Tag Archives: Clinton

Cases, Clues, and the Misinterpretation of Justice: Trumpian Edition

In 1989 five youngsters from Harlem were arrested as suspects in a Central Park rape case.  They were convicted based on coerced confessions.  They were later exonerated after the collection and analysis of DNA evidence, which demonstrated the identity of the actual criminal.  [NYT] There are several reasons to remember the Central Park Five Case, including the interrogation tactics of the time, the proclivity of the public to assign potential guilt based on race and ethnicity.  However,  there’s another reaction we should remember because it keeps inserting itself into conversations about our politics and our judicial system.

The reaction came from one Donald J. Trump, who famously took out a full page ad in the New York Times calling for the boys’ execution.   Trump defended his ads later during an interview with Larry King:

“I don’t see anything inciteful, I am strongly in favor of the death penalty,” Trump told King. “I am also in favor bringing back police forces that can do something instead of turning their back because every quality lawyer that represents people that are trouble, the first thing they do is start shouting police brutality, etc.” [CNN]

In light of Trump’s continual public comments about locking people up — Sec. Hillary Clinton should be locked up; former FBI Director James Comey should be locked up — as Lawrence O’Donnell’s program reminds us this evening,  perhaps if we reflect on the Central Park Five instance we can discern a pattern that’s been there all along.

Trump’s first line in the King interview is revealing.  He had then, and may not now, have any idea that what he did in placing his advertising in New York City newspapers was a racist reaction to the charging of Black and Hispanic boys in the rape of a white woman.  It’s hard not to miss the lynch mentality in Trump’s call to bring back the death penalty.  He said he saw nothing “inciteful” in his behavior, asserting by implication if he doesn’t see it as “inciteful” then it must not be.  So, not only do we have the lynch mentality at play, it is exacerbated by an incapacity for self reflection and analysis.

Perhaps it’s a crowd pleaser on the hustings to get the “lock her up” chant going, or to point out members of the press for mob vilification; but, since Trump himself doesn’t see it as “inciteful” it can’t be perceived that way by other observers.

He is a ” retributivist,” as defined as: “A retributivist is somebody who believes in retribution. That is, as the principal purpose or justification for punishment. Very simply, [convicted criminals] deserve it. [They are] punished for the sake of justice.” [ARPubMedia] “I am strongly in favor of the death penalty,” he told King.   Trump’s consideration of the Central Park Five Case obviously extends no further than there were some young minority males who allegedly raped a white woman, and thus their crime demands retribution at the most serious level.  By extension, if Trump believes someone has done an injustice (especially to him?) then there must be retribution — lock’em up.

Since Trump’s predilection for word salad encompasses several decades let’s take the next sentence in pieces. “I am also in favor bringing back police forces that can do something…”  This portion of the statement might be interpreted as the complaint of a person trapped in a Film Noir world of rubber hose interrogations and the extra-judicial antics of hero-private eyes.  Phillip Chandler would be proud?  Except in many of the film noir classics the police are stumbling bumbling characters, who are relatively inept in comparison to the private detectives.  There’s another model, which at first glance appears more attuned to the Trumpian world view — the G Men.  Trump seems to like the “tough cop” imagery descending from this era?

This is Your FBI” was a self-congratulatory radio series broadcast from 1945 to 1953.  The G-Men always got their man; the villains were nearly always male. “I Was A Communist for the FBI” ran during 1952 and 1953.   The spirit of McCarthyism got a boost from the stories of Matt Cvetic.  Then, of course, there was Dragnet, and the launch of more police procedurals. These pre-date Trump’s formative years in which he’d have been directly aware of the narratives, but a combination of “pro-police” attitudes and the subsequent challenges to police (read: white, male) domination during the late 1960’s could certainly have formed an authoritarian perspective.  Perhaps Trump absorbed the vestiges of the old narratives and the delusion that “toughness” is a matter of physicality.

Thence we move to: “…instead of turning their back …”  this remark seems to indicate the police weren’t actually policing.  It’s difficult to contend the police were the heroes, always getting their “man,” with the notion that the police could “get their men” if … they weren’t restrained in some artificial manner.

“…because every quality lawyer that represents people that are trouble, the first thing they do is start shouting police brutality, etc.”   Here we have the artificial barrier Trump sees preventing effective policing.

There is no evidence to indicate that initial defense strategies involve challenging the nature of the arrest.  Actually, more common defenses are that (1) the wrong person has been detained; (2) the person acted in self defense; (3) evidence was illegally seized; (4) arrests were made based on unreliable witnesses or informants; and (5) the state cannot prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. [CDcom] However, Trump isn’t exactly known for his reliance on observable evidence. He’s assuming that because he disagrees with the opposition to heavy-handed police tactics this must be a serious problem, and if he believes it then it must be true.  At this point the “etc” may be important.

