Saturday, April 30, 2016

"Is Hillary Clinton dishonest?"

Nicholas Kristof, editorial columnist for the New York Times, tried to answer the question, "Is Hillary Clinton dishonest?"   His answer, in short, is:   No, she's a politicianHere are some excerpts:
*   *   *
". . . . Clinton’s big challenge is the trust issue: The share of voters who have negative feelings toward her has soared from 25 percent in early 2013 to 56 percent today, and a reason for that is that they distrust her. Only a bit more than one-third of American voters regard Clinton as 'honest and trustworthy.' . . . All this is, I think, a mistaken narrative. . . .

"PolitiFact, the Pulitzer Prize-winning fact-checking site, calculates that [of the statements it has examined, Clinton had the highest number rated either true or mostly true of the remaining five candidates]. . . it suggests that contrary to popular impressions, Clinton is relatively honest — by politician standards.

"It’s true, of course, that Clinton is calculating — all politicians are, but she more than some. She has adjusted her positions on trade and the minimum wage to scrounge for votes, just as Sanders adjusted his position on guns. . . .

"[S]he can be infuriatingly evasive. Partly that’s because she’s more hawkish than some Democrats, and partly that’s because she realizes she’s likely to face general election voters in November and is preserving wiggle room so she can veer back to the center then. 

"Does that make her scheming and unprincipled? Perhaps, but synonyms might be 'pragmatic' and 'electable.'   That’s what presidential candidates do.

"Then there’s the question of Clinton raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars from speeches to Goldman Sachs and other companies. For a person planning to run for president, this was nuts. It also created potential conflicts of interest, but there’s no sign of any quid pro quo . . . . 

"Then there are the State Department emails . . .  What was she thinking in using a private email server? Why on earth would she do such a stupid thing?

"Clinton is thin-skinned, private, controlling, wounded by attacks on her and utterly distrustful of the news media. Where Bill Clinton charms, she stews. My bet is that she and her staff wanted to prevent her emails from becoming public through Freedom of Information Act requests.

"All this is self-inflicted damage, which Clinton compounded with evasions and half-truths, coming across as lawyerly and shifty. A more gifted politician might have gotten away with it, but Clinton is not a natural politician. Her warmth can turn to remoteness on the television screen, her caution to slipperiness.

"As for the fundamental question of whether Clinton risked American national security with her email server, I suspect the problem has been exaggerated. . . . Clinton’s private email server may have been penetrated by the Russians, though we don’t know that. But we do know that the official State Department nonclassified email system was indeed penetrated by the Russians, along with the White House unclassified email system.

"The bottom line: If she had followed the rules and used her official email address, Vladimir Putin might actually have . . . [read] her correspondence.

So as we head toward the general election showdown, by all means denounce Hillary Clinton’s judgment and policy positions, but let’s focus on the real issues. She’s not a saint but a politician, and to me this notion that she’s fundamentally dishonest is a bogus narrative."
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Kristof is not a starry-eyed Clintonista, but he is fair.   He gives us a reasonable, if somewhat superficial, analysis of the question of Clinton's basic honesty, taking into account her insecurities, her defensiveness (after decades of attacks), and the realities of being a presidential candidate.  I think he's right.

It remains a hurdle for Clinton, along with her self-admitted lack of natural political smoothness.   Since she has not picked up those skills from being with Bill Clinton all these years, she's not likely to change that now.   So we'll have to rely on those rare glimpses when she lets down her guard and we see the genuine, caring human being -- as well as the formidable knowledge base and the world-stage experience.  In a sense, she and Donald Trump have complementary strengths and weaknesses.   Let's hope competence trumps personality, that knowledge beats braggadocio.


Friday, April 29, 2016

Whimsical trivia

Here are a few chuckles to lighten the depressing political news:

1.  Merriam-Webster Dictionary has added a new word to its latest edition:  nomophobia, which means fear of being without access to a working cell phone.

2.  When a leading classical pianist and a leading cellist team up for a duo concert, which they actually do often, there is plenty of room on the marqueeTheir combined last names require only four letters:
Ax - Ma
Referring to pianist Emanuel Ax and cellist Yo Yo Ma.

3.   The Man-Who-Will-Not-Be-President has (desperately) chosen a side-kick: The Woman-Who-Will-Not-Be-Vice-President.   You know who.   The two that people love to hate.  What a pair!


