The 2020 Democratic Field

Might be wishful thinking, but my sense is growing that we’re in the midst of a generational change election. Longtime Rep. Eliot Engel, whose district encompasses parts of the Bronx and Westchester County, is getting a Democratic primary challenger for the first time in years, maybe decades. Engel is 72. Shades of the stunning victory by AOC.

By that standard, Biden is looking old. I’ve heard some of his gee-whiz folks answers to Trump taunts, and they don’t impress me. Biden certainly is getting under Trump’s skin. Granted no one has figured out how to effectively counter Trump’s nastiness and go-for-the-jugular campaign persona, so Biden deserves his chance. He’s ahead in the polls against other Dems, ahead of Trump in one-on-one matchups, and ahead in fund raising. We’ll see, once the pace of the campaign speeds up, whether Biden can stay the front-runner. That’s a tactful way of saying we’ll see if the old guy can keep up.

Of the top tier Dems, I’m liking Buttigieg.  Is the country ready to consider a gay man ahead of a woman? Alas, yes. I thought the country was growing more comfortable with women as leaders and moral agents in our own right. Electing Trump tells us otherwise, plain and simple. If being a serial groper of women isn’t disqualifying on its face, then we have a long way to go as a country. The recent rash of control-women-at-all-costs laws in red states furthers the case.

Buttigieg is whip-smart, has boots on the ground military experience, is actually running something — although a small city to be sure — is articulate and quick on his feet, and his positions just might thread the needle between moderate and progressive Dems, at least enough to get him elected.

Will rural Alabama or Pennsylvania vote for a gay man? No. But they won’t vote for a Democrat anyway, regardless.

You know what the Trump campaign, and Mr. Nasty in Chief, would do with a gay man as an opponent. But it’s going to be ugly anyway, just because of who Trump is.

I’m watching the campaign with interest, and with some hope.

The Straight Arrow and the Con

Tom McCarthy, writing for the London Guardian, thinks Trump won the messaging war over the Mueller investigation.

“For when the pursuit of justice took Mueller into unprecedented terrain – as the special counsel’s investigation came under sustained public attack by the president and the attorney general, William Barr – Mueller failed, his critics say, both to stand up for his investigation and to get the word out to the American people about what he had found.

“To my mind, this is a Shakespearean-level tragedy,” said Patrick Cotter, a former federal prosecutor who was part of the team that convicted the Gambino family boss John Gotti. “It is the tragedy of the principled person, who is constrained by principle, being opposed by the completely unprincipled – Barr, and the president, and their lackeys.

“The principled are chained, and the unprincipled romp free. And in a debate over reality, the unprincipled will always win, because they will just lie, and they will make reality whatever they want it to be.”

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jun/11/robert-mueller-trump-russia-investigation

Americans by and large don’t read long, dense, intellectually challenging material any more.

Did Mueller think people were going to read his report and reflect on it? Perhaps he did. In that, he was totally outfoxed by Trump’s bluster and active Twitter finger.

One of things I found out reading the report is that Mueller defined collusion as the presence of a formal agreement between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives. No, there wasn’t that. But what were all those contacts about? Forty percent of the country doesn’t seem to care.

Who, or what, will finally take down Trump?

In the 1940’s and 1950’s, Robert Moses was a New York public official and the subject of Robert Caro’s book The Power Broker. Moses wielded an unusual degree of influence in New York city, and no one could take him on through any legitimate channels. He was eventually double-crossed by an even bigger shark, David Rockefeller — a political dynasty figure in his own right and head of Chase Manhattan Bank. The bad guy wasn’t undone through the democratic process or anything related to it, but by underhanded behavior by a man society deemed a figure of rectitude.

Bob Mueller didn’t want to be that in our time, more’s the pity. History awaits today’s version of the bigger shark.

 

Getting to Know Seattle: Cruise Season in Full Swing

When I lived in Belltown I used to walk along the waterfront at least once a week. Now, although I walk no less, that isn’t one of my regular routes. We had a beautiful weekend, so on Saturday I set out. There was a lot to see. By the time I returned home I’d walked 8 miles. I did cut myself a break and take the bus up the steep hill. My legs were tired.

Cruise season is in full swing. I’m always astonished at how close I can get to the huge cruise ships docked at Pier 66 — Norwegian Cruise Line, usually. This one is bigger than most — must be a brand new ship. By 9:30 am most passengers are off, and the new lot are already lining up to board.

I walked by around 10am. Think how much has to be done to get the ship ready for an approximate 4pm departure — x3, because there are at least three ships this size in port every Saturday and Sunday from now until mid-October. Big business for the Port of Seattle.

Farther along on my walk I met a couple from El Paso, Texas, trying to find Pike Place Market. They came in on Saturday for a Sunday departure on Princess, and were trying to see as much of the city as they could in one day. They attached themselves to me, as I was heading in that direction. They were a bit affronted at a homeless person sleeping in the entryway of the closed Federal Building. Actually, the Seattle Police work hard to keep homeless away from the main tourist areas, so this sight was fairly rare. The Texans told me sternly they thought it was time to get tough with these people, they should be taken up and arrested and sent wherever.

