Things I Would Say as a Candidate…

… and why I would never get elected.

  1. Those jobs are gone, buckaroo. They’re not coming back. Worldwide, manufacturing jobs are declining. Don’t blame the Chinese and the Mexicans, blame the robots. (Side note, this is exactly the reason we were so excited about robots forty years ago.)
  2. The retirement age has to go up. The whole idea of Social Security was sort of an enforced savings account. Regular folk didn’t have the foresight to save for the future, so the government decided to do it for them. But rather than structure it as a regular savings account they did the math assuming you would die at a certain age. As people live longer, the math has to change. No biggie, right?
  3. Except they looted Social Security anyway. The system is living hand to mouth; all those savings gone. What should be a vault with trillions of dollars instead has a slip of paper in it with the letters “IOU”. The problem is, the people who borrowed the money don’t show it as a debt on their books. As if they had no intention of paying it back. People at Enron went to jail for exactly this. The workers at Enron never recovered.
  4. Miami is fucked. So is New Orleans, and other great coastal cities. If you live in one of those places, sell now before people catch on. Where I live… borderline, but I won’t get storm surges (even when the typhoon track turns north). It is simply too late to change our energy policies enough to save those places.
  5. Oil is too damn cheap. The low price of oil damages far more than you know. Just one example: While massive boats burn incredibly dirty fuel, out-polluting entire cities to bring us cheap foreign goods, local businesses wither. You want to bring the jobs back home? Stop buying things brought to our shores for practically free, only to pay the price later when Corpus Christie is evacuated.
  6. We are in conflict with radical Islam because of oil. If we weren’t propping up dictatorships in the Middle East, if we weren’t pumping great piles of cash to some pretty terrible people, if we we weren’t knocking over governments to keep the oil flowing, we could be part of the solution, rather than the bankroll for the problem.
  7. Fracking… At the risk of harping on oil too much, the environmental free pass frackers have been given makes me sick to my stomach.
  8. Military spending should be based on effectiveness for a relevant mission. Not jobs, not kickbacks to politicians. This isn’t welfare, it’s the security of our country.
  9. Give me your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free. We’re going to need those guys as we get older and Social Security goes belly-up. And maybe we take “breathing free” for granted. Ask people fleeing oppression what our nation stands for. Sometimes we forget.

There are more. I could probably say one thing a week to keep the memes humming over the course of a hopeless campaign.

There are other things I would also say, positive things, about the really great things this country is and could be. About ways to Keep America Great. Because this is a great country. We have some tough choices to make in the coming decades, and we will be challenged to overcome the sins of past leaders who dodged those questions. But if we can find a way to work harmoniously with the majority of nations on this planet who act like adults, there’s every reason to believe we can come through the coming trials intact.

We just have to stop fooling ourselves first.


Hillary Clinton’s Emails

There’s a lot of talk about Clinton’s handing of email while she was boss of the State Department, and for all the yakkin’ by both parties, there hasn’t been a lot of movement. A big problem with the whole discussion is this: it’s not a single issue. There are two accusations, (almost) completely unrelated, but the whole “Hillary Email” debate treats it like a single thing.

Clinton is accused of behaving irresponsibly by keeping her emails on a server that was not secured by the US government, and she is also accused of sending email with secret information to people who should not have seen those secrets. Important to remember through this whole thing: she could just as easily have forwarded those emails from an official State Department server.

So we can separate the two accusations and not get all mixed up when people refute arguments about one accusation with evidence concerning the other. Two separate debates, focussed on the two separate questions.

Here’s my take on each.

The Server
Using her own server was clearly against the rules. No one is disputing this. Clinton’s defense is entirely about the circumstances, which she claims justifies the choice. Looking at the circumstances, she has some pretty strong points. Basically, the State Department’s own email servers sucked so bad that Colin Powell advised her to use her own server. We know this because Clinton released her personal emails, including her conversation with Powell on the subject.

And don’t forget, the State Department servers were hacked. If Clinton hired me, I guarantee I can secure emails better than the United States Department of State does. And I’m by no means a security expert.

Conclusion: “Everyone’s doing it” is not really a defense, but I’d listen to her accusers more if they also put the heat on “everyone”.

