Friday, January 31, 2020

Trying to make sense of Iowa

Lots of Chicago activists are driving to Iowa this weekend to knock on doors for Sanders or Warren. Is the trip worth their while? Hard to say.

A recent Sanders surge in the polls has the party leadership in a panic. But there's not much they can do about it, fearing a push to stop him would backfire

I can only imagine what Warren's Chicago people are saying to Iowans about Bernie and vice-versa.

How important are the Iowa caucuses as a predictor of who will win the nomination? Not very. Since 1972, caucasions (sic & pun intended) have had a 55% success rate at predicting which Democrat will win. It's more than obvious that states like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania are the key states to watch, with candidates rising or falling on black-voter turnout in cities like Detroit, Milwaukee, and Philly.

But that doesn't mean Iowa isn't important. For example, if certain candidates, ie. Buttigieg, Warren, Klobuchar, stumble badly in Iowa, they may never get to MI. On the other hand, if an unlikely winner pulls an upset in Iowa, like Obama did in 2008, it could mean more credibility with voters and campaign donors nationally. The Iowa campaign is also important as a prerequisite to battling Trump on issues like farming and trade war with China.

My prediction: A close finish between Sanders and Biden who will put some distance between themselves and the rest of the pack. I think Biden will win, mainly because the progressive movement on the ground is so badly split.

Biden is currently at 23% in the polls. Bernie at 21%. Warren at 10%. Put those last two numbers together and you've got something.

But prospects for progressive unity in Iowa and beyond, are pretty dim right now, especially given the all-out anti-left assault by the DNC, aimed mainly at Sanders voters (so-called "Bernie Bros"). See my previous post for more on this.

An interesting side note... Iowa State/Civiqs poll found Sanders leading among 18-to-34-year-olds with 33% while Biden got just 1%! That survey estimated that 47% of likely caucus-goers will be under 50 years old, a boon for Sanders’s topline number, whereas the 2016 entrance poll found that just 42% of caucus-goers were under the age of 50.

A trend to watch after Iowa.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

An irreparable split?

"Nobody likes [Bernie], nobody wants to work with him, he got nothing done...It is not only him. It's the culture around him. It's his leadership team. It's his prominent supporters. It's his online Bernie Bros... -- Hillary Clinton
 "The knives are out." -- Michael Moore
Until a few weeks ago, I was backing either Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders in the primary, whichever one was shown to have the best chance of defeating Trump in November. They were both seen by voters as the representatives of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party and despite their own obvious differences over some issues, they refused to attack each other during the primary debates.

But that all changed when party leadership, including Warren, decided to launch an all-out anti-Bernie offensive, aimed at splitting and defeating their left opposition, no matter what the cost in November.

Just when the polls started showing a possible victory for any of the top Democratic Party nominees in November, a seemingly irreparable split between regulars and progressives has badly damaged the party's chances.

Panicking over Joe Biden's floundering campaign and Sanders' emergence as the frontrunner in Iowa, his running strong New Hampshire, and Nevada, and his having emerged, according to The New York Times, as "the dominant liberal force in the 2020 race", party leaders have stepped up their attacks on Bernie and his supporters.

In Iowa.

The attacks have been crude, vicious, and broad-brushed, leaving little room for retraction or resolution once the primaries are over.

The latest tossed out there by AFT Pres. Randi Weingarten, referred to Bernie supporters as a "virtual lynch mob". Ugh! She retweets this post by Kurt Bardella, a media strategist who previously worked as a spokesperson for Breitbart News:
Virtual lynch mobs are not something people of color or women — or anyone — should have to just live with.
Talk about intolerance for different opinions... Doesn't Hillary loyalist Weingarten realize that this supposed lynch mob includes thousands of her own union's rank-and-file members?

Sadly, Elizabeth Warren, possibly feeling the pressure from big party campaign donors and seeing a possible path to replace Biden as the party leadership's chosen one, has broken ranks with the progressives and joined in the anti-Sanders assault. An early sign was her campaign's leak of a private conversation she had with Bernie and the unprincipled bloc she formed with Amy Klobuchar (see my January 16th post) during the last debate. Warren and Klobuchar share little in common on the most important political issues, but their attack on Bernie earned them the NYT's co-endorsement. Whatever that's worth.
Brother Fred and I will be discussing this and more, Friday on Hitting Left. Tune in 11-noon CT on WLPN 105.5 FM in Chicago. Streaming live at
Party leaders, desperate for a credible centrist flag bearer, have even rehabilitated Hillary Clinton who has become their main anti-left gunslinger. She fired the first big barrage, claiming that most Bernie supporters weren't loyal Democrats, and then this assessment of Sanders' populist-socialist agenda?
"It's all just baloney and I feel so bad that people got sucked into it."
Clinton's blast was the green flag for her followers to join in.

Sanders willingly signed a loyalty pledge required of all candidates, promising to run and govern as a Democrat if he won the presidency.

But my first question is, will party leaders themselves honor the pledge should Sanders win the nomination? Answer, doubtful.

My second question is, can the progressive coalition be put back together again after the split? Answer, if the similar split that happened around Chicago's mayor's race is any indication, not likely.

And third, can the Democrats defeat Trump without active support from their progressive base? Answer, no.

Monday, January 27, 2020


Jim Carroll
“In basketball, you can correct your mistakes immediately and beautifully, and in midair.” -- Esquire
Betsy DeVos
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos compared the choice to have an abortion with the choice to own slaves, saying President Abraham Lincoln also had to contend with a misguided “pro-choice” argument. -- Washington Post
Chesa Boudin
John Raphling, Human Rights Watch
“For too long, prosecutors have used money bail and pretrial incarceration as leverage to pressure people to plead guilty regardless of actual guilt. Boudin’s policy favoring pretrial release is a welcome change and will build the credibility of our courts.” -- The Nation
Mary Louise Kelly, “All Things Considered” host on NPR
Kelly, remarkably, said that Pompeo asked her after the interview, “Do you think Americans care about Ukraine?” and asked her to find the country on a blank map, apparently suggesting she didn’t even know. She said she did, and Pompeo concluded the scene by saying, “People will hear about this.” -- Washington Post
 Donald Trump
"Take her out." -- Recording

Monday, January 20, 2020

The radical Dr. King

“In a sense, you could say we’re involved in the class struggle.”
Quote to New York Times reporter, José Iglesias, 1968.
Today we, as a nation, celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King who was born 91 years ago and assassinated in Memphis in 1968 while speaking in support of unionizing municipal workers. It's a good day to remember Dr. King, not as the harmless icon, portrayed in the mainstream media and in textbooks, but as the unapologetic radical anti-war, anti-capitalist, he was.

This is how King saw things:
“We must recognize that we can’t solve our problem now until there is a radical redistribution of economic and political power… this means a revolution of values and other things. We must see now that the evils of racism, economic exploitation and militarism are all tied together… you can’t really get rid of one without getting rid of the others… the whole structure of American life must be changed. America is a hypocritical nation and [we] must put [our] own house in order.” -- Report to SCLC Staff, May 1967.
Trump's "very fine people" want no part of King's legacy. Instead they are rallying today in Richmond, VA to defend their precious assault weapons from Gov. Wortham's proposed modest gun-control legislation. Small groups of armed white supremacists, vigilante groups,  and nazis are moving to infiltrate the march and cause a "white uprising" resulting in an all-out race war.

Trump gave them all the green light on Friday when he tweeted:

Yes, I was onto something in my previous post (Klobuchar was the worst of the six). NYT just co-endorsed Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar in an anybody-but-Bernie move. Yes, they're both women. And Democrats would vote for either in a face-off with Trump.

But Warren's blocking with Klobuchar to attack Sanders during the last debate was an effort to legitimize herself to party leadership and peel away Sanders voters. It's an unprincipled block since up til now, she's had much more in common with Sanders than with Klobuchar. Whether the tactic will work or not in Iowa remains to be seen.

Those wringing their hands over the growing and undeniable polarizing of national politics and the rise of right and left-wing populism should remember that the political polarization is an echo of economic polarization, meaning the widening wealth and income gap and the collapse of the middle class.

Bernie Sanders, and to a lesser degree, Elizabeth Warren, are the only candidates speaking directly to the wealth and income gap. Their split and the ensuing rupture of their progressive base and any liberal consensus should leave both Biden and Trump smiling.

Anton Seals Jr. was on Hitting Left, Friday...
Cooperative farming is a central aspect of Seal’s community organizing. When he talks about the development of cooperative farming on the hundreds of acres of open land in Englewood, Seals draws a clear historical connection to the African and African American experience as stewards of the land, even in slavery, and the forced migration – as a result of racist terror – from the former Confederacy to Chicago. -- Fred Klonsky's blog
You can download the entire Seals interview from

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Klobuchar was the worst of the six.

