Thursday, April 2, 2020

Polarizing in the Polls - Can OHIO lose?

Turning away from the Corona Virus Pandemic in our country for a moment, we still are in the middle of a Democratic Primary campaign, and a Presidential Election year.  Over the past month, polls have (not surprisingly) moved.

President Bill Clinton famously quipped "It's the economy, stupid" about presidential elections.  In good economies, incumbents win.  In bad economies, outsiders win.  Is it that simple?

Since the beginning of March, most of the large states with urban populations, except for Florida, moved quickly to social distancing protocols. Now, in early April, almost all states have moved there.  The economic impact is well known. In the last two weeks, 10 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits, and economists are predicting double digit unemployment by the end of the month.  Investment portfolios have shrunk, as the stock market initially lost 25% of its value, moving most people's IRA's back 3 years in time.  The stimulus package has bolstered some confidence, and Americans seem to be adjusting to the new normal for now.  What will these numbers look like in 3 months? No one really knows.

News stations are doing what they do.  Two nights ago I randomized a time of night and watched exactly 10 minutes of Fox and 10 minutes of CNN simultaneously.  CNN was reporting about death numbers, hospital shortages and two human interest stories of people afraid or affected by the pandemic. Fox ran a segment on China's "wet markets," civil rights, and how China has not moved to change the circumstances that existed there prior to the outbreak.  As I have often noted, news is not objective these days.

So, with people increasingly concerned (either about who to blame or what to do), increasingly strapped financially (unemployment, lost of savings, and soon failures of businesses and loans), polar reactions are occuring in a divided country.

For the previous year prior to March, for example, 270towin.com has consistently agreggated presidential polls showing the Florida, Colorado, Ohio and Minnesota were "up for grabs." Colorado and Minnesota have tended bluish, while Ohio and Florida have tended reddish.  Now, those states are beyond the margin of error in each direction.  Florida (a must win for Trump to get to 270 electoral college votes) now trends solidly Republican. But what is really interesting is that New Mexico, Virginia and Colorado - formerly safe Republican states no so long ago, are all in the Democratic column.

Even more interesting is Ohio, which went twice for Obama, and twice for Bill Clinton, and is safely Trump's these days. No president since JFK in 1960 has won the Presidency while losing Ohio, and only FDR in 1944 managed it otherwise in the last 110 years.  The general wisdom is, you must win Ohio to win - as Trump did 4 years ago and looks to do again. But can Ohio be on the losing side?

The polarization of America is showing in the polls, and the old wisdom may not hold.  As of today, there are only 3.5 states "up for grabs:" North Carolina, Arizona, Wisconsin and part of Nebraska.  Look at this interactive map to play with the scenarios. As of today, the polls would say that the Republicans must win all of those to win the election.  The Democrats have to win just one of the whole states. Here are the most recent polls in those states:

Wisconsin (April 1):           Biden 48%,   Trump 45%,     Undecided 7%  (+/- 4.2%)
North Carolina (March 1): Biden 48%,    Trump 46%,     Undecided 6%  (+/- 2.9%)
Arizona (March 16):          Biden 47%,    Trump 46%,     Undecided 7%  (+/- 2.7%)

So, if the 3 states are each a coin flip statistically, it is like flipping three times: 3 Heads, the Republicans win. Anything else, the Democrats win.  Odds of flipping Three Heads in three flips are: 1/2*1/2*1/2 = 1 out of 8, or 12.5%

Very rough numbers, because - as we learned in the Hillary meltdown/Trump victory - the undecideds will not split evenly.  Someone is going to win them, and probably not until election day.  And, presuming NC and AZ go typically Republican, it still comes down to Wisconsin... and within Wisconsin it is the 3rd district that will decide it, as I have already written in an earlier blog post.

Yes, the picture is polarizing. But it is also clarifying.  And yes, for only the 3rd time in the last 110+ years, the winner of Ohio could very well lose.



Monday, March 30, 2020

Was yesterday the day the President woke up?

Yesterday, the President said that had we not engaged in social distancing, an out of control pandemic could have killed 2 million Americans. Then he said that he had never seen those numbers before. [pause. let that sink in.]

Okay. I am glad he now knows what what every science based voice has been saying for weeks. Later, towards the fall, people will need to unpack clearly what he knew - when and why - and what he did and did not do.

For today, moving the social distance protocol to April 30 is correct. Maybe yesterday was the day the President woke up.

But, probably not. Because in the same press conference he invented a conspiracy theory of NYC hospitals using more masks than he can believe they need, and accused them of sneaking them "out the back door," inviting journalists to start an investigation into the hospitals in NYC.

I am glad he seems to have been convinced by someone of the need for national social distancing. I am saddened that he still can't comprehend the scope of the problem here in NY, NJ and CT.

For more about How 15 Days became 45, click here.


Monday, March 23, 2020

Democratic Primaries "On Wisconsin!"

The Democratic Primary Big Picture, Corona Virus Delays Abound

With the increasingly severe restrictions on public gatherings and movement, the primary season is in question.  Nonetheless, there WILL be a general election, by Constitutional law, in November.  Therefore, there MUST be Democratic and Republican national conventions this summer.  Those are in mid July.

They are almost certainly going to be held remotely, via internet links.  Expect a massive confusion around how to secure voter credentials remotely, etc., but Biden should have the 1991 needed on the first ballot to secure the nomination.  Unfortunately, at pre-coronovirus scheduling, he was on track to have it all done by the NJ primary on June 2.  Now, it will almost certainly have to wait until NY and the others on June 28.

So, the State primaries that are left will need to function in time to bind their delegates to their candidates, if the situation is to proceed smoothly.  Best practice will be to push advance paper ballots as much as possible, as in person voting should be discouraged.

At this time, I am only expecting Wyoming, Alaska, Wisconsin and Hawaii to hold their primaries in April as scheduled.  That pushes the whole process off, leaving Bernie hanging out there to sow discord and weaken Biden.  On the other hand, initial polls show Biden gaining slightly on Trump in national surveys - but after Hillary, who believes those any more?

Why Wisconsin Still Matters Now

Simply put, if Biden loses Wisconsin, he would need to win AZ or NC to win the election.  Both of those are very hard to imagine.

So, the most interesting information we will get in April is now from Wisconsin. Wisconsin (April 7) - has actual elections, not just primaries, on this date, and they probably have to do it by paper rather than leave state and local offices empty throughout the summer.

Why is Wisconsin so interesting?

Last time, Bernie showed strong in Wisconsin against Hillary.  In 2016, Bernie WON Wisconsin with 56.5 % of the Democratic primary voters.   In retrospect we now realize that was a harbinger for serious (fatal) lack of support for Hillary in general.  People didn't all vote "for" Bernie. Many voted "against Hillary" once in the primary, and then again in the general election, swinging the state (and the election) to Trump. All pundits and analysts seem to have missed this subtlety, except for the Trump campaign who responded by scheduling multiple trips to Wisconsin in the final weeks of the campaign, successfully turning a blue state red.  They simply were smarter than anyone else.

This year, Sanders  is polling BEHIND at about 38-39% of Democrats in the Primary, against Biden's 55%.  In broad strokes, that means that about 17% of the voters do NOT prefer Bernie, but voted for him because they didn't want Hillary.  While 38% is stronger than Bernie is getting nationally, so there is more enthusiasm for him there, it is not clear that there is the kind of anti-Biden feeling that there was vs. Hillary.  Conclusion:  If Bernie fails to get 40 or 50 % in Wisconsin, it is a very good sign for Biden in the national contest.

Now let's analyze that conclusion with Trump/Biden.

Where are Biden/Trump in WI polling?

From last summer through January, 2020, in Wisconsin, Biden routinely out-polled Trump by about 5% points, just outside the range of error for most polls.  During that same time period, about 13% were undecided.  But you must remember that Hillary, in November of 2016, polled almost identically, including about 13% still undecided.  Guess where the undecideds went last time?  The "undecided" voter does NOT statistically break according to the percentages of the "decided" voter in polls.  The Bernie victory should have told us that could happen.

So what is happening with those swing voters in Wisconsin this year?

In February, as the Biden campaign crashed in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, the Biden/Trump polls moved along with him.  By the end of February, Trump was beating Biden in all head to head polls by a solid 5% points in Wisconsin.  Then came South Carolina, and the realignment of the Democratic primary in favor of Biden and against Bernie.  Biden is now, once again, polling slightly ahead of Trump and within the margin of error.

Conclusion:  As of now, Biden and Trump are in a statistical tie in Wisconsin with, you guessed it, 10-13% undecided.

Wisconsin will decide who is the next president.  But not just Wisconsin.  Drilling down, Trump won all the Republican Congressional Districts, and Hillary won all the Democratic congressional districts EXCEPT the 3rd.  This is where the President of the United States could be decided.

So What is the Wisconsin 3rd Congretional District.

91% white, 56% Rural, traditionally Republican, but with half of the city voters from MN-St Paul because of Gerrymandering.

Good Luck, Joe.

As of today, it is too close to call, but a swing back to Democrat will depend on how districts like this one view the handling of the Corona Virus Pandemic and its aftermath.


Friday, March 20, 2020

ALL Alcohol Based Sanitizers are PERMITTED on Pesach this year

As Pesach is just around the corner, a few matters for your consideration.

First, we will be offering "seder in a box" from Premier caterers here at B'nai Shalom this year.  You have the choice of the ritual items only or a full meal.  Haggadot will be provided, and a link to a Passover Seder Video that you can stream on your I-Pad in case you need help "leading" your seder.  This is all part of our electronic supports during the Corona Virus Pandemic, encouraging both social distancing and ongoing observance of our traditions.

Second, I will be announcing this Shabbat that we will be allowing mourners' kaddish to be said during our live streaming minyanim.  That means, should we still be physically closed for Pesach, we will have remote participation minyan with kaddish for Yizkor on the 8th day of Pesach.  Please plan accordingly.

ALCOHOL SANITIZERS ON PESACH THIS YEAR:

Third, regarding the CDC advice to maintain a sterile environment, especially including frequent hand washing with soap and water and hand sanitizer.  The scientific community is being quite clear: soap and water is best.  In the absence of soap and water, hand sanitizer must be at least 60% alcohol in order to be effective. Most alcohol is made from grain, and traditionally forbidden to be owned or to derive any benefit from it during Pesach. The demand for Pikuach Nefesh - to save human lives - OVERRIDES that prohibition. 

