Trump’s Victory: It’s Still the Economy, Stupid

Liberal and moderate New Yorkers wander NYC streets shell-shocked. Donald Trump President of the United States?

How could this happen?

Many blame FBI Director James Comey, whose reopening of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails grounded her momentum to a screeching halt. His reversal two days before the election was too late. Others cite a hacking plot involving Russia and Julian Assange.

Some grumble that Sen. Bernie Sanders could have easily won. They are kidding themselves. The GOP would have ruthlessly exploited Sanders’ radical background and scared the crap out of Americans about a proud socialist being president.

Meanwhile, it is clearer than ever that Clinton is a weak campaigner. A relatively unknown Barack Obama trounced her in 2008, while Sanders gave her a real battle, despite the media virtually ignoring him.

But the main reason for Trump’s victory? As Bill Clinton said years ago, “It’s the economy, stupid.” Yes, unemployment numbers have dropped, but millions of people are still struggling economically. Technology continues to steal jobs, especially from the working class, and this will only accelerate, no matter who is president.

Stroll in to your local drugstore, and see how many kiosks have replaced humans at checkout. Look around your workplace. How many jobs have been replaced by automation?

Angry white men without college degrees, who helped drive Trump to victory, are in deep trouble economically. According to CNN Money, nearly 25 percent of them are not only unemployed, but have given up looking for work. Many others drive to earn a living, and will only see things worsen as driverless cars take over. And Trump expertly exploited their anger.

But despite his confident boasts, Trump can’t reverse this economic trend. Conservative Wall Street ominously signaled its feelings about Trump’s ability to right the ship when the financial markets plunged immediately after the election.

The sad truth is that no matter which party is in power, jobs will continue to disappear. Despite Trump’s scapegoating, it’s not undocumented immigrants doing the jobs Americans would never do who are to blame.

It’s technology, which also has historically improved millions of lives. But there are always unintended consequences.

Such as President Donald J. Trump.

 

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In New York, Every Vote Counts. Or does it?

On Tuesday, I will proudly march the half block over to my polling place and exercise my rights as a U.S. citizen. But in New York, does my vote really count?

Hillary Clinton is ahead in New York by more than 20 points, and her winning the state’s 29 electoral votes is a foregone conclusion. No Democratic presidential candidate has lost the state since Ronald Reagan’s victory in 1984.

Meanwhile, did you know Sen. Chuck Schumer is running for re-election? OK, now can you name his opponent? If you said Wendy Long, claim your civics prize at the No Chance Saloon. Have you seen Long’s TV ads? No one has. She lost the 2012 Senate race to Kirsten Gillibrand by a mere 43 points, and this year’s trouncing by Schumer should be equally embarrassing. So, that vote doesn’t really count either.

Meanwhile in Idaho, Republican Sen. Mike Crapo (that’s his real name) is ahead of Democratic opponent Jerry Sturgill by more than 30 points. Crapo received 71 percent of the vote in 2010, and is looking to match that this year. Idaho hasn’t elected a Democratic senator since the 1980s, and that’s not changing anytime soon. So basically, they’re in the same boat as us.

Frustrating, isn’t it? But wait — there is a way to make your vote count. Move! Your vote in Florida or Ohio could actually help sway this election. But for your vote to be meaningful, should you really have to relocate to Cleveland?

There’s an obvious solution, brought up every four years, then forgotten. What if we switched presidential elections to a simple national majority, eliminating the Electoral College? The increased power of the vote in New York, California and Illinois would instantly make the results more progressive. Urban issues such as public transportation would become more important.

Smaller states are strongly against this solution, for obvious reasons. Politicians would spend less time, if any, in states such as Wyoming, with its sparse population of some 586,000 (by comparison, 2.6 million live in Brooklyn). Instead, they would concentrate on the major population centers of the nation.

But isn’t that the way it should be?

 

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New Yorkers’ Birthday Wishes for Hillary

Happy birthday Hillary Clinton! Today is the Democratic presidential nominee’s 69th birthday, and I asked a sampling of New Yorkers to select the perfect birthday gift for her. As you might imagine, Clinton’s supporters picked some cheery offerings, while her detractors were brimming with snarky suggestions.

“A bright pink pantsuit, bedazzled on the back: Born to be Nasty!” suggests Robin Rice of Manhattan.

“How about a dress?” asks Brooklyn’s Bob Goldblatt. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen her in one. Or perhaps a GPS tracking device for Bill?”

Brooklyn Hillary supporter Karen Curley suggests “an enticing basket of fruits, nuts and veggies__a cornucopia of healthy treats. In accepting the gift, Clinton can assure people she’ll continue Michelle Obama’s healthy food and garden campaign. Hillary also might point out that Donald Trump eats a lot of high fat items, fast foods and other crap, and remind voters ‘you are what you eat.’ “

Her first-time voter son Will was a tad less enthusiastic. His gift to Hillary? “A half-hearted vote from an embittered millennial.”

