Difficult Time of Year for Decision Deficit Disorder (DDD) Sufferers

cursor_and_custom_ribbon__decision_deficit_disorderWashington, DC — Just as the holiday season can be difficult for those who have recently lost loved ones, election time is a horrific time for those suffering from a little discussed condition known as Decision Deficit Disorder (DDD).

During the election season, DDD sufferers get overwhelmed with anxiety and confusion as they are asked to take 18 months worth of campaign-generated information to make a final decision about which candidate they will support.

“DDD can be extremely, oh gosh I just don’t what the right word would be,” said Jonah Wildarsky, who suffers from DDD and is the Executive Director of the Decision Deficit Disorder Foundation.

As a defense mechanism, those with DDD frequently accuse all candidates of being equally poor, rather than deciding who is the better one, as other voters do.

“Clinton or Trump, Trump or Clinton, it’s just not fair to ask us to decide, because they’re just so identically bad,” screamed Wildarsky. “The pressure during the last month of the campaign is immense. I’ve personally had to suffer through 127 news interviews this year, because there are just so few DDD survivors left for reporters to interview.”

The Foundation works to create awareness of DDD. For instance, Wildarsky says the Foundation hopes some day to distribute ribbons, if a color choice can be finalized.

“Golly, I don’t know, is yellow or pink or some other color best,” asked Wildarsky. “The colors all  seem equally bad to me.  Why in the world can’t we have better colors?”

The Donald’s Lost Twitter Rampage

NEW BLOG PHOTO_edited- 3Apparently 12 million Twitter followers and the press were so flabbergasted by The Donald’s graveyard shift rantings Thursday night they missed all the good stuff that followed. Fortunately, I’ve captured everything since, including misspellings

8:35 am … Wheels up on classiest plane ever. Chik-Fillet brunch. First class company w/first class people. Mayor Rudy telling very funny Mexican joke. #CrookedHillary still eating krumpets? Let’s see those cankles! #NoCanklesOnMelania.

8:46 am …  Saw no ratings @MorningJoe  w/#RiggedMedia calling ME crazy!? Where did Mika spend the night? @Joe’sPlace? Lots of people say so. Must be true. So many low class #DyingNewYorkTimes  “experts” Not!

8:52 am …  #PuckeredForDemocratsCNN “amazed” by me calling out #CrookedHillary for getting duped by #SexTapeMissU. Know what’s amazing? #ClintonNewsNetwork still in biz. Loser TV for losers!

8:55 am … Bloomberg TV. Show some kohonays and watch #FatTrampMissUSexTape. Total trash!!! WORST MissU ever!!! Couldn’t do sit-ups when I sat on her. Will fix Bloomberg problem when in WH!!!

9:01 am … #BestInBizFox&Friends says it like it is. #BlubberButtMissU Clinton Democrat. People say in 1996 too. Probably true. #Brilliant Steve Doozey in better shape than #FlabbyArmsMissUWhiningDemocrat. #NoFlabOnMelania.

9:06 am … Got call from #ShouldBeOnSupremeCourtSeanHannity saying #RiggedMedia unfair as usual. Watched #AlwaysBloatedThirdWorldMissUSexTape. Says it proves #AlwaysRightDonaldJTrump was against Iraq war in ’96. #CorruptRiggedNYTimes will ignore. Unfair!!!!

9:11 … #CrookedHillary still not showing cankles! Why hiding? Hobbled on stage at empty rally. People saying she has gout and Alzheimers. Must be true. WHO is “unhinged”?????? Did #OneGuyYouCanAlwaysBelieveDonaldJTrump give LON WET KISS to ISIS? No. #RiggedMedia will not report.

9:14 am … #NoRatingsChannelsABCNBCCBSMSNBC still saying I lost debate! Total losers! #TrustBreitbart says #DonaldJTrumpInKnockOut cleaned #CrookedHillary’s flabby clock. #DrudgeBest poll said so BEFORE DEBATE WAS OVER!!!! #MelaniaClockNotFlabby.

9:22 am … #PatheticSenateRepublicans “embarrassed” by #ReallyNastySoDirtyYouGottaSeeItPorkyMissUSexTape. So many losers. Have you seen their wives? Reason why. #MelaniaStillRockingBikini.

9:33 am … Just got note from #BrilliantWillBeOnTrumpSupremeCourtRogerAiles. Says #CrookedHillary paying off #RiggedMedia. Roger very misunderstood. Very unfair what #LowRatingsDyingMedia saying about him. Smart viewers like blondes. Everyone knows. #EvenThoughMelaniaNotBlonde.

9:41 am … #OldFlabbyThinksShe’sFunnyDemocratSenatorMcGasket says I should have daily “weigh in”. Ask Dr. Oz! 236 pounds! Great stamina!!! Ask #NoBodyFatMelania. So many lies!!! SO UNFAIR!!!  America wants change. #VeryStrongDonaldJTrumpWillJailFlabbyDemocrats.

10:03 am … Landed for #HugeEnormousRally. People say crowd lined up since July. Must be true. I don’t know. Three miles long. Sounds right. Democrat fire marshall refused so many. Very unfair! #DemocratFireMarshallsWillBeFired.

10:17 am … Fabulous reception in #GreatestAmericanCityEastBogaloosa from #OnlyGreatAmericansWantDonaldJTrump!!!!  Great looking “Bikers for Trump” supporter w/Trump’sNoPussy face-tattoo said it best. “Save Us from Crooked Cankle Bitch!” So many good-looking people!

10:44 am … Called out #LousyCrummyRatingsRiggedMediaReporters at back of rally! Really unfair!!! So biased.!!! #PutinRealLeader knows what to do. Not like #VeryWeakKenyanWithPeopleStillSayingNotRealBirthCertificate. So many not so great looking girl reporters. #JealousOfMelania. Many with #ButtAsBigAsFatSluttyWorstMissUEver. Disgrace!!!!

11:13 am … Wheels back up. First class lunch on #World’sMostFabulousAirplane. Chickenfingers. Gravy. Coke. Best in world American food!!! #MelaniaSickInToiletButStillHotterThanRosieO’DonnellThatPig.

Hillary Won the Battle, But Donald Could Still Win the War

NEW BLOG PHOTO_edited- 3In the 20 minutes it took me to drive home from a debate-watching party last night the “elite media” decided that Donald Trump badly lost the first debate with Hillary Clinton and that as ridiculous as he looked and sounded (the sniffing!) it wasn’t going to matter all that much.

In 2016 when everyone with a smartphone is a pundit and a publisher, citizen-satirists spat out some hilarious bits overnight. Like, for example, Donald Trump’s constant sniffing set to Eric Clapton’s “Cocaine”. We also got a re-visit of Rose O’Donnell’s Trump imitation, and her “Daily Show” “history of The Donald”. Not to mention, if sick jokes are your thing, scalding fact-check after scalding fact check. Not that, the cable heads reminded each other, either Trump or his people care all that much about facts..

Conventional wisdom this morning is that Trump was exposed to well over 80 million people, many of whom have never seen him one-on-one with a serious opponent who wasn’t pandering to the same low-information voter base. The jabbering mess that he was last night may move a few “educated white suburban voters” away from him. Either that  or away from the voting booth entirely.

Other speculation I’ve seen over the last eight hours suggests “independent-minded” millennials clinging to either Jill Stein or Gary Johnson may … may … decide that since Hillary didn’t come off like Margaret Hamilton as The Wicked Witch of the West they might, y’know like, go for her after all. Despite “all that crooked stuff about her”, almost none of which they can explain with any detail or coherence.

But as much as I thought Hillary did just fine — she can drop the “trumped up trickle down” line — I watched Trump and kept thinking, “This works for him. It makes no sense at all. But it sounds like the same gilded-Mussolini, tough strutting egomaniac that ‘his people’ adore.” What they saw last night was the same thing they’ve seen since the get-go. Namely, “The guy who is going to stick it to everyone and everything that has made my life the mess it is.”

My belief about that is based on what I have come to accept as a fact. Namely, that wonky policy stuff — nuclear triads, strategic alliances, pre-school baby care and all that liberal, nanny state think tank BS — matters far, far less to the average “Trumpist” than, “blowing shit up”, for lack of a better phrase. Trump’s is a grievance and resentment campaign. His people don’t want “change” so much as they want vengeance on everyone that FoxNews, Rush Limbaugh and Breitbart say have done them wrong. There’s nothing constructive, no “making America great again” about it.

As along as Trump keeps picking scabs and pressing hair-trigger emotional buttons like he did in the debate, with his visions of roaming gangs of gun-wielding immigrants turning Chicago into Aleppo, he won’t lose a single vote of the irrationally terrified, angry and under-informed. Or the “37.5% who will vote for a bag of cement with an ‘R’ painted on it”, to quote Trump-despising GOP operative Mike Murphy.

