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Will Ocasio-Cortez resonate enough as a surrogate for Bernie Sanders in Iowa?

U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, joined U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, Independent of Vermont, on the campaign trail this weekend in Iowa as candidates for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination try to persuade potential Iowa caucus voters to select them during the February 3 caucuses.

Ms Ocasio-Cortez exuded her usual youthful exuberance today during a rally in Ames, Iowa as she introduced Mr Sanders, who by now is now stranger to the state during this, his second run for president.  One of his ardent supporters, Mr Sanders is relying on Ms Ocasio-Cortez and other surrogates to help him campaign in Iowa as he and 99 other senators sit through the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.

Mr Sanders is doing well in the political prediction markets.  On the PredictIt exchange, the chance of a “yes” event is selling at $.40, roughly translating into a probability of .4 that Mr Sanders will win the Iowa caucus.  A “yes” contract on his closest rival, former vice-president Joe Biden, is selling at $.35.

Higher probability of a win doesn’t necessarily translate into a sure thing. Just flash back to Hillary Clinton’s expected coronation in 2016.  Conventional polling is putting Mr Biden ahead of Mr Sanders.  Real Clear Politics has Mr Biden polling at 21% of potential Iowa caucus participants voting for the former vice-president while 20.6% of Iowans are expected to give Mr Sanders the nod.

The Hill, citing a USA Today/Suffolk University survey, has Mr Biden polling at 25% while Mr Sanders is polling at 19%.

According to analysis by Reuters, what may be working in Mr Biden’s favor is his perceived electability, with the concern regarding who is more likely to beat Mr Trump looming on Iowans’ minds. Mr Biden also appears to be making the case on his foreign affairs experience given the criticism President Trump has received after a U.S. attack in Iraq on a high ranking Iranian military officer.

And with U.S. Senator Amy Klubachar, Democrat of Minnesota, and U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, joining Mr Sanders in Washington for the Senate impeachment trial, Mr. Biden has the Hawkeye state practically all to himself, given him opportunity to get his message out.

Question is, can Ms Ocasio-Cortez provide effective surrogacy on behalf of Mr Sanders?

 

What Americans consider as political power is not enhanced by impeachment trial…

For most Americans, political power is wrapped up in the vote, their ability to select the the candidate of their choice to occupy a public office.  Political power is about engaging in various forums i.e. courts, voting booths, administrative hearings, etc., in order to get other political actors, i.e. voters, public officials, media, business firms, etc., to get you what you want.

In a republic, the electorate hopes to see gains in political power manifested in the officials they choose.  Donald Trump with the aid of approximately 62,984,828 popular votes and 304 votes in the Electoral College became the manifestation; certified by America’s electoral process as the chief executive who would exercise political power specifically on behalf of those whose political values he asserted to share during his campaign.

The approximately 65,853,514 American voters not sharing Mr. Trump’s political values via their elected agents in the U.S. House of Representatives have decided that to wrest political power from Mr. Trump that impeachment of the President is their best strategy for placing political power into the hands of the Left.  To paraphrase U.S. Representative Al Green, Democrat from Texas, failure to impeach Mr Trump today would result in his re-election.  This lack of faith in the Democrats’ ability to beat Mr Trump in the voting booth should be most telling about how the Democratic Party assesses its own power of persuasion over the American electorate, an incapacity that does not get too much attention.

What does impeachment get you?

If the Democrats are successful in removing Mr Trump from office, the immediate gains in their political power will be reflected how? Yes, among their base Congressional Democratic approval ratings may receive a bump because they would have delivered on their promise to remove Mr Trump, but in order to increase their power, they would need to take the Senate in the fall as well.  Will the Democrats be able to spread the taint of a disgraced U.S. president to his Republican colleagues in the Senate or will Republican voters be emboldened to do everything in their power to ensure that the Senate stays in Republican hands?

But even if the Democrats are able to win control of both Houses of Congress in the fall combined with a removal of Mr Trump, what does that say about the voter’s political power?  What does this say about the importance of the vote?  Is it okay that close to 300 individuals in the Congress would in effect invalidate and throw out the 63 million popular votes and 304 Electoral College votes?  Shouldn’t the electorate, with just over seven months to go to the 2020 general elections, be allowed to determine whether or not Mr Trump receives another four years in the White House?  What does impeachment say about how seriously Congress takes the exercise of democracy?

