Tag Archives: Democrats

Make America Good Again: The Day After the Day After

MAGA blue good again

I am having trouble finding the words to express what I’m feeling this morning.  Is it disappointment in the response from the President to the bombs sent to prominent Democrats?  Not really, after his performance in the wake of the Charlottesville violence I can’t say I find his jab at the media this morning disappointing in the sense that I wouldn’t have expected it.

Am I frustrated by the Both Siders who persist in remarking how Both Sides Do whatever it is that everyone finds appalling?  Yes.  Let’s be fact-based for the moment.  Indeed, a left leaning whackadoodle shot up a GOP baseball practice severely injuring Congressman Steve Scalise; however, if we’re playing “balancing act” here then the scales are heavily weighted toward right wing terrorists who shot up a Unitarian church in Tennessee, who took a gun into the Holocaust Museum, who shot up a Bible study class in Charleston, SC, who drove into a crowded street in Charlottesville, VA, who terrorized a wildlife refuge in Oregon.   In fact, there’s a study out there showing that of 65 terrorist attacks in the US in one year 2/3rds of them were “tied to racist, anti-Muslim, homophobic, anti-Semitic, fascist, anti-government or xenophobic motivations.” [SPLC]  So, spare me the Both Sides Do It business.  I’m not in the mood for more obfuscation this morning.

I might also say I’m a little agitated by the calls for “civility.”  This form of advocacy seems perilously close to Both Side-ism, and I’m not really buying into it.  First, someone needs to tell the President that politics is a contact sport — like basketball as it is played in the paint.  If he can’t take the heat, then President Harry Truman had some advice: “Get out of the kitchen.”   If every criticism is taken as a personal insult, if every objection is perceived as an attack, then I suppose the President may feel assailed on all sides. Welcome to the office.  Is he thinking President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama loved all the press they got?  Did either of them continually whine about “fake news?”  Not that I recall.  I remember both arguing for broader perspectives or more focused information and articles, but Lord have mercy I don’t remember all the whingeing and whining that’s coming out of the White House now.

Secondly,  civility shouldn’t be subject to a double standard.  Is it civil to lie about Democratic positions on taxation, health care insurance programs, and veterans’ benefits?  — and then squeal like a stuck pig when this is challenged?  Is it mutually “civil” to lambaste one’s opponent for items real and imagined and then scream bloody murder when the lambasting is returned?  There’s too much loaded language involved in this element.  My side is “challenging” your side is “attacking.”  My side is “passionate,” your side is “unhinged.”  My side is activated, your side is an angry mob.  I’m tried of framing games.

Tone down, or dial down, the rhetoric?  Excuse me? Which side has a crowd chanting “Lock Her Up?”  “CNN sucks?”  Which side has advocated “2nd Amendment Solutions?” Which side has told voters to go to the 2018 polls armed because the Democrats may be an “angry mob?”  Which side equates harassment in a restaurant with driving a car into protesters and bomb threats?

A bit further along this line, don’t try to convince me this morning the President is completely unblemished, untarnished, untouched by the actions of whomever is sending and delivering the bombs.  I’m sure I understand the general notion of proximate causation.  I know full well the President didn’t directly inspire the actions of the whack-job who’s sending the bombs for whatever reason. I get that.  I also get that he’s not helping.

The President doesn’t get to lead chants, grin at the racist/misogynist antics of the crowd, and then wash his hands (or have them washed for him by his apologists) of the whole mess by saying, “I wasn’t directly involved.”

Teachers often refer to “classroom management,”  meaning that the tone in their classroom is set by the teacher who by instruction and example lets it be known that misbehavior is not tolerated — and 90% of the students will behave themselves accordingly.  Business owners often refer to “climate,” and mean that by instruction or example employees will follow standards of ethics and behavior associated with good management and customer/client relations practices.  90% of employees will conform, the other 10% will be looking for other employment.   This White House doesn’t appear to understand that management, climate, or whatever we want to call it, is a function of leadership. Real leadership. Hands on management and the establishment of a positive corporate culture and climate.  Leadership with real accountability.  Or, there’s the old cliché: fish rots from the head.

I want an America that’s good again.  I want an America which is seen worldwide as opposed to the killing of journalists from any newspaper from any country.  I want an America that doesn’t lock children in cages and call it a deterrent for asylum seekers. I want an America where the 99% can expect the same deference to their economic needs as the top 1%.  I want an America where children don’t have live fire drills in elementary and secondary schools. I want an America where parents don’t wait to take a child to a physician because they can’t afford a medical bill that month.  I want an America where everyone is encouraged to vote. I want an America where no one thinks sending bombs to prominent politicians is excusable, and that a President can be excused for his un-empathetic response to the incidents.

I want an America that’s good again.

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Filed under Nevada politics, Politics

And now some after thoughts

There are some Nevada politicians still clutching Trumpian coat-tails, or pants’ legs, or something as of now.  They might want to ask some questions, some fundamental, some quotidian, some tangential about that posture.  We’ve had a day in which President Obama has spoken of a need to preserve and protect our democratic institutions, and in which his successor has spoken of a felt need to use the Department of Justice to pursue his personal political critics.  It’s time to address the questions.

Do Nevada politicians really want to associate themselves with a president who cannot, or perhaps will not, differentiate between his own sense of security and the security of this nation?  There is a difference.  Our national security is not compromised by the publication of non-classified, albeit controversial, information about how the West Wing functions.  It is a stretch to assume that IF a person divulges information from a meeting then it is presumed the individual in questions would necessarily reveal classified information.  I can think of one instance in which #45 shared information with Russian visitors to the White House that compromised sources and methods; no sources and methods were compromised by the NYT op-ed piece.

