Monday/ another rough one

The stock market was down today by ‘only’ – what? 4% or so, I think. I am not even looking anymore. Congress is still trying to pass a $2 trillion economic package. (That’s a 2 with 18 zeros; about 10% of the entire US Gross Domestic Product). As the New York Times says: Republicans insist that we should fight a plague with trickle-down economics and crony capitalism. Democrats, for some reason, don’t agree, and think we should focus on directly helping Americans in need. 

There was Trump today, again at the podium with the daily press conference, his tedious self. He has done very little to stop or slow the pandemic. He now tries to claim, that it is going to be possible to resume business as usual in another week or so. (Unbelievable. And good luck with that). The press conference today went on so long, and so off the rails, that it was abandoned by the three national TV networks.

The USA is still a patchwork of some States with statewide Stay-At-Home orders, some with orders just in some metro areas (Florida, Texas), and many ‘red’ states (Republican controlled) with no restrictions at all. [Source: New York Times online].
Trump as his press conference today. ‘To watch Trump is to witness the awesome and terrifying power of the American president over life and death – a burden he is unqualified to bear’. [The Guardian online newspaper].

Friday/ the United States is in a National Emergency

Gov. Jay Inslee expanded school closures and prohibited large gatherings across all of Washington State on Friday, in an effort to slow the spread of the new coronavirus. Health officials reported at least five new deaths, and more than 560 people have now tested positive.
– Associated Press

Where coronavirus cases have been reported (official count: 2,100 with sparse testing). More than a handful of experts put the number of infected Americans already, as an estimated number, in the hundreds of thousands. [Graphic by the New York Times].
This is a scary graph. There is no sign whatsoever, that the ‘curve is flattening’ (the number of new cases reported every day, still increases at an exponential rate).

Trump finally announced today — some 30 minutes before Wall Street closed for the week— that he declares a National Emergency* over the coronavirus.  He shook hands with at least three Fortune 500 executives (a bad example in the time of coronavirus), and proceeded to exchange barbs with the press. ‘Such a nasty question’ he said, without answering, when asked why he disbanded the pandemic response team when he took office.

Panic buying erupted on Wall Street, pushing the Dow Jones Industrial Average and other indexes up almost 10%.

Okaayy .. but there is going to be a recession. How can there not be? The world is grinding to a halt. The three largest cruise ship lines have announced a suspension in cruising for 30 days. Delta Airlines says the drop-off in business is worse than after 9/11. If any number of states is like Washington State or the State of New York, the national economic impact will be significant.

*The Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act of 1987 is activated. When the Stafford Act is activated to deal with a pandemic, the federal government can begin providing direct emergency medical care to citizens throughout the country. This could include the establishment of temporary hospitals, for example, to ease the nation’s projected shortage of intensive care beds. The government could also use the act to provide food, water, medicine and other supplies to Americans. [Source: USA Today].

Thursday/ the ‘end of the world’?

From the German translation of ‘The Shooting Star (French: L’Étoile mystérieuse)’ by Belgian cartoonist Hergé, 1942.
A giant meteoroid was projected to hit Earth at 20:12:30 pm. A very anxious Tintin dials for a countdown to the exact time of doom. NOW .. ! he thinks, and then There! It is the End Of The World! dropping the phone and covering his ears. 
Tintin and Snowy survived, and ran out into the street, celebrating.
P.S. Even in this internet & smartphone age, the US Naval Observatory still offers a dial-in number to get the exact time. Dial 202-762-1401.

More cancellations today: the entire NBA season cancelled — and the NCAA’s March Madness games, as well (Madness? No, necessary).

Trump’s muddled speech about banning travel from Europe to ‘stop the spread of the coronavirus’ landed with a thud in the financial markets, as did the Federal Reserve’s announcement today, that they will intervene in the markets and pump in more than $1.5 trillion (yes, trillion with a T).

The United States is having a crisis of confidence in the President, and the White House, during this nationwide public health emergency.

Wednesday/ my vote is in

I sent my vote in today. It’s so easy in Washington State: you get your paper ballot in the mail, you fill it out, the mailman picks it up. No stamp needed.

As someone said on Twitter about voters in California and Texas that had to wait in line for 4 hours or more on a Tuesday workday, at a polling station: that is not ‘democracy in action, in America’. That is voter suppression. 

My voters’ pamphlet, with my digital ‘I voted’ sticker .. and I put some words in George Washington’s mouth.

Super Tuesday/ Biden now in front

Here’s the pledged delegate count, as reported late on Tuesday night by the New York Times. Biden 228, Sanders 211, Warren 13, Bloomberg 8. It sure seems to be down to a two-person race (first to 1,191 delegates wins). And it seems Bloomberg’s campaign has to do some introspection.

Super Tuesday turned out to be a momentous day for the Joe Biden campaign, and the tide seems to have turned in his favor.