A year ago I said I could see a path to Trump actually winning (although I still don’t think he will). It was based on this simple math. If he rallies even 10% of the “low information” crowd who rarely if ever vote, and adds them to the “37.5%” who will vote for any Republican no matter if he is an “orange anus”, to quote Rosie O’Donnell, he becomes POTUS 45.

The gobsmacked “elites” (that’d be TV talking heads everywhere but on FoxNews, all Democrats but mainly Hollywood liberals, and anyone who went to college and reads books with multi-syllable words) continue to flounder about trying to explain why Trump hasn’t cratered. Theories abound. But one explanation that hasn’t been examined closely enough is Trump’s vernacular and speaking rhythm, its similarity to religion and advertising, and how effective that is with an audience almost entirely “informed” by TV and pop culture.

Allow me to quote from length, James Fallows in this month’s Atlantic cover story


“Donald Trump’s language is notably simple and spare, at every level from word choice to sentence and paragraph structure. Of a thousand examples I’ll use just a few.

In the second Republican debate, hosted by CNN and held at the Reagan library, in California, moderator Jake Tapper asked Trump to explain his ‘build a wall’ immigration plan. Tapper said that fellow candidate Chris Christie had called it impractical. How would Trump respond? He did so this way:

‘First of all, I want to build a wall, a wall that works. So important, and it’s a big part of it.

Second of all, we have a lot of really bad dudes in this country from outside, and I think Chris knows that, maybe as well as anybody.

They go. If I get elected, first day they’re gone. Gangs all over the place. Chicago, Baltimore, no matter where you look.

We have a country based on laws.’

Bad dudes. A wall that works. Gangs all over the place.

After the first GOP debate Jack Shafer, of Politico, ran the transcript of Trump’s remarks through the Flesch-Kinkaid analyzer of reading difficulty, which said they matched a fourth-grade reading level. One of Trump’s press conferences at about the same time was at a third-grade level.

 In political language, plainness is powerful. ‘Of the people, by the people, for the people’. ‘Ask not what your country can do for you’. ‘I have a dream’. This is especially so for language designed to be heard, like speeches and debate exchanges, rather than read from a page. People absorb and retain information in smaller increments through the ear than through the eye. Thus the classic intonations of every major religion have the simple, repetitive cadence also found in the best political speeches. ‘In the beginning’. ‘And it was good’. ‘Let us pray’.
But Trump takes this much further, as he does with so many other things. Decades ago, when I worked on presidential speeches, some news analyst made fun of me for saying in an interview that we were aiming for a seventh-grade level in a certain televised address. But that is generally the level of effective mass communication—newscasts, advertising, speeches—and it is about where most of the other Republicans ended up when Shafer ran their transcripts through the analyzer. (Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee, and Scott Walker were at an eighth-grade level; Ted Cruz at ninth; and John Kasich at fifth.)

Another illustration: At a Fox Business debate in January in Charleston, South Carolina, Maria Bartiromo asked Trump about criticism from South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, also a Republican, that his tone was too angry. The transcript shows:

‘I’m very angry because our country is being run horribly, and I will gladly accept the mantle of anger. Our military is a disaster’. [The outlier word here is mantle.]


‘Our health care is a horror show. Obamacare, we’re going to repeal it and replace it. We have no borders. Our vets are being treated horribly. Illegal immigration is beyond belief. Our country is being run by incompetent people. And yes, I am angry’.


‘And I won’t be angry when we fix it, but until we fix it, I’m very, very angry. And I say that to Nikki. So when Nikki said that, I wasn’t offended. She said the truth’.

This is the classic language of both persuasion and sales—simple, direct, unmistakable, strong.”


Trump’s sustained viability has nothing to do with any specific remedies he has for the end-of-days apocalyptic disaster he imagines outside our windows. He is where he is because he, and he alone of everyone running this year, speaks in a way — full of terse, resonant, “See Dick run” emotional cues — that an astonishing/appalling chunk of the population finds reassuring and inspiring.

Weird as that sounds.




cursor_and_scammers_hacking_victims__computers_by_calling_on_the_phone_-_aol_newsI’ve found a fabulous new productivity tool. I know you’ve heard this before, but I think this one could really change everything.

This thing does a terrific job organizing my scattered thoughts and projects. It helps me prioritize work, think “outside of the box” and provide much better service to my clients. It helps me connect better with key people. It dramatically increases my efficiency. It’s imminently affordable. And as all things must be these days, it’s completely wireless.

But it can’t be found among the dozens of productivity and communications applications installed on my smart phone and computers. And it can’t even be found at Best Buy, Brookstone or the Consumer Electronics Show.

But I can hook you up with one. I like to call it Long Walk 2.0. I’m no expert on productivity tools, but this is rougly how it works:

1. Exit from all other applications.
2. Put one foot in front of the other.
3. Repeat.
4. Think, uninterrupted, for 60 minutes or so.

cursor_and_exercise_walk_-_google_searchYes, I have taken to regularly unplugging from the alleged productivity of my relatively high tech mobile office to do something that looks suspiciously like slacking. Most days, I now set aside time for an hour-long walk or run with my Golden Doodle business partner.

The results have been astounding. On the relative solitude of the stroll I eventually unwind and begin to ask myself questions that don’t get resolved in the office: “If I didn’t have constraints, what would I recommend for them? Are those constraints real or imagined, permanent or surmountable? Are we truly differentiated, or are we spinning ourselves? Am I really giving that client the candid counsel they are paying for, or am I pulling punches because it is more comfortable? Is there a better way to do X? Is Y really necessary?”

And here is the weird part about my unplugged excursions: Sometimes I actually come up with pretty decent answers to the questions.

Of course, there is not a single reason why these issues couldn’t come up in the office. Actually, there’s a couple dozen reasons: “If I didn’t have constraints…(insert email interruption here) Are those constraints real…(Twitter interruption) Are we truly differentiated…(text interruption) Am I really giving candid…(pop-up meeting reminder interruption) Is there a better way…(cell phone interruption).

Like all of us, my personal and professional lives have become an endless symphony of chimes, chirps and vibrations. And for me, the concerto isn’t always soothing or conducive to my best work.

Don’t get me wrong, the electronic interruptions are wonderous in a lot of ways. And love ‘em or hate ‘em, they aren’t going away. But if your job or life sometimes requires you to think deeply for more than a few seconds at a time, the gadgets do have a downside. And the answer for me is not more or better gadgets. It’s a regularly scheduled dose of no gadgets.

– Loveland

It’s Time for the Press to Get Nefarious with Trump’s Taxes

NEW BLOG PHOTO_edited- 3Last week the editor of The New York Times said he’s willing to risk jail to publish Donald Trump’s tax returns. Because he’s regarded as a serious guy in a serious job we should regard that as a serious promise. But it is also a call to hackers, IRS bureaucrats, former accountants and anyone else with access, legal or (more likely) nefarious, to do business with the grand Grey Lady on the single biggest untold story of this election.

the editor, Dean Baquet was at Harvard with Bob Woodward of Watergate fame, who was at first a bit tremulous about the idea of publishing a private citizen’s most comprehensive and revealing financial disclosure. I mean, people could get arrested! But as the conversation went on Baquet said, “[Trump’s] whole campaign is built on his success as a businessman and his wealth.” To which Woodward, perhaps steeping up his bravado said, “Some things you have to do. . . . This defines Donald Trump. . . . There’s a big hole here.”

Do you think? Trump’s appeal may be more rooted in his exploitation of age-old white grievance and resentments, but the “fact” he’s as rich as Croesus, or so he says, adds tremendously to the enthusiasm his various baskets have for him. Were he not living in a penthouse decorated in a style best described as “early Saddam Hussein” and not (currently) married to a former achitecture student-turned-bikini model and not fly around in his own 757, he’d be just another duck-tailed doofus gassing on at the 19th hole. But roll all that into one gaudy picture and you’ve got something that screams “Success!” to America’s perennially self-pitying white middle and lower classes.

Here, here, here and here are some good Trump tax-related stories based on what little can be discerned.

The ethical nut of this promise, this vow, from Baquet is that Trump has so blatantly and egregiously gamed the standard politician-journalism game that the only way to crack him is with what on the face of it is Edward Snowden-like criminality … and let the lawyers sort it out later, a la Daniel Ellsburg during the Vietnam war. And I believe he’s right.

Last Friday’s fiasco at Trump’s new hotel in D.C., where he played the national media for chumps by exploiting their live national coverage for an infomercial for the building goosed with a bunch of campaign-rally hosannahs from grizzled war vets before finally A: Conceding that Barack Obama was born in the USA, and then, B: Accusing Hillary Clinton of starting the whole racist birther BS, sent the press into a remarkable fury. Even CNN, directed by former “Today Show” exec Jeff Zucker, a guy who would stick viewers’ heads in a stopped-up cruise ship toilet knowing his target demo would watch it 24/7, expressed outrage over the incident.

