You see it a lot in football. The ref throws a penalty flag. It‘s a very close call. The players grimace, the coach yells in the ref’s ear. A few plays later, another close call, the ref throws a flag on the other team. Everyone knows it’s a make-up call, rough justice to balance the scales. That’s how I see FBI Director Comey’s announcement that more emails are being investigated: a makeup call to appease his critics. In doing so, however, Comey violated another unwritten rule: don’t let a penalty determine the outcome of the game. Let the players play.
October 26, 2016
Donald Trump says Hillary Clinton’s proposed no-fly zones over Syria might trigger World War III. He could be right. Certainly there’s a real danger this new Cold War could turn hot as America and Europe push back against Russia’s increasingly aggressive diplomacy. NATO is stationing 4,000 troops along Russia’s historical buffer zone, the Baltics and eastern Poland, a real red flag for Russia. Trump says getting along with Russia wouldn’t be so bad, but how do you trust Putin when he continually lies about Russia’s operations in Ukraine and Syria? The next president will have to decide: détente or deterrence?
October 24, 2016
I've just finished “Death’s End,“ the final volume of Cixin Liu's epic sci-fi trilogy. I’m not sure what the author intended, but when viewed as an allegory for climate change it sends a clear message. The future will come, whether it’s 1,000 years from now or 1,000,000 years. That future is beyond our imagination but will be shaped by choices we make. The universe awaits us, but for now we have one job: take care of our home planet. As we fret about climate tipping points, we should ponder this admonition: "The precision of Nature can sometimes exceed the imagination."
October 23, 2016
You want to know how to rig an election before a single ballot is cast? You gerrymander legislative districts so that unfriendly voters become islands in seas of friendly voters. Both parties have gerrymandered, but the Republicans elevated it to a science after the 2010 election, leveraging control of 70 state legislative chambers to create districts that virtually ensured Republican control of the House of Representatives in 2012. But there’s always those pesky unintended consequences. The incoming wave of populist conservatives laid the groundwork for Donald Trump, who is wreaking havoc on the Republican Party. The best laid plans ...
October 21, 2016
Back in the 1990's, when bio-terrorism was high on my radar, I learned something interesting: you don’t actually have to do anything to cause a major disruption. Any credible threat that a product may have been tainted forces officials to act: shelves are emptied amid growing public panic, damaging a brand long after any hypothetical danger has passed. We are watching that play out today over concerns that hackers will disrupt the integrity of our elections. The mere possibility is enough to taint the American brand, especially when politicians are willing to fan the flames of distrust for political purposes.
October 18, 2016
To quote New York Times writer Charles Blow, Trump is “stacking logs of grievance on the funeral pyre” of his campaign. You could see this coming. At the end of the second debate, Trump was asked what he admired most about Clinton. His reply opened a window into his own soul: “She doesn't quit and she doesn't give up.” Ever since, all Trump talks about is rigged elections and media conspiracies. Why? Because Trump has quit believing he can win, so now it’s all about anger and denial as he tries to cope with losing by blaming everyone but himself.
October 15, 2016
One of the recurring themes of this election cycle has been Russia. There is strong evidence that Russia has engineered hacks into state election systems and is behind the Wiki-leaked emails from the Clinton campaign. Putin and Clinton aren’t exactly sending each other Christmas cards. Trump says he can get along with Putin. Trump has also challenged NATO, saying Europe should be paying more for its own defense. Here’s the bottom line. A Trump victory and Europe is thinking, “We’re on our own.” A Clinton win and Putin is thinking, “We have an adversary in the White House.” Elections matter.
October 10, 2016
Donald Trump says he will appoint a special prosecutor expressly to put Hillary Clinton in jail. You’d expect this kind of thing from a tin-pot dictator, but not from an American president. It’s not like we haven’t seen special prosecutors hired (and fired) for political reasons. Whitewater and Watergate come to mind. Neither went well. This one wouldn’t either, given the FBI’s closely reasoned arguments against pressing charges. Trump’s threat, made during a campaign, to use elected office to punish his political opponent is unprecedented in modern times. It offers the clearest proof yet of his unfitness for the presidency.
October 9, 2016
On the eve of the second presidential debate, both candidates are dealing with an October surprise. Trump’s was a nasty one in the form a leaked tape in which he explains how “stars” treat women they lust after. Wikileaks released e-mails containing excerpts of Clinton’s fawning speeches to Wall Street detailing her lust for global trade agreements. Voters will have to decide which is worse, kissing Wall Street’s ass or grabbing a woman’s … well, let’s just say that in what many see as a “pick your poison” campaign, the atmosphere is about to get even more poisonous. No surprise there.
October 8, 2016
In 1976, presidential candidate Jimmy Carter made some off the cuff remarks during a Playboy magazine interview to the effect that he "looked on a lot of women with lust" and had "committed adultery in my heart many times." Carter’s G-rated admissions created quite a stir. Now we have Donald Trump describing his seduction techniques in X-rated detail. What Carter only thought about, Trump actually did. He apologized and said he is a different man now, and anyway the Clintons did worse things. Any parent trying to teach a child right from wrong knows how far that excuse would get.
October 2, 2016
So Trump maybe worked the tax system to avoid paying federal taxes for twenty years. Most folks understand that’s something any businessman would do. Hell, we’d all do it if we could, but ordinary wage earners can’t, and that’s the point. We don’t get the same loopholes that the smart money does. By bragging about it, Trump made workers and retirees living on a fixed income out to be chumps, even as he plans to give new tax cuts to the rich, leaving the rest of to pick up the tab for the trillions in new debt he’ll create. Great!