Friday, May 27, 2016

A Memorial Day Weekend Of Whine & Roses


It is Memorial Day weekend in the U.S. 
The holiday originally was called Decoration Day and was a day of remembrance for Union soldiers who died in the American Civil War. After World War I, it was expanded to include soldiers who died in any war.  It more recently was expanded to allow retailers to shamelessly peddle their stuff at those ubiquitous monuments to rampant capitalism -- the shopping mall.  
As always, I've hung an American flag outside of Kiko's House this Memorial Day, a 48-star banner that long waved outside the rural Minnesota farmhouse of my love's Norwegian immigrant forebears during times of peace and of war.  
As always, I will keep the weekend simple and go for a hike and perhaps a swim in our spring-fed mountain pool (brr!). 
As always, I will remember that freedom of speech is not protected by journalists like myself but by the men and women who have given their lives to defend American values. 
As always, I will feel a sadness over loved ones and friends who will not be with us this Memorial Day because of their sacrifices. Nick Tuke, Chuck Callanan, Bobby Tames and Bob Layton.  And the men who perished in the Iron Triangle of Iraq -- Christopher Murphy, Anthony Schober, Joseph Anzack, Daniel Courneya, James Connell, Byron Fouty and Alex Jiminez -- whom I feel like I got to know writing about them in death if not in life.  
But this Memorial Day is different.  So have too many as I have slouched toward my dotage.  Besides being sad, I also am angry -- a slow burn, I suppose -- over the mess that we've made of our once great country.    
As my cousin County Bumpkin is fond of saying, dissent and bickering are the soundtrack of a democracy. But this should be a golden age for America and it is anything but. I cannot recall a time in my life when so few have so much and so many are struggling.   
When America's heart and soul -- its middle class -- is so beleaguered. When we are so incapable of a national consensus on anything beyond the belief that government and many of our institutions have failed us. That things only will get worse before they get better, if they ever get better.  When people who should know better are describing the presidential election as "a choice between the lesser of two evils": A woman, who however flawed, has dedicated her life to making ours better and a bottom-feeding demagogue who preys on our weaknesses and fears.   
So what’s to be done about this dismal state of affairs?  
Nothing.  
Such pessimism is uncharacteristic of me, let alone Americans in general, and I feel a twinge of shame that I am unable to be more upbeat this Memorial Day weekend.  But my glass is well below half empty, especially when I reflect on the sacrifices our men and woman at arms are asked to make.
Sacrifices for what? An ill-focused War on Terror? The mess in Mesopotamia? The pathetic war in Afghanistan? Preparing for the next war? You tell me.  
-- Love and Peace, SHAUN

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Damming The West: Why Last Century's Solutions Don't Address Today's Crises

Damming rivers for cheap water and cheap power seemed like a capital idea in the 20th century, and that's what happened in much of the western U.S. But the 21st century presents other realities.  Pro Publica's Abrahm Lustgarten has researched and written a compelling, in-depth piece rich with perspective (and irony) that has been abridged in The New York Times explaining why the great dams of the American West have run their course.  It is a must-read.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Politix Update: Feelin' The Bern' Becomes Scorched Earth As Sanders Flips Out

I have praised Bernie Sander from the outset of his improbable bid for the presidential nomination. And meant what I said.  But the praise ends here and now, and for good reason. 
Sanders has brought a vitality, fresh thinking and wealth of good ideas to the race that have been, for openers, reminders of how stale the Democratic brand has become despite Barack Obama. Sanders has pushed Hillary Clinton to the left on issues that matter to me. But that was then and now is now, and while Sanders stands no chance of getting the nomination, he has turned Feel the Bern' into scorched earth with the disingenuous argument that even though Clinton will end up with more delegates, the will of his voters count more than the majority of voters.  This destructive intransigence serves no purpose other than stroking his massive ego -- and playing the role of Donald Trump's "useful idiot," as Dick Polman well puts it -- while delaying the inevitable. 
Hardcore Sanders backers, even if many of them were too young to vote in 2008, will point to Clinton's long goodbye that year in her unsuccessful attempt to overtake a young upstart by the name of Obama in arguing that Sanders should stay in the race all the way through to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.   
I wrote on June 8, 2008:
"Like radio waves reaching earth from some cosmic calamity millennia ago, the yarbling of Hillary Clinton sycophants who believe that her candidacy was gang banged into extinction by the mainstream media, right-wing bloggers and Barack Obama acolytes can be faintly heard, although it is so much background noise as Clinton herself and practically everyone else who is determined to take back America link arms and March toward November. 
"Has it only been five days since Clinton's extraordinarily gracious concession speech? It seems like light years in this corner of the universe where the political landscape changes by the news cycle, and yet some diehards just can't seem to face up to the reality that the fancy evening gowns they bought so they could dance the night away with Bill and Hill at her inaugural balls will have to be returned."
The difference this year, of course, is that Sanders is digging in and not letting go, although Sahil Kapur reports that in addition to having a massive ego, Sanders is two-faced and is quietly telling Senate colleagues that he understands the stakes and has no intention of damaging Democratic prospects in the fall.  
Be that as it may, in 2008 Clinton promised to run only to the last primary to give every Democrat a chance to vote, while Sanders vows to take his crusade to the convention despite the mathematical impossibility of catching up to Clinton in pledged delegates. 
"We are in this until the last ballot is counted . . . and then we're going to take the fight to Philadelphia," he promised last week. 
Curiously, Sander's only hope of winning the nomination  -- and it is an extraordinarily slim one -- is to flip enough superdelegates.  Yes, the very same superdelegates  he declared to be "unfair" as his campaign has shifted from criticizing Clinton to criticizing the Democratic Party.  I happen to agree with him that superdelegates are deck stackers for a party's anointed best hope (Clinton in this case and Jeb Bush in the case of Republicans going into the primaries back in January), but Sanders' hypocrisy is a little . . . uh, odiferous, don't you think? 
As if that's not bad enough, Sanders further states that if his ring isn't kissed by the party elites, that's evidence of corruption.  Does that somehow make corrupt the 13 million people who have voted for Clinton in open primaries as opposed to the 10 million who have voted for him?  (Sanders told CNN on Sunday that he would replace DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz if elected president, and that would be a capital idea under any circumstances.) 
"The Democratic Party has a choice," he said after the kerfuffle over party caucus rules in Nevada earlier this month.  "It can open the doors and welcome into the party those who are prepared to fight for real economic and social change . . . or the party can choose to maintain its status quo structure." 
As I recall, the party did open its doors in 2008, especially after Obama improbably outran Clinton in the primaries and clinched the nomination.  The party's rules have not changed since then despite what Sanders may think and say.  
It is "either" or "or" for Sanders, no middle ground tolerated.  That is deeply troubling for a man who has been in the game for 35 fricking years but suddenly decides only the rules he agrees with matter, kind of like a childhood pal who demanded his playmates play card and board games by his rules when we hung out at his house.   
But where Sanders really jumps the shark is deriding the Democratic Party as a party of "limited participation and limited energy."  Besides dismissing predominately black Southern Democrats, which he has done over and over -- and nowhere is Sanders weaker than when it comes to race -- he conveniently overlooks the very coalition that elected and re-elected Obama, will elect Clinton in November and, truth be told, helped make possible the progressive movement that he embraces.   
My second biggest problem with Sanders beyond his tone-deafness on race is that after a 35-year career, his base remains astoundingly narrow and his claims that he would successfully fight the entrenched power of Washington because Americans of all stripes have his back are pure fantasy. 
I adored left-handed pitching legend Warren Spahn of the Boston and Milwaukee Braves as a child even thought I was a Phillies diehard, and it broke my heart when he didn't realize it was time to go and threatened his legacy by sticking around too long.  No matter how you look at it, 2016 has been an annus mirabilis for Bernie Sanders.   
So sure, stick around until after the California primary on June 7, but then it will be time to go before it becomes glaringly obvious that you've become Donald Trump's new best friend. 
Please?
§  
I like to say that public opinion polls are "snapshots in time," and that is especially true when you consider what the time is.  (Does anyone know what time it is?)  In that context, polls showing Bernie Sanders doing better in head-to-head match-ups with Donald Trump than Hillary Clinton and polls showing Trump beating Clinton bear special scrutiny.   
Having more than a passing acquaintance with polling over the years, as in having worked with some of the best in the business over a long newspaper career, I can make the following observations with some confidence, and hopefully not too much hubris:
* Head-to-head polls are ephemeral in May and won't mean much until after the party nominating conventions in July.   
* Having said that, the candidate leading in Gallup's pre-convention head-to-head poll has gone on to win the presidency in 13 out of the last 16 elections.
* Polls showing Sanders doing better against The Donald than Clinton are reflective of both candidates' extraordinarily huge negatives. 
* Having said that, and as I noted the other day, Clinton is not particularly trusted by many voters whereas Trump is feared, so you can cue the landslide music with some confidence. 
* All of the relatively few polls showing Trump beating Clinton are classic outliers, which is to say deeply flawed in their methodology. 
There's an old saying that "Democrats fall in love and Republicans fall in line."  That still holds true in 2016.

POLITIX UPDATE IS WRITTEN BY SHAUN MULLEN, A VETERAN JOURNALIST AND BLOGGER FOR WHOM THE 2016 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN IS HIS 12th SINCE 1968.  CLICK HERE FOR AN INDEX OF PREVIOUS COLUMNS. 
© 2015-2016 SHAUN D. MULLEN.

IMAGE FROM DONKEYHOTEY/FLICKR.  
USED WITH PERMISSION. 


Cartoon du Jour

TOM TOLES/THE WASHINGTON POST

From Soup To Nuts: An Index To 2016 'Politix Update' Posts


(May 16) Trump Has More Positions Than A Porn Star & The Media Eats It Up.  LINK

(May 9) Why You Don't Need Rand McNally To Map A Clinton Landslide.  LINK


(May 4) Trump, The Ghost of Lee Harvey Oswald & Future Of the Republic.  LINK.

(May 3) 'Sometimes I've Believed In Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast.'  LINK.

(April 25) Philly In The East, Pittsburgh In The West & Alabama In The Middle.  LINK

(April 20) Is Trump Pondering How To Quit?  And Feeling The Bull . . . Er, The Bern'.  LINK.

(April 15) Donald's Tent Party Runs Into Obstacles; Why We Mistrust Hillary.  LINK

(April 11) Dems Suppress The Vote, Too. And Why Paul Ryan Is No Unicorn.  LINK.

(April 8) The 2008 Election (Kind Of) Lived Up To Its Promise.  Will This One?  LINK.

(April 6) Ted Thinks He's The Big Cheese; Bernie Gets Comfortable In The Gutter.  LINK.

(April 4) When The Hunter Is Trump & He Gets Captured By The Game.  LINK.

(April 1) Fabtastic News For Bernie!  He Needs Only 988 More Delegates.  LINK.

(March 28) The GOP Will Lose, How Badly Depends On The Poison It Picks.  LINK

(March 24) The Media's Incredibly Craptastic & Trumpcentric Election Coverage.  LINK.

(March 21) A Political Party In Crisis -- Dysfunction, Datfunction & Malfunction.  LINK

(March 16) Do Republicans Betray Trump Supporter Or Betray Their Country?  LINK

(March 11) This Cold Shower Is Brought To You Courtesy Of Bernie Sanders.  LINK

(March 7) 'Strike A Gadzillionaire, An Evangelical & Neo-Nazi Walk Into A Bar.  LINK.

(March 4) In Another New Low, Phallic Braggadocio Dominates GOP Debate.  LINK

(March 2) 'Strike Another Match, Go Start Anew, It's All Over Now, Baby Blue.'  LINK

(February 29) Repubs Filled Trump's Swamp, But Now They Don't Want To Drain It.  LINK.  

(February 27) The Breathtaking Cynicism of Chris Christie's Trump Endorsement.  LINK.

(February 24) Don't Mind That Iceberg, Captain Rubio, It's Full Speed Ahead.  LINK.

(February 21) GOP Establishment Bloodied As Trump Nomination Becomes Likely. LINK.

(February 19) Hillary Clinton, Feminists & The Great Battle Of The Pheromones.  LINK.

(February 17) Those Obdurate Republicans Keep Planting Ice & Harvesting Wind.  LINK.

(February 15) Why The Election Is Now A Battle For All 3 Government Branches.  LINK.

(February 11) Don't Let The Tollgate Hit You I The Ass On The Way Out, Christie.  LINK.

(February 10) Dear Jeb, It's Time To Say Goodbye To the Nice People.  LINK.

(February 7) Confronting The Dark Shadow Over The Bernie Sanders Campaign.  LINK. 

(February 4) The Union Of Ted Cruz & Evangelicals Is A Deal With The Devil.  LINK.

(February 2) Iowa Republican Caucus Results Are Shocking, But Not Surprising. LINK.

 (January 27) Ted Cruz Is On Thin Ice Constitutionally, But Will He Go Under?  LINK. 

(January 25) So It's Come Down To 'Merely Awful' Versus 'Truly Awful' For The GOP.  LINK.

(January 17) If Dr. King Looked Beyond The Grave, He'd Surely Be Disappointed.  LINK.  

(January 13) It's Official, The Republican Party Has Finally Screwed The Pooch.  LINK.

(January 10) They're Armed & Dangerous, But Puh-lease Don't Call Them Terrorists.  LINK.
 
(January 7) Why It's Time For Hillary To Finally Come Clean About Bill.  LINK.

(January 5) Why Gun Control Laws Work Elsewhere But Are DOA In The USA.  LINK 
  
(January 3) For Republican Candidates, So Many Apocalyses & So Little Time.  LINK.

CLICK HERE FOR AN INDEX TO 2015 POSTS


IMAGE: A CLASSIC PAT OLIPHANT TOON  
© OLIPHANT/UNIVERSAL PRESS SYNDICATE