Monday, December 12, 2016

Krugman on the illegitimate election

This is worth reading: Krugman on Trump'e illigitamate election victory.

But there needs to be more concrete suggestions. I have some ideas, but I'd like to hear yours.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Masha Gessen on Putin and Trump

Masha Gessen is a journalist who has specialized in writing about Russia and Vladimir Putin. She has a very interesting podcast (brought to my attention by S.B), which can be found here:

 This podcast contains this little gem:

"I'm going to borrow a metaphor from Garry Kasparov, the chess champion, who when he first quit chess and went into politics, he was explaining to people that going up against Putin was like playing chess against somebody who keeps knocking the figures off the board. It's like he's not playing chess.
I think that what the papers failed to do was write the big story of the fact that Donald Trump wasn't playing chess. It's like the endless fact checking was a little bit like reporting on a chess match by saying, "Okay, well, she opened E2 to E4 and he knocked all the figures off the chess board. He knocked the bishop off the chess board and he knocked the knight off the chess board." Well, just say it! Just say he was not playing chess!
I think that it would have been a story about how Donald Trump was running for autocrat. I think at that point there should have been a big journalistic break with American exceptionalism and that's where we would have gone to other countries to look at what has happened to other countries when politicians have run in democratic elections for autocrat. It's happened many times and it's succeeded many times."

S.B. also writes: 
"Gessen had an earlier short essay in the NY Review that I also found very powerful:
I think she moved back to the US recently -- before that she was one of those journalists who was surely on Putin's hitlist. Scary stuff."

Charles M. Blow on Trump

NY Times columnist has a withering opinion piece in today's Times, which you can read here.

 It is based on the interview that Trump gave with big-wigs from the NY Times a couple of days ago -- which Blow didn't attend (presumably by choice). I'd have to say that I agree with Blow's sentiments, and yet I think that, for the good of many vulnerable people among us, that anyone who has Trump's ear should try to get him to moderate his positions on important topics, especially how he deals with climate change and deportations.

It is clear that Trump has a massive ego and thin skin. He is very ignorant about most facts of domestic and international life that don't pertain to the real-estate industry. Also, for what it's worth he is now trailing in the popular vote by more than 2 million or around 1½ %. I don't believe that anyone has won the popular vote by so much, either in numerical or percentage terms, and still lost the election. Several presidents have won by a much smaller margin. It is not at this time clear what the long-term response of the Trump opposition (i.e. the majority opposition) should be. Our minds should be where Charles Blow is, but how should we actually deal with Trump, given the Democrats' loss of control of all branches of government?

One thing I am convinced of is that the opposition has to be a continuous and unrelenting presence in the printed and electronic press. Every action that Trump and his lackeys in the Republican Party take must be unmercifully scrutinized. For example,  the Times and other newspapers are telling us today how moderate and inclusive his recent choices of two women (Nikki Haley for U.N. Ambassador and Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education) are. Really? They don't seem to be members of the "alt" or hard-right, but neither is a choice that the majority of Americans would make for their positions. So how are they particularly "inclusive" choices? They are, in fact, easy choices for the kind of right-wing minority party that the Republicans have become. Without the bias of the electoral college they would be nowhere. They favor corporations over people, private and charter schools and vouchers over locally controlled public education. I could go on.

Look, let's try to get Trump to do the correct thing if we can, but let's have no illusions about whom we're dealing with. Trump and the party that gave birth to him are no friends to the majority of Americans: they will naturally side with the rich and powerful every single time we allow them to do so (and, at this point, unfortunately, most of the time even  when we don't).

Monday, November 14, 2016

Anger at loss of undeserved privilege

Let's not shed too many tears for all of the angry Trump blue collar supporters. Thanks to M. for forwarding  this article from Salon. (Don't you just despise the jerks in the photo?)

