Showing posts with label Election. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Election. Show all posts

Monday, December 12, 2016

He Was Right!

Before the election we heard Donald Trump say it over and over again, “Folks, the election is rigged.”  His victory tour has been silent on the subject until recently when the CIA “in a secret assessment” (I wonder how long they had been hanging on to that) said that Russia was involved in the WikiLeaks email releases of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), possibly to swing the election results in his favor.  While the Trump campaign embraced the FBI’s resumption of reviewing Clinton’s emails only eight days before the election (clearing her once again only two days before), his Tweet response to the CIA’s assertion was to discredit the Agency saying “these are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.”

Trump’s pre-election rally in Green Bay, Wisconsin on Oct. 17 pretty much summarizes his stump speech about “a rigged election,” repeated like an Anvil Chorus in other speeches:  “Remember, we’re competing in a rigged election. This is a rigged election folks, OK? The media is an extension of the Clinton campaign as WikiLeaks has proven.  And they don’t talk about WikiLeaks, they just keep talking about Trump, Trump, Trump. They want to put nice, sexy headlines up even though nothing has happened, nothing took place, even though it’s a total fabrication. They even want to try rigging the election at the voting booths, and believe me there’s a lot going on.  Do you ever hear these people?  They say ‘there’s nothing going on.’ People who have died 10 years ago are still voting.  Illegal immigrants are voting. I mean, where are the street smarts of some of these politicians?”  Talk about “fabrications.”

In spite of Trump’s claim that he won in a “landslide” just that little bit of tailwind of the FBI’s bringing up the Clinton email affair again right before the election, and WikiLeaks providing the DNC email may have provided enough of a boost for Trump to marginally win these three swing states: WI, MI, and PA.  I’ve done some number crunching on this. Clinton’s national victory margin of 2.6 million votes or nearly 2% more than Trump became a hundred thousand total vote deficit in those three states, less than a percent difference.  Had those states gone to Clinton, she would have won the electoral vote and she would be President.  So much for Trump’s “landslide” victory but the one truth he told was the election was rigged, although not the way he asserted, thanks to Russia, WikiLeaks, and the FBI.

Steel, coal, and low-skilled manufacturing are not coming back in those rust belt states like the 1950’s.  He knows it.  He now reneges on his words unabashedly, even admitting they were only said to get himself elected, such as during his “victory tour” in Grand Rapids when the crowd was jeering “lock her up” “he said: No, it’s ok. Forget it. That plays great before the election. Now, we don’t care, right?”

Or “Buy America, Hire America” just another get-elected slogan, his businesses routinely buying overseas and hiring less expensive foreign labor. As our local December 8 Palm Beach Post headline spelled out “Trump again hires non-U.S. club staff.”  His Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach routinely uses the federal government’s H-2B visa program to hire foreign workers for the season instead of domestic ones.  Nothing makes a difference in his celebrity revered, post-truth world.

A little more than a year ago I wrote It Can’t Happen Here? [Emphasis on the question mark] One would think our democracy is immune to demagoguery because our forefathers created a governmental structure of checks and balances.  Alexander Hamilton even adopted the safeguard of the Electoral College, a buffer of sorts, to ensure our Presidents are “pre-eminent for ability and virtue.”  One could argue that if there was ever a time when the Electors should reconsider an election, this is the one.  But that isn’t going to happen with Trump and his 17,000,000 Twitter followers, possibly locked and loaded.  Electors who vote their conscience do so at their own personal peril.

That is my fear over the next four years, the potential to circumvent those checks and balances, including the traditional press, via social networks and fake news.  As he said on 60 Minutes, “I have such power in terms of numbers with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc,…[They] are great form[s] of communication.”  He knows it and we better watch out.