To save human life, you MAY (even MUST) use alcohol based hand sanitizers, even if they are KNOWN to be derived from grain.  Halakhikly, it is possible to argue that the destruction of the grain into an inedible form of alcohol creates a d'var chadash which is not even akhilat kelev. Since it is inedible to a dog and unrecognizable as grain, the emergency situation provides room for leniency during this time of extreme need sha'ah dehak.  Nevertheless, ALL SUCH PRODUCTS ARE BEST PURCHASED IN ADVANCE OF THE HOLIDAY, AND INCLUDED IN YOUR SALE OF CHAMETZ.  In this way, you will be benefiting from the grain product of a non Jew, who themself is permitted to own it. 

This is not a leniency that operates in an area with no corona virus, nor is it a precedent for the future.




How To Join us Online on Shabbat

Please follow the slide show at this link to learn what is permissible on Shabbat for users of electronics.

  • Follow this Weekday and Shabbat Evening Minyan Link link at 8:00 pm weekdays, or 6:00 pm on Fridays.  (For those without Zoom, the call in is: 929-205-6099 Meeting ID 304-491-162)
  • Follow this Weekday and Shabbat Morning Minyan Link 7:00 am for weekday services and the following Shabbat services:
  • Shabbat Morning Youth Services are from 10:00-10:30 a.m. (For those without Zoom, the call in is: 929-205-6099 Meeting ID 450-192-936).
  • Shabbat Morning Congregational Services are 10:45 am - 12:00 p.m.(For those without Zoom, the call in is: 929-205-6099 Meeting ID 450-192-936).
  • There will be no Shabbat minchah/havdalah online.

Please note that this leniency and system are only promised to continue until the CDC relaxes social distancing.

Please note that "counting in a minyan" will be handled as a separate issue.

FOR ADVANCED USERS:  Zoom has a sound setting that isolates one voice at a time, or tries to.  Congregational singing doesn't work so well that way.  If you want, directions to change advanced sound settings in Zoom have been prepared by Don Batschelder for your consideration.

Stay safe and well.

Rabbi Tobin

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

UPDATE: Shabbat Morning Service Online

As the curfews and other social distancing protocols increase in our area, I reach out to offer words of comfort and support.  As a caring and loving community, we will come through this together.  What follows is information about our Shabbat services online, and other important information.

First, please know that this is a human, global concern.  The tradition explains it with a story:  “Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai taught: It can be compared to people who were in a boat and one of them took a drill and began to drill under his seat. His fellow passengers said to him: ‘why are you doing this!’ He said to them: ‘What do you care? Am I not drilling under me?’ They replied: ‘Because you are sinking the boat with us in it!’” (Vayikra Rabbah 4:6, ed. Margaliot, pp. 91-92). The entire world is in the same boat. If we do not help each other, we are in danger of sinking the entire boat. 

Second, please know that we are joining together online regularly now for all of our possible social needs during this time of distancing.  We are using zoom.us for our online services, meetings and more. Please go to www.zoom.us and sign up for a free account. 

All services, weekday and Shabbat, will be online until further notice, and yahrtzeits can be observed in this way. 

I will be hosting a zoom learning session this Thursday, March 19 at 7:00 p.m. to study the permitted use of electronics on Shabbat during this emergency.  (For those without Zoom, the call in is: 929-205-6099 Meeting ID 547-344-607).  Here are the links for services:
  • Follow this Weekday and Shabbat Evening Minyan Link link at 8:00 pm weekdays, or 6:00 pm on Fridays.  (For those without Zoom, the call in is: 929-205-6099 Meeting ID 304-491-162)
  • Follow this Weekday and Shabbat Morning Minyan Link 7:00 am for weekday services and the following Shabbat services:
  • Shabbat Morning Youth Services are from 10:00-10:30 a.m. (For those without Zoom, the call in is: 929-205-6099 Meeting ID 450-192-936).
  • Shabbat Morning Congregational Services are 10:45 am - 12:00 p.m.(For those without Zoom, the call in is: 929-205-6099 Meeting ID 450-192-936).
  • There will be no Shabbat minchah/havdalah online.
Third, we are calling the entire membership.  When a call comes from a member of B’nai Shalom, we are checking in to see how you are, because we care.  If you need help with a grocery run, pharmacy, or are just lonely tired or bored stuck in your house, we are happy to keep you company on the phone. If you need help with anything, please call the synagogue office at 973-731-0160 or Rabbi Tobin’s cell phone 973-518-3534.  We would love to help.  If you want to volunteer, please let us know.

Fourth, join in healing prayers.  In addition to everything the CDC is recommending from a science point of view, take a few moments for prayer.  If you, or someone you know, falls ill - consider adding them to our “misheberach prayers for healing” at minyan.  Email me at rabbitobin@bnaishalom.net with your information, so I can join you in those prayers.

Fifth, we will not host a second night seder this year.  We will send an email regarding upcoming programs and events later this week, but in the meantime you should plan for as small a Pesach as you can consider.  While we won’t have a public seder, we are working on supporting those who normally come to us on the second night.

And finally, for now, it is a time for patience, calm and generosity. We will all be feeling the financial hardships and anxiety of the moment. But whatever you are facing, there will be so many more who are worse off than we are.  Consider supporting our efforts with a donation, or support the work of our local Jewish Federation, Care.org, Magen David Adom, or any of your favorite local, national, international and/or Israeli charitable organizations that address health, hunger and wellness. The need will only grow in the weeks ahead.

