Sunday, August 21, 2016

It Takes A Village Of Women To Break A Glass Ceiling

It's too early to count electoral chickens but, at this point, the possibility of needing to say "Madame President" next year seems very real.  But, as Hillary Clinton would be the first to point out, this potential reality is not (or will not) be a single-handed accomplishment, should it happen.  If Secretary Clinton does end up standing in the Oval Office next January, she will be standing on the shoulders of many, many women whose talent and tenacity broke all of the glass ceilings that stood below the Presidency.

No one post could pay tribute to all of those women.  It would take more bits, bytes and bandwidth than I can count to do so.  I can easily cite any number of examples, as I'm sure you can too.  Here, courtesy (sadly) of the obituary page of the New York Times, is one important example.  Well done, Susan M. Baer.

And well done to my wife, Cynthia Rosenberg, an important example in her own way.  Whatever good exists in my life is because of her, and the qualities that enabled her to become the success that she's become.  That's her story; I'll let her tell it in her own way, on her own time.

But all of us, men and women, should be grateful for such women, as well as for the men and women who support them.

Hatred Turns The Hater Into The Object Of The Hate

I am not now, nor have I ever been, an advocate of Richard Nixon, in any sense of what that might mean.  But I am willing to concede that he was a tragic figure in one very important sense:  he learned too late a piece of wisdom that could have averted the tragedy he inflicted not only upon himself, but an entire nation as well.  He shared this wisdom in his departure speech to his White House staff, on the day that his resignation as President became effective:
... those who hate you don't win unless you hate them back.  And then, you destroy yourself.
Republicans in the current House of Representatives could take a lesson from this wisdom, perhaps before they suffer a fate similar to Nixon's.  They have attempted again and again (at your expense, taxpayers), to lay even so much as a glove on Hillary Clinton.  And failed, again and again.

Well, perhaps not completely.  As it turns out, in the course of looking for felonies committed by Secretary Clinton, it appears that House Republicans may have committed a few of their own.

Perhaps, had they spend less time (and again, less of your money) on persecuting Clinton and the rest of the Obama Administration, and more time working with them to actually do their real job, i.e., solving the nation's problems, they wouldn't be in this predicament.  For example, if they hadn't cut funds for embassy security, there would be no Benghazi tragedy to investigate in the first place.

Oh, well, probably too logical.  These are Republicans we are talking about, after all.  Which means that many of them will end up like Nixon, learning about reality far too late for it to do them any good.  Hopefully, that won't take the rest of us down with them.

Should Aid For Louisiana Be Unconditional?

Does that sound like a harsh question to you?  Perhaps it is.  Perhaps that depends upon whether, at this point, there is even a Louisiana to aid.  If you take a look at this, which includes a map of what Louisiana would look like minus the floodplain (or, to be more charitable, "wetlands"), it becomes a little bit harder to say that there is very little to aid.  Then again, as this article points out, there are those on the Republican side of the fence who wouldn't consider any aid at all, not even for a state that has gone in recent elections from being arguably "purple" to deep dark red in its voting patterns. They're happy to see it sink into the Gulf of Mexico, never to return.  (Memo for progressives, especially those who think it's safe to sit out elections:  if this is how Republicans treat their friends, wait until you see what they have in store for you.)

In fact, it is precisely because of the shift in the Pelican State's politics that I raise the question of whether aid in the wake of the most recent flooding crisis should be unconditional.  That, and the existence of the obvious culprit behind that crisis, as well as Hurricane Katrina before it.

Historically, much of Louisiana has always been swamp and marsh land, due to its position in relation to the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico.  As a consequence, it has always been vulnerable to flooding during and after storms.  The state has, over centuries, learned to cope with this fact through a variety of drainage systems and, in circumstances where damage was extraordinary, been able to rely on the federal government to provide needed aid, as it does for other parts of the country in similar circumstances.

At the risk of putting a fine point on this, I'm forced to point out the obvious:  in the present age, when it comes to storms, the extraordinary has become the rule and not the exception.  And the obvious and unavoidable explanation (for those of us who like the truth untarnished by anyone's self-interest)?  Call it climate change.  Call it global warming.  But do the folks in Baton Rouge a favor and don't call it a "hoax" anymore.  It's not a hoax for them.  It's a disaster.  And there are more of them coming their way.  And ours.

