Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Kvetching and resolutions

I am bone tired. It all probably just adds up to "middle age" but I need to find a way to live my life at a sustainable pace in 2017.

This was the Facebook status I posted Saturday morning: "I don't want to say it was a long, full week, but when I finally got home last night I was too tired to drink beer. #TheHorror"

Really, I was too tired to sit on my couch and drink beer on a Friday night.

If it was just one long week during the run up holidays that would be fine, but this has been a long time coming. I bore you with the kvetching details, gentle reader, but I've essentially been working what used to be 2-1/2 jobs at work for four years now. I like my job, but there's too much of it. I've also served as Village President (essentially the mayor) of our village for ten years. Plus, I served as treasurer on a state representative campaign this year.

It adds up.

I'm worn out. And as a result, I'm not doing a particularly good job of the things I should be doing. So it takes me longer to do them, so I get more worn out.

Rinse. Repeat.

I no longer seem to have long blocks of time for coherent thought. My daily existence is broken into a never-ending series of meetings crammed around dozens and dozens of emails. Worse yet I sometimes find myself multitasking during many of those meetings because I am awash in unread email and behind schedule on eight-thousand other fronts. Then I come home and impose multitasking on myself as I peruse the web while half-watching sporting events or routine TV shows. I have the attention span of a ... well, I was going to say "a five-year-old child," but frankly most five-year-olds can focus better than I can these days.

I need to re-establish my ability to focus and to sustain coherent thought for long periods of time. That used to be my thing, damn it.

I haven't been taking good care of myself. Not nearly enough exercise. Too much food. And then I get tired or stressed and overeat even more. It used to be that even when I overate I usually ate pretty decent food, but there's been an awful lot of junk going into me lately.

I have become a compendium of poor health habits. My doctor is not amused by the recent trend in my overall health the last few years. His advice to me at my physical this month went something like this, "Stop letting your job make you crazy and don't work yourself into an early grave."

Junk food into my belly, junk thought into my brain. I need to read more print and do less surfing of FB and Twitter. And good print. Books.

I can't maintain for the next four years the pace and intensity of my fury that Donald Trump was elected president. It's the most inconceivably awful decision democracy has made in my recollection or study of American history. I like to think that I stand for rational, reasonable, fact-based policy and decision-making in government with an emphasis on fairness to everybody and long-term solutions for problems. "Dull, efficient government," is my motto. Trumpism is pretty much the opposite, headed up by a sociopathic compulsive liar.

Just typing that last paragraph raised my blood pressure by 20 points. I need to find some way to not let the next four years drive me mad.

Because it could. It really could. We're six weeks past the election and I still find myself in a white-hot fury about it at some point every day. Unfortunately, I have enough empathy and imagination to see that the next four years are likely to be very bad for a lot of people who already have it pretty bad. The results of the next four years have a very good chance to be catastrophic for some parts of the world.

I don't know how to turn myself off from that knowledge. Empathy and imagination is what makes me tick. I don't know how to not care. I don't know how to pretend I don't see what I'm watching right now. I don't think I'm going to be able to ignore it or compartmentalize national politics for the next four years.

But there's also not much I can do about it, either. I can do my best to get my village ready to ride it out, I suppose. And when I do my job well I make it easier for people to find good, reliable information and I make it easier for people to learn. All of which makes it even more infuriating that so many people have chosen to wallow in crappy, inaccurate information and flat-out lies. I guess I can take a bit of solace in knowing that I'm on the right side of the information war that is being fought. It doesn't seem like enough, though.

I don't think there's anything truly wrong with me that six months on a quiet tropical beach wouldn't fix. (Well, maybe four years on that beach for the Trump thing....) But that ain't happening.

So, most of all I need to figure out how to get myself to a reasonable, sustainable, healthy pace and place in 2017. I'm not there right now. And I'm not sure what the path is to that place. But I need to find it.

I think I can.

I think I can.

I think I can.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Official Republican Party Platform Regarding Russian Foreign Intervention, 1945-Now, a Postwar Timeline

May 8, 1945 - VE Day

May 9, 1945 - We must use every tool at our disposal to contain Soviet foreign aggression.

October 6, 1976 - Gerald Ford: "There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe."

October 7, 1976 - Gerald Ford: "I misspoke during the debate. What I meant to say was, 'We must use every tool at our disposal to contain Soviet foreign aggression."

June 12, 1987 - Ronald Reagan: "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"

November 9, 1989 - Berlin Wall torn down.

Nov. 10, 1989 through Nov. 8, 2016 - We must use every tool at our disposal to contain Russian foreign aggression.

Nov. 9, 2016 - Official start of the Trump Doctrine: "Kiss kiss, smooch smooch. Oh, Pooty-Poot, I get so tingly and giddy when you cybertouch my electoral process. Do it again!"

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Bonus Clinton Campaign Post-Mortem: the Politico article and the lack of a ground game

There was a really interesting article in Politico today:

How Clinton lost Michigan — and blew the election: Across battlegrounds, Democrats blame HQ’s stubborn commitment to a one-size-fits-all strategy.

After reading it I sent it along to a few friends who I thought would be interested. That email turned into a bit of a rant. Normally I wouldn't just post up an email rant here, but I thought it made a bit of a useful companion piece to my earlier Clinton campaign post-mortem. (Clinton 2016: A Fundamentally Flawed Campaign)

One thing is becoming clear as we enter the Trumpocalypse. I may need to change my online handle from the relaxed Patioboater to Ranty McRantface.


