Sunday, May 29, 2016

Trump is wrong: America is still great but isolationism would harm us

Donald Trump's appeal is to those who believe American is in decline and he will make it great mistaken, per Fareed Zakaria. By every measure America has become and still is the strongest country in the world; it dominates. However, to maintain that position in the face of growth in other countries, including China, it needs to cooperate internationally. Donald Trump's isolationist America First would be harmful to maintaining our greatness, per Fareed Zakaria. This is a column worth reading, if only for its fact checking. My view: Trump plays on the isolation and ignorance of the world outside our borders to make his case. For that reason, I believe his appeal is greatest to the less educated demographics

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Hillary Clinton's emails: What difference will it make?

Hillary Clinton's email travails only serve to intensify her poll ratings that she is not honest or trustworthy.  Whether it will make a difference in the campaign beyond that is yet to be seen.

Donald Trump's low personal poll ratings are even lower, and they may cancel out the poor ones of Hillary's.

This is like to prize fighters in the ring fighting to a draw with below the belt punches.

What is different between Clinton and Trump's lies or sort of lies, is that Clinton uses word parsing to cover her tail. Trump on the other hand misuses facts to exhort his followers to believe in his viewpoint.  What is dangerous about misuse of facts to shape policy could lead to serious security consequences, particularly regarding the Muslim ban and its repercussions on cooperation with our allies. Below is a 2015 blog postings that discusses the differences in the implications of lies attributed to both.  What we must be aware of is that the GOP claims that reverses or revisions from previous policy positions is not a lie, but a flip flop. What should be consider lies is whether, after receiving the correct information, the lies based on false facts or faulty legal interpretations continue.

From the previous blog posting:

One of the recently emerging themes of the current political season is calling opponents liars. It is beginning to look like an elementary school yard brawl. How does a rational voter sort this out?
Here is the danger.  The dedicated partisans of one side often believe their favorite candidate’s lies are true, even if facts reveal otherwise.  Worse is how those lies are used.  If it is used to make people hate others more to gain their support, Trump is guilty of that. Clinton is more guilty of self-aggrandizement, guilt avoidance, and factual inaccuracies in making a case for a specific government program.
Tapping fact checkers is one way to see who is the  bigger liar. Partisans of the Trump wing usually dismiss fact checkers as main stream media as a way of avoiding arguing the facts.   PolitiFact is a project of the Tampa Bay Times and uses a “Truth-O-Meter”. Glen Kessler of the Washington Post awards Pinocchios, the worst lies deserving four of them. is not part of the mainstream media. It is a project of the Annenberg Foundation.   What is interesting is to compare them with those from those usually right wing leaning, including the New York Post or Breitbart.
PolitiFact awards the Liar of the Year to Donald Trump. “PolitiFact has been documenting Trump’s statements on our Truth-O-Meter, where we’ve rated 76 percent of them Mostly False, False or Pants on Fire, out of 77 statements checked. No other politician has as many statements rated so far down on the dial.…. But it was hard to single one out from the others. So we have rolled them into one big trophy.”
The Washington Post Fact Checker  gives  Trump  their  liar award, too. They concluded “ In the space of just six months, he earned 11 Four-Pinocchio ratings, far more than any other candidate.” names Donald Trump the “King of Whoppers”.
 Trump frequently makes false claims or claims without proof to gin up hate of others. Mentioned as Trump whoppers by at least one, if not more, are Trump’s “Thousands and Thousands” of Muslims in New Jersey celebrating the 9/11 attack, that Mexican government sending immigrants that are criminals and rapists to the US, and that “Whites killed by Whites, are 16%; whites killed by blacks are 81%” when the reverse is true. Another falsehood is that Christian refugees cannot come into this country, while Muslims can come easily”.
Hillary Clinton gets criticized by saying she tried to join the marines once, but the NY Post says that is a lie and Washington Post  gave her 2 Pinocchios. The NY Post claims Clinton knew the Ben Ghazi attack was caused by jihadists from the beginning. The Washington Post gave her two Pinocchios for her Congressional testimony on Benghazi and three on some of her email server statements. Fact said she was mistaken when she claimed drug prices had doubled and that cost shifting accounted for higher premiums.  Was she dead broke when she left the White House? NY Post says her net worth was $101 million. Did she come under sniper fire in Bosnia? Clearly not true per videos of the time.

