October 28, 2016

Back in my Zen days, I came up with this little mindfulness exercise: when things seemed to be on the edge of disaster, I’d breathe and tell myself, “When Time is running out, slow down.”

This came back to me on the train home as I was reading about the FBI letter announcing they found some more Clinton emails they are going to research. This, doubtless, had Clinton supporters reaching for the Mylanta or the bourbon, and my Facebook feed is already populating with the gleeful cheers of the Right who once again think they will finally get to dance on the grave of Hillary Clinton’s political career, bwah-hah-hah-hah-hah.

To all of you, I advise: breathe.

First up, Director Comey’s letter says the FBI discovered emails that “appear to be pertinent to the investigation” (we assume he means the one into whether Sec. Clinton might have broken any laws through her use of a private email to handle official email. He goes on to say there’s no way, at this point, to determine whether anything in these emails is “significant.” Now, I was a journalist for a long time, and I’ve been in D.C. long enough to know that’s not going to matter, Nuance is for sissies in our current world. The letter is being blown up all over as though the emails must, must have what all the Clinton haters, right and left, have been waiting for: proof she’s guilty of something.

Second, keep in mind the FBI has stumbled over more emails more than once before. There’s never been anything in them worth the fuss, and they haven’t changed public opinion. We’ve been hearing about her emails for 18 months, an outgrowth of the Benghazi (BENGHAZI!! BENGHAZI!!) “investigation” that even the Republicans admit was a trumped-up (pun certainly intended) attempt to cripple her candidacy. The public knows all about her emails. Perhaps this will blunt her recent surge in the polls, perhaps not. We’ll know more, probably by the middle of next week. The stock market didn’t take it well, I know; investors are terrified at the thought of a Trump presidency (let that one sink in).

Third, news reports are indicating the new emails didn’t come from Clinton’s private server or that they were deliberately withheld from investigators or that they were even from Clinton herself.

Finally, even if this dents Clinton’s momentum, consider the political math. She needs to win 270 votes to become president. Yes, it would be great, from her supporters’ point-of-view, if she got to 300+ to really put a stamp on the election and help with the Dems making gains in Congress, but she needs 270 to win. Her overall chances of winning are about 80 percent or better, depending on whose crystal ball you’re reading. In the states she must win, there’s only one – New Hampshire – where she’s below 85 percent. She does not need to win Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, or Nevada. Of the states she needs to win, perhaps Trump might gain ground in Michigan or Pennsylvania or New Hampshire or Maine, but he’s pretty far behind in all of those, and, like I said, we’ve heard all this before. And don’t forget, early voting has been underway for some time. There are indications that Dem voters are turning out in force and the Clinton is peeling off Republican women. Donald Trump has convinced so many people he is as dangerous as he is odious that emails may not matter.

I know it’s throwing sand against the sea, but let’s hold off until November 1st or 2nd before we make too much of this.



October 27, 2011, One of the Great Days in Cardinal History

October 27, 2016

Game 6, Rangers up in the Series, 3-2. They had the Redbirds down 7-5 in the bottom of the 9th. David Freese, with two outs and two strikes on him, triples into right, tying the game. Lance Berkman in the same situation, ties it in the 10th. Then Freese hits the walk-off in the 11th to win one of the most amazing World Series games ever.


The Dangerous Fraud About Vote Fraud

October 16, 2016

18 Unites States Code §594: Intimidation of voters

Whoever intimidates, threatens, coerces, or attempts to intimidate, threaten, or coerce, any other person for the purpose of interfering with the right of such other person to vote or to vote as he may choose, or of causing such other person to vote for, or not to vote for, any candidate for the office of President, Vice President, Presidential elector, Member of the Senate, Member of the House of Representatives, Delegate from the District of Columbia, or Resident Commissioner, at any election held solely or in part for the purpose of electing such candidate, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.

When I was 9 years old, I was playing a board game with some other kids in my neighborhood. I lost, something I could not stand to do. I lost to a girl, which made it even worse. (I had the typical 1950s-9-year-old-Midwestern-boy mentality when it came to girls.) I blew up. I screamed at her that she was a cheater. I even called her a b_____.

I’ve grown a bit in 56 years. I’ve learned to handle failure, accept defeat with grace, take responsibility for my mistakes, and even make something of it. My attitude towards women has matured significantly, as well.

The same, it appears, cannot be said for Donald John Trump, currently running for president on the Republican ticket. His childish temperament and misogyny are there for all to see, and they are helping drive him to do something even more reckless and perhaps dangerous. I refer to his loud, persistent claim that our national election is “rigged” and that his supporters should go watch voters at polling places.

As with many other outrageous, offensive, and often untrue things Mr. Trump has said in the past months, this is just an extreme extension of what has been a Republican electoral strategy for many years: claiming rampant voter fraud and working to suppress the right to vote, particularly for minorities. You may not be aware of it, but the Republican National Committee has been operating under a consent decree for more than 30 years forbidding it from engaging in certain activities relating to voting, due to voter intimidation in the 1970s and 1980s.

The Republican-majority Congress has refused to take up legislation to repair the 1965 Voting Rights Act in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder. After that decision, several states moved quickly to enact laws ostensibly aimed at combating voter fraud but actually designed to make it harder for non-white voters, who are presumed to vote Democratic, to exercise their franchise.

Alabama passed a voter ID law and then pulled license examiners from DMV offices in several majority-black counties. Alabama claimed it was a budget issue. A federal investigation ensued, and the examiners are back.

Texas enacted one of the harshest voter ID laws in the country even before Shelby County, one that would not accept several common forms of identification. The federal courts struck that down, and the state could be under federal oversight in the upcoming election.

The courts have struck down voter-suppression laws in other states, as well, but that hasn’t stopped the suppression movement. The cover story for all this has been that there is widespread vote fraud going on, a myth that has been debunked many times by researchers and the courts as well as by at least one prominent Republican election lawyer, Chris Ashby.

Trump has now upped the ante by urging his followers, after they vote, to go “watch other communities.” Trump’s people are responding. For example, a fellow named Steve Webb was quoted:

“I’ll look for . . . well, it’s called racial profiling. Mexicans. Syrians. People who can’t speak American,” he said. “I’m going to go right up behind them. I’ll do everything legally. I want to see if they are accountable. I’m not going to do anything illegal. I’m going to make them a little bit nervous.”

Actually, Mr. Webb, you are not doing everything “legally;” that’s voter intimidation.

I should also point out that 33 states have Republicans holding their Secretary of State’s office, and more than a few of those, such as in Ohio and Washington State, made it quite publicly clear that Trump’s comments were as insulting as they were false.

Stirring up conspiracy fantasies is a very old political trick that crosses the aisle. Joe McCarthy rose briefly to power using it, and even the Sanders campaign trotted out charges the primary process was rigged. Okay, that trick is going to be pulled from time to time, but to go from there to exhorting your supporters to hover around polls—that some might show up armed is not outside the realm of possibility—and threaten voters by their presence is beyond disgraceful, is fundamentally un-American, and quite possibly against federal law.

Little update, from Bloomberg News: Trump’s campaign says, ““We have three major voter suppression operations under way.” Here’s the whole thing.


That “Debate” Was a Low Moment, Even by Our Standards

October 10, 2016

I haven’t posted much politically in recent months, but a quick one, then I need to get to work.

I woke up pretty depressed. That spectacle last night was embarrassing and demeaning to our democracy. Now, political “debates” have been riding the low road for decades; the last intelligent, civilized debates were in 1960. They became extensions of the campaigns, with a bit of mud-wrestling thrown in. Last night was only the most recent, and perhaps the worst, example. Attack lines (mainly from Trump) and campaign messaging (Clinton) instead of respectfully answering the questions people posed, which, BTW, I thought were quite good.

This has been going on, as I said, for decades. The first thing I would do is get rid of the in-studio audiences. The second thing I would do is have an on-screen fact-checker, rather than trying to make the poor moderators (and Cooper and Raddatz did a better-than-usual job, I think) do it, when the candidates will talk over them. I would shut off the mic at two minutes, and the other person gets to talk.

The problem is compounded by the fact that television wants this kind of thing. Those who run t.v. networks find sober discussions of policy boring, when they could be educational. Yes, a portion of the audience wants mud wrestling, but I think (or at least I hope) that most people would genuinely like to hear candidates explain their ideas and not just throw clever – and sometimes not-so-clever – rocks at each other.

It’s common knowledge the average American knows next-to-nothing about our government, how laws and policies are made, and the facts on economics, taxation, spending, and a whole array of issues. There are multiple reasons for this, but my former colleagues in the Fourth Estate, particularly the t.v. side, bear a great deal of responsibility for this in failing to do their jobs.

William Evjue, the founder of the Capital Times newspaper in Madison, Wisconsin, had the motto, “Give people the truth and the freedom to discuss it, and all will go well.” That was both an expression of faith in people and obligation for journalists. Would that he were more widely heeded.


Remembering John Lennon

October 9, 2016

Okay, “Imagine” and all that, sure, but I have a particular fondness for this one: