A Vocabulary for the 2016 Election

Here are a few words, whose meaning people might like to reflect upon.

1. Narcissim

– ˈnärsəˌsizəm/
noun: narcissism
1. excessive or erotic interest in oneself and one’s physical appearance.
synonyms: vanity, self-love, self-admiration, self-absorption, self-obsession, conceit, self-centeredness, self-regard, egotism, egoism
“his emotional development was hindered by his mother’s narcissism”
antonyms: modesty

o Psychology
extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one’s own talents and a craving for admiration, as characterizing a personality type.
o Psychoanalysis
self-centeredness arising from failure to distinguish the self from external objects, either in very young babies or as a feature of mental disorder.
Example: Donald Trump, Hitler, Stalin, Joseph Mengele, Marylyn Manson, OJ Simpson, Paris Hilton
2. Bigot

: a person who strongly and unfairly dislikes other people, ideas, etc. : a bigoted person; especially : a person who hates or refuses to accept the members of a particular group (such as a racial or religious group)
Example: Donald Trump, Adolf Hitler, Henry Ford, Ian Paisley
3. Ignoramus

a person who does not know much : an ignorant or stupid person
Example: Donald Trump, George W. Bush, to cite two. Actually there are not many famous ignoramuses according to my internet search…maybe there is a reason, such as nobody usually pays attention to  ignoramuses?
4. Default

noun: default; plural noun: defaults
1. 1.
failure to fulfill an obligation, especially to repay a loan or appear in a court of law.
“it will have to restructure its debts to avoid default”
synonyms: nonpayment, failure to pay, bad debt
“the incidence of defaults on loans”
Example – Repeated recourse to the bankruptcy law to avoid paying the full amount of debts, as in Donald Trump’s behavior in Atlantic City. Or simply devaluating the dollar, as suggested by Trump to deal with debt owed to foreign investors
5. Reckless

adjective: reckless
1. (of a person or their actions) without thinking or caring about the consequences of an action.
“reckless driving”
synonyms: rash, careless, thoughtless, heedless, unheeding, hasty, overhasty, precipitate, precipitous, impetuous, impulsive, daredevil, devil-may-care; More

Example – the idea suggested by Donald Trump that we encourage other countries to acquire nuclear weapons so that they can defend themselves instead of depending on us.


An Independent Defense of Hillary

One of the things that has puzzled me over the years is the extent to which Republicans have attacked and vilified Hillary Clinton. They seem to think that persistent mudslinging will eventually stain her character. Now it turns out that an independent analysis has documented just what happened. In the 1990s William Safire wrote a column attacking Hillary for telling lies and suborning perjury in connection with a decade-old business venture called Whitewater. Formal investigations followed. It turns out that there was not a shred of truth in any of these charges. Safire never retracted his claims, and instead, despite having been disproved, they became a right-wing mantra. A second point, based on an analysis of polling trends, shows that whenever Hillary announced a plan to run for office, her poll numbers declined. When she succeeded to the office, however, her poll numbers went up. What explains this? It is pretty simple: misogyny. The idea of a woman seeking power is unpopular with a significant number of men. Fortunately, when the woman does a good job, at least some have the good grace to admit it. In essence, that is it. Here is a link to the article.

The claim that Hillary is a liar and not to be trusted is itself nothing but a Republican lie.

Hillary Speaks

She gave one of the best speeches I have every heard tonight in Brooklyn. In a conversational tone, yet speaking to millions, she talked of American values and pointed out how woefully short of living up to them Donald Trump is. She spoke about the power of working together. She rightly spoke of the influence of her own mother and how great it would have been if she could have witnessed the nomination of her daughter to be President by the Democratic Party. She rightly told us that Trump’s slogan “Make American Great Again” was code for “Let’s Go Backwards.” It was  brilliant.


Hillary Wins Nomination

The AP polled all superdelegates- Democrats in public office for the most part- and discovered that the number committed to Hillary has gone up. This, and her new delegates from Puerto Rico, put her over the top.

New Jersey will make it even bigger; there is no way she will be denied unless there is some unprecedented massive change of heart among Democratic leaders. Not likely given Sanders’ limited time as a Democrat.

Not Hitler, but…

Justin Smith’s column in the New York Times today offers some in-depth analysis on the question of history repeating itself. Without quoting Santayana even. Here is the link.

I quote from this scholarly and perceptive article:

“If Trump is not a reincarnation of Hitler, he is most certainly one head of the same global Hydra that has already given us Vladimir V. Putin, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Narendra Modi. ”

In case you are interested, you can read about the classical reference to the Hydra here.

Michael Gerson on Trumpism and Evangelicals

Normally Michael Gerson is full of conservative ideas that I do not agree with. This time, however, in his column in the Washington Post, he is right on the mark. Here is a juicy quote, pointing out the weirdness of any hypothetical alliance of Trump with evangelicals:

“Support for Trump involves a massive, disorienting shift, especially given the reputation of the religious right. It is, well, unexpected for evangelicals to endorse a political figure who has engaged in creepy sex talk on the radio, boasted about his extramarital affairs, made a fortune from gambling and bragged about his endowment on national television. ”

The endowment referred to here is not a financial one. No.

Seriously, how can anyone imagine explaining to a child the buffoonish and racist statements of this man if he should become President? Who would not be ashamed to acknowledge that this guy is actually in charge of the executive branch of government? In fact, there is good evidence that many decent Republicans are already ashamed that he is their nominee.

Sometimes common sense and decency outweigh political preferences and party sentiment. This is surely one of those times.


Trump Fits into the Nazi Style

This letter by me appeared in the Albany Times Union, June 2 2016:

I read Charles Coons’ letter; I was attracted by the headline, “Election will help decide the future of America,” May 21. Mr. Coons enters into a diatribe against politicians who are exploiting their positions for personal gain. Who is he talking about?

It begins to become clear when he finally reveals his position: “What do they find wrong with having a balanced budget or closing our borders, other than votes. What is coming across our borders is the future of America and do they think ISIS does not know how easy it is to enter America?” Clearly, this is a letter of support for Trumpism.

I can answer the question about what is wrong with closing our borders, in the sense that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump stands for. Let us go back to square one in Trump’s appeal, referring to people from Mexico: “…They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists….” This was followed by a call for deportation and the creation of a wall on the Mexican border.

Elsewhere, Trump called for a complete ban on entry of Muslims into the country. Let’s substitute the word “Jew” for “Mexicans” in Mr. Trump’s first speech, or for “Muslims” in the second. There, one would have a plausible quote from the Nazi press of the 1930s.

The problem with closing the borders as advocated by Mr. Trump is that it amounts to racism of the ugliest kind the world has ever seen. It is indeed an important election. Trump must not be elected.

The Rise of Two Demagogues

I heard a story about someone comparing Donald Trump’s tactics to Hitler’s rise to power in Germany after the First World War. These remarks provoked a heated response. After all, Trump is not proposing concentration camps. No. And he is not proposing an invasion of Canada or Mexico either. But then, at the outset, Hitler did not propose death camps for the Jews or an aggressive territorial war either.

He began his involvement in politics while serving as a spy for the German army after the war. He was sent to report on an anti-Marxist, anti-democratic party called the DAP. He was immensely impressed by the anti-semitic rhetoric of the leader. Eventually he obtained permission to join the party from his Army commanders and became a leader in what was to become the National Socialist Party. Not fearing to use violence, the party agitated constantly until finally Hitler became Chancellor of Germany after having been elected by democratic vote.

Trump of course had a very different history. He never joined the army. He parlayed a large inheritance into a fortune in real estate, while going bankrupt several times. He contributed money to politicians of all persuasions, including Hillary Clinton. He did not formally join the Republican Party until 2012. When he began his campaign for President this year, he did it with a bang, attacking Mexican immigrants as “rapists” and “murderers”, while allowing smugly that some were probably “good people.” He then proposed a program to expel all illegal immigrants and build a physical wall on the border with Mexico to shut down the flow of these people into the United States. Later, he added to his list of the proscribed by proposing a ban on the entry of Muslims into the country. Really, here the comparison with Hitler stands up pretty well. Just substitute Jews for Mexicans or Muslims in Trump’s rhetoric and you have a plausible Hitler quotation.

The comparison is inexact. But the parallel of racism is unmistakable.

Look Who’s Back

I happened to come across the movie “Look Who’s Back” on Netflix the other day. Over the course of a few days I watched it, in little snatches, not because I did not have enough time for a single sitting but because I found it hard to take for more than a few minutes.

Here is a Wikipedia article on the movie, which is based on a best-selling book “Er Ist Wieder Da” that appeared in Germany in 2014.

The premise of the story is that Hitler wakes up suddenly at the site of the bunker where he committed suicide in 1945, now a quiet residential neighborhood. A TV reporter doing a program on kids captures video of Hitler at a distance and later, after closely examining his video, goes back in search of the man. We have no idea how, but Hitler has come back some 70 years later, not having aged, but having missed everything in between. He brings himself up to date hanging out in a newspaper kiosk for a few days. The TV reporter finds him there and takes him on a tour to make a documentary. The film proceeds much like a documentary. Some people think he is a comedian or street performer and want to take selfies with Hitler, a few are outraged. But the documentary is a big hit and Hitler becomes a TV star on a show called “Whoa Dude”. But I don’t want to spoil it for you. Watch the movie or read the book – it is available in English. See if you don’t recognize the style.

Odds on Hillary

We were having lunch with friends and I mentioned that these days we have to be careful. We have both friends and family who are for Bernie. Well, as I learned, these friends were also for Bernie. One of them pointed out that in New York Bernie got 100 delegates. Ah yes, it is proportional, true enough. We went on to talk of other things.

Still, Hillary got more delegates. What is likely to happen?

To figure out the polls, I usually go to http://www.fivethirtyeight.com. Nate Silver and colleagues are usually right about the likelihood of victory in upcoming primaries. The data for the primaries are easily accessible on the website. I checked, and Hillary is a heavy favorite in all those where they have made an estimate. In each of those she has better than an 87% chance of victory. There are not enough data on New Jersey yet, but Hillary is still ahead of Sanders there, by several percentage points. So it is really unlikely that Sanders will be gaining more delegates than Hillary in the remaining primaries. Since there are no other candidates, she will likely be the winner.

Still, Nate Silver is not giving out estimates of the probability of anyone getting the nomination of their party right now. For that, you have to look at the wagering odds, which are a little hard to translate into probabilities. Right now, according to one of these sites, you would have to bet $2500 on Hillary to win $100 from a well informed bookie. In other words he will not give you favorable odds, because he thinks Hillary is very likely to win. As for the even more remote general election, you still would have to bet $200 now to win $100 after Hillary wins the election. If you bet $100 on Trump now, you would win $175 from the bookie if Trump wins. You have to pay the bookie way more money to get him to bet against Hillary than Trump. Betting odds are not readily translated into mathematical probabilities because they are arranged so the bookie makes money no matter how the bets go. Still, the message this sends is that Hillary is going to win the election.

Of course none of this has anything to do with arguments about policy or ideology. It is the science of public opinion.

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