Cutting Through The Crap

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

A Man Of Temperament


As an example of his unbelievable (that I can tell you) presidential temperament, Donald Trump's campaign pointed to his great restraint in not mentioning Bill Clinton's infidelities in the debate. Yes, the serial adulterer who swaps wives like out-of-warranty cars, held back on criticizing a woman for staying with a man of similar but much lesser proclivities. A woman who, evidently, considers marriage vows worth holding through thin.

But don't despair, Trumpophiles: he's promised to get tougher next time around. Please, oh please. Let that mean he intends to bring it up. Because it's not like she won't be prepared for it.

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Saturday, September 24, 2016

One Of These Is Not Like The Other


My latest newspaper column:
How many Trumpophiles have discussed his bribery to quash investigations of his phony “University?” Of those who have, how many consider it irrelevant, while believing donations to the Clinton Foundation indicate pervasive corruption? Something mysterious is going on. 
Trump makes a generous donation to the campaign of Florida Attorney General Bondi four days after she announces the investigation. A month later, she shuts it down. After which he hosts a fundraiser for her at Mar-a-Lago. No quo or pro in that quid? Same with a fat donation to then attorney general, now Texas Governor Abbot’s campaign after the investigation into the same thing was dropped, deep in the heart. Perfectly fine. For, quoth Donald, “I’ve got to give to them, because when I want something I get it. When I call, they kiss my a$$...” Pure as Trump Water. Trump brushes off questions like orange dandruff. But Hillary? Flagitious. 
Trump’s Florida “donation” was doubly illegal: “charitable” foundations are prohibited from contributing to political causes. Nevertheless, a much larger contribution went to a group attacking the New York prosecutor going after Trump U. In the past several years, Trump has given little to his fund; so its few donations come from other people’s money, as did his purchase of a portrait of himself for twenty grand. And he’s used it to settle legal problems, including a fraudulent hole-in-one contest. His “foundation” is little more than a slush fund.  
Compare to the Clinton Foundation, which does enormously important work around the world. Investigations have found no significant granting of favors to donors. Nor were those requests comparable to payoffs for dropped criminal investigations. (Appealing for help freeing Korean hostages!) How many know that the Clinton Foundation, which, among other things, provides AIDS medication for millions of people, receives the highest ethical ratings for charitable organizations, higher even than The Red Cross? How many even know what it does? 
Trumpites seem unbothered by his blatant bribery and cheating. Maybe many are unaware of it. Why? Because not just their favorite sources, but also so-called “liberal” media had until recently virtually ignored it, while pumping out repetitive innuendo about Hillary’s relation to her foundation. “Liberal” media concluded, evidently, that nothing they discovered about Donald Trump enlightened or mattered to his voters; for eyeballs, better to go after Secretary Senator Clinton. Only when bloggers kept highlighting Trump’s unscrupulous actions have they started covering them. Will people ever hear about his payoffs for tax breaks on Fox “news?”  
A few years back, Trump paid three-quarters of a million dollars to settle an antitrust lawsuit (“I never settle lawsuits,” he’s said). Briefly, we saw some of the business owners Donald bankrupted by refusing to pay what he owed them. Then, like Trump casinos, coverage folded. How long has it been, though, since major news organizations mentioned the Clinton Foundation or her conspiracy-theory-laden emails? In the midst of a Congressional investigation into improperly influencing US Attorneys, George Bush’s White House “lost” twenty-two million emails. Republicans were unconcerned. Hillary’s deletions? Treasonous. 
Have mainstream articles described Trump jacking up prices at his properties when used by his campaign, billing the campaign, paying himself from its funds, scamming donors? If the race is tightening it’s because of this imbalance in reportage. 
Of course the press should investigate Hillary Clinton. Done impartially, that’s their job. (They blew it with those hammered phones.) But their months of obsession with her while only now awakening to Trump’s conspicuous corruption is as puzzling as the fact that Republicans nominated such an irrefragable fraud in the first place. It seems they’d succumbed to inundatory right-wing claims of media bias, designed to shut down investigative journalism. Without irony, a Trump surrogate recently associated fact checking with liberalism. Besides, the more Donald Trump’s lies are exposed, the more he repeats them. 
Lately the weight of Donald Trump’s career of deception and malfeasance might, at last, be forcing mainstream media to do their job. That his career is one fraud after another is obvious, and it’s just as apparent that his supporters don’t care. The question is whether those who consider both candidates equally bad will, as the evidence mounts, ever open their eyes.
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Saturday, September 17, 2016

