Thursday, December 29, 2016

Some Non Trump News on Apnea, Overtime, Ponytails and Slow Cooking

Enough about Donald Trump, already! You’d think the world revolves around him (okay, he believes that but there’s no reason for the rest of us to acquiesce in his egotism). 

So here’s a few of my non-Trumpian thoughts. 

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream: I dream a lot. A person dreams during shallow sleep prior to waking up. Which means I wake up a lot at night, for two reasons, one being an aging man’s health issue and, second, I suffer from sleep apnea.

Some may recall a blog post from two years ago about my visiting a specialist on sleep apnea testing at Mount Sinai Hospital. I never followed through on remedial treatment. Naturally, my condition worsened. As a result, I am perpetually tired while awake.

“Sleep apnea,” according to the National Institutes of Health, “is a common disorder in which you have one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breaths while you sleep. Breathing pauses can last from a few seconds to minutes. They may occur 30 times or more an hour. Typically, normal breathing then starts again, sometimes with a loud snort or choking sound.

“Sleep apnea usually is a chronic (ongoing) condition that disrupts your sleep. When your breathing pauses or becomes shallow, you’ll often move out of deep sleep and into light sleep. As a result, the quality of your sleep is poor, which makes you tired during the day. Sleep apnea is a leading cause of excessive daytime sleepiness.”

My recent apnea test revealed that while sleeping on my back I experienced about 48 interruptions in an hour, waaaay more than acceptable.

Sleeping on one’s back also contributes to snoring, of which I am a champion practitioner. 

So what’s the upshot? My new sleep doctor specialist prescribed I sleep on my side. That’s how I usually start out, I told him, but I eventually end up on my back. He suggested I pin a bag of tennis balls to the back of my night shirt. The discomfort of landing on the tennis balls would startle me into returning to my side position. 

It worked but was quite awkward so I opted for a different Rube Goldberg approach—I placed a laaarge, firm pillow between Gilda and me to prevent my rolling over (it prevents more than that, but that’s another story altogether). Gilda reports my snoring has dramatically decreased, I am now sleeping in three to four hour bursts before awakening, roughly double my previous time periods, and I’m not as tired as before.

Next week I’m to meet my doctor to review my progress. He doesn’t recommend another alternative, wearing an appliance in my mouth to project my lower jaw forward to create a wider airway. But he might suggest a CPAP machine to blow air into my nose while I sleep. A friend who has used one for several years says he now finds it hard to sleep without it.

You might be wondering why I have told you about my apnea status. It’s because The New York Times ran a story Thursday on several initiatives to combat insomnia ( Interestingly, though it noted “insomnia and other temporary and recurring sleep disorders affect 50 million to 70 million Americans, according to the National Institutes of Health, and the effects only worsen as people grow older,” not once did the article make specific reference to apnea. 

As The Donald would say, “So sad.”

Death by Overtime: The Business section of The Times was chock full of articles I identified with Thursday, including one on “karoshi,” what the Japanese call “death from overwork.”

When our family visited Japan back in 1991, we heard about “karoshi.” The Japanese economy was booming. Workers paid the price. They labored long hours. It was not unusual for workers to die in their tracks, while walking or driving to work. Passersby would simply shake their heads from side to side and whisper knowingly, “Ah, karoshi.” 

The economy in the Land of the Rising Sun is not as vibrant as back then, yet companies still demand excessive hours from their workers, often without added pay. A woman employee of Dentsu, one of the largest advertising agencies in the world, committed suicide last Christmas, ostensibly from working more than 100 hours of overtime each month. On Wednesday the president and chief executive of Dentsu accepted responsibility for her death and the corporate work environment. He said he would resign in January ( 

Here in America, overtime pay for salaried employees has become a political football. President Obama signed an executive order that raised the salary threshold for most salaried workers to receive overtime from $23,660 to $47,476 per year. But a federal court stayed the December 1 implementation of the rule, which Trump may well rescind especially since his designate to be secretary of labor is a fast food tycoon and many of those who would benefit from the rule work in retail and the foodservice industries.   

Pony Up: My wife wants me to grow a ponytail. It wouldn’t be the first time Gilda influenced my hair style. Some 40 years ago she convinced me to let my naturally kinky hair grow out into an afro.

Now, after watching one of the lead mobsters in the really absorbing Italian TV series Gomorrah sport a ponytail, she is lobbying for one for my unruly follicles. She is undeterred by my argument that the actor had jet black straight hair.

So if you see me looking rather unkempt do not think my extreme look is due to financial hardship. It is just another manifestation of my love. Or insanity.

Slow Cooking: Help! Anybody out there use a slow cooker crock pot? I’m looking for some kosher meat recipes.

I cashed in some hotel loyalty points before they expired for a 6-qt. crock pot. I love stew. Gilda doesn’t. So I’m more or less on my own. If you’ve got a winning recipe, send it to me. 

Monday, December 26, 2016

Donald Trump Provides Whole New Meaning to the Phrase "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas"

Twenty-five more days until the opening line of the classic song “White Christmas” takes on a significance way beyond the meteorological meaning Irving Berlin could have imagined when he wrote “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas just like the one I used to know.”

In Donald Trump’s America, any skin shade but white (except his own orange tone) represents a divergence with the norm. 

Consider how his election has emboldened racism, bigotry and prejudice across the land, a most repugnant example of which came forth last week from Carl Paladino, a former Republican gubernatorial candidate in New York, co-chair of Trump’s New York state campaign and currently s member of Buffalo’s school board.

As one of many asked by a Buffalo media outlet Artvoice, a weekly newspaper, to respond to four questions including what they want most in 2017, Paladino displayed racial bigotry heretofore reserved for white supremacist outlets, rants so offensive I refuse to reproduce them but will provide a link:

It was a no-brainer for Team Trump to disavow Paladino’s comments but the man himself was not rebuked. Moreover, a president-elect who has taken the time to chastise via Twitter Saturday Night Live, Alec Baldwin, the cast of Hamilton, among others, has yet to send out 140 characters admonishing Paladino.

In Donald Trump’s America, white will be the dominant color upon which success may be assured. His exhortation of “Merry Christmas” is a bellicose rejection of the multicultural, religiously diverse “Happy Holidays.”

Is Trump truly a racist? Hard to say definitively, but it would be naive to believe he does not recognize the bigotry that has burst into the open because of his candidacy and election. Whether he accepts their support or not, Trump has made it acceptable to openly hate, to openly oppose civil rights advances of the last half century, to openly question the legitimacy of legal immigrants and their constitutional rights.

Carl Paladino exposed the racist underbelly of many of Trump’s supporters. Unless the next president forcefully rejects this cancer of hate, not once, not twice but every time it rears its ugly, divisive head, Donald Trump will not be upholding the oath of office he will swear to at noon on January 20, 2017.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Reading Real News, Not Fake News, Really Matters in the Age of Trump

How much do you read? I don’t mean books. I mean newspapers and news Web sites.

