Sunday, July 24, 2016

Don't drink bleach

“Hillary, like anyone else has flaws, and there are issues I disagree with her on. But in my opinion she is smart, tough, experienced and will make a good President.” — Bill Arthur, Deputy National Field Director and past Northwest and Alaska Regional Director of the Sierra Club, and a trusted friend and role model since graduate school days

IF YOU'VE read Hey Look Something Shiny much at all, you know that Paul and I were Bernie Sanders supporters. I was a fan before he announced his candidacy. (See: Senator Sanders Preaches to the Choir, September 23, 2014.) 

Feelin' the Bern no doubt contributes to the little happy dance I'm doing now that I know Debbie Wasserman Schultz will be resigning as chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee. It seemed obvious that the vast majority of the Democratic establishment, both national and local, were pushing hard for Hillary, so this revelation of bias by the DNC hardly comes as a surprise. 

I'm sure Wasserman Schultz will be rewarded in some form or another by the Clinton camp for falling on her sword, but still it's good she's stepping down. It may help assuage some residual anger of those who believed both she and the National Committee had its finger on the scale, and it gives at least the appearance of consequences. 

(NOTE: Little did I know how quickly DWS would be rescued! I hadn't even finished writing this post when I heard Paul groan. "What, what?!" I asked urgently. "Hillary has given Wasserman Schultz a prominent role within her campaign.")

Yet Paul and I will vote for her and campaign for her because she's at least a million times better than Mr. Trump.

There's this joke that's been going around. Paul first told it to me, and then I heard it from Stephen Colbert on The Late Show. It goes like this: Voting for Donald Trump because you're not crazy about Hillary Clinton would be like going into a restaurant and ordering a Coke, and when you find out they only serve Pepsi, you say, "Okay, just pour me a large glass of bleach."

You're also probably aware from previous posts, that I'm a fan of Gail Collins who writes for The New York Times. Here's her column about Hillary Clinton. I trust Gail's opinion, although Hillary, please stop shooting yourself in the foot.

Behind Hillary’s Mask

How is it possible that we still don’t really know the most famous woman in America?

By Gail Collins

July 23, 2016

RIGHT after the Sept. 11 attacks, I ran into Hillary Clinton outside an armory in Manhattan that served as a sort of clearing house for tragedy, where people brought pictures of the missing and checked for information. She talked for a long time, very freely, about Washington politicians who had always hated New York but were turning out to be helpful in the crisis.

The conversation was memorable not for the information but for her manner. For all her intensity about the city, Clinton was more relaxed than I’d ever seen her while chatting with a member of the press. She was operating in a new space — for the moment, no one really cared that she was a senator who’d gotten elected from a state she’d never lived in, the survivor of the best-known political sex scandal in American history, the former first lady who ran for office while her husband was still president. The country had temporarily lost interest in celebrities, and she seemed to find her relative insignificance liberating.

When Clinton is nominated for president later this week in Philadelphia, we’ll be talking about her as the first woman to get a crack at running the country. But she’d also be one of the most famous people ever to get the honor. In America, she’s been part of the backdrop of our lives for nearly a quarter of a century. We’re watching a very familiar face making a brand-new mark on history.

In 2000, when she first ran for the Senate, the fact that New York had never sent a woman to the Senate was an afterthought, given all the other stuff there was to consider. “It was the first time I’d been a candidate and the first time I’d lived in New York,” she recalled in a phone interview. The very idea of that race was incredible — maybe outrageous. And it didn’t begin well. She had trouble with the carpetbagging issue. At one point, Clinton attempted to woo the locals by claiming that although she’d been brought up as a Chicago Cubs fan, she had always rooted for the Yankees because people need a team in each league. This was contradictory to every law of Midwestern fandom, which holds that no matter what else you do, hating the New York Yankees is a central principle of life.

Then she turned everything around. Went on an endless “listening tour” of such anti-glamorous, earnest wonkiness that reporters who trailed after her from town to town began to develop nervous tics and drinking issues. But it was the perfect strategy. By the end, she had worn down her aura of outsiderdom. And she seemed to be enjoying herself. While all politicians at her level have stupendously sturdy egos, Clinton does appear to get a certain relief being in venues where the focus is on somebody else.

That year on the trail, Clinton wore the very same thing almost every day, a black pantsuit with a bright blouse. It seemed like a stroke of genius — proof that female candidates could eliminate the endless clothing commentary by simply doing what guys do and wearing interchangeable outfits. Later, of course, she’d go back to her romance with jewel tones, and by 2008, reporters would sometimes post the color of the day at the back of the press plane. I asked her once why she’d given up the original outfit plan and she said she just got bored.

The thing I remember most about those trips from Oneonta to Cooperstown to Horseheads — besides the tedium — was the intense reaction she got from middle-aged women, who yelled and waved and begged for autographs. They were the ones who remembered what it was like when the newspapers had separate “help wanted” columns for men and women, who needed a male co-signer when they got their first car loans. I suspected that a lot of them, like me, still had credit cards in their husbands’ names because that was just the way things worked when they first began to charge stuff at Macy’s or use American Express.

