Like a Wounded Warthog



Donald Trump insisted last night that he really, really respects women, and he showed how much by repeatedly shouting “Liar!” at Hillary Clinton. It was that kind of night.

For 90 minutes, Trump fumed and paced, shouting incoherent accusations, insisting he was being treated unfairly, snorting and growling like a wounded warthog.

While Hillary tried to defend herself against this relentless assault, she obviously didn’t want to get down and dirty with the man. Let him rant and rave, she seemed to be thinking.

She quoted Michelle Obama:

When they go low, you go high.

And she did her best to follow that advice.

There was no debate “winner” last night because there was no “debate,” no reasoned argument, just insults and smears, a seamless cascade of accusations, laced with fiction and fantasy.

It was a no-holds-barred, made for TV reality show.

Trump even called Hillary “the devil” and promised to send her to prison if he becomes President.

Yes prison. For using the wrong email server when she was secretary of state.

That’s how bizarre this campaign has become.

Trump’s recently exposed videotape (I’m sure you know what I’m talking about) was brought up, of course. And he responded by rehashing all the old Bill Clinton sex scandals. He even had some of Bill’s accusers – now middle-aged matrons – sit in the audience (and pose for a pre-debate photo op).

As far as substance is concerned, those few Americans who know what the carried interest rate is learned that both candidates would abolish the tax break if elected. But there wasn’t much else as far as I could discern.

Questions from the audience and the moderators were never really answered. Both candidates used the questions as excuses to attack each other or reiterate sound bites from their stump speeches.

Hillary’s answers were at least coherent. Most of Trump’s responses were garbled, stream-of-consciousness rants – the last throes of a dying campaign.

There wasn’t even anything new in the attacks. Just old wounds being ripped open.

But the “town hall” audience – and the millions of TV viewers – learned one thing, if they didn’t already know it.

Donald Trump is quite obviously unfit to be President.


Will it Really be a Debate?

hillary-trumpI will be surprised if tonight’s town hall event featuring Hillary vs Trump is anything like a debate. I am expecting a mud slinging contest.

Any discussion of the issues will probably be lost in the X-rated crossfire.

Spoiler alert: Trump will remind voters that Bill Clinton has a history of infidelity and Hillary will spotlight Trump’s consistently despicable behavior toward women.

Meanwhile, more bombs will fall on Syrian civilians, Kim Jong Un will test more nuclear missiles, Vladimir Putin will threaten more military aggression, ISIS will commit more unspeakable atrocities, the Saudis will massacre more goat herders in Yemen…

And on the home front, widening income inequality will spark more explosive anger, Congress will be frozen by more partisan stupidity, gun violence will claim more innocent lives, terrorists will plot more deadly strikes… and there will be more ethnic divisiveness, gender divisiveness, sexual-orientation divisiveness, generational divisiveness…

With just a month to go before election day, the real stakes are almost forgotten in a flurry of tabloid headlines.

Who will fill forthcoming vacancies on the Supreme Court?  Will the next President be “pro-choice” or “pro-life”?

Who has plausible solutions to America’s challenges at home and abroad?

Who is likely to ensure effective domestic-security measures and a common-sense foreign policy to keep us safe?

Who is likely to work with a deadlocked Congress to get desperately needed action on infrastructure repair, job creation and retraining, immigration reform?

Who will provide child care and family leave for working parents, a living wage for breadwinners, a soft landing for returning veterans, accessible quality education for all, a fair and productive tax code, criminal justice reform?

Who is likely to heal the wounds inflicted by the savagery of this election?

Of course, tonight’s debate audience will ask some of these questions.

But I’m afraid the answers will likely be drowned out by the lurid revelations of this tawdry election campaign.

More on the debate


A Grotesque Confession




In bars, barracks and boardrooms – wherever men assemble today – they will be talking about one thing. Not just in America but all over the world. And I can just hear the raucous laughter.

But that scandalous Trump video is no joke.

It’s not just the video’s gross vulgarity, it’s the person it reveals. Look, I know we all have heard those words. They’re commonplace enough that we recognize them even when they’re bleeped out or represented by asterisks (or by cats, as the Daily News did).

But what’s horrific about the video is the offhand confession it contains. To Donald Trump, it’s obviously acceptable to commit indecent assault, to force intimacy on strangers, to be a woman’s worst nightmare.

Yes guys, I know this might come as a shock to some of you, but women do not enjoy being aggressively “groped” – especially by strangers.

Trump obviously is unaware of this. He thinks women should accept, even welcome, his indecent and illegal behavior as affectionate playfulness.

It would be sad and worrying if Trump had made his lewd comments as a young rake. But it’s even more depressing that the video was made when he was almost 60 years old.

How could he be so immature at that advanced age? Has he learned nothing during all his time on earth?