And the disaster can take a variety of forms.  Droughts, that threaten to set the entire Western portion of the country on fire.  Mutating viruses, like the Zika virus, that threaten the entire Eastern seaboard. And other forms that we have not yet seen.  Or perhaps, want to imagine.

That is why, as painful as it is to think what I am about to write (much less write it), I am forced to take and advocate the following position, going forward from Louisiana's current misery:

Any state, or smaller jurisdiction, that receives federal aid on the basis of a natural disaster that can be scientifically linked to climate change must, within 90 days of said disaster, submit to federal authorities a comprehensive plan, including legislative and regulatory changes, that will significantly reduce the impact of climate change on their state, including the likelihood and severity of a similar disaster.  Should they fail to do so, or fail to enact a proposed plan, any aid for a future disaster should be considered a loan, which must be repaid, addressed through a forfeiture proceeding, or subject to other statutorily enumerated conditions.

Sound harsh?  Such are the consequences of pretending that partisan politics can make science go away.  It can't.  I don't care if climate change is ultimately solved by Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Greens, Know-Nothings, Whigs or whomever.  I care about it being solved.

Because it's real.  Ask the folks in Baton Rouge.  Ask your grandchildren or great-grandchildren, if you can find a way to time-travel to the version of the future in which you did nothing.  They'll want to know why you did nothing.

And G-d help you if you don't have good answers.  I won't.  And neither will they.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

A Few Words Of Political Advice For Millennials

I've said what I'm going to say here before, but I'll say it again, since it bears repeating.  Especially after I read an article like this one, and believe me, I've read plenty of them.

OK, millennials.  You don't like Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.  Well, I'm not a millennial.  I'm a Boomer.  My generation was and is, deservedly, famous for being the then-most demanding generation when it comes to EVERYTHING in life, including politics.  We didn't like our choices any more than you like yours.  My first Presidential campaign (technically, the second one I worked in, but the first one I followed from start to finish) was in 1972.  McGovern versus Nixon.  People back then felt the same way about those candidates that you feel now about yours.  I remember my high school newspaper printing a cartoon showing both candidates saying to each other "You stink!"  That was 44 years ago.  Somehow, we made it through Nixon, Watergate, Reagan, Iran-Contra, Bush, Gulf War I, Bush II, 9/11 and Gulf War II, and got to where we are today.  Where we're lucky enough to have all of you as our children and grandchildren.

So you and the country will survive this election.  That's the first piece of good news.  The second is this:  we made our country a better one by getting involved in the political process, whatever our other faults may be.  And now, it's your turn to return the favor.

Keep on doing what you did with Obama in 2008 and 2012, and did with Sanders this year.  And keep on doing it, despite the setbacks and disappointments.  It's the only way anything ever gets better. And it's the only way anything will get better.

Believe me, everybody noticed you this year.  The political establishment noticed you.  Bernie Sanders clearly noticed you, and he clearly hasn't given up on your potential, and neither have the candidates who have followed his lead.  You should keep on following it.  Yes, all the way into the mouth of the beast itself.  It's always been, and still is, the only way the beast is going to get any tamer, and starts responding to you instead of working against you.

The Other 1%

It's become fashionable to use the phrase "the 1%," and variations thereof, in discussions about income inequality.  And it makes sense; by one estimate, the financial assets of the top 1% have nearly doubled in the past 40 years.  In the process, the finances of the entire nation have been effectively immobilized by people who would rather hoard money than invest or spend it.

But there's another 1% we need to worry about, especially given the power of the financial 1%.  We can perhaps refer to it as the cyber-1%; the folks whose knowledge of the Internet gives them the power to use it for their own political ends.

I'm not talking about politicians like Howard Dean, Barack Obama, and Bernie Sanders, who have learned how to use the Web as a supplementary tool to organize otherwise conventional political campaigns.  I'm talking about groups like Anonymous and WikiLeaks, who have shown themselves capable of tearing down the few walls of privacy the Internet permits for their own unilateral ends.

You may sometimes like the results.  You may, in the case of Hillary Clinton and Congressional Democrats, may not.  But you cannot argue with this:  their technical sophistication makes them, in many ways, even harder to successfully oppose them if it is your wish to do so.  And they possess the ultimate resource:  knowledge.  If we look at the tools of political power--votes, money, and knowledge--as a kind of rock-paper-scissors triad--knowledge is the ultimate winner.  Knowledge can outwit both money and votes.

