Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Donald Chronicles: Tless minus 18

While Republican candidates for Senate and House seats ignore the Donald and fight for their political lives, the Democrats are not making it easy for them.

 President Obama's takedown of Rubio in Florida the other day--and his recording of a large number of personalized TV commercials for Dem candidates--was followed by Hillary Clinton going after the R Senate candidate in PA, Pat Toomey in much the same terms, chiding him for (essentially) cowardice in not standing up to Trump.  The Dem party is also pouring money into red states Indiana and Missouri supporting downballot candidates.

At the same time, the Donald meanders in PA--a state he has scant hopes of winning, yet one he desperately needs--ostensibly talking about the noble things he'll do in his first 100 days--like suing the women who've accused him of sexual assault, presumably including the latest who came forward Saturday.  Which makes at least 12.

Meanwhile, more evidence of early voting success for Clinton, and I'm sure anecdotal support for the sense of an upcoming Landslide.  Early voting is way up in northern VA--more likely Clinton voters--while it is down in more Trump-friendly parts of the state.

Josh Marshall refers to reports of long lines at early voting polls in various states, notably North Carolina. "People are waiting three and four hours to vote. It's genuinely shameful that we, as a society, find this acceptable. And yet millions of people are lining up to vote. They are undeterred."

That's the best antidote to voter suppression.  Be undeterred.  Refuse to be intimidated.

For those still having trouble warming up to Hillary, there are two new pieces that might shed a different light.  The NYTimes has a simple but powerful story about her closest friends--who knew her as children and remain close--as they watch the third debate.  The other is an appreciation in Slate of how she handled Trump in those debates.  These are in addition to the NY Times Magazine profile I cited earlier.

Friday, October 21, 2016

The Donald Chronicles: Trumpless Minus 19

The countdown continues.  Nineteen days to Trumplessness.

Trump's appearance at the Smith dinner (Sad!) and his first speeches the next day are chronicled in this WPost story.  Later he went after Michelle Obama, the most popular political figure in America, and as usual distorted something innocent she said into his alternate universe political controversy.  He seems to be doing everything he can to make sure he loses.

It wasn't bad enough that at that white-tie dinner he humiliated himself in front of the people he most envies and from whom he most craves acceptance.  It turns out that a lot of voters saw him on cable TV--he was, as he always wishes to be, a ratings hit.  Yuge.

Meanwhile people are voting.  Early voting is showing a large advantage from Democrats, especially in key battleground states--and women.

Speaking of women, Trump's "nasty woman" comment during the debate that became one of those Internet things, has been translated into a t-shirt to benefit Planned Parenthood.

On the voter suppression front, there was the attack on the Internet that some speculate may be a Russian dry run for election day.  Apparently some states foolishly permit voting through the Internet.

A homegrown technique continues--in the guise of investigating fraud, state and local government sanctioned attacks on the registration process.  The largest known effort, in Indiana, devolved this week into farce, and a particularly ugly new one emerged in a California county adjacent to mine, targeting Hmong immigrants.

While the Republican party in Texas ostensibly wants to enforce the state's voter ID law with poll watchers with a distorted knowledge of that law, a new wrinkle emerged from within the alt.right cesspool.  Apparently attempting to avoid rules governing poll watchers, a Trump associate says he organizing volunteers to conduct "exit polls" at select precincts, and you can guess how they were selected.  It's a devilish plan, and even has people debating the accuracy of exit polls.  But it's pretty clearly voter intimidation in nerd clothing.  The NYTimes has a recent history of the GOP using charges of voter fraud as a political weapon.

Trump's colossal error in refusing to say he would abide by election results comports with his authoritarian, conspiracy-theory and general sour grapes patterns of statements but it may also be a failure to understand just what he was saying.  Since the debate he's suggested he reserves the right to contest results in close contests, and he of course has that right.  Alt.right apologists point to Al Gore asking for a Florida recount (within Florida election law.)  That's only reminded journalists and Dems of how Republicans manipulated that Florida election and the recount--with the necessary aid of the political Supreme Court.  All of that is explained by Jonathan Chiat.

Finally, the WPost remembers the adventures of Fred and Donald Trump in Washington forty years ago.  Can't be that long.  The weekly I edited, Washington Newsworks, covered Donald's proposal for the DC convention center then.  Our reporter, Tom Redburn, attended Trump's presentation and was noticeably skeptical.  Tom went on to a distinguished career reporting for the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times.

On the other hand, we didn't have the story of Fred Trump's arrest.  Why not? I want to know.  Tom?  Jeff?  Let's go up to Columbia Station and figure it out.

Keeping Our Better Angels Alive

In the course of this campaign, Hillary Clinton has grown into the role she now seems destined to play, that of President of the United States.  But the revelation--the joyful revelation-- of this campaign is Michelle Obama.

She was The Closer for Barack Obama's campaigns in 2008 and 2012.  She wowed the world with her speech at the Democratic National Convention this year.  And her recent speech in New Hampshire, so many say, is destined to be the most memorable of the campaign.