I will answer first—not enough. And I’m mostly retired so I have no “time excuse.” That said, how much do you read? Specifically, how much of The New York Times or The Washington Post or The Wall Street Journal or The Boston Globe or The Chicago Tribune or The Los Angeles Times do you read? Or if you’re more inclined to go electronic, do you read the online versions of those papers, or Politico, or AP, or other reputable Web sites? In other words, how much quality daily journalism do you read?

It is almost universally agreed that democracy cannot flourish without freedom of the press. But that freedom implies an imperative on the citizenry to exercise a commitment to seeking out knowledge. Regrettably, in today’s political realm, both the populous and too many of its leaders are not dedicated to the proper exercise of a vigilant and truthful press.

The American people have just elected a president whose whole campaign was based on distortions, falsehoods and the failure to acknowledge his own prior statements. Lies repeated over and over became accepted as truth. 

Instead of relying on traditional media for news and analysis, large swaths of the public have turned to bogus news sites posting fake news stories they, at worse, believe or, at the very least, help shape negative opinions of politicians and groups that do not share their values. 

In this vortex of negativity, I am getting to the point where I can hardly read anymore about Trump. It’s too painful. (Paradoxically, as much as I try to break away from writing about him, I persist, thus exposing you, my reader, to even more Trumpish blasts.) I am even limiting my viewership of late night talk shows that lampoon him. 

And that, in a nutshell, is one of the dangers of Trumpdom, that the population that cares about the dangers he poses will be silenced by ennui as much as by the fake news that he and his acolytes disseminate.

Trump views no news cycle as complete without him in it. As president, even as president-elect, that’s to be expected, but his continued reliance on Twitter to roil the waters whenever he is criticized is troubling. He has yet to show that he cares that his tweets can have international repercussions, that his comments could move stock prices. 

For years one of my work-related buddies now retired from a technology company would include me in an email blitz of negative stories about liberals and President Obama. More often than not I’d check out their veracity through and alert him to their falsehood. I’d admonish him to check Snopes before sending out his blasts, but he rarely took the time. It was frustrating and disappointing to observe this intelligent former executive contribute to the dummification of society simply because he was anti-Democrats. 

Fake News proliferated during the election campaign, with Facebook becoming an unwitting accomplice. Facebook finally is taking some measures to limit the transmission of false and bigoted messages. But the damage to our democracy may not be easily repaired.

Last week, Fresh Air on NPR interviewed Craig Silverman, media editor of BuzzFeed News, about his research into fake news and its impact on the election. Silverman studied the response to the top 20 news stories from mainstream media and fake media on Facebook. 

He found that “three months before the election, that critical time, we actually saw the fake news spike. And we saw the mainstream news engagement on Facebook for those top 20 stories decline.”

What does it mean? “When we look at some of the data about the impact of misinformation, it’s really significant,” said Silverman. “So we at BuzzFeed partnered with Ipsos to do a survey of 3,000 Americans. And one of the things we wanted to find out was their familiarity with fake news headlines about the election. And what we found in the end after testing a group of five fake news headlines that went really big during the election and six real news headlines that went really big during the election is that 75 percent of the time, the Americans who were shown a fake news headline and had remembered it from the election believed it to be accurate.

“And that’s a really shocking thing. It’s impossible to go the next step and say, well, they voted because of that. But I think one of the things this election has shown is that people will believe fake news, misinformation will spread and people will believe it and it will become part of their worldview.”

Oh, how our democracy is in trouble given Trump’s penchant for dissembling and disseminating fake news.

Bread and Circuses: He has yet to officially take office but we can discern from the last two years how Trump will conduct business as president. 

It will be an imperial presidency. Woe to the person or organization that challenges the leader. 

Expect mass rallies as Trump fulfills his ego need for public approval. Though he did not win a majority of votes, he claims a mandate because of his Electoral College win. He will seek to reinforce his ego electronically through Twitter and physically through rallies of his faithful.

It will be an administration of “bread and circuses,” as in Ancient Rome, most aptly described by Wikipedia: “Bread and circuses” (or bread and games; from Latin: panem et circenses) is metonymic for a superficial means of appeasement. In the case of politics, the phrase is used to describe the generation of public approval, not through exemplary or excellent public service or public policy, but through diversion; distraction; or the mere satisfaction of the immediate, shallow requirements of a populace,  as an offered ‘palliative.’ Its originator, Juvenal, used the phrase to decry the selfishness of common people and their neglect of wider concerns. The phrase also implies the erosion or ignorance of civic duty amongst the concerns of the commoner.”

Democratic Party resistance mostly will be ineffectual at the national level given GOP control of the Senate and House. Democrats will try to emulate the successful Republican strategy of resistance at the local level. But it may be too late in many states. Look what happened in North Carolina last week where a Republican legislature passed laws to neuter the incoming Democratic governor. If the laws are not overturned in court, expect similar actions in other states should Democrats wrest control of governor mansions in future elections.

As Trump finalizes on his cabinet and White House appointments, it’s proper to ask, should we really have expected anything different? Were we being Pollyanna-ish in hoping, nay assuming, Trump would assemble a team of broad-minded advisors and cabinet secretaries instead of the close-minded reactionaries he has named whose bona fides include climate change deniers, minimum wage deniers, and fake news propagandists?

How rich are the men and woman who will sit around his cabinet table? Their collective wealth is $14.7 billion. It exceeds the combined wealth of the bottom third of American households, 43 million family units, The Daily Mail reported (  

As to why Trump made those picks despite campaigning on as an anti-elite, pro-worker candidate, here’s one explanation from a Politico article on the 10 key decisions of the election campaign, “Trump only really listens to rich guys.”

Trump Place in Your Face: Residents of Trump Place on Riverside Drive in Manhattan expressed their disapproval of the president-elect by having his name removed from their building. But one of the residents is showing allegiance to The Donald. He or she, as the case may be, has arranged Christmas lights from their balcony to spell out “Trump.”

Circulation Booster: Liberals seem to be turned on by Trump’s negative tweets about alleged circulation dips at The Times and Vanity Fair. Both publications reported that contrary to what Trump tweeted their subscription numbers have gone up since his election. 

But that is not a long term defense against bombastic unfounded statements. Trump and his followers are practicing a strategy of the big lie repeated often enough until it gets absorbed as truth.

Hearing Loss: There’s good news on the factory closing front and I don’t mean Trump’s initiative to bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States.

