Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Donald Trump is Not Redeemable. He Cannot Be President.

The first debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton is behind us now and, except for the usual tiresome trolls, the racists, the bigots, the misogynists, and a few souls who genuinely want to believe a cruel, crass billionaire will be their saving Messiah, the consensus is that Hillary whomped The Donald, slammed him to the ground, and wiped the floor with him. Like a rag mop.

There's a reason for that. She knew what she was doing up there and he didn't. She's running for president and he's not. She's concerned about America while he's concerned about Donald Trump.

He cannot be president. Even in the most alternative of universes (alt-uni), Donald Trump cannot be president. By now there isn't a person in this country who hasn't seen firsthand how little he knows or cares about the presidency, about the awesome responsibilities placed on the shoulders of the Commander-in-Chief.

He thinks he can stop the presses if journalists keep being mean to him.

He thinks he can shut down regulatory departments because he's a businessman and he doesn't like regulations.

He foments mistrust and hatred for people whose color and religion don't match his.

He thinks he'll own NATO and can force world leaders to bend to his will.

If despots praise him, he'll praise them.

He has to be told the world might end if we use nuclear weapons.

He lies.

And on the personal side:

He dodged the draft and calls John McCain a loser because he was a POW.

He brags about forcing a sitting president to produce his birth certificate.

He calls women "fat pigs" and "Miss Piggy" and defends his reasons.

He thinks women who have abortions should be punished by the law.

He mimics a disabled reporter and makes fun of anyone who doesn't get his sarcasm.

He eggs on his crowds to physically attack protestors and offers to pay their fines.

He stiffs people who work for him and blames them for their own misery.

He slimes anyone who goes against him and brags about his insults.

He warns there is nowhere he won't go, nothing he won't do if he feels threatened.

He lies.

He cannot be president.

(Cross-posted at Dagblog and Crooks and Liars)

Monday, September 19, 2016

A Deplorable Thought: Trump Could Win

I was standing in line at the grocery store yesterday looking at this National Enquirer cover, trying to convince myself I'm too old to be horrified by these things anymore. It made me queasy and a little breathless but I managed to get past it and move my groceries from my cart to the belt.

When I heard a woman behind the guy behind me gasp and say, "Oh, my!" I knew without a doubt she was looking at that same tabloid cover. She was an older woman.  An "Oh, my!" sort of woman. Tiny, a little stout, a puff ball of snow white hair surrounding a sweet rosy face.  I couldn't quite hear what she was saying but I heard "Hillary".  She laughed then. She said something to the people behind her and they laughed, too.  Then she said, loudly but nicely,  "I would never vote for her, anyway!"

Well, okay. I live in Red Country.  Blood red. So red I'm not just surprised, I'm shocked whenever I meet someone who can admit out loud they'll vote for Hillary.  The Democrats up here don't flaunt their political preferences, they whisper them.  It's as if we're members of a secret cult, never letting on who we really are unless we know we're on safe ground, in the company of others like us.  Putting up yard signs for Democrats is an act of courage.

But the sweet lady in line behind me wasn't quite finished. She said something else to make the people behind her nod and laugh, and then turned back to where I could hear and threw this out: "I guess I'll just go on being deplorable."

She wasn't talking to me, of course, but it was a direct hit, a punch in the gut. The cashier handed me my change. I moved a few steps away and stood there. For many seconds. What could I say to change the mind of this woman who, I just knew, brought dishes to sick people and sent greeting cards? Okay, she may gossip a bit and look down her nose at people who get food stamps, but a Trump voter?  Inconceivable.

I left, of course, without saying anything. No magic words. What could I tell her that wasn't already out there? But I'm haunted by that woman. In another time she would be as appalled by that man as I am. Our politics might always be opposing, but on this we could agree: Never Trump.

What changed?  Do these people, nice as they may be in their private lives, really think Donald Trump would make a good or even an adequate president? Is Hillary hatred all it takes to make the thought of four years of a Trump presidency acceptable? Can't they hear him?  Don't they see he's fueled by power and hate and it consumes him?

Or is this all it takes?

For all the watching and reading I've done during this presidential campaign, trying to make sense of the rise of Trump so we could finally figure out how to fight him effectively, it took a brief encounter in a grocery line for me to finally get the message:  He could win.

