Clowns to the left, jokers to the right, and no one left in the middle (Democrat debate night #1)

The thing that came across most strongly in the debate last night was that of the ten candidates on the stage, it seemed like only John Delaney had the gumption to say things that were unpopular to hear, in particular, that you can’t go around promising everything to everybody for free and that he trusts Nancy Pelosi’s judgement about the question of impeachment. The rest of it was painful to listen to.

I took notes during the debate, but President Trump pretty much upstaged the entire crew with a single-word tweet – Boring!

The lighting at the venue was terrible. I know that television requires very bright lights, but whatever mix of colors they were using made everyone’s skin tone look paler, to the point where Julian Castro looked as much half-Asian as he did Hispanic. And the flickering of the screen behind them kept me from wanting to look at my TV for too long (I was watching over-the-air on NBC) .

As far as substance, it seemed like each one of them was trying to go left as far as possible. Big corporations, evil. Big pharma, evil. President Trump, evil. Impeach, oh yes. Do away with immigration laws – a given. Drug laws – abolish! Oh, and let’s make “big pharma” be criminally liable for the opioide epidemic. The “contenders” each had to try to go a little further, damn the consequences of these actions. Let’s not question anybody at the border, because nobody ever uses children as their ticket to get across the border. Human trafficking? Doesn’t exist.

NBC had clearly picked out who were the “contenders”, and were very unfair about it, to the point where they basically told John Delaney to shut up on more than one occasion. Also given very little time were Tim Ryan, Jay Inslee, and Bill de Blasio. In the case of de Blasio, when he did speak, he came off as bombastic, and Inslee irritated me to no end. Apparently, he sees the job of Governor of Washington state as a way to spread the insanity of the Emerald City (Seattle) to the rest of the state. But his ambition doesn’t end there! He’d like to bring it to the entire country.

Ryan, de Blasio, and Delaney were trying to drive the point that the Democrat party needs to get back to having a blue-collar, working class center in order to win elections, but I think those points were being ignored both by the “contenders” and by NBC itself.

Amy Klobuchar came off as intensely unlikable, kind of like a smug sorority girl. It didn’t help that one of her zingers was related to alcohol. Also, the attempt to pander to Midwest Democrats on the gun issue fell flat.

Having heard about Tulsi Gabbard for some time now, I was actually disappointed in how “boiler plate pandering” most of her actual positions sounded. She’s an interesting person; I don’t think she’s necessarily lock-step with the Democrats on many issues, and her service in the military is admirable, but in this venue, when push came to shove, I don’t think she was willing to say anything even mildly unpopular here. She came out top on a Drudge poll for the winner, however, I wonder if she’ll end up in the same kind of situation Carly Fiorina found herself in back in the 2016 race.

Then there was the Spanish. Yes, I know the thing was being broadcast on Univision, but it was terrible. Look, I grew up with Spanish all around me , and at five years old could put simple sentences together in the language. I have done almost zero with it since. However, it was obvious that Beto didn’t learn Spanish the way you would interacting with Mexicans (and other Hispanics) in everyday life in El Paso. And he even goofed grammatically. Cory Booker, and, shockingly, Julian Castro, also sounded similarly inauthentic – as though the Spanish came out of language class rather than real life. This isn’t necessarily terrible, but both George W. Bush and Jeb Bush sound much closer to Spanish spoken by Spanish-speakers than any of these clowns, and then you have someone like Marco Rubio – who is completely fluent in Spanish – and it makes these attempts sound even more pathetic and more like pandering.

There’s a rundown of impressions of the candidates which is pretty good which can be hound here ( and is also worth reading. I’m planning on watching the debates tonight as well.

Rahm’s really bad day

Rahm Emanuel, at the beginning of his mayoral tenure in Chicago, promised to be a force to be reckoned with. He had managed to come from being President Obama’s Chief of Staff, after winning a battle to legally prove residency in Chicago (exploiting a law enacted for military who were stationed outside of Illinois to still be eligible for Illinois public office). He was known as President Obama’s “enforcer”. He was legendary for his antics , including sending a dead fish to a pollster with whom he had worked, and with whom he was livid and picking a political fight with a Democrat member of Congress in a locker room and whilst completely naked. John Kass, pretty much the only reason to continue reading the Chicago Tribune, popularized the moniker “Rahmfather” in referring to Emanuel, and it was a persona which Emanuel himself enjoyed.