Note that I deal with this in the second paragraph of my previous blog.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Bernie and Beyond

Judging Bernie Sanders' current position as an "agent of change" in the Democratic Party -- or what the Party will become in the months and years to come -- is a complicated task. He burst upon the national scene as a candidate for president by pointing out more clearly and passionately the economic unfairness of American capitalism and its effect on American democracy. There simply was no one else like him. He nearly took the Democratic nomination from Hillary Clinton. We will never know what would have happened had he done so: "counterfactuals" can only be argued statistically, and in this case the statistics on voters in this election still are very murky. Large groups of unlikely voters became voters; Hillary won the popular vote but lost the presidency; and racism, misogeny and class resentments became factors, but we don't have a clear analysis of their relative significance.

Sanders' basic analysis of economics and politics is almost certainly correct. American capitalism since the few decades after WWII has failed to produce a shared prosperity. Corporations, largely through their mouthpiece the Republican party, and largely through red-baiting, contributed to "breaking" industrial unions. (Though, to be fair, worker apathy and the advent of hi-tech workers with no history of unionization played roles as well.) These unions were the only means by which industrial workers could keep their jobs intact and their wages rising with the cost of living. At the same time, the jobs that these workers had were not always meted out fairly. Jim Crow in both the North and South was a potent force in the postwar years, favoring white workers over non-whites; sexism also forced women out of jobs after their employment in the war effort, and kept their wages down. ("Rosie the Riveter" became Harriet the Homemaker.) White male workers who had high-paying, family-supporting jobs in factories and in the public sphere, were definitely beneficiaries of this unfairness during the postwar boom decades (at least through the '60s say). When jobs started to get scarcer -- due to automation, outsourcing overseas, and contraction of manufacturing -- they were the last to be laid off. Then, as policies of fairness were enacted in various civil-rights laws, they were not always the first to be hired back, and had to compete on a more level playing field with non-whites, females, and immigrants. These white working-class people and their families are now the disgruntled class that Donald Trump has so successfully mobilized (and will soon exploit in turn).

Thus, the policies of the New Deal helped capitalism rebound during and after the Great Depression. The jump-started economy boomed for 20-30 years, but then stagnated. Even then there could have been enough jobs and prosperity for all had war, military bloat, and transfer of wealth to the already-wealthy not constricted the will and cash to create them in the late '60s and beyond. The current decay of our infrastructure -- highways, bridges, buildings and parks -- could have provided employment for millions of skilled and semi-skilled people who were willing to work hard for decent wages. But it never happened: American capitalism and the efforts to protect it and its markets diverted the money to military adventures, profiteering, and the amassing of huge corporate and private fortunes. Do we even know how much, say, General-Dynamics and Boeing, Halliburton and Blackwater, made from the disastrous invasions of Viet Nam and Iraq? Certainly enough to employ massive numbers of the idle and under-employed.

Bernie was right about all this, and for a long time he was the lone voice calling out in the Washington wilderness. His courage and integrity were undeniable, and they made him a phenomenon for the year or so preceding the 2016 election. Unfortunately, his criticisms required winning an election to have any hopes of having a constructive effect. He built an enthusiastic movement, but a relatively small one. And time was short, with the Democratic establishment's anointed candidate Hillary Clinton already the presumed nominee -- presumed by the DNC and its chair Wasserman-Schultz, as well as by the press and the Republican Party (they had been demonizing Clinton for decades). Also, Bernie has some weaknesses as a speaker and politician. Although it's a good one, he gives the same speech over and over, and it's impersonal and not particularly appealing to many sections of the electorate -- especially "racial and linguistic" minorities. For most of the time before seeking the nomination, he was not even a Democrat, and had done little for other Democrats whose help he would need. He was probably the most "trusted" of the 2016 candidates, but he could not get nominated and it's unclear that he could have survived the Trump and Republican smears had he been nominated.

Looking forward now at the grim choices facing progressives, we might ask: What can be done? It is too early to think about the next Democratic presidential candidate, and those who are talking about Sanders and Elizabeth Warren should not fall into the same error as those who were saying that the election just passed was "Clinton's turn." It's nobody's "turn" except the turn of the Democrats to gear up for some actual winning for a change. This means contesting every office from dog-catcher on up. This means creating a Democratic "farm system" of young, smart and talented men and women who can appeal to all segments of a very divided and pretty angry electorate. The Democrats especially need an "information machine" which can get the facts out to the press, the networks and cable TV, the Internet, and the talk shows. It must produce an understandable Democratic version of events and Republican misdeeds every week, say, and this report must be skillfully packaged and disseminated (see below). We can't wait until the next election is upon us. Those who are first with the facts will have a chance to define the issues. The Republicans did this very successfully in the recent election, and Trump was a master at communicating his point of view and his prejudices.

