Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Tom Toles cartoon of the day:

Saturday, February 20, 2016

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

"Your approach is perfect for the primaries, but it could be problematic in the general."

Friday, February 19, 2016

I'll be in California...

...for the next two weeks visiting my son and his fiancee. Blogging should be much lighter than usual, but I'll be live-tweeting my adventures @BoringOldWhtGuy. Should be fun!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Donald Trump is poised...

...to win the South Carolina primary on Saturday and the Nevada caucuses next Tuesday. If so, he would be very well positioned for the SEC primaries on March 1 and Super Tuesday on March 15. By then Trump could be unstoppable. Crazy? I don't think so.

If you think I'm wrong, place a bet on Paddy Power on either Marco Rubio at 9/4 odds or Ted Cruz at 11/2 odds. I'll wait right here while you do.

Finished? Okay. Now consider this: If Trump wins the Republican nomination he has about a 50/50 chance of becoming president. (Those are my odds; Paddy Power has Hillary at 10/11 while the Donald is at 4/1.) As I see it, the country is essentially split evenly between Republicans and Democrats. If the economy continues to recover and there's no major terrorist/national security event and President Obama's approval ratings remain in the narrow range they've been in for the last seven years, then Hillary will be elected to Obama's "third" term. (Just like George H. W. Bush was elected to Reagan's "third" term.)

But . . . if any of those things change between now and November we could see Donald Trump getting sworn in as the nation's 45th president next January. (Are you shivering at the thought of how cold it is in January or the idea that Trump could actually be elected president?)

So let's all imagine a President Trump. (Stop shivering!) I read a couple of pieces recently by two of my favorite writers, Jonathan Chait and Ezra Klein, that offer different views of a Trump presidency.

In the first, "Why Liberals Should Support a Trump Republican Nomination," Mr. Chait argues that a liberal can "earnestly and patriotically support a Trump Republican nomination." One reason is that Trump may change the Republican Party for the better (all emphasis mine):

What has most horrified conservative activists about Trump’s rise is how little he or his supporters seem to care about their anti-government ideology. When presented with the candidate’s previous support for higher taxes on the rich or single-payer insurance, heresies of the highest order, Trump fans merely shrug. During this campaign, Trump has mostly conformed to party doctrine, but without much conviction. Trump does not mouth the rote conservative formulation that government is failing because it can’t work and that the solution is to cut it down to size. Instead, he says it is failing because it is run by idiots and that the solution is for it to instead be run by Trump. About half of Republicans favor higher taxes on the rich, a position that has zero representation among their party’s leaders. And those Republicans are the most likely to support Trump.

Trump’s candidacy represents, among other things, a revolt by the Republican proletariat against its master class. That is why National Review devoted a cover editorial and 22 columns to denouncing Trump as a heretic to the conservative movement. A Trump nomination might not actually cleave the GOP in two, but it could wreak havoc. If, like me, you think the Republican Party in its current incarnation needs to be burned to the ground and rebuilt anew, Trump is the only one holding a match. 

Chait wrote this before the debate last Saturday in which Trump also said:

...that invading Iraq was a disaster, that the country was misled into invading Iraq by the Bush administration, and that the claim that Bush kept the country safe from terrorism is ridiculous because 9/11 happened on his watch.

These are truths that the Republican Party must come to grips with before it can be taken seriously again.

Another reason not to fear the Donald:

If he does win, a Trump presidency would probably wind up doing less harm to the country than a Marco Rubio or a Cruz presidency. It might even, possibly, do some good.

He then goes on to compare Trump to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger:

Schwarzenegger’s loyalty to Republican doctrine was tissue-thin. He joined the GOP because he vaguely shared its veneration of wealth and success. But his sub-intellectualism, which initially made him so repellent, turned out to be an asset. When conventional Republican governance made him unpopular, he had no incentive to go down with the party ship. The only thing Schwarzenegger really craved was popularity. Running for office as an exercise in ego gratification may not be as good a thing as running as a serious candidate with good ideas, but it’s much better than running as a serious candidate with bad ideas.