A tryout for Commander-in-Chief Trump

Except from his very partisan supporters, like Republican Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committe, Tom Corker (TN), Donald Trump's foreign policy speech was not a reassuring success.   Corker called it "great," and "full of substance."   But fellow Republican senator Lindsey Graham (SC) had a very different take:  "It made no sense."

Rick Tyler, a political spokesman for Republican candidates and now an MSNBC political analyst, was scathing in his criticism, calling it "incoherent, vague, contradictory, not well-informed."

Professor Tom Nichols of the U.S. Naval War College referred to the speech as "chaos . . . a word salad."  He said "It had no substance at all.   All he says is that he will make a deal, a great deal, but he doesn't even say what the deal would be about."

Jon Soltz, an Iraq war veteran and co-founder of pointed out the internal contradictions in the speech.     At one moment Trump says that we lack a coherent foreign policy;   then a few moments later he say, "We must as a nation be more unpredictable.We should be clear and coherent. . .  and, at the same time, unpredictable.  Which is it?

On how much we should intervene in the Middle East, he was equally contradictory.   He says trying to "make western democracies out of countries that had no experience or interests in becoming a western democracy” is a dangerous idea.   Then he closes by saying that "promoting Western civilization and its accomplishments will do more to inspire positive reforms around the world than military interventions."

It's as if different people contributed ideas, and someone cut and pasted it together;  but nobody read it over to see that it made sense.   Or maybe it all came out of Trump's mind -- and that's the way he thinks.   I tend to favor the latter.

Soltz summarizes:
"For someone who has done two tours in Iraq, there’s not much more worrisome than a potential Commander-in-Chief who is so disinterested in policy that he failed to vet this jumbled mess of a speech, and didn’t even realize how contradictory it was . . . . In his first foray into foreign policy and military policy, Trump delivered one clear message - he doesn’t care. . .

"To quote the American President, 'We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them.Today, when it comes to foreign and military policy, Donald Trump showed us that he’s not serious, at all. He’s a joke, wrapped up in a farce, inside of a sham."
I would add to that:   The speech also showed the shallowness of his understanding of history of the complexity of interactions with other nations, both allies and adversaries, that have their own needs and agendas; and of the difficulties of diplomacyYes, he can perhaps get very very good people to advise him and educate him.   But he has to realize that he actually needs expert help and be willing to listen to them.   I'm not sure he thinks there is anything that he can't solve as if it were a real estate deal. 


Thursday, April 28, 2016

To NC lawmakers: ". . . You're the weirdos."

As I've often said, it's the comedians who cut through the crap and speak the truth.  Never more true than now, in regard to trans bathroom choices.    Here's how Stephen Colbert puts it: 
"To all those lawmakers out there who are so obsessed with who's using what bathroom and what plumbing they've got . . . " 

"Newsflash: You're the weirdos."

This "trans-bathroom" issue shows how desperate conservatives are for an issue to hold onto power

In a very sad way, the controversy over the "trans-bathroom" issue is also a valuable teaching moment.   It's sad, because vulnerable people are being hurt.   But it is valuable in educating the reasonable public to the falseness of the issue (and hopefully deterring other states from adopting such laws) and it is exposing the desperation of conservatives to hold on to power.    They've lost the court battles on "gay marriage" and on "religious freedom" to discriminte against gay customers in pubic businesses -- so now they're refocusing their energy and hope pm the trans bathroom issue.

But, again, rather than coming up with something of substance, they have grasped at a false issue.   Their arguments are not about the fact of trans people's existence;  instead, they conflate trans people with the real problem of sexual predators.   There is no actual connection; but, when you're desperate for a galvanizing issue, the factual details don't matter, as long as the manufactured link gets people riled up.

It is already illegal for men to dress as women and go into ladies rooms and molest women or little girls.   This has nothing whatsoever to do with trans people -- except that, in the minds of these politicians and zealots, desperate to hang onto some semblance of power, they seem to think that, if we become used to more masculine-looking people dressed as women going into women's restrooms, we might be less on guard against predators taking advantage of that.

But, honestly, the likelihood of that is miniscule.   Even conservative columnist Mona Charen wrote this in Monday's Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
"Some opponents of permitting transgender individuals to use the bathroom of their subjective feelings rather than their biology point to the risk of sexual assault.  That seems a negligible risk.   Hard to imagine rapists donning skirts the better to grab women in a ladies' room surrounded by female witnesses."
Of course, Charen then goes on to completely destroy her credibility when she denies and trivializes the reality of the trans experience, claiming instead that they are simply confused or mentally ill and that their whims are being indulged by a complicit psychiatric profession.

