Rhetoric and Reality

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When you hear Bernie railing against Wall Street or Trump promising to revive America’s coal industry, you have to ask yourself what they could do if they actually became President.

Bernie could possibly get Congress to impose a fee or tax on financial transactions, I suppose. And Trump could revoke some environmental protection regulations imposed by Obama’s executive orders.

But Bernie would never be so naive as to try and erase the financial patterns supporting the world’s economy. And Trump has no power to stem the growing trend away from the use of coal. Natural gas is simply better – cheaper, cleaner and less damaging to the environment.

A President’s ability to make radical changes is severely limited. It’s Congress – with both the House and Senate consenting – that passes laws. The President proposes but Congress disposes.

The most drastic action a President can take is to veto legislation. And the veto can be overridden by a two-thirds Senate vote.

So I wouldn’t count on any radical change in domestic policies as long as Congress remains inexorably divided.

And, while it looks as if the Democrats might take back the Senate, even the most biased observer wouldn’t bet on them winning the House in November. State legislatures have just about gerrymandered away that possibility.

What’s likely to happen – regardless of who becomes President – is a continuation of the dreary gridlock that has frustrated voters for so long. Change will have to come incrementally in the prevailing political climate, if it comes at all.

There’s so much that candidates promise, so little they can actually deliver.

The odds against Bernie getting a healthcare system like Canada’s are a thousand to one, for example. Or free college tuition for all. Or any of those other desirable reforms he keeps yelling about.

Hillary has a far greater chance of coaxing Congress to make modest reforms. She has the connections and the political know-how.

Still, either Bernie or Hillary would be relatively benign as President. They would earnestly try to protect the little guy against the financial bullies in those corporate boardrooms. And they would usually have the best interests of everyday Americans at heart.

What’s even more  important is that neither would mindlessly plunge America into a nuclear war or willfully disrupt the global patterns of trade (despite Bernie’s rants against NAFTA, etc.)  And neither envisages America as a heavily armed thug threatening and bullying the rest of the world.

Trump in the White House would be a ticking time bomb. As commander in chief, this impulsive egomaniac would have access to the Doomsday button, and that should keep Americans – and the rest of the world – awake at night.

Also, his “America First” foreign policy would set this country against the rest of the globe, triggering trade wars and even armed conflicts. The cost of living would soar in America, and jobs would disappear as exporters feel the backlash from Trump’s protectionism.

Of course, Trump’s racist rhetoric will also have repercussions at home and abroad.

He cannot do all the things he says he would do, but he could do enough to set America back a generation or more.

And, although both Hillary and Bernie would be constrained in making the reforms they promise, any thinking human being must recognize how much saner than Trump either of them would be in the White House.

 

Trump’s Bad Buddies

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I am amused by the Democrats’ outrage over a remark Donald Trump made prior to the housing crisis  some years ago. They found a video of him saying he “hoped” the real estate bubble would burst so he could swoop in and buy up foreclosed homes at bargain prices.

Oh the horror! Would you believe Trump is a heartless vulture waiting to profit from the ill fortune of his fellowmen?

Don’t make me laugh!

What I find hard to believe is that Democrats can’t find anything worse to say about the Republican presidential candidate.

It’s like accusing Al Capone of evading taxes.

If they want to dig up really damning stuff, Trump’s opponents don’t have to look very far.

I found out about Trump’s links to the Mob just by searching the internet. And looking a little farther, I’ve found really scary information on the thugs who surround him.

For example, a top Trump adviser is lobbyist Paul Manafort, who represens arms dealers, warlords, dictators and other evil global villains.

Then there’s Roger Stone, the political bottom feeder who either quit or was fired – depending on whom you believe – as Trump’s senior advisor. A New Yorker story about Stone was headlined “The Dirty Trickster.” That should give you an idea of the kind of guys Trump pals around with.

And how about Stone’s pal Sam Nunberg, whose Facebook page was littered with racist postings? Or Trump’s press representative in Alaska, a former state lawmaker named Tom Anderson, who served time for bribery, extortion, money laundering and conspiracy?

 And these baddies don’t hold a candle to the characters Trump has picked to raise funds for his campaign. (Yes, I know he said he was “self funding” but that was then and this is now.)