Subject: Back to everybody's favorite topic: Clinton was a terrible campaigner....
Time: 11:24 am EST

Also on the bloviation front, there was a good article in Politico today on the Clinton campaign's much vaunted ground game, which turned out to be a lack of a genuine ground game, especially in Michigan:

This article matches up well with a lot of little things that I saw during the campaign. I had my hands full being treasurer of a state rep campaign, so this is the first year I wasn't really all that involved in the canvassing side of things.

The Obama campaign in 2008 and 2012 had prominent campaign office locations in strip malls. Those offices were fully staffed, bustling with volunteers, and the place to go for lawn signs, campaign lit, etc. I am an elected official, a Democratic precinct delegate, was treasurer of a Democratic state rep campaign, and have often served as a board member of our local and county Democratic Party organizations. But I literally had to do ten minutes of research to find the nearby Clinton campaign office, which was unmarked and located in an office complex. 

After the "grab 'em" video emerged my wife and mother-in-law very much wanted to put out lawn signs to counter the ocean of Trump signs in our neighborhood. So I said sure, no problem. But when I stopped by the Clinton office to get a lawn sign they would only give me one, and said the signs were being reserved for Clinton campaign volunteers. I had to come back again on another day to get somebody else to hand over another one. Hell, I probably would've ponied up five bucks for a sign, but it was one-per-person, no exceptions.

In 2008 and 2012 the coordinated campaign worked through the Obama campaign pretty much all year. Most of the coordinated canvassing we did on the state rep campaign this year was coordinated with our Congressional candidate because there wasn't a visible, organized Clinton door-to-door effort. 

I had the sense that something was amiss as we went down the stretch, but I dismissed it quite a bit based on the fact that I wasn't on the doors this time around -- I was doing the treasurer gig -- and that our area is very much a sweet spot for Trump. But things were indeed amiss. I had assumed that my sense that I felt that I wasn't seeing the Clinton ground game in Michigan was because I wasn't involved in that part of the campaign. But ... turns out that I wasn't seeing it BECAUSE THEY DIDN'T PLAN TO HAVE A GROUND GAME IN MICHIGAN!

Hindsight is always 20-20, and losing campaigns have a hundred fingers to point. But not planning to engage in retail politics in the state that is literally at the core of your electoral college plan is simply dumb campaigning. Michigan was never further than two or three states away from the "tipping point" of the Electoral College in's analysis all year long. And they took it for granted.

They got their asses handed to them in Michigan in February by Bernie despite what their big data was telling them, then they turned around and relied on their big data over retail data for the big show in November. They literally weren't entering their door-to-door responses back into their campaign and canvassing database. It's unfathomably stupid. 

I love data-driven campaigning more than most. But the absolute best possible use of data is to put people on the doors that matter. Clinton got her ass handed to her by Obama in 2008 because she didn't understand that. She nearly lost the 2016 primary to an elderly socialist Jew from Vermont because she didn't understand that. And now she has plunged us into what are likely to be four extremely dark years in our history because she didn't understand that.

This isn't complicated stuff. This is basic campaigning. These are training wheel decisions. You win elections by showing up and asking people for their vote.

How do you lose to the worst candidate in United States history? By running one of the worst campaigns in United States history.

Ugh. Ugh. Ugh.


Monday, December 12, 2016

The Electors in the Electoral College Should Do Their Duty as Americans

If the Electoral College is going to subvert the choice of the majority of voters, its Electors might as well do their duty while they're at it. They probably won't do it, since Electors are generally chosen on the basis of proven party loyalty. But the members of the Electoral College should take a close look at what Donald Trump has done and said both prior to and following the election. And if they are not satisfied that he should be president, they should should their duty as Americans and not vote for him.

Given Trump's repeated defense of Russian government hacking on behalf of his campaign, the allegations that he owes tens or hundreds of millions of dollars to Russian oligarchs, and his oft-stated intentions to continue to remain in close control of his business interests while benefiting from his position as President, there are plenty of legal grounds for Electors to reject Trump as President under the Constitution's emoluments clause:

Article I, Section 9, Clause 8:

No title of nobility shall be granted by the United States: and no person holding any office of profit or trust under them, shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.

The notion that the Electoral College should perform its actual constitutional function -- electing a person fit to be President of the United States -- is probably a shock to a lot of folks. But this is already getting serious consideration from some of the Electors themselves. One Republican Elector -- Christopher Suprun from Texas -- has already declared his intention to not vote for Trump: Why I Will Not Cast My Electoral Vote for Donald Trump. (New York Times, Dec. 5, 2016.)

A group of 10 Electors have called for an intelligence briefing of Electors on the topic of Trump's ties to Russia before the Electoral College convenes, so that they can better assess his fitness for office: Electors demand intelligence briefing before Electoral College vote. (Politico, Dec. 12, 2016.)

The Electoral College's constitutional duty is clear, as outlined by Alexander Hamilton in Federalist Paper No. 68 (Avalon Project, Yale University):

Nothing was more to be desired than that every practicable obstacle should be opposed to cabal, intrigue, and corruption. These most deadly adversaries of republican government might naturally have been expected to make their approaches from more than one querter, but chiefly from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils. How could they better gratify this, than by raising a creature of their own to the chief magistracy of the Union? 


The process of election affords a moral certainty, that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications. Talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity, may alone suffice to elevate a man to the first honors in a single State; but it will require other talents, and a different kind of merit, to establish him in the esteem and confidence of the whole Union, or of so considerable a portion of it as would be necessary to make him a successful candidate for the distinguished office of President of the United States.