More importantly, what does the impeachment say about individual political power? One takeaway is that individual political power is severely diluted on the national level due not only to one vote being merely one vote among 130 million votes, but is increasingly made irrelevant by the actions of a handful of men and women in Washington.  Americans may be so caught up in the “we, we, we” of this impeachment trial that they run the risk of not being able to answer the “so what?” question when the trial is over.

Where the benefits of democracy don’t equal its costs …

It is no wonder that democracy is taking a hit in popularity around the world.  Democracy’s dwindling efficacy, if it ever had any, is being exposed in the world’s most noted “democracy”, the United States.  Where significant portions of the American populace is stressed over their inability to create an economy that works for them, that stress is compounded by an electoral system that they have no control over.  This is ironic in a society where “democracy” promises that one person’s vote is as important as another person’s vote.

I would argue that participation in the national vote is less important a tool of individual political power and more important in the validation of national government’s rule over the individual.  National government has to demonstrate that it has validity with the people and does this with a national tally.  National government has to consistently show why it has the power to tax 300 million people and what better way to get “permission” than to encourage the election franchise.  Ask people to describe what the returns are to their vote and they would be hard pressed to describe any tangible benefits that may equate with any tangible hits they take on their wallets when taxes are due.

As an avenue of political power, the vote has not succeeded in aligning the tangible costs of tax liability with any tangible benefits of government.  While one can speak of the benefits of a standing army, harbors, highways, and medicare, most cannot define what the actual cost to the taxpayer is.  The taxpayer does not even demand an itemized bill from government so that she can verify the returns from the tax dollar she pays for alleged benefits.

Nor does it behoove government to offer up an itemized bill.  The blow back and scrutiny from the public would be too much for legislators to address.

Conclusion: Impeachment is a campaign tool on steroids …

What should be asked by the voter is how does impeachment increase my political power. What message does impeachment send about the benefits I receive from government?  Does impeachment increase my ability to influence government? As I have shared before, I see impeachment as a distraction.  Impeachment is a campaign tool on steroids, clearly used as a marketing tool by one political faction to gain public support for a political power grab.  Democrats hope their attempts to remove the President will taint Senate Republicans with the end result being control of both Houses of Congress.

I just don’t see such a power grab, where electoral power is circumvented by an impeachment process, resulting in more political power for the individual.  If anything, it shows how weakened American democracy has become.

Toward a republic: The reining in of democracy …

The dilemma of the masses …

I don’t see any benefit from “people politics.”  I think the notion of democracy, where each person gets a say in choosing who leads a society, has fooled people into believing that it takes the masses to get anything done.  I agree that one person can’t move the mountains necessary for creating a society, but it doesn’t take a large mass of people either.  Masses are considered by a small number of leading individuals as either a battering ram that knocks down perceived doors to power or as the sponge that absorbs the costs of building a society with the gains going to the leader of the pack.

The masses always end up with scraps that depreciate in value.  They are so busy working to pay the taxes that fund that venture capital firm called government that they make no time to participate in the management of society.

Frankly, I like it that way.  The tyranny of the masses of people who operate on their passions and misinformation frightens me.  Just listen to C-SPAN’s Washington Journal any morning and you will cringe at the misinformation that emanates from some of the callers’ mouths.  While I do not believe that citizens should be deprived of basic needs, I don’t think that the masses of citizens should be involved in policy making.  I would be dishonest by saying that the franchise of voting should be open to all.

On the contrary, it needs to be denied to most.  The best way for the individual to enjoy maximum protection is for all avenues that trespass on her liberty to be closed or severely blocked.

One example of the severity of mass ignorance is the removal trial of President Donald J. Trump occurring in Washington.  The Democrats, uncertain of a victory over Mr Trump by any of its current candidates for their party’s nomination, have created a narrative designed to enrage and engage the electorate, the narrative being that Mr Trump abused his power by withholding military funds from the nation of Ukraine and that Mr Trump’s refusal to proffer White House staff for testimony before the House during its investigation of such abuse amounted to the “crime” of obstructing Congress.

The Democrats target rich environment of voters includes those who, rather than educating themselves on how the law defines presidential power or how the law defines abuse of that power, base their preference for impeachment on their genuine dislike for the President’s personality.  The Democrats rather have an uninformed angry mob going into the voting booth this November versus an informed one.

Hence the dilemma of the masses. On the one hand, an uninformed tool easily riled by a party leadership. On the other hand, a mob that has no problem tainting a man’s legacy with charges found nowhere in the Constitution or federal statutes.

Time to rein in democracy ….

American democracy, at least on the national level, needs to be reined in.  The Democrats would not be able to create consternation in the electorate for the purpose of generating momentum to the ballot booth if the electorate were not so easily reached.  One approach would be to get rid of the popular vote and go to an enhanced republican system.  While the voter continues to vote for their state representatives and state chief executives, state legislatures would be responsible for selecting from their own bodies the representatives to Congress.  Congress would then be responsible for selecting the president and vice-president from its chambers.

The biggest benefit from an improved republic would be that in one fell swoop, voters could punish state representatives that selected the congressmen that voted for an ineffective or criminal president.  Washington would stay on edge.  To ensure that the needs of citizens are addressed first, Washington might stay focused on domestic issues versus adventurous campaigns abroad.  The Executive and the Congress may find themselves in greater coordination on policy knowing that ineffective policy behavior by one branch of government severely impacts the other.  Less conflict and more cooperation and communication would reduce the chances of the reckless impeachment behavior we are seeing now in Washington.

Conclusion ….

Democracy isn’t working.  Democracy, by offering a passionate, uninformed mass to weigh in on the selection of leadership, creates gamesmanship that stokes fear rather than reason.  It needs to be reined in.

Is Joe Biden taking Georgia for granted?

Biden leading in the Peach State …

PredictIt has Joe Biden, candidate for the Democratic Party’s nomination for president, leading the rest of the Democratic field with a positive event selling at a price of $.75.  This roughly translates into a .75 probability, on a scale of zero to one, of victory in the Georgia primaries. According to PredictIt market data, Mr. Biden’s closest challenger is U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders whose chance of victory is priced at about $.14.

Democrats hope to turn the Peach State at least purple in 2020 given the demographic changes that Georgia is seeing, particularly in its Atlanta suburbs. The incumbent, Donald Trump, who beat Hillary Clinton by five percentage points in 2016, holds a lead over the top Democratic contenders, according to reporting by The Hill. Citing data from the Mason-Dixon poll, The Hill reports that Mr. Trump has support from 51% of Georgia’s likely voters versus 44% of likely voters that give Mr. Biden the nod.

…but is Georgia really on Biden’s mind?

What should be of concern to Georgia’s Democratic voters is what appears to be a lack of infrastructure on the ground.  My review of Mr. Biden’s website saw no events planned before Georgia’s primary which is scheduled for 24 March.  Mr. Biden has apparently for strategic reasons skipped any events in Atlanta celebrating the birthday of civil rights leader the late Dr. Martin Luther King, choosing instead to attend events this weekend in Charleston, South Carolina.  Given that the South Carolina primaries occur at the end of February and given that blacks make up approximately 60% of the Palmetto State’s Democratic Party voting base, Mr. Biden may put more sealant on an expected primary victory.

The midnight train to Georgia ….

If Mr. Biden is true to his word given back in June 2019, Democrats may not see the former vice-president in Georgia until August or September should he win the party’s nomination.  According to a report in Bloomberg, Mr. Biden believes he can carry a number of southern states, including Georgia, and promised to campaign in Georgia during the general election.

Given Mr. Trump’s 2016 victory and an apparent maintenance of the buffer Mr. Trump built during that election, Mr. Biden will have to lay tracks immediately after the South Carolina primaries.  Not only does he have a seven percentage point gap to close, but will need reinforced infrastructure to mitigate against any derailment that may be spawned from Mr. Trump’s removal trial in the Senate.  Individual donors and political action committees should be prepared to pitch in the emergency cash.

 

Sanders, Biden lead in Iowa. Is Buttigieg a buy?

Biden, Sanders nipping at the heels …

The latest Real Clear Politics poll has former U.S. vice-president Joe Biden garnering 20.7% of the nod among likely voters in the Iowa caucus.  U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders is nipping at Mr. Biden’s heels with 20.3% of likely caucus participants supporting the independent senator from Vermont.

While Mr. Sanders continues to draw on the support he had during the 2016 campaign for the Democratic nomination, Mr. Biden has been able to maintain his front-runner status based on a more centrist approach to policy and political capital built up among black voters given his eight years as vice-president in the Barack Obama administration.

Buttigieg rising …

Meanwhile, Real Clear Politics polling data sees former South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg still in the hunt polling at 18.7%. A relative unknown two years ago, Mr. Buttigieg has been able to leverage, according to Axios, $2.3 million in television advertisements, 100 staff on the ground, and 20 field offices in Iowa to put him in striking distance of a win in Iowa.

Mr. Buttigieg’s third place status behind Messrs Biden and Sanders exposes his unknown factor.  He has done well nationally given that he was not known outside of South Bend until recently.  Whether he can raise his media profile in the next three weeks enough to get him over the top remains to be seen.  Mr. Biden and Mr. Sanders receive much more mentions from media, thus taking up needed oxygen for Mr. Buttigieg’s campaign to fuel itself on.

In addition to media, the philosophical space that Mr. Buttigieg seems more inclined to occupy has been taken up by Mr. Biden.  Mr. Biden moved to the middle immediately on his decision to run, his centrist approach being of no surprise to many observers.  Mr. Sanders, on the other hand, has stuck with his progressive policy rhetoric, positions that have endeared him to voters occupying the far left including a significant number of young and college-aged voters.

Mr. Buttigieg, while recognized as a moderate, cannot dominate the middle among Iowa voters and will seem less than genuine should he move left.

What may also be weighing on Mr. Buttigieg’s ability to leap ahead of Messrs Biden and Sanders is the view of black Americans toward his candidacy.  Although blacks are waning demographically, they still comprise a significant voting block within the Democratic Party.  Mr. Buttigieg has very little support among black voters and expression of this lack of support will manifest itself on 29 February when voters go to the South Carolina primary.  The specter of this onslaught may be looming over the polls in Iowa as Iowans who are more concerned about selecting the candidate best situated to beat Donald Trump decide to make a perceived securer choice in either Mr. Biden or Mr. Sanders.

The prediction markets …

The political prediction markets are giving Mr. Sanders the highest probability of winning one day after the last debate prior to the Iowa caucus.  PredictIt is pricing an affirmative on a Sanders’ victory at $.46 while pricing an affirmative on a Biden victory at $.32. Mr. Buttigieg’s chances at victory as determined in the prediction markets looks more in line with his poll numbers where PredictIt is pricing his chances of winning at $.17.

Is Buttigieg a buy?

Locking in Mr. Buttigieg at $.17 with the hope of a 500% return on the chances of a Buttigieg win would require two things.  First, Mr. Buttigieg will have to increase his media exposure by continuing to message via broadcast media, social media, and newspapers.  Second, he would need monumental gaffes on the part of both Mr. Biden and Mr. Sanders.  While Mr. Biden is known historically for misspeaking, Mr. Sanders has been very disciplined in his messaging.  This week’s allegations that Mr. Sanders shared with Senator Elizabeth Warren in 2018 his doubts about a woman beating Mr. Trump in 2020 seems not to have had much of an impact on his campaign.

What could cause some disruption in the Biden campaign is any testimony offered during the Senate’s removal trial of Mr. Trump where such testimony describes any impropriety on the part of Mr. Biden in his son’s service on an energy company’s board in Ukraine.  Even so, we believe that such testimony would only serve to secure Mr. Sanders’ lead.

Conclusion

We don’t see Mr. Buttigieg winning Iowa.  Iowans want to increase the chances of selecting a candidate that can go toe to toe with the President.  While the payoff would be substantial, the chances of a Biden or Sanders fall in Iowa are not high enough.