No, the good news might signal an improvement in marital relationships. It seems hearing loss among Americans is declining. One reason hypothesized is there are fewer plants operating where the din of machinery takes its toll on workers’ hearing (

So there goes the excuse all those laid-off workers had for not hearing what their spouses said. Of course, if Trump does manage to get more factories opened, he would be wise to have hearing ailments covered in his “terrific” replacement for Obamacare.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Reality Politics Under Trump and the GOP: Nepotism Is in, Fair Play Is out

There’ve been lots of ink spilt and bytes clicked over the upcoming vote December 19 by the Electoral College for the 45th president of the United States. The pros and cons of voting for the choice of the plurality of each state’s electorate or choosing, as David Pozen put it in Thursday’s New York Times, “Hillary Clinton or an establishment Republican,” have been hotly debated, mostly because of antipathy toward Donald Trump (

But here’s the reality—Hillary won’t be selected and even if the electors wanted to choose “an establishment Republican” there ain’t any of them around anymore. In the Grand Old Party there are no more Jacob Javitses, Edward Brookeses, Everett Dirksens, Charles Percys or Howard Bakers—the likes of senators willing to compromise and work with Democrats. Not even Ronald Reagan would qualify as a doctrinaire Republican these days. He, after all, worked with Tip O’Neill’s Democratic Congress.

Perhaps the euphoria of recapturing the three branches of government (once a conservative Supreme Court nominee is confirmed) has fractured the backbone of Republicans. They seem willing to abandon truth, constitutional principles and personal conscience in their eagerness to not become targets of Trump’s Twitter darts, public threats and humiliations (Trump keeps threatening Speaker of the House Paul Ryan if he doesn’t support him without reservation while his dangling of Mitt Romney as a potential secretary of state was mean-spirited. But to be fair, Romney’s willingness to represent to the world a man he considered unfit to be president made him unworthy of any sympathy.).

The height of Republican disdain for democratic principles, and Democrats, is playing out these days in North Carolina. For those not aware of how a Republican-controlled legislature can thwart the electorate’s will, take a few moments to read how GOP lawmakers are racing at breakneck speed to turn the newly elected Democratic governor into an impotent executive:

The double standard Republicans are demonstrating vis-a-vis Trump and their treatment of Hillary Clinton is equally egregious. They smooth over his obvious business conflicts of interest, they don’t bat an eyelash at the intrusion of his children and son-in-law into affairs of state in violation of nepotism and conflict of interest protocols, they fail to strongly challenge Trump’s rejection of the intelligence community’s assertion that Russia was behind the hacking of Clinton’s and the Democratic Party’s emails, they paper over Trump’s repeated lies, the latest being his contention that the Obama administration did not cite Russian hacking before the election, to name just a few of their tolerances for the disruption of government as we know it and the accountability of elected officials.

Let me share with you an analysis of Trump’s meeting with technology executives earlier this week that illuminates the quagmire of ethics and absurdity we have entered into: 

(For those who chose not to read the link, the central point  by Mark Suster was the meeting at Trump Tower included 25 people. “25 people. 4 of them — FOUR — are the president-elect’s children (sic—actually three children and one son-in-law). That is 16% of everybody in the room or put differently if I include Donald Trump the meeting consists of 20% family members. This is the definition of nepotism that we would condemn from the least democratic nations in the world.”

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Oy! A Common Refrain In the Age of Trump


Oy vey.


Oy—a Yiddish exclamation of chagrin, dismay, exasperation or pain.

It looks like it will be worse than expected. It looks like Donald Trump will systematically destroy the foundations of our country while a vast majority of the Republican Party shows itself to be a spineless entity only interested in staying in office with no regard for truth, justice and the tenets of their sainted Ronald Reagan.

Oy vey—Yiddish for “Oh, how terrible things are.”

Let’s start with some basic agreements. First ISIS and al Queda are terrorist organizations. They can attack us and kill scores at a time but they are not existential threats to America, at least not in a physical sense. They do no more physical damage than Adam Lanza at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., or Seung-Hui Cho at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va.

The danger from Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik in San Bernadino, Calif., or a Nidal Hasan at Fort Hood, Texas, is that we will overreact and start to dismantle constitutional protections. We should fear the loss of liberties we all take for granted.

We are in no danger of sharia law overtaking our judicial system.

Second thing to agree on, existential threats may come from governments with the power to undermine our democracy, our safety and our economic system. Those threats can come from two countries—Russia and China.

Or they may come from within, from politicians who issue falsehoods while denying the truth, who divide to conquer, who fail to see real existential threats while promoting false ones, who undermine belief in our country’s principles and institutions by substituting their own misguided values and by not sharply rebuking and disavowing the bigoted rants of fringe groups, thereby giving them undeserved legitimacy.

OY-YOY-YOY: Yiddish for an exclamation of sorrow and lamentation.

It is widely believed by intelligence experts inside and outside our government that Russia tried to influence our recent election by hacking into Democratic Party and officials’ computers.

Donald Trump doesn’t believe that. But then Donald Trump believes it is okay to retweet falsehoods as legitimate news. So does his choice to be national security advisor, retired general Mike Flynn. So does his choice to be chief strategist, Stephen Bannon.

But as troubling as those individuals are with their careless and carefree regard for the truth it pales in comparison to the hundreds, if not thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, if not millions of Republican politicians and voters who are not protesting their insanity.

Now that the election is over, GOP senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham, especially the former, now seem ready to fight for the integrity of the government rather than for the in-the-moment-victory of a Republican presidential candidate no matter how flawed he might be or how crass his behavior toward them was during the last 18 months. 

Under the existing rules of our electoral system, Trump won the election, though not a mandate, as he claims, as close to three million more voters opted for someone besides him to lead America. He won the Electoral College vote, but that shouldn’t mean all truth and logic gets dissolved in his acidic view of reality. The optimal word in that last sentence is “shouldn’t.” 


Trump is creating an alternative universe where intelligence does not exist if it doesn’t match his gut instincts and his desire to make a buck. He has mastered the art of the sham and the public diss. How exquisitely perverse was his dangling interest in Al Gore’s explanation of climate change and environmental vigilance only to rebuff it quickly by nominating an Environmental Protection Agency chief who rejects it all and has no appreciation of the link between fracking and the thousands of earthquakes that have shook his home state of Oklahoma.

Cabinet departments were established to further the benefits of their disciplines and constituencies. Yet Trump has chosen a labor secretary who doesn’t believe in a minimum wage and who is anti-union. Trump has chosen a housing secretary with no prior experience in public housing other than the fabrication (by others) that he grew up in public housing rather than near it. He’s chosen as United Nations ambassador someone with no foreign relations experience. During the campaign Trump blasted Hillary Clinton for being close to Goldman Sachs, yet he picked three current or former Goldman Sachs bankers as teammates (Steve Mnuchin as Treasury secretary, Bannon and Gary Cohn, the current Goldman president, as director of the National Economic Council).

The Bill of Rights was adopted to protect and enshrine freedom of speech, religion and assembly. Yet Trump disparages—bullies, actually—those who make fun of him, those who burn the flag as a protest, those who adhere to Islam, those who assemble peacefully. 

Republican values are being torn down by Trump. From Teddy Roosevelt and Richard Nixon such values included stewardship of the land and natural resources. Yet Trump surrounds himself with fossil fuel advocates and climate change deniers even as the oceans rise, the polar cap melts, residents of cities like Beijing and New Delhi choke under pollution from coal and fossil fuel exhausts. Do we really want to return to the days of smog in Los Angeles when children, seniors and those with respiratory ailments were advised to stay indoors? Is that how Trump will make America great again? 

