Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Blogger Candidate Forum: A More Positive Political Future Is Possible

Hello Everyone:

This Blogger Candidate Forum taking a break from Impeachment-palooza to bring you something different.  Before The Forum dives into the deep blue south, a quick bit of Impeachment-related news.  Tomorrow is a yuge day in the House of Representatives.  The House will vote on a resolution to formalize the Impeachment inquiry.  If passed, this will open the hearings to the public and allow the White House lawyers to present their case, thus far.  This is exactly what the president and his defenders have been clamoring about for the month.  Be careful what you wish for, you may get it and it may not be what want.  Shall we move on to the Southern United States?

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Map of the Southern United States

American liberals have a density problem.  While they continue to rack up electoral victories in their natural urban habitat, they are narrowly losing the suburbs and less populated states.  This uneven distribution, the Democratic party is winning state but not the federal election, despite winning the popular vote.  The Forum thinks you know who she is referring to.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 General Election despite winning the popular vote by a 2.4 million-vote margin (; Sept. 17, 2019; date accessed Oct. 30, 2019).  Madame Secretary carried the hipster enclave of Brooklyn and Manhattan by more than approximately 1 million ballots--greater than Mr. Donald Trump's margin of victories in Florida, Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania combined (Ibid).

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2000 Presidential Election

Derek Thompson writes, "But 2016 wasn't a fluke.  Neither was 2000, when Al Gore lost the election despite winning 500,000 more votes than George W. Bush" (Ibid).  Researchers at the University of Texas, Austin recently published a paper that concluded "Republicans are expected to win 65% of presidential contest in which they narrowly lose the popular vote" (; Sept. 15, 2019; date accessed Oct. 30, 2019).

Rightly, the Democrats can blame the Electoral College for these losses as well--perhaps that is why many of the blue persuasion want to eliminate this product of constitutional compromise.  Stanford political scientist Johnathan Rodden's latest book Why Cities Lose, "the problem isn't just the districting.  It's the density" (; Sept. 17, 2019).  You look anywhere in the world and you find that liberal, college-educated flock to the cities, where they distill their voting power through over saturation.  Mr. Rodden writes,

Underrepresentation of the urban left in national legislatures and governments has been a basic feature of all industrialization countries that use winner-take-all elections,... (Ibid)

Now imagine if more Democrats moved from their natural urban habitats and evenly distributed themselves among the Red America?  Mr. Thompson already did it for you.

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How to hail a cab in New York City

  Derek Thompson published an article, "Why Are America's Three Biggest Metros Shrinking?" (Ibid; Sept. 9, 2019), illuminating on what he refers to as the "urban exodus."  The better description is "blue urban exodus" (Ibid; Sept. 17, 2019), as in more leftward metropolitan in blue-hued states are hemorrhaging people.  Mr. Thompson reports, "The New York City metro area is shrinking by 277 people every day" (Ibid).  The major Midwestern, West and East Coast cities--eg. Los Angeles, San Jose, Chicago, and Boston--are all in states that routinely fall into the Democrat column by wide margins.  Where are people moving to?

They are migrating to redder hued states in the South and West.  Fact: Dallas, Phoenix, Houston, Atlanta, and Orlando are among the fastest growing metropolitan in states won by the president.  Other metro areas with a population of 1 million or more that grew in the last by at least 1.5 percent last year were Las Vegas, Austin, Texas; Raleigh, North Carolina; San Antonio, and Nashville, Tennessee.  All of these growing metropolitan area are in red or purple states.

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William Frey analysis of census data

However, it is not only liberals that are packing their bags and heading South.  Florida is a mecca for retirees who neatly fit into the Fox News demographic and some of people (; July 3, 2019; date accessed Oct. 30, 2019) leaving California for Texas are conservative.  However, "'s domestic migrants are often college graduates of the exceedingly liberal Generation Y and Z" (; Sept. 17, 2019).    According to the research of Brookings Institute demographer William Frey, Americans between the ages of 20 to 40 are three times more likely to move than people between 50 and 70.  Mr. Frey told The Atlantic,

The current migration to these suburbs is mostly people in their 20s and 30s, or Millennials, who are more diverse and liberal than the rest of the population (Ibid)

The slow drip of young resident rolling down towards red-state suburbia is helping turn southern metro blue--"Of course migration isn't the only factor pushing these metros leftward, but more on that later"(Ibid).  For example, in Texas, in the counties home to Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, San Antonio, and Austin (the "Texas Five) grew (;  date accessed Oct. 30, 2019) from 130,000 in the 2012 presidential election to almost 800,000 in last year's midterms.