What makes the Democrats' job so much more difficult is that they are the party of basic decency. Though they have made many mistakes of philosophical and strategic natures, they also have not resorted to overt racism and sexism, and outright lies. If these things are now essential to win elections, then we are doomed; but, I don't think we need to use them. The Democrats need some really smart people to design their campaigns -- not poll-watchers or repeaters of time-worn liberal talking points but people who really understand the actual demographics of the electorate. They need creative ad agencies with writers who are sympathetic to the various segments of the electorate, and they need to take advantage of the fact that many if not most of the individuals who head up or work for the national media -- major networks (except Fox, of course), newspapers and news magazines, the "e-Press" etc -- are quite fearful of Trump and Trumpism, and would help get the Democrats' message out. Now is the time to start on this monumental but critical task. It will not be for the faint of heart.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The day after the night before...

What a terrible night -- yet, not a great surprise to me, though a great disappointment. Here are a few thoughts.

1. Trump still has to govern -- has to do something. He has made a lot of promises to his "base": blue collar people -- promises I don't think he can keep, at least not under the terms of his campaign rhetoric. He will clearly make life miserable for lots of people on both practical, personal and ideological grounds. But, what can he do about healthcare that will make his base happy? Simply ending ObamaCare will just make things worse. Nothing except single-payer will actually make health care affordable: everything else will make the lot of his base much worse, especially going  back to a "free-market" system. His tax plan simply will not work, and will certainly make things much worse for his base and everyone else except the very wealthy (and maybe even them). I'm sure you can add many other examples. He will really need to come up with something outside the box of his campaign slogans in order to keep his followers who are misguided but justifiably angry.

(BTW: Wall Street has been split on Trump, and the Dow Jones doesn't look nice. Yet the greedy folk on The Street have always been susceptible to money being thrown at them, which maybe Trump is willing to do. Of course this will not help him with the disaffected people who put him in office. There is still the possibility that Trump will make Wall Street a scapegoat victim of his "populism" -- he clearly doesn't need them the way the Dems seem to.

2. There's been a lot of talk recently about how Trump has split the Republican Party, which, say the talking heads, "will never be the same." I'd ask: What about the Democrats? I don't know if Bernie (whom I supported) would have done better as a candidate (I doubt it, given his ethnicity and "socialist" associations). But what's left? Will the Dems come up with someone who will really create an economic democracy in this country? Someone who won't have a Timothy Geitner as financial advisor? Someone who will not secretly chat up the elite from Goldman-Sachs? Someone who will blame the Republicans publicly for lack of economic progress? Although I generally like Obama, he refused during at least all of his first term to attack Republicans, by name, for obstructionism.) The Dems seriously need someone who is seriously on the side of working people. Is there such a person around (beside Bernie)? Send me your suggestions. 

Are the Democrats even a viable opposition party?

3. More generally, I think it is impossible to have a "liberal democracy" when we don't have an economic democracy. American-style capitalism leads to extreme inequality which leads to a lot of disgruntled people, which leads to Trump. (It's not just America -- the same kind of economic inequality in England led to Brexit. The party of Reagan here is the same as the party of Thatcher there. What is it about English-speaking people?) I'm afraid that the only way out of this is a major recession (hopefully not a depression), and a leader of the stature of a Roosevelt (not the stature of a Clinton).

Finally, no one really knows what Trump is going to do. I think that for most of his adult life he was a Democrat. He's is a pretty self-centered person, but, as I said above, he has to govern, and he really doesn't owe anyone anything. So far, he has surrounded himself with very unsavory characters (e.g. Giuliani, Christy etc.), so the signs are not very auspicious; nevertheless, we don't yet know who the real president Trump will be (or if there is, in fact, any real Trump).