Donald Trump and the Hiroshima effect

The President’s visit to Hiroshima last month, site of the first atomic bomb ever dropped, is a grim reminder of the consequences of nuclear war.  So horrendous was the destruction and the pictures of those who survived, that after Nagasaki was nuked three days later, no more nuclear weapons have been used since 1945.  The graphic videos shown around his visit of the consequences  of nuclear weapons should remind us of the reasons why increasing that probability of such use is a formula for ours and others’  self-destruction since so many others have already acquired that retaliatory intercontinental capability. It is also a reminder of why Donald Trump’s proposal to arm Japan and South Korea with nuclear weapons and to cancel or try to renegotiate the Iran deal would open the dam to an arms race, especially in the Middle East.

For the post 1945 succeeding generations, most of the world pursued nuclear disarmament agreements to limit the ability to produce it and to get agreements with nations who did not yet  have nuclear military capability to attain it.  So long as rational leaders understand the consequences of the use of nuclear weapons, we may have a shot at preventing such catastrophes.  North Korea is right now the exception and its leadership could be considered irrational.

 Iran was knocking at the door with predictions it would be nuclear weaponized in three months.   The nuclear disarmament agreement with Iran has been attacked by Pres. Obama’s domestic opponents as a bad one because it did not require Iran to cave in on its terrorist activities or to forswear attacking Israel. There was a great deal of doubt if Iran would comply in spite of the historically stringent verification measures in the agreement. So far it appears Iran has lived up to the requirements of the agreement.

There is also fear that the more countries who have nuclear weapons, the easier it is to spread the capability to other countries who would have no scruples in  using them.  There is a direct line to North Korea from Pakistan’s rogue scientists.  The fear is real. It has happened.
That same fear was the main rationale driving the United States to launch the attack on Iraq.  WMD were never found. Use of small scale and nuclear weapons and primitive “dirty” bombs has fed current fears as well. What if the terrorists in Paris used a dirty bomb instead of automatic weapons? Many more would have been killed and injured.

US foreign policy has worked hard to keep the world safe from nuclear destruction. What Trump is proposing is an irrational break from our policies in effect since World War II. For those of us long in tooth remember the fear of a nuclear war in the Cold War, the drive to build back yard bunkers or drills in schools ducking under desks to survive a nuclear attack.  In the Cuban missile crisis, I was tense sitting at my desk in New York City fearing that I might be vaporized.  It was real to me but subsequent generations have no such memories thanks to nuclear disarmament agreements.  The prospect of Donald Trump’s finger on the nuclear button and his nuclear proliferating foreign policy is personally frightening.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Message for Trump: Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. No wonder his favorability rating with women is so low.

Donald Trump once again shows he does not get what women think when he faults Hillary Clinton for not coming to the assistance of women who were connected to Bill Clinton's sexual adventures.,"Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned". William Congreve 18th century paywright's famous but paraphhrased line:,Trump scorns women who are not a perfect 10.  No wonder Trump's favorability rating among women is so low.. 

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Is the two party system dead? Updated version

Are we watching the end of the two party system?  In 2016 it is dented but not yet dead.  What happens after the November 2016 elections is the question.   Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump owe their rise to hijacking existing party organizations. Neither Sanders nor Trump has a history of party loyalty. This year is a battle between populist anger and the “establishment” personified by political party officials, certain candidates, and lack of Congressional leadership.

The two party system has advantages because it forces internal compromises early in the election cycle. That is not a permanent condition. Parties have in the past broken up, changed directions, and gone separate ways, particularly over the issue of slavery more than 150 years ago.

This year shows profound internal differences within the two parties.
 Both parties have passionate members who put differing priorities over other considerations. This begs the question: Will the two parties splinter into a European style multiple party system? Will Democratic Socialists conflicting with traditional "establishment", civil rights adherents result in Democrats going their separate ways? Will the GOP split up into several pieces of social conservatives, Libertarian small government advocates, defense hawks, and the racist, xenophobic factions? 

The Democrats have a better shot at unification than do the Republicans.  Their issue differences are not made of contested goals but about how much, which way, and how quickly to get to similar goals.

The GOP has deficit and defense hawks, small federal government advocates, and economic theories that people do best when the investors in business get the tax breaks and favorable legislation.  Lately their nearly single minded focus had become advancing social conservatism, from right to life and opposing gay rights.  They fiddled with their principles and priorities, while many in their base burned at their failure to help relieve their economic decline.

The GOP has found itself morphing into something else, thanks to Donald Trump's single minded continued devotion to doing it his way instead of compromising on issues of priorities, tone, and philosophy. Many GOP leaders ignored their disagreements in the name of party unity, hoping he would pivot to appeal to general election voters. His recent attacks on a judge’s Hispanic roots illustrate their impotence to change his course, allowing the GOP to turn the party’s brand name into one harboring racism and a Trump authoritarian kind of leadership that contradicts  basic principles in our Constitution, including an independent judiciary, and prohibiting discrimination based on race and religion.