Which is why it matters who has the knowledge, and how it is used.  In the case of someone like Julian Assange, knowledge is not necessarily something that will be used in our best interests.  It's time to wake up to that fact, and find ways to fight back against the other 1%

No, Clint Eastwood, YOU'RE The One Who Needs To "Get Over It."

I couldn't help reading Clint Eastwood's recent pro-Donald Trump diatribe, in which he lectured the victims of political incorrectness, to "get over it," without flashing back in my mind to a different period in Eastwood's life and career.  One in which he expressed profoundly different sentiments.

While Eastwood has always been right of center, although a libertarian more than anything else, he was at one point a very strong advocate for greater participation by African-Americans in the film industry.  And his advocacy wasn't just rhetoric; he put meat on the bones of his words in his hiring practices on his film projects, including one project that celebrated the life of a major African-American artist, Charlie Parker ("Bird").  The NACCP honored Eastwood in 1989 with a special Image Award for his efforts and, in accepting it, he expressed his hope that, one day, the Image Awards would be "obsolete," because it would be "commonplace in the motion picture industry and other industries to never use minorities in stereotypical fashion, and to branch out."  You can read more about this here.

So, what happened?

I don't think Eastwood's earlier advocacy was insincere.  Whatever else I can say about him, I don't think insincerity is one of his liabilities.  And, in more recent years, he's added to his past words of tolerance by extending them to those who support marriage eqaulity.  And his praise for Trump was hardly unadulterated; he critized Putin's poodle for his comments about the "Mexican" judge he might be facing.

No, Eastwood's comments seemed to be less an endorsement of Trump and more of a screed against "political correctness," or what Eastwood sees as "political correctness."

But why is political correctness a bad thing?  What others call political correctness is simply good manners, with the goal of not offening people for aspects of their lives beyond their control.  And let's be real  there was a time in our history in which a different sort of political correctness ruled the land, one in which the stereotyping Eastwood mentioned in 1989 at the Image Awards was an accepted part of our national culture.  This does not constitute an endorsement on my part of every scenario in which someone claims offense.  But, even in those cases, it's still worth having the discussion, if only becuase it ultimately leads to a better understanding of one another, and to a more perfect union. (And, if this is a democracy, we need to talk to each other more often in any case).

If, as a comedian, you're going to offend someone, do it the way Groucho Marx did it; be offensive about what people say and do, not about who they are.  That takes a little more intelligence and effort, but it's why people still laugh at Groucho, long after they've forgotten the children's books of the early 20th century with their stereotypical black and Jewish characters.

I'd like to think that Clint made his comments when he was having a bad day.  Maybe, however, part of where he was coming from was being in a world in which white male power is, in fact, becoming obsolete.  Maybe seeing that is harder for him than he could have imagined back in 1989.  Clearly, for most of Trump's supporters, that seems to be the case.  I've always liked Eastwood, even when I have disagreed with his politics.  I would hate to see him descent to the level of racial animosity that can be found at any of The Donald's rallies.

Perhaps this really is a job for Meryl Streep, after all.  Give it a try, Meryl; I'll be rooting for you.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

At The End Of The Anti-Government Road Lies Bigotry--And Death

And there's something else that I've said for years about conservatives:  that their anti-government rhetoric is merely a proxy for their bigotry.

In theory, there is no more basic government responsibility than public safety.  And public safety requires not just a commitment to maintaining military forces, but also a commitment to protecting the public health of the nation as well.  There was a time in the not-too-distant past when liberals and conservatives could come together on this, without hesitation or partisan division.

Unfortunately, we no longer live in that time.  Now we have a Congress led by Republicans, that wants to use the deadly threat of the Zika virus to promote the flag of a vanquished, racist nation. Without regard to the ugly history of that nation.  And without regard to any lives that may be lost as a consequence of that promotion.

And people wonder why, despite the President's popularity, a majority of the people think that the country is on the wrong track?

Look at it this way.