Last night, Rachel Maddow took a look at the fundraising crew Trump has assembled, and she turned up a grimly depressing bunch.

They include Trump’s fundraising chairman Elliott Broidy, who pleaded guilty in 2009 to bribing New York officials responsible for investing state employees’ pension funds.

And Steven Mnuchin, the notoriously heartless hedge fund manager who bought a failed bank after the housing bubble burst and viciously dispossessed dozens of homeowners – especially non-white families and senior citizens.

And Jesse Benton, the former Ron Paul campaign chairman who was convicted of fraud. He runs the Trump Super PAC, which has been branded a scam by insiders…. And the list goes on…

My mother told me you can know a man by the company he keeps. And Donald Trump keeps some really bad company.

Don’t you shudder at the prospect of someone like that becoming leader of the free world?

Click for Rachel.

More on Manafort

More on Roger Stone

More on Trump’s thugs

 

A Time for Party Loyalty!

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The Green Party’s Jill Stein could pose a serious threat to Hillary Clinton this election. No, Ms. Stein won’t be elected President. Indeed, she won’t even get many votes. (Sorry Janice, the Green Party will always be a splinter group; its focus is too narrow.) But she could get enough support to sabotage Hillary’s chances against Donald Trump.

jillMs. Stein is appealing to Bernie Sanders’ supporters, suggesting that those who don’t like Hillary should vote for her instead.

And the way Bernie’s campaign is going, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of his supporters turn against the Democrats. He is unforgivably smearing the party, calling it “corrupt,”  for example. And that kind of reckless rhetoric is likely to resonate with some of his radical followers.

With the polls showing Hillary neck and neck with Trump, the defection of thousands – possibly millions – of Sanders’ supporters could mean defeat for the Democratic candidate.

Of course there are many Republicans who might find it abhorrent to vote for Trump. And you might expect them to defect to the Libertarian Party. Some Republican leaders already are heading in that direction.

That could offset Hillary’s loss of the disaffected Sanders’ supporters.

But it’s not going to happen. The Republican rank and file are massing behind Trump. Blindly loyal to their party, they will hold their noses and mark their ballots for Trump, even when they recognize what a detestable human being he is.

It’s time for Democrats to show some loyalty, too.

If Sanders’ supporters petulantly thumb their noses at Hillary because she defeated their pet candidate, they could put Trump in the White House.

And that is a possibility even the most rabid of Bernie’s followers should find too terrifying to contemplate.

More on Jill Stein’s appeal

More on Libertarian chances

Trump as President

 

Trump’s Dark and Dank Past

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Finally, mainstream media outlets may be ready to give Donald Trump’s shady past the attention it deserves. Salon.com reproduced a Politico story this morning spotlighting his long and close connection to the Mafia. And I heard the story mentioned on MSNBC last night.

This could be just the beginning. Trump’s dirty laundry could be in for a lot of public exposure.

Trump is a despicable human being. He has no scruples, no conscience, no shame. Lies and the truth are all the same to him, and criticism just rolls off his back. As a child he was so unruly his parents felt obliged to send him to a military academy.

As a businessman, he used bankruptcy laws repeatedly to cheat his creditors, some of whom were in the financial underworld. It’s a wonder he is still alive. As a reporter, I once wrote about a Florida businessmen who did the same kind of thing and wound up on a swamp trail, sitting dead in his Escalade, with a bullet hole in the back of his head.

In one of those primary debates, Trump candidly admitted who his creditors were. He said:

These lenders aren’t babies. These are total killers. These are not the nice, sweet little people.

I can only surmise that the “killers” Trump welched on had some reason to keep him alive.

Do you suppose they figured he would be more useful to them as President of the United States than buried in a shallow grave?

Trump could certainly become President. The polls show him in a dead heat with Hillary Clinton.

And I doubt revelations of  his checkered past will have much more impact than the recent fuss about his tawdry relationships with women.

I wish that Americans were still innocent enough to be swayed by damning disclosures about political candidates. But the electorate’s prevailing mood is deeply cynical. As I heard a politician declare on TV recently, the public thinks all politicians are crooks and liars, anyway.

But, even so, could voters be prepared to accept as President a vulgar charlatan who owned casinos in Las Vegas and Atlantic City and cozied up to the mob to build his real-estate empire?

They could if they figure he’s the best of a bad lot.

