Bernie Nerves

February 18, 2020, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA: Democratic presidential candidate BERNIE SANDERS, I-Vt., speaks at a rally at University of Nevada, on Tuesday. (Credit Image: � Caroline Brehman/Congressional Quarterly via ZUMA Press)

My choice in the Democratic Primary has always been “Anyone.” I didn’t allow myself to fall in love with any one candidate, because I didn’t want to have my heart broken, and I really wasn’t very picky this time around. I want to replace Donald Trump as president, and I was going to support any candidate who had the clearest path towards victory.

If I had let myself fall in love, I might have gone with Warren. She’s been a favorite of Apt. 11D for a long time, since we are interested in many of the same topics.

Now, it looks like it’s going to be Bernie. The centrists are destroying each other. And a few minutes on a debate stage in Vegas negated billions of dollars of paid ads from the Bloomberg campaign.

Is Bloomberg totally done? The pundits seem to think so, but the ads keep coming and coming on the radio and tv around here. Maybe they’ll make some headway, even though the primary in Jersey isn’t until June, and things will be settled by that time. March 3rd will be the big day. Can’t wait.

The pundits are now getting worried about Bernie’s electability and what kinds of policies he’ll put in place, if he wins. A sample of columns in the New York Times: “Bernie Sanders is Making a Big Mistake,” “Would Bernie Sanders Be a Drag on Vulnerable Democrats, ” and “The Democrats Are in Trouble.”

I’m not too worried about Bernie should he become president. I think he’s more of a realist than an ideologue; just look at his position on gun control — he’s probably to the right of Bloomberg on this issue, because he comes from a state with a lot of recreational hunters. I do worry about him getting the suburban vote, because he isn’t offering them anything.

I’m also worried about the fact that the Russian bots have been promoting his candidacy. Steve thinks that they’re doing it just to stir up chaos. I’m worried that they’re promoting him, because they believe that Trump can beat him more easily than the other candidates.

Let’s talk about the Russian election wranglers for a minute. I find it fascinating that how Putin’s Geeky Minions are getting involved in our elections. It not just virus-building and coding. They’re doing it by manipulating people through social media. They figure out what kinds of conspiracy stories will take off among certain groups of people. They play into basic fears and prejudices. They are the ultimate social scientists, who seem to have a better handle on the American electorate than the best campaign managers and political scientists in our country. It’s dark, cynical understanding, but it is probably correct and is probably effective. If so, democracy is dead.

But back to Bernie. I have to say that this is the best drama on tv right now.

Do you think Bernie can beat Trump? Place your predictions here, folks.

Transitions: Excerpt from Newsletter 2/22/20

Here’s an excerpt of the latest newsletter (link fixed). Subscribe please!

Feb 21, 2020

Hi all!

I am a week late on the bimonthly Friday newsletter and am feeling terribly guilty. But I have an excellent excuse, I swear! 

Last Friday, I spent three hours at an IEP meeting for my kid, Ian. The rest of the day was spent packing and driving away to a much needed break in Vermont for the long weekend. More on the snowy paradise in a minute. Let me tell you a bit about IEP meetings first. 

An IEP is like a contract between the school and the parents, which describes the disabilities, provide goals for the kids and teachers, and measures student progress. It came out of mid-1970 reforms of schools that mandated that special ed kids were entitled to a free, appropriate education. Every year, parents and teachers sit down for a meeting to update the IEP. 

IEP meetings are both a blessing and a curse. They’re a blessing, because before they existed, special ed kids had no right to an education in this country. Kids with autism, Down’s syndrome, all kinds of mild and severe learning disabilities were routinely denied an education and spent their days isolated in their homes or institutions. It wasn’t until 1975 that schools were forced to educate all kids. That date should be celebrated and put on national calendars.

IEP meetings are a curse, too, because they’re a fucking pain in the ass. 

Now our meeting went so long, because these IEPs always need work. There’s a Platonic Ideal of an IEP and then there’s what we usually get. With 15 years of IEP meetings under my belt, sometimes I’m the most experienced person in the room. We also had to spend a lot of time talking about Ian’s new health issues and how they were impacting on his stress levels, which then impact on his behavior in class. 