This man who would be President, who would be leader of the free world, is a frat boy still at heart, a locker room troll, who regards women as objects to be appraised, exploited and assaulted at will.

There’s not much hope that Trump will change now. At 70, he is on the dark side of the mountain and can only hope for forgiveness. But the publicity this grotesque video has inspired might provide an occasion for reflection in families around the world.

This could be an opportunity for parents to caution their sons against growing up like Donald Trump – and to advise their daughters to avoid men like him at all costs.

More on the tape 

Trump’s apology


In Matthew’s Wake



Sitting at the computer, listening to the wind in the trees and the rain against the windows, I say a quiet prayer of thanks. Hurricane Matthew, the media’s “monster” storm, is passing us by, leaving no visible damage in our town.

The fridge is stocked with food and water, enough to last a week. Yesterday afternoon the supermarket and hardware shelves were bare. Our neighborhood Publix was out of bread. Dollar General had no bananas or flashlights. Ace was out of lanterns…

This morning, at the end of Post Lane, potted plants are in the garage, waiting to be returned to the outdoors. Flashlights. lanterns, candles and matches, carefully assembled on the kitchen table, will be packed away again, never to be found when we need them for the next hurricane scare.

Sandra was up most of the night, worried about Willie and Harry, the two outside cats, who refused to come indoors. And no wonder. The TV was issuing dire predictions of death and destruction, and Governor Rick Scott was telling us the storm “will kill you.”

But just in the nick of time, Matthew made a slight shift to the east, and moved us out of its path. As the most dangerous storm in decades skirts the east coast, power lines are down and trees are falling.

The storm has claimed its first fatality, a 58-year-old woman in St. Lucie County, who had a heart attack.  But, so far, the predicted catastrophe has not materialized.

Of course, the worst may yet be to come. Jacksonville and the Carolina lowlands are bracing for historic floods and killer wind.

I am left pondering the randomness of disaster. For no apparent reason, Jamaica was spared but Haiti was devastated, the Bahamas was hammered but South Florida escaped this time. Now, it’s the coastal area to the north that’s in danger.

Next time? Who knows? Nobody, not even the experts at the Weather Center, can predict the future.

So, as the shelters empty and the roads are filled with evacuated families returning to their homes, we who were spared should be grateful, not irritated by another “false alarm.”

As someone observed a long time ago, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

More on Matthew

More on the fatality


Mike Pence Scares Me



Mike Pence is scary. He may even be scarier than Donald Trump. He is so polished, so suave, so capable of lying with conviction. And he represents so much that is dangerous in American politics.

His performance in last night’s vice presidential debate sent shivers down my spine.

With a condescending shake of his head, he repeatedly brushed away Tim Kaine’s attempts to make him defend Trump’s gaffes.

No, no, he said, over and over. Trump didn’t say that. And he knew there’s videotaped evidence that Trump did say that. He even denied one of his own videotaped statements, protesting that he didn’t say Vladimir Putin is “inarguably” a better leader than Barack Obama. His performance reminded me of Shaggy’s song, “It Wasn’t Me.”

Pence is a convincing liar, a polished liar – obviously a practiced liar.

He lied about the national debt, saying it has “doubled” during the Obama presidency. He lied about the Clinton Foundation, saying only 10 cents of every dollar it takes in goes to charity. He lied about Trump’s immigration proposals, saying he has been “completely consistent” in his plan to deal with illegal aliens.

He lied about Benghazi, about Hillary’s tax plan, about border security, about Obamacare…

He even – falsely – claimed that President Obama’s stimulus package, which helped to avert a global economic catastrophe, included $30 million for endangered mice in San Francisco!

Pence delivered his lies smoothly,even amiably, every inch the benign patrician. But that image, too, was a lie, perhaps the biggest lie of the night.

Pence is the kind of right-wing zealot who would take American society back a century or more. A zero-tolerance law-and-order advocate, he is a fervent opponent of abortion rights, women’s rights, gay rights…

He is anti-environment, anti-science, anti-free speech… He even defends smoking, insisting cigarettes don’t kill.

What we saw in last night’s debate was a polished elder statesman. But the real Mike Pence is someone else. Someone very, very scary.

The real Mike Pence

Pence’s lies

Shaggy’s song

Hillary’s tax plan


Power to the People



As populist politicians call on “the people” to overthrow the financial establishment, they fail to take into account that it’s the people who keep those elite forces in power.

Not just by voting for Republicans but by funding the system with their pension contributions and other investments.

Public employees, for example, invest a total of $4.7 trillion (that’s not a typo, it really is “trillion” with a t) in pension funds. And the managers of the pension funds have been handing the cash over to such elite agents as hedge funds.

But it seems “the people” are waking up.