But if you want to know why she was The Closer for Barack, and why she is the Closer for Hillary, this speech in Phoenix on Thursday is exhibit A.

I know what this kind of speech at this time close to the election is supposed to do: it's to remind people why they're for somebody (and why they're against somebody) while convincing the few who aren't sure; it's to motivate and inspire voters and volunteers, with a call to ideals and purpose, with the urgency of the moment, with the sense of enthusiastic belonging to an important cause.  It's to thrill.

And nobody does this better than Michelle Obama.  From the moment she stands on stage and then begins speaking in that unique voice, perfect diction yet informal, a clear voice that throbs with feeling and energy, it is impossible not to listen enthralled.

In this speech she does all those things by grasping the feeling of the moment--the shock and despair brought on by Donald Trump and his Republican enablers.  She gets to it by getting back to the Obama theme: hope.  She further elucidates its meaning in this campaign context, starting with a line that will live on beyond this speech:

"Hope is what keeps our better angels alive. It’s been the driving force behind everything we’ve achieved these last eight years, and it’s been at the heart of my life and my husband’s life since the day we were born.

And I think one of the reasons this election has been so difficult for so many of us is because that's what’s being lost; in all the hateful, hurtful rhetoric we’ve been hearing, we’re losing hope."

She relates the concept to the struggles of people whose goals for themselves and especially for others are focused by hope.  That hope, she says, is realistic because of American equality and the opportunity it provides.  Equality implies diversity and tolerance, civility and paying what you owe.

She speaks with authority on the demands of the presidency. "Because here’s the thing about Hillary, she is a policy wonk -- and let me tell you, just for the record, when you are President that is a good thing. (Laughter and applause.) When you are President, being able to clearly articulate detailed plans to help the people of this country is a good thing. (Applause.) Knowing what you’re doing is a good thing. (Applause.)

Many today have reviled Trump for refusing to say he will abide by the election results, but few have articulated why that's monstrous, other than it's the common stance of a putative dictator:

"...we are fortunate to live in a country where the voters decide our elections, the voters decide who wins and loses. Period. End of story. And when a presidential candidate threatens to ignore our voices and reject the outcome of this election, he is threatening the very idea of America itself -- and we cannot stand for that. (Applause.)

You do not keep American democracy “in suspense.” Because look, too many people have marched and protested and fought and died for this democracy. (Applause.) Please."

With words to motivate people in the crowd to gather the votes necessary to turn Arizona blue, she imparts a general message that we all need to hear:

"So let me just say this, do not let yourself get tired, or frustrated, or disgusted by everything we’ve seen in this campaign. As you’re out there working your hearts out, here’s what I want you to be: Please be encouraged. Please be encouraged. If I leave you with one thing, be encouraged."

The Donald Chronicles: 20 Days to Trumplessness

Donald's disastrous debate Wednesday was expected to be his last big pre-election debacle, because it was his last political opportunity on the national stage.  Nobody was even counting the Al Smith dinner tonight, a bipartisan affair for charity, in which candidates could take humorous digs at each other while affirming a common commitment to truth, justice and the American Way.

And then he blew it up.

Trump's jokes were so tin-eared, his delivery so bad, that after awhile there wasn't even embarrassed laughter.  And he sprinkled in hateful political comments that drove the assembled NYC plutocrats to actual booing.  Somehow Trump managed to humiliate himself even further, by unmasking himself as a tired dark-hearted husk.

Hillary's jokes were a mixed bag, some very sharp, especially on the page, and her delivery wasn't bad.  But her comments at the end of her time speaking were generous, appropriate and presidential--while still making the contrast between herself and the Donald. The Daily Beast covers this.

 When they make the movie of this campaign, this dinner will be what the Army-McCarthy hearing moment was to Joe McCarthy--the moment of revelation to everyone in the room, and everyone watching.  He may have a sad alt.right afterlife, but he's clearly always wanted the respect of people in that room, and he lost it in a particularly obvious way.  His wife's face said it all. Wednesday's debate was the end of Trump for President. This dinner was the end of Trump.

Except of course for the next 19 days until election day.

As for the debate reaction, Thursday morning's was much like Wednesday night's.  The biggest loser, according to GOPers quoted in Politico, were down-ballot Republican candidates.  With his threat to not accept the election results, he gave more voters more reason to repudiate him with one big pull of the lever marked D (so to speak.)  (Trump did walk back his statement a bit on Thursday, however, saying he would accept "a clear result.")

On the other hand, Hillary Clinton was getting more praise--especially from and about women.   Melissa Batchelor Warnke in the LATimes was especially eloquent.

Warnke also quotes Clinton from the debate that should be a joke (akin to one President Obama made at the White House Correspondents dinner in 2011), but unfortunately isn't.

“Back in the 1970s, I worked for the Children’s Defense Fund. And I was taking on discrimination against African American kids in schools. He was getting sued by the Justice Department for racial discrimination in his apartment buildings.