Yup. That’s my image of Texas. Perfectly nice people otherwise.

Getting to Know Seattle: Occidental Square

Farther along my walk I came to Pioneer Square, which is touristy, and a few blocks from that Occidental Square, which isn’t.

Poor Seattle and rich, trendy Seattle exist literally a few steps from each other. Occidental Square is a lovely, shady urban respite. During the work week there are food trucks selling lunch to the many workers who walk over during the mid-day break. There are tables and chairs, games like ping pong, chess, and bean bags, often live music. There are small eateries and specialty shops all around the square. On weekends there are urban festivals.

There is always a long table where free sack lunches are provided to the poor, often homeless, who hang around. Just across the square are the hot new coffee shops, bars, and expensive places to get a sit down lunch with wine.

Occidental Square.Trendy shops to right of tree line. Tables with free sack lunch to left.

Poor Occidental Square, the free lunch line.

Trendy Occidental Square

Getting to Know Seattle: Taking Down the Viaduct

I had no idea the de-construction of the old and structurally compromised Viaduct was so far along. This has been a two-tiered highway skirting the waterfront along Seattle’s west side, a major north-south traffic route, and it’s been replaced by a tunnel. The viaduct is coming down in huge swathes of concrete and rebar and metal and dust; fascinating to watch, even on a Saturday. Parts of the viaduct that are embedded in other structures, like the pedestrian crossway between 1st Ave. and the ferry terminal await later demolition; they stand untethered  and impassable.

Once the viaduct is entirely removed you’ll be able to walk from 1st Avenue to the waterfront unimpeded, where there will be parks and other amenities in addition to the cruise and ferry terminals, the ferris wheel, and the other tourist-oriented attractions. Great structural change for downtown Seattle.

A chunk of viaduct still standing that supports the pedestrian walkway from the ferry terminal.

Road to nowhere.

You can see how close to buildings the demolition is.

Viaduct coming down chunk by chunk.

Getting to Know Seattle: Rock n’ Roll Marathon

Rock n’ Roll Marathon is a national franchise, so the race happens in many cities during the summer months. Sunday was Seattle’s turn.

The race came right by my house, and I’m astonished at how many people tackled this super hilly challenge. The runners came right by my street, a steady stream of them for a couple of hours. They came up the back end of Queen Anne hill, which means they ran down the super steep seven blocks going into the city. Running downhill is really hard on the shins.

Early risers and dog walkers were along the route to cheer them on.

Seattle is an outdoorsy city, and this race has lots of appeal for runners and race watchers alike. Great kickoff to the summer season.

There was actually a young-ish woman, but old enough to know better, standing on the sidewalk in front of my house screaming “f***ing awesome” in a loud screechy voice as people passed. Sigh. I hardly know what to say. One of the race monitors finally went up and asked her to move along.

Getting to Know Seattle: Firsts of the Season

I’m a warm weather person, so the joys of spring, summer, and even fall far outstrip any pleasures that winter might bring. I can look at pictures of snow and be just as happy as having it outside my door.

The first local strawberries came in this week here in Seattle, and I’m in heaven. There’s nothing like the taste of a freshly picked local strawberry — so different from the tepid flavor of Driscoll strawberries available year round in the plastic clamshell container. One of the vendors at our neighborhood farmer’s market has strawberries into August, and I enjoy them all summer long.

Spring also means WNBA games, which aren’t quite as thrilling as my beloved Tour de France, but which I follow religiously. The Tour runs July 6-28, and it’s the only time I have the TV on for four hours a day. WNBA season began May 24 and ends in late September or early October, depending on how many playoff games there are.

Spring in Seattle also means leaving jackets behind, entering the dry season where watering gardens and plants is essential, more easy sources of food for the raccoons so they aren’t ripping up my lawn to find grubs, summer music festivals, cookouts and time at the pool with my family, more outdoor entertaining at my house.

To that last point, one of the best things about renting Sara’s house is my back deck, which is just off the kitchen and my small family room. This pic is early morning, but think of the deck awash in afternoon sun. It stays light here in Seattle until almost 9:30 pm at this time of year, so think of me enjoying the deck in many forms, including on my own with a glass of wine or cup of tea and a book. 🙂 Appealing, no?

“Incels”

When I was in high school we used to have two basic categories: the popular kids, and everyone else. “Everyone else” broke down into subgroups, and most of us who weren’t in the most popular crowd nonetheless found our peeps. I worked on the school newspaper, and we were a tight group of friends, guys and girls typically not paired off, who worked on the paper after school but also went to Saturday afternoon football games and the dances after. I did have a steady boyfriend, two classes ahead, which I guess made me doubly fortunate.

