AN OPEN LETTER TO BE SHARED AND PASSED ALONG

The TRUMP phenomenon is getting scary. As Huey Long said “When fascism arrives in America he/it will have an American face.” [Perhaps he was thinking about himself?]

All serious people know well that Trump is NOT a serious person to be trusted at all. Yet his “message” is galvanizing angry Americans everywhere—rich and poor; educated and non; white and black; old and young—who have stopped believing that our governance system can work and are seemingly content or happy to let him simply blow it up so we can start over.

That is what happened in Germany in the 1930s and led to Hitler getting elected at the same time as the then German establishment kept saying, “This cannot be happening in Germany; do not worry.”

Let’s NOT let complacency overwhelm our good judgment and actions now. So far the press has given him a pass because he sells their wares and they seem to believe he will yet self-destruct. We should no longer count on that.

It is NOT too early for all of us who know [or should] better to start a counter fire. We suggest that all recipients who share this thinking should resend this message to their rolodexes and urge their recipients to do the same –to have the intended effect of wakening all us observers before it gets too late. See my recent blog post from the Huffington Post, for a recent text elaborating a bit on this subject. The Huffington Post evidently has become skittish about dealing with Trump.

The prize at the end of the chain is our shared and treasured freedom and democracy.

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A SECOND TAKE ON TRUMP

I stand on all I said in my August 12th post about “The Donald” (namely, that he’s a blowhard who is running for President only to boost the Trump brand and, hence, his own income). Nevertheless, a new doubt has recently crept into my thinking – not about Trump, but about his success so far.

Trump has taken the lead in opinion polls by exploiting the frustration, fear and anger of a broad swath of a very large disaffected electorate.

His policy prescriptions are, mind you, poppycock, but Trump has the luxury, alone among the candidates, of not having to care. His followers don’t believe any elected official can solve the problems facing us, so they’re content to support someone who gives voice to their disdain for the political status quo. Trump, of course, has disdain aplenty, and his scathing criticisms of the other candidates (“loser,” “moron”) feed this narrative of Trump as the anti-politician hero.

The most recent precedent for the kind of political uprising Trump is sparking occurred in Germany in the 1930s. I am not suggesting Trump will turn out to be the same as Hitler. But it’s worth remembering that Hitler came to power with no political experience by stimulating and focusing the German public’s anger about WWI and subsequent hyperinflation of a broadly disaffected electorate. Hitler’s competitors were, by turn, hapless, shapeless and hopeless, which is precisely how the 2016 field of Republicans is already portrayed.

Trump is tapping into a wellspring of anger in America some of it racist, xenophobic or misogynist, much of it simply madness. The alleged and seeming inability of our leaders to effectively manage our economy, conduct world affairs and address the social issues of modern times has made Trump, like Hitler, the epitome of an anti-politician.

From the beginning much of the American experiment is premised on conflicting ideals being reconciled through the give-and-take of the elective and legislative processes. It’s a system which has prevailed for 200 years in heading off extremism in its worst forms. Hopefully, that will yet happen.

We MUST not be complacent.

I have seen and heard too many Democrats say: “Good for Trump. He will destroy the Republican Party and we will clean up.” But, how can we be sure?

Hillary has BIG negatives and even two-thirds of Democrats do not trust her. How can we be certain that the TRUMP parade will not steamroll the whole angry, frustrated country? Remember that in 1930s Germany, the establishment said over and over: “this cannot happen here in modern Germany!”

He who fails to remember history is often doomed to repeat it.

The time has come for ALL OF US to stop playing silly political games with Trump’s role in this election. We must step in to the breach and fight with all we have to take him down.

Hollywood, all forms of the press and all thinking and caring people must come together and stop this crazy man from seducing, and inciting, the whole country.

Where are you Mike Bloomberg??

Horizons of Opportunity for Young People

There are many good reasons why some fortunate people elect to spend time in second homes where their lives are quite different from their full time homes and places of work: slower pace; more homespun folks; a peek at the past or maybe the future; how other folks see their lives and the world; or simply a change to enliven their appreciation of their other life. These are all good and useful reasons and they produce a reciprocal benefit to everyone involved.

One of the things that informs “summer folk” is that even though they may own property and pay real estate taxes, they cannot vote locally unless they are actually registered to vote as a domiciliary. Nevertheless, many of them inevitably get caught up and take a real interest in the community life that surrounds them in the summer months.

The result is that there are an increasing number of summer communities in America now where the “people from away” pay a significant amount of the real estate taxes–which support the local schools–but have no vote in how those taxes are spent.