We don’t know yet when the Synagogue will begin to return to more normal activities.  Given the seriousness of the pandemic, we are not in a rush. And in the meantime, we will stay close as we care for each other in our sacred community.
Kol Tuv, ... all good things.

Rabbi Robert Tobin

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Online Minyan at Bnai Shalom

March 15, 2020
Dear Members of B’nai Shalom,


We are friends and family, facing the challenge of rapidly spreading COVID-19 “Corona Virus” in our area and the world.  How do we stay close, when we need to be physically apart from each other? How do we build community, when obligated by our tradition to protect life by distancing? How do we join in minyan, and say memorial prayers, when we can’t gather?

Beginning this evening, we will hold evening and morning services electronically online and by telephone. One of us will lead the service from the chapel, and the rest of us will participate from home.  If you have a computer with a camera and microphone, or if you have a smart phone, follow this Weekday Evening Minyan link at 8:00 pm or this Weekday Morning Minyan link 7:00 am for weekday services.  If you want to just “dial in” on a telephone, then dial 929-205-609. The access code via telephone for morning Minyan is 450 192 936 while the access code for evening Minyan is 304 491 162.  You will be connected live to the service, be able to speak and be heard by the prayer leader. 
Beginning this Friday night, Shabbat Evening services will be held at 6:00 p.m., and conclude prior to candle lighting time.  Please use the Weekday Evening Minyan link and call in numbers for those services. I am actively working on creating the best way for Saturday morning services to be handled in a similar manner: please stay tuned.
We will add special prayers for healing and strength at these troubled times, where you can add the names of those in your heart. 

Since the prayer leader is not “in a minyan,” he/she will not say certain prayers, including the kaddish, but we will, of course, say memorial prayers at the Ark (El Malei Rachamim) in memory of any yahrtzeits you may be observing for past loved ones.  In this way, with the yahrtzeitcandle in your home, your obligation for memory is lovingly fulfilled. 
If you need any assistance with this new process please feel free to contact Gary Rothschild in the Synagogue Office (973-731-0160 x202, Director@BnaiShalom.net). Gary will be available via email and telephone during business hours as well as during Minyan times to help walk anyone through this process with any issues that they may have.

Stay safe, and stay involved.  We care about you and are in this together.
Kol Tuv,

Rabbi Robert Tobin

Israel's Shocking (potential) Breakthrough

President Reuven Rivlin announced today that he is giving Ganz the first chance to form a coalition government of 61 seats in the new Knesset.  In a shocking development, both the Arab Joint List and the Lieberman-led Yisrael Beitenu party have joined the left wing Meretz/Labor/Gesher party and Kahol Lavan to support a Ganz government.  Theoretically, that would give them a majority of 62 seats.  Likkud, Shas, UTJ and Yamima have only 58 among them.

This is a shocking and potential permanent change in the political landscape.  Here's why:

1)  No government since the Rabin, z"l, days has had the support of the Arab Parties.
2)  Lieberman had vowed not to service with Arabs or the Ultra Orthodox, and the Arabs had vowed not to serve with him.
3)  Netanyahu is under active indictment, and required a favorable government to pursue legislative immunity.

Will the Arab Parties and Lieberman find common ground in their desire to avoid another Netanyahu government?  If they do, will it end the Trump peace plan, and anticipate a Biden White House and a negotiated solution?

Or will the Corona Virus create an emergency circumstance and convince Ganz and Netanyahu to form a "Unity Government" between them.

The boring deadlock has suddenly become interesting again.

Stay tuned.



Thursday, March 12, 2020

Corona Virus Letter to B'nai Shalom Synagogue March12, 2020

Dear Members of B’nai Shalom,

I write you in prayer and good wishes as God’s good creation faces the global COVID-19 “corona virus” pandemic. Please know that your well being, both physical and spiritual are my deep concern. 

I believe that God gave us minds and hearts to pursue science, and that medical safety and treatments apply those miracles of God that are in our hands. The Torah commands, you shall not sit idly by the blood of your neighbor (Lev. 19:16). How much the moreso, your own and your neighbors!? Therefore, the directions of the CDC and your physician have the force of halakhah, Jewish Law and should be considered Torah Misinai, equivalent to the Torah given to Moses. It is not a choice, but a commandment to pursue public health safety to the fullest.

Given public protocols for social distancing, the synagogue’s leadership is actively exploring our policies and procedures for programming in the building. A detailed communication will be sent this Wednesday, March 18, after several important conversations will have happened.  Of course, news may happen faster than that.  In the meantime, please refer to our e-happenings for our most up-to-date information and protocols.

As your rabbi, there are several religious and educational items I wish you to know:

  1. Regarding the mitzvah of hinukh education: If the West Orange school district closes, our Religious School will shift to on-line distance learning. We are training the students this afternoon in these protocols. Monday talmud is already live streamed on the Bnai Shalom Morris and Miriam Hammer Campus facebook page.
  2. Regarding the mitzvah of nihum aveilim, please do not make shiva visits during this time period, instead make phone calls and/or write messages. 
  3. Regarding the mitzvah of bikkur holim, please do not visit hospitals, nursing homes and rehabs unless absolutely necessary. Again, please call to express your love and support.
  4. Regarding services, daily and shabbat services are ongoing at this time, and under review.  During this time period, you are exempt from the requirement of public prayer.  Should you attend services at the synagogue, please know the following:
A.             There will be no “Torah Procession” during this time.
B.             Please wish prayer leaders and honorees a hearty “yishar koach,” verbally, without handshaking, high fives or hugs.
C.             I have authorized live streaming of our services on Shabbat, (which we are working on).  While we have had passive video/audio feeds active on Shabbat for many years for security reasons, access to this data on Shabbat is new.
·       The bimah/ark will be in the camera view, and private access will be provided only to those in need of it. 
·       The minyan only counts those in the room.
·       Staying connected to the service and community in this way is important, and the mitzvah for prayer and learning is still fulfilled in this way.
·       This ruling does not extend to any other use of electronics on Shabbat, and a community learning about this topic will be scheduled in the near future.  
·       Please look to the synagogue announcements, which will provide instructions how to access the live stream.

