Sunday, August 28, 2016

Summertime Catch-up Post

Summertime and the living is easy, especially when you go more than a week between blog postings. So consider this entry a catch-up for several themes that have rested comfortably within my grey matter …

Summer is a time when journalists resurrect tried and true story lines—where to find the best lobster rolls, the best books for the beach, the best roller coaster ride, and my personal favorite, how old codgers like me learn to swim. Here’s The New York Times version of the last topic:

Swimming isn’t my problem. Staying afloat while treading water is. I can swim for as long as one breadth takes me. In a race with our 37 year old ex-lifeguard son Dan the other day, I was barely a half-body behind him when my lungs gave out midway across the length of the pool. I felt pretty good about my accomplishment considering it was my first time swimming in more than a year. 

I was bouyed (pun intended) by the knowledge I didn’t have to worry about treading water as the pool, at its deepest, was a mere five feet. I think all pool depths should be limited to five feet. It would encourage more non-swimming adults to get into the water with their children and grandchildren. Yes, five feet is too shallow to dive into, but that’s a small inconvenience when considering the positive effect families frolicking in the water would enjoy. And keep in mind that most lap pools are only about four feet deep. If it’s good enough for lap pool enthusiasts it should be good enough for all. 

By the way, I heard on NPR the other week that according to the Red Cross, 54% of Americans could not pass a swim test. Being in this majority is not one of my proud accomplishments. …

Baby Bombers: The young New York Yankees, nicknamed the Baby Bombers, especially Gary Sanchez, have made watching the team fun again. I know many of you aren’t interested in sports, so I won’t elaborate on why I am excited about the rest of this season and coming years of Yankee baseball. …

Are you tired of reading about Donald Trump? As a reader, so am I. As I writer, well, he does make it easy to come up with new story angles. The other day, for example, I was sorting through clothing to be donated and came across, I shamefully admit, a new, white dress shirt bearing the Donald J. Trump brand. It was still in its protective plastic packaging. I must have bought it more than 10 years ago, from Marshalls. Into the discard pile it went. (By the way, Macy’s recently jettisoned Trump-licensed shirts and ties from its merchandise mix after some of his inflammatory remarks.) …

Larry Wilmore no longer has the Nightly Show on Comedy Central to opine on Trump and other election and social news, but in case you missed one of his last commentaries, here’s one I agree with: “Donald Trump is an existential threat to America not because of Islamic terror or even Russia or Iran but rather because he undermines all of our values as a nation.” 

Friday, August 19, 2016

Regret Is Not An Apology

I’m starting to get really, really worried. Donald Trump and I seem to share an increasing number of traits and experiences. Like Trump, I evaded the draft during the Vietnam War by flunking my military physical in 1970 and receiving a 1-Y deferment. My draft lottery number of 139 was high enough, like Trump’s, not to be called in subsequent years.

Fast forward to 2016. We both have a tendency to spout the wrong things when agitated. But where I have always apologized for my indiscretions, The Donald never ever backtracked, never ever apologized. Thursday, in Charlotte, NC, Trump looked like he was eating crow, admitting that sometimes his mouth runs a little faster than his brain.

“Sometimes, in the heat of debate and speaking on a multitude of issues, you don’t choose the right words or you say the wrong thing. I have done that. And believe it or not, I regret it.

“And I do regret it, particularly where it may have caused personal pain. Too much is at stake for us to be consumed with these issues,” Trump told a rally of his supporters.

But wait. My apologies always cite my specific transgressions. Trump was vague. He never delineated what exactly he regretted. Was it his slur of a Gold Star family? Was it his deprecation of prisoners of war and specifically John McCain for getting captured? Was it his demeaning Mexico and its people? Was it his undermining of the legitimate election of Barack Obama with his advocacy of the birther movement? Was it his scary, unprecedented request for Russia to hack the emails of his opponent? Was it his veiled invitation to second amendment advocates to take out Hillary Clinton before she could take away their guns, which, by the way, as president she would not have the power to do but which Trump riles up his audience with the suggestion she does? Was it his consistent fabrication of the truth, be it his alleging Obama and Clinton founded ISIS, or they wanted to engage in nation building in the Middle East, or that he never supported the invasion of Iraq, or any number of other deliberate misstatements of the truth? Was it his heartless ridicule of a physically handicapped reporter?

Funny, Trump blamed the heat of the moment during debates for his foul mouth disease. But all those apology worthy examples cited above came out during speeches or tweets or interviews when he had ample time to consider what he was saying.

We just don’t know what he regrets because Trump hasn’t told us specifically what he regrets. It is like his plans to end terrorism or improve the economy or solve the racial divide in the country. We just have to trust him that he will do a fabulous job and do it quickly.

