Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Big Issue

One of the biggest issue from now on is going to be how people will be able to earn a living in a world increasingly dominated by computers. But you would not know it from listening to politicians, especially Democrats, who claim to speak for the little guy.

Even though computers and the uses to which they are put--such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robots--will not likely displace all jobs, the number of jobs they will eliminate could very well plunge the whole world into a state of economic uncertainty, if not outright permanent depression.

Am I overstating the risk? Isn't it true that ever since the Industrial Revolution, jobs displaced by changing technology have been replaced by even more jobs in other lines of work? Won't retraining for jobs alongside the computer "maintain the equilibrium," i.e., create as many or more jobs than are replaced?

Not necessarily, or even likely. 

A recent report by Professors Daron Acemoglu and Pascual Restrepo, Robots and Jobs: Evidence from U.S. Labor Markets, published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, analyzes the effect of the increase in industrial robot usage between 1990 and 2007 on US local labor markets. Note that this is not a study of the overall effect of automation and computerization on jobs; it is just the effect of robots, which the report defines as 
fully autonomous machines that do not need a human operator and that can be programmed to perform several manual tasks such as welding, painting, assembling, handling materials, or packaging. Textile looms, elevators, cranes, transportation bands or coffee makers are not industrial robots as they have a unique purpose, cannot be reprogrammed to perform other tasks, and/or require a human operator.
The authors note that their report is only "a first step in a comprehensive evaluation of how robots will affect, and are already affecting, the labor market equilibrium, . . . because our methodology directly estimates only the effect of robots on employment in a commuting zone relative to other commuting zones that have become less exposed to robots." But the authors offer a convincing basis for believing that this is a necessary first step and has validity. 

The bottom line? Sizable net loss of jobs and more in the future:
Because there are relatively few robots in the US economy, the number of jobs lost due to robots has been limited so far (ranging between 360,000 and 670,000 jobs, equivalent to a 0.18-0.34 percentage point decline in the employment to population ratio). However, if the spread of robots proceeds as expected by experts over the next two decades (e.g., Brynjolfsson and McAfee, 2012, especially pp. 27-32, and Ford, 2016), the future aggregate implications of the spread of robots could be much more sizable.
A recent UK-oriented report by PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Will robots steal our jobs? The potential impact of automation on the UK and other major economies, attempts a more ambitious task: measuring the effects on employment in major Western economies, principally that of the UK. The methodology is to analyze the effect of automation on specific tasks within jobs. These are the "Key Points":

• Our analysis suggests that up to 30% of UK jobs could potentially be at high risk of automation by the early 2030s, lower than the US (38%) or Germany (35%), but higher than Japan (21%). 
• The risks appear highest in sectors such as transportation and storage (56%), manufacturing (46%) and wholesale and retail (44%), but lower in sectors like health and social work (17%). 
• For individual workers, the key differentiating factor is education. For those with just GCSE-level education or lower, the estimated potential risk of automation is as high as 46% in the UK, but this falls to only around 12% for those with undergraduate degrees or higher. 
• However, in practice, not all of these jobs may actually be automated for a variety of economic, legal and regulatory reasons. 
• Furthermore new automation technologies in areas like AI and robotics will both create some totally new jobs in the digital technology area and, through productivity gains, generate additional wealth and spending that will support additional jobs of existing kinds, primarily in services sectors that are less easy to automate. 
• The net impact of automation on total employment is therefore unclear. Average pre-tax incomes should rise due to the productivity gains, but these benefits may not be evenly spread across income groups. 
• There is therefore a case for some form of government intervention to ensure that the potential gains from automation are shared more widely across society through policies like increased investment in vocational education and training. Universal basic income schemes may also be considered, though these suffer from potential problems in terms of affordability and adverse effects on the incentives to work and generate wealth.
These are just two of many reports and studies in the recent past. More research needs to be done, but it is extremely dangerous to fall back on the nostrum that all will be well because people will be retrained. The chances are substantial that, instead, we will end up with more and more income and wealth going to the most highly educated (which usually correlates with the accident of people's birth) and the great mass fighting among themselves for reduced income from fewer jobs.

The question is, do politicians start talking about this or do they wait for the effects to be solidified? 

From my experience in past Democratic Congressional campaigns, the consultants will solemnly state that candidates can't talk about issues this complicated. So, stick to yelling "Hands Off My Medicare!" while ignoring the long-term threat to Medicare and Social Security solvency. 

Donald Trump taught us one thing: politicians who talk--even (or especially, I fear) dishonestly or ignorantly--about issues that people see and feel for themselves can attract voters. By contrast, when Hillary Clinton was asked at the debates what economic policies she advocated, she immediately started talking about infrastructure spending--a necessary program but not focused on the long-term problems of the process of hollowing out in small towns and cities throughout the U.S. In other words, uninspiring and tone deaf to people's feelings.

The conclusion from the PwC report about the need for a societal response is a warning to politicians that sitting idly by and waiting for automation to wreck people's lives is bad policy and bad politics. 

I am waiting for Democratic candidates and think tanks to start talking about this issue openly and vigorously. It is a hell of a lot better way of demonstrating to people that "we care" and "we hear you" and "we feel your pain" than (a) emitting these hackneyed phrases or (b) talking only about infrastructure programs. 

Being a realist, I expect to have a long and lonely wait.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Piwowar Kerfuffle

Bloomberg reports that the acting Chair of the (at present, 2-member) SEC, Michael S. Piwowar, has requested an examination of delegated authority to the Staff. Delegated authority is authority nominally vested with the 5-member Commission that the Commission delegates to specific staff members.

The SEC has the statutory authority to conduct investigations of possible violations of the federal securities laws or rules, by issuance of subpoenas for documents and testimony. That authority, under the law, can be exercised by "any member of the Commission or any officer designated by it." 

The staff (since 1972 in the centralized Division of Enforcement ) has long since been delegated the authority to conduct investigations, and to suggest otherwise would be scandalous. The issue is whether the Commission should decide what to investigate with subpoena power.

Under 17 CFR § 202.5(a), formal orders of investigation are issued on a case-by-case basis to authorize the issuance of subpoenas. Until 2009, formal orders were issued by the Commission. The Staff would have to submit a memorandum recommending the issuance of the formal order and detailing the evidence, and perhaps the legal theory, justifying the necessary conclusion that it is possible that the securities laws have been or about to be violated. Formal orders were usually obtained within 3 weeks. Rarely, if ever, was the request turned down. Emergency situations requiring immediate action resulted in approval on a "walk-around" (the Commissioners' offices) "seriatim" consideration. I was involved in SEC investigations, on its Enforcement Staff, from 1973 to 1981, and never found the extra effort required to obtain Commission approval of a formal order to be a deterrence to effective enforcement. It added an extra set of eyes to review this very formidable exercise of power--not, generally, a bad thing at all.

In 2009, the Commission was in the midst of the great financial crisis and, not coincidentally, the well-deserved scandal resulting from the abject failure of the Commission Staff to recognize the Madoff fraud. Undoubtedly looking for a way to divert attention from the Madoff (and Sanford) frauds and to make it appear the Commission was "tough," the Commission issued an order delegating, for a one-year trial period, to the Director of Enforcement the authority to approve formal orders of investigation. A year later, the delegation was made permanent. The SEC said that the purpose of this delegation  to "expedite the investigative process by reducing the time and paperwork previously associated with obtaining Commission authorization prior to issuing subpoenas." Perhaps. Meanwhile, the Director "sub-delegated" the power to issue formal orders to a host of senior staff within the Division.

In my opinion, as a former supervisor in the Enforcement Division (1973-1981), Acting Chairman Piwowar is doing no harm by inquiring into the issue of delegation, and there would be nothing wrong, assuming the good faith (and willingness to enforce the laws vigorously) of the Commissioners, with bringing back issuance of formal orders to the Commission. 

A bigger and more important, if less sexy, question is whether the Acting Chairman wants to get to the bottom of what has been a chronic problem, at least in years past, with Enforcement: getting the facts right. Staff recommendations to sue someone have to be approved by the Commission itself. These recommendations are contained in a staff "action memorandum," which describe the factual and legal basis for bringing a particular case against a particular individual or entity. 