These policies are almost certain to be modified in the days ahead, and I encourage you to remain aware of our correspondences.  

Remember, thoughtful prayer is an important part of facing uncertainty. It is normal to feel fear and anxiety at this time.  Prayer is an important way to connect with God, and with others in the community, while affirming our common destiny and the purpose of our lives.  I encourage you to safely participate in our minyanim, and to consider prayers for healing and comfort for those who are ill.  A lovely resource for this can be found at My Jewish Learning dot com.  

With continued prayers for your physical and spiritual well being,

Rabbi Tobin

Remember:  if you are exhibiting symptoms or suspect that you have been exposed to the Corona Virus COVID-19, please remain at home and call you medical provider for assistance.  Coronavirus questions are being handled by the health experts at the NJ Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

AIPAC - GOOD, but needs to be better

Having just returned from the AIPAC National Policy Conference, I was once again energized in my commitment to a broad bipartisan support of Israel on the basis of American values and mutual benefits economically and in security.

For me, this is in keeping with broad liberal social values, as well as security concerns and technological innovation.

If you seek LGBTQ rights in the Middle East, you need to love Israel - an oasis surrounded by bigotry.

If you seek women's equality in the Middle East, you need to love Israel - a model for the world.

If you seek democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, etc., only Israel secures and protects these values.

If you seek a strategic partner for tech innovation and advancement, you need Israel by your side.

And Israel is quite literally saving the world with desalination plants, which as a role model provide 80% of Israel's fresh water needs already.  Water conservation in Texas, NM, AZ, and CA all use Israeli technology, and Israel exports IsraelAID resources in Africa and beyond.

Israel is a force for good, and our support of Israel must be unflinching and united.

However, I was distraught and disturbed that Israel has become a wedge issue for the Republicans against the Democrats at AIPAC.  Not just because of Bernie Sander's dangerous and stupid rhetoric against Israel and his embrace of anti-semites and anti-zionists in his camp, but because of their own full embrace of one side of the Israeli spectrum: Netanyahu's side.  We should not interfere in their politics and they should not interfere in ours. 

By proffering a single-sided peace deal, without Palestinian engagement, and vilifying anyone else in the spectrum of Israeli politics, the Trump-surrogate Republican speakers at AIPAC made me - as a Democrat and a Zionist - feel horribly unwelcome.  Whether it was VP Pence's "four more years," Ambassador Friedman's "Democratic betrayal of Israel," or Mitch McConnell's snipes at VP Biden for (how dare he) greeting remotely by video on Super Tuesday itself, the Republicans seem not to have gotten the memo that this was to be bipartisan.  Menendez and Booker were the only Democrats on the stage, and they both followed the rules.  Why can't the GOP?

Yes, Sanders is horribly wrong.  No, Sanders will not get the nomination.  No, Sanders does not speak for the Democratic Caucus. And No, AIPAC is NOT supposed to be a surrogate for a Trump rally.  By using the AIPAC stage to paint all Democrats as Sanders people and anti-Zionists, the Republicans broke the core ethos of what AIPAC is supposed to be.

AIPAC, are you listening?  Or can you not hear us over the cheers of half the room?


Friday, February 28, 2020

Democratic Primary Thoughts and Predictions

As South Carolina prepares to vote tomorrow, 
and Super Tuesday looms just after
much is about to be clarified 
in choosing the Democratic contender 
for the Presidency this fall.


There are three main scenarios:



  1. Super Tuesday knocks out Warren, Klobuchar and Buttiegieg, who all suspend campaigning after Super Tuesday (likely), Biden wins at the convention.
  2. South Carolina knocks out Warren, Klobuchar and Buttiegieg, who all suspend campaigning  before Super Tuesday (unlikely), Bernie wins outright in the primaries.
  3. All 6 major candidates continue to the bitter end (unlikely), Bernie wins in the convention.
Here's why.

The Bloomberg Anomaly: 

By front loading the highly liberal, very white states of Iowa and NH, the Democratic National Committee exaggerated Pete Buttiegieg's chances. This contributed to the log jam of Biden, Buttiegieg and Klobuchar.  Ordinarily, based on national numbers, at least one of the three (Biden, Buttiegieg or Klobuchar) would have been gone after NH, and the other before Super Tuesday. 

By skipping those, and spending personal funds to the amount of a half billion dollars, It doesn't matter that Bloomberg has zero delegates after 4 contests; he continues to spend like a front runner and the winnowing effect will eventually feed him delegates. As a result we have 4 major moderates still in the race much later than would ordinarily occur.  This splits the votes, and trends towards a brokered convention without any candidate winning a majority outright.