The truly dangerous Republicans are the ones who believe their own dialogue. 

And I'm tempted to agree: Would a Trump presidency really be worse than a Cruz or Rubio presidency? After all, we know those two are ideologues. Maybe Trump would govern from the center. Is that so far-fetched?

Ezra Klein begs to differ. In "The rise of Donald Trump is a terrifying moment in American politics," Mr. Klein argues:

Trump is the most dangerous major candidate for president in memory. He pairs terrible ideas with an alarming temperament; he's a racist, a sexist, and a demagogue, but he's also a narcissist, a bully, and a dilettante. He lies so constantly and so fluently that it's hard to know if he even realizes he's lying. He delights in schoolyard taunts and luxuriates in backlash.

He's not a joke and he's not a clown. He's a man who could soon be making decisions of war and peace, who would decide which regulations are enforced and which are lifted, who would be responsible for nominating Supreme Court justices and representing America in the community of nations.

There is something scary in Donald Trump. We should fear his rise.

I have to admit I'm torn. Like Mr. Chait, I think the Donald is saying things that Republican bigwigs need to hear: free trade has been a mixed blessing, immigration reform is complicated, people want a strong safety net, lowering taxes on the rich hasn't necessarily helped anyone else, and the foreign policy of the neocons in the last Bush administration was nothing short of a disaster.

As Byron York noted recently before the New Hampshire primary:

In one of my first conversations at the Radisson, with two Republican activists, I asked a simple what's-up question about Trump. Both immediately responded in exactly the same way: "I don't know anybody who supports him." They're politically active and aware, but they said they have no contact in their daily lives with even a single person who supports their party's front-runner.

After that conversation, I began to ask everyone I met: Do you know anyone who supports Donald Trump? In more cases than not — actually, in nearly all the cases — the answer was no. I asked one woman Friday night, and she said she hadn't thought about it. I ran into her the next morning at breakfast, and she said, "That was a good question you asked me last night, and I've given it some thought." And no, she didn't know any Trump supporters.

And that's the problem: the Republican Party elites have truly lost touch with their base. The donor class needs a serious wake-up call. And Trump is delivering it.

And yet, as Mr. Klein points out, Trump's:

...temperament is so immature, his narcissism so clear, his political base so unique, his reactions so strange, that I honestly have no idea what he would do — or what he wouldn't do.

And that is scary. Because no matter how much "good" Trump may be doing for his party, he is clearly unqualified for the job. In the words of President Obama:

"I continue to believe Mr. Trump will not be president," Obama said while speaking at a press conference in Rancho Mirage, California. "And the reason is because I have a lot of faith in the American people."

Obama told reporters he believed Americans still see the presidency as "a serious job."

“It’s not hosting a talk show, or a reality show. It’s not promotion, it’s not marketing,” Obama said. “It’s hard and a lot of people count on us getting it right.”

I'll continue to "root" for Donald Trump to win the Republican nomination because I really believe the other candidates would be worse. But, hopefully, I'll never have to see him take the oath of office. It's really hard to imagine, isn't it?

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Name of the Day...

...belongs to Egyptian diplomat Boutros Boutros-Ghali, who died at age 93.

Justice Antonin Scalia...

...died on Saturday at age 79. While President Obama plans on nominating a successor (Sri Srinivasan is the favorite on Paddy Power) in "due time," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the "vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president."

You can imagine who I think is right here. (Hint: President Obama was re-elected to a four-year term, not a three-year term.) But the country is in the midst of a low-grade "civil war." So I'm prepared to see no one confirmed in 2016; the Court will just have to function with eight justices. (Apparently, it's not the end of the world.)

But here's something interesting I read in Bloomberg this morning:

While Scalia's death at age 79 raises the Supreme Court stakes for the election, they remain jarringly high even if Obama manages to fill the vacancy. As of Election Day, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will be 83, Justice Anthony Kennedy will be 80, and Justice Stephen Breyer will be 78.

So let's assume that President Obama nominates someone and McConnell is successful at blocking it. Then in November a Democrat or a Republican is elected and the first thing that happens next year is a big fight over the Supreme Court that could last for months and consume valuable time in the next president's first term. If the Democrats take back the Senate they'll surely make life difficult for a President Cruz or a President Rubio; if the Republicans remain in charge they'll do the same with a President Clinton. But after reading that paragraph above, it's the best case scenario.

What if -- what if -- one or more of those other justices died? Or retired? What if, in the next year or so, they all did. (That's not so far-fetched is it? How many people do you know over the age of 77 that are still working?) Then what? Would President Obama get to replace any of them? Would the next president? Or would the Supreme Court of the United States just have to get by with five justices? Will any president ever get to nominate another Supreme Court justice? Or would the institution just wither away?

Seriously, is this any way to run a railroad?

Monday, February 15, 2016

Johnny Lattner, Fenwick grad...

...and star football player for Notre Dame who won the Heisman Trophy in 1953, died at age 83. According to his obit in the Times (my emphasis):

Lattner played only one season in the pros. The Pittsburgh Steelers selected him in the first round of the 1954 N.F.L. draft. He ran for five touchdowns, caught passes for two more, made kick returns and was named to the Pro Bowl. But he entered the Air Force in 1955, fulfilling a military commitment from his time in the Notre Dame R.O.T.C., and was assigned to play for a service football team. A knee injury he sustained in a game ended his pro career.

Can you imagine a Heisman Trophy winner dropping out of the pros to serve in the armed forces? Also:

Lattner was featured on the cover of Time magazine in November 1953 and narrowly beat Paul Giel, a tailback at the University of Minnesota, in the Heisman voting. His victory was a tribute to his all-around talents, since he did not lead Notre Dame in rushing, receiving or scoring that year.

Again, can you imagine a Heisman Trophy winner who didn't even lead his own team in those statistics?

Finally, there was this:

There were also rewards away from the field for him and his teammates, as he once told The Chicago Sun-Times, remembering a visit to Hollywood with some teammates before Notre Dame played Southern California at Los Angeles Coliseum:

“We met Marilyn Monroe. There were six of us and she said, ‘Before you go, would you like my autograph on a picture?’  ”

“  ‘We’d love it, Marilyn.’  ”

“She said, ‘What should I say on it?’  ”

“  ‘Well, “To John, thanks for that wonderful night we had together, love and kisses,” with your phone number.’  ”

And, Lattner recalled, that’s just the way she signed it.

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

Friday, February 12, 2016

I haven't written much...

...about politics lately because I haven't had anything original to say.

The New Hampshire primary went pretty much as expected, with Trump and Sanders both winning. If there was any surprise at all it was the margin of victory in each race. Trump's percentage of the vote was higher than his poll numbers going in and more than twice his second-place opponent's. (To give you some perspective, Jon Huntsman -- who? -- got a higher percentage in 2012 than John Kasich did this week.) Bush, who a year ago was vacuuming up all the money and was the odds-on favorite to win the nomination, finished in fourth place with a paltry 11 percent. And Sanders beat Clinton by more than twenty points. If I had told you last June that any of this was going to happen you would have said I needed to have my head examined. (And you would have been right.)

Now, before I get to why I think that all happened let's take a look at where we are right now. In the next primary, South Carolina on February 20, the polls (which haven't been updated for 15 days -- that's a long time) look like this:

Trump, 36.4 percent
Cruz, 20
Rubio, 13.7
Bush, 8.7
Carson, 8.3
Kasich, 1.8

While those first three numbers could be accurate, I'd say Bush's and Kasich's could be higher while Carson's are most certainly lower. (The good doctor is out of it; he may just be the last to know.)