President Bush took flack from critics of the Iraq War, from those critical of his administration’s response to Hurricane Katrina, and from others who decried his economic policies and his advocacy of de-regulation.  Never once did he call the press an “enemy of the people.”  President Obama received his share of criticism and complaint concerning everything from wearing a tan suit to the validity of his birth certificate. Never once did he call the press an “enemy of the people.”  Both these men understood the difference between the President and the Presidency, and the difference between being the Head of State and the State itself.

Merely because criticism makes #45 feel insecure doesn’t mean the state is insecure.  Bush understood this. Obama understood this.  Nevada politicians would do well to consider whether or not to wholeheartedly support someone who can’t make this distinction.

Do Nevada politicians truly want to run campaigns anchored in a message of fear and division?  What is gained by suggesting that Nevada citizens of Hispanic origin are less “American” than the citizens of Irish, German, Polish, Basque, or Chinese descent who preceded them?  What is gained by inferring that immigrants from the Philippines are less capable of assimilating into the broad fabric of Nevada life than the immigrant workers in the hospitality industry who came from other countries?  What is better for Nevada in the long run, promoting a path to citizenship and entrepreneurial opportunities for immigrants to this country (and this state), or building walls, both metaphorical and literal to keep them at a distance?

It isn’t necessary to run about wearing a white hood to touch the vile pitch of racism.  All that’s required is to advocate in favor of restricting the economic opportunities, circumscribe the education, and diminish the participation in civic life, for various ethnic or minority groups.  We can constrict them, devalue them, and make advocacy difficult for them.  We can take away their voices by capriciously restraining their voting rights.  We can wall ourselves off from them.  However, in doing so we only succeed in encircling and shrinking ourselves.

If there’s one thing Nevada has it’s miles and miles of beautiful miles and miles. We can see further toward the horizons beyond most other topographical regions in this nation.  Why would we choose to close down our social horizons when after a few moments driving time we can open up our physical ones?   Every time we build a wall we restrict our own field of vision.

Fear usually breeds failure.  Do Nevada politicians want to associate with failed policies? Nothing seems like a larger failure than the Zero Tolerance debacle on our southern border.  416 children to date separated from their parents, some of whom were lawfully seeking asylum in this country.  Too many of these youngsters are under the age of 5.  This is an unconscionable failure.  Unless, of course, one adopts the President’s mindset that immigrants from Mexico and Central America “infest” our country; unless, of course, one thinks of people from Sh*thole Countries as undesirable. And now the Administration wants to detain families indefinitely. Indefinitely. [Vox]

There is only one nation on this planet that pulled out of the Paris Climate Accords, and as President Obama noted today, it wasn’t Syria…it was the United States of America.  There is only one nation that gave away dominance in regional trading by backing out of the Transpacific Partnership…it was the United States of America.  China and Japan are only too happy to fill the void.  There is only one western democracy causing friction among NATO allies…the United States of America. There is only one nation threatening trade wars with debilitating tariffs … the United States of America.  There is only one nation taking positions which could seriously damage trade relations with two of its most valuable trading partners… the United States of America.  This isn’t success.

We got vague promises of future vague promises from the North Korean regime.  While we made relations with China more difficult, the Chinese now have less incentive to pressure North Korea to do more.  The North Koreans are continuing their military research apace. This isn’t success.

Polarization begets gridlock, and gridlock impedes progress.  Do Nevada politicians want to take this route?  My way or the highway is NOT a bargaining position.   Implacable positions, taken for political expediency, mean a politician can never follow the dictum: Campaign in poetry, Govern in prose.  I can startle a conservative relative by arguing that single payer health care would promote entrepreneurship and support small businesses by leveling the playing field between the big box retailers and the mom and pop stores.  My conservative relative can widen my eyes by arguing that when work requirements are attached to Medicaid benefits we should be mindful of single adults, who while not physically disabled, are intellectually or developmentally challenged, and adjustments should be made for them.   If hard and fast positions don’t advance conversations; then how can they be an impetus toward progress?

We can, and must, do better.  And, we’ll do better when we function from a foundation predicated on our shared values, not one based upon our private fears.

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Filed under Nevada politics, Politics

Dear Media, There’s Nothing Wrong With The Democratic Party That Democrats Can’t Fix (Thank You Very Much)

newspapers 1Dear Media (especially the morning pundit chattering variety on the television set.) There is nothing wrong with the Democratic Party that Democrats can’t fix.  However, never let it be said we’d stop you from endless pontificating on one of your favorite themes: Democrats in Disarray.  So, this morning we have yet another segment, this time on MSNBC, about the “Rift” in the Democratic Party.   Not that anything in this little rant will deter you from embracing one of your favorite themes, but PLEASE take a couple of thoughts into consideration.

Thought Number One:  The Democratic Party is not now, nor has it ever been a monolithic lock step organization and model of political efficiency.  There are urban Democrats and rural Democrats; capitalist Democrats and socialist Democrats; able bodied and disabled Democrats; straight and gay Democrats; men and women Democrats; white and African American and Hispanic and whatever Democrats. There are college educated Democrats, and Democrats without high school diplomas. There are Democrats with homes in the suburbs, and Democrats living in mobile home parks.  Getting the picture?  What all these Democrats have in common is that they care about the other Democrats…and their Republican and Independent neighbors as well.  They want everyone to have health insurance; a chance for an education; a secure retirement; equal pay for equal work, and humane laws concerning immigration and gun safety.