"And then when it comes to Iraq, right now, I would leave our troops there, despite the mess that has been created by Donald Trump." -- Amy Klobuchar at Des Moines debate.
Of the six candidates on stage in Des Moines Tuesday night, Amy Klobuchar was by far, the worst.

She outflanked the others on the right on nearly every issue, from war to the economy, to the environment. She doesn't support a wealth tax or Medicare for all, tuition-free K-16 public ed, and if elected, won't repeal Trump’s tax break for the rich.

She wants to keep troops in Afghanistan and Iraq and keep nuclear weapons in southern Turkey. She defended the assassination of Gen. Soleimani. She's a big fan of Israeli policy towards the Palestinians and says that as president, she would "bring in American support again in a big way for Israel." She wants to keep the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem and leave in place the Trump administration’s policies on Israeli settlements.

And on it goes.

In other words, Klobuchar represents a wing of the Democratic Party that stands in direct opposition to progressives like Sanders and Warren on most of the fundamental issues.

She even slams Warren personally for being "too wonky."

So my question is, why would Elizabeth Warren decide to block with Klobuchar against Sanders Tuesday night? Was it just to score a few quick points against her long-time political ally in order to supplant him as the current progressive frontrunner? Was it simply an act of retaliation for Sanders' alleged "a woman can't win" comment in a private conversation? If so, it failed badly. It was a short-sighted, opportunist move that will divide the progressive wing of the party and will likely hurt mainly her as well as Sanders' chances of winning the nomination.

I hope not.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Last night, they somewhat, actually debated the war.

Bloomberg on Colbert: "We are the superpower of the world.” 
I missed the beginning because the Duke/Clemson basketball ended late. Clemson pulled the exciting upset over #2 Blue Demons (fallen angels?)

But I did catch the war debate.

Bernie Sanders and to a lesser degree Elizabeth Warren were the only candidates who took a forthright anti-war stance following Trump's assassination of Gen. Soleimani.

Last night, the rest were wavering on the war issue. You know, keep our embassy in Baghdad. Leave special forces in place. OK to use mercs, drones or even all-out war with congressional approval. All especially seemed agreed on that last point -- no spending on war with Iran without a vote in Congress. That's a good thing, given the current situation.

However, it belies the fact that congress (including most Democrats), has already given Trump and the Pentagon the trillions they need to carry on their eternal war to protect the oil.

But you could watch, especially Joe Biden, wriggle around the question,
BIDEN: Well, I tell you what, there's a difference between combat troops and leaving special forces in position.
Biden admitted he "mistakenly" voted for the war in Iraq (Oops!). But then tried to hide behind Obama.
I said 13 years ago it was a mistake to give the president the authority to go to war if, in fact, he couldn't get inspectors into Iraq to stop what — thought to be the attempt to get a nuclear weapon. It was a mistake, and I acknowledged that.
But right — the man who also argued against that war, Barack Obama, picked me to be his vice president. And once we — once we were elected president, he turned — and vice president, he turned to me and asked me to end that war.

But, only a few days ago, Biden had John Kerry arguing he hadn't really voted for the war. Or if he did, it was because Republicans tricked him into it.
“It was a mistake to have trusted them, I guess, and we paid a high price for it,” Kerry added. “But that was not voting for the war.”
These two need to get in a room together and get their stories straight.

Today's Washington Post summed it up best:
With tensions with Iran and controversy over President Trump’s decision to kill Qasem Soleimani big in the news, Democrats had a chance to define their party on the issue. And the debate began on that subject, with the candidates talking at some length. What we got instead was a lot of general talk about taking out combat troops but leaving in other troops who would be tasked with other missions.
As for the rest of the debate, again it was Sanders and Warren standing up for real reform on healthcare and education and the rest arguing “How we gonna pay for it”? (on everything but war).

Biden, Buttigieg, Klobuchar want Medicare for some, college for some, daycare for some, bring some troops home. It’s the Some Party.

Some of the craziest moments came from Buttigieg, who argues against Bernie's call for tuition-free college. PB doesn't think the wealthy should be allowed to send their kids to tuition-free public universities (and I assume to public schools in general).
And I don't think subsidizing the children of millionaires and billionaires to pay absolutely zero in tuition at public colleges is the best use of those scarce taxpayer dollars. 
Mayor Pete, I believe that's why they call it PUBLIC EDUCATION, public healthcare, public parks, and public space in general. Public schools would be much better funded if white parents and yes, rich white parents sent their kids there. You should be about taxing the wealthiest the most. Not excluding them from tuition-free public space.

