Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Response to Simpleminded Braying

(See: Just Above Sunset: Simpleminded Braying)

Once again, it was the ant versus the grasshopper — and as usual, the ant won. That tale has traditionally been a conservative favorite, but the truth is, its moral never really worked for them.

What’s more, the grasshopper should’ve seen it coming, since the story has been retold millions of times, the moral always being that the survivor will be the one who prepares for what-come-may, not the ignoramus who takes the easy way out by deciding ahead of time to burn his bridges when he comes to them. Or maybe this was the tortoise and the hare. Whatever. All these little life-lessons date back to the ancient Greeks, and as the old saying goes, he who doesn’t study his history gets his ass handed to him.

But Trump's bragging about what most people think should be shameful is classic Donald Trump.

For example, not paying taxes?
CLINTON: … we don't know all of his business dealings, but we have been told through investigative reporting that he owes about $650 million to Wall Street and foreign banks. 
Or maybe he doesn't want the American people, all of you watching tonight, to know that he's paid nothing in federal taxes, because the only years that anybody's ever seen were a couple of years when he had to turn them over to state authorities when he was trying to get a casino license, and they showed he didn't pay any federal income tax.  
TRUMP: That makes me smart.
Which gave Hillary a chance to come back with this:
CLINTON: So if he's paid zero, that means zero for troops, zero for vets, zero for schools or health. And I think probably he's not all that enthusiastic about having the rest of our country see what the real reasons are, because it must be something really important, even terrible, that he's trying to hide.
Which, when you think about it, makes good sense.

After all, he already has the votes of the people who don’t care if he releases his income taxes, and assuming there’s nothing bad in there, he can only win the votes of anyone who is holding back until he releases them, right? Which makes me wonder what awful stuff can be learned from his tax records that make him work so hard at keeping them secret, making him look like a tax cheat, putting him at risk of losing a good chunk of votes that just could put him over the top.

So to sum up? “Smart", my ass! He not only doesn’t support his country, he’s proud of not supporting it!

And he also doesn't pay his debts?
CLINTON: ... if your main claim to be president of the United States is your business, then I think we should talk about that. You know, your campaign manager said that you built a lot of businesses on the backs of little guys.  
And, indeed, I have met a lot of the people who were stiffed by you and your businesses, Donald. I've met dishwashers, painters, architects, glass installers, marble installers, drapery installers, like my dad was, who you refused to pay when they finished the work that you asked them to do. 
We have an architect in the audience who designed one of your clubhouses at one of your golf courses. It's a beautiful facility. It immediately was put to use. And you wouldn't pay what the man needed to be paid, what he was charging you to do...  
TRUMP: Maybe he didn't do a good job and I was unsatisfied with his work…
Fine! Then return his work, rather than continuing to "put it to use”! By keeping the product, you confirm your satisfaction with it, so you need to pay for it! Otherwise, it's called "theft"!

And maybe it's your track record of putting small vendors out of business that makes you think you have the experience to do the same to ISIS?

But also of note is the famous question of trustworthiness. How Hillary Clinton scores so low on the trust meter, with essentially no evidence to support her being untrustworthy, versus Donald Trump, who actually boasts about not paying his workers, not paying his taxes, and just recently, has been shown to not even give to charity except to pay with money that others have donated to his own family’s private foundation, which supplies us with yet another instance of boasting about something he should be ashamed of:
Kenansville, North Carolina (CNN) — Donald Trump bragged Tuesday there's "nothing like" using other people's money, hours after a report said he used more than $250,000 from his charitable organization to litigate lawsuits against his business interests. 
Trump, while calling for building safe zones in Syria financed by Gulf states, vaunted the benefits of doing business with "OPM." 
"It's called OPM. I do it all the time in business. It's called other people's money," Trump said. "There's nothing like doing things with other people's money because it takes the risk -- you get a good chunk out of it and it takes the risk."
In other words, he’s a self-confessed cheat — which, as you would know if you walked a mile in his shoes instead of your own, is actually a good thing.

And speaking of the criminal element, did anyone other than me think his constant sniffing suggests "very-rich-guy-snorts-cocaine"? Or did I miss the part where he confessed to having the sniffles? For his part, he denied it on Fox this morning, although he did complain about the microphone not working, or something:
Trump also insisted that he does not have a cold or allergies when asked whether he was sniffling during the debate. 
"No, no sniffles. No. You know, the mic was very bad, but maybe it was good enough to hear breathing, but there was no sniffles," he said on "Fox and Friends."
So does blaming his microphone for his performance remind you of, “It wasn't me, it was the chair”?