I speak as a psychiatrist and a psychoanalyst myself in saying that is so wrong.  Charen is very badly misinformed and is responding either out of political ideology or blind prejudice.   Further, her lack of empathy is simply appalling.

Nevertheless, I cite her article in order to show that even someone who thinks the whole trans phenomenon is bogus can still see the illogic of the conservatives in these idiotic laws.

Liberals have introduced a bill to repeal the North Carolina disaster, which Gov. McCrory's spokesman defended, saying:  The governor respectfully disagrees with the political left’s national agenda to mandate changes to basic, common-sense restroom norms.”   Common sense?   There is no sense, common or otherwise, in requiring transwomen (Caitlyn Jenner ?) to use the men's room and transmen using the ladies' room.   Hasn't anyone sat these people down and explained what "trans" means?   Is it ignorance -- or a shameless scam on the people of their state?   These same legislators claimed "voter fraud" as an excuse to pass voter ID laws to suppress Democratic-inclined votes.   The scam is pretty much the same:  push a "solution" to a nonexistent "problem" -- all for political power.


PS:   Let's remember that our Georgia legislators did almost exactly the same thing (and will try again next year).  We'd be having this same conversation about our own state -- except that our governor vetoed the bill.   Though I have sharply criticized Gov. Nathan Deal for many things, including his anti-LGBT stances, he deserves our thanks for this veto, even if his motive was in large part protecting the state's reputation as a business-friendly environment. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Why Sanders keeps running

This message to supporters from the Sanders' campaign explains.

" . . . . We are running a historic campaign which is transforming AmericaAny victories and any votes we receive . . .  are a public declaration of support for the values we share. 

"Our path to the nomination was never narrower than the day I announced my candidacy. I will not stop fighting for an America where no one who works 40 hours a week lives in poverty, where health care is a right for all Americans, where kids of all backgrounds can go to college without crushing debt, where there is no bank too big to fail, no banker too powerful to jail, and we've reclaimed our democracy from the billionaire class. . . ."
*   *   *
At this point, he knows he cannot win.   But winning the presidency was not his primary motive or expectation.  He is galvanizing a grassroots movement to change America and return power to the people.   And in that he has been wildly successful -- if we can keep it going by electing progressives at all levels of government, local, state, and national.


Trump sweeps 5 states; Clinton takes 4, Sanders 1

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton both had big nights in the five state primaries of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Rhode Island, and Connecticutt.

Trump won by such big margins -- taking at or close to 60% of the vote in each state -- that it really makes the Cruz-Kasich plan announced yesterday seem pitiful and makes them seem small.  Add in the fact that Trump was leading in the Indiana polls, even before tonight, and it seems all over to me -- if he wins Indiana.    If he does, he could get to the 1237 delegates to win on the first ballot.   He now has such momentum and growing acceptance from a broader base of Republican voters, which will grow as he seems more and more the presumptive winner.   People will want to get on the bandwagon.    But, if he loses Indiana to Cruz, then he's got a problem getting to 1237.

I've been wrong on just about every prediction I've made on Trump since the beginning of his campaign last summer.    So . . . we'll just wait and see what happens.

On the Democratic side, Sanders had a good win in Rhode Island, but Clinton had such leads in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Delaware that the networks called them for her soon after the polls closed.    Connecticutt was much closer and wasn't called for her until about 11 pm.  But, all in all, a decisive, good night for her.

Sanders looks more and more like a message candidate now, with almost impossible chances of winning the nomination.    Clinton reached out to him and his supporters tonight, emphasizing how much more unites them than divides them and praising what he had brought to the campaign and the party.

So it's looking now like it's going to be a Clinton-Trump general election race.  Unless they stop Trump in Indiana.


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Sanders/Clinton tied in states that have not voted

Huffington Post poll averages show Clinton leading Sanders by just 4.3% nationally -- which, in itself is pretty remarkable, given that she was leading by 20% at the first of the year.

Then they broke down the national data into two groupsone from states that have already voted and another group from states that have not yet voted.    In the states that have already voted, Clinton leads 53% to 41%.   But in the states that have not yet voted, they are tied at 45% each.