Anyway, that's my current thoughts on this debacle. We have to live through this and live through another major economic debacle and hope that a new Democratic Party -- or a third party -- will provide a really good alternative to Trumpism and Clintonism and our grotesque economic inequality.  What else can we do?
Please send me your comments. More on this later.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016


At this point it is not unreasonable to ask how any Clinton e-mails got on Anthony Weiner's computer. Given the unstable behavior of the former congressman, it seems highly unlikely that his wife Huma Abedin would have chosen to put these files on his "sexting" machine.

So how did they get there? And why did they get there?

The people with obvious access are Abedin herself (I believe she denies even knowing about their existence), Weiner (who certainly can't be trusted about anything), hackers -- possibly of the Russian persuasion -- and...the F.B.I.

The F.B.I., of course, has had a very sorry history of being used by its directors for political (and worse) purposes. J. Edgar Hoover's use of the Bureau as an "agent" for his own personal power and to support his racist and right-wing agenda has been well-documented. It's current director, James Comey, is a Republican. The Bureau is supposedly investigating some of the activities of the Trump group -- but is keeping this investigation secret. (So as not to influence the election...).

At the risk of sounding overly paranoid, I think we should seriously consider not just the outrageous Comey "leak" to Congress, but the very real possibility that whatever documents that are purported to be Clinton "e-mails" that are on Weiner's computer -- if there actually are any -- are plants, put there by political operatives of some unknown allegiance.

Who could possibly believe that Huma Abedin would back up any of her communication with Hillary Clinton on her lunatic husband's computer?


Friday, October 28, 2016

Comey had three (3) options, not two.

FBI director James Comey had three not two options when his agency discovered more Clinton e-mails. As the press was quick to point out, he could have waited until after the election to make public the discovery or he could have announced the discovery immediately, as he did.  But the third path would have been to start a massive and unpublicized reading to determine -- at least by spot checks -- if the e-mails contained classified information, or were innocent communications with a close aide, or were duplicates of previous e-mails already known. Apparently the unofficial policy of the FBI has long been not to release unsubstantiated information in an investigation, or any facts pertaining to an investigation that are not evidence of a felony, within 60 days of an election. Thus, he violated a long-standing and fair FBI policy for some reason not at all evident. 

(The least he could have done would have been to announce that the F.B.I. had not reopened the original investigation -- as the Republicans have incorrectly claimed.)

Since the FBI is unlikely to go through all of the e-mails before the election, Comey has, in effect, affected the election in order to save himself possible embarrassment -- with no clear way to rectify the damage he probably has done. Not exactly an act of courage. The Dems may be angry with him, but what can they do?

Also, if I were a woman I'd be really pissed off that so many things in this election have to do with guys behaving badly: Bill, Donald, "Carlos Danger" (a.k.a. Anthony Weiner) and now Jimmy Comey, boy-scout-in-chief.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The last of the debates

Whew: the last debate is over. In the first one I was nervous that Clinton might succumb to Trump's personal attacks, or somehow be too wordy, or start up her crazy smile or ... whatever. Who could have foreseen that Trump would be so completely awful, or that Clinton would neatly eviscerate him with the story of the former Miss Universe (as usual we didn't get to hear from the Venusians and Martians, or the women from Alpha Centauri III). How great was that, and his later Twitter insanity?

In the second debate, of course, we couldn't wait to have the "tape from the bus" discussed. Clinton was not great, but Trump was worse, and the tape "spoke" for itself.

But what could happen at this third and final confrontation? Would Trump, at the urging of his handlers, finally overwhelm her with his "populist" (in this case bull sh*t) take on everything? Would he go over, calmly and verbatim, some of the Wikileaks leaks of her conversations with Goldman Sachs honchos et. al. and make her look like a financial-sector groupie? Would he say, with humility, that he would abide by vox populi on election eve? Not to worry. Clinton was not only prepared with dignified and believable statements on abortion, the 2nd Amendment, Isis etc., but she had jabs that, I think, drew blood. She compared her work in the Senate and State Department with Trump's work on The Celebrity Apprentice. Then she really started to bully him. She pointed out his dependence on conspiracy theories to explain his varied failures (losses in some primaries, diving poll numbers, and, especially vexing to him, the failure of his TV show to win an Emmy. (Walking into the trap, he interrupted "Should have gotten it". Wow!) She sniped that, under her tax plans, her Social Security withholding would go up, as would his unless he could "figure a way to get out of it." That's when he uttered the now famous T-shirt line: "Such a nasty woman."  Beautiful!

