Crime and Immigration

Last night while watching the Democratic National Convention I had my Twitter feed up (@foggybottomline) so I could send out a few and follow what the Twitterverse had to say.  I don’t follow @JohnLibertyUSA so I’m not sure why this popped up in my feed.  As you can see I pushed back a bit, asking for a link, and we went back and forth.  Since a discussion like this calls for more than 140 characters at a time, I thought I’d move it to the blog.  Hopefully, Mr. Liberty and his fellow traveler @DeanPerkins will come over for a look.  Continue reading

Star Trek: Beyond

First let me say that I’d never seen a film in IMAX 3D until today.  Didn’t think it mattered much, and didn’t want to wear the glasses.  Let me tell you: it matters – very realistic 3D – and the glasses didn’t detract from the experience, even though I wore them over my own specs.  So if you haven’t tried this, you should.

I’d also like to express a small amount of disappointment that we didn’t get the first adventure in the new five-year mission.  I would like to have seen an episode more like something from the original series – or The Wrath of Khan (the best Star Trek episode ever made, by the way, bar none).  The swashbuckling crew encounters alien race that presents a problem, they solve it just in the nick of time, and viewers get some humorous banter on the bridge in the final scene.  This from Journey to Babel, for example.  Or the classic Trouble with Tribbles.

But Star Trek: Beyond is an excellent film and a great episode in the series.  The special effects were excellent, and for the most part things didn’t move too quickly – viewers could follow the flight of ships and the back and forth of fights without getting too lost.  I think they could have made the reason for the mission clearer and foreshadowed a couple of things more effectively.  But the film carried a classic Trek story line and theme.

I was 8 years old when Gene Rodenberry sold “Wagon Train to the Stars” to CBS in 1966.  For a kid who devoured Asimov and Heinlein stories this was television I could really buy into.  I remember hoping for rainouts of my little league games so I could stay home and watch.  As a kid I simply loved the idea of this naval vessel exploring space with a diverse crew that cared for each other and clearly loved their lives and careers together.  In no small measure, this influenced my later decision to serve in the Army.  So yes, I’ve been a fan and aTrekkie for fifty years.

So the best part of Star Trek: Beyond for me was the interplay among the crew.  Every single actor in the core Kirk/Spock/McCoy/Uhura/Sulu/Checkov executive team helps evoke the dynamic in the original series.  Karl Urban knocks it out of the park as McCoy – he is perfectly cast for this role – and I would say the same about Simon Pegg’s ScottyChris Pine does Captain Kirk nicely as well, and without becoming William Shatner.  I like Quinto’s Spock as well.  Though he comes across as young an inexperienced, he does the “Vulcan” speech inflections well.  Cho, Saldana, and Yelchin round out the core crew with great takes on the characters – Yelchin perfectly delivers the “Scotch was inwented by a little old lady in Russia” line, though it was Leningrad in the original version.  It’s terribly sad and a crying damn shame that a freak accident ended such a promising career so early.

Go see Star Trek: Beyond.  It will satisfy your craving for a Trek film and excite you for the next one.  And if you can, try it in IMAX 3D.  It works.

The GOP “Script”

Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell wants Donald Trump to “get on script.”  By this, he of course means The Donald should quit saying the quiet parts out loud and get back to using the dog whistle.

McConnell and other conservatives don’t mind racism.  They happily appeal to racism and bigotry when they can use it to distract voters from the real source of their economic woes.  They just don’t want to change the official Republican Party brand from “family values for some families” to racism and bigotry.

Wait.  Maybe they already have that brand.

#TrumpWillNeverBePresident II

A couple of takeaways from “Trump Orders Surrogates to Intensify Criticism of Judge and Journalists” at Bloomberg Politics:

@realDonaldTrump is a terrible leader and manager of staff.  He had no idea which staff member had sent the memo telling surrogates not to discuss the Trump University lawsuit.  Then he threw her under the bus, telling people on the call to “throw it out,” and asking if there were “any other stupid letters.”  “…you guys are getting sometimes stupid information from people that aren’t all that smart,” he told supporters (including Jan Brewer and Scott Brown) on the call.  He seems to forget that he’s the incompetent executive who hired “people who aren’t all that smart” in the first place.

@realDonaldTrump hasn’t the foggiest idea what it takes to run a Presidential campaign or to assemble a winning political coalition.  He has no idea how to build and run the organizations and teams necessary to win the Oval Office.  If someone constructed it for him he would jerk it out of their hands like a toy he covets and start throwing it at the ground just to watch pieces fly off.  He doesn’t understand who does what (communications, organizers, fundraisers) or how these people achieve success (data analysis, volunteer recruiting, media plans).  He apparently doesn’t realize that political campaigns are highly specialized endeavors with a handful of professional experts who know how it’s done.  He has no use for either a sound strategic plan or expert guidance for the detailed tactical work needed to identify and motivate supporters.

@realDonaldTrump doesn’t understand that bullying your way through the storm after saying something offensive won’t help him expand his universe of potential supporters.  He can’t seem to help categorizing and referring to people as members of groups (Muslim, “the blacks,” “the Hispanics,” Mexican).  People hear this as a claim that tribal membership is the most important quality people have – it drives their behavior.  This is, of course, the very definition of racism – and I believe his willingness to say some of these things out loud has driven his popularity among many Republican primary voters.  At this point, however, it’s begun to offend his now wider audience.  Rather than back off this rhetoric, he’s asking surrogates to emphasize it.  This, by the way, puts people like Jan Brewer and Scott Brown in a tough position – they want to elect a Republican President, but probably don’t want to earn reputations as racists in the process.

#TrumpWillNeverBePresident.  He’s a terrible leader and can’t manage subordinates except through fear.  He calls junior staff “stupid” in front of other senior people.  He hasn’t the smallest clue what it takes to put together the national political coalition needed to win the US Presidency and apparently believes he can win simply by saying silly things on television so people pay attention to him.  And when he says silly things on television and the people around him advise reticence, he lacks the temperament to realize he’s in over his head.

This is all very good news for Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party. #TrumpWillNeverBePresident.

No, Voting for Trump Won’t Accelerate Progressive Change

Yves Smith (aka Susan Webber), a management consultant and principal at Aurora Advisors, writes at Politico that the “highly educated, high-income, finance-literate readers of my website, Naked Capitalism, don’t just overwhelmingly favor Bernie Sanders. They also say “Hell no!” to Hillary Clinton to the degree that many say they would even vote for Donald Trump over her.”

They (9 out of 10 Smith friends polled) developed their “conclusions” from “careful study of her record and her policy proposals,” and believe the Clintons represent a policy status quo of “crushing inequality, and an economy that is literally killing off the less fortunate.” And they think “the most powerful move they can take to foster change is to withhold their support.” Continue reading

No, Sanders/Stein Does Not Stop Trump

This argument by Kevin Zeese and Patrick Walker at Salon goes in the category of wishful thinking if you ask me.  The core point they make is that by running for President on the Green Party ticket (Jill Stein has apparently agreed to this) Bernie Sanders would keep Donald Trump from expanding his coalition of voters at Hillary Clinton’s expense.  This is because voters see both Trump and Sanders as outsiders, with Sanders the “real” one.  They also worry that Trump could move to Clinton’s left on Wall Street and trade, “corporate trade agreements,” and militarism.  Finally, Zeese and Walker argue that independents will be the key to this race, and that third party campaign risks to Democratic candidates are overblown.  Well, let’s see. Continue reading


Writing at Salon, Anis Shivani predicted last week that Donald Trump’s campaign “will surely be victorious in the end,” because he appeals “to an elemental fear in the country, torn apart by the abstraction of the market, to which Clinton has not the faintest hope of responding.”  Trump, you see, “’builds’ things, literal buildings.”  People can actually visualize these buildings and the cities they were built in.  This contrasts with Clinton, according to Shivani, since her work with the Clinton Foundation and the State Department “represents…disembodiedness.”  “In this election,” claims Shivani, “abstraction will clearly lose and corporeality…will undoubtedly win.”

Another Salon writer, Musa al-Gharbi, doesn’t actually predict a Trump win, but he does seem to think the Donald has a path to victory.  He lays out three key reasons to think this: because Trump has more “opportunity to radically change public perception for the better” since voters don’t yet know Trump “as a politician,” because this election will turn on what voters think about both Obama and Bill Clinton, and because of something he calls “negative intersectionality.”  Al-Gharbi doesn’t define this very clearly, but he seems to be saying something about political correctness: that Trump’s bigotry and misogyny, “heard in the context of a fundamentally anti-white, anti-Christian culture war,” could actually make some voters see him more sympathetically.

These aren’t the only two writers working to outline a Trump path to the Oval Office.  These arguments mostly focus on three claims: both candidates have poor favorability ratings, Hillary Clinton is a bad candidate, and minority voters could shift to Trump. I challenge them below the fold. Continue reading

Right Direction or Wrong Track?

Alex Castellanos couldn’t say it enough this morning on Meet the Press: 70% of Americans think the US is going in the wrong direction and want change.  To him this means Donald Trump has a chance to win the Presidency, since Hillary Clinton represents more of the same.

Americans have many reasons for answering “wrong track” on these kinds of surveys.  Castellanos conflates these reasons into a general annoyance with American government and its political leadership.  Let me suggest that much of the “wrong track” sentiment comes from disapproval of conservative social and economic policies and their obstructionist efforts to stop progressive changes people want.  This is true of both conservatives and liberals, but only on the conservative side does this translate to support for Trump.

Conservatives think the country is on the “wrong track” because they disapprove of tolerance for less traditional social, religious, and sexual norms, and wonder what the world is coming to when fewer people attend church, the coach cannot pray with the high school football team, homosexuals can marry and young women can have recreational sex without consequences.  They blame immigrants and minorities for their apparent loss of economic prosperity and political power and believe government does too much to help them.  They don’t like changes they see in their cities and neighborhoods as immigrants and people of color move in or cities encroach upon rural areas.  In fact, many people who say the US is going in the wrong direction actually want less change, and seek leaders that will finally put a stop to the madness.  These people reject the establishment GOP because they believe conservatives fecklessly promised to do so while knowing they would not or could not.

The only change they really do want is a shift from the “free markets can make everything work” that lead to wealth inequality and corporations moving their jobs overseas.  So they also reject the conservative governing establishment for failing to deliver the economic prosperity promised by Reagan and Americans for Tax Reform, and want US workers protected even if it means government action.   The core of Trump’s support comes from disaffected conservatives annoyed with change in American society, and seek restoration of traditional values and and a capitalism based on a balance between profits for shareholders and the needs of the nation and its workers. Continue reading

Bernie Sanders and the Superdelegates

I don’t think Bernie has his best talking points with respect to the Democratic Party super delegates.  I would respond to questions with this:

It’s important to understand what a super delegate is.  Democratic Party activists who have put in the time and effort to elect Democrats, and the men and women who have won elective office as Democrats, should have plenary votes at their national convention along with delegates selected by voters in primaries and caucuses.  It makes all the sense in the world for party officials, whether selected at the county level or by winning elections, should have a voice in nominating the Party’s candidate for President.  But I see a disconnect when I win a primary in West Virginia by 60% but the Democratic Party officials who serve the state support my opponent, and I wonder why they don’t support the choice their own constituents prefer.  It seems to me that they open themselves to challenges from inside the Party.  I’m not threatening to support primary challengers, but challenges would not surprise me if voters want to move in a new direction.

I am active in the Democratic Party at the county level in Virginia, and I work to elect candidates from within my Party.  Bernie Sanders has caucused with Democrats but is not an activist Party member, and this makes me wonder why I should support nominating him for President on our ticket.  The answer of course has to do with policy.  I agree with his rejection of neoliberal economic policy – free trade, lower taxes on the wealthy, personhood for corporations, among other things.  I also agree with his rejection of foreign policy as usual, where many Democrats look all too much like GOP neocons.  This resolves  my concerns, and I would personally prefer to see Sanders win the Democratic Party nomination.  If he does not, I want to see his candidacy move my Party toward support for his policy proposals.

In the end, however, it’s no surprise that core legacy Democrats – long time activists and elected officials – want to stick with someone who has supported Democrats her entire life.  If Bernie wants to influence the Party he needs to join it officially, and direct his supporters to likewise join its activist ranks.  They can then compete in Party politics, including local level primaries and elections for grassroots Party positions like the one I hold: district chair.

I voted to send a Bernie Sanders delegate to the Democratic National Convention last weekend.  I welcome his supporters to the Party and their efforts to remake it according to their policy preferences.  If they do well, the super delegates will follow.