Abraham Lincoln is revered for fighting for racial equality. Yet Trump and his minions want to roll back laws that have advanced voting rights of minorities. 

Reagan was the consummate anti-Russian. Yet Trump rejects such Republican orthodoxy. He sees Russia only through the eyes of an entrepreneur, as a market to exploit, failing to see how Vladimir Putin has aggressively sought to undermine Western values and democracies. 

Trump lacks a world view commensurate with the responsibilities of the commander-in-chief of the most powerful nation on earth. There is one silver lining in his leadership. He is a teetotaler, so there’s no danger of his being drunk and ordering some dangerous military adventure as Nixon’s top staff worried in the days before his resignation. Of course, our last experience with a non drinker would not instill such confidence. Abstainer-in-chief George W. Bush got us into two wars in the Mideast in which we are still engaged. 

Trump also poses a downside risk—he says he gets just four hours of sleep a night. Last week AAA said driving on four hours’ sleep is as dangerous as driving while intoxicated. Driving on 4-5 hours’ sleep increases the chance of an accident by 400%. Less than four hours increases the crash risk by 12 times.

Teenagers, older adults and those who have sleep debt are among the group with the most risk of an accident, according to AAA.

So how comfortable should we feel about the decision making skills of a 70-year-old future president who boasts he gets just four hours sleep a night?

Oy vey!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Foreign Affairs and Christian Charity

I feel like Michael Corleone in Godfather III: Every time I try to distance myself from Donald Trump and write about something or someone else, he does another unimaginable act that pulls me back in. (Dedicated readers might remember I used that analogy once before:

So, the soon-to-be 45th president has startled the foreign relations community by talking directly with the president of Taiwan, what international experts are saying will be interpreted by China as an affront.

I don’t know enough about Sino-American relations to comment beyond what I read. But I do recognize that unilateral surprise actions by our president-elect have the potential to unhinge diplomatic ties around the world. Remember how his casual comments during the campaign questioning support for NATO members caused tumult throughout the alliance? 

It has been reported that Trump has disdained receiving global security updates and has preferred having his daughter Ivanka sit in on meeting with foreign delegates rather than State Department experts. This is no way to run a country, at least not a nuclear power considered the bulwark of western civilization.

During the campaign wacky pronouncements from The Donald were commonplace, dismissed by his handlers as electioneering bravura. But now, even before he has nominated a secretary of state, Trump is upending decades of bipartisan United States foreign policy relations.

He was blindsided into talking with the president of Taiwan. He answered her congratulatory telephone call. Looks like his ego, the chance to have it stroked, got the better of him.

He compounded the diplomatic faux pas by tweeting—what else is new—about it. In his tweet Trump called Tsai Ing-wen the president of Taiwan, a title American presidents have resisted using for decades because of our tangled relationship balancing China and Taiwan as the true representative of more than 1.4 billion people.

Of course, this controversy is not the first set off by the next president. He has ruffled feathers in regard to India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Russia and Japan ( 

Well, he will be president and have the power and authority to set foreign policy, but I would feel a lot more comfortable if Trump discussed his moves with qualified experts before thrusting them on the public. Could he at least have the decency to maintain the status quo until after January 20 so President Obama doesn’t have to clean up any messes his successor creates? 

Christian Charity: Now that evangelicals can claim they helped elect Trump, I am wondering how much pressure they will exert to further Christian charity toward the needy?

Presumably, they will get their election reward in the form of an anti-abortion Supreme Court nominee. But once Roe v. Wade is overturned, or, at the very least, restrictive state measures are condoned and upheld, making more unwanted babies a reality, will evangelicals be willing to lobby for more social services for them and their mothers?

Evangelicals have been welcoming to refugees fleeing Mideast conflicts. But will they be able to soften Trump’s anti-immigration, anti-Muslim stances?

Trying to discern the thinking and values of the religious right is an exercise somewhat beyond my ken. Consider the case of Liberty University, a Christian university in Lynchburg, Va., and its quest to become a college football powerhouse.

It displayed a greater belief in football excellence than Christian values in selecting a new athletic director tainted by a failure to appropriately respond to charges of multiple gang rapes and sexual assault by members of the football squad at Baylor University, his last employer ( 

It is easier to figure out Republican values in saying that after they repeal the Affordable Care Act a new health care plan to replace Obamacare would not be ready for three years. They clearly want to avoid having to answer for lost coverage by millions of Americans until after the mid-term elections of 2018. 

The GOP is simply abiding by the first and most important tenet of any politician—get re-elected.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Patriot Games: Loyal Opposition or Upside Down Flag Waver

What type of patriot should I be? Should Democrats be?

It is not an idle question in the wake of Donald Trump’s election as president and what it would mean to the majesty and character of the United States as a beacon of freedom, tolerance and equal opportunity, no matter how imperfect our execution of those values are. 

Should I endorse the combative stance of Charles Blow who, writing in The New York Times, defiantly rejected Donald Trump’e election (, a position echoed by the following statement found on the Internet and sent to me by one of my best friends:

I listened as they called my President a Muslim.
I listened as they called him and his family a pack of monkeys.
I listened as they said he wasn’t born here.
I watched as they blocked every single path to progress that they could.
I saw the pictures of him as Hitler.
I watched them shut down the government and hurt the entire nation twice.
I watched them turn their backs on every opportunity to open worthwhile dialog.
I watched them say that they would not even listen to any choice for Supreme Court no matter who the nominee was.
I listened as they openly said that they will oppose him at every turn.
I watched as they did just that.
I listened.
I watched.
I paid attention.
Now, I’m being called on to be tolerant.
To move forward.
To denounce protesters.
To “Get over it.”
To accept this...
I will not.
I will do my part to make sure this great American mistake becomes the embarrassing footnote of our history that it deserves to be.
I will do this as quickly as possible every chance I get.
I will do my part to limit the damage that this man can do to my country.
I will watch his every move and point out every single mistake and misdeed in a loud and proud voice.
I will let you know in a loud voice every time this man backs away from a promise he made to them.
Them. The people who voted for him.
The ones who sold their souls and prayed for him to win.
I will do this so that they never forget.
And they will hear me.
They will see it in my eyes when I look at them.
They will hear it in my voice when I talk to them.
They will know that I know who they are.
They will know that I know what they are.
Do not call for my tolerance. I’ve tolerated all I can.
Now it’s their turn to tolerate ridicule.
Be aware, make no mistake about it, every single thing that goes wrong in our country from this day 
forward is now Trump’s fault just as much as they thought it was Obama’s.
I find it unreasonable for them to expect from me what they were entirely unwilling to give.