The Commission frequently gets the facts wrong in its suits. Why? Because the factual assertions in action memoranda--the content of documents and witness statements--are not always carefully reviewed by supervisors before these action memoranda are sent to the Commission. I required my staff--including the later Director of the Division of Enforcement, Bill McLucas--to annotate their draft action memoranda to the evidence, and I checked the evidence. I do not believe that this is the uniform practice even today, in the age of electronic documentation. It positively should be required, and, if that change were effected, whoever got that done would deserve hearty praise.

Getting the facts wrong is bad for the Commission and bad for the individual or entity that may be falsely accused. Getting it right is the moral thing to do.

Unfortunately, when I left a message with Acting Chairman Piwowar's office seeking to speak with his office and pass on this observation, I got a call back not from his staff but from the Commission's Public Affairs office (apparently because I had said on the phone message that I authored a blog). The flack, smarmily, said "no comment." 

Too bad for Acting Chairman Piwowar. He was on the right track.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

To Marco Rubio: Oppose Nomination of David M. Friedman

January 30, 2017

Hon. Marco Rubio
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

Re: Nomination of David M. Friedman to be
U.S. Ambassador to the State of Israel

Dear Senator Rubio:

I urge you to oppose the nomination of David M. Friedman to be the U.S. Ambassador to the State of Israel. You voted for Rex Tillerson to be Secretary of State because you found him to be personally qualified and because you felt it appropriate to give the President the benefit of the doubt in that instance. This was not an unreasonable decision despite your openly expressed doubts about his nomination. I urge you to follow the same approach in considering the Friedman nomination. If you do, you will not be led to the same conclusion. This nominee does not deserve the benefit of the doubt.  

On Facebook, you cited Mr. Tillerson’s “impressive record of leadership” given his role at ExxonMobil. What is the comparable test for a diplomat? Robert D. Blackwell, deputy assistant to the President and deputy national security advisor for strategic planning under President George W. Bush, has written the top two “ideal qualities of a successful diplomat” are to “possess an abiding interest in and passion for the art and craft of diplomacy and international relations” and to “demonstrate an analytical temperament” (which he defines as the opposite of “ideological predisposition and rigidity”).  From what is known of Mr. Friedman, these are not his personal characteristics. They are important for an ambassador to a minor country in a placid region. They are extremely important for one appointed to be a diplomat in the most volatile region of the world.

Being a successful diplomat in Israel requires more than loudly siding with one extreme or another within Israeli society. It requires an understanding and appreciation of the incredible diversity of opinion within Israeli society and an ability to inspire confidence among Arab nations of many different stripes. But there is nothing about Mr. Friedman that suggests that he any capacity to demonstrate the characteristics needed of a U.S. Ambassador to Israel. Indeed, rather than possessing the demeanor of a skilled diplomat, he is intemperate to the extreme. He has engaged in vile name-calling against fellow Jewish Americans who do not share his views on the current Israeli Government’s policies, calling them “far worse than kapos—Jews who turned in their fellow Jews in the Nazi death camps” He has said they are “not Jewish.” As a Jewish American who loves Israel but thinks Mr. Friedman’s policies imperil its long-term security, I consider these to be offensive and disqualifying attacks, and so should anyone who believes in free and open discussion of important issues, not to mention common decency. Mr. Friedman has not limited his personal attacks to fellow Jews: he has attacked anyone in U.S. politics with whom he disagrees as Anti-Semites, including one hundred years’ worth of U.S. diplomats. 

Whether one agrees or disagrees with this or that policy, it takes a special—and thoroughly unacceptable—individual to demonize all those with whom he disagrees. Perhaps one who operates through insult and unalloyed aggressiveness would be one’s choice as his or her own lawyer, but you and I both know that winning against such a lawyer is often far easier than against a quiet, reasonable opponent who picks his or her fights carefully and never engages in ad hominem. There is no question that such would be the overwhelmingly better makeup of a successful diplomat in a sensitive diplomatic post.

Even aside from his disturbing rhetorical tendencies, Mr. Friedman’s strident opposition to the two-state solution and his support for the most extreme elements within Israel’s settlement community disqualify him as a useful representative of the United States. We do not know the details of President Trump’s policy towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, although Mr. Tillerson, at his confirmation hearings, supported the two-state solution. We know for certain that Mr. Friedman’s mind is closed to that policy and to the concomitant need to stop expansion of Israeli settlements on the West Bank, which Ronald Reagan recognized was a prerequisite to the hope for peace in that land, based on a secure democratic Jewish state true to the Zionist vision. The alternative—maintenance of the status quo in the hope that Israelis can outlast Palestinians living under Israeli military command, or outright annexation, which will destroy both Israel as a secure democratic Jewish state—is the true illusion. 

David M. Friedman stands in favor of open-ended settlement activity and possibly, annexation, which can lead only to anti-democratic measures and a permanent state of war. He relies, for example, on wholly discredited claims that the number of Arabs in the West Bank is vastly overstated. This is an incredibly thin reed on which to lean Israeli security. Mr. Friedman also stresses the need to build the Palestinian middle class and couples this with the claim that they don’t care whether they are ruled by Jews or Arabs. The belief that there is a non-political bloc of middle-class Palestinians around whom an entire One State policy can be built may be the ultimate in illusionistic thinking, because it would seemingly eliminate the need to be concerned about Palestinians who will kill Israelis for political reasons. Sadly, it is extremely unlikely that, no matter what, a core of Palestinians will be opposed to the recognition of a Jewish state. And it must be remembered that the Arabs can lose every war with Israel but the last one. Israel cannot afford to lose a single one. 

The truth is that U.S. policy has been and continues to be in favor of a two-state solution not because of anti-Israeli or anti-Semitic prejudices. Rather, cold realism dictates this policy. The two-state solution is not an invention of liberals or Democrats. It reflects a basic reality that has long been recognized by fair-minded observers as the only method to provide for a secure, democratic Jewish state. It is supported by hundreds of former Israeli security and military leaders. President George W. Bush explicitly supported it.  As you know, it was recently supported by Mr. Tillerson in his testimony before the Foreign Relations Committee. Indeed, its roots reach back at least as far as 1982, when Ronald W. Reagan was President.

Thus, in a November 2016 paper, for example, Repairing the U.S.-Israel Relationship, Robert Blackwell wrote that one of the “core policy proposals to repair, redefine, and invigorate the partnership” between the U.S. and Israel is to

agree on a set of specific, meaningful measures that Israel will take unilaterally to improve Palestinian daily life and preserve prospects for a two-state solution, linking continued U.S. willingness to refrain from or oppose international action on Israeli settlements or the peace process to Israel’s implementation of such positive, concrete steps.

45 years ago, In September 1982, President Reagan outlined American policy towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which was based on the recognition of a need for Palestinians’ “recognition of Israel’s right to a secure future” and steps leading to eventual Palestinian political independence. Importantly, Mr. Reagan stated unequivocally that “[f]urther settlement activity is in no way necessary for the security of Israel and only diminishes the confidence of the Arabs that a final outcome can be freely and fairly negotiated.” That statement is as true today as it was true then, and Mr. Friedman’s main belief is in the inviolability of further settlement expansion.

Mr. Friedman’s unacceptable beliefs are not limited to his views on settlement policy: he is also harbors dangerous ideas about Russia and Vladimir Putin. He has written: “Vladimir Putin gets it. He may be a ‘thug,’ as he was recently described by Senator Rubio, but he knows how to identify a national objective, execute a military plan, and ultimately prevail.” .

Finally, accepting Mr. Friedman because of a belief that he is broadly acceptable to the American Jewish population is not only an improper test—Jewish voters or donors should not have a hold on U.S. policy towards Israel—but is based on a belief that is completely out-of-date and out-of-touch with reality. Polling of Jewish Americans consistently shows that views such as those of Mr. Friedman are in the minority. Nevertheless, as I have stated, the issue should not come down to whether this appointment is popular or not; it should be decided on its merits. 

You admirably stated in your Facebook post announcing your support of Mr. Tillerson: “Our foreign policy is at its best and most effective when it is grounded in the moral principles and values that have defined us since our founding,” including “democracy and human rights.” David M. Friedman’s views do not pass this fundamental test. He is an extremist being nominated for a position where extremism is the enemy of achievement. If President Trump can achieve the goal of a separate, secure Jewish State, he will deserve the praise of the world. He will not be able to do so through the ministrations of Mr. Friedman if the Senate confirms his nomination. 

Senator, you have the opportunity to do something extremely constructive and courageous when considering the Friedman nomination. Most people understood why you voted in favor of Mr. Tillerson. Presidents do deserve the benefit of the doubt on their nominations, but that benefit stretches only so far. Please do not give the President of the doubt on his nomination. Mr. Friedman does not deserve it.

Sincerely yours,

{Splendid Spitter}

Thursday, December 1, 2016

When narrow-minded bullies succeed in determining whose voice gets heard

Following is the text of an email sent today (12/1/16) to some of the Splendid Spitter's friends and associates

My friend,

This is not a fund-raising message.  It is a call to action to stand up to those in our community who work to inhibit your right to hear all sides of important issues.

It's happened this week in Miami.

Last August, Bet Shira Congregation, a Conservative synagogue in Pinecrest, agreed to cohost, with J Street, a speech on December 5, 2016 (next Monday) by the eminent New York Times columnist, Roger Cohen, on The New Administration: Prospects for Peace (in Israel). Mr. Cohen is speaking in temples across the country on this vital subject.

On Tuesday, November 29—just six days before the speech—the lay leadership of Bet Shira Congregation rescinded the decision to host the Cohen speech at their synagogue. 

Why? Apparently a small number of synagogue members made clear to Bet Shira’s leadership that “there would be consequences” for hosting a lecture by a noted New York Times columnist in association with J Street. One member apparently threatened to withdraw his financial contribution to the synagogue. In the face of these threats, the lay leadership of the synagogue decided not to host the event.

Of course, the synagogue had the "right" to rescind the invitation--even at the last minute. But just because the synagogue had the right to give into this kind of pressure does not mean that this was a healthy thing for the community. 

Far from it. Can we agree that hindering the free flow of ideas is bad for every member of any community?

Is the Roger Cohen speech off? No.

We have relocated the Cohen speech to Pinecrest Gardens, in the Hibiscus Room at 11000 S. Red Rd, Pinecrest, FL 33156, Monday, December 5, 2016, at 7:00 PM.

But relocating the speech is not enough if people of good faith do not show up to the speech. Absent a good-sized audience, we will not demonstrate the strength of belief that we as Jews should not be forced to suffer attempts to squelch or hinder free discussion of important subjects.

Why should you come to hear Mr. Cohen:

Even if you do not have much interest in American policy to Israel, or even if you don’t agree with Roger Cohen--but listen closely to what he says, because you may discover that you agree with him!—you have a stake in preventing limitations of the freedom of people to decide for themselves whom they want to hear on an issue they care about.

History tells us that people of good faith cannot sit back and let others dictate who can listen to what views. If people of good faith remain silent, they permit this kind of behavior to become accepted as “normal.” We see where it is leading in our national politics.

I therefore ask you to SHOW UP and STAND UP!

This is what you can do to stand up for open debate, free speech and tolerance, and against efforts to squelch certain points of view:

1. Go to the Roger Cohen speech at Pinecrest Gardens in the Hibiscus Room at 11000 S. Red Road, Pinecrest, FL 33156, Monday, Dec. 5, 2016 at 7:00 PM. Admission is free.

2. Bring your family and friends.

3. Let your other friends and acquaintances know about what has occurred and the importance of a strong attendance to demonstrate that people insist on the right to be exposed to all sides on important issues and to make up their own minds. 

4. Please RSVP to

5. Forward this email to ten friends, family, and colleagues.

Why should you care? What is the significance of this  decision?

Narrow-minded bullies are shutting down debate, questioning the very legitimacy of those with other perspectives, and inventing "facts" to suit their purposes. They seek to win political arguments not by reasoned debate but by excluding other voices entirely. Sadly, we’ve seen this pattern before—earlier this year  a Miami Jewish institution cancelled, in mid-run, its own presentation of a play, Crossing Jerusalem, concerning intra-Jewish and intra-Arab family disagreements about how to treat the "other." This came after claims from an out-of-town right-wing Jewish group that the play was “anti-Israel.” I read the script. It was not, in my view, anti-anything. It was, instead, pro-reality.

These actions are emblematic of a dangerous extremism and close-mindedness that is sadly on the rise not just in our community, but in the U.S., in Israel, and across the world. People of good faith have a vital interest in not allowing a few people to squelch free discussion of issues of interest to members of the community—even if it’s an issue that’s not high on everyone's own list of issues. The principle is as important as the message being squelched.  

Does J Street deserve to be ostracized?

J Street is an 8-year-old national organization, with an associated PAC, that was formed to give a voice to American Jews who love Israel and back U.S. policy towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: support of a two-state solution and opposition to expansion of the settlements. In 2015, J Street played a major role in supporting the international agreement with Iran curtailing its ability to build nuclear weapons. 

There is no question, however, that J Street is controversial among some supporters of Israel who apparently believe American Jews—even those who know and love Israel—should never criticize the Israeli government, at least in public. Sadly, opponents have put out false and misleading accusations about J Street's beliefs and its supporters. J Street has often been  inaccurately caricatured as being anti-Israel, pro-BDS, and worse. 

Q: What exactly is J Street “guilty" of? 

A: Publicly and strongly  supporting the official policies of the U.S. Government towards Israel and the Palestinians, and, through its PAC, contributing millions of dollars to pro-Israel, pro-peace candidates for Senate and Congress, and strongly opposing BDS.

In fact, over the course of eight years since its founding, J Street has built strong relationships with Israeli lawmakers and has assumed a leadership role in strong opposition to the BDS movement. Nevertheless, smears and threats have often succeeded in excluding J Street’s perspective from the Jewish space. 

These facts mean nothing to those who go to great lengths to demonize and marginalize J Street—and with J Street, the large segment of the American Jewish community who agree with J Street. If facts mean nothing, we have lost something very important in our society.

Silencing or inhibiting the free flow of ideas is not the American way, it’s not the Jewish way, and it’s not the Israeli way. Free and open debate are hallmarks of these two countries and of the Jewish faith. 

As someone who has devoted countless hours working to establish a J Street presence in Miami, I thank you so much for your careful consideration of this email. Whether or not you agree in full with Roger Cohen or J Street, I earnestly request that you attend this lecture on Monday. 

It will be two hours out of your life. Not only will you likely learn a lot from Roger Cohen, but it will immeasurably help the cause of the free flow of ideas in our community. I hope you will agree that it will be well worth your expenditure of time.


[The spitter]

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Role of the Selective Service System in Donald Trump's Win


The Selective Service System (SSS) is a small independent agency within the Executive Branch of the United States Government. One of its missions is "to be prepared to provide trained and untrained personnel to the DoD in the event of a national emergency." In other words, to run a draft of (so far only) young men to fill the ranks of the military.

So what is the relevance of the SSS to Trump's victory? The draft has not been used since 1973!

A bit of history: before December 1, 1969, during the height of the Vietnam War, which, from the American viewpoint, was fought by draftees, the system for determining eligibility for those 18 years old and above can best de defined in one word as "elitist." Individual draft boards in each locality were charged with drafting young men into the Armed Services. Each had different priorities and susceptibility to influence. 

American military involvement surged in 1965. The Johnson Administration decided to use the draft to fill the needs of the war effort. That meant that, until the lottery was instituted in 1969, boys in their 18th year became liable to be drafted. For each of the years 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968 and 1969, this is the year that they were born their age today (if they managed to survive), and the number of draftees each year:

Year Birth year Age today Number of draftees
1965 1947 69 230,991
1966 1948 68 382,010
1967 1949 67 228,263
1968 1950 66 296,406
1969 1951 65 283,586

There were three big bases for deferment: school attendance, the presence of dependent children, or physical problems. You could also avoid becoming a grunt in Vietnam by being accepted into a Reserve unit of any of the branches of the military. That's how George W. Bush got out of the draft and active military service. Donald J. Trump reportedly had an educational deferment for years and then, when drafted upon graduation, received a classification of I-Y (a physical deferment that was a "pass" unless there was a dire need) because of bone spurs on his feet. Before he graduated, Bill Clinton agreed to join the R.O.T.C. as a way of avoiding being drafted into service during the Vietnam War and later reneged on that promise when his draft-lottery number ensured that he would not be selected. (I was promptly drafted on my graduation from college in June 1968 and received a 1-Y classification because I had spondylolisthesisNo kidding. I wore a back brace from when I was 14 and, to this day, cannot lift more than 40 pounds without severe pain and ensuing inability to stand up straight.)

The long and the short: boys who didn't go to college, or those who didn't have or fake an illness, or those whose parents had no local influence or those who wanted to serve were drafted and sent to Vietnam and put out in the front lines, such as they were in this guerrilla war. 

This was grist for the cultural war that began with the Vietnam War and continues to this day. Yes, as the sixties turned into the seventies, kids from small towns smoked dope, listened to rock music, and, extremely rarely, demonstrated against the war. But mostly they soldiered on and watched their fathers' and mothers' secure world begin disappearing with the first gas lines in 1973. These are the sons of the original Reagan Democrats. They were screwed from 1965 to 1969 by an elitist (and, to the extent large numbers of blacks were also drafted, racist) Selective Service System. Their justifiable resentment of what they perceived (correctly) as privileged liberals can only be expected to have grown over the last 50 years. 

Is it not very likely that there is a direct connection between the old SSS system and today's late-60s Donald J. Trump voter? Not that there are not other reasons, but every cluster of attitudes has its roots in some actual, and not imagined, cause.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

It wasn't a vast right-wing conspiracy

It wasn't a vast right-wing or media conspiracy that caused:
  • Bill Clinton to hand over health policy in 1993 to his (unelected) wife, who came down from the mountain after months of closed-door confabs with a complicated health-insurance-based plan that she refused to permit even loyal Democrats to amend.
  • Bill and Hillary Clinton to prostrate themselves before bankers and other business groups to earn huge speaker fees.
  • Bill and Hillary Clinton to accept huge amounts of money for their family foundation from foreign governments or foreign-government enterprises while she was Secretary of State and while she was running for President.
  • Bill and Hillary Clinton to set up a home-based server to handle their emails while she was Secretary of State.
  • Hillary Clinton to misrepresent the facts concerning her use of that server for her official emails.
  • Hillary Clinton to be woefully oblivious of the security implications of doing so.
  • Hillary Clinton to refer to half of Donald Trump's core supporters as "deplorables."
A comparison of the margins between Obama and Trump (in 2012) and between Clinton and Trump (in 2016) in the most populated counties in the states that went from Blue to Red shows and in certain nearby counties shows that the only state that could have stayed blue had her margins in each state's selected counties been as large as Obama's was Michigan. In four of the six states, her margin was smaller than Obama's but the difference was dwarfed by the margin by which Trump beat her. 

(I am not using any suburban counties around Miami or Des Moines because the usual model of urban city surrounded by suburban counties is not applicable in those states. Adding Broward County or substituting it for Miami-Dade does not materially change the analysis.) 

The data show that even if Wayne and surrounding counties had turned out for Clinton the way thy did for Obama, that would have led to a change of only 16 electoral votes, not enough to give the election to her.

This disproves the notion, which we may well hear, that a relatively low turnout of Democrats' core constituencies of African-Americans, Hispanics living in big cities and people living in adjacent suburban counties cost Hillary Clinton the election. It was the white non-Hispanic vote in smaller cities and towns that killed her chances. 

Can we blame all of whites' votes on racism? or sexism? or the media? 

Isn't it as likely that an appreciable number of potential Democratic voters were turned off by the tone-deaf attitude of the Clintons, particularly Hillary--we're entitled, and I didn't break the law, and I really will stand up to the banks because, well, I worked for the Children's Defense Fund in the '70s--and either didn't vote, voted for Johnson, or, would you believe it, voted for Trump?

The Clintons are a spent force. They have done some good for this country, but the times have finally passed them by. I am sick and tired of hoping that the messes she and he have created can be cleaned up without causing mortal damage to the people who are most vulnerable to the effects of GOP right-wing principles. I am resentful that their reign over the Democratic Party has produced such a miserably inadequate bench that the only politician who saw her weaknesses--and was willing to try to capitalize on them--in 2015 was an aged hipster Senator with no record and no credibility as a potential President who wasn't even a Democrat. It is undoubtedly the Clinton political fund raising machine in each state that was deaf and blind to Hillary Clinton's weaknesses. And the press, especially The New York Times in 2015, also paid no attention to those weaknesses, even though, on the same newspaper, Times reporters continued to dig deep for Clintonisms, as well they should have. This one is on the Democratic political class and pro-Clinton media types--you can't blame Hillary Clinton for running.

I am a loyal Democrat who gave to Democratic candidates and worked the polls for Hillary Clinton, I hope they will leave politics, retire to their riches and their family get-togethers, and, if they want, they can speak to as many bankers who will pay them to pander to them.

See, there is a ray of hope amidst the devastation of November 8, 2016.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

There are only a few days to go before Election Day...

... and I want to puke my guts out.

The Republicans put up as their Presidential nominee someone who, in alphabetical order, is 
  • abusive, 
  • boorish, 
  • contemptuous, 
  • devious, 
  • egocentric, 
  • fatuous, 
  • grasping, 
  • haughty, 
  • ignorant, 
  • juvenile, 
  • knavish, 
  • laughable, 
  • mysogenistic, 
  • narcissistic, 
  • oafish, 
  • phony, 
  • quarrelsome, 
  • racist, 
  • sadistic, 
  • tactless, 
  • untrustworthy, 
  • vindictive, 
  • warped, 
  • xenophobic, 
  • yokelish, and 
  • zany. 
So, what did the Democrats do? They put up one of the weakest candidates in the last 75 years. 

Who was weaker? George McGovern in 1972, with that grating Midwestern whiny voice, his refusal to campaign on the fact that he had been a bomber pilot in WW II while Nixon manned a desk in the Navy, and his obvious lack of leadership (can't even strong-arm Bella Abzug and others to stop fooling around with their Vice-Presidential-nomination-crap so that McGovern could accept the nomination on prime-time TV rather than at 2 in the morning). Not to mention the fact that at the last possible moment he selected Tom Eagleton, a Senator from Missouri who had had electroshock therapy, as his running mate, then got walked on when he kicked Eagleton off the ticket until he finally got Sargent Shriver, JFK's brother-in-law, to agree to be the nominee.

Why is this year's Democratic nominee the weakest candidate since McGovern? First, her baggage is extremely heavy. Any realist among Democratic heavies could and should have predicted as long ago as March 2015, once her private email server was revealed, that that issue, together with the Clinton Foundation, would be seized upon by the GOP and would be potent arguments against her candidacy. Why? Because they fit, like a glove, with the long-held perception that the Clintons believed they are above the normal rules because they're so dedicated to the public interest (as in, "she worked with the Children's Defense Fund"). If they were not clear-eyed enough to see this danger, then the robust performance of an aging Senator who wasn't even a Democrat and had no credibility whatsoever as a potential President should have awakened them. But, even had they awakened, to whom were they going to turn? The incredibly weak "bench" of the Democratic Party nationwide meant that the only alternative to Clinton was an aging, grieving Joe Biden. 

We loyal Democrats have been forced to scurry around cleaning up after the Clintons' personal and political messes since 1992. They've sucked all the oxygen out of the party. If it weren't that the GOP had nominated a Know-Nothing cretin...