As for the betting markets, Paddy Power has the Palmetto State this way:

Trump, 1/7 odds
Cruz, 7/2
Rubio, 10/1
Bush, 25/1
Kasich, 100/1

Bottom line: Trump wins South Carolina with Cruz in second and the three establishment candidates bringing up the rear. I'll say Bush outperforms Rubio and ultimately becomes the establishment alternative to Trump and/or Cruz. If no one arrives in Cleveland this summer with enough delegates to win Jeb could triumph in a brokered convention. Wouldn't that be ironic? And messy -- do you think the Donald would go away quietly? In the words of Jerry Seinfeld in his not-very-good British accent: "Not bloody likely!"

As for the Democrats, their next contest is the Nevada caucuses on the same date (don't ask). Here's how the HuffPost sees it (updated one month ago -- a lifetime):

Clinton, 50.2
Sanders, 27

And according to Paddy Power:

Clinton, 1/3
Sanders, 2/1

So Hillary should win Nevada, with an emphasis on "should." And what will be her margin of victory? One would think closer than the polls indicate. And if Bernie should pull an upset? All I can say is: Oy!

Looking ahead, Trump is favored to win the Republican nomination, at 6/5 odds, on Paddy Power. (Rubio is in second at 3/1.) Hillary is still favored to win her race with 1/4 odds.

Where am I? Again, Oy! 

I still say Hillary wins the nomination and the general, but I'm a heck of a lot less confident after this week.

On the Republican side, I have to give the edge to Trump -- he's leading in the polls almost everywhere and I just don't see anyone who can stop him. Cruz? The establishment hates him even more. Also, his appeal is just too narrow. Rubio? Damaged goods. Besides, which state was he supposed to win? Trump is even leading him in Florida. Kasich? Can't win in a red state. (But he could be on Trump's short list for running mate.) Bush? A bad candidate with the wrong last name in the wrong year.

So back to New Hampshire: why Trump and Sanders? (And why might Sanders win the nomination over Clinton after all?)

I think both candidates are tapping into essentially the same thing: the decline of the middle class. While Trump's followers are older, whiter, Christian, more rural and more blue collar, Sanders's are younger, multicultural, secular, more urban/suburban and more college-educated. What do they have in common? They are both "losers," for lack of a better word, in the global economy in recent years.

(I really don't like the word "loser," but in a game of "winners and losers" it's appropriate.)

Trump's followers have been losing ground ever since the first Japanese and European cars hit U. S. shores back in the 1970s. Since then it's been bad to be a blue collar worker in America.

Sanders's followers are young people who graduated from college in the last few years with unconscionable student loan debt ($1 trillion last I checked) and no way to pay it off.

Now, what happens when the "system" can no longer create good jobs for people? The system gets overthrown. There's nothing "sacred" here. (As my son would say, it's all made up anyway.)

If globalization, trade and technology take away jobs and cause middle-aged white people to commit suicide in alarming numbers, something has to change.

And if young people owe a trillion dollars and can't pay it back, something has to change.

Remember when Jean Valjean couldn't afford to buy bread? What happened? He just took it. And that's what Trump's and Sanders's voters are telling the "winners": we're going to bring back jobs from China and Mexico and we're going to have free college and free health care and you're going to pay for it. I don't think Sanders is exaggerating too much when he talks about a "political revolution." We're not in for a "shooting"-type revolution like the one back in 1776, of course, but more like a non-shooting revolution a la the New Deal in the 1930s or the Reagan "revolution" (I would call it a "counter-revolution") in the 1980s.

Who would win between Trump and Sanders? Who knows? Hopefully I won't have to write that post. But I do think a "revolution" is in the offing and possibly a "civil war." Again, not a "shooting" one, but an even more polarized version of what we have now -- if you can imagine that. Ask yourself: If you thought Obama - Boehner was "difficult," picture Sanders - Ryan. Yikes!

Fasten your seat belts.

I'm looking forward...

...to my trip to California a week from today. Can't tell, can you?

I was searching for a live version of "California Sun" by the Rivieras when I came across this one by Bruce Springsteen.

I didn't realize it but the Rivieras' hit from 1964 was actually a cover of an earlier version.