“In the 1980s, I was working to reform the schools in Arkansas. He was borrowing $14 million from his father to start his businesses.

“In the 1990s, I went to Beijing and I said women’s rights are human rights. He insulted a former Miss Universe, Alicia Machado, called her an eating machine.

“And on the day when I was in the Situation Room, monitoring the raid that brought Osama bin Laden to justice, he was hosting the ‘Celebrity Apprentice.’”

But the most politically interesting situation on Thursday wasn't the presidential race.  It was the Senate race in Florida, and the favored Republican candidate (and former Senator and Prez candidate) Marco Rubio.

Rubio made some mild news in recent days, by pledging to serve his six year term (which means he wouldn't run for Prez again in 2020) and by being just about the only voice to warn fellow Republicans against using Wikileaks material and thereby give political credibility to material stolen and perhaps altered by a foreign power, in this case Russia, in order to influence the elections. “Further, I want to warn my fellow Republicans who may want to capitalize politically on these leaks: Today it is the Democrats. Tomorrow it could be us,” he said.

These two statements sound like Rubio's return to a more independent--and sane--approach to issues, and a seemingly new commitment to the Senate.  (He said it might take him more than one term to accomplish his goals.)

But he failed to take the next step, and repudiate his endorsement of Trump.  For that, he took the full rhetorical assault of President Obama during his campaign speech in Miami.

"How can you call him a ‘con artist’ and ‘dangerous’ and object to all the controversial things he says and then say, 'But I'm still gonna vote for him?' C'mon, man!"

“It is the height of cynicism. That's the sign of somebody who will say anything, do anything, pretend to be anybody, just to get elected. And you know what? If you're willing to be anybody just to be somebody, then you don't have the leadership that Florida needs in the United States’ Senate," Obama said before urging the crowd to vote for Rubio’s opponent, U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy.

This might have taken Rubio by surprise.  There was a story just days ago that the Dems were moving resources previously committed to supporting Murphy to other states, so it seemed they were giving up on the Florida Senate race.  Apparently not.  And chaining Rubio to his tormentor Trump may be the unkindest cut of all. (Below: Obama audience in Miami, a great photo from the NYTimes.)

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Post Debate Recovery: Sunny Side of the Blues

I've selected versions of "The Sunny Side of the Street" that have videos--with this exception, because Roosevelt Sykes' version is unique.  It's the closest to a classic blues treatment from a legendary blues pianist and singer.  Roosevelt Sykes was a mainstay of the pre-electric Chicago blues scene, and then spent years in New Orleans.  This is a song from very early in his career--he started in the 1930s.  It's about a two and a half minute version, very tasty, so while there's no moving pictures to look at, there's something special to listen to.

Also, it seemed a blues version was most appropriate to aid recovery from the final 2016 presidential debate.

The Donald Chronicles: He Nails It--Shut (with himself inside)

 The third and final 2016 so-called debate is over, and before we get to winner and loser talk, there is a headline from the debate that virtually every news outlet is leading with: Challenging pillar of U.S. democracy, Trump says he may not accept election result.
That's the actual Reuters headline but the sense of it is bannered at the top of almost every report of this debate.  It's also reportedly the top story on the TV networks and the most discussed moment on social media.

Trump has of course been saying all week that the election is rigged against him (though he said in this debate that he was going to win), but that he said this at the end of this debate--and earned a memorable rebuke from Clinton--quickly became the debate's most important moment, and, many said, most consequential moment--nailing the coffin of his campaign dead shut.  Even conservatives condemned this remark.

Here was how Politico characterized this moment: "Truly historic moments are rare in politics. But this was a thunderbolt that might have spelled the end for Trump’s dynamic, disorganized and self-destructive campaign and the elevation of the first female major party nominee, whose precision and preparedness has often been overshadowed by her flashier opponent."  

Politico also called it the biggest mistake of Trump's life.

In terms of winner and loser, it seems unanimous.  The Atlantic's headline: Clinton Nukes Trump's Remaining Chances: The Democratic nominee threw her rivals own words back at him, to illustrate his unsuitability for the office he seeks.

The theme that runs through most analyses is that Trump may have destroyed himself, but Clinton was very good--and presidential.

Polls: The CNN instant poll said Clinton 52%-39%.  Youguv had it 49-39.

Chris Cillizza's Winners and Losers, Washington Post:

Winners 1. "Hillary Clinton: This was the Democratic nominee's best debate performance. She finally figured out the right calibration of ignoring and engaging Trump. Given her considerable edge in the electoral map, Clinton didn't need a moment in this debate, she simply needed to survive. But she had a moment, anyway — with a stirring answer in response to Trump's comments about women and the allegations against him of groping nine different women. Clinton, borrowing from Michelle Obama's speech on the same subject, was deeply human and relatable in that moment."

Losers 1. Donald Trump:"...His signature moment — and the defining moment of the entire debate — came when he refused to say he would concede if the election results showed he had lost. Trump's I'll-just-wait-and-see answer was a total disaster and will be the only thing people are talking about coming out of the debate."