The election of Emanuel to mayor, like much of politics in Chicago, seemed preordained, that the silly little election was merely a formality, a show for the rest of the country. Sure, it gave Emanuel a chance to get some cash into his coffers, build alliances, and see who his first enemies (those supporting the other Democrats in the race) were, but everything about the campaign screamed “foregone conclusion”, from his campaign flyers “Chicago for Rahm” to his coziness with Chicago Democrat royalty – the Obamas.

The thing was, though, that even with all the inevitablity, it seemed like Emanuel had no great love for Chicago, that this position would merely serve Emanuel’s own political career, feeding his ego, and giving him a platform to launch his next political bid, something more national in nature.

And so Emanuel became mayor of Chicago. He came in with the swagger and the reputation of someone who was completely ruthless. In some cases, he was practical, such as trying to (finally) close many schools which had declining enrollment and were running at well under half-capacity. Of course, this upset the Chicago Teacher’s Union, which is incredibly powerful, and which holds a lot of sway with voters.

However, in the quest to make Chicago more progressive, Emanuel seems to have totally lost any sort of control over lawlessness in the city. With all the howling the progressives made about a proposed Chik-fil-A on Elston Avenue (not even the first one in the city), real crime was exploding. Yes, Chicago has been known for ages to be a very dangerous city, but that’s only half the story. Up until Emanuel’s tenure, most of the violent crime was limited to certain neighborhoods. The mayors Daley understood this. They understood that there was no real “fixing” of culture. Chicago is remarkable in that there are so many groups that are there, or who have come through and left their mark. Every neighborhood has a unique history, attested to, in large part, through architecture. Yet, at its heart, Chicago is a very American city, and also very Midwestern, and outside of downtown, generally very unassuming. Fifteen years ago, the neighborhoods that weren’t plagued by violence were generally as safe as most of Western Europe at the same time, and I remember revelling in the freedom that allowed me as a teenager in the city. Of course, we had to be careful, especially as I lived in a pretty sketchy neighborhood for some of that time, but I stayed away from the gangs and the drugs, and I was left alone. The Daleys understood the city, every corner, I’d guess, and for as corrupt as they were, I believe that they also loved the city, and did what they could to make it as livable as possible for the greatest number of people.

A lot of this extended to people’s political sense. The Daleys WERE the political machine, in a city where Democrat is a default, and those who are outwardly not Democrat could be punished severely. At the same time, they very much represent an older Democrat party, a party who wanted to be seen as the champion of the “everyman”, the party who came to the rescue of those who did not have much. This is a powerful message to a city where a lot of the residents are recent immigrants, the Polish, the Koreans, the Mexicans, etc. Especially for the contingents from Eastern Europe, who often fled from persecution, political, religious, or otherwise, the promise that there was a political party who would “listen” to them, having nothing, knowing no one, etc., is hard to resist. And so the Daleys made sure that although the Democrat grip on the city was absolute, one didn’t necessarily feel threatened for occasionally uttering beliefs countering those of the Democrat party. They were also careful not to follow the lead of Detroit, and while race was certainly a Democrat “issue”, they made sure that it didn’t turn to an all-out war.

However, the new Democrat Party cannot abide by this; it is not enough to have absolute control of the city, but it is imperative that every citizen be inundated in progressive propaganda until each one understands that resistance is futile and full of repercussions. Emanuel is the full embodiment of that, from “little things” like Chik-fil-a to major endeavors such as introducing an “Afro-centric” curriculum to all public schools.

I believe this strategy has backfired for Emanuel, and as he leaves mayoral office, it is done with a whimper, the result of Chicago’s real issues coming back to bite him. With all the crying and screaming about “income inequality”, the bigger story is probably how Chicago’s middle class is disappearing. The middle class, in large part, is made up of families, in large part because they are stable, they pay taxes, they invest in the places where they live, they have children who often also stay and are deeply invested in the city of their birth. This loyalty is not absolute, though, and as taxes go up, crime goes up, the schools get worse and worse, eventually they leave. They leave the city, they leave the state.