A small number of kids were isolated loners, unable to find a group to be part of. Some of those kids did better socially in college and in the work world, when there was a wider selection of others with whom to find common interest.

An even smaller subset of the loners became angry, hopeless adults. Pre-internet, they were isolated, with no easy way to amplify their outsider status and perpetually stoke their rage.

Now, with social media, young men who are unable to form relationships — with women, in particular — are their own category: “incels”, or involuntary celibates. Rather than confronting their social ineptness, they form a victim chorus with rage toward the women they believe spurn them and deny them the sex and female subservience they are entitled to.

Here are two articles about the men who gather under this odd new umbrella:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/men-are-in-trouble-incels-are-proof/2019/06/07/8d6ad596-8936-11e9-a870-b9c411dc4312_story.html?utm_term=.d4fbde6a6736

https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/local/yoga-shooting-incel-attack-fueled-by-male-supremacy/?utm_term=.cbb6a3a13f2c

I read both of these articles shaking my head. I hear the newly focused danger to women from these angry men. But I’m unwilling to have women accept responsibility or blame for isolated, angry loners who can’t get sex.

We need a lot more focus on this new threat to women’s lives, and more resources to combat it. Despite Trump’s bellicose rhetoric, the danger to women is not coming from the world’s 1B Muslims, or from desperate immigrants on our southern border. It’s coming from our own communities, our own neighborhoods, from the boys and men we grew up with.

 

Native Americans and The Solomon’s Choice in Adoption

White America has a terrible history to overcome in terms of our treatment of Native American children. They were taken from their families, often under the auspices of the Catholic Church, and put into orphanages or foster homes whose focus was to destroy any shred of their Indian identity. They were punished for speaking indigenous languages, given “white kid” hair cuts rather than having their long braids, taught that their people were dirty and inferior, made to worship a light-skinned, blue eyed English-speaking God. Often the children were brutally beaten and sexually abused. They were rarely loved, or even treated with basic kindness.

Laws were passed, eventually, protecting the rights of indigenous tribes to have priority in adoption of their children. Hard to argue with that as a philosophy, or a corrective entitlement.

But there are individual Native American children who wind up in long term foster care with white families, and are eventually adopted by them after bonds of affection are formed on both sides. Hard to tell a three or four or five year old child that the only family he’s ever known is the not the right family for him, and that although he will suffer at being removed, he’ll be better off in the long run. Sometimes judges rule in favor of the adopting family, against the tribe.

The situation described in this article is even more complicated. At issue is a newborn Navajo girl whose brother is adopted by a white family. They want her too, arguing that the siblings have a right to be raised together. The Navajo nation takes the opposite stance. They have blood relatives of both children who will raise the little girl. The tribe has already lost her brother. They say they cannot lose her too.

This is one of those situations where two fundamental and legitimate rights are clashing and incompatible. I can’t fathom how any judge makes a right decision.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/05/health/navajo-children-custody-fight.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_190606

“Back Row America”

The phrase “back row America” in the London Guardian caught my eye. The article is about American towns and cities that remain unaffected by the economic boom. The focus in this piece is on Gary, Indiana — the state where Mike Pence was governor, if you recall.

The author, Chris Arnade, has a new book, Dignity, from which this article is drawn.

In back row America McDonalds, which is likely to be just down the street from WalMart, a bail bondsman, several payday loan companies, and a pawn shop, is the town’s de facto community center. People sit there all day, out of the harsh weather, in a social environment with access to coffee and cheap food. They play dominoes, read the Bible, stare through big glass windows into the wrecked neighborhoods that used to thrive when Gary was an industrial city. Homeless people use the rest room and wash out their clothes, drying things with the hand drier mounted on the wall.

Back row American sounds unrelievedly depressing. No wonder people turn to drugs.

At another table is an older man about Sylvester’s age, dressed entirely in white except for a black Stetson. He introduces himself as Jesus Christ, without any hint of craziness. He is friendly and in the mood to chat, talking about his past, talking about his work.

“I grew up here, only went away to do two years in the army, then worked for Ford Motors for 18.9 years.” Like Sylvester, he talks about how Gary was when he was younger, about the bars, the clubs, the gambling. When he is done, I ask him if he is religious. He stops.

Well, I believe in reading the Bible.”

I ask him why he goes by Jesus Christ, and he pulls out his wallet and shows me his driver’s license and bank card – both with the name Jesus Christ.

Before I leave, I ask him one last question: “I don’t mean to be rude, but you ever been mixed up with drugs?”

He smiles.

“Not much. I quit all that. Just do cocaine now.”

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jun/05/america-dignity-chris-arnade-book-extract-poverty

Does it matter, to the rest of us, that there is back row American to be found in every region of the country? That’s another way of asking whether profound inequality matters. Let’s watch the all the candidates on the 2020 stump, and see who, other than Elizabeth Warren, talks about back row America in any serious way.