The real winner of the debate may have been a candidate who didn't even take part. Appearing on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” immediately after the debate, Billionaire Michael Bloomberg got more unchallenged talk time than any of the six.

Bloomberg echoed the neocon line, promising that he would lead the U.S. to war if the national security of America is directly threatened,
“and if the rest of the world is threatened, we have an obligation to go and help. We are the superpower of the world, and with superpower status comes responsibility.” 
When you're as rich and powerful as Bloomberg and the leader of the "superpower of the world," I don't suppose you need congressional approval to do anything, invade or bomb anyone. Just ask Donald Trump.

Monday, January 13, 2020


Champaign State’s Attorney Julia Rietz
...told WBEZ in an interview Friday afternoon that her office is involved in a “comprehensive investigation” with the Illinois Attorney General, the Illinois State Police and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of Illinois into the content of the email.
“There are efforts being made to unravel this – again – cryptic, unspecific allegation regarding a sexual assault,” Rietz said. -- WBEZ
Hamilton Nolan at the Guardian
Nothing requires less courage than letting yourself go along with a march towards war when you have the biggest military in the world. Show me a candidate willing to fight for peace, and I’ll show you the future. -- The Democrats must become a real anti-war party
State's Atty. Kim Foxx
We've got to have an inside/outside game. Chesa's [Boudin] election should speak to that. -- Hitting Left interview
Tracy Littlejohn, educator and homeschool coordinator
“I’ve gone into some fourth-grade classrooms where they thought we were extinct,” said Littlejohn, a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation. -- LaCrosse Tribune
D.T.'s mercenary army
“I said to Saudi Arabia, you want more troops, I’ll send them to you, but you’ve gotta pay us... they’ve already deposited $1 Billion.” -- Rolling Stone

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Complicit Democrats can redeem themselves on Iran war budget vote

Senators Bernie Sanders and Ro Khanna push anti-war legislation
"Every member of Congress who voted to give the most corrupt, unhinged, and unstable president in history $738 billion to fight endless wars...must never tell us that we cannot afford Medicare for All or a Green New Deal." -- Warren Gunnels, Sanders senior adviser

Despite their claims that congress wasn't consulted in advance of the latest U.S. aggressive moves against Iran, Democrats had a chance to make their voices heard. Instead, they are in many ways complicit.

For one thing, they passed on chances to constrain military aggression against Iran in the recent Pentagon budget debate. Only 41 House Democrats, voted against the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which increased the Pentagon budget by $22 billion, including billions for Trump's bogus Space Force. The final vote was 377-48. Democrats voted overwhelmingly for passage without any restrictions on the use of funds in a war with Iran.

One of the omitted amendments in the annual National Defense Authorization Act, sponsored by Reps. Ro Khanna (D-CA) and Matt Gaetz (R-FL), would have barred Trump from using federal dollars for military action against Iran without congressional approval. Although the measure was included in an earlier draft of the NDAA, it was later stripped out in the compromise version that Democrats voted for anyway.

Khanna, one of the members who vocally opposed the NDAA in December, argued that his amendment would have prevented the US from using government funds to conduct the strike against Soleimani. Whether his claim is real or not remains a question, given Trump’s potential for ignoring Congress and violating the Constitution.

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) also sought to include an amendment in the NDAA that would limit the 2001 Authorization of Use of Military Force (AUMF), which permits the president to take action against anyone responsible for or associated with the 9/11 terrorist attacks, arguing that it was too broad. Administrations have since used the AUMF to wage military action across the Middle East, efforts that have been seen as further expanding the executive branch’s war powers.

More than 30 progressive and anti-war organizations — including MoveOn and Indivisible — expressed disagreement with the bill, too. “It is a blank check for endless wars, fuel for the further militarization of US foreign policy, and a gift to Donald Trump,” they wrote in their December statement.

On Sunday, Trump warned Iranian leaders against any military retaliation by boasting on Twitter that,
“The United States just spent Two Trillion Dollars on Military Equipment” and that if necessary he would use it to hit Iran “very fast and very hard.”
The $1.4 trillion spending deal for 2020 that became law in December includes about $695 billion for the Pentagon, an increase of about $19 billion from the 2019 level.