The Secrets
The question here is “did Clinton knowingly share information that was secret?” Knowingly is of course a trap word, but we can change the question to “did Clinton share information that was marked as secret with the wrong people?” While investigators have made fairly broad accusations in public, when grilled under oath they have not come up with much. Things that are secret now were shared, that’s pretty certain. Much less clear: were they secret when they were shared, and were they marked as secret when Clinton got that information?

By the way, does it seem faintly absurd to classify information after the fact?

This issue is made more complex by the whole network of security classifications and clearances. People who can juggle plutonium can’t read ships’ manifests.

At this point, with only a small sample of emails reviewed, and millions of taxpayer dollars to go to review the rest, no smoking gun has been found. The whole “(c) is for Classified” argument is apparently false, or at best misleading. The people who talk big clam up when under oath.

Still, I’m sure if we dig hard enough we’ll find a Leaked Secret or ten. None as bad as Dick Cheney blowing the cover of a CIA agent for petty political reasons, but Cheney’s not the criminal under investigation here. I’d go so far as to say that it’s not possible for the Secretary of State to do her job, moving information all around the world, without tripping over information restrictions occasionally.

Still, “honest mistake” isn’t the best defense. People in a position like that aren’t supposed to make mistakes, as unrealistic as that expectation is. I’d listen to her accusers more if they also investigated other, more flagrantly dishonest officials as well.

In summary, my take on these two issues can be expressed thus: Clinton did some things wrong, and I look forward to the day when everyone in Washington is held to the same standards she is. That will be a very good day.

Republican Conservatives Find their Voices (at last)

For years, the Republicans have been making promises to the so-called “religious conservatives”, even though they had no intention of keeping those promises once elected. “Overturn Roe v Wade!” is trotted out, the Evangelical Christians punch the ‘R’ button in the voting booth, then the slogan is packed away until the next election.

But Republicans have found themselves more and more dependent on the Religious Right and other factions even farther out there that John McCain calls “the crazies”.

The crazies have taken their revenge. The conservatives of the Republican party swallowed their tongues as suddenly all the leading candidates in the primary rush were crazy-fueled WWE candidates. The conservatives remained silent, fearful of pissing off the crazies, hoping that out of this mess somehow rational minds would prevail. They bit their tongues as the crazies took over the engine room and pushed the Enterprise to warp 9 and pointed it directly at the sun.

I did not plan to use a Star Trek metaphor, but by Skippy I’m running with it.

McCain and Kaisch and a host of others now see that the ship is gong to blow up if they don’t do something. McCain blasted Trump. A gaggle of 50 influential Republicans just gave him the finger. Money that would have backed a rational Republican is landing in Democratic pockets. Money follows winners.

Senators in close races are distancing themselves from the national stink-bomb that is Trump. The conservative press (not to be confused with infotainment like Fox) has turned on the man. Trump is running out of supporters to alienate.

Leaks come out that party bosses are drawing up contingency plans should Trump quit. Other leaks say the top Republicans are “phoning in” their campaign support for their presidential nominee. Those leaks aren’t about the presidential election, they’re about the senate and the house.

The conservatives are speaking, at last. I don’t agree with some of the things they say, but at least they’re talking about policy, in actual sentences. If all these wise conservatives had found the backbone to speak six months ago, we might be looking at a very different election. Now, they are just trying to emerge from this election with some semblance of a party. They’re putting all power to the shields and hoping they still have a ship on the other side of the sun.

Post Script: Democrats, learn the lesson here. You make empty promises to labor every cycle, using them the same way Republicans use Christians. Bernie gave you fair warning that you’re not getting away with shit any longer.

Trump and Idiots

I have, on several occasions, said that people who vote for Trump are idiots. Having read the excellent article Why Trump Voters are not Complete Idiots I have been forced to question my stance.

The article, if I may be so bold as to recast, turns the US into a two-story house. The folks on the ground floor get by, the folks upstairs do well. By any measure, I’m living upstairs.

It’s important to note that while money is a big factor in where you think you live, it is not the only factor. Income is only one way one’s value in society is defined. Respect from those around you is another. Upstairs people feel more valued.

There’s no guaranteed pass to the upper floor, but a college education is pretty damn close to one. Go to college, move upstairs. And here’s where the core resentment toward immigrants comes in. It’s not the illegal immigrants coming in on the ground floor that rankle, it’s the legal immigrants, the educated ones, who step right onto the upstairs that piss people off.