Or should I assume the attitude of “This too shall pass,” and take comfort that the nation survived eight years of Ronald Reagan plus another four years of George H.W. Bush, only to survive eight years of George W. Bush? Unfortunately, that trial balloon was burst by Jeff Greenfield’s article in Politico’s magazine that maintains a Trump administration tied to a Republican Congress and Supreme Court would be more destructive to progressive causes than Reagan (

Should the loyal opposition work with Trump to improve our infrastructure and get more domestic manufacturing jobs? Or should Democrats resist giving him any victories, for surely he would not waste a moment to claim them as his and his alone? 

Should they let Trump and his dark knights tear apart the social safety net and let the working class and middle class voters who abandoned the Democrats find out what it’s like to live in a country that doesn’t care if they’re insured, that reduces the certainty of retirement benefits, that provides huge tax cuts to the wealthy but little to them, that wants to privatize national parks, that doesn’t push for higher minimum wages, that doesn’t enforce or pass worker safety laws or regulations for clean air, and safe foods and drugs?

When Trump first proposed to loosen the libel laws it was thought to be a potential minefield for legitimate media. Upon reflection, I believe the most vulnerable media would be those websites and papers that print scurrilous lies and distortions, the type of media that aided and abetted the election of The Donald. 

With Stephen Bannon as one of his closest advisors, whose Breitbart News often treaded dangerously on the borderline of libel, it is no wonder Trump has refined and softened his stance on the mainstream media. 

Of course, satirical shows such as The Daily Show with Trevor Noah (who is really coming into his own), would not have to worry as their content is protected speech, but let’s not discount the damage and threat repeated denunciations from the commander-in-chief might precipitate, perhaps including physical retaliation by some of Trump’s supporters or pressure on advertisers to withdraw support of the “offending” telecasts.

It would be foolish to count on Trump to modulate his positions. Someone who spreads falsehoods and deals with unfounded accusations, such as his latest outcry that he lost the popular vote because millions of votes were cast illegally for Hillary Clinton, reinforces the notion that reacting to Trump is a no-win proposition.

Instead, Democrats must aggressively attack his expected actions and those of Congress. They need to be proactive, not reactive.

For instance, to preserve the benefits of Obamacare, they need to run ads that defend the Affordable Care Act (ACA), ads that would outline the type of people who would be vulnerable if it were repealed and how insurance companies would take advantage of them. Focus on examples of the 22 million who are covered by Obamacare and how it has changed their lives for the better. 

Republicans have been wanting to alter Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security since they were passed by Democrats. To fend off radical changes, ads must target those who would be most affected—working class families and the elderly, two groups that opted for Trump. They need to be shown how GOP policies would hurt them.

His nominee for Treasury secretary wants to gut the Dodd-Frank Act that was passed in response to the investment community shenanigans that caused the housing crisis and the great recession of 2008.

As he assembles his cabinet and key advisors it has become obvious that Trump’s inner circle will not be a cushion, softening his campaign rhetoric. Rather, it is shaping up as a more regressive force. His designated Health and Human Services secretary, for example, wants to gut the ACA and eliminate insurance mandates for pre-existing conditions and cut back Medicare coverage. So much for Trump’s 60 Minutes statement to the contrary. 

Indeed, Trump is a master at playing the American public, hinting at his openness and compassion but wielding a harsh scepter of benefits denial.

Why do I say this? Because it is becoming clearer that while he listens to several advisors, he tends to follow the advice of the last person who had his ear. Too often that will be Bannon or vice president-elect Mike Pence, a hard core conservative. 

This and previous elections have shown that national direction is decided at the state level. Progressives have been koched and kicked by the Koch brothers and their ilk who have spent hundreds of millions of dollars securing state houses and gubernatorial mansions across the country. 

The time to build a state by state ground game is long past. But it is doable, especially if the populist agenda Trump campaigned on does not come to fruition and he has to defend a record that was passed in conjunction with a Republican Congress. 

So to answer the question at the top of this blog, I’ll be a discerning patriot, not ready to turn the American flag on my porch upside down as a sign of distress, but not willing to give our president-elect a free pass. His actions and their consequences will determine the outcome.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Don't Let Steve Bannon Hide His Bigotry Behind Freedom of the Press

The mind works in mysterious ways. Or maybe not.

Last Thursday night I had an intense dream about the Diary of Anne Frank, the haunting story of a young Jewish girl, her family and friends who hid for years in an attic in Amsterdam from the Nazis who sought their annihilation and ultimately succeeded in the deaths of all but her father.

My dreams often are triggered by something I read or saw during the hours before sleep. I  can’t fall back to sleep until after I’ve written down my thoughts on my iPhone. I remember Thursday evening reading about the suggestion by one of president-elect Donald Trump’s clique that it would be all right to create a registry of Muslims who have entered the country, precedent for that coming from our history of interring Japanese Americans after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Trump, himself, had called for a registry of Muslims during the campaign.

And I read how the Israeli ambassador to the United States declared Steve Bannon—a modern day Goebbels spewing racist, anti-Semitic, misogynist, xenophobic venom through Breitbart News and just named chief strategist to the next president—kosher and acceptable to the Jewish state.

The moral ground once firmly beneath Israel cries out for solidity. Steve Bannon is no friend of Jews who should beware any person or group that advocates or condones discrimination. He is no friend of any of the ideals upon which Israel, or for that matter the United States, was founded. Sure, he has enjoyed freedom of the press, but he has used that cherished right to issue screeds of hate and division. He is an unworthy counselor for the next president and unworthy of the blessing of Israel.

As Trump’s cabinet and advisors coalesce with loyalists Senator Jeff Sessions as attorney general and retired general Mike Flynn as national security advisor the latest to be tapped, it is intriguing to observe candidates who might be welcomed into the Trump orbit. Fascinating not so much because they would offer counterpoint to Trump’s public positions but rather because of what Trump and they said about each other during the primary campaign. 

But let’s be generous and realistic. Trump should not be held to a higher standard than, say, Barack Obama who chose rival Hillary Clinton as his secretary of state after each disparaged the other in 2008. As in love and war, all is fair in politics.

Under the guise of freedom of the press people are excusing Bannon, as well as Facebook and Twitter, for publishing racially offensive, sexist, misogynist, anti-Semitic screeds.

As a journalist all my adult life, from college newspaper through newspaper reporter and bureau chief, through business magazine editor and publisher to now a blogger, I deeply believe in the values of a free and unencumbered press.

But one should not be able to hide behind press freedom when it comes to the dissemination of intolerance and untruths. As an editor and publisher I read everything to be printed in my magazine. If I didn’t agree with the writer it was my job to change the article or kill it. Nothing, nothing would get printed if it didn’t agree with my viewpoint.

Bannon cannot claim articles or headlines in Breitbart News did not reflect his opinions. He was under no obligation to print bigotry or misinformation.

Breitbart News, like Facebook and Twitter, are not public trusts. They are private enterprises and can choose to print or reject any copy that its editor and publisher find objectionable. This is not censorship. It is the proper exercise of an editor or publisher’s red pencil. 

By his acquiescence, and perhaps even encouragement, Bannon has demonstrated he is not qualified to sit in an office two doors down from the Oval Office.

