Thursday, January 31, 2019

Oregon Governor Kate Brown spoke in Medford

Aftermath of the Summer of Smoke. 

Governor Kate Brown: 

Kate Brown, in Medford in July

"Fires are more ferocious, more fierce, more frequent."

Kate Brown spoke to some 235 Rotarians and their guests in Medford yesterday. She understood what was on the audience's mind. As 2018 County Commissioner candidate Lanita Witt had told me in September, during the height of the smoke filled summer of 2018:  "What people want to talk about is the smoke."

She is in a tricky spot for a Democrat and an environmentalist. Her solutions are within the now-standard manner for "responsible" public officials, ones who want some safe ground of responsible forest and fire management, doing something, making progress, but within an arena largely out of their control: rainfall, wind, lightning. Whatever she does won't be enough and it will be criticized with the benefit of hindsight.

There remain advocates to return to an earlier era of aggressive logging of the 1970s--the glory days of timber harvests when the federal forests were being liquidated and timber harvest was the primary goal. Lumber mills were humming with activity, loggers were making money, and county governments had ample money from their share of the receipts from those harvests. In that era, forest management--brush thinning, road building--was paid for by the income from the harvests. Those were the "good old days."

On the other side are spokespeople for more natural, holistic forestry that assesses that nearly everything humans do to the forest disturbs its natural cycles and make things worse. They point to evidence that tall, mature, undisturbed forests burn less than do re-forested ones. Forest fires are natural, and forests adapted to fire, not logging. Less is more. 

She threaded the needle by speaking of local programs and initiatives, people working together, community councils bringing together various sides. We heard the word "collaboration" and "partnership" repeatedly. She visited an Air Tanker Base--the location of reconditioned military bombers that drop liquid fire retardant onto fires. She spoke of a grant to a Forest Restoration Partnership, a group of timber-harvest-oriented people and environmentally-oriented people who cooperatively plan and execute forest thinning activities. She praised the Oregon Department of Forestry. 

There is a safe spot politically. Favor thinning and brush reduction, everyone working together, toward the goal of making forest fires harder to start and grow, combined with aggressive fires suppression. It is OK to talk about putting out fires. Kate Brown is on this.

The other big subject: Jordan Cove pipeline. There is no politically safe spot on the Jordan Cove pipeline project. She is caught in the middle. It pleases no one.

Demonstrators outside Brown's venue
The Oregon building trades unions support the project. Business groups support the project. A likely majority of people around the port of Coos Bay support the project, evidenced by having re-elected a county commissioner who supported it over a candidate who made opposition her top issue. And the Project sponsors are lavishing money onto the media and politicians. We are good guys, they say.

However, environmental groups and NIMBY sentiment both oppose it. The project made the likely-fatal flaw of allowing opposition time to state their case and organize. The opposition moved from young activists to mainstream sentiment. It likely cannot be reversed. The project provides little benefit for pipeline pass-through counties, so there is little incentive for local politicians to rethink the issue.

Flyer to all: oppose the pipeline.
Brown encountered demonstrators outside the venue and a question from the audience, urging her openly to oppose the pipeline, She refused, saying she needed to "stay neutral," the better to be able to evaluate and judge the facts. 

But it could have been worse. The people packed into the meeting room could have applauded or jeered one way or the other. The issue was on the table. She stayed neutral. The subject dropped, without crowd response. That probably constitutes success.

If not now, when?

She observed that the Oregon economy was very strong, that unemployment was the lowest in history, that newcomers were moving to Oregon, and that tax revenue was growing in the midst of this prosperity. This is as good as it gets for Oregon. 

Oregon has intractable problems now--underfunded public pensions, low school graduation rates, unbalanced tax system, unaffordable housing and conspicuous homelessness, and people still without health care--and this is when thing are at their best. What will things look like if and when the country has its next recession? What will PERS funding look like if the stock market corrects?

What better time will Oregon have to fix big problems?

It is possible that the Oregon legislature is ready to tackle these big problems and that Kate Brown will lead that charge, but in Medford that is not what she addressed. Mostly she addressed the issue that was top of mind for the audience. The smoke.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Kamala Harris: First Impressions Matter

Fast Start. Big Crowd. "Fearless."

First impressions matter. 

The first things we know about a candidate are the mental structure that we use to understand the next few things we learn.

And we don't have mental shelf space to know very much. We get impressions. 

Kamala Harris's first campaign rally had 20,000 people, standing in a plaza in Oakland. I attended Trump's first rally in New Hampshire, where there were 3,000 people in a high school gymnasium in the town of Rochester, which seemed like a lot.

It's a very good start for Kamala Harris.

The typical American voter outside of California has barely heard of Harris. She starts with an appearance and biography. She is 54 years old, female, dark skinned, a lawyer, a California US Senator, a former Attorney General and District Attorney.

The pundits and activists and political "inside baseball" writers like myself will learn and integrate dozens of more things about her in the weeks ahead, but an ongoing premise of this blog is that most voters will have made up their mind about a candidate knowing about seven things on election day.  Her biography used up about four of them because her being a 54 year old dark skinned woman is a single category.

Archetype: Another premise of this blog is that a candidate for president is understood by voters as an archetype, a stock character in a simple fight in a near-wordless match up--sort of like professional wrestling, but for real. Then voters choose which character they prefer.

Trump has his character: the dominating tabloid newspaper bully, simple-minded but strong, fighting for traditional American values against liberal snobs, criminal aliens, outsiders.

Kamala Harris is creating her counter-brand. Her appearance is a given. Her clothes and manner present her as "professional" which is consistent with her law enforcement background.  She is adding an adjective: FEARLESS

This is a good choice for her. 

There were alternatives. She could have emphasized that she was a scrappy poor person, or fair-minded, or bi-partisan good government oriented, or not-a-narcissist, or intelligent, or really experienced in government. 

There are a multitude of ways to be not-Trump. 

By choosing to be a fearless former District Attorney, voters can make a choice between two worthy champions, two alternative fighters in a ring.  Americans are pre-programmed to understand this matchup. The white-hat sheriff versus the crook. 

Marshall Dillon in Gunsmoke. 

Good guy calling out the bad guy
Harris embraces her law enforcement background--casting against type. Blacks, women and Democrats generally have been positioned as the people sympathizing with Rodney King rather than the white policemen who beat him, and with hands-up blacks shot by white police. 

She is getting criticized for this by the left. The criticism will help her, if she handles it right, i.e. by not backing down and apologizing. She will demonstrate by unmistakable body language behavior that she was fearless. She is what she is. She will not get every left-leaning vote in the primary and her willingness not to pander to those lost votes will give her political credibility.

She has disrupters to this first impression narrative

Fox News slut shames Harris, accusing her of using sex to advance her career. They use a woman to do it. Tomi Lahren calls her a hypocrite. "Kamala, given you're a vocal and proud supporter of the MeToo movement, what are your thoughts about using an extramarital affair to boost their political career?"

Lauren says she lets viewer in on a secret, that Kamala Harris is a conniving imposter who used sex to advance her career over the careers of others, having an extramarital affair with a powerful man thirty years her senior. He helped her career. He got her jobs.

This created a tweet-storm from multiple sides. including widespread criticism of Fox for leading with this. There were thoughtful articles in the Washington Post saying that this is an example of misogyny and that these accusations would not be made against a male.

In general this hurts Harris. The entire subject is bad. In the limited-mental-shelf-space model, Fox managed to put "conniving slut" into the mix of seven things we are learning about Harris. 

It was smart of Fox. Position Harris as the slut who became Senator. Make her appearance a negative. 

But it is a mixed bag, and may well help Harris in the primary. 

Other women, particularly Gillibrand, are associated with MeToo, branding formed by Gillibrand's early criticism of Senator Franken. Slut-shaming by Fox makes Harris a victim. A Google search for Kamala Harris put his Lauren video and Fox News' coverage of the past relationship with Willie Brown within the top five or six about Harris, as of 6:00 a.m. this morning. The charge is working and  Democratic women may take her side: a single woman can't date--how unfair. What we did 20 years ago is held against us--how unfair.

It is a challenge for Harris. Perhaps she can retain her brand as the fearless warrior who represents rectitude, and therefore a worthy archetype opponent of Trump. She needs to appear unbowed and unapologetic. Matt Dillon of Gunsmoke did not apologize for whatever relationship he had with Kitty.

It would have been better had Willie Brown said nothing about their having dated beyond that he barely remembered. But he did help preserve her narrative when he said he dated lots of women and it was along time ago: "The difference is that Harris is the only one who, after I helped her, sent word that I would be indicted if I 'so much as jaywalked' while she was D. A." 

Harris confirmed it with a generational and prosecutorial challenge: "His career is over: I will be alive and kicking for the next 40 years. I do not owe him a thing."

Brown observed about her ingratitude: "That's politics for you."

No. It is Harris positioning herself as a law enforcement professional. "If there is corruption, it will be prosecuted."

Harris will prove herself worthy of being a candidate by how she gets through this.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Trump Goads and Dares Howard Schultz. Smart

Donald Trump can win re-election in a three person race. And for sure in a four person race.  It is in the works.

Howard Schultz is the stake in the heart of Democrats. 

Democrats continually underestimate Donald Trump. He is so very unpopular--with Democrats. But he is popular with the 35-40% of Americans who love him, and the additional approximately 8% of Republican loyalists who reliably vote with the team. That is the governing plurality that wins elections: about 42-45%

Democrats have a leaky coalition. Trump is making it more leaky.

Third Party on the left. There is a movement underway of leftist populism that rejects the Clinton-Obama coalition and its alliances with modern technology and symbol manipulating industries in Silicon Valley, Hollywood, and Wall Street. They believe Obama-type Democrats were on the right side on the culture war issues, but wrong in supporting economic policies that protected and enriched the 1%. Obama left the middle class to struggle in a low income gig economy in competition with low wage workers around the world. Sanders voiced this critique. There are no "good" billionaires, he said. This message has appeal within the college town and media bubble cities on the left, so the Party is in transition, facing its own version of Tea Party revolt. Michael Moore dresses and acts the part of that blue collar populist, but the actual voice of the new left is Bernie Sanders from the past and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes representing the future in this ascendent world view.

No candidate other than Sanders can fully please this group. There will be another Ralph Nader, another Jill Stein, another someone who voices this message loud and clear. The movement is sore from 2016 and they realize they are growing in strength.

Third Party in the center: Howard Schultz. The Democratic candidate will adopt progressive policies regarding health care, college tuition, and taxes. Progressive policies are now baked into the Democratic nominating process. This move to the left will solidify the positioning of former Starbucks founder and CEO Howard Schultz, a genuine billionaire, who is announcing that as a "lifelong Democrat" he is running as an independent, reflecting, he says centrist policies and a dislike of both current parties. 

He echoes and confirms what will be the Republican message regarding Democrats, that they are too extreme, that they want to tax too much, that they are anti-business, that Medicare For All is too expensive and will take away benefits you currently have. And he will echo partisans on the left who say that political parties--including Democrats--are corrupt.

Schultz has a constituency. He will be voicing essentially the 2008 Obama message of unity and de-partisanship. It is a direct appeal to people who are drawn to an anti-racism, anti-homophobia, pro-women culture war message, but who are, in fact, succeeding in the current economic environment, and for whom the modern gig economy in urban knowledge center cities works well. These are people--more often women--with college degrees and some special skill. They worked hard, got educated, played by the rules, have health care and a 401k. These are medical people, technology workers, government workers, people who sit at desks and look at screens, i.e. Democrats.

