Looking Ahead With Pleasure and Relief

After all the ugliness of Donald Trump and this misbegotten campaign, let’s try to focus on something positive and uplifting. And that’s this:

America has elected and re-elected its first black President. And now America is about to elect its first woman to be President. That’s certainly worth celebrating. It’s overdue, of course, but the fact is that the moment is arriving, and we should be joyous about it.

Hillary Clinton is a real person. Sure, she’s flawed, and she’s shown some regrettable lapses in judgment and character here and there. Most of us, even ones not running for the White House, have done the same. But the three debates this year have shown us some important things.

She is an intelligent, well-prepared, experienced person who understands policy issues, who is incredibly calm and poised under pressure, and who has a career which shows a sincere and continuing dedication to a variety of issues, from ensuring women’s rights to defeating racial injustice. She is more than competent, she is good.

Not only that, but she has a faith and belief in those core issues which tell us she isn’t about the moment as much as she is in it for long haul. For our future. For America’s future. She has won a hard-fought nomination from her party, she leads comfortably in electoral polls. There’s no “rigging” there, just facts. And let’s end by quoting New York Times Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Paul Krugman:

“Let’s dispel with this fiction that Hillary Clinton is only where she is through a random stroke of good luck. She’s a formidable figure, and has been all along.”

The Fork Sticks

Thank you, Lord, the 2016 presidential election is almost over. Except that maybe it isn’t.

We all know Hillary Clinton will win — at least everyone other than Donald J. Trump and his band of unbelievers — and most us had assumed that Trump would acknowledge his defeat as has been done throughout the history of American elections. (There are a few exceptions, but this is really the way the process has worked.)

In last night’s debate, of course, Trump said no such thing. He would, he told an audience of tens of millions of people, have to evaluate the way the election turns out, and we’ll have to wait and see what he does. Can there be any more evidence needed of Trump’s unfit temperament and dangerous anti-democratic instincts? Clinton correctly called this “horrifying.”

Moving on — because what else can you say of such slop from Trump’s weak brain? — there actually were the germs of a real debate for a little while last night. Maybe for 45 minutes or so, Trump somewhat reasonably discussed policy, even if he has no coherent policy. But then, his eyes bloodshot, his sneer growing as sweat popped out on his ugly little face, Trump turned Trump and began to toss insults, interrupt his opponent and fall into his usual pit of mindless blather. His comments on Mosul and Aleppo were free of traces of intelligence, and he wound up the night snarling at Clinton that she is “such a nasty woman.” That is an odd way to go after the vote of women.

Of course let’s be honest here. Trump has no special desire to get the vote of women because he doesn’t care about the election, if he ever did. No, his only interest now is Donald Trump. It’s all come down to his voluptuously overblown ego. And everyone knows it. When Trump said last night that no one has more respect for woman than he does, there was outspoken laughter from the audience. Trump didn’t care. And he doesn’t care. About anything but Donald Trump.

There’s really no point in going on about this, Trump has shown again and forever he is a loser. Mentally, emotionally, physically, he is a man unfit for the job he seeks. And the voters will deliver that message in no uncertain terms in less than three weeks. Even if Trump doesn’t want to hear it. Stick a fork in DJT; he’s done.

Fear for America

The NBC News/Wall Street Journal national survey has come up with some revealing yet totally unsurprising survey results. It tells us, essentially, that the more educated a person is, the more likely they are to vote for Hillary Clinton. And conversely, the less education that voters possess, the more likely it is they will cast their ballot for Donald Trump.

Or, you could put it this way: Trump is winning the race to get the vote of unthinking, uneducated voters. Only that’s no race; it’s just where Trump happens to be.

The results apply only to white voters who responded in the survey. But when it comes to other races, it seems safe to assume education or lack of it is no bar whatsoever to voting against the bizarrely unhinged Trump.

How unhinged? We have seen an total abandonment of policy discussions by Trump in favor of dark insinuations of a vast conspiracy against him. Her is accusing everyone — his opponent, the news media, many members of his own party and women who have accused him of sexual abuse of conspiring against him and attempting to undermine his campaign.

It is taking Trump’s conspiracy beliefs — which many had hoped might end with his disgusting, racist birther insinuations against President Obama — to new and sicker levels. There is “a conspiracy against you, the American people,” he shouted recently. His opponents “will seek to destroy everything about you, including your reputation. They will lie, lie, and then again, they will do worse than that.”

Of lying Trump is an expert. There is little he speaks of that bears any relationship to truth. Or to belonging to a democratic nation. His vow to jail his opponent after the election is genuinely frightening. And his vile imaginings are only getting worse. For instance, he has most recently found Clinton working in secret with international bankers “to plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty.” Really. There is no evidence of this, only Trump’s vile words.