But that was a ringing endorsement compared to the response of Arthur Wellikoff of Malverne, Long Island. “I don’t think I or anyone could top the generous gift she already received from James Comey, Loretta Lynch and the Obama administration: a Get Out of Jail Free Card.”

“How about golf lessons and clubs?” suggested Kevin Quinn of Queens, a Hillary supporter. “All presidents have loved playing rounds of golf with friends and other politicians, and I think it would help a workaholic like Hillary to relax.”

Others from those who didn’t want their names used show the range of emotions Clinton evokes, and ran the gamut from “a Nobel Prize recognizing her efforts to help women and children,” to “a one-way ticket to Siberia.”

One such person who never cared much for Hillary but seems resigned to her winning surprised me with his lovely suggestion. “How about a super-comfortable rocking chair?” he wondered. “Hillary must be really tired after this grueling campaign. My birthday wish for her is to relax and not try to do too much in the next four years.”

“In fact, don’t do anything.”

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42 and 44: American Pioneers

‘You want a player who doesn’t have the guts to fight back?” baseball pioneer Jackie Robinson challenged Brooklyn Dodger General Manager Branch Rickey.

“No, I want a player who’s got the guts not to fight back,” said Rickey.

Jackie Robinson, whose uniform No. 42 was retired by Major League Baseball, died Oct. 24, 1972. The first African-American major-leaguer’s ability to turn the other cheek to abuse and bigotry when he broke into baseball after World War II paved the way for other black ballplayers.

Sixty-two years later, our first African-American president followed a similar path. Barack Obama, president No. 44, knew that while America made progress in tolerance over decades and might be ready for a black leader, it wasn’t going to tolerate an “angry black man” as president.

Both Obama and Robinson had to endure bigotry-driven versions of “You don’t belong here!” From Newt Gingrich suggesting Obama might have a “Kenyan, anti-colonial” worldview to Sarah Palin mocking Obama’s “shuck and jive,” many Republicans used thinly veiled racism to attack him. Was the birther movement anything but bigotry? Obama’s birth in Hawaii was never in question until he ran for president, when a relentless demand for his “real” birth certificate sprang forward, led by Donald Trump.

Frustrated that Obama didn’t retaliate strongly enough, some liberals were clueless as well. It wasn’t because Obama was weak. It was because he refused to be baited into an angry retort, thus increasing his chances of defeat in 2012.

Nearly 70 years after becoming the first African-American in Major League Baseball, Robinson is remembered as a class act on and off the field, a man who played the game with grace.

And today, as the clock winds down to the presidential election, it’s time to recognize the grace and dignity shown by Barack Obama, the Jackie Robinson of U.S. presidents. Whatever our political beliefs, we should appreciate the class he has shown throughout his tenure.

Mr. President, your taking the high road in the face of ignorance and bigotry will be remembered long after all of us are gone. Thank you.

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What If Columbus Met Native Lives Matter?

In Fourteen Hundred Ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue . . .

That’s probably the last carefree verse ever written about Christopher Columbus. After intense lobbying by leading NYC Italian-Americans, Congress proclaimed today — Oct. 12 — a federal holiday in 1937 called Columbus Day.

Since then, Columbus’ legacy has come under scrutiny. Depending on your age, background and education, the name Columbus conjures up an image of a man who a) discovered America; b) discovered the Bahamas; c) discovered a group of unsuspecting natives he could exploit and terrorize; d) discovered the three-day weekend.

Did Columbus discover America, or did he invade it? In 2016, descriptions of Columbus run all over the map from visionary to America’s first terrorist.

When Columbus encountered the Taino natives of Hispaniola (he never set foot on our mainland), the explorer forced them into slavery and made them collect gold under the threat of mutilation or death.

Yet we still honor his name. It would take an act of Congress to eliminate Columbus Day as an official holiday. Many have backed off from the celebration as the explorer’s less heroic deeds have become more widely known. Hawaii and Alaska, which have large native populations, don’t recognize the day, while South Dakota celebrates Native American Day instead.

Meanwhile, some U.S. cities have replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day. It wasn’t long ago that American Indians were portrayed in movies and other media as godless savages. Columbus recorded in his diaries that Tainos “would easily be made Christians because it seemed to me they had no religion.”

Today, many people question the Black Lives Matter movement. “Don’t all lives matter?” they challenge. Of course they do. But what if there had been a Native Lives Matter when Columbus arrived? Things would have been different if the natives had political savvy. But they were innocents.

While most recognize today that minorities aren’t lesser peoples to dominate, too many still ignore that truth. That’s why Black Lives Matter exists. And that’s why Columbus Day celebrations will likely soon be a thing of the past.

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Will Bad Mike Show Up for Sunday’s Second Debate?