And there was something else. Hillary Clinton represented the possibility of a second act. The country was full of women who had come of age with the women’s revolution, who had tried to have it all, raising children while having good — but maybe not spectacular — careers. Now there was the about-to-retire first lady, in her new persona, suggesting they might be able to start a whole new episode in life. Driving around through upstate New York, Clinton was in the home territory of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who had broken the old rules about staying home, rearing the kids and then retiring to a rocking chair.

Stanton in particular argued that instead of the end, middle age could be a jumping-off point for adventure. You could do all the things you weren’t able to do when the children were young — you could travel, make speeches, start newspapers, lead rallies. You could do things no women had done before in the public arena, because you looked mature and trustworthy and people could see you had paid your dues. The prospect was so exciting, women began writing paeans to menopause as a time for “superexaltation.”

O.K., none of that specifically came up during the listening tours. But I swear it was there in the background.

When the campaign was over, Clinton was in fact elected the first woman senator from New York, although she says she was “too busy learning about dairy compacts and watersheds” to think much about the feminist-history angle. Even when she ran for president in 2008, she didn’t usually make it a specific campaign theme. But gender was on her mind. She frequently told audiences that her mother had been born before women had the right to vote. And when her chances of winning got increasingly slim, she’d complain, in private, that some Obama people seemed to think she was going to automatically get out of the way and defer to what the guys wanted. “I’m not going to tell my daughter, ‘Oh, I quit, because I’m the girl and they’re all being mean to me,’ ” she said at one point.

Over the last eight years, Clinton has grown more comfortable stressing the idea of becoming the first woman to serve as president. She thinks it really came into focus after she lost in 2008 and made that speech about putting 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling.

“This time I decided I’d be more explicit,” she said, and “make it part of the campaign.”

Because this is a story about Hillary Clinton you know this upbeat resolution is going to be followed by a problem. Young women are not universally crazy about the first-woman thing. Some just see her as an imperfect candidate. For others, it’s because the whole gender thing seems like yesterday’s news. “There aren’t as many overt questions about ‘Can a woman do it? Is it something the country is ready for?’ ” Clinton acknowledged.

That’s probably true, and if it is, she deserves a lot of the credit. You can argue the pros and cons of Hillary Clinton’s character, or her potential to change the nation, or her position on trade policy. But you can never take away the fact that she was the one who made the idea of a woman becoming president so normal that many young women are bored by it.

Clinton comes out of a very specific zone of American high school culture in the middle of the 20th century — the girls behind the homecoming float-building committee. (She tells a story in her autobiography about being told as a teenager that she was “really stupid” to think she could be senior class president, losing the election and then agreeing to run the committee that did all the behind-the-scenes work.) She drew a terrible straw in 2008, when she had to run against a guy who was not only a making-history candidate himself, but also clearly a member of the prom king sector. Now she’s pitted against the rich kid who throws wild parties when his parents are out of town.

The Republican convention last week made it clear how vicious this campaign is going to be — the only real platform appeared to be the desirability of locking Hillary Clinton up, and she was blamed for everything from ISIS to the kidnapping of Nigerian schoolgirls. Donald Trump painted a picture of a wrecked, emasculated America in a dystopian world created by Obama-Clinton malfeasance. We don’t know yet whether Clinton can counter forcefully with a sunnier vision. What we do know is that she won’t be cowed.

Whatever her defects, she is a candidate with a very long and event-filled history of toughing things out, who finds solace in stupendously hard work and in doing her homework. She’s one of the best-known people on the planet, but she can happily spend a day listening to complaints about watershed pollution or flying halfway around the world to sit through a conference on sustainable development.

When she was still secretary of state, I asked Clinton about another presidential campaign and she waved the idea aside. Her future plans, she said, involved sleeping and exercising and traveling for fun. “It sounds so ordinary, but I haven’t done it for 20 years. I would like to see whether I can get untired,” she said.

She may never find out.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Trump, the racist

“I think that the guy is lazy. And it’s probably not his fault, because laziness is a trait in blacks. It really is, I believe that. It’s not anything they can control.” — Donald Trump

DUH, Nicholas. I know you're trying to not jump to conclusions and be all evidential and all, but come on. If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, looks like a duck and flies like a duck, it's probably . . . a DUCK! 

But pardon me, I should not defame a perfectly innocent duck — it's a TRUMP.

From Nicholas Kristof at The New York Times.

Donald Trump and his father Fred in 1973.

Is Donald Trump a Racist?

By Nicholas Kristof 
July 23, 2016

HAS the party of Lincoln just nominated a racist to be president? We shouldn’t toss around such accusations lightly, so I’ve looked back over more than 40 years of Donald Trump’s career to see what the record says.