It’s not how well you’re doing, it’s how well you’re doing compared to the other guy.

So Liberals and Democrats (not at all the same groups) make two basic promises: 1) we will make living on the ground floor suck less, and 2) we will make it easier for your kids to go upstairs.

But for a man just getting by, with his kids already past “college age”, there’s not a lot of upside there. He remembers when just being a hard-working man doing his job and not bitching too much was enough to feel secure in this country. Maybe he couldn’t get upstairs, but hard work meant something, and he could be confident that his family would be taken care of. For that guy, that was when America was great.

Trump, while not offering anything specific at all, implies that he will restore America to those good old days. But he isn’t offering to make living on the ground floor better, he wants you to believe that he’s changing the rules for who gets to live upstairs. For people who feel stuck downstairs and degraded by assholes like me calling them idiots, maybe it’s time to change the rules.

It gets a little ugly, though, when you consider that during this mythical period when America was great, the upstairs was occupied almost exclusively by white men. So when he talks about going back to the good ol’ days, he’s talking to the working white men whose fortunes have flatlined while all the other demographics in this country have caught up. But he’s making it a white-men-vs-the-world proposition. Sometimes subtly, sometimes not so much.

These folks have heard all the political double-speak before, but there they sit, downstairs, even while brown and yellow college-educated kids skip up to the luxury suites without breaking a sweat. Time to shake things up! Time to value the people who work with their hands, who actually make stuff. So people in the making-stuff group who want to shake things up are not inherently idiots. They are following an agenda that, at least superficially, gives them the better chance to get upstairs. The Democrats are telling them their grandchildren will have a more fair shot at the stairs, but that’s far away.

Blow up the system. When the debris stops falling, who knows who will be on top?

So far, that makes sense. But there’s still the question: Is Trump the guy to do that?

Let’s take another look at those good ol’ days. When a working man could provide for his family and maybe even send his kids to college. Or at least technical school, or a skilled apprenticeship. Those days actually existed, not long ago.

Was it the Republicans, or the white men upstairs that created those conditions? Well, no. Not even remotely. It was the labor unions. The Great America Trump wants us to remember is the America when workers had power. When there was dignity in labor and a comfortable life even while the fat cats upstairs got rich.

So, white men who remember a better past, is Trump really going to return us to those days? Will he restore the power of the unions?

Hell, no.

He couldn’t if he tried, and he’s not going to try. Among the many lawsuits Trump has settled, there are the union-busting ones. He is famous for shitting on the working-class people. Gleeful, even. He is the worst thing that could possibly happen to the working-class joe in this country. He is a spoiled rich man with a long history of disregard for the people he is now asking to put him in the White House.

So, back to my premise: are people idiots for voting for a fundamental change to the system? No. Not if they don’t believe that we are on a path that makes things better for their grandchildren.

But are they idiots for voting for Trump? Yes, absolutely. Trump is one of the people who put them where they are, and he has no intention of changing that. Just ask that man of the people over in Russia.


Our Next Vice-President

According to John Kaisch, Trump’s kid told him point-blank that if he were Trump’s vice-president, he would be in charge of domestic and foreign policy. In other words, he would have had all the responsibilities of an actual president. Trump, presumably, would be off pounding vodka with Vladimir Putin*.

Kaisch said no. He pretty much hates everything Trump stands for. And since he is governor of Ohio, a state Trump must carry, when he says no it hurts.

I’ve said it before: Trump has no interest in being president, he only wants to become president. So it’s not hard to get from there to assuming that a vote for Donald Trump is actually a vote for Mike Pence. Just as evil, but perhaps at least somewhat competent. So there’s that bit of sunshine if you feel compelled to vote for a racist fear-mongering bigot out of some misguided impression that he is in some way “conservative”. (Pro tip: Trump is not conservative.)

Then there was the handing of the announcement of the Republican VP nominee. It was botched, badly, while Trump spun in indecision and tried to weasel out at the last minute. Another display of the general incompetence of the “best people” (mostly his children) that Trump has gathered around himself.