Donald Trump could win.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

How Hillary Can Appease The Press

Kevin Drum, September 12, 2016
 The press is rightfully annoyed. She's a presidential candidate, and she should have disclosed the pneumonia diagnosis as soon as she got it. Those aren't the rules for ordinary people, but they are the rules for presidential candidates, and once again Clinton is trying to slide by them.  
So why did Clinton's people try to hide her condition? That's pretty easy: After months of baseless health speculation by Donald Trump's rumor machine, she figured the press would go full National Enquirer over this. She didn't trust them to handle it in a normal, level-headed way. 
So that's that. There's a gulf of distrust between Clinton and the media that appears unbridgeable. Clinton doesn't trust the press to treat her fairly, so she adopts a hyper-guarded attitude toward everything she does. The press doesn't trust her to honestly disclose anything, so they adopt a hyper-skeptical attitude toward everything she says. Rinse and repeat.

I've been thinking for a long time about the ways Hillary Clinton might possibly appease the press and get them to look at her as a living, breathing whole person and not just Bad Hillary. I think I've finally got it.

She needs to stop being who she is and be someone else.  She could change her name to--I don't know--Mother Teresa or Mother Jones or Jo Schmo from Kokomo.  It's clear she can't go on as Hillary Clinton.

The Hillary she has lived with all her life has to go. The private Hillary can no longer compete with the public Hillary whose persona, crafted over more than 25 years by people who don't even know her, has now become a caricature. It's incredibly difficult to run for president as a caricature, even with an opponent as cartoonish as Donald Trump.

(Here I could say a few thousand words about Donald The Deplorable and never take a breath, but enough about him. I mean. Seriously. Enough.)

So here, for what it's worth, is my suggestion to members of our esteemed Fourth Estate: How about pretending the woman running for president isn't named Hillary Clinton?  How about taking a long, thorough look at that woman's record--whoever she is--to see if there is anything, any little thing, that might qualify her for the highest job in the land?

It's on you to be honest about both the pros and cons of this woman who, for this exercise, is not named Hillary Clinton. This woman has been in public service nearly all of her adult life.  She was a lawyer first and then she married a man who became the governor of Arkansas and then became the President of the United States.

She was a First Lady twice but nobody knew anything more about her than they knew about Laura Bush or Michelle Obama. She was a senator in the state of New York but nobody knew anything more about her than they knew about her colleague, Chuck Schumer. She ran for president against Barack Obama and lost, which brought her some attention but no more than any other losing candidate.  President Obama chose her for Secretary of State but nobody knew any more about her than they knew about Colin Powell or John Kerry.

This woman who isn't named Hillary Clinton has indefatigable energy but doesn't brag about her accomplishments. She's not the best at public speaking but aces it one-on-one and in small groups. She laughs a lot, sometimes even at herself.  She's pretty damned popular both here and around the planet.

There are people who hate her but the numbers are lower for her because her name doesn't carry the stigma created and maintained by a real, honest-to-goodness vast Right Wing conspiracy.  She makes mistakes, some of them true head-scratchers.  She says dumb things she often has to take back.  She has been known to consort with filthy rich people who probably want favors from her, and with celebrities who are known Liberals. But she's just one among hundreds of other politicians who don't have to answer for their every waking moment, so it'll be okay. Since she's not Hillary Clinton, she'll be able to concentrate on talking about her dreams, her wishes, her goals for the country.

(She may even be able to struggle through a bout with pneumonia without several days of full-bore "breaking news", not so much about her prognosis but about her lack of due diligence when reporting it to the hovering, stalking press.)

There is a real Hillary Clinton, almost identical to this woman, but if you, as members of our venerable press, want us to believe you've been looking for her, you're going to have to work harder at convincing us. Put away your magnifiers and look at the whole woman before you. Analyze controversies, don't create them. Report truthfully about what you observe. Include context. Let molehills be molehills.

It's not on us, it's not on Hillary, it's on you. Now let's see who you are.

(Cross-posted at Dagblog and Crooks and Liars)

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Fifteen Years After: We Remember 9/11

Today marks the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City.  Fifteen years have passed -- a decade and a half -- but for those closest to the terror, for those whose loved ones were caught in that unimaginable rage storm, for those who trained for this, who mobilized and fought so hard to try and save the lives already lost to them, we pay tribute by refusing to forget.

The pictures are all that is left.  They stay with us and resonate as terrible, beautiful works of art.

The agony of the men and women who could do nothing but stand by and watch the towers fall reflected and drove home our own agony -- even those of us in the hinterlands who watched the horrific events unfold on our TV screens, helpless to do anything but gasp and moan and rock with a kind of psychic pain most of us had never felt in our entire lifetimes.