Andrew Yang’s candidacy has a realistic view of America’s digital future

The eye-catcher ….

This afternoon during a town hall meeting in Bedford, New Hampshire, Andrew Yang, contender for the Democratic nomination for president, made the argument that his fellow candidates for president were not aware that the United States is in a fourth industrial revolution.  Just what is this fourth industrial revolution that Mr. Yang is referring to?

You’re in the Matrix, baby…

In his book, “The Fourth Industrial Revolution”, Klaus Schwab describes the environment spawning the revolution of technology and how it impacts work, government, and the economy:

“We have yet to grasp fully the speed and breadth of this new revolution.  Consider the unlimited possibilities of having billions of people connected by mobile devices, giving rise to unprecedented processing power, storage capabilities and knowledge access.  Or think about the staggering confluence of emerging technology breakthroughs, covering wide-ranging fields such as artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, the internet of things (IoT), autonomous vehicles, 3D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science, energy storage, and quantum computing, to name a few.  Many of these innovations are in their infancy, but they are already reaching an inflection point in their development as they build on and amplify each other in a fusion of technologies across the physical, digital, and biological worlds.

We are witnessing profound shifts across all industries, marked by the emergence of new business models, the disruption of incumbents and the reshaping of production, consumption, transportation and delivery systems.  On the societal front, a paradigm shift is underway in how we work and communicate, as well as how we express, inform, and entertain ourselves.  Equally, governments and institutions are being reshaped, as are systems of education, healthcare and transportation, among many others. New ways of using technology to change behavior and our systems of production and consumption also offer the potential for supporting the regeneration and preservation of natural environments, rather than creating hidden costs in the form of externalities.”

We have all heard the buzz terms “automation” and “AI” bandied about.  We take for granted that advanced communications bring us closer to our global neighbors, where we once occupied local space, i.e. being at home or driving thirty minutes to work, some of us now work on a daily basis with a colleague located in Mumbai, Bonn, or London.

Automation, as Mr. Yang reminded us today in Bedford, threatens to replace workers in fast food restaurants, grocery stores, and automobile plants.  But we professionals are threatened, too.  Just yesterday my employer emailed workers sharing the news of a partnership with a tech firm that uses technology that reduces the number of documents attorneys have to review.  The upside is that attorneys may have more time to apply critical thinking skills to activities that they do best: problem solve.  The down side is that we may need fewer attorneys to do certain types of work.

Change is never a factor that should be absent from our expectations

And what of agile response as part of governance?

Not only does government face policy challenges when addressing a changing labor market, government will face challenges from digital platforms capable of providing services government currently has a monopoly on.  Again, citing Mr. Schwab:

“In summary, in a world where essential public functions, social communication and personal information migrate to digital platforms, governments—in collaboration with business and civil society—need to create the rules, checks and balances to maintain justice, competitiveness, fairness, inclusive intellectual property, safety and reliability.

Two conceptual approaches exist.  In the first, everything that is not explicitly forbidden is allowed.  In the second, everything that is not explicitly allowed is forbidden.  Government must blend these approaches.”

One recent example of the challenges government could face from competing platforms is the proposal by Facebook to introduce a stablecoin. A stablecoin is a cryptocurrency that uses an asset or a reserve currency as a back up.  In other words, the asset or reserve currency can be used to as a measure of the stablecoin’s value.  Policy makers such as U.S. Representative Maxine Waters, Democrat of California, have expressed reservations that Facebook and other digital platforms that issue a cryptocurrency could pose a threat to the U.S. government’s ability to regulate currency and promote its economy.

None of the current Democratic candidates nor the incumbent president have expressed how modern financial technology and the currencies that fintech can produce may impact the U.S. economy.  In a changing economy, could a lack of experience in this area contribute to poor policy making regarding governance in the digital 21st century?

Yang so far has the knowledge to govern in a digital 21st century America …

Changes in how Americans will work over the next twenty years and the currency that they will use for exchanging commercial value will require someone who does not make policy based on an analog view of the world.  Observers of technology and government usually lament how policy never keeps up with rapid changes in technology.  Can the United States go four more years with its government’s chief executive completely unaware of how the Fourth Industrial Revolution will impact livelihoods?