So, yes. There will be squabbles about Single Payer health insurance systems versus private insurance models. There will be heated discussions about how many educational services will be provided to whom over what period of time.  There will be disagreements about agricultural subsidies and banking regulations.  There will be rifts all over the place — it’s called a “healthy civic discourse.”  And, the way Democrats squabble with one another it would seem we are among the healthiest civic “discoursers” around.

This may surprise you, dear Media, but this leads to our Second Thought.

Thought Number Two:  We like it.  We challenge each other.  The more Socialist among us challenge those of us of a more Capitalist bent to justify the way we think about financial regulations.  The more Capitalist among us challenge our more Socialistic inclined brethren to think in practical terms of how social programs are to be administered and financially supported.  The more urban Democrats challenge their agricultural cohorts to think in terms of the needs of city dwellers, while the agriculturally interested Democrats remind the city dwellers that major metropolitan areas don’t have enough cropland to provide sandwich bread for 7 million people.

We may even shriek a bit at one another, hurling the ultimate insult, “You’re not really a Democrat,” about.  However, when the chips are down we don’t want anyone turned away from a voting booth for any nefarious reason; we don’t want children separated unnecessarily from their parents; and we certainly don’t want farmers going bankrupt as a result of a silly trade war.  We may rail at one another over the details of a health care plan, but we agree that people with pre-existing medical conditions shouldn’t be gouged to pay for health insurance premiums.   There are as many different combinations of interests as there are Democrats to express them, and now for our third thought.

Thought Number Three:  We are national and local.  We have this old fashioned idea that the representatives (from school boards to city councils to county commissions to state legislatures to the halls of Congress) should represent their constituents.   We are often amused to find pundits expressing something just short of amazement that candidate Haymaker, a relatively conservative rural Democrat recently won a seat in the State Legislature.  Yes? Why not? Haymaker probably represents the needs, aspirations, and politics of — wait for it — his or her constituents.  If this doesn’t fit neatly into some national pundit’s nifty theory of national political trends, so be it.  It’s not our (Democrats) fault if our candidates and elected officials don’t align precisely with Pauly Pundit’s theoretical framework du jour.  Live with it.

Thought Number Four:  The Democrats in Disarray thing is getting boring. I know, it’s a convenient hook upon which to hang a story, a handy narrative on which to pad out a few column inches into a full column, BUT please… it’s getting old, stale, and noticeably desiccated.  Why, Dear Media, don’t you want to spend yet more time interminably interviewing Trump voters to seek out tiny indications of Buyer’s Remorse?  You probably won’t find much there either, any more than you will get eight Democrats in a room to agree upon the specific elements of anything.  However, the endless media fascination with “real people,” as if African American urban factory workers are “unreal,” is perilously close to insulting — as in, let’s find some grammatically challenged suitably casually dressed individuals with guns in the back of the pickup cab to interview as if these are “real Americans” to the exclusion of all others — including the college educated, articulate, and middle income individuals living right down the road who may or may not be identified with the same political party.

So, thank you very much members of the Chatterati — but let’s leave the Democrats to it — to their very own loving and sometimes even lovable capacity to crash and bash into each other.  However, don’t expect Democrats to be incapable of recognizing when matters at hand have reached crucial moments.  We, as Democrats, may be slow to move, slower to move in unison, but when faced with assaults on core principles and values move we do.  And will.

See you in November.

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Filed under media, Politics

Work With Him? Why? It doesn’t seem to pay.

Let’s guess it won’t be too long before some pundit expounds on the necessity of the Democrats to “work with the (Trumpster Fire) Administration” because not to do so will be to risk retribution in the off year elections.  To which I will call… the southbound product of a northbound male bovine.  Why?

A man who doesn’t pay his bills isn’t likely to be a good negotiating partner. No matter what the closing price may be, he’ll probably try to get out of it. Proof, you ask? Try the June 9, 2016 edition of USA Today.  “Trump Doesn’t Pay His Bills.”  Need more?  On the same day, the Wall Street Journal ran essentially the same information, and if suppliers and vendors couldn’t get paid why should anyone think he’ll keep to his bargains now?  CNN highlighted small business owners who got the Trumpster Treatment.  The Atlantic magazine described the Trumpster’s many ways to avoid laws, contracts, and ethics.   And, then there were the “Freedom Girls,” the young dancers who didn’t get paid.  Any questions about why the Trumpster can’t get talent to perform at his Investiture?  Performers are business people, they depend on getting paid, and this man doesn’t exactly have a track record of paying much of anyone – including an 82 year old immigrant for services rendered.

A man who doesn’t stand for anything won’t be a reliable partner in any deal.  He hates the Electoral College?  He did in 2012.  Now he loves it.   In 1999 he was very Pro Choice.  Now he says he’s Pro Life aka anti-abortion. He’d have us believe that he manufactured his products overseas because the “system made him do it.”  Really?  It’s not like there aren’t perfectly profitable clothing manufacturers in the US.  He’s anti-immigration – but, wait, he needs foreign workers for his winery.  For that matter, he has a decades long record of hiring foreign workers.  Thus, for anyone sitting across the table from him the message is reasonably clear – whatever he says he believes today may not be what he purports to believe tomorrow.

A man who lies doesn’t care what he negotiates because there’s no way to hold him to his end of the bargain.   Remember when he said he didn’t settle cases? And then there was the settlement in the Trump University fraud case.   Oh, how he saved jobs in Indiana – but wait, more jobs left the state than stayed, and those that were left weren’t guaranteed.  Then there’s the matter of conflicts of interest with his businesses – he doesn’t have any conflicts? Wrong? Handing them over to his children will satisfy the law? Wrong again.   If you believe he is going to cut the carried interest tax loophole with an Administration full of Goldman Sachs and hedge fund managers – I have some used cars I’d like to unload on you.