Andrew Sullivan: "In my view, this was easily the most decisive debate. She devastated him. He melted down. His refusal to accept the results of this election disqualifies him automatically from any office in the United States. There were several areas where he was utterly incoherent, grasping at “facts”, without any understanding of policy. His personal foulness emerged. It seems to me he also has internalized that he has lost this election. May God save this democracy from him.

Josh Marshall: "Hillary Clinton now has a sizable lead. Trump was the one who needed to dramatically shift the trajectory of the election. By that measure, he clearly failed...The substance of the debate came down to two things. Clinton was able to deliver a handful of stinging blows against Trump, going so far as to call him a "puppet" of Vladimir Putin. This was preceded by a brutal recitation of evidence that Trump is willingly going along with a foreign power trying to interfere in a US election. Later in the debate she went after him on his very long history of saying he was cheated or contests were "rigged" when he's simply losing. These runs focused attention on Trump's most dangerous qualities. He could do little to rebut them and he shot back, quaking with angry jabs here and there like "such a nasty woman."

Far more important however were the statements Clinton and Chris Wallace provoked from Trump. The biggest one of course was his repeated refusal to accept the result of a democratic election. When Wallace first asked Trump said: "I will look at it at the time."

When Wallace pressed him again he said: "I'll keep you in suspense, okay?"
That kind of 'suspense" is precisely what makes democratic polities collapse."

Jeet Heer New Republic:
"This moment was the climax of the three debates—Trump’s final act of petulant self-destruction, and Clinton’s final moment of calmly smiling triumph—and it didn’t spring from accident or purely from Trump’s own anti-democratic malevolence. Rather, this moment—the one in which Trump revealed himself to be someone who is willing to risk the tradition of a peaceful transition of power rather than accept that he’s lost—came about because of the masterful way Clinton had handled all three debates."

Kevin Baker:
"By the end, Hillary Clinton was like a champion matador, moving masterfully around the perpetually snorting, spewing, infuriated bull she had finally goaded into going off on the same senseless, paranoid, alt-right tears. Donald Trump stomped off on one bizarre, history-making rant after another, while Mrs. Clinton deftly stepped around his horns and stuck another banderilla between the shoulder blades."

Glenn Thrush in Politico:
"There were two candidates on the debate stage Wednesday night – and both were intent on demolishing Donald Trump’s campaign for the presidency...

[Clinton]was confident, relaxed and deadly-well prepared.She methodically sliced into Trump’s initial composure as if she was removing the wrapping paper from a Christmas gift: She began with a stiletto swipe at his relationship with Russian strongman Vladimir Putin, dismissing Trump as a Kremlin puppet. That pulled him off the attack and onto defense, as Clinton had done so effectively in the first debate.
But her most powerful moment – possibly her best sequence of a verbose word-slaw 2016 campaign – came as Trump struggled to parry Wallace’s inevitable questioning of his alleged history of groping and sexual harassment. “Chris, she got these people to step forward,” Trump said, accusing Clinton of concocting a dozen stories of his misbehavior over three decades. “If it wasn't, they get their ten minutes of fame, but they were all totally -- it was all fiction. It was lies and it was fiction.”

"This was one of those rare moments in Clinton’s career where her passion matched her preparation. “Donald thinks belittling women makes him bigger,” Clinton said, in a lower pitch than she usually uses to pursue her case. “He goes after their dignity, their self-worth, and I don't think there is a woman anywhere that doesn't know what that feels like. So we now know what Donald thinks and what he says and how he acts toward women. That's who Donald is. I think it's really up to all of us to demonstrate who we are and who our country is and to stand up and be very clear about what we expect from our next president, how we want to bring our country together, where we don't want to have the kind of pitting of people one against the other, where instead we celebrate our diversity, we lift people up, and we make our country even greater.”

Everything I Needed to Learn I Learned in Debate Club

So tonight we drag ourselves through the latest mockery of a presidential debate.  That these are the worst ever--thanks almost entirely to Trump--may mask the decided impression that usually they aren't a whole lot better.

As has often been pointed out, they are in particular not actually debates.  Not in any classic sense.  But at least in one respect, that's not just a fussy technical matter.

Let me explain.  I was a high school and college debater.  In the few times I've been asked, I've said that the best preparation I had for journalism, after the basics of writing sentences etc., was high school debate.

In debate you had to construct an argument, and you had to anticipate that the other team was going to look for flaws.  You could use rhetoric to your advantage in debate, and you could score points with criticisms of your opponents' positions.  But in making your case--or disputing the other team's case--you needed facts.   Convincingly organized facts helped a lot--but more than anything, facts themselves that had some basis in reality.

Because the most frequent and easiest question you were going to get from your opponents was always: what's your source for that assertion?  What are the facts backing it up, and where do those facts come from?  How were they arrived at?

It's true that what constitutes a credible source is as much in dispute between each side of whatever political polarity you chose, as the facts themselves.  Nevertheless, it might add a lot of clarity to these so-called debates if once in awhile one of the candidates would ask those simple high school debate questions:

What's your source?  What are the statistics that support your claim?  Where do they come from?  Who agrees with you?  Which scientists, historians, psychologists, economists, epidemiologists, demographers, etc. etc.

You would think somebody would do that, especially when confronted with a candidate who very obviously is just making stuff up.

But they almost never do that.  They just talk past each other.  They disagree, without explaining the basis for disagreement.  They shout.

These debates are basically sporting events with no actual system for keeping score, only the play-by-play and the stories afterwards.  And judging the credibility of statements becomes the work of drudgy fact-checkers.

In high school, the fact checkers were the other team's debaters.  That's a big reason they were there.

 If their presence becomes a voice in your head, you become a better debater and a better journalist.  In these "debates" there might be more basis for judging the winner and loser than a lot of disorganized impressions, if they actually debated on the basis of the credibility of their assertions.

That wouldn't be the only basis, just as it wasn't in high school debate.  But it's an important one--especially since a President eventually has to deal with the real world, and its inconvenient truths.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

President Obama: Plain Truths as Palate Cleanser

President Obama hosted his last state dinner on Tuesday, for the Prime Minister of Italy. (The guest list included Giorgio Armani, Roberto Benegni, Mayor Peduto of Pittsburgh, Jerry Seinfeld and James Taylor.)   But before the pasta was served, the President took questions from the media.  A few of his key responses:

On Trump and his rigged election charges:
"I have never seen, in my lifetime or in modern political history, any presidential candidate trying to discredit the elections and the election process before votes have even taken place.

It’s unprecedented. It happens to be based on no facts; every expert, regardless of political party, regardless of ideology, conservative or liberal, who has ever examined these issues in a serious way, will tell you that instances of significant voter fraud are not to be found, that — keep in mind, elections are run by state and local officials, which means that there are places like Florida, for example, where you’ve got a Republican governor, whose Republican appointees are going to running and monitoring a whole bunch of these election sites.

The notion that somehow if Mr. Trump loses Florida, it’s because of those people that you have to watch out for, that is both irresponsible and, by the way, doesn’t really show the kind of leadership and toughness that you want out of a president.

If you start whining before the game’s even over, if whenever things are going badly for you and you lose, you start blaming somebody else, then you don’t have what it takes to be in this job because there are a lot of times when things don’t go our way or my way.

That’s OK, you fight through it, you work through it, you try to accomplish your goals. But the larger point I want to emphasize here is that there is no serious person out there who would suggest somehow that you could even — you could even rig America’s elections, in part, because they are so decentralized and the numbers of votes involved.

There is no evidence that that has happened in the past or that there are instances in which that will happen this time. And so I’d invite Mr. Trump to stop whining and go try to make his case to get votes."

On the State Dept./FBI/ emails story:
"With respect to the State Department and the FBI reports, I think you’ve heard directly from both the FBI and the State Department that the notion or the accounts that have been put out there are just not true. And you know, you can question them again.

But based on what we have seen, heard, learned, some of the more sensational implications or appearances, as you stated them, aren’t based on actual events and based on what actually happened and I think derived from sort of overly broad characterizations of interactions between the State Department and the FBI that happen a lot and happen between agencies."

On Putin, Trump, Republicans and Russia:

"In Syria, one of my earliest meetings with Putin was to suggest to him, that if Assad stayed in power, given brutality with which he treated his own people, he would see a civil war that would not be good for the Syrians, certainly, but would not be good for the world anywhere.  Rather than to work with us to try to solve the problem, he doubled down on his support for Assad, and we know of the situation that exists there. So, any characterization that somehow we have improperly challenged Russia aggression or have somehow tried to encroach on their legitimate interests is just wrong.

And Mr. Trump’s continued flattery of Mr. Putin and the degree to which he appears to model many of his policies and approaches to politics on Mr. Putin, is unprecedented in American politics, and is out of step with, not just what Democrats think but out of step with what, up until the last few months, almost every Republican thought, including some of the ones who are now endorsing Mr. Trump.

So you don’t have to explain to me how it is that some of the same leaders of the Republican Party, who were constantly haranguing us for even talking to the Russians, and who consistently took the most hawkish approaches to Russia, including Mr. Trump’s selection for vice president, now reconciles their endorsement of Mr. Trump with their previous views.

The bottom line is, is that we think that Russia is a large important country with a military that is second only to ours, and has to be a part of the solution on the world stage, rather than part of the problem. But their behavior has undermined international norms and international rules in ways that we have to call them out on. And anybody who occupies this office should feel the same way because these are values that we fought for and we protected."

The Donald Chronicles: The Whining Dictator Wannabe

Trump continues to push the idea that the election is rigged and massive voter fraud is underway, including millions of dead people voting for his opponents.  In more and more specific recruitment of supporters to "monitor" voters in African American and other minority precincts, he is encouraging intimidation and fanning the flames of potential violence.  In questioning the integrity of the voting process, he is suggesting to some that he will refuse to concede or recognize the legitimacy of the outcome.

