Hillary Does a Press Conference

Hillary Clinton has been criticized for not doing a press conference this year. She’s pointed out that she’s done 300 or so interviews with members of the press since January, and of course there were those “debates” during which she responded to questions from the moderators, but she hasn’t stood in front of a crowd of reporters throwing random questions at her one after the other.

So  it must have been a relief to Trump and her other critics when she stood in front of a crowd of reporters throwing random questions at her this week. It happened after she gave a brief address to the joint convention of the National Association of Black Journalists and National Association of Hispanic Journalists yesterday.

But one might say it was really a question and answer session. And it didn’t involve the entire White House press corps. But it sure looked and sounded like a press conference. 

The first question is at 16:00 in the video below. Clinton’s detailed answer lasts 4 minutes and 40 seconds and shows yet again why she might be a great President. This being a press conference, of course, the next question has to do with emails.

From Under the Cone of Silence

Four days ago, I lowered the Cone of Silence, thereby tuning out all the news and commentary that keeps me relatively well-informed about current events. I wanted to watch the Democratic National Convention with no help from anybody else, unfiltered and undiscussed by anyone on TV or the internet. That’s meant no New York Times, no New York Magazine, no Guardian, no Daily Kos, no VOX, no Sky News, not even any Yahoo News for four whole days.

Finding gavel-to-gavel coverage of the convention online was easy (the convention has a website). Resisting the urge to read about it has been hard. In fact, despite my best efforts, one piece of news slipped under or through the Cone.

I learned that the Republican candidate for President of the United States said the Russians should try to find a bunch of Hillary Clinton’s emails and share them with the world. (Later, he apparently said he wasn’t joking.) That made me wonder. If the emails were uninteresting, hacking them would merely be a crime and an enormous campaign dirty trick. But if they did indeed contain sensitive national secrets, that would be a crime, a dirty trick and a breach of national security. Maybe Trump should have kept his mouth shut?

Anyway, I have a couple thoughts I want to share.

Remember two weeks ago when Ruth Bader Ginsburg said she was very worried about a Trump presidency? She later apologized for speaking out, since Supreme Court Justices are expected to keep their opinions about politics to themselves (although it’s fine for them to help elect a Republican President, vacate campaign finance laws and rule that the Voting Rights Act is obsolete, all while voting along party lines). 

Then, today, I saw that a retired Marine Corp general, John Allen, who commanded our forces in Afghanistan, will speak at the convention. Presumably, he will explain why he believes Clinton would be a much better Commander-in-Chief than you know who.

In reading a little about Gen. Allen, however, I saw some criticism at the Marine Corps Times site:

One expert on civil-military relations fears that by endorsing Clinton, Allen could give the appearance that he is speaking for current senior military leaders.

“A man of his prominence and his rank can be interpreted to speak for the whole military community, retired and active duty,” said Richard Kohn, who teaches military history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Kohn said he does not believe any retired military officer should ever endorse political candidates.

“They are in effect declaring themselves partisans and leaving the non-partisanship of the military profession and that’s a different thing,” he said.

We should note that a retired Army general spoke in favor of the Republican nominee last week, but putting that aside, it strikes me that anyone criticizing Gen. Allen, and anyone who criticized Justice Ginsburg, in fact even Justice Ginsburg herself, have all missed the point.

Rules help us make our way through life in an orderly fashion. Ethical rules, professional rules, grammatical rules, rules of thumb, the rules we call “the law”, they all help us deal with the situations we confront as we go about our business. Should I take that loaf of bread without paying? If he won’t look you in the eye, he’s probably lying. Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. “Couldn’t” is okay, but “can’t” isn’t.

As we all know, however, extraordinary things do happen. We sometimes face situations where the standard rules aren’t good enough. Can you think of such a situation today? Let me put it this way: Trump is so utterly unqualified to be President, he would be so dangerous if he became Commander-in-Chief, that no rules, laws, standards or common practices should stop anyone at all from saying so. 

Despite the fact that he won a major political party’s nomination, it would be entirely appropriate if the whole Supreme Court (all eight of them) and the senior officers who make up the Joint Chiefs of Staff (all seven of them) went on national television and pointed out the obvious fact: Nobody should vote for this guy! Wake up, you people!