The Republicans not only control Congress, but also a majority of governorships and state legislatures, as well as half of the current, down-to-eight-Justices Supreme Court.  And, thanks to Mitch McConnell, they are willing to suspend Constitutional government in order to ensure their control of the judiciary.  In the words of a currently-popular Internet meme, if you don't like the direction of the country, look at whose hands are all over the steering wheel.

Can anyone honestly doubt that the Republican Party cares about nothing but short-term power? Believe me, if they aren't removed from that position of power, the short term may be the only term any of us have.

Thank You, Jennifer Rubin

Thank you, that is, for once again proving that a conservative is someone who just hasn't caught up to the liberals yet.

More specifically, I'm referring to this column by Ms. Rubin.

Along with a lot of other media observers, I've been saying for years that decades of bullying by conservatives against the so-called "liberal press" (most of which was owned by conservatives) has turned the former Fourth Estate into a timid shadow of its former self, constantly manufacturing false equivalencies for the sake of trying to get the bullies off of its back.  And, in the process, only encouraging the bullies to bully harder--by manufacturing their own media outlets that have no interests in equivalencies at all.  Only in propaganda.

And, in the process by which all of the foregoing has unfolded, something very important was lost. We used to refer to it as "the truth."  Something which does not have a left-wing or right-wing bias, but something that cannot be escaped.  Not by denial, not by false equivalencies, not by propaganda, and no, not even by bullying.  The truth simply doesn't care.  It simply exists.  And you let your biases, right or left, ignore it at your peril.

Jennifer Rubin concedes this, more or less, but doesn't seem to have a clue as to what to do about it.

I have a suggestion.  One that we can all embrace.

Let's all agree that there are two things more important that being a conservative or a liberal.  One is being an American.  And, beyond that, being a member of the human race.

If we can focus on both of those things, maybe, just maybe, we can all find a way to stumble back to the truth.

Monday, August 8, 2016

My Major Objection To Third Parties

As I'm sure all of you know by now, we are in a Presidential election cycle in which the majority of the American people are less than inspired by the Presidential alternatives offered by the two major political parties.  One of those candidates seems to have a support ceiling under the 50% threshold, while the other is falling toward a support sub-cellar that may not even be visible yet.  Time will tell, of course, whether Hillary can convince a majority of us to be "with her," and/or whether Trump will be able to make his campaign as great as he allegedly wants to make the country.

In the meantime, 20% or more of the voters are looking at alternatives.  Perhaps not surprisingly, there are two that have enough support to show up in national polls:  Jill Stein, the nominee of the Green Party, and Gary Johnson, the nominee of the Libertarian Party.  Ms. Stein is running as the default alternative for Berniecrats and other progressives who don't trust Hillary to expend any real effort to advance a progressive agenda.  And Mr. Johnson?  Well, as a political philosophy, libertarianism tends to span the traditional ideological divide in politics.  They're conservatives on taxes, welfare and government spending generally, and liberal on abortion, civil rights generally, and the environment.

The presence of one very left third-party candidate, and a third-party candidate who appeals to voters on the left and right, seems to suggest that the challenge of attracting supporters may be greater for Hillary than it will be for Trump.  Given the fact that Hillary is leading Trump by an average of 8% in the polls, she seems to be meeting that challenge.  Thus, for the moment, I'm not looking at either Stein or Johnson as a "spoiler," a la Nader; if things change, of course, I'm prepared to take a different view of them.

But even if they are not spoilers, I have a very strong objection to these third parties and their candidacies:  why do you only show up in Presidential election years?  Is it because you're just trying to live off of free media attention given to the presidential race generally?  Or is it from a naive worship of the Presidency as the one office in this country that has the power to change everything?

I pose those questions only because those, to me, are the only two logical alternative possibilities. I don't believe that either the Greens or the Libertarians fail to understand the way in which power is divided in a federal system.  But that means that, as political organizations advancing candidates and policies, both parties are unforgivably lazy.  And that's a shame, because I think that both parties have ideas worth advancing, and worth greater political support than they are now getting, such as alternative resources and concerns about law-enforcement policies.

Bringing ideas to the forefront of a campaign is the only way to prevent it from becoming a contest of personalities.  Unfortunately, in an "either-or" contest, it becomes incredibly easy for the major parties to become lazy and to turn the focus of voter attention to personalities.  That didn't happen in the 1992 Presidential election, which inspired record voter turnout and led to a debate about the federal deficit that actually led to action on the deficit--by an Administration and a Congress controlled by the party falsely responsible for running up the national debt.

