HELLO

Whether you're a fan of my OSCARBLOGGER site, or if you're just casting your way 'round the web, I hope you enjoy my new blog: WHISPERING IN A WIND TUNNEL. Here I will discuss issues of politics, religion, race, gay rights, gender, you know, the big stuff.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

REPEAL AND REPLACE?



One of the things that drives progressives like me crazy in this country is the way that middle and lower  class white people (especially men) vote for Republicans time and time again, despite the fact that the Republicans economic plans of tax cuts for the rich and rolling back social programs will not actually benefit them.  Putting it simply, since Lyndon Johnson signed the civil rights voting act and declared a war on poverty back in the 60's Republicans have been  playing on racial resentments in code words, (welfare queens) allowing  the rich and the powerful to  hold onto more of that wealth and power by shifting the problems in America  onto the backs of supposedly lazy minorities.  Donald Trump campaign took those code words and turned them into outright race baiting, although he blamed Mexican immigrants more than African Americans.
One of the craziest trends of poor and middle class whites voting against their own economic interests comes from people who can only afford health care through the Affordable Care Act (or Obamacare) , which Trump repeatedly said he would repeal.  (And in typical Trumpian fashion, said he would replace it with "something great" without explanation.)  Recent stories in the New York Times and Vox magazine interview people who are glad to have healthcare through Obamacare and yet who gleefully voted for Trump.  Many of them felt that he couldn't possibly repeal something that has helped so many people get healthcare.  But will he?
Well, he certainly said he would, and the Republican lead congress is even more enthusiastic about it.  The result of that repeal could mean that the twenty five million Americans aided by it could be thrown off of their healthcare.  Obviously, the Republicans don't want that to happen overnight, so they have proposed repealing the bill and putting a time limit on that repeal in two to three years, at which time, so they claim, they will have a better proposal in place.  But one has to wonder just what kind of plan the Republicans will come up with that isn't the kind of big government program they claim to hate.  Both Trump and congress say that they want to retain certain provisions of the bill, like allowing  young people being able to stay on their parents's health plan until their 26, and health care companies not being able to refuse care because of a patient's pre existing condition, but they don't mention just how to afford those provisions without retaining the insurance mandate provision, that is, the part of the bill that says all Americans must purchase healthcare or pay a fee.  That provision is how the bill is paid for, and it's also the part Republicans claim to hate the most.  So what will they do?
Sadly, this all seems to be coming down to a horrible game of chicken with the well being of millions of Americans in the middle.  Will the Republicans find a free market solution that doesn't just look like they're dumping millions of people off health care?  And if they do, will the Democrats in congress filibuster it, or live  with it rather than let those millions of Americans go without care?  It's going to be interesting, but I think those white middle class voters really need to think about what they've done and learn to stop shooting themselves in the foot. (Especially since they may soon not have any healthcare coverage).

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

SO WHERE IS THE OPPOSITION?



As President elect Trump continues to compile a list of anti environment crazies for his cabinet, (including Rex Tillerson, Exxon Mobil's chief executive, as Secretary of State), a question arises: where the heck are the Democrats? 
Let's examine the chain of events that lead America to the scary unknown waters we are about to wade in:  Trump won the election while losing the popular vote by almost three million; in the history of our country there have five presidents who have won the electoral college and lost the popular vote, and Trump's loss was by far the biggest.  Throw in the fact that James Comey of the FBI gave Trump a big boost by announcing less than two weeks before the election that he still had Hillary Clinton emails to investigate (even though he found nothing), plus the fact the CIA has declared that Russia definitely hacked into the emails of the Democratic National Committee in an attempt to sway the election to Trump, and you have a formula for a weakened presidency, one that even could be overturned by dissenting members of the Electoral College, who don't officially vote until the 19th. of this month.
And yet, where is the outrage from the Democrats?  Why aren't they speaking out against the many obvious conflicts of interest Trump will have as president?  Why aren't they mounting court challenges against his tainted victory?  When Green Party candidate Jill Stein called for a recount in several states, the Democrats barely supported it.  Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders (who isn't even technically a  Democrat) have spoken out, but otherwise, there's been little reaction from the so called opposition.  Instead of uniting against an potentially wildly unpopular president, the party is licking its wounds and looking for a leader.
This, sadly, may be part of the fundamental difference between Republicans and Democrats; liberals are just too darn nice.  The Republican party has become the domain of the aggressive,  alpha male type (who sometimes is a woman),  with leaders who march with macho swagger, and exude the air of certainty, and who demonize liberals with over the top arguments that they never apologize for.  The Democrats are the party of compromise and reason, they're open to negotiation.  And so they get killed.  Remember how during the campaign, Hillary Clinton got in trouble for referring to half of Trump voters as a "basket of deplorables"?  And how she had to quickly issue an apology afterwards?  While she was doing that, Trump was referring to her and President Barack Obama as "traitors" and the "co-founders of Isis".  And there was never any mea culpa given for his literally saying that the president helped start a terrorist organization! And this didn't just start with Trump; for years conservative media has hyped a world view that sees the world simply in black and white terms, and with liberals in league with Satan.
 
One of the problems liberals have is that we look at the changing demographics of the country that seem to favor us, and the polls that show that most Americans agree with us on issues like gay marriage and abortion, and we think we will win.  But we often fail to see the passion and sense of moral certitude on the other side that can bring more voters to the polls; conservatives just seem to want power more.
Now, as a passive liberal who hates to raise his voice in anger and likes musicals more than action films, I can relate to the problems of the left.  But now is not the time for complacency!  We have to take a page from the Republican play book; in 2008, when Obama won the White House and the Democrats made big gains in congress, did they decide to start compromising?  No, they filibustered everything they could in the Senate, and they stood united against everything Obama said and did.  They proudly became the party of NO.  And they were rewarded by retaking congress and grid locking the  government in Obama's second term.  Well, if the Republicans can stall a president who won the popular vote twice, certainly the Democrats should be able to stall a president who lost the popular vote by a wide margin.   So come on Democrats, do you really just want to let Trump dismantle everything Obama has done in the past eight years, from rolling back environmental regulations to throwing millions of people off of health care?  If not, get out there and fight. There can always be more than one party of NO.

Monday, December 5, 2016

MORE REMINDERS



The above picture is of a Klan rally that was held in Washington DC in 1922; the idea that such a hateful organization could at one time come together in our nation's capitol seems like a relic of our backwards past.  Surely, white supremacist groups like them have no power or influence nowadays, right?
Well, their numbers may be smaller, but the Klu Klux Klan is still with us, and they still like to come out in force sometimes.  Like they just did last Saturday in North Carolina, only now, instead of rallying in front of the White House, they just rally in favor of the man about to live in the White House.  Yes, along with their usual cries of "white power", Klan members were also heard yelling "hail victory" in praise of Trump's win.  And to make things even more clear, here's a direct quote from Amanda Barker, an "imperial komander" in the group: “Actually we have the same views,” she said, referring to the president-elect. “A lot of white Americans felt the same way, especially about the wall, immigration and the terrorism coming here. I think Donald Trump is going to do some really good things and turn this country around."
And that Klan leader has reason to be happy:  Trump's choice for Attorney General is Jeff Sessions, a man who was denied a federal judgeship back in 1986 for racially inflammatory statements, and Trump's chief strategist is Steve Bannon, a former alternative right media leader also known for racist and anti Semitic statements.  So don't be fooled by his appointment of African American Ben Carson to be Secretary of the House And Urban development, most of the people Trump will surround himself and listen to as president are white men whom those Klan members will approve of.  And  the more you think of it, the worse it gets: over two million more people voted for Hillary Clinton than Trump, but he won because we have an outdated electoral college system, which was first devised to give more power to smaller, less populated slave states.  So our legacy of slavery just gave the White House to the most openly race baiting modern presidential candidate ever!
And then there's the so called "pizzagate"  scandal: last Sunday a man opened fire in a Washington DC pizza parlor; while he thankfully hurt no one and was quickly caught, his inspiration for the shooting was clear.  Shortly after Wikileaks released thousands of Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman John Podesta's  emails last November, a conspiracy theory began that stated that somehow the DC pizza place Comet Ping Pong was the center of a child prostitution ring, with Clinton herself inevitably involved! (Every time Podesta emailed Clinton about ordering pizza, he was actually ordering up another child prostitute, so the theory goes). There has never been a shred of proof for any of this, but the belief has escalated from threatening messages towards the pizza place's owner and coworkers to the aforementioned gun toting nut job shooting up the place.
So how could this now violence inspiring crazy conspiracy get any worse?  How about the fact that one of the people who spread it is now Trump's choice for National Security Advisor?  That's right, today's New York Times reports that Lt. Gen. Micheal Flynn has endorsed this conspiracy on his twitter account, along with other Clinton and President Obama conspiracies.  The fact that a candidate for a major political appointment could believe something so insane and unproven should be a major scandal, but, as with so much else, Trump just sails over it. And  it should come as no surprise.  Why should it matter that a Trump appointee believes bug nut crazy conspiracies when the president himself recently tweeted that millions of illegal voters voted in the presidential election?  As with pizzagate, there is absolutely no proof of Trump's voter assertion, but then there is absolutely no proof in so much of what he has said in the past eighteen months that one more lie is nothing.  He lies multiple times in practically every speech he's given as a candidate, and he won, so why stop?
So let's review: American voters elected a man who ran a campaign filled with bigotry and conspiracy theories, and he now is surrounding himself with bigots and conspiracy theorists!  This is why progressives must never stop opposing him, this isn't about Republicans vs. Democrats, this is about wrong and right.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

NOT LIKELY, BUT POSSIBLE

"No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State."
Article I, Section 9, Clause 8

The above clause of the US Constitution is known as the Emoluments Clause, and it was included out of a concern  that members of English royalty may try to influence American politics through bribes or royal titles.  Just how it applies to the modern American political scene is debatable, although I doubt few of our citizens would argue with the basic notion that our politicians shouldn't take bribes from foreigners.   Which brings us to President-elect  Donald Trump; he will be groundbreaking in his presidency not only because of his complete lack of political or military experience, but  also because he will be the first to ever to run a massive, multi million (perhaps billion) global corporation just before entering office.  While he has stated that he will hand over his corporation to his children once he is in office, this will hardly remove any potential conflicts of interest that may arise.
Indeed, even before taking office, there are reports of him receiving a congratulatory phone call from the prime minister of Argentina and turning it into a plea for restrictions to lifted on a building his company is working on there.  He also has interests in India that he may see advanced through his ascendancy to the White House.  And the Secret Service may be renting a floor in his New York Trump Tower building, at a cost of over a million dollars a year (if that happens, that's our tax dollars going to a standing president, folks!).  And these examples are just the tip of the iceberg.  It really appears that Trump plans to use the office of the Presidency to advance his own economic interests first and to implement policies second (unless those polices also advance his interests).  Is this all constitutional?  Probably not, but given that it would take a Republican majority congress to do something about it, there may be no move to rebuke or restrict him.  But as long as he uses his office like a cash machine, there may come a time when public outcry causes congress to act.
And then we need to consider the general temperament of the man we somehow elected president; during the campaign, Trump advisors often admitted that he would listen to their advice for a short time, before impulsively doing his own thing, like sending insulting tweets at three in the morning.  This is bad enough when one is a candidate, but when you're president?  Quite frankly, he has the maturity level and attention span of a toddler, combine that with his godlike sense of self importance and lack of experience in politics, and it is entirely possible that this man may blunder into some kind of criminal corruption or international crisis without even knowing it.
What am I saying? I'm saying that some kind of impeachment is possible in the next four years.  Understand, I'm not just predicting this out of angry sour grapes or my personal intense dislike of the man, I'm just honestly looking at him through media reports on his manner and disposition and finding that he is probably a psychopath, with inflated self esteem and an inability to care about any other person in the world.  Meaning that he very well may stumble into something impeachable as he childishly tries to increase his own wealth and importance, and don't forget that many Republicans in congress did not support his campaign and would rather have his VP  Mike Pence as president than him, and we may see our country's desire to have a inexperienced, immature, sexist, bigoted, bullying, demagogic, hate filled, narcissistic leader turn out to be short lived.  Boy, I sure hope so...

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

SYMPATHY FOR (SOME) DEVILS



While I am still reeling from the victory of Donald Trump, and enraged at the over sixty million American voters who supported him, I must admit that I do have some sympathy for one strain of Trump voters, and a recent  New York Times headline explains why: TRUMP'S PROMISES WILL BE HARD TO KEEP, BUT COAL COUNTRY HAS FAITH.  While job growth and the overall economy are strong right now, there are many mostly white, working class counties in this country that are in trouble, through no fault of their own.  And they overwhelmingly voted Trump, even after many of them supported Barack Obama in 2008 or 2012.
Why?  Because Trump promised to bring back coal jobs and Hillary Clinton (in a moment she later apologized for) openly remarked "We're going to put a lot of coal miners and companies out of business."  To people like myself who live on cities in the coastal part of the country, this comment was no big deal; of course America needs to move away from the burning of coal, which contributes greatly to climate change.  But to people who live in coal mining communities, it's a way of life,  with entire towns built around people working in the local mine for generations.  When those mines close those towns are devastated, with depressed people often turning to drug and alcohol abuse, or even suicide.  A recent  Princeton study found that between the years 1999 and 2013 the average life expectancy of middle aged white Americans actually decreased, especially for ones without a college degree, (that is, for coal miners and other factory workers) due mostly to this increase in drug and alcohol use.  These are the people who went to Trump rallies and cheered, seeing him as their voice; to them "making America great again" meant going back to a time of good paying blue collar jobs that you could get right out of high school.
But there's a reason why that Times headline says that Trump's promises will be hard to keep; the reality is that coal jobs have been deteriorating in this country since the 1980's.  Even if Trump does roll back all the regulations that Obama has put in place in regards to phasing out coal energy, there are two factors that even a President can't change: the first is the free market; with the onset of fracking, natural gas is cheaper to use than coal, so many communities are turning away from coal energy to save money.  The other is mechanization.  Simply put, drilling machines can do the job of people for less money, just as machines in factories can do the same.
This trend towards mechanization is something that the US and the world will have to continue to deal with, and there are few easy answers.  While retraining displaced workers and making college more affordable are laudable goals, they are often easier said than done, especially for workers who have made a good living for years in one job.  But we have to try, because physical labor is quickly becoming a thing of the past; consider the rise of self driving cars, which are definitely coming ready or not.  While these cars will prevent  thousands of  auto accidents, not to mention the billions of dollars trucking and delivery companies will save, think about the millions of drivers that will be put of work by those companies.    This is enough of a problem that Andy Stern, a senior fellow at the Columbia school of business, proposed in a recent interview in VOX magazine that the US adapt a policy of a Universal Basic Income, literally in the form of the government paying each citizen enough money to survive on.  While this might seem like anathema to the basic American work ethic, it really might help those struggling communities survive, and in the long run, cost the tax payers less than all the money we lose from dealing with depressed people using drugs and alcohol.  I think it's worth a try.  It certainly stands a better chance of working than the empty promises that Trump made in the campaign.


Tuesday, November 15, 2016

WHY WE CAN'T JUST GIVE HIM A CHANCE



After giving Donald Trump literally billions of dollars worth of free air time by breathlessly reporting on every speech he gave, allowing his lies and insults to marinate in the public consciousness, the media is now in the process of normalizing Donald Trump as inauguration day looms like a black cloud ahead.  60 MINUTES did an interview with him in which he mostly sounded like a real politician  and not the demagogic hatemonger he ran as.  We can't live in a bubble and say "he's not my President", we have  to own up as a country at the potentially world shattering decision we have made.
It is essential in the next four years that we never forget just how Trump violated every standard of a normal Presidential campaign, along with every standard of normal human decency.  Here's a list of just how radical a choice America made on November 8th:

1. He is the first President ever to have never held any previous  political office or serve in the military.  (He once claimed that his running the Ms Universe beauty pageant qualified as foreign policy experience!)

2.  He is the first President in modern history to refuse to release his Income Tax returns.  He has repeatedly boasted about all the money he has made in his lifetime, while shrugging off his multiple bankruptcies and numerous claims of unpaid bills that have been made against him over the years. According to a USA TODAY investigation, the number of lawsuits he is involved in stands at a whopping 3,500,  an unprecedented number for any President.  And  his Trump University seminar programs may well prove to have been an outright scam aimed  at making empty promises to customers while providing no real advice and bilking them of money.

