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.

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.

When People Stop Caring

For the past couple of days, we’ve had some serious health issues to contend with here at Apt. 11D. It would be in bad taste to talk publicly about those issues, beyond some notices in the comment section for regulars, but let’s just say that those problems have been all consuming.

Iowa, the State of the Union, and the impeachment verdict have gotten only cursory attention from myself. When I haven’t been busy with doctors, I’ve been anesthesizing my brain with romance novels, gossip blogs, and dark chocolate. If someone like me — an over-educated news junkie — isn’t paying attention, that’s bad news. It means that nobody else is paying attention.

Part of the hubris of any blogger or political pundit or hyper-tweeter is that they feel that they can make a difference through their words, no matter how small and insignificant their blog may be. We all think we can change the world, and that’s why we do it. If I’m feeling powerless, that’s bad news. It means that the ordinary people don’t feel like they matter.

Only 172,000 people showed up to vote in Iowa, after a year of hard work and money by over a dozen candidates. And that was before the counting fiasco. How many people will bother to vote next time?

Compared to other political moments, like the Kavanaugh hearings, the impeachment hearings didn’t attract many viewers. Maybe because the outcome was obvious. There was no drama.

Random thought: Would John McCain have made a difference?

All this is important. We have an unhinged president who is running our country like he’s at the wheel of the white SUV with OJ Simpson along an LA highway. He’s reckless, stupid, and selfish. He doesn’t obey the unwritten laws that have kept politicians in check in our country for two centuries, never mind the written laws. I fear that our nation will never recover.

The worst tragedy is what happens when people stop paying attention. When people like me get caught up in our personal lives — no matter how serious and real — and don’t turn on the television, stop tweeting, stop writing, then that’s when democracy dies. Yes, the world keeps spinning. Yes, our problems are real. But those problems will only get worse, if our political system goes to hell and stops doing the little that it already does for our most vulnerable.

So, I’m shaking myself out of my personal crisis and getting back to business.

Bernie Bros, The Moderate Vote, and A Waiter in the West Village

I don’t care about football.

I usually watch the Super Bowl every year, because of the parties, the fun munchies, and the commercials. Everything else is a big snore for me. So, last night, I skipped the whole thing and went out with a couple of girlfriends to grab drinks and dinner in the New York City.

We were ensconced in a bar in the West Village eating super salty fries and drinking pitchers of beer along with the 20-year olds, when the conversation turned to the election. Who were we going to vote for in the primary?

One friend said her vote was for Warren or Bernie. The other friend said, anybody but Bernie. I said, anybody who has the best chance of beating Trump. I said that if the polls tell me that Biden has the best chance, I’ll vote for him. I’m, in a sense, a single issue voter right.

So, we were fighting it out about who had the best chance, who would carry the youth vote, and did the youth vote matter (no), when our waiter demanded to know what we were fighting about. I said, “politics”. He said, “move over. I want to hear this.” So, I pushed our coats away and gave him a seat.

He was a 30-something, probably gay, mixed race guy. He said that he didn’t like Bernie. While he was very in favor of gay rights, he was a libertarian about a lot of things. He thought that people should be able to carry guns, as long as they followed certain rules. He also said that 70 percent of his friends weren’t going to vote at all.

When he got up, I didn’t say, “I told you so.” But I was thinking it.

At this point, I think people are either going to vote for Trump or they won’t. I can’t imagine there is a single person in the country, who hasn’t made that decision. There are a whole lot of people, who may or may not show up to vote. And that’s the real election now.

The Democrats have to put someone forward who will get their people to the polls, but won’t annoy weak Republicans so much so that they decide to show up and vote for Trump.

There is definitely a “silly season” in every primary, where the media doesn’t feel that it’s totally necessary to back the serious candidate. That’s why Trump got as far as he did. The media let him go unchecked through silly season, until it was too late.

Is the same thing happening now? Mayor Pete is really too young to be a serious candidate. Bernie may actually be a terrible candidate, as Hillary hinted last week. (I think her comment wasn’t off-the-cuff, but was a calculated attempt by Democrat leaders to take Bernie out.) Biden is doing really well with minority voters.