Interestingly, the Rivieras -- named after the car made by Buick -- were made up of teenagers from South Bend, Indiana, and the song was recorded in Chicago. After "California Sun" was released two of the founding members of the group enlisted in the Marines. The Rivieras split up in 1966.

As for Springsteen's group, I don't know whatever became of them.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Name of the Day...

...belongs to Todd Jurkowski, a former spokesman for U.S. Congressman Alan Grayson of Florida.

Rule Number Four...

...when running for president: Don't enlist the worst president in recent memory -- especially if he shares your last name -- to campaign for you.

Really, ask yourself: When was the last time you saw Jimmy Carter doing commercials for a Democratic presidential candidate?

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Margaret Forster, who...

...wrote the 1965 novel Georgy Girl, died at age 77. From her obit in the Times (my emphasis):

Ms. Forster caught the flavor of the decade in “Georgy Girl,” the story of a young woman trying to get a foothold in teeming London. Her heroine, a precursor of Bridget Jones, is big, plain and saddled with an annoyingly pretty roommate.

Her adventures, recounted with comic gusto and a dose of pathos, delighted readers and made the novel, published in 1965, a best seller. The next year, it became a hit movie, with Lynn Redgrave in the title role.

Ms. Forster, with Peter Nichols, wrote the screenplay. Adding luster to the whole package, the movie’s theme song, recorded by the folk-rock group the Seekers, climbed to the upper reaches of the pop charts.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

They're still taking bets...

...on the New Hampshire primary at Paddy Power. But for how long? Today's the Big Day. Before the screen "disappears," here's how they have it:

Democrats

Bernie Sanders, 1/80 odds
Hillary Clinton, 16/1

Republicans

Donald Trump, 1/7
Marco Rubio, 7/1
John Kasich, 9/1
Ted Cruz, 14/1
Jeb Bush, 25/1
Chris Christie, 33/1
Ben Carson, 100/1
Carly Fiorina, 100/1

And over at the Huffington Post, in the latest aggregate of polls:

Democratic

Sanders, 54.8 percent
Clinton, 40.7

Republican

Trump, 31.0
Rubio, 14.7
Kasich, 14.1
Cruz, 11.9
Bush, 10.2
Christie, 5.8
Fiorina, 4.6
Carson, 2.5

What do I think? I really wish I had something original to add to the conversation, but I don't. All I can do is relay the latest conventional wisdom. So, in case you haven't been paying attention, here it is.

Sanders and Trump should both win, but by how much? If it's by double digits most people will shrug. If not, the story will be Hillary's comeback or the "surge" by Mr. Number Two in the Republican Party.

And who will that second-place finisher be on the Republican side? Talk about a crapshoot! Since Rubio seems to be fading after his debate performance on Saturday night, it could be either Kasich, Bush or Christie. (Fiorina and Carson are pretty much out. Carly could "suspend" her campaign as early as tomorrow.) And Cruz? Talk about a wild card!

New Hampshire loves governors, so I'm going to predict that Kasich and Bush come in numbers two and three, respectively. Fourth place will belong to Cruz (gotta put the winner of Iowa in there somewhere!) with Rubio and Christie bringing up the rear. (I wonder if the New Jersey governor's internal polling showed him so far back he was willing to take on the role of "hatchet man" on Saturday night. Does he have a job waiting for him as attorney general in a Kasich or Bush administration?)

Here's my final prediction for the GOP today:

Trump
Wins by at least ten points. Is the Donald going to run the table after this?

Kasich
Nice guys finish second. What's next for the governor of Ohio? Hang on until his state's primary on March 15 and/or hope for the number two slot?

Bush
Steady, "low energy" Jeb could have a decent night, propelling him into somewhat friendly South Carolina on February 20. There, despite help from his brother, Jeb's campaign could effectively die with a third place finish behind Trump and Cruz.

Cruz
Who cares where the freshman senator from Texas finishes -- he barely campaigned in New Hampshire. On to South Carolina!