And you can be sure the right-wing propaganda mill will be working overtime to make sure that’s what voters think. .

The smears against the Clintons have already started, and there will be much, much more to come. Sadly, the right-wing propagandists don’t give a damn about the truth. They will make up any facts they need to get the job done.

So, be prepared for the mother of all smear campaigns. Be prepared to reject an avalanche of lies about the Clintons, designed to counter the awful truth about Trump.

The Politico story

Trump’s bankruptcies

 

As Wall Street Unravels

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As I understand it,a major difference between capitalism and socialism is that in capitalism private interests accumulate the large pools of money needed for social investment while in socialism it’s the government that does it (through taxes).

But, either way, to be effective, large amounts of money have to be pooled. Small amounts of capital in a multitude of pockets cannot provide the capital needed for development.

That’s the thinking behind those ancient laws that passed a father’s estate on to the eldest son, leaving younger siblings to fend for themselves. Splitting up the estate with each passing generation would eventually have made it so fragmented that it would have become worthless.

Of course the system wasn’t fair to those younger siblings . But it was considered necessary for the greater good of society.

In western capitalism, especially in America, the “private sector” is traditionally the dominant economic driver. And an important engine of this private-sector economy is Wall Street, which provides a means for everyone to participate in building jnvestment capital through the purchase of stocks and bonds.

But Wall Street has become an unjust steward, keeping far more than a fair share of society’s capital as payment for collecting and redistributing it (and wagering investors’ savings on harebrained projects).  As a result, the economy has been undermined, investors have been cheated and the public is losing faith in the system.

Americans are responding by backing away from money markets and the stock exchange. For example, the  average daily trading in U.S. Treasuries is at a seven-year low. The once glittering financial industry is experiencing widespread layoffs. Wall Street cut some 20,000 jobs last year and more job losses are predicted. The first quarter of this year was one of the worst ever for the financial industry.

The layoffs are due in part to government intervention. Reacting to the catastrophic economic collapse of 2008, Congress has passed laws designed to limit the reckless risk taking that triggered the crisis. Declining employment in the financial industry is also due in part to increasing automation. Still, an important factor is waning investor trust.

Unless investor trust is restored, America’s traditional financial system faces an uncertain future. But the lemmings on Wall Street don’t have the foresight to embrace the reforms needed to restore that trust. They seem intent on making themselves expendable.

Faced with the unraveling of Wall Street, government will have to play a larger role in the pooling and investment of society’s resources. Like it or not, Americans will have to get used to more socialism. The alternative is becoming unacceptable.

The game may soon be over for those rapacious – often crooked – financiers dedicated to the short-term goal of lining their own pockets at the expense of consumers and investors.

More on Wall Street’s troubles.

More on Wall Street layoffs.

 

Change is an Elusive Goal

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I get calls from the Democratic Party asking me to become involved in this year’s campaign, and I always politely decline. I’m not as frisky as I was back in 2008 when Sandra and I went house to house trying to get out the vote for Barack Obama.

There’s more to my lack of zeal than the legacy of the passing years. I don’t feel the kind of enthusiasm that Obama inspired.

Don’t get me wrong. I am going to vote for the Democratic nominee. I always vote a straight Democratic ticket. But I’m not sure what it means to be a Democrat in 2016.

I was so sure of what a Democrat was back in 2008. Democrats were open minded, fair, compassionate, dedicated to the common good, on the side of America’s better angels. FDR was that kind of Democrat. JFK was that kind of Democrat. Ted Kennedy was that kind of Democrat.

Barack Obama is that kind of Democrat.

But when the time came for the Democrats controlling Congress to back him up, so many elected members of his party showed a different side, a pragmatic, self serving side, the side that would opt for the thirty pieces of silver instead of eternal salvation.

They betrayed America’s first black President. They balked at universal, single-payer health care. They dragged their feet on environmental protection. They cowered before the NRA. They were lukewarm on civil rights. They were concerned about the way the voters back home might  react. Above all, they wanted to get reelected.

With the enormously rich and bitterly antagonistic Republicans prepared to stop at nothing to block the Obama agenda, these compromised Democrats made it impossible to bring about the hope and change that Obama had promised.

And, to make his job even more impossible, he was distracted by the monumental task of rescuing America from the catastrophic Bush depression.