PS  The evening after posting this article I read the New York Times and discovered that Paul Krugman wrote a very similar assessment, making some of the same points (The Tainted Election).  Lest I be accused of plagiarism, I wrote my first draft two days before, letting it sit as I am prone to do with any political entry, and then editing and posting it.  I have long admired Paul Krugman and feel in good company that the facts drew us to similar conclusions!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Blackened, Blue, Bewildered

Finally, I can sit at my keyboard with minimal pain from surgery.  Also, my head is clearer than when I wrote my last entry.

This is a two subject piece but they are related as I’ve come out of surgery pretty beaten up, dark, angry purple bruises on both legs and staples holding the pacemaker “wound” together on my chest, with limited range of my right arm, essentially a metaphor for how I feel about the election.

We all now know that if it were not for the arcane Electoral College method of electing the president, Clinton was the clear winner.  So Trump was right in saying beforehand (haven’t heard it after the election from him, wonder why?) that the system is rigged.  Can you imagine if the results were exactly opposite, Trump winning the popular but losing the EC?  Instead of the relatively peaceful protests we’ve seen spontaneously erupting around the country, we’d have Trump’s heavily armed militia in the streets.  Revolution and bloodshed.  So, in a way, for the safety of our citizens at least short term, this outcome has that one benefit.

Long term, it’s a different deal.  There are so many issues where an unrestrained Trump presidency can wreck the future of this country and the world, that it would be senseless to detail them all here. 

First, though, as much as I thought Trump’s candidacy was a joke during the initial months of the primaries, I took it quite seriously later, my fear growing in direct relation to his Teflon ability to say anything and, what used to matter, our 4th estate -- the Press -- having little effect to act as a foil.  If I was in a prolonged coma and came out of it to hear a presidential candidate talk about shooting someone on 5th Ave. with no consequences, grabbing women by their pussies, etc., I would have thought the Press would have been able to eviscerate that candidate long ago.

But cyber bullying was the factor in this campaign which made it unique.  Facebook and Twitter had more to do with the outcome of this election than all the newspapers and TV news media combined. Trump’s attention span is ideally suited to 140 character tweets and his reality TV personality gave him entrĂ©e to TV coverage whenever he wanted it, gratis.  And in spite of his racist overtone, he did carry a persuasive populist message, the forgotten plight of the white middle class male.  Whether he can make good on promises to that minority group is highly unlikely, especially with his tax cut proposals which will benefit his own economic class most.  (I don’t believe in trickle down prosperity. The “wealth effect” is to make the wealthy wealthier.)

So based mostly on anecdotal evidence, I thought Trump had a better chance than the polls reflected.  I grew up only a couple of miles from his neighborhood in Queens, NY and we’re almost the same age.  Although more than 50 years have passed since I’ve lived there, if I close my eyes when Trump speaks I hear street talk I’m familiar with.  Between his celebrity status and his strong appeal to the middle class, people were willing to overlook the big picture and especially loved the way he took down the ruling oligarchy (including the now vestigial Press and traditional mass media).  And given the unpredictability of what people do in the privacy of the voting booth (perhaps ashamed to be backing Trump publicly, but will pull the lever for him privately), I went into surgery thinking that this election was a tossup, especially with the FBI making unprecedented statements to Congress and Wiki Leak’s one sided email revelations, so ripe for Trump’s conspiracy campaign (imagine if the RNC’s emails were similarly exposed). 

Thus, nothing about election night truly surprised me.  In fact I called the outcome at 9.20 PM, turned off the TV and went to bed with the residual effects of anesthesia still in my system.  I woke up in pain throughout the night but refused to look at the TV or phone to confirm “my call.”  The next morning my heart sank, in spite of being prepared for the outcome.

So here’s the existential dilemma: how does one, as a citizen of a country he/she loves, support its new leader, while having complete disdain for that leader, his policies, his narcissistic disorders, and fearing the damage he and his administration might do?