Since we know that “police brutality” isn’t the first resort of criminal defense attorneys,  the “etc” could be a clue.  “Et cetera” can be very useful for truncating long lists, or it can be extremely sloppy, standing in place of any clarification of a series of contentions.  In this instance we’re probably justified in believing the latter.

Why, then, are we surprised when Trump inveighs against his political opponents in terms which repeat his declarations against the Central Park Five?  No evidence is necessary — membership in a minority group will do; opposition to authority (especially his own?) is automatically suspect; a mythologized version of policing is embraced; and it sounds ‘tough’ to call for someone to be locked up even if there is no legal justification.

And, so we need to be watchful should we become inured to the outrageous nature of calls for extra-judicial punishment for political opponents.  This is serious stuff, on display since at least the Central Park Five advertising, and should be taken seriously.

 

 


 

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It’s Always About the Girls?

ESPN’s Jemele Hill posts her truth:  Donald Trump is a white supremacist.  What do we get from the lectern in the White House? This is a “fire-able offense.”  Hillary Clinton goes on her book tour.  What do we get?  She’s blaming every one but herself — when in fact she admits some 35 mistakes for which she took responsibility.  What does the occupant of the White House do?  He re-tweets a bit of anti-Semitic commentary with a GIF of Hillary Clinton being hit with a golf ball.  It would be tempting to oversimplify this, but there is a pattern:  Women being hit, women being fired, or women being otherwise assaulted or attacked is acceptable. There’s a word for this — misogynist.

These would be part of the background noise associated with the current administration, except that the misogyny is part of the administration’s policy, witness the Department of Education’s reversal of Title IX protections for those who report campus assaults.

“Perhaps it should come as no surprise that this latest undermining of survivors’ rights is taking place under the administration of a president who has bragged about sexually assaulting women. An administration in which the acting assistant secretary of education for civil rights, Candice Jackson, suggested, in July (she later apologized), that for “90 percent” of campus sexual assault allegations the complainants regretted having sex, but weren’t actually sexually assaulted.” [WaPo]

So, are we surprised that the Department of Education is dialing back the protections for assault survivors on college campuses?  If we are we shouldn’t be.  The signals have been there all along.

We couldn’t really miss the images of the President barging ahead out of a vehicle, leaving his wife to exit on her own, or the images of him climbing the steps to Air Force One again leaving his wife to mount the stairs without assistance.  Or, images of him holding the umbrella over his own head, leaving his wife to stride in his wake perhaps hoping to get some protection from the rain.  If he will treat his wife with this casual disregard, what can we expect of his attitude toward women he doesn’t know?  Why would we be surprised if he tweets a GIF showing a woman being hit by a golf ball?

So, what do Jemele Hill and Hillary Clinton have in common?  One’s black, the other is white.  One is an experienced politician, the other is a sportscaster and analyst.  One was born in 1975, the other married Bill Clinton in 1975.  One attended Michigan State University, the other attended Wellesley.  What makes them targets from the White House lectern?  They are women.

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Filed under Politics, Women's Issues, Womens' Rights

Passion and Politics: Playing Loose with the Truth

Lincoln Cartoon “George Templeton Strong, a prominent New York lawyer and diarist, wrote that Lincoln was “a barbarian, Scythian, yahoo, or gorilla.” Henry Ward Beecher, the Connecticut-born preacher and abolitionist, often ridiculed Lincoln in his newspaper, The Independent (New York), rebuking him for his lack of refinement and calling him “an unshapely man.” Other Northern newspapers openly called for his assassination long before John Wilkes Booth pulled the trigger. He was called a coward, “an idiot,” and “the original gorilla” by none other than the commanding general of his armies, George McClellan.” [Atlantic]

The descendents of those who passionately vilified Lincoln are with us today.   They become particularly noticeable during times when U.S. politics are polarized, polemicized, and full of more propaganda than factual content.  

Case in point: Those “30,000 missing emails” on Secretary Clinton’s server. There are, as we speak, some Internet trolls repeating the claim that Clinton ‘lost’ 30,000 emails during her tenure in the State Department. They’ve got the story bass-ackwards.

“So in 2014, Clinton’s lawyers combed through the private server and turned over about 30,000 work-related emails to the State Department and deleted the rest, which Clinton said were about personal matters.” [Politifact]

The rest of the FBI investigation?

Of the tens of thousands of emails investigators reviewed, 113 contained classified information, and three of those had classification markers. FBI Director James Comey has said Clinton should have known that some of the 113 were classified, but others she might have understandably missed.