There are structural barriers to party breakups that may force the two party system to stay intact, even given these internal struggles .Existing two parties are entrenched in party rules and control of fund raising lists.  Laws vary from state to state that provide degrees of barriers for upstarts to make it on a ballot. Prevailing winner take all allocation state by state of the Electoral College votes shuts out even a close loser.

However, the two party system is not set in concrete or protected by the Constitution and state election laws can always be overturned and changed. If Trump loses the general election, this experiment in populist party hijacking will fail. However, if Donald Trump wins, expect more to copy his tactics and to weaken the two party system even more.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Voter motivation 2016 style: Stop _____. You fill in the blank

Given the polling showing  unfavorable views of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton (slightly less so than Trump) this election is not going to be about voters choosing the better person,  but  making fear of the other side as their motivation to turn out and vote.

What is certain is the uncertainty. Hillary Clinton has never faced a candidate like Trump who has so few scruples and whose issue positions are moving targets. Clinton needs to assume it will be a close race and run like it.  Will there be enough increase in Hispanic and women’s votes against Trump to offset the electoral votes of white males in the rust belt?   Democrats have shown less intensity and turnout than Republicans, even taking into consideration the great Bernie Sanders’ rallies.

 The exception will be Hispanic turnout in key states where they have enough numbers to swing a close election and deliver enough electoral votes to make a difference.  This is a traditionally low turnout demographic, but there Is nothing like Trump’s comments about undocumented, “deport ‘em, call them rapists, and” build the wall”, to increase their number of voters who will view him as hostile to their interests as a group  and to  break up families containing mixed status members. Trump’s cozying up to white supremacists groups will be more than enough to get out the African-American vote. To what extent suburban women will be able to offset white male blue collar voters in the rust belt is seen as a possible plus for Democrats.

Trump’s supporters are angry at both their party establishment and the Democrats they feel who have contributed to their misery  because were left out of a less than vigorous economic recovery from the Great Recession.  The anger factor has reached the level of irrationality. Anger is not a public policy nor, does it seem, do the angry consider negative or self-defeating fallout of any of the “suggestions” Trump promotes.  Trump and his followers simply ignore warnings of negative consequences of a very dangerous foreign policy, retaliatory trade wars endangering jobs of eleven million more workers employed in export industries, their candidate needing a steep learning curve in foreign affairs to be ready to be commander in chief on day one without committing a blunder, and  insensitively dividing the country into blocks of haters.

The angry are also the supporters of Bernie Sanders, and he also appeals to large numbers who are likewise fed up with politics as usual.  Instead of solely promoting his solutions, Sanders has also continued negative attacks on Clinton, tying her to Wall Street, and hitting her judgment, that are now serving as the talking points Donald Trump is using to attack Clinton.    While Sanders admits it is a “hard” path to win the nomination, even with prospects of winning Oregon and Kentucky, he is helping blow one of the greatest chances for a Democratic victory not seen in years. . His redemption will be to convince his supporters that they should oppose Trump over their dead bodies as well as his, and do it with the same enthusiasm and turnout as they did in the primary season.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Trump: a European style right winger?
Does Donald Trump have an ideology? He has dumfounded the Republican Party, and has accomplished the unthinkable, forged an alliance against him of traditional establishment types, social policy, fiscal, and small government conservatives,  free trader Republicans, and mutual defense strategists.  Trump is all over the map but usually non supportive on their issues, and he is either doubling down or backing off of some and filling in the blanks in none.   Where he has been consistent is reaffirming his anti-immigrant, nationalistic, Muslim ban, trade protectionist campaign. If he does not fit the GOP’s traditional elements that make up their party, that does not mean he has a political philosophy.  He does. We can find his ideological cousins in Europe and some in American history.
Aside from the demographic groups he has alienated with his racist, sexist, and xenophobic remarks or his style of demagoguery and strong man, he has found a sympathetic niche. They are mostly white blue collar males who feel left out of economic recovery from the great recession, those who fear the US will become a country governed by Sharia law or threatened by secret infusion of ISIS terrorists, or are the last gasp of a white male dominated country they see slipping away from them. They are willing to overlook his economic solutions, other than protectionism and infrastructure development.   Trump’s original positions would have provided more tax relief to the rich and he was hostile to raising the minimum wage. This would counter gains in job creation by protectionism and infrastructure funding. (He is since waffling a bit)
He does fit into an ideological slot, however, and we have seen some of it before from George Wallace, to the late 1930’s American Firsters, to Pat Buchanan,  but none of these have risen be within striking distance of the White House.  Most Americans have to be reminded of these movements because since they did not succeed, they have faded from many memories nor they do not see him as resembling a Nazi or a South American dictator.
In our current era,   he most resembles Europe’s extreme right.  These are not social or fiscal conservatives, but hyper- nationalists, ant- immigrant, protectionist drum beaters.   Many attribute the terrorist attacks by militant Muslims from Charlie Hebdo, to Paris, to Belgium, to the failure of Europeans to integrate immigrants into their culture, driving them to ghetto sanctuaries of fellow ethnics where a first generation born person is nurtured and attitudes developed.  Sadly, there is a long tradition in Europe of ethnic conflicts and tribal loyalties which fertilize the roots of these extremists.
San Bernardino was an outlier. The shooters were benefitting from the American economic dream and integrated into the work place. However, they were a two person sleeper cell who came to the US with an agenda, initially radicalized not by ISIS but by the Saudi Salafist clerics  that also gave rise to Al Qaeda and many others.
 The hostility and discrimination toward Muslims is  fueled by these extreme right wing parties such as the  National Front in France led by Marine Le Pen, the Fidesz Party in Hungary, the Freedom Party in Austria, and others in England, Poland, and Sweden.  An encouraging development last week was London electing a Muslim mayor when Muslims are only 12% of the population.

Bernie Sanders pledges to stop Trump. That is an important message to those who felt the Bern.

Buried in Rachel Maddow's interview of Bernie Sanders this past week was a significant statement from Bernie Sanders...that regardless if he does or does not win the nomination, he will do all he can do to defeat Donald Trump. If there is a fear his supporters may flock to Trump should Sanders is not the nominee.. since they share the anger vote, Sanders has a chance to play a significant role in leadership, by raising his voice strongly before November

Sunday, May 1, 2016

America First puts American security last

(revision of a prior posting: Trump foreign policy: 1930's retro)
Donald Trump brought forth a serious foreign policy statement that he thinks would make America great again by isolationism, removing it from the leadership of the free world, abandoning or undermining mutual defense alliances, scotching future interventions, and advocating a protectionist trade policy.   His new slogan is” America First’.  But if you read the fine print, it would put America’s security dangerously last in his priority to consolidate his base that believes he speaks the truth, but does not consider the consequences.

‘America First’ is not new. The 1930’s were marked by the oratory of admirers of Nazi Germany, like aviator Charles Lindbergh. His organization, “ America First”, opposed getting involved in Europe as Germany prepared to invade England.

Trump proposes strengthening the military, which was also part of the 1930’s America First concept that if we are strong at home, we would not be attacked. It was wrong then, but it is a mismatch of tactics to current threats. ISIS’ foreign strategy is terrorism carried out by a few with car bombs, pressure cookers, and AK 47’s, fueled by religious fanaticism impervious to bombs and drones. Opposing intervention in foreign conflicts while beefing up the military makes the military threat empty.

 Trump’s speech failed to tell us how he would defeat ISIS and its franchises.  Would it mean massive ground troops he would call something other than an intervention? .Fifteen years later we are still dealing with the aftermath of shock and awe in Iraq and the birth of ISIS..  His reason for being mum?  Keep the enemy and American voters guessing. The danger is needless blunders and miscalculations by enemies

 Our strategy of having Muslim allies fight the war against ISIS for us has been damaged by his anti- Muslim rhetoric and his attempt to bully the Saudis. Or does he plan a deal leaving Syria to Russia?  Would that deal also leave the Baltic states and the rest of the Ukraine to the sphere of influence of Russia, while at the same time weakening or destroying NATO?   His fine print is on  a blank page.

That it is the duty of the President to place American interests first is a given that needs no slogans attached, but it does require skill and use of many arrows in the quiver to be successful, an Obama strategy Trump calls weak.  Trump believes “coherence” is the correct strategic approach: one size should fit all situations while keeping everyone guessing what the size is.  Realty check.  Sometimes it does take forging robust alliances of the willing, not reluctant alliances of the ticked off. Threatening participants with dire consequences can backfire .

Missing from his speech is his prior advocacy of over-turning anti-nuclear proliferation  agreements which would unleash a nuclear arms race with no means to  restrain others from acquiring and using them against us or their other enemies,  a formula for a far more  dangerous world than even the Cold War.

While  the impact of trade agreements on jobs is a legitimate concern, the pain of globalization is now from old treaties and  the economy has changed from the old assembly line to high tech. Re-education and job creation in infrastructure projects could be the balm the under and unemployed rust belters need now instead of starting a trade war.


Thanks to Rachel Maddow for making historical references to America First on a recent program and to Dana Milbank of the Washington Post for coining the tag :Dangerous Donald

A poster in one of the Baltic states at risk if NATO is weakened or Trump kisses up to Putin Lithuania: