Friday Talking Points -- "Civil" War

[ Posted Friday, October 12th, 2018 – 17:35 PDT ]

There's a debate going on right now among the chattering classes in Washington over whether Democrats should be "civil" or, alternatively, whether they should "kick" back at their opponents. No, really. The hilariousness of such a genteel debate seems to have escaped everyone engaging in it, apparently. Because it is pretty funny, when you consider the actual facts. Which show that Republicans completely abandoned civility altogether, right about the same time they started supporting Donald Trump -- and things have (if it's even possible) now gotten even worse in the midterm campaigns. So all they're really doing is attempting to hold Democrats to a standard they don't even pretend to hew to themselves anymore (after decades of being the moralizing, finger-wagging party, it bears mentioning).

Continue Reading »

What Would A Bear Market Mean Politically?

[ Posted Thursday, October 11th, 2018 – 17:56 PDT ]

I am often (quite rightly) accused of writing nothing short of crassly political columns, where I examine events and trends seen through the lens of how they will affect the political landscape without much regard for their overall impact on society. Today is certainly going to qualify, I'll state that, right up front. Because after the Dow Jones Industrial Average has fallen almost 1,400 points in the past two days of trading, it's hard for a pundit not to wonder what it would mean if this trend continues.

Now, I am not a professional market analyst, not by a long shot. My 401K can attest to this fact. So I have no real clue about what will happen next -- a strong comeback because stock prices are now so low, a "dead-cat bounce" where the market appears to revive, only to soon head downward again, or a full-fledged panic attack by investors. I simply don't know what the future will bring.

As of this moment, we are not yet in a "bear market." Definitions differ from expert to expert, but most of them define a bear market with some respect to time -- stocks head lower for two (or three) months, perhaps. Some also include a percentage qualification, the most common being that the stock market slides at least 20 percent in value over this period of time. We are nowhere near either one of these right now, because (1) it's only been two days, and (2) because the Dow was so high, even a 1,400-point drop is only a little over five percent of the market's total at its high. So even if the market continues downward, we've got a long way to go before professionals start talking about bear markets.

Continue Reading »

Mob Mentality

[ Posted Wednesday, October 10th, 2018 – 16:48 PDT ]

Today's column is brought to you by the word "mob."

OK, maybe I didn't need that Sesame Street opening, but I just wanted to be as clear as possible from the get-go. Because after Donald Trump (and his Republican minions) started fearmongering their madding crowds (irony alert!) by warning of the Democrats' mob tactics, I started thinking about the word itself and its use. Today, I read Donald Trump's recent opinion piece in USA Today, which got me thinking about a whole different use of the word. Hence today's somewhat-disjointed column, and hence this introduction trying to tie it all together linguistically.

The word "mob" was first coined circa 1690 A.D., as a shortening of a Latin phrase: "mobile vulgus." The Latin translates roughly as "the moveable common people," although "movable" could have meant "fickle in their opinions" as much as it could have meant actual physical motion. The most succinct translation into English I've seen is "moveable party." This points out the political nature of the term's origins and its continued usage over the centuries.

The most common image of a mob is usually of an angry and perhaps violent group of people. But unlike the horror-movie cliché, the people with torches and pitchforks aren't marching against a literal monster (such as the one Frankenstein built), but against something they perceive as monstrous -- which is usually something political in nature.

Continue Reading »

Good Riddance, Chief Wahoo

[ Posted Tuesday, October 9th, 2018 – 16:30 PDT ]

The Cleveland Indians' season is over. While this was a cause for sadness among their fans, there is also a good reason for everyone else to rejoice at the close of Cleveland's 2018 season. Because the 71-year tenure of the maniacally grinning and blatantly racist Cleveland mascot "Chief Wahoo" is also now at an end. Sort of. The Indians, starting next season, will not display this offensive logo any more on their uniforms -- however, they will still (sadly) continue to sell Chief Wahoo merchandise to their fans. A step forward, in other words, but not the true end of the road for what unquestionably has to be the most racist and offensive logo in modern professional sports.

For those of you who don't follow baseball and may be unaware of precisely how offensive this logo is, please decide for yourselves:

Indians logo

In this day and age, that is an image that is absolutely impossible to defend, on any reasonable grounds. Change the skin color to black (and remove the feather), and it would be nothing short of a version of Little Black Sambo. Which no sane team owner today would pick for a logo for their franchise, it goes without saying.

Continue Reading »

One Month To Go

[ Posted Monday, October 8th, 2018 – 17:05 PDT ]

Four weeks from tomorrow, America will vote in the 2018 midterm congressional elections. We're officially in the homestretch now, in other words. And even with all the recent political events, things stand pretty much how they have all year -- Democrats are still favored to take control of the House of Representatives, but Republicans are still favored to retain control of the Senate. The political pundits right now are focusing too tightly on possible effects of the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court fight, but the bigger picture hasn't really shifted all that much.

Democrats are still confident (perhaps too confident) that a big blue wave is a-comin', which will wash dozens of Republicans right out of Congress. Republicans are confident (definitely too confident) that "the polls were wrong once, so that means they'll always be wrong," and that their own base has now woken up and will match Democrats' enthusiasm at the polls due to successfully seating another conservative on the Supreme Court.

Personally, I'm not ready to buy into either argument quite yet, for the simple fact that we've still got four whole weeks to go. And, in the age of Trump, four weeks is an absolute eternity. Anything could happen, and if the past is any prologue, it probably will. I'm reserving overall judgment until we're a lot closer to Election Day, myself.

Continue Reading »

Friday Talking Points -- Kavanaugh Fight Finally Ends

[ Posted Friday, October 5th, 2018 – 16:46 PDT ]

Brett Kavanaugh is going to be confirmed to the Supreme Court tomorrow. That was the breaking news this afternoon, as Senators Jeff Flake, Susan Collins, and Democrat Joe Manchin all indicated that they're going to vote in favor of Kavanaugh's confirmation. Republican Lisa Murkowski had briefly given rise to hope on the Democratic side when she announced she'll be voting against confirmation, but as things stand now Vice President Mike Pence won't even be required to break a tie, because tomorrow (if every senator votes how they now say they will) the total will be 51 votes for confirmation to 49 against.

This brings an end to the most extraordinary court fight since Clarence Thomas. For three weeks, America has been riveted by the drama that played out at the very end of the confirmation process. From the initial accusations to the lengthy hearing where Dr. Christine Blasey Ford told her story and Brett Kavanaugh showed his true temperament, to the dramatic move by Jeff Flake which forced a week's delay, to today's final vote announcements, the entire process has been completely consuming the political world for weeks.

Continue Reading »

Jeff Flake's Delusional Presidential Dreams

[ Posted Thursday, October 4th, 2018 – 17:10 PDT ]

It has long been said that when every single U.S. senator looks in the mirror each morning, he or she sees a U.S. president looking back at them. In reality, making the leap from the Senate to the White House is actually quite rare in modern American history -- before Barack Obama managed the feat in 2008, it hadn't happened since John F. Kennedy's win in 1960. But that doesn't really matter to the senators, as they all still see themselves as valid contenders for the presidency anyway, each and every morning.

Currently, there are quite a number of senators who are mulling a 2020 bid, although almost all of them are Democrats. The obvious reason for this is that Donald Trump is still in his first term as president, and therefore is already the presumptive 2020 Republican nominee. Any Republican who decides to challenge him will have a very steep hill to climb, as is the case with any sitting first-term president. But there's one senator who is reportedly considering such a move, even though he won't actually still be in the Senate in two years. Sitting senator or not, though, Jeff Flake certainly sees himself as a viable alternative to Trump.

This is somewhat delusional, in reality. But things could always change. Two years is a long time for any politician, and it's an absolute eternity for Donald Trump. Anything could happen between now and then, and Flake must surely be hoping something cathartic will eventually trip Trump up. It's really the only way he'd have any sort of chance at dethroning Trump, no matter what that guy in the mirror tells him every morning.

Continue Reading »

Jeff Bezos Does The Right Thing

[ Posted Wednesday, October 3rd, 2018 – 16:34 PDT ]

We could all use a dose of good news right about now, which is why it was heartening to hear that the leader of Amazon just announced he would be raising his employees' pay so that nobody working for his company will make less than $15 an hour. That's good news for hundreds of thousands of American families, and it deserves to be praised and celebrated. But the lion's share of the thanks really should go to a politician, because if Senator Bernie Sanders hadn't publicly shamed Amazon's Jeff Bezos, this probably never would have happened.

The two are now buddies, at least if their Twitter feeds are any indication. They've both had warm words for each other since the announcement was made, with Sanders giving Bezos credit for acting and Bezos giving Sanders credit for his efforts to ensure that all full-time workers receive a living wage. Bezos even committed to pushing Congress to increase the federal minimum wage for all, and he could now bring some real weight to that argument.

Continue Reading »

Waiting For The F.B.I.'s Report

[ Posted Tuesday, October 2nd, 2018 – 17:29 PDT ]

America now awaits the results of the F.B.I.'s new investigation into Brett Kavanaugh's truthfulness with bated breath. Will they uncover anything? Will they provide clarity? Will they prove he was telling the truth or blatantly lying? We've all got until Friday to wonder what will be in their final report.

Continue Reading »

Changing Dynamics For The Midterm Races

[ Posted Monday, October 1st, 2018 – 17:08 PDT ]

Five weeks from tomorrow, the 2018 midterm elections will happen. But, as we all know, a lot can happen in five weeks (especially these days). Up until about two weeks ago, the conventional wisdom had coalesced into a belief that the Democrats were more likely than not to take control of the House of Representatives, but also that they'd probably fall short in the Senate. However, within those two weeks, the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation fight has taken an unexpected turn. And today, perhaps as a very early "October surprise," President Trump announced a new trade deal with both Mexico and Canada. So it's time to consider what impact these two events might have on the midterms, if any.

Continue Reading »