Comey said the Justice Department shouldn’t prosecute Clinton because there isn’t enough evidence that she intentionally mishandled classified information. FBI investigators didn’t find vast quantities of exposed classified material, and they also did not turn up evidence that Clinton intended to be disloyal to the United States or that she intended to obstruct justice.  [Politifact]

So, the entire “scandal” doesn’t concern 30,000 emails, those were handed over early in the game; and, it boils down to 3 emails which can’t be shown to have been intentionally mishandled.  Anyone who has been paying attention knows that the investigations were entirely political, entirely overblown, and total malarkey but that’s not the point.  No matter how often the story is fact checked [MMA] [MMA] [Slate] [Star Telegram] [MJ] [WaPo] it is still being pumped by the passionate.

Those in that Basket of Deplorables doing the arm-work to keep the air in that story intended to cause “distrust” of Secretary Clinton are committed to their version – no matter how untrue, no matter how politicized because it’s their version.  Long advised by right wing radio hosts to distrust the media, distrust the ‘establishment,’ and to distrust anything other than the version of events as dispensed by the hosts, they will now easily slip into dismissing any explication which doesn’t fit their personal narrative.  In simpler terms, they don’t care if a statement isn’t true – they’ll find a way to make it that way.

We could add another ten links in the paragraph above to articles debunking the email story (or any other tale for that matter) and the emotional voter will dismiss all as “liberal media.”  Not that they have any idea what the ‘liberal media’ might be – it’s just that they identify as conservative, and the media isn’t enabling their narratives garnered from right wing sources.  Therefore, the media (having been described as liberal on AM radio) must be so. 

If a cavalier dismissal of conflicting information isn’t sufficient, there’s always the conspiratorial element – the ‘liberal’ media must be discredited because “they” are always “hiding something from us.”    Both the Distrust Element and the Conspiratorial Element make up a portion of that Basket of Deplorables – the racists, the misogynists, the bigots, the Islamophobes, the intolerant – which drive some of the support for Trump’s candidacy.

It doesn’t matter how many times the New York Times, or the Washington Post, or any other major news outlet debunks and fact checks Trump’s characterizations of people and events.  These people just aren’t into facts.

Another factor is the capacity of people to filter what they are hearing.  Did Donald Trump say that President Barack Obama was born in the U.S. and is therefore a legitimate president?  Well, they may say slyly, that’s what he said because he had to say it, he just doesn’t really truly mean it.  Interesting that this analysis comes from people who like Trump because “he tells it like it is.”

This isn’t of course to argue that Trump’s 40% support is coming solely from the Deplorables and the Deniers – Secretary Clinton herself acknowledged that there are those for whom our economic system isn’t working.  They’re frustrated, fearful, and in need of assistance not forthcoming from our current political systems.   They’ll vote “against the establishment” whatever that might be (such as Bush, Kasich, etc.) because they want some form of change.

Nor should we forget that there are those who will vote for anyone on the top of the ticket with an R.  There are yellow dog Republicans as well as Democrats.

Hence, this election in 2016 will come down to TURNOUT. Good old fashioned door knocking, phone calling, rides to the polls, TURNOUT.  We can be assured that the Deplorable element will be there, as they were for the mid-terms, and the disaffected will arrive.  It’s a matter of no small importance that Democrats make the same effort to GET OUT THE VOTE.

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Filed under Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Nevada politics, Politics, racism, Republicans

Clinton Speaks to Issues, Press follows Shiny Objects

Clinton with Kid Since corporate media is fascinated with every little tweet from the Trump Menagerie and every bit of its minutiae which can be hyper-analyzed, it’s left to other platforms to highlight Clinton speeches and their content.  Why am I posting this? Because on the day Clinton outlined major policy proposals on mental health services the national media was all tangled up in an NFL player’s protest and Trump’s publicity stunt trip to Mexico.

So, here’s what we’ve missed in just one subject matter  area – minority outreach.

Minority outreach speeches: July 8, 2016 Clinton Speech to the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Philadelphia PA.  A bit of it:

“As we know, there is clear evidence that African-Americans are much more likely to be killed in police incidents than any other group of Americans. And we know there is too little trust in too many places between police and the communities they are sworn to protect.” Clinton said that good law enforcement officers far outnumber those who are bad and a violent response to violence is not the answer. The protest in Dallas yesterday was peaceful and police were there to monitor the crowds and ensure the protesters’ safety when they were fired upon by a sniper. Clinton spoke about her proposal to invest $1 billion in police training across the county to ensure the safety of law enforcement officers as well as the general public.”

July 14, 2016, League of United Latin American Citizens, Washington DC.

