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.”

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.



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:

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.

The Central Park Five

One of the benefits of my new cable package is that it comes with Netflix, so I was able to watch the original mini-series by film maker Ana DuVernay, When They See Us. The series is powerful, the injustice overwhelming. The five young men convicted without evidence of the Central Park rape attack, which occurred in 1989, had their lives upended in ways that can’t be fixed by multi-million dollar settlements from the City of New York.

This Guardian piece was written in 2016, and talks about how big a role then-real estate developed Donald Trump played in inflaming public opinion against the young men. To this day, Trump focuses only on how effective his capacity to channel white fear by fueling racist themes has been, including electing him president. He’s never acknowledged being wrong about the Central Park Five, never showed a shred of remorse for his role in this terrible episode. Trump still maintains the Central Park Five are guilty, despite the confession of the actual rapist and confirming DNA evidence.

Curiously enough, Jerry and I had a window into how the justice system works for poor black defendants when we lived in Rochester, NY. In the spring of 1973, a white Kodak executive was found beaten to death in a seedy part of the city.  A young black woman working as a prostitute was arrested along with her pimp. The Rochester Police Department had its share of bad detectives, and a particularly notorious one beat confessions out of the two. Both were sentenced to 25 years to life. In 1998 the woman’s conviction was overturned, and she settled with the City for 1.2 million dollars. Someone sent her to our financial planning firm, to see if we could help her use the money as a path to a better life. She was 25 when she went to prison, and 50 when she got out. She was poorly educated, had no job skills and a long although unjustified prison record. She returned to the crime-ridden neighborhood where her family still lived, and attempted to build a new life.

Her story did not have a happy ending. I’m hoping that life for the Central Park Five will be better.

See the Netflix series if you can. It’s sobering.

Jared Kushner Speaks

Jared Kushner rarely speaks publicly, which as it turns out is a really good idea. God knows what he talks about behind closed doors with MBS, or with Bibi, or with immigration officials on the Texas/Mexico border. We’ll find out once Trump and his merry band of incompetents are out of office.

Privileged young white men like Kushner often forget that they got where they are because they have rich fathers and fathers-in-law who buy them entry and clean up their messes when they falter. If you want more specifics, Google “Kushner + 666 Park Avenue”. Regardless of his pricey misstep, Kusher apparently has supreme confidence in his ability. God help us.

Kushner recently allowed himself to be interviewed by Axios. How did it go? Vox called the interview “epically cringeworthy.” Slate called it “a clown show.”

Kushner, like his father-in-law Trump, is an entirely transactional person. He believes that if he can get Gulf states to throw some money toward the stateless Palestinians, they will forget all about their stolen land and lack of political rights and swoon over the Deal of the Century. As clueless as Mike Pompeo is, even he owned up to the fact that the Deal of the Century is one that only Israel can love.

You have to dig really hard in the Trump administration to find someone who is not clueless, corrupt, or incompetent — or all three. Nikki Haley is probably the exception, but then, she left her post and is taking a hiatus in the private sector.

We have at least another 18 months of this foolishness. Four more years and our democracy will be beyond repair.

Trump’s Rudeness Abroad

What does it say about Trump’s followers when they revel in his rudeness when he is representing the United States abroad? His behavior on this visit to Great Britain is boorish and embarrassing. I guess we have a lot of people in this country with bad manners, like their Fearless Leader. None of them should ever leave our shores and inflict themselves on the people of other countries.

Melania’s devil’s bargain, the one she made by marrying Trump to stay in this country, has to get harder all the time. She can’t stand by his side and still pretend to be a gracious person.

I get that other nations are still trying to come to terms with the Trump presidency. American’s economic and military might can hardly be ignored. Generally speaking, countries that flatter Trump and appeal to his ego fare better than the rest — at least in the short term. Longtime alliances make no difference to Trump — it’s all about bolstering his frail ego in the moment. But the rest of the world has to get that even abject flattery doesn’t buy them much. Trump turns on his “friends” just as quickly as he does on his enemies.