For Which We Stand


My latest newspaper column:
In college, I played Conrad Birdie in a production of Bye Bye Birdie at a neighboring women’s school. Washing cafeteria dishes for dollars, a friend and I did Everly Brothers well (or maybe just loud) enough that other students came by to listen. I still love singing. A song with a suitable arrangement gets me belting it out, especially harmony-rich Christmas songs and our National Anthem. Baseball games, Sounders games, I’m standing up, harmonizing happily. 
I dislike singers turning the Anthem into a dirge, or adding their personal trills. I love the guy who leads it for the Sounders. The best I ever heard was at a Dodgers playoff game: Linda Ronstadt. (Wasn’t there. Saw it on TV when making rounds as a tired and otherwise deprived surgical resident in San Francisco. With her impossibly pure voice, wearing a Dodgers jacket, she sang it straight up.) If for no other reason than the joy of singing, you’ll never see me sitting during the playing of The Star Spangled Banner. Plus, I’m not that brave. 
It’s curious that the people lining up behind a candidate whose campaign is based on declaring how terrible America has become are outraged at the simple act of sitting, or kneeling, or locking arms during the playing of the National Anthem. If you think about it (couldn’t hurt!), there’s no greater homage to what America stands for (pun intended). Try it, for example, in the country run by Donald Trump’s inamorato, Vladimir Putin, or in any of the others for whose dictatorial leaders he’s expressed admiration. The freedom we enjoy in this county began with, is predicated on, and is directly descended from the right to criticize government openly, to take actions, symbolic or otherwise, aimed at making things better as one sees it. 
That people, whether athletes or protesters in Ferguson or Selma or Stonewall or Standing Rock or (illegally) Malheur feel moved to demonstrate their displeasure at aspects of our society is, in fact, a much greater tribute to the republic for which our flag stands than standing during a song. Activism for change assumes it could happen; in the US, we know it can. At its essence, then, protest is an expression of confidence in America, acknowledgment that in our society, as opposed to those whose leaders Trump would emulate, committed people can effect change. 
Our view of patriotism has turned upside down. Is it defined by standing up for songs or for what you think is right? Who was more patriotic: Martin Luther King, Jr. and John Lewis crossing the Edmund Pettis Bridge, or those who beat them? People searching for survivors at Ground Zero, or Donald Trump bragging after the attack that his building was now the tallest in lower Manhattan? Children courageous enough to integrate schools, or the people who spit on them as they walked through hate-spewing mobs? Our veterans, or Republicans in Congress who voted down bill after bill aimed at providing for their needs? Working people who pay taxes, or Donald Trump who stiffs employees and brags about not paying taxes? People burn Colin Kaepernick’s jersey, but not those of football players convicted of spousal abuse. Whose is the greater transgression against American values? 
While I served in Vietnam, my wife worked for anti-war candidates. She sent packages of goodies for me to share with other troops, and joined hands with war protesters. Some would call me a patriot (not now, of course, because I’m a liberal writer) and not her. I got drafted. She chose to commit to what she thought was (and which turned out to be) right. Who’s the better American?  
Our Constitution was crafted around the idea of protecting individual rights, and on the recognition that wrongs, even in its own words, need a framework for amelioration. Words and actions of protest have always (if slowly) awakened our better instincts, engaged us in difficult discussions, called the complacent to action, made this country better. In the midst of WWII, the Supreme Court recognized this, too. To misunderstand that is fundamentally to misunderstand America. Like Donald Trump, who has threatened, were he to become president, to punish those who disagree with him; and like those despots whose praises he sings.
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Friday, September 16, 2016

Bag. Cat. Out.


Not that it was ever mysterious, but here's proof of the cynical politics behind claims of voter fraud, from another Wisconsin newspaper.
Hours after polls closed in the closely contested 2011 state Supreme Court election, Republican consultants and lobbyists traded emails about launching a potential public campaign to allege “widespread” voter fraud, newly released emails show...

... The emails became public Wednesday through a report by Guardian US, an arm of the British newspaper, which included leaked court documents from the secret John Doe investigation into Gov. Scott Walker’s 2012 recall campaign...