When the kid is over 14, IEPs must also include something called a Transition Plan, which states the long term and short term goals for the child, focusing on plans for future employment and on-going education that happens in 18-21 programs (kids with IEPs are entitled to be educated by public schools until 21). With Ian in his Junior year of high school, we had a lot to hash out. 

He’s an extremely smart kid with very bad social skills, so what are we going to do with him? College or an 18-21 program? He’s super good at computers; does he need a four year degree to get a job in that field or will a 2 year degree suffice? Friday’s discussion about transition from high school continued onto with another hour-long phone call with the high school’s Transition Coordinator.  

So, a team of four professionals and I have had four hours of discussion just in the past week about Ian’s long term career plans and how to align his education — both K-12 and higher ed — with those goals. Now, most special ed kids don’t get this kind of attention, but we do, because I’m one of THOSE parents, and my kid is educated in a school that is as close as any school gets to the Platonic Ideal of Schools, thanks to a hefty 30-year mortgage. 

You know how much time that my older typical kid got from his high school guidance counselor on these kinds of matters? Do you know how many times his guidance counselor asked him what he wanted to do after graduation? Do you know how much work his guidance counselor put into looking for after school activities or internships that would line up those career goals. Answers: None. Zero. None. 

Every kid deserves this help with transition from school to the workforce – not just kids who are blessed with parents who have a tendency to speak at school board meetings. But it isn’t happening. I’ve written before about the problems with the lack of career and college advice from guidance counselors, particularly about issues related to work and local community colleges. 

Kids need this help, because workplaces and opportunities are entirely different from career paths from when we were kids. Parents can’t help. Most parents don’t know anything about the opportunities in cyber security, for example, but that’s a super hot field right now. You know what’s not hot? Journalism and doctoral programs. [Weak laugh.]

The good news is that smart people are recognizing these problems and starting do more about it. More on this later. 

Travel: Cemetery Adventures in Vermont

On Tuesday morning in Vermont, it began to snow. A lot. But rather than heading straight home when we got into the car, Steve told me to plug in Hubbardton, Vermont into the GPS. He wanted to check out a grave of one of his ancestors.

We spent hours on unplowed rural roads to get to this cemetery. The cemetery was a small postage stamp off a field and up a hill with half foot of snow.

I thought I was going to die several times, no joke.

Old Samuel Churchill, Steve’s several greats grandfather, and his wife, Thankful, had a revolutionary battle fought in their front yard. They survived the battle, but the Indians and Tories burnt down their house and imprisoned the men at Fort Ticonderoga until they escaped. But those hardy folks, who were proud descendants of the second ship after the Mayflower, were too mean to die off. They were fruitful and multiplied and gave me my husband, so I am rather grateful.

Normally a six hour drive from Jersey to Stowe, we spent the whole day in the car. But we met an old relative, learned a new story, and drove through the most beautiful country side. I’ve been Zillowing the hell out of those towns looking for a fantasy vacation cabin.

Debate Number Nine

Last night’s debate was a good one.

Bloomberg was on the stage for the first time, so we got the fun of watching the seasoned candidates tear him apart. We got a glimpse of the hatred between Mayor Pete and Amy Klobuchar. People addressed the question of whether Bernie can win a general election.

Keep in mind that all the literature says that debates don’t matter. Most voters don’t watch them, and won’t make their decisions based on those performances. Ads, particularly negative ones, matter more.

I’m not sure what last night’s viewership numbers were, but the one in December brought in 6 million viewers, compared to 102 million for the SuperBowl. Since I’m the person who didn’t watch the Super Bowl, but has watched every debate, I have to keep in mind that I’m not your typical voter. And none of you are.

With Elizabeth Warren trailing in fourth place, this was a chance for her to make a last stand. She was fiery and aggressive with her hand up all the time. I liked that, but others might put her in the Hermione Granger box.

