Monthly Archives: September 2016

Ten Thoughts About the Debate

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Whew!  Even though I expected Hillary Clinton to win the first presidential debate with Donald Trump, watching it was a nerve-wracking experience.  Here are my first thoughts about the debate:

  1. Hillary had the best demeanor.  In general, Clinton came across as composed and cheerful.  Trump came across as angry and, occasionally, disdainful.
  2. Trump interrupted Clinton either by talking over her or by making snide comments such as, “that’s called business,by the way” — when she noted that Trump “was one of the people who rooted for the housing crisis.”
  3. Although the Trump campaign has made a lot of fuss about Clinton’s supposed “stamina” problem, it was Trump who wilted in the last half of the debate.
  4. Clinton repeatedly trapped Trump with his own words: “Donald thinks that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese.”  (Trump denied this but it’s verified by his Tweet.)
  5. Roughly one-quarter of the way through the debate, Clinton stood up to Trump: “Well, Donald, I know you live in your own reality, but that is not the facts.” (sic)
  6. After Trump blamed the supposed failings of the Obama Administration on Clinton, Hillary quipped: “I have a feeling that by the end of the evening I’m going to blamed for everything that ever happened.” Trump responded, “Why not?”  Clinton laughed, “Why not?  Yeah, why not?”  And the audience laughed with her.  Clinton continued, “… just join the debate by saying more crazy things.”  Hillary won every round from that point forward.
  7. Trump failed to explain why he has not made public his tax returns.  When Clinton speculated that “he didn’t pay any federal income tax,” Trump quipped, “That makes me smart.”
  8. Roughly half way through the debate, Trump’s responses began to ramble.  He didn’t do a good job explaining “people who were stiffed by you.”  He didn’t explain why he believe his “stop and frisk policy” was legal even though it has been ruled unconstitutional.  Trump failed to explain why, until recently, he continued his “birther” campaign.  (Clinton called this “a racist lie” and noted, “he has a long history of engaging in racist behavior.”)
  9. When Clinton noted, “Donald supported the invasion of Iraq,” Trump denied it.  When the moderator, Lester Holt, questioned Trump about his statement, Trump again repeated his denial, rambling for several minutes.  Trump concluded with, “I also have a much better temperament than she has, you know?” The audience laughed at him.  Clinton laughed and shook her head in disbelief, “Whew, OK.”
  10. At the end of debate, Lester Holt reminded Trump that he had said Clinton, “Doesn’t have a presidential look.”  Again, Trump rambled trying to explain himself.  Clinton nailed him: “He tried to switch from looks to stamina,  But this is a man who has called women pigs, slobs, and dogs.  Trump defended himself by attacking Rose O’Donnell: “I said very tough things to her, and I think everybody would agree that she deserves it.”

At the beginning of the debate, Hillary Clinton addressed the audience; “You have to judge us, who can shoulder the immense, awesome responsibilities of the presidency, who can put into action the plans that make you life better.” Most political observers thought Clinton won this debate, came across as more presidential.  (So did CNN viewers, [http://www.cnn.com/2016/09/27/politics/hillary-clinton-donald-trump-debate-poll/] 62 percent though Clinton won.)  Round one goes to Clinton.

 

Remembering Mike Bloomfield

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I’ve been reading the excellent Greil Marcus book, “Like a Rolling Stone: Bob Dylan at the Crossroads” (2006),  and reencountered the phenomenal Michael Bloomfield.  Mike was born in Chicago July 28, 1943, and died in San Francisco February 15, 1981.

For several years in the sixties (1965-67), Bloomfield was the hottest U.S. blues/rock guitarist, a guy who rivaled Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix.  Then Mike fell into addiction and faded away.

In 1959, Mike began playing guitar in Chicago clubs.  He performed with a wide variety of blues legends, including Sleepy John Estes, Yank Rachell, Robert Nighthawk, Muddy Waters, and Howlin’ Wolf.