Biden won in at least 9 of the 14 contested primaries. Texas was too close to call by late Tuesday night. Biden will likely lose California to Bernie Sanders, but he will probably make the 15% cut-off, to still garner some of the state’s huge number of 415 pledged delegates.

Update Wed 3/4: Michael Bloomberg announced that he is dropping out of the race, and endorsing Joe Biden. By now the delegate count is Biden 432-Sanders 388.

Friday/ the end is nigh

The South Carolina presidential primary is tomorrow, Saturday.

Saturday will be followed soon by Super Tuesday (Mar 3), leaving only two or three candidates of the remaining 7 contenders in the race for the Democratic Party’s candidate for President.

This Mike Bloomberg flyer came in the mail today. ‘Undefeated’ in his three runs for New York City mayor, yes. He used a lot of money on that third campaign for mayor, though.  And I see the Bloomberg campaign uses the word ‘progressive’ to describe him. ‘Pragmatic’ would be more accurate. Anyway, it’s not clear at all if Bloomberg will become a viable candidate, but we should know soon: Super Tuesday on Mar 3 is a critical milestone for his campaign.

Sunday/ billionaires under siege

The US still has by far the most billionaires in the world (585, compared to China: 373, Germany: 123, Denmark: 6, South Africa: 6, if Elon Musk is counted in that 6).

So are billionaires to blame for income inequality? Are they, indirectly so? How does one stop a country’s economy from producing billionaires? (Probably something like a marginal tax rate of 90% above $5 million of annual income).

Anand Giridharadas (political commentator, TIME Editor at large), says this 2020 Presidential election in the United States will be a referendum on wealth and capitalism, that has gotten a little out of control/ completely out of control, in the United States of America.

My first reaction to the street sign graffiti sticker of Jeff Bezos (sticker from here in Capitol Hill in Seattle), asking ‘How many homeless people does it take to make a billionaire?’ (ugly Old English font, BTW) was .. um, that sounds like an extreme stretch of logic; a gross oversimplification of the problem of homelessness. But then I saw this statement made about San Francisco: “There are 101 homeless people per billionaire. The idea that such a problem could persist in a city with 74 billionaires is astonishing.” – Andrew Yang & Anand Giridharadas in a discussion posted by @UBI Rising on Twitter. They may have a point there.

Saturday/ (looks like) it’s Bernie

It sure looks like it’s going to be Bernie Sanders that will go up against Trump in the 2020 Presidential election, after his run-away win in Nevada’s primary on Saturday. With 60% of the votes counted there, he has 46%, and Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren follow, each with less than 20% of the vote.

Now there are #PleaseNotBernie hashtags starting to appear on Twitter posts, similar to the #NeverTrump movement in 2016.

Well, about that, writes opinion columnist Ross Douthat in the New York Times:
“A world where Sanders is on track to get a clear delegate plurality in late March is probably a world where he gets a majority by May .. which means that the long game of delegate accumulation and superdelegate machination is probably irrelevant, and the only question is whether it’s possible to unite a not-Sanders vote across the first three Tuesdays in March.
To quote an ancient NeverTrump proverb: ‘Good luck with that’.”


Thursday/ it’s 02 20 2020

Here’s a yard sign put up by a Bloomberg supporter here in my neighborhood. I also saw ones for Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Mayor Pete, but none for Joe Biden or Amy Klobuchar.

There was yet another Democratic presidential primary debate last night, and Mike Bloomberg appeared on stage for the first time. Alas, he seemed ill-prepared for the incoming attacks from Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders (for his lavish spending of his own money on his campaign, and the toxic work environment women had to deal with in the days when he still ran his financial services company).

Does he still have a shot at the candidacy? The Nevada caucuses on Saturday should be a good indicator. Front-runner Bernie Sanders escaped mostly unscathed, Elizabeth Warren put in a strong performance, and Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar had a few heated exchanges. Joe Biden was not really engaged by the other candidates: not a good sign. It probably means that they no longer see him as a threat.

Monday/ Bernie in Washington State

I followed some of Bernie Sanders’s stump speech that he gave in the Tacoma Dome tonight. A seasoned campaigner, he has it down pat, of course: denouncing income and wealth inequality, the corporate owners of the media, and advocating for free healthcare, college education, and so on. 

‘And by now, the Democratic establishment should be getting nervous as well’, he also said. (I think they are very nervous. I like most of what he says, but I’m kind of nervous as well). As he left the stage, Neil Young’s ‘Keep On Rockin’ In The Free World (1989)‘ played.