A man who hides his side of the negotiations while demanding his opponents operate in complete transparency isn’t reliable.  Where are those tax returns?  What do they show about conflicts of interest? Potential involvement with financial institutions he’s tasked with regulating while they hold his paper?  Involvement with foreign countries who may have “something on him.”

It isn’t simply a matter of Doing to the GOP what they did to President Obama for 8 years…stall, delay, deny, and obfuscate… Democrats have no evidence that this incoming administration will deal honestly, forthrightly, and with any form of stability.  Until they do, there’s no rational person on the planet who should ever believe anything coming from the Trumpster White House.

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Capitalism Won’t Be Saved By Republicans

For the sake of this argument let’s assume that while capitalism may not be the most egalitarian system of resource management and allocation, it’s the best one we have to date.  It’s a bit like the definition of democracy – it isn’t perfect, but no one’s come up with anything better.  So, with this in mind we can propose that capitalism is worth saving.  But, saving from what?  And here I climb back on the hobby horse – we need to save free market capitalism from Financialism.

What is Financialism?  If you’ve just tuned in, I’ve been operating with the Armistead definition:

“Financialism is an economic system where the primary activity consists of creating and manipulating financial instruments.  Financial instruments…are in their original form firmly linked to economic reality.  However, when financialism sets in, financial instruments become progressively further removed from their role in supporting commerce in the real world and develop a life of their own.”  [Armistead]

When this “life of its own” comes in to play there are some serious problems for the underlying economy.  Michael Konczal summarizes the issue as succinctly as anyone:

“If you want to know what happened to economic equality in this country, one word will explain a lot of it: financialization. That term refers to an increase in the size, scope, and power of the financial sector—the people and firms that manage money and underwrite stocks, bonds, derivatives, and other securities—relative to the rest of the economy.

The financialization revolution over the past thirty-five years has moved us toward greater inequality in three distinct ways. The first involves moving a larger share of the total national wealth into the hands of the financial sector. The second involves concentrating on activities that are of questionable value, or even detrimental to the economy as a whole. And finally, finance has increased inequality by convincing corporate executives and asset managers that corporations must be judged not by the quality of their products and workforce but by one thing only: immediate income paid to shareholders.”

That second paragraph is a summation of what we’ve been looking at for the last 20 years.   If we were discussing capitalism we’d be talking about economic growth predicated on development in manufacturing, housing, infrastructure, energy, agriculture, primary industries, transportation, etc.  However, we’ve not been talking about capitalism, especially in the media. We’ve been lathered up and shaved by financialism.

We barely know what capitalism is anymore.  What’s the first thing that comes to mind when someone says, “business news?”  If you said, “stock market report” that would reflect what the evening news gives you. Usually the Dow Jones Industrial Average comes first, and then ‘what drives it’ comes in commentary purporting to be analysis.  Consider the following reaction to inquiries about the strength of the economy in 2012:

“The stock market in the past has been a leading indicator, but that leading quality has weakened in recent years. Stock prices are driven by profits and profit growth. During the Great Recession, corporations have been able to maintain profitability by slashing employment to reduce costs. They have streamlined their operations and have squeezed more productivity out of their remaining workers. Thus, higher stock prices don’t necessarily mean a stronger economy, especially in terms of employment growth. That said, I do think the economy is on an upward path, with job growth of about 2 million expected for the national economy in 2012.” [SDUT]

And here we have an illustration of the third point Konczal was making:  Corporations are judged not by the quality of their products, the character of their work forces, the direction of their research and development – but by the immediate income paid to shareholders.

Couple this with the Shareholder Theory of Value, which Jack Welch once referred to as the “dumbest idea in the world,” and the financialist  incentive is to maximize productivity, prioritize immediate results, and ignore the stakeholders for the benefit of the shareholders.  Now, view the Epi Pen issue from the perspective of the shareholders – the object was to increase immediate shareholder value, but:

“While individual consumers may not have had a voice or recourse, the market did. Mylan may have improved its margins and ultimately driven higher returns and shareholder value, but within a week the price increase cost the company $3 billion in market cap and a stock tank of over 12% in 5 days.” [Fortune]

Ethics do matter, especially to stakeholders.  If there is a silver lining in this cloud it is that the stakeholders (individual consumers, school districts, emergency responders, local fire departments…) can place significant pressure on shareholders.  Breach the bounds of acceptable human behavior and the amorphous market will take a bit out of the corporate hide; illustrating former CEO Welch’s point precisely.

Now, let’s enter the political phase.  Republicans would love to dismantle the financial regulation structure which has curtailed some of the excesses of Financialism which precipitated the last Great Recession.  Out with Sarbanes-Oxley, Out with Dodd Frank, out with “excessive regulation.”   This is a recipe for disaster.  Regulation restrains, and restraint is what is needed to prevent capitalism from degenerating into financialism.

Again, a summation from Konczal:

“…the most important change will be intellectual: we must come to understand our economy not as simply a vehicle for capital owners, but rather as the creation of all of us, a common endeavor that creates space for innovation, risk taking, and a stronger workforce. This change will be difficult, as we will have to alter how we approach the economy as a whole. Our wealth and companies can’t just be strip-mined for a small sliver of capital holders; we’ll need to bring the corporation back to the public realm. But without it, we will remain trapped inside an economy that only works for a select few.”

Income inequality on steroids? More Bubbles? More volatility? And, more economic problems associated with those issues.  It will be up to Democrats to resist the financialization of the American system of capitalism because the Republicans are either trapped in its web or ignorant of its consequences.