This Sunday, Donald Trump will try to rectify his lackluster performance at the first presidential debate.

Of course, it wasn’t Trump’s fault.

“They gave me a defective mike!” Trump complained to reporters. “I wonder—was that on purpose?”

Trump might be on to something__there were some issues with his microphone. Indeed, the word salad coming from his lips could only be caused by a technical glitch, or yes, sabotage!

Like a possessed ventriloquist’s dummy, the distorted mike (or mic, if you prefer) spewed all kinds of nonsense that Trump couldn’t possibly have meant to say. For example, when discussing the taxes that pay for our military, roads and health care, Trump’s statement that “good citizens pay their taxes” came out sounding like “not paying taxes makes me smart.”

When he expressed sympathy for the millions of Americans who lost their homes when the housing bubble burst, it sounded like he was happy about it because he could profit from their misery.

And when he talked about ISIS, which has existed for about a decade, it sounded like he was saying Hillary Clinton has been fighting ISIS “her entire adult life,” which is about half a century.

Bad mike!

But that’s not all.

The mike started making him sound nearly illiterate. When Trump said “I’m going to cut taxes bigly,” many wondered if that’s even a real word. But his son Eric helpfully explained afterward that his dad said he will cut taxes “big league,” not “bigly.”

Once again, bad, bad mike! How bad? A “hot mike” usually means it’s on, but not at the last debate. Trump’s mike was literally hot, making the poor guy sniffle, sweat bullets and consume gallons of water.

Who would do such a thing? It might have been the mysterious 400-pound man lying in bed that Trump said during the last debate might have hacked the Democratic National Committee. Who knows?

So if you see an obese gentleman lurking around the stage on Sunday with what looks like either a microphone or a meatball sandwich tucked under his arm and it’s not Chris Christie, you’ll realize that, despite what many, many people are telling me, Donald Trump is definitely not paranoid.

Definitely not.

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Robots, Self-Driving Cars and You

 Oh my God, the robots are taking over! We’re doomed__doomed!

Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, it’s become clear that while we may or may not be doomed, the robots are indeed taking over. The latest example is the government’s recently released guidelines for self-driving cars.

Tesla, Google and Uber already have test versions of their driverless cars on the road in cities across America. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick is among those predicting that by the year 2021, self-driving cars will dominate in urban settings, according to USA Today.

Nearly 40,000 died last year in this nation in automobile-related accidents, and President Obama believes driverless cars can save tens of thousands of lives annually.

Makes sense. Robot drivers are less likely to get drunk, drive without a license, text while driving or rubberneck at the scene of a pileup. On the other hand, I wonder how these hypersensitive cars will react in NYC, with jaywalkers constantly darting into the street. Will they be jamming on the brakes every 10 seconds?

But there’s obviously a bigger picture here. Not only are robots replacing humans behind the wheel, but behind the work desk, in warehouses, senior homes, you name it.

Robots aren’t just taking over in the workplace. If only. As songwriter Steve Goodman prophetically wrote years ago, “there are those who make love to machines, that don’t talk back and are easy to clean.” Men’s Health Magazine recently ran an article entitled “Why This Guy Fell in Love with a Sex Robot.”

The real question is, where can’t a robot function better than a human? How about writing songs? A robot can go through every combination of notes in record time and come up with a pleasing melody. The lyrics might be a different story. Is a Grammy-winning song co-written by Hank Human and R-3071 in our future?

Finally, I believe it’s only a matter of time until we have robot politicians and presidential candidates. Why not? They can be programmed to be experts in world and domestic affairs and come up with optimum solutions, without the corruption and demagoguery.

Actually, it’s too bad such technology isn’t available in 2016. Pretty sure the robot would win in a landslide.

 

 


 

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Sneak Preview of Trump-Clinton Debate

Threatening to draw Super Bowl-sized ratings, the long-awaited first presidential debate of 2016 arrives Monday. Moderator Lester Holt of NBC News will offer six topic segments, then let the candidates duke it out.

According to their track records, the debate should go something like this:

Holt: The first subject health care. Mr Trump, why don’t you start?

Trump: Hillary, are you dying? You look lousy. What’s wrong?

Clinton: I feel nauseous every time you speak.

Trump: I feel nauseous every time I look at you.

Clinton: I’ll bet you say that to all the girls.

Trump: Not at all. My Melania’s a 10.

Clinton: Are you talking looks or IQ?

Holt: That’s enough! Health care! What will you do about Obamacare, Mr. Trump?

Trump: I will abolish it.

Holt: And replace it with what?

Trump: Something much better.

Holt: Such as? Be specific.

Trump: Something terrific.

Holt: Secretary Clinton?

Clinton: I will keep and enhance it, and include a public option allowing those under 65 to buy into Medicare. I’ll also urge Congress to pass funding to fight the Zika virus.