Okay, there was all of this, but the thing that the pundits and probably most other people took away from this Trump hog-tying was his failure to at least give lip service to the apres-vote "will of the American People" stuff. Yes, that was a major error unforced by Clinton, and from which the moderator Chris Wallace gave him ample time to recover. The important thing to remember here, I think, is that this idiocy doesn't so much prove that Trump is unfit to be President, but rather that Trump's general unfitness to be anything resembling a decent person led to this idiocy. 

There should be some "Heavenly Court" which hears the case for his humanity and renders the verdict "You're Fired."

Monday, October 17, 2016

Jeffrey Sachs on Free Trade and more on Jeffrey Sachs

Today's Boston Globe has a two page article by Jeffrey Sachs of The Center for Sustainable Development (Columbia University) on free trade pacts such as NAFTA and TPP. This is a very nicely organized summary about what is good and bad about these agreements; it can be useful for organizing one's thoughts and arguments. Here is a link: The Truth About Trade

By the way, Jeffrey Sachs was one of the group of Harvard people who advised members of the Russian government under Yeltsin about converting what was left of the Russian state economy to some version of "private enterprise". Although Sachs seems to have avoided the scandal, this group of Harvard economists and economic "advisors" seems to have done real damage to the prospect of an orderly and legal transition to "western capitalism" in the former Soviet Union (esp in Russia). In fact, the rise of the so-called Russian "oligarchs" who made a mockery of "free market capitalism" is arguably traceable to the early influences of these Harvard folks (who include, incidentally, Larry Summers, former Harvard president and member of Obama's cabinet). They used the cover of the Harvard Institute for International Development, with the at least tacit support of the Clinton Administration and the U.S. Agency for International Development, to work with Yeltsin's economic "czar" Anatoly Chubais to privatize (i.e. loot) the assets of the Russian state. Later, two of this group (neither Summers nor Sachs) were accused of using their connections with corrupt Russians for their own profits. You can read more in this story from The Nation.

You may want to look at this posting for more on Larry Summers' role in this. It claims that Harvard's loss of a related lawsuit was an important if not determining factor in his dismissal as Harvard president.

Of course you won't hear much of these misdeeds of big-government and big-business (and big-higher-education) in the Tea Party version of reality, but truth meanders in and out of Republican and Democratic (and Tea Party) histories. It's not just Donald Trump who was involved with Russian oligarchs... 

Saturday, October 15, 2016

"It's the Supreme Court Stupid"

It seems to me that the real crucial item in this year's election is the Supreme Court. We've had a conservative-majority court now for a generation, and it has done some pretty conservative things -- radical changes to the Voting-Rights act and the Citizens United decision. Filling Scalia's now vacant seat can change that very quickly. And, of course, there's the tenuous life of Roe v. Wade. This is the main reason, I think, that the presidential election has made a lot of otherwise sane Republicans swallow Donald Trump. There are vast financial and social stakes here. The same is true for the religious right. They all know Trump is a sinner, but they can swallow what he has to offer if he can put another conservative on the Court.

(Note that I'm not talking here about the hard-core Trump supporters who simply love the guy.)

Why the Tea Party?

The latest issue of The American Prospect contains a very fine review by editor Robert Kuttner of several books whose authors try to explain the reasons why so many Americans support the Tea Party (and Donald Trump). Rather than try to summarize, let me just post the link:

One of the authors, Arlie Russell Hochschild, quotes a Louisiana bayou resident:

" The state always seems to come down on the little guy. Take this bayou. If your motorboat leaks a little gas into the water, the warden’ll write you up. But if companies leak thousands of gallons of it and kill all the life here? The state lets them go. If you shoot an endangered brown pelican, they’ll put you in jail. But if a company kills the brown pelican by poisoning the fish he eats? They let it go. I think they overregulate the bottom because it’s harder to regulate the top. "

As Kuttner points out, this could have been written by Bernie Sanders... 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Who wins debates?

