A Risky Bargain



By choosing Tim Kaine as her running mate, Hillary Clinton drives away thousands of Bernie Sanders supporters but probably picks up some Republicans who cannot in good conscience vote for Donald Trump.

It is a risky bargain.

Obviously, Hillary thinks most Americans will choose stability over radical change in November. And I am sure she has the facts and figures to back up her view. But my question is: How many stability voters will actually go to the polls?

Hillary’s choice of Kaine robs her campaign of excitement.  I’m sure he is – as so many people say – one of the nicest guys on earth. But he is a career politician who straddles the center of American politics on some key issues. Abortion, global trade and bank regulations, to name a few.

Millions of Americans are in no mood for “steady as she goes.” They want a new deal. They are not going to vote for a pair of “Washington insiders.”

The crowds Bernie attracted are proof of that. So are the crowds that flocked to hear Donald Trump’s vitriol.

It’s true that Kaine would be a useful vice president. He has friends on both sides of the aisle and no enemies that I know of. In the world of Washington politics, you need someone like that to loosen the gridlock if you hope to achieve anything.

Hillary is a pragmatist and she knows there is no pixie dust in politics. You reach your goals by cooperation and compromise, not by decree. Kaine is no left-wing ideologue; he is a seasoned pro who is prepared to give a little to get a little.

But in the highly charged atmosphere of this campaign, Kaine’s choice adds no electricity.  I don’t think he will inspire many Democrats to get out and vote.

Indeed, his choice will turn off a lot of young voters and possibly some women.

Of course, fear of Trump should be enough to make any sane American head for the polls.  But, after watching that screaming hate fest in Cleveland,  I wonder how many sane people there are in this country today.

As for me, I will be voting for Hillary and Kaine. But not because of Kaine.

More on Clinton’s decision


They Believe in Miracles

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses delegates at the end of the last day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016, in Cleveland, Ohio. / AFP PHOTO / Timothy A. CLARY

It’s very American to believe in miracles. But is it equally American to believe that Donald Trump is some kind of deity who is capable of performing miracles?

Apparently, millions of Americans are prepared to believe it.

And his convention speech last night did nothing to disillusion them.

It was an absurd speech, but I am not laughing, for it was also a chilling speech. Chilling because he seemed to believe what he was saying, and so many others seem to believe it, too.

Trump claimed extraordinary powers, and his credulous audience accepted those claims with delirious joy.

He promised, for example, that on the very day he is sworn in as President, America will be “safe again.” Crime will magically disappear, those dangerous immigrants will be walled off, violence will vanish and those bad terrorists will just go poof.

During his magical presidency, jobs will sprout from the earth like daisies and racial animosity will give way to brotherly love across the land. The dark clouds that threaten our world will be dispersed and Americans will be happy, prosperous and well behaved.

All the world will be dazzled by America’s glory and might.

The assembled votaries accepted Trump’s deluded promises like manna from Heaven.

Yes, they must have thought, he can do it! Look at him. See how big he is? Twice the size of that puny Hillary for sure!

Trump presents himself as larger than life. And by some standards he is. The evidence looms across America’s skylines, manifested – as his daughter Ivanka reminded us – in achievements such as Trump Tower.

But his daughter’s vision is, as you might expect, magnified by her personal feelings. Your daughter probably feels the same about you. I would be shocked if my daughters didn’t feel the same about me.

The reality is far more mundane. Trump’s castles were not produced by waving a magic wand but by the sweat and skill of mere mortals, many of whom say he cheated them in the process.

But it’s so tempting to believe there’s a magical solution to all that ails America – and all that ails this world of ours.

Few people are prepared to take the trouble to analyze reality, to patiently examine the intricate issues that a complex nation and a complex world are facing.

Hillary Clinton does just that. She takes each knotty problem, breaks it down and proposes real-life solutions. It’s all there on her campaign website, carefully thought out, logically explained.

But I fear most American voters – who are more at home on Twitter and Facebook – don’t have the patience or the attention span to handle Hillary’s proposals. They are likely to take a chance on a self-proclaimed miracle worker with grandiose promises and simple solutions.

The trouble is that the problems our world faces today are anything but simple.