So I guess I’m not really like him. I apologize in specific detail. With a promise not to do it again. Trump offers no such assurance of future behavior, especially since the one on one debates with Clinton are more than a month away from starting and just days ago he double-downed on his behavior by vowing to act the same way he has throughout the primary season and general election campaign.

I regret when I say something untoward. I regret that my incendiary words elicit offense, hurt, pain and any number of other reactions. And, I regret the loss of stature in the eyes of those I’ve offended and those who heard me. I regret my embarrassment. I regret that I have to apologize for my actions.

No doubt, Trump regrets the drop in his poll numbers from his insults and diatribes. 

But regret does not encompass or substitute for an apology. Donald Trump needs to specifically apologize to those he has demeaned and to the American public for dragging the political campaign for the highest office in the land down to the lowest depth of any modern day candidate.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Trump and Clinton Agree: Don't Sign As Is TPP

They don’t see eye to eye on many issues, but one both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump agree on is rejection of the currently worded TPP, the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement that would bind the United States to trade agreements with 11 other Pacific Rim countries. Critics have assailed the TPP as bad for American workers. The claim is the TPP would send American workers to the unemployment line while the products or services they once produced are made or performed by lower wage foreign workers.

Sounds like both Trump and Clinton want to protect machinists and factory workers, the men and women who were part of the middle class and whose jobs have largely disappeared under global competition. But increasingly, though very quietly, the pink and blue collar jobs that immediately come to mind when thinking of the TPP, or NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement), are just the most visible of the affected work force. Unseen, unknown to many, are the white color jobs that are at risk because technology has supplanted the need for many domestic professionals.

It started with customer service call centers. It comes as a surprise nowadays when the voice on the other end of the call does not have the lilting cadence of an Indian accent, often indecipherable to an American ear. 

If you’ve recently had an MRI or CAT-scan in Manhattan, the radiologist analyzing your film could be seated before a computer screen in Bloomington, Indiana, where his salary would be considerably lower than a New York City-based radiologist stationed on another floor of the medical facility. More to the point, for that matter, the radiologist might just as easily be located in Bangalore, India.

It’s already happening. Outsourcing in the medical field is a function of sharper computer imaging coupled with the ability to have experts available round the clock for a fraction of the cost of local sources. 

Outsourcing is not confined to the medical field. Young attorneys at large law firms often spent hours researching documents. Now, computer programs search documents for key words in split-second accuracy. Such programs don’t cost as much as first and second year law firm associates. 

It didn’t happen on my magazine, but publishers and editors have turned to cheaper foreign writers to produce articles that do not require on-site visits. 

Let’s face it. Globalization, like the genie once liberated from the bottle, cannot be contained. It is affecting all varieties and colors of collar—blue, pink, white, black (for oil and mine workers), gold, grey, green, scarlet (for porno workers) and open collar for those who toil at home. 

Friday, August 5, 2016

A Party Platform Worth Considering

Here’s a party platform I could support, with some tweaks:

• Reject additional tax cuts for those making more than $250,000 a year, but expand breaks for low- and middle-income workers through tax credits for children, the earned-income tax credit or a new wage subsidy using tax dollars to bring low wages toward the local median level.

• Promote the benefits of global trade agreements, but help displaced workers.

• Rule out fully privatizing Social Security and Medicare, and reassure workers they will be exempt from cost-cutting.

• Acknowledge that universal health care is here to stay, but push for market-oriented changes.

• Disavow mass deportations and promote the economic benefits of legalizing longtime workers who are in the country illegally, but reduce the legal entry of less-skilled immigrants.

It might surprise you that these platform planks are part of the “Reformocon” movement of disenchanted conservative Republicans, as described in a New York Times article Friday (

It’s a long-shot that any of these more sober thoughts will become anything more than heresy to Grand Old Party poobahs (second time in a week I’ve used that mildly deprecating description of Republican leaders, but who cares, it fits). Yet it is revealing that some within the party are even thinking it is common sense to make the GOP appeal more universal.

Democrats should welcome such an overture. Perhaps the country would be able to return to what truly were “good old days” when politicians reached across the aisle to forge legislation that benefitted all, not just the rich and entitled. Back in those “good old days” the Second Amendment didn’t mean a gun, especially not an assault rifle, in every home. Nor did it mean taxes couldn’t be raised to fund infrastructure projects and other needs. Nor did it mean Roe v. Wade was the litmus test for Supreme Court appointees. Nor did it mean a presidential candidate could suggest not complying with NATO treaty defense obligations, or suggest Russia spy on an opponent, or suggest the military engage in torture. 

Yes, those were good old days. Trumpsters, however, will not go down easily in defeat. Donald Trump is seeding thoughts of a rigged election, oblivious to the facts that voter fraud has been found to be almost non existent. Federal appeals courts have repeatedly invalidated tighter voter identification laws enacted by states based on the alleged premise that voter fraud has been rampant. 

Elections at the state level are a supervised by appointees of each governor. There are 31 Republican governors, 19 Democrats. In the 11 so-called battleground states that may decide the presidential election, Democrats are governor in just four: Colorado, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Their states account for 51 Electoral College votes. Republicans are governors in Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin. Those states have 100 Electoral College votes. 

For Trump to claim the election is rigged, his own party’s election machinery would have to be conspiring against him. If only that were so …

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Trump Is Running to be Alienator-in-Chief

It is hard keeping up with the alienator-in-chief. He’s not the presumptive AIC. He won the actual title from the moment he declared his candidacy for president. Or maybe four years ago with his advocacy of the birther movement to delegitimize the presidency of Barack Obama.

Donald Trump believes in shooting the messenger while ignoring the message. His preferred tactic is to ridicule anyone opposed to him, as if diminishing their stature would somehow reduce or eliminate criticism of his actions or words. His latest salvo pins the label of “devil” onto Hillary Clinton. If that doesn’t stick, maybe he will mine literature and biblical history for some equally dismissive appellation, such as Lady Macbeth, Cruella de Vil, Jezebel or Salome. 

To small-minded America, to those who hate his opponents, to those whose bigotry he has given cover to, Trump’s in-your-face tactic exudes strength and refreshing leadership, qualities that politically correct politicians do not harbor, they believe. Should he win, and obviously I hope he does not, Trump would be the alienator-in-chief of an alienated nation.

At what point, however, will Trump say something so outrageous that even his most ardent supporters see him as the boob he is, unfit for the highest office in the land? Would it not be a delicious irony if Trump was taken down by a Muslim?

Sadly, I don’t think the Khan affair surrounding Trump’s defamation of the family of a Muslim American U.S. Army captain killed in Iraq will be his undoing. Trumpsters—I can’t claim authorship of this term for Trump supporters, though I swear I had not heard it before it popped into my head recently—anyway, Trumpsters are so entwined in his candidacy that rational arguments cannot and do not work on them. 

While public figures on both sides of the political spectrum sees Trump as a neo-dictator in style and substance, Trumpsters only see positive aspects of his authoritarian style. Like dumpster divers who believe hidden gems can be found among the detritus of society, Trumpsters view him as the fulfillment of their dream for a new American revolution that lowers taxes, removes the burden of government regulations, strengthens the already strongest military in the world while signaling Russia that NATO isn’t to be considered a deterrent to its Baltic and Black Seas expansionist desires, reduces entitlement programs but god forbid does not touch their Social Security or Medicare, builds a protective wall around our country to keep out criminal illegal aliens and cheap goods that will now be built in America but cost more, restores law and order by putting minorities back in their place behind white America, and appoints judges that will halt, maybe even reverse, the last 60 years of progress toward social equality in the country.

Trump is a factual chameleon, changing positions day to day, denying statements made in print and the airwaves. Yet Trumpsters don’t care about the truth. 

Apparently, neither do Republican Party leaders. They may cringe at what he says, but they are betting their future, and that of the country, on their ability to control him should he take the oath of office. They are as foolish as the voters and government leaders who thought they’d be able to contain Hitler, Mussolini, Hamas, and other dictatorial movements. Trump’s pronouncements, as offensive as many may be, such as limiting entry to America by select foreigners, oftentimes are within constitutional grounds. The CIA director has said he would not re-institute torture, but if Trump wants to, no doubt he would find some acolyte who would do his bidding.

In Monday’s New York Times Paul Krugman refuted reasons why Republicans cannot support Hillary Clinton ( . He cited three areas they find fault with her: economic policies, national security and the fear of executive overreach. In each case Krugman argued Trump would be worse. As cogent as his arguments were, he failed to mention the key impact this election may have on the coming decades. The next president will most likely nominate two to four Supreme Court justices. Presidents set policy for four to eight years. Justices influence lives for decades. 

Perhaps that is why GOP poobahs like Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell and John McCain and Mike Pence have not abandoned their support of Trump. To their shame and lack of patriotic duty. 

Five and six years ago I wrote that Profiles in Courage should be required reading for public officials. It is John F. Kennedy’s 1955 Pulitzer Prize-winning account of eight U.S. senators who, at different times in the history of the Republic, acted on their conscience rather than succumb to political pressure to conform to party politics or the majority of their constituents. They did so at great risk to their careers, in the interest of serving country first.

Republicans want to go back to the “good old days.” Those days included times when public servants truly put the public good ahead of their own self-interests.

Here’s your election witticism of the day, courtesy of

A politician thinks of the next election; a statesman thinks of the next generation. —James Freeman Clarke