... Steve Baas, a lobbyist for the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce and former Republican legislative staffer, floated an idea on the email thread:
“Do we need to start messaging ‘widespread reports of election fraud’ so we are positively set up for the recount regardless of the final number? I obviously think we should.” 
Scott Jensen — the former GOP Assembly Speaker turned lobbyist for American Federation for Children, a private school voucher advocacy group — quickly responded:
“Yes. Anything fishy should be highlighted. Stories should be solicited by talk radio hosts.” 
In another email, Jensen writes that Prosser “needs to be on talk radio in the morning saying he is confident he won and talk radio needs to scream the Dems are trying to steal the race.”
It should be noted that these emails have become public only because they were leaked somehow. The Wisconsin Supreme Court, to which the person in question in these emails was elected in the race in question, ordered them destroyed.

Gee. Anyone shocked? And, in addition to the obvious use of a false premise for political gain, confident they can count on the gullibility of their voters, they mention using talk radio as casually as you use a spoon: it's there, we know what it's for, we use it to feed ourselves.

Once right-wing news sources cover this, letting their listeners and readers know how they manipulate them with lies, the public will finally understand. Right after the sun turns off.

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Thursday, September 15, 2016

Painting The Whole Picture


Said Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the "conservative" majority in Citizens United v. FEC, “... independent expenditures do not lead to, or create the appearance of, quid pro quo corruption."

Says the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel:
Madison — Gov. Scott Walker and the GOP-controlled Legislature approved a measure aimed at retroactively shielding paint makers from liability after a billionaire owner of a lead producer contributed $750,000 to a political group that provided crucial support to Walker and Republicans in recall elections, according to a report released Wednesday...
Donald Trump would end, along with the EPA and other such Republican-hated entities, "onerous" rules aimed at protecting people from such cruel corporate avarice. Because free market. Because profit. Because government.

Lead paint, ferchrissakes. And yet, they were elected. Probably most of them reelected. What is it that moves ordinary citizens, the ones most at risk, to vote such deplorables out of their baskets and into office? Or, more likely, what motivates ordinary citizens to not give a shit, and not vote?

Lead paint is the least of the toxins Trump and a Republican congress would unleash upon us. If they win, it'll be because of lazy indifference on the part of voters. Because who the fuck wants lead paint in their homes? What families, especially those with kids, want to end regulations aimed at clean water, or workplace safety, or environmental pollution? You can't tell me it's a majority of eligible voters. What you can tell me is that a potential majority of actual voters have been deliberately frightened into voting against their own interests, ignoring the real agenda, to protect themselves from Mexican rapists; and you can tell me that an even bigger potential majority has simply signed off from paying attention or even caring.

Forget what an unqualified, egomaniacal, clueless and dangerous would-be tyrant Donald Trump is. The fact is that, well before his appearance on the stage, people have actually been electing leaders like those in Wisconsin, Kansas, North Carolina, etc, etc, etc; and it's inexplicable.

Lead paint. Think about it. Lead stupefying paint. And, in effect, they're voting for it.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Clever, They Are



It occurs to me: just as Rs have spent the last almost eight years doing everything they can to obstruct President Obama in order to blame him for the consequences of that obstruction, so they've spent, like, decades attacking the Clintons for pretty much everything including the air they breathe, and are now criticizing Hillary for protecting her privacy in certain matters. And, in yet another example of media complacency and complicity, journalists are repeating the trope that this "health thing" wouldn't have mattered if only she weren't so obsessed with a need for privacy.

Yep. They're good. If cynicism were candy, every Congressional R would have diabetes.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

I Had A Hammer



We've been cleaning out a room. I found an ancient external hard drive, which I intended to take to an electronics recycling center. Having no idea what was on the drive, my level of expertise in wiping it led me to the decision: I pounded it with a sledge hammer, and dropped it off.

Hillary's people, as required by law, destroyed devices before recycling them, too:
... If Clinton had in fact used a federally-issued Blackberry like President Obama does, it might well have been destroyed after she used it, too. In accordance with a 2012 General Services Administration bulletin, all agencies must either recycle or donate used electronics for reuse. The State Department abides by that policy, too; if Clinton had been using State-issued devices, they would have gone through a similar, if more standardized, process of data deletion. A State Department official explained in a statement to WIRED that “department security policies mandate that all electronic devices are cleared of sensitive or classified information prior to reuse or disposal.” Some devices are wiped and reused, in other words, while others are destroyed as part of the recycling process...
So here's my question: am I as tech-savvy as Hillary Clinton's people, or is it the other way around? Like other relevant questions, i.e., when the press might get around to reporting the facts instead of the headlines, it'll remain unanswered.

Good One


Monday, September 12, 2016

Context


For the record, here's the fuller context of what Hillary Clinton said about that basket of deplorables.