Why, exactly, you ask? Certainly not because Friday was the first time Trump has “rick rolled” an audience. That’s SOP for the guy. The critical difference Friday was this: Trump made the assembled reporters and their colleagues and bosses back at the office look like fools. Or, chumps, as I say. Now, having juuuust a bit of experience with Le Grande Journalist Ego, reporters and editors are pretty thick-skinned about being called names — like “fool” and “chump” — but get really upset when someone shows a whole country how indisputably easy it is to make them look … well, foolish and chumpy.

So a guy the vast majority of the press regards as a fraud on one level or another plays them for a free commercial and makes them look ridiculous. What are they, can they do about it? The Times followed Friday’s fiasco with a “tough” analysis piece, saying, “He nurtured the conspiracy like a poisonous flower, watering and feeding it with an ardor that still baffles and embarrasses many around him. Mr. Trump called up like-minded sowers of the same corrosive rumor, asking them for advice on how to take a falsehood and make it mainstream in 2011, as he weighed his own run for the White House.”

But as most of the gamed-and-ridiculed press has come to understand, “tough” analyses, “strongly-worded” editorials and hour after hour of gob-smacked, incredulous talking heads are all gnat-bites on the hide of a creature long accustomed to nefarious behavior. None of it means anything, because none of it has any significant effect.

The only topic, the only single subject matter that carries any weight, that would pull down the (gold metallic micro-fibre) curtain and allow voters to see and assess Trump for what he really is are his tax returns. That is where The Story is, and pretty much everyone in the press, including FoxNews and Bretibart, knows it.

Which brings people like the editor of the New York Times and Bob Woodward — who’s colleague David Farenthold has fast-tracked himself to a Pulitzer for the most dogged and aggressive coverage of Trump’s finances — to say out loud 50 days before the election that the time is nigh for two wrongs to make a right. We are talking the Presidency of the United State here, not doping in pro sports or the machinations behind some gas pipeline.

If you’re going to break the rules you traditionally operate under — by soliciting, maybe even paying for Trump’s tax returns — you do it to properly, fully dissect a “non-traditional” (i.e. quite possibly criminal) candidate for the most influential office on the planet … and let the lawyers argue it out later.

And you do it now.

From O.J. to the Deplorable Appeal of Donald T.

NEW BLOG PHOTO_edited- 3A couple weeks ago I hit Maximum Trump Wall. Too much stupidity too much of the time. So I took a break and caught up on some good TV. Bad mistake.

Tuning down the wall of Trump noise I filled late summer evenings binge-watching stuff I had heard was “must see” TV. (The Emmys are this Sunday.) On the list was, “The Night Manager”, an adaptation of a John LeCarre novel. Then “The People vs. O.J. Simpson” a dramatization of the case with John Travolta, Nathan Lane, David Schwimmer and Cuba Gooding Jr., followed by HBO’s “The Night of” with John Turturro, but most importantly, written by the great Richard Price. Finally, the major investment, 479 minutes of ESPN’s documentary, “O.J. Simpson: Made in America”.

The last one was where my strategy of Trump avoidance went completely to hell. “Made in America”, I’ve been telling (boring) people in the days since may be the single best thing I’ve seen on TV in years … “Breaking Bad”, “The Sopranos”, “Game of Thrones”, Frontline documentaries, you name it. Directed by Ezra Edelman, ( the son of children’s rights activist Marian Wright Edelman and Georgetown University law professor Peter Edelman) the film is the thickest, richest slice of modern America culture I can recall ever. As with all great filmmaking/storytelling it is Edelman’s perceptive sequencing of the mostly familiar story of Simpson, the murders and the court case into the context of the culture surrounding it all.

Re-visiting the Simpson story night after night, it all came back. The indemnified status of celebrities in modern America, a culture cynical of authority while simultaneously delusional about fame. The noxious racist police culture of Los Angeles, not significantly different than every other large American city, and the indifference of white America to it. The intense resentment and sense of grievance of blacks toward law enforcement and the judicial system. The appalling cynicism of lawyers supplied with enough money to tell a wholly implausible story that exploits grievance to maximum effect, and a media culture first and foremost committed to trading in the elements of any story that sustains the story viewers and readers want to hear, thereby enhancing the value of the media itself.

Trump avoidance was an impossibility.

With what is it now, 56 days until the election we have pretty well swept aside every issue other than grievance, resentment, racial animosity, celebrity and media self-service to explain Trump’s appeal. There is nothing more to it. There’s no “small government conservatism”. No “libertarian notion” ersatz or otherwise. There’s no economic incentive particularly. It’s not even so much a distaste for Hillary Clinton specifically, as it is a resentment of and grievance against anything that smacks of a culture/a class of people easily blamed for what are in fact personal failures.

About as I was wrapping up “Made in America” I read Arlie Russell Hochschild’s feature in Mother Jones, “I Spent Five Years With Some of Trump’s Biggest Fans. Here’s What They Won’t Tell You.”

In a nutshell, Hochschild spends time shadowing a woman selling Aflac insurance to the desperately poor whites of rural Louisiana. The grand takeaway of the piece is this: After growing up in a culture that had long accepted sneering at shiftless blacks, people forever gaming the system for (fraudulent) welfare disability benefits, food stamps, public housing, whatever, these sad crackers have been slapped in the face with a new reality. Lacking necessary 21st century skills, family after family is unemployed, living by welfare threads and being hammered by opioid and other drug addictions. They have come to realize, even if they don’t want to say so out loud, that they are the new shiftless, hopeless-loser blacks. They are the people “respectable” society — skilled workers, white collar professionals, liberals and most of the media — has written off as lazy drags on society. Needless to say, they’re all in for Trump, who promises them they’ll be “great again.”

So yeah, these people are “the deplorables” Hillary Clinton was talking about in such an impolitic way the other day. And their grievances and misplaced resentments are among the long, long list of highly relevant questions Matt Lauer didn’t bother to ask Trump on that aircraft carrier last week.

I think I’ve said this before, but a saving irony of the Trump disaster (whether he wins or loses) is that it has fully dispensed and blown away the illusion that the United States is living in some kind of post-racial era. The virulent racism roiling just under the keel of Trump’s garbage barge is a startling reminder that very nearly half the country today, your work colleagues and neighbors, are comfortable with hostilities a lot of us thought subsided in the ’60s. Moreover, today’s “blacks”, in the form of under-educated, substantially unemployable, perpetually aggrieved whites have been convinced by their media of choice of something no real black of old ever thought, namely that they are entitled to more and better just because of the color of their skin.




Banning Trump From Ballot Doesn’t Pass Smell Test

cursor_and_democrats_right_to_vote_-_google_searchWhen it comes to the Minnesota DFL’s attempt to bar Donald Trump’s name from appearing on Minnesota ballots, the party is making a mistake by focusing on the could versus the should.

Yes, banning Trump from Minnesota ballots could be possible. It appears as if the ever-bungling Minnesota Republican Party perhaps didn’t follow the letter of the law in nominating their presidential elector alternates. I’m no great election law mind, so I’ll let the Star Tribune explain the DFL’s legal argument:

The petition said the state GOP erred at its state convention on May 20-21 in Duluth, where delegates “at large” and from each of Minnesota’s congressional districts nominated 10 presidential electors but failed to nominate 10 alternate electors.

The petition quoted the law (the italicized type is the party’s) as saying, “Presidential electors and alternates for the major political parties of this state shall be nominated by delegate conventions called and held under the supervision of the respective state central committees of the parties of this state.”

The petition continued: “This language is clear and unequivocal: Alternatives ‘shall’ be nominated — not unilaterally by party leaders — but by ‘delegate conventions.’

It sounds as if they might have case.  But letter of the law aside, should DFLers ban Trump?  The spirit of the law is that citizens should get to a chance to vote for the candidate who prevailed in the nominating process, in this case Trump.   That’s what Minnesotans of all parties feel in their gut.  The practical effect of the DFL’s move is to effectively disenfranchise Trump voters in Minnesota, more than one-third of the citizenry. For a party that justifiably preaches keeping democracy open to all voters, effectively disenfranchising at least one-third of the voters just doesn’t pass the smell test. It will offend many voters, including some who would otherwise be DFL-friendly, and it will seed even more cynicism in an already dangerously cynical citizenry.  That’s not good for our democracy.

Beyond the disenfranchisement of it all, DFL Party leaders perhaps should be wary of unintended consequences. An April 2016 Star Tribune-sponsored survey found Clinton with 48% of registered voters, Trump with 35%, and 17% undecided. While that’s a four month old poll, the chances are that Clinton still holds a lead in Minnesota. So, absent Trump being banned from the ballot by the DFL, Clinton probably would win Minnesota the old fashioned way, by earning the most votes.