While in Germany last week President Obama called the spread of fake news a threat to democracy. We have elected as our next president a man who boasts he gets much of his news from the Internet, a domain that we somehow have allowed to be poisoned with falsehoods that, sadly, too many of our citizens lack the education and intelligence to know are untruths. 

Like many I am struggling to understand how the electorate chose a candidate who deliberately lied (more often than his foe) and who did not provide details of his plans for America. It was, many pundits now say, a protest vote against Washington.

The “Not My President” crowd, those who argue that Hillary Clinton should be the next commander-in-chief because she won the popular vote, are challenged by Trump’s claim that he would have garnered more votes if the campaigns were run as national popularity contests and not as a race to 270 Electoral College votes. 

Is he right? Impossible to tell, but there is evidence to support his claim. In the 14 battleground states where the candidates vigorously competed, Trump won 10 states; his total count exceeded Clinton’s by more than a million votes.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Post Election Blues: Notes From the Resistance

President Barack Obama said it. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W. VA) said it. Lots of Republicans said it.

“As difficult as it is for anyone to lose an election, the American people have spoken and Donald Trump is our President-elect,” was the way Manchin phrased it. 

It is hard for me to accept comments like that. 
Let’s be clear. The people did not elect Trump. The system did. 

More people in the United States preferred Hillary Clinton’s vision of America than Trump’s. Yet, I’m resigned to the fact he will become our 45th president January 20 because we don’t elect our commander-in-chief by popular vote. We follow the arcane rules set out in the Constitution which mandates election by the Electoral College.

So the recalibration of America has begun. Trumpsters are finding out that campaign pledges do not automatically turn into governing realities. Trump has begun the tectonic shift from promise-them-anything to here’s-what-I-can-do (assuming his Republican partners will go along with him, or maybe even they will dictate to him their vision of GOP rule). Already he is backpedaling on centerpieces of his campaign: the repeal and replacement of Obamacare, building a wall between Mexico and the United States, the deportation of 11 million undocumented immigrants and the “draining of the swamp” in Washington of lobbyists and special interests. 

If Only Hillary Had Read The New York Times: While cleaning out some old newspapers Thursday, I came across an interview of political analyst Thomas Frank that ran earlier this year, on May 16, in the Sunday Times magazine section. 

In one paragraph, here’s a six-months-in-advance autopsy of what went wrong with Clinton’s campaign: “If Trump does have a chance, it resides with working-­class voters. The obvious Democratic move would be to reach out to those voters and tell them to come home to the Democratic Party, offer them all sorts of New Deal-­style benefits. I doubt she is going to do that.”

Voters in the battleground states of Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania did more than just award Trump the presidency. By returning incumbent Republicans from their states to the Senate, they handed the incoming president GOP control of both houses of Congress, thus depriving the American public of any real checks and balances in the executive and legislative branches of government, and, once a new Supreme Court justice is nominated and confirmed, control of the judicial branch as well. 

It is hard to follow Trump’s thinking. In his 60 Minutes interview on Sunday he endorsed the Supreme Court’s decision condoning same-sex marriage in all states. At the same time he maintained he would pick a new justice who would vote to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision that made abortion legal in all states. Does he truly believe such a socially conservative justice would not also be inclined to vote to rescind LGBT rights? 

Trump was correct in saying overturning Roe V. Wade would not eliminate a woman’s right to choose as each state would be free to make its own determination. Does Trump not realize that tens of millions of economically challenged women would be burdened by costly, time-consuming travel to states that permit abortions, a trip and expense many of them would not be able to undertake? 

Moreover, once Roe v. Wade would be overturned, one may expect Republicans would ignore their long-held belief in states’ rights and seek a national ban on abortions. 

So pray for Trump’s continued good health, and, for that matter, the health of Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Anthony Kennedy. 

As revolting as Trump might be, his replacement by vice president Mike Pence would be disastrous for any semblance of progressive government. Pence is doctrinaire, a person who openly says he is first a Christian, second a conservative and third a Republican. As governor of Indiana and as a congressman he has shown a willingness to enact measures that put his faith above the Constitution and any compassion for the underprivileged. 

Roughly 42% of eligible voters—about 97 million—chose to stay home last Tuesday. One wonders how many of them enjoy the benefits of Obamacare which may be taken away from them now that Republicans will be in control.

Finally, some sound medical advice from Dr. Ben Carson:  He has indicated he would not welcome a cabinet position because he is unqualified to run a government department.  Ya think? 

How come this didn’t occur to him when he put himself forward as a candidate to run the whole government as president? What makes him think Trump is any more qualified? Running a diversified business is far from the same as running the U.S. government and being the leader of the free world. 

I fear for our democracy, not because of Trump alone and his zany ideas about climate control, freedom of the press,  the use of the Internet to obtain news, his fabrications of the truth, his bro-love of Russia, military planning, and immigration. My biggest fear is that Trump will surround himself with repressive-minded associates who will seek to erode voting rights that would severely impede our ability to replace his and subsequent Republican administrations.

During the campaign, The Times asked Aasif Mandvi, the comedian, actor and writer best known for his work on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, if he was frightened by the anti-Muslim rhetoric. 

He said, “I’m not afraid that Trump is going to kick out all of the Muslims. What makes me afraid is the trickle-down effect of that kind of rhetoric and that now, suddenly, it has become O.K. to be racist. We’re normalizing it, and therefore you see more violence against people of color and L.G.B.T. people. The culture has been given permission to exorcise all of its darkest fears and can now blame immigrants or minorities for whatever problems white people are facing. Whether or not Trump wins, we’ve already been infused with this. This camp has already shown itself.”

If you’re in the mood for it, click on the following clip from The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. It’s a primer for how democracy can be easily eroded:

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Does Donald Trump Have an Ebenezer Scrooge Moment in Him?

His whole lifetime Donald Trump has channeled Ebenezer Scrooge in his quest for boundless riches, often at the expense of the everyman. He stiffed contractors. He wouldn’t rent to minorities to keep his property values high. He chiseled widows and other desperate souls yearning for a semblance of his wealth out of thousands of dollars spent on Trump University tuitions and affiliated expenses. He pandered to the wistful by opening casinos to exploit their get rich quick fantasies. He ran a campaign for the highest office in the land and didn’t pay many of his hired professionals.

I can’t imagine what Trump dreams as he lies next to Melania. If the nation is fortunate, perhaps he will be visited by specters of lives past, present and future. I’ll leave it to others to psychoanalyze exactly which personalities would enter his subconscious.

But if we’re lucky, just as Scrooge changed after visits from the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future, Trump’s nocturnal apparitions will channel a change from his scorched earth campaign rhetoric. Aides and friends, after all, are saying he will be “a softer, kinder” Trump as president.