These are the words and actions of an incipient or at least wannabe dictator.  And in this respect at least, the tawdy buffoon of 2016 is being taken very seriously.

The rigged election charge is at least an opportunity for more people to learn the safeguards in place that make it impossible, at least in the sense he means it.  (Suppressing the vote, or perhaps even fiddling with electronic voting or tabulation in key areas are other matters.)

For example, a Slate article details what many are saying--that trying to steal an election in the Trump manner is insane.  NBC shows how dead people don't vote, at least in any numbers significant enough to change a presidential election result (maybe an alderman.)  

As for the effects just the charges themselves may be having, there's evidence that many Trump supporters--including members of the RNC--believe them.  But some analysts also suggest that the idea is just as likely--if not more likely--to discourage Trump's voters from actually voting than discouraging anyone else.

One analyst compares poll results and writes that confidence in election integrity is actually higher now than in 2012, because by and large the percentage of Republicans who believe their votes and all votes will be counted has remained about the same, while the percentage of Democrats who believe that has increased--to such an extent to raise the total.

However the possibility of intimidation and even violence at polling places is being taken seriously.  This TPM article details the possibilities and the applicable laws and regulations, including gun laws, and an existing federal consent decree that specifically applies to the RNC and any attempts to disrupt voting in minority areas.  Because they've been trying that for a long time, well before Trump.

The NYTimes however asserts that Trump's call for poll watchers has no real organizational structure and so far little organized result: "Republican and election officials in cities and states that Mr. Trump has singled out for potential widespread voter fraud, including Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Ohio, said his message to supporters to become poll watchers had generated scant response."
"His call to monitor polling places betrays an ignorance of election laws in most states, which require poll watchers to be registered in the county or precinct where they operate.  Even though Mr. Trump’s website includes a form to sign up as a poll watcher and “help me stop Crooked Hillary from rigging this election,” local officials in battleground states said they had seen no surge by Trump supporters seeking to be certified poll watchers."

However, it's the freelancers who just show up, perhaps even armed, that are the real worry.  It's a particular problem due to Pennsylvania law, which among other things allows people to gather within ten feet of a polling place.

As for Trump refusing to recognize the legitimacy of the election outcome, Dana Milbank at the WPost sets out the case that we might be in for a "civil war."  But also in the Post, Greg Sargent's Plum Line is headlined: Arsonist Donald Trump wants to torch our democracy. He will fail.  Though he agrees that Trump may intend a kind of civil war, he believes the outcome will be a convincing Clinton victory--"And Trump’s rantings will look increasingly marginal and buffoonish as we move past this ugly election and, hopefully, on to better times ahead."

So say we all, hopefully.

President Obama had words for whiner Trump and other matters, presented in the next post.  So stay tuned.

Two more national polls show Hillary with a high single digit lead.  Interesting state poll shows Clinton behind in Texas by only three points.

The Treaty That Saved the World--Twice (Maybe)

This is the top portion of the cover of New Times magazine for March 7, 1975.  This was a New York-based national magazine, kind of an upstart.  I wrote for it--I have an article in this issue, and the original "Malling of America" was published in New Times in 1978.

Anyway the article (by Michael Drosnin) teased on this cover is one of the first and most prominent articles about the destruction of the ozone layer by fluorocarbons such as Freon, used principally in aerosols and refrigerants.  One scientist--James Lovelock, the co-author of the Gaia theory, discovered that they stayed in the atmosphere permanently.  He thought they were harmless.  But scientist Sherwood Rowland discovered that they are not.

These chemicals had already created a hole in the Earth's protective ozone layer, which was leading to an increase in skin cancers and deaths.  If these chemicals continued to disperse into the atmosphere, they could destroy the ozone layer, spelling doomsday for humanity.

The article is called Not with a bang, but with a pssssst! because one of the predictions is that if quantities of fluorocarbons continue to destroy the ozone layer, civilization could be kaput by the year 2000.

This article has an intriguing opening.  Drosnin describes the standard s/f movie plot where "an obscure scientist" discovers a mortal threat, is disbelieved until finally the world unites to fight off the menace, and the factories making the fatal substance close down.  "Wrong," the article says. "The world does not swing into action.  The factories are not shut down.  And one other thing--it's not a movie."

No, it wasn't a movie. But eventually it became more like the plot he described. Though it took more than a decade, the world did swing into action, and factories weren't making stuff with those kinds of fluorocarbons any more. (Though you may notice that spray cans and refrigerators are still around.)

 And as time went on it became clear that the ozone layer was healing.  It became the greatest international success story of the age.

When Rowland's research was published in 1974, outfits who made the stuff, like DuPont literally called it "a science fiction tale" and "utter nonsense."  But further research confirmed their findings, and then in 1985, the hole in the ozone layer was observed.  And the world got serious about it.  (Though DuPont continued to insist there was no problem.)

