Trump makes two big errors in tonight’s debate

Trump-Clinton-NY-primary

Once again, Donald Trump starts out strong, sticking to his most favorable talking points, but ultimately manages to derail himself, demonstrating his worst behavioral tendencies. In contrast, Hillary Clinton’s steady, disciplined style, like the proverbial tortoise in the Aesop fable, triumphs over Trumps more dynamic, but erratic, hare.

Though Trump made some headway bringing up valid Clinton weaknesses, like her sticky e-mail  scandal that just won’t wash off, and her husband Bill Clinton’s infidelities (a surprisingly effective counter strike to claims about Trump’s obvious issues with women, considering that Hillary Clinton, the wronged wife, is actually the candidate) but he still made two critical missteps, both potentially huge.

When asked if he would stand by the election results, and concede defeat if it should come to that in November, Trump refused to answer. He said he would “Keep you in suspense.” But the effect was to imply he wouldn’t accept the election results, in the event of a loss. This shocked and outraged political pundits and journalists across the media, who stressed the importance of the nation’s continuity of government principle.

One of the greatest features of American democracy, unlike political systems in many nations around the world, is that, on November 9, the nation is whole again, and citizens can confidently expect power to transition smoothly over the next few months to the newly elected leader, even a new President, no matter what passions simmer, or boil, across the land. We don’t have coups. Powerful leaders step down. Always.

But Trump’s hesitance, interpreted as profound arrogance by many, is a slap in the face to this important principle of government. And to make matters worse, this not only contravened a great American tradition, but it directly contradicted statements by his running mate, former Governor Mike Pence, and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. This looks bad, and won’t sit well with thinking voters.

If that wasn’t enough, Trump leaned into his microphone dramatically to call Clinton a “nasty woman.” This is not good news for the Trump campaign, which has scrambled in recent weeks to combat accusations of sexism and predatory behavior towards women, following the release of a scandalous video tape, and actual accusations of sexual harassment and assault by several women. Trump appeals well to his very conservative, poorly educated base, but he needs to win over college educated voters, men and women alike, who don’t respond well to this kind of undignified behavior—-it smacks of sexism and boorishness, to many.

To be sure, Hillary Clinton has some leaks in her game. But her slow, steady, studied approach in each debate, and her ability to keep her cool and stay on message, regardless of circumstances, and ignoring at times withering insults and interruptions by her opponent (particularly in previous debates) has proven to be the superior strategy in the long run. The only question is, with three weeks to go until election day, can Donald Trump make up for his poor debate performances out on the campaign trail, and will his outrageous off the cuff rhetoric be enough to pull him out of his recent slump in the polls? As the end game approaches, the current polls favor Clinton, and that’ s a difficult fact for Donald Trump.

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Amidst roiling controversies on both sides of the aisle, the Candidates, and the nation, gear up for the final Presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. By all accounts, it should be quite a show. Though sadly, Presidential Debates need to be more than spectacles for our amusement: they need to deal thoroughly with substantive issues challenging the nation, and affecting the American People.

However, that’s unlikely to happen tomorrow night. But spectacle and controversy will undoubtedly abound. Trump is still reeling from a sex scandal, of sorts, in which he was recorded on video making demeaning, and even threatening, comments about women, while Clinton is struggling with recent releases of campaign e-mails hacked by Wikileaks, which don’t portray her campaign in a favorable light. In fact, according to some, they seem to support claims that she’s a two-faced, self-serving hypocrite. Of course, interpretation varies widely on this matter.

Trump continues his “scorched earth policy,” demeaning Clinton and challenging her competence and integrity at every opportunity. And recognizing he’s trailing in the polls, he’s now claiming the election is rigged in favor of the Democrats, pointing fingers at the media and high ranking political officials. In response, President Obama has suggested the Republican Candidate should “quit his whining,” while high ranking Republicans, including Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, scoff at the accusation of a rigged election. To paraphrase President Obama today, if you can’t take responsibility for your own situation, you can’t handle this job (The Presidency.)

Nation Readies for Last Presidential DebateSo, campaign hijinks continue unabated, and will likely explode upon that stage in Las Vegas, while all the while, in the real world, there’s no shortage of problems. There’s a final push underway to eradicate ISIS in the city of Mosul. Scientists tell us that the carbon dioxide content of our atmosphere that’s largely responsible for dangerous anthropogenic climate change has reached an irrevocable tipping point. And the American economic recovery remains marginal, while health care costs for the middle class continue to sky rocket, despite the Affordable Care Act.

And what about the question of foreign policy expertise? Though Hillary Clinton is clearly the winner, in terms of hours served in public office (Trump has accumulated exactly zero) including terms as U.S. Senator and Secretary of State, for many Americans questions still remain. Many feel she’s been deceptive regarding her handling of the tragic fall of the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi during a terrorist attack, despite numerous government inquiries, which cleared her obvious wrongdoing. And others make note of her particularly collegial and cozy relationship with Israel and certain European nations, which she may maintain, in their opinion, at the expense of the welfare of middle eastern nations, and the Palestinian people.

To be sure, the 2016 Presidential Election has turned into one of the greatest mud-slinging competitions of American History, and the American People, in the long run, will suffer for any short-term gains in tawdry entertainment they may get. But make no mistake, those who aren’t thoroughly disgusted by now, and there are many in that camp, will tune in by the millions to watch the fireworks.

 

 

Photo:  Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic

This caricature of Hillary Clinton was adapted from a photo in the public domain from the East Asia and Pacific Media’s Flickr photostream. The body was adapted from a photo in the public domain from the U.S. Department of State’s Flickr photostream. This caricature of Donald Trump was adapted from Creative Commons licensed images from Max Goldberg’s flickr photostream.

 

Carbon Capture Breakthrough? Nano Tech catalyzed CO2 to Ethanol

Carbon Capture Breakthrough? Nano Tech catalyzed CO2 to Ethanol

There’s a potentially monumental breakthrough in energy technology in the news. In a surprising development, researchers at Tennessee’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have turned carbon dioxide, the green house gas driving climate change, into ethanol, a useful fuel and chemical compound. What’s most exciting of all, the room temperature process appears to be quick, efficient, and economical, with yields of ethanol between 63 and 70 per cent.

The researchers used a wafer adapted with nanotechnology, using otherwise ordinary materials, to catalyze the reaction, to produce pure ethanol from CO2. They originally planned to make a catalyst based on graphene, which is a very interesting material made from a single layer of carbon just one atom thick. But they ended up making, for practical reasons, a wafer studded with tiny “nano spikes” culminating in points just a few atoms wide. The tips of these spikes can concentrate an electrical charge, where the desired chemical reaction, which includes a tiny droplet of nitrogen, takes place. They originally expected to produce methanol, but their wafer yielded its even more useful chemical cousin, ethanol.

So how might this help humanity? This technology could remove extra carbon dioxide from the air, where its excessive build-up is causing climate change due to the well-documented green house effect. In addition, and even more exciting, this method could be used as a storage mechanism for a completely renewable energy system, supplying the grid with power even when the sun doesn’t shine on solar panels, and the wind doesn’t blow across wind turbines.

During up times, when there’s ample renewable energy available, the system would generate extra electricity, above and beyond the needs of the electrical grid, and use this catalytic process to create ethanol. Then during down times, like at night, or when the winds aren’t blowing, the ethanol could fuel old-fashioned generators producing electricity to dump back into the grid.

This storage issue has been a major problem with scaling up alternative energy resources, so a cheap, efficient ethanol solution would be very workable. And creating ethanol in this manner, right from existing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, would be a carbon neutral solution, unlike burning fossil fuels, which dumps enormous quantities of new carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. And let’s not forget that the internal combustion engines used in cars and trucks can also run on ethanol, so the possibilities are wide open for inserting this method into the energy economy.

Learn about this nanotech method to create ethanol from CO2 (engadget)

 

 

Photo: By Tony Webster from San Francisco, California (J.D. Irving Smoke Stacks) CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

President Obama deserves more respect

Obama town hall on race and reconciliation (picture: an earlier town hall discussion)

President Obama has been in office for almost eight years, and his administration is drawing to a close. But even after all this time, he’s still addressed with great disrespect by his critics, and many who are neutral about his leadership as well. Despite our differences, and there are many, we must maintain civility in public life. Unfortunately this ideal is sorely lacking in the current political environment.

President Obama has earned the right, as Head of State and the duly elected leader of the U.S. Government’s Executive Branch, to use the title “President.” For this reason, the media and other politicians should refer to him as “President Obama,” and address him directly as “Mr. President.” Unfortunately, many republicans, and ordinary Americans alike, refer to him as merely “Obama,” over and over again. It gets even worse, since many recite his full name, Barack Hussein Obama, with an emphasis on his middle name, as if to imply he isn’t really an American, but some foreign miscreant who isn’t worthy of true respect.

There’s no greater example of this disrespectful trend than the agonizingly arrogant birther movement, sadly championed by Donald Trump and embraced by millions of Americans. The level of disrespect, not only of President Obama as a leader, but of the truth, not to mention basic logic and accurate facts, is staggering. Their insistence, over and over again, that President Obama isn’t an American citizen, against all evidence, even when the state of Hawaii verifies and attests to his birth in that state, is absurd. Yet they persisted for years, regardless of the facts, and fairness.

President Obama’s mother was a highly educated American citizen, an anthropologist who’s job it was to study other cultures, specifically Indonesia. This is a noble calling, and living abroad for a time was a wonderful opportunity for learning and growth for a young Barack Obama, who went far, ultimately attending Harvard Law School. Sadly, though, it’s been twisted around by critics to trigger negative fear-based reactions, of xenophobia and islamophobia, that are used against him to this day.

And saddest of all, traditionally it’s long been anathema in many circles for white American women to marry African-descended men, so her marriage to an educated Kenyan triggered deep concerns and distrust among large segments of the American population, which lingers to this day. They express their fears and loathing with vitriolic comments, racist internet memes, and shameful attacks on the President’s family.

There can be no other explanation for the profound level disrespect shown to the President, and the entire First Family, other than racism. The First Lady Michelle Obama should be addressed as such. Just as with the President himself, it’s entirely appropriate to address her with her correct title, “First Lady,” not merely “Michelle Obama.” In addition, it’s clear that she is the victim of countless inappropriate and unfair jabs and comments, about her appearance, and many are racial.

What other President and First Lady have faced such open disrespect? Despite political and ideological differences the U.S. Congress has treated visiting Presidents, and their families, with basic courtesy for centuries. But even early on, during an address on health care, President Obama received that astoundingly shocking shout from the floor, “You lie!”

And what other President has faced such obstructionism from Congress throughout his term? Even though clear differences between the parties exist, surely there are many vital projects that cry out for bipartisan support, like improving the Veteran’s Administration, fixing roads and bridges and other much needed repairs to our crumbling infrastructure, and much more. But the President has been blocked and shunned at every turn.

It’s time for the nation to lay aside antiquated notions about race, and to step up to the plate. It’s time for the media, including Fox News, and the U.S. Congress to give the President what he deserves–respect. It is the patriotic thing to do. It is the right thing to do. It is the American thing to do.

What does Donald Trump need? Better advisors.

Donald Trump needs better advisors

Donald Trump appears, in some ways, to be struggling. His knowledge of foreign policy has been revealed, more and more of late, to be sorely lacking. He cherishes his family, and uses his children as de facto political advisors. To be sure, they are polished and well-educated–Ivanka Trump is practically a super star, and all his kids spoke remarkably well at the RNC the other week. They are assets. But are they enough? No!

To succeed politically, and project a lasting image of subject mastery, Trump needs truly excellent, highly accurate information, and quality advice from top-level experts in foreign relations, military strategy, economics and science. His background as a developer in Manhattan has not prepared him adequately for this arena. In contrast, Hillary Clinton’s extensive record of public service, including the U.S. Senate and her tenure as Secretary of State, has prepared her well for the Oval Office.

She demonstrates clear understanding and mastery of these critical subjects, and of the complex and subtle political system that gets work done in Washington. Trump may be a Washington outsider, but he can’t succeed with the knowledge-base of a Washington outsider. He must study up. And he needs help to do so.

Donald Trump is clearly riding a populist wave of rebellion, which catapulted him into his lofty but precarious position as Republican Presidential Nominee for 2016. Voters in a candidate’s base during populist elections are long on passion, but generally short on facts and reason. To win the swing voters and independents, who put more thought into their vote and who don’t vote based on party affiliations and loyalty, need to see understanding, skill and mastery in Trump’s platform, speeches, and demeanor. Skilled professional advisors can help him develop these attributes, quickly.

One of the most blatant Trump gaffs demonstrating his need for better advisors occurred during the DNC. Khizr Khan spoke that the convention, but his wife, overcome by grief over the death of her son, a military veteran, chose not to. Trump went on the attack, admonishing her, pointing to her status as a muslim woman as the reason why she didn’t speak. Here Trump missed the obvious human element, by missing the fact that she was overcome with grief, and with it a chance to demonstrate that he has a much needed sense of empathy and understanding for others. He also completely failed to characterize Islam accurately.

And yet, Muslim women do speak in public. They aren’t banned from such activities by their religion. Though they are greatly restricted in Saudi Arabia, the Muslim world is diverse, and policies vary widely. In fact, Muslim women have lead both Pakistan and Bangladesh, having won the highest political offices in those lands. Trump’s knowledge of Islam is lacking, and he relies on tired stereotypes rather than fresh, accurate information, and a broader understanding that comes with experience.

This is embarrassing for the Trump campaign, and could be devastating for the nation, since important political and military agreements and alliances must be made and strengthened in the muslim world during a Trump Presidency. The wrong decision, based on poor information, and a flawed understanding of the relevant regions, could prove very costly to the U.S., and could ultimately lead to loss of life, even open war. It’s clear in this case that quality advisors who know about Islam and the different regions of the world from whence Muslims emigrate, would have helped Trump immensely in this case. And this is just one example.

Though Donald Trump’s love of family and loyalty to his current team is admirable, it is ill-advised and he needs to shape up. He needs to hire the best political advisors and strategists, and subject experts, that money can buy, which he is of course in an excellent position to achieve. He needs to learn, study, and master they myriad policies, facts and theories relevant to the topics of importance to voters: the economy, terrorism, our allies and enemies around the world, and so much more. To do so will energize his campaign and strengthen his weaknesses in the eyes of voters. To fail will mean failure in the general election and a Clinton Presidency, or worse, during his Presidency, in light of a Trump victory.

 

Photo: CNN (screen capture)

 

 

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