Congressional Democrats’ impeachment efforts gave Trump a little room to put hit on Soleimani

The eye-catcher….

Have efforts by the Congressional Democrats to impeach President Trump given him space to launch the type of military attack we saw last week against Iran?  While the U.S. House Democratic caucus asserts that it can walk and chew gum at the same time , apparent failures to move legislation sponsored by Democrats to the House floor may have provided the President with the cover he needed to carry out the assassination of General Qassem Soleimani.

Talk of impeachment, which has been occurring since Mr. Trump took office in January 2017, sucked up a lot of media oxygen within the last few months with congressional hearings coming to a head last December with the impeachment of Mr. Trump.  What has received far less coverage by the media and the public at large are attempts by Democrats to head off escalation of tensions between the United States and the Republic of Iran via legislation.

H.R. 2354…

On 25 April 2019, U.S. Representative Anna Eshoo, Democrat of California, introduced H.R. 2354, the Prevention of Unconstitutional War with Iran Act of 2019. The bill notes the Republic of Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism and that Iran’s missile tests could lead to increased tensions with Israel and Saudi Arabia as well as the United Nations.  The bill also found that the Republic of Iran threatens maritime activity and puts U.S. naval and commercial assets at risk.

Concerned about President Trump’s tweets promising severe action against the Republic of Iran for its military actions and threats in the Middle East region, the bill reminds the President and the American public that the power to declare power lies solely in the Congress.  Pursuant to the bill, no funds for kinetic (conventional) military action would be authorized without an authorization from the Congress to take action against the Republic of Iran.

Mrs. Eshoo’s bill is a companion bill to S.1039 introduced by Senator Tom Udall, Democrat of Utah.  His bill was introduced on 4 April 2019 and contains the same language as H.R. 2354.

Both bills currently sit in each chambers respective foreign affairs committees.

Trump maximizes his political capital in a legislative vacuum ….

President Trump’s approval ratings have been pretty much consistent since May 2018, hovering around 42% for the past 19 months.  He campaigned on an “America First” platform which includes reasserting American dominance in world political and economic affairs.  His actions against Iran have not eroded his political capital with his base and arguably with his European allies as the European Union struggles with what to make of this latest move.

Does the American electorate see actions against Iran building up goodwill between themselves and the president? Back in June 2019, a poll by Politico found that 36% of Americans supported military action in Iran after the Iranians shot down a US drone.  When views toward action in Iran are viewed via partisan eyes, 59% of Republicans favored action against Iran while only 23% of Democrats and 28% of independents supported a strike against Iran. It should be noted that Mr. Trump, at the last minute, decided against a military strike against Iran believing the cost in lives on both sides was not worth the loss of the drone.

An analysis in Bloomberg points out that the hit seven months later on Soleimani may have given Trump leverage by making the Administration appear unpredictable. Political actors in Europe and the Middle East may have less of an idea as to Mr. Trump’s responses to certain events or his endgame. For example, Iran has hit tankers with no American response but out of the blue a hit on an Iranian general in alleged retaliation for attacks on American drones and the death of an American contractor.  Iran may have thought it had the US figured out but the willingness to surgically remove an important member of Iran’s military hierarchy may give Iran pause.

But given public attitudes toward military involvement in and with Iran, Democrats in Congress have let fester a legislative void, failing to promote aggressively legislation that would have restricted Mr. Trump’s actions to continued use of soft force while eroding his influence with the American electorate.

The takeaway on political capital …

Tough to tell whether it was luck or political skill, but Mr. Trump, so far, has been able to take a risky military action without apparent loss of political capital.  Over the next few months we will be able to get a better idea as to whether his resources and power built on his actions, relationships, and influence will erode as a result of the action.  Something else we should be mindful of is the ability of an executive to operate in what amounts to a political “no-fly zone” where the legislature hasn’t taken any initiative to head off potentially disastrous events by enacting law leaving an executive to operate freely.