The culprit was chlorine, and so the offending chemicals were chlorofluorocarbons and hydrochlorofluorocarbons. In 1989  the Montreal Protocol created a plan that legally required participating nations to phase them out, eventually substituting hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) that do not contain chlorine and so do not harm the ozone layer.

It was far from a perfect solution since in 1989, the "greenhouse effect" was well known, and HFCs contribute to it.  And now, some 27 years later, the climate crisis threatens world civilization.

HFCs furthermore are highly potent greenhouse gases, and the fastest growing.  The Obama administration began efforts almost immediately in 2009 to bring nations together to ban them, and finally, last week, they did.

This weekend’s agreement by nearly 200 members of the Montreal Protocol will be legally binding, inviting trade sanctions for countries that fail to live up to their obligations. It would reduce global HFC levels by between 80 and 85 percent by 2047, helping the world avoid nearly half a degree Celsius of warming by the end of the century.

And when you're trying to keep the temp rise below 2 degrees C, a half degree is a big deal. It's another long-term process, not even beginning everywhere for more than a decade.  But the CFCs treaty goals were met ahead of schedule because of market forces, and the hope is the same will happen this time:

Environmental groups had hoped that the deal could reduce global warming by a half-degree Celsius by the end of this century. This agreement gets about 90 percent of the way there, said Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development.

Zaelke's group said this is the "largest temperature reduction ever achieved by a single agreement."

The new agreement is "equal to stopping the entire world's fossil-fuel CO2 emissions for more than two years," David Doniger, climate and clean air program director with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement.

But how can the US be party to a legally binding climate crisis treaty, when Republicans controlling Congress won't even admit there is a climate crisis?

The answer is that technically this isn't a new treaty requiring ratification---it's an amendment to the Montreal Protocol, an old treaty already ratified.   It was ratified in 1988 with, by the way, complete support by Republicans.  It passed the Senate 88-0.

 As Jonathan Chiat notes, In today’s environment, it would not be possible for something like the Montreal Protocol or any effective new environmental treaty to pass a Republican-controlled Senate.  He writes that today's rightists say that the Montreal Protocols and phasing out of CFCs have nothing to do with the ozone layer.

Is that a scary enough thought?  While you're considering that, here's something from today's news: last month was the hottest September since such records were kept, the 11th out of the past 12 months to be hotter than any in the past 136 years, at least.

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Donald Chronicles: Numbers, Narratives and Drug Tests

Some of the campaign decisions I described yesterday as coming this week were apparently made Monday by Clinton and the Dems.

Will Clinton play it safe and retreat to protecting the battleground states or will the campaign expand, and at the least, stretch the alleged and increasingly fictional Trump campaign even further?  Answer (according to the NYTimes): expand.

"Signaling extraordinary confidence in Mrs. Clinton’s electoral position and a new determination to deliver a punishing message to Mr. Trump and Republicans about his racially tinged campaign, her aides said Monday that she would aggressively compete in Arizona, a state with a growing Hispanic population that has been ground zero for the country’s heated debate over immigration."

In addition the Clinton campaign is spending extra bucks to turn out Dems in Indiana and Missouri.  Clinton herself will schedule campaign stops in Arizona, which the Times story said was aimed at winning the state rather than defeating John McCain in his Senate reelection.  That may have changed later on Monday when McCain vowed that if the Senate stays GOPer, they will defeat any Clinton appointee to the Supreme Court.  I suspect that this may have hurt him more than helped in his own race.

While Clinton and Dems go on offense, the Rs are on their heels playing defense.
They are reportedly scrambling just to keep control of the House.  The Koch Bros network is working overtime to save R Senate seats.  The Kochs don't mention Trump, and he's put some of the House races in play.

For Trump, it's not always about the big trends. The Trump campaign missed the voter guide deadline in suddenly competitive Alaska, and Ohio's R Sec of State went on NPR to maintain that the election absolutely cannot be rigged, contra his Trumpness.  These are small indications that in close races, Trump won't have the backup he may need.

The polls continue to look good for Clinton.  New national polls (Up by 8 pts. in a George Washington U. Battleground poll, up by 12 points in Monmouth poll, up by 9 in the CBS News poll) and state polls (ahead in PA, Colo, Nevada, NC, FLA, tied or slightly behind in Ohio (though other polls had her ahead); ahead in Arizona, tied or virtually tied in Utah and Alaska) add more impetus to the L word talk.

Incidentally, in a couple of these recent national polls, Trump is stuck at 38%--which has been my estimate.

But there's one more debate (Wednesday) and a new Trump talking point, besides that the world is against him.  In an FBI info dump, there's an assertion by an unnamed (and now retired) FBI agent that a State Department official offered a quid pro quo in order to have an email Clinton received not be classified as secret.  Trump is railing about this already, aided by the wording of early reports, including in the WPost, which made it sound as if the charge were proved.