Does that mean he will not deport “dreamers,” those illegal immigrants brought to the United States as infants who have not known any other country? Will he resist separating families, deporting illegal alien parents from children born the United States and therefore able to stay as citizens? If he tears up NAFTA and causes the loss of jobs in Mexico, is he ready to deal with an influx of more illegal immigrants, wall or no wall? Will he abandon his ideas to reinstitute torture and to kill the families of terrorists, actions that could prompt resignations from military and security officials? With his Mar-a-Lago home and resort on the beach in Florida, will he be ready to concede the effects of climate change? Will he fend off Evangelicals in their determination to roll back same-sex marriage and LGBTQ equality laws?

Now that he’s been elected, he’s officially a politician and the first job of any politician is to get re-elected. Keep in mind Trump did not win the popular vote. He secured more Electoral College votes than Hillary Clinton. The conventional wisdom espoused by many pundits, including yours truly, is that Trump was elected by racists, misogynists, neo Nazis, anti-Semites and xenophobes.

But that denies the reality that disaffected blue collar white voters in Michigan and Pennsylvania and Ohio and Wisconsin—men and women who twice had voted for Barack Obama—abandoned the Democratic Party in favor of Trump and Republican senatorial candidates. They didn’t overnight become racists, misogynists, neo Nazis, anti-Semites and xenophobes.

They chose populism over traditional Democratic memes. They swallowed his promise of radical change and revived manufacturing jobs.

So Trump must deliver within four years without reducing their health care benefits, regardless of what he does to Obamacare.

Which begs the question, would Bernie Sanders have prevailed over Trump? As a populist himself, would Bernie have negated Trump’s cross-party appeal? We will never know. What we are left with is the reality that we were thisclose to electing the first woman or the first Jewish president.

Trump is an enigma. We don’t really know what he stands for since he has walked back many of his earlier pronouncements, including a tweet from 2012 wherein he called the Electoral College “a disaster for a democracy.” Doubtful he thinks so today.

A most troubling potential aspect of a Trump presidency is who he will include in his inner circle. Ex-New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, New Jersey governor Chris Christie and Steven Bannon of Breitbart are divisive figures who would signal a hard right administration. The danger is that Trump would delegate policies to cronies with more reactionary thoughts than his. It’s especially apropos of vice president-elect Mike Pence, decidedly more radically conservative in voice and action than Trump ( or for another take read

Before Trump, Richard Nixon probably was the president-elect (and president) most reviled by Democrats. But Nixon took some decidedly progressive actions. He created the Office of Minority Business Enterprise in 1969; achieved voluntary desegregation of schools in seven Southern states; reoriented the Federal Native American policy, becoming the first president to encourage tribal self-determination; established the Environmental Protection Agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and signed into law The Clean Air Act; abolished voter discriminatory tests by extending the Voting Rights Act in 1970; declared war on cancer; and signed Title IX, a civil rights law that prohibits gender bias at colleges and universities receiving Federal aid.

Nixon also changed U.S. relationships with China and the Soviet Union. He signed the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT 1) in 1972.

True, Nixon wasn’t always progressive. But his legacy offers clear evidence that the presidency can bring about goodness. 

So, over the next four years we will wait to see if Trump remains the Ebenezer Scrooge of the beginning of A Christmas Carol or if he emerges as the reformed Scrooge at its conclusion. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Waking Up The Morning After in a Different Country

I always knew I lived in a different America than the rest of the country, an America perhaps best illustrated by the iconic March 29, 1976, New Yorker magazine cover of how the country west of the Hudson River looks to Manhattanites.

In the aftermath of Donald Trump’s stunning victory over Hillary Clinton, forged to the west of the Hudson, I am left to wonder if, in the words of his one-time Republican adversary, Ted Cruz, “Trump has New York values”?

Does he have compassion for the needy? Does he welcome the immigrant striving for a new, better, pluralistic life? Does he respect all religions? Does he value education? Does he recognize the benefits of diversity? Does he favor mass transit alternatives over the stranglehold of the automobile industry? Does he accept climate change and the need to combat its effects? 

The record from his campaign suggests he does not. But Trump’s persona has been shaped by living all his life in New York City. He’s brash, for sure, not afraid to display his emotions on his sleeve, or in his case, through his Twitter feed. As president he will have to learn to reign in his feelings lest he trigger a response that could have national or international repercussions. 

In his victory speech he promised to be the president of all the people. Let’s see if he can stem the violence in the Afro-American community without infringing on constitutional rights, and if he can reduce unemployment among Blacks. He’s promised to repeal and replace Obamacare. But can he do it without reducing the number of people enrolled, for less money, for at least the same level of coverage?

Voting patterns across the country revealed deep chasms. As the Associated Press noted, “Exit polls underscored the fractures: Women nationwide supported Clinton by a double-digit margin, while men were significantly more likely to back Trump. More than half of white voters backed the Republican, while nearly 9 in 10 blacks and two-thirds of Hispanics voted for the Democrat.”

The Trump campaign unleashed dark voices long subdued but never eradicated. Racists. Neo nazis. Anti-Semites. Misogynists. Xenophobes. All now have a president who will enter the White House largely because of their votes.

One wonders if Trump will be able to bridle his natural tendency to lash out at detractors. Nixon had his enemies’ list. Will Trump? Will he follow through on his campaign threat to name a special prosecutor with the ultimate aim of jailing his election opponent? Will he sue the women who asserted he physically invaded their privacy? Will he seek a softening of libel laws to punish the press? Will the voices of late night talk show hosts who lampooned him and editorial boards and columnists be muted?

Of course, not everyone in the country is apoplectic about the election. No doubt, couture designers are ecstatic they will have Melania to drape. She, after all, has more eye appeal than Bill Clinton would have had as first spouse or Hillary as president.

But comparing Melania to Michelle Obama in intellect is laughable. Consider her statement within the last week that she would like to work to eliminate bullying, especially cyber-bullying. Perhaps she might start with her bedmate who ran his whole campaign as a slur-a-thon on stage and on Twitter.

It was nectar to the masses who believe Trump can change market and global forces. Do they really believe, as he does, that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese? Do they believe he truly can revive Rust Belt industries when corporate chieftains shift jobs overseas because lower paid global workers no longer produce shoddy products? They chanted along with him “drain the swamp,” but do they truly want Washington to stop being the watchdog over food and drug safety, worker safety, and water and air quality, to name just a few vital tasks of government?

With Republicans in control of both chambers of Congress and the White House the country’s pivot to the right is a given. The Supreme Court will again have a conservative majority, as it has for decades.

Perhaps the most important person in the next four years will be Justice Anthony Kennedy. In several cases on personal freedoms, he has provided a decisive vote in decisions expanding gay rights to the rights of the accused. He’s by no means a sure vote for liberal causes, but he’s not doctrinaire conservative.

I woke up Wednesday morning after barely 90 minutes of stressful sleep to a changed world. During the night I avoided reading post-mortem articles, instead playing solitaire over and over again on my iPhone. Though I did read one article, from Politico, which enraged and convinced me not to read any other (for now).

