Month: June 2016 (Page 1 of 2)

A Case of the DTs

     If I go more than three days without a Donald Trump media gaffe,  I wake up shaking and disoriented. The room spins, I hear voices.  Fortunately, I haven’t suffered this affliction recently.  The past few days of the Trump Turnberry Goodwill Tour were burnished with moments of megalomania. I’ve collected enough to hold me through Labor Day.

     The backstory of Trump’s takeover of the venerable Turnberry links has been told well and often. Like an Airedale marking territory, he had to have this golf course in his collection, if only to turn it into another glitzy Trump destination; eventually to fail.  In the process he has alienated his neighbors, the politicians in his district and Scotland in its entirety. Just this week, the UK Supreme Court threw out his case to pull down the wind farm that vengeful Scots built just offshore of Trump Turnberry’s scenic vista. What a coincidence!

    Showing a deep knowledge of local politics, he congratulated Scotland on voting to leave the European Union.  Regrettably, Scotland actually voted to remain. England voted to leave.  The Scots are considering a second referendum to separate from England in order to stay with the EU. So much for the briefing book.

   His appearance at Turnberry prompted his beleaguered neighbors to hoist Mexican flags, in solidarity with their North American simpaticos, whom Trump has promised to wall off. Those are among the same neighbors whose land Trump wanted to seize.  He was picketed, pilloried and posterized. He was strafed with insults and taunts that put his feeble attempts to shame.  Being called Lying or Little or Crooked is nothing compared to being called Tiny-fingered, Cheeto-faced, ferret wearing shitgibbon. And worse.

Not to mention that he took most of the week off from the campaign for his sojourn to the Old Sod. In some polls, he has dropped behind Hillary Clinton by double-digits.  The Republicans found the situation so dire that they sent Mitch McConnell, the stone-faced master of the Senate, before the Sunday pundits.  Even poor Mitch broke character trying to parry questions about Donald’s excellent adventure.

Donald Trump took this ill-advised trip when his campaign is struggling. His party is pulling away with both engines fully thrust. He is so lacking in preparation and politesse that he does not even know his host’s position on the most important issue in the world at this moment.

I’ll sleep well tonight.

Going Native

 There will always be an England, presumably, and there will always be its Channel, to use as it pleases.  For the past 70 years it has been a conduit to the European mainland and the shared market.  The other day the British converted it back into a moat. The United Kingdom, once a globe-encircling Empire, is shrinking back into the island country of its origin. In the age of globalization, England wants to go it alone. This past June, for the first time, England grew its own tea in Cornwall.  That must have been the straw.

   Pundits liken Britain’s decision to leave the European Union to Trumpism: a populist, nativist movement, focused on taking back the country and maintaining control in white, Christian hands. One look at the platform at a Trump victory rally and you can see it: the Monochrome Coalition. In the UK, the Leavers were lurking in the shadows until the light was shone upon them.

   Tribal ambition is coupled with the guarantee to voters to restore the country to its former glory, although nobody has explained how one thing triggers the other.  In America, the not well-kept secret is that Trump is supported by the many of the wealthiest Americans; not just the disenfranchised working-class which is the target of his pitch. 

     Brexit, and Frexit, the French movement to exit the EU, and Nexit (the Netherlands) are after something else: freedom.   “Victory for freedom!” exclaimed Marine Le Pen, a leader of France’s xenophobic National Front.  “As I have been asking for years, now we need to have the same referendum in France and in the countries of the EU.”

     Dissatisfied Europeans from member countries fault EU handling of the economy.  France’s Thomas Piketty wrote that we are in a period of slow growth, which never favors the working-class, and there is not much that anyone globally can do about it.  Who else is there to blame? You can’t fire all the players, so you fire the manager.

     The nativist streak is most glaring in anti-immigration politics. The native population is outraged to have to share with, let alone support, emigres and refugees.  How short the memory; these same outcasts once were their colonial drudges.