... You know, just to be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. They're racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic — you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up. He has given voice to their websites that used to only have 11,000 people – now have 11 million. He tweets and retweets their offensive, hateful, mean-spirited rhetoric. Now some of these folks, they are irredeemable, but thankfully they are not America. But the other basket–and I know this because I see friends from all over America here–I see friends from Florida and Georgia and South Carolina and Texas–as well as, you know, New York and California–but that other basket of people are people who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures, and they're just desperate for change. It doesn't really even matter where it comes from. They don't buy everything he says, but he seems to hold out some hope that their lives will be different. They won't wake up and see their jobs disappear, lose a kid to heroin, feel like they're in a dead end. Those are people we have to understand and empathize with as well...
Not, of course, that it'd make any difference to those whose outrage could fill many a basket.

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Sunday, September 11, 2016

They Report, You Decide



1) Hillary Clinton has an illness and shouldn't be president.

2) Despite having pneumonia and being advised to rest, Hillary Clinton went to a 9/11 memorial event because it's that important to her.

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Saturday, September 10, 2016

Trafficking With The Truth


My latest newspaper column:
Let’s talk about Donald Trump’s recent speech on immigration. Before we do, though, we’ll need to remember a few facts so we can forget them. First: immigration from Mexico, legal and illegal, is at its lowest in years. Second: President Obama has deported more illegals, by far, than his predecessors. Third: legal immigrants commit fewer crimes than native-born Americans. Fourth: illegals receive no benefits under Obamacare or most other programs. Fifth: undocumented immigrants pay billions in taxes, at a higher average rate than the top one-percent. There’s more, but the point is to forget the facts; gets harder if I list them all. 
Of all the problems we face, in other words, illegal immigration has moved well down the list. On a ten-point scale I’d put climate change at eleven. Immigration, maybe a three. If you listen to Donald Trump and his corybantic surrogates, though, you’d believe “they” are swarming past unguarded borders like Congress-ignored Zika through a proboscis, after which they go on to roam our streets, especially the one outside your door, “crime-ing” (as one of them said) at will, while patriotic legal Americans cower inside their barricaded homes. “It’s a Paul Revere moment,” said Trump’s spokeswoman, meaning we’re about to be overtaken and (I assume) enslaved, or worse. A few days ago, Alex Jones announced the official beginning of The New World Order, while babbling something about cannibalism. In what world does any of this make sense? How is this the leg on which Trump stands, the thing among things his supporters love the most? It’s as if Trump were selling galoshes (made in China!) in the middle of a drought and his audience were buying them furiously (at a huge markup!), donning them in a panic, even as parched dust filled the air. 
Watch that speech. Yes, he said a few reasonable things: other than certain employers, we don’t want illegal immigration. We do want immigrants who’ll be responsible, have jobs, appreciate our country. Can’t argue. But when he got rolling, uncorking his real agenda in all its darkness, it was the most disturbing oratory I’ve witnessed in a major candidate for president. Chilling, horrifying demagoguery, it was definitional hate speech straight from Berlin in the 1930s. Except for his lack of charisma, he’s a modern-day Elmer Gantry. His were the classical words of a would-be dictator, right here in America; his tone, his gestures, his dire warnings, his inveighing against hordes of dangerous and scary people, different from us, darker, people to be reviled, repelled, feared, risen up against. He spoke of an existential horror, of which he and only he can and will rid us; of an enormity, if you’ve forgotten to forget, that simply doesn’t exist. But there it was. 
And the audience cheered till they were hoarse. Booed those despicable people, adored the savior, oblivious to the dishonest demagoguery because the execration felt so good. Did I say galoshes? I meant jackboots. America. This happened in America. A candidate for president, choosing fear and hatred and scapegoating as his vehicle, counting on the gullible, fearful, and ill-informed to buy the snake-oil he’s selling, calculating he can ride their disproportionate fears to victory, to become a “real leader,” like his unrestrained hero Vladimir Putin. How much more obvious must it get before his diehards recognize how they’re being manipulated? Because he’s convinced them that they’re one breath away from being murdered by a Mexican, people of modest means are lining up to vote for a man whose taxation and spending priorities will make life better only for the very wealthy. “The bad ones” he’ll get rid of in his first hour as president, and that’s a promise. The cops know who they are, he tells us. Evidently they’ve just been waiting for Donald to take office before rounding them up, because… well … because he says so, I guess. 
Do we need to do something about illegals already here? Sure, some of them. Is illegal immigration an ongoing threat? Minimally. Except, maybe, for Donald Trump himself, illegally importing models, schooling them on avoiding discovery, and paying them slave wages. If it were Hillary, it’d be called human trafficking. For Trump, just good business.
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Thursday, September 8, 2016

More Bullshit From The Most Fabulous Bullshitter Of All Time


Remember that secret, amazing, foolproof, beautiful plan to defeat ISIS? The one Donald J. Trump has been promising to reveal and enact once he takes office, the one he doesn't want known before that because someone might steal it? Remember how he's assured us he knows more about ISIS than "the generals?"