Still, history will undoubtedly conclude that he managed – through almost superhuman grit and perseverance – to leave America a far, far better society than the one he set out to change.

Of course, the job is not finished. There is still a crying need for more change.

I am not sure either Bernie or Hillary will be able to complete the Herculean task that Obama set out to accomplish.

Bernie has all the right rhetoric, but I doubt that he has the tools or the connections he would need. Hillary has the tools and connections but she is acutely aware of the limitations she will have to work around as President.

She has learned from Obama’s experience that the changes we so desperately need must be made incrementally in these United States. There’s no magic wand to get the job done – no quick fix to fire up our imaginations.

Of course either Hillary or Bernie would be a million times better than Donald Trump!!!

Trump would turn back the clock and leave this country in chaos. His legacy would be an America – perhaps the world – in flames.

So I’m voting once again for the party of our better angels, even though I’m not quite as wide-eyed as I was eight years ago.

Click for more on Obama’s presidency

 

Aren’t You Tired of Trump?

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I switched off the news channels early last night and went to sleep. Usually, I can make it through Rachel on MSNBC, but last night I couldn’t get past Chris Hayes. And switching to CNN didn’t help. Both cable channels were obsessed with Donald Trump.

Did he disrespect women who worked for him over the years? Inquiring minds want to know. And cable TV set out to satisfy their curiosity by asking as many of the women as they could dig up.

Some of the women who showed up said yes; some said no. One said he told her she ate too much candy (after she put on a few pounds). Oh the horror!

Trump’s regard – or disregard – for women was all over network TV, too.

ivankaHis daughter Ivanka (at right), who is revered by the media, told CBS she was shocked to read in the New York Times that  her father was a – gasp! – groper. Nothing could be farther from the truth, she declared.

What daughter wouldn’t be shocked to hear such things about her dad?

I wonder whether Ivanka was as shocked to read about her father’s Mafia connections? The Times revealed those details a while back, too.

And how shocked was she when her dad casually threatened to engulf the world in nuclear war?

She must have heard about that. It was on the evening news.

Everything Trump says or does is “news.” He has become ratings gold, and the TV executives are mining that gold for all it’s worth.

Did you hear Trump wants to meet with Kim Jong Un, the North Korean despot who fed his uncle to a pack of starving dogs?

Did you hear he met with Henry Kissinger?

Did I hear? Yes. Do I care? No.

I wouldn’t care if Donald Trump grew wings and flew over a cheering mob in Manhattan. Indeed, I wouldn’t care if he vanished in a puff of smoke.

I’ve heard more than enough about Donald Trump. I’ve seen far too much of his grotesque face and pudgy body. If I never hear of him again, it will be OK with me.

I’m totally Trumped out.  Aren’t you?

The Times article

 

You Want Revolution? Really?

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In any society, however benign, subversives exist, intent on overthrowing the government. They may label themselves Anarchists or Communists or some other political brand, but they really are just malcontents.

They are not only disruptive but destructive. They want to tear down the existing institutions but have no realistic proposals to replace them.

These activists often resort to violence and other extreme behavior in their vehement protests against any form of authority.

I suspect some of these dangerous losers have infiltrated Bernie Sanders’ movement. The shameful episode at the Democratic convention in Nevada has their fingerprints all over it.

And I am convinced other malcontents are using that deluded Donald Trump to try and hijack the Republican Party.

Pundits blame defects in American society – such obvious defects as extreme income inequality and a dysfunctional Congress – for the groundswell of protest manifest in the current campaign season.

And they’re right. But they don’t seem to see beyond that.

Enemies of the state – not would-be reformers but would-be revolutionaries – are taking advantage of the widespread malaise to undermine the political system.

Obviously, existing institutions are failing America. Obviously reform is overdue. But in a democracy, change must be the result of consensus, not force.

And, yes, reform can be frustratingly slow. Yes, it’s often exasperating and exhausting.

But that’s democracy – love it or leave it. As Winston Churchill famously observed, democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.

I would ask those Americans who find the siren call of “revolution” so alluring to take a deep breath before they leap off that cliff.

The existing systems, however imperfect, developed organically over generations, reflecting the way people are. These institutions were not imposed by some supreme dictator who thought he knew how people should be.

Before Americans discard existing systems in disgust, they should reflect on the likely consequences. They should read about past revolutions and the horrors they inflicted on innocent human beings.

In the French Revolution heads actually rolled, and if you’ve seen “Doctor Zhivago,” you have some idea of the impact the Bolshevik Revolution had on middle class families.

Even in the American War of Independence, colonists who did not join the revolution suffered miserably. Their homes were often torched, and many fled across the Canadian border.

If they really think about it, most Americans would surely agree that “revolution” is a last resort, only to be contemplated in a period of genuine tyranny. And – while economic and social injustice abounds – real tyranny exists in today’s America only in the fevered imaginations of malcontents.

Examining the Trump/Sanders “revolution

More on the “revolution

 

Vote Libertarian, Mitt!

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I never thought much of Mitt Romney’s intelligence, so it shouldn’t surprise me that he’s rummaging through the Republican primary castoffs to find a “third-party candidate” to foil Donald Trump.

But even Mitt should be smarter than that.

The obvious choice in this election for people like Mitt, who can’t stand Trump but would never do the sensible thing and vote for Hillary, is the Libertarian candidate.

I know, who?

It won’t be anybody you or I know, of course. Libertarian candidates don’t get much publicity.

The media ignore the myriad other political parties and publicize only the Democrats and Republicans. Why?

Because those are the two “major parties.”

And how did they become the two major parties?

Because they’re the only ones the media publicize.

Did you know Ron Paul was once a Libertarian presidential candidate? He switched to Republican to get some of that free press.

There already is a Libertarian wing in the Republican Party. Ron Paul’s son Rand, for example, had quite a following – for a while, anyway.

Like the so-called “conservatives,” the Libertarians want small government – really small government. Indeed, they would like the feds to butt out of their lives entirely.

But there are some conflicts between the two parties.

For example,Libertarians would reject federal imposition of the “family values” dogma that “conservatives” hold so dear.

And the Libertarians don’t want to wage war on the rest of the world, while “conservatives” apparently do.

But surely, disagreements like that can be ironed out.

If there’s one thing the party faithful should have learned from Trump, it’s that policy declarations are infinitely flexible With Trump in charge, the Republican Party is currently for and against just about everything.

So why shouldn’t Republican “moderates” accept a contradiction or two and vote Libertarian?

(It won’t matter, anyway. The Libertarians have no more chance of winning the White House than a “third party” Republican candidate would. But it might make Mitt and his ilk feel a little better.)

Libertarian candidates for President

More on choosing the Libertarian Party

Ron Paul as the Libertarian candidate.

 

The High Price of Heels

I don’t know what it is but there’s something sexy about high heels. The way they enhance the shape of a woman’s legs, perhaps? But women pay a high price for wearing them. And I’m not talking about the retail markup.

heelsWhen I was a young reporter at the Star in Toronto, I interviewed doctors attending a convention in the city and – without exception – they warned that wearing high heels can be severely damaging.

High-heeled shoes not only disfigure the feet and strain the legs and knees, the doctors said, they can also cause long-term injury to the spine.

And, of course, as the doctors pointed out,  there’s always the danger of serious injury from falling.

As you might imagine, that was a long, long time ago – more than half a century, in fact. Yet women are still being required by some employers to wear high heels as part of a “corporate dress code.”

Finally, a rebellion is brewing against this lingering form of bondage. In a recent New Yorker article, writer Mary Karr urged women to revolt, proclaiming:

Oh, womenfolk, as once we burned our bras, could we not torch the footwear crucifiying us?

Karr is not alone.  In a Salon.com article today, Mary Elizabeth Williams reports that a revolt against high heels has erupted in Britain. There’s a movement afoot to change the British law that allows employers to specify different dress codes for women than for men.

Imagine that! In the year 2016, women still have to fight not only for equal pay but also for equal treatment under the law! And in a supposedly advanced western society, not in some feudal Mideast fiefdom.

So let’s hear it for the rebels! Let’s hear it for Julia Roberts (one of my all-time favorite movie stars), who defied the dress code at the Cannes Festival the other day, showing up on the red carpet not just without heels but without shoes. 

And (as you can see from the photo above), she looked totally sexy without any help from those pernicious high heels.

Click for the Salon.com article.

More on the dangers of heels.