Rubio
I may have him a little low here. One of the stories tomorrow may be how well he finished after such a rough night on Saturday.

Christie
Another guy I may be underestimating. But everyone said that while he was effective in taking down Rubio he may not have helped himself in the process. We'll see. A bad finish knocks him out of the race.

Take all of this with a large grain of salt. (Remember how Carolina was supposed to win the Super Bowl?) I've heard as much as 50 percent of New Hampshire voters were undecided yesterday. Coupled with the large independent vote, things could really get funky. I, for one, will be glued to the TV tonight.

Monday, February 8, 2016

The New Yorker cartoon...

160208_a19310...of the Day (which I don't get). There's no caption; can anyone help me out here? Does the shoelace resemble a mouse's tail or something? And why is that funny?

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Rule Number Two...

...when looking for work: Don't -- repeat, don't -- bring your mother to a job interview. From "Barbara Bush Hits The Trail For Son Jeb Bush" (my emphasis):

On Thursday night in Derry, N.H., former first lady Barbara Bush joined Jeb on the campaign trail.

Barbara Bush spoke only for about a minute and a half, but she lavished praise on a son who seems like he could use it. Bush is lagging in the polls, his one-time mentee Marco Rubio is surging and Republican voters just don't seem that interested in government experience this year.

"I didn't really plan on this," Barbara Bush said. "But Jeb is the nicest, wisest, most caring, loyal, disciplined," she said, adding, "Not by me!" when the audience laughed.

"He's decent and honest. He's everything we need as a president," she said. "His dad and I are very, very proud of him."

Are you cringing right now?

Thursday night's overflow crowd clearly energized Bush and his campaign. Staffers were gushing to each other about the turnout before the event began, and Bush spoke and answered questions for more than an hour. "Mom, my crowd sizes aren't normally this large," Bush quipped. "I wonder why."

Rule Number Three: Try not to sound pathetic when auditioning for the role of Commander-in-Chief. (If you have to ask for applause, maybe you need to work on your stump speech a little more.)

And, just to review, Rule Number One: Dress for the job you want. For example, if you're running for president of the United States don't dress like you're running for president of your fraternity.

Now, I know Rand Paul was probably just taping some show that would only shoot him from the waist up -- I'm not that stupid. But someone took that picture and, let's face it, it doesn't scream out, "Leader of the Free World." (If anything, it whispers, "jackass.") Remember, there was a reason FDR never allowed himself to be photographed in a wheelchair: optics are important. And Roosevelt always wanted to look like a strong leader, even if he couldn't walk.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Mary Fiumara, the woman...

...in the famous Prince spaghetti commercial, died at age 88.

Filmed in the Italian North End of Boston, Mrs. Fiumara had been a native of the neighborhood since she was a teenager.

Maurice White, founder...

...and leader of the band Earth, Wind & Fire, died at age 74.

I wasn't a fan, necessarily, but we're at least getting closer to my own era. The song "September" was released in 1978, when I was in college, and has since become ubiquitous. It's a catchy tune, I suppose, but I'll admit: I don't even know if that's Mr. White in the video above.

It's Friday morning and...

...I'm waiting for the unemployment number. There's no news out of New Hampshire (that I know of), no one else from the Jefferson Airplane has died (hurray!) and I'm dreaming thinking of my upcoming trip to LA two weeks from today. Enjoy this tune from the Mamas and the Papas recorded at the Monterey Pop Festival back in 1967.

P. S. I know what you're thinking. To paraphrase Eric the Clown in the video above: You're livin' in the past, man! You're hung up on some music from the SIXTIES, man!

And you're right. But look at it this way: people still listen to Bach and he hasn't done anything new since 1750!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Unfortunately-Named...

...Car of the Day is "Zica," which will be re-named in a few weeks.

Tata Motors announced today that its new car will be re-branded because "it sounds too much like a global health emergency."

Psst! While you're at it, you may want to take another look at that "Tata," too.

Honorable Mention for...

...the Name of the Day belongs to Gordon Goody, who masterminded Britain's Great Train Robbery in 1963 and died at age 85.