But Democrats still have a chance to redeem themselves in an effort to prevent all-out war with Iran by supporting a House bill introduced by Lee and Rep. Ilhan Omar and a Senate bill sponsored by Khanna and Bernie Sanders that would block funding for any military action "in or against Iran" without congressional authorization.

We should be watching closely and taking names on who votes which way.

Monday, January 6, 2020


Evangelical Trump supporters at Miami rally, "He was sent to us."
Donald Trump
"God is on our side." -- N.Y. Times
Rep. Ilhan Omar
“‪Let’s not mince words: the assassination of Qasem Soleimani was an act of war undertaken without Congressional authorization, in violation of the Constitution of the United States of America. We in Congress must exercise our Constitutional duty—and do everything in our power to stop another disastrous war. ” -- Press Release
Adel Abdul Mahdi, Prime Minister of Iraq
Adel Abdul Mahdi recommended that the government establish a timetable for the departure of foreign troops, including the members of the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State militant group, “for the sake of our national sovereignty.”
“What happened was a political assassination,” Abdul Mahdi said. -- Washington Post
Sec. of State Mike Pompeo
Iraqis — Iraqis — dancing in the street for freedom; thankful that General Soleimani is no more. -- Twitter

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Trump's Orwellian doublespeak on Iran attack

“War is peace/freedom is slavery/ ignorance is strength.” -- George Orwell's "1984"
Trump, the master of Orwellian doublespeak, claims that he assassinated leader, Gen. Soleimani in order to "stop a war, not to start one." But as a result of the attack, a new stage in the continuing and escalating "eternal war" in the middle east now seems inevitable.

Trump has now committed 3,000 more troops to Iraq and there's already been a second U.S. airstrike, this one against an Iraqi military convoy, yesterday. Trump's latest war provocation is not just directed against Iran, but against the Iraqi coalition government as well. Iraqi prime minister, Adel Abdul Mahdi, is moving ahead with legislation calling on all American troops to withdraw to leave the country.

For me, the most stunning part of all this has been the bipartisan cheering for the assassination of a foreign leader (where do they think that will lead?) and especially the wishy-washy response on the part of the Democratic Party leadership to Trump's war provocation. I shouldn't be surprised really, given how many Dems signed on to Bush's invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Chief among the assassination cheerleaders was, of course, Joe Biden.
"No American will mourn Qassem Soleimani's passing. He deserved to be brought to justice for his crimes against American troops and thousands of innocents throughout the region."
Nancy Pelosi's only issue seems to be Trump's failure to consult Congress first. It's a good issue but I wonder how Dems would have voted if he had. Didn’t they just vote with Republicans to approve the $1.48 trillion Pentagon war budget?

I'm pissed at Elizabeth Warren -- who until this week was one of my presidential faves -- after her initial response to Soleimani's killing echoed Trump's doublespeak. While Cory Booker was on CNN, justifying the assassination of Suleimani "as a bad man from a dangerous regime" at the same time expressing "concern" about the war, Warren was on Twitter doing the same.
Yes, costly indeed. It took two or three more tries for her to come out with a clear statement opposing war with Iran.

Empty suit, Pete Buttigieg...
"The top priority of a Commander-in-Chief must be to protect Americans and our national security interests. There is no question that Qassim Suleimani was a threat to that safety and security, and that he masterminded threats and attacks on Americans and our allies, leading to hundreds of deaths. But there are serious questions about how this decision was made and whether we are prepared for the consequences."
As those who follow me on Twitter know, I've been tweeting about little else since the killing of Soleimani. One of my posts had to to with regime-change policy architect Hillary Clinton's threat to "obliterate Iran" in response to an attack on Israel. The genocidal language sickened me back in '08 when she was running for president against Barack Obama. and in many ways set the stage for Trumpian war talk today.

I was expecting strong pushback on this from the right and pro-Israel trolls. But the only negative reaction I got was from left/liberal think-tanker and former N.Y. teacher union leader, Leo Casey who accused me of buying "the Gleen Greenwald-Matt Tiabi line on how Clinton would take us to war, while Trump would give us peace?" Whatever the hell that means.

Of course, I never said any of that.

As expected, Bernie Sanders broke from the party line and was strong and clear from the start.

Enough talk. Time for action. The family and I are about to head downtown to join Chicago's anti-war marchers. I hope to see you down there or wherever you are marching today.