The progressive left message says that regular people--the 99%-- have been left behind in the modern economy, and they should feel aggrieved, runs counter to the experience of those successful urbanites. They want improvement, not revolution. They have something to lose.

This large constituency brought Hillary Clinton to a popular vote victory, with big wins in places like Seattle, Portland, Austin, New York City, and Northern Virginia. They won the cities. Those people could be found drinking $5 lattes in Starbucks, using the free wi-fi, answering work emails. 

Obama sounded about right to them. Shultz will sound about right, too.

Donald Trump is doing exactly the right thing to get Howard Schultz to run. He is daring him to run, calling him chicken. It is the most obvious and transparent teenage tactic. Trump understands that at its most fundamental, politics is schoolyard fight over who gets to be king of the hill and that there is an audience surrounding them, watching. He is sticking out his tongue at Schultz.

Schultz may fall for it, only he won't consider it falling for it. He will consider it doing his civic duty. 

Democrats may possibly be able to survive a general election while losing 5-10% of the votes on the left, but if Shultz runs an active campaign,Trump will be re-elected. He takes away some of the anti-Trump, good government, can't-we-get-along vote. Trump is arranging for that right now.

Democrats continually underestimate Donald Trump.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Wall or Pipeline: Not in my back yard.

No. Not through us.

Gas Pipeline:  

"All indications are that the benefits to Jackson County will be extremely minimal, while the costs to our wetlands and water bodies is high."

     Letter from Jackson County Commissioners to the Oregon Dept. of State Lands

Border Wall: 

"I haven’t found anybody — and I know people from Nogales [Arizona] to Brownsville — who wants that wall.”

      Dob Cunningham, Texas rancher and retired Border Patrol agent, quoted in the Fort Worth Star Telegram

Donald Trump and a Republican Congress could have funded and added to the existing border wall without a single Democratic vote, using the reconciliation process. They didn't. 


Click: Fort Worth newspaper
Two reasons. One is that the issue motivates Republican voters best when it is a vague ideal, held just out of reach. 

The sizzle, not the steak.

Republicans want the idea of a wonderful, beautiful, protective wall of safety to keep the bad guys out. Trump isn't selling a wall per se. He is selling a benefit: safety from criminals and job-takers and poor refugees and people who would change America by their very presence.

But an actual, physical, real wall is a messy, disruptive, impractical idea--which is why is hasn't been built. Statewide in Texas, 61% oppose expanding the border wall; 35% support it. It is unpopular in Arizona, too.

Pembina image from website
Southern Oregon has its own close up version of the border wall controversy. We are experiencing a massive advertising campaign by Pembina, the company that wants to build a pipeline that would connect fracked natural gas from mid-continent to a new facility in the port city of Coos Bay, where it would be condenced for export. 

The pipeline company advertisements are saying all the things that would motivate small-city Republicans and their Chamber of Commerces. Jobs. Economic Growth. Business-as-Good-Citizen. The three County Commissioners are Republicans and all got substantial campaign finance help from the Chamber of Commerce, which supports the project.

It didn't matter. The Commissioners oppose the pipeline.

The reality is that that it is potentially--arguably--a good deal for someone else, and a bother for people in Southern Oregon. People in Coos Bay may get a big taxpaying entity. Owners of gas leases in Alberta get to sell their gas; the Canadian company developing the project would make money. Lucky them.

In this bright red Republican portion of the state that should be dispositive. The issues that motivate Democrats, including methane emissions at the port, global warming, and environmental risk here, should all cut the other way, and be dismissed by Republican officeholders since Trump and Republican orthodoxy says those issues are all overblown. 

But it didn't. Not in our backyard.

For us, it isn't the symbol of jobs and nice-guy businesses, with their talk of partnership for jobs and the economy, their images of smiling women in hard hats, and their spreading lots of campaign cash and big media buys. We get the pipeline reality. We get the inconvenience, land condemnations, and risk. 