So, there probably isn’t a lot to gain Electoral College-wise by gagging Trump voters. However, what happens if Trump refugees and undecided voters coalesce around Libertarian Gary Johnson?  What likely would have been a blue state could become, I don’t know, the Libertarian Party color.  That’s probably a long shot, but the possibility exists after the DFL kicks the Trump hornet nest by taking away their ability to vote for their hero.

DFL electoral tacticians likely see it differently. They may think that if Trump isn’t on the ballot, discouraged Trump voters will stay home, which will help the DFL win down-ballot races.  They’re banking on Trump voters to stay home and sulk, and they may be right.  But what happens if Trump voters instead get outraged enough by the perceived injustice of the situation to turn out in record numbers to vote against the party that they feel stole their votes?

DFL leaders probably feel quite self-satisfied about this clever little “gotcha” game.  I’m one strong DFLer who just doesn’t like it.  It feels like a betrayal of one of the party’s most admirable values – defense of every voter’s right to vote for the candidate of their choosing.  In my opinion this is not the Minnesota DFL’s finest hour.

National Unsung Heroes Day

presentation3There are lots of heroes in our society. Soldiers, nurses, police officers, teachers and fire fighters are among them, and we regularly praise those groups with special holidays, public ceremonies, and “I support (fill in the blank)“ ribbons. But sometimes it seems that we heap so much adulation on those high profile professions that we ignore the contributions of more subtle heroes who serve in relative anonymity.

For instance, how about folks like social workers and addiction counselors? They work for modest pay and make a huge difference for folks living in society’s shadows. Those heroes save and improve plenty of lives too.

Then there are water and sewage workers. We hardly give them a second thought, but every day they do the dirty work of managing our human waste so devastating diseases don’t break out.  Waterborne diseases kill 1.5 million peopler every year, so that’s kind of a big deal.

Protesters belong on the long list of unsung heroes. They speak out about what they think is right, even when it’s personally uncomfortable and dangerous. They are courageous and patriotic, and without them the world would have much less peace, safety, conservation and social justice.

How about scientists and engineers who develop products, services, knowledge and methodologies that make the world more safe, or protect the environment?  They do life-saving, planet-saving work, but we’re never going to see ceremonies honoring them before the playing of the National Anthem.

presentation2-2There are the millions of people who have jobs that are not typically regarded as heroic – bureaucrats, janitors, receptionists, brokers, construction workers, computer techies, customer service reps, wait staff, accountants, salespeople and underwriters, to name just a few. Their vocational contributions go largely unrecognized, but their work makes our economy and society hang together and hum.

Many of these folks also donate huge amounts of their free time to better their communities.  They give blood, raise money, defray nonprofit staff costs, visit senior shut-ins, and coach, tutor and mentor kids.  Nobody makes millions of Americans volunteer to help others. Nobody pays them.  They just do it. That’s also heroism.

These unsung heroes don’t have interest groups, politicians, corporations, pro sports leagues, and public relations agencies using their resources to celebrate their contributions. They don’t wear uniforms that serve as reminders of their heroics. But their work is inspiring and important nonetheless.

To be clear, I don’t begrudge the praise we give to soldiers, nurses, police officers, teachers, fire fighters and others. But I worry that the klieg lights we shine on those groups tends to blind us to the more subtle every day heroism that is happening all around us.

So if we feel like we need to add another holiday, maybe we should go with an umbrella day to remember these other folks. “National Unsung Heroes Day” has kind of a nice ring to it — a day to remember those we usually forget.  Those heroes deserve recognition too, and the rest of us deserve another three day weekend.

Five Reasons To HATE State Fair TV News Coverage

Cursor_and_grinch_looking_down_-_Google_SearchI loathe State Fair TV news coverage.  And just to preempt the question, yes, I’m not “from here.”

The State Fair begins today, but State Fair TV news coverage started in roughly February.  I’ve already been through a lot, so allow me my primal scream.

Reasons to hate on State Fair TV news coverage:

Reason #1: Because it crowds out all other news coverage. If in the next ten days the Republican Speaker of the House comes out for a 75% tax on all Tea Party members’ Medicare benefits, the Vikings trade a 73-year old groundskeeper for Aaron Rodgers and Charles Woodson, and space aliens colonize a Mahtomedi strip mall, this much I promise you: You will not hear about it. No chance. Why? Because during the last 10 days of August there is sameness happening in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. And there is an unwritten rule in Twin Cities TV newsrooms: All that is the same in Falcon Heights must crowd out all that is new in the rest of the state. (Though to be fair, the crop art turns over every year.)

“It could be that his head wasn’t screwed on quite right. It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight. But I think that the most likely reason of all may have been that his heart was two sizes too small.”

Reason #2: Because skinny people repeatedly fabricating overeating stories is never that funny. One of the many recurring gags we will suffer through during State Fair TV news coverage involves willowy anchors and svelte reporters exchanging witty repartee about how grotesquely bloated and obese they are from going all Joey Chestnut on Commoner Food all day long. Oh, the humanity! Their image consultants tell them that pretending to be like the binging masses will help their Nielsens. But make no mistake, they are mocking us, as they spit and rinse their Sweet Martha’s at station breaks, and nibble the sensible sack lunches packed by their personal nutritionists.

“And they’d feast! And they’d feast! And they’d FEAST! FEAST! FEAST!”

Reason #3: Because even hilarious jokes lose their charm when repeated the 653,776th time. “On a stick.” “Jokes” using those three hideous words will be repeated hundreds of times over the next 10 days on TV news. Though even Ed McMahon wouldn’t laugh the 653,776th time, you can count on our TV news friends to guffaw uproariously at every “on a stick” utterance, as if they just heard it for the first time. To make things worse, every PR person in town will put their client’s product or service on-a- stick – long term care insurance on-a-stick, get it?! — because it is the one guaranteed way to get coverage for your otherwise non-newsworthy client.

“They’d stand hand in hand and they’d start singing.”

Reason #4. Because Def Leppard hasn’t been remotely newsworthy for at least twenty years. …yet we can be certain that there will be a full length news story about them by every station. Why? Because for the last ten days or August, anything within earshot of the broadast booth is automatically deemed newsworthy. Plus, it’s so adorable when Frank tosses “Pour Some Sugar On Me” segues to Amelia.

“They’d sing! And they’d sing! AND they’d SING! SING! SING! SING!”

Reason #5. Because the 3.5 million Minnesotans who avoid the Fair every year are people too. One of the most fascinating parts of State Fair news coverage – and it’s quite a competition — is regular attendance updates. Spolier alert: The number will astound the reporters. Last year, it was 1.77 million. Though I’ve always suspected that’s probably the same 177,000 mini-donut addicts coming back each of the ten days, for the sake of argument, I’ll accept the number. Even using that number, that leaves something like 3.56 million of us — about two-thirds of all Minnesotans, I’ll have you know — who have chosen NOT to attend the State Fair. And maybe, just maybe, those of us who chose to stay away from the Great Minnesota SweatTogether would rather the news broadcast contain a little actual NEWS.

“Why for fifty-three years I’ve put up with it now! I MUST stop it from coming! …But HOW?”

There. I’m better now. Nothing like a good rant. On a stick.

Note:  This is a Wry Wrerun, originally posted by Joe Loveland on The Same Rowdy Crowd blog in August of 2011.

South Dakota: Imagine There’s No Parties

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace… 

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

John Lennon

Cursor_and_amendment_v_south_dakota_-_Google_SearchWhen I heard about the constitutional amendment on the South Dakota ballot to make all
state elections nonpartisan, I thought of these lyrics.

Imagine there’s no parties?

Believe it or not, that’s sort of what South Dakota is debating this fall.   At first blush, it struck me as every bit as unlikely and impractical as what John Lennon sang.  But if Amendment V gets a plurality of votes from South Dakotans of all party affiliations this fall, every state office would become nonpartisan.

That means that in every election except for presidential contests there would no longer be separate primaries for the respective political parties, party labels would not be used on ballots, and citizens would no longer have their voting restricted due to their party affiliation, or lack of a party affiliation. Instead of party primaries, a single primary contest would be held, and the top two finishers, regardless of their party affiliations, would face off in the general election.


“Imagine there’s no parties. It isn’t hard to do.”

Partisanship Pros

Except that it is hard for me. Very hard. While municipal and judicial elections currently don’t use party labels, I like having party labels on ballots. They give me helpful shorthand clues when I come across an unfamiliar name towards the end of the ballot.  For instance, if I want to avoid inadvertently casting my vote for someone who wants to underfund public services or weaken environmental protections, seeing that “D” next to a candidate name on the ballot reduces the chance that I will mistakenly vote for someone who doesn’t share my  values.