The Convention.  1991 delegates are needed to win.  Looking at the Democratic Delegate Calculator, you can play around with various scenarios.  If no one wins on the first ballot, 500 superdelegates are added on the second ballot.  Very few of these will go to Bloomberg, so they would go mostly to Biden and some to Bernie - unless Bernie has a large lead to begin with.  Biden can overcome a 200 point deficit in this second ballot.  If there is still no winner on the second ballot, then all delegates are freed up to vote for anyone.  At that point Sanders/Warren, vs. Biden/Bloomberg/Klobuchar/Buttiegieg is the battle line.   

Here are the three scenarios:



"3 viable candidates"

if others drop AFTER Super Tuesday:

(Biden Wins)



Totals based on your forecast
(not polling average)

Sanders

Biden

Bloomberg

Warren

Klobuchar

Buttigieg



National Poll Average29.4%17.6%14.8%13.2%4.4%10.4%
Delegate Estimate1,574.31,384.3657.82594942.5

In this, the most likely scenario, Warren sticks around long enough to take about 250 delegates.  Bloomberg gets about 650 by the time he is done.  Biden is only 200 behind Sanders, but the "Moderate Camp" can easily claim that the will of the people is not for Sanders (Sanders/Warren=1,833, while Biden/et al=over 2,000).  Bloomberg can throw his support to Biden and be the king maker all by himself. Biden wins, but the progressive wing may lose their enthusiasm to campaign and vote in the fall.  Will they hate Trump enough to show up for Biden? Probably.

"Nobody Drops to the End"
(Bernie wins):

While this is compelling, and is the kind of "news" you will see in the meantime, the winnowing effect is real and can not be ignored.  This scenario will, therefore, absolutely not happen:


Sanders

Biden

Bloomberg

Warren

Klobuchar

Buttigieg

National Poll Average29.4%17.6%14.8%13.2%4.4%10.4%
Delegate Estimate1,886.51,3904661394948.5
Withdrawal Date
Biden is too far behind Bernie for the Super Delegates to throw it to him.  Bernie wins even without the Warren votes putting him over the top in a third ballot/free for all vote.

"Three Viable Candidates"

Other Drop out BEFORE Super Tuesday?

(Bernie Wins):


If Warren, Klobuchar and Buttiegeg were to drop out before Super Tuesday, given horrible results in NV and SC, Bernie would come into the convention with at least a 400 delegate lead, and Biden + Bloomberg would not be enough to challenge for the nomination.  Even if he doesn't win on the first ballot, superdelegates would need to accept the will of the people, and nominate Bernie smoothly on the second ballot.

Progressives should be trying everything they can, including offering Warren the VP slot this weekend, to make this happen. 


Sanders

Biden

Bloomberg

Warren

Klobuchar

Buttigieg



National Poll Average29.4%17.6%14.8%13.2%4.4%10.4%
Delegate Estimate2,0421,4244728726



Monday, February 24, 2020

Sanders v. AIPAC


Bernie Sanders v. AIPAC: not a new story.

DISCLAIMER:  The following is not a recommendation regarding Bernie as a candidate at large for the Democratic party; rather it is a statement about this specific topic.


Sadly, but predictably, Bernie Sanders is refusing the invitation to speak at the AIPAC national policy conference this coming Sunday-Tuesday, March 1-3.  He has never attended the conference, one of only a handful of senators to have so vehemently opposed the work of the main pro-Israel educational organization in the country. Worse, however, this year he tweeted that AIPAC gives a platform to bigotry and prejudice, and that is why he will not attend. 

To quote him, "To be for the Israeli people, and to be for peace in the middle east does not mean that we have to support right wing racist governments that currently exist in Israel." You can listen to the Haaretz presentation of Gideon Levy in support of Bernie's comments here. Respectfully, regardless of their politics, boycotting AIPAC is counterproductive.

Here is why he is just dead wrong on the topic:

Why AIPAC should be attended by all candidates:


First, AIPAC national policy conference is a fairly inclusive conference (within the pro-Israel camp), with voices of the left and the right present in the sessions. I find the conversations, presentations and panels of tremendous value, precisely because I am exposed to voices from across the spectrum of Israeli beliefs in a way that no other conference does.  AIPAC policy most often closely parallels the Israeli government of the day,  so under Rabin and Peres it was the flag waver for the Oslo accords and peace.  Under Netanyahu, the policies are considerably different. The conference is a great exercise in learning and exploring the issues of the day. J-Street, which Bernie attends, only invites voices from the left and is forever stuck in that side of the issue.  Like my view of watching the news, if we only conference with people we agree with, what are we doing?

Second, as a front-runner candidate of a major political party, Sanders is signaling his approach as President towards the State of Israel and its supporters in the USA.  It is, unfortunately, not a unifying posture.  Granted, the current President is also representative of only one side of the pro-Israel camp.  That doesn't make an equally one-sided, opposite stance acceptable.

Third, Bernie is falsely teaching the new left that it is only in the Israel camp that there is "bigotry and prejudice." The new progressives, under 30 and voting for the first or second time, are being told that "Israelis and Palestinians" deserve to live in peace, but it is only the pro-Israel AIPAC voice that gives a platform for "bigotry and prejudice."  This horrific myopia about Palestinian incitement against Israel, and Palestinian violence out of Gaza is inexcusable.  He is not just a candidate, he is a teacher.  He is creating this progressive voice, and on this topic he is beyond impartial or imbalanced - he is biased.