Trump: Boring!

Clinton: Oh, and that’s right, increasing funding for the mentally ill.

Holt: Let’s move on to international issues. What would you do about Aleppo? Mr Trump?

Trump: I feel terrible for those who have contracted Aleppo. It’s a serious disease. But I plan to build the greatest, hugest Aleppo colony the world has ever seen.

Clinton: Hah! Aleppo is a city!

Trump: I knew that. I’m kidding. Humorless Hillary!

Holt: Mr Trump, you have called Russian President Vladimir Putin a great leader. You do know that he locks up political opposition and murders journalists who write something he doesn’t like?

Trump: Like I said, a great leader.

Clinton: He was KGB!

Trump: The rapper? Even if he did all these things you say, which people tell me isn’t true, if he compliments me, I’m not supposed to compliment him back?

Clinton: Exactly!

Trump: That’s very rude.

Clinton: What’s rude is invading Ukraine.

Trump: Never happened.

Clinton: It did so.

Trump: Did not.

Holt: On that note, I’m afraid our time is up. Thanks to Mr. Trump and Secretary Clinton for appearing, and God help us all.

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The Know Nothing Party Reborn?

How would you feel if you drove into a gas station and asked the mechanic to fix your carburetor, and he answered, “What’s a carburetor?”

That’s exactly how those who are dissatisfied with their presidential choices this year and considering voting for a third party now feel. Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson recently revealed himself to be clueless on one of the most important issues of our time.

Johnson is desperate to get to 15 percent in the polls so he can participate in the presidential debates (the first is on Sept. 26). So, he broke the hearts of many who viewed him as a viable option when he answered a query about war-torn Aleppo, Syria, where refugees are trying to escape to other nations.

Proving that ingesting large quantities of pot might not be the ideal preparation for a presidential run, Johnson replied to a question about his solution to the crisis in Aleppo with, “What is Aleppo?”

Hello? Our next president should be familiar with that city, and its situation and implications for us. But the sad truth is, Johnson isn’t alone in his ignorance.

Donald Trump continues to reassure us about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intentions, saying his pal Putin “is not going into Ukraine, all right? You can mark it down!”

When Trump promised this, Putin had already stormed into Ukraine.

Just as you’d want to trust the knowledge and ability of your car mechanic or surgeon before engaging their services, shouldn’t you seek the same level of comfort in the person to whom you are about to turn over the nuclear codes?

But this year’s candidates are not making it easy. Even Hillary Clinton, who usually comes across as the know-it-all nerd in the class, recently vowed that, “We are not putting ground troops into Iraq ever again.” More than 4,600 troops are already stationed there.

So on Sept. 26, let’s see debate moderator Lester Holt pin the candidates down on basic facts and issues, and not let them squirm out of answering. Trump wants to dump Obamacare and Clinton wants to enhance it — but where are their specific plans? How will they deal with growing U.S. income inequality?

And yes, what will they do about Aleppo?

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From Trauma to Hope: A Child of 9-11’s Journey

Can it really be 15 years since 9/11?

On Sunday, we honor those who lost their lives that terrible morning. Meanwhile, many surviving first responders continue to suffer with illnesses linked to Ground Zero exposure.

But all the victims and survivors weren’t in the towers. And all weren’t adults.

Helaina Hovitz was 12 years old when she stepped out of IS 89, just blocks from the WTC, into a living hell.

Her mom worked at Rockefeller Center and dad in Staten Island, and neither could make it downtown to get her. When her neighbor Ann dashed in to pick up her son, Helaina begged, “Take me with you, please.”

The three bolted through the school doors to blinding smoke, falling bodies, and crumbling towers, as Ann told the kids to cover their faces and run for their lives.

With crews digging through rubble and the air still toxic, IS 89 was no longer safe. When Helaina and her friends were shipped to a school uptown, its students couldn’t understand why planes flying overhead made their new classmates so jumpy. One day, a passing truck loudly backfired, and the IS 89 group ran or hit the ground. “The other kids just stared at us like we were crazy,” Hovitz recalls.

The reporters soon found the displaced kids. “Did you see people jumping?” they’d demand of the traumatized children, waving microphones at them.

As she moved through her teens, Hovitz tried to muffle the panicked voices in her head with drugs and alcohol, drifting into abusive relationships and paranoia. Eventually, she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

With help and resilience, Hovitz eventually dug her way out, and became a journalist highlighting positive stories. She recently launched a news service called Headlines for the Hopeful, and her book, “After 9/11: One Girl’s Journey Through Darkness to a New Beginning,” describes her decade-long spiral into addiction and battle to heal.

Although Hovitz seems to have emerged on the other side intact, her PTSD is triggered in times of stress.

“I know that as much as ‘fear’ can stand for ‘false evidence appearing real,’ ” she says, “it can also stand for ‘face everything and recover.’ ”

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