The Republican Convention: How more Surreal Can Politics Get?

I can barely stand to watch the Republican convention because I don’t believe anything Trump says.  Nor do I believe most of what those in the Republican party say in favor of him as many of them were sharply critical of him only a few months ago, including his VP running mate Mike Pence.

What makes the convention so surreal is that that most of the delegates are pretending this is a normal convention while it is actually an elaborate pretense.  Trump is pretending to be a Republican and the Republicans are pretending to believe him.  When it comes to party standards, no one knows what Trump actually believes, so how can anyone believe in him?

Talk of unifying the Republican party is a sham.  What holds it together with pins and needles is a common antagonism towards Hillary Clinton.   They have been hating her for so long many probably believe she is as bad as they say she is.

In the attempt to make the party seem unified phoniness prevails.  Did you see Trump and Pence with Leslie Stahl on 60 Minutes Sunday?  Pence has often criticized Trump but Sunday they acted as if whatever was said in the past doesn’t matter. They understand each other now and are basically on the same page.  Of course, whatever Trump has said in the past doesn’t matter because he changes the story whenever it suits him while acting as if what he says now is what he meant before.

Leslie pushed the points of apparent difference, but showed in the process once again how feckless the media are when trying to pin Trump down.  He never really answers a tough question – like how is he going to accomplish anything he promises.  He just keeps dodging or stonewalling  until the reporters finally give up.   He looks strong.  They look weak.  More image points.

Leslie was so congenial I wondered if she is not bothered at all by what a “faker” Trump is, as pointed out by Justice Ruth Ginsberg.  An inappropriate comment in normal times I think, but these are not normal times.  Trump erased the lines of political propriety a long time ago.

And in agreeing to play ball with a faker like Trump, Pence became one as well.  Speaking of fakers, I can’t wait to see Ted Cruz give a speech tomorrow backing in some way the guy who insulted his wife and the memory of his father while labelling him “lying Ted” the Canadian.

I’ll be curious if Cruz says anything good about Trump, thinking he’ll primarily just hit the Hillary piñata around, but he is such a weasel himself, he might say something nice here and there.  Whatever might help his future political life.

It is ghastly the way Trump has personified our politics at their worst.  Most unsettling he has taken the worst parts to new lows and turned them into a winning formula.  Jeb Bush said:  “You can’t insult your way to the White House?”  Well, Jeb, we’d better hold our horses on that one.

So, what do the reporters do?  Impotent in general, they try to pin Trump down where they can with some minutia like the plagiarized phrases in Melania’s speech last night.  Given all of the lies and distortions that are standard fare served up by the Trumpeteers, this stuff is miniscule.  And I think his supporters and the cliff hangers see it as more proof the press is out to get him.  Overall people seemed to like Melania’s speech.  That impression is what is important, not a few stolen words.

Haven’t the press learned by now that facts don’t matter in this surreal political world, especially puny ones like a little phrase borrowing in a speech.  It’s all about the impressions one leaves with the many.

The goal of this convention, besides heaping more scorn on Hillary, is to broaden the appeal of Trump as a good father and a loyal boss who many people actually like working for despite his demanding nature.  The campaign wants us to see the  “other Trump” who in private moments won over the likes of Ben Carson and may help swing some voters who have been troubled with the Mr. Bluster act.

I don’t think that is all bunk, which is why I have argued against labelling Trump a racist or any other “ist”.   I don’t think he is a bad man in his private life, but what makes him such a danger in his public one is his willingness to do or say anything to get what he wants.  While he acts like his wants are synonymous with the needs of our nation, his entire life has been characterized by self-aggrandizement.  Why would a man so preoccupied with himself for all these years suddenly become predominantly concerned about the rest of us?

I think his fans are dreaming, or to put it more harshly, reverting to an infantile stage with longings for someone to take care of them.  They are so tired of changes in American life which I think are mostly a result of changes in the entire world that leave us still great but not supreme as we had been for decades, so tired of these changes including the ever greater complexity of living day to day that many just want to hand over all those problems to someone who promises to fix them. Enter big daddy Trump.

Those who say Trump is more trustworthy than Hillary don’t mean the statements that he makes, in exactly what he says – they know he exaggerates for effect and attention, even making up stuff such as the things he has said about opponents.  What they trust is his proven ability to win.

They extrapolate from his past successes, topped  off by winning the nomination against all odds, that he will be a winner as president as well, whatever that might mean.  In contrast, I believe the skills it takes to be the President of the United States are greater in nature and more complex than what it takes to win the office, a subject I will give attention to in later posts.

My assessment of Trump is more along the lines of how Trever Noah of the Daily Show has described the scene in Cleveland:  “It is quite a thing to see a party succumb to the will of a ….really dangerous buffoon who has hijacked their party.”

What makes it so surreal is that most of the people at the convention are acting like this is not the case.

Is it Up to Sony to Uphold our Principle of Free Speech?

I don’t think so.

I am going to finish that thought before I come to my senses.  Whatever my posts seem like to you, I weigh and measure a lot while writing them, which is one reason they have become fewer and farther between, as there is so much crisis-type stuff going on politically at home and abroad that the thought of sorting it out paralyses me.

So this time I won’t.  My Christmas present to myself today is to just say something off the cuff about the hubbub in Hollywood and Washington in reaction to Sony pictures cancelling the showing of the Interview, that comedy about the imagined assassination of what’s his name, that pug emperor of North Korea.

You certainly have heard of the cyber attack on Sony which has revealed all sorts of embarrassing information, seemingly in revenge for the movie being made.   And there have been threats of violence if the movie is shown. One way or another the evil source of all this appears to be North Korea.  Kim Jung Fun, or whatever, apparently has taken affront at fantasies of his demise.

Sony is being trashed for succumbing to actions and threats, for giving into this censorship of fear, but for those who see this as affront to the first amendment, I suggest you buy the movie from Sony (about 50 million should do it) and you distribute it to whoever is willing to take it.    Hey, if lots of people want to make a stand on our freedom to show a likely silly comedy (I don’t love Seth Rogan).   Go do it.  It’s a free country.

My thinking is that we live in world gone more wacky each day and to see everything in terms of traditional thinking that says this forced censorship and must be opposed like Patrick Henry with “give me liberty or give me death” is to me a collective jerk of the liberal knee.

Releasing the movie  or not, the damage has already been done when it comes to future movies.   Those who make movies are for the most part in the business of making money and this hack job and threat will likely be enough to make the monied backers think twice about any movie that might prompt a strong to murderous reaction by those who lack the ability to laugh at themselves.

The industry self-censors as a matter of course, as a matter of money, and this incident will be factored in decisions of future films not to make.

For example, don’t expect a remake of the Charlie Chaplin film, “The Great Dictator,” to be reshaped to fit Vladimir Putin.

SMATTERINGS 10/26/13: The Nub of Some Ongoing Issues

Our main stream television media must believe we can’t handle thinking about more than one issue at a time.  All the world was the congressional budget/debt ceiling battle for three weeks or so.  Before that, all the world was Syria and their chemical weapons.  Before that, I can’t recall.   Like most Americans, I have a short memory, even shorter than most as a member of the social security set.

English: Depiction of the House vote on H.R. 3...

English: Depiction of the House vote on H.R. 3590 (the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) on March 21, 2010, by congressional district. Click the map for a much larger image and details (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now all the world is the faltering Obamacare web site.   Of course, this is the world the Republicans want us to dwell in, while the Democrats wish to constantly refresh our memories about how obstructionist the Republicans were in regard to the extension of the budget and raising of the debt ceiling.

Meanwhile the Republican Civil War is steadily simmering en route to a boil, with many of that party angry at Ted Cruz and his Tea Party set for making Republicans look imbecilic to a majority of the rest of us with their non-plan to stop Obamacare.    Had that not been the case, they could have been focusing attention on the clownish internet roll out for weeks.

Oh, well, they are making up for lost time by holding congressional hearings to accentuate the disaster to the public mind, the “train wreck” that they “knew” to be Obamacare even before it was passed.   Well, of course, they didn’t know, and they still don’t know, nor does anyone know how this will play out overall.   ( I know, many individuals already have personal stories, seemingly more negative than positive, but the whole thing has barely begun to be rolled out.)

The Federal Debt Ceiling and Budget Extension Battle

After much struggle and gnashing of teeth, the government reopened what was closed and will remain “open” at least until January 15, when the appropriated money runs out.   Also, the debt ceiling either will need to be raised again Feb 7 or government default on federal debt payments will once again be in the offing.

In short, the political arm twisting accomplished little more than postpone the match for a few months so both sides can enjoy the holidays and rest up.    Well, there are two things that may be seen as accomplishments down the line.  One is the formation of a Senate/House committee to try to actually come up with joint budget recommendations by Dec 13.

Given the inability of the two parties to come to terms on budget issues for a few years now (except for the sequester which they forced upon themselves through inaction), it is hard to get too excited about the prospects, but the upcoming second point might help.

Point Two is what seems a clarification of the political hazards of using the threat of a government shutdown and/or a default on federal debt as bargaining chips in future negotiations.  According to most polls the Republican “brand” took a big hit through all of this because they are blamed more for causing it.  (Don’t you just love how everything has been turned into a brand these days, including each of us.)

While the Tea Party types say they will continue to use such tactics, the rest of the Republican party doesn’t look like it will fall in line next time out.

The Republican Civil War

Recently I heard that Liz Cheney called John McCain a “liberal” which among the right is like “sinner”  was used in the early days of Puritan America.   A little Googling of the issue will reveal that Republicans are deeply divided between those who think of Ted Cruz as a hero and those, like Representative Peter King of New York, who called him a “fraud.”   Of course, party leadership tries to paint this as healthy debate within the party, but when one side in a debate refuses to compromise, there is no room for resolution.  Hence, a civil war.

I never tire of pointing out the irony of the Tea Party folks always proudly defending the constitution as if it were dropped from the heavens on a tablet.  It is a remarkable piece of work but it came about through torturous compromises, the most profound being the toleration of slavery in the new republic.   “Compromise” was not a dirty word to the founders, but a necessity to establish a stable central government.

How the Republican split will play out by January is sheer guess work, but if the rift doesn’t heal (and i do not think it will), Republican moderates and Democrats may actually work together on some sort of fiscal compromise that lasts longer than a few weeks.


As indicated above, one reason many Republicans are angry at Ted Cruz and his posse is that in pushing for changes in Obamacare that weren’t going to happen and in turn making the party resemble the keystone cops of early film days while trying to somehow look sensible, attention was paid to their intra-party squabbles and not to the initial roll out of the Obamacare website, which turned out to be the Democrats’ own version of the Keystone cops.

Here is my take on Obamacare.   It has barely begun to be rolled out and it is not going away, so let’s just wait and see how it plays out.   When Republicans argue that it is a disaster and a majority of Americans agree, keep in mind that the right has called it a disaster from the beginning, even when it was little more than an elaborate idea.  Since most Americans, including me, know little about it, if they feel it is a disaster it is because the Republican message has been more effective than that of the Democrats.   A part of that success is because negative advertising is more effective than positive, which is why campaigns are largely made up of the former.

In man-in-the-street interviews, when asked if they prefer Obamacare to the Affordable Care Act, most people state the latter, while oblivious to the fact they are the same thing.  In terms of brands, Obamacare doesn’t look good right now.  But it is not going away anytime soon, so let’s see what happens between now and the mid-term elections in 2014.

If Obamacare really is the train wreck portrayed by the Republicans, they should come to dominate both houses of Congress, that is if they haven’t torn apart the party by then.

SMATTERINGS – July 6, 2012

While working on this blog I come across all sorts of information.  I would like to share more of it than can be squeezed into a couple of posts a week, yet not so much as to  overload readers’ psyches,  so periodically I will have posts that combine a little of this and that.

UPDATE ON THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION (this section was rewritten July 7, due to my misstatement of Silver’s “odds”)

I mentioned Nate Silver’s fivethirtyeightblog in my previous Smatterings and his picking the winner of all but one state  in the 2008 presidential election.   Even though the cable chatter often makes this seem a close race, Silver has consistently given Obama a “chance of winning” in the 60s percentage-wise.

After the jobs report that came out yesterday (tepid for the third month in a row) Silver reduced Obama’s “winning chance” from 68.9% to 66.9%, but still a solid advantage.

Speaking of  winning chances, yesterday I checked some Vegas odds on the race at an online site called Bovada.  A $100 bet on Obama will net you $58.82 if he wins.   Romney gives you better odds if he wins,  your $100 netting $140, but you get a better payoff  because he appears less likely to win.


That’s the title of a book by two well respected centrists, Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein.  One reason I judge them as centrists is because other centrists, like former Republican Senator Chuck Hegel and former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker have praised the book.   It takes one to know one, as they say.  However, since the book blames a right moving Republican party for the lion’s share of our congressional gridlock, the authors are obviously liberals to those they criticize, if not socialists or, in the case of Representative Alan West, communists.

This weekend Mann and Ornstein are slated to be on UpwithChrisHayes, my favorite political discussion show which is on MSNBC on both Saturday and Sunday from 8-to-10 ET, which makes it 5-to-7 my time and one reason why I record it.  Another reason is it allows me to watch it in segments during the rest of the week, instead of watching a number of programs that are not nearly as illuminating.

Being on MSNBC, it is no surprise that most of the guests are liberals, though there is often a conservative in attendance and Hayes does a good job of keeping the conversation flowing as opposed to verbal head butting.

I’m not sure which day the authors will be on, but that’s another reason to check the program out on both days  this weekend.


Not really, but that was the story that went through conservative social media like the Colorado forest fire.  It is worth examining, as Ezra Klein did on MSNBC, as it illustrates the eagerness of the right to immediately circulate anything that smears Obama, accuracy be damned.

According to Klein,  the Hollywood Reporter had a piece about the European branch of the Obama campaign having a fundraiser in Paris for American x-pats on the 4th.  Seeing that, Ben Shapiro wrote about the Paris fundraiser in the conservative, ending with:  “That also may be the only place Obama can still find cheering throngs.”

Shapiro didn’t say Obama was in France, but apparently Andrew McCarthy of the National Review thought he did when he wrote the following :

“Final Jeopardy – Category is OBAMA: The answer is: Fundraising in Paris….with a link to Breitbart.  Carl Rove saw that and ever the eager beaver when it comes to smearing Obama, tweeted it to his legions of followers, who replied with responses such as:  “Fitting. Comrade Obama to celebrate the 4th in socialist France.”

And Lars Larson,  a conservative talk show host, ran with it like “wrong way Corrigan”:  “What would you expect the president do on our day of independence? Perhaps give a speech or visit wounded warriors. At least something in America. Not this president. Not Barack Obama.”

Well, actually, on the 4th Obama was meeting with active duty U.S. service members who are becoming naturalized U.S. citizens at the White House.

I agree with conservatives that our media tend to reflect liberal biases, but at least they also have a journalistic tradition of checking the facts.  And they do seem embarrassed when they get the facts wrong.

Not so with the parade of verbal henchman listed above beginning with McCarthy who is further taken to task in the article below.

SMATTERINGS – June 22, 2012

English: A map based on the candidates running...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While working on this blog I come across all sorts of information.  I would like to share more of it than can be squeezed into a couple of posts a week, yet not so much as to produce psychic  overload, so periodically I will have posts that combine a little of this and that….


Is this presidential election going to be close?  Not according to Nate Silver’s recent “chance of winning” prediction  in his Fivethirtyeight blog.  He regularly gives  Obama a large betting edge, today 62.7 % to 37.3% over Romney.  A lot of this has to do with Obama having a strong lead in the projected electoral vote despite only a narrow one in likely overall voters.

Silver analyses the polls and made a name for himself in predicting all but one state, Indiana (a 1% vote difference) in the 2008 presidential election.   Rather than listen to the political chatter –  like the impact of Romney not vetting Marco Rubio for VP – check in with Silver when you’re curious how the tide is turning.  To make that easier for you, I’ll put his blog in my Blogroll to the lower left.


Both Democrats and Republicans have “war rooms”, staffed with people whose job is to find every weakness in the “enemy” and exploit it.  Jake Tapper of ABC got a guided tour of the Republican war room in April.   Check out the video.   All the flack produced is one more reason to save time and just check with Nate.

I would have mentioned the Tapper video earlier, but was waiting for him to do a similar piece on the Dem war room.   I’m still waiting.   Maybe the Democrats  changed their minds after seeing the Republicans look like vultures.


Adam McCay in Huff Post yesterday reminded me of me, decrying the current state of our media news :  “… instead of useful information we get opinions decorated with misleading info. And the result is that we are a shockingly misinformed country.”

His suggestion:  “We must create an INFORMATION BUCKET BRIGADE…Once a week every one of us must pass on a rock-solid fact with context at the ready to someone else we know. If it’s someone who disagrees with you, you get bonus points. Whether it’s through email, Twitter, Facebook, text, or conversation, all that matters is that fact is passed on and the person you pass it on to passes it on.”  He does add that in passing it on it should not include something snotty about the recipient’s politics or I. Q.

To me illuminating a misleading “fact” is in keeping with McCay’s suggestion and here’s one:   One Republican talking point is to hammer Dems for having large majorities in both houses the first two years of their administration with  little to show for it.  They say it often and I never see it challenged.  

Yes, the statement is factually true, but the former big majority in the Senate – 60-to-40 – just seems big.   With the Dem party caucus stretching from socialist independent Bernie Sanders on the left to conservative Ben Nelson on the right, this was never a solid 60 votes, the number required to avoid a  veto by the filibuster-happy Republicans.   The need to corral all of the Dem caucus, including independents Sanders and Joe Lieberman, helped create a mishmash of a health care act.

And for the first six months the Dems didn’t even have 60 because Al Franken’s election win was challenged in court.  


In case you thought I was being just flippant or downright weird in my post haling the power of boobs, I’ll have you know that I was on the curvaceous edge.  Huff Post now has a whole section devoted to those tangential talking points.   No lie.