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In Arizona, between 2012 and 2016, Democrats closed their electoral gal in Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, by 100,000 (; Sept. 17, 2019).  In the 2018 Senate Midterm Elections, the county flipped Democrat, with Democrats adding 100,000 votes (Ibid).

In Georgia, one of the reddest of red states, between the 2012 presidential elections and the 2018 gubernatorial election, the four counties home to most of Atlanta and its suburbs, Fulton, DeKalb, Cobb and Gwinnett experienced Democratic margin increase by over 250,000.

What is truly remarkable about these is the size, but how closely they match Mr. Trump's 2016 margins.  Case in point, the president won Texas by 800,000 votes; Arizona by 90,000 votes; Georgia by 170,000 votes.  If left leaning trends continue in these states biggest metro area, there is every reason to believe that Texas, Georgia, and Florida will be in play.  However, domestic migration is not the only reason for the shift.

Re-election campaigns are just as much a referendum on the incumbent's popularity as they are about politics.  While young southerners are moving their region left, older voters could switch their voting preference in response to Mr. Trump.  Republicans are not helping their cause by moving further to the right to strengthen their white exurban and rural base, in the face of dwindling support in the suburbs and working-class white women (; Sept. 26, 2019; date accessed Oct. 30, 2019).

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Be that as it may, domestic migration was a key in the 2018 Texas Senate race between incumbent Republican Senator Ted Cruz and now-president nominee candidate Beto O'Rourke, whose near victory was powered by recent arrivals, winning more than 60 percent (;  date accessed Oct. 30, 2019) of arrivals within the past ten years.  If current migration hold, the "Texas Five" counties could easily add another 200,000 voters from 2016 to 2020 (; Sept. 17, 2019), putting more pressure on the Trump campaign's margins.  A September poll conducted by Univision and the University of Houston (; date accessed Oct. 30, 2019) revealed that the top-six Democratic nominee candidates all lead the president in Texas (; Sept. 17, 2019).

National elections aside, the southern blue tide could have other political implications: i.e. showdowns between blue cities in red states.  The Atlantic's David Graham argued (Ibid; March 2017) that GOP led state governments, like North Carolina's general assembly, have waged war on liberal cities, like Charlotte, by reversing a local ordinance that forbade discrimination against LGBTQ people.  These types of confrontation are frequent features in southern politics.  In the past several months both the Dallas Morning News (; date accessed Oct. 30, 2019 and the Dallas Observer published articles lamenting the Californication of northern Texas, with the Morning News noting that,

...conservatives fear these domestic migrants will bring with them a liberal ideology that would disturb the Texas way of living  (; Sept. 17, 2019)

The potential of more red state-blue city confrontations could for the Republican Party to finally shake off its retrograde politics and compete more aggressively for votes in the New South--i.e. be a the party for moderates, African American voters, and immigrants.  The reverse is also true.  Democrats in Houston and Dallas could creep into Republican territory, agreeing with their Republican neighbors' arguments on lower levels of state and local tax.

In general, the southern blue tide would be a force for positive change for both parties, especially the Republicans and, by extension, the United States.  Without real changes to the Electoral College or changes in the distribution of Democratic votes, we could be doomed to replay the 2016 over and over again.  The southern blue tide is not the panacea for what ails families in American southern suburbs.  However, if more rural families join the liberal transplants and nonwhite families in America's ever diversifying suburbs, Americans might discover, much to their delight, a brighter more positive political future.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

New Voices, Experiences, Expressions

Hello Everyone:

It is Monday and we start a fresh week on the blog with a trip to New York City.  Before we get going on today's post, The Blogger Candidate Forum has some breaking news: the major media outlets are reporting that the House of Representatives is planning to hold a formal on Thursday on the impeachment inquiry.  Democrats are introducing a resolution that, if approved, will move the inquiry into the public phase.  Interesting, the Congressional Republicans have been hollering for a public hearing and due process.  The Candidate Forum warns, be careful what you wish for because you may get it and you may not like it.  Alright, on to New York City and the brand new Museum of Modern Art.