So the Republican County Commissioners said no. 

The border wall of reality divides the backyards of communities along the border. The Texas border with Mexico is a river, and rivers flood and meander. The wall divides ranches. The wall divides economically viable communities. The City of Nogales is in both Arizona and Mexico. Click

The less you know, the simpler the problem. The farther away you are, the more easily you can deal with this as a symbol.

The people closest to the border and the people who represent them, including Republican officeholders, are not the ones clamoring for the wall. For them it is an inconvenient mess that won't solve a nuanced immigration problem they understand and live. 

The border wall did not get built in 2017 and 2018 because there was no GOP consensus for Trump's wall. It was real to too many people.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Fox Watch

Fox news is more than a bubble. It is a fortress. America is under assault. Close Ranks.

Trump has his base, and the news they get reinforces the mentality of siege. 

It is useful to know why some 40% of Americans feel as they do. 

Some of this blog's readers watch Fox News. Some avoid it. Today's post is a scouting report. In the Fox News view, Trump is the innocent patriot set upon in a witch hunt by jackbooted Democratic partisans in the FBI and media, while normal good old fashioned white America is set upon by the super-villain Hillary Clinton, wealth-confiscating Socialists, violent and deadbeat immigrant invaders, criminal homegrown blacks, and people who don't share our culture, religion, and values.

Photo for Trump on border wall.

Their choice of news stories fleshes out that view, and nothing on Fox contradicts it.

Story One. Trump is still a hero, strong and proud. He didn't lose, he didn't back down. His hands are open. He is reasonable.

Meanwhile, Pelosi and Schumer are out to undermine America. The side story is headlined "Obstruction or Justice" with a query from Sean Hannity saying it is time for them "to decide if they are on America's side."

A third story, relying on comments by a former Trump campaign manager, has a photo of Schumer and the headline, "Are Democrats solely out to destroy Donald Trump?" 

Trump is shown as wise, steadfast, and un-bowed, with headline "Trump renews call to 'build the wall' after reopening government."

Story Two.  Cultural invasion from the New Democrats: Muslim Socialists.

The number two story is a story about freshman Member of Commerce Ilhan Omar, describing her getting "new scrutiny" over a letter she wrote a judge while a state representative, saying that 30-year prison sentences for men convicted of planning to go to Syria to assist ISIS were counterproductive. 

Subtext: terrorist enabler in a head scarf.

Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are favorite subjects of Fox News coverage. Ocasio-Cortez has a story headlined that she was disappointed to be missing the Sundance Film Festival. She was "sad" not to see a film that was a documentary of her run for congress. The story headlines says "she will 'miss' Sundance film premier 'due to complications' from partial government shutdown."

There is an ongoing meta-message about these two woman. Omar is Muslim and is undermining America. Ocasio-Cortez is a frivolous young woman, dancing, wanting to go to movies, trying to get an apartment, looking pretty, spouting off socialist or extremist nonsense about taxes, health care, and socialism. Dangerous and silly.

Story Three. Democratic Scandal. Young Kamala Harris associated with Willie Brown. Sex!

The story puts the accusation out there by asking it in a question,"extramarital affair with Kamala Harris?"  In a second story, Fox headlines by saying that Harris and Willie Brown were once "close," saying they "dated," and inserting the wink-wink scare quotes in both cases.

The story said that Brown assisted Harris in her early campaigns by helping her raise money, something he did for multiple other elected officials. Then the story says that Willie Brown was a womanizer. Late in the story the article quotes Brown comparing Harris to other people he had supported politically by saying "The difference is the only one who, after I helped her, sent word that I would be indicted 'if I so much as jaywalked' while she was DA." Meta message: backstabber.

The story concluded with a description of Brown's marital history, separations and girlfriends, and a report that he fathered a child in 2001 with a campaign fundraiser while married to his wife of sixty years.

The overall subtext: Harris is dirty and got ahead with good looks and easy virtue, then scrambles to make up for it.

Story Four. Witch hunt. Jackbooted thug FBI. Roger Stone and Donal Trump victims.

This set of stories include headlines like "Defiant Roger Stone post picture of Mueller's 'nothing burger' as Trump comes to his defense." 

Moreover, the FBI arrested him in a ridiculous show of force. His threats to harm witnesses were empty; he was a harmless old white collar victim who would have submitted to custody willingly. 

However, all is well because Trump defended both himself and Stone. Related stories say that the Mueller indictments actually show the opposite of the intuitive observation. They show Trump's innocence. "The indictment is just the latest blatant demonstration that Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office, the Department of Justice, and the FBI have known for many months that there was no such conspiracy" to collude with the Russians.

Story Five. Everyone Picks on Us. Praise for the martyrs of the faith, in the face of scorn from the stylish Left. 

Today's webpage has two prominent stories on the same theme. One is on the model who had felt it necessary to hide her support for Trump to protect her career but who, finally, "came out" and admitted she liked Trump.

A second story relates the same essential story of persecution, this one involving movie star Daniel Radcliffe who the headline says "slams Tom Brady over Trump support and MAGA hat." Brady keeps a Trump had in his locker, the story reads. Football star Tom Brady supports Trump and agrees with Trump regarding players kneeling during the National Anthem, the story reads. 

Story Six. The Fake News media is out to get us. 

Today there are a suite of stories on this subject. One is the Covington, Kentucky rush to judgement on the nervous smile, or was it an insulting smirk? "Covington students, journalists mired in Twitter's toxic stew." Conclusion: the students were persecuted unjustly.

A second reveals the media plot to "expose Trump in the 2020 campaign." 

A third is on Trump's opining that the layoffs at the Huffington Post and BuzzFeed were due to "bad journalism" and "one sided Fake Media coverage." Trump criticized CBS [correction: CNN] for having cameras to record Stone's arrest, and then wrote: "Trump on Saturday also mocked CBS News, asserting that its reporting on Stone neglected to include details on the 'Fake and Unverified "Dossier"' which Trump described as a "total phony conjob, that was paid for by Crooked Hillary."


Fox viewers and AM talk radio listeners do not see a weak, vulgar, dishonest Trump, on the political ropes because of his misbehavior. They see a good, strong man under attack for standing up for old fashioned American values. They liken Trump to the Covington youth in the red MAGA hat, and the model, and Tom Brady, and every other misunderstood and unappreciated American. All are under siege by the media, and by snobs, Muslims, Socialists, Democrats, and criminals.

Trump is the good guy. That's what they see.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

"First Tier" Democratic candidates. Who decides??

Who gets to be on stage in the debates? Who is first tier? Who deserves media attention?

The Democratic debates are already complicated and contentious, and it puts identity politics back into the center of the Democratic message.

Starting line, Rome Marathon
The fastest runner is the one who gets to the finish line first. The American system of voting is called "first past the post," which means whoever gets the most votes wins. In a footrace this usually seems reasonable. 

In politics, in a two candidate race, it also seems fair. One person gets the majority.

The problem comes up when there are multiple candidates. When someone wins a plurality but not a majority, there is no clarity on who the majority of people actually favor. Maybe the candidates split the majority and an unpopular candidate won.

Moreover, a footrace only seems fair if all the runners start from the same distance from the finish line. But what if some runners--or candidates--have a disadvantage at the line-up, which actually happens in a large field of runners. 

Those are the kinds of problems facing Democrats.

We start with the reality that Democrats are exquisitely sensitive to bias in the nominating process, based on the 2016 experience. There will be multiple credible candidates, and candidates and their partisans will be looking for a thumb on the scale.

Entering the presidential race is easy. To be an official candidate for president in New Hampshire one must sign an affidavit stating that one is a member of the party for which they are filing and pay $1,000 in cash or a cashier's check. That's it. 