What does this mean?   According to Ariel Edwards-Levy, polling director for Huffington Post, it's hard to know because it involves more than a dozen different states that don't look especially favorable for Sanders and there are few caucuses, in which he usually does better.   Another factor is that, although the survey sample is quite large, the size of each state's electorate is not factored in.   For example, states in not-yet-voted group range in size from California to Rhode Island.

All in all, there's little significance that can be reliably given to this interesting finding.   Still, Edwards-Levy concludes, ". . . the results could indicate Sanders is gaining significantly in some of the final states to vote . . . .  Regardless, even a notable uptick for Sanders may end up being too little, too late to overcome his current deficit in either pledged delegates or the popular vote."

Let's face it:   Sanders is not going to be the nominee.  But there is no doubt that he has changed this race, he has pushed Clinton to the left on positions, and he has changed the Democratic Party in a more progressive direction

More immediately, he wants to have an influence on the party platform and on the agenda going forward.   And he's not going away.   He will return to the Senate with impressively increased clout as the co-leader, with Elizabeth Warren, of the progressive wing of the party.


Cruz and Kasich in scheme to deny win to Trump

The campaigns of John Kasich and Ted Cruz have made an agreement that they hope will keep Donald Trump from getting the necessary 1237 delegates prior to the convention.   Kasich will not campaign in Indiana, and Cruz will not campaign in Oregon and New Mexico -- thus, hopefully, making it easier for the other one to deny Trump delegates in states where one of them is much stronger than the other.

Kasich tried to minimize the meaning of this, telling reporters that "Folks should still vote for me (in Indiana).  I'm just not going to campaign there;  that's all."

Yeah, well, a word of warning to John Kasich.   Don't trust Ted Cruz.   He just pulled off another behind the scenes delegate grab in Maine, getting far more of them that he actually earned from the voters.   It's the way the game is played.   But in this case, Maine's governor cried "foul," saying that Cruz broke an agreement they had made over how many delegates he would get.  Apparently, even playing by the rules in a corrupt system, Ted Cruz trumps Trump with lies and deceit.

So Kasich has agreed not to campaign in Indiana, which comes up before the Oregon and New Mexico primaries do.   Cruz could benefit from their agreement, and then renege.  I don't trust him -- and for good reason.    For all his sanctimonious prattle, he is neither an honest nor an honorable man.


PS:   As I was writing the above, there was news that Cruz has been saying at his rallies that "It is big news today that John Kasich has decided to pull out of Indiana."   And look at the careful wording of Cruz's explanation:   Kasich is "pulling out of Indiana," not that we negotiated an agreement.   Plus this:  in return, the Cruz campaign "will clear the path for Gov. Kasich to compete in Oregon and New Mexico."  "Pull out" and "Clear the path for him to compete" don't sound exactly comparable.  I'll believe it when I see Ted Cruz keeping his part of the bargain.   See what I mean?

Monday, April 25, 2016

Apology to the ape population

A valued reader wrote this in response to my 4/25 PS comment: "I can't finds the words to express my utter contempt for this ape," referring to Ted Cruz and his despicable use of the trans bathroom issue for his own political gain.  The reader's response was:
"I must say that you have denigrated apes to compare them to Ted Cruz." 
You are quite right, dear reader. I can only say that this was one of those late night, rash comments that we later regret. Thank you for speaking up for the noble creatures that we call apes and that have become stereotypes for the brutish, unthinking, repugnant male in our culture. 

So, let me now be quite clear. Apes are better than us humans in many ways. Just to name one, I am quite sure that they would never, ever take advantage of their vulnerable young, or put them in danger, or call them names, humiliate or beat them up -- just for being who they are. And I am quite sure they would never, ever be a Republican politician of the 2016 variety. 

I do sincerely apologize to the entire ape population for my thoughtless use of a stereotype that should not be part of our modern lexicon. 


Earth Day 2016 -- two landmark events

Earth Day, April 22, 2016, marked a significant accomplishment with two major events that show what can be done, if we have the collective will to do so.

1.   More than 175 countries signed the climate change agreement drafted earlier at the Paris Conference.   This is the first time this many have come together to agree to take action to save our planet and to commit their governments to participate in a joint effort.

2.  A specially designed plane, using nothing but solar-powered energy, was completing its three-day, non-stop flight across the Pacific Ocean.   This leg of the flight began in Hawaii and ended as it soared over San Francisco's Golden Gate bridge 62 hours later.   This was part of a round-the-world flight that began over a year ago in Dubai, with stops so far in Oman, Myanmar, China, Japan, and Hawaii.