To sum up, the Electoral College was designed specifically to prevent a corrupt demagogue beholden to a foreign power from becoming president. This is its exact purpose.

If the Electoral College fails to elect a president by a majority, the election gets thrown to the US House of Representatives. The likely outcome there would be to ultimately install Mike Pence as President. If that happens I will undoubtedly hate every policy choice Pence makes.

But at least he's not a corrupt Russian stooge.

I consider the Electoral College to be a generally bad idea that should be replaced by a direct vote of the people. But if it manages to prevent Donald Trump from becoming our president I'll have to take back every bad thing I've ever said about it.

As I said at the top, I doubt it'll happen because the partisan backlash for Electors who don't vote for Trump would be severe if they don't manage to prevent Trump's election. And for some of them there would be legal consequences for failing to vote for Trump, even if the Republican Party kept the White House. But the constitutional and legal grounds for refusing to vote Trump are also clearly present.

If Republican Electors value their patriotism before their party, they will demand that intelligence briefing. And then they will vote their conscience.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

New Truck!

It finally happened. Just 16-1/2 years after I bought my old Dodge Dakota I stopped squandering the New Truck Fund on British sports cars and finally bought another pickup truck. Say hello to my new winter driver!

For those of you who care about the details, it's a Gem Green 2016 Ford F150 Lariat Supercrew with the 2.7L V6 turbocharged EcoBoost engine. My rationale is that it has four-wheel drive, remote start, and heated seats, my original criteria for my next winter driver.  But the truth is that it's really a luxury truck: double-paneled moonroof, heated and cooled leather seats, navigation system, SYNC3 entertainment and phone system, blind-spot information system, back-up camera with traffic and proximity alerts, trailer tow package, off-road upgrades, and a bunch of stuff that I'm probably forgetting. (For example: folding side mirrors, electric sliding rear window, side spotlights, LED lights in the bed, electronic locking differential, automated trailer backup system...)

Oh, and the greatest feature of all time: a fold-out tailgate step so that I don't have to crawl into the back whenever I want something in the bed.

The notion that I just bought a luxury pickup truck still seems ridiculous to me. So how did I get here?

Let's start with the old truck, our much beloved though elderly 2000 Dodge Dakota, nicknamed "Sprout." (When I bought it Monique said it was so big that it was like the Jolly Green Giant but I pointed out that it was only a mid-size truck, much more like the Jolly Green Giant's little buddy Sprout.)

Sprout was the first new vehicle I ever bought and the successor to my much beloved Mighty Plymouth Acclaim. I loved the general usefulness of having a pickup truck with four-wheel drive and I particularly liked a lot about the Dodge Dakota. It was a convenient size, it drove really well on the highway, it towed everything I'd need to tow, and it was great in the snow. On the other hand, even in its younger days it was prone to needing more expensive repairs than I liked. By the year 2014 rust had set in everywhere, and its thirst for frequent repairs had grown. So I built up the ol' New Truck Fund with the intention of replacing Sprout with a new SUV or a crew cab pickup ... something that would be good in the snow and that would also give us a bit more passenger room for the big road trip out to Wyoming that we had planned for that summer with a couple of my nephews.

And then I went and spent the New Truck Fund on this:

The astute reader will notice that this is not a truck.

No regrets. This is in fact our ridiculous 1999 Jaguar XJ Vanden Plas about which I have rattled on at length many times before. (In the post The New Road Trip Vehicle, for example.) I loooooove this car and we had a great time on that road trip, even though there wasn't really enough room for four people and all their camping gear. There were, however, fancy-shmancy walnut tea tables, so who cares, right?

Alas, blowing the New Truck Fund on a ridiculous Jaguar just because it drove like supercharged butter meant that poor old Sprout had to soldier on for a couple more winters.

Unfortunately, it turned out that the Jaguar was a more expensive purchase than I had realized at the time because it introduced me to the notion of heated seats. Sometimes I like to think that I'm a tough, grizzled old bird. But the first time I sat my butt on a heated seat on a sub-freezing morning the truth was finally out. I am old and soft. And my butt was done sitting on frozen seats. The next winter driver was going to have heated seats. And while I was at it, I was tired of going out every morning to start up the truck far enough in advance for the ice to melt off the windows. Heated seats would have to be joined by remote start.

Fast-forward to 2016. Sprout had indeed made it through two more winters, though repairs had continued to grow in frequency. By this summer repair costs were starting to add up to a pretty good chunk of a truck payment. The time had come. So, I set forth with my criteria:

--Four-wheel drive
--Heated seats
--Remote start

Fast-forward a bit more through a big pile of research that would bore you all. I looked at a ton of options, including just finding a slightly newer Dodge Dakota -- one with heated seats! -- since I liked my old one so much. But the time for a new truck had come.

Then in September my Dad blew up the transmission in his old pickup. (This is its own long story that I'm not going to tell here, but he needed another truck.)  And, since he was passing through town I handed off Sprout to him. My old truck lives on in the Adirondacks.

Ultimately, after all my research and waffling among the options I mostly just wanted another green pickup truck to replace my old green pickup truck. I like green pickup trucks. And while I was at it, I managed to rationalize myself into an awful lot of nice bells and whistles on the grounds that heated seats and remote start were most efficiently purchased when bundled with several other desirable options in the Lariat package.

In defense of my ludicrous decision to purchase a luxury pickup truck, there were much more expensive models with even more bells and whistles. I don't even have a heated steering wheel or adaptive cruise control. Sacrifices were made! But, yeah, I admit it. There is no defense for buying a pickup truck with heated and cooled leather seats. What can I say? I refer you to the part above where I point out that I'm old and soft.