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Museum of Modern Art
New York City, New York

What do women's empowerment, Black Lives Matter, gender fluidity, Insta-tourism, and concentrated wealth all have in common?  They are subjects engaged by the newly expanded venerable Museum of Modern Art, which re-opened to the public, Sunday October 20, 2019.  The $450 million expansion and renovation added 47,000 square feet of gallery space (; Oct. 23, 2019; date accessed Oct. 28, 2019).  This is significant because the additional space allows MoMA the opportunity to re-examine what Modern means in the contemporary art world.  The larger space not only has better circulation around the galleries which permit a greater understanding of the rich pageant of Modernism.

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Aerial view of the MOMA  garden

The renovation and expansion were undertaken by Diller Scofidio + Renfro (; date accessed Oct. 28, 2019)--the architecture firm responsible The Broad Museum in Los Angeles--and corporate architects Gensler.  In 2014, MoMA stunned everyone when it announced that it planned to undergo an ambitious two-part expansion, barely 10 years after it overhauled every square inch of the museum and built a major curatorial facility in Queens (; Oct. 23, 2019).  In 2004, Tokyo-based architect Yoshio Taniguchi, adding 252,000 square feet to the museum mostly by wiping out a 1984 renovation by Cesar Pelli and eliminating all traces of the original 1939 building interior by Philip Goodwin and Edward Durrell Stone, as well as post-war additions by Philip Johnson.

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"Blade stair"
Diller, Scofidio + Renfro

 As part of the 2004, Mr. Taniguchi "relegated the older structures--with their lower ceilings and smaller galleries--to supporting roles, using a set of elevators and escalators as the hinge between the older, smaller, more intimate MoMA and the vastly enlarged new museum... to the west with its lofty, monumentally scaled galleries" (Ibid).

MoMA acquired more land to the west and subsequently sold it to Hines Development.  The museum acted as a conduit for Hines to transfer unused air rights (Ibid; Aug. 6, 2019) from its properties to the east and across the street.  This made a luxury condominium tower possible, with diagonal struts, ending at a point 1,050 feet above street-level (Ibid; Oct. 23, 2019), is designed by Parisian architect Jean Nouvel and will house the new galleries and is almost ready for occupancy.

James S. Russell opines, "In other words, New York City's ability to attract people wealthy enough to pay tens of millions of dollars for an apartment is what birthed the museum's expansion.  It's not the first time" (Ibid).  The museum's galleries envelope Museum Tower, luxury condominiums designed by Mr. Pelli that paid for the 1984 expansion (also designed by Mr. Pelli), currently the only visible remains of it.  The price for real estate as a moneymaker is sunlight.  The museum's 1953 iconic garden is nearly overshadowed by the towers' hulking mass.

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American Folk Art Museum
Tod Williams and Billie Tsien
New York, New York
The Museum of Modern Art also acquired the nearby Museum of American Folk Art, with its eye-catching intricate design by Tod Williams and Billie Tsien.  Mr. Russell writes, "That museum failed (though has reopened elsewhere), and MoMA acquired the building, then demolished it for the expansion project in an act [Ibid] widely regarded as 'cultural vandalism'" [; Jan. 9, 2014;  date accessed Oct. 29, 2019].  He goes on to speculate that had MoMA recognized the architectural significance of the AFAM, it would not have been the "perpetrator of its demise" (; Oct. 23, 2019).  One person's cultural treasure is another person's cultural eyesore.  Go figure.

In context to other DS+R projects that upend the architectural norms, like galleries hanging over the waterfront (; date accessed Oct. 29, 2019) in Boston's Institute of Contemporary or the cave-like Broad Museum in Los Angeles (; date accessed Oct. 29, 2019), MoMA's needs were, how shall Blogger put it, quotidian, crowd management.  James Russell observes, "Since the museum had rejected ideas about retaining layers of its architectural history (and ruled out any role for the Folk Art in the addition), the architects found themselves constrained to extending the palette of Taniguchi.  Overall, the visitor still experiences MoMA as exquisitely proportioned, slightly clinical knife-edged minimalism, if subtly, and sometimes ambivalently reinterpreted by DS+R" (; Oct. 23, 2019).

Diller Scofidio + Renfro injected air into the entrance, "a low, crowded tube of space that was often filled with milling visitors, making an off-putting first impression" (Ibid).  The New York-based architecture firm raised a ceiling and eliminated a lobby side wall to accommodate a more expansive ticketing foyer, dropped the museum bookstore one floor, and introduced a full-height exterior glass walls to dissolve the distinction between indoor and outdoor space.

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MoMA ticketing lobby

The more expansive space allows for art to be displayed, giving visitors a taste of what they are about to see.