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Filed under Economy, financial regulation

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

After the Balloons

DNC 2016 balloonsThe balloons dropped, the convention crews are clearing venue, and the real work begins.  On the positive side of the ledger, the Democrats reclaimed God, the Flag, and the ‘sunny patriotism’ of the Reagan afterglow. [JPP] Now the 100 days tick down to the final result on November 8, 2016.  There’s plenty of work for everyone, and pitfalls aplenty.

Pitfall warning sign small

The Republicans have been working diligently to suppress the votes of precisely those citizens who are likely to cast ballots for Democratic candidates.  We need to pay close attention to what the Brennan Center is saying about voting rights in America:

“The 2016 election season is already in full swing. As voters in a number of states face new restrictions for the first time in a presidential election, we’ve already seen problems in primaries across the country.  A new photo ID requirement led to long lines in Wisconsin. A reduction in polling places forced some to wait five hours to vote in Arizona. New rules created confusion in North Carolina. This could be an early glimpse of problems in November — as voters face the first presidential election in 50 years without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act, which was designed to prevent discrimination in voting.”

Let’s not kid ourselves about what will be going on in Wisconsin, North Carolina, Arizona, and other states in which Republicans have implemented creative ways to suppress the votes of the elderly, the young, the members of ethnic minorities, and women.   Repeating for emphasis: “…voters face the first presidential election in 50 years without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act, which was designed to prevent discrimination in voting.”

“Aside from new restrictions considered in 2016, there are 17 states with voting restrictions in place for the first time in a presidential election this year. The new measures range from strict photo ID requirements to early voting cutbacks to registration restrictions.

Those 17 states (with new laws) are: Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin.” [Brennan]

What this means is voting registration drive efforts must be supported and enhanced in every way the laws allow. That voters must be attentive to efforts to suppress the vote by closing polling places in minority neighborhoods.  That voters must demand sufficient hours for voting, sufficient polling stations for elections, sufficient staffing for elections.  If you don’t know what these are –ask! Ask, and share the information any way you can, to any one you can.  Voter registration information for Nevada is located here.  Eligible voters in Nevada can update their information online.  The list of voting registrars and county clerks and their contact information is located here.

Register, check the status of your registration, (any name change? change of address?) help someone else register to vote.  Given the efforts at voter suppression in this election cycle it may not be enough to simply show up to vote, especially in those 17 states listed above, it may require a little extra effort, more volunteers, and more resources.  Support the ACLU, the League of Women Voters, Voto Latino, and other groups in the community who work to expand the electorate. 

Take hope – the North Carolina voting discrimination law has been declared discriminatory by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, in a major win for voting rights.  The anti-voting law in Texas was struck down by the usually very conservative 5th Circuit Court.  There’s hope, but it’s still going to take some extra effort.

Pitfall warning sign small

Don’t expect the top of the ticket to be the end and be all. As Democrats learned to their sorrow in the last mid-term elections (and in too many mid-term elections previously) that state and local elections matter.  Nevada has an excellent candidate for the U.S. Senate: Catherine Cortez Masto, who wants to overturn Citizens United, protect Medicare and Social Security, Raise the minimum wage, and enact comprehensive immigration policy reform.

There’s a credible candidate in Nevada’s heavily Republican Congressional District 2, Chip Evans.  Evans’ tells us: “Growth comes from reinvesting in our middle class. We must modernize our infrastructure to remain competitive, repeal laws providing tax breaks for companies sending jobs overseas, and leverage public/private partnerships to train workers while rebuilding our manufacturing base.”

There’s a really stark contrast in Nevada’s Congressional District 4: Ruben Kihuen versus the ever-inarticulate, gaffe-o-matic, Bundy sympathizer, Cresent Hardy.  In case anyone’s unsure about Hardy’s ethno-nationalist perspective, remember he’s the one who won’t debate Kihuen on a local Spanish language broadcast. No, Cresent, no one is asking you to speak Spanish – bless his heart he has enough trouble with English.

There are State Senate and State Assembly seats up for election, there are county commissioners, and school board, and other local elections in this election.  And, please remember that for many candidates the local elections are often the incubators for future candidates for statewide and national elections.  No national leader, executive or legislative, can do it alone. There must be a support system at the state and local level.

Call, register, volunteer, or as Secretary Clinton reminded us, be a good ‘Methodist,’

Wesley Quote

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Filed under Nevada Democrats, Nevada legislature, Nevada politics, Politics, Republicans, Vote Suppression, Voting

The Dangerous Voices of America, Amplified and Televised

A couple of days ago Clay Shirky posted Tweets which should explain why and how Donald Trump has any support among the American electorate.  It’s an article that should be read, reviewed, and taken to heart.  Here’s a bit of the piece:

“I want to say something to my liberal white friends: Trump talked a lot of shit last night, but not one word of “I am your voice!” was a lie”

— Clay (((Shirky))) (@cshirky) July 22, 2016

Trump IS the voice of angry whites. He wasn’t on stage because he has unusual views. He was on stage because he has the usual ones, loudly.

— Clay (((Shirky))) (@cshirky) July 22, 2016

He is the voice of whites who want their neighbors deported if they speak Spanish. He is the voice of whites terrorized by seeing a hijab.

— Clay (((Shirky))) (@cshirky) July 22, 2016

He is the voice of people who think legal & cultural privileges for white conservative Protestants are God’s plan, not a bias to be overcome

— Clay (((Shirky))) (@cshirky) July 22, 2016

He is the voice of people who hear ‘hard-working’ as a synonym for ‘white.’ He is the voice of people who think black lives matter less.

— Clay (((Shirky))) (@cshirky) July 22, 2016

He speaks for millions.”

There are some other facets to cope with as well, Trump speaks for those who believe that if people in a room are speaking [Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, or German…] it must be because they are saying something they don’t want the “Americans” to understand.