The Wikipedia entry for the song explains its background: ‘The lyrics negatively reference the George H. W. Bush administration, then in its first month, quoting Bush’s famous ‘thousand points of light’ remark from his 1989 inaugural address and his 1988 presidential campaign promise for America to become a ‘kinder, gentler nation.’ The song also refers to Ayatollah Khomeini’s proclamation that the United States was the ‘Great Satan’ and Jesse Jackson’s 1988 campaign slogan, ‘Keep hope alive’. The song was first performed live on February 21, 1989, in Seattle with The Restless, without the band having rehearsed it’.

Thursday/ all the things that money can buy

Geld wat stom is, maak reg wat krom is. – Afrikaans saying.
Rough translation: Money that’s mute, makes right what’s blight.

I did not even mention ex-New York mayor Mike Bloomberg in the Iowa and New Hampshire Democratic primaries. He was not on the ballot there, and is still a shadow/ dark horse candidate for President.

But Bloomberg (78) is one of the wealthiest men on the planet (net worth: $60 billion). His strategy is to skip the early states, and make a splash on Super Tuesday (Mar. 3). From there, pull all the levers he can, using vast sums of money, to gain the nomination. (He is already running ads on TV and social media).

It might just work, in spite of (completely valid) objections:  Bloomberg would essentially buy the Democratic nomination with an onslaught of TV ads, social media campaigns, and out-of-pocket contributions to charities and organizations in turn for their support. (A fine line, that he knows how to toe, since that’s what he did to get elected as Mayor of New York for the third time).

The famous Bloomberg Terminal, invented and first offered in 1991 by Mike Bloomberg. It is an indispensable tool for financial services professionals (and others). Users monitor and analyze real-time financial market data and place trades on the electronic trading platform. Annual fee: $20,000. As of October 2016, there were 325,000 Bloomberg Terminal subscribers worldwide. [Picture & information from Wikipedia].
Spoiling for a fight: Trump tweeting a trademark, sneering attack on Bloomberg, and getting as much in return. ‘I have the record & the resources to defeat you. And I will’.

Tuesday/ the New Hampshire primary

The New Hampshire primary election for the 2020 Democratic nominee for President, went largely as forecasted. The top two candidates are the same ones as in Iowa (Sen. Bernie Sanders & Mayor Pete Buttigieg). Neither are from the so-called political establishment. Former Vice-President Joe Biden came in a distant 5th. Ouch.

Next up is Nevada (Feb. 22), South Carolina (Feb. 29), and a whole bunch of States on Super Tuesday, March 3.

The pundits still see 78 year-old Sanders as most likely to become the Democratic Party’s nominee, but man! is he the one to beat Trump?
Sanders has a fervent and devoted following, but in the General Election he’s going to take relentless and withering criticism for being a democratic socialist. His detractors (Republicans, Trump, corporate America) will shorten it to ‘socialist’ and paint him as an evil destroyer of the American dream.  No matter that the American dream is dead*.

*Over the last 50 years in the United States –
A child’s chance of earning more than his or her parents has plummeted from 90 to 50 percent;
Earnings by the top 1 % of Americans nearly tripled, while middle-class wages have been basically frozen for four decades, adjusting for inflation;
Self-inflicted deaths — from opioid use and other drug addictions — are at record highs;
Nearly one in five children in the US are now at risk of going hungry;
Among the 35 richest countries in the world, the US now has the highest infant mortality rate and the lowest life expectancy.

Bernie Sanders during his victory speech, and the results of the New Hampshire Democratic primary election on the right. Sanders regularly boasts that he is not taking money from corporations or ‘billionaires’ (his umbrella term for rich people). He also has volunteers and supporters from his 2016 campaign that he can mobilize again, across the country –  a big advantage over newcomers such as Buttigieg.  [Source: New York Times online edition, Feb. 11, 2020].

Thursday/ more rain

It has been raining almost non-stop this week, but at least it was warm enough today to go for a walk with a raincoat & hoodie or an umbrella (50 °F/ 10 °C).

This street corner is closed with a big ‘Detour’ sign (workers  are fixing up the pavement). The ‘Republican St’ street sign is in the dirt. ‘Yes, an apt metaphor for the Republican Party’, I thought: in the dirt, taking a detour around democracy & decency.
Here’s a little dark-eyed junco (Junco hyemalis), a small grayish American sparrow. It’s hoping to find a little bit plant seed in the flower box, I’m sure.

Tuesday/ partial results are in

Get this: the company that created the mobile app responsible for the Iowa primary chaos is 1. called ‘Shadow’, and 2. is said to employ several former Hillary Clinton campaign staffers. Best Twitter response to this tweet: Delete your company. 

It’s 24 hrs later, and we have the results of 71% of the Iowa precincts.
The Buttigieg campaign holds a slight lead over the Sanders campaign.
It was not a good night for former VP Joe Biden: looks like he will end in a distant 4th place.

There was a bug in the app that precinct captains used to send in the numbers, and most of them had to call in the results by phone, with very long hold times (2+ hrs). Unbelievable. The Iowa Democratic Party has a lot of egg on its face.