The Jussie Smollett case has been a huge black eye to the city of Chicago, and in particular to Mayor Emanuel. No one who lives there believed that this happened. MAGA country? Chicago? You’ve got to be be kidding! The entire incident was completely preposterous from the beginning. 2am on one of the coldest nights in decades? Give me a break! I’m not saying something like this couldn’t have happened, but just like Steinmetz High School supposedly beating Whitney Young in Academic Decathlon,(the story upon which the HBO movie Cheaters was based) it was highly unlikely, to the point of being nigh on statistically impossible. And just like when the stories of the Steinmetz team members were examined, Smollett’s story fell apart under similar scrutiny.

How did this hurt Emanuel? Well, first of all, this didn’t get “fixed” in the early stages of the investigation. Stuff like this is supposed to disappear. Secondly, he was pretty much forced to take the side of law enforcement, if nothing else but for the reason that were he not to, his tenure as mayor would probably be ending in actual unrest in the city. This is not how you want things to end if you’re looking to bigger things.

However, Smollett just happens to be politically connected himself. His sisters have deep connections to Michelle Obama’s chief of staff, and one of them was even a personal guest of the Obamas at the White House. And so when push came to shove, phone calls were placed, the appropriate people were told what to do, and Jussie Smollett walks from 16 felony charges with nothing more than forfeiting $10,000 – nothing to someone making his kind of money.

Rahm, though, is left holding the bag. The decision, apparently, was made behind his back, and announced without his knowledge. Of course, this could all be theater, but I’m rather of the opinion that it was a big middle finger to Obama’s former Chief of Staff, signalling that when push comes to shove, the interests of the Obamas, with all their race-hustling and what have you, trump any loyalty that might have been shown to Emanuel, as Jewish males aren’t really considered a “victim class” in the Democrat party of today. Quite the opposite.

The thing that makes me believe that this may not be just theater on Emanuel’s part is the fact that Emanuel is now attempting to bill Smollett for the costs associated with the investigation. He may think that this move is a bold one, but rather than being noteworthy in the way that the dead fish was, it smacks of desperation, a last ditch effort to come out “even” after losing a game. This is not Rahm Emanuel acting from a position of power, but of someone who has been humiliated. I could even feel sorry for him after this – but figure my emotions are better spent elsewhere.

Everything in Chicago is politics. Where you live, the car you drive, the number of kids you have, where they go to school, the brand of tennis shoes you wear. It’s all politics. It’s a game of who can virtue-signal the best. When you have someone like the Obamas or Emanuel in charge, you never want to be the one to be the first to stop applauding them. Which is all part of the reason that I, as so many others, have left the city, and fight against this sort of corruption in the places we live now.

However, the Machine is merciless; if you’re not clamoring to its levers of power, you’re more than likely going to be eaten up by it. Look at Governor Blagojevich… He thought he played it to the top and could use his position for his own self-aggrandizement, but his corruption was allowed to be revealed for the sake of saving the rest of the corrupt appartus. Who benefits? Time will tell. It’s certainly not the people of Chicago.

Stacey Abrams SOTU response

I watched the State of the Union Address on television last night, and though I hadn’t been planning to write about it, now I actually have made two posts concerning it, though the other isn’t quite done yet. However, since I think the Democrat response is probably going to be pooh-poohed by most Republicans and Conservatives, I figured I’d share my reaction to this first.

I hadn’t been planning to listen to the Democrat response, but I did, and I’m actually glad I did. The response was given by Stacey Abrams, who recently lost a close election for Governor of Georgia. I know that a lot of the “conservative” media immediately panned what she had to say and how she said it, but all in all, I don’t think it was a bad response.

First off, after last year, the Democrats learned that the SOTU response shouldn’t be given by a Kennedy with a car as a backdrop. How stupid was that last year?! Furthermore, Abrams gave a speech I was not expecting, not so much bashing President Trump, but actually trying to be somewhat uplifting and inspirational, which many Democrats have a hard time doing. Furthermore, she didn’t come of as being as partisan as say, Nancy Pelosi, and she didn’t come of as air-headed as someone like Debbie Wasserman-Schulz often does.