Entitled “Inside the Loss Clinton Saw Coming,” the article described how her staff knew for weeks the campaign was in trouble (

I felt annoyed, annoyed they allowed complacency to set in as the public took for granted that an unqualified Trump would lose to a more seasoned Clinton. 

Trump won because he was perceived as real. Really angry. Really mean. Really for change. Really for the forgotten man and woman. 

Forget the reality. Voters opted for the perception.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Headline for Post-Election Wednesday

“Sanity Prevails”

“The Deplorable State(s) of America”

Friday, October 28, 2016

Question of the Day: Will the New FBI Probe of Clinton's Emails Matter?

The question of the day is: At this late date, 11 days before Election Day, with early voting already underway in many states, will any minds be changed by Friday’s revelation that the FBI has reopened its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails?

Against any candidate other than Donald Trump the answer would be an emphatic, “YES!!!” But these are never-before (and hopefully never-again) political times with a Republican candidate anathema to a larger swath of the American public than the Democratic standard bearer. 

What can be said, without equivocation, is that if, as many polls now say, Clinton will be elected our 45th president, it will be a historic achievement, but one that may ring hollow for at least two possible reasons. 

First, without at least a majority of Democratic senators—it is too wild a dream to expect the House to be flipped to the Democrats— Clinton’s presidency would be stymied even more than President Barack Obama’s last six years. She would be hard pressed to advance any of her legislative agenda. She will be forced to govern by executive action, which will generate lawsuits from Congress and/or affected state and municipal governments.

Moreover, without a Democratic controlled Senate, Clinton will most certainly be tied up with investigation after investigation launched by the GOP House, regardless of the findings of the latest FBI probe. Republican congressmen are itching to file impeachment charges. As it would take 67 Senate votes to ratify impeachment, a conviction is unlikely, but the time spent defending her presidency would take its toll, especially during a period of Russian aggressiveness and the still constant threat from Islamic extremists here and abroad. 

A second reason a Clinton return to the White House would be submarined would transpire if Democrats fail to secure control of the Senate. Already three Republican senators—John McCain of Arizona, Mike Lee of Utah, and Ted Cruz of Texas—have indicated they would hold up any nominations to the Supreme Court made by Clinton. Can Majority Leader Mitch McConnell be far behind?

Their recalcitrance stems from wanting to deny Clinton the opportunity to recast the Court in a more progressive mode. While Republicans say the Court in the past has functioned for years with fewer than nine justices, they are not so coyly gambling the health and welfare of the Supreme Court against the health of aging justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer. 

It is a lurid tactic waiting for a death or retirement among the liberal leaning justices to secure a conservative majority lost when Antonin Scalia died in his sleep almost a year ago. It goes far beyond loyal opposition and their stated explanation that they haven’t acted on the nomination of Merrick Garland because they wanted to wait until the people chose the next president. 

If they proceed to deny any nominees from a Democratic president, the GOP would have hit the trifecta in undermining the validity of each of our three branches of government. It is a parlay a quarter century in the making.

Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich shut down the government in 1995 and 1996; Republicans shut it down in 2013, as well. For years Trump led a birther movement that questioned the legitimacy of Barack Obama’s presidency. By not even granting hearings to Garland Republicans have shown disdain for the constitutional process of advise and consent.

Is it any wonder, then, public confidence in government is at historic lows?

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Observations on the Political Circus

I’m not interested in hearing any more about Donald Trump’s sex drive during Wednesday night’s presidential debate. I don’t need to hear him deny the allegations of some dozen women or dismiss his X-rated talk on the bus with Billy Bush as mere “locker room” banter.

I’m more interested in having moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News press Trump for details and hard evidence as to why he repeatedly is suggesting the election is rigged and that voter fraud will occur, especially in light of a study by Loyola University law professor Justin Levitt that only 31 of more than 1 billion votes from 2000 to 2014 were fraudulent. 

Trump’s claims sow doubt into our democratic process, while his call for supporters to monitor polling places in “certain areas,” such as Philadelphia, is a not too subtle reference to minority districts, as well as an inference of voter intimidation. 

Since many states allow “open carry” of firearms (at least until December 3 when a new restriction by the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives goes into effect), are we going to see armed men and women patrolling areas outside polling stations? You might recall that in 2008 Black Panthers carrying billy clubs were arrested for allegedly intimidating white voters in Philadelphia.

Trump is arguing that the media is conspiring with Hillary Clinton to win her the election. Instead of focusing on her email leaks, the media is preoccupied with his alleged sexual assaults, he says. 

One would think Trump would be eager to seize an opportunity to communicate directly to some 38 million members of AARP, the lobbying group for those 50 years and older, a cohort that is among the most active voters in any election. 

Yet, Trump largely ignored AARP’s request for responses to 13 questions it would print in the association’s October membership newspaper. It hoped for a face-to-face interview, a request Clinton honored. 

Trump, however, did not meet face-to-face with AARP and responded in writing to just six of the questions. In its October election coverage issue, AARP, in an attempt to be impartial, had to resort to printing information from his website, recent speeches and a response to AARP in June on Social Security. 

Clearly, Trump did not take AARP’s opportunity seriously as his written answers were short and perfunctory compared to Clinton’s more detailed responses and the material AARP culled from his printed material. 

Who’s the Lucky One? It is accepted wisdom that Clinton is lucky she is running against Trump. The corollary also is true: Trump is lucky to be running against Clinton. Such is the state of our flawed choices (let’s not even get started on the trouble with Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party and the Green Party’s Jill Stein).  

That said, it is amazing that after more than a year and a half of campaigning there remain some undecided voters. I was surprised to hear on NPR Tuesday an undecided voter wanting to know what type of justice Clinton would nominate to the Supreme Court. Did he not listen to her answer during the second debate? 

“I want to appoint Supreme Court justices who understand the way the world really works, who have real-life experience, who have not just been in a big law firm and maybe clerked for a judge and then gotten on the bench, but maybe they tried more cases,” Clinton said. 

She wants justices who would preserve Roe v. Wade, would reverse the Citizens United decision on campaign financing, would safeguard voting rights and marriage equality. 

Whether she will get her choices through a Republican-controlled Senate is highly unlikely given comments by Senators John McCain of Arizona and Mike Lee of Utah. They said they would block any of her nominees.

Apparently they are willing to gamble the health and welfare of the Supreme Court against the health of aging liberal justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer. If they should leave the bench and not be replaced, conservative-leaning justices might become the majority (assuming none of them also exit).

Thus, just as Trump has challenged the legitimacy, first of President Barack Obama and, second, of the electoral process of his successor, Republican senators are readying an assault on the Supreme Court and the duties of the Senate to advise and consent presidential nominations. 

The simple solution to this potential attack is to elect a Democratic majority in the Senate.

Speaking of threats to our democracy, anyone who has listened to the rhetoric of the election campaign cannot help but be worried about the future of our republic.

A corollary: Anyone who has not paid attention to the election should give us pause about the future of our democracy.