I photographed Sam Sloan doing exactly that on the same time that Bernie Sanders filed. Sanders and Sloan were legally on the same footing--both were Democratic candidates. Sanders wanted to raised taxes on billionaires; Sloan wanted schools to teach chess to improve the minds of students. Some people would define both candidates as "kooks," and Sanders the more dangerous. Others, of course, were thrilled by Sanders, the honest politician speaking truth to power. No one but me noticed Sloan.

Sam Sloan: candidate for President
In politics the criteria for deciding who is legitimate--separating Sanders from Sloan--is essential, but it is both subjective and suspect. 

Intuitively we "know" Sanders was a legitimate contender and Sloan was not. Sanders drew crowds, Sloan did not. Sanders had name recognition. Sloan did not. Polls showed Sanders would win. No one bothered to poll Sloan. That all means something.

But there is a chicken and egg problem, fully exposed by Trump. He entered the race as a TV celebrity. Republican candidates complained that the only questions the media asked them were what they thought about Trump. That amplified Trump's visibility and credibility as a candidate.

After 2016, polls to determine who is on the debate stage will be more suspect than ever. In 2016 the GOP candidates put into the "also-ran" second tier debate group complained the polling was all about name recognition, not real stature and credibility as a candidate. Lindsay Graham and Rick Santorum were, at least, white men who had had plenty of access to the media's Sunday TV shows. They complained, but no one cared. They were "losers." Trump mocked them.

In 2020 Democrats will have a complication: gender and racial prejudice. No Democrat had better mock anyone.

Democrats are highly sensitive to identity and prejudice.

Democratic political orthodoxy fully acknowledges the power of insidious, endemic, silent prejudice in the culture at every level, including within the elite establishment gatekeepers of the party, the media, the polling companies, the pundits, and academics. Since Democrats think bias is inescapable, they look for it. They are sure to find it in how the media covers this race and how the DNC handles the debates.

For example, if Tulsi Gabbard is defined as a "second tier" candidate for the purpose of debates, while Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren are considered "first tier frontrunners" some will question if this an artifact of racial, gender and religious bias. Does she not "seem plausible" because elite expert gatekeepers at the DNC have an expectation that real and legitimate candidates for president don't "look like her?" The media now describes her as a long shot. Is she considered such because she was defined as one from the beginning and is covered less closely by the media, or is she covered less closely because, after all, hardly anyone knows her or thinks she can win? Or because she is female? Or dark skinned? Or Hindu? Or a Bernie supporter?

Kamala Harris identifies as black and female; Cory Booker is a black male; Tulsi Gabbard is a Pacific Islander and Hindu; Elizabeth Warren is a white woman; Bernie Sanders is a Jewish male; Joe Biden is a straight white male--but old; Julian Castro is Latino. It goes on.

Every candidate has a claim. 

The media cannot possibly cover everyone equally, or enough. There were six to ten TV cameras and crews at every presidential event I attended in five states in 2016. But there is only so much air time and public interest and there may be a dozen or more Democratic candidates.

The problem with abundance
Republicans would have an easier time with this. Many deny prejudice exists.They say it ended in 1865. Get over it. The Republican position is that acknowledging prejudice does more harm than ignoring it, so minimize or deny it.

But for Democrats, a contentious mess is shaping up. No white media company or polling company or the DNC will have the legitimacy or standing to tell the world that anyone is less than first tier.

The problem for Democrats is that it will put the fairness of their party and its nominating process back into contention, and it will put identity grievance back into the center of Democratic messaging. That's a lose-lose situation.

Friday, January 25, 2019

The shutdown hurts. Two real life examples.

Wilbur Ross

Wilbur Ross, Commerce Secretary: "I don't really quite understand."

"These folks will get back pay once this whole thing gets settled down. So there is really not a good excuse why there should be a liquidity crisis now. Now true, the people might have to pay a little bit of interest. I don't really quite understand. . . . 

You're talking about 800,000 workers, and while I feel sorry for the individuals that have hardship cases. . . .you're talking about a third of a percent on GDP, so its not like it's a gigantic number overall."
      Wilbur Ross, age 81, net worth $2.5 billion.

To some people, the shutdown is more than an inconvenience. 

Odd resemblance
Not every one is a billionaire. A lot of people are young, and a lot of people work from paycheck to paycheck. Plus, a lot of people have business to do with the government, and they are stuck because it isn't doing its job.

I present two, real life situations, that I see personally, up close. I am changing the names, and lightly disguising the situations.

A young man is buying a farm. "William" is a young man of 25 who farms the 80 acres owned by his grandparents. It currently grows profitable crops of alfalfa and grass hay. It is class one soil (the best), flat, with flood irrigation, the simplest and easiest. He farms it evenings and weekends, while maintaining his day job as a mechanic and doing custom farming for neighboring farms. He has hustle. The grandparents collect the farm income and the grandson uses the farm equipment in his custom farm business, plus he is getting good training from an experienced farmer.  Win-win.
Young Farmer

The grandparents are delighted to have a family member to sell the farm to on easy terms. They want it to stay in the family. They need some cash from the sale to help them deal with medical expenses. The grandfather is in a nursing home the grandmother would like to get things settled because bills are accumulating.  Happily for everyone, the grandson is ready to buy them out, right now.

Again, win-win, right? No. There is a problem. 

Farms are complicated to finance through normal channels because the security for the loan is illiquid and because the natural buyers of farms are young and usually lack liquid collateral. That scares banks. The Department of Agriculture established a program to meet this need, a low interest loan program targeted to allow young, experienced farmers to purchase farm acreage where there is good evidence that profitable farming can take place--exactly this circumstance.

Everyone wants to get things settled, but the government is closed. His paperwork is just sitting there.

So the family waits, in limbo. This is the time William should be finalizing decisions for next year's crops, making arrangements with neighbor farms regarding custom farming duties, seeing about leasing out a portion of the farm to a specialty crop, and giving the grandparents the cash they need to pay medical bills. 

He is stuck. The government is shut down.

A young woman is lining up seasonal work as a wildlife biologist. "Linda" is 26 and has a new Masters Degree in Wildlife Biology from a top school. The early career progression for wildlife biologists is to do seasonal work in April to October contracts. The jobs typically involve field census work, for example counting the fish hatchlings or monitoring over-winter deer survival, which data is used in hydroelectric dam operations and determining hunting seasons. 

January is the hiring season, when young biologists are matched up with situations. Linda has cast a net of job applications to be hired for this year's field work--a job in Montana, one in Idaho, and two in Oregon--but everything is on hold. The websites to file applications are all on temporary shutdown. The process of reviewing applications and doing interviews would normally be going on now. It isn't. Eventually, presumably, the matchup will happen, but they will be making rush decisions, because they are missing a critical time window.

Meanwhile, there is a personal toll for Linda. She doesn't have a stock portfolio to fall back on. She rents her living space. She needs to be giving notice to her current landlord, and she needs to be lining up her living arrangement to start work in March or April or whenever and wherever, her next job is. She needs first, last, and a security deposit, and her current landlord wants 30 days notice, but she can't plan because everything is in limbo.
Federal Job Portal

She is stuck. The government is shut down.

William and Linda are two, real life examples of people hurt by this shutdown.

The public also suffers. There is a reason we count fish hatchlings. We need to know how much water we can run through the turbines and how much to spill to protect a salmon fishery. We want farms to be sold to the next generation of young farmers. It provides community stability--local people to serve on irrigation district boards, farm owners with community roots. 

Is anyone being hurt by the shutdown? Yes. Real people. William and Linda are real, and all of us are better off when they can get on with their lives. But they are stuck, waiting.