Yeah, well, turns out his secret plan is to ask for a plan. From "the generals." Smart. Because I guess no one has thought of asking for that yet. Because I guess until Donald Trump, they didn't even know what planning means.

... "I don’t want the enemy to know what I’m doing," Trump told Fox News in May 2015, the month before launching his presidential campaign. "Unfortunately, I’ll probably have to tell at some point, but there is a method of defeating them quickly and effectively and having total victory.”
He added: “All I can tell you it is a foolproof way of winning, and I’m not talking about what some people would say, but it is a foolproof way of winning the war with ISIS." ...
Then, in a June 2015 meeting with the Des Moines Register editorial board, he offered a different reason for keeping the plan under wraps — that his opponents would steal it. "The problem with politics is if I tell you right now, everyone else is going to say, 'Wow, what a great idea.' ... But no, I have an absolute way of defeating ISIS."...
I believed him, didn't you? So this is a little disappointing, fabulous foolproof-wise:

... Well, now we know what Trump's "foolproof" and "absolute" plan for defeating ISIS is — to ask the generals to come up with a plan, quickly. That's what he said he would do during a speech Tuesday. "They'll have 30 days to submit to the Oval Office a plan for soundly and quickly defeating ISIS," he told supporters in Greenville, N.C.
These are the generals, mind you, who Trump has said don't understand ISIS like he does. "I know more about ISIS than the generals do," he said in a rambling Iowa speech in November. "Believe me."...
The wall, though. We'll definitely get the wall.

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Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Standards. We Got Standards.


Interesting, isn't it, that every person (we can safely assume) outraged at Colin Kaepernick for not standing for the National Anthem is an enthusiastic voter for a guy whose campaign is based on how not-great America is. And, as others have pointed out, that they're burning his jersey but not the ones of players convicted of rape, wife-beating, and robbery.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

No Time For Vanity Voting


My latest newspaper column:
This is for Hillary-hating liberals. And it’s for independents, self-respecting conservatives, and reluctant party-line Trump voters who understand the damage he’s doing and will do to their party and to our country: The man who wrote the “Benghazi mom” speech at the RNC, in which the lady read his words blaming Hillary Clinton for the death of her son, now says that whereas the thought of voting for Hillary is uncomfortable, under the circumstances (i.e., Trump), not voting for her is “terrifying.” Or how about that WSJ poll of all living economic advisers to presidents? If they see it, why not you? 
Liberals of the farthest left can be Sarandonally self-righteous, vowing they’ll never vote for Hillary, no matter what. Jill Stein, they think, or Gary Johnson. (Stein is another physician – the rest of whom are Congressional Republicans -- who completed medical school without learning to evaluate data. Her V.P. choice calls President Obama “Uncle Tom.” Johnson is typically Republican on health care, taxes, entitlements, abolishing the Department of Education, publically funding private schools. He’s not sure the climate is changing. Maybe the liberal appeal is his attitude toward weed. I like Bill Weld, though.) Willing to register a symbolic vote, conceivably Naderizing the election, empowering a horrifying candidate and the nastiest of his supporters, those “liberals” invoke higher morality. Some even deny the Nader/Bush/Gore connection. 
I’m not bonkers for Hillary Clinton, some of whose comments make me squirm. Like all successful politicians, she has a record to defend, and it’s not perfect. Along with the rest, she takes money from big donors; she’s said and done dumb things about those emails. Yet, after millions of tax dollars spent on unending camera-ready investigations, there’s no finding of willful wrongdoing, of any quid pro quo regarding the Clinton Foundation (which is saving millions of lives), or of breaches of her private server. In contrast to Donald Trump, she educates herself on issues. She’s a policy wonk; he gives policy a wink. Unlike Trump’s, her domestic policies would actually keep America great. And safe. Her career has included promoting women’s rights and helping those in need around the world. But even some liberals have bought the distorted, dishonest, highly effective Foxolimtrumpian attacks. Pretending away his expanding compendium of dishonesty, full time liar and grifter Donald Trump calling Hillary Clinton “crooked” is Jeffrey Dahmer extoling veganism. 
Donald Trump, unmoored, is a multi-tool threat to democracy, to the environment, science, public education, health care, to stability around the world. The lies he’s told about trade, borders, Hillary, the climate, and himself could fill Xfinity Arena* and, by golly, they did; after which he went to Mexico and lied about that! He’s unbridled the worst among us, legitimized, in their heads, ominous threats and actions by supporters, and, yes, engendered some disturbing responses to his ugliness from the left. Confirming his perfidious character, he’s hired as his campaign manager Stephen Brannon, the tax-evading, wife-beating, illegally-registered, allegedly anti-Semitic head of the right’s most toxic, dishonest, conspiracy-promoting website. Trump’s announced intentions to stifle press freedom with lawsuits, to ignore our intelligence agencies, to delegitimize a losing election while enlisting people to intimidate voters, to use government entities to punish detractors (or, as his “minority outreach” czar Omarosa said, make them “bow down to him”) should be frightening to everyone, not excepting conservatives. 
There was a time when liberals and conservatives worked together. They didn’t build a wall, as it were, between each other. Trump, who says anything and believes in nothing, and those of his supporters who are faux-conservative, nativist, bigoted, simplistic, Constitution-rejecting, lie-ignoring people he’s brought out from under their rocks need not only to lose, but to be electorally vanquished, ushered off the national stage forever. Somewhere inside them, true conservatives know this. Real conservatism will have its day; if libertarians or Greens demonstrate ability to govern somewhere, so might they. But the enormously consequential stakes in this election – climate change denial alone ought to do it for every sentient voter -- demand that thinking people on all sides reject the allure of vainglorious or habituated votes. Reflect on the clarity of the aforementioned speechwriter and economists. There’s no time for self-indulgence.
* Trump just spoke at this arena in my town. 

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Thursday, September 1, 2016

Not As Bad As All That


Defying and denying reality, per usual, the Foxolimtrumpian view of Barack Obama's presidency is that it's been horrible in all ways, for everyone. I assume this newly-released Gallup poll will change their minds, and we'll be hearing about it real soon:

... In 2008, fewer than half of Americans said their life was good enough to be considered "thriving," according to Gallup. But that's changed: "The 55.4% who are thriving so far in 2016 is on pace to be the highest recorded in the nine years Gallup and Healthways have tracked it," according to the report.
Not only that, members of each ethnic or racial group in Gallup's study feel better about their lives.
"The percentages of U.S. whites, blacks, Hispanics and Asians who are thriving have all increased during the Obama era," Gallup notes. The percentage of blacks thriving has risen by about 6 points, as has the percentage of whites and Hispanics. Asian thriving has risen by about 10 points since 2008...
No doubt the rising tide hasn't lifted all boats. But by pretty much any measure, things are better domestically than when George Bush left office. A lot better. That an entire party and its preferred nominee make so much hay claiming otherwise is just another example of how far we've fallen, and how little the truth matters anymore.

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Saturday, August 27, 2016

Can't We All Just Get Along?