To alleviate crowding, DS+Rcreated "two new vertical routes to large gallery floors above" (Ibid). The Instagrammable "blade stair" spectacularly displays its "look-Ma-no-supports" (Ibid) without disrupting Yoshio Taniguchi's subtle minimalism.  Rather, it warms his palette with satin-finish steel and birdseye maple.  The stair will become a single-artist "'project galleries, above which is a double-height, black-box studio unique display needs and performances" (Ibid).

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Cross-section of MoMA
Diller Scofidio+Renfro

Diller Scofidio+Renfro opened a new corridor from the lobby, channeling visitors to the older east wing, where it links up to a new cantilevered staircase clad in black and white marble.  Mr Russell describes, "The new stair rises to meet the clean-lined Bauhaus stair, on the second floor, which is among the few artifacts remaining from the Goodwin and Stone building" (Ibid).

The new galleries and stairs draw on the vibrancy of New York City into the experience of the full-height glass walls.  The view of the dense urban jungle of Midtown Manhattan--the inspiration for much of Modern--giving the appearances of the buildings pressed up against the glass.

If increased circulation eases the Museum of Modern Art's crowds, visitors may have the chance to develop a more personal connection to the art.  Allow Blogger to indulge in a fantasy, a visitor making his or her way to one of Jackson Pollock's paintings just to stand to in front of it (dramatic pause) without a phone.  Again, this is a fantasy.

However you reach the floors that house the permanent collections on the upper floors, you will be rewarded with an enriched history of Modernism, featuring thematic rooms, mixed disciplines (art and design mixed with art in upper case) and mixed media.  Cinema, paper works, and a lot of photography interspersed with painting and sculpture (Ibid).

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Museum of Modern Art 1939
Philip Goodwin and Edward Durrell Stone

The Museum of Modern Art has a very long history of showcasing work from the canon of European and American art but that canon is no longer limited to male-centric work.  As visitors meander through the galleries, they can discover that woven into this singular narrative is the work of women and people of color.  James Russell writes, "These choices better recognize modernism (small m) as a global cultural and social that at its best is democratizing and inclusive (Ibid)."  The story of modernism is expanding and in flux that "MoMA promised to change one-third of the hang every six months--a costly and conceptually challenging  undertaking that no museum of comparable size has attempted" (Ibid).

This would mean that some visitors might not see their favorite painting or moan about the overwhelming size of the museum.  Patrons may even lament the late Museum of American Folk Art to make way for a shiny sleek new MoMA.  This is the unfortunate aspect of an institution that plays host to 3 million visitors every years (Ibid).  The new building may require blocking out days to properly explore the museum but it would be worth the effort to spend the time communing with the new voices, experiences, expressions.  The art on exhibit makes its case in a chaotic time that has inspired artists in a manner similar to the artists whose work acquired by the Museum of Modern Art, founded in 1929.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Blogger Candidate Forum: Drama Queens And Inconsistent Testimony

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House Republicans today
Hello Everyone:

Blogger Candidate Forum is back after a difficult week and a few minor technical difficulties.  Today it is impeachment go-round.  We start with the House Republicans. 

The Candidate Forum is not quite sure what to make of the House Republicans crashing a secure facility at the Capitol today, causing a five-hour delay in a closed-door testimony.  Led by Florida Republican and Trump ally Representative Matt Gaetz, a group of two dozen Republican representatives stormed into Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, the area designated to securely store intelligence.  Never mind that Rep. Gaetz and his colleagues do not sit on any of the committees running the impeachment inquiry.  Never mind that they compromised national security by bringing in their phones in an effort to prove that House Intelligence Committee Chair Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) is running a kangaroo court (; date accessed Oct. 23, 2019).  The president and his allies have complained about not getting due process but it is a little hard to make that argument when your legal strategy is non-cooperation.  Bad idea.  Drama queens or faithful defenders of the president, you figure it out.  Shall move on to emoluments?

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The Foreign Emoluments Clause

Last weekend, Mr. Trump announced the location of the 2020 G7 Conference.  His choice was the Doral Resort in Miami Beach, Florida.  A golf resort in Miami Beach sounds like an excellent place to the leaders of the seven top industrialized nations, right?  Wrong.  The Doral Resort is a Trump-owned property and would have been a violation of The Emoluments Clause in the United States Constitution.  Allow The Candidate Forum to explain.

The Constitution has a few provisions that can be referred to as "emoluments" clauses.  One of those provisions (above left), expressly forbids the president or any federal officer from receiving a title or thing of value from a foreign head of state.  Therefore, hosting the G7 Conference at his golf resort, even though Mr. Trump said it would be at cost, would be considered a violation of Article 1, Section 9, Clause 8 of the Emoluments provision. 