His is the voice of people who don’t mind seeing Hispanic maids cleaning their hotel rooms, but don’t want them speaking up about making a living wage.  Or asking for better working conditions on farms, or asking for much of anything for that matter.  “They” are taking “American jobs,” according to the voice of Trumpism.  However, that doesn’t stop the Trumpers from demanding they do the work.  His is the voice of those who decry immigration from Central and South America, but “like the immigrants;” they just wish there weren’t so many of them.

His is the voice of all those neighbors we’ve heard who are outraged by the offer from the answering services that if we like to have the customer assistance in Spanish, please press “2.”

His is the voice of those who conveniently forget that Great-grandfather  came here and didn’t speak English, but now three generations later none of the descendants can do much more than order food in the original language.

His is the voice of those who denounce racism while adamantly opining that if “they” would just act more “white” there would be fewer problems.

His is the voice of the woman horrified that the lady sitting next to her wearing the hijab might be a “terrorist,” while nodding respectfully at a nun in her habit.  His is the voice of the man who can’t tell the difference between a Muslim and a Sikh, and doesn’t really care if there is one.

His is the voice of the person who believes that having to live in a country in which members of the LGBT community are open and honest about their relationships is “oppressing,” i.e. because the individual is uncomfortable with gay and lesbian people therefore he is “oppressed” if he is required to be tolerant towards them.

His is the voice of those who believe that if some one unlike himself is granted the full advantages of citizenship and freedom then it must be at his expense, without realizing he is arguing for white supremacy and institutional racism.

His is the voice of those who believe that there’s nothing wrong with flying the Stars and Bars – it’s just heritage.  That it is a heritage of hate isn’t to be acknowledged.  In short, Trump is the voice of Tribalism.

His is the voice of the person who thinks it’s President Obama’s duty to make him feel comfortable; and should the President offer an African-American perspective on an issue, then he is the one being “divisive.”

Unless someone has invented a magic solution to erase racism, misogyny, bigotry, and irrationality in the last month or so, these people will be going to the polls in droves to express their fears, their anxieties, and in some unfortunate instances their hatred.

They don’t care if Trump lies – he’s their voice, amplified and televised. They don’t care if he’s a hypocrite whose products are manufactured in the countries he attacks – he’s their voice, amplified and televised.  They don’t care if he’s got the foreign policy experience of a hamster – he’s their voice, amplified and televised.

Shirky’s advice is important, we have to campaign as if we are the minority, always remembering that there are now insidious Voter ID laws in 33 states, and gerrymandering in so many others.

Challenge the Trumper in the family – Are you really going to vote for a man who would deny healthcare for your wife and daughter? Are you really going to vote for a man who thinks African Americans are inherently violent/lazy? Are you really going to vote for a man who believes that NATO is something to be toyed with?   Are you going to vote for a man who has the support of white nationalists?  The usual response comes back, “I like him because he says what he thinks.”  If so, is he saying what YOU think?

Challenge the system – donate, donate, donate, when and as much as you can.  Help where you can and how you can. And every moment from now until election day remember that 40% of Americans believe Trump is speaking in their Voice.

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Filed under Politics, racism

A Prophet in his own country

Deval Patrick Remember this speech?

“…The same choice faces the nation today. All that today’s Republicans are saying is that if we just shrink government, cut taxes, crush unions and wait, all will be well. Never mind that those are the very policies that got us into recession to begin with! Never mind that not one of the governors who preached that gospel in Tampa last week has the results to show for it. But we Democrats owe America more than a strong argument for what we are against. We need to be just as strong about what we are for.

The question is: What do we believe? We believe in an economy that grows opportunity out to the middle class and the marginalized, not just up to the well connected. We believe that freedom means keeping government out of our most private affairs, including out of a woman’s decision whether to keep an unwanted pregnancy and everybody’s decision about whom to marry. We believe that we owe the next generation a better country than we found and that every American has a stake in that. We believe that in times like these we should turn to each other, not on each other. We believe that government has a role to play, not in solving every problem in everybody’s life but in helping people help themselves to the American dream. That’s what Democrats believe.

If we want to win elections in November and keep our country moving forward, if we want to earn the privilege to lead, it’s time for Democrats to stiffen our backbone and stand up for what we believe. Quit waiting for pundits or polls or super PACs to tell us who the next president or senator or congressman is going to be. We’re Americans.” [Deval Patrick 2012]

The speech was given in 2012… and a mere two years later Democrats continued to fumble the message. Here are some clues we might have taken.

#1. Never run as a Republican-Lite.  Why bother?  If the district or state is conservative then those who are inclined to vote Republican will do so; why should they vote for an ersatz Republican when they can vote for the “real thing?” 

#2. Run to success.  I repeat myself:

“Democrats have a party the leadership of which: Produced 63 consecutive months of economic growth; we have 54 straight months of increased private sector employment; the unemployment rate has dropped from 10.1% in October 2009 to 5.9%; the federal deficit has been reduced by 66% since October 2009; the rate of federal spending increases is the lowest (1.4%) since the Eisenhower administration; 95% of Americans pay lower taxes than at any time in the last fifty years; 7 million Americans have health insurance they could not have afforded before the ACA; and the rate of health care spending increases has been less (1.3%) than any year since 1965. [pdf]”

#3. Define yourself before the opponent defines you.  Grab your issues firmly – increasing the minimum wage, reforming the administration of student loans, comprehensive immigration reform,  increasing funding for veterans’ care and services, increased funding for infrastructure maintenance and improvement – whatever fills your sails.    Do as much as you can to force your opponent to debate on your terms and about your agenda.