My latest newspaper column. This one is particular to readers of the particular paper, featuring a friend and former local conservative columnist who saw the light and switched to telling tales from his mariner days before hanging it up altogether. The paper occasionally features letters saying he's missed; usually in the context of an unfavorable comparison to me:
Like some recent writers to The Herald, I miss Larry Simoneaux’s column. Happily, he’s a good friend, and we get together often enough to fill the void; some might be surprised that it was he who originally recommended me to the paper. Our friendship began years ago, when I emailed him disagreeing (respectfully!) with something he’d written, suggesting a point of view he hadn’t considered. Which led to a phone call and, eventually, meeting for coffee and good discussion. We’ve been doing it ever since. I’ve even helped sight his deer rifles, if you must know. 
So, as a public service to those who’ve written letters begging for Larry’s return and to the many more who haven’t but miss him just as much, I invited him to today’s column. And, yes, it’s real. 
Sid: Hey, Larry, your fans are clamoring for your return. Any chance? 
Larry: No. It was time to stop and I knew it when, all too often, I found myself up against a deadline with not an idea within a light-year of my brain. 
Sid: Figured. But do you ever miss the column? 
Larry: Not so much the column as the people who took the time to write, call, or e-mail me. Even those who disagreed were fun to correspond with as, once we got past the disagreement, we found that we agreed on many (MANY!) other things. 
Sid: I’ve always considered you one of those increasingly rare (in the public sector, anyway) thoughtful conservatives. Would you care to share your thoughts on the current state of our politics? 
Larry: As others have pointed out. It’s an unmitigated disaster. No one can tell me that, out of a country of 300+ million souls, these two are the best our political parties can come up with. 
Sid: Hard to disagree. How about telling readers who you’ll vote for president? I’ll give you ten bucks if you do. Make it twenty. 
Larry: A few weeks ago, I purchased my first-ever political bumper sticker to put on my beloved, 18-year-old pickup. It shows my support for “Giant Meteor” in 2016. “Meteor” promises to “end it all” immediately. And, so, to paraphrase another recent political slogan, “Feel the Blast, Sid. Feel the Blast.” 
Sid: Fine. I keep the money. Any comments to readers, or to me? 
Larry: We’re better than all of this. Look at how you and I get along. We have differences but, and this is a big “but,” when good people sit down to talk (and listen, dammitall) to each other, we generally end up respecting - maybe actually liking - each other. We want the best for ourselves and our kids and grandkids and, given time, were our politicians to ever consider doing the same, it’s a certainty that good ideas that could help would come to the fore and, actually, be implemented. 
I’ve never been a believer in hyphenated Americans of any stripe. Those who foisted this foolishness upon us have also herded us into camps - blacks, whites, Asians, Hispanics, gays, straights, trans, rich, poor etc. They’ve done this to divide us into blocs of voters. And that ain’t good. That trite old phrase: “United we stand. Divided we fall” pretty well points to where we’re headed. The only “bloc” that I care about is “American” because that bloc is based on an idea. And, if we lose that idea, this nation is gone. 
As for comments about you, I keep wondering when you’ll finally figure out that political commentary is hard on your blood pressure. I went to “sea stories.” Give us more “surgeon stories.” You know, “There we were, knee deep in bandages, no anesthesia left, my last sharp scalpel broken and useless, and my tee-time only 45 minutes away.” 
It’ll do you good. 
Sid: Noted. Thanks, Larry. 
It’s only in the past couple of decades, starting with Newt Gingrich, maybe, that people with political differences have such a hard time communicating. With a few happy exceptions, finding common ground with critics has been nearly impossible. In forgotten times, a friendship across differences, like mine with Larry, wasn’t rare. But he and I disagree on less than you might think.


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Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Scandal Of Scandal


We'll never hear the end of the Clinton email "scandal" and of the supposed grift involving the Clinton Foundation. In part, admittedly, it's because of poor handling of the issues from the outset by the Clinton camp. Mainly, though, it's the usual cynical attempts to discredit them by a party willing to do and say anything to accomplish it.

The latest, reported with the usual "we must be balanced" mainstream media and the "balance? We don't need no stinking balance" right-wing media, suggesting there were special priveleges granted to donors, is, like the rest, much ado about very little. Here's a good summary:
... Take, for example, the imbroglio over newly released e-mails regarding interactions between the Clinton Foundation and the State Department when Clinton was secretary of state. These exchanges, primarily between Clinton’s assistant Huma Abedin and Clinton Foundation top honcho Doug Band, have become Exhibit A in efforts to brand Clinton as a corrupt figure and the Foundation as a pay-for-play operation. The evidence, however, speaks to a different reality... 
... So what happened? Abedin told Band she’d reach out to Jeffrey Feltman, the acting assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs at the time. Yet, according to a Washington Post article, Feltman says he never met or spoke to Chagoury, and “No one ever told me he was seeking me out.”  
So: Clinton Foundation asks for help with donor, and doesn’t get it...
Charlie, as usual, get to the meat of it, too, worth reading in full:
 ...Well, that's certainly a smoking popgun right there. The crown prince of Bahrain needs to buy access to the Secretary of State of the United States of We'll Buy Your Oil? How would you like to prove that in the Court of Public Ridicule? It also is to be noted that the  AP discovered an e-mail in which Muhammad Yunis was seeking an audience. Yunis, of course, won a Nobel Prize for inventing the microloan. Dens of thieves!...
I have to admit I feel a bit whipsawed by Hillary. One day I'm angry at how the media are flogging b.s. like the above, because it's easier to be simplistic than to stand up and say what's what. On some other days, I'm annoyed by something Hillary did or didn't say.