However, I think she inadvertently made points that she wasn’t intending. She talked about her parents juggling them both having jobs but only one car. It’s a terrible thing to say, but the truth is is that most black children these days do not have a mother and father at home, and the fact that she is an accomplished, well-spoken adult speaks to the fact that when children do grow up with both parents – regardless of race – they are in a much better position to accomplish great things.

Secondly, she gave an example of her parents’ generosity to the “community” in an anecdote about her father, who, if he didn’t have the family car to drive back from work, would get rides or even hitchhike. On this particular day, it was cold and rainy and it had taken him so long in getting back that their mother went out with the car to look for him. When she found him, he no longer had his jacket, having given it to a homeless man. His explanation was that even if they were both cold, he knew that once he got home to his family, he’d be warm again. While she meant this as a story about the need for community, in giving the man his jacket, it speaks at least as strongly to the place of family in one’s life.

Because of this, in many ways, it reminded me a lot of many Republicans’ speeches, and I don’t think that this was an accident. I think, knowing that a lot of Republicans would be watching, she wanted to sound as aspirational as possible, matching President Trump’s tone. When she started throwing in elements of Democrat beliefs, I think the purpose was to make it sound like the Democrats and Republicans both believe in this idea of “America”, but that we merely disagree about ways to make it better. At a time when Democrats really are making a name for themselves for their extreme views, Abrams sounded very much like she was a Democrat from a bygone era.

However, when she started listing out what the Democrats would like to do, that’s when she started making unforced errors. President Trump has been very quiet about his successes with the economy, and I don’t think the Democrats were expecting him to say quite so much about it, so when she started rattling off grievances about lack of jobs and what have you, it made it sound like she was talking about an alternate universe. To some degree, she qualified this to “good jobs with union protections”, but to the rest of us, availability of jobs and employers in a place where they need to raise wages are at least as good of a “protection” than a union could ever provide.

She also whined a little about the government shutdown and the fact that people were delayed in receiving pay. Yes, most of us understand that this was a huge inconvenience for many government workers. On the other hand, many of us have also had to weather such “inconveniences”, and one really has no choice but to live through it.

At the very end, she kind of rattled off a list of other things Democrats stand for. This sounded like a list of cliched talking points, for example, that supposedly, so many women “particularly black women” risk their lives to give birth. Umm. Not true. That the “LGBTQ community” is “under attack”. Seriously? That we need “progress”. Hmm… Somewhere I’ve heard these things, in the same type of language more times than I could ever count.

All in all, it wasn’t terrible. However, I do want to note two other things, the first having to do with delivery. I had never heard Ms. Abrams speak before, and I was really surprised by her speech. First of all, she didn’t “talk black”. Yes, I know it’s pretty taboo to say that, but I’m a language person, and twenty years ago, people were all debating whether “Ebonics” was it’s own language or not. That in itself should be enough to make it obvious that many black people speak in a way that few non-black people do. Being a “language person”, I do sound different in different situations because that’s the way my mind processes things. However, I’kind of tend to believe that if Ms. Abrams were a Republican and gave this address, she would be criticized to a great degree for “sounding white”, and being accused of neglecting her roots and all that. Secondly, she didn’t even sound Southern. Now, I see that she was born in Madison, Wisconsin, but the family moved to Mississippi when she was a child. I just have to wonder about whether she’s cultivated that to try to sound “better” than all the stereotypes about Southerners in general – both black and white.

The second thing is that Ms. Abrams made mention that both of her parents became pastors. This isn’t a bad thing. However, mentioning it, I think, gets used as a political tool in way too many cases; it’s something that gets touted to assert moral authority over an audience, like saying, “Well, my parents were Godly people, I grew up in a Godly household, and I learned well from them what’s right and wrong, so you’d better not dare question any of my political positions.” That doesn’t sit well with me at all, it reminds me a lot of the “Conspicuous Christianity” that seemed to be all the rage in the 1980s. President Trump’s approach, in contrast, in this regard was actually quite humble, simply acknowledging God in the more old-fashioned way of God being the conduit through with great things – even the impossible – are done, and speaking to aligning the nation’s values to His so that we may continue to be the recipients of His great bounty.