Most surprising, though, is that there is an undercurrent of hostility to corporate welfare, similar to Bernie Sanders’ principal concern.  Europeans believe that the EU is captive to nationless hydra-headed corporations, whose influence dictates EU policy.  

     Why does anyone think that breaking up the EU will put an end to corporate domination of politics? England, France and whoever else exits the European Union will be subjected to the same enticement and threats by companies who are better funded than nation-states to wage economic war.

Audition by Proxy

At the close of the Democrat’s sit-down protest in the House of Representatives this week, Joaquin Castro emerged as a spokesman for the protesters. Or was it his twin brother, Julian?  They’ve been known to stand in for each other, like escapees from “The Parent Trap.”  So there is Joaquin being interviewed on MSNBC, and I’m thinking, hmm, maybe it’s Julian.  Either way, it’s my first glimpse of a face and voice on the inside track for the Vice Presidential nomination.

Hillary is supposedly vetting Julian, Elizabeth Warren and Tim Kaine. Julian is only 41 years-old. He looks younger but talks like someone much more seasoned.  He has enormous potential.  He’s smart, quick, articulate and grounded.  He’s Secretary of HUD now.  He’ll probably get another Cabinet post that will groom him for higher office; he’s got no foreign policy portfolio.

Warren is more effective in the Senate for the next four years. She will be a star on the campaign trail anyway.  She would languish as Veep. It’s that kind of job.

Kaine is able. He has some policy conflicts with Hillary but that shouldn’t bust up a good thing.  After all Lyndon and Hubert won in a landslide in 1964 against Barry (Seriously, you’re not Jewish?) Goldwater, the most conservative Republican in captivity up to that time.  All Lyndon had to do was make a safe choice, which Hubert was.

The same goes for Hillary.  She doesn’t need to take a flyer in picking a running mate. Tim Kaine is unobjectionable, and that is all she needs.  You probably didn’t read it here first.

Brexit, Stage Far Right

I thought Brexit was another one of those Belgian cities I hadn’t known about, like Bruges. Golly, was I wrong! So I looked it up. It means: the return of the Dark Ages.

Art of the Deal, Part 2

More facts dribbled out yesterday. The Federal Election Commission released its monthly filing from the campaigns.   In Trump’s case, the campaign operated at a loss.  No problem there, though. He was taking from his left pocket and dumping the money in his right.  He was laundering his own money, as well as the bits that he collected from his followers.  All of this gives further support to his money problems and the fact that GOP donors won’t touch him.  The party regulars won’t allow their benefactors to get fleeced.  Any money that goes in from the big contributors will be controlled by somebody other than Trump.

The report can be found at:

The Art of the Deal

     Reading mysteries is fun because the reader tries to solve them. Following politics is like that, even when someone is fired, not murdered – although in political life there is not much difference. It’s more of a why-done-it. This morning I’ve been poring over the firing of Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski Trump’s Bouncer-in-Chief.. There are obvious reasons to fire him – inciting violence at the primary stops, allegedly assaulting a protester, sagging poll numbers, a bare campaign war chest.  In fact, this weekend just before the firing the campaign ran an email blast saying, in effect, that the campaign is broke.   But there are less obvious reasons as well, and that’s where the why-done-it question is leading us.

     We know in the last week, GOP leaders, who were yielding to the Trump campaign, had a change of mind. They were reacting to plummeting forecasts due to Trump’s ban on Muslim immigration; his self-congratulatory take on the Orlando tragedy; his typical neglect of facts.  The GOP leaders got spooked.  They’d been trying to figure a way to run Trump without losing their congressional majority. After Orlando, the rhetoric changed. There was renewed mention of an open convention. Even party leaders who support Trump, like Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, condemned his statements about the mass murders at the Pulse, the LGBT&Co. nightclub in Orlando.  Trump has a problem, but the GOP has a bigger one.