One early red flag arose in 1973, when President Richard Nixon’s Justice Department — not exactly the radicals of the day — sued Trump and his father, Fred Trump, for systematically discriminating against blacks in housing rentals.

I’ve waded through 1,021 pages of documents from that legal battle, and they are devastating. Donald Trump was then president of the family real estate firm, and the government amassed overwhelming evidence that the company had a policy of discriminating against blacks, including those serving in the military.

To prove the discrimination, blacks were repeatedly dispatched as testers to Trump apartment buildings to inquire about vacancies, and white testers were sent soon after. Repeatedly, the black person was told that nothing was available, while the white tester was shown apartments for immediate rental.

A former building superintendent working for the Trumps explained that he was told to code any application by a black person with the letter C, for colored, apparently so the office would know to reject it. A Trump rental agent said the Trumps wanted to rent only to “Jews and executives,” and discouraged renting to blacks.

Donald Trump furiously fought the civil rights suit in the courts and the media, but the Trumps eventually settled on terms that were widely regarded as a victory for the government. Three years later, the government sued the Trumps again, for continuing to discriminate.

In fairness, those suits date from long ago, and the discriminatory policies were probably put in place not by Donald Trump but by his father. Fred Trump appears to have been arrested at a Ku Klux Klan rally in 1927; Woody Guthrie, who lived in a Trump property in the 1950s, lambasted Fred Trump in recently discovered papers for stirring racial hatred.

Yet even if Donald Trump inherited his firm’s discriminatory policies, he allied himself decisively in the 1970s housing battle against the civil rights movement.

Another revealing moment came in 1989, when New York City was convulsed by the “Central Park jogger” case, a rape and beating of a young white woman. Five black and Latino teenagers were arrested.

Trump stepped in, denounced Mayor Ed Koch’s call for peace and bought full-page newspaper ads calling for the death penalty. The five teenagers spent years in prison before being exonerated. In retrospect, they suffered a modern version of a lynching, and Trump played a part in whipping up the crowds.

As Trump moved into casinos, discrimination followed. In the 1980s, according to a former Trump casino worker, Kip Brown, who was quoted by The New Yorker: “When Donald and Ivana came to the casino, the bosses would order all the black people off the floor. … They put us all in the back.”

In 1991, a book by John O’Donnell, who had been president of the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, quoted Trump as criticizing a black accountant and saying: “Black guys counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day. … I think that the guy is lazy. And it’s probably not his fault, because laziness is a trait in blacks. It really is, I believe that. It’s not anything they can control.” O’Donnell wrote that for months afterward, Trump pressed him to fire the black accountant, until the man resigned of his own accord.

Trump eventually denied making those comments. But in 1997 in a Playboy interview, he conceded “the stuff O’Donnell wrote about me is probably true.”

The recent record may be more familiar: Trump’s suggestions that President Obama was born in Kenya; his insinuations that Obama was admitted to Ivy League schools only because of affirmative action; his denunciations of Mexican immigrants as, “in many cases, criminals, drug dealers, rapists”; his calls for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States; his dismissal of an American-born judge of Mexican ancestry as a Mexican who cannot fairly hear his case; his reluctance to distance himself from the Ku Klux Klan in a television interview; his retweet of a graphic suggesting that 81 percent of white murder victims are killed by blacks (the actual figure is about 15 percent); and so on.

Trump has also retweeted messages from white supremacists or Nazi sympathizers, including two from an account called @WhiteGenocideTM with a photo of the American Nazi Party’s founder.

Trump repeatedly and vehemently denies any racism, and he has deleted some offensive tweets. The Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi racist website that has endorsed Trump, sees that as going “full-wink-wink-wink.”

My view is that “racist” can be a loaded word, a conversation stopper more than a clarifier, and that we should be careful not to use it simply as an epithet. Moreover, Muslims and Latinos can be of any race, so some of those statements technically reflect not so much racism as bigotry. It’s also true that with any single statement, it is possible that Trump misspoke or was misconstrued.

And yet.

Here we have a man who for more than four decades has been repeatedly associated with racial discrimination or bigoted comments about minorities, some of them made on television for all to see. While any one episode may be ambiguous, what emerges over more than four decades is a narrative arc, a consistent pattern — and I don’t see what else to call it but racism.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Donald Trump stars in the scariest reality show ever

“But here, at our convention, there will be no lies. We will honor the American people with the truth, and nothing else.” — Donald J. Trump, Republican presidential candidate acceptance speech delivered July 21, 2016

HAVE YOU been watching the comedy act that's been broadcast live on TV the last few nights? 

Oddly, I'm not referring to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Well, kind of — indirectly. 

I mean The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. If you haven't already seen it, I hope you've at least got it TIVOed. He skewers and roasts Herr Trump to a satisfying degree. It's a place to feel sane. 

Talk about someone who says what we're all thinking!! Jon Stewart joined him for a particularly gratifying segment. I've attached a clip of it below an article from CBS News dissecting some of Trump's most recent fictions.