They’re wondering why their pension contributions are funding the corporations that have been oppressing them for decades. Furthermore, the hedge funds and other elite financial instruments haven’t been performing that well for them. The system really does siphon money into the bank accounts of the richest of the rich, not into the pockets of middle class savers.

An article by Spencer McAvoy, which was republished in this morning, describes a “growing movement” to take pension money out of the hands of those hedge fund managers.

The article cites a report by Hedge Clippers, an anti-hedge fund organization launched in 2015 by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), which found that hedge funds have cost New Jersey public employees $2.7 billion since 2007 – $1.1 billion in below-average returns and $1.6 billion in hedge fund fees.

Yes, fees. The article reports hedge fund managers pocket more than half the profits.

It tells of a pension fund that lost over $84 million and paid more than $133 million in fees in a single year.

Now, “the people” are striking back. McAvoy reports that:

Union representatives of New Jersey state employees on the New Jersey State Investment Council (NJSIC) successfully pushed through an initiative last month to cut the state employees’ pension fund’s investments in hedge funds in half, a reduction of $4.5 billion.

And, according to the article, “increasingly, both universities and public retirement funds are deciding to take their business elsewhere.”

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) pulled $4 billion in 2014; the New York City Employees’ Retirement System (NYCERS), largely at the urging of the AFT, divested $1.5 billion in April. The Illinois State Board of Investment, the University of California, and the University of Maryland have also all initiated reductions in their investments in hedge funds in just the past few months, and Pennsylvania’s auditor general has called for an audit of all state hedge fund investments.

So where does all this pension money go now?

I am no financial expert, of course, but it seems obvious to me that “the people” should pool their capital in populist institutions – cooperatives and credit unions, for example.

And I wonder if Congress could be persuaded to encourage such institutions instead of enriching the prodigal hedge fund managers and their ilk through low “carried interest” rates and egregious tax code loopholes.

But I know such populist policies will remain a pipe dream as long as Republicans control Congress. And I can only imagine the havoc if they win the White House as well.

Click for the article.


Gary Johnson? Don’t be Silly!

johnsonIn a saner time, nobody would recognize the name Gary Johnson. This guy is notable only for his proposal to legalize marijuana. Yes, he was governor of New Mexico but Rick Scott has been elected and reelected governor of Florida, so what does that tell you?

(It tells me that anyone can be a governor in America – anyone, even a chiseler who paid a billion-dollar fine for defrauding Medicare.)

Johnson drew a blank – remember? – when he was asked on MSNBC’s Morning Joe what he thought of Aleppo. And when Chris Matthews asked him what foreign leader he admired, he couldn’t recall the name of any foreign leader. So much for his foreign policy credibility.

As for his domestic policies, all you can say for him is that he favors legalization of weed. He also proposes getting rid of just about all gun control laws, when anyone with half a brain would be yelling for more control to stem America’s blood bath.

It doesn’t surprise me when Republicans support this guy. Republicans support some strange birds (I’m sure I don’t have to give examples). And Johnson was a Republican before he saw an opportunity to get the Libertarian nomination.

But when young voters – the Bernie crowd – say they’re going to vote for him, I am stunned.

Hey guys, you can legally get your weed in several states now. And momentum for state legalization is snowballing across the nation. Federal legalization is getting less urgent by the minute.

And think of the price America would pay for Johnson’s marijuana legalization – more gun violence, an irresponsible, know-nothing foreign policy, free rein for corporate robber barons and total shredding of the social safety net.

We’re talking economic collapse and global chaos here.

And you Milennials would be among the hardest hit. You think the Republicans in Congress chastised your generation with whips? A Johnson regime would chastise you with scorpions!

Fortunately for you – and the rest of us – Johnson doesn’t stand any chance of becoming President. He’s polling in single digits as I write this.

So don’t throw away your vote out of childish spite.

If you have any regard for your future – for your country’s future – you will forget about Gary Johnson and go vote for Hillary.

More on Johnson’s platform


The Rainbow’s Message



As Arnie’s ashes were being spread at the Pennsylvania golf course where he grew up, a rainbow appeared in the sky (above). To me, it was a promise from the Heavens, an assurance that decency will triumph over villainy after all.

For Arnold Palmer was not just a great golfer. He was also a decent human being.

arnieAnd I find it encouraging that Arnie was one of the most admired men to grace this planet.

He was also one of the most admirable. He treated all with respect. He was modest and unassuming despite his great fame and enormous wealth. He took care to obey society’s rules of the road.

At the Ryder Cup this morning, thousands are wearing “Arnie’s Army” buttons, and the competing US golfers display his favorite lapel pin on their collars. While I was watching the event on TV, the massive Ryder Cup crowd chanted his name in unison.