     Trump’s problem was that he was not getting donor support from traditional GOP sources.  He was trying to cozy up to them and their wallets when he had more Tourette’s moments on the campaign trail.  He wasn’t going to put his own money up – the first rule of Trump – Only Spend Other People’s Money. It got so bad that over the weekend, his campaign ran an email blast to raise $100,000.00 – the cost of a Trump luncheon – for ad buys attacking Hillary Clinton.  This was a mighty fall.

     But the party had problems too.  If Trump couldn’t raise any money and couldn’t control his mouth, he would get shellacked in November and take the party down with him.  The down ballot candidates for Senate and House would crash and burn, potentially putting all three branches of government in Democratic control. The party was examining the possibility of denying him the nomination. But that path was closed. Trump’s voters would not stand for that.  The party would splinter for sure. The party had to stick with its Hair Apparent, even if he loses. But they couldn’t let the Senate and House races go into freefall.

     Thus, the Monday morning purge.  The leadership forced Trump to fire Lewandowski as a condition to providing campaign support in the battleground states, especially those that are in play for the Senate.  By putting Paul Manafort in as campaign manager, the leadership has one of its own. Manfort made his bones with Ford, Reagan, the Bushes and candidates Dole and McCain.  He is the GOP eye in the middle of the Trump hurricane.  If money is going into Trump’s campaign Manafort, not Lewandowski or Trump, will be accountable.  Trump stated that he was going to take the campaign in a new direction: in other words, no more talk about walls, blanket immigration bans and racial profiling, for starters.

     The leadership will let the Donald be the Donald, but under controlled circumstances.  For example, they will run the show in the battleground states, so that the down-ticket candidates are better insulated from the Trump coattails. Spending in those states will come from general GOP funds and super pacs so that they control the message. GOP staffing will cover many of the holes that Trump can’t fill. It will be the GOP ground game, not Trump’s. When a Pennsylvania voter tells a pollster that she wants to re-elect Senator Pat Toomey, but can’t bring herself to vote for that Trump fellow, the pollster will say, “Then do what you’ve got to do.”

    This is why Lewandowski was dumped.

    The whodunit is easy.  “You’re fired,”Trump said

Ready, Aim, Notify!

The Second Amendment has been interpreted to give anyone the right to own weapons, ostensibly to protect one’s person and property.  That was the late Justice Scalia in the Heller case, a decision that is having unintended consequences.  Because the person now has a Constitutional Right to that gun, taking that right away becomes a constitutional issue.

Now, the Congress is having difficulty stopping sales to a person on the no fly list.   Senator Cornyn of Texas is advocating giving the purchaser so the FBI can check into it. Senator Feinstein of California, Vice Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee advocates that the sale should be stopped, and the purchaser has a right to a hearing afterward.  The Feinstein proposal keeps the gun out of the purchaser’s hand, at least legally.

The problem comes when a homeowner sues over the waiting period, claiming that the waiting period defeats the right to bear arms when needed. If you get a gun because your home is under threat, then a 72 waiting period defeats the homeowner’s ability to get immediate protection.

If the Supreme Court reexamines the Second Amendment, finding that there is no individual right to own or buy a gun, this notice issue disappears.  I wonder if the NRA ever expected to find itself at odds with its own position on guns and advocating a waiting period.  Or that one of the leading Democratic Senators would be fighting for a non-judicial ban of the sale with the hearing to follow.

                                The AR-15, available at gun shops, gun shows and toy stores.

In some ways, the Heller case is a worse decision than Citizens United, that opened the floodgates of money into political campaigns. With an opening on the Supreme Court and the probability that Scalia’s replacement will join the Court’s left wing, you expect a fusillade of Second Amendment cases from the left,dissecting the terms of the amendment, drawing distinctions between keeping or owning,  defining what constitutes arms, etc, the kind of scrutiny and narrowing that the pro-choice movement has brought to Roe v. Wade litigation.  Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that the Court would overrule the 2008 decision so soon after it was issued.  It would simplify the law enforcement issues, eliminate the need for a hearing and, most importantly, would correctly interpret the Constitution.

