Thursday, October 27, 2016

Give me a break!

The idiom “give me a break” generally is used when you don’t believe something that has happened or been said. We’ve all muttered the expression a lot lately, especially around the 2016 Presidential race. I am going to use it here more literally. I started this blog in late July 2010. This is the 329th iteration. At an average of 750 words that’s nearly 250,000 words. To compare that’s about three average mystery novels (at 80,000 words each), much less than the Bible (800,000 words) and nowhere near the IRS Code (4 million words).

Originally Craig’s Corner was a way to keep me focused during a long stint where I was without work or income. With gainful employment it has become a welcome respite from the day-to-day tasks. I tend to focus on issues that are interesting to me but not necessarily a critical part of what I do day in and day out. My perspective isn’t unique, but I do look at the word with a different lens. I’ve tried hard not to be part of the echo chamber and been diligent about not being hyperbolic (which is easy to do with writing about issues that I care about and have inflamed passions all around).

There’s about a thousand views of various blogs each month and over 90,000 since I started. I’m incredibly grateful (and somewhat awed) by the support and interest – especially given that I’ve been woefully inadequate at promoting and sharing my own work! It’s been quite satisfying to have something that I did for myself be of interest and value to others. THANK YOU! I’ve had some wonderful communications and engagements with people along the way, and some not so great too. I particularly remember the woman who discovered the blog a few years in and was reading them in order each morning with her coffee and then wrote me an email each day with her thoughts.

I’m a pretty consistent guy so it’s probably no surprise that I haven’t missed a Thursday posting since I started. It’s been a good way to do what the blog was intended to: take a little time out of each week for me to explore things that I might not otherwise. It’s largely been fun and certainly not felt like work.


It's time to take a break. I’ll continue to opine away. It may or may not be with the same regularity. It may or may not be in the same format. I imagine sometimes I’d fire off a 200 word thought and other times it may be 2,000. Stay tuned!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Giving the gift

The holidays are right around the corner. It’s a time of reflection, excitement and no matter one’s religious predilections a there’s a tradition of gift giving. Talking about the holidays before Halloween is usually met with revulsion and resistance. This time it’s different. While we can’t grant everybody’s #1 wish – that the 2016 U.S. Presidential election cycle be over – maybe we can do something close.  Let’s give Donald J. Trump what he’s been talking about.

I’m wary of adding to the proliferation of commentary on the Grand Old Party’s nominee. But then maybe there’s something to the Trump complaints. Instead of dismissing everything that comes out of his mouth as made up, perhaps we should be doing is more of what he worries about, not less.


The more recent complaints from the real-estate tycoon have to do with media bias. All “the media” does is lie, distort and never gives him fair coverage. This same media generated over a billion dollars of free brand and name recognition that took him from a quirky idea of a candidate who had to pay people to attend his announcement to becoming the GOP standard bearer. Why not dial back the coverage of him? In many states his poll numbers are competitive with Libertarian Presidential candidate Gary Johnson. The LP crew gets a miniscule amount of coverage. Let’s afford Donald the same. Imagine what the last few weeks would have been like if the Donald coverage had been curbed.

The media fell for a classic Trump manipulation again. He mused out loud at a rally in front of a few thousand people that the system was “rigged” and he was “worried” about having the election stolen from him. There is no evidence anywhere from any source that legitimizes this theory. The same system he now demonizes is the one that served him well during the Republican primary season. Rather than ignore the patent absurdity of the comment the media, however, fell hook, line and sinker for it. Op-eds, talking heads, etc. have all fulminated at the undermining of the American electoral system that has seen the peaceful transfer of power throughout the country’s entire history. It’s made for great coverage.



Trump’s outlandish claim got traction. He got what he wanted: attention which he interprets as support. (Just like he believes the attendance and enthusiasm at his rallies should equate to support in the electoral college.) Trump doubled down at the third debate – refusing to say that he’d accept the result of the election saying he’d “look at it at the time.” Nearly everybody in the political establishment are up in arms over this, rightfully so. That question, however, would never have been asked if the ranting had been left to the candidate and a few thousand of his supporters.

Who knows what the next 19 days will portend. It’s hard to imagine anything more outrageous that what’s been seen so far. But let’s not be surprised. Let’s conspire against crazy talk. Let’s put stories front and center about things that matter. Damon Linker wrote a powerful piece asking why there’s not been any substantive discussion the five (yes, FIVE) wars that America is currently fighting.


As a big and small ‘l’ libertarian I am loathe to advocate any curb on freedom of speech. I’m not doing that here. I recognize that there’s a limitation on what mainstream news organizations can cover in limited time and space environment. My preferred candidate gets less coverage because he has not yet demonstrated electoral strength that would justify equal time. There’s a good chicken-egg argument here, but that’s not this issue.