While I could go into a long litany of all the specific issues, I’m trying to look at this from 50,000 feet so they don’t overwhelm. To me, I see a world undergoing turbulent change, hastened by a technology revolution.   The industry I came from – publishing --is just one example of the incredible forces of creative destruction that technology has fostered.  More books are being published (including e-books) using far less labor than in the past.  The majority of book titles are now printed on demand.  Warehouses are not needed for those and the process is completely automated.  The whole landscape has changed.  Robots now make the majority of heavy industry products.  This trend is only accelerating.  Capital finds the most efficient venues for its deployment.

Anyone who believes that Trump can simply bring back manufacturing jobs like we once had is self-deluded, abetted by the master manipulator himself, Donald Trump, who told the victims of disintermediation what they wanted to hear…….that things would return to the way they were. 

I do believe there is a path to expanding jobs and prosperity for the forgotten middle class, but it means abandoning the past and embracing the future.  America’s export is intellectual capital and technology.  Our educational system needs to reflect those realities and build our industries with those as a foundation.  Let the manufacturing of goods that require handwork reside in low cost labor countries, such as those which made Trump’s hats.

Going further up from a 50,000 foot overview you see a planet whose delicate atmosphere which protects us from the sun’s ultraviolet light and governs the balance of glaciers, oceans, and climate – all under siege.  Can we afford to aid climate denial forces in our society, simply because it is the easy, short term answer to some of our economic ills?  Here again is both a threat and an opportunity, an opportunity to develop the alternative energy and mass transportation industries, a win-win situation, jobs and a healthier environment for future generations.  America has to lead other countries in this effort. 

We seem to be at a Malthusian tipping point in the history of the world.  Population is growing exponentially but while Malthus was concerned about the food supply keeping pace, little could he foresee the other factor, now a bigger part of the equation of whether humanity can survive changes to the environment itself because of our addiction to fossil fuels.  

So these are just some of the big picture things I’m concerned about.  I want to support my President but I fear that progressives will have to fight tooth and nail, hoping the country can hang on for four years.

If I’m around then, it will because of incredible medical technology, the kind that allowed me to survive my fourth pacemaker implantation with the removal of existing leads being the most dangerous part of the operation.  New leads then had to be implanted, these being MRI compliant which my old leads were not.  As I age, an MRI is inevitable.  First they had to connect me to a temporary pacemaker as I am 100% dependent on the ventricle pacing by threading leads through each of my legs and then to a temporary pacemaker during the operation. Then they opened my chest to remove the existing pacemaker and begin the long arduous task of removing the existing leads, an operation of great delicacy to not injure the heart.  Unfortunately, a small part of the lead in the atrium broke off and the surgeon felt it was just too dangerous to go after that last piece and thus I lost the MRI compliant feature.  Overall the operation went well and now I’m trying to rest and rehabilitate,

I’m grateful to family and friends who expressed so much care and particularly to my wife, Ann, who stayed with me in the hospital room, sleeping on an uncomfortable cot, and watched over things for me, shaving my chest, stomach and legs and helping me take the first of two antiseptic showers before the operation.   I can’t say enough positive things about the nurses at the University of Miami Hospital.  To me they are as important as the surgeon, maybe more so.

Thus, I am slowly getting back to form, but to a political landscape that has been shaped by fear and intolerance.  I have low expectations that Mr. Trump can suddenly function as the leader we all need to help us coalesce as a nation.  His narcissistic personality must be fed and that is going to be a constant obstruction to doing the right thing, such as selecting Cabinet members who are NOT just yes people or those connected to his business interests or family.  Can one imagine Sarah Palin, a climate change denier as Secretary of the Interior as rumored?  He’s already appointed a denier, Myron Ebell, as the head of the EPA transition team.   

My good friend, Artie, reminded me of H.L. Mencken’s prophetic quote from nearly 100 years ago:  “As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people.  On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be occupied by a downright fool and a complete moron.  Perhaps that time has come.

Nonetheless I’m desperately trying to end this with something positive:  Trump is now going to become OUR President and I for one will try to give his administration a chance to do some of the right things for the nation as a whole.

After I wrote the preceding though, I read David Remnick’s incredible article from the November 9 issue of The New Yorker, “An American Tragedy,” perhaps the most important of the many I’ve read.  Highly commended.  

Wednesday, November 9, 2016


Home the day after in some pain and residual stupor from four hours under anesthesia. But nothing can compare to waking up this first morning home to the election results, with ominous implications for the world order and the environment.

We should be careful what we wish for but as difficult as it is, time for coming together as a nation and giving the new administration the chance to work for all people. More when I feel up to sitting at my computer. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

An Even More Dangerous Turn in Political Events

In the wake of Trump’s demagogic displays, I thought it would be instructive, ironic, and as I discovered, somewhat disheartening, to read Barack Obama’s inaugural speech when he first took office.  Such idealism, only to be ambushed by a political party which, as evidenced by their new standard bearer, Donald Trump, would prefer that America be frozen in a snow globe or a Norman Rockwell painting. 

From the onset of Obama’s presidency he was challenged by the Republican base and this morphed into a stone wall of opposition, no matter what the consequences were to this nation.  It was an invitation to disrespect the mere office of the Presidency, perhaps even because it was now occupied by a man of color who said in his inaugural speech: “This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed --why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.”

Is it any wonder that an ego-maniacal mass-media caricature of a presidential candidate should rise like a Phoenix from the ashes his own party created?

“Let’s make America Great Again?”  By alienating, or, worse, eliminating by deportation or excluding with walls -- physical as well as immigration blockades -- minorities he declares unsuitable?  I thought that was appalling enough until his now well-publicized comments about District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, whose parents are from Mexico, accusing the Judge of having a conflict of interest as he considers lawsuits against Trump “University.”  Instead of recognizing that this is a serious transgression of the separation of powers, and an act of racism, Trump turned the table on the press, suggesting that reporters who ask about the matter are the racists by merely asking the question – yet another attack on the fourth estate.

Trump’s world view is there are only winners (him) and losers (anyone he chooses to call as such).  He doesn’t want to appear to be weak, and therefore be “kicked off the island.”  No, to show his “strength” he even suggested that if he becomes President he’ll pursue a civil case against the judge, the argument being that his Mexican heritage is an "inherent conflict of interest." Ironic, how many presidents have been schooled in law and now we have a candidate who uses his wealth to routinely litigate or threaten to litigate to bully things his way. We all know how preposterous his litigation threat is and he may think as President he might be able to manipulate the separation of constitutional powers.  He’s already said “I consult myself on foreign policy, because I have a very good brain.”  So who needs advisers, and for that matter Congress, the Judiciary, and the Press?

It is a severely flawed personality trait, one that does not belong in the Office of the President.  It is a form of blame shifting, even paranoia.  Weakness is a trait of a “loser;” thus he must appear powerful by blaming others or circumstance. “All I’m trying to do is figure out why I’m being treated so unfairly by a judge,” he said on Fox News.  About his refusal to release his tax returns: "I have friends that are very rich….They've never been audited." He’s a victim!

This is seriously scary stuff.  During my publishing career I reprinted Gustav Gilbert’s Psychology of Dictatorship in which he said “throughout history social movements of far-reaching consequences have been decisively influenced by leaders, and that the behavior of such leaders is necessarily motivated to some extent by psychological tensions rooted in their individual character development.  We must further recognize the fact that the personalities of political leaders, like all human beings, are largely the products of their cultural mores and social tensions, and that they become leaders only if they effectively express the aspirations (or frustrations) of significant segments of their contemporary society.” Although these words apply to all kinds of societies, they were particularly aimed at those that gave rise to dictators, narcissists who tap into a discordant societal vein. 

Contrast Trump’s call for denying any Muslim immigration to what Obama said when inaugurated: “To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West --know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”  Perhaps overly idealized, but some of these words could be directed to Trump himself: know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history.