Saturday, July 16, 2016

Making margaritas -- a chuckle

Just saw a chuckly variation on the old adage:   "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade."  It was in a restaurant review by Wyatt Williams in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

"When life gives you limes, make margaritas."


Did anyone notice? No Trump here on ShrinkRap?

Has anyone noticed the new "no Trump" policy here on ShrinkRap?   It has been 26 days since I last wrote about Donald Trump (June 20th).   His name has been mentioned in passing twice since then, once on June 25th in results of a poll and again on June 27th just incidental to a bigger issue.

This has been a conscious decision.   I have been distressed since last fall about the amount of free publicity that Trump gets.    One ad-savvy group estimated that he has gotten over $2 billion dollars worth of free TV time during the primaries.    So I decided to stop contributing, even in my small way, to that.

It's not been as hard as I anticipated, resisting the urge to blurt out my disdain for the latest Trump outrage.   But it has also felt liberating.   So let's just accept that Donald Trump is a world-class narcissist, a smart con man, a brilliant media manipulator, an unprincipled opportunist, and -- nevertheless -- the Republican nominee for president of the United States.

Here's what I intend from here on.    I will continue to try to keep my own outrage in check and simply comment on what I think is relevant news analysis, background evidence, and opinion.   That will necessarily include some talk about Trump, but I'll keep it mostly in the realm of policies and actions, rather than the outrageous things he says.   Please understand that this does not indicate any lessening of my gut-wrenching horror at the prospect of this disaster being our president.


Friday, July 15, 2016

What people miss about Hillary -- She really listens.

photo by Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images
Ezra Klein wrote an excellent essay for his Vox news website about Hillary Clinton, focusing on why some people like her and others so vehemently dislike her.   I will do a combination of quoting and summary, hoping to adequately cover what this smart, evidence-driven news analyst says.
*   *   *
"This is an effort to answer a question I’ve been struggling with since at least 2008: Why is the Hillary Clinton described to me by her staff, her colleagues, and even her foes so different from the one I see on the campaign trail? . . . . 

"There is the Hillary Clinton I watch on the nightly news and that I read described in the press. She is careful, calculated, cautious. Her speeches can sound like executive summaries from a committee report, the product of too many authors, too many voices, and too much fear of offense. . . . 

"And then there is the Hillary Clinton described to me by people who have worked with her, people I admire, people who understand Washington in ways I never will. Their Hillary Clinton is spoken of in superlatives: brilliant, funny, thoughtful, effective. She inspires a rare loyalty in ex-staff, and an unusual protectiveness even among former foes. . . ."
Klein also interviewed Clinton herself, and they specifically discussed this gap in how she is perceived.   She pointed out that when she has a job and is doing it, she always gets high ratings:   re-elected to the Senate with 67% of the vote;   had a 66% approval rating as Secretary of State.    So she thinks that the "dislike" factor is the result of all the attacks on her and her husband that fill people's minds.   But then Klein says:
"I don’t buy it.  Other politicians find themselves under continuous assault, but their poll numbers strengthen amid campaigns. . . .  [Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill ClintonAll three sustained attacks. All three endured opponents lobbing a mix of true and false accusations. But all three seemed boosted by running for the jobif anything, people preferred watching them campaign to watching them govern."
Klein then describes trying to understand this difference by talking to Clinton's staff, friends, colleagues, and even foes.   He asked them "What is true about the Hillary Clinton you’ve worked with that doesn’t come through on the campaign trail?   And he found their answers startlingly consistent. 
"Every single person brought up, in some way or another, the exact same quality they feel leads Clinton to excel in governance and struggle in campaigns. . . .

"They said over and over again,  Hillary Clinton listens."
Klein says the first five or six times he heard that he thought it was stereotyping about a woman politician.    But after hearing it 15 times, it began to make sense. 
"Modern presidential campaigns are built to reward people who are really, really good at talking. So imagine what a campaign feels like if you’re not entirely natural in front of big crowds. Imagine that you are constantly compared to your husband, one of the greatest campaign orators of all time; that you’ve been burned again and again after saying the wrong thing in public; that you’ve been told, for decades, that you come across as calculated and inauthentic on the stump. What would you do?