To be sure, party labels don’t tell you everything, but they give a pretty solid clue about a candidate’s likely positions. I support disclosure in government and governing, and requiring party labels has disclosure benefits.

If party labels weren’t on the ballot, I’d have to do more homework to avoid making voting blunders on the more obscure portions of the ballot.  On the other hand, with online resources that are now available, homework has never been easier.  By the way, this problem could be lessened if all state and local governments allowed citizens to use smart phones or other types of computers while voting. That’s an antiquated rule that needs to be changed.  I need to be able to use my spare brain in the voting booth.

Imagine A Nonpartisan System

Maybe the inconvenience and lack of disclosure associated with a nonpartisan election system would be worth it.  I am painfully aware of what extreme partisanship is doing to our politics. It’s making us mindlessly tribal. It’s causing legislators to substitute logic and analysis for blind loyalty to party leaders and their most powerful interest groups. It’s muting the voices of independent and moderate citizens who don’t identify with either of the major parties. It’s making compromise almost impossible.

Drey Samuelson, one of the founders of the South Dakota public interest group championing Amendment V, TakeItBack.org, feels strongly that the benefits of nonpartisan elections and offices greatly outweigh whatever disclosure-related benefits there might be associated with the status quo.

Imagine no closed door caucus scheming.  Samuelson says one of the most compelling reasons to keep party labels off the ballot is that it removes partisan control from the Legislature, as it has in Nebraska. Party caucuses don’t exist in the Nebraska Legislature, so policy isn’t made behind closed party caucus doors.

Party caucuses aren’t banned by Amendment V.  But Samuelson said that if the nonpartisan amendment passes in South Dakota this fall, there would be strong public pressure for South Dakota legislators to organize themselves in a nonpartisan way — without party caucus meetings and with party power-sharing — as Nebraska has done.

Imagine sharing power and accountability.  In Nebraska’s nonpartisan Legislature, legislators from both parties can and do become legislative committee chairs. Because they share power, they also share credit for legislative successes, and accountability for scandals. There is less time and energy wasted on blame games.

Imagine an equal voice for all.  TakeItBack.org also stresses that a nonpartisan system will give South Dakota’s 115,000 registered Independents an equal voice in the elections and government they fund, which they lack today.  This is particularly important in primary elections, where many of the most important decisions are made.

Imagine a popular Legislature.  A nonpartisan Legislature would also very likely be a more popular Legislature.

“People, by and large, don’t like the division, the bickering, the polarization, and the inefficiency of partisan government,” says Samuelson. “They find that nonpartisan government simply functions better.”

In fact, the nonpartisan Nebraska Legislature is nearly twice as popular as the partisan one to the north. A January 2016 PPP survey of South Dakotans found a 36% approval rating for the South Dakota Legislature, while a June 2015 Tarrance Group survey of Nebraskans found a 62% approval rating for the Nebraska Legislature.

A 62% approval rating should look pretty good to Minnesota legislators.  Minnesota DFL legislators have a 29% approval rating, and Republican legislators have an 18% approval rating (PPP, August 2015).

For my part, I’d be willing to give up partisan labels on the ballot if it would get us a less petty, Balkanized and recalcitrant Legislature.   If Nebraska is predictive of what Minnesota could become, the benefits of such a nonpartisan body would outweigh the costs.

Is South Dakota About To Lead An Anti-Gerrymandering Revolution?

I adore my home state of South Dakota, but I rarely find myself calling for my adopted state of Minnesota to copy South Dakota policies. On a whole range of issues from progressive state income taxes to a higher minimum wage to LGBT rights to dedicated conservation spending to teacher pay to Medicare coverage, I wish the Rushmore state’s policies would become more like Minnesota’s, not vice versa.

But if a majority of South Dakota voters embrace Amendment T at the polls this November, I may soon be feeling some serious SoDak envy.

gerrymander_-_Google_SearchOnce every ten years, all states redraw state and congressional legislative district lines, so that the new boundaries reflect population changes that have occurred in the prior decade. In both Minnesota and South Dakota, elected state legislators draw those district map lines, and the decision-making is dominated by leaders of the party or parties in power.

South Dakota’s pending Amendment T calls for a very different approach. If a majority of South Dakota voters support Amendment T this fall, redrawing of legislative district lines would be done by a multi-partisan commission made up of three Republicans, three Democrats and three independents.  None of the nine commission members could be elected officials.

South_Dakota_Amendment_TThe basic rationale behind Amendment T is this: Elected officials have a direct stake in how those district boundaries are drawn, so giving them the power to draw the maps can easily lead to either the perception or reality of self-serving shenanigans.

As we all know, redistricting shenanigans are common. Guided by increasingly high tech tools and lowbrow ethics, elected officials regularly produce contorted district maps that draw snickers and gasps from citizens.   Often, the judicial branch needs to intervene in an attempt to restore partisan or racial fairness to the maps that the politicians’ produce.

Gerrymandering and Polarization

There are all kinds of problems created by the elected officials’ self-serving gerrymandering.  Legislators in control of the process draw lines to ensure that the gerrymanderer’s party has a majority in as many districts as possible. This leads to many “safe districts,” where one party dominates.  In safe districts, the primary election is effectively the only election that matters. General elections become meaningless, because the winner of the primary elections routinely cruises to an easy victory.

In this way, disproportionately partisan primary voters, who some times make up as little as 5 percent of the overall electorate, effectively become kingmakers who decide who serves in legislative bodies. Meanwhile, minority party and independent voters effectively have almost no say in the choice of lawmakers, even though they usually combine to make up more than 50% of the electorate.

In other words, gerrymandering has given America government of, for and by 5 percent of the people.

Because these primary election kingmakers tend to be from the far ends of the ideological spectrum, gerrymandering has contributed to the polarization of our politics. It has created an environment in which elected officials live in fear that they will be punished in primary elections if they dare to compromise with the other party. As a result, bipartisan compromise has become increasingly extinct in many legislative bodies.

Gerrymandering and Distrust

Beyond political polarization, perhaps the worst thing about politician-driven redistricting is that it makes citizens cynical about their democracy.  Whether you believe problems are real or merely perceived, the fact that elected officials are at the center of redistricting controversies creates deep citizen-leader distrust.  When citizens become convinced that elections are being rigged by elected officials so that the politicians can preserve their personal power, citizens lose faith and pride in their representative democracy. When we lose that, we lose our American heart and soul.

So Minnesota, let’s commit to creating — either via a new state law or by referring a constitutional amendment to voters –our own multi-partisan redistricting commission that removes elected officials from the process. Let’s govern more like South Dakota!

Did I really just say that?

Hillary, the ACA and the Art of the Possible

Cursor_and_hillary_clinton_-_Google_SearchThough I’m a solid Hillary Clinton supporter, I don’t particularly relish defending her at water coolers, dinner tables and social media venues.  When defending Hillary Clinton to those who hoped for more, I often feel like I do when defending the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to those who hoped for more.

To be clear, neither Hillary nor the ACA were my first choice. Elizabeth Warren and single payer were my first choices.

Neither Hillary nor the ACA are as bold as I’d prefer. They both promise modest incremental change, rather than the more revolutionary change that is needed.

Neither Hillary nor the ACA are, shall we say, untouched by special interests. The ACA is the product of accommodations made to private health insurers, physicians and the pharmaceutical industry, while Clinton is the product of accommodations made to corporations, unions and military leaders.

Also, neither Hillary nor the ACA are easy to understand. Hillary is a wonk’s wonk whose eye-glazing 20-point policy plans don’t exactly sing to lightly engaged voters.   Likewise, the ACA has given birth to 20,000 pages of the densest regulations you’ll ever find. (By the way, a primary reason the ACA is so complex is that conservatives and moderates insisted that it accommodate dozens of for-profit insurance companies instead of  using the more linear single payer model that has been proven effective and efficient by other industrialized nations. In this way, the need for much of the ACA complexity was created by conservatives, not liberals.)

At the same time, neither Hillary nor the ACA are anywhere near as bad as the caricatures created by their demagogic critics. Hillary is not a serial liar and murderer any more than the ACA led to “Death Panels” and force-fed birth control.

The bottom line is that both Hillary and the ACA, for all their respective flaws, are far superior to the alternatives. The steady, smart, savvy, and decent Clinton is much better than the erratic, ignorant, inept and vile Trump. The current ACA era, with a 9.2% uninsured rate (4.3% in Minnesota, where the ACA is more faithfully implemented than it is in many states) and all preexisting conditions covered is much better than the pre-ACA status quo, with an uninsured rate of 15.7% (9% in Minnesota) and millions denied health coverage because of pre-existing medical conditions.

Hillary and the ACA both bring progress, but they are hardly the final word.  The fact that I am supporting the ACA in 2016 doesn’t mean I’m going to stop advocating for ACA improvements, a Medicare-for-All option and ultimately a single payer system. The fact that I am supporting Hillary in 2016 doesn’t mean I’m not going to push for more progressive, bold, compelling and independent leaders in the future.

But politics is the art of the possible.  Hillary and the ACA are what is possible at this point in the history of our imperfect democracy.   As such, I can champion both comfortably, if not entirely enthusiastically.

Progressives and Moderates Intrigued By Gary Johnson Should Look Deeper

Cursor_and_gary_johnson_funny_-_Google_SearchWhen I started seeing ads and social media chatter about former Republican Governor Gary Johnson running for President, I went to OnTheIssues.org to learn more.

I liked some of what I saw on foreign policy and law enforcement reform, but one line jumped out at me as particularly disturbing. It said Governor Johnson wants to:

“cut the federal budget by 43%.”

Just to be clear, a 43% cut in federal spending would constitute a major conservative revolution.  That would bring a much deeper reduction in government services than has been proposed in the past by ultra-conservative firebrands such as Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan, Pat Buchanan, Newt Gingrich, John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, Ted Cruz, or Michele Bachmann.

Still, I realize that a 43% cut has surface appeal.  After all, nobody feels a deep affinity for the abstract notion of “the federal government budget.” But budgets are collections of individual programs that deliver individual sets of services and benefits to Americans,  so we need to evaluate Johnson’s radical austerity plan on a program-by-program basis.

So, my fellow Americans, which federal services are you willing to cut by 43%, as Gary Johnson proposes.

Cut Infrastructure by 43%?  For instance, are the American people willing to cut infrastructure investments by 43%?  Do we want to slash investment in roads, bridges, transit, trains, airports, water and sewage systems, and the like?  A GBA Strategies survey finds that an overwhelming 71% of Americans want to spend $400 million more on infrastructure, not less.  Only 13% oppose such a massive federal government spending increase.

Cut Medicare by 43%?  Do the American people want to cut Medicare by 43%? After all, Medicare is a huge and growing part of the federal budget.  Americans not only don’t want to cut Medicare, more than three-fourths (77%) of Americans want to fund a new, massively expensive Medicare-for-All option.  Only 17% oppose such an expansion of government services and spending.

Cut Social Security by 43%?  Maybe Americans want to cut Social Security benefits by 43%?  While Social Security represents an enormous slice of the federal pie, the vast majority of Americans not only don’t want to cut Social Security benefits, a whopping 70% want to strengthen them.  Only 15% oppose expanding Social Security benefits.

Cut National Defense by 43%?  What about a 43% cut in national defense spending? Gallup finds that only 32% of Americans support national defense budget cuts.

Cut Other Programs by 43%?  Similarly, the GBA survey finds that an overwhelming majority of Americans want major government spending increases for green energy technology (70% support, 20% oppose), debt-free public higher education (71% support, 19% oppose), and subsidies for high quality child care  (53% support, 33% oppose) . There is no public appetite to cut any of those federal programs by 43%, as Governor Johnson proposes.

In other words,  only a thin slice of the most deeply ultra-conservative voters support Johnson’s fiscal austerity ideas.  Therefore, more moderate voters who are concerned about the nation’s poor, middle class, national security and global competitiveness need to learn about the implications of Johnson’s fiscal proposals before they jump on the Johnson bandwagon.

It’s Trump Nation as Much as His “Joke” That Isn’t Funny.

NEW BLOG PHOTO_edited- 2Here’s the thing, the audience for Donald Trump’s latest gaffe is more the problem than the joke itself, and neither are the least bit funny.

In the (very) best light, joking about “Second Amendment people” taking out their wrath on the opposition candidate for President, is the stuff of sad sack bar stool warriors four drinks into their cups. But a crack like that, to a hall full of … Donald Trump supporters … is about as close to yelling “Fire” in a crowded theater as you can get, to use the old saw about where the line of free speech lies.

The post-mortem on this astonishingly bizarre 18-month episode in American life will require several chapters just rise and to analyze the psychology of Trump’s core supporters. It’s already been well established that these people aren’t particularly ideological. Nor are they particularly religious. Hell, they aren’t even all that Republican, other than when they’ve voted over the past 40 years they’ve pulled the lever for Republicans the majority of the time.

But what they do believe in, and what has them by the throat pretty much every waking moment of their lives are two things before all others.

  1. A sense of existential despair for a quality of life their parents had and they haven’t been able to achieve.

And 2. A mulish, mutated determination to do something about it this time, by god.

Several studies in recent months have noted the startling increase in the mortality rate for under-educated, middle-aged-to-older white men. These gentlemen being essentially the only remaining demographic group among whom Trump’s poll numbers have held steady, and at unprecedented margins over a Democratic candidate. Put another way, they idolize the guy. These men are the precise sweet spot of Trump Nation. They are the crowd that packs his rallies for a sense of community and empowerment they usually only get from talk radio or their cronies at the bar … at mid-afternoon on a workday.

Alcoholism, drug addiction-related diseases, diabetes, suicide, you name it, it has spiked up among these people over the last generation, along with a general belief, shown in other surveys, that they feel — uniquely — that they have been unfairly victimized by immigration, affirmative action, globalization and conniving liberals. By contrast, mortality rates for blacks and Hispanics have declined, with both of those groups expressing generally more positive attitudes toward their standing in the world of today compared to that of their parents, 25-50 years ago.

“Deaths of despair,” is the indelible phrasing by Princeton economist Anne Case, wading through these facts overhanging the lives of white men who believe they’ve been cheated and grievously wronged by modern life.

Point being, creatures experiencing profound despair, never mind their ability to make caustic jokes at Moe’s Bar, are in effect psychological cornered, and therefore as unpredictable and potentially dangerous, to themselves and others, as any trapped animal experiencing a “do or die” level of threat.

It is also beyond obvious that this same, large, despairing group has a pathological relationship to guns, their precious Second Amendment rights being one of the very few means left to them to exert dominance in their lives. For all intents and purposes it is their primary religion.

So the problem with Trump saying what he said to his people is this: However life overwhelmed them, whether simple bad genetics or via an over-abundance of polluted role-modeling from lunkhead fathers to Hollywood “action flicks” to cheesy cop shows to their steady diet of junk information and pre-digested self-pity spooned out by the likes of talk show gurus like Mark Levin and Sean Hannity, these guys are sad, despairing soldiers of a by-gone era and a lost war.

The problem for us is they are also the type to take inordinate pride in their manly readiness to make a heroic, decisive stand against a symbol of everything that has reduced them to so little.

They’re the crowd that finds Trump’s “jokes” inspirational. And that’s why they’re not funny.

Add Friendships to the Wreckage in Trump’s Wake

NEW BLOG PHOTO_edited- 3We might want to add personal friendships to the havoc Donald Trump is wreaking on the Republican party and the USA’s international reputation. Elections have a way of dropping a cleaver between next door neighbors. For example, you can’t believe the Blows across the street have put up a McCain-Palin or Romney yard sign. Have they lost their minds? But eventually Election Day comes and goes and things settle back to waving as you pass on the street and making jokes at block parties.

This time though … . There’s something so unequivocal about Donald Trump’s ethics and mental fitness that listening to someone, an acquaintance or neighbor, say they’re for the guy is like having a rusty spike driven into your mental data-bank. You’re not likely to forgive it. You’re certainly never going to forget.

In terms of deal-breakers, support for Trump is such a reckless display of poor judgment and contorted logic that it’s just not possible to shrug it off and ignore it. Trumpism leaves a permanent stain. Put simply, as a test of intelligence, by which I mean the ability to make rational judgments on matters of importance, support for Trump self-identifies you as someone indifferent (at best) to common sense and decency as well as a person comfortable with blatantly racist sentiments. I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time stirring up a batch of gin and tonics for people like that.

As an old, not particularly enlightened friend once said to his (third) wife at a school fund-raiser filled with Filipino parents, “NOK, D.” (“Not our kind, dear.”)

Now I’m as guilty as anyone with the temporary cleaver thing. I can rant and fume with the best of them. But even in the case of George W. Bush, prior to Trump the least qualified, most intellectually lazy guy to run for President in my lifetime, I could process Joe and Sally Blow thinking he was a better bet for economic improvement and national security than Al Gore or John Kerry. The Blows were spectacularly wrong on both counts. But I could get to what formed their decision, albeit the fact that they always do the tribal thing and vote Republican probably accounted for 80% of their decision.

But cynical bigotry never entered into my assessment of their choice, or their fundamental values. White privilege, maybe. But a racist impulse? No.

I also get the rote tribal denunciations of Hillary Clinton as a “liar”, never mind fact-checkers like PolitiFact regularly rating her among the most honest of today’s national politicians. “Lying Hillary” is standard-issue competitive political “messaging”, especially important to today’s Republicans who quite literally have no coherent, detailed policy on any important public issue. (If you can think of one, e-mail me.) Whipping up Hillary hatred is pretty much their entire game this season.