#4.  Remind your audiences that your opponent is easily distracted by shiny objects.  You want to run on a platform of (a stronger middle class, more opportunities for middle class families, higher employment, or whatever), while your opponent wants to sell fear, dismay, or downright panic over things that in the long run really aren’t very important, are downright fabrications, or are antithetical to the advancement of middle class Americans.

#5. Go back and read Governor Patrick’s full speech again.

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The Gordian Knot of Democratic Politics

Gordian Knot 2 Yes, Democrats – there’s a problem.  A party which can haul out voters during presidential elections is having an obvious problem getting the citizens out during the off-year elections.   The GOP, which did an “autopsy” of its 2012 efforts and then proceeded to ignore the results, did quite well.  It probably did so by offering the ideologues what they wanted —

The Philosophical Knot

At the risk of getting a bit philosophical,  “political zealots are people who are  over-indulging their emotional need of hatred.”  And, “men adopt ideas, not because it seems to them that those ideas are true, or because it seems to them that those ideas are expedient, but because those ideas satisfy a basic emotional need of their nature.”  (Bruce Montgomery)

If one’s “basic emotional need” is to have someone or something to blame for one’s anxiety then the GOP offered up a veritable gourmand’s banquet of targets.  The Appetizer:  Demonized Democratic leadership – Don’t you want to hate those people like Senator Harry Reid? Representative Nancy Pelosi? President Barack Obama?  The Soup: A Beltway Press club which once having determined its preferred narrative is loathe to give it up even in the face of stark evidence to the contrary.  “The President won’t work with the Congress,” for example, as if the Republican congressional leaders didn’t meet in a D.C. restaurant in 2009 and determine that theirs would be a strategy of obstruction throughout the President’s term.   The Fish or Chicken:  Well publicized Republican whines when their positions weren’t adopted completely, re-defining what the term “compromise” initially meant.  The GOP got nearly everything it wanted in the Affordable Care Act, including the adoption of a proposal originating with the Heritage Foundation, and then voted solidly against it, after which they  whined to the gates of glory about the provisions.  The Palate Cleanser:  The careful packaging of otherwise radical Tea Party candidates so that their rough edges were camouflaged, see incoming Senator Joni Ernst.  The Main Course: Fear! Ebola!  — all one case of it. ISIS! Some 33,000 terrorists who would really like to kill Americans – the U.S. population is about 317 million.  The Salad/Fine Vegetable:  A lovely diversion from real issues and a delicate scattering of pure inventions such as the Democrats are going to take your guns, or Democrats are going to promote abortions.  And finally, the Hot or Cold Dessert:  The Republican assumption that they’ve worked the refs sufficiently, and ginned up the base enough to make Democrats run away from their own leadership, see Grimes in Kentucky.   There are ways to make this dinner come to an end.

The Structural Knot

There’s the predictable grousing about the efforts of DNC chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz.  However, few have commented on the structural issues about her position.  She’s wearing two hats and both of them represent  full time jobs.  Did she not “do enough” in the last election – or was running her own campaign, running the DNC, and trying to represent her constituents just a bit too much to ask.  One way to untangle the leadership thread of the structural knot would be for the Democrats to employ a full time chairman.

Independent leadership is fine in concept, however there must be something to lead.  A national party which allows state and local organizations to wither won’t be national for long.  [DB

The Media Knot

How where the Republicans able to keep their seven course gourmand banquet going well into election night?  This strand has been long entangled in American politics.  The corporate media represented by the beltway journalists have used the cable news outlets to broadcast some well known and recognizable narratives.  There must be two sides.  Not when we’re talking about the implications of global climate change.  Not when we’re talking about the decimation of the American middle class.  Not when we’re speaking of the need to fund infrastructure elements in America. Not when we’re addressing the need to adequately fund taking  care of our veterans.

The national media has not served this nation well.  This frustration is altogether too common:

“Finding clear information about issues and candidates in this midterm was difficult, and I certainly didn’t find it on cable television. Lots of times I went and dug it out myself. Sometimes I relied on alternatives. It was often frustrating to have to dig around in the universe of silos that exist today on the Internet, particularly when those siloes are loaded with hate talk on the right side of things.”

To adopt the notion that there are two sides to every question means that both sides should be presented.  However, the cable news outlets are content to state the Democratic position, and then allow Republican/Libertarian critics air time for commentary after commentary after commentary to present their talking points.  This isn’t “both” sides – it’s purely corporate sponsored, corporate presented propaganda.  It’s especially not “news” when there is little attention paid to issues.

Chart News Issues

65% of what the viewing public got was “political speculation,” and they’d have to be lucky to turn on the set when the 35% appeared, to inform them of related issues.  Untying the media knot will require coordinated effort, based on an intelligent analysis of the current situation.

Little wonder the author of the excerpt above  on media news is frustrated with the silos.  The sources are drying up.  The number of black journalists working for daily newspapers has dropped by 40% since 1985, and the number of white journalists working for daily papers is down 34%, the number of Hispanic journalists is off 16%, and the number of Asian-American journalists is down 2%. [Pew]   What do they all have in common? Down.  How about the number of reporters covering state politics and governance?  Since 2003 the number of persons employed to cover state governance has declined by 35%. [WaPo]  In the interest of “shareholder value” we have accepted a diminished press corps from one end of this country to the other.   It is almost as it we’ve decided that the “product” created by the press should be “share value” and not “news.”  There’s always been tension between the business side and the production side in journalism, and it appears the business side has won.

What makes the problem a double whammy for American citizens is that while the number of people employed to cover state and national news is declining, the cable TV system still provides most of the national coverage of major national and international issues.  The American Press Institute explains, including the chart below:

Cable News Source

Note: People are going to the cable news outlets for an explication of news about foreign, international, national government, social, business and the economic issues, and they aren’t getting it!