Conservative economists generally define the value of goods or services (including securities) as the price set for them by "the market". It is an elegant definition which, of course, dovetails nicely with their reverence for "the market" and its judgements. 

(Of course, the word "value" already has a whole set of meanings which include moral, ethical, aesthetic and historical considerations, all of which can be applied to goods, services, and behaviors. Thus, by emphasizing the monetary judgement of "the market", they are subtly suggesting that these other ways of describing value are somehow secondary or derivative to market monetization -- when, in fact, the reverse is mostly the case.)

I was thinking -- in a Milton Friedman moment -- that maybe the winner of a debate could be defined simply as the person that the polls ultimately show to come out on top. At least for political debates, after all, the purpose of the verbal jousting is to convince people to vote for a particular candidate, party, or program. If you can do this, then you've accomplished your aim, and if you can't, you've failed in what is most important to you.

Thus, following this idea, it doesn't really matter what pundits or talking heads say about a debate -- unless, of course, what they say convinces enough people who listen to them to support the person or cause advocated by one of the debaters. It all comes out in the public opinion wash, and makes it easy to make a neat determination of a winner.

However, just as with the facile market-based definition of value, there are problems because words in long-time, common usage have meanings which formal and slick re-definitions don't capture. If a debater lies and most of the audience believes those lies, is that what we mean by "winning"? Maybe yes, if one is cynical enough. Maybe no, but then one has a more complicated task of defining "winning".

Needless to say, last night's vice-presidential debate made me give some thought to this. On the basis of style, annoyance factor, and other aesthetic judgements, I and many commentators initially agreed that Mike Pence "won" the debate. He was cooler, somewhat more congenial, and didn't interrupt his opponent Tim Kaine very often; Kaine, on the other hand, had a dogged, wise-guy, somewhat sneering aggressiveness about him that was certainly off-putting to many. So Pence won, right?

Well, not so fast. What, after all, did viewers themselves think? We don't know, since no "scientific" polls have yet appeared? Suppose when they do, we find that most viewers liked Pence. So Pence won, right? Well, not so fast. Suppose that in the next week or so Hillary Clinton's poll numbers climb -- or even remain about the same (much higher than Trump's). Arguably her surrogate, Tim Kaine, accomplished his objective, namely to keep the electorate's attention focused on Trump's awfulness. In addition, fact checkers have already pointed out that Pence's claims that he and Trump never said or did the things Kaine said they did are demonstrably (i.e. by video) false. Did Pence still win the debate? Was this, after all, a debate about the likeability of Kaine vs. Pence? Was it about concrete proposals on the economy or war and peace?

I wish Kaine were more likeable (and that he pointed out Pence's basic intolerance, for which he outdoes Ted Cruz). Nevertheless, the question of who "won" the debate does not have a clear answer. And, of course, as Nate Silver and Co. suggest, the whole debate will be discussed and evaluated (and be remembered) for at most one news cycle, then it really doesn't matter very much (maybe).

Just wondering...

Monday, October 3, 2016

How things have turned out ... so far

In a previous blog (last April) I suggested that the Democrats were pursuing the wrong strategy is trying to oppose Trump before the Republican convention. My reasoning was that other candidates were worse (e.g. Ted Cruz) in terms of what they stood for, and most would likely turn out to be stronger opponents of Clinton (who was considered the Democratic frontrunner at the time).

At least for the moment this analysis turned out to be correct. Polls showed that Clinton had a huge lead after her nomination, then that lead largely dissipated during the summer when Trump enjoyed a lot of his press attention while Clinton campaigned rather listlessly. However, many of the things Trump said were simply not subjected to much mass-media scrutiny or fact-checking. To put it simply, people were simply not acquainted with how much of a bully, liar, and general jerk he really is. Some needed to have this pointed out to them in capital letters -- which he himself, it turns out, was more than willing to do during and immediately after the first debate.