Likewise, I get the psychological profile of the crowd packing into Trump rallies. Hell, I even pity them. If for no other reason than self-pity seems to be their primary emotional default. With that crowd the odds of the “knowing better” about a lot of things, not just politicians, are slim from the start.

But harder — make that “nearly impossible” — to understand and tolerate are traditional tribal Republicans supporting Trump so long after evidence of his bigotry-enabling rhetoric has become indisputable, and as I say, become a stain on the reputation of the party/tribe. These people, like the Blows across the street, are normally pretty confident of their savvy and quality judgment. My assumption is that while they’re much too Minnesotan to make a show of it, they count themselves among life’s winners. People who paid attention, worked hard and have put some separation between themselves and the spittle-flecked herd.

Until now.

Somewhere in their better-than-average educated, normally placid brains a snake has uncoiled and revealed their kinship with a crowd that is unabashed in their enthusiasm for dog whistle racial rhetoric and a career of managerial incompetence verging on fraud.

Way, way back the nuns at St.Joe’s in Montevideo taught me to forgive. There are worse crimes committed every day than showing yourself to be an agitated fool. But making a show of supporting Donald frickin’ Trump is like telling the world you’re so far around the bend you don’t give a damn who out there will never forget.

Bottom line: More gin and tonic for me.

Hillary Will Be a Better President Than Bill.

NEW BLOG PHOTO_edited- 2For the record, and for the gamblers among you, I’m sticking by my belief that Hillary Clinton will win the election in November by a minimum of 40 electoral votes more than Barack Obama in 2012. I think I first heard that number in an interview with Howard Wolfson, Mike Bloomberg’s deputy Mayor of New York. It sounded right six weeks ago and it still does today, Donald Trump’s post-convention “bump” withstanding.
Full disclosure here means saying I’ve never had a problem, certainly not a righteous, disqualifying problem with Hillary Clinton. I don’t have to hold my nose to vote for her. In fact, I have a kind of fondness for competent, wonky managers. When I was 25 I thought the most important quality in a candidate was the ability to, you know, “inspire”, to send a tingle of hero-worship up and down my spine. Years later I’ve grown to realize that it’s a lot easier to fake that than it is to actually get [stuff] done.
Hubby Bill was pretty good last night making the case for Hillary as “the best darn change maker” he’s ever known. Our boy gives a great folksy speech, no fancy $10 words. And he knows how to hold a room with pause, inflection and gesture. A natural, as the cognoscenti have always said. The Mrs?  Not so much. But I just don’t give a damn about that. That’s not what I’m buying.
In fact, as I’ve said before, I truly believe Hillary could be a better president than Bubba, who was, if you recall, was pretty good, at least when he wasn’t setting his feet on fire playing rock star with starry-eyed interns. She’s the disciplined one of the two, and she’ll arrive at the job with 25 years more experience in the mechanics of national administration, foreign policy and — perhaps as important — the tactics of neutralizing the infantile nihilism of today’s “movement conservatives” than he did.
That last point is not inconsequential. In fact it was central to my problem with Bernie Sanders. The way the game is going down these days, nothing moves until you hit the Republicans with a kind of stun gun and shake and bake your way around their obstruction. Obstruction being the only thing they’ve got. Impeachment withstanding, Bubba routinely outfoxed Newt Gingrich’s conservatives and Obama for the most part has managed to blunt the worst of their excesses, although with things like the government shut down and the failure of gun control post-Sandy Hook and a dozen other items, the consequences of nihilism are evident to everyone.
I never saw Bernie, god bless him, being up to that game.
But here again, Hillary, who is a better schmoozer than the cerebral Obama, and has much longer standing relationships with the few Republicans worthy of the term “adult”, may be better suited to the combination of one-on-one deal-cutting and hardball political tactics than Obama.
Not being a player on the DC social circuit, I am in no position to say for certain what the reality of the “real Hillary” is. But from what I read, and there’s plenty to read about her, the cartoonish picture of a shrieking, duplicitous harridan just doesn’t compute. Perpetually wary? Yeah, I see that. But story after story portrays her as more genuinely gracious than Bill, who, you know, being Bill kind of likes every moment to be about him.
Bubba’s long recitation last night of all the projects she’s launched and reports she’s written and negotiations she’s concluded should be taken with a full shaker of salt. He’s a master at gilding the lily. But the fact remains she has in fact devoted enormous amounts of time to all sorts of wonky, bona fide, not-so sexy but vital issues and, more to the point here, arrives at the White House with a far better-than-average understanding of how to get that stuff done than any incoming president in my lifetime. (Lyndon Johnson knew how to get stuff done. But Hillary’s got him beat hands down in terms of ground level social issues, certainly for women and children, and foreign policy. Plus, she isn’t a crude old bastard.)
Campaign-wise, I don’t know what she can do to damp down the perception of “crooked Hillary”. The GOP base is entrenched in their total war opposition to any Democrat, and the sense of her as “untrustworthy” has been marketed very effectively for a very long time by Bill and her career-long adversaries. The sad fact of a public life lived on the grand stage as long as the Clintons is that perception is as powerful as the bona fides of your resume.
But she isn’t naive to that either. Someone who has taken as many shots as she has and kept on truckin’ fully understands the game. She may not like it. Who does? But she inspires confidence that in a genuinely unique way, she understands how to blunt it and be productive.

The Wrong Bernexit

So you, like me, voted for Senator Bernie Sanders for President. Now maybe you’re considering switching allegiances to the Libertarian presidential candidate, Governor Gary Johnson?

I respect your decision to shop around and do thoughtful research.  Here’s something to inform your decision.

Gary Johnson Bernie Sanders positions table2

(Source for Sanders positions here.  Source for Johnson positions here.  Source for estimate of Sanders spending increase total here.)

Yes, Governor Johnson would do some very smart and important things, such as scale back the war on drugs and be careful about entering military quagmires. But most of the centerpiece policies championed by Senator Sanders are vehemently opposed by Governor Johnson.

Confessions of a Facebook Killjoy

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
Martin Niemöller, 1947

“I try not to post political stuff…”
Me and most of my Facebook friends

Cursor_and_speak_no_evil_-_Google_SearchIn the era of Donald Trump and social media, these two statements haunt me.

On the one hand, I know that silence heals.  During these bitterly polarized times, it seems more important than ever to have a safe place like Facebook where politically divided friends and relatives momentarily set aside political rantings.  Sometimes we need to just take time to small talk, coo over snapshots and chortle over animal videos. So maybe, I think to myself, since I speak out in the blogosphere and on Twitter, I can give it a rest on Facebook.

But, as Niemöller reminds, sometimes silence doesn’t heal.  A grossly ignorant, bigoted, emotional pygmy with bullyboy tendencies could be about to become the leader of the free world during very dangerous and fragile times.  That is not an exaggeration. That may not end well.  So maybe, I think to myself, shame on me if I don’t heed Niemöller’s warning.

I was thinking about this the other day after reading a New Yorker article about Tony Schwartz, the ghost-writer of Trump’s bestselling book “The Art of the Deal.” Schwartz spent a year interviewing and shadowing Trump, so he got to know Trump better than most. He came away from that up-close exposure with this to say about the man who soon could be President:

“I put lipstick on a pig,” he said. “I feel a deep sense of remorse that I contributed to presenting Trump in a way that brought him wider attention and made him more appealing than he is.”

He went on, “I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization.”

If he were writing “The Art of the Deal” today, Schwartz said, it would be a very different book with a very different title. Asked what he would call it, he answered, “The Sociopath.”

So, the stakes of this election could be just a little bit high.  If so, what am I going to tell my grandkids if things turn out badly?

“He came to nuke the Muslims and I did not speak out Because I didn’t want to put a damper on the baby elephant video.”

As a friend and I were discussing the other day, I’m not really sure how to be a responsible citizen during a time of crisis. I’m a rookie at this, as I suppose Niemöller was during Hitler’s rise.  We have lived our whole lives during a time when there has not been what I would consider a mega-crisis, such as an epic moral battle over slavery, suffrage or segregation, a Great Depression or a World War.

In the wake of the biggest crisis of my lifetime — the 9-11 terror attacks — I wasn’t a particularly responsible citizen. I didn’t speak out against the anti-American Patriot Act. I didn’t speak out in a timely way about the wholly unnecessary Iraq War. I didn’t speak out against anti-Muslim hate crimes.  In the process, my silence contributed in a small way to making the the world less stable, just and safe.  I also haven’t been a very responsible citizen in the face of a mountain of evidence proving an unconscionable level of societal racial bias.

So, forgive me Facebook friends, but I just don’t feel like I can afford to completely sit silent over the next four months of this historically scary election.  I need to speak out, at least a little.  It may not make any difference, but I have to try.

