Archive

October 26th, 2016

Here's why Trump feels as if he won the debates

    Imagine if, on the day of a championship tennis match, one of the players showed up at the court with hockey sticks, skates, and face masks instead of rackets, balls and white shorts. And instead of recognizing the error and suiting up appropriately, what if that player went ahead and played the game anyway, ice skates and all?

    Such is the scenario that characterized this year's cycle of general election presidential debates. In their three joint appearances, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump appeared to be playing two separate, incompatible games. For Clinton the debates were an exercise in competitive political communication. This is terrain with which she is familiar, something she has a knack for. For Trump the debates were a form of reality television, in which the objective is to wipe out your opponent by any means necessary: insults, threats, hissy fits, facial contortions, physical intimidation.

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Globalization shouldn't be a dirty word

    "Globalization" - broadly defined as market-driven, cross-national flows of goods, services and investments - has become a dirty word. It is derided by U.S. presidential candidates, feared and rejected by the public, and evidently headed to the dustbin of policy ideals. This, despite its contributions in the past two decades to dramatically reducing poverty in developing countries and improving productivity and standards of living in the developed world. What can get globalization back on track?

    First, tell the truth about the successes and failures of globalization. The North American Free Trade Agreement was a success, both economically and strategically. In purely economic terms, it benefited Canada, Mexico and (modestly) the United States. It also solidified a democratic neighbor on the southern border. It was a success and should not be mischaracterized for cheap political gain.

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For Better Or For Worse

    Soon it will all be over and we will know what we can expect in our future. Never, ever have we had as much to be concerned about in a national election. We have one candidate who seems to be right out of the looney bin. An irrational hate has been created around the other. What a situation!

    Of course everything about mental illness is irrational which is what makes it so difficult to deal with. Actually the man in question has not been deemed mentally ill, leaving the politically incorrect term as looney. Or is it worse because mental illness is something out of one's control? This man seems completely in control of his utterances. In fact they appear designed to get the most attention with no basis for truth. Without doubt he is a narcissist beyond any we have ever seen aspiring to such high office.

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October 25th

Where was Wells Fargo's board when we needed it?

    The scandal surrounding the opening of fake accounts at Wells Fargo illustrates a deeper dysfunction in the governance of U.S. companies: Corporate boards are failing at their job of overseeing management. If regulators can't address the problem, shareholders can and should.

    Despite years of evidence that a policy coming from the very top was driving illegal and abusive practices at Wells Fargo, the bank's directors were notable mainly in their passivity. They did not act in 2013, when the Los Angeles Times reported that bank employees were opening phony accounts to meet unrealistic sales quotas. They did not act in September, when Wells Fargo agreed to pay a $187.5 million fine and admitted to creating more than 2 million fake accounts. Only after CEO John Stumpf was excoriated in congressional hearings did they decide to claw back some of his compensation. Still, they never fired him -- he resigned on his own.

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The Debate in One Scary Answer

    OK, Donald Trump won’t promise to accept the results of the election. That’s truly ... good grief.

    “I will tell you at the time. ... I’ll keep you in suspense,” he told Wednesday’s debate moderator, Chris Wallace. The word “rigged” came up. Yow.

    Hillary Clinton noted that Trump tends to presume that whenever he loses anything, the system was rigged: “There was even a time when he didn’t get an Emmy for his TV program three years in a row and he started tweeting that the Emmys were rigged.”

    “I should have gotten it,” Trump retorted.

    This is obviously what we should have known was coming when the host of “The Celebrity Apprentice” wound up as a presidential nominee. But jeepers, people, this is serious. Trump was refusing to acknowledge it was even possible for him to lose a fair fight. At one point, he announced the election was rigged because Hillary Clinton was in it. (“She should never have been allowed to run for the presidency based on what she did with emails.”)

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Five myths about genius

    It's not always easy to know when we're in the presence of "genius." In part, that's because we barely agree on what it means. In Roman times, genius was not something you achieved but rather an animating spirit that adhered itself to people and places. In the 18th century, Romantics gave genius its modern meaning: Someone with special, almost divine abilities. Today, we're quick to anoint a "marketing genius" or a "political genius," oblivious to the fact that true genius requires no such modification. In truth, real geniuses transcend the confines of their particular domains. They inspire and awe. Which is precisely why we should use the word sparingly, lest it lose some of its magic. That's not the only misconception. Here are some others.

 

    Myth No. 1: Genius is mostly about genetics.

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Email isn't really private, so think before sending

    I was in the middle of an email to an old friend this week, and had written a sentence about a mutual acquaintance that was more than 50 percent positive but contained a snarky word or two. I paused. "Is that necessary?" I thought to myself.

    No, it wasn't. So I deleted the sentence.

    Maybe it was the Neera Tanden effect. But I think it was really the Henry Blodget effect.

    Blodget's emails were made public in 2002 by former New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. A year later the Securities and Exchange Commission hit young Henry with a $4 million fine and a permanent ban from the securities industry. The issue was that, although the emails contained honest commentary on the dot-com companies Blodget was following as an analyst for Merrill Lynch, his published research reports did not.

    So in that case the emails themselves were actually a lot less embarrassing than what Blodget had been saying in public. But I do remember taking the lesson from the whole affair that nothing one writes in an email is entirely private.

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Donald Trump's conspiracy theories about voting in Philadelphia are preposterous

    Donald Trump and his campaign surrogates say they believe that a massive conspiracy will be operating in Pennsylvania to "steal this election" for Hillary Clinton on Nov. 8. Specifically, they're worried about Philadelphia.

    "We have to make sure the people of Philadelphia are protected that the vote counts are 100 percent," Trump said last week in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. "Everybody wants that, but I hear these horror shows. I hear these horror shows and we have to make sure that this election is not stolen from us and is not taken away from us. And everybody knows what I'm talking about." His ally Newt Gingrich was even blunter, saying that "to suggest that you don't have theft in Philadelphia is to deny reality." Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, R, predicted that people would be bused to Philadelphia to vote "four or five times" in place of dead voters on the rolls.

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Don’t Take Donald Trump to Dinner

    The evidence continues to mount: There is nothing in the world that Donald Trump can’t make worse.

    Our latest example is the Al Smith Dinner, a feel-good annual event at New York’s Waldorf Astoria hotel, in which the political and business elite gather to congratulate themselves for raising money to help poor children. It’s sponsored by the Catholic archdiocese, and in presidential election years it’s a tradition for the candidates to show up and make witty, self-deprecatory speeches in which each can also take gentle gibes at the other.

    The nation is filled with must-show events for politicians. (There was quite a stir in Florida a few years ago when the gubernatorial candidates failed to attend the Wausau Possum Festival.) But few are as high-end and theoretically bipartisan as the Smith dinner. The most important guests are seated in tiers onstage, where hoi polloi can admire their table manners.

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Defeating Trump won't heal America's divisions

    If the polls are to be believed, Donald Trump's chances of winning the election have all but vanished. The last television debate is unlikely to have arrested his downward trajectory. One should never say never (think of the Brexit referendum) but the question now, it seems, is what will follow Hillary Clinton's victory.

    Here's what ought to follow: Relief at a disaster averted, followed by some sober reflection.

    After the election, especially if Clinton wins comfortably, a consensus will form around the idea that Trump was bound to fail. As the past year recedes, and in view of the man's outlandish defects, this theory will be plausible -- yet nonetheless false. The most remarkable and disturbing thing about this election is just how unelectable Trump had to be to lose.

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