But that only happened because of the presence of a third-party candidate, Ross Perot, who had the means and the will to organize and operate a truly national campaign.  Perot was and is a billionaire, and one who made his fortune largely off of government largess.  It was easy for him to put a campaign together almost overnight.  And he was his crusade's only candidate; his Reform Party offered no one for Congressional or state government seats.  Still, for a time, he made a real difference.

And that's the kind of difference any serious third party should be trying to make.  It should not try to just show up for Presidential races and somehow hope that lighting will strike.  It should be serious about raising money and backing candidates in every single election year, to make sure that its voice is heard on a regular basis, and to make sure that it can obtain power in other parts of our Federal system.  Imagine, for example, what a single Green Party Senator who was serious about the Green Party's platform could do, under current Senate rules.  For that matter, you don't have to imagine it; you already have the equivalent of it in the form of Bernie Sanders.  For crying out loud, give the guy some helpers, so that he doesn't have to go it alone in the Senate.  Or, for that matter, imagine what a single Green Governor could do; he or she could, under the ACA, put a single-payer health care system into place.

If the Greens and Libertarians committed, beginning with the 2018 election cycle, to operating in this fashion, I can absolutely guarantee you that it would not belong before you had a political climate that had more than two voices.  You would have as many as four, and possibly more.  And, in that scenario, you would have a clearer focus on ideas--because ideas would become the glue by which coalitions are built and elections are won.  Coalition-forming, historically, is how progressive ideas have been advanced in this country; for that matter, it's how political parties are formed in the first place.

But things are never going to get better unless third parties in this country buckle down, work hard and fundraising and recruitment, and otherwise resist the easy lure of free media in presidential years. Governments in this country are formed, and re-formed, every two years, not every four. America's third parties need to wake up, accept that fact, and act on it.  America's future may depend on their doing so.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Another Baltimore Treasure Crumbles

My home town of Baltimore does not have a great track record when it comes to historic preservation, especially when it comes to theaters.  Many were bulldozed out of existence years ago, and most of the ones that are left have been adaptively reused out of existence.  Happily, there are a handful of exceptions, and I had hopes during the past few years that the Mayfair Theater on Howard Street (where I saw "Bonnie and Clyde" and "The Godfather" many years ago) might join the ranks of those exceptions.

Sadly, it is not to be.  The city-owned building has been allowed to deteriorate over decades, and now, except for the facade and the lobby, it is by now probably gone, if this story is correct.

Baltimore, a city with troubles piled on top of troubles, doesn't have the resources to properly care for priceless resources like this one.  The city government should have solicited bids for its re-use a long time ago, but historic preservation occupies a very low rung on its ladder of priorities.  Still, it had a stage house as well as a screen, and could easily have been re-used by one of the many performance groups taking root in the city.

If only all 50 states could join New Mexico in taking the lead to preserve historic theaters!  Perhaps, one day, it will happen  Hopefully, it won't be too late for most of the other endangered buildings like the Mayfair.

Once Again, The Cheerleading Corporate Media Miss The Boat

It isn't surprising that it took Web outlets (check here, here, here, and here) to uncover the real substance behind the WikiLeaks dump of DNC e-mails that revealed DNC staffers exploring ways to give Hillary a campaign advantage in the primaries.  For the record, Bernie Sanders says that he lost fairly to Hillary and still supporters her.  That didn't matter to the corporate cheerleaders at the legacy broadcast and cable outlets, who, at the bidding of their masters, kept the Hillary-vs.-Bernie story going for as long as possible.

Until the Web outlets noted that the leaked e-mails had apparently been run through Russian servers. Meaning that the hacking of the e-mails was done by the Russians.  Meaning, of course, that it was done at the behest of Vladimir Putin.  "Worse than Watergate," indeed; a foreign government attempting to influence the outcome of a presidential election.  It's been no secret that American conservatives admire Putin greatly, and (in the case of Trump) have connections to him.  Now, we have proof that the admiration and the connections may threaten the existence of this country.  Still think there's a false equivalency between Hillary and Trump?