And if everything turns out okay on November 8th, I promise on November 9th I will stick to baby elephant videos for a while.

Our Plague of Panicked, Terrified, Emotionally Unfit Cops

NEW BLOG PHOTO_edited- 3Every time we have another of these police killings, like in Baton Rouge earlier this week and St. Paul yesterday, I find I’m asking the same questions of the cops involved. 1: How did this guy get hired? And 2: What sort screening goes on that someone this terrified and panicky is sent out on the streets with a loaded gun and an implicit license to kill?

All the deeply imbedded racial attitudes of white cops to minorities, mainly blacks, absolutely apply. The data, as President Obama reminded the country again in his remarks from Poland, are real and bona fide. The chances of a cop pulling me over for a broken tail light are ridiculously miniscule. The odds of me — a guy with serious authority issues, or so says my wife — being told to put my hands up before I even dig out my driver license are even far more implausible, and the likelihood of some freaked out cop pumping a half dozen bullets into me because I was reaching for my wallet are essentially zero. It’d never happen.

With blacks, as everyone knows, even pasty, cossetted white suburbanites, it is an entirely different story. And the only tangible explanation, something you can do something with in the short term — before purging 400 years of racial superstition and animus from the social system — is accepting that these cops are fundamentally terrified of the black men they are stopping. They are not properly vetted for their basic law enforcement judgment and they are not screened well enough for police forces to discern the instinctual level of fear … they bring to the confrontations they so often initiate.

The facts of the Philando Castile shooting in Falcon Heights may yet tell a completely different story from his girlfriend’s post-shooting Facebook video. If that is the case, I’ll revisit this rant and make apologies. But by all appearances we have yet another example of a guy, a cop, fundamentally unequipped, psychologically and emotionally, for the job he’s in. No one as plainly terrified and panicked as that guy should have a job carrying a loaded gun with, as I say, the implicit understanding that he will never be prosecuted for overreacting and killing someone.

I think I’ve written before that I fail to understand why any cop, especially suburban types, are brandishing guns with lethal ammunition. The number of times any cop in the country gets into a raging life or death Hollywood-style gun battle with some psycho is surpassingly small. In most cases of that sort the cops have a pretty good idea in advance who they’re closing in on. They could dig the heavy stuff out of the trunk and call in backup.

But making traffic stops and waving a loaded gun in some guy’s face? Give me a break. A gun armed with chemical darts, or even rubber bullets, which hurt like hell, would cover — guessing here — 99% of the “extreme force” incidents city cops deal with. More to the point, after, what is it? 560 of these cop killings this past year? The end result of another of these police freak out/panic/overreaction incidents is a citizen bruised and zonked out but revivable to make his case in court … instead of, you know, dead.

Our legions of (mainly) white cowboy gun nuts would no doubt recoil in horror at the thought of cops stripped of the ability to kill and ask questions later. But they’re nuts and that’s nuts, if only considered on the level of the enormous mistrust of police that is building not just among blacks but sane citizens of every variety. No cop can be as effective as he/she needs to be if a fat chunk of the population spots them on the street and regards them as some kind of emotionally unstable, racist powder keg.

The solution? Well, for one thing, and I’m serious about this. I suggest police academy psychologists, the people screening applications, take a particularly hard look at the sort of people who have a deep, obsessional interest in being a cop. That might be a clue to the type of person you don’t want it in uniform, packing a gun.

Maybe that is a red flag in basic police candidate screening. I don’t know. But if it is, I think they’re missing a few.

Everyone may have an example, but there’s someone we know in our social orbit who in no way shape or form should be in law enforcement and packing a gun on city streets. But he is. It took him a while to land a gig. But eventually he got hired on. Given the same set of circumstances — a black guy in his suburban neighborhood — he could easily be the Falcon Heights cop. At best, proper vetting would have stuck him in a desk job. But, well, beggars can’t be choosers. And small cities with small police budgets take what they can get.

It would probably help if the average cop were paid more than, say, a WalMart assistant manager, but that’s a whole other fight.  You know, precious taxpayer dollars being wasted on more gubmint employees with cushy pensions.

Last time I checked gun technology was pretty advanced. Lots of “cool” shit on the market for “sportsmen” and “enthusiasts”. Anything your Second Amendment-hugging heart desires. Building a police revolver that fired chemical darts isn’t science fiction.

And it might go a small way to re-shaping a sickening reality.

Hillary Survives Another Nothingburger “Scandal”

NEW BLOG PHOTO_edited- 3It’s a tough day to be Republican. But then most of them are this year, aren’t they? This thing with the FBI letting “crooked Hillary” off on that colossal e-mail scam … well, until someone starts shouting for a special prosecutor to investigate the FBI, that notorious den of lefties, men and women of conscience (and with nothing better to do with their time and our money) are going to have find another dead horse to flog.

Not that “e-mailgate” didn’t succeed almost as well as other ginned-up Clinton scandals. I mean it began with Benghazi and after throwing years and taxpayer millions at that mirage it begat e-mail servers. It was just like how Whitewater begat Paula Jones and Monica Lewinsky and impeachment, which as you remember was such a winning strategy for Republicans Bill Clinton left office more popular than St. Ronald the Daft.

The fact is that like Whitewater and Travelgate and Benghazi before it, the Republican attack machine never had a coherent theory of the crime with e-mailgate. Which is why it bored people and never caught on like, well, like hanky panky in the Oval Office. (Now if among Hillary’s e-mails had been some hot mash notes to Anthony Weiner/Carlos Danger we might have had some fun.)

I mean, she used her own servers … to do what, exactly? Send military secrets to Al Qaeda? Sell off Texas to the North Koreans? What? Please tell me. Because I was never grasping the Constitution-tearing gravity of the situation.

“Well,” came the usual response, “we’ll never know. Because she won’t disclose everything. That’s the way the Clintons are. Clearly corrupt. Every time we accuse them of something they refuse to turn over all the evidence we need to make our case! Bastards! It’s like they don’t trust us! We have to Make America Great Again!”

This perpetual cycle of molehill non-scandals that … we the people have paid to prosecute … only to watch “the case” evaporate under the harsh light of actual evidence is of course central to the widespread perception that Hillary and Bill “can’t be trusted”. Never mind that if you ask “why can’t they be trusted?” the most frequent response is something along the lines of, “Well, because I hear they’re always in trouble over something.”

Somehow, maybe by adding a little video to this argument, from Kevin Drum Team Hillary has to turn the guns back on the firing squad.

For the record: Whitewater was a nothingburger. Travelgate was a nothingburger. Troopergate was a nothingburger. Filegate was a nothingburger. The Vince Foster murder conspiracy theories were a nothingburger. Monica Lewinsky was Bill’s problem, not Hillary’s. Benghazi was a tragedy, but entirely nonscandalous. The Goldman Sachs speeches were probably a bad idea, but otherwise a nothingburger. Emailgate revealed some poor judgment, but we’ve now seen all the emails and it’s pretty obviously a nothingburger. Humagate is a nothingburger. Foundationgate is a nothingburger.

Bottom line: Don’t let Donald Trump or the press or anyone else convince you that Hillary Clinton is “dogged by scandal” or “works under a constant cloud of controversy” or whatever the nonsense of the day is. That constant cloud is the very deliberate invention of lowlifes in Arkansas; well-heeled conservative cranks; the Republican Party; and far too often a gullible and compliant press. Like anybody who’s been in politics for 40 years, Hillary has some things she should have handled better, but that’s about it. The plain fact is that there’s no serious scandal on her record. There’s no evidence that she’s ever sold out to Wall Street. There’s no corruption, intrigue, or deceit. And if anything, she’s too honest on a policy level. She could stand to promise people a bit of free stuff now and then.”

I make no apologies. I have no great problem with Hillary. She’s pulling the gears on a huge, sophisticated, well-heeled and well-oiled political machine. Live with it. That’s the game in 2016 USA. It’s how you get elected. You want to change it? Me too. But it ain’t happening this year.

Moreover though, I tell anyone who cares to listen that I believe she’ll be a better president than Bill, who if you remember anything other than the stained blue dress, did a pretty good job of keeping the economy on the rails and US troops out of unwinnable foreign wars.

She arrives in the Oval Office with more experience on every imaginable level than anyone since maybe LBJ (problematic comparison), plus the full support of officers and staff from two successful Democratic presidencies and a whole lot less of Bill’s, shall we say, “impulse control” issues. She has also demonstrated masterful control over the Republican wing nut fringe, an enormous time, energy and money suck in D.C. these days, that must be persistently neutralized.

So there are plenty of rational reasons to trust her to competently manage matters here and abroad.

Not that the usual suspects will be screaming “scandal” and “special prosecutor” before she takes the oath of office.