Among so many of his several stumbles that passed by virtually unnoticed, probably my favorite was him crowing about a minor accomplishment of his that nobody but he (and, of course, his legion of cable news sycophantic surrogates) cared about in the first place — something he even admitted last night:
Well, nobody was pressing it, nobody was caring much about it. I figured you'd ask the question tonight, of course. But nobody was caring much about it. But I was the one that got him to produce the birth certificate. And I think I did a good job.
Exactly! You’re the one who called his bluff, and lo and behold, it turned out he wasn’t bluffing!

You got him to prove that he was born in the U.S., something hardly anybody in their right mind doubted, much less (in your words) "was caring much about", in the first place!

With all your five-years-long yap-yap-yapping about Obama having been born somewhere else — which, by the way, was moot anyway, since even if he had been, he would still have been a natural-born U.S. citizen, making him as eligible to be president as John McCain, Ted Cruz, or George Romney — it turns out that Obama was born here after all!

So the question that you still need to answer is this:

Why the hell did you, for all those years, push this stupid meaningless issue? What was your purpose?

And why are you now bragging about something you really ought to be ashamed of?

(The answer to that one is easy: Because you are the man who "knows no shame”! In fact, being born without the shame gene is not such a good thing, since it fools otherwise ordinary people into thinking they can run for president.)

And something everyone who believes it’s time to "move on from this birther issue" (but who plans on voting for him anyway) needs to ask themselves is, What the hell are you thinking in supporting for president of the United States some shameless jerk who spent so much of his life keeping alive this stupid birther issue?

This transgression is exponentially worse than Rick Perry’s career-killing “Oops!”, and yet, instead of slinking out of the race with his tail between his legs, Donald Trump somehow convinces you that his mistake was actually something to be proud of?

And given that the emperor's skills are such, he’s persuaded you people that he’s actually wearing clothes, I have just one last question:

Want to buy a bridge?

So as for my vote for who won the debate, I’m going to go real shallow here and stick with the one with the best hairdo. What the hell, it’s as good a reason as any other reason to vote for her, which seem to be countless.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Response to The Right Stuff

(See: Just Above Sunset: The Right Stuff)

The author of “The Right Stuff” is Tom Wolfe, with whom, many years ago, I shared an elevator in New York City.

He could not have been mistaken for anyone else in the car, much less on the planet, wearing a painfully-bright white three-piece suit, and, while my mind’s eye may be wrong about this, I somehow remember him carrying a foppy-looking cane. He looked like a cartoon version of a Southern Planter, but apparently didn’t mind the attention this gave him, since everyone on the ride laughed good-naturedly about it, which he took with a gently smiling grace that only someone who hears this all the time could affect. I remember wondering why he kept up the act; still, I envied him his life. It looked like fun.

I made myself read the book in the early 1980’s, just after CNN named me overall producer of its upcoming coverage of the second mission of the Space Shuttle Columbia. I thought it would help me understand the people who risked their lives to do this sort of thing.

I especially recall the phrase, “Spam in a Can”, which was Chuck Yeager’s description of what would become of any of his fellow test pilots who decided to sign up as Mercury astronauts. He complained that a so-called “astronaut" would not in any way be “piloting” the spaceship — he would not be in control if and when, God forbid, anything went awry — which, at some point, was bound to happen.

I also remember Wolfe’s contention about the drawls we’ve heard on those cockpit microphones for decades, from jetliner captains, many but not all of them former military pilots, when they come on to talk to the passengers and crew — always equally calm and collected whether instructing everyone to prepare for an emergency landing, or merely to point out that Mt. Rushmore is out there on the left side of the plane. That calm demeanor of pilots everywhere, Wolfe claimed, originated with Yeager himself as he famously faced life-and-death problems to become the first human to break the sound barrier miles above the earth:
Two nights before the scheduled date for the flight, Yeager broke two ribs when he fell from a horse. He was worried that the injury would remove him from the mission … 
Yeager told only his wife, as well as friend and fellow project pilot Jack Ridley, about the accident. On the day of the flight, Yeager was in such pain that he could not seal the X-1's hatch by himself. Ridley rigged up a device, using the end of a broom handle as an extra lever, to allow Yeager to seal the hatch.
And that’s the real "Right Stuff" — not the bluster of a self-involved newby who tries to scare a problem to death by growling at it, but instead just knowing about how things work and just thinking about a problem, then quietly doing what needs to be done to solve it.