"When Hillary Clinton ran for the Senate in 2000, she tried to do something very strange: She tried to campaign by listening. It was called her 'listening tour,' and the press did not like it. . . .  [The New Yorker said] . . . [S]he tried to elevate nodding into a kind of political philosophy." 
Melanne Verveer, Clinton's chief of staff at the time, told Klein: “What they missed was she was actually listening! By the time she finished those listening sessions around New York, she really knew more about New York, about the issues there, about what was on people’s minds.”

Another aide explained how, during her travels, she stuffs notes from her conversations into suitcases, and then every few months she sifts through all that stray paper, sorting and categorizing, and following up.   Clinton's campaign chair, John Podesta, says: “Her way of dealing with the stories she hears is not just to repeat the story but to do something about the story.”

Klein then references the work of linguist Deborah Tannen who studies differences in how men and women communicate.  Women tend to emphasize listening and rapport.   Men, by contrast, emphasize status dimension. 
"Talking is a way of changing your status: If you make a great point, or set the terms of the discussion, you win the conversation. Listening, on the other hand, is a way of establishing rapport, of bringing people closer together; showing you’ve heard what’s been said so far may not win you the conversation, but it does win you allies. And winning allies [and endorsements and delegates] is how Hillary Clinton won the Democratic nomination." . . . 

"One way of reading the Democratic primary is that it pitted an unusually pure male leadership style against an unusually pure female leadership style. Sanders is a great talker and a poor relationship builder. Clinton is a great relationship builder and a poor talker. In this case — the first time at the presidential level — the female leadership style won. . . . 

"But that wasn’t how the primary was understood. Clinton’s endorsements left her excoriated as a tool of the establishment while Sanders's speeches left people marveling at his political skills. Thus was her core political strength reframed as a weakness. 

"I want to be very clear here. I’m not saying that anyone who opposed Clinton was sexist. Nor am I saying Clinton should have won. What I’m saying is that presidential campaigns are built to showcase the stereotypically male trait of standing in front of a room speaking confidently — and in ways that are pretty deep, that’s what we expect out of our presidential candidates. Campaigns built on charismatic oration feel legitimate in a way that campaigns built on deep relationships do not. 

But here’s the thing about the particular skills Clinton used . . . [they] are very, very relevant to the work of governing. And they are particularly relevant to the way Clinton governs.
*   *   *
There's a lot packed into this very long posting.   I think Klein is on to something important.   I hope Clinton has talked with him and takes this in as reinforcement for her important listening skill and method.   The most important point here is that what she does and gets excoriated for will make her a terrific president.


Thursday, July 14, 2016

Sanders' solid endorsement of Clinton

Anyone who thinks that Bernie Sanders is not really supporting Hillary Clinton now is just not reading things the same way I do.    Clinton herself understands.   This was a carefully orchestrated strategy that their two campaigns worked out.

Sanders was not simply running to be president.   He was starting a progressive movement that has been remarkably successful, and he wanted to keep that going to push Hillary even further to the left on issues and to influence the party platform.   It seems that he has accomplished both of those things.

The $15 minimum wage, commitment to a public option added to Obamacare, free college tuition, strengthen Wall Street regulation, ending the death penalty for federal crimes -- all those and more will be in the platform thanks to Sanders.

Then it was time to give his endorsement of Clinton -- and Sanders did that with a robust promise to do everything he can to defeat Donald Trump and help her win the presidency.  And, yes, he actually said the words:   "I endorse Hillary Clinton."

Do not minimize the effect Bernie Sanders has had on this election and on the Democratic Party.   Well done, sir.


"This is not a race war; it is a war against injustice."

The morning after last week's killing of Dallas police officers, the headline in the sensationalizing New York Post proclaimed in big, bold letters:  "CIVIL WAR," which was clearly a dog whistle for 'Race War."  Irresponsible people, like Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and former New York mayor Rudi Guiliani incorrectly identified and blamed the Black Lives Matter movement for inciting violence and a "war on police."

That is simply not true.  The Washington Post, among others, has pointed out that 2015 saw the second lowest number of murdered police officers in decades.   And Huffington Post's Zeba Blay emphasized that "war" is the wrong term anyway.
"Black people asking not to be shot for simply existing is not 'war.'   Black people assembling to protest their senseless killing is not 'war. There may be rage involved, fury, but to stand up for ones' rights is not an act of violenceit’s an act of revolution against an oppressive system. . . .  