Here are the debunked claims in Trump's convention speech

July 21, 2016

WASHINGTON -- Despite promising "the truth, and nothing else" in his convention speech, Donald Trump presented the nation with a series of previously debunked claims and some new ones Thursday night -- about the U.S. tax burden, the perils facing police, Hillary Clinton's record and more.

A look at some of the Republican presidential candidate's claims and how they compare with the facts:


TRUMP: "Decades of progress made in bringing down crime are now being reversed by this administration's rollback of criminal enforcement. Homicides last year increased by 17 percent in America's 50 largest cities. That's the largest increase in 25 years."

THE FACTS: A rollback? President Barack Obama has actually achieved some big increases in spending for state and local law enforcement, including billions in grants provided through the 2009 stimulus. While FBI crime statistics for 2015 are not yet available, Trump's claim about rising homicides appears to come from a Washington Post analysis published in January. While Trump accurately quotes part of the analysis, he omits that the statistical jump was so large because homicides are still very low by historical standards. In the 50 cities cited by the Post, for example, half as many people were killed last year as in 1991.


TRUMP: "The number of new illegal immigrant families who have crossed the border so far this year already exceeds the entire total from 2015. They are being released by the tens of thousands into our communities with no regard for the impact on public safety or resources."

THE FACTS: The pace of releasing immigrants is driven not by the Obama administration, but by a court ruling. A federal judge ruled last year that the government couldn't hold parents and children in jail for more than 20 days. An appeals court partially rolled that back earlier this month, saying that parents could be detained but children must be released.

By the standard used by the government to estimate illegal border crossings - the number of arrests -- Trump is right that the number in this budget year has already exceeded last year's total. But it's down from 2014.


TRUMP: "When a secretary of state illegally stores her emails on a private server, deletes 33,000 of them so the authorities can't see her crime, puts our country at risk, lies about it in every different form and faces no consequence - I know that corruption has reached a level like never before."

THE FACTS: Clinton's use of a private server to store her emails was not illegal under federal law. Her actions were not established as a crime. The FBI investigated the matter and its role was to advise the Justice Department whether to bring charges against her based on what it found. FBI Director James Comey declined to refer the case for criminal prosecution to the Justice Department, instead accusing Clinton of extreme carelessness.

As for Trump's claim that Clinton faces no consequence, that may be true in a legal sense. But the matter has been a distraction to her campaign and fed into public perceptions that she can't be trusted. The election will test whether she has paid a price politically.


TRUMP: "The number of police officers killed in the line of duty has risen by almost 50 percent compared to this point last year."

THE FACTS: Not according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, which tracks police fatalities daily. The group found that the number of police officers who died as of July 20 is up just slightly this year, at 67, compared with 62 through the same period last year. That includes deaths in the line of duty from all causes, including traffic fatalities.

It is true that there has been a spike in police deaths from intentional shootings, 32 this year compared with 18 last year, largely attributable to the recent mass shootings in Dallas and Baton Rouge. But that was not his claim.

And overall, police are statistically safer on America's streets now than at any time in recent decades.

For example, the 109 law enforcement fatalities in 2013 were the lowest since 1956.


TRUMP: "Two million more Latinos are in poverty today than when President Obama took his oath of office less than eight years ago. Another 14 million people have left the workforce entirely. ... President Obama has almost doubled our national debt to more than $19 trillion, and growing."

THE FACTS: Trump is playing with numbers to make the economy look worse than it actually is. The sluggish recovery over the past seven years has been frustrating. But with unemployment at 4.9 percent, the situation isn't as bleak as he suggests.

Trump's figure of 14 million who've stopped working since Obama took office comes from the Labor Department's measure of people not in the workforce. It's misleading for three reasons: The U.S. population has increased in that time; the country has aged and people have retired; and younger people are staying in school longer for college and advanced degrees, so they're not in the labor force, either.

A better figure is labor force participation -- the share of people with jobs or who are searching for work. That figure has declined from 65.7 percent when Obama took office to 62.7 percent now. Part of that decrease reflects retirements, but the decline is also a long-term trend.

On national debt, economists say a more meaningful measure than dollars is the share of the overall economy taken up by the debt. By that measure, the debt rose 36 percent under Obama (rather than doubling). That's roughly the same as what occurred under Republican President George W. Bush.

The Hispanic population has risen since Obama while the poverty rate has fallen. The Pew Research Center found that 23.5 percent of the country's 55.3 million Latinos live in poverty, compared with 24.7 percent in 2010.


TRUMP: "My opponent wants to essentially abolish the Second Amendment."

THE FACTS: Clinton advocates expanding gun control measures -- including expanded background checks, a no-fly, no-buy ban for people on terrorist or no-fly lists, repealing a law that protects gun sellers and manufacturers from legal liabiliyand a reinstatement of the assault weapons ban, but she has not said that she wants to take away guns. suggests that the claim may be based on a 2015 speech in which Clinton said that "the Supreme Court is wrong on the Second Amendment, and I am going to make that case every chance I get."

But while that sounds like she's threatening the gun right, goes on to point out that her comments were strictly limited the 2008 Supreme Court ruling that said the Washington, D.C. handgun ban was unconstitutional.

Clinton has spoken up for Second Amendment rights on several occasions, including in this tweet:

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

His lips are moving

“The most outrageous lies that can be invented will find believers if a man only tells them with all his might.” — Mark Twain in a letter dated May 17, 1867 

THERE WAS a sales manager for a large vendor we used to buy from, and the prevailing rap against him went like this: "How can you tell when Alex **** is lying? His lips are moving." 

But Alex was a piker, a neophyte, a rank amateur compared to Donald Trump

And now, Melania. But really, what can you expect from a woman who would marry him?!?

After reading a speech containing sections lifted word-for-word from Michelle Obama's speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2008, now it comes out that Melania has lied about having graduated with a degree in architecture back home in her native Slovenia

(Don't even get me started on the fact that this orange, lying buffoon who wants to build a wall to keep immigrants out, married an immigrant! Has there ever been a more ignorant, lying hypocrite?) 

So guess what? Melania didn't graduate with a degree in architecture.

Here's a short piece from the Huffington Post, brief excerpts from and at the very bottom, a video comparison of Michelle Obama's and Melania Trump's remarks.

Melania Trump’s Claims She Graduated From College Are About As Credible As Her Speech Last Night

By Christina Wilkie
July 19, 2016

Melania Trump’s professional biography says the wife of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump began modeling at age 16, but she only began working full-time after obtaining a degree. She graduated “in design and architecture at University in Slovenia,” according to the bio as of Monday night:

Melania Trump never earned a university degree in architecture ― she dropped out of college after her freshman year. Still, she claims to have a degree from “university in Slovenia.” 

Questions about her education grew more significant Tuesday morning, following the revelation that Melania Trump plagiarized parts of her speech to the Republican National Convention from one that First Lady Michelle Obama gave in 2008.

Slovenian journalists Bojan Pozar and Igor Omerza wrote in their biography on the former fashion model that she “became ― and remained ― a college dropout” after leaving the University of Ljubljana’s architecture school following her freshman year. 

Here's a screen a screen cap from the RNC program — the same lie that appears on Melania Trump's website and in her "professional biography." says: 

There is no "University in Slovenia," nor is there a "University of Slovenia." The country contains several colleges, including the University of Ljubljana, which other news outlets have reported (without citation) was where she obtained her degree.

We also checked the Ljubljana University archives for any records of Melania Knauss, Melanija Knavs, and every other combination and alternate spellings of those names that we could find, and were unable to locate a record of her at that university, nor at any other university in the country.

And this from The New York Times:

How Melania Trump’s Speech Veered Off Course and Caused an Uproar

By Maggie Haberman and Michael Barbaro

July 19, 2016

CLEVELAND — It was the biggest speech of Melania Trump’s life, and her husband, Donald, wanted it to be perfect.

The Trump campaign turned to two high-powered speechwriters, who had helped write signature political oratory like George W. Bush’s speech to the nation on Sept. 11, 2001, to introduce Ms. Trump, a Slovenian-born former model, to the nation on the opening night of the Republican National Convention.

The speechwriters, Matthew Scully and John McConnell, sent Ms. Trump a draft last month, eager for her approval.

Weeks went by. They heard nothing.

Inside Trump Tower, it turned out, Ms. Trump had decided she was uncomfortable with the text, and began tearing it apart, leaving a small fraction of the original.

Her quiet plan to wrest the speech away and make it her own set in motion the most embarrassing moment of the convention: word-for-word repetition of phrases and borrowed themes from Michelle Obama’s speech at the Democratic convention eight years ago.

It was, by all accounts, an entirely preventable blunder, committed in front of an audience of 23 million television viewers, that exposed the weaknesses of an organization that has long spurned the safeguards of a modern presidential campaign, such as the free software that detects plagiarism.

Nobody seemed more startled than Mr. and Ms. Trump, who arrived in New York on Tuesday morning after a flight from Cleveland to find themselves at the center of a bizarre uproar over authenticity, plagiarism and a knotty question: Why did the wife of the Republican nominee borrow passages from the wife of the current Democratic president?

Ms. Trump spent most of Tuesday out of sight, while her husband vented his frustration and anger throughout the day.

This account of how a speech written by professionals was transformed into the problematic version delivered on Monday night at the Quicken Loans Arena is based on interviews with more than a dozen people involved in and close to the Trump campaign. Many of them spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose details that were supposed to remain confidential.

It reinforces dominant themes of Mr. Trump’s campaign that still linger from the primary, which his team has struggled to change: a deliberately bare-bones campaign structure, a slapdash style and a reliance on the instincts of the candidate over the judgments of experienced political experts, like Mr. Scully and Mr. McConnell.

The two original speechwriters were not aware of how significantly the speech had been changed until they saw Ms. Trump deliver it on television Monday night, along with the rest of the country.

In the prime-time address, Ms. Trump unfurled a sequence of life lessons — about how “your word is your bond,” about “your dreams and your willingness to work for them,” and the “integrity, passion and intelligence” of her parents — in the same sequence and using much of the same language that Mrs. Obama employed in 2008.

Just like Mrs. Obama, Ms. Trump explained how she wanted to pass those lessons on to her children and the children of the world. And just like Mrs. Obama, she offered a gauzy invocation about the limitlessness of aspirations when they are matched by determination.

In a series of evolving explanations, Trump aides and allies dismissed the episode as a trivial distraction, alternating between outright denial that Ms. Trump’s speech had used word-for-word phrases from Mrs. Obama and blaming the news media.

“Ninety-three percent of the speech is completely different,” declared Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey. Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman, pegged the number of suspicious words at 50. “And that includes ‘ands’ and ‘thes’ and things like that,” he said on Tuesday.

Across the country, slack-jawed Republican political operatives and speechwriters expressed expletive-laden bewilderment at the organizational breakdown allowing such an episode to occur.

In interviews, alarmed Republican speechwriters outlined the layers of formal scrutiny, apparently disregarded by the Trump campaign, traditionally applied to almost every draft of a major convention address. They described word-by-word fact-checking by a dedicated team of experts and computer software designed to catch plagiarism. Several online programs, like DupliChecker, are available at no cost.

“The most cardinal rule of any speech-writing operation is that you cannot plagiarize,” said Mr. Latimer, the Bush speechwriter, who is now a partner at Javelin, a communications firm. If you do, he said, “you lose your job.”

That is unlikely to happen in the Trump campaign, which revolves around a freewheeling candidate with a fierce resistance to admitting error.

(On Wednesday, Ms. McIver released a statement taking blame for the lifted passages and calling them an innocent mistake in the early stages of drafting the speech. She said she had offered her resignation, but that Mr. Trump and his family had refused to accept it.)

The Trump campaign declined to say who or how many senior campaign officials read or reviewed the speech. But when Ms. Trump and her staff had finished revising the speech, virtually all that remained from the original was an introduction and a passage that included the phrase “a national campaign like no other.”

The controversy set off by the stumble spread rapidly from the political class to average Americans: African-Americans were angry that Ms. Trump had chosen to swipe the words of the country’s first African-American first lady, especially given Mr. Trump’s hostility to President Obama. Scores of Twitter users, deploying the hashtag #famousMelaniaTrumpQuotes, began to re-attribute famous lines, like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream,” to Ms. Trump.

But the mischievous teasing at times turned serious, as blacks invoked a painful history of prominent white figures stealing the work of black artists and presenting it as their own. “I’m not surprised Melanie plagiarized from Michelle,” wrote Yasmin Yonis. “White women have spent centuries stealing black women’s genius, labor, babies, bodies.”

To many Republicans, the lapse seemed frustratingly inevitable from a candidate who has not just eschewed the backstops of a major political campaign — he has mocked them as a waste of money. His campaign slogans, “America First” and “Make America Great Again,” echoed Pat Buchanan and Ronald Reagan. His social media graphics were crowdsourced on Twitter and Reddit by an aide who formerly managed Mr. Trump’s golf club in Westchester.

The mistakes have piled up. Last summer, Mr. Trump posted on Twitter his portrait superimposed over a picture of the White House and what turned out to be a stock image of Waffen-SS troops from World War II.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Mandela Washington Fellows and me

“When you think of a single individual that embodies the kind of leadership qualities that I think we all aspire to, the first name that comes up is Nelson Mandela.” – Barack Obama, March 28, 2013

EVER HEARD of the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders? I hadn't either.

I had the opportunity to interact with 50 of these young professionals and get to know four in particular. Here's an explanation of the program from the Young African Leaders website.

"The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, begun in 2014, is the flagship program of President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) that empowers young people through academic coursework, leadership training and networking.

In 2016 the Fellowship will provide 1,000 outstanding young leaders from Sub-Saharan Africa with the opportunity to hone their skills at a U.S. higher education institution with support for professional development after they return home.

The Fellows, who are between the ages of 25 and 35, have established records of accomplishment in promoting innovation and positive change in their organizations, institutions, communities and countries. In 2015 Fellows represented all 49 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Fifty percent of Fellows were women; and for 76 percent of Fellows, it was their first experience spending substantial time in the United States."

Forty-thousand applied in 2016; from them 1000 were chosen! 

Iowa snagged 50 of them: 25 are participating in seminars, classes, workshops and community enrichment experiences for six weeks at the University of Iowa and 25 are doing the same at Drake. At the end of the six weeks, all 1000 will convene in Washington.

Lance Noe, who's an active member of the Rotary Club of Des Moines, the club I belong to, is the Director of Drake University's Center for Professional Studies and an academic director for the Fellows who are studying at Drake. He invited the Drake 25 to our club for lunch last Thursday, July 14, and asked if 25 club members would be willing to serve as one-on-one hosts at lunch. 