But what else would you expect from the corporate cheerleaders?  They're still so puzzled by the seeming disconnect between Obama's rising popularity and the fact that most people still think the country's on the wrong track.  News flash, guys and gals:  The Republicans control Congress and a majority of state governments!  There's your wrong track.  And, as long as you keep missing the real news, the country's going to ride that track right off the rails.

Paging Mr. Stewart, Mr. Jon Stewart ...

In Praise of Incrementalism

The DNC Convention?  The best one ever, and I've been watching them since 1968.  The best speeches.  The best starpower.  And, in the end, about as much party unity as you could have possibly hoped for, going into last week.  Granted, the unity was far from perfect.  But I'll take it over the fiasco the previous week that called itself the Republican National Convention, where most of the party's major political figures refused to show up, and the best star power available came from Scott Baio (i.e., not very much, and those of you who listened to him speak know what I'm talking about).

So, we launch into the fall campaign.  And what are my immediate thoughts?  My immediate thoughts are about incrementalism.

I have an actor friend, with whom I appeared a number of years ago (no need to mention how many) in a play.  He has been a die-hard Berniecrat for the better part of the past year, which, as far as I'm concerned, is perfectly O.K..  Of late, however, as evidenced by his Facebook page, he has gone off the deep end with his support by promoting the Hillary-is-the-devil-herself point of view and suggesting that a Trump presidency would be no worse than a Clinton one.  Recognizing the obvious--that Bernie is no longer an option--he has cast his lot with Jill Stein of the Green Party.  In his view, everything that is good and righteous from a progressive perspective needs to happen right now, and, should you disagree with him, you are guilty of the crime of incrementalism, and deserve to be unfriended by him.

Well, it's a free country and, to each, his or her own.  I can find a number of reasons for not jumping on the Stein bandwagon, one of which is that I like my children vaccinated (and find it appalling that a physician would even suggest anything to the contrary).  As I indicated last week, Trump = Hillary is the falsest equivalency there is.  You can believe every conspiracy theory there is about her, and Trump is still, as Hillary described him "a man you can bait with a Tweet," and therefore not "a man you can trust with nuclear weapons."  Sorry, buddy, case closed.

But, in any event, incrementalism is how things get done in a nation in which both the people, and their system of governance, is factionalized by design.  To point out the painfully obvious, while wishing that our schools went back to teaching civics, we live in a federal system of government, in which certain powers are reserved for the national government, certain powers are reserved to the states, and leaders at both levels are free to test the range and limits of those powers in the course of exercising them.  Then too, at both the national and state levels, government is divided into three branches:  legislative, executive, and judicial.  Finally, as a matter of both history and necessity, we are a nation of peoples from all over the globe, with different experiences and expectations.

In such a system, conflict and compromise are the only way to accomplish anything at all.  Not peacefully.  Not violently.  At all.  If, for example, my friend somehow envisions some kind of giant uprising that will make all of the conservatives in this country wake up the next day and realize how wrong they were, it's never going to happen.  People with strongly-held views do not change them overnight, and they aren't going to change them just because you have the power to change everything in the nation around them.  If in fact you have that power, and choose to exercise it, it's more likely than not to make them even angrier.  And, therefore, more dangerous.

We did not get ourselves into our current Dickensian state overnight.  It has happened over the course of four decades, engineered by conservatives who, whatever else can be said about them, understand the distribution of power in this country, and who were therefore willing to submit the welfare state to the death of a thousand carefully-timed sword cuts.  In short, incrementalism got us here.  It's way past time for those of us on the progressive side of the fence to learn how to make incrementalism work for us.  Hillary understands how to do that; Bernie, for all of his well-thought-out and well-stated positions, does not.

Sadly, as my friend exemplifies, neither do many of his supporters.  I am hoping and praying that changes dramatically over the next 100 days.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

James Comey And The Search For The Non-Existent Center

James Comey, the Republican but well-respected (by both parties) director of the FBI, cleared Hillary Clinton of any criminal wrongdoing in connection with her use of a private server for her e-mails as Secretary of State (a use made by both of Clinton's two Republican predecessors).  However, unlike most well-respected law enforcement officials, he did not let the matter rest there; instead, he took it upon himself to offer his personal opinion of what he considered to be Clinton's reckless behavior with regard to the use of the server.

