Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Trump – a Joker, a Welsher, and a Crook

Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

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Donald Trump nearly went personally bankrupt in the early 90’s as his casino empire collapsed.  Bankers forced him to give up his majority holdings in four properties, sell his yacht, and his airline.

He rebuilt his casino/real estate empire only to see it collapse again in 2004 and 2009.  As part of the 2004 bankruptcy, Deutsche Bank revealed that they had loaned Trump’s company $40M backed by his personal guarantee that included his own estimate that he was worth $3.5B.  The bank and the court discovered that he was only worth $788M.  He later defaulted on that loan and sued the bank. They settled in 2010 with Trump getting a 5 year extension to pay back the loan.  It is unclear whether than obligation was satisfied, but the bank has provided Trump other loans since.

What’s important about these timelines is that Trump’s business model changed in 2004 when he started a new business as a celebrity on the long running Apprentice series.  Trump reported that NBC paid him more than $200M over 14 seasons to appear on the show.  NBC said multiple times that those figures were “grossly inaccurate and … significantly overstated”.  But this was only one of the whole host of celebrity endorsements that Trump was making.  The problem is that celebrity endorsements simply don’t bring in the same cash that real estate does, but they also don’t require nearly the same amount of upfront cash.  So it appears that Trump began to suffer from a cash flow short fall between the costs of his lifestyle (needed to support his endorsement business) and the income that lifestyle was generating.

He did the same thing most every other family in the country does when that happens.  He took some money out of the piggy bank.  In this case the piggy bank was his personal foundation.

The Washington Post recently documented that he withdrew roughly $258M from his charitable foundation to pay his own personal bills.

Now you might say that this was his own money, after all, and he should be able to do whatever he wants with it, but that’s not how charitable foundations work.  Trump got a tax deduction for the money that he donated to this charity.  Taking money back out to pay his own expenses constitutes fraud and violates federal rules against “self-dealing”.

To make matters worse, he wasn’t even taking out his own money.  He had pretty much run his foundation dry of his own money by 2006, leaving it with just $4,238 at year’s end, according to tax records.  He made small donations in 2007 and 2008.  Everything after that was other people’s money.  Other people who were making donations to his charity in order to ingratiate themselves to him.

Hillary Clinton has been accused of selling access to the State Department in return for large donations to her family’s charity.  The difference is that the Clinton foundation used those donations to fight AIDs.  The Trump foundation used access to Trump to secure large donations, but then used some of that money to pay Trump’s bills.

Here’s how he used that money.

In 2007, he settled a dispute with Palm Beach over the size of a flagpole at his Mar-a-Lago Club.  The original unpaid fines for the zoning violation totaled $120,000.  Trump settled with the city by offering to make a $100,000 donation to a veteran’s charity.  Rather than write the check, the donation came from his charity.

In another case in 2010, Trump was offering a $1M prize during a charity golf outing at a Trump golf course for anyone who had a hole in one.  Martin Greenberg won the prize.  The small print on the rules said that the golf ball had to travel at least 150 yards.  The hole where this challenge was set up was deliberately less than that.  Greenberg sued Trump’s club, the charity of former NBA star Alonzo Mourning, which was also hosting the tournament, as well as the insurance company that had underwritten the prize.

Eventually, Trump’s club and Greenberg settled the case, with the course agreeing to donate $158,000 to a charity chosen by Greenberg.  Trump paid that bill using foundation money.

In 2013, the foundation purchased $5,000 advertising for his hotels in programs for three events organized by a D.C. preservation group.  In 2014, Trump paid for a portrait of himself purchased at a charity auction with $10,000 of foundation money.  This is reminiscent of a similar $20,000 purchase of a portrait in 2007 that he also made with foundation money.

The bottom line is that this is all illegal.

“I represent 700 nonprofits a year, and I’ve never encountered anything so brazen,” said Jeffrey Tenenbaum, who advises charities at the Venable law firm in Washington. After The Post described the details of these Trump Foundation gifts, Tenenbaum described them as “really shocking.”

“If he’s using other people’s money — run through his foundation — to satisfy his personal obligations, then that’s about as blatant an example of self-dealing [as] I’ve seen in a while,” Tenenbaum said.

 

The real question is if this guy is as wealthy as he said he was and as generous as he said he was, why didn’t he just pay these bills out of his own pocket?  Why would he take the risk of breaking IRS rules for what to him should have been pocket change?

You can ask the same question regarding the $25,000 donation that the foundation made to the Bondi campaign just before the Florida AG dropped her plans to bring legal action against Trump University.  That donation was also illegal.  It should also have been easy from Trump to write the check himself.  He didn’t.

There are only two answers.

  1. He is pathological and this was an obsession that he simply couldn’t control.
  2. He didn’t have the money and this was the only way that he could cover those expenses.

In either case, it is just another example of why this person is uniquely deceptive and wholly unsuited for the office that he is seeking.

 

 

 

Trump’s Huge Boomerang

Saturday, August 27th, 2016

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Boomerangs have a wonderful property. Aboriginal Australians designed them as weapons that would come back if they missed their target. That works in hunting a bird. It is counterproductive in politics. Your attacks on your opponent should not end up coming back to wound you.

If this were just a one-time event in the Trump campaign, you could excuse it as just coincidence. But it has happened so often that you have to start treating as a feature rather than a bug.

Here are just a couple of examples.

“What is being uncovered now is one of the most shocking political scandals in American history,” Trump said on Thursday. “A secretary of state sold her office to corporations and foreign governments, betraying the public trust.”

This is in reference to a recent release of emails while Clinton was Secretary of State and Trump’s claim that donors to the Clinton foundation were getting special favors from Clinton in return for their donations. I’m not going to dig into the accuracy of these claims. They have already been fairly widely debunked by organizations like PolitiFact and CNN.

The boomerang is the fact that Trump himself donated to the Clinton foundation and got nothing in return. When confronted by Bill O’Reilly, here’s what he said.

And I have to tell you this, in all fairness, I thought that money was being put to very good use. I assumed it was being put to whether it’s Haiti or all of the different things that I heard about. I didn’t know about the private airplane rides all over the place and if you look at the kind of expenses that they charge and the way they lived, I had no idea that, but I will say, that as far as the foundation’s concerned, I assumed it was being put to good use, and so did everybody else that gave, and there were a lot of people that gave. They never really did anything for me, but I will say this, if I think they probably would have liked me, and, you know, whether you give here or give there, I got along with everybody, Bill.

Trump claims to be the best negotiator in the world. He claims that he will be able to get Mexico to foot the bill for a wall designed to keep Mexican’s out of this country. He claims that he will be able to renegotiate our trade agreements with China. He claims to take no prisoners and feels no remorse. Yet, if his claims about Clinton’s method of soliciting donations are true, he ended up being a chump. Many other people got a better deal that he did when they gave money to the Clinton foundation.

One of Trump’s other recent claims is that Clinton isn’t fit enough to be President.

“To defeat crime and radical Islamic terrorism in our country, to win trade in our country, you need tremendous physical and mental strength and stamina,” he said in Wisconsin. “Hillary Clinton doesn’t have that strength and stamina.”

He supported these claims using faked videos and out of context photographs. All of these were quickly and widely disproved, but remain a part of Trump’s basic stump speech.

Trump’s own claim to health, however, is based on one bizarre letter from a gastroenterologist who has dubious credentials. A gastroenterologist treats patients with some intestinal distress. They don’t generally treat healthy people. There are a lot of questions about the letter itself too, but the physician explains a lot of the strange terminology with the excuse that he wrote it in less than 5 minutes to satisfy a request by the Trump campaign.

The result is that the spot light has turned back to Trump’s health. If elected, he will be the oldest President ever to serve. He father died from early onset Alzheimer’s disease. He also received a medical draft deferment because of bone spurs. There is no mention of either condition in the physician’s letter. Ultimately the specious questions regarding Clinton’s health have lead back to a heightened awareness that Trump is the one with unanswered questions.

Then there is immigration. Trump made his mark on this issue, but it has also been his undoing since the end of his campaign. Clinton has effectively used this issue to paint Trump as a racist crazy person.

As Trump’s polling numbers began to head south, he brought in a new team and attempted to walk back some of his comments regarding mass deportation. His failed to thread the needle between those who support mass deportation and those who think it is crazy and racist. As a result, instead of revealing a “kinder, gentler” Trump, he seems even more uncertain and unstable.

Worse yet, his biggest supporters including Sarah Palin and Anne Colter are warning him that any wavering from his original plan will come at great cost.

All the while Clinton suffered the worst week of her campaign since Comey met with Congress. Instead of letting Clinton flap in the breeze, Trump continued his misguided attacks. So far, Clinton has only had to duck and wait for the inevitable. Trump wounded again by his own attack.

There is Something Going On

Saturday, August 20th, 2016

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These are five of Trump’s favorite words. He uses them to provide some credibility to his various flights of fancy — Obama is in league with ISIS, Obama is secretly undermining law enforcement, Clinton is ill, etc.

What is really going on, however, is that Trump is losing this election — badly.

It’s not only that he is losing, but it is the manner in which he is losing and his reaction to that losing that is really interesting.

I’ve speculated that the narcissism that appears to drive him is satisfied by the public attention that he is getting. He dominates the headlines and refused to allow even his opponent more than a day in the spotlight. As result, even though that attention lately has been focused on Trump’s failures, he would prefer even that attention rather than allow the media to dwell on the weaknesses of his opponent.

Still there is the gnawing sense that there is another game at play.

Evidence of that is in the moves that his campaign made over the last week.

Corey Lewandowski rode the Trump campaign to national prominence with his famous “Let Trump be Trump” strategy. Trump won the nomination, but stumbled badly in the transition from presumptive nominee to Republican candidate. Political “have gun will travel” professional Paul Manafort easily ousted Lewandowski and shepherded Trump through the convention, defeated the stop Trump movement, and delivered the convention bump that put Trump in the lead. He failed to convince Trump to pivot to a kinder gentler more presidential guy. Some of Manafort’s Russian dirty laundry came out and suddenly he’s gone too. The people who replaced Manafort are REALLY interesting.

Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, and recently disgraced Roger Ailes are now running the show.

This is not a team intended to get someone elected President.

This is a team that is going to use the rest of this campaign to field test their alt-right Euro-inspired anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant message on the Trump faithful.

This is a full-on take down of Fox as the leading voice of the conservative movement. You can see why this would appeal to “vengeance is mine” Ailes.

You can also see why it would appeal to Trump.

He is free to dive deeply into the demagoguery where he seems most comfortable.

Just think of it. A 24-hour news channel devoted to all things Trump. That is WAY more interesting to him than the Presidency. It will certainly make Trump a lot more money. He has the perfect foil in Clinton. He has at least 4 years, and probably 8 to continue to blame the country’s woes (real and imagined) on her. He will also blame his loss on her and the “rigged” system that she represents. Ailes has already perfected the formula of made-up news and political influence.

Trump will laugh all the way to the bank as those who placed their trust in him eagerly switch their channel from Fox to Great America. Coming this fall, the new Republican Party brought to you by Donald Trump, Roger Ailes, and Steve Bannon. What a rush. What a waste.

You Can’t Just Wing It

Monday, August 8th, 2016

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It wasn’t all that long ago that Trump was riding high.

He got the bump that he was looking for from his convention and many around the country were starting to talk about what a Trump presidency would look like.

But as quickly as he rose, he fell.

He couldn’t allow the spotlight to shine on anyone else.

Even after Clinton stumbled in an interview about her dealings with the FBI, Trump produced a virtual waterfall of “news” that turned the spotlight back on himself.  In more or less chronological order he:

  1. Attacked a Gold Star Muslim family who spoke out against his immigration policies.
  2. Said that the NFL sent him a letter complaining about the debate dates (NFL said it sent no such letter).
  3. Claimed that Russia would not invade Ukraine only to have to backtrack when informed that they already did in 2014
  4. Criticized a fire marshal in Columbus because the occupancy code was enforced.
  5. Praised Paul Ryan’s primary opponent.
  6. Told a woman with a crying baby to leave his rally.
  7. Accepted a Purple Heart from a vet with the statement, “I always wanted to get the Purple Heart, this was much easier.” Less than a day earlier, the NYT published a piece on his Viet Nam draft dodging.
  8. Refused to endorse Ryan, McCain, and Ayotte (he backtracked on this too later in the week)
  9. Claimed that the November elections would be rigged against him
  10. Claimed to have seen a top secret Iranian video of money being unloaded from a plane in Iran.  What he actually saw was publicly available video shot in Switzerland that had nothing to do with delivery of money to Iran. His campaign then corrected him. Then he repeated the lie again.

He has played right into Clinton’s hands with this strategy.  Her campaign has portrayed Trump as a dangerous choice and then patiently waited for Trump to prove it.  Just one indication of how big an issue this has become is when Charles Krauthammer, that champion hater of everything liberal, feels he has to comment on Trump’s fitness for the office.

As Trump’s poll numbers dropped, a parade of Republican incumbents have abandoned him.

Now 50 leading Republican security experts have released an open letter warning that a Trump presidency would put the nation’s security at risk. 

Mr. Trump “lacks the character, values and experience” to be president and “would put at risk our country’s national security and well-being.”

Mr. Trump, the officials warn, “would be the most reckless president in American history.”

Mr. Trump responded by laying the blame for the world “mess” at their feet.  He blamed them not only for the Iraq war, but also for the deaths in Benghazi and the rise of ISIS.  The latter two are curious since they occurred during the Obama administration when all of these officials were out of power.  But that’s about par for the course for the Trump campaign.

Here’s the basic problem.

The strategy that Trump used to monopolize the news cycle during the primaries is backfiring.  During the primaries the gaggle of other candidates were spending all of their time responding to Trump’s endless streams of insults and bravado.

In this general election cycle, the press is trying to inform the voters about who Trump is.  They hold him accountable for every gaffe.  They document the responses of experts when he says something dangerous.  But the sheer volume of this information simply reinforces Clinton’s claim that she is the more mature and experienced choice.  At this point, she doesn’t have to do a lot more other than to remind people that she isn’t Trump.

If Trump were able to stay on message for more than a day, he would have a real chance in this election because Clinton IS well known and has high negatives with many voters.

At this point, however, it may be too late.

His latest attempt to demonstrate some gravitas in a speech at the Detroit Economic Club drew mixed reviews.  His economic plan is a mishmash of old Republican ideas, old Democratic ideas, and new populist stuff.  There was a little something for everyone, which will likely confuse rather than satisfy undecided voters.  Just a couple of examples include making child care deductible.  Most working people don’t file the more complicated form required to claim this deduction.  Poor people don’t pay enough in taxes to take advantage of it.  As a result, it mostly benefits those that are well off.  That doesn’t square with his core demographic.  He also pledged to halt new regulations including those that would affect Wall Street.  This is seems to be at odds with his claim that he was going to crack down on Wall Street.

Trump is his own worst enemy because under the pressure of this campaign his true nature is on display for the whole country.  That nature is an unstable narcissist with an insatiable appetite for the spot light.  But like many who have also suffered from that obsession, the public is beginning to realize that he isn’t the winner that he claims to be.  He doesn’t really have wings, just wax and feathers.  Those are not enough to carry him to victory in the November.

 

 

 

Lazy

Thursday, July 21st, 2016

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I often wonder what motivates Trump to say the things that he says.

My latest theory is that he is just lazy (and obsessively needs the spotlight).

He is unwilling to put in the work to deeply understand an issue.  Instead he says the first thing that pops into his head and moves on.  If that’s true, it’s terrifying that he considers this sufficient to qualify him for the most powerful elected position in the country.

The first evidence of this laziness are the challenges his campaign is having during a period of time when Republicans are going to naturally dominate the airwaves.  Here are just a few examples.