Almost immediately, the announcement was roundly criticized, forcing the president to cancel the venue.  Never one to gracefully accept criticism, he blamed the backlash against his attempt to profit from the annual conference, crying you people with this phony emoluments clause (Ibid; Oct. 22, 2019).  He further tried to argue that if other presidents can conduct business during their tenure, why cannot he?  Pointing to one of his favorite scapegoats, the president claimed without evidence that President Obama negotiated a book deal (announced in March 2017) and production deal with Netflix (announced in May 2018) while still in office.  Ever the student of history, he claimed that President George Washington conducted his business while still in office (Ibid).  Regardless, neither is a valid legal argument.  If any of the previous presidents did violate the emoluments clause, then they did and that does not give the president license to do the same.  Further, his phony emoluments clause suggests his lack of understanding of what emoluments are.  The president believes that he is being attacked for conducting personal business while in office but failed to realize that hosting foreign leaders on his property is a crystal clear violation.  Finally, there was testimony and there was explosive testimony.

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American Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor

 Yesterday was explosive day in the impeachment inquiry.  American Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor testified that "he had been told President Donald Trump would withhold military aid [; Sept. 30, 2019; date accessed Oct. 23, 2019] until it publicly declared investigations would be launched that could help his reelection chances--including into former Vice President Joe Biden..." (Ibid; Oct. 23, 2019).  

In his 15-page opening statement, Ambassador Taylor said "he was told that everything Ukraine wanted--from a one-to-one meeting between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to hundreds of millions in security aid--was dependent on publicly announcing an investigation that included Burisma, the company that hired Biden's son Hunter, and Ukrainian alleged involvement the 2016 election" (Ibid).  His 15-page opening statement, painted a precise portrait of meetings between Ambassador Taylor and senior officials during which he learned that official the president's personal attorney, you guessed it, Rudy Giuliani was pushing Ukraine to open an investigation into the Bidens.  

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Excerpt from Ambassador Taylor's opening statement

During his testimony, Ambassador Taylor said that American Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland (Ibid; Oct. 17, 2019) told that "he'd made a mistake by telling the Ukrainian officials that a White House meeting with Zelensky 'was dependent on a public announcement of the investigations'" (Ibid; Oct. 23, 2019).  Ambassador Taylor testified,

In fact, Ambassador Sondland said 'everything' was dependent on such an announcement, including security assistance,... "Trump wanted Zelensky" in a public box "by making a statement about ordering the investigations" (Ibid) 

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Ambassadors Taylor and Gordon Sondland
Special Envoy Kurt Volker
In essence, military aid, already approved by Congress, and a face-to-face meeting between the presidents was contingent on a public announcement of an investigation into alleged dubious activity by father and son Biden.  Ambassador Sondland also stated this was not a case of quid pro quo and that if President Zelensky did not publicly clear up the situation, the situation would remain at a stalemate.  Ambassador Taylor told the committees assembled for the ten-hour hearing, that special envoy for Ukraine Kurt Volker (Ibid; Sept. 28, 2019) explained him that the president was a businessman.  He said,

Ambassador Sondland tried to explain to me that President Trump is a business man.  When a businessman is about to sign a check to someone who owes him something, he said, the businessman asks that person to pay up before signing the check,... (Ibid; Oct. 23, 2019)

This makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.  Even more troubling was the fact that Ambassador Taylor made it very clear that he could not get a straight answer why aid was withheld.  Ambassador Bill Taylor's testimony does establish a connection between alleged withholding the aid package in exchange for a political favor  The Candidate Forum say allegedly because despite numerous written document requests, the White House has decided to play the "tough guy" and ignore it.  What did The Candidate Forum say about it being in the president's best interest to cooperate?  Regardless, there are plans to recall Ambassador Gordon Sondland to explain why there inconsistencies in his testimony.

Where does that leave us now?  Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is firmly in control of the time line and will call for a vote when ready.  The president and his defense team will have their chance to confront witnesses and evidence if and when the process moves on to trial in the Senate.  For his part, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) must be re-thinking his support after he  denied the president mentioned he spoke to Leader McConnell about the infamous phone call.  The Candidate Forum does not expect Leader McConnell or his top lieutenant South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham to turn on the president but you sort of have to wonder how much longer will they and other congressional Republicans will continue to defend the president.