And, in many of these communities there is the not unreasonable notion that more money for schools translates automatically into better schools and better education. Surely, most of the parents of school-age children and their teachers–who comprise a large part of the voting population–understandably tend to think and believe that.

But, it turns out that in some cases there is an insidious irony that distorts the equation that more money equals better education. The core of that irony is some form of complacency, or even false pride, which works in the opposite direction. Teachers and school administrators alike can fall into a trap that causes many of them to be more interested in job security and some of the superficial indicators of better education–bigger, newer surroundings and more modern equipment–than the most important measures of the best education: the accomplishments, horizons and ambitions of the children.

One of the consequences of that trap is that there are schools that have the most money available per student and at the same time have VERY discouraging performance figures for their students. Those students are being seriously short-changed in developing essential skills and ambitions to truly enlarge and enrich their horizons and lives.

Those sharply divergent factors have caused a lot of state officials and older voters to question whether the issue really is the need for more money OR is more a matter the right goals of management, type of teaching skills, and a focus on and commitment to the futures of the kids.

Also, not surprising, is that many “people from away” share the same questions, perhaps in part because their taxes have sharply risen along with the school board budgets, but also genuinely because they know a lot of local kids and are sad to see some of those local kids hobbled by an inadequate education.

Recently a visiting young family with three young kids met another local family with kids in the local school. The local Mom asked what the “away” Mom did. The answer was she is a doctor. And, her husband? He is a lawyer. The local Mom seemed startled and said, “But they both seem ‘so normal.'” In this exchange, it appeared to seem to that local mom that doctors and lawyers are a rarity in her community and beyond the reach of local kids.

Another recent moment was equally startling.

At a memorial service for a man from away who had been a summer resident for about 50 years, a local young woman of about 40 who had been a baby sitter for the family years before, and had become practically a member of the family, spoke along with six extremely distinguished academics, college friends and colleagues of the deceased.

This young woman stole the show which overall was superb–she was amazingly and refreshingly articulate, poignant, poised and intelligent. It turned out she still lives where she grew up and appears to be a very happy and fulfilled mom, who also helps people who need a massage therapist. She said in response to a compliment and appreciation of what she had said, “There were very few avenues ahead that I could see, within my reach, when I was in school, and I wanted to stay in this community with my family.”

While she has had a wonderfully successful life on her terms, one of the things local schools often can and should do with an outstanding individual like her is to help identify that talent, encourage it and help deal with the “within my reach” issues, but only if that person really wants it.

Together, the “they are so normal” point and the inability of the school system to recognize and help inspire this young woman combined to ring a loud bell of insight.

That brilliant young woman speaker appears to have been overlooked by her educators. Based on her short talk, it was clear beyond any doubt that she had the “horsepower” to tackle anything in her life. It appears her potential talents went both unrecognized and unsupported.

Not only do the poor numbers in educational achievements fail to explain the missing ingredients in the community’s educational system, the very existence of this young woman [as well as a number of other similar young men and women] is an example of how too many people in similar communities across the country accept [as well as embrace] lives circumscribed by the limits of their education.

While there is obviously no need for everyone in America to be a doctor or lawyer, and there is a real need for many people to do different, perhaps less intellectual things, it is crucial for our schools to enable as many young people as possible to know and understand about higher horizons.

They also need to learn about the opportunities and how to grasp them to become better equipped to make their own potentially unlimited choices about their lives’ pathways.

How to Out-Trump Donald Trump

Donald Trump has been an exhibitionist since he was a spoiled, undistinguished kid.

At some point in his youth he must have discovered that if he made a big enough fuss, it did not make any difference what the fuss was about, he’d get attention no matter what.

Only a true narcissist would be willing to make a public fool of himself in order get attention simply for its own sake.

Yet that has been Trump’s trademark from the beginning.

Senator McCarthy did the same kind of thing, doing a lot of harm to a lot of innocent bystanders along the way.

McCarthy discovered by accident that he could get superb press coverage by making unsupported allegations about people’s views on communism. No one could stop him, including President Eisenhower, until the Senate voted nearly unanimously to sanction him. The lesson for Trump to learn from McCarthy is to go before the vote on his own power! McCarthy never recovered his reputation and died a broken man.

If you take Trump’s public image at face value — an undeniably dubious thing to do — you would think that he is much richer than he is. For example, the fancy helicopter and private airplane imply a lifestyle far beyond his actual means. Of course, it is even more dubious to equate being rich with the ability to manage and lead the U.S. government. If you have trouble with that, you really have not thought about the subject or you have been living underground with moles.

The real facts — beyond any dispute among reputable journalists and observers — are that Trump has filed for bankruptcy at least once, that he has stiffed his lenders repeatedly and that, like most real estate moguls, he lives constantly on the edge of disasters.

One little-known, but very important, fact about Trump is that most of the cash he has available is paid to him for the use of his name. This is why he has repeatedly hijacked the Presidential selection process to pump up even more his name brand recognition.

There are a number of hotels around the world that bear the Trump name which lures Trump devotees to stay there. The Trump name suggests that Donald Trump himself is the hotel’s developer/financier. WRONG! The real owners pay him millions of dollars a year for the privilege of using his name.

That is why he is running for President — to boost the value of his name ever higher to make more money for Donald Trump.

Donald Trump knows perfectly well he will never be President (or if he doesn’t, there should be a movement demanding that his head be examined by neutral experts).

It’s also probable that he does not really even want to be President at all.

A man who lives primarily to hear the sound of his own splash into his own pool of life would go crazy living in the Secret Service bubble which has to surround the President today.

Basically, Trump likes to live his lush life with his lady friends when and wherever he pleases. That is not compatible with the serious constraints the office of President imposes on the life of the occupant.

Therefore, the simple way to play the ‘Trump card’ on Donald Trump is to unmask the human being who is playing that role.

He is making a mockery of our whole system of governance and the sooner he wakes up to the fact that what goes up can come down, the sooner we all can get back to reality.

When he begins to sense brand exhaustion in the public at large and that perhaps he has milked all he can out of this moment in the sun (which if he has any brains at all, should be soon), he will be gone.

Have no fear!

Aye or Nay: The Iran Deal

Sage members of Congress say the bedrock of a solid but tough voting decision is to dig into the facts carefully, consult widely, and flip a coin.

If flipping a coin really helped, the current debate over the Iran nuclear deal would be much easier, because we could stop worrying now whether it was important.

IT IS VERY IMPORTANT!

One quite senior Republican Congressman, when recently asked by a junior Democrat in the House gym what he thought about the choice, said: “It simply is a bad deal.”

“Why?” he was then asked.

“Because it leaves some centrifuges out.”

“So, what is the alternative?”

“Well that is a good question.”

Hearing about that exchange sparked me into weighing in on the subject despite the fact that it is already being talked to death. This is not a moment for our elected representatives, with a real vote on our future, to simply parrot the party line or vent frustration with Obama.

Fair-thinking people are wondering how and why today more than half of Americans, as shown in current polls, can be thinking of rolling the dice on the future without really having thought it through.

Perhaps some politicians and citizens are relying on Obama’s promised veto of a nay vote. That is risky, because the sharply negative current now running might just produce enough votes to override a veto.

One thing is crystal clear: the nature and structure of the deal is such that it is too easy for ill-informed or ill-intended people to pick at selected details which, particularly singled out from the whole, appear to be debatable. That creates the (misleading) impression of a deal riddled with serious flaws, which is NOT the case.

The first stones on this road are the technical details on reducing Iran’s capability to develop a nuclear weapon. On that particular point, most people can really only assess the competence of the Obama administration’s technical people, who are unquestionably quite independent-minded with their reputations on the line, competent, and capable of understanding of the matter. Since non-experts cannot independently judge those facts, they must decide who to trust. In this case, the overwhelming weight of serious opinion and authority is in favor of the deal. Opponents are relying on rhetoric.

Next are the questions about inspections and other verification mechanisms. Much the same argument as stated above applies also to this subject. And, again the weight of experienced judgment on this matter is overwhelmingly in favor of the deal.

Third, are the questions about trust, or lack thereof, and which direction, for or against, most likely over time to obtain the result we all want – an Iran that is nuclear weapon-free and an Iran which is again (as it has been in the past) a responsible country in the larger world. This is a question where instincts and logic can help all thinking people make up their own minds because it does not require technical knowledge or skills.

There are three very significant arguments to make on this third point that can help serious people reach a conclusion that they can comfortably sleep with.

  1. If the U.S. approves the deal, and if ultimately Iran should violate its terms, then when the U.S. takes serious steps to enforce the deal, we will have far greater moral authority backing our action than we would if the deal is rejected now and a need for draconian steps arises in the future. We would be open then to all kinds of legitimate questions from the world at large about how we never gave the deal a chance.

We also have an important responsibility, as the leader of the free world, to be as certain as possible that we have clear moral authority for what we do in the world. To back off from this deal now — to defy our allies and the vast community of nations that supports the accord with their technical experts — will seriously adversely affect our leadership in the world now and well into the future.

  1. It is well and widely known that a large number of the Iranian people do not favor their government, and have been trying for years to create basic changes. Iran’s most recent election illustrates this very point. There are two solid reasons in this respect to vote aye. One is to give the Iranian people a chance to create change in their country. The other is to avoid, if possible, military steps which most likely would solidify the political position of Iranian hardliners.
  2. There are only two choices we can make: give this peaceful, negotiated process a try, or give up and hope more economic or military pressure can topple the current regime. With only a few exceptions, history points strongly in the direction of giving an alert peaceful process a chance before resorting to force. People say 10 years is a short time and, in the vast sweep of history, it certainly is. But it’s more than enough time for dramatic change to reshape the world.

Reflect on South Africa’s amazing turn away from apartheid, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and fall of the Berlin Wall. Consider that in 1945, Germany and Japan were our bitterest enemies while today they are among our most stalwart allies. The Iranian people will have a chance, under this umbrella of time, to bring their country around possibly to the surprise of the world. If we reject the deal at best we postpone that chance to see a reformed Iran.

Israeli opposition to the accord is based on their belief that Iran is an existential threat to them. It is true that a pending hanging concentrates a person’s mind, but rarely in a non-paranoid, rational way. We should not allow ourselves to be over influenced by what Israel thinks, despite their loyalty to us and their unique presence in the Middle East. We simply must think for ourselves in the context of our global leadership position.

By a wide margin, the conclusion, based on all the facts and options well into the future, must be to support the Iranian deal!

The 2016 Election and the Supreme Court

The next Presidential election is shaping up to be a race between Hillary Clinton and whoever of the 15 or so current candidates wins the Republican nomination.

Or, to put it differently, IF Clinton wins the election (which is definitely not a given), the future makeup of the Supreme Court will remain in safe hands. Therefore, she will have to be relying on a lot of otherwise reluctant Democrats, which could be a very dangerous thing to do.

On the other hand, if the ultimate Republican candidate were to win the general election, the future makeup of the Supreme Court would be, to most Democrats, in VERY unsafe hands.

The safe vs. unsafe description of the Supreme Court very much dictates the future of [1] campaign finance [2] health care and [3] tax equities and income inequalities.

Therefore, perhaps for the first time in history, the role of future Supreme Court appointments really might or should become the pivotal issue in this Presidential election.

That said, most Presidential elections turn on personality, current events and economic or foreign issues. This one, odds on, may be no different.

It also begins to be clear that Clinton’s strategy will be to ignore all the beyond reach red states and show up as necessary in the traditional blue states PLUS put on a full court press in the three big toss up states: Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

The Republican, whoever they may be, surely will do pretty much the same thing.

So — what happens?

Who gets a leg up in those three swing states?

That may be easier said than done. But that is also where future selections for the Court may become part of the equation.

Two of the possible Republican candidates are from Florida and are very popular there. That puts both Bush and Rubio into a favorable position for the nomination, and could help them both in the general election.

Ohio is a different story. Kasich is highly unlikely to get nominated, but he is very well-known and popular there.

That suggests he might have a leg up to be VP on the Republican ticket; if Bush or Rubio is the nominee, the combination will give the Republican nominee a nice advantage in both Florida and Ohio. Therefore it is IMPERATIVE that Hillary stress the Supreme Court card very visibly.

And, since the Republican convention is BEFORE the Democratic convention, if Kasich does not make the VP Republican sweepstakes, he just might be interested in hearing from Hillary.

So at the end, Kasich might hold the swing votes in the election.

That leaves Pennsylvania, Kentucky and perhaps Illinois. Perhaps Democrat Bob Casey or Republican Santorum who are well known and popular in Pennsylvania might come into play as VP candidates for either party’s Presidential nominees and or other leaders in their respective parties in the other states.

It is also not beyond imagination that the eventual Republican nominee might try to directly address the Supreme Court issue. Some Democratic voters might be less nervous about such a Republican nominee, if that person explicitly promised to give the Senate a real opportunity to ADVISE as well as consent. What that would actually do in the event is obviously very unclear.

Remember that Bush has stressed the difference between getting nominated and elected. He might just turn out to appear to be a lot less conservative after he is nominated, which might be vital to overcome the Court issues and to his getting elected?

Presidential politics this and next year may prove to be more interesting, complicated and decisive for the future than we have seen in a long time.

Remember from your early American history that in 1800 the VP was the Presidential candidate with the second greatest number of Electoral College votes.

While we are unlikely to ever go back to that system, mixing the political parties on a ticket might just make a comeback and the difference.