'War' implies separate aggressors coming to blows so that only one may reign supreme.  And “war” . . . in an angry Facebook post by someone condemning black people for the officers’ deaths, implies that in the end only one side can actually remain.  That is terrifying. That is un-American.   And to use that word is to potentially incite only more violence and misunderstanding.
"What happened in Dallas is not . . . . acceptable.  It is a true tragedy in its own right.  It is representative of the deep wounds and the work that must be done to save the soul of this country.  But it is not a declaration of 'war. It does not speak for Trayvon Martin, or Michael Brown, or Tamir Rice, or Sandra Bland, or Alton Sterling, or Philando Castile, or countless others.  To insinuate that it does is to miss the point entirely.

"To insinuate that black people are actually rooting for the deaths of police officers is downright vile.  These attacks should not be used as justification to condemn black people for speaking out against police brutality. That does nothing to heal those woundsit merely deepens them."
Well, yes, one angry, perhaps deranged, young black man did plot an attack on white police -- and he killed five of them.   But he was not part of Black Lives Matter or any other activist group that we know of.   He is not representative of those who are peacefully protesting.   We need to be supporting them, not blaming them for the terrible acts of a single, lone wolf hater.

Just stop this divisive rhetoric, Dan Patrick and Rudi Guiliani -- and anyone else.   Those who are angry at the policejoin the peaceful protest, don't take up guns.   And police departments:   don't take up military war gear at a peaceful rally.   Both extremes only foment deeper divides and more rage.


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

About Comey's testimony on Clinton's emails

In the days ahead, we're going to keep hearing about Hillary Clinton's emails.   Republicans, who did not get the FBI indictment they hoped for, will now focus on "she lied" because of discrepancies in some things she has said with what Comey testified.

Let me interject here:   I watched both Comey's press conference, where he announced his findings, and his 4+ hour testimony for the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.  I also know and admire his integrity from his history as Acting Attorney General,  when AG Ashcroft was in the hospital gravely ill and Comey stood up to President George Bush and refused to sign on to something he knew to be illegal.

While I do not doubt for a moment that Comey acted with the utmost integrity and respect for the law, without political bias or pressure, it is a simple fact that, in his testimony, he was not acting as Clinton's defense attorney.   And that's appropriate;  he was the prosecutor, making the best case he could.   But it did leave some times when I wanted him to put things in context that would give her more benefit of doubt.   Or show that the national security risk that he said was possible, was actually pretty minimal, even though possible.  In sticking strictly to the facts of his findings (as a good prosecutor should), he gave Republicans lots of sound bites and raw meat without the necessary context.  So here, I'm going to act as that defense lawyer for Clinton.

One of the "lies" Republicans are accusing her of is her saying that none of the emails she sent or received were marked classified -- and she later added "at the time," because some were retroactively classified.

In his sworn testimony to the House Committee, Comey had already explained how classified documents are marked with (C).    Questions also brought out the fact that, of more than 30,000 emails the FBI examined, only 10 had what they deemed to be highly classified material -- AND ONLY 3 OF THOSE HAD BEEN MARKED CLASSIFIED.

But then time ran out for the committee member asking that question, so it was left there.   Later, a Democratic member of the committee, Mart Cartwright, came back to it to get some clarity.   Here is the transcript of that exchange:

MATT CARTWRIGHT: You were asked about markings on a few documents, I have the manual here, marking national classified security information. And I don't think you were given a full chance to talk about those three documents with the little c's on them. Were they properly documented?   Were they properly marked according to the manual?
JAMES COMEY: No. [...]
MATT CARTWRIGHT: According to the manual, if you're going to classify something, there has to be a header on the document? Right?
MATT CARTWRIGHT: Was there a header on the three documents that we've discussed today that had the little c in the text someplace?
JAMES COMEY: No. There were three e-mails, the c was in the body, in the text, but there was no header on the email or in the text [I think he meant at the beginning of the text].
MATT CARTWRIGHT: So if Secretary Clinton really were an expert about what's classified and what's not classified and were following the manual, the absence of a header would tell her immediately that those three documents were not classified. Am I correct in that?
JAMES COMEY: That would be a reasonable inference.

Doesn't this answer the question about whether Clinton lied about this?    And the other lies that they say she told?   One was saying that "all the emails have been turned over."   In fact, the FBI found some others, from the email archives of staff she corresponded with, that were not in the ones she turned over.    But isn't it possible that she honestly thought they had turned everything over?   Perhaps those were no longer in her archives for whatever reason?    With over 30,000 --- isn't it reasonable that some quirk in the system eliminates one here and there.    Is there any reason, from the content the FBI did find on those, to suggest she would have wanted to conceal those few?   They haven't said so.

Another "lie" is Clinton having said repeatedly that using her private server was "allowed" by the State Department.    That's debatable.   Their policy since 2005 is that an approved system with the proper level of security should be used.   But they knew she was using a private server.   And she continued to do so.   So isn't that "allowing" it?    As to other Secretaries of State using private emails, yes Colin Powell did have a private email that he used occasionally;   but he actually just didn't use email very much in his work.   Same for Condelessa Rice.

The other "lie" was shot down absolutely by Comey in his testimony:    that the system had been hacked by a notorious hacker who calls himself Guccifer, and who had boasted about it online.   Comey said the FBI had questioned this individual and that he admitted to them that he had lied about it.  He had not hacked her email.  The truth is that there is no evidence that Clinton's private server was ever successfully hacked.     Meanwhile, one Democrat in the hearing read off a long list of other government agencies that were hacked, including:    the Dept. of Homeland Security and the Pentagon.   And, get this:  the State Department.

To quote Bernie Sanders from the second Democratic Primary debate"Enough about your damned emails!"


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Reaching across and reducing the divide

Photo:  Getty Images
This photo was posted on Huffington Post without comment, but here is what I see in the picture.   A young black boy has brought a white police officer a flower in a vase.   The officer, obviously touched, hugged the boy.

Robert Kennedy was a presidential candidate campaigning in Indianapolis on April 4, 1968 when he had to announce to the crowd that Martin Luther King, Jr. had just been assassinated in Memphis.   Standing on the back of a flatbed truck, Bobby Kennedy said to the stricken crowd:
 "What we need in the United States is not hatred;   what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness but is love, and wisdom and compassion toward one another and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black."
Kennedy, himself, would also be struck down by an assassin's bullets just two months later on June 6, 1968 after having just won the California Democratic Primary.   Following the assassination of his brother, President John F. Kennedy, five years earlier, Bobby Kennedy had seemed transformed into an active campaigner for civil rights and justice.   On that fateful day of the loss of Dr. King, Bobby Kennedy had the same message that we so terribly need now:  of love over hate, and justice for those who suffer unequal treatment .

It seems we have to re-discover it again each time a senseless loss is so shattering.   It is poignant to be reminded of it now, but have we learned nothing, solved nothing, in the almost 50 years since?


Monday, July 11, 2016

Why Dallas?

There is more than one sad and tragic irony in the shooting of police officers in Dallas.   First, it came near the end of a peaceful march and rally, well organized by black activist groups and with the full cooperation of the police department.   Police officers and marchers had friendly exchanges during the march.  All had gone smoothly until shots rang out and police officers began dropping.  

Second, Dallas Police Department has become known as one of the leaders in the community policing movement that emphasizes building relationships of trust with the people in community.    This began with the appointment in 2010 of David O. Brown as Chief of Police.    In just those few years, Brown and the Dallas PD, one of the country's largest, have gained a national reputation for the success of their progressive approach to building trust, reducing the use of force, and increasing transparency. 

The lone gunman had no connection with groups that sponsored the rally and had apparently had no personal encounters with the Dallas police.  He said that he was angry about the shootings in Baton Rouge and Minnesota and that he wanted to kill white people, particularly white police officers.    It seems that he chose Dallas simply because that's where he lived, and the rally was a time when lots of police officers would be in a public space.

Chief Brown, an African-American, came up through the ranks of the DPD and has, himself, felt the sting of personal grief over a police shooting death.   Just weeks after he took the reins of the DPD, Brown's son shot another man and, in exchanging fire with a police officer, both the son and the officer were killed.

Having grown up in a black neighborhood in Dallas, having served on its police force for 30 years, and having experienced the loss of a son and a member of his police force at the same time, Chief Black is perhaps uniquely qualified to understand and to lead the department through necessary changes in this difficult time.

So, "Why Dallas?"  While it's ironic that this man's revenge was aimed at one of the least blame-worthy forces in the country, there is a positive side:   Instead of Michael Brown's death exposing the terrible wrongs in the Ferguson Police Department, attention to this tragedy has quickly spread the spirit of reform that was succeeding in Dallas.   No publicity program could have accomplished as much as quickly.