The experimental plane, which uses not a drop of fuel, is powered by 17,248 solar cells mounted in its wings.   Constructed of carbon fiber, it is 200 times lighter than a Boeing 747.  It's maximum speed is only 90 miles an hour -- but it's a start, and it proves this can be done.


Which restroom would Caitlyn Jenner use?

To further illustrated the question I raised in my last post about the "religious freedom" and "trans bathroom" laws, ponder this hypothetical:

If Caitlyn (nee Bruce) Jenner visited North Carolina, she would legally be required to use the men's restrooms in public facilities.  Never mind that she has transitioned so fully and artfully (and expensively) that Vogue magazine did a cover story on her as a glamorous woman.

She -- this woman who graced a top fashion magazine with her feminine allure -- would be forced to share restroom facilities with the burley truck drivers, little boys, and men in suits.   Who are the NC legislators trying to protect here?

Caitlyn Jenner has the resources and protection to deal with the situation.   But thousands of young, vulnerable teens have been put in the same situation -- without the resources and protection -- by this North Carolina law.

These North Carolina legislators' thinking is just so wrong on this.  I've been trying to understand what motivates them:   prejudice?   ignorance?   politics?  All of the above -- but mostly the latter, I would suggest. 


PS:   Ted Cruz has just sunk to another depth of meanness and unthinkable cruelty.   The ones hurt by this trans bathroom issue are those vulnerable young people I mentioned above.  But Ted Cruz sees only political opportunity, no matter who it hurts.   His favorite one-liner on the weekend campaign circuit has been:  "If Donald Trump dresses up as Hillary Clinton, he still can't go to the girl's bathroom."

All these oafs can seem to think about is predatory males dressing as women in order to get into women's restrooms.  One has to wonder if they're expressing a repressed desire.  That has nothing to do with being trans.   And it hurts those who are.   I can't find the words to express my utter contempt for this ape.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

"Just say 'No' to going to the GOP convention

There is a parade of leading Republicans who are letting it be known that they will not be going to the GOP convention in Cleveland this July.   Senators John McCain, Kelly Ayotte, Mark Kirk, and Lisa Murkowski all say they'll be too busy with their own campaigns.   Others, including Sen. Chuck Grassley, Jeff Flake, Lindsey Graham, say they will probably go for just part of the time or will decide later whether to go at all.

Those not involved in the politics of the GOP itself, however, can be more blunt in their stated reasons for not going.   Like this from Rock and Roll Hall of Fame star Joe Walsh, who was scheduled to play what he had been told was a benefit concert for veterans' families.
"April 20, 2016 - "It was my understanding that I was playing a concert which was a non partisan event to benefit the families of American veterans on Monday, July 17 in Cleveland. . . .

"Today it was announced that this event is, in fact, a launch for the Republican National Convention. In addition, my name is to be used to raise sponsorship dollars for convention-related purposes. Therefore, I must humbly withdraw my participation in this event with apologies to any fans or veterans and their families that I might disappoint.

"I am very concerned about the rampant vitriol, fear-mongering and bullying coming from the current Republican campaigns.  It is both isolationist and spiteful. I cannot in good conscience endorse the Republican party in any way. I will look at doing a veteran related benefit concert later this year."  -- Joe Walsh
Bravo to Joe Walsh for his candor and for exposing the deceptiveness of the organizers.    Artists have refused before to be associated with political events they do not agree with;   but his specific mentioning of the "rampant vitriol, fear-mongering and bullying" is courageous.


PS:    Ted Cruz has sunk to a new low with two tv ads he has running in which he ramps up the irrational fear about trans bathroom predators.    It is based on such false assumptions, and Ted Cruz is way too intelligent to be this dumb.   So I can only believe that it is a crass, slimey political pandering for votes.   It is despicable, and it puts the trans people in danger.  They are the real ones who will be hurt by this.   With these laws, a female to male trans person, who looks male and dresses as a male, will be forced to use the female restrooms -- because the laws require them to use restrooms that conform to their birth certificates regarding gender.  So people will assume that it is a biological man going into where he shouldn't be and doesn't want to be -- likely resulting in attacks on a person who is only following an insane law.    And Ted Cruz is making it worse, because he is aiding and abetting the prejudice instead of educating the public.

These laws create a false "solution" to a problem that doesn't exist.   Let's give Donald Trump a little credit for saying so and for saying that he thinks the laws should be repealed