I don’t mean to say that none of the rules apply in this situation. We should still have a presidential election on November 8th. The FBI shouldn’t put Trump in a cell. He shouldn’t be given a one-way ticket to Mars. But, seriously, we all need to do what we can to stop him from becoming President. We need to do it for ourselves as Americans but also for the rest of the world. (There are even rules in our favor: Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures and an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.)

Before I go, there was one other thing I wanted to mention. Maybe you’ve seen a movie called “Seven Days in May”. It was based on a novel about an attempted military coup in the United States. The idea was that the President wanted to sign a treaty with the Russians, but most of our military really hated it. So Burt Lancaster and a bunch of other high-ranking officers tried to take over the government. I won’t tell you how it ended, but we were lucky to have Kirk Douglas on our side.

Now consider if somebody like the general who led the conspiracy in Seven Days in May decided to leave the Army and run for President. As played by Burt Lancaster, Gen. James Mattoon Scott was a very handsome, very intelligent, very experienced, very skilled officer. If anyone was looking for a Man on a White Horse to save America in its darkest hour, he’d be a prime candidate.

So here’s my question: If millions of Americans are willing to elect an unpredictable ignoramus and reality TV con man like Trump, how would our fellow citizens react to a candidate who favored equally misguided policies, but who could speak intelligently and had a distinguished record of service to America?

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not worry about that question. We have enough trouble already.

Watch Democratic Convention Live Here

To hell with Trump. To hell with today’s Republican Party. To hell with Fox News and CNN.

To hell with Trump’s buddy Putin. To hell with ISIS. To hell with the leaders of the NRA.

To hell with those who call themselves “Christians” and don’t practice Christianity.

To hell with the fools and money-grubbers who deny that global warming is real.

To hell with fanatics who spread fear, hatred and ignorance throughout the world.

Finally, to hell with any strong Sanders supporters who don’t apply at least some of their intensity to electing Hillary Clinton, Tim Kaine and a Democratic Congress in November.

You can watch the unfiltered gavel-to-gavel coverage of the Democratic National Convention, without “expert” analysis or commentary, at this site, even if you don’t have cable TV.

And have a nice day!

Faces of Fascism

First, they came for the Mexicans and Muslims…

Michael Barbaro, The New York Times:

Mr. Trump made no real case for his qualifications to lead the world’s largest economy and strongest military. He is, he said, a very successful man who knows how to make it all better.

Inside the Quicken Loans Arena, a thicket of American flags behind him, he portrayed himself, over and over, as an almost messianic figure prepared to rescue the country from the ills of urban crime, illegal immigration and global terrorism.

“I alone,” he said, “can fix it.”

Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker:

It is no surprise that the American face of fascism would take on the forms of celebrity television and the casino greeter’s come-on…What all forms of fascism have in common is the glorification of the nation, and the exaggeration of its humiliations, with violence promised to its enemies, at home and abroad; the worship of power wherever it appears and whoever holds it; contempt for the rule of law and for reason; unashamed employment of repeated lies as a rhetorical strategy; and a promise of vengeance for those who feel themselves disempowered by history.

It promises to turn back time and take no prisoners. That it can appeal to those who do not understand its consequences is doubtless true. But the first job of those who do understand is to state what those consequences invariably are. Those who think that the underlying institutions of American government are immunized against it fail to understand history. In every historical situation where a leader of Trump’s kind comes to power, normal safeguards collapse. Ours are older and therefore stronger? Watching the rapid collapse of the Republican Party is not an encouraging rehearsal. Donald Trump has a chance to seize power.

Hillary Clinton … has her faults, easily described, often documented—though, for the most part, the worst accusations against her have turned out to be fiction. No reasonable person, no matter how opposed to her politics, can believe for a second that Clinton’s accession to power would be a threat to the Constitution or the continuation of American democracy. No reasonable person can believe that Trump’s accession to power would not be. 

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New Jersey Governor Chris Christie addresses the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2012. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

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The Republican Party, Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, they all gave birth to Trump. Now we all have to get off our asses and vote a straight Democratic ticket in November. A Democratic President and a Democratic Congress are the only way to get our government working again and, therefore, the only way to stop the fire from spreading.