If there was a first generation of Chicago Blues stars (Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and others), and a second generation (Buddy Guy, Otis Rush, and others), Mike was a key part of the third generation that included Paul Butterfield, Charlie Musselwhite, and Steve Miller.  In the early 60’s, Mike began playing with Butterfield.  In 1965, they released “The Paul Butterfield Blues Band,” which was hugely influential.  (Im 1966, I saw this saw this band in Southern California.)  From this period, key Bloomfield solos are: “Shake your moneymaker,” “Blues with a feeling,” “Born in Chicago,” and “Mystery Train.”

In 1963, Mike met Bob Dylan.  In July of 1965, he put together a backup band for Dylan at the Newport Folk Festival.  This was where Dylan went electric (publicly) with an over-the-top version of “Maggie’s Farm” — where Bloomfield’s guitar was so loud, no one could hear Dylan’s voice.

However, Bloomfield’s signature contribution to Dylan-lore happened June 15 and 16, 1965, when Mike was responsible for the classic “Like a Rolling Stone.”  In the epilogue to Greil Marcus’ book it’s clear that Bloomfield, not Tom Wilson produced the song; it’s Bloomfield who gives the musicians direction, who translates Dylan.

Over the two days there were 19 takes.  The winner was take 4 on day 2.  The personnel were Dylan, Bloomfield, Al Kooper (organ), Paul Griffin (piano), Bruce Langhorne (tambourine), Joe Macho, Jr. (bass), and Bobby Gregg (drums). It’s clear that Mike Bloomfield drives the song.

In 1967, Bloomfield left the Butterfield Band, moved to San Francisco, and formed the memorable “Electric Flag.”  (From this period, epic Bloomfield solos are “Killin’ Floor” and “Texas.”)  in 1968, Bloomfield broke up the band,  In 1970, his heroin addiction was so acute that he gave up playing.  For the next eleven years, he performed irregularly, mostly in the Bay Area,  In February of 1981, Mike died of a heroin overdose.

There have been three generations of blue guitarists.  The first, Mississippi Delta Blues, is epitomized by Robert Johnson (1911-38),  the second, Chicago Blues, is epitomized by Muddy Waters (1913-1983).  For the third period, full electric blues, the mantle passed to Michael Bloomfield, but he dropped it and Eric Clapton has become the preeminent blues guitarist of the modern period.

Bloomfield, Clapton, and Jimi Hendrix learned the blues by listening to records.  Because he lived in Chicago, only Bloomfield had the opportunity to also learn at the feet of the second-generation masters.  For reason, he had a distinctive sound.  And died way too soon.

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Clapton and Bloomfield

What Happened to Hillary’s Lead?

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After the Democratic convention, many Democrats breathed a sigh of relief because it appeared that Hillary Clinton had an “insurmountable” 8-point lead over Donald Trump.  Two months later, that lead is almost gone and Dems are worried.  What happened?

The latest Huffington Post Poll of Polls (http://elections.huffingtonpost.com/pollster/2016-general-election-trump-vs-clinton) shows Clinton with a 4.0 percentage point lead over Trump.  The latest Five Thirty Eight (http://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/2016-election-forecast/?ex_cid=rrpromo) summary shows Clinton with a projected 60.5 percent chance of winning, a 2.3 percentage point victory, and 288 electoral votes.   Over time, Trump’s ceiling has stayed about the same, 42 percent of the likely vote; however,  Hilary’s numbers have gone up and down — sometimes getting as high as 49 percent and as low as 42 percent.

Several factors have contributed to the closeness of the presidential race: First, since reorganizing his campaign Trump has been more disciplined compared to the old Trump.  He still makes rash comments but not the same craziness that characterized the Judge Curiel and Khan family periods.

Second, mainstream Republican voters have become relatively inured to Trump and, apparently, have decided that the almost daily stream of Trump revelations (shady business dealings, bizarre charity expenditures, white supremacist associations, etc.) are the work of a “corrupt” mainstream media.  In the latest Washington Post poll (https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/politics/2016-election/the-demographic-groups-fueling-the-election/) Trump gets the support of 86 percent of Republican likely voters — Clinton gets the support of 90 percent of Democratic likely voters.

In the fifties, Republicans chanted “Better Dead than Red;”  this year their mantra seems to be “Better Evil Donald than Liar Hillary.’

Third, the candidates are unusually unpopular — in the latest Gallup Poll (http://www.gallup.com/poll/189299/presidential-election-2016-key-indicators.aspx?g_source=POLITICS&g_medium=topic&g_campaign=tiles#pcf-image ), Hillary has a 40 percent favorable rating and Trump has a 34 percent favorable rating.  As a consequence, many “Independents” are either undecided or have committed to a third-Party candidate.

Fourth, Hillary’s numbers went down after a bad week: during the September 7th “Presidential Forum,” NBC host Matt Lauer focussed on Hillary’s email problems for roughly half her allotted time.  This hurt Clinton in the short term — but probably helped her in the long-term because she seemed to address every conceivable email issue.  Clinton followed this with her “deplorables” remark on September 9th — that to many of us didn’t seem extreme but, nonetheless, cost her support among persuadable Republicans.  And then Clinton fell ill on September 11th.  The press played this up as an example of the Clinton’s campaign’s lack of transparency — which seemed incredibly unfair because the Trump campaign has zero transparency — and it knocked down Hillary’s numbers.  Since getting back on the campaign trail, Clinton’s polls and favorable ratings have improved.

I’ve long argued that the election would be decided by two factors: the candidates performance in the September 26th debate — the first debate has historically been the most important — and the get-out-the-vote effort.  I expect Hillary to do well in the first debate and I expect her campaign to do much better getting out the vote.

At this point, I look at two indicators to gauge how Hillary is doing.  the first is key swing states.  I’m assuming that Trump will win Ohio and Clinton will prevail in Florida.  Among the big three, the key state is Pennsylvania, where Clinton currently has a 6.6 percentage point lead; if Clinton falls behind in Pennsylvania she has a problem.  (There’s also a competitive PA senate race — McGinty versus Tommey; currently a dead heat.)  To a lesser extent, I look at New Hampshire (Clinton up by 5 points), Nevada (dead heat), and North Carolina (dead heat).  the latest Cook Report electoral projection shows Clinton getting to 272 by winning Pennsylvania and New Hampshire.  (I believe that Clinton will also win Florida, Nevada, and North Carolina, thereby winning more than 300 electoral votes — and probably guaranteeing that Democrats control the Senate.)

The second indicator is support among college-educated white voters.  The latest Washington Post poll (https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/politics/2016-election/the-demographic-groups-fueling-the-election/)  indicates that Clinton has maintained her lead among these voters: plus 12 points among women and plus 1 among men.  This is the largest shift from the Romney voters to the Trump voters and, if it continues, guarantees a Clinton victory.  (It’s hard to foresee a Trump victory based solely upon support of non-college-educated white men.)

The 2016 election is Clinton’s to lose.  What she should do now is remind voters of what she stands for — she’s already done a good job defining Trump negatively (a recent Fox News Poll [http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2016/09/18/fox-news-poll-many-voters-want-new-leadership-but-still-uneasy-about-trump.html] found that 59 percent of respondents believe Trump does not have the temperament to be President.)  In the process, Clinton needs to soften her image — my contention is that a lot of persuadable voters want to like her but don’t.  She needs to have a more cordial relationship with the press.  And, she needs to stop making mistakes!

 

Hillary and I Made the Same Mistake

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton stops her speech to cough at the 11th Congressional District Labor Day festival at Luke Easter Park in Cleveland, Ohio, Monday, Sept. 5, 2016. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

In 1968, I was writing a huge piece of software  — part of an inventory management system — and I got a cold.  I was under pressure to get my work done, so I ignored my cough.  And, I ignored the fact that I was working in a terrible environment — a highly air-conditioned computer room — and smoking cigarettes.

My cough got worse. I said to myself, “I’ll work through this and then, when my project is complete, I’ll take time off.”  My cough deteriorated to the point that I had prolonged hacking episodes.  Then I started running a fever.

Finally, I went to the doctor, who determined I had pneumonia and sent me directly to the hospital.  As I was being admitted, I passed out.  I woke up in a hospital bed under an oxygen tent.

After a few days, I went home and back to work.  I learned two things: to stop smoking and to take better care of myself.

From the press reports about Hillary Clinton’s pneumonia, it sounds like she made the same mistake I did: when she experienced the first symptoms of pneumonia , she tried to work through it.  Then she had an episode at the 9/11 memorial and was forced to take better care of herself.

Because the election is so tight, a lot of Democrats are upset about Hillary’s pneumonia and fear that it will tilt the race to Trump.  I don’t agree.  Trump may win in November — I don’t believe this — but it won’t be because Hillary got sick.

In the long run, Hillary’s pneumonia episode will be beneficial.  First, it will force her and Trump to reveal more medical information.  This is a good thing, in general, but particularly for Trump — who looks to be at high risk for a heart attack or stroke.  Second, this humanizes Hillary, makes it clear she’s a typical American.  After all, thousands of our fellow citizens do not have adequate health coverage and, therefore, everyday are forced to go to work even though they have a bad cold or pneumonia.

50 Top Soul/R’nB Singers

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Here’s my list of the 50 top Soul/R’nB singers, their best record, and their birthdate. The number one song is “Midnight Train to Georgia.”

Allman, Gregg “I’m no angel” DECEMBER 8, 1947
Ballard, Hank “Work With Me Annie” NOVEMBER 18, 1927
Berry, Chuck “Maybelline” OCTOBER 18, 1926
Bland, Bobby “Blue” “Turn On Your Love Light” JANUARY 27, 1930
Brown, James “Please, Please, Please” MAY 3, 1933
Brown, Ruth “Oh What a Dream” JANUARY 12, 1928
Butler, Jerry “For Your Precious Love” DECEMBER 8, 1939
Carr, James “The Dark End of the Street” JUNE 13, 1942
Carter, Clarence “Steal Away” January 14, 1936
Cassidy, Eva “Songbird” FEBRUARY 2, 1963
Charles, Ray “Night Time is the Right Time” SEPTEMBER 23, 1930
Clovers “One Mint Julep” (1946-1990)
Cooke, Sam (Lou Rawls) “Bring It On Home to Me” JAN. 22, 1931
Domino, Fats “Going to the River” FEBRUARY 26, 1928
Five Du-Tones “Shake a Tail Feather” (1957-67)
Fogerty, John “I Put a Spell On You” MAY 28, 1945
Franklin, Aretha “Respect” MARCH 25, 1942
Gaye, Marvin “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” APRIL 2, 1939
Harrison, Wilbert “Kansas City” JANUARY 5, 1929
Holiday, Billie “The Way You Look Tonight” APRIL 7, 1915
Hunter, Ivory Joe “Since I Met You Baby” OCTOBER 10, 1914
Isley Brothers “Shout” (1954- )
James, Etta “All I Could Do Was Cry” JANUARY 25, 1938
King, B.B. “The Thrill is Gone” SEPTEMBER 16, 1925
King, Ben E. “Stand By Me” SEPTEMBER 28, 1938
Knight, Gladys “Midnight Train to Georgia” May 28, 1944
Lewis, Smiley “I Hear You Knocking” JULY 5, 1913
McPhatter, Clyde “Money Honey” NOVEMBER 15, 1932
McVie, Christine “Say You Love Me” July 12, 1943
Mimms, Garnet “Cry Baby” NOVEMBER 6, 1933
Neville, Aaron “Tell It Like It Is” JANUARY 24, 1941
Peebles, Ann “Can’t Stand the Rain” APRIL 24, 1947
Penniman, Little Richard “Directly From My Heart” DEC. 5, 1932
Pickett, Wilson “Midnight Hour” MARCH 18, 1941
Redding, Otis “Pain in my Heart” SEPTEMBER 9, 1941
Righteous Brothers “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling”
Robinson, Smokey “Tracks of My Tears” FEBRUARY 19, 1940
Ross, Diana “Come See About Me” MARCH 26, 1944
Scaggs, Boz “Loan Me a Dime” JUNE 8, 1944
Shirelles “He’s So Fine” (1957-82)
Sledge, Percy “When a Man Loves a Woman” NOVEMBER 25, 1940
Temptations “My Girl” (1960- )
Tex, Joe “The Love You Save” AUGUST 8, 1933
Thomas, Carla “B.A.B.Y.” DECEMBER 21, 1942
Troy, Doris “Just One Look” JANUARY 6, 1937
Turner, Big Joe “Shake, Rattle, and Roll” MAY 18, 1911
Turner, Tina “There’s Something on My Mind” NOVEMBER 26, 1939
Willis, Chuck “It’s Too Late” JANUARY 31, 1928
Wilson, Jackie “Higher and Higher” JUNE 9, 1934
Witherspoon, Jimmy “Ain’t Nobody’s Business” AUGUST 8, 1920
Wonder, Stevie “Living For the City” MAY 13, 1950
Wright, O.V. “Eight Men, Four Women” OCTOBER 9, 1939

False Equivalence: Trump=Clinton, Godzilla=Bambi

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One of the strangest aspects of the 2016 presidential campaign has been the mainstream media’s decision to spend equal time criticizing Trump and Clinton. This has created a false equivalence. Imagine a political contest between Godzilla (Trump) and Bambi (Clinton). Because of the equal time rule, the nightly news would report, “Godzilla destroys Los Angeles,” and then, “Bambi ravishes community garden.”

 

Science reporter <a href=http://fusion.net/story/341420/the-maddening-world-of-false-equivalence-media-from-a-climate-reporter-who-knows/ >Art Phillips</a> noted a similar false equivalence with regards to climate change. The mainstream media reports on some devastating climate change event – such as <a href= https://weather.com/news/climate/news/july-2016-warmest-global-temperature-record >record high temperatures</a> – and then feels obligated to feature a climate-change denier. This sets up a false equivalence, as if views on the reality of climate change are equally split; the reality is that 97 percent of climate scientists believe that the earth has been warming over the past 100 years.

 

The media’s obsession with false equivalence has influenced coverage of the 2016 presidential campaign. Donald Trump is the most despicable US presidential candidate in modern times. Hillary Clinton is a mainstream candidate. Nonetheless, the media treats them as if they are equivalent. They’re not. Trump is Godzilla.

 

The biggest Trump story has been his embrace of white-nationalist policies. It started at the beginning of his campaign, in <a href= http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2015/06/16/trump_mexico_not_sending_us_their_best_criminals_drug_dealers_and_rapists_are_crossing_border.html >June of 2015</a>, with his strong stance on immigration – calling Mexican immigrants criminals and rapists– and has continued since. As Hillary Clinton noted in her <a href= http://www.politico.com/story/2016/08/transcript-hillary-clinton-alt-right-reno-227419 >August 25th speech</a>: “Donald Trump has built his campaign on prejudice and paranoia.” Trump’s mainstreaming of white nationalism is, by far, the biggest story in the 2016 presidential campaign.

 

Nonetheless, following their self-imposed doctrine of “equivalence,” the media has typically followed tales of Trump’s racism with various spins on Clinton’s emails.

 

To be clear, Hillary Clinton was wrong to use a private email server. It violated State Department policy.   Nonetheless, the FBI and the Department of Justice have determined that Clinton’s use of a private email server was <a href= http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2016/jul/19/politifact-sheet-hillary-clintons-email-controvers/>not a crime</a>.  Therefore, the email story is not equivalent to Trump’s white nationalism.

 

What the mainstream media does not discuss is the fact that Donald Trump is unqualified to talk about Clinton’s emails. He is non-technical; he does not use email or a personal computer. Moreover, Trump is not a lawyer and he has never had a security clearance.

 

The second biggest story of Trump’s campaign has been his willingness to lie. The independent fact checker, <a href= http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/lists/people/comparing-hillary-clinton-donald-trump-truth-o-met/ >Politifact</a>, reports that 70 percent of Trump’s statements have been judged “mostly false,” “false,” or “pants on fire.” In comparison only 29 percent of Clinton’s statements have been judged “mostly false,” “false,” or “pants on fire.” (Half of Clinton’s statements were judge “true” or “mostly true” versus just 15 percent of Trump’s statements.)

 

In June, <a href= http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2016/jun/16/10-biggest-falsehoods-year-trump/ >Politifact</a> chronicled Trump’s top 10 lies of the year. Not surprisingly, many were about immigration: “The number of illegal immigrants in the United States is ‘30 million, it could be 34 million;’” “The Mexican government forces many bad people into our country;” and ,“There is ‘no system to vet’ refugees from the Middle East.” Some other Trump falsehoods: “We’re the highest taxed nation in the world” and “The unemployment rate may be as high as ‘42 percent.’”

 

Quoted in The Huffington Post, historian <a href= “http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/trump-historic-liar_us_57a72edce4b03ba680129d06” >Douglas Brinkley</a> observed: “In American history, we’ve never had a major presidential candidate who fabricated facts with the regularity of Donald Trump. He just simply makes up things.”

 

Commenting on Trump’s astounding mendacity, the mainstream media has attempted to be “evenhanded” with absurd complaints about the Clinton Foundation.

 

<a href= https://www.charitywatch.org/ratings-and-metrics/bill-hillary-chelsea-clinton-foundation/478 >Charity Watch</a> gave the Clinton Foundation an “A”rating; in 2014 the foundation raised $325 million and gave away 88 percent. The 2015 annual report of the <a href= http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/08/clinton-foundation-controversy-actual-work >Clinton Foundation Health Initiative</a> indicates it, “helped more than 11.8 million people in more than 70 nations gain access to low-cost HIV medicines (saving the global health system billions of dollars) [and] has distributed vaccines that annually helped save 138,000 lives.”

 

There is <a href= https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2016/08/23/the-latest-clinton-email-story-just-isnt-a-scandal/?utm_term=.8a0efd81b1bd>no credible evidence </a> that Secretary of State Clinton gave favors to Clinton Foundation donors. No criminal complaints have ever been filed.

 

What the mainstream media does not discuss is the fact that the Clintons are philanthropists and Trump is not. When Hillary Clinton released <a href= http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/07/hillary-clinton-releases-her-tax-returns/457896/ >eight years of tax returns</a> it showed the Clintons had donated $15 million to charity – roughly 10 percent of their income. Of course, we do not know how much Donald Trump donated because he has refused to release his tax returns; however <a href= https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/paloma/daily-202/2016/08/05/daily-202-lessons-from-my-search-for-donald-trump-s-personal-giving-to-charity/57a3eb5fcd249a7e29d0cf7a/ >The Washington Post</a> found that, given his wealth, Trump gives very little money to charity.

 

It’s absurd to compared Trump’s astonishing capacity to lie with the Clintons’ support for their foundation.

 

Donald Trump is a monstrous individual – Godzilla. Hillary Clinton is a mainstream politician — Bambi. They are not equivalent. To suggest they are equivalent brings discredit to the US media and distorts public perception in the presidential election.