3.  He is the first Presidential Candidate to openly embrace conspiracy theories, (like when he said that Ted Cruz's father was somehow involved in the assassination of President Kennedy!).

4. On the campaign trail he continually made over the top personal attacks on his political opponents, calling President Obama and Hillary Clinton "traitors" and "the founders of ISIS".   He also often encouraged people at his rallies to physically attack protestors.   And in a real low point for American politics, he once ridiculed a handicapped reporter by mimicking his handicap.

5.  He was rejected not just by progressive news outlets like the New York Times, but also by more conservative papers and magazines; The National Review, once the think tank of conservative thought, openly attacked him in a cover story.   And the newspaper USA TODAY, which normally never endorses candidates, said he did not deserve to be President.

6. His crude statements during debates, in which he made childish insults and interrupted constantly, lowered the general level of public discourse.  In a Republican primary debate he defended the size of his genitals; in a Presidential debate he threatened to have Clinton thrown in jail.  Add to the insults his constant immature boasting ("I have a very good brain!") and it's easy to see that this man  sets a poorer role model for children than any other President in recent times (and probably ever).

7.  He was once recorded joking about sexually assaulting women on an open microphone, and was later accused of making such assaults  by eleven different women.

8.  The nonpartisan website Politifact rated a mere 15% of his statements as true or half true.  While all politicians exaggerate or mislead, no Presidential candidate in modern times has every lied openly and repeatedly as much as he has. His biggest lies include that he opposed the 2003 Iraq war from the start, that Clinton started the birther movement against President Obama and he ended it, and that he saw thousands of Muslims celebrating in Jersey City after the attacks of 9/11.   Clinton's record of true or mostly true statements during the campaign stands on Politifact at 75%.

9.  He has engaged in childish personal vendettas during the campaign: he tweeted angry messages against former Ms Universe Alicia Machado, and threatened to sue every one of the eleven women who have accused him of sexual assault.   He also has said that he wants to "open up" federal libel laws to make it easier for people like him to sue news organizations like the New York Times.

10.  He gleefully encouraged Russian hackers to hack into Clinton's files to release her emails.  The Russian government has now formally admitted that it collaborated with Wikileaks to attempt to discredit Clinton and aid the Trump campaign.

11.  He has expressed admiration for Russian leader Vladimir Putin, dismissing the distinct possibility that Putin has had dissenting reporters in his country killed.

12.  He criticized the war record of Republican Senator John McCain, saying "I like people who weren't captured."   He also attacked the gold star  Khan family after Kzir Khan spoke against him during the Democratic Convention.  It should also be pointed out that he avoided being drafted into the service during the Vietnam war because of a mysterious bone spur in his foot; in a later interview he couldn't remember which foot it was in!

13.  He has advocated killing the families of terrorists and torturing terrorist suspects ("waterboarding and a hell of a lot worse.").  The fact that these two things are international war crimes doesn't phase him.  He has blithely discussed the US not living up to NATO alliances, and encouraging South Korea and Japan to develop their own nuclear weapons.  There are also reports that during military foreign policy briefings he wondered aloud why the US doesn't use nuclear weapons on other countries since we have them.

14.  He is either an outright bigot, or at the very least has inflamed racial hatred.  From his long stated  belief that President Obama was not born in this country to the day he announced his campaign by calling Mexican immigrants rapists, Trump has played the race card repeatedly: he once asserted that an American born judge of Mexican descent could not rule fairly in a fraud case against Trump University  because of his race (something Speaker of the House Paul Ryan called "The textbook definition of racism.").  His signature issues were building a wall on the border with Mexico (while somehow getting Mexico to pay for it) and deporting the estimated eleven million undocumented immigrants living in the US.  He has also called for a ban on all Muslim immigrants entering the country. When  his candidacy was endorsed by former Grand Wizard of the Klu Klux Klan David Duke,  he only tepidly denounced him.  The KKK's official newspaper put a glowing article about him on the cover just before the election.

The scary thing about this list is that it kept getting larger the more I thought about it; it seems like there is no end to the unprecedented, horrible things Trump has done since he first began demanding the President's birth certificate in 2011.  He is not a normal Republican, a President Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio would upset me, but not horrify me. Trump is all new combination of inexperience, lies, bullying and boasts.
This is why we cannot "give him a chance", like so many conservatives are saying.  Not when there has been a spike in hate crimes against Muslims  in the past year, not when the KKK has announced that they will hold a rally in honor of him, not when he has decided that Steve Bannon of the extreme right wing website Breitbart will be his Chief of Staff, a choice the New York Times editorial board characterized as "turn on the hate", and which David Duke praised, saying that this might prove that Trump is "for real".  Yes ladies and gentlemen, it is 2016 and we have a former Klan leader openly praising a President.  This is not normal, this is not in any way good, and there is no way we should accept it; progressives must fight this man at every turn, and never let the country forget the hate filled people  that now support him.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

THE POWER OF POLITICAL SPEECH

A young Ronald Reagan on the air

Another takeaway  from this stunning  election is the importance of public speaking and playing to a TV camera can have on a Presidential election. The ability to connect with and move thousands, or even millions of people simultaneously is an intangible skill that, while it can be honed over years of practice, seems to be essentially inborn; you got it or you don’t.  Hillary Clinton is a smart woman who can talk intelligently and clearly about just about any political issue in interviews and debates.  But she can't give a great speech; the speech of her life that she gave at the Democratic National Convention was good, but not great.  The speech everyone remembers from that convention was Michelle Obama's, which was so good that many Democrats want her to start running for office. Big, stirring emotional rhetoric is just not Clinton's thing, and while the few Trump campaign speeches I have watched left me either appalled at his lies and offensive statements, or amused by his bizzarro word salad statements ("I know words, I use the best words."), it is clear that they  had an enormous appeal to a certain demographic.  His campaign speeches were straightforward and understandable (a grade level analysis of them showed him speaking at a fourth grade level), playing to his base of non college educated white people.  More importantly, they worked because he sensed the anger that his crowds felt and channeled it into easy targets (undocumented immigrants, Muslims, the media) for them to hate and for him to say that he would "take care of."  Clinton spoke from her mind and Trump from his gut, and in the end, raw gut anger and emotion defeated cerebral thought.
The ability to give a good campaign or electoral speech, while always a good thing (Franklin Delano Roosevelt's fireside chats were legendary)  has become more and more important as TV has become such a big part of modern Presidential campaigning; in fact I would argue that the candidate with superior speech ability has had a  big advantage in  every election since 1980 (with wooden Al Gore and bumbling George W Bush's poor performances essentially cancelling each other out in 2000.).  Ronald Reagan, like Trump, had years of experience in front of cameras before entering politics, and he could effortlessly display lovable folksy charm even as he said things that were flat out untrue.  In 1992 Bill Clinton defeated  George Bush mainly on his empathetic appeals to people hurt by the poor economy ("I feel your pain.").  And then in 2008 Barack Obama, running against Hillary Clinton in the primaries, defeated a more experienced candidate by rousing crowds with uplifting speeches, and then took that same oratory ability to two successful  terms in the White House.
While I like a good moving speech as much as the next voter (and yes, I teared up too when Michelle Obama spoke at the Convention), I wish that things like facts and issues played more of a role in people's voting decisions than a candidate's ability to string together some nice words.  The effects of this are often amazing: Clinton has had years of experience dealing with Middle East  terrorism as Secretary of State; Trump has literally no foreign policy experience whatsoever, and yet in poll after poll he was rated by  the public as being "stronger" on the issue, simply because he yelled and talked tough about terrorism during his speeches ("I'm gonna bomb the shit out of  Isis!”).  Please, give me the smart woman with a history of dealing with  an issue over the blustery inexperienced loud mouth man any day!
This gets even worse when one looks at issues: 54% of white women are pro choice, a demographic that went 53% for Trump, who has pledged to put anti abortion judges on the Supreme Court.  A majority of Americans now support gay marriage, which is also in jeopardy once Trump starts making court appointments.  Majorities also support expanding background checks on gun purchases and doing something about global warming, putting them clearly on the other side of Trump.  It would appear that millions of Americans were talked into ignoring Trump's stance on important issues because they responded to the raw emotion of his pumped up speeches.  Which is part of why we’re in this mess.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

SOME MORE INTERESTING ELECTION RESULTS



Perhaps the most frustrating thing about the 2016 Presidential election is that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, in fact, she won it by around two million votes! That's even more than Al Gore won by in the infamous election of 2000.  The silly outdated Electoral College that we use is a mess; actually, it's worse than that, it's undemocratic, partially stealing a political voice from more populous areas and giving it to smaller areas.  Sadly, like so many other parts of early American history, it's linked to slavery, specifically small slave states that wanted more clout.  And it brings unfair attention to the swing states, with candidates campaigning heavily in swing states like Florida and Ohio and ignoring deep blue and red states like California and Texas. We absolutely should get rid of it, but doing so would require a constitutional amendment, something that a Republican party that has benefited from it twice would never go for.  Thankfully, there is a movement, dubbed the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, by which a state could pledge all of its electoral votes to whomever wins the popular vote, whatever the outcome in that individual state.  In effect, an end run around the Electoral College.  So far ten states and the district of Columbia have signed on, but it will take more to really change things.  So for now, all frustrated Democrats can do is grit their teeth.