“The choice we make will say a lot about who we are and whether we understand and celebrate the diversity of our country, which makes us all the stronger.”

July 18, 2016, address to the NAACP.

“There is, as you know so well, another hard truth at the heart of this complex matter: Many African-Americans fear the police.” Clinton vowed to work toward bridging the gap between the African American community and local police forces.”

June 4, 2016: Santa Barbara, CA community event focusing on women and families.

“The round table discussion consisted of local officials and representatives. Clinton spoke about a number of her platform points aimed at improving the lives of women and helping families. She spoke about increasing the minimum wage, ensuring that women receive equal pay for equal work, ensuring families have access to affordable childcare, and guaranteeing workers paid family leave.”

June 10, 2016: Planned Parenthood event, Washington DC.

“We know that restricting access doesn’t make women less likely to end a pregnancy. It just makes abortion less safe.  And that then threatens women’s lives.”

June 27, 2016: Rainbow PUSH Coalition event, Chicago, IL.

“Clinton’s primary focus was gun violence and introducing legislation to require background checks for the purchase of a firearm. She spoke about the importance of reducing gun violence saying, “I think saving our children and other people from gun violence is a civil rights issue right now in America.”

May 1, 2016:  Clinton is keynote speaker at the Detroit NAACP dinner.

“During her speech, she spoke about a number of platform topics including criminal justice reform, prison reform, gun control, and the refinancing of student loan debt. Clinton said that she wanted to continue to the progress of the last eight years.”

May 9, 2016: Stone Ridge, VA on women and work/life balance issues.

“She said that raising a family and having a career is harder today than it was when Chelsea was a kid. “Costs are greater, everything from commuting time to feeling like if you take that vacation day, you are going to be viewed as slacking off,” she said. Clinton went on to say that she knew that her proposals would change the current system, but it is important to realize that times have changed. She said, “We need to really start looking at these programs from the lens of what life is like today and not what it was like 50 years ago.”

May 10, 2016:  Lexington and Louisville, KY events on the economy and the family.  Follow this link to the bullet point outline of Clinton’s proposals.

May 22, 2016: Keynote address to the Circle of Mothers Restoration weekend, Fort Lauderdale, FL.

“Something is wrong when so many young people just starting their lives are dying. Something is very wrong, my friends, and this election gives us a chance to keep trying to make it right.”

Mr. Trump seems to have “discovered” minorities very recently?

And then, of course, there was the August 29, 2016 speech on mental health care issues – covered by Politico, the BBC, and PBS.  Those who missed what this was all about please follow this link to the briefing points and policy proposals from the Clinton campaign.

For those not content with beltway media blathering and who want a bit more good old fashioned CONTENT and context in their political discussions, there’s the Briefing Section/Fact Sheets portion of the Clinton Campaign.   As I’ve said before, I’ve given up on the corporate media doing much more than giving Trump free publicity and chasing after twitter streams.  Fortunately in this day and age we can do some of the heavy lifting ourselves without waiting for them to catch up.

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Filed under civil liberties, Clinton, Hillary Clinton, NAACP, Nevada politics, Women's Issues

What Democrats Want To Talk About

GOP Tantrum

Enough said?

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Filed under Nevada politics, Politics

Clinton on Quarterly Capitalism

Clinton “We need an economy where companies plan for the long run and invest in their workers through increased wages and better training—leading to higher productivity, better service, and larger profits. Hillary will revamp the capital gains tax to reward farsighted investments that create jobs. She’ll address the rising influence of the kinds of so-called “activist” shareholders that focus on short-term profits at the expense of long-term growth, and she’ll reform executive compensation to better align the interests of executives with long-term value.” [Clinton]

I could happily live with this.  She had me at “… where companies plan for the long run.”  Let me start here, and then move forward into a familiar topic on this digital soap box.  I, too, have had enough of “quarterly capitalism,” and it is high time someone offered a cogent proposal to deal with the specter.

First, no one should try to argue that all short term equity and bond purchases are necessarily bad – there are some valid reasons for such trading. However, as in most other things in life it is possible to have too much “of a good thing.”  Let’s face it, high frequency traders aren’t investors – they’re traders, and shouldn’t be confused with those who are putting capital into the distribution system.    Too much short term investing (trading) in the mix and we’re asking for problems, three of which from the investment side are summarized by PragCap:

    1. A short-term view tends to result in account churning, higher fees, higher taxes and lower real, real returns.
    2. A short-term view often results in reacting to events AFTER the fact rather than knowing that  a well diversified portfolio is always going to experience some positions that perform poorly in the short-term.
    3. Short-term views are generally consistent with attempts to “beat the market” which is a goal that most people have no business trying to achieve when they allocate their savings.

If short term investing isn’t good on the investor’s side of the ledger, it’s not good on the corporate side either.  Generation Investment Management (UK) issued a report in 2012 on “Sustainable Capitalism,” [pdf] that emphasizes this point:

“The dominance of short-termism in the market, often facilitated and exacerbated by algorithmic trading, is correlated with stock price volatility, fosters general market instability as opposed to useful liquidity and undermines the efforts of executives seeking long-term value creation. Companies can take a proactive stance against this growing trend of short-termism by attracting long-term investors with patient capital through the issuance of loyalty-driven securities. Loyalty-driven securities offer investors financial rewards for holding a company’s shares for a certain number of years. This practice encourages long-term investment horizons among investors and facilitates stability in financial markets, therefore playing an important role in mainstreaming Sustainable Capitalism.”

Or, put more succinctly, short-term vision creates market volatility (big peaks and drops) which makes our stock markets more unstable, and undermines executives who are trying to create companies with staying power.  Instability and volatility improve the prospects for traders but not for investors, and not for the corporations and their management.

If we agree that “quarterly capitalism,” or “short-termism” isn’t a good foundational concept for our economy – from either the investors’ or the company’s perspective, then what tools are available to make long term investing more attractive, and to help corporations seeking “patient capital?”

rats rear end One tool in the box is the Capital Gains Tax. If only about 14% of Americans have individual investments in “The Market” [cnbc] why should anyone give one small rodent’s rear end about the Capital Gains Tax structure? 

Because:  The present capital gains tax structure  rewards investment transaction income more than on earned income. If we are going to allow this lop-sided approach, then there has to be some economic benefit in it for everyone?  The current system:  

“Capital gains and losses are classified as long term if the asset was held for more than one year, and short term if held for a year or less. Taxpayers in the 10 and 15 percent tax brackets pay no tax on long-term gains on most assets; taxpayers in the 25-, 28-, 33-, or 35- percent income tax brackets face a 15 percent rate on long-term capital gains. For those in the top 39.6 percent bracket for ordinary income, the rate is 20 percent.” [TPC]

Thus, if one’s income is “earned” by trading assets then the tax rate is 20% at the top of the income scale, but if the income is earned the old fashioned way – working for it – the rate could be 39.6%.  This is supposed to incentivize investment.  But note the definition of a “long term asset,” as one held for more than 12 months… that’s right: 12 months. 

Contrast that definition of a long term investment with the Clinton proposal:

Clinton Cap Gains Tax ChartNotice that in Secretary Clinton’s structure the combined rate on capital gains moves from 47.4% for those “short term” investments, down to 27.8% if the investor holds the assets for more than six years.  Five and six years fits my definition of “long term” much better than a “little over 12 months.”

Thus we have an incentive for longer term investments, which means less instability and less volatility.  This seems a much better plan to practice “Sustainable Capitalism.”

rats rear end

But, what of the executive compensation packages that are tied to short term stock prices?   Yes.  That’s a problem. [NYT] And yes, President Bill Clinton’s attempt to rein in executive pay back-fired. However, Secretary Clinton has proposed legislation to provide shareholders a vote on executive compensation, especially on benefit packages for executives when companies merge or are bought out. Her proposal would have created a three year “claw back” period during which the SEC could require CEOs and CFOs to repay bonuses, profits, or other compensation if they were found to have overseen – or been intentionally involved in misconduct or illicit activity.  Granted that doesn’t cover the entire landscape of corporate misadventure, but this could be combined with the following excellent suggestion for amending the tax code:

“Instead, Section 162(m) could be rewritten to allow a deduction for compensation paid to any employee in excess of $1 million only if the compensation is paid in cash, deferred for at least five years and unsecured (meaning that if the company goes bankrupt, the executive would not have a priority over other creditors). This approach would encourage corporate executives to act more like long-term bondholders and obsess less about short-term stock price movements.” [NYT]

Every bit of “encouragement” might help.  I’d be very happy to see CEOs thinking like long term bond holders (if long term means more than 13 months) and less like the traders/gamblers in the Wall Street Casino.

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Filed under Clinton, Economy, financial regulation, Hillary Clinton, Politics, Taxation

I Guess I’m The Establishment

Clinton Logo

At the risk of bringing out the woodwork crowd, let’s open the door anyway. I’m a Clinton Supporter, and have been for some time.  Not that my support is exactly a necessity for anyone’s campaign – I supported Biden in 2008.  Kerry in 2004, and Bradley in 2000.  No one is now speaking of Presidents Biden, Kerry, or Bradley.  However much my endorsement may be the Kiss of Ultimate Obscurity, it does come from a recovering Republican whose former party went berserk in 1968 and over the edge in 1980.

I am a Democrat because I believe in capitalism.  As anyone who’s visited this blog more than a handful of times can attest, I do believe that capitalism works, and that it works better when financialism is restrained.  Wall Street is not an existential enemy.  For all the flaws in the system there has to be some way to distribute capital from sources of surplus to sectors of need, and no one has figured out a better way to do that than capitalism to date.  In short, a mixed economy provides the best way for businesses large and small to obtain the capital they need to sustain themselves and grow.  A mixed economy is, in my definition, capitalism regulated by rational restraints on the tendency to monopoly and financialism.

Therefore, it would be out of character for me to worry about Secretary Clinton’s speeches to Wall Street gatherings; I’m certainly not a Socialist by any stretch of the definition.

I am a Democrat because I believe there is strength in diversity.  We’ve become the greatest nation on this planet because, not in spite of, the cultural diversity of this country.  This is the nation that gave the Jewish genius Albert Einstein a safe haven in 1933, and we were better for it.  Sergey Brin came from Russia, and founded Google – pretty good for an immigrant. Jerry Yang came from Taiwan, to found Yahoo! I’m certain we’re better for attracting Carlos Santana and enjoying his music, and I’ll always think of Albert Pujols in “cardinal” red.  There’s Puebla Foods entrepreneur Felix Sanchez de la Vega Guzman whose NJ based company is now worth $19 million.  Interested in drones? Then you probably already know about Jordi Munoz who co-founded 3D Robotics.  I have to admit that I have mixed feelings about Garrett Morgan, the African-American inventor of a modern traffic light – I’m not sure I like him when stopped for a long pause, but he’s probably saved my life innumerable times.

In short, I’m not in need of a revolution of any sort.  I certainly don’t feel the need to make American great again – what’s not great about a country that attracts the best and brightest from all over the world?  Nor do I feel the need to upend the socio-economic system, remember I’m not a Socialist.  We can, and should, do a better job of diminishing the income inequality gap in this country.  However, that doesn’t require a “re-distribution” of any sort.  We need to adopt economic policies which encourage entrepreneurship and the expansion of the American middle class.

I am a Democrat because I believe John Donne was right. No man is an island. All that “rugged individualism” palaver is just so much gibberish seeking to justify selfishness, or “I got mine, now you try to get yours…sucker.”  Perhaps someone with money to burn can hire a private security company – but I need the local police.  And, even the family which can afford the security company still needs someone to insure that the clothing on their children’s’ backs isn’t highly flammable or toxic.

When the woman in the family is earning only about 3/4th of what a man in the family can make, then the entire family suffers for it, and so do the merchants who would otherwise see more retail sales at their grocery stores. How much productivity do we lose each day a youngster has to endure crowded classrooms and underfunded education systems?  How much more attractive are our cities and towns when they have libraries, parks, and an investment in the arts?

I am a Democrat because I believe in democracy.  Notice please that’s not libertarianism of any sort. My definition of the little d – democracy holds that where there are no holds barred there’s the least real freedom.  Without rules we’d be back to ‘might makes right’ and reverting to the savagery of ages past, like bronze, iron, and stone.

Again, let me affirm that I believe we have one of the best political systems on Mother Earth, if we truly cherish it and make it possible for more people to vote in our local, state, and national elections.  Getting registered to vote in this nation should be far easier than the effort required to buy a gun.  We need to renew our Voting Rights Act, to revisit our campaign funding schemes, and to require that the FEC  truly have the capability to ferret out and punish untoward practices.

I tire very quickly when individuals launch into conspiracy theories and assorted assertions of fraud and misadventure.  At the beginning of this piece I said that I’d backed several candidates none of whom were elected to the office aspired to; I could have named many more from state and local elections.  With the exception of the 200o election, which I believe to have been messed up by election rigging in key states, I do not believe that if a specific candidate loses a specific election it must be because of some nefarious plot to defy Democracy and Vox Populi.  The glazed over look in my eyes is probably there because I stopped believing in conspiracy theories long ago.

If this renders me “establishment” so be it. I do not expect any other person in this great free land to pass my political purity test and I have no interest in sitting for anyone else’s.

There’s a difference between partisanship and zealotry. I am a partisan.  Perhaps in the eyes of some I am worse yet – a pragmatist. I don’t believe in intransigent positions for the sake of intransigency and purity – if I did I’d still be a Republican.  I believe that compromise is a good word, and a good political outcome.  So, here I am, and if that’s “Establishment” it’s a badge I’ll gladly assume.

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Filed under Nevada politics, Politics

Polls, Pols, and Timing

Ballot box 2

There are 517 days until the next general election. 517.  That is almost 17 months.  Or, to illustrate it another way, an infant born today will be walking at the time the election comes around, and the little darling will be feeding itself (sort of, if you count spaghetti “worm wrestling” as a form of feeding).  By 18 months the toddler will have about a 20 word vocabulary, to apply along with an assortment of noises, some of which will be comprehensible.  Our toddling little newbie will also be a master of mimicry – which is fine if we’re talking about wiping a table with a sponge, not so fine if it’s an antique hardwood table.  In other words – it’s a LONG time before the next presidential/general election.  There are some things we can do as “consumers” of election and political news which can help make the 2016 experience more positive.

#1. Insist on the development of ISSUES.  For example, what is the best way to promote the growth of the American economy.  This is a long established issue, but remember, we want the development of this issue, not merely a collection of sound bites and dog whistles, and in a rational world this is the appropriate time for the parties to prepare the general outlines of their specific proposals.  Contrary to the common media offering of “What will Candidate X’s statement on job creation mean for blue collar voters?” think about what economic philosophy is the Candidate espousing?  Once the philosophy is clarified then individual proposals can be evaluated on the basis of how they will affect crucial elements of our economy and not merely for select electoral groups.  Consider the source.

Unfortunately, those who get air time, and the attention of punditry, are those who are dramatic, flashy, confrontational — or “newsworthy.”  Is that dramatic, flashy, confrontational candidate really the standard bearer for the party?  If not, then all that’s been accomplished from the issue development side of the ledger is the addition of much bombast and hot air.  This, like the tantrum of a not-quite-two year old, can be safely dealt with by taking a few deep breaths and staying calm.

#2. Insist on transparency.  In an era of “dark money” we need to know if the candidate is being manipulated by large donors of the Super Pac variety. Again, this far out from the general election, it’s still ‘finance’ time for the candidates.   And, in terms of finance, do I want to cast my vote for an individual who is receiving massive amounts of money from sources which are unidentified? Perhaps, it’s more important at this point in time to know to whom candidates (especially presidential aspirants) are speaking than exactly what they say.

Let’s assume at this early date that the candidates will say what they perceive the audience wants to hear – because the candidates are not necessarily there to propose profound ideas – but to collect money.  Buzz words beget buzz and buzz opens billfolds.

#3. Ignore polling. Of all my gripes with modern cable news, the persistence of polling and the reports of polling, heads the list.  17 months out from a general election the only thing we learn from polling is the level of a candidate’s name recognition.   Recognition is a long long way from establishing a ‘brand’ and even further from creating ‘identification’ on the part of the voting public.  I am about to decide that the level of poll reporting done by a media outlet is an indication of its general lack of resources and talent. The more polling reports the greater the paucity of resources and the less imaginative and intelligent the management.

And, herein I’ll give Secretary Clinton some props.

One of the more interesting bits of whining from the D.C. media came from Politico’s publication of Glenn Thrush’s ear-splitting screed about how Secretary Clinton ‘hates the press.’   There is a time for more media access, but 17 months out from a presidential election  isn’t it.  This, for politicians behaving like adults, is the time for dealing with finances and issue development.

Politico also seemed distressed that when Secretary Clinton recently visited Iowa she focused on “preaching to the choir,” in “controlled environments.”  Of course she met with “activists.” Who else does one meet with to set up the ‘ground game’ and seek donations?  Could we also say that when three Republican governors met with mega-donor Sheldon Adelson in late March, the candidates were “preaching to the choir in a controlled environment?”  Of course they were – it’s what candidates do at this stage of the game.

Speaking of issues – the only time we’ll see the entire project launched in a single moment is in a shipyard. Otherwise, we’ll see proposals rolled out one at a time; especially when there’s an advantage to be gained by putting the opposition on the defensive.  On Thursday, June 4, Secretary Clinton released her proposals concerning the expansion of voting rights.  Republicans, who’ve been hard pressed to find significant examples of voter fraud, were caught without a clear response:

“The result is a dynamic in which Republicans are outraged by an ambitious Clinton proposal, for reasons they have not yet identified. Christie thinks voter fraud is a massive problem in New Jersey, which isn’t true, and under the circumstances, isn’t entirely relevant. Perry thinks the status quo in Texas is already great, which would come as news to the 600,000 people the Republican governor helped disenfranchise. Kasich is worried about being “divisive,” as if expanded voting access is somehow inherently acrimonious.” [Benen]

Governor Scott Walker opined that the proposal was out of the mainstream and defied logic – although he couldn’t explain why or how. [Benen]  When issue positions are carefully crafted, and selectively timed, the result is usually good, i.e. the opponents are on the defensive, and “when you’re explaining, you’re losing.”

Thus far the Clinton Campaign has done a good job of staying on target, not rushing the timing, and not clamoring for any more attention from the press than is necessary to get selected messages out while concentrating on the issue development and financial aspects of the campaign.  (Don’t worry, I’ll have kind things to say about Senator Bernie Sanders later, but I think he’s running a very different model of campaigning.)

In the mean time, as those toddlers start walking and feeding themselves, the Beltway Media may want to take some time to review the structure and timing of politicians and campaigns, and not become too enamored of explaining and analyzing their own somewhat worthless polling.

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Filed under Economy, media, Nevada politics, Politics

Selling Benghazi, One Shriek At A Time

PeacockWouldn’t it be nice if today were the day the House Republicans decided NOT to sound like a steel barn filled to the rafters with alarmed peacocks?

There are more people signed up for private health insurance plans than predicted. People have paid their premiums. There are fewer people without health insurance than five years ago. [BusWk] So, what could be more predictable than…………

Benghazi! [Salon]

And, Heaven Forefend, anyone would ever believe the Republicans would attempt any fundraising on the tender subject?  Oh, they did? Yes, the Republican National Committee quickly sent out the message, trampling on Rep. Trey Gowdy’s disclaimer:

“I have never sought to raise a single penny on the back of four murdered Americans,” Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-South Carolina, said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” earlier this week.  A few minutes before Gowdy’s TV appearance, however, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) sent out an e-mail blast urging backers to become  “Benghazi Watchdogs” by giving money. “You can become a Benghazi Watchdog right now,” says the message on the NRCC’s “BenghaziWatchdog.com web site.” [Seattle PI]

But wait…there’s MORE!  There’s Merchandise.  Car magnets. Beer glasses. Throw pillows.  Shower curtains. Calendars. Iphone cases. And, my all time favorite — the pink footed pajamas.

What’s interesting about the merchandise, beyond the truly tacky nature of the products, are the ‘themes.’

There’s the “Alamo” motif on the car magnet admonishing us never to forget the patriots who died defending the diplomatic post — without mentioning that some of our Libyan allies also died there, and that Ambassador Stevens had opted not to accept additional security, along with the not so minor and well publicized cuts made to diplomatic security funding by the Republicans in the House.

There’s the “Bloody Hand” theme on the beer glass which conveniently merges U.S. operation in Afghanistan, Fast and Furious, and Benghazi into an arch above the logo.  Whoa, and here I was thinking that the GOP was in favor of our military intervention in Afghanistan?  How do you reconcile your “Bloody Hand” beer glass with your “Support the Troops” ribbon coasters?  And, if memory serves, wasn’t F&F launched during a previous administration?

That throw pillow will let the prospective owners get a jump on the Hillary Clinton bashing which will surely be a right wing theme in 2016 should the former Senator and Secretary of State decide to run for the presidency.  The owners will recognize Mrs. Clinton, Ambassador Rice, but want to make bets on how many will have to resort to Google to find out who “Mills” is?  Hint: You probably don’t know ‘Mills’ unless you are an aficionado of right wing conspiracy sites.

The shower curtain is pure 2016.  “Benghazi, what difference does it make,” — Clinton, is excerpted out of the context of her testimony to the Senate panel.   Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) tried to get the former Secretary to say the administration believed the attack was the result of ire about the anti-Islam video, Mrs. Clinton was having none of if, and retorted:

“With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans,” Clinton responded, raising her voice at Johnson, who continued to interrupt her. “Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk last night who decided to kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, Senator.” [HuffPo]

But, it’s really hard to get all of that on a shower curtain.  The essential question — what happened and how to prevent it from happening again — don’t seem to be part of the right wing screech machine repertoire.

The calendar asks “Who gave the stand down order?”  Huh? There was no stand down order, in fact the CIA rushed some operatives to the rescue in addition to some military assets which were immediately available. [Snopes]  If you want an accurate calendar, just cut off the top.

However, the Iphone case “Nobody died at Watergate, Impeach Obama now!” demonstrates that the Republicans have still not moved on from June 17, 1972.  Whatever any Democratic Party member does from now to eternity, will be “just as bad as Watergate!” No matter what.

The pink pajamas, with footies, reverts to the Alamo Theme — never forget. Possibly not, if for the heft price of $74.50 the decal tends to bleed if the sleeper sweats onto the sheets. And, should enough sweat permeate enough pj’s onto enough sheets then perhaps a substantial number of Klan members will be recalling Benghazi at future meetings?

But, hey, the House GOP isn’t being shrill about this — like screeching peacocks — they just want to raise a little money.

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Filed under Politics, Republicans