This issue is in perpetuating false narratives. It also gives the media the opportunity to make Trump an honest man. Cover him in context. And don’t get sucked into crazy talk. If that had happened Trump would have given up on his claims since they weren’t getting traction. That’d be the gift that we’d all be happy to receive two months before Christmas. 

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Predictions

Johnny Carson, the longtime king of late night, had an incredibly popular character Carnac the Magnificent. Carnac would put an envelope to his head and put out the answer. Ed McMahon would then repeat the answer as Carson would then open the envelope and read the clue. Mostly the audience would groan and McMahon would chortle. It was a fun way to take pot shots at pop culture. Talking heads on cable television, columnists and even traditional journalists have taken the predictive focus on the events of the day. No longer is the “who, what, where, when & why” covered in stories. Instead it’s What will happen next? What needs to happen? What does he/she need to do to …? 100 days out from the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States, I have some predictions of my one.

Hillary Rodham Clinton will be the next President of the United States. This isn’t necessarily my personal choice, but all of the statistics, polls, hyperbole and indicators point towards a comfortable electoral college victory. The popular vote will be too close for comfort for many of her supporters. Despite this like Messrs. Obama, Bush (43) and even husband Bill before her the victory will be misread as a landslide. Congress will remain woefully and painfully divided – a much truer reflection of the country. The HRC administration will come out of the gate overreaching.


Before she takes the oath of office, though, there’s the lame duck session. Terrified by the prospect of a more liberal President and wanting to assert its influence into the future – the last weeks of the Congressional session will be remarkably productive. Mr. Trump’s loss will be attributed to the uniqueness of his brand and approach and not to anything deeper in the GOP conscience.

Merrick Garland will be confirmed by the Senate and become a Supreme Court justice. The Republicans will prefer to go with a known moderate than an unknown liberal the Mrs. Clinton would nominate. It will also be a deft political move to strain relations between the outgoing Obama administration and the incoming Clinton who will want to have the nomination pulled…essentially reinforcing the GOP mantra all along that the nomination was dependent on who won the election. If the nomination is pulled it’ll be a huge GOP victory.


Congress will immediately begin investigating Mrs. Clinton. Her tendency towards secrecy and a lack of transparency will only cause trouble. There may not be any smoking guns or anything substantive, but the investigations will serve as the poke and reminder of her principal weakness. She will become the second Clinton to be impeached as President of the United States though like Bill before her, the Senate won’t remove her from office.
Donald Trump will not go quietly into that good night. He will employ an army of attorneys and attempt to litigate the election for months and perhaps years after the fact. Media outlets will be sued for libel. He’ll even threaten to go after the RNC for not supporting him enough. Anybody and everybody will be to blame. The financial damage to the Trump brand will be sought as compensation in the suits.

The man himself will attempt to become Al Gore redoux. The former Vice President became a principal in a media company (Current) as a vehicle for his views. It went down in flames costing hundreds of millions of dollars. Trump TV will garner a HUUUUUUGE amount of coverage and then ultimately settle in for Glen Beck TV levels of viewership.


Viable alternatives like the Libertarians will grow their electoral base. There are 154 elected officials today, 600 are running for elective office. Most of their voices will be muffled in the greater political discourse.

The American people will continue to be frustrated and indeed angry. The 2020 election will be underway within months into 2017. Why can’t anybody get along and get anything done? Partisans will become more resolute and we’ll continue to yell at one another or, more likely, just ignore those thoughts, beliefs and ideas that are not immediately comfortable. In short, I predict MOTS – more of the same. And that stinks.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Conscientious Voting or Voting your Conscience?

I’ve voted in nearly every election I was eligible to. I’ve always viewed the act of voting as a civic obligation. I do the research on ballot measures and on the candidates up and down the ballot. I’ll skip over some contests if I can’t find enough information. One month out from Voting Day 2016 the drum beat of “vote” is ubiquitous. Perhaps it’s naiveté or a wistfulness to another time that I’d like to think those entreating citizens to vote are doing so out of what’s best overall. The reality is much more practical and cynical: when people beg others to vote – its with the expectation that they’ll vote their way.

When progressives say that there’s too much at stake to let Mr. Trump become President so make sure you vote – they’re not actually encouraging people to vote how they believe, it’s a not-so-subtle way of telling people they have to vote for Hillary Clinton. Conservatives likewise see the future of the Republic at stake and entreat you to vote. They too aren’t expecting that if you see the dire circumstances they do that you’d have no choice but to vote for Donald Trump.

As a libertarian I want people to both vote their conscience and to be conscientious in their voting. I’ve had the opportunity to engage with people who support all four of the major candidates for President in the 2016 cycle. I have very strong feelings about each of them – three very negatives and one positive. I know who I’m voting for. My reasons follow. Perhaps some will be swayed or be open to my “why’s” – most won’t be. I’m fine with that. That’s what America is all about. That’s what voting is all about. That’s what being a libertarian is all about – respecting others. It’s what supporters of the other candidates  don’t seem to have. I’ll be vilified, called names, accused of putting the nation at risk for my choice rather than being acknowledged for doing what I’m entitled and I believe obligated to do: vote for what I believe in.

To nobody’s surprise who’s read any of my blogs in the past five years – I’m voting for Gary Johnson, the Libertarian nominee for President. I’ve been a supporter of the party since 1993 after having previously supported Bill Clinton who then turned on the LGBT community and became the most anti-gay President in modern history. He enshrined into law Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and proposed and passed the Defense of Marriage Act to win re-election in 1996. It took nearly 20 years and untold amounts of damage to many lives and millions of dollars to undue this damage from a “friend” of the community. Neither Bill nor Hillary have apologized for their lie in 1992 or their actions during their 8 years in office and Mrs. Clinton only came to support marriage equality two years ago.

I’m not voting against Hillary, though there’s plenty to oppose. She’s a proponent of war – and I’m a pacifist. She’s for having the government regulate the economy further and I think a free enterprise capitalist system is best. And of course there’s her tendency to obfuscate rather than be direct.

I’m not voting against Donald either, though there’s even more to oppose. He’s an embarrassment to America. He believes America is broken and I don’t. I spend my life embracing and celebrating diversity and he all sorts of “ists” – racist, misogynist, homophobe, etc. More fundamentally, though, he’s failed at everything except building a brand for himself. He’s a loose cannon with a short fuse.

Gary Johnson is not just somebody I’m supporting because he’s not Hillary and he’s not Donald. He’s a two-time Governor – where he governed as a Republican in a nearly all Democratic state. He was re-elected overwhelmingly. He cut taxes. He shrunk government. He raised incomes.  

I think America needs somebody who has a proven track record of working both sides of the aisle as Johnson does. Will he be able to implement the Libertarian platform as written? Of course not. Neither would Hillary or Donald with their platforms either. Johnson has said he’d staff his government with the best people from all parties. Isn’t it time we all got along?

For a good part of the last six months Gary Johnson ran a great campaign. And then the mistakes started. He was on “Morning Joe” and was asked about Alepo. He blanked. The Syrian town has become shorthand for the war there. It was embarrassing for him and for his supporters. To his credit, and one of the personality driven reasons I support him is this: he went on “60 Minutes” and owned the error. He said he should have known. He apologized. That’s what I want in a President. I want somebody who will own their humanity and learn from their mistakes.

A local NBC affiliate had an interview with him about the debates. He chewed on his tongue in his response to the reporter. It was weird. It was odd. He was trying to make the point that even if he stood on the stage and chewed on his tongue that he’d get a huge outpouring of support because Hillary and Donald are so disliked and 70% of the public don’t even know there’s another alternative. It was a terrible way to make the point. As his poll numbers rise and his endorsements from major media increased – it was an ideal way to edit out the context and show him as crazy. That keeps the narrative easy: two person horserace. (I’m not blaming the media – Johnson was silly in how he made this point.)

MSNBC’s “Hardball” host Chris Matthews asked Johnson to name his favorite foreign leader. He couldn’t. Yikes. The media (social and traditional) pounced. How could anybody running for President who wants to be taken seriously not be able to name any foreign leader? Well, that wasn’t the question – but it made for a nice sound byte. Despite Trump’s omnipresence – interviews aren’t game shows.  Johnson didn’t articulate why he wasn’t naming anybody: that as an anti-government guy he didn’t see anybody in his tradition around the world to emulate. A lost opportunity which he again owned.

I list these three “gaffes” because Johnson himself talks about them. Both Hillary and Donald have made many mistakes on the trail as well – but it takes days, weeks or for Trump never – to remedy their errors. I also note them because it’s “buyer aware.” I’m aware my candidate isn’t perfect.



There’s the rub. I won’t be swayed. I know his strengths and his weaknesses as a candidate. Just as Hillary supporters and Donald supporters won’t be swayed either. I’ve carefully evaluated the platforms and the people and found the most alignment with Johnson. Others have with others. I support them though I disagree with them. That’s both conscientious voting and voting my conscience. I hope you do the same. There’s too much at stake.