But the Obama administration insists there is much less here than meets the eye. As the Atlantic reports: The State Department maintains that it was the now-retired FBI official who brought up the “quid pro quo,” an assertion later backed up by the Bureau itself. Republicans and the Trump campaign have seized on the notes to allege a State Department coverup."

Factually, neither the quid or the quo actually happened, but a note by an ex-agent with a faulty memory or an agenda is enough for the rabid alt.right.  Clinton is going to have to deal with this at the debate, with more skill than she has some previous charges.

Because of this, Clinton needs a debate win to keep the "Trump Death March" narrative going, since the media would love it if they could inject some uncertainty into the weeks before Nov. 8.

Meanwhile, gazing at Donaldworld, Jonathan Chiat debated with himself the proposition: (as T. Goddard put it) is Trump crazy, or just acting crazy because he wants to start a TV network?  (Josh Marshall wrote that either way, the TV thing probably would fail. Ryan Lizza agreed.)

One of Trump's more bizarre proposals this week was that he and Hillary be tested for drugs before the next debate, because he suspected Hillary was on something. "You’re telling me that the candidate who snorted his way through the first two debates is accusing the other candidate of taking drugs?That’s a curious development in the campaign,said White House press sec Josh Earnest, who then earnestly said he was just kidding.  Though of course that's just what everybody was thinking.

And as usual, Borowitz had a different take on it, with his mock headline: Nation Fears Drug Test Would Reveal Trump Not on Drugs.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Somewhere Over the Sunny Side of the Street

This is an intriguing bit of video that features a rare look at the dancing of Ray Bolger along with an informal version of "Sunny Side of the Street" by Judy Garland.  The two of course worked together many years before on The Wizard of Oz.  This is from Garland's CBS television variety show of the mid 1960s.  There are some awkward moments, and what was supposed to be spontaneous just appears under-rehearsed, but it's got some "in the moment" life to it as well, and it's a short but very upbeat version of "The Sunny Side of the Street."

If you're stressed by the election, you aren't the only one.  Maybe this will help.  Stay tuned, more sunny sides to come.

The Donald Chronicles: States of the Race

It is Sunday before the Tuesday that will mark three weeks before this ordeal is over.  While the Trump campaign itself has devolved into a tawdry autopilot rant of the walking dead--more of a slow motion car wreck than the usual metaphor of a dumpster fire--sanity may require getting into technical stuff like states in play.

And the states in play seem to exclude some previous battleground states and include some previously considered GOPer all the way.  The Trump campaign has effectively abandoned Virginia, where a new poll shows Hillary ahead by 15 points.  According to the WPost analysis, Trump is actively contesting only four states (PA, Florida, Ohio, North Carolina) while Clinton engages him with TV ads in these plus New Hampshire, Nevada and Iowa.  A key observation: "Democrats are running coordinated campaigns in the battleground states, meaning money is being to spent to promote the entire ticket, not just Clinton."

Other states that may be in play include Arizona and Georgia.  The Clinton campaign is reportedly looking at Utah, although it seems more likely that Trump will be denied a victory there than Clinton could win it.

Meanwhile, according to a WPost interpretation of its own poll (which shows Clinton with only a 4 point lead versus the new NBC poll which finds her a whopping 11 points up): But the Post-ABC poll also makes this clear about what Trump is up to these days: He's doing almost everything wrong, and he's doing nothing to grow his support and actually put himself in a position to win."

Both Post articles suggest that decisions on allocating resources for the homestretch will be made this week, possibly right after the third and final debate on Wednesday.  Clinton and the Dems have far greater resources to deploy.  The Trump campaign has severed ties with the R party structure in Ohio, calling into question whether it will have any ground game there at all.

As for the Donald, his tweeting criticism of Saturday Night Live's sketch on the second debate seems to have had the predictable effect of bringing it more viewers, through various news sites.  The attention is deserved because it is the best of SNL's campaign sketches so far, succinctly nailing both Trump and Clinton.

Trump continues to insist that there is a conspiracy pitting the universe against him, and that the election is rigged.  Other Rs (including his vp) are pushing back lightly on the rigged election part, though agreeing on the media.  It's impossible to know yet if the fears of election (and post-election) violence will occur to any significant degree, but if a Clinton administration comes in with a Dem Congress, there should be additional election safeguards  made immediately at the federal level, including rules about guns near polling places, and a re-institution of civil rights protections.

And since The Battleground state of this election is the Commonwealth of PA, it's time for my home state to join the 20th century if not the 21st in adding early voting as well as paper ballot backup.

I'm not up to reading the premature articles on "the Clinton administration" but I do want to highlight E.J. Dionne's thoughtful piece on responding to the legitimate grievances that some apparent Trump voter groups have.

Finally, the buzz about Michelle Obama's speech last week continues.  One example is Frank Bruni's column in the NYTimes that begins:

"Isn’t it delicious that after trafficking in racism, promoting sexism and using a lie about Barack Obama’s birthplace as a pivot into political relevance, Donald Trump could receive his final death blow from a black woman: the president’s wife?"