Not only will Democrats have to calculate the best messages in order to reach voters they are going to have to figure out how to get those messages broadcast to the general public, in the face of business-referenced cable news decisions.   If the cable news networks aren’t the answer, will social media make a difference?  The answer is still a large “maybe:”

“…social media appears to be largely adding to, rather than replacing, other ways that people get news. At the same time that 4 in 10 now use social media, more than 80 percent of Americans say they also got news in the last week by going directly to a news organization in some manner—and that was consistent across generations.

Even for the youngest adults, age 18-29, social media and the web in general have hardly replaced more traditional ways of getting the news. Nearly half of the youngest adults also read news in print during the last week, 3 in 4 watched news on television, and just over half listened to it on the radio.” [API.org]

While the expressed hope that social media will help resolve messaging issues for younger voters who lean Democratic, it’s still important to incorporate a media strategy which includes a more robust use of cable television broadcasting.

The Messaging Issue

The Republicans have made a conscious decision not to play the role of a minority party in the traditional sense of the term.  Where Democrats played significant roles in the adoption of “no child left behind” and the Bush tax reforms, that dinner at the Washington D.C. restaurant the night President Obama was Inaugurated in 2009 left no doubt about GOP strategy:

“If you act like you’re the minority, you’re going to stay in the minority,” said Keven McCarthy, quoted by Draper. “We’ve gotta challenge them on every single bill and challenge them on every single campaign.” [VF]

The call to Gridlock was as clear as Great Paul in London.  The strategy was simplicity itself.  Create gridlock, guarantee nothing important was done for Middle Class Americans, veterans, the infrastructure, employment, etc. and then blame the President “He won’t schmooze with us,” when nothing was accomplished.   The DC Press Corps dutifully picked up the narrative and ran with it, ignoring the fact that Boehner and the GOP were “frequent no-shows” at White House events.  Republicans refused to attend the “Lincoln Screening,” and turned down invitations to state dinners for Great Britain, South Korea, Germany, Mexico, and India. Senator McConnell even turned down an invitation to a White House event celebrating Kentucky and the UK NCAA basketball championship. [NJ]   So, of course, the DC Pundits declared the President to be “aloof.”

If the analysis of the media situation demonstrates it’s difficult to get the Democratic message out, then perhaps some adjustment needs to be made in the message itself.  For the sake of easy examples we might explore two possibilities.

Adjusted Messages

Democrats are for the Middle Class.  This should be easy because it’s true. Democrats are for increasing the minimum wage. Democrats are for organized labor. Democrats are for limiting corporate powers and for the regulation of banking institutions.  Perhaps not to the extent some on the left might require, but they are certainly more supportive of these issues than the Republicans of the Business Roundtable.   If the Republicans can attach the word “feckless” to every comment about the President, then why not have Democrats attach the term “economic elitist” to every comment about the GOP agenda?

Only an “economic elitist” would oppose the increase in the minimum wage. Only an “economic elitist” would oppose regulating the banks. Only an “economic elitist” would support repealing the Affordable Care Act.  Republicans have expended every energy defining the Democrats as a coalition of minorities – there’s nothing that says they can’t be defined, in turn, as supporters of a truly small minority in American life – the 1%.

Democrats aren’t afraid.   Democrats elected the man who got Osama Bin Ladin. Democrats aren’t afraid of a virus which really hasn’t done much in the U.S. Democrats aren’t scared of a few fanatical terrorists in the Middle East. Democrats aren’t afraid of spending some money on veterans, on our infrastructure, and on jobs for Americans.   Republicans are so busy being afraid of their own shadows – The Deficit (down) The Debt (down) The Terrorists (confined to the Middle East), Muslims (the bogeyman du jour) and every other issue – why not include “fear” in the running commentary.

Only a true Wet Pants Dancer is afraid of ISIL?  Only an obvious coward would be scared into a Hazmat suit over Ebola? Only the truly squeamish would be so frightened of The Debt that he couldn’t support more services for veterans, and only one so terrified of his own shadow couldn’t vote for more funding for infrastructure – want to be afraid of a real problem – think about most of the bridges in this country that are more than 60 years old. Our parents and grandparents weren’t afraid of spending for infrastructure, what’s the matter with us?

Another element which has been commented upon by those much wiser than I is that Democrats have allowed the Republicans to create the narrative, and the Democrats have acceded to the position of playing Defense.  There’s nothing wrong with going on offense, indeed, it would be helpful in sending the Not Afraid message.  For example, we KNOW the deficit has been reduced. However, how many Democrats talked about deficit and debt reduction in the last election?  Not enough.  But why was it a major topic in the first place? Because the Republicans decided it would be. 

Pew described “major” issues in the 2014 elections as: Terrorist Threat, Budget Deficit, Economy, Immigration, and Health Care.  We couldn’t make a list more in tune with GOP manufactured issues.   What was missed was the polling which showed 54% agreed with the statement: “The Democrats are more concerned about needs of people like me.”  What was also interesting is that the news organizations which sponsored polling also selected those issues to investigate. [TPP]   What would happen if some Democratic leaning organizations, not tied to the corporate media, would commission polling on the state of veterans’ services? Infrastructure projects? Civil rights? Banking reforms?  In short, the Democrats need to create their issues – not merely wait for the GOP to set the public agenda.

Or, to put it less elegantly – the Democrats can stop tying themselves in Gordian Knots trying to respond to the Republican obstructionist/fear based agenda and concentrate on what George H.W. Bush once called the Vision Thing.

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