There probably is no point in going over all the things that have come out about Trump in the past few weeks. He is so obviously a fraud and embarrassment that almost every day a new newspaper has come out either endorsing Clinton or condemning Trump. These newspapers include many conservative ones that have been staunchly Republican for a century or more, such as the Dallas Morning News and Arizona Republic. Here's what happened. The American Press has been very timid, even cowardly. Most papers and news shows seem to believe that "even-handedness" means either not criticizing either party or candidate, or giving equal time and equal weight to any differences of opinion or contrary assertions, even when it is possible to demonstrate actual truth or falsehood on one side. In the first confrontation between Clinton and Trump, a "Presidential Forum" in early September where the candidates did not confront each other but appeared in separate halves of the program, the "moderator" Matt Lauer of NBC was clearly cowed by Trump and refused to call him out on several well-known lies -- e.g. that Trump had "always" opposed the invasion of Iraq. Lauer's performance was roundly criticized throughout the media. It was around this time that the NY Times described some of Trump's answers as "stretching the truth" (as did other news sources). This also provoked the criticism that a lie is a lie, and is not best described as stretching the truth. Since then the Times has described Trump's lies exactly as such. Though Trump seems comfortable with Tweeting, he somehow has not absorbed the fact that digital records are kept of just about anything these days (sort of like parking lot video surveillance), and his statements can be retrieved by just about anyone and compared with his descriptions of them.

So, the criticism of Lauer raised expectations for Lester Holt (NBC news anchor) in the first actual debate. These expectations were only partially met when he followed up on a question about why Trump persisted in the "birther" myth long after Obama produced is birth certificate. However, Trump still managed to talk over Holt, though the latter did stick to his guns until he had to move on. On the other hand, Holt allowed Trump to interrupt Clinton about 50 times when she had the "floor".

What moderators need is a "kill" switch that turns off the microphone of debaters when they no longer have the floor -- especially when they are being rude. Why isn't this done? (Answer: The networks and debate "commissions" are cowards, afraid of any loud criticism.)

By this time, I think, the networks, newspapers and even the viewers were beginning to see the reality that Trump, the emperor, indeed has few clothes and rather dull teeth, through which he lies routinely. The timing for the Donald could not have been worse, since the week or so after the debate saw all sorts of facts surface about his taxes (special treatment, failure to pay any), business practices (bankruptcies, stiffing of contractors), attitude toward women (bad), and disregard for laws such as the Cuban embargo (a very sore spot for him in Florida).

If you follow polls -- say through Nate Silver's 538 -- you'll see that Trump is not faring well at all. The media, cowardly at first, are now appropriately giving the bully's treatment to the bully himself.

Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.

It ain't over yet, but I'm beginning to be happier with my statements from last April...

Friday, May 6, 2016

R.I.P. Daniel Berrigan

He was a person many of us respected for his anti-war beliefs and for his activism. The religion that informed his pacifist acts was not the religiosity that is easy to despise, but the kind of belief in what is "right" that didn't seem, to me at least, to be religion at all, but a kind of mystical humanism. (I'm sure he would strongly disagree!) Similarly, his anti-abortion stance -- and fight against Planned Parenthood, e.g. -- was not the cheap stance of a Ted Cruz but rather a principled opposition that one could disagree with (as I did and do) but can't dismiss philosophically.

Obit from Boston Globe

Obit from NY Times

Monday, April 11, 2016

Too much, Bernie

A friend of mine wrote the following letter to Bernie Sanders.

Dear Bernie,

From the very beginning of your campaign, I was a strong supporter. Early on, I made a contribution of $100 to help in the effort. I was impressed by your honesty, your decency and your authenticity. In the first debate, when you told Hillary Clinton that the "American people had had enough of [her] damn emails," I cheered your putting aside political expediency in favor of straight talk. The next day, my wife wrote a letter, which was published in the New York Times, expressing her enthusiasm for the quality of the discourse that was evidenced by the participants in that debate. The contrast with the puerile and undignified Republican debates was overwhelming.

As a registered  Democrat in New York, I had every intention of voting for you next Tuesday. However, the tone you have taken since last week has changed my mind. Despite my admiration for the campaign you had waged up to that point, I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that by attacking Hillary Clinton as "unqualified" and your more recent though milder attacks on Secretary Clinton and her husband, you  risk providing ammunition to the Republican nominee that will result in a great disaster for our nation--a Republican president. 