It’s all but certain that this is the death knell of the caucus process in Iowa (selection by ballot, and 1-2-3 placement, instead). It is even possible that Iowa will lose its coveted first place in the primary election sequence as well.

Update Thu Feb 6: By Thu, the results of 100% of the precincts had been released, showing Buttigieg leading by a sliver (0.1%). No sooner had this happened though, when the intrepid reporters of the New York Times pointed out discrepancies between the three sets of numbers, so the vote counters may have to recanvass (recount) the votes in some precincts. Oh boy.

Wow, the young mayor Pete leads the whole pack at this point. Caucus precinct results from the Iowa Democratic Party’s primary on Monday night, with 71% reporting (1,250 of 1,765 precincts). Buttigieg has the most pledged delegates, but Sanders got more [Source: New York Times online].

Monday/ awaiting the results from Iowa

President Pete! President Pete! chanted the crowd, as ‘Mayor Pete’ was addressing them. He has a shot at it, to win the Iowa primary, but still faces formidable competition from former VP Joe Biden, and from Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders in the primaries of the other states.

The first of the 2020 United States presidential primary elections is taking place in Iowa tonight.

Iowa has (in my opinion) a super-complicated caucus process. On top of that, the Democratic Party has not been able to get the results out as quickly as expected by everyone. (They are planning to report out an expanded set of voter tallies, and that has evidently slowed the process down).

Anyway .. we will know eventually which of the Democratic candidates prevailed in Iowa, and may he or she go on to do well elsewhere as well. The orangutan in the White House needs to go.

Here’s a caucus scene, one of some 1,700 locations in the state of Iowa. I think this one is a high school gym. Caucus-goers show their support for a candidate by going to the candidate’s post on the floor (lots of support for Buttigieg, Sanders & Warren here; not so much for the other candidates). Candidates that do not get 15% of the total caucus-goers are considered non-viable, and their supporters have to make a second choice (or they can choose to go home). These ‘free agents’ can get lobbied by the other groups, or engage in horse-trading. ‘We will give you 5 people, in return for one state delegate’ (each location has an allotted number of state delegates). At the Iowa state level, all the delegates are then added up to determine the winner of the Iowa caucus, and the No 2, No 3 place and so on. We don’t have a person of color in there with a shot to be the Democratic candidate this year, but we have two women in contention, and wow .. what a ground-breaking campaign from first-ever gay presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg.

Sunday/ Kansas City: not in Kansas

The Kansas City Chiefs beat the San Francisco 49ers by 31-20 today, to win Super Bowl No 54.
Trump promptly tweeted out congratulations to ‘the Great State of Kansas’.
Some 11 mins later, he deleted the tweet and sent out a corrected one that congratulated the state of Missouri.

Here’s former US Senator Claire McCaskill from Missouri, calling out Trump’s mistake. I have actually done the 4 hr drive from St Louis, MO to Kansas City, MO. Kansas City sits on Missouri’s western edge, straddling the border with Kansas, but it is considered to be in Missouri, and not in Kansas.  I suppose it’s an easy mistake to make (to think it is in Kansas), but it is still a sore point with the people of Missouri.

Thursday/ another day of the Trump trial

I have not been watching the Trump impeachment trial that has been on TV since Tuesday. I have heard it all before: Trump and his co-conspirators used taxpayer money to the tune of $400 million, to pressure the Ukraine president to smear Joe Biden, so that Trump can win in November.

So Trump — now impeached — really should to be found guilty of the two articles of impeachment, and be removed from office. So say 51% of Americans. It still seems that is not going to happen, though.  The Constitution requires that two-thirds of all Senators (67 of 100), find Trump guilty and convict him on at least one article of impeachment.  The U.S. Senate has 53 Republicans.

The best one can hope for is that the Republicans pay a price for voting to keep Trump in office, in November 2020, and long after that.

Wednesday/ another debate .. yawn

A panel of opinion writers at the Times gave Elizabeth Warren the nod as the winner of the debate. Is anybody paying any attention anymore? Debate host CNN caught some flak for setting up a Sanders-Warren feud and fanning the flames, about the electability of a woman as president. (Sanders denied he said that explicitly, Warren insists that he did).

There was another Democratic debate on TV on Tuesday night. There have been too many.
If we are to believe the polls, these are the top contenders, in no particular order –
Joe Biden
Bernie Sanders
Elizabeth Warren
Pete Buttigieg
Tom Steyer
Amy Klobuchar

Joe Biden is not a good debater, but he’s still most likely to be the Democrats’ nominee to face Trump in the 2020 election. (Yes, it really does not look as if Moscow Mitch and his jellyfish caucus of Republican Senators will allow witnesses & a fair hearing to oust the criminal and immoral President of the United States in the upcoming impeachment trial in the US Senate).