I imagine Donald Trump thinks he has it, but he doesn’t. He’s way too obsessed with "political correctness” to allow him to understand what is a real problem, and too busy calling his opponent names to notice that so many of his own followers are racists.

Yes, racists. Answer these simple questions about Trump supporters, posed by Justin Gest:
Is it racist to associate immigration with the greater globalization of commerce that has altered the economic prospects of outmoded people? 
Is it racist to be frustrated that members of ethnic minorities are rendered new advantages unavailable to white people, such as affirmative action policies and ethnicity-specific advocacy? 
Is it racist to believe that white working-class people are underrepresented in political leadership or vilified in popular media?
If you answered “Yes!” to all of these questions, give yourself a perfect score!

You’d think that having so many “Deplorables" backing you would be something that worries you more than that people accused of crimes in this country are being treated fairly. Trump’s more upset with how good our country is, than he is concerned with solving the real problems it faces. And yes, of course his audience cheers when he complains about terrorists getting fair treatment, because he seems to attract the sort of vigilante lynch mob we used to have in our Wild West days, before the law arrived out there to tame it.

Trump praises “dictators” and “strongmen” whenever he notices them do very un-American things to their victims, and yet he complains when he sees American leaders not acting like dictators. He favors “profiling"? Isn’t profiling what that terrorist did last week in Minnesota — ask his victims if they’re Muslim, and then stabbing them if they’re not?

The so-called “Radical Islamic Terrorists” he talks about want us to act like them — and not coincidentally, so does Donald Trump!

Why do he and his gang of clueless Deplorables fall into the terrorists' trap?

Because their idea of having the Right Stuff for the job requires not analyzing things too closely, and not getting the big picture. Because Trump celebrates fear and venerates it and encourages it in others. And because Trump has a bad attitude that, in his case, comes from living a mostly-successful life of always trying to get away with something, and he makes others believe that having a bad attitude about people is okay, and neither he nor them seem to be smart enough to realize it.

I’m beginning to think Radical Conservatism is a personality disorder, and lately, as so often happens (think McCarthyism), is inherently un-American.

Americanism is not kicking someone’s ass, just to watch ‘em squirm and because it demonstrates to your fellow conservatives how tough you are. What Americanism is is ignoring terrorists and not allowing yourself to become like them, but instead showing them the strength that comes from being good — not just "good at what you do", but the kind of goodness that impresses God, assuming the guy exists.

In short, Donald Trump has the Wrong Stuff. He’s not very bright and he’s nasty and weak, and if he ever becomes president, he will make America the same way.

And so, yes, don’t be afraid to call him what he is:

Donald Trump is a “Radical Conservative Terrorist”, and the reason he is more dangerous to America than ISIS is that he, unlike the terrorists from way over there, has an actual chance of taking over our country, and rendering its founding principles into just so many dusty old unreadable documents that nobody cares about anymore! 

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Response to A Return to Self-Sabotage

(See: Just Above Sunset: A Return to Self-Sabotage)

"...he infuriated the press to the point where they’ll never cut him a bit of slack ever again."

I wouldn't bet on that. I’m sure I’m not the only journalist (or, in my case, maybe ex-journalist) who strongly suspected beforehand that this was a trap. Still, they had to play along with the ruse anyway. 

This business about Trump claiming that Hillary started this thing, while he ended it, reminds me of the occasional story you hear about some fireman being arrested for setting fires that he would then heroically rush in to put out. 

And his theatrics of yesterday also reminds me of his days way back before he was a candidate for anything, offering millions of dollars to charity if only president Obama would dance the can-can in a bikini, or something — desperate attempts to make himself look like a player, attempts that we would all sluff off without much more than a pathetic smirk, since he seemed to be the only one thinking he wasn’t irrelevant. But fast forward to 2016, and it’s truly a case of Albert Shanker getting his hands on nuclear weapons.

But how much do his shenanigans hurt him? Unfortunately, not very much, as far as I can tell.