Another interesting fact is that, although progressives like myself are blaming racism for much of Trump's victory (and with the KKK planning to hold a pro Trump rally, that's not too hard a connection to make!), there are a surprising number of voting counties in this country that turned to Trump this election after voting for Obama in 2008 and/or 2012.  It would appear that a lot of the angry white people who voted for Trump never thought that the change that Obama promised came to them.  Much of this has to do with the transition this country is going through; once upon a time, if you lived in a small town, you could graduate from high school and immediately get a local factory job that paid solid middle class wages.  In the past few years, many of those factories have closed and devastated the small towns that relied on them.  The perception is that the factories are leaving to hire cheaper labor in Mexico and China; Trump pounced on this perception, promising to put tariffs on products from those countries, going so far as accusing China of raping the US economically. He did this despite the fact the reliable economists have predicted that that  such an action would trigger a trade war, resulting in an economic downturn in our country that would cost more jobs than tariffs would save.  Part of Clinton's problem was that she had no easy message to give these frustrated workers; trying to make college more affordable doesn't help laid off factory workers in the short term.  The reason that both Trump's potentially disastrous proposal and Clinton's silence fall short is because the notion that US factory jobs are being lost to other countries is only partly true; the real problem is the rise of automation.  More and more, factories are using robotic workers instead of people; this is an inevitable consequence of the free market.  To keep competitive, companies have to keep labor costs down, and there's no easier way to do that than to build machinery that can do the job of several workers.  There is simply no easy solution to this problem, there's just  no way to force a company to hire workers to do a job a machine can do.  People who live in these small factory  towns are, through no fault of their own, are victims of progress, without  any easy answers of what to do about it.  And last Tuesday we heard the primal scream of their anger over it.

Friday, November 11, 2016

WHITE WOMEN AND TRUMP


The gender gap map, alas not the real one

When surveying the wreckage of the 2016 election one stunning voting statistic seems to stand out over all the others.  While Hillary Clinton won 54% of women voters overall, 53% of white female voters voted for Donald Trump; while that is 3% lower than the percentage of white women who voted for Mitt Romney back in 2012, it's still a clear majority.  It was expected by both Clinton and the media that a surge of female voters, disgusted by Trump's boasting of sexually assaulting women, would handily give her the victory.  Instead a majority of white women voted for a lying, boastful bigot.  Why?
While understanding the motives of millions of people isn't easy, I have some ideas.  First, there are some women who have just always voted Republican and always will, even if their candidate isn't normal.  Then, quite frankly, there is the fact that women can be bigots too, and that Trump's brand of xenophobia and race baiting caught on with some of them, overcoming whatever reservations they had about his attitudes towards women.
But I think there may be another reason: America is the most openly capitalist first world country, one in which the gulf between the rich and the poor is enormous.  Aggressive cut throat competition  is the name of the game here.  And Trump embodies that idea.  He is obsessed with promoting himself and always being a winner; he isn't just wealthy, he flaunts it, flying in planes and living in buildings  with his name on it.  He is the classic image of the well dressed, successful business man of the 1950's, an era that many of his white female supporters remember fondly.
And with an alpha male like that, the sexism and womanizing are seen as a natural outgrowth of his success.  While they may not admire his choice of words, his actions are no surprise to these women.  Women are often drawn to powerful men, so why shouldn't such a man enjoy that, they rationalize. And his ascension from corporate tycoon to celebrity only fuels his image of success.  Yes, even before he entered the political race he wielded a powerful mix of confidence, success, affluence, self promotion and celebrity that he brought into the race and used to win over not only angry white men, but their wives as well.  Sadly, they seemed to think that some of that  wealth and success could shake off him and sprinkle over the rest of us. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

AMERICAN FASCIST?

 FASCISM

-a political philosophy, movement, or regime  that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic  government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition

Now that Donald Trump has somehow managed to win the Presidency, the inevitable question that arises is: just what kind of President will he be?  Because the man has never actually held any political office before, we have no record to go on.  Therefore we must take him at his word and use what he has said in his speeches to try and find out.  And the scary answer is, he very well may be  the first outright fascist American President.
I don't use that word lightly, but I do feel  that it is correct.  Firstly, consider how he has repeatedly stated that he wants to round up all the undocumented immigrants in the country and forcibly deport them. The image of Government troops rushing through work places and houses demanding proof of citizenship and carting off people without that proof is straight out of the fascist playbook.
He ran as a law and order candidate, which will lead to an increase in police force and arrests (this in a country that already has the world's highest prison population).  He also wants to bring back the openly racist "stop and frisk" laws.  Again, this is classic fascist strongman behavior.  (Really, given this and his immigration policies, it's going to be very hard to be a nonwhite person in this country once he's in office.  But then, seeing as how his Supreme Court may overturn the recent pro gay marriage ruling, being gay or lesbian may also be hard.  And given his popularity with the now energized Neo Nazi movement, I wouldn't want to be Jewish either!).
Trump has also expressed a desire to change the libel laws of the country to make it easier to sue publications that print negative things about him.  At his rallies he would make members of the press sit in a ringed off section and often encourage the crowd to boo and taunt them (even calling some out by name).  Clearly he wants a crackdown on any negative reporting of his regime. 
And then there is his rhetoric; his speeches are filled with classic dictator themes, such as:  "I am your Voice" , "I and I alone can fix it" and "to the victor goes the spoils".
 He has even called for the torturing of suspected terrorists ("waterboarding and a hell of a lot worse") and the killing of the families of terrorists.  The fact that these two things are both considered war crimes doesn't matter to him at all;  his word will be law. 
 No doubt he sees himself as a singular powerful leader who's desires will be met unquestioningly. Just look at  his admiration for Vladimir Putin, a fellow fascist in arms.
Thankfully, we still have a Constitution in this country, and no matter how much he thinks he will be a dictator, there still some limits placed on his power, a few  brick walls that he will run into.  Still, how much damage can he cause to the country and the world?  When he is Commander in Chief of the world's largest military force, the answer is a chilling "who knows?".

WHO DO WE BLAME?


The President Elect (Lord help us)


I have never felt more proud to be an American than in 2008 when the country elected Barack Obama to the Presidency.  And I have never felt more shame for my country than I feel right now, waking up to a President Donald Trump.  I love the city and state that I live in, but I can't imagine that I will ever feel love for this country as a whole ever again.  Not for one that could vote for a racist, narcissistic, misogynistic, person like Trump. No patriotism for me, in fact right now I only feel seething rage; I want to look at each one of the 58,842,291 people for voted for him in the eye and ask:  how could you do this?

After every Presidential election, the losing side picks over the ruins of the campaign to try and gain insight.  So now it's important to ask, who is to blame for this political catastrophe?

1.  The Media-right after Trump took that fateful ride down the escalator, the media has been Trump's biggest alley.  Given his gift for absurd bombast and offensive statements, Trump brought ratings to the media, who quickly broadcast one speech of his after another, giving him literally billions of dollars worth of free exposure.  And because he lied so fast and so frequently in those speeches, fact checking became almost impossible, letting his lies out into the ether without any contradiction.  Conservatives love to rail against the liberal mainstream media, but it was that media that gave Trump the attention he craved.