Because, yes, it could happen here. 

History Repeats Itself and Then Kind of Doesn’t

In 1964, Lyndon Johnson’s campaign hired an actor who was a registered Republican to do a four-minute commercial expressing his misgivings about Barry Goldwater, the Republican nominee for President. It was in black and white, of course, and the actor indulged in an unhealthy habit:

The ad was called “Confessions of a Republican”:

The actor, whose name is William Bogert, is still with us and has now made an ad for the Clinton campaign. It’s only a minute long, since our 2016 attention spans are 75% shorter. It’s also called “Confessions of a Republican”.

Also, here’s a related story that probably won’t appear on Fox News.That’s a pity. The ghost writer, who spent 18 months with Trump and wrote “his” popular book, The Art of the Deal, for the real estate developer, wishes it had been called The Sociopath instead:

“I feel a deep sense of remorse that I contributed to presenting Trump in a way that brought him wider attention and made him more appealing than he is,” Mr. Schwartz said. “I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes, there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization.”

Mr. Schwartz also says Trump has no attention span, is the most prolific liar he ever met and is running for President because he loves publicity. 

Meanwhile, the Republican National Conflagration began today in Cleveland, Ohio. The Never Trump faction tried to get Trump dumped. Yelling and confusion ensued, but the Trump Forever faction won with the help of the politician who held the gavel. A brief video records the disagreement:

God bless America.

PS — This is a longer article from The New Yorker about Trump’s ghost writer. The concluding quote:

“People are dispensable and disposable in Trump’s world.” If Trump is elected President, [Mr. Schwartz] warned, “the millions of people who voted for him and believe that he represents their interests will learn what anyone who deals closely with him already knows—that he couldn’t care less about them.”

And Another Thing (Not About Politics for the Most Part)

What follows may be the least important of the 522 posts I’ve written since beginning this blog. That’s saying a lot, I know, but here it is anyway:

One thing I learned from years of studying philosophy is the distinction between naming, mentioning or referring to a word and using it. One half of that distinction should be perfectly clear. We all use words when we write or speak them. For example, I used either nine or ten words in that last sentence, depending on how you want to count the word I used twice.

Brief tangent: If the same word is used twice in a sentence, should it be counted twice since it appears twice or should it be counted once, since it’s the same word both times? The answer to that question has to do with another distinction (the one between token and type). That distinction isn’t the subject of this post, however, so let’s keep going. 

As I was saying, it’s clear that we all know how to use a word. But how do you name it? It’s very simple, actually: you put quotation marks around it. For example, in order to refer to or mention the word “cat”, I put quotation marks around the three letters that spell it. Doing so allows me to ask you, for example, whether you can spell “cat”. If I asked you to spell the word cat, without the quotation marks, it wouldn’t mean the same thing at all. (The best I can figure is that it would mean to relieve the cat that’s good with words by taking its place.)

People, of course, have names like “Peter” and “Susan”. See how I just gave you the names of those fictional people by using quotation marks? In effect, I gave you the names of their names. If I’d said Peter knows Susan, I’d have simply used their names. I’m sure you get the idea.

My next point: We can also name, mention or refer to a sentence. How? Again, simply by putting quotation marks around it. For example, “This is a sentence” is a sentence. In that last sentence, I referred to the sentence “This is a sentence” in the same way I referred to the word “cat” above.

Okay, I’m now getting close to the point I wanted to make when I began this post several hours ago. When I was in school, I was taught a certain way to use quotation marks. It’s a rule that appears in a list Google presented when I asked their search engine how to use quotation marks correctly:

Rule 4. Periods and commas ALWAYS go inside quotation marks.

Examples:
The sign said, “Walk.” Then it said, “Don’t Walk,” then, “Walk,” all within thirty seconds.
He yelled, “Hurry up.”

If you follow this rule, you’ll write things like this:

I can spell “cat.” 

Instead of:

I can spell “cat”.

But the name of the word “cat” isn’t “cat.”. So what’s that period doing inside the quotation marks instead of being at the end of the sentence where it obviously belongs?

Likewise, if you follow Rule 4, you’ll write sentences like this:

This is a sentence: “This is a sentence.”

Instead of:

This is a sentence: “This is a sentence”.

Putting the period inside the quotation marks would be okay if you wanted to emphasize how declarative sentences are supposed to end with a period, but if that’s what you were doing, you’d need another period outside the quotation marks to mark the end of the whole sentence, like this:

This is a sentence: “This is a sentence.”.

Now take a look at the next rule in the list:

Rule 5a. The placement of question marks with quotation marks follows logic. If a question is within the quoted material, a question mark should be placed inside the quotation marks.

Examples:
She asked, “Will you still be my friend?”

The question Will you still be my friend? is part of the quotation.

But wait a second. We’re supposed to follow logic with respect to question marks, but not when it comes to periods? What this apparently means is that the question below should be written this way:

Can you spell “cat”?

Not this way:

Can you spell “cat?”

Which makes sense, because “cat?” is not a good way to refer to the word “cat”, in the same way “cat.” isn’t a good way either.

Sometimes you have an idea and wonder why you’ve never heard that idea before. Why hasn’t someone else concluded that Rule 4 is dumb? Why are we all taught to use logic when using quotation marks with question marks but not with periods? Was there a problem with typesetting many years ago that gave rise to Rule 4? Was it a solution to a perceived problem or simply someone like Ben Franklin or Noah Webster who had a few too many and thought Rule 4 would be a good idea? 

I decided somewhere along the line that I would ignore Rule 4 on this blog and in my other written communications. So far nobody has complained or, so far as I know, even noticed. 

But imagine my surprise and relief when I found this today at the website of Capital Community College of Hartford, Connecticut: 

Here is one simple rule to remember:

In the United States, periods and commas go inside quotation marks regardless of logic. 

In the United Kingdom, Canada, and islands under the influence of British education, punctuation around quotation marks is more apt to follow logic. In American style, then, you would write: My favorite poem is Robert Frost’s “Design.” But in England you would write: My favorite poem is Robert Frost’s “Design”.

Capital Community even offer an explanation of sorts for this discrepancy:

There are peculiar typographical reasons why the period and comma go inside the quotation mark in the United States. The following explanation comes from [a link that no longer works]: “In the days when printing used raised bits of metal, “.” and “,” were the most delicate, and were in danger of damage … if they had a [double quote] on one side and a blank space on the other. Hence the convention arose of always using ‘.”‘ and ‘,”‘ rather than ‘”.’ and ‘”,’, regardless of logic.”

This seems to be an argument to return to something more logical, but there is little impetus to do so within the United States.

That last sentence sums up the situation perfectly. There is little impetus to be more logical here in the United States. It’s not the entire English-speaking world that’s doing it wrong, it’s just us. And we’ll keep doing it wrong because, well, most of our Constitution is more than 200 years old and much of it is out-of-date. Why shouldn’t our punctuation be old and out-of-date too?

So, here we are. I’ve explained the situation and assured you that I’m committed to breaking Rule 4 at every opportunity. I call on the rest of America to do the same. Sometimes we have to stand up for what’s right, even if it means risking reprisals from illogical, conservative elements among us.

But, I know, I know, you probably think you’ve wasted the past several minutes reading this post. Maybe you’d rather have been reading about Trump and Congress and France and Baton Rouge.

Or maybe in retrospect it was good to get away from that for a bit? If you’ve missed it, here’s a long article about Trump’s even longer history of lies and exaggerations. The reporter says it’s hard to find a project Trump worked on that didn’t involve dishonesty or misinformation of some sort. I couldn’t stand to read the whole thing, but maybe you can. (By the way, there’s a poll out that says a majority of registered voters think Trump is more honest and trustworthy than Hillary Clinton. Amazing. This is what years of propaganda and intense ideology will do.)

And in case you want to submit a question to one of the speakers at the Republican Convention, which starts tomorrow, there’s a form you can fill out here. Posing as a fictitious reporter, I asked to interview a member of the Trump family on the topic: “Is Donald Trump a psychopath or merely a dangerous con man?” Still waiting for a reply.