I wonder, were anyone to do a study on real estate prices in Costa Rica right now, if they would find a rise that corresponds in any way to Donald Trump’s 538.com improving chances of winning this election?

Friday, September 16, 2016

Response to The Ambiguous versus the Unlikable

Seriously, did you realize, before the other day, that Donald Trump was not on record as believing Barrack Obama was born in the United States? I didn’t. I guess I haven’t been keeping up with politics as much as I thought I was. 

I thought, once Obama’s long-form birth certificate became public, that Trump accepted it as legit, and even — rather presumptuously, I should say! — tried to claim credit for doing the country a favor by forcing Obama to release it, although that was something only he and his fellow whackadoodles would care about anyway. I guess I was wrong in thinking it was no longer an issue, since, this last week, it resurfaced and was tossed, not-very-elegantly, into that toy box known as Trump Campaign Strategy, a box that is continuously threatening to run short of fresh doodads to play with.

"Well, Jane, it just goes to show you, it's always something — if it ain't one thing, it's another."
Have I used this Roseanne Roseannadanna analogy here before? I may have. It’s been a longstanding explanation of mine of how the penny-wise Trump campaign keeps itself in the news:

(1) Trump says something stupid on Wednesday, and won’t retract it;

(2) The news shows debate it all day Thursday,

(3) And on Friday, Trump announces that he takes it back.

(4) That sets up the weekend talking-head show panels of pundits to gum all about it, from every angle, and then we have a new week to start the nonsense over again. 

And for all those out there who blame the media for Republican successes, look closely at this whole birther affair as an example of how easy it is for just about anybody to manipulate the media, and ask yourself, how would you handle this? People of all political stripes want to know about Trump’s latest scams, and Trump knows people do, and Trump knows the press has to drop everything else to report it. After all, when you have strict journalistic principles you follow, you’re just predictable enough to allow some evil actor to take over the controls. It was bound to happen; it was only a matter of time.

So Trump promotes a news conference he's having on Friday morning in which he will be making a "major statement", hinting it will be about the birther issue, and at the very end of using all these decorated veterans as human shields for a half-an-hour, he drops in a thirty-second statement that only raises other questions, and then, pretending he’s ending the press's unhealthy preoccupation with his birtherism once and for all, so now we can get back to “Making America Great Again”, he ends his performance by dramatically walking away to lead a tour of his stupid new hotel, while strong-arming the network TV pool producer off the tour, while letting the camera crew on through.

But why would the national TV networks want to use their precious time covering some local hotel grand opening? So the DC bureau chiefs, who manage the pool, then voted to pull the pool crew out and to not release whatever useless video it shot.

It’s also worth noting that, the night before, after Trump’s campaign staff screwed up the flight arrangements for the traveling press, he left them stranded in New Jersey while he went ahead to his rally in New Hampshire, then mocked them at the event for their absence:
Trump publicly mocked his own traveling press corps for showing up late, a turn of events that his own campaign staff caused. 
"I have really good news for you," Trump told about 1,000 people in a New Hampshire middle school gymnasium. "I just heard that the press is stuck on their airplane.” 
"They can't get here. I love it! So they're trying to get here now. They're gonna be about 30 minutes late.” 
"They called us and said, 'Could you wait?’”, he claimed. "I said, 'absolutely not.'"
Each reporter apparently pays about $15,000 per week to the campaign for travel arrangements. Can they sue the campaign? Maybe, but it’s probably not worth the trouble. This is not likely to happen on Hillary’s events, since in her campaign, the press flies with her on the same plane.

Trump treats the media like just another toy in his toy box, which might or might not someday backfire on him. While his treatment of the press will immediately disqualify him with some voters, others, who don’t understand the role of journalists as standing in for the public, and don’t see a slight of the press as a slight on themselves, will think it’s a hoot.

I need to repeat this:

Those people who remember learning in school that a free press is a necessary fixture in good countries, understand that when a politician fucks over the press, he’s fucking over those that the press ultimately serve, which is the public. And those who don’t remember that sort of thing from school will probably be voting for Donald Trump anyway.

But is it just me, or has Donald Trump single-handedly changed the way the press covers politics in this country, maybe forever?

There was a time, back when the differences between the parties were not so great, the national news media took an objective approach to each side, not wanting to question the veracity of anyone's stance for fear of being accused of partisan bias.

But times have changed. Trump has so completely flooded the public square with outrageous lies and sleazy innuendo, reporters and anchors have had no choice but to make it their job to call him out on every one of them. For example, this morning, every reporter I heard reporting this story made sure to insert words to the effect, “and he has wrongly claimed that Hillary Clinton was the first to question where president Obama was born.”

So is this the end of objective journalism? From now on, will there not be a dime’s worth of difference between “objective reporters” and “liberal reporters”? Time will tell. Maybe when this election is behind them, journalists will find a way to write new rules of political coverage.

Meanwhile, what’s your decision: Do you stop covering his campaign, just to spite the sonofabitch? That certainly would be fun!

But no, you keep on going. After all, just because the candidate keeps acting like an asshole doesn’t mean you can stop doing your job.

And maybe the worst thing is, as stupid as he is — and make no mistake, just because he knows how to play the press doesn’t mean he’s not stupid — but as stupid as he is, the asshole knows you’re in a bind.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Response to Mutual Damage Control

(See: Just Above Sunset: Mutual Damage Control)

Lately, people keep saying stuff like, "Our two parties have nominated two deeply flawed candidates this time…”, but I think that’s too much of the same old infamous “both sides do it” bullshit. It leaves the impression that there are two equally-guilty contenders here, of which Donald Trump is one and Hillary Clinton is the other.

Yes, Hillary has some faults, and so does Barrack Obama, arguably the best (or maybe second-best) president in my lifetime, but neither one of those two is “deeply flawed”. To put this back into perspective, Hillary is actually just fine and whatever flaws she has do not belong inside any equation with those of Donald Trump, period, and belong probably more in the “horserace” category (either “she doesn’t smile enough” or “she smiles too much”) rather than of the stuff that is important, such as “All things considered, would this person make a tolerably good American president?”

The fact is that Hillary would make a good president, whereas Trump, being an evil scumbag, would not.

But more importantly right now, here’s something else we’ve been hearing lately:
“I think it’s inarguable that Vladimir Putin has been a stronger leader in his country than Barack Obama has been in this country,” running mate Mike Pence told CNN on Thursday.
Okay, but using that standard, you could also say, "Vlad, the Impaler has been a stronger leader in his country than Barack Obama has been in this country”. In fact, by that standard, the 15th-century Rumanian Vlad was even more powerful than the present day Russian one.

In both these cases, the argument ignores that the reason these guys are/were powerful is that they are/were tyrants, with essentially nobody to report to but themselves. Obama is at a disadvantage there, since he has to work within our American Constitution and, unlike Putin, can do hardly anything without the concurrence of Republicans. Putin can do virtually anything he wants to do, without the inconvenience of having much of any opposition to deal with at all.

But conservatives just don’t give as much weight to real reality as they to do the so-called optics:
“Bare-chested Putin gallops his horses, poses with his tigers, and shoots his guns,” wrote National Review’s Victor Davis Hanson in a 2014 column. “Barack Obama, in his increasingly metrosexual golf get-ups and his prissy poses on the nation’s tony golf courses, wants to stay cool while playing a leisure sport.”
And yet, with all this imagery of galloping horses vs tony golf courses, you might be tempted to believe that the strongman's domain is going gangbusters, while the leader of the Land of the Free is presiding over a wasteland. Don't be, since it's actually the other way around. The United States, much to the chagrin of both Trump and Putin, is doing remarkably well, under the circumstances, while Russia is its usual mess.

But also, think about the implications of this:
“He was a bad guy, really bad guy. But you know what he did well? He killed terrorists. He did that so good,” said Trump of the late Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein during a July campaign event in Raleigh, North Carolina. “They didn’t read them the rights,” he continued. “They didn’t talk, they were a terrorist, it was over.”
Which all sounds fine if you’re just spouting off, without giving it much thought, but the obvious reason they didn’t "read them the rights” is because they didn’t have any! 

After all, Saddam killed lots of people, and I’m willing to bet that whether or not they were “terrorists” was never a real consideration. In fact, I’d bet hardly any of the people he murdered were terrorists! He killed people because he decided he didn’t like them, and also because he could! After all, he didn’t live in the United States of America, where you’re not allowed to do that sort of thing, and the failure to acknowledge this just highlights a lack of appreciation for what the American founders were able to accomplish in creating their republic.

