Thursday, December 29, 2016

Response to A Parting Shot from the World of Common Sense

Although I think he's misreading what John Kerry was saying about the impossibility of Israel being both democratic and Jewish at the same time. Friedman seems to think they can be both, while I agree with Kerry — that they can’t — although the implication of that would be that we just forget about trying to help all those people solve their problems over there at all. Since both sides made their bed, maybe they should be left to figure out how to sleep in it, without our further help.

And wouldn’t it be interesting to find out after he gets into office that Trump is only pretending to be Israel’s new best friend? So maybe once he gets control, by threats and  lots of tough talk, he forces them to cut the shit and do the right thing? Time will tell, but that does seem to be beyond the range of his capabilities.

But maybe included in an eventual solution could be the Palestinians being granted the right to build their own settlements within Israel, with eventually the whole country being one big land of Israeli and Arab settlements!

Which is to say, maybe the single-state solution is best after all — not a Jewish state and not an Arab state, where everyone is in control! That, of course, would be the democracy without the Jewish state part, but to make that work, there would have to be no right-of-return for anyone, including Jews and displaced Arabs alike — although the refugees would have to be compensated.

The problems, of course, include that this is not what Jews who moved there bargained for, and even fairly-compensated Arab refugees would still be without a country, not necessarily recognized as citizens of wherever they are living right now, so it might be a tough sell to get this new state accepted by all parties involved.

But if the deal does stick, they’d have to change the name. How about “Israelistine"?

Not likely. It would only work if most everybody wanted it to work, and they don’t.

So if I were a Jew who was living in Israel today, looking ahead to whatever state or states are in my future, I’d just move the hell out to somewhere else.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Response to White Blues

(See: Just Above Sunset: White Blues)

"Some conservative publications have taken to arguing this week that the President-elect did much better on Election Day than his nearly 3 million-vote deficit suggests – if only certain liberal cities and states were completely discounted from the popular vote total."

That’s according to Matt Shuham, of Talking Points Memo, under the headline, "Conservatives' Special Revisionist Math: Trump Won Popular Vote If You Nix CA!”. And with not dissimilar math, one could argue that “Clinton Won Presidency If Only You Discount All Those Votes For Trump!”

As for the conservative claim that California accounts for all the votes that gave Hillary her popular vote victory?
By far, the most popular target for wholesale disenfranchisement in these thought-experiments is California. Clinton won the state’s popular vote by more than 4.2 million, according to a tally by the Cook Political Report, which is an even larger margin than her nationwide popular vote lead, which was nearly 2.9 million.
Okay, but I could argue that maybe those votes actually weren’t from California after all — maybe they were, for example, in Texas, a state where, at last count, 3,877,868 votes were cast for Clinton, also well over her 2.9-million national margin.

Why Texas? Good question! Maybe we could make that New York, a state Hillary won with 4,547,218 votes, of which about 2,900,000 were the surplus we’ve been looking for.

But what we’re forgetting here is, when you're talking about the popular vote, you're talking about a national vote, so it doesn’t matter what state (or combination of states) the votes come from, since, with the popular vote, states would be irrelevant!

With a national popular vote, the distinguishing element is that it actually hurts or helps no group in particular.

Back in the 1990s, when I first started looking into this idea of us abolishing the indirect vote, I was told that Democrats would never go for it because of a belief that the electoral system helped inflate the power of urban minorities, who otherwise would just get lost in the crowd. These days, the argument has swung back to helping protect small states who tend to vote Republican, and so switching to the popular vote would wipe out this protection, and thus, would be seen as “hurting” the Republicans.

Think of it this way:

Suppose we had neither an electoral or popular vote system; suppose we had a plutocracy, in which, instead of casting votes at the polls, we bought political offices with money, deposited directly into the treasury. As you can imagine, in a country where the candidate who put up the most money wins, the billionaires always get their way, and any attempt to change to a democracy would be met with complaints that such a change would unfairly punish billionaires.

And Americans, being a fair-minded people, wouldn't want to see anyone be disadvantaged, so they'd hesitate before improving the way they pick their presidents, at least until they had more time to think about what to do — sort of like today.

Absurd thinking? Hey, you said it, not me!

So to beat a dead horse:

The electoral college system is always, arguably, biased in favor of some group or another, which means that, at the same time, it is biased against some other group. We somehow need to stop allowing our election system to be biased for and against people. The way to fix that is to go to a system that has no built-in bias, and that’s one that gives one person one vote.

But then, there's Bill O’Reilly, jumping in with his own theory of what’s behind the movement to abolish the electoral college:
“Summing up,” he said, “[the] left wants power taken away from the white establishment. They want a profound change in the way America is run.”
Fair enough — and he is to be applauded for his candor! — but doesn’t that imply that the right wants to keep the electoral college because they don’t want power taken away from the so-called "white establishment”?

(Here’s a hint: The answer is, yes, it does imply that!)

And by the way, O’Reilly went on to also observe this:
“Very few commentators will tell you that the heart of liberalism in America today is based on race,” O’Reilly said. “It permeates almost every issue. That white men have set up a system of oppression. … So-called white privilege bad. Diversity good.”
I’d argue that “commentators” who think that way are probably “conservative commentators”, since many of those tend to see the difference between the parties as having almost everything to do with race. In fact, in my experience as a white transplanted Yankee living in Georgia who often finds himself chatting with Republicans, they are usually puzzled to discover that I myself am not a Republican, since when they think of a Democrat, they picture someone who is not all that white.

But no, the treatment of minorities by Republicans is only one of the many reasons I call myself a Democrat, others being a belief that Keynesianism makes the most sense on what to do about the economy, since the best way to get people to spend money is to let them get their hands on some; and that we, as a nation, should do what we can, no matter how much it costs, to improve the opportunities of those not born into rich families — and that includes universal healthcare; and a belief that illegal immigration does very little, if any, harm to this country; and a belief in freedom of religion, the take-away of which being that Christians should be allowed to fully celebrate their faith in ways that don’t trample on the rights of the rest of us; and that our best foreign policy would not be to try to intimidate the rest of the world, since that’s something the Nazis tried to do, and look what that got them!

We could go on and on, but let's not.

All this nonsense reminds me of something I heard back in the late 1960s while sitting in the back seat of a Triumph TR-somethng that was being driven the seven miles from Newark, Ohio, to Granville, Ohio, when the driver blurted out, seemingly apropos of nothing, “Imagine what a different world this would be had Barbra Streisand been born without a nose!” In this particular instance, for example, had Barbra Streisand been born schnozless — and given the famous “butterfly effect” — who’s to say that Hillary might not have won Pennsylvania?

And hey, for all we know, maybe in that world that knew no Streisand schnozzola, maybe her noselessness could have caused some butterfly to take a left instead of a right-turn, which, through a series of unforeseen events, somehow got rid of the electoral college?

Sure! Why not! It’s been a strange year anyway.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Response to The New Old World Order

(See: Just Above Sunset: The New Old World Order)

Now I’m starting to get very uneasy.

And what’s weird about all this is, although he’s been pretty clear all along about his intentions if he ever became president, Trump still will become an accidental president in the sense that he and his people were surprised on election night, and that he may not have really expected to win!

Josh Marshall is right about the national press being in the dark, having to rely on posts in Facebook for leads. I wouldn’t even know how to do that sort of journalism.

But Trump has already changed the way political reporters report. Back in the days of all the major candidates being somewhat “normal", objective reporters wouldn’t allow themselves the luxury of calling out presidential candidates on their false claims, leaving that job instead to the fact checkers like “Politifact” and “Snopes”, but this year, because every Trump sentence carried at least one outright lie and often two or three, reporters have had to take the unprecedented step of including phrases like, "Falsely claiming that..." in their copy. Of course, a lot of good that did everybody.

But the public, or at least enough of it, has been now conditioned not to care what the so-called “lying media" says about Trump, since members of the press are obviously in some sort of private blood-feud with the guy, which means anything they say about what he’s doing is just going to be “one side of the story”. After all, the media obviously got everything wrong during the elections, didn't it? He’s pretty much neutered them, effectively cutting the public’s trust in what they hear of the real world. After all, who’s really to judge what “fake news” really is and what is not?

And history shows that, once the people allow the threads to be snipped between them and the truth, then their whole world is in danger, whether they realize it or not.

In conclusion, I’d like to weigh in on that debate as to who I think is to blame for Hillary’s loss:

Other than the dirty tricksters who spent the last decade or so demonizing a well-respected public servant to the point that even people who refused to vote for her opponent still couldn’t trust her enough to vote for her, the real fault lies with all those ignorant crybabies who know so little, and care even less, about our world that they decided to punish their country (for supposedly “forgetting about them”) by voting to put a Putin-wannabe tyrant into the Oval Office.


Monday, December 19, 2016

Response to Dealing With the Done Deal

(See: Just Above Sunset: Dealing With the Done Deal)

About that electoral college:

If Donald Trump really wanted to make America great, he’d work to get rid of it. But he won’t, maybe because he really doesn’t. It’s not likely to happen soon anyway, simply because too many people — specifically, Republicans — don’t want to get rid of it.

Why Republicans? Because especially lately, they are the party most likely to win the electoral college without winning the popular vote, since about the only way a party can do that is to win more of the low-population states than the other major party, and those states tend to be more conservative than high-population states, maybe because they have fewer big cities, which tend to be more liberal and Democratic.

The major argument often given against doing away with the electoral college has to do with protecting small states, an argument that was refuted quite nicely by The Washington Post back in 2012, in an article that addresses myths about the electoral college, the first of which was, "The framers created the electoral college to protect small states":
The delegates to the 1787 Constitutional Convention had a variety of reasons for settling on the electoral college format, but protecting smaller states was not among them. Some delegates feared direct democracy, but that was only one factor in the debate. 
Remember what the country looked like in 1787: The important division was between states that relied on slavery and those that didn’t, not between large and small states. A direct election for president did not sit well with most delegates from the slave states, which had large populations but far fewer eligible voters. They gravitated toward the electoral college as a compromise because it was based on population. The convention had agreed to count each slave as three-fifths of a person for the purpose of calculating each state’s allotment of seats in Congress. For Virginia, which had the largest population among the original 13 states, that meant more clout in choosing the president.
In other words, that "a-slave-is-three-fifths-of-a-person" bit of trickery that slave states settled on to artificially inflate their populations for the purpose of deciding how many representatives they’d send to the House threatened to come back and bite them in the ass when it came to voting for president, since they themselves would not allow much of their so-called “population” to actually vote. To remedy that, they favored giving the states, with their make-believe “populations”, the power to choose the president over allowing actual people to do it.
The electoral college distorts the political process by providing a huge incentive [for candidates] to visit competitive states, especially large ones with hefty numbers of electoral votes. That’s why Obama and Romney have spent so much time this year in states like Ohio and Florida. In the 2008 general election, Obama and John McCain personally campaigned in only five of the 29 smallest states. 
The framers protected the interests of smaller states by creating the Senate, which gives each state two votes regardless of population. There is no need for additional protection.
Another way of putting that, especially in a day and age when we no longer have to pander to the duplicitous chicanery of slave states, is that the choice is between having the American people choose the president and vice-president, or having that decision be made by the states. And if we decide that the people, not the states, should decide, then it will no longer be relevant what this does to any particular state.

Many present convoluted arguments that, as much as we call ourselves a “democracy”, technically we’re merely a “republic", maybe partly because the citizens don’t actually elect their president. In fact, I would argue we’re really a “democratic republic”, but all silly technicalities aside, there ought to be at least one part of our nation’s management that we, the people, choose directly (given that senators and representatives are chosen only by people who live in those states) and that is the executive branch. If only we could do that directly, then few could deny that we’re a democracy.

Another beneficial result of a popular vote would be increasing turnout, which has averaged about 63% of eligible voters since 1828 when we started paying attention to the popular vote, although it’s down in the low to mid 50s in recent elections. As it is, many people say their vote doesn’t really count, and that happens to be true, especially for anyone not living in a battleground state.

With direct elections, every vote would count, no matter what state the voter lived in, which means candidates who campaign only in big population centers, which might be overlooked and excused by Idaho voters under the present electoral system, would find themselves punished by Idaho voters under the popular vote system.

"Hey, wait a minute!", you say, “Aren’t you a Democrat? No wonder you want the popular vote! Democrats win when the people vote directly!"

True enough, but believe it or not, I’ve always believed in the popular vote, even before I realized that the electoral college is probably biased toward Republicans.  Not only is the electoral college an archaic vestige of an age when ordinary Americans weren’t considered as smart as the elite few who would be chosen to be electors, it’s clumsy and unnecessary and, it turns out, it also gives unwarranted power to the low-population state voter over the one from the populous state.

But just becoming a true democracy should be good for the country as a whole — although we’re not likely to get there in the present day America, in which those few with power, understandably, pretty much don’t believe in democracy and majority rule anyway.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Response to The Limits of Cool

(See: Just Above Sunset: The Limits of Cool)

I can think of nothing that gets me more annoyed than someone telling me that Barrack Obama is just too nice.

For example, there was, a week ago, in the New York Times, from Mark Moyar, director of the Center for Military and Diplomatic History at the Foreign Policy Initiative, an op-ed entitled "The World Fears Trump’s America — That’s a Good Thing”. Here he is, speaking to the idea that Trump’s phone conversation with Taiwan’s leader scaring the whole world is the way things ought to be: 
During the last eight years, President Obama showed what happens when the world’s greatest power tries strenuously to avoid giving fright. He began his presidency with lofty vows to conciliate adversaries, defer to the opinions of other countries and reduce America’s military commitments. 
Consequently, he received rapturous applause in European capitals and a Nobel Peace Prize. In the real world of geopolitics, however, the results have been catastrophic. … 
Mr. Obama’s passivity in the face of provocations and his failure to enforce the “red line” in Syria led Russia, China and other adversaries to seek new gains at America’s expense. … 
The Obama presidency is but the latest chapter in a post-1945 saga that has been dominated by international fear of the United States, or lack thereof. In 1950, North Korea invaded South Korea because Harry S. Truman’s exclusion of South Korea from America’s “defense perimeter” removed fears of intervention. 
By contrast, Dwight D. Eisenhower employed rhetorical threats and high military spending to fill the Communist powers with fear of nuclear Armageddon, an approach that kept the Communists from launching further invasions. 
Lyndon B. Johnson tried to avert a major war in Vietnam by showing restraint, in expectation of North Vietnamese reciprocation. Hanoi responded by pouring troops into South Vietnam. Richard M. Nixon revived fears of the United States with his “madman theory,” whereby he took seemingly reckless actions to convince America’s enemies that he just might be crazy enough to do it. 
Those fears, and the caution they instilled in the Communist powers, dissipated when the Watergate Congress kicked the legs out from under South Vietnam. The world continued to live without fear of a strong America under Jimmy Carter, whose timidity caused nations to fall to Communism and the United States Embassy in Iran to fall to anti-American extremists.
And before we return from the world of make-believe, let’s have one more quote: 
In 1980, as in 2016, Americans elected someone who made clear his intent to put fear back in the nation’s enemies. Nowadays, even liberal Democrats applaud Reagan for bringing the Soviet Union to its knees. Back in 1980, however, Reagan’s tough, nationalist stances on foreign policy aroused the same condemnation of “fearmongering” currently emanating from the world’s enlightened critics of Mr. Trump.
In fact, the Soviet Union collapsed under its own weight, without any assistance from Ronald Reagan, who not only did not bring it down, he didn't see it coming, barely noticed once it arrived, and finally, along with all the other Republicans, immediately tried to take credit for it.

If anything, Reagan’s ratcheting up our military spending, causing the Russians to do the same, was less likely to hurt them as to help their arms sales, which was then (and continues today to be) one of the only sectors of their economy that other countries are interested in engaging with.

I’m not saying there isn't some liberal Democrat somewhere who “applauds” Reagan for “bringing the Soviet Union to its knees”, I’m just saying that, as a liberal Democrat who doesn’t, I’ve never met a fellow liberal Democrat who did. 

I see from Mark Moyar’s Wikipedia entry that he’s an expert on the Vietnam War, a conflict that ended just about the time he was being born in the 1970s. Had he been old enough to be aware of what was going on at that time, he'd know that the loss of that war had nothing to do with Watergate and everything to do with Americans tiring of fighting someone else's civil war. Richard Nixon's so-called "madman theory" certainly earned him no respect on the world stage, although it probably helped his own country decide he was just nutty enough to earn a one-way ticket back to San Clemente.

Then again, in 1980, when Ronald Reagan was elected, Mark Moyar was nine years old. Something that annoys me almost as much as someone preaching to me that our president is too darn nice is hearing it from someone who's a virtual toddler.

And as obvious as this may sound, I would much rather live in a country run by Barrack Obama than by Trump's pals, Putin or Assad (the guys who, right now, are murdering all those innocents in Aleppo), or that jerk Duterte in the Philippines, or Donald Trump himself, or any of his fellow warlords who think the way they all do.

But it's not just from the right that we hear suggestions that Obama hasn't been crazy or scary enough, we also heard something like it from Michele Goldberg, in Slate, who didn't hear what she wanted in his final news conference:
Most of the time, Barack Obama’s near-supernatural calm and dispassion are among his best qualities. Occasionally, as at Friday’s pallid press conference, they are his worst ones. 
Obama spoke to journalists at what should be a moment of acute political emergency. It’s increasingly clear that Donald Trump won the election with the deliberate aid of Vladimir Putin, and the president-elect seems intent on rewarding his benefactor with a friendly state department. Russia also appears to have intervened on behalf of Republicans in congressional races. 
If the situation were reversed – if the CIA concluded that Hillary Clinton won the election (but lost the popular vote) with an assist from a hostile foreign power – pitchfork-waving Republicans would be demanding that she resign for the good of the nation. Stunned Democrats, by contrast, have been leaderless, marching toward the post-inauguration abyss without a fight. Obama might have rallied them by laying out the alarming political implications of the CIA’s findings. Instead, he minimized them. 
It was not a reassuring performance. His refusal to acknowledge the intense alarm felt by his supporters only exacerbates it.
First, it should be noted there’s no reason to believe that Hillary lost the election because of the hacks. Outside of the primaries and the convention, can you remember any significant leak that might have hurt her campaign in the general election? I can’t.

In fact, you’d think the hacking should have hurt Trump more than Hillary, since it was his group, if anyone's, who seemed to be working with unfriendly foreign invaders, trying to disrupt our elections.

Second, had the situation been reversed, the Republicans would grab pitchforks. That's one of the things I like about us: We're not jerks. If we were just like them, I would probably not be on our side, and nor would many others. What would be the point of both sides being jerks?

I’m not sure what she expected President Obama to do more than he did during the campaign, but had he done anything more, he would himself have been intruding in the process, and to say anything more than he did during his final press conference would have been to betray his role as chief executive of our country — which needed his reassurances that we, as a nation, can continue to be as great as we are in the face of what’s about to happen to us in January, as long as we don’t abandon our values.

Obama has a much more important job than Democratic party standard bearer and that's president of the United States, and sending that message to America is a lot more important than anything he might have thought to say to his party in their time of need, if indeed there was anything he could say, other than “Good luck in your future endeavors! I've done what I can, but from now on, you’re on your own."

So yes, when it comes to handling crises as they arise, Omaha can walk on thin ice — and do it better than just about anyone alive — but no, he still can’t walk on water.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Response to Freaky Friday

(See: Just Above Sunset: Freak Friday

Do you wonder, as I do, why Donald Trump’s recent “Thank You Tour” didn’t make a quick stop at the Kremlin?

I know, right? Don’t I sound like Joe McCarthy, from back in the early 1950s, warning us all that the Russians are attempting a coup here in America? But the truth is, there may be reason to believe they’re much closer to doing it now than they ever were back then.

In fact, if you think about it, even if the various actors and writers and directors were communists intending to wreak havoc in Hollywood, what difference would that make? Hardly anybody would pay to see some propaganda movie, so it could hardly have had any effect.

And compared to making a few preachy movies, installing their own Putin apologist, along with his whole platoon of see-no-evil monkeys in high positions in the government, along with a frightened-shitless Congress that will pretty much do what they’re told, then it’s probably bye-bye to the independence of Ukraine and Georgia and Estonia and other previous Soviet states, and since we will probably have dropped out of it by then, NATO will do nothing to prevent it.

Speaking of the McCarthy era, whatever happened to all those right-wingers from back then who imagined commies in every closet? Where’d they go, now that we need them? I’m betting on election day, they were at the polls, voting for Trump, the very guy who’s letting the New Soviets in the back door!

And by the way, while down through the years, we’ve been led to believe that liberals were the true friends of the Soviets, since they were both thought to be left-of-center on the political spectrum, I always thought there was something wrong with that characterization — that, in fact, the Soviet Union, being a brutal dictatorship, was actually part of the extreme right. After all, liberals are famous for wanting everybody to have a vote, while it's conservatives who try to restrict voting to only people like themselves.

In fact, you may remember that, immediately after the collapse of Soviet communism in the 1990s, those Russians looking to restore communist rule were known to all as “conservatives”. 

So how did conservative communists come to considered “leftists"?

It traces back to the late 1800s, when “Social Democrats” — leftists who mostly advocated for democratically-elected governments who would keep capitalism in check — were all the rage in Europe, while Vladimir Lenin, while in exile in Siberia, had different ideas:
Keen to keep up with developments in German Marxism – where there had been an ideological split, with revisionists like Eduard Bernstein advocating a peaceful, electoral path to socialism – Lenin remained devoted to violent revolution...
Lenin later led the Bolsheviks in their takeover of the country, and it was his harsher form of socialist government that set the standard for Soviet rule from then on.

This Russian stuff is really insidious. You can tell Americans right to their faces that the Russians hacked the DNC emails — whether to “undermine voter confidence in the election process” or to “help Trump get elected”, it doesn’t really matter — and polls show that enough of them will just think the whole story is being fabricated by the Clinton campaign, who need to realize that the election is over, they lost, and it’s time to move on.

You could show everyone video of Trump appointing nothing but Russian spies to his cabinet, and those hyper-partisan Republicans would insist it was just another case of the lying media making stuff up. This is as scary as it gets.

What can be done about this? Maybe nothing. Maybe after Trump takes office, he will somehow swear his allegiance to Putin in exchange for opening a golf course in downtown Moscow or something, at which point maybe, just maybe, there might finally be a mood in to Congress to impeach him.

But I do think that, by the time Congress ever gets around to passing something like that, Putin will probably just veto it.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Response to The Dog Catches the Car

(See: Just Above Sunset: The Dog Catches the Car)

For all those years of talk about repealing and replacing Obamacare, and all those votes to shit-can the law, are you telling me the Republicans never came up with any realistic plan to replace it? Other than vowing to keep the good parts of the ACA (e.g., pre-existing conditions) but get rid of the bad (paying for it), there seems to have been precious little thought given to how it would all work.

I can help them with that.

I’m thinking the Democrats might consider joining the Republicans on a plan that I like to call the “Totally Free-Market Job-Killing Obamacare Replacement Healthcare Plan". (After all, who amongst that group can complain about replacing Obamacare with something that has “Free Market” in its name?)

Here’s how it would work:

Obamacare would stay exactly as it is now, including the stuff about preexisting-conditions and about kids staying on their parents' plan until age 26, but with one crucial difference being that no American would ever be forced to buy health insurance (I think they'll really like that part), since all health insurance bills would be sent directly to the federal government, with the government also negotiating prices and amounts of coverage with the insurance companies.

One beauty of this plan is the cost savings of millions that come from cutting out the bureaucracy that would try to sort out whether or not the patient has insurance — since everybody will have it.

How would it be paid for? Higher taxes, especially on those who can afford to pay them!

So why is it called “Free Market”? Because all health insurance would then be free to all, rich and poor alike!

Perfect! What’s not to like? We already know that this plan will work because it’s already proven itself in countries all over the world.

Of course, the success of the “Totally Free-Market Job-Killing Obamacare Replacement Healthcare Plan” (also to be referred to as “Trumpcare") probably relies on nobody ever tipping them off that it’s a plan some people call a “single payer” program.

But until it gets passed by Congress and signed by the president, what say we just keep that to ourselves, okay?

Friday, December 2, 2016

Response to The Transition to a New World

(See: Just Above Sunset: The Transition to a New World)

And speaking of Truthiness...

I guess we should give Kudos to Trump for doing that Carrier deal, but the question remains, how long do we all have to wait before exposing the whole thing as a fraud?

Yes, I realize that it's been three-and-a-half weeks since the election, and I should by now have gotten used to this new concept of "Trumpian Truth” — which apparently is some version of truth that is granted an automatic waver from having to jibe with reality — but in fact (and this presumes “facts” have not received that same waver), it’s going to be interesting around here to watch Trump and his deluded constituency try to deal with reality when this new “Trumpian Truth” comes back around to bite them all in the collective rump.

Some, such as Steven Rattner, in the New York Timesare already at it:
Donald J. Trump spent much of his campaign peddling hope to beleaguered working-class Americans that, on his watch, those old-fashioned, good-paying manufacturing jobs would come back to America. … But the vast preponderance of American job losses has come simply because emerging-market countries have gotten much better at making stuff with workers earning far less. 
In 2015, a typical factory employee in the United States earned $37.71 an hour, including benefits; his Mexican counterpart received $5.90 an hour. And American executives say that the productivity that they get in Mexico is at least as good as what they get in the United States.
The Times imbeds a graph here that illustrates the larger problem by showing the discrepancy of hourly wages around the world, which I will do my best to replicate here:

Where Labor Is Cheap
Average hourly manufacturing compensation, including benefits.

Germany: $42.42 ********************************************
United States: 37.71 *********************************
France: 37.59 *****************************************
Britain: 31.44 **************************************
Japan: 23.60 ***********************************
Brazil: 7.97 *************
Mexico: 5.90 *******
China: 4.12 *******
India: 1.59 ***

Figures for 2015 except China (2013) and India (2012). 
Source: Conference Board
By The New York Times

According to more detail from Rattner, Trump’s Mexican dilemma is even worse than it looks:
Mr. Trump’s recent proclamation that he kept a Ford plant in Kentucky from closing was a mirage — Ford never planned to shutter the plant or eliminate any positions. More significantly, Ford is still going forward with the construction of a $1.6 billion facility in Mexico to assemble small cars, which cannot be done profitably using expensive American labor.
Trump could, as he has promised, slap high tariffs on the cars that come back across the border, but that brings us to another important economic reality that Trump hasn’t really been addressing:
Higher import duties would hurt the very people Mr. Trump is trying to help. Thanks to trade, prices of many goods have fallen. In the decade between 2002 and 2012, the prices of toys dropped by 43 percent and those of furniture and bedding fell by 7 percent. 
All told, one study of 40 countries found that if international trade ended, the wealthiest consumers would lose 28 percent of their purchasing power while those in the bottom tenth, who typically rely on more imported goods, would lose 63 percent. Sure, a small number of manufacturing jobs would return, but at an extraordinary price.
So something Trump, along with those geniuses who voted for him because they thought a businessman like him would have a better handle on the economy, need to realize is that, in this new “globalism” environment these days, you can’t really escape the consequences of living on the globe — you either pay for living by increasing your wages, or you do it by lowering the amount of money you spend on everything, but if you try to do both at the same time, you’re going to end up like a dog chasing his tail.

And as for Scottie Nell Hughes’ Trumpian theory of facts?
And so one thing that has been interesting this entire campaign season to watch, is that people that say facts are facts – they’re not really facts. Everybody has a way – it’s kind of like looking at ratings, or looking at a glass of half-full water. Everybody has a way of interpreting them to be the truth, or not truth. There’s no such thing, unfortunately, anymore as facts. 
And so Mr. Trump’s tweets, amongst a certain crowd – a large part of the population – are truth.
That’s probably because Donald Trump ran a Reality-TV-like campaign that appealed to voters who didn’t care if anything he said was true or not, which tricked you all into thinking there really is no such thing as truth.

But starting in January, there will be a change of the rules, in which Trump’s success will not depend on hoodwinking a gaggle of half-interested red states, but will hang on his ability to make deals with — assuming you people really believe in Him — the Big Man Himself, someone who, I am led to understand, doesn’t take kindly to folks fudging around with The Truth.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Response to The Price of Price

Though he did not discuss healthcare and entitlement policies frequently, Trump insisted several times that he would protect programs serving vulnerable Americans. 
“I’m not going to cut Social Security like every other Republican, and I’m not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid,” Trump said last year ...
How many Trumpists will suffer buyer’s remorse, once they realize their hero is hiring Georgia Congressman Tom Price, a guy who wants to get rid of all that, to be his Health and Human Services secretary, in charge of running all that?

And by the way, why does everyone assume that Trump voters were on Obamacare when they voted, and will now lose their coverage? I always assumed they weren’t, and, therefore, won’t.

Who’s right? I don’t know. Maybe none of us do, probably because the so-called “Lying Media” never seemed to ask Trump supporters for a show of hands of those on Obamacare. And nor did anyone, at least that I know of, ask Trump if he even believed in universal healthcare, or whether those 20-million folks will lose coverage when he replaces Obamacare, or if he planned on “replacing” Obamacare with a Medicare-like single-payer program.

I suspect one reason nobody asked him any of that was because they saw no point, since everyone assumed he wasn’t going to win anyway.

And so millions of Americans lost their jobs to the George Bush economy, even as billionaires got even richer from it, and in response, Americans elect a billionaire for president, and he hires other billionaires to run the country. The reasoning? I guess it's that all these rich people were so successful in keeping our share of the recovery gains, we should hire them to, what, do the same on our behalf? I mean, it's not that they need the work!

Which is to say that, Trump or no Trump, Republican politicians will continue to know exactly how to exploit America’s blind spots. Take, for example, the case of Tom Price:
Price, like House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), advocates replacing the government-provided Medicare health plan with a program that provides seniors with a voucher to purchase private health coverage. 
This system, which supporters call premium support, saves the federal government money by gradually shifting costs onto beneficiaries, independent budget analyses have shown.
So apparently, the plan is to save federal government healthcare money by gradually not spending any of it! What a stroke of genius!
Price also advocates a new system of block grants to states that would sharply cut federal aid for Medicaid, which primarily serves poor Americans.
So as I understand this, instead of us paying for your medical bills, we give you a coupon worth a couple of thousand dollars you can use to pay any medical bills that might come up — and, by the way, although healthcare costs would probably increase, the vouchers would not, so as years go by, this program would eventually just go poof!

And the reason I say “would” instead of “will” is that, like George Bush Jr's assuming his reelection victory gave him a mandate to “privatize" Social Security (which he tried to soft-pedal by, mid-stream, substituting the term “ownership society” for “privatize”), and just as Americans rejected his plan in droves, they will likely do the same if Price tries that trick with Medicare.

At some point, Bush realized that the public, 77% of whom just last year said that Medicare is a “very important” program, sees the word “privatize”, in reference to public programs, as another word for “abolish” — as well they should! — and I’m pretty sure present-day Republicans are about to learn that same lesson.

As for "block grants" to states to replace Medicaid — in which the feds say to the states, “Here, take this money! Go buy yourself something nice!” — about two-thirds in that same 2015 poll said they value Medicaid for the needy, too, so I hope Price and Ryan (and, indeed, Trump, if he goes along with their ideas) get their heads handed to them.

And if not, and all American public healthcare, including Medicare, bites the dust? Then we all might as well just move to Costa Rica, where it will no longer matter that our Medicare can’t be used anyway.

I really don’t understand the appeal of all this “populism” stuff — which, when you think about it, is just a lynch mob impersonating democracy. Maybe we are now entering an era in which Americans finally learn why you shouldn’t send away for all that seemingly-cool garbage they see on late-night TV, after which maybe we can go back to trusting our government to the professionals who know how to do it.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Response to Ask No Questions

(See: Just Above Sunset: Ask No Questions)

Frank Bruni reports on Trump’s visit to the New York Times editorial board:
The Trump who visited The Times was purged of any zeal to investigate Clinton’s emails or the Clinton Foundation, willing to hear out the scientists on global warming, skeptical of waterboarding and unhesitant to disavow white nationalists. He never mentioned the border wall.
Oh, snap! The guy’s not even in office yet, and he’s backtracking on his campaign vows already? This can’t be good.

I suppose there are some Democrats who actually look forward to making deals with him on those issues that we seem to agree on — such as, say, infrastructure programs — and I myself would be tempted, given that some of these things might never get done if we don’t do them with Trump, since the Republicans we’ve been working with for the last several years are so hard-assed that they refuse to allow Democrats take a part in any solutions because they refuse to allow them any credit.

There are a few reasons to be wary.

One is that we'll need to look closely at these programs that we supposedly agree on, to make sure we’re all on the same page. Here’s a warning from Obama aide Ronald A. Klain in the Washington Post:
As the White House official responsible for overseeing implementation of President Obama’s massive infrastructure initiative, the 2009 Recovery Act, I’ve got a simple message for Democrats who are embracing President-elect Donald Trump’s infrastructure plan: Don’t do it. It’s a trap.
Trump’s so-called infrastructure plan is apparently not what it pretends to be:
First, Trump’s plan is not really an infrastructure plan. It’s a tax-cut plan for utility-industry and construction-sector investors, and a massive corporate welfare plan for contractors. 
The Trump plan doesn’t directly fund new roads, bridges, water systems or airports, as did Hillary Clinton’s 2016 infrastructure proposal. Instead, Trump’s plan provides tax breaks to private-sector investors who back profitable construction projects. These projects (such as electrical grid modernization or energy pipeline expansion) might already be planned or even underway. 
There’s no requirement that the tax breaks be used for incremental or otherwise expanded construction efforts; they could all go just to fatten the pockets of investors in previously planned projects.
The problem is, the things the country needs done — "municipal water-system overhauls, repairs of existing roads, replacement of bridges that do not charge tolls” — are not the kinds of things that investors like to work on, which are projects they can later monetize, such as toll roads and toll bridges. Add to that, contractors are guaranteed a “10 percent pretax profit margin,” and then a tax break on top of that, a windfall on doing the stuff that was probably going to be done anyway even without the incentives.

And once you remember that one main reason for these projects is to create new jobs, which spends new money, and Trump’s plan doesn’t, you have to wonder if Trump even understands our nation's problems in the first place.

So we find ourselves back at the original question: Do we cooperate with this guy in hopes of at least getting some things done that need to be done, or do we freeze him out, like his party did to ours for the last eight years?

I still don’t know a good answer to that — I suppose it may depend on what deals he offers, once he’s president — but I can think of one other good reason to simply ignore any impression that he’s flipping to our side, and that is that, during the campaign, he’s already destroyed the process of how we pick our leaders, and we don’t want to encourage future candidates to demogogue their way into the White House — by making false promises to the peanut gallery, and then breaking them all once they get into office.

Yes, we want stuff done that we think needs to be done, but we also believe in self-government. Governing achieved through tricking the public into voting for you so you can do whatever you want is no better than governing by dictatorship, with some strongman telling the people what they will get, whether they like it or not.

Whether we choose to cooperate with him or not, assuming he’s actually pivoted to policies that are good for America, is almost beside the point, since he’s already screwed up the country, diverting away from its original promise, and toward something it wasn’t meant to be.

Is this the new thing that replaces democracy? Some populist conman or other taking advantage of a fed-up populous, tricking his way into power by posturing and telling them all exactly what they want to hear?

If Trumpism is the wave of the future, then I want my country back.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Response to Carrying On

(See: Just Above Sunset: Carrying On)

“Not My President”? Ha! I only wish that were true! Of course he’s my president! But that’s precisely the problem, isn’t it?

For the past week and a half, all my dreams at night have seemed to follow a similar pattern. Something big and sinister has happened — the whole world has changed into something resembling the plot of that 2013 movie, The Purge, in which "The New Founding Fathers of America" are voted into office following economic collapse, and then put through a Constitutional Amendment that sanctions a 12-hour period once every year in which all crimes are legal — and so my family and I are looking for some way of sealing up the house before the bad guys get here. For some reason, I always wake up before they arrive. Maybe that’s because it hasn’t happened quite yet.

What I remember thinking just before drifting off to sleep early Wednesday morning, just after learning that my country has been taken over by a true confederacy of dunces, was, “Oh, great! First, Henry, my cat, dies — and now this!”

In a posting two days later in his blog, Paul Krugman wrote, "I myself spent a large part of the Day After avoiding the news, doing personal things, basically taking a vacation in my own head.” Same here, except that my brain-snooze lasted until just now. I haven’t written any comments since that day largely because there wasn’t anything to say that you yourself weren’t already thinking.

But the first thing that needs to be said is to all those who have been whining about us Hillary-supporters pretending that this election wasn’t just another election like any other, and that it’s time get over it:
“Oh, yeah? Tell it to Jesus!"
We’re not pretending! You didn’t just elect another Ronald Reagan, after which we can all calm down and try to work together! This wasn’t even like electing Richard Nixon, or, for that matter, Barry Goldwater!

This was more like putting Al Capone in the White House, simply because he is an "outsider” who, although without relevant experience, was a “successful businessman” of sorts who knew how to “shake things up”! Yeah, I know, you guys like him because he’s a tough guy who knows how to make people do what he wants — but, you argue, that can be a good thing, right? I mean, isn’t that what the world needs right now — some “non-politician" who says what he means and means what he says?

As a matter of fact, no! No, it’s not.

Think of it this way:

The country has been chugging along relatively nicely, with a recovering economy doing much better than those other countries who have been following the same “austerity” route favored by our own Republicans, and with record-low unemployment, and with a highly-experienced Democratic candidate not ashamed to promise more of the same — but also a Republican party, which has spent several decades doing nothing but falling to pieces and arguing with itself, not to mention lying and then repeating the lies ad-infinitum, Frank Luntz style, getting people to think that the country is, in fact, in terrible shape, and that the Democratic candidate (who actually had earned high praise from all sides for the jobs she did as Senator and Secretary of State) has been herself lying about one thing or another, such as her emails or something that happened in Benghazi, and that she’s been getting rich in some non-existent pay-for-play scheme with her family charity, that you just can’t trust her for reasons that are hard to articulate — and so, lo and behold, who (or what) do the Republicans name as their nominee?

Some low-life slug who, in any other election year, wouldn’t get a second look, but who lucked out in choosing a year to run in which the Republican selectorate had tired of all the regular-looking candidates and decided to give a shot to some lounge-lizard doing a fairly faithful Andrew “Dice” Clay impersonation.

But while there may be some who think that putting outsider Donald Trump in the White House is just a case of Americans finally giving a well-deserved comeuppance to all those incompetent politicians in Washington, Republican and Democrat alike, I see it as the Republicans continuing their downward spiral that started back in the election of Ronald Reagan — or maybe even to Richard Nixon and Watergate, which started out, promisingly enough, in a spirit of bipartisan cooperation in solving a national problem, but then the Republicans quickly devolving into shame and resentment and a thirst for revenge, not unlike the way the Russians have felt since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

And so, no, Trump does not really represent a “new leaf” for the Republicans, he really represents the natural continuation of the Republican collapse, calling for a return to imaginary happier times when America was feared throughout the world, just as Putin seems to do for the return to the glory days of the Soviets.

I actually do understand what President Obama is telling us about giving the guy a chance, but the big dilemma facing the Democratic opposition right now is, do we take the high road by cooperating with the jerks, all in the name of maybe getting some of the things done that we both agree need to get done? Or doesn't that just legitimize the behavior of any future asshole presidential-wannabes?

After all, shouldn't Republicans be punished for shutting down Obama, and isn’t the best way to do that to do to them what they did to us when Obama took office? And first and foremost, shouldn’t we refuse to confirm any Republican Supreme Court nominee unless it’s Merrick Garland, the one Obama picked in the first place?

“We’re going to confirm the president’s nominee one way or the other. And there’s an easy way and there’s a hard way,” said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas). “They just need to accept that reality.” 
“The Democrats will not succeed in filibustering a Supreme Court nominee,” said Sen. Ted Cruz, Cornyn’s Texas colleague. “We are going to confirm President Trump’s conservative Supreme Court justices.” 
Both Senate leaders, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and incoming Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, have been mum on the topic. But the debate over whether the supermajority requirement for Supreme Court nominations will disappear is raging in the Democratic and Republican caucuses. 
Democrats start from a position of weakness — but with pent-up rage over how McConnell treated President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, who was nominated in February but never got a hearing.
The trick for the Democrats would be to block discussion of any other presidential appointment with a filibuster, and that assumes that GOP leaders would need more than 60 votes to squash the maneuver. But the trick for the Republicans would be to change the rules to a simple majority vote instead of a supermajority, effectively getting rid of the filibuster.

This, of course, would take away just about any power of a minority party to do anything in government, something the Republicans say is the Democrats fault, tracing it back to 2013, when the Democrats, in frustration over the Republicans blocking essentially every Obama appointment to the lower courts, invoked the “nuclear option”:
"I've sat on the Judiciary (Committee) for 20 years and it has never, ever been like this. You reach a point where your frustration just overwhelms and things have to change," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who had previously opposed efforts to change filibuster rules but voted with Reid on Thursday. "I think the level of frustration on the Democratic side has just reached the point where it's worth the risk."
But Republicans back then warned of the danger in changing the rule:
Republicans warned that it would not only tear apart cross-party relationships in the Senate, but it will come back to haunt Democrats if they return to the minority. "You will no doubt come to regret this, and you may regret it a lot sooner than you think," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., warned Democrats. … 
President Obama and Vice President Biden, both former senators, applauded Reid's decision. "A deliberate and determined effort to obstruct everything, no matter what the merits, just to re-fight the result of an election is not normal, and for the sake of future generations, we can't let it become normal," Obama said Thursday.
But obstructing Obama on everything continued to be the norm, and now, with the Democrats being about as far into the minority as a party can get, the shoe is on the other foot. 

But there is still hope:
Under current rules, it’s tremendously difficult for a party to push through controversial legislation with such a small majority. The vast majority of bills and Supreme Court appointments still require 60 votes to beat a filibuster, meaning at least eight Democrats would have to be won over to get any of these through — a tall order indeed. 
Then all other presidential appointments and “budget reconciliation” bills require at least 50 votes to let Vice President Mike Pence break the tie and move them forward. This could be done with purely Republican votes, but it would be no picnic. If the Democrats remain united in resistance, it would only take three Republican defectors to kill any controversial bill or appointment. That’s not much room for error. ... 
And, yes, Republicans might well calculate that Trump’s success is what’s best for their party as a whole and therefore their own political futures. It’s also certainly possible that they’ll eliminate what’s left of the filibuster, either for Supreme Court appointments, legislation, or both, making Democratic resistance irrelevant. 
But the future is uncertain, and we don’t know whether this will happen just yet. As of now, the Senate is the chamber best positioned to resist a Trump presidency — if its members so choose. The main question going forward is whether enough of them will make that choice, and the answer will be enormously consequential for how Trump’s administration plays out.
It’s weird to think how the whole world can change on a dime. Two weeks ago, we were confidently speculating on what our new Senate majority might do to help advance President Clinton’s agenda, and now, we’re just trying to figure out how to do anything at all to keep her out of jail.

And it's not just her! Soon, we may all be working on keeping ourselves out of jail.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Response to The Expected Unexpected

(See: Just Above Sunset: The Expected Unexpected)

And to (hopefully) finish up on the subject of those damned emails, we need to remember that Donald Trump is both just a bit of a dim bulb, as well as a bit of a liar.

Here’s some of what he’s been saying:
“You can’t review 650,000 emails in eight days,” Trump said Sunday in an appearance at the Freedom Hill Amphitheater. “You can’t do it folks. Hillary Clinton is guilty.”
First of all, I’ve heard that 650,000 number was probably made up; I don’t think anybody really counted them.

But second of all, when Hillary Clinton turned over all her work-related emails, plus some that were possibly work-related, they totaled about 30,000 (and printed out, came to about 55,000 pages.) What was left — her personal emails — were said to total about 33,000.

That’s makes a total of about 63,000 of Hillary's emails  which leaves, what, 687,000 emails of Anthony Weiner’s weeny? I'd think that would cut down the task by a lot.

But for argument’s sake, let’s agree with that 650,000 number. So the main question remains, "How could the FBI check through 650,000 emails in eight days?"

Shortly after Trump’s comment, a big Trump supporter who’s name is being mentioned for a possible cabinet position, General Michael Flynn, tweeted this out:
"IMPOSSIBLE: There R 691,200 seconds in 8 days. DIR Comey has thoroughly reviewed 650,000 emails in 8 days? An email / second? IMPOSSIBLE RT”
Meanwhile, geeks all over the internet had great fun with the idea that the task should take anybody eight days.

In fact, back in the days when I was doing amateur computer programing — using Apple Basic, sort of a hobbyist computer language — I’m pretty sure I could have written the code for the job and had the answers for you before noon the next day.

Come to think of it, when I googled “650,000 emails” just now, Google's response page came back immediately and was topped with this: "About 9,040,000 results (0.57 seconds)”, which should give everybody a clue to how fast computers can go these days. Hey, I knew this, and I’m older than Donald!

But if Trump and his gang won’t take it from all the geeks and would rather run it by a well-established expert in this field:
How easy would it be to cull out the duplicate emails? Outspoken journalist Jeff Jarvis posed that question to Snowden in a tweet, and got a quick response: 
Jeff Jarvis "Hey @Snowden, for context, how long would it take the NSA to dedupe 650k emails?” 
Edward Snowden "Drop non-responsive To:/CC:/BCC:, hash both sets, then subtract those that match. Old laptops could do it in minutes-to-hours.”
But there’s one more thing that Trump keeps repeating about the damned emails that he probably should be corrected on:
“The rank-and-file special agents at the FBI won’t let her get away with her terrible crimes, including the deletion of her 33,000 emails after receiving a congressional subpoena.”
No, actually, she didn’t do that … or at the very least, probably she didn't.

This is from a partial timeline from Washington Post Fact Checker Glenn Kessler, back in March of 2015:
Feb. 1, 2013: Clinton steps down as secretary of state. … 
Summer, 2014: State Department officials responding to a request for documents from the House Select Committee on Benghazi realize there are no records to or from an official State Department e-mail account for Clinton. ... 
December 2014: In response to a request from the State Department, Clinton provides 50,000 pages of printed e-mails. The Department provides 900 pages related to Benghazi to the House committee in February.
By  the way, note that this was by “request” from the State Department, not by “subpoena” from Congress.

Elsewhere, we learn that she turned all that stuff over on December 5th of 2014, and ordered her copies be deleted from the server shortly after that.

On March 2nd, 2015, the New York Times ran a story that revealed she had been using a server in her house. Two days later, the Benghazi House Select Committee issued their subpoena, although by that time, everything had theoretically already been deleted.

Or was it? This is where things get sticky.

The Clintons assigned staffer Cheryl Mills to oversee these operations, which were performed by an outside contractor, Platte River Networks (PRN), in Denver. At this point in the story, we pick up the timeline from 
• March 4, 2015 – Hillary receives subpoena from House Select Committee on Benghazi instructing her to preserve and deliver all emails from her personal servers  
• March 25, 2015 – Undisclosed PRN Staff Member has a conference call with “President Clinton’s Staff”  
• March 25 – 31, 2015 – Undisclosed PRN Staff Member has “oh shit” moment and realizes he forgot to wipe Hillary’s email archive from the PRN server back in December…which he promptly does using BleachBit despite later admitting he "was aware of the existence of the preservation request and the fact that it meant he should not disturb Clinton's e-mail data on the PRN server."  
• June 2016 – FBI discovers that Undisclosed PRN Staff Member forgot to erase 940 emails from the gmail account he created to help with the PRN server upload

So as Tyler Durden of puts it:
[T]he Undisclosed PRN Staff Member is the only person responsible for the deletion as Mills, Hillary, President Clinton's Office were all blissfully unaware of the actions of their rogue IT guy of Platte River Networks in Denver, Colorado.
So did Hillary, as Trump claims, delete 33,000 emails after receiving a Congressional subpoena? Obviously not. But did she have anything to do with making that undisclosed PRN staffer have an “Oh, shit” moment, at which time he/she did it themselves?

For that, you have to talk to the FBI, who investigated all this, but for whatever reason — perhaps because they had reason to believe it was an innocent mistake — the FBI decided not to prosecute anyone for this.

And why hasn't the Clinton campaign been calling Trump a liar on this?

Hey, do the math! Given the fact that talking about this only drives her numbers down, the campaign didn’t even want to crow in public about how the FBI pretty much totally closed her email case down  which was much easier to do than have to try to explain some “oh shit” moment in Denver, Colorado.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Response to All Sorts of Worries

(See: Just Above Sunset: All Sorts of Worries)

The odd thing about Trumpism is, just as there’s this naive suspicion that we could completely do away with terrorism if only we could somehow capture enough of those “radical Islamic terrorists” and just sit them down calmly and reason with them — maybe somehow convince them that only some phony evil lesser god who was satirizing the main God would urge you chop off heads or burn people alive, and would then reward you with virgins in the afterlife! — one is tempted to think maybe the same could be done with our so-called “Trumpian Republican base”.

If we could only capture them and deprogram them, like they used to do with cult members back in the 1970s; maybe get them to tell you what’s really on their minds and disabuse them of all of it.

But neither conversion is likely, especially the latter one, according to John Cassidy of The New Yorker:
To quote Benjamin Disraeli, the nineteenth-century British statesman, we now have “two nations between whom there is no intercourse and no sympathy; who are as ignorant of each other’s habits, thoughts, and feelings, as if they were dwellers in different zones, or inhabitants of different planets.” 
Disraeli was writing about the rapidly industrializing England of the eighteen-forties, and the two nations he referred to were the rich and the poor. … 
The polls say that just less than forty per cent of voters in America have a favorable opinion of Trump. Whatever their views of him as an individual, they like what he stands for: nationalism, nativism, and hostility toward what they consider a self-serving √©lite that looks down on them. 
In addition to these confirmed Trump supporters, there are a number of other folks — moderate Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, mainly — who may harbor serious reservations about Trump personally, but who may also be willing to vote for him to keep Clinton out of the White House.
Whenever I hear some Republican say something like, “Yes, Donald Trump is absolutely despicable in every way possible, and I don’t like anything about him, but I’m voting for him anyway, because we just can’t allow Hillary Clinton in the White House", I’m always reminded of that conversation in the movie, “The Princess Bride”, between Vizzini (Wallace Shawn) and Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin):
[Vizzini has just cut the rope that The Dread Pirate Roberts is climbing up] 
Inigo Montoya: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
In other words, about half the voters in this country use language differently than my half — specifically, when they use the word “despicable”, they don’t seem to mean anything approaching what the rest of us mean.

This means they could actually tolerate a president who is a liar, a cheat, a bully, a conman, a misogynist, an imbecile, and someone dangerously in the tank for his nation’s enemies; a tax-dodger, an alleged child-rapist, an actual crook, and a whole parcel of other nasty personal attributes that I’m not mentioning, but for sure, one out-and-out, straight-up asshole — over a woman of whom they get a nagging hunch may lie to us about how she uses email.

Hell, for all we know at this point, Hillary will be the one in the group who will constantly overuse “Reply All”!

And who amongst us doesn’t absolutely hate that?