I fear that his incessant warnings of an election “rigged” against him and his support for violence in and out of his rallies may lead to a dangerous time in our democracy after Clinton wins. With Trump’s wild, thoughtless urgings, it is not unreasonable to believe that some of his most fervent backers may take action on their own when their candidate is resoundingly defeated at the polls. The opportunities for violent behavior, condoned by Trump, would appear to be increasing among a cadre of uneducated voters, supporting a bullying, immoral, lying narcissist who cares nothing for anyone but himself and his “brand.”

I truly fear for our nation.

No More Debates

Can we please go ahead and cancel the third debate? Pretty please?

The second debate was so appallingly caustic, so completely unhinged, so totally uninformative. Does anyone really want to watch these two candidates together in a public forum one more time? It’s impossible to call the previous two joint appearances a debate, given that they have lacked any meaningful, thoughtful, coherent exchange of ideas and policies.

And while Hillary Clinton has contributed to this in some ways, there is no doubting that the presence of Donald Trump has obliterated dialogue, intelligence and truth. His lying is now congenital; the man has become incapable of speaking with honesty or truthfulness. His babble is insulting and demeaning and speaks only to the total absence of character, morality, integrity, reason and intelligence in his makeup.

There is no longer any sense in going forward any longer with this. With his continuing outbursts of trash-as-talk, Donald Trump has demonstrated his mental incompetence, meanness of spirit and defiance of American ideals to the point that he cannot attract any more voters beyond the (mostly) deluded backers who represent his base. And they are a distinct minority in the American electorate.

While opposition to Hillary Clinton remains substantial, there is neither any doubting her qualifications to be President nor the fact of her election. And given the obvious, can we simply cancel the scheduled third debate and allow this misbegotten campaign to close? Allowing Trump yet another forum for his manic, narcissistic rants is pointless. As pointless as every word that drops from Trump’s lying lips.

Please, cancel the debate. End the misery. Please.

Let’s Get Physical

Donald Trump is 70 years old. He looks older. Given his saggy skin and double chin, he looks as if he might be 74 or maybe 75. He’s nearly obese, very much overweight. He appears fat in his ill-fitting suits, and he has a tiny bit of a slump when he walks. It is surprising, however, that a man so fat has hands so tiny. His hair is, of course, ridiculous looking with a comb-over that is, in a word, terrible.
He really should consider getting a wig. He can certainly afford a good one. The flab on his body is evident even though his clothing, which suggests he has little good taste in menswear. Perhaps a visit to the men’s department at a Burlington Coat Factory would be a good thing. And while there check out the cosmetic counter where surely they have something to cover up all those wrinkles and skin flaps on his rather unappealing face. Maybe some kind of facial surgery could give his appearance a much-needed pick-me-up. Certainly some time at the gym would be in order. And soon, too, given his obvious lack of stamina so evident in his growing fatigue during Monday’s 90-minute debate. This is a man horribly out of shape mentally and physically.

I’m betting his attractive model wife Malaria can help him with some of those worsening problems. After all, she can’t be very happy with those tiny hands.

Quickie Debate Thoughts

The Great Debate has already been post-mortemed beyond caring, but there are still a few quick thoughts that ought to be shared if you’ll indulge a few minutes.

Donald Trump proved himself ever more unpresidential. No surprise there. But to show up for an crucial public event so completely unprepared, and then to behave rudely and boorishly — not to mention continuing to swim in a pool of lies — made clear once again that his candidacy has no respect for the American democracy.

And yet — it is difficult to believe that too many minds were changed by the debate results. Hillary Clinton’s supporters certainly had plenty to celebrate in her performance, though it was marred by some inconsistencies and, to put it bluntly, lies. Trump’s hard-core backers are already skipping over his blunders in proclaiming their continuing allegiance.

So what would the undecideds think of all that? Looked at as dispassionately as possible, I can’t imagine Trump said or did anything to win them over with his distasteful performance. And women and Hispanics assuredly found nothing but hostility from the candidate’s words and taunts and attitudes.

The sad thing to contemplate is that Trump can and may get much worse. He is capable of gutter politics, as we know, and given the way this debate turned out, the second one may set new records for nastiness and incivility. Not something to look forward to, is it?

A Debate Eve Challenge

On the eve of the Great Debate, it’s easy to get caught up in the potential for unwitting drama and folly. In the wake of recent revelations about Donald Trump’s alleged philanthropy, however, it may be useful to recall a couple of lasting words.

Briefly, investigative reporters have discovered that the self-proclaimed billionaire Trump has rarely used any of his own money to give to charitable organizations, that he has used other people’s donations to his Foundation to pay his own legal bills, and that he has claimed to make donations to charities which have never materialized. In so many words, he has lied, cheated and used charities and his own “charitable” Foundation to deceive others and enrich himself.

So here’s what is worth recalling. It comes from the book of Timothy (note to Mr. Trump: that’s one of the books in the Bible), and here’s what it says: “The love of money us a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.”

And this, also from Timothy: “As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.”

Do you suppose Mr. Trump has ever read those passages? Do you suppose he will heed them in the debates?

A Lesson in Fraud

The matter of wells Fargo represents a case study in a lot of things: corporate fraud, deniability, responsibility and ultimately believability. And it’s not very pretty.

Wells Fargo has admitted that thousands of its employees, pressured to meet aggressive sale goals, opened fake accounts in the names of customers unaware of what was going on, sometimes forging their signatures and imposing fraudulent fees. When that behavior was publicly discovered, the bank fired more than 5,000 of its lower-paid employees. Can you say the word ??? The bank agreed to a $185 million settlement with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — but with no admission of guilt. That was a mistake by the government. What is needed is not merely a settlement but a resolution, and that must involve penalties starting at the top.

Wells’ President John G. Stumpf (rhymes with Trumpf?) says he regrets the bank’s actions — wow — and will do everything to change the culture and see that such things don’t happen again. And, by the way, no top executives at the bank will be fired. Or prosecuted. If that seems like responsible CEO leadership, then you must be a banker.

Will the justice Department move against this obviously criminal behavior by Wells Fargo? According to department guidelines, legal action can follow when “the pervasivness of wrongdoing within the corporation, including the complicity in, or the condoning of, the wrongdoing by corporate management” is apparent. As it apparently is in this case.

Mt. Stumpf is not getting his outrageous salary cut in the least, in spite of the fact that the bank has known what was going on for at least five years, and it was made public by a report in the Los Angeles Times in 2013. And then there’s this: the executive who oversaw this sales program at Wells, Carrie Tolstedt, is leaving the bank. Was she fired? We don’t know, but she’s leaving. But not until the end of the year. And she’s getting an obscene send-off worth at least $100 million. That’s not responsible It’s criminal. And the justice department needs to take action.

Where were the bank’s directors during the times this was going on? Clearly there was no oversight. And if the directors’ weren’t informed, then Mr. Stumpf and others at Wells Fargo should be held accountable for irresponsible corporate behavior in hiding such issues.

Lastly, there are others to blame. Republicans, for instance, who wondered aloud at the recent Congressional hearings why federal regulators didn’t detect this legal activity before now. One reason is because Republicans have sought for years to gut the Dodd-Frank bill and its regulatory statutes and the [people whose jobs are overseeing corporations. Republicans have advocated fewer regulations for everyone. and guess what: when that happened, this happened. And Democrats don’t get off lightly either. But all of this should be firmly placed inside a prosecution by the federal government. That’s would be the responsibility we most need to see now.

Celebrating Dr. Johnson

This week we celebrate the 307th anniversary of the birth of Dr. Samuel Johnson, 18th century England’s greatest man of letters and a giant among the world’s literary icons of any century.
Dr. Johnson, as he was familiarly known, wrote essays, novels, poetry, prayers, and of course a Dictionary (1755) that was perhaps his most remarkable achievement. He was said to be the most brilliant conversationalist of his age with a rapier wit and an unforgiving intellect. And we are forever indebted to James Boswell, who came into Dr. Johnson’s orbit and from his long and rich association produced the finest, most compelling biography ever written, “The Life of Johnson” (look it up — it makes for unforgettable reading).

So full and fascinating was his life that, like Boswell, you could write a book about Johnson. And in fact hundreds of authors have indeed written thousands of books about him since his death. Some of them have been quite wonderful (immodest hint — see my book “Whisky, Kilts and the Loch Ness Monster”). Rather than recalling a highlight list of his life’s work, however, it might be more fun just to remember some of the delightfully piquant, pointed and perceptive things he said during his busy, often aphoristic-driven lifetime.

a. There is no wisdom in useless and hopeless sorrow; but there is something in it so like virtue, that he who is wholly without it cannot be loved.

b. He who praises everybody praises nobody.

c. Sir, a woman’s preaching is like a dog’s walking on his hinder legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.

d. What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure.

e. In order that all men may be taught to speak truth, it is necessary that all likewise should learn to hear it.

f. OATS — A grain which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people. (from the “Dictionary”)

g. Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.

h. Of himself, he declared the lexicographer “a harmless drudge.”

As I’ve suggested, there is hardly a dearth of books about Johnson. And on the web you can locate many quite outstanding sites. Among the best: www.samueljohnson.com

King of the Lies

Can anyone believe anything Donald Trump says? After more than five years of lying about President Obama’s birth, Trump now says he is dropping his questions about the matter. Just like that. He’s not issuing an apology for lying either to the President or to any of the thousands of racist wannabes he nurtured with his lying.
And even so, he can’t keep from adding to the pile of lies by blaming Hillary Clinton for starting the birth question. She didn’t of course, but Trump lies and says she did. He lies about nearly every subject he broaches, and he refuses to accept responsibility for his lies and continues to lie. Those who continue to insist they support him are supporting a serial liar, a man who cannot be trusted or believed. A liar who, in the words of former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in today’s Wall Street Journal, is “incompetent and unqualified to be commander-in-chief” of the United States.

And by the way, this is Day 57 since his nomination that Trump has refused to disclose his income tax returns. Wonder if he’s trying to hide indictable activities or just unethical ones?