From my friend and poetry publisher, James Penha, of New Verse News poetry magazine

SUNDAY, MAY 29, 2016


by James Penha

Large group of school children, with their teacher, standing in a town street, circa 1850s. Daguerreotype by an unknown photographer. Original in the Daguerreotypes Collection of the Library of Congress.

Which of these boys
in the back rows shucked
his suit for another uniform, packed
a Remington revolver 1858,
a Colt 1860,
or a Beaumont-Adams,
aimed a Pattern Enfield 1853 rifled musket,
a Springfield 1861,
or an M1841 Mississippi Rifle,
held high a Model 1832 foot Artillery Sword,
a Cutlass, or a Bowie knife,
before he was cranked
and grounded by a Gatling
or by J.D. Mill’s Coffee Mill Gun?

And how

Which of their teachers?

Who among the girls cried
for the dead? Who
among the littler

Who craved

Could Sanders be the Next Ralph Nader for Trump?

From the NEW YORK TIMES May 18, 2016

Bernie Sanders, Eyeing Convention, Willing to Harm Hillary Clinton in the Homestretch


Senator Bernie Sanders spoke at a campaign rally on the campus of California State University, Dominguez Hills, in Carson, Calif., on Tuesday. Credit Monica Almeida/The New York Times
Defiant and determined to transform the Democratic Party, Senator Bernie Sanders is opening a two-month phase of his presidential campaign aimed at inflicting a heavy blow on Hillary Clinton in California and amassing enough leverage to advance his agenda at the convention in July — or even wrest the nomination from her.

Advisers to Mr. Sanders said on Wednesday that he was newly resolved to remain in the race, seeing an aggressive campaign as his only chance to pressure Democrats into making fundamental changes to how presidential primaries and debates are held in the future. They said he also held out hope of capitalizing on any late stumbles by Mrs. Clinton or any damage to her candidacy, whether by scandal or by the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald J. Trump.

After sounding subdued if not downbeat about the race for weeks, Mr. Sanders resumed a combative posture against Mrs. Clinton, demanding on Wednesday that she debate him before the June 7 primary in California and highlighting anew what he asserted were her weaknesses against Mr. Trump.

Mr. Sanders, his advisers said, has been buoyed by a stream of polls showing him beating Mr. Trump by larger margins than Mrs. Clinton in some battleground states, and by his belief that an upset victory in California could have a psychological impact on convention delegates who already have doubts about Mrs. Clinton.

But his newly resolute attitude is also the cumulative result of months of anger at the national Democratic Party over a debate schedule that his campaign said favored Mrs. Clinton; a fund-raising arrangement between the party and the Clinton campaign; the appointment of fierce Clinton partisans as leaders of important convention committees; and the party’s rebuke of Mr. Sanders on Tuesday for not clearly condemning a melee at the Nevada Democratic convention on Saturday.

While Mr. Sanders says he does not want Mr. Trump to win in November, his advisers and allies say he is willing to do some harm to Mrs. Clinton in the shorter term if it means he can capture a majority of the 475 pledged delegates at stake in California and arrive at the Philadelphia convention with maximum political power.

Tad Devine, a senior adviser to Mr. Sanders, said the campaign did not think its attacks would help Mr. Trump in the long run, but added that the senator’s team was “not thinking about” the possibility that they could help derail Mrs. Clinton from becoming the first woman elected president.

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“The only thing that matters is what happens between now and June 14,” Mr. Devine said, referring to the final Democratic primary, in the District of Columbia. “We have to put the blinders on and focus on the best case to make in the upcoming states. If we do that, we can be in a strong position to make the best closing argument before the convention. If not, everyone will know in mid-June, and we’ll have to take a hard look at where things stand.”

The prospect of a drawn-out Democratic fight is deeply troubling to party leaders who are eager for Mrs. Clinton and House and Senate candidates to turn to attacking Mr. Trump without being diverted by Democratic strife. Mr. Sanders has won nearly 10 million votes, compared to Mrs. Clinton’s 13 million, and Democratic leaders say she needs time to begin courting the young voters, liberals and other Sanders supporters who view her as an ally of corporate and big-money interests.

But Mr. Sanders has sharpened his language of late, saying Tuesday night that the party faced a choice to remain “dependent on big-money campaign contributions and be a party with limited participation and limited energy” or “welcome into the party people who are prepared to fight for real economic and social change.”

Mr. Sanders’s street-fighting instincts have been encouraged by his like-minded campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, who has been blistering against the Clinton camp and the party establishment. On Wednesday, he took to CNN to accuse Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, the Democratic national chairwoman, of “throwing shade on the Sanders campaign from the very beginning.”

For weeks, some current and former Sanders campaign workers have privately acknowledged feeling disheartened about Mr. Weaver’s determination to go after the Democratic National Committee, fearing a pitched battle with the party they hope to support in the general election. The intraparty fighting has affected morale, they say, and raised concerns that Mr. Weaver, a longtime Sanders aide who more recently ran a comic book store, was not devoted to achieving Democratic unity. Several described the campaign’s message as having devolved into a near-obsession with perceived conspiracies on the part of Mrs. Clinton’s allies.

SUBJECT: How to beat Hillary Clinton in November


you will not regret going the distance with this one!

This is so funny that I had to get it right up. Please do read it as a companion to the post of earlier today! I was thinking of an op ed or blog piece entitled “What Trump Needs to Do Now”. But then, this came along and did two days’ work for me. And much funnier. But I still may try. ~fls


Though the outcome is hardly settled, it’s looking increasingly probable that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will be facing off as the Democratic and Republican nominees, respectively, in this fall’s general election. Politico Magazine asked a liberal commentator, Bill Scher, to counsel Trump on how to beat Clinton, below, and a conservative pundit, Matt Latimer, to advise Clinton on how to win against Trump, here.

To: Donald J. Trump
Re: The 2016 Election
From: Bill Scher,
SUBJECT: How to beat Hillary Clinton in November

Congratulations, Mr. Trump. You are well on your way to winning the Republican nomination. Time to start thinking about how to take on Hillary Clinton.

This won’t be easy, but you can do it. Unlike the GOP primary, in which you led from almost the moment you entered the race, this race you begin behind. I know you like polls, and you are behind in nine of the 11 polls taken this year gauging a Clinton-Trump matchup. In the most recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, you lose by 13.

You also start from behind in terms of the 2012 electoral map. Assuming you don’t lose any of the Mitt Romney states, you need to pick up, at the absolute least, three additional states from Barack Obama’s column.

You could go for a sweep of the “big three”: Florida (one of your “home” states), Ohio and Pennsylvania. If you can get only Florida and Ohio—the two tightest states of 2012—you’d need to add two or three of these Northern states: Michigan, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa. If you can get only one of the big three, you need four or five of the smaller Northern states. If you can’t get any of the big three, you’ll need all five of the smaller set plus some of the less white swing states: Virginia, Colorado and Nevada.

Contrary to much speculation, the magical unicorn of new voters will not be your savior. Voter turnout has already been relatively high the past few elections. The 61.6 percent registered voter turnout of the 2008 election was the highest since 1968. In 2012, turnout slipped slightly to 58.2 percent, a loss of 2.2 million voters. Romney lost by 4 percentage points and 5 million voters. You need to make up far more ground than that.

The hard reality is that you need to win over some swing-state voters who went with Obama in both of the past two elections: the blue-collar workers saved by the auto bailout, the unmarried women who want equal pay and reproductive freedom, the Catholic moderates and other irregular churchgoers who swung from George W. Bush to Obama and, yes, the Latinos who made the same jump.

Stitching together such a Republican rainbow coalition would be a steep challenge for a typical Republican politician. But you, Mr. Trump, are no typical Republican politician!

It’s time to use your unmatched media skills to take you where no Republican has been able to go in recent years. But that means abandoning much of what has carried you to the brink of the Republican nomination and resisting a political consultant paint-by-numbers approach to attacking Hillary Clinton.

Scorching the earth? Tempting, but wrong.

The path to victory may seem obvious. Hammer her on trust: Benghazi, emails, Goldman Sachs speeches and Wall Street donations. Twist the knife by dredging up charges of Bill Clinton’s sexual harassment and abuse, and accuse Hillary of enabling. Pick up disgruntled Bernie Sanders supporters and white working-class voters by rejecting big corporate donors, highlighting your opposition to unfair trade deals and assuring you know how to bring back jobs.

But that’s not so simple. You, your supporters and others have been doing that hammering for months. Yet her lead over you in the RealClearPolitics poll average has been fairly steady since September.

Furthermore, your insult game on Hillary lacks the panache you have for your Republican rivals. Correction: your male Republican rivals.

You have a knack for crystallizing the character flaw of your enemies—“low energy” Jeb, “Little Rubio” the “choke artist”—but your mockery powers fell flat when it came to Carly Fiorina. After you said of her, “Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that?” Fiorina faced you down in the next debate. You were forced to grovel on stage, “she’s got a beautiful face and she’s a beautiful woman.”

With Hillary, you also miss the mark. “Clinton does not have the strength or the stamina to be president,” you keep repeating. There are a lot of things you can call Hillary that will make voters nod their heads, but questioning her endurance isn’t one of them. You don’t seem to know how to cleverly insult a woman. If you can’t do it, don’t do it.

Never forget that Clinton’s best moment in all of 2015 was her 11-hour marathon congressional testimony on Benghazi, an event concocted by unwitting Republicans. Her performance was akin to Obama’s table-turning race speech in the 2008 campaign responding to the controversial sermons of his Chicago pastor—reassuring Democrats that the candidates could handle whatever the Republicans threw at them.

You are unlikely to bag your bounty by drowning yourself in the right-wing fever swamps of Clinton scandal theories. Always tempting. Often backfires.

What you need to fix, now

So if you can’t easily tear down Hillary, what can you do to build up yourself between now and the convention? How can you re-introduce yourself to the constituencies you need?

You already know your biggest hurdle in this race is race. A whites-only strategy is mathematically daunting, and your pursuit of Republican white voters has severely damaged your reputation with nonwhites and socially liberal whites. Blithely asserting you are going to win with “the blacks” and “the Hispanics” will be far from sufficient in the general.

Look at the failures of the Sanders campaign. Just showing up for a few events in black neighborhoods, with a few surrogates and a lot of promises, does not impress when you haven’t been present in their communities for most of your professional life.

Consider spending your spring on a Hillary-esque “listening tour” of small roundtable discussions with African-Americans, Latinos and Muslims—not for the cameras, but for actual listening. Allow some unvarnished talk on bigotry in America to seep into your brain and change how you think and speak. Show understanding and personal growth, and you’ll at least get a hearing.

Although people-of-color voters are an obvious challenge for you, most assume you have an easy path to win over working-class whites. They see themselves in your politically incorrect persona and eat up your broadsides against the pending trade deals and “hedge fund guys … getting away with murder.”

But you’re about to go six months tangling with a candidate who is both one of the biggest wonks and one of the most surgical attackers in the country. She can match your populist rhetoric and expose yours as lacking substance if you don’t beef it up.

You are generally allergic to policy specifics, but that didn’t matter because so were most of your Republican rivals. (Even the ones with position papers didn’t dwell on them much.) Clinton is on another level.

Yes, yes, voters don’t read position papers or sweat details. But some of Sanders’ weakest moments were when Clinton’s policy fluidity made him seem out of his depth. When she shows off her plan to rein in Wall Street and reduce income inequality, your “I’m just gonna do it” bit isn’t going to fly.

And Clinton is going to take that back-of-the-envelope tax plan of yours, one of the few policy papers you grudgingly agreed to develop, and put it in the shredder. The Republicans won’t hit you for an $11 trillion tax cut that mostly favors the rich and nearly doubles the nation’s debt-to-GDP ratio. But the Democrats have been running that play for years to win working-class and middle-class votes.

You need a real policy team, and you need it now.

In the general: Pivot like nobody has pivoted before

Fortunately, you have a “psych profile” akin to that of Martin Blank of the film Grosse Pointe Blank: “moral flexibility would be the only way to describe it.” You can run a general election campaign that is completely different from your primary campaign, without a care about past contradictions. And you won’t lose your die-hard supporters because, as you have practically proved, you could “shoot somebody” without losing voters.

But what you have also said, back in November 2012, was that incendiary comments made in the primary can sink a candidate in the general: “[Romney] had a crazy policy of self-deportation which was maniacal. It sounded as bad as it was, and he lost all of the Latino vote. He lost the Asian vote. He lost everybody who is inspired to come into this country.”

To save yourself from Romney’s fate, you need to pivot like nobody has pivoted before.

You had elements of such a pivot in your Super Tuesday news conference. But it lacked a certain…coherence. “Planned Parenthood has done very good work for many, many—for millions of women,” you said, with a clear eye on moderate female swing voters. However, these pro-choice suburbanites are not impressed when you follow that statement with “we’re not going to fund as long as you have the abortion going on.” You will need to pivot much harder.

And you planted the seeds for a Latino pivot back in August when you said your “great wall” would have a “big beautiful door.” Shelve your rhetoric about deporting everyone. Talk more about how you will ensure healthy flows of legal immigration, protect immigrant worker rights once they are here, and keep families united. Maybe you can avoid Romney’s disastrous results and have a shot in Colorado, Nevada and Florida.

Attack Hillary with finesse

Of course, your campaign can’t be all positive. Hers won’t. But ask failed New York Senate candidate Rick Lazio about trying to humiliate her on the debate stage. Or ask President Obama how smart it was to call her “likable enough.” You can turn Hillary into a sympathetic character real fast. Besides, plenty of other independent entities will be throwing their own mud at her.

So give up the weirdly insecure “tweetstorm” rants and snarky Instagram video swipes. That feeds the long-time Hillary haters, but those folks are already with you, and they are not enough. You don’t have to be as noble as Sanders was and renounce any discussion of her “damn emails.” But you can play against type, and win plaudits for taking the high road.

Pray for an indictment.


Of course, the Clintons are a family that survived a presidential impeachment. So nothing can be assumed to be automatically fatal. And the political benefit from a Clinton indictment could be negated with a loss for you in one of the three fraud causes against Trump University.

Obviously, you’d have to hit Clinton hard if she actually were indicted. But recall how Bill Clinton won the political debate over impeachment: by constantly assuring the public he was fighting for them while Republicans were obsessed with personal destruction. Surely, she would try to downplay any negative development as small beer or politically motivated, while staying focused on “the issues that matter to the American people.” No matter what happens on the legal front, to either of you, you will need to do the same.

You face an uphill battle. You won’t have a united Republican army at your back. Meanwhile, Obama’s approval ratings roughly match his 2012 vote, making it easier for Hillary Clinton to replicate his winning coalition. I make no guarantees that the above strategy is foolproof. But your path to victory lies in burying your current persona as a crude vessel of white rage, and repackaging yourself to a totally different audience.

And if anyone knows how to play to an audience, it’s you.


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Washington Post: Republicans have a massive electoral map problem that has nothing to do with Donald Trump


Republicans have a massive electoral map problem that has nothing to do with Donald Trump

Indianans vote in their primaries on Tuesday. Stay caught up on the race.

The limits of Ted Cruz’s strategy

In 2012, Mitt Romney effectively ended Rick Santorum’s presidential campaign with a seven-point victory in Wisconsin. Just 44 percent of Wisconsin Republican voters picked him, yet in exit polls, 67 percent of them said they’d be “satisfied” if he won the nomination.

Cruz’s Wisconsin victory was nearly twice as large as Romney’s in 2012, with a 13-point margin, and a near-majority of 48.2 percent support. Yet in exit polls, asked how they’d feel if Cruz won the presidency, just 60 percent were optimistic. Put another way, for every two votes Romney got, another voter was open to backing him. For Cruz, the ratio was four-to-one.

Ted Cruz’s campaign runs out of base with Indiana primary on tap Tuesday  


These 10 states will decide whether Trump is the GOP nominee

 Play Video

Democratic polling in Indiana

In 2008, Hillary Clinton defeated Obama here by less than one percentage point.

49% 44%

GOP polling in Indiana

Indiana is the first of three big states left on the Republican voting calendar. (The others, California and New Jersey, vote June 7.)


Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump told a crowd of his Indiana supporters on May 2 that Cruz would lose the state by “the biggest landslide in history.” (Reuters)

Politico reported today on a Florida poll conducted for a business group in the state that shows Hillary Clinton beating Donald Trump by 13 points and Ted Cruz by nine.

Why is that important? Because if Clinton wins Florida and carries the 19 states (plus D.C.) that have voted for the Democratic presidential nominee ineach of the last six elections, she will be the 45th president. It’s that simple.

Here’s what that map would look like:


And here’s the underlying math. If Clinton wins the 19 states (and D.C.) that every Democratic nominee has won from 1992 to 2012, she has 242 electoral votes. Add Florida’s 29 and you get 271. Game over.

The Republican map — whether with Trump, Cruz or the ideal Republican nominee (Paul Ryan?) as the standard-bearer — is decidedly less friendly. There are 13 states that have gone for the GOP presidential nominee in each of the last six elections. But they only total 102 electorate votes. That means the eventual nominee has to find, at least, 168 more electoral votes to get to 270. Which is a hell of a lot harder than finding 28 electoral votes.

Many Republicans — particularly in Washington — are already preparing to blame a loss this fall, which many of them view as inevitable, on the divisiveness of Trump. That’s not entirely fair to Trump though.

While his dismal numbers among women and Hispanics, to name two groups, don’t help matters and could — in a worst-case scenario — put states like Arizona and even Utah in play for Democrats, the map problems that face the GOP have very, very little to do with Trump or even Cruz.
Instead they are, largely, demographic problems centered on the GOP’s inability to win any large swath of non-white voters. New Mexico, a state in which almost half the population is Latino, is the ur-example here. In 2004, George W. Bush won the Land of Enchantment in his bid for a second term. (His margin over John Kerry was 588 votes.) Eight years later, Barack Obama won the state by 10 points over Mitt Romney; neither side targeted it in any meaningful way.

What has become increasingly clear is that any state with a large or growing non-white population has become more and more difficult for Republicans to win. Virginia and North Carolina, long Republican strongholds, have moved closer and closer to Democrats of late. (Obama won both states in 2008 and +carried Virginia in 2012.)

At the same time as these states have grown friendlier to Democrats, there are very few states that are growing increasingly Republican. Wisconsin and Minnesota are two but neither is moving rapidly in Republicans’ favor just yet.

What you are left with then is an electoral map in which the Democratic nominee begins at a significant advantage over the Republican one. (It is the obverse of the massive Republican electoral college edge of the 1980s.) And that edge is totally distinct from any individual candidate and his/her strengths or weaknesses. Yes, Trump as the nominee is more problematic than Ryan as the nominee, but the idea that Ryan would start the general election with a coin-flip chance of being elected president is just wrong.

The Republican map problem goes deeper than Trump — or any one candidate. Blaming Trump for a loss this November not only misses the point but could ensure that Republicans are doomed to repeat history in 2020.