Why?  I suspect that, like any good Beltway insider, he was attempting to pass the investigation camel through the eye of the bipartisan needle.  By clearing Clinton legally, while rhetorically shaking his finger at her (Bad Hillary!  Bad, bad, bad!), he was hoping to keep himself immune from political pressure coming from either side of our great political divide.

Except that it didn't work.  All it did was give Congressional Republicans another opportunity to exploit, for political purposes, what should have been a closed case.  And they used Comey to do so, by having him testify on Capitol Hill.  By doing so, they undermined the very rule of law they claim to be so important to them.  And Comey did much the same thing himself, by failing to respect past procedures in Justice Department investigations and failing to preserve Clinton's own right to a fair investigation of her conduct.

Which just goes to show that, in politics as in the rest of life, there's something more important that trying to be "fair and balanced."  It's called telling the truth.  Without fear or favor.  And without editorializing for the sake of keeping your own job.  Whatever respect Comey has earned over the years, it certainly wasn't justified by this investigation.  And it did nothing to pull America toward a "center" that seems to have vanished for good.

Good Riddance To Roger Ailes

The departure of Roger Ailes, the man who helped package Richard Nixon and George H.W. Bush for the American voting public, and who then, in conjunction with Rupert Murdoch, helped to complete the process Murdoch began in the 1970s of transforming all American journalism into tabloid journalism, is at best a belated cause for celebration.  It would mean more if there was some easy way to undo what Ailes did to destroy our national political discourse through Fox News.  But I suspect there isn't.  When people have to go to Comedy Central just to get a complete picture of the day's events, that gives you some idea of how little is left of the Fourth Estate, in the wake of Murdoch/Ailes and their transformation of what was once almost a world of public service into just another consumerist way of tickling itching ears.

Besides, Ailes leaves behind him legions of acolytes who could conceivably take his place and continue the harm he's inflicted on the rest of us.  Take Sean Hannity, for example.  He easily has Ailes' ability to talk out of both sides of his mouth when he needs to do so.  Actually, reading recently how Hanitty tried to strike back at Jon Stewart's take-down of him on last Friday's "The Late Show" was pretty pathetic.  He accused Steward of the crime of --gasp!--making money! Outrageous!  If you're not a Republican, that is.  And then, he accused him of not giving to charity. Which is outrageous in a difference sense, when you consider this.  Or this.  Or this.  Or this.  Shall I quit now, Sean?  Or will you admit that I don't have to take you prisoner, because you're already dead?

So, what's my takeaway from Ailes' departure?  Apart from profound sympathy for his victims, I have to ask:  why do men who look like Jabba the Hut think that power makes them so alluring?  I have some advice for you, Roger.  Look at yourself in the mirror some more when you step out of the shower.  That should give you some idea of what women see when the see you.

Top Ten Reasons NOT To Vote For Trump (With A Bonus Reason To Vote For Hillary)

Last Friday night, after the orgy of horror called the Republican National Convention was finally over (and bravo to the great city of Cleveland for surviving it intact), there was a pleasant surprise on Stephen Colbert's "The Late Show"; his friend and former Comedy Central colleague, Jon Stewart, made a surprise appearance to (a) help Colbert celebrate the decline and fall of Roger Ailes (more on him in another post), and (b) offer his take on the aforesaid orgy of horror.  He did this largely by using the transparent hypocrisy of Sean Hannity (more on him in the aforesaid other post) to skewer Trump, a man who begs to be skewered and thereby produce more sizzle than any of his self-named steaks.  Needless to say, it was hysterical (and don't take my word for it; just take a look here).

Now that Trump's nomination is official, and polls show very little if any statistical space between Trump and Hillary Clinton, I'd like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to Colbert's predecessor, David Letterman, and list my top 10 reasons for NOT voting for Trump.  These are not necessary in any particular order; frankly, I think any one of them are bad enough.  Taken together, in any case, they illustrate why this pathetic excuse for a man shouldn't be president of a restroom, let alone the nation.  And, since it's a Letterman tribute, I'll start counting backwards.

10.  Donald Trump is a racist.  Not someone who occasionally says racist things, such as his Mexican diatribe at the beginning of the campaign.  Not someone who occasional acts in a way that could have a racist meaning or context.  No, when it comes to racism, Donald Trump is the real thing; a person who uses all of his resources to effectively declare war on people of color.  I could easily give you a typewritten list, but Nicholas Kristof has spared me the trouble.

9.  Donald Trump is a sexist.  Again, not someone who occasionally does or says questionable things with reference to women.  Someone who is the proverbial real deal.  Again, this is not just me saying this; to borrow a phrase from "The X Files," the truth is out there.  Personally, I think that his three marriages are bad enough.  They reflect the planning of a man who uses women for specific reasons.  The first marriage was for children, the second was the consequence of an affair he had to keep his middle-age fears at bay, and the last was to have arm-candy for corporate purposes.  Poor Melania!  Bad enough that she was given someone else's words to say, but what was worse is that she was clearly uncomfortable as a public speaker.  What kind of man forces his wife to humiliate herself that badly for the sake of his ego?

8.  Donald Trump is a child abuser.  Only a man who needs to be treated as an unquestioned authority would put his children in charge of his campaign, with no one else given input.  What child is seriously going to question the word or decision-making of his father?  No child should have to do that, not even if the child has been raise to be a cog in his or her father's machine.  And there's no evidence that Trump's children were raised for any reason except to flatter Trump and make him feel powerful.  And I don't just mean politically powerful; what decent father puts his hands on his grown daughter's hips in public?  The same father who "hit" on the same daughter on his overrated prime-time TV show.

7.  Donald Trump is a thief when it comes to his creditors.   When it comes to his business dealings with the powerful and the powerless, Donald Trump treats them both the same way:  he steals mercilessly from both.  By his own admission, he has used bankruptcy law as a vehicle form defrauding hundreds of creditors, destroying businesses, families and lives in the process.  And again, folks, I'm not making this up:  it's all right here.  And here.  You know where Donald's national debt reduction program is coming from, folks?  Right out of your Social Security checks.

6.  Donald Trump has wasted his own assets.  Like so many Republicans, he was born on the financial equivalent of third base.  Had he done little more than put his inheritance in the stock market, he would have created more jobs and income than he has through all of his misguided adventures in self-promotion.  Again, I'm not making this up.  There's just one problem:  had he done this, no one would ever had heard of Donald Trump.  And that's the point.  Do you want a President who puts self-interest above the national interest?

5.  Donald Trump has done 7. and 6. with the help of public officials.   He likes to brag about how business thinking needs to be used to combat government waste and cronyism.  He's not so upfront about admitting how much of that waste and cronyism he's generated himself.  Take a look.  A classic state capitalist, much like--well, I can't mention his name without being considered an extremist, but I'll put it this way:  a celebrated Broadway musical celebrated his "springtime."

4.  Donald Trump is a destroyer of his home town and its historic buildings.  The construction of overpriced, overrated, ugly buildings for the 1% was the beginning of turning New York from a city that made things possible for everyone into a city that made them possible only for billionaires. And, in the process, he destroyed valuable parts of New York's architectural and cultural heritage. I'll take the Bonwit Teller building and the Commodore Hotel over the buildings that replaced them any day.

3.  Donald Trump is an open formentor of civil unrest and physical violence.  Listen to his rhetoric about Mexicans.  Look at the footage from his rallies, and see how protesters are treated. And listen, if you can do it without having your stomach turn, to his so-called acceptance speech, in which he deliberately lied not only about crime statistics but about the source of gun violence.  It's about easy access to guns, stupid!

2.  Donald Trump is an unrepentant, pathological, serial liar.  See my previously-cited reasons.

1.  In short, Donald Trump is a world-class narcissist and bully who can’t be trusted with the nuclear button.  He'll become frustrated with having to deal with an entire country full of people who won't bow down to him, just because he's Donald Trump.  So, he'll either walk away from the job, if we're lucky (and leave us with Mike Pence, which makes us no-so-lucky), or he'll change the national conversation by starting random wars.  Perhaps even nuclear ones.  Don't forget:  he's a real estate developer.  To him, nuclear war is just another form of site-clearance.

And the bonus reason for voting for Hillary?  SHE'S NOT TRUMP!  Maybe she is the lesser of two evils, but there's still an argument to be made for voting for that.

Enjoy the saner convention that starts tomorrow.  And remember:  NEVER, NEVER, EVER TRUMP!