2. The pollsters-Although the numbers fluctuated, Hillary Clinton lead in every poll leading up to the election, even on Fox News.  The usually reliable Nathan Silver of the statistical analysis website 538.Com gave her a healthy 65% chance of winning on election day, with most other outlets ranking her chances even higher.  Did this high level of certainty lead to many potential Clinton voters staying home on election night, thinking that she had it in the bag?  Possibly, her support was wide but shallow; she never really excited voters the way that Obama did.

3. Millennials-When the numbers are calculated,  I am sure that the turnout for millennial voters will be very low in this election; these young people tuned in for Bernie Sanders and then tuned out for Clinton.  Sadly, they don't seem to realize the stakes that were involved; for example, someday soon Trump appointed Supreme Court Justices may overturn gay marriage in this country, something they overwhelmingly support but couldn't seen to connect to in this election.  They sadly didn't realize that voting for the lesser of two evils is still something worth doing, especially when the greater evil is Trump!

4. James Comey-Clinton was apparently coasting to a victory when FBI leader Comey announced on October 28th.  that there appeared to be more emails that needed to be investigated.  Although he cleared her the day before the election, the damage was done.  Although polls on the day of the election still showed her with an advantage,  her once commanding lead had evaporated after this unprecedented intrusion by his agency into the election.

5. Clinton herself-With the emails, the ethical questions about the Clinton Foundation, and the unreleased private speeches to Wall St., Clinton always seemed to have one scandal or another being discussed in the media.  Although none of them were criminal, and the attention given them was often overblown, they wound up having a cumulative effect, giving the impression that she was, to use Trump's term, "crooked".  And she was never quite a natural politician; her speeches were lacking in uplift, her emotions often seeming canned and phony. But in many ways she ran a strong campaign: she raised enormous amounts of campaign money, aired some very moving ads on TV, and built up a ground game to get out the vote.  And polls showed her beating Trump in at least two of the debates.  Alas, she wound up falling just short (as of this point, according to the New York Times, she actually got a few thousand more votes than Trump, even while losing the Electoral College). Given the closeness of the election, Progressives like myself will be grinding our teeth at the thought that if Bernie Sanders had gotten the Democratic nomination instead of Clinton, the support of the aforementioned millennial voters very well may have put him over the top.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

SHELL SHOCKED


 "Is America a failed state and society?"

 -Paul Krugman, November 8th. 10:58 PM


I am stunned, horrified, shocked, speechless and terrified.  I can't possibly mince words; the worst Presidential campaign in American history has produced the worst possible outcome.  Here are words I can't almost bring myself to say: President Donald Trump.
How could this happen?  Every reliable poll saw Hillary Clinton with a small but consistent lead for months.  The early voting returns in Florida were skewing towards her.  The top fifty newspapers in the country refused to endorse Trump, and many prominent conservatives came to their senses and also refused to endorse him.  Did James Comey hand Trump the election when he announced that he was still investigating Clinton's emails, even when he later admitted he had found nothing?  Could Bernie Sanders have won against Trump? 
What kind of woman votes for a man who boasts about sexually molesting women?  How can they look their children in the eye afterwards?  Who can vote for a man who lies, blusters, insults and brags with every speech? What kind of person votes for a man who has been cheered for by the Klu Klux Klan and every other white supremacist organization in the country?  Who has expressed admiration for dictators like Vladimir Putin?  Who has spread hatred of Mexicans and  Muslims?  Who has encouraged violence at his rallies?
And what could possibly be worse than President Trump?  Try President Trump with a Republican majority congress which will inevitably rubber stamp his budget busting tax cuts for the rich, while he will sign Paul Ryan's move to privatize Social Security and Medicare.  And he will get at least one Supreme Court Justice pick, with perhaps more to come.  So, more than likely, we may say goodbye to gay marriage, along with Roe Vs. Wade.
America may be taking the hardest right turn it ever has, making the 50's and the 80's look progressive in comparison.  But now is not the time for progressives to surrender, we have to fight.  It once seemed impossible that a mixed race Senator with a funny middle name could ever be President, but damned if we didn't get 8 great years of one of the most progressive Presidents ever. We can do it again.
Consider this, once Trump is in office, he will have to try to live up to his promises, and he will find that trying to build a 1200 mile wall and deport 11 million people will not be as easy as he has said it would.  Once his followers discover that he is just another lying politician, they will hopefully turn on him.  And then we can reassert rational control over the country again.  And once the millennial voters who didn't show up for Clinton get a load of what a conservative president can do, they will start paying attention again.  I can't imagine that the four years we will have to suffer through a Trump Presidency will result in him winning a second term.  But just imagine all the damage he can do to both the country and the world by then.  Again, I'm stunned, horrified, shocked, speechless and terrified.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

LET IT END....



And so, on Tuesday, the ugliest Presidential Campaign in modern history will finally come to close.  Immediately  books will be written, TV specials and documentaries will be made, and the battle between two stunningly unpopular candidates will be analyzed.
To me, there is a central irony  to this whole process that must be noted: this Presidential Campaign, between two white candidates, was more about race than the two campaigns before it with Barack Obama on the ticket.  When Donald Trump announced his candidacy for the Presidency by accusing Mexico of sending over rapists and drug users, he lifted a rock in America and found the ugly racist slugs lying underneath.  He energized the country's white supremacist movement into backing a national political figure, something that it almost never does.  Just the other day The Crusader, one of the most prominent Klu Klux Klan newsletters, put him on the cover and wrote a spirited defense of his campaign. 
Let's not kid ourselves, when he made that statement about Mexican immigrants and doubled down on it by saying that he would deport all undocumented immigrants in the country, and then build a border wall with Mexico and get that country to pay for it, for many Republicans(and non registered white supremacists), he didn't need to say anything else.  He was their man.  As popular right wing author Ann Coulter tweeted after  his immigration policy paper was released, "I don't care if @realDonaldTrump wants to perform abortions in White House after this immigration policy paper."  And at every rally that Trump holds, "build the wall" is the chant that's heard the most; in nearly every interview with his supporters it's their number one issue.  His overwhelmingly white constituency cling  to the sad belief that somehow, in a country of three hundred and twenty million people, the actions of eleven million "illegals" is what's holding us down, taking away jobs and spreading crime.
Understand, I am certainly not saying that all Republicans are white supremacists; many Republicans are voting for him because they can't stand Hillary Clinton, or just have always voted for Republicans, and can't see voting any other way.  And most Republican Party officials and Congress members have given little to no support of Trump. But  the way his supporters have responded  against any dissent in the Republican party shows how deeply racist many of them are; David French, a conservative writer for The National Review, led the charge against Trump at that magazine.  The result was a flood of  emails and twitter messages aimed at him and his wife that made violent threats towards both of them. The fact that he has an adopted black African daughter was immediately pounced upon, with the most vile kind of photo shopped images being sent to him and his wife; the fact that his daughter is only seven seemed to not even slow them down.
But there appears to be good news on the horizon: early voting numbers are in, and there are already high numbers of Latino voters (many of them first time voters) making sure their voices are heard in states like Florida and Nevada.  Yes, it would appear that the friends and relatives of the same group of people that Trump began his campaign demonizing are the same ones that are going to  send him slinking back to Trump Tower, whining the whole time about a rigged election.  That's called Karma.

Monday, October 31, 2016

OCTOBER SURPRISE


Huma Abedin


Just when it looked like Hillary Clinton was winning in a landslide, just when it looked like America was rejecting the worst Presidential candidate of modern times (and maybe ever), last Friday FBI director James Comey had to bring up the scandal that she had hoped was behind her.  In a vaguely written letter to congress, Comey said that his agency was reopening the investigation into Clinton's emails, because some of them may have been found during the investigation of former congressman Anthony Weiner.  Weiner's ex-wife,  Huma Abedin is an advisor for the Clinton campaign and may have received classified emails from her, which are now coming to light due to the investigation into Weiner's alleged sexting with a minor.  Got that?

The bottom line is that we have no idea yet just how these emails relate to Clinton and the investigation, and Clinton herself wants the emails released as soon as possible to clear up the matter.  Naturally that didn't stop Donald Trump from immediately crowing that this was a scandal "worse than Watergate".  Comey's behavior clearly seems to be a partisan attack on the Clinton campaign and Democrats in general; in a later letter to the his own agency, Comey wrote “of course, we don’t ordinarily tell Congress about ongoing investigations.”   Oh, you think?  And that goes double when such an investigation is announced with less than two weeks to go before an election. While it doesn't appear that this news will change the outcome of the election for Clinton, it may hurt down ballot Democrats, and it threw yet another crazy twist into a Presidential election full of them.

When one looks at the history of Clinton in politics, you can't help but wonder just how much male politicians engaging in sex scandals have affected her life: first, they were the rumors (many true) that her husband Bill was often unfaithful to her when he was Governor of Arkansas, which led to her forgiving him (more or less) in a 60 MINUTES interview.  Then, of course, he was later almost impeached for the Monica Lewinsky scandal; leading the charge on that call for impeachment was Newt Gingrich, who was never shy about his contempt for both Clintons, and who was himself cheating on his wife at the time.   And now she's running against Trump, who's negative comments about women are well documented, and who is currently accused of groping eleven different women(and counting?).  And finally there's Anthony Weiner, a man who seems incapable of controlling his addiction to sexting, who humiliated his ex-wife Abedin twice before (once as congressman, once as a mayoral candidate), and who now faces criminal charges.  It's hard to imagine the rage Clinton must feel; after all the humiliation her husband has brought her over the years, and with the White House now apparently in her grasp, she has to contend with another scandal involving a man who just can't seem to control his sexual appetites.   And if this overblown scandal results in the election of the supremely unqualified Trump, I will also be enraged myself!

Friday, October 28, 2016

GOOD NEWS/BAD NEWS



When Donald Trump first announced his candidacy for President about a year ago, like a lot of Americans, I was both amused and appalled.  And as he dominated the primaries, picking off one opponent after another, I couldn't help but feel happy, sure that he would fall apart once he had to start appealing to the whole country and not just Republican voters.
Well, it appears that that scenario, for the most part, has played out; every reliable poll shows Clinton with a lead nationally and in most swing states.  She may even have a chance at winning traditionally red states like Texas and Utah.  And it couldn't have happened to a more deserving person; Trump is such a terrible candidate that newspapers like the Cincinnati Herald and the Arizona Republic, which haven't endorsed a Democrat for President in over fifty years, have endorsed Hillary Clinton.  Even USA Today, which normally doesn't make endorsements, has said that he doesn't deserve to be President.
And the Republican Party itself saw this coming; after Mitt Romney's loss to Barack Obama in 2012,  party officials and analysts  took a long hard look in the mirror and realized that they would never  win the Presidency again if they didn't find a way to appeal more to Hispanic and Women voters.  And then the Republican primary voters turned around and voted for a man who was the direct opposite of what the party knew that they needed.  The  party may be facing a split that may never completely heal; there's no way of knowing for sure, but it's entirely possible that a normal Republican candidate, like say Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio, might be beating Clinton in the polls right now if the party had gone with them.  But, to the anger of the party elites, the primary voters picked Trump as their standard bearer, which will in all likely hood  end with his humiliating defeat.
While there is some worry that Trump won't accept the election outcome, seeing as he already is calling it "rigged", Clinton's margin of victory appears  that it will be large enough that even his most rabid supporters will have to accept his loss, even if he rants and raves about it.
Now, that's the good news.  Here's the bad part: while there is a fair chance of the Democratic party taking control of the Senate, it appears that the Republicans will hang on to the House of Representatives.  Which means that we can look forward to at least four more years of Congressional gridlock, not to mention tax payer dollars wasted on pointless investigations of every possible aspect of Clinton's political machine.  Senator John McCain, normally seen as a voice of reason in the Republican party, has floated the idea of rejecting all of Clinton's Supreme Court nominees for the next four years, regardless of their qualifications, (although he has seemed to walk that statement back a bit).  So, sadly, progressives like myself will probably spend the next few years gritting our teeth at nothing getting done while ruefully admitting that Clinton doing practically nothing is still better than Trump doing anything.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

"HORRIFYING"




Well, it's official; there will be no more times this year that we will have to hear Donald Trump lie,  yell and insult his way through a debate. And, given recent polling numbers, we probably never will hear him debate again.    However the election turns out, for that we can all be grateful. (Although, sadly, I doubt he will disappear after losing).
Yes, the third debate was held last night, and, as with the first debate,  Trump manged to appear Presidential and give reasonably normal responses for the first part of it. But then, somewhere around the half hour mark, when his ADD started to kick in, and the fact that he was losing to a girl hit him full in the face, he reverted to the campaign Trump, the same man that his supporters all love and the rest of America can't stand. 
He had all his usual tricks:  the garbled, almost incoherent sentence syntax, the rambling, flailing attacks, all  sprinkled with rude  comments and crazy conspiracies.  At one point he huffed that Hillary Clinton shouldn't have even been allowed to run for the Presidency (uh, she's over 35 and was born in the US, so criteria met), and, in a brand new conspiracy, claimed that Clinton and President Obama paid people to start fights and cause trouble at his rallies.  (At least I think that's what he was saying, his phrasing of it  was quite muddy. ) So far the mainstream media hasn't even mentioned this odd line of attack that, if true, would be a major, perhaps even criminal, scandal.  From any other candidate, this charge would be big news, but when you're dealing with a man who has set records for the amount of lies he tells in each speech, it was just another addition to the long list of conspiracy theories that he has mentioned and possibly endorsed, from Birtherism to the death of Vince Foster.

The most chilling moment came when moderator Chris Wallace asked whether or not he would accept the results of the election; this was no idle question.  Recently at campaign rallies Trump has stated repeatedly that the election was rigged against him.  Like a schoolyard bully that cries and yells "you're cheating!" when he starts to lose a game, the narcissistic Trump can't believe that not everybody thinks he's as wonderful as he does.  And so, Trump categorically refused to say whether or not he would accept that the election results were legitimate, jokingly remarking that "I will keep you in suspense" about that, a comment that Clinton rightfully described as "horrifying".  His statement oddly flies  in the face of recent statements made by his own Vice Presidential running mate and his daughter, not to mention common sense and reason.
This is uncharted water; although Al Gore called for a recount of the state of Florida in the 2000 Presidential election, that was after the election, when reports of voter repression and irregularities were widespread.  Trump is the first Presidential candidate ever to question an election's outcome weeks before election day, setting another sad precedent in his candidacy. This is why Hillary Clinton needs to win big (or bigly, as Trump would say).  If her victory includes not only the usual blue states and swing states, but a few red states as well, it would show Trump's assertions to be the childish tantrums that they are; while voter fraud, if it existed, might be able to swing some very close states, it couldn't possibly change an election won by millions (or even tens of millions) of votes.  To steal an election by that many votes would require a massive expenditure of time and money, and even Trump's most staunch defenders couldn't say that she stole an election at that level.  And then hopefully he will retreat to his tower and pout alone while the world moves on without him.

Monday, October 10, 2016

THE UGLY DEBATE



Last night Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton engaged in a Presidential debate that was as ugly and mean spirited as one would expect from this campaign.  I suppose Trump was the winner, in that unlike in the first debate, he seemed reasonably prepared  and was not ever caught short sighted.  More importantly, he was able to say in front of Clinton what his rabid supporters  have been wanting to hear him say ever since he announced his candidacy: that Clinton was a liar, that she was wrong about Benghazi and her emails, that she "had enormous amounts of hate in her heart", and that he was going to call for a  special investigation of her if he's elected.  Finally, he topped it all  off with this sharp rejoinder: Clinton: (it's)“awfully good that someone with the temperament of Donald Trump is not in charge of the laws in this country.”  Trump:  "Because you'd be in jail”.  So, we've gone from Republicans chanting "Lock her up!" at their convention, to Trump threatening her with jail to her face. 
And as if that weren't low enough, Trump responded to criticism of him making horribly sexist comments in a recording released last Friday by attacking Bill Clinton's record on women when he was President, saying "There has never been anyone in the history of politics in this country  that has been so abusive to women."   This seems like a desperate ploy by Trump, in that he wants to somehow re litigate charges made against Bill Clinton decades ago, and then extend those charges to include Hillary.  I can't see this winning over moderates or undecideds.
So while Trump may have won the debate, the election will be a far different thing, and with several prominent Republicans with holding or with drawing their support of him (especially House Speaker Paul Ryan) , his chances of winning are sinking lower and lower.  The question now is: how much of the Republican party will he pull down with him?  Will Clinton get a Democratic majority in the Senate, and perhaps even the House of Representatives?  Perhaps.  More importantly, we may be seeing a split in the Republican party, between people who understand that compromise is part of politics, and those who see it as a weakness, between those who realize that a party made up of mostly old white angry men does not have a great future, and those very same old white angry men who wish that the days of white male dominance in this country never ended.  Putting it bluntly, is Trump win the nomination  in spite of his saying things that are racist, and sexist, or because he says things that are racist and sexist?  Will his crazy candidacy  be seen as a one time aberration?  A brief fling with a celebrity with no political experience?  Or will his popularity with the party's voters cause them to turn from the party leaders?  Could the party literally split in two?  In any event,  these next few years are going to be very interesting ones for the Republican party and for the country in general.  As  those crabby old white men become fewer and fewer, hopefully a more moderate and modern Republican party will emerge, while Rush Limbaugh and his ilk fade away.  In any event, I'm glad Trump appears to be going down hard, and that no candidate like him will reappear soon. No more demagogues America, please!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

UM...FINALLY?



Last Friday Donald Trump teased the press about a major statement he was going to make on the birthplace of President Barack Obama.  First, after forcing the TV press to sit through what was essentially an infomercial for his new hotel, he gave a terse statement:"  President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period, now, we all want to get back to making America strong and great again.”  Unable to resist, he, in typical fashion, managed to work both a lie and a boast into his next statement: “Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy,” Mr. Trump said. “I finished it.”
Now, it is normal for Presidential candidates to run further to the right or the left during the primaries  and then return to the center during the national race, when appealing to swing voters and moderates.  But, it's a sad state of affairs when a major party's candidate return to the center means abandoning a crazy, discredited conspiracy theory!  And like he does so often, Trump wants the American public to listen to and believe whatever is saying at any given moment and ignore everything he has said before (which works far better for him than it should).  Trump's assertion that Clinton herself began the birther theory back in 2008 has been fact checked and debunked thoroughly; while there may have been a few low level staffers who batted the idea around while she was running against Obama in the primaries, Clinton herself never pushed the theory.  But not only did Clinton not start the birther movement, she certainly never loudly and wholeheartedly embraced it the way that Trump did.  Remember that in 2011 Trump considered running for the presidency against Obama by giving one interview after another saying that Obama's birthplace was in question.  He made vague, ludicrous statements about how he had sent investigators to Hawaii who were finding out "incredible things"  about Obama, and kept it up even after the President released his long form birth certificate that year.  As late as 2014 he tweeted "Attention all hackers: You are hacking everything else so please hack Obama's college records (destroyed?) and check "place of birth". " The notion that he had put this issue to rest after keeping it alive for far too long is the height of hubris.  And, unfortunately, his statement on the issue allowed for no questions from the press and offered no apology to President Obama or the American people for wasting so much time on such a preposterous conspiracy.

To me the real tragedy of this whole mess is not Trump's hanging on to birtherism for as long as he has, it's how many American citizens clung to it, and still do.  In the eight years that Obama has been President, the percentage of Republicans who don't think he was born in the country or aren't sure has never hovered below forty percent.  Why do literally tens of millions of Americans cling to this notion despite a complete lack of evidence?  The sad truth is that an awful lot of white Americans have never been comfortable with an African American President and hold on to the birther movement as a safe place to express this discomfort without just coming out and admitting it.  And Trump has been capitalizing on that discomfort right from the start, and will continue to find ways to do so, even as he abandons birtherism.

It is truly horrific to consider that Trump may ride birtherism to the White House, and while the edge may be still in Clinton's favor, this race is far too close.  Even more horrid is the fact that if only white people voted, Trump would be well in the lead, and if only white men voted, he'd win in a land slide.  So here's a thought, since white men have held back voting rights to other Americans for so long, why don't we forfeit ours for the next, say, 100 years?  Personally,  I would gladly give up my right to vote if every other white man in the country had to also.  I'm  just saying....

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

HILLARY'S HEALTH






And the craziest national election is modern history just keep getting crazier.  Recently, Republican Donald Trump supporters have been pushing the idea that Hillary Clinton has some kind of serious ailment (ranging from Parkinson's to epilepsy) that she is concealing from the public.  Last month, former New York Mayor turned bug-eyed Trump supporting fear monger Rudy Giuliani gave an interview in which he encouraged people to "go online and put down 'Hillary Clinton illness' and take a look at the videos for themselves."  The videos in question were childishly slowed down images of Clinton reacting to things while right wing "experts" claimed that they proved existence of her brain damage, or whatever.
Sadly, what's going on here is obvious: just as the so called "birther movement", that claimed that President Barack Obama  was lying about being born in America, gave a smoke screen to racist comments by implying that Obama's Presidency wasn't legitimate, this new movement is allowing right wingers to make sexist comments about Clinton.  (Trump, it must be mentioned, was a prominent birther back in 2011, and he has never admitted that he was wrong about it). Although no one is saying that a woman can't be President, by talking about her alleged medical issues, it lets them use words like "toughness", "strength" and "stamina", all things normally associated with male strength, when talking about her.  The right wing media has always been good about dog whistles, playing up to its mostly white male audience's fears without coming right out and saying women and minorities aren't fit for office.

Unfortunately for Clinton, this crazy conspiracy got a boost this weekend when she, while attending a 9/11 memorial,  had to leave early.  Although it was initially chalked up to heat exhaustion, once a video of her needing help to get into a vehicle surfaced, she admitted that two days earlier she had been diagnosed with pneumonia. Thinking that it was, in her own words, no big deal, she soldiered on with her campaign, not even telling some of her advisers about the diagnosis, until her collapse on Sunday.  So, just as the White Water investigation back in the 90's eventually led to the Monica Lewinsky scandal, once again we have a Clinton accused of covering something up that turns out to be partially true.  Hopefully, her bout with sickness will not hurt her in the coming election, while convincing her to release a full medical report sometime soon.  Both she and Trump have been too reticent on this issue, especially when one considers that Clinton is 68  and Trump is 70. (At 69, Ronald Reagan was the oldest when he took office in 1980.)  Considering just how much being President appeared to rapidly age both George W Bush and Obama while they were in office, good mental health is important. (Physical health not so much, remember Franklin Delano Roosevelt ran the country from a wheelchair).  And hey, if health is going to be an issue in this election,  I would encourage people to consider that Trump is an admitted junk food junkie who works himself into a red faced lather during each speech.  The picture of modern health he isn't!

Friday, September 9, 2016

WHERE IS THE MEDIA?






Last Wednesday, in a preview of the upcoming debates, Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump gave back to back interviews with NBC morning news host Matt Lauer.  Lauer's performance during the interviews has been widely criticized, and with good reason.  While talking to  Clinton, Lauer asked her time and time again about her emails, and then rushed her answers on other matters, basically stepping on her talking points.  But while talking to Trump, Lauer allowed Trump's assertion that he opposed the 2004 Iraq war from the start to go unchallenged, even though there is documented video proof that he did support the war, from a Howard Stern interview Trump did  before the war started (Clinton even mentioned the interview in her part of the show).  Sadly, Lauer let Trump's lie float into the ether, letting him get away with it.  He also allowed Trump to lie about a similar opposition he claimed to have about America's military intervention in Libya.
Lauer's weak kneed response to Trump's falsehoods shows the media's problem with dealing with a candidate like Trump.  Trump lies so often, at such an alarming rate, that taking time to debunk one lie becomes difficult when he's already moving onto another.  And he lies with with such confidence, with so much righteous anger and certitude, that it becomes hard to challenge him.  Indeed, it's possible that he himself has no idea that he's lying; his short attention span and lack of focus has been well documented.
There's another problem that the media faces; it has been a talking point for decades that the mainstream media has a liberal bias.  Ironically, this statement usually comes from right wing media, where a completely biased opinion is expected!  While media bias is a debatable point (there certainly wasn't any media bias during the 2004 build up to the Iraq war, when serious questions went unasked), many members of the media take the criticism to heart and overcompensate by going after Democrats more than Republicans.  So we now have spent far too much media time and attention on Clinton's "scandals", while so little time has been spent on Trump's ethical problems over the years.  Why hasn't there been as much attention given to the fact that Trump and his father Fred were sued by the Federal Government in the 1970's for refusing to rent their properties to black people?  (They settled out of court). What about the $25,000 campaign donation that a Trump PAC made to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi just before she decided not to join a class action lawsuit against his bogus Trump University?  What about the fact that a man who boasts about his business acumen has declared bankruptcy at least four times?  Or that he also brags about his monetary worth without releasing his tax returns, calling into question just how wealthy he is? And this all is just a partial list, off the top of my head.  None of these things have been investigated as much as Clinton's emails, even though FBI Director James Comey has clearly said that no crime was committed by her.