Trump’s convention speech

The contrast between Trump and Hillary


Driven Mad by Hate



The hate fest that the Republicans are holding in Cleveland is showcasing more than sheer venom. It is exposing a dangerous streak of insanity.

lucifer2When Ben Carson links Hillary to Lucifer (pictured at right), you know he has completely lost touch with reality.

When that grotesque Chris Christie stages a kangaroo trial and the assembled mob finds Hillary guilty of some sinister crime, you know you have entered the Twilight Zone.

Is this what the November election is about?

Hating Hillary?

Up to now, the hatred Trump spews has tended to target groups – Mexicans and Muslims, for example. But this convention is focusing the hatred on one individual – Hillary Clinton.

Looking at her (above with granddaughter Charlotte) , you have to wonder how she inspires such venom. What has she done to these people? Why do they hate her so much?

Hillary Clinton is a faithful wife, a loving mother, a proud grandmother. She has been a public servant throughout her life, trying to help the downtrodden and protect the vulnerable – especially women and children.

And – you won’t hear this on TV – Politifact has called her the most truthful presidential candidate in either party.

How can this woman breed such animosity? What is it that drives those Republicans gathered in Cleveland to maniacal fury?

Does she threaten their position of privilege perhaps? Does she symbolize a changing America – a change they fear?

She is not black like Barack Obama. She is not a Mexican or a Muslim. She is not an immigrant. She was born in the USA and comes from the same ethnic roots as the vast majority of Trump’s followers.

But she is a woman. A woman who aspires to  break America’s tradition of exclusively male presidents.

Is that her grievous offense? Is that what links her to Lucifer? And if that’s the reason they hate her so, are they not insane?

What Carson said

What Christie did

More from the convention


Tasteless and Shameful



America’s dark side was on flagrant display during the opening day of the Republican Party’s convention.  Nothing was off limits. Not the tasteless exploitation of a bereaved – and misinformed – mother’s grief, not a grotesque demand to abandon civilized rules of engagement in battling America’s enemies, not the most outrageous lies.

Incited by a motley crew bearing false witness against President Obama and Hillary Clinton, the mob chanted and screamed for their blood like rain-forest dwellers in a B movie seeking vengeance on a neighboring tribe. All pretense of civilized behavior was abandoned.

As I watched the televised display, it occurred to me that the November election will present a choice between centuries of human progress and a retreat to the ways of the jungle.

Pundits used the word “raw” over and over to describe the spectacle. And raw it was. Primitive. Unschooled. Intemperate. Over the top. Way over the top.

I cannot imagine anyone being persuaded to vote one way or another by the obvious fabrications and familiar conspiracy theories aired at the convention- the Benghazi myth, for example, which has been debunked by so many investigations and hearings.

And I cannot believe informed Americans would want Hillary sent to prison for using the wrong computer. The persistent chants of “lock her up, lock her up” seemed utterly bizarre to me.

My resolve to vote for Hillary was not just unshaken but reinforced. My disdain and loathing for Donald Trump and his party were magnified.

I imagine that the tawdry show fired up the aptly named “base” of the Republican Party, especially the “poorly educated white males” identified as Trump’s core support.

But for me, it was just one more warning against the horrors that a victory by Trump’s party would inflict upon America – and the world.

Click for the convention story.

Grieving mother Patricia Smith’s story

The truth behind grieving-mother show


In a World on the Brink



hillaryThe attempted coup in Turkey is one more sign that the global balance of power is teetering, that one false step could plunge the world into Armageddon. At a time like this, you have to pray that Donald Trump does not become leader of the free world.

If ever there was a bull in a china shop, Trump would be it.

Imagine Trump, bellowing and bullying, smashing delicate treaties and shattering crucial alliances, scattering insults with abandon and threats without compunction.

Imagine Trump in control of all those nuclear armed missiles America has stockpiled over the years.

Imagine the consequences.

Yes, he has Mike Pence as his “anchor.” Mike Pence. Basically a cipher. The failed governor of Indiana, whose approval ratings have plunged, who was in danger of losing his re-election bid.

Can you imagine Trump listening to anything Pence might have to say? Of course not.

His only value to Trump is his abject allegiance to the Koch brothers. The billionaire king makers have refused to fund Trump’s campaign so far, but with Pence on the ticket they are expected to change their minds.