Then the waiter came back again and told me that I looked just like the landlady on the Kimmie Schmidt show. After a little googling on our phones, we realized that he meant Carol Kane. Apparently, I look like a crazy old lady, with big eyes and wild hair, so take this waiter’s comments with a grain of salt.

If I Meant Well, It's Okay

I’ve been juggling a couple of work projects and home projects this week. As I write this, there are a couple of electricians in our office downstairs installing some lovely inset lighting. And while all that goes on, the impeachment trial is on CNN in the background.

Steve’s theory — and it’s a good one, I think — is that all these speeches are not really for the Senate or the impeachment itself. There is pretty much zero chance that Democrats will have enough votes for a conviction, barring some unforeseen bombshell. So, why all this effort? It could bite Democrats in the ass, if it pushes borderline Republicans to the voting booths in November.

Steve thinks this is all about history. These speeches are going to go down in the books in part because of the Grade A oratory skills of people like Adam Schiff. And also because this president is going to do something even worse in the future, and Democrats want to point to this record as evidence that they did their best to stop him. They’re also forcing Republicans and their henchmen to go on the record with mind-blowing, insane arguments that demonstrate their insincerity and corruption.

Case in point, Alan Dershowitz. Dershowitz made the argument that quid pro quo is impeachable, if a president does it for personal gain like to build a hotel. But quid pro quo happens all the time in normal international affairs, if a president does it for the national good. But what happens when, a president does it to get reelected? Dershowitz argued that since a president considers it in the national good for himself to be reelected, as any politician believes, so therefore it is not impeachable.

The Daily had a nice rundown of his argument. More here.

So, if I rob a liquor store, because I believe the liquor store has too much money and that I would use their money to give to orphans and babies, then no crime would be committed.

Have you been watching the impeachment? What do you think?

The Politics of Harry and Meghan

Like everybody else in this country, I have been fairly obsessed with the news that Harry and Meghan want out of the royal family. On the one hand, it’s completely insane that Americans, of all people, give two shits about anything to do with the monarchy. But on the other, it’s a really good drama, so shut up. This is better than Netflix.

Woke Twitter is firmly on Meghan’s side. They say that she’s been treated badly by the racist press and scheming royals. Buzzfeed has a viral article that contrasts the different way the British press has dealt with Meghan and Kate.

Truthfully, all royals get their share of roasting by the British tabloids. Kate got shit last year for having bandaids on her hands. Seriously. Bandaids. Or plasters, as they call them over there.

Is that situation okay? The love-hate relationship. The Brits support the monarchy, in exchange for ripping them down occasionally. I don’t know. That’s between the British people. It’s a situation that anyone who marries into the family is well aware of. They choose to make that exchange of money/status/privilege/nice clothes for life in a fish bowl. I don’t believe for a second that Meghan was surprised by all that.

Is Meghan a sympathetic figure? Well, the blind gossip websites here in the US have had tales about her for two years. She sacked three nannies in less than a year. They give the marriage five years tops. Again, I don’t care that much, except in a shallow, Friday morning sort of way.

The most interesting part of Megxit, at least for me, is the political and financial ramifications of this move.

In the US, our president is both the chief of state and the chief of government. Being the chief of state means that this person is a living symbol of the country. Countries have all sorts of symbols, from flags to buildings. But there is also a person that takes on that job.

In England, they divide up the job of chief of state and government. The queen is the living symbol of the country, while the prime minister runs the government. They like it that way, because it means the country has the continuity of the royal family that isn’t going anywhere, while prime ministers come and go. Whatever. It’s their system. I don’t have strong opinions on that.

But being the chief of state, a living emblem of a country, means that one has to always play the part. The Queen is never off duty. It’s a permanent, 24/7 job that is bound by rules and ritual. It’s a brand, but a brand that is entirely tied to the nation.

So, Harry and Meghan want to take the royal brand and make money with it. That causes problems. It’s like if Donald Trump changed the name of his hotels right now to The Oval Office or Presidential Suites or something. I mean, he’ll probably do that when he leaves office, but if he did it now, people would freak out. I suppose the Obamas are making a lot of money right as former White House residents, but they didn’t do it while they were in office. That distinction has always been important.

Harry and Meghan want to join the ranks of the new international Uber-wealthy, who don’t belong to any one country. The people who have empty penthouses in London and New York City. Russian mafia and Saudi princes. But those Russians and Saudis aren’t on the front page of the tabloids. They don’t need millions in security. Who will pay for all that?

And where will they pay taxes? In the UK or Canada or the US? Harry and Meghan are like a massive international corporation, like Apple and Amazon. Massive enterprises that cross national boarders.

These are complicated matters, as the Queen points out.

Blaming Parents For Inequality in Schools

In education circles, pundits are currently making two arguments simultaneously that don’t sync up.

First, school choice advocates have pointed towards Democratic political candidates who send their own kids to private schools, while publicly opposing charter schools, and accused them of hypocrisy. Elizabeth Warren, for example, sent her son to a private school in Texas.

You can’t have both – private schools for your own kids and public schools for everyone else — conservatives say. The left says, let’s ignore the choices of these political candidates, because these people are parents first, politicians second. It is possible to do the right thing at that moment for your kid, while advocating for better schools for everybody else.

Second, several articles lately have said that parents who use rating systems, like the Great Schools website, to help choose their homes, are… well… let’s just say it… basically racist. Great Schools evaluates schools based on state standardized test scores, number of kids taking AP classes, SAT scores, teacher-student ratios, and some other publicly available data. Then it assigns the school a grade from 1-10. The 10 schools tend to be in more affluent, white neighborhoods. The lower scoring schools tend to be in low income, urban areas.

In the old days, real estate agents used to steer white parents towards white neighborhoods and black parents towards black neighborhoods in a practice known as redlining. I’m not sure if I’ve written about this on the blog, but when we were little, and my parents moved from an apartment in the Bronx to our first home, my dad forced his real estate agent to show us a home in a neighborhood that had been redlined for black families. He bought the house, and we moved into a home next a lovely African-American family. The dad was a hotshot at IBM. But mostly stories like that didn’t happen.

Redlining was vilified, and the practice ended. Well, sort of. Now, parents self-segregate into towns that have people with similar incomes and use websites like Great Schools as a shortcut, when making those decisions. It’s de facto segregation, rather than de jure segregation. Still, not wonderful, but de facto segregation always been tolerated in our society, because of argument #1 above, which states that parents have to do what parents have to do. Also, it’s a matter of freedom, a value that is highly prized by Americans.

We moved to our current town about nine years ago, primarily because we were seeking better schools for our kids. We didn’t need a website to tell us that our town had a good school system, because anybody who lives in Northern New Jersey can tell you exactly which schools get their kids into college and which ones don’t.

Of course, there are limitations to those ranking systems and reputation. We’re in a town with very large schools, so that meant that oddballs like Ian are lost in the shuffle. Our school now ships him off to a smaller public school about 30 minutes away, where he is thriving. I think Jonah might have done better in a smaller school with less stress, too, but he survived.

Schools aren’t the only reason that we moved to this town. We like it well enough that we will probably stay here, after Ian finishes school. But schools were a major factor in our original decision to move to this town.

By moving here, it meant that we’re not in a school that could benefit from me — I’m a big mouth at school board meetings, and I volunteer a lot, too — and that my good test taking kids aren’t boosting test scores for that hypothetical town either. But, like Elizabeth Warren, I had to do what was right for my kids.

Now, I would just like greater consistency in edu-punditry. If we give Democratic politicians a hall pass for choosing private schools for their kids, then we can’t vilify middle class parents from making those same choices. Rather, I think we should look at ways to make schools in poorer neighborhoods more desirable, to offer parents positive reasons — better school facilities, higher quality teachers, unique school offerings — to move to low income, urban areas.

But we’re entering a dark time for schools. It’s clear that no more money is coming. Reforms aren’t working. Reformers are walking away. When that happens, parents who make rational choices for their kids become the bad guys. That’s just not cool.