Analysis of his point of view:


Bernie's point is that a prejudiced or bigoted person or people will be given the platform for their bigotry at some point in the sessions, and that the subsequent validation of their legitimacy is unbearable - intolerable, and he will not be present for it.

While I agree that bigotry should not be validated, I disagree that bigotry should not be engaged - especially if it exists in the person of freely elected officials and sanctioned representatives of a state actor.  And so did Bernie when he went to Liberty University and said "I understand that issues such as abortion and gay marriage are very important to you and that we disagree on those," and went on to suggest that the points in common required engagement and dialogue for the common good (https://www.vox.com/2015/9/14/9323041/bernie-sanders-liberty-university).  Despite the anti-homosexual bias of that institution, which he also would consider prejudice and bigotry, he was willing to engage.  That was a presidential posture.  But he won't do the same when it comes to Israel.

Are there voices in the pro-Israel camp, and in the Kenneset in Israel that are decidedly anti-Palestinian, even bigoted or prejudiced? They exist, yes. And they have a legal right in a democracy to be so, as do those Palestinians who are anti-Zionist.  And we have to be able to hear them all, and be present for them all when they are willing to join in dialogue, conversation, exploration and education with the spectrum of beliefs. They are in the political spectrum of Israeli politics, and must be encountered if you want to understand all of Israel.  Is AIPAC itself bigoted or prejudiced for bringing all of those voices, and Democrats and Republicans together? Absolutely not.

Also, Bernie is not naming the voices.  Is he talking about Netanyahu himself, or some voice farther to the right or more strident against the Palestinians?  If he is against the supporters of Kahane, he should be clear.  If he is against the Likud, he should be clear.  The impression is that his opposition is broad, and his use of the terms bigoted and prejudice is expansive.

Will Bernie refuse to debate with the President if he is the nominee, because he believes the President to be bigoted and prejudiced, as he has called him?  Will he refuse to sit in the Senate because he believes that other members of that body are bigoted and prejudiced?  As with Liberty University, he holds that engaging is the essence of democracy.  Unfortunately he saves this particular brand of boycott for the Pro-Israel camp and AIPAC.

Sad, but true.


Thursday, January 30, 2020

Netanyahu and Trump, a brilliant maneuver

Yesterday, in a tremendously adept show of political theater, President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu stood in front of a carefully assembled cheering room to present Jared Kushner's "Deal of the Century," proposing a specific resolution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.  It was brilliantly done, having nothing to do with likely peace.  It does, however, paint a clear picture of what is likely to happen without a peace deal.

Gains for Netanyahu:

In a deadlocked electoral process about to face its 3rd stalemate in a year, Netanyahu's opponent Benny Gantz has been trying to push the peace process as a wedge issue to victory.  This has been slightly successful, mostly from the view the Netanyahu has done nothing in a long time.  That is neutralized.

Netanyahu has now received from Trump all of his 3 major goals regarding the Palestinian situation.  First, Trump recognized Jerusalem as the Capital of the State of Israel, and moved the US Embassy to straddle the green line in Talpiot.  Second, Trump recognized the total annexation of the Golan Heights into Israel proper.  Now, Trump has effectively embraced the annexation of all Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

This third issue is that of "the settlements," which refers to all Israelis living anywhere that was under Jordanian control before the 6 Day War.  That includes: Modi'in Ilit, a few hundred yards across the line in central Israel, with 70,000 inhabitants; Betar Illit, similarly situated to the south with over 54,000 people; Ma'alei Adumim with 37,000 people as a large city to the east of the major Palestinian towns of East Jerusalem, Abu Dis, etc; and the 40,000 Israelis living in the Gush Etzion bloc of towns between Bethlehem and Hebron.  These four districts alone total over 200,000 Israelis, all of whom have rallied to the Likud call for "one state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea."

How does the Trump Peace Plan provide this third goal?  By declaring that there can be a "two state solution," and that the settlements will be incorporated in the peace deal, he has moved the lines on the map.  Effectively, he has recognized the permanent legitimacy of the settlements as a pre-emptive statement.  When the Palestinians reject the plan, Netanyahu can proceed with annexation lamenting their unwillingness to join him in hopes for peace.  De facto, he gets to add the settlements formally to Israel Proper, and blame the Palestinians for it at the same time.

Now, be clear:  I absolutely believe that those "settlements" which I have named belong as a permanent part of Israel in the future.  They are ensconced, and the days when they could be uprooted are long gone.  Smaller settlements can still be moved, but not those.  Ehud Barak and President Clinton suggested that exact scenario with "land swaps" once, which seemed a good combination of the pragmatic and the fair.  Everyone could have saved face with that solution, but it was rejected by Arafat.  I am not criticizing the Trump proposal.  As I read the maps and the possible solutions, I believe that Mr. Kushner and the President got the picture more or less correct.  Were the Palestinians and Israelis to accept this plan, it would produce a lasting peace with hopes for prosperity.

But it won't.  And everyone involved knew it wouldn't from the beginning.  There has never been an engagement with the Palestinians to create the space for agreements under Trump.  That is not the goal.  The purpose of the plan is to create the political climate for four things:  annexation of the West Bank settlements (check); political support for Netanyahu (check); a picture of diplomatic leadership for Trump (half-check); and to blame the Palestinians for lack of progress (check).

The fact that this also could all be done on what would otherwise have been the worst news day in Netanyahu and Trump's respective political careers is nothing short of brilliant.