The shift of my one primary vote from you to Secretary Clinton will go unnoticed. I live, after all, on Manhattan's Upper West Side, where you will prevail in a landslide but you need to hear from a formerly strong supporter that you have gone too far. Your campaign no longer serves your party, your program or your ideas. Your campaign now serves Donald Trump, Ted Cruz or whichever so-called moderate may emerge from a contested convention in Cleveland. 

With sincere regret,

 I particularly like the line "Your campaign no longer serves your party, your program or your ideas".  This is not a criticism of Sanders' ideas, but of his campaign; I fully concur with this analysis. Actually, both Sanders and Clinton should prefix each debate and public announcement from here on out with a statement that he/she will wholeheartedly support the eventual Democratic nominee, and that either Democratic candidate is totally qualified to be president and is far superior to any possible Republican nominee. Both candidates should limit their debating statements to matters of policy differences, no matter the provocation from the "moderators" or the press.

Readers of this blog know that I have been critical of the Democratic party and its office-holders on many, many occasions. Nevertheless, this election is extremely important -- perhaps historic -- because of what is at stake ... I'm sure I needn't belabor you with an enumeration. While neither Sanders nor Clinton are perfect politicians, the Republican party is so completely deficient in just about every practical and moral way, and its continued dominance of Congress and possible capture of the presidency so terrifying, that we must respect Sanders and Clinton at all times, and continually remind ourselves that defeat of the PTR is and will be more important than either of them as personalities. If only they would remind themselves of this fact more often.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Dems have the wrong strategy on Trump

I have never understood why the Democrats -- esp. Hillary Clinton -- have been expending so much energy denouncing Donald Trump. First of all, he is not even the worst of the Republican candidates (that would be the religious loony and flat-taxer Ted Cruz). Secondly, he has always done worse in national polls against any of the potential Democratic nominees. Finally, why help the Republicans put up a stronger ticket?

It's like the goal of Jiu-Jitsu: let your opponents defeat themselves. If I were a Democratic strategist, I would -- especially now -- help Trump as much a possible (though it may be too late). The best thing that could happen for the Dems is for a severely wounded Trump to get the nomination, just when his popularity and the unity of his party are about to sink beneath the waves.

Can't the Democrats ever get things straight?  Would they rather face phony Kasich (ugh: a "can-do" reactionary) in a general election, or some other phony "moderate" chosen by the Republican leadership? Don't they have the courage to face a no-nothing like Trump in a general election? Or are they still slinking with their tails between their legs from decades of red-baiting? Are they afraid that while they deny being liberal, Trump will somehow outliberal them while claiming to be conservative? You would think that Bernie would have taught them some lessons by now: that populism and even some socialism can win elections again the Party for The Rich. (Gosh, the Rich haven't been this unpopular since Hoover and the Great Depression.)

Democrats: find some way to help The Donald get the Republican nomination!!!  And while you're at it, demand that Hillary and Bernie stop attacking each other (or at least stop attacking each other so much). This ain't about Bernie and Hillary as much as B and H may think...

Thursday, March 31, 2016

It's not Bernie or nothing

I don't think that I have ever agreed 100% with anyone running for office, but Bernie Sanders comes closest. Furthermore, I've disagreed with both Clintons on lots of issues over the many years that they have been in the public eye. In spite of this, and in spite of the fact that I voted for Ralph Nader many years ago, I think it is important to remember that this election should be about stopping any and all candidates from the PTR (Party for The Rich, formerly the "GOP") from winning any office (from Dog Catcher on  up). Those Republicans who are not out and out racists, sexists, etc. are enablers of those who are. Without Republican "moderates" the PTR would not hold majority chairs in the houses of Congress, for example.

And so it is vital that we support whoever the Democratic nominee is, from the position of Dog Catcher on up. Just about everything is at stake. Neither Cruz nor Kasich is one whit better on Women's rights, foreign policy, economic inequality religious freedom, climate change, etc. than Donald Trump.

Today's column by Charles Blow in the NY Times pretty much says it all.