I volunteered, and I was paired with Landy Tafangy (she goes by Tafangy) from Madagascar. Talk about your young leader . . . holy cats! She's an air traffic controller, a medical doctor with a specialty in aviation medicine, and because health care is desperately needed where she lives, she started a clinic where 10 people work. Did I mention that she's married with three children, and wait for it . . . she's 32!!! 

Friday afternoon John Pappajohn addressed all 50 Fellows, the 25 from Drake and the 25 from the U of I, at the John and Mary Pappajohn Education Center, followed by a reception that I was invited to attend. What a remarkable and accomplished group of young leaders!

Left to right: Khady Nakoulima from Senegal, Tafangy from Madagascar
me, Chipo Chikomo from Zimbabwe at the reception

At lunch the day before, I asked Tafangy if she might be interested in getting out to hear some live music Friday night after the reception. Paul was scheduled to play a street party with Parranderos, and I thought it might be fun for her to come with me and bring along as many of her Fellow friends as would fit in my car, so after a stop at their apartment complex to change clothes, we were off to the party.

Left to right: Tafangy from Madagascar, Jeffrey Arhin who's a dentist from Ghana, me,
Gloria Njiu from Tanzania who's an IT specialist and starting an organization for women entrepreneurs, Selamawit Wondimu who is an architect and housing
project developer from Ethiopia.

Dancing and fun ensued. I bought them each a Metro Arts Alliance Jazz in July t-shirt as a souvenir. They signed each others' shirts, I signed them, and I got Parranderos' band members to all sign.

Lynn Hicks, also a member of my Rotary Club who writes for 
the Des Moines Register, happened to be there with 
his family, and was a gracious dancing partner for our guests.

FYI: The thing I heard the most from all the Fellows at the reception was how much they love Iowa and how very, very, very nice Iowans are. I said, "Well good. That's what we ought to be." 

Take that, D. Trump, you xenophobic fear-monger.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Kristof on white delusion

“Violence as a way of achieving racial justice is both impractical and immoral. I am not unmindful of the fact that violence often brings about momentary results. Nations have frequently won their independence in battle. But in spite of temporary victories, violence never brings permanent peace.” —  Martin Luther King, Jr.

I ADMIRE New York Times opinion write Nicholas Kristof. Here's his column from today.

A History of White Delusion

By Nicholas Kristof 
July 14, 2016

In 1962, 85 percent of white Americans told Gallup that black children had as good a chance as white kids of getting a good education. The next year, in another Gallup survey, almost half of whites said that blacks had just as good a chance as whites of getting a job.

In retrospect, we can see that these white beliefs were delusional, and in other survey questions whites blithely acknowledged racist attitudes. In 1963, 45 percent said that they would object if a family member invited a black person home to dinner.

This complacency among us white Americans has been a historical constant. Even in the last decade, almost two-thirds of white Americans have said that blacks are treated fairly by the police, and four out of five whites have said that black children have the same chance as white kids of getting a good education. In short, the history of white Americans’ attitudes toward race has always been one of self-deception.

Just as in 1963, when many well-meaning whites glanced about and couldn’t see a problem, many well-meaning whites look around today, see a black president, and declare problem solved.

That’s the backdrop for racial tensions roiling America today.

Of course, there have been advances. In 1939, 83 percent of Americans believed that blacks should be kept out of neighborhoods where white people lived. But if one lesson from that old figure is that we have made progress, another is how easy it is for a majority to “otherize” minorities in ways that in hindsight strike us all as repugnant.

In fairness, the evidence shows black delusions, too. But what is striking in looking back at historical data is that blacks didn’t exaggerate discrimination but downplayed it.

In 1962, for example, a majority of blacks said that black children had the same educational opportunities as white children, and nearly one-quarter of blacks said that they had the same job opportunities as whites. That was preposterous: History hasn’t discredited the complaints of blacks but rather has shown that they were muted.My hunch is that we will likewise look back and conclude that today’s calls for racial justice, if anything, understate the problem — and that white America, however well meaning, is astonishingly oblivious to pervasive inequity.

As it happens, the trauma surgeon running the Dallas emergency room last Thursday when seven police officers were brought in with gunshot wounds is a black man, Brian Williams. He fought to save the lives of those officers and wept for those he couldn’t help. But in other contexts he dreads the police: He told The Associated Press that after one traffic stop he was stretched out spread-eagle on the hood of a police car.

Williams shows his admiration for police officers by sometimes picking up their tabs at restaurants, but he also expressed his feelings for the police this way to The Washington Post: “I support you. I defend you. I will care for you. That doesn’t mean I will not fear you.”

That’s a narrative that many white Americans are oblivious to. Half of white Americans today say that discrimination against whites is as big a problem as discrimination against blacks. Really? That contradicts overwhelming research showing that blacks are more likely to be suspended from preschool, to be prosecuted for drug use, to receive longer sentences, to be discriminated against in housing, to be denied job interviews, to be rejected by doctors’ offices, to suffer bias in almost every measurable sector of daily life.

In my mind, an even bigger civil rights outrage in America than abuses by some police officers may be an education system that routinely sends the neediest black students to underfunded, third-rate schools, while directing bountiful resources to affluent white schools.

“If America is to be America, we have to engage in a larger conversation than just the criminal justice system,” notes Darren Walker, the president of the Ford Foundation. “If you were to examine most of the institutions that underpin our democracy — higher education, K-12 education, the housing system, the transportation system, the criminal justice system — you will find systemic racism embedded in those systems.”

Yet Walker is an optimist, partly because of his own trajectory. In 1965, as an African-American child in rural Texas, he was able to enroll in Head Start soon after it was founded — and everything changed. “It transformed my life and created possibilities for me and a glide path,” he says. “It provided me with a life I would never have imagined.”

As Walker’s journey suggests, we have tools that can help, although, of course, racial inequity is complex, involving not just discrimination but also jobs, education, family structure and more. A starting point is for us whites to wake from our ongoing mass delusions, to recognize that in practice black lives have not mattered as much as white lives, and that this is an affront to values that we all profess to believe in.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The ducks go marching one by one, hurrah hooray

“The many sounds of Memphis shaped my early musical career and continue to be an inspiration to this day.” — Justin Timberlake

CAST YOUR mind back two months ago to when we, Paul and I, were on our way to Memphis on the second leg of the birthday trip. Well, we made it. 

Paul got us there Sunday night, May 10, just in time to get checked into our hotel and watch the season finale of The Good Wife. Let me tell you up front, Paul and I both thought it sucked. Symbolism, symmetry, the book-ended slap, artsy fartsy blah blah blah. Don't even bother! When you've taken loyal watchers along with you for seven years (!!), the least you can do is give them a gosh darned happy ending. You won't change our minds, so don't try. (We're so mad that as a matter of principal or retribution or whatever, we refuse to watch the new show this same writing and producing team has debuted. Nope. Not gonna watch it.)

On the up side, we liked our little hotel. We stayed 
at a new Hyatt Place in Germantownabout 20 miles east of Memphis. If we aren't going to stay in a historic, old hotel or unique bed and breakfast, this division of Hyatt Hotels is our new favorite place. Here's what we liked about it: they're small hotels, so they're not busy and hectic, the sound-proofing is excellent which makes them quiet, they're reasonably priced, sleekly modern with the latest in internet ports and charging stations all in one module (you can see it on the end of the television console), and they have a little coffee shop/cafe bar open 24/7 so you get a salad or soup or a sandwich anytime. Breakfast comes with the room, and although pretty standard fare, it's better than your average lobby breakfast.

Our room

Did you know Memphis has the largest city park in the whole United States? Yup. Shelby Farms Park is 4500 acres. By comparison, Central Park in New York is 843 acres. Had to go there, so an almost 6-mile walk on Tour De Wolf trail was our first outing on our first day in Memphis. It was an overcast day; perfect for hiking.

That night we were on a quest for the best barbecue in town. We asked several people and got a different answer from every one, and in fact someone finally said, "You'll get as many different answers as people you ask." Paul's solution was to research online, and he picked One and Only BBQ. And it was!!!! Hands down, it's the best barbecue either of us has ever had in our lives!! Seriously! I had the turkey breast dinner, and you know how turkey is always dry, this so wasn't! It was so so so so good that I want to go back there and have some right now!!

Paul had the two-meat platter. One of the sides we chose was called twice baked potato salad, and oh my lord, how good was that!! We also had baked beans which were awesome and cole slaw which was average. (We found out what exceptional cole slaw tastes like the following day.) Even though we were still theoretically on our diet, we splurged and had Millie's banana pudding for dessert. (Amazingly, at the end of the trip, we both weighed the same as when we started out.)

After dinner we headed down to the heart of Memphis to check out Beale Street, famous for it's music, clubs and bars. I hope Memphisonians or Memphisians or whatever Memphis residents call themselves won't come after us, but we weren't terribly impressed. We've been to New Orleans and, as Paul pointed out, Sixth Street in Austin is at least 10 blocks long — a lot larger area than Beale Street.

The next morning we were off bright and early to see the famous duck march at the equally famous Peabody Hotel. A friend had gone when she was in Memphis and described it as "okay." On the other hand, I absolutely, completely and totally loved it! Paul took a video (attached below), and that's me laughing hysterically all the way through it. I just found it so funny!!!

We got there early enough to get prime seats and have an opportunity to talk to the Duckmaster, Anthony Petrina. He said there are always people from several countries besides the US at every march, and sure enough there were. We made room at our table for two women from Germany, and there were Canadians and Australians in attendance as well.

Below are photos, our little YouTube movie and screen caps about the history of the marching ducks. Stayed tuned tomorrow for the rest of the trip.