Will this Putin admiration thing finally be the deal-breaker for Trump? That’s hard to tell, given that the standards for breaking the deal have lowered of late. After all, who of us doesn’t indulge in nostalgia for the days when a simple promise to do three things, then to remember only two of them, was enough to instantly bounce you out of the race? Maybe that’s the way it should be.

Think of it this way: If you are interviewing a job candidate who, during the course of his initial interview, professes his belief that adults should be allowed to have sex with toddlers, you don’t even consider inviting him back for a second interview in hopes that he might say something to redeem himself. But times have apparently changed, at least in Republican party politics.

Trump is not, as portrayed by his army of seemingly all-blond surrogates, the “defender” of “Western civilization” against the invading barbarian, he is the invading barbarian! He represents the enemy that this country has traditionally sought to defend itself from!

First of all, Donald Trump is literally evil (figuratively speaking, of course.) If I were at all religious, I would argue that Donald Trump was sent here by Lucifer to finally destroy the United States of America, at least in the sense of the U.S. as a guiding example of a nation ruled by good people.

Second of all, we should not elect an evil person president!

And thirdly, the only thing we can do to keep this evil person from becoming president is not to stay home on election day, or randomly vote for whoever the Libertarians are putting up this year, the only thing America can do is to elect Hillary Clinton.

“But I just don’t trust her,” (whatever the hell that means), you say? Well, after deftly sidestepping the obvious question, “Trust her to do what?”, you need to seriously ask yourself the crucial question, “But do you distrust her more than you do Donald Trump?"

And if your answer is yes, then you have to ask yourself this:

"What, are you nuts? Have you actually lost your mind?”

Once all of this is behind us, assuming Hillary wins, I do hope America takes a lesson from all this, and maybe looks for a way to fix our system of choosing candidates, to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

For one thing, as I’ve mentioned before, the Republicans should consider making a rule that nobody who “self-finances” their campaign should be allowed to get the party’s nomination. Trump was only able to take control of the party because he had so much money of his own that he didn’t need to pass any of their qualifying tests. He should have had to impress them, but instead, he ignored them.

(The GOP might also consider a rule that limits the size of donations, making it more likely that the winner would have widespread popular support, instead of just billionaires who can afford to buy support for their own agenda — but maybe that’s too much democracy for the party to swallow in one gulp.)

And maybe we do need to take a citizenship test to earn the right to vote, for which you will need to study very hard — to learn, first of all, what it was the founders were trying to do when they created the nation, and secondly, learn about all the trials-and-errors the country had to go through to collectively learn the lessons that it had to learn to get to be what we are today, the longest-lasting democracy in the world.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Response to Under the Volcano

Since posing as one of his own people in order to say something stupid on his own behalf has historically proven to be his wont, I wonder if this “unnamed campaign adviser” could possibly have been the Big Trumpeter himself:
An unnamed campaign adviser was oddly specific ... telling CNN that the goal of Trump’s visit to Mexico was explicitly to get a photo that makes him look presidential.
So Mexico was just some frigging photo-op?!?

And not only a photo-op, the Trump surrogates, without a hint of irony, are today even saying the trip was “successful” because it showed Donald Trump, standing next to some foreign leader “on the international stage”, looking presidential!

This may explain the discrepancy in stories about whether the two discussed the wall. Yes, Peña Nieto probably did tell Trump at the very beginning of the private discussion, just to get it straight, that Mexico wasn’t going to be paying for the wall, to which Trump just stared into space — and so when someone asked him later about whether they talked about “the wall”, and he answered, truthfully, no, there was no discussion of the wall.

In fact, he didn’t fly all the way to Mexico City to get into some discussion, he came there for action! Specifically, he came to get his picture taken!

Which also explains why Trump said all those nice things about the Mexican people, and that he thinks of Mexican president Peña Nieto as his “friend”. The president, for his part, seemed dumbfounded, but of course, this was only supposed to be a photo-op for him, too, since his popularity numbers are also in the toilet, and he wanted to let everyone know that he had told the Donald off!

(One has to wonder: Was the talk taped? Maybe we’ll find out some day.)