Sometimes I consider it to be, as everyone says, "baggage." Mostly, though, I see the cynicism of the attacks and the laziness and fecklessness of the press. "Liberal" press? Hardly. Lazy, scared, corrupted by the profit-through-eyeballs motive. More like.

The undeniable fact, though, is that this stuff has wounded her. Insights like those referenced above will be ignored by or completely lost upon committed haters, the well-Foxified, and the "Trump says what's on his mind and I don't care if there's no mind there" crowd. The latter will never get past it. The question is how many of the Bernie folks and the self-righteous and narcissistic far left will refuse to see it, too.

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Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Courts Call Bullsh*t


My latest newspaper column:
Nearly swamped by the daily news of Donald Trump’s serial flailing was the recent spate of judicial rejections of voter ID laws around the country. There’s much to learn from considering those laws, the rationalizations offered by legislators, the details revealed during the court proceedings, the facts regarding in-person voter fraud, and the persisting truthless belief by the fully Foxified that it’s an actual thing. Mostly, it confirms how deeply uncomfortable today’s elected Republicans are with unrestricted voting by people who disagree with them. Like a mismatched transplant, their rejection of the heart of democracy threatens the life of its bearer. 
Revelations in the smack down of the North Carolina laws are illuminating. Before writing it, Republican legislators demanded data on the voting patterns of various demographic groups: specifically, African-Americans. Then they designed the law, manifestly, blatantly, to obstruct those patterns. Not just which kinds of ID would be accepted and how to obtain them; it also restricted the most common times for voting by those groups. The court saw through it. Who wouldn’t? 
Similar laws were struck down in Texas, Wisconsin, and North Dakota. In Georgia, a clear attempt by a community to purge the voting rolls of presumed Democratic voters was exposed. In every case, it was Republicans who enacted the laws. While pondering that bit of factual nescience, it’s helpful (or would be, if facts mattered) to begin with a nod to reality. 
Voter ID requirements address only in-person voter fraud, because where else would you present ID but at a polling place? The most comprehensive study of the phenomenon, routinely ignored by writers and supporters of such legislation, found thirty-one potential cases among nearly a billion votes cast in many elections over many years, all over the country. Here’s how that looks as frequency percentage: 0.0000031. Still, people ask, if people are legal voters, what’s the big deal? What’s so wrong with requiring ID? Nothing, of course. Except, as the courts determined, when the laws are constructed specifically to make it hard for certain groups to obtain required forms of identification, and to limit their access to polling places. Here’s a link to a compelling article. (Yes, I know it’ll be nothing new to people opposing ID laws, and that those in favor won’t care. And no, I don’t know why I bother.) 
Split along predictable lines, in 2013 the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act. Nothing to see here, declared Chief Justice Roberts, magically disappearing racial bias like glaciers in Greenland. In the past few weeks, several federal courts have contravened that indefensible Supreme activism, the wrongness of which was unmasked within days of the decision by disingenuous legislation in Republican-led states. Ironically, maintaining their universal obstruction of all things Obama, the Senate still refuses to allow the replacement of Antonin Scalia on the Court. Ties revert to the lower court rulings. Mitch McConnell has ensured that the tossing of those transparently cynical laws won’t be reversed by November’s elections, if ever! Fun, huh? 
But here’s the real point: rooted deep, at the very the core of our democracy, is the precept that politicians make their best case and then let voters decide. You win by persuading enough people, not by preventing dissenters from having a voice. Acting otherwise shows either that you have no confidence in the merits of your arguments, or that you disavow the indispensible American ideal of free and fair elections. Mysteriously, only Republicans have produced voter ID laws. Which party, then, believes in democracy? Which has the more legitimate claim on patriotism? Surely not the one that denies the most important doctrine in our Constitution. (Along with press freedom and separation of powers, both of which are under regular attack by the current nominee of that same party.) 
The conclusion is obvious: today’s Republican leaders believe their core concepts, especially trickle-down tax cuts for the wealthy, which have never worked as claimed, can’t win elections without tilting the field. Amusingly, Donald Trump’s cynical and possibly illegal (tinyurl.com/pollwatchers) call for poll-watchers would only serve further to confirm the lack of fraud, and make his loss even more convincing. To the non-Foxified, that is.    
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Friday, August 19, 2016

If Truth Were Money, He'd Be Bankrupt


Two thoughts on Donald Trump's sudden pledge always to tell the truth:

1) As of when?

2) Will he be rewriting his stump speech in its entirety, or just the stuff after "Thank you."

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