It really seems that there are two kinds of coverage of the candidates, one in which Clinton is portrayed as being deceitful and  untrustworthy and Trump is praised when he can properly read a speech off a teleprompter without spewing lies and childish insults.  The effect is like clapping for a toddler who successfully takes his first step while complaining about a track star for not racing fast enough!  Sadly, the cumulative effect of this coverage is starting to take it's toll, with Trump clearly gaining on Clinton's lead in the polls.  While the odds are still in her favor, this election should be a land slide, not a squeaker.  Is it asking too much for the media to do it's job properly and give Trump's various scandals the same weight as Clinton's?  Sadly, given Lauer's ridiculously biased performance on Wednesday, the answer is yes. 

Saturday, September 3, 2016

POLITICIANS: A SEPARATE, BULLET PROOF BREED



The continuing saga of the ups and downs of the life of Hillary Rodham Clinton has got me thinking; politicians are really a breed apart from the rest of us.  Some people, it is said, are just natural born leaders, and I think it's safe to believe that Clinton was already that way as a child, even though she was from a family of relatively modest means .  Who knows how young she was when she first got the idea of being our nation's first female president.  Way back in the 1970's, I think it's very likely that as she mapped out her husband Bill's path to the Governorship and the White House,  she was already working on  her own way there.  To me, Hillary has always seemed like the kid in the class that you voted for for class president not because she was popular or you wanted her as a friend, but because she was clearly the hardest working, smartest kid in the class.  The one who put her head down and studied, earning respect if not admiration.  She may lack her husband's seemingly effortless ability to connect with a crowd, but when it comes to knowledge of  details, and the nuts and bolts of political office, she knows what's she's doing.
One of  the other qualities that politicians have that sets them so far apart from the rest of us is how thick skinned they have to be, and Hillary shows this in spades.  I can remember that in 1992, the hatred of her husband from the right when he was elected was almost palpable: after a 12 year stranglehold on the presidency, the idea that a Democrat that had avoided the draft in Viet Nam, with a history of pot smoking and philandering, was about to be President was shocking to them.  And if the Republicans hated Bill, they seemed even more vitriolic towards Hillary; in his book BLINDED BY THE RIGHT, former conservative journalist David Brock recalls an article in the right wing magazine SPECTATOR when Bill was still governor of Arkansas that referred to Hillary as "the lady Macbeth of Little Rock." And Bill's ascension to the White House just increased that virtiol; for eight years the right wing media dumped on her, from accusations of past criminal financial dealings with what came to be known as the Whitewater scandal, to even implying that she had former aide Vince Foster murdered after he committed suicide.  And when the Republicans finally hit pay dirt, catching Bill lying under oath about an affair with an intern, the resulting media firestorm was almost as much an embarrassment for her as it was for him, with inevitable questions about how much she knew about the affair and why she remained with Bill arising from all quarters.
Given all of this, it would have been perfectly reasonable on her part to mostly exit from politics after Bill's second term, emerging only to write a book and perhaps give a few speeches.  But no, she dove head first into the lion's den all over again, successfully running to become  a US Senator from New York.  The fact that she was perfectly willing to run for political office, knowing full well how despised she was by the right, illustrates just how different politicians are then the rest of us, with our normal thin skins.   It is a testament to her individual drive and determination that she never let a little thing like her husband almost being impeached from the presidency, slow her down!  Personally, I can't even imagine accepting the disapproval of literally millions of Americans so blithely.   I am reminded of the famous quote from former President Franklin D Roosevelt  discussing business interests: "They are unanimous in their hate for me-and I welcome their hatred." 

Unfortunately, Hillary Clinton also shows another aspect of the unique nature of politicians: their continual belief that they are above the masses and live by their own rules.   Like most Americans, I don't think that Bill Clinton lying about his affair with Monica Lewinsky while he was President, warranted impeachment, but it was certainly a stupid thing to do.  After all, when the Republican party took the House of Representatives in 1994, House Speaker Newt Gingrich was openly contemptuous towards the President, and clearly relished the idea of throwing every globule of mud at him that could be found.  In other words, it was a really bad time for Bill to start a secret affair.  But politicians can't seem to control themselves, as we are finding out now with recent stories about the Clinton Foundation, a non profit charity organization founded in 2013, which it  appears may have accepted donations from foreign countries for access to Hillary when she was Secretary of State.  And some of those contributing countries are places with terrible human rights records.  Once again we have a politician abandoning common sense: don't set up a possible conflict of interest when you are thinking about running for President!  This, combined with her ongoing email scandal, paints a definite picture of a political animal that sees herself above the rules and regulations of ordinary people.  Like her husband, she is a smart person who does foolish things because she considers herself bulletproof.  While I still will gladly vote for her, I do wish she would realize that American politicians are not like members of royalty or the Pope: that is, they are fallible. 


Saturday, August 13, 2016

A GROWING TREND



And the crazy campaign just continues!  Recently, a news story about another email scandal involving Hillary Clinton and unsavory political ties with the Clinton Foundation was buried in the news when Donald Trump continued his trend of saying at least one horrid and offensive thing every other day.  And even for him this was a doozy: at a rally, referring to Clinton, he intoned  "If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know."  So, once again into uncharted waters we go as a Presidential candidate appears to be openly calling for the assassination of his opponent.   Inevitably, his spokespeople have taken to the airwaves, saying that he was referring to the unity that Second Amendment voters have.  This somewhat absurd defense implies somehow pro gun voters will stop Clinton from appointing judges after she's already been elected.  More importantly, that defense discounts the way Trump said these words, with a smug shrug and a smile, obviously loving the joke and the crowd's reaction, disregarding the consequences.  This is, after all, a man whom has ridiculed a handicapped reporter and blithely calls Mexican immigrants rapists and murderers.  He knew damn well what he meant.

A short time later he made another speech in which he called President Obama "the founder of ISIS."  Once again implying that our president is somehow a Muslim with terrorist sympathies.  At first he tried to defend these statements, and then called them "sarcasm"(!) in a tweet, to once again double down at another rally  by saying, “Obviously I’m being sarcastic. Then — but not that sarcastic, to be honest with you.”  Clearly this man is unhinged, lurching from one offensive statement to another without any thought other than his own self promotion.
Thankfully, the American public seems to have figured this out, as more and more polls have shown him falling further and further behind Clinton both nationally and state by state (he may even lose the Republican stronghold of Utah!).  An anonymous Iowa Republican put it this way “Trump is under performing so comprehensively across states and demographics it would take video evidence of a smiling Hillary drowning a litter of puppies while terrorists surrounded her with chants of ‘Death to America!’ But in 2016, stranger things have happened."  Meanwhile,  many prominent Republicans have been moving away from him; recently 50 Republican National Security Officers signed a petition questioning his fitness.  While Trump loves to brag about the fact that he received almost 14 million votes in the primary, the highest number for any Republican primary candidate in modern history, he doesn't seem to realize that there's a long climb to the 65.9 million that Obama  got in 2012 to win the national election.

With realization (and poll numbers) slowly dawning on him, Trump has taken a new tact and has started to say the system is "rigged", and that he thinks Clinton will somehow steal the election.  At a recent rally in Pennsylvania he said, " The only way we can lose, in my opinion -- and I really mean this, Pennsylvania -- is if cheating goes on. I really believe it."  This in a state that hasn't voted Republican since 1988.  As before with the Second Amendment comments, he is entering dangerous territory; if Trump loses a close election and screams that it's stolen, there could be some angry, even violent responses in the country, especially when one considers the kind of people that show up at his rallies. This is why he doesn't just have to lose, he has to lose by a landslide, so that his tantrums about the vote being stolen will look foolish even to his supporters.  So, Hillary's latest email scandal is nothing compared to the danger of this clown becoming the leader of the free world. Let's hope for the most lopsided election since Reagan crushed Mondale in 1984.