From his obit in the Times (my emphasis):

It was the world’s largest cash robbery at the time. The gang made off with 2.6 million pounds, or the equivalent of nearly $50 million today. Little of the take, including Mr. Goody’s share, which would be worth about $3.6 million today, was recovered.

What?

It wasn't Mr. Goody's first brush with the law:

...he was arrested for the first time when he was 17 on charges of mugging a gay man who had made sexual advances to one of Mr. Goody’s friends. He was sentenced to 21 months in prison and 12 lashes with birch branches.

Again, what? Was this in Iran or Singapore? Or some early version of ISIS?

The Name of the Day...

...belongs to Onateska Ladybug Sherwood, daughter of Signe Toly Anderson, the original female vocalist of the Jefferson Airplane, who died last week at age 74. (Hey, it was the sixties, man.)

How did I miss that? And is it any better, or worse, than China Wing Kantner, the name of Grace Slick and Paul Kantner's daughter?

P. S. Not necessarily a big fan of "Chauffeur Blues," but it's a good example of Ms. Anderson's voice.

What do Hillary Clinton...

...and George H. W. Bush have in common?

I thought of this when reading Megan McArdle's piece in Bloomberg this morning (my emphasis):

Hillary Clinton is a terrible candidate. Yes, I know I keep saying this. It keeps being true. That doesn’t mean she won’t eventually end up being president, but if she does, it will be despite her lackluster political skills, rather than because of them.

And Ms. McArdle is spot-on.

So who does that remind you of?

Mrs. Clinton and George H. W. Bush were both centrist, establishment figures who ran for their party's nominations but were defeated by charismatic outsiders. They then served faithfully in key roles in their opponents' administrations. After eight successful years, they each ran for their predecessors' "third term" and, despite scandals (remember Iran-Contra?) and lackluster finishes in the Iowa caucuses, won their party's nominations.

In the general election they both began as underdogs. Inarticulate and uninspiring candidates, especially when compared with their predecessors, they both benefited from economic recoveries and improved global standings. After initially trailing their opponents, who were from their party's ideological wings, they eventually won their general elections handily.

(Were they also victims of recessions that denied them second terms?)

P. S. Al Gore also fits this profile. But don't forget, Mr. Gore won the popular vote in 2000. And since then, the Electoral College has become much more favorable to Democrats.

On Sunday I read...

...a leading conservative Republican and veteran of the Reagan administration say, "I don’t think it’s very good for the society to have billionaires." On Tuesday night a self-described socialist nearly upset the Democratic front-runner in Iowa. And today I woke up to read this headline in Bloomberg:

Goldman Sachs Says It May Be Forced to Question Whether Capitalism Is Working

Is there something happening here?

P. S. And last night I booked a trip to Hipster Central the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. I'll be visiting my son and his fiancee, but let's just say it won't be my father's idea of a vacation.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

In brief, Hillary...

...Clinton "won" last night, Bernie Sanders also "won," Ted Cruz actually won, Donald Trump lost, and Marco Rubio "won" by vastly outperforming expectations.

(I saw that Rubio -- who just vaulted back into first place for the nomination on Paddy Power -- already picked up an endorsement from Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina. Is the establishment coalescing around him?)

I was wrong in thinking Hillary and Trump would win Iowa outright, Cruz would come in second and Rubio would disappoint. Mea culpa.

I think I was right, though -- it's impossible to know -- that Trump made a mistake by not participating in that last debate. Not only did he give his rivals more air time, but it may have also been seen by some Iowans as a "stunt" unworthy of a serious candidate. (Some of the talking heads last night said Rubio picked up some late votes from Trump. I believe it: "dated" the Donald, "married" Marco.)

As for Rubio -- whose surprising finish I suspect will be the "story" today -- I just don't get the appeal. As I wrote the other day, everyone -- except me -- seems to think he's a great speaker with an "optimistic" message. All I ever hear is a bunch of dystopian talking points spewed out in rapid-fire succession.

Another thing I forgot to mention is that Rubio is often described as "whip-smart." Really? I guess the bar for Republicans is a little lower. I've heard Paul Ryan described as "a Republican’s idea of what a policy wonk sounds like." Is Rubio a Republican’s idea of what a "whip-smart" person looks like?

Sen. Rubio is about to feel the "full force and fury" from a certain New York real estate tycoon. Let's see how he handles it. Personally, I think the man is an empty suit.

On to New Hampshire!

Monday, February 1, 2016

Donald Trump is really, REALLY...

...successful, right? Right?

According to a piece in the Washington Post today (my emphasis):

Trump frequently touts his financial acumen. He often says he is worth $10 billion, though most analysts say that is exaggerated. Bloomberg News closely studied his 92-page financial disclosure report and concluded that he is really worth $2.9 billion.

That may sound like a lot of money. But don’t forget that Trump inherited a lot of money, too — about $40 million in 1974. In 1978, his net worth was estimated by BusinessWeek at $100 million. The Post’s Wonkblog calculated that if Trump had gotten out of real estate, put his money in an index fund based on the Standard & Poor’s 500 index and reinvested the dividends, he’d be worth twice as much — $6 billion — today.

National Journal noted that Warren Buffett was also worth $40 million in 1974 — and he managed to turn that into $67 billion today. 

Bad day for the Airplane!

From Rolling Stone (my emphasis):

Signe Anderson, Jefferson Airplane's original female vocalist who sang on the band's 1966 debut LP Jefferson Airplane Takes Off, passed away January 28th. Anderson was 74. Anderson's death came the same day as her former band mate Paul Kantner, who passed away January 28th from multiple organ failure and septic shock.

Born in Seattle and raised in Portland, folk singer Signe Toly boarded Jefferson Airplane in the summer of 1965 after being asked to join the band by Marty Balin following a San Francisco performance; soon after she would marry Merry Prankster Jerry Anderson.

Anderson would appear on the band's debut album Jefferson Airplane Takes Off, singing lead on that LP's "Chauffeur Blues" and featuring prominently on their version of "Let's Get Together," the Chet Powers-penned track that would become a hit for the Youngbloods the next year.

Just as Jefferson Airplane was ascending, Anderson gave birth to her first child. Realizing that life on the road with a newborn was unfeasible, Anderson opted to part ways with Jefferson Airplane in 1966. Anderson remained with the group while they searched for a replacement, eventually choosing the Great Society singer Grace Slick.

(I wonder how Ms. Slick worked out.)

Seriously, I've always loved the Airplane's version of "Let's Get Together," particularly Ms. Anderson's contribution. What a beautiful voice!

Sheesh!

All right, here's one last tune...

...that Paul Kantner wrote. (And then I'll leave you alone.)

"D.C.B.A.-25" is from the band's second album, Surrealistic Pillow, released in 1967. (If I had a nickel for every time I listened to that album I'd have a lot of nickels.)

The title of the song is both prosaic and psychedelic at the same time:

The letters in the title refer to the chords used in the song, and according to Paul Kantner, the number is "a reference to LSD-25. It's basically an LSD-inspired romp through consciousness. I can't even remember the words at this point."

Well, here are the words.

Kantner may denigrate "D.C.B.A.-25," but I think it's a beautiful song, both instrumentally as well as lyrically. Not only is it one of the best on Surrealistic Pillow, it's one of my favorite Airplane songs of all -- why hasn't it received any air time? "D.C.B.A.-25" also has the distinction of being the only one on the album that Kantner both wrote and sung. (And sung with Grace Slick, with whom he had a child.)*

Now, I know what you're thinking: Speaking of Ms. Slick, why haven't you mentioned "Somebody to Love" or "White Rabbit"? And what about some of Marty Balin's tunes, such as "It's No Secret"? Well, I love all of those, but this is Kantner's moment.

* Despite what I wrote in an earlier post (and what Kantner himself said in the video), the two were never married.