Say hello to the new pickup truck:

It's name? Well, since we replaced a mid-size green pickup nicknamed Sprout, this is its bigger buddy, Jolly.

What do I think about it now that I've owned it for a couple of months? It's niiiiiiiiice. I'm really, really happy with my new truck. (Just ask Monique if it's easy to pry me away from it.)

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Clinton 2016: A Fundamentally Flawed Campaign

Before the election I had planned to do a long post-election multi-part series of detailed posts about what I felt were some serious mistakes in Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign. Part of that plan was my underlying assumption that Clinton would win. I thought the combination of a decent economy, the worst candidate in US history as her opponent, and a technically proficient campaign would carry her through despite her missteps. But I felt strongly that she had made it much, much closer than it needed to be because she simply doesn't have good campaign instincts.

Now that she lost I feel a bit as if detailing Clinton's awfulness as a campaigner would just be piling on. Plus, I'm feeling a lot of urgency to start moving on to discussing what is coming under a Trump presidency, why I feel it will be bad for America, and what we all might do to reduce the damage he will do in the next four years. Maybe I'll go back and write the long version one day when I don't feel our democracy itself is imperiled.

So, gentle readers, you're going to get the summary version of my Clinton campaign post-mortem, not the longer one I had been gathering during the campaign itself.

Here are my two basic beefs with Clinton's 2016 campaign. One is a violation of Campaign 101, the very basic principles that any candidate learns in running for even the smallest of offices. The other concerns the most difficult but most essential thing a Presidential candidate must do during a campaign, controlling the narrative.

Campaign 101 - If you ever take any candidate or campaign training anywhere, any time, for either party one of the first things they will tell you is this:

Don't run on your resume. Nobody votes for a resume. Your resume can get you the job interview, which in this case is the opportunity to campaign. But you need to explain what you will do with the job if you want to be hired. Voters will vote for a candidate they believe will do something good and useful in office. They will not vote for somebody just because that person is qualified for the office.

Instead, if we heard it once we heard it 10,000 times from the Clinton campaign: "the most qualified candidate to ever run for President."

To that the electorate said, "So what?" And rightly so.

The last Democratic candidate to run on his resume was John "The Real Deal" Kerry. We all saw how that turned out.

Control the Narrative -- This is complicated and difficult because it's really the sum total of every single thing you do in a campaign. But controlling the narrative is the ultimate goal of a campaign. And the Clinton campaign made a series of decisions that led to both a poor campaign narrative and a failure to control the overall narrative.

Maybe the best way to explain it is this. Think of a political campaign as a battle between two storytellers. Each storyteller wants to tell his or her story in a way that is satisfying and convincing to the listeners.

In this case the listeners are the voters. The measure of which story is most "satisfying and convincing" is "showed up to the polls and voted for that storyteller." This storytelling exercise is enormously complicated because the two storytellers are telling opposing tales at the same time in an infinitely complex environment that involves everything about the campaign: the slogan; fundraising; free, earned, and paid media; debates; mailers; voter outreach; voter registration; get-out-the-vote (GOTV) management; and ten-thousand other details.

But the measure is simple. Enough showed up to the polls and voted for that candidate for that candidate to win.

Instead of digging into those ten-thousand details -- books and doctoral theses will be written on them -- I'm just going to hit a few of ways in which the Clinton campaign made bad narrative decisions along the way that ultimately cost them enough votes to lose the election.

  • The Slogan 

"I'm with Her." ← The slogan itself made the Clinton campaign a referendum on Hillary Clinton. This wasn't a good idea. Not only do I refer you to our Campaign 101 lesson above -- "Don't run on your resume" -- but coming into 2016 Hillary Clinton wasn't nearly as beloved among Democrats or the general populace as her campaign always seemed to assume.

I get what they were doing there. Clinton did come into 2016 with tons of support from various institutional Democrats. And there were good reasons for that support, given all of the fundraising and other work she did on their behalf over the last 25 years. The Clinton campaign wanted to create an early bandwagon to shut down any serious competition for the nomination. So the notion of a bunch of "I'm with Her" messages popping up as endorsements by Democratic leaders must've been irresistible.

But it makes the campaign about the candidate, instead of about what the candidate will do for constituents. It set the course of the campaign in a bad direction from the start.

By contrast, let's look at the campaign slogans of two 2016 campaigns that succeeded beyond what should have been possible.

"A Future To Believe In" ← It wasn't about Bernie. It was about Believe in the Future.

"Make America Great Again" ← It wasn't about Trump. It was about Make America Great.

Take a look at any Presidential campaign slogans that resonated from "Fifty-four forty or fight!" to "Morning in America" to "Change We Can Believe In". They're never about the candidate. They're about what the candidate is going to do for America and thus, they're really about the voter.

Okay, I'll grant "I like Ike." But for God's sake, her own husband famously ran and won with, "It's the economy, stupid!"

It's the voter, stupid!

  • The Campaign Trail and Fundraising

Those of you who who want some details can get a good sense of my thoughts here by going back to read my two blog posts from this Spring on the Michigan Presidential primary:

A few thoughts on the 2016 Presidential primary

Wow, Bernie! Wow!

To summarize, I came away from the primary feeling that the Clinton campaign cared more about raising money than talking to voters.

Prophetically enough, my experience of the Michigan primary became my experience of the closing weeks of the general election. After the first debate I decided I'd better pony up fifty bucks towards the "Keep Donald Trump the heck away from the White House fund" AKA Hillary for America. Afterwards I received upwards of a half-dozen emails a day begging for more money. As the campaign came down to the final hours they were literally barraging me with emails asking for just a dollar or two for their GOTV efforts -- and meanwhile they were supposedly planning to spend a big chunk of money on a celebratory fireworks display!