His remark about Meghan Markle being “nasty” is hardly the worst thing  he’s done on this visit, but I’m interested that he insists he never said it even though he’s on tape. Are his followers idiots who cry “fake news” despite the evidence of his own voice, or do they not care that he lies reflexively like a small child caught misbehaving?

History will wonder, not only about the damaged soul that is Trump, but about all the damaged souls who support or acquiesce as he breaks things all around the world — pointlessly,  meaninglessly, just because he can.

Why Is Trump Creating Chaos on All Fronts?

Trump is busy creating chaos on all fronts at once — with immigration, with the global economy, with a Middle East peace plan. The Cult of Trump believes him to be a stable genius with a method to his madness. Actually, he’s just a really poor businessman with a penchant for thrusting himself front and center in any situation — which fits his chaotic personality and flatters his ego. Think of his history, where he went bankrupt in most of the businesses he entered. He even lost money in the casino biz in New Jersey, which is like a license to print money for anyone even minimally competent and corrupt. Trump was corrupt enough but not competent, and he failed.

He’s busy doing to the world economy what he did in business: trying to earn the title The Biggest Loser. Don the Con.

The business community has been really slow to recognize that there are no limits to Trump’s incompetence. In their world, a guy like Trump would have been fired a long time ago. The business world can’t quite get that even thought he’s president, there’s no “there” there.

Tariffs for Mexico coming up, and God knows what else. Hold on to your hats.


I don’t start out as a Biden fan, so I’m not looking at his campaign with very favorable eyes to start with. That said, every time I see  pic of him campaigning, I think how old he looks. He’s not campaigning much. His staff says it’s because he’s the front runner. I think it’s because they are trying to conserve his energy.

He’s leading in the polls, and raising money at a respectable rate. But his crowds are on the small side, and quiet rather than enthusiastic. His people say the smaller crowds are because people already know him, and they are older and quieter and not prone to act like the Trump cult of snarling rally-goers.

That may be true, but I think small crowds and muted enthusiasm are a real problem and a serious warning sign for the Biden campaign.

We’ll see when Biden gets on stage with other Dem hopefuls. I’m hoping he looks like what he is: a man whose time has passed. I’m hoping for the clear emergence of a younger, smarter, more persuasive front-runner.

In 2014 the Atlantic published a piece by Dr. Ezekiel Emmanuel, which talks about 75 being a reasonable life span for all but the most exceptional among us. Periodically they put the piece up again, and I saw and re-read it in recent days. You can agree or disagree with Emmanuel’s specific points, like not taking antibiotics after 75, but the piece in general is a really good argument about why a guy as old as Biden ought not to run. You might say that Trump is no spring chicken either. I know, and look how that’s working out.

How Abortion Became the Conservative Hill-to-Die-On

At earlier points in our political history, women’s reproductive choice has not been the hill-to-die-on issue it is today, with some compromise possible under the rubric that abortion should be “safe, legal, and rare”. I’ve been wondering why the transformation, why the intensity of the culture wars around controlling women’s bodies.

Michael Wear, writing for the Atlantic, has an opinion piece that is well worth reading. His explanation is encapsulated for me in this opening paragraph:

Abortion politics in 2019 is a morality play about what happens when one side has all the political power, yet feels culturally embattled. In this atmosphere, victories are not satisfying if they leave the other side with a foothold, a vestige of respectability. Cataclysmic discord lies ahead.”

Curiously I read another piece this morning, about Mitch McConnell saying with a smirk on his face that of course he’d fill a Supreme Court seat in the final year of Trump’s first term, even though McConnell prevented President Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, from even being considered.
The short answer is that both abortion and seating conservative justices is now all about exercising power and dominance.
The problem I see for our democracy is that these ultra-conservative positions do not reflect the will of the majority. What happens, over time, when these fringe positions are enforced upon all of us?
Cataclysmic discord, Wear thinks.