How else could Netanyahu spin the news cycle on the very day that he was formally indicted back home on corruption and bribery charges? Brilliant.  How else could Trump spin the news cycle away positively on the very day the Senate is sitting as an impeachment trial? Spectacular.   It is political theater, pure and simple, and superbly executed.  Each of their goals achieved, and no negative outcomes.  Regardless of your political views, you have to recognize the competence of the moment.

DETAILS OF THE PLAN:

1) Significant annexation of Israeli towns and cities in the West Bank.
2) Complete annexation of the Jordan River Valley, placing Israel in permanent control of the International border with Jordan.
3) Significant amounts of undeveloped land near the Egyptian border in the Sinai will be granted to the Palestinian State, with contiguous road access to the Gaza Strip.
4) Construction of a MAJOR series of highway tunnels and bridges that will directly connect Gaza to the West Bank, and all Palestinian towns with each other without need for Israeli checkpoints.  See this map for details.
5) Special access to the ports of Haifa and Ashdod for Palestinian import/export.
6) Establishment of a Palestinian State without moving any current populations, Israeli or Palestinian.
7) All depends on real and verified Palestinian institutions of good governance, demilitarization, removal of any and all delegitimization of Israel in education or politics, and complete freedoms of the press, etc.
8) [No mention of the status of Palestinian refugees/descendants overseas returning]

The picture painted certainly could work, but Palestinian political movements - particularly in Gaza - are often based on armed resistance to "occupation," insistence on the lack of validity for Israel "the nakba," and a long legal history and belief that settlements in the West Bank are illegal colonial movements of civilians into contested territories conquered in war.  Like it or not, if you don't have a magic wand, you will have to deal with those sentiments in a much more pragmatic way if you seek support from any Palestinian leadership.

Therefore, by painting a brilliant picture of a workable peace in a way that Palestinian leadership must reject in the moment, Trump has given Israel the green light to implement any or all of the plan that it sees fit to work on.

Expect the following in the near future:  annexation of the stated territories, and the construction of a network of bypass tunnels and bridges to segregate Palestinian traffic from Israel traffic in the areas of mixed population.

Final Impeachment Post

The impeachment of President Trump is about to come to a rapid and unspectacular close.  As previously noted, it has been a foregone conclusion that the Republican Senate is not going to remove a sitting Republican president without indefensible criminal activity.  However, the process chosen by the Democrats has been short-sighted and self defeating.  Victory: Trump.

Democratic Mistakes:

For the record, here are the mistakes made by the Democrats, and the likely ramifications.

First, the Democrats should have made a case for Bribery, which is a crime named in the Constitution as impeachable.  The case would have been at least as strong as Article 1, Abuse of Power, and would have eliminated a prime Republican defense/debating point about high crimes and misdemeanors. 

Second, the Democrats in the House needed to seek Judicial (Supreme Court) enforcement of their subpoena power.  It seems they were afraid of two things: that the trial would spill over into the Democratic primaries - with Iowa next week; and that the Republicans would in turn subpoena Joe Biden, Hunter Biden, and the whistleblower.  These fears are unfounded, and destructive to their case.  Article 2, Obstruction of Congress, can only be proven after the subpoena has been ordered in appeal at the Judiciary.  By side-stepping this, they undermined that article of impeachment.  Trump didn't just say "no," he made a legal claim that he had a right to say "no."  Only the courts can establish that legal argument's validity, and the House Democrats didn't pursue it. 

So, the Democrats missed the boat on both articles of impeachment, and unwittingly provided Republicans every inch of wiggle room they would need to make the Arlen Spector move from the Clinton impeachment: "not proven."  They made it easy on the Republicans, to their own detriment.

Now What:

The Ukraine issue has now been de-fanged politically for President Trump.  He will have been declared "not guilty" of the accusations, and as a result he will be largely immune in the fall on this topic.  Echoes of "Gore/Lieberman=Sore/Loserman" are sounding in the background for any Democrat who continues to harp on the Ukraine issue after acquittal.

Moreover, his exoneration will actually embolden the President to continue to do what he did: use foreign policy and resources of the United States to solicit and coerce their aid in his electoral politics. After all, if he "did nothing wrong," and was "fully exonerated," then it has been firmly established that it is fair game.  His defense team is clear: "even if" he did it [read: he did it], it is not impeachable.

Today, on the edge of the Senate vote to dismiss the articles of impeachment, Secretary of State Pompeo is traveling to the Ukraine to meet with President Volodymyr Zelensky.  The Senate vote will give the Secretary absolute permission to begin the conversation: "Now Mr. President, with that unpleasantness behind us, let's talk about what you can do to investigate Hunter Biden.  We would like everything you have or can find that will hurt Joe Biden this fall." 

President Trump and his team are being told, "Yes.  Yes you can absolutely pressure foreign leaders - using American resources - to harm your domestic political opponents.  Feel free to proceed in any obvious and open manner that you wish, because - 'even if' - you will have done nothing wrong."

The End.

This inevitable conclusion is very different than a legal accusation of bribery, and a thwarted subpoena ordered by the Supreme Court.  Neither of those occurred, and the weaker and quicker case will have only emboldened the President.  It is highly unlikely that they will successfully make hay on the topic with moderate voters in the Fall. 

Conclusion: Democratic incompetence has given the President an unmitigated victory, and legitimized what they were trying to accuse him of.