As painful as the dredging up of the images of that terrible day is to us, there is no sense of dread as the annual anniversaries approach.  Every year, on September 11, we want to remember.  9/11 has become a watchword.  Nobody in America has to be told what those numbers represent.  

  Every year on this anniversary, in a ceremony to honor the dead, family members gather for the recitation of the names of the men and women lost to us on September 11, 2001.  The names are being read alphabetically.  For one brief moment the people live again.  We do this for their families and for us.  They're not just numbers or actors in an unimaginable event that became the catalyst for change, altering our lives forever.  We need to keep their memories alive in order to recognize their humanity, and possibly our own.

We remember.

We remember.

We'll always remember.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Without Unions There Would Be No Labor Day. And that's the Least of It.

Every Labor Day I feel more and more like I'm at a labor union wake and all I can do is pay tribute to what once was a living, breathing, cherished part of so many of our lives.

Our lives. Workers built this country and labor unions went to bat to build protections for them.  As labor unions grew, so grew labor's strength. Wages rose to sustainable and beyond, benefits were true safety nets for workers and their families, the promise of healthy retirement packages kept worker loyalty high, and self-respect grew to levels where employees could demand and get concessions from their employers.

That, some would say, was their downfall.  They had no right to expect wages beyond what their employers thought they should pay. They had no right to expect working conditions beyond what their employers thought adequate. They had no right to expect benefits or retirement packages that would sustain them outside of work.  They had no right to make demands.

No, their downfall began when they believed it.

I'll be blasted any minute now by supporters of the notion that U.S workers were their own worst enemies, fighting against outsourcing and offshoring, against lower wages and benefits, against any action their employers might take in order to make a profit. They asked for too much and forced their employers' hands. Now look were they are.

Okay, let's look: (From an article by Richard Eskow, "How Much Will the War on Unions Cost You This Labor Day?)
If union enrollment had remained as high as it was in 1979, nonunion working men in the private sector would have earned an average of $2,704 more per year in 2013. The average non-unionized male worker without a college degree would have earned an additional $3,016, and those with only a high school diploma or less would have earned $3,172 more. (The differences were less striking for women because of workforce changes since the 1970s.)

The decline in union membership is costing nonunion workers a total of $133 billion per year, according to EPI.

Canada resembles the U.S. in many ways, but union membership there hasn’t fallen like it has here. Why not? In a word, union-friendlier policies – the kind our country should be embracing, but isn’t.

We need unions. EPI’s study confirms that they play a key role in reducing economic inequality, which is a growing crisis. The pay gap between CEOs and average workers has skyrocketed in recent decades – from about 20:1 in 1965 to somewhere between 204:1 and 331:1 today.

Everyone talks about the plight of the workers but nobody wants to talk about unions--about the role collective bargaining plays in worker rights and better wages; about the role unions once played in building a vibrant middle class.

So here's a test: Picture what this country would look like if unions had never existed. Imagine the lives of workers and their families if millions of their peers hadn't organized and fought, not just for pay equity, but for the dignity that comes from laboring as an equal with a stake in the outcome.  Ask yourself, were we--are we--better off with or without unions?

Labor Day began as a day to honor trade and labor organizations.  Huge parades designed to show the might of labor took place in cities across the country. I remember, as a small child, riding on my father's shoulders, watching a Labor Day parade in downtown Detroit, where row after row of union men and women marched in the hot sun, carrying flags and banners emblazoned with the names and numbers of their union locals.  It might even have been this one:

 Detroit was a town bursting with union pride. Whole families worked for the Big Three, most of them starting there fresh out of high school.  Many of them worked their full 30 Years And Out. Wages were good and benefits were better. Company loyalty was pervasive and public.  They wore their company names and union logos on their jackets, on their caps, and put union stickers on their cars--the cars they could watch being built from start to finish on the assembly line.

This year Bill Clinton will be the headliner at Monday's parade in Detroit. I hope he stops long enough to get an earful from the union folks working hard for Hillary in hopes that she'll work hard for them. I want to hear that word "union" attached to any mention of labor from now until November.

And next year, on Labor Day, I want to be rejoicing here and not commiserating.  I want attention to be paid to the workers still grinding away, building us up instead of tearing us down.  I want them to feel their worth, to know they're needed. I want to shove aside once and for all those who do everything they can to stand in their way.

Have a happy Labor Day weekend, but come Tuesday let's get back to work.  All together now, let's give labor a chance.

(Cross-posted at Dagblog and Crooks and Liars)