Trump and Pence (photo above) – this would be the team assigned to keep the world from plunging into the abyss? It would be laughable if it weren’t so frightening.

Times like these demand prudence and discipline, not capricious posturing and saber rattling bravado.

Times like these cry out for Hillary Clinton’s foreign-policy experience, steely self control and incisive intellect.

The future of the world is at stake, and Americans must remember this in November.

The attempted coup

Meet Mike Pence.


Putting Things in Perspective



In the wake of the horror in Nice, what Donald Trump decides to do about a running mate seems completely inconsequential. The sheer monstrosity of the terrorist attack diminishes any concerns we might have about domestic politics today.

The human society is coming apart at the seams, that’s what matters.

Human beings are losing their humanity.

Trump and his ilk, bone-headed creatures that they are, are predictably  screaming for more violence as a cure for the violence of the terrorists. But throughout history violence has reliably produced one consequence – more violence.

Let’s say we do what our emotions tell us to do – blacken the sky over the Caliphate with our war planes and rain down bombs upon the population twenty-four, seven.

Let’s say we leave not one stone standing upon another, not one living creature, not a trace of ISIS in the charred wreckage they once ruled.

What do you imagine would happen then?

Do you think the hatred of Western society would be abated? Or do you think it would be increased a hundredfold?

Yes, you know as well as I do that for every terrorist we kill, hundreds more would be created. Violence does not kill hate; it breeds more hate.

The war we are fighting today is being waged in the hearts of those who – fairly or unfairly – resent our civilization. The attacker in Nice will surely turn out to be some sorry specimen who felt mistreated and marginalized, an Algerian immigrant perhaps.

As long as our society shuts out some individuals, as long as they are denied normal human interaction and the possibility of attaining equal status in our community, the bad seed will proliferate and instigators like ISIS will flourish.

But none of the existing institutions seem to recognize this simple fact of life.

You might think the churches would provide safe haven for the shunned and disregarded, but they are more often prime agents of division and conflict.

It seems to me that Western society should be looking inward for the cure to terrorism, not seeking new and counterproductive ways to further antagonize those who fear, distrust and despise us.

The Nice terror attack


Yes, Cops are People, too



As I seethe with rage at the news of another appalling shooting by police, I have to concede that I have never walked in a law officer’s shoes, and I wouldn’t want to. Theirs is a job I do not envy.

I met a lot of police officers as a reporter, of course. Some were nice. Some were not.

One burly sergeant in Timmins, Ontario grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and sent me flying out of a house that was cordoned off as a crime scene. I tumbled across the back yard, my notebook landing in the dust several yards away, my clothes a mess.

Fortunately, I wasn’t physically hurt. But my feelings were.

Still, I couldn’t complain. I was breaking the law by ducking under that yellow tape. He could have arrested me. I suppose he was really being lenient.

Many of the cops I encountered during my long career  as a reporter in Jamaica, Canada and the US were reticent and wary. They obviously didn’t trust the press. But some were amiable, and a few even became my friends. When I worked for the Daily Gleaner in Kingston, we played ping-pong together, and when they were off duty, we enjoyed a brew or two at a nearby bar.

Of course, it’s the bad eggs that make the headlines. The good guys are taken for granted.

Yes, I know, that’s a tired old cliché.  But it’s still worth keeping in mind. At a time like this, clichés matter. We must keep in mind, for example, that cops are people, too. Some people are decent,. kind, brave and virtuous. Some are prejudiced, mean, spiteful – even homicidal.

And – here’s another cliché that matters – you can’t tell a book by its cover.

Once, I interviewed death row inmates at a prison in Florida and to look at them, you would never guess how vicious they were, what ghastly crimes they had committed. They seemed just like anyone else, you or me, our friends and acquaintances.

It’s all very well to censure America’s law enforcement agencies for doing such an apparently poor job of screening the people they entrust with our lives. But it’s hard to tell what’s in the hearts and minds of the applicants getting interviewed. You never know how they will react under pressure.

As they say in Jamaica:

If you don’t mash ants you don’t see their guts.

In a society as tense as today’s America, you tend to get “mashed” – especially if you’re a cop.