Biden loved that someone else was the target of attacks and that Klobuchar admitted forgetting the name of the President of Mexico (definitely not a strike against her in my book).

I thought Mayor Pete didn’t have a great night. He came off as smug and young.

Bernie is always consistent. Always stays on message. He won’t change his politics, if he makes it to the general election.

Bloomberg didn’t have a good night, but I’m not ready to discount him. He’s a really smart guy, who has a team of really smart people around him. They’ve done the math and run all the RISK strategies. They’ve gambled on him coming in at the last minute and missing the earlier fights. It means that he’s the flavor of the month in the media, but it also means that he hasn’t had enough practice on the debate stage or shaking hands. I’m super curious how this is going to work out for him. (I’m not endorsing his candidacy, just to clarify. I’m geeking out over strategies, that’s all.)

BTW, if you google “democratic debate” right now. The first item that comes up is a Mike Bloomberg ad.

Travel: Mental Health Break in Stowe, Vermont

Before we left for our long weekend in Vermont, I was wound very tightly. My daily calendar had been packed with family and work chores for weeks. I didn’t realize how burnt out I was, until we walked into the house on Tuesday night, and I realized that I was relaxed. Oh, that’s how relaxed feels! It was nice.

I’m a terrible skier. My urban, working-class parents never took us skiing, viewing the activity with the same skepticism as others might view eating bugs or sky diving. Why the hell would someone want to do something like that? So, I only got on skis for the first time in my 20’s with a friend who taught me how to ski by pushing me down a black diamond. Imagine me head first in a snow drift with my skis skidding down the mountain without me.

But I always wanted to be the type of person who skis. People who ski are blond and athletic and healthy. It’s a great winter activity. So, we try to get our kids on skis every year. Even the autistic kid is better than I am. This year, we went to Stowe, Vermont to ski, and I did some bunny slope action. I didn’t fall, but it wasn’t pretty.

Stowe is a rich person’s town in the middle of rural state where the median income is $57,000. It is problematic. But it’s still beautiful. In -9 degree weather, we bundled up and tromped though the woods, poked our heads into little shops of art and cute purses, and drank local brews next to toasty fireplaces.

  • Links:
  • Stow Ski slope (Don’t buy your tickets at the mountain. Find a good package deal on line, before you show up.)
  • Ben and Jerry tour
  • Stowe Mercantile – Tasteful souvenirs
  • The Boutique – For when you need to get away from sporting stuff, and buy yourself something girlie.
  • I had many Von Trapp beers. We also got a nice sandwich in their bakery. Great grounds at the lodge that you can explore without staying in the hotel, which actually looks a little sad.
  • Downtown Burlington is good for an afternoon. If you overlook the mall stores, there’s plenty of other stuff to do, like outdoorsy boutiques and comic book stores. University of Vermont is up the block and gives you a great view of the downtown and Lake Champlain. Last time, we were there in the summer time and took a boat ride along the lake, which is gorgeous even if is not a Great Lake — a fact that my hubby from Cleveland felt was super important.
  • Ski and Snow Inn. A nicely renovated former motel with a pub and a bowling alley. Across the street from a nice trail, where you can cross country ski (rental place is also across the street). Ten minute drive to the slopes. Would totally stay there again.

(Okay, I know we want to talk about last night’s debate. Let me get finish this post, and we’ll talk.)

Thoughts on the New Hampshire Primary

Bernie won, of course, but he was a loser in the news cycle, because his win was expected, but wasn’t as large as he wanted.. The biggest winners were Mayor Pete and Klobuchar. Biggest losers were Biden and Warren.

Biden’s poor showing wasn’t a huge surprise. His age and declining mental facilities have been on full display for a couple of months now.

Warren’s poor showing was a surprise. She sounded like she was ready to cry last night. I do feel bad for her, because she has put in 101 percent effort into this campaign. Why didn’t she do well? Were her politics too close to Sanders? Is she annoying people, who see her as another Hillary?

Another big winner wasn’t even the election last night. It was Bloomberg. People are starting to think that he has a shot, if moderates are showing up to vote.

Your thoughts?