Are the Sidewalks Safe for Pedestrians?

I’m thinking of driving in New York City more.  It’s inconvenient, slow and expensive, but it’s safer than walking.On my stroll down Broadway today, I had a near-death experience.  I was approaching a corner, when a large man whipped around a building edge and almost collided with me and the dachshund. He changed direction quickly enough to avoid impact.  He stopped momentarily, tall, brawny, dressed for serious road cycling. But he wasn’t on a bike; he’d been coasting along downhill on some scooter-skateboard hybrid that he powered and turned like a Formula-One single-seat racer.

“Sorry,” he said with sincerity, as he powered up his Street Rocket. “Sorry?” I thought.  “Moron!”
This is hardly the first near-death experience I’ve had recently. Kids are scootering instead of walking, weekdays to school, weekends to religious services, weaving through and around strollers and seniors, and other slow-moving vehicles. Skateboarders regard busy sidewalks as practice runs for the Skateboard Championships in Munich this July.

Our bidpedalers are also endangered by delivery bikes.  This may sound like old news.  The bikes have multiplied, and the drivers use streets and sidewalks without distinction. The drivers go the wrong way on one-way streets and hop the curb to avoid cars. And some of the bikes have motors.  In fact, some of the skateboards have motors! True: gas engines and a steering post.

That’s not all.  There are also motorized scooters available.   Not one of those knee-walkers that are becoming a status symbol in senior communities.  I’m talking about a stand-up two-wheeled motorized scooter with a throttle in the handlebars, front and rear brakes, and shock absorbers.  This rig can get up to thirty miles per hour.  The only thing missing is a seat and a cup holder.

Kids have been riding skates and scooters on the streets for a hundred years.  They aren’t the problem.  It’s when these kid toys are being used by adults with more force and a higher center of gravity.  It’s those souped-up warp-speed machines that the cyborgs are using to cruise the neighborhood. Pedestrians don’t have a chance. We tread the concrete at our peril.

Brother, Can You Spare a Grand?

Last night the Trump Campaign email-blasted a pitch for contributions, saying it needed $100,000 for ad buys to oppose Hillary Clinton.  Imagine that, the $10 billion man can’t come up with 100k. Hey Donald, why not put a few of your houses on AirBnB?

Playing Defense

I was startled that fifty-one State Department officials called for US military intervention in Syria. Most are mid-level career diplomats. The State Department is for Diplomacy! They should be negotiating, waging peace. Here they are complaining that Syrian President Assad is violating the ceasefire and must be stopped. They are acting like the Defense Department. Startled I say!

Well, maybe not so startled.  The apparatchiks are looking at current events through a dusty spyglass. They harken back to a time when the US government gave a damn about the Middle East. We don’t much care now, as long as we don’t get dragged into another war. And we won’t get into another war as long as we don’t need the oil.  Energy independence has everything to do with it. The old hands at State don’t seem to understand that the game has changed. To them, Russian and Syrian aggression still means Freedonia’s Going to War! – but we’re not.  Either they didn’t read the memo or maybe they’ve heard the rumor that the Middle East Bureau is being downsized.

We’re inching toward Defense First. In the old days that was called Isolationism, and it was considered bad for business; military business at any rate. Those were the days when a war could create jobs for the entire workforce. These days, a domestic contract for new fighter jets is hardly a blip on the radar. Besides, we don’t have the money for a robust globe-striding fighting force, and we’re running low on soldiers.

World domination just isn’t what it used to be. Still, we can make America great by providing for and taking care of our own, as long as our own can get a living wage. Energy independence opens up a world of possibilities, with new industries popping up with the technology. Who knows, maybe in my lifetime, Americans will be driving Chevy’s again.

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