More on those cop shootings


When You’ve Had Enough



There’s a saying in Jamaica:

Every day bucket go to well, one day the bottom will drop put.

jobless2That saying comes to mind as I watch the protests on TV and hear the newscasts about that tragedy in Dallas, the shooting of black men by police and the other signals of a failing society.

Has the bottom “dropped out” at last? Has America’s minority population been pushed beyond the limit of their endurance?

How long will black, Asian and Hispanic Americans tolerate the abuses they are expected to accept as “just the way it is”?

Unemployment at two or three times the national average. Racial profiling. An abusive criminal justice system. Voter suppression. Generations of broken promises. Even death at the hands of those asssigned to protect society.

The centuries pass, and progress toward social justice is painfully slow. Every glimmer of hope seems to be countered by a dark cloud of despair.

Even with a black family in the White House.

America’s minorities have been subjected to intolerable conditions for such a long time. One day, they will have had enough.

I wonder whether that time has come. I pray it has not.

But, surely, the powers that be must see what I see?

Surely, they must see how fragile things are? Surely, they nust realize that reform is long overdue?

Sadly, I see no evidence of an awakening among the elite.

As the protesters gather in America’s streets and the racial divide widens daily, the clock is ticking.

Click for news of the protests.

Even China shamed us.


Fleeing a Trump Presidency

ginsbergIn an interview with the New York Times,  Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg (at right) joked that if Donald Trump becomes President, she will move to New Zealand. In our house, that idea is no joke. Sandra and I will seriously consider moving to Canada if Trump wins in November.

And we are not alone.

Ccanadaanada looks more and more appealing as the US seems to fly apart – riven by racial hatred, primitive suspicions and dark, unreasoning fear.

I remember another time like this. It was during the Sixties. I was living in Canada at the time. Americans were deeply divided by the Vietnam war, and unrest spread across the country. Young men lived under the shadow of the draft, and they dreaded it.

Many of them moved to Canada. And so did other Americans who could not in good conscience live in a society that insisted on pursuing an unjust war, at such great cost in blood and treasure.

America under a Trump presidency would be no better. In many ways it would be worse. Trump’s capricious narcissism would inevitably lead not just to conflict with other countries but also to injustice and oppression at home.

But there could be a silver lining – for Canada.

During the Sixties, the immigration of enlightened Americans – including many academics – enriched Canadian society and contributed to the evolution of the globally admired nation that exists today.

America’s best and brightest would be welcome again today.

Conversely, as they abandon America, this country would inevitably become even more susceptible to the fear baiting and race hating of demagogues like Donald Trump.

It’s a terrifying prospect, but one that the scandal mongers who ceaselessly attack Hillary Clinton don’t seem to fear.

The Ginsberg interview


A Beacon of Hope



As I watched Serena Williams and Angelique Kerber compete in the finals at Wimbledon this morning, I was thrilled not only by their athleticism and skill but perhaps even more by the powerful symbolism of the event.

In a world where racial animosity seems to be at its historic peak, the two women presented a stark contrast in appearance but they were twins in talent and will.

Serena won this one. It was Angelique who won the last time they faced each other – in the finals of the Australian Open. The next time they meet, either might win. Both are magnificent champions.

And they gave a magnificent display of grace, skill, power and resolve today.

After this morning’s match, as I watched them hug each other with mutual admiration and obvious affection, I thought of the white policemen in America shooting black men with so little compunction and the black veteran who struck back in misdirected rage, killing those innocent officers in Dallas.

I thought of the demagogues who seek power by inciting racial hatred, of the resurgence of the KKK that Donald Trump has inspired, and of the xenophobic plague infecting Britain and Europe in the wake of racial and religious conflicts in the Mideast and elsewhere.

These are the thoughts that could bring despair. But like a beacon of hope in a sea of darkness, there is the fellowship of sports. The sisterhood and brotherhood that come from the shared pursuit of physical excellence and consummate skill.

Sports can bring out the best in us humans – the generous admiration of an opponent’s performance even when we lose, for example.

As Rudyard Kipling described it:

There is neither East nor West, border, nor breed, nor birth, when two strong men stand face to face though they come from the ends of the earth!

Or – as in the match I just watched – two strong women.

Click for the news story.

Kipling’s poem