Do you know what they weren't barraging me or anybody else with? Emails explaining to me what Hillary Clinton would do for me if she was elected president. Unless, of course, that explanation was enmeshed somewhere in a paragraph wrapped around a "DONATE NOW!" button.

In the narrative of this election one of the ways in which Hillary Clinton's story failed was that the dominant narrative for a lot of voters was that she cared more about the big-money donors than any of them. That narrative nearly cost her the Democratic nomination and I'm sure that in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan it ultimately cost her more the 100,000 or so votes that lost her the election. My personal experience of the Clinton campaign and the choices that it made reflected a campaign that cared more about fundraising than voters.

Secrets, Openness, Emails, Conspiracy Theories, Etc.

I have a lot of sympathy for Hillary Clinton on this point. When she came into the White House as First Lady in 1993 she faced a horrible and unending wave of right-wing propaganda garbage. There really was a vast right-wing conspiracy and she has the losing Supreme Court case (Federal Election Commission v. Citizens United) to prove it.

After getting her every statement thrown back in her face for long enough she understandably became very closed and defensive about whatever she said in public. And hey, playing your cards extremely close to your chest was a darn good quality in a Secretary of State. But that attitude can also come across as very secretive, defensive, and sketchy when you are a candidate. This undermined her credibility whenever she tried to summarily dismiss the vast cloud of nothing that seemed to enmesh her campaign from Day 1.

And I really do mean a vast cloud of nothing. The Republican Party has spent decades and tens of millions of taxpayer dollars trying to find some crime -- any crime -- that they can hang on her and they've come up completely empty. Either she's the most brilliant supercriminal of all time, or maybe -- just maybe -- HILLARY CLINTON ISN'T GUILTY OF ANYTHING.

(Yes, I could hear some of my friends from both the right- and the left-wing gasping with outrage when I typed that last sentence.)

It's weird and it's not fair. She was up against the most openly corrupt and dishonest candidate in US history. But because Donald Trump totally lacks any filter on any least utterance or tweet, public perception became that she was somehow the dishonest, untrustworthy one.

A lot of Democrats want to blame the media for their spin and their coverage of all those things. But it was Hillary Clinton's job as candidate to change that narrative. The only way you change a narrative that claims you are secretly corrupt is to embrace it openly. Prove to the public that you are an open book. Instead, she and her campaign consistently ran away from those issues, tried to ignore them, tried to bury them, and then pointed fingers back at the media shouting "Sexism" when that didn't work.

The Kinks were right. "Paranoia will destroy ya."

Identity Politics

While I'm on the topic of charges of sexism, let's take a quick moment to also note that the Clinton campaign's constant drumbeat of identity politics turned off a lot of voters who might have voted for her otherwise, while probably failing to net her very many votes in the bargain. This was another poor narrative choice.

There's a ton to dig into on this topic, and we're not going to do it here. But in terms of the campaign narrative this became a narrative from the Clinton campaign that who you were in terms of race, gender, sexual identity, etc. was what mattered, not what you did. The conscious choice to create a constant drumbeat of identity politics was part and parcel of Hillary's decision to run on her resume. The Clinton campaign's narrative was "Vote for me because I'm a woman," not "Vote for me because I will improve your country."

Voters may feel an inclination or disinclination to be open to a candidate depending on their race, gender, background, situation, community, etc. But a candidate's narrative can't be that he or she is entitled to anybody's vote based on their race, gender, background, situation, community, etc.

A candidate's narrative always needs to be grounded in "Here's what I'm going to do in this office if you vote for me."

Closing Arguments

The Clinton campaign has taken great pains to blame their defeat on on FBI Director James Comey's letter to Congress stating that they were reviewing more emails. But there are two problems there:

1) Their failure to change that email narrative during their two years of campaigning to change that narrative in the first place.

2) Their utter failure to make any sort of genuine closing argument on behalf of why people should vote for Hillary Clinton was far worse than Comey's ill-advised interference.

Just to show that I'm not playing 20-20 hindsight here, I'm going to quote myself from a couple of private emails I wrote to a few friends during the last week of the campaign. This was around the time that I decided I wanted to write up this summary of where I think her campaign went off the rails, even though I still expected her to win.

By then I was beside myself with frustration at her campaign:

Seriously, Campaign 101 is that this is the time to make your closing arguments and to get out the vote. Making your closing arguments means SHOW ME SOMETHING GOOD THAT WILL HAPPEN IF I FILL IN THE LITTLE CIRCLE NEXT TO YOUR NAME. Oh, and ... IF YOU DECIDE TO BOTHER TO DO THAT BEFORE TUESDAY DON'T MAKE IT ANOTHER (BLEEPING) LAUNDRY LIST OF 48 DIFFERENT POSITIONS.

Criminy. It gets back to what worried me about the institutional stampede for Clinton all along. She just doesn't have that political gift of putting out a shared vision and getting everybody on board to get there. Donald Trump is literally the worst Presidential candidate in the history of the United States and he can do it. Even Dubya could do this: "Fightin' terrorists and cuttin' taxes. Git r'done."

Why can't Hillary do this?!!!


As long as I'm venting, from a party politics point of view, the Clinton campaign's utter failure to mix in any policy-based reasons to vote Democratic is pretty much campaign malpractice. "Not being Donald Trump" doesn't exactly move the needle on the Senate races, does it?