In essence, Trump didn’t need anything from Peña but to be in the same picture frame with him in an official-looking “foreign policy setting", and so it didn’t matter what was said, as long as none of it would upset the applecart, and just so the whole visit could end up being as boring as all those foreign visits that Hillary Clinton used to make -- since, I’m sure in the minds of Trump and his gang, nothing ever happened at those boring international junkets either, outside of everybody posing for pictures with one another, all looking very serious and important. And afterward, everybody goes back to whatever they were doing, such as insulting each other from afar.

And that, my friends, is how foreign policy is done! Nothing to it! Especially if you have the photos to prove you were there.

The question is, did his junket change any voters' minds, like so many Republicans, grasping at straws, were hoping?

I doubt it. Let’s face it, anybody who was impressed with his south-of-the-border dog-and-donkey show was already voting for him, and if all those hoping for a sign that he was actually “softening” his approach to immigration wasn’t already hopelessly confused by all the backtracks of his reversals of his flip-flops in the week leading up to Mexico, then his hard-nosed Arizona speech should have knocked their heads off — unless, of course, that happened when, the next day, they heard Trump characterize his speech as a “softening” of sorts.

But you have to figure the conservative Hillary-Derangement-Machine must be chugging along very well if these people are still looking for Trump to show signs of reform.

Sure, it’s all very easy for me, who sees her "high crimes" (assuming she’s even guilty of any of them) as being on the order of going forty in a 35 MPH zone, but to me, Trump’s deal-breakers are not even that huge — cheating workers out of their pay and Trump U students out of the life-savings, telling a friend that you gotta “treat [women] like shit”, deriding an American war hero POW as just some loser who got captured, and addressing all his political opponents with demeaning nicknames like “Little Marco” — but they all demonstrate that he’s too much of a dirtbag to run any country, especially ours.

So continuing to look for Trump to show he’s in the least way up for this job is just idiotic. He’s already shown us the best of what he thinks he can do, even before he demonstrated that he hasn’t a clue what an American diplomat, even a “pretend" one, actually does in a meeting with a foreign leader.

And, by the way, about his big speech on immigration policy?

Immigration, as Trump himself says over and over, is an issue that nobody was talking about before he started talking about it, and probably because it doesn’t present the country with any real serious problems. It has been shown repeatedly that so-called “illegal” immigrants don’t bring lots of crime to this country, no matter how many individual cases the Trump campaign rounds up. Nor do migrant workers replace American workers. In fact, I saw an interview last night with a farmer who can’t find enough workers, American or not, to show up to pick his crops, even after hiring every undocumented worker in sight for $12 per hour.

In other words, Trump has us all focussed in on a non-issue!

The real problems that do need solving revolve around the economy itself, including poverty and jobs, and the fact that whatever wealth is being produced is being hogged by the people at the top of the food chain. This includes some of the same things that, for complicated reasons, Trump followers think have to do with competition from immigrants and foreign workers, but really have more to do with automation, not to mention the way we apparently don’t tax rich people as much as we should. Americans in the working class are not making enough to afford to buy their own products, much less move into a safer neighborhood.

And some of our problems come from our not listening enough to the people who know about these problems, and how to fix them. Instead, we listen to people like Donald Trump, who thinks you can ignore expertise in all its forms — including, by the way, how to run a campaign. He seems to be out to prove that someone can win the White House without, say, buying ads on TV, since he can always say something stupid on a daily basis as a way of tricking the media into covering you, or without coordinating with your party so you can have a gang of campaign volunteers on the ground in a state to do all those local things that campaigns have learned over the decades that have to be done.

So this election really is a test to see who’s got it right — is it the smart people who, say, have spent much of their careers, traveling from place to place, building expertise, trying to get some good things done; or is it the bombastic "strongman" who, just for fun, can get almost any crowd to chant just about whatever he wants, but also knows how to play the “diplomat” by flying in his own plane to some foreign country, just to have his picture taken with some foreign president, as if Leadership is just some child's game of Make-Believe?

He thinks it’s all just smoke and mirrors. He’s gotten along for years by tricking himself into thinking he’s smarter than he is, that all these so-called “professionals” are faking it, and figures he can do that, too.

But while I’d like to state, unequivocally, that he’s about to learn his lesson, I can’t. I just now looked at Nate Silver’s site, which shows Hillary’s odds of winning (right now at 74.1%, down from 89.2% on August 14th) gradually sliding earthward on a daily basis, slowly but surely taking my faith in self-government with them.