It is this vast reservoir not just of admiration but of love that gives the rainbow its message of hope. A message Americans – and the world – desperately need at this time.

For Arnie presents a stark contrast to wretches like Donald Trump, who incite hatred and spite, who game the system relentlessly, who lie and cheat and wallow in the mud.

devilHe presents a contrast to people who think it’s smart to chisel on their taxes, welch on their commitments, sneer at decency and treat others with contempt and ridicule.

When I see the crowds on TV cheering Trump, obviously enamored of his vile message, I am tempted to despair.

Trump is not the first of his monstrous breed. Throughout history, the Evil One has risen in various incarnations to exalt all that is base in mankind. And he probably will not be the last.

How can such despicable creatures inspire such veneration, such love? Is this what we humans are like, after all?

But then I remember Arnie and the great love he inspired. And I see a rainbow in the sky.

Arnie’s rainbow

Arnie’s life


What We Don’t Know



mobI don’t think the millions who watched Monday night’s presidential debate learned much that they didn’t already know. Everyone knew going in that Donald Trump is a rude, ignorant oaf. Everyone already knew, too, that Hillary Clinton is a rock-steady, whip-smart public servant with encyclopedic knowledge.

What we may not have known – and did not learn – is what hidden interests they might represent.

There’s all kinds of information available about Hillary – some of it reliable, some not so much. Anyone with a computer or a smart phone can figure out for themselves whether she’s on our side or not.

I am confident that Hillary is on my side. Yes, she has ties to Wall Street and hobnobs with billionaires. But her life story is one of service to humanity (in spite of those absurd propaganda books that depict her as some kind of criminal – example at right).hillary_cover

What Trump is up to, I can only guess. But I am convinced he is up to no good.

There is ample evidence that he is a fraud who reneges on his debts and cheats business associates. And his “charitable” foundation has been exposed as a money-making sham.

There is also his frightening alliance with the white supremacist movement.

But I wonder whether he is even more dangerous than that.

I have read credible reports that he worked with members of the Mafia in his Manhattan real estate projects, and that he has borrowed money from Russian and Ukrainian underworld characters.

And I understand at least two of his surrogates – Rudy Giuliani and Chris Christie – have family members known to be in the Mob.

Could Trump be fronting for a criminal organization? Could he represent interests that present a grave threat to the American people?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Instead of digging up this kind of information, the talking heads on TV are agog over his crude insults to women and his uncouth personal behavior. And as reprehensible as that might be, I shudder to think of what else might be lurking in the shadows.

About Trump and the mob

About Giuliani and Christie


Musings on the Great Debate



Let’s get the who-won-who-lost nonsense out of the way first. Smilin’ Hillary won. Snifflin’ Trump lost. And Hillary’s adroit, energetic – even powerful – performance must surely have laid to rest all those whispers about her health.

But Trump scored a point or two before he crumbled in a heap of pouting petulance.

How he scored those points is discouragingly ironic.

Trump swept through the Republican primaries on a wave of public frustration generated by a do-nothing Congress and the prevailing perception that America’s politicians are in it for themselves, not the people they are elected to serve.

He mobilized the Republican base by exposing the party brass as an entrenched elite who grind their axes at their country’s expense.

Yet in last night’s debate, he was able to make it sound as if Hillary and the Democrats were to blame for decades of government shortcomings.

He reiterated that Hillary has had a 30-year political career in which to make things better. He argued that her plans for economic and social reform now were “just words.”

Hillary could have explained that it was the Republican Party that has blocked attempts at  progress for the past 30 years (and more).

President Obama has been trying for ages to get an infrastructure rebuilding bill through a Republican Congress, for example. And guess what. Both Trump and Hillary are proposing an infrastructure rebuilding program as a way to create jobs!

The blame for America’s disappointing trade deals – and the resulting loss of manufacturing jobs – is a little harder to pin down. What nobody observed last night is that while those global trade agreements shipped jobs abroad, they produced jobs at home. And American companies benefited from export opportunities created by the trade deals. Surely, Trump’s trickle-down party should be happy about that?

The real Gordian knot is the fact that the jobs produced by trade deals are seldom accessible to the workers who see their jobs vanish. A laid-off Michigan factory worker isn’t likely to get a job as a software developer in California or a shipping clerk in New Jersey.

In a global economy, the government has to step in to make sure those who lose their jobs get retrained for better jobs. And the government has to make sure the better jobs are there. If the private sector doesn’t generate them, then the government must provide them.

Hillary has programs on her web site to address this challenge – job retraining, free community college, public investment in alternative energy, and so on.

It’s the Republican Party that stands in the way of such programs. It’s the Republican Party that has resolutely blocked reforms proposed by people like Hillary for the past 30 years.

Somebody should have pointed that out last night. Maybe next time.

Debate highlights

Setting the record straight