On the other side of the ticket, the Democratic Vice-Presidential nominee is going to be interesting. There are rumblings that it might be Elizabeth Warren, but given her full-frontal tweet attacks on Drumpf and pals I don’t think it will be her. She’s the attack dog now, and although Clinton has said she wants that in a VP, I think ultimately the campaign will look better if the attack dog is not on the ticket.

Also: I don’t think Warren likes Clinton that much. She hates Trump far more, sure, and she’ll go attack-dog for the party, and she knows that the party will remember. The Democrats at this point have their shit together way more than the Republicans do. Those super delegates the Bernie crowd complains about? This is how you get them, by helping win elections for others.

Don’t be surprised if Warren is our second female president. But personally I’d be surprised if she was Vice President first.

One common qualification for Vice President is hailing from a key swing state. That’s why Trump wanted Kaisch. Warren is from Massachusetts; Clinton will need no help winning there. She needs someone who can deliver her a critical state in the upcoming election. A place like Florida, or… Ohio… Someone who can balance the ticket and reach across to disenfranchised conservatives. Someone who has a track record of standing up to Trump, who puts ideals over ambition.

Someone like John Kaisch. Now, wouldn’t that be something?

*Putin would rapidly tire of Trump, and ultimately, while janked up on benzedrine, cocaine, and Viagra, would shoot the POTUS just so he could say he did.

I Agree with the Republicans about One Thing

At the convention the delegates on the floor are getting all frothed up. One of the signs they’ve been given to wave around reads, “We deserve better.”

Yes you do, Republicans. You deserve better. But you hitched your wagon to a racist xenophobe child-king and now we have to embarrass your whole party as monumentally as possible to make sure you grow the backbone to not be railroaded again.


The RNC Drinking Game

trump_1868826aMy cousin, over in Facebook-land, has been soliciting ideas for drinking games for the Republican National Convention. It’s going to drive you to drink anyway, why not make a game of it?

The major political conventions have been reduced to noise and flashing lights anyway, since the conclusion is foregone. In smoky rooms where cameras never reach, actual policy decisions might be made, planks laid for the coming campaign and whatnot, but those meetings hardly need the hoopla of the convention. It is, really, just an extended political ad that the major networks offer up for free.

The Establishment will now do pretzel contortions to pretend they liked Trump all along. But they didn’t like him then, and they don’t like him now. A large chunk of the party just wants to punt this one over to Hillary and try to take it back in four years. There will be agonizing moments of discomfort durning the RNC.

So, the drinking. I figure there are a couple of easy categories, and one tricky one.

Things People Say
These don’t have to be an exact match, it’s the spirit that counts.
“Donald Trump is a savvy businessman.”
“Donald Trump cares about America.”
“Make America Great Again!” (if you accept this one, you will get hammered).
“Donald Trump undertands
Untruths that can be verified within thirty seconds.
“The beautiful city of Cleveland”
“The great state of Cleveland” — With Trump, it’s possible. You know it is. 10 drinks.
Any attempt to use Cleveland’s NBA championship to generate excitement.

Weeping male zealot (1 drink)
Weeping female zealot (3 drinks)
Big crowd shot with all the signs pumping to insipid piped-in music
Trump, with his hand raised in a gesture that might not be Hitler but is definitely in Mussolini territory
A black person. (1 drink)
The same black person (2 drinks)
The same black person another time (Ok, there will be four black people there, and the cameras will be hungry for them. Your call whether to go linear or exponential here.)
Beauty shot of Cleveland from the air.

One of the greatest travesties of this election is otherwise-rational people will be backing Trump out of misguided party loyalty. Moments when those people are captured by the cameras will be the most precious of all.
Party leaders golf-clapping.
Top Republicans forcing smiles only made possible by the intake of copious cocaine.
Conventioneers wearing Hillary buttons.
Mentions that if Trump doesn’t win in one round, delegates are free to back other candidates.
“I’m not saying Trump is [racist/sexist/stupid/unethical]…”
Referring to his campaign as unorthodox.

Things you will die if you include
“The great state of…”
“The next president…”

If the list gets too long, the game gets too complicated (and dangerous). It might be too long already. Still in the spirit of the convention, I’d like to open the floor to proposals for other planks in the game platform. Comments left here at the blog will live on long after Facebook comments are lost in noise, so I encourage the conversation to take place here.