(Bleep) ... "Here's the vision. Here's what you're voting for. Thank you!" Is it really that hard?

I still think she wins. But it didn't need to be this nerve racking.


I left that last paragraph in as a disclaimer for you, gentle reader. I thought Clinton was still going to win this thing, despite it all. Keep that in mind when you evaluate my punditry.

And that's my post-mortem for now.

However, that won't be all the political commentary I have to share in coming days. I've really enjoyed maintaining the ol' Patio Boat as a general quiet spot to post up some fun photos of vacations and cool cars. And there'll likely be a bit of that in the mix going forward. (There'll definitely be a post on my new pickup truck!) But I find that I have things to say about President Elect Donald Trump, his plans, and his policies. And I'm dead serious in my intention to do what little I can to help protect this country from the damage I expect him to do, even if that little bit of help is just bloviating on my blog.

Thursday, November 17, 2016


I'm not generally one for premonitions, but I had a terrible premonition as I was driving in to work today. It's time for the terrible San Francisco earthquake that I've feared ever since I first moved out there in the early 90s.

I'm sure that notion is just the cumulation of all that has been terrible in 2016. It's only natural to think, "Okay, now what's really the absolute worst possible thing that can happen next?" And I guess for me, that's it.

San Francisco's an odd place. At one level it's this beautiful tourist destination filled with all these wonderful, fascinating people and places. But when you live there, it's just home, filled with it's pluses and minuses, like any place you can live. San Francisco has much more in common with Detroit than it thinks it does or would ever admit. Having lived both places, I know. But the last couple of times I was out there I was struck by the sense that it's been living in a golden age lately, the sort of time when we'll look back and mourn all that was and has been lost. I felt that dark cloud on me this morning.

As I said above, the notion was probably just a reaction to all that has been terrible lately. Fortunately for my current state of mind it doesn't feel like a personal, nearby premonition of danger -- though too much of my life is tied into people in San Francisco for the notion of a major earthquake there to strike me as anything other than personally horrible. As we're reaching the end of 2016 I've been reduced to laying on our couch in the evenings, listening to Gregorian chants to sooth the soul. I'm usually pretty buoyant, but hours of Gregorian chant are not a sign of an optimistic brain.

Heck, maybe it's just this nasty cold I've been fighting off that last couple of days.

In general I think the premonitions are usually your subconscious telling you to pay attention to things that your conscious thinking patterns have tried to bury or deny. Well, there are lots of signs of bad things in the future out there right now for lots of people I love. Maybe my subconscious has decided to round up all the signs to give them a specific aspect.

But, man, it's hard to shake the feeling that something else bad is coming down the pike. I hope I'm wrong.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Post-Election Post-Mortem: What I got wrong and what I got right

Well, here we are two days after the 2016 election and Donald J. Trump is going to be our next president and it turns out that I was wrong as wrong can be about a few things, so let's get them out of the way. And then maybe I can point to a couple of other items:

Let's look at a few things I said in Tuesday's post (Election Day: Paragraphs of angry vitriol deleted) to see where I got it wrong and then talk a bit about something that maybe I got right.

Self-flagellation department:

"Nominating Donald J. Trump for President of the United States is rock bottom."

I was wrong. Correction: Electing Donald J. Trump as President of the United States is rock bottom. I think we're in for a dark and grim four years. Or longer.

I hope I'm wrong about that, too.

I should say something else here. There's a lot to discuss about the role that race played in this election, but I don't think that most of the voters who voted for Trump did so because of the racist elements in his campaign. I truly believe that a lot of voters voted for Trump despite the racist elements in his campaign. I wish they had been more troubled by those elements.

Most of all, I believe a lot of people voted for Trump because they are mad at the system and wanted to tear it all down. And Donald J. Trump was the candidate likely to tear it all down.

I'm reminded strongly of the Detroit Lions and Matt Millen.

How did that turn out? For the non-football fans among you here's what happened.

After the Detroit Lions barely missed the playoffs with a 9-7 record in 2000, decades of frustration of their continued mediocrity led their owner and fans to think it was a good idea to hire former player and announcer Matt Millen to tear it all down and start again. So the Lions sacked the front office and coaching staff and gave Millen a five-year contract to be their new president and GM. Millen an unqualified choice who was charismatic and talked a good game. But he had no management experience, no front-office experience, and no idea how to actually do the things he said he would do.

Tearing it all down is seldom a good idea.

After Millen went 21-59 in his first five years -- the worst five-year stretch for a team in NFL history -- the Lions gave him another five-year contract. By the 2008 season the team had fallen so far that they finally had to fire Millen while they were on their way to becoming the first NFL team to ever go 0-16.

I kinda feel like we just elected Matt Millen as our new President.

But I will say this for Matt Millen. He did tear it all down.

"Right now the Republican Party is broken. Badly broken."

I was wrong. The GOP now controls the White House and both houses of Congress. After obstructing a Supreme Court nominee for a year they will now make an appointment that will probably give them control of the Supreme Court for the next decade or longer. The Republican Party is functioning as designed. Any apparent race baiting, sexism, jingoism, xenophobia, or anti-intellectualism is a feature, not a bug.

To the Republican Party: "You need to pull yourselves out of your fact-free media bubble and start dealing with the real world."

I was wrong. The fact-free media bubble is functioning as designed and I was the one who missed a few points about the real world.

The part where I was dead-on right:

"Let me take a moment here to add that my fellow Democrats also have some things to work on. ... A lot of people feel the Democratic Party has abandoned them. We need to listen."

... and we're going to get a couple of years to work on those things without the distraction of governing or wielding any appreciable power in Washington -- or Michigan, for that matter.

There's a lot to unpack in the quote above, and I'm not going to do it all in this post. But specifically, the Democratic Party of FDR was 100% on the side of the working class. That sense has been eroding for a long time, especially among rural Americans, religious Americans, and Americans who didn't go to college and get white-collar jobs. 

What's the phrase I'm looking for to describe those people? Oh, that's right: the working class.

So what went wrong? In part I think it's because people look at the Democratic Party leadership and see a bunch of politicians who are every bit as much in bed with Wall Street and corporate executives as the GOP. And in part, I see a party that requires complete linguistic purity in speaking about every iota of its hundreds of different constituencies, yet seems pretty damn happy to toss around words like "redneck" and "gun nut" in its messaging.

So, yeah. If you look around and you see:

1) The existing GOP leadership not helping you
2) The existing Democratic Party not helping you and placing you outside the party in its messaging

... then why not vote Trump in the primary, vote Trump in the general election, and burn it all to the ground?

Hillary Clinton never understood that as far as I can see. Bernie Sanders clearly understands that. I think Elizabeth Warren mostly understands that. I hope we find other Democratic leaders who understand that, and find them fast. 

What else?

There's a lot more to noodle on from Tuesday. More people voted for Clinton than for Trump, despite her general terribleness as a campaigner. I feel good about that, though it doesn't really matter in the big picture. And I could write blog post after blog post about Hillary Clinton's terribleness as a campaigner. Losing to a candidate as truly awful as Donald Trump makes her the Matt Millen of Presidential candidates. 

I could write about racism in this campaign and what I fear is coming for America. I'm deeply troubled and truly appalled.

I could complain about the media coverage -- oh, boy, could I complain about the media coverage! -- but that's like complaining about getting bad calls from a referee. The media and what passes for journalism in 2016 is what it is. Its only loyalty, its only duty, is to ratings points and Internet clicks. Expecting better is a fool's errand.

The ground genuinely shifted on Tuesday. I don't know where it will end up. I wish I did. 

But for now, R.I.P. the Republican Party of Ronald Reagan (1980-2016). We officially have the Republican Party of Donald Trump (2016-).

And maybe R.I.P. the Democratic Party of FDR (1932-2016). Or perhaps we should make that R.I.P. the Democratic Party of FDR (1932-1992) and R.I.P. the Democratic Party of Bill Clinton (1992-2016). I'm going to do a bit more mulling before I weigh in on what I think should be next for the Dems. But things need to change. Even if Hillary had won on Tuesday, that would be every bit as true.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Election Day: Paragraphs of angry vitriol deleted

Well, here we are. Election Day.

It kinda feels as if every possible take on this election has already been generated by the roomful of monkeys that is the Internet. But a couple folks wondered what I thought about it all, so here goes. I doubt anybody's going to like what I have to say:

[Paragraphs of subsequent anger deleted.]

You see? It's like that. I am angry. Very angry at what has been done to this country that I love. And there's more than enough anger out there today. Nobody needs me adding to it.

[More paragraphs of angry vitriol deleted.]

Sigh. Let's try again.

So here's the thing. I am a Democrat for a lot of reasons. But I also believe that to make this country and this system work we need to have a functioning two-party system led by people of good will who have different perspectives, who grapple with the facts, and who negotiate to find reasonable solutions to our problems. And through that process we generally do as much good for as many people as is reasonably possible.

Right now the Republican Party is broken. Badly broken. And I'm mad at the people who broke it.

Yes, I know that some of you would disagree with that point. Let me remind you that you made Donald Trump your nominee for President of the United States. And Donald Trump isn't the aberration. Donald Trump is what the Republican Party has become. It's popular to say that recovery starts when you acknowledge that you've hit rock bottom. Nominating Donald J. Trump for President of the United States is rock bottom.

Politics isn't perfect. Politicians aren't perfect. (Lord knows politicians aren't perfect!) Heck, the preamble to the US Constitution doesn't promise to form a perfect union, just "to form a more perfect union." And the founding fathers were starting with the mess of the Articles of Confederation, so more perfect in that context was really just aiming at marginally functional.

Over the past couple of decades we as a nation have been working towards a less perfect union. It makes me angry.

I would start listing all the ways in which I think the GOP has run off the rails. But that would only lead to me typing "[more paragraphs of anger deleted]" again. So I'll settle for pointing out that when George Orwell wrote "Ignorance is strength," it was a warning, not a recommendation. You need to pull yourselves out of your fact-free media bubble and start dealing with the real world. I genuinely wish you luck in trying to build a functional, rational party out of what you have created. Really, I do. We need you. You want to capture my attention? Show me that -- for example -- you can acknowledge the simple fact that global warming is real, man-made, and a long-term threat to the well being of the United States. Then propose some conservative solutions.

That is what a functioning two-party system looks like. And this country badly needs one again.

Let me take a moment here to add that my fellow Democrats also have some things to work on. I very much hope and expect that Hillary Clinton will win the election today. And when she says she wants to be a President for all the people, I hope she means it. We shall see. A lot of people feel the Democratic Party has abandoned them. We need to listen.

And that's it. I could go on to type and delete more paragraphs of anger, but why? There's a whole Internet full of it today.

More than anything else, I'm hoping for a massive electoral rejection of Trumpism and all that it entails today. And I hope that this election marks a low point in our political history. We shall see.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Post-Battle: Brits at Bakers

It's been a busy, busy month since the 2016 Battle of the Brits. I hadn't yet written up Part 2 of that day, when a few fine British cars motored over to the weekly Baker's Sunday Cruise-In.

For those who haven't heard of it, Baker's is a restaurant near Milford that hosts a truly enormous weekly cruise event every Sunday afternoon in the summertime. The great thing about it is that it's really pretty casual. You can pull in, walk around and check out whatever you want, chit-chat with other car owners, and then head out whenever you want. There's a bit of prize-giving and stuff at the end of the day, but for the most part it's just a stop-in event. You don't even need an exotic or classic car to stop by. There's parking space aplenty for regular cars, too.

Anyway, after last month's Battle of the Brits at Camp Dearborn, also in Milford, I swung by Baker's, and it turned out that several other British car owners made the same stop. It was fun for me to see the Brits sprinkled about the lot because most of the time the Baker's crowd tends towards muscle cars and domestic classics.

Here's what caught my eye.

1950 Studebaker.

1961(?) Corvette.

1948 Dodge.

Here's what a classic Mini looks like among modern cars.

A Big Healey next to a C2 Corvette. Coincidentally enough, there was a fun article comparing a 1966 Corvette to a 1966 Austin-Healey 3000 recently in Hemmings Sports & Exotic magazine. It's a good read: The Evolutionary War - 1966 Austin-Healey 3000 Mk III vs 1966 Chevrolet Corvette: It's Britain versus America when we pit a '66 Austin-Healey 3000 Mk III against a '66 Chevrolet Corvette Roadster.

I have a well-known weakness for the dark green and tan interior. I lust after this Vette every time I see it.

Corvette next to a Lotus Elan.

Monique objects to giant hood-piercing superchargers and flames on cars. But, c'mon. This is COOL!

Beautiful old 1937 Diamond T truck.

Triumph Spitfire.

MGB and a Jaguar XKR Coupe.


1963 Dodge work van converted by Lyn Airvan.

Finally, check out this excellent Ford 4x4 crew cab pickup truck.

More on the truck issue coming soon!

(Foreshadowing. A common literary device often used to retain blog traffic!)

Thursday, September 22, 2016

2016 Battle of the Brits

Saturday was a beautiful day for the 2016 Battle of the Brits, the annual Detroit area British car and motorcycle show hosted by the Detroit Triumph Sports Car Club and the Metro Triumph Riders at Camp Dearborn in Milford Michigan. With more than 400 cars and 500 motorcycles, it's the largest all-British car and motorcycle club in the country.

As usual I brought the FUN MG down to help supplement the numbers for the Windsor-Detroit MG Club. The "Battle" part of the Battle of the Brits is the annual contest to see which marque can muster the most entrants. The MGs have had the upper hand lately, and our streak continued with a 109-96 victory this year.

As is my way, I took too many photos. Rather than split them into different marques this year, I'm just going to invite you along with me to enjoy the 2016 show.

MGBs as far as the eye can see.

The FUN MG in place and ready for judging.

True confession: I just didn't have a chance to wash THE FUN MG beforehand due to a busy and rainy Saturday. So this year's show prep in total was just a bit of dusting and window-cleaning after I arrived on Sunday morning. Despite our unlikely best-in-class victory in the 2014 Battle -- Henceforth known as "The year the really nice early Rubber Bumper Bs stayed home because it looked like rain!" -- the FUN MG isn't a likely show winner. It's really just a driver B, which is what makes it FUN. Still, it's nice to look your best if you're at the show.

It's the sort of event where a '57 Bentley can roll by and nobody gives it a second look.

I ran into former Gale colleague Pete Gareffa. He's retired now, which gives him almost enough time to keep his British motorcycle running.


Triumph TR8s salute the crowd.

Triumph Spitfires join the salute.

A TR6 for sale.

Triumph TR3B

TR2. I liked this one because it had clearly enjoyed 60 years of fun under its wheels.

Okay, so it's not British, but this was a really pretty Alfa Romeo Spider over in the little section for non-British cars that also showed up.


Austin Healeys

Bugeye Sprites

Austin-Healey 100N

Jaguar XK8

Jaguar XJS

F-Type R

Yummy Jaguar E-Types:

Jaguar Saloons and Sedans. I didn't get any good close-ups of the white Mark II in the background of this row because it was always surrounded by a crowd. It was a truly pristine concours-level restoration. It looked as if it was brand new on the lot.

Jaguar XJ6

Jaguar XJ6


Mallard green MGB, a very cool teal color.

One quick stop by the FUN MG:

... and then on to other types of MGs.

An MGF. These were built in the 1990s, but weren't sold in the US. They're now old enough to be imported into Canada.

MGB GT V8 ... a fast MGB!



That's it for the MGs. Now let's move on to a few other marques...



Morris Minor

Jensen Healey

Dang it. I forget what this was called.

Last but certainly not least on the car side, this Shelby Daytona kit car. Pretty dang sweet looking.

I didn't take many photos over on the motorcycle side of the show. But this BSA hillclimber (named "Hardley Dangerous") caught my eye.

Can you see why?

Count the engines.

Yes, it has two engines. They're linked together by a chain drive. The owner started it up while I was standing there. It sounded more than twice as loud as the average bike, that's for sure!

That's it for the 2016 Battle of the Brits. (That's enough!) But the Battle wasn't the end of my British car observations for the day. After the show some of the cars stopped by the Baker's Restaurant Sunday Cruise on Milford Rd., so there are a few more photos yet to come in the next post.

P.S. If you're a glutton for sweet British steel, here are some Battle of the Brit posts from previous years: