but because Trump is, as anything Trump still is.

It is Pelosi’s worst nightmare. The most vocal members of her party are the furthest removed from the picture she wants to present of the party. But she has to deal with it, with them. She talks about unity all the time, and for good reason.

And Pelosi is smart enough to understand what Trump is doing. She sees the big divide within the Dems and she sees how the divide could make her party lose in 2020. And she sees how Trump uses that.

 

But what can she do? Tell AOC to shut up for the good of Joe Biden’s chances? The last big shot the Dems have at redemption is next week’s 5 hour Mueller hearing on Capitol Hill. And if that doesn’t work out, where are they going to go? Is it perhaps not the greatest idea to keep people with such different ideas in one party?

Bernie Sanders wants Medicare for all, as allegedly do AOC and Elizabeth Warren. AOC wants a Green New Deal, whatever shape that may take, and so on and so on. But if they ever agree on one candidate to run against Trump in 2020, will this person (m/f) run on that platform too?

Or will they go for a center kind of like candidate who’s totally out of line with the four women Trump is aggressively railing against, who thinks US healthcare only needs to be tweaked in minor fashion, Biden-style?!

By now, it’s all good by Trump, because he understands how divided the Dems are, and he’s had time to prepare for using that division.

And he also understands that the main thing the Dems are going to run on, because they have nothing else, is that they are not Donald Trump. They’re not going to agree on Medicare for All or absolving all student debt or any grand plans like that, because they’re too divided to do it.

What unites them is Donald Trump. And then he has them where he wants them.

Please note this is not what I prefer, I think America needs a strong Democratic Party, or perhaps by now more than two parties. It’s just that I think -as I have since 2016- that Trump is the ultimate challenge to the US political sytem, and the system is failing miserably in its response.