  1. Opening night of the convention he scheduled a competitive lengthy prime time interview on the Golf Channel with David Feherty.
  2. Tuesday night his wife gave a speech that wasn’t properly vetted. The obvious plagiarism and the clumsy response by his campaign dominated the airwaves instead of the fact that he was formally nominated.
  3. Wednesday night Ted Cruz gets to speak and declines to endorse Trump and now all of the conversation is about dysfunction. How could that happen?
  4. Then today when Trump has the opportunity to speak to the convention, another careless interview with the NY Times comes out that embarrasses the Republican Party.

The NYT interview was a prime example of shallow lazy thinking.

  1. Trump suggests that the US may not honor its NATO commitments for the Balkan countries that border Russia unless they meet their financial commitments to the US. The first time he floated this idea four months ago, he got blasted.  He had four months to come up with a better answer.  He didn’t bother.  The result is that members of both parties, NATO, and our European allies have all expressed their concern – AGAIN.
  2. Trump seems to confuse military alliances with trade agreements. He argues that our existing trade deficits undermine any argument on strategic deployment of our military.  In other words, the world should be paying us to fill the role of the leader of the free world.  The corollary of course is that our allegiances are for sale to the highest bidder.
  3. Trump’s NAFTA answer is similarly shallow. He has a friend who is building a lot of plants in Mexico, so that must be bad for the country.  Trump could fill a room with policy experts on NAFTA, pick the one that he likes the best, and then reference his statistics.  Instead he simply repeats the story that new plants are being built in Mexico when they should be getting built in the US.
  4. When asked about cyber warfare as an alternative to military force, Trump basically said that he was “a fan of the future, and cyber is the future.”
  5. Finally, the NY Times interviewer asked Trump a made up question about Obama considering and no-first-use pledge regarding nuclear weapons. Obama has no such plan.  Rather than admit that he hadn’t heard about that, Trump made up an answer.  This is where Trump is really scary.  He is unwilling to admit what he doesn’t know, but he is running for a job where it is IMPOSSIBLE to know everything.  Experienced politicians have a stock answer when asked something that they don’t know.  They say that they don’t have an answer right now.  They ask if they can get back with you.  They defer to their staff.  They ask where the reporter heard that rumor.  They NEVER try to make up an answer on the spot on a subject that they haven’t been briefed on.  This isn’t a hard skill to learn for most people, but apparently it is one the Trump is unwilling to acquire.

Finally word came out of the John Kasich camp regarding the VP offer he received.  When asked what his duties would be, the interviewer said foreign and domestic policy.  Trump’s intent, if the reports are to be believed, is to delegate the running of the government to his VP.  Trump will fill the same role he does in his companies today, a figure head.

In other words, he is lazy.

Great Lies in American History

Saturday, July 9th, 2016

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Just a little thought experiment.

Let’s rank these events in order of what was most damaging to the country.

Here’s a list in historical order.

  1. Nixon’s Watergate cover-up
  2. Reagan sold arms to Iran to fund a secret war in South America
  3. Bush I promised no new taxes and then raised taxes after he was elected
  4. Bill Clinton lied about an affair with an intern
  5. Cheney outed a CIA agent in retaliation for a NYTimes op-ed authored by her husband
  6. Bush II invaded Iraq on false pretenses
  7. Obama promised you could keep your doctor under Obamacare
  8. Hillary Clinton lied about permitted use of her email server

Here’s my ranking

  1. Bush II invaded Iraq on false pretenses
  2. Nixon’s Watergate cover-up
  3. Reagan sold arms to Iran to fund a secret war in South America
  4. Cheney outed a CIA agent in retaliation for a NYTimes op-ed authored by her husband
  5. Bush I promised no new taxes and then raised taxes after he was elected
  6. Bill Clinton lied about an affair with an intern
  7. Obama promised you could keep your doctor under Obamacare
  8. Hillary Clinton lied about permitted use of her email server

What’s your ranking?

Honesty

Sunday, June 12th, 2016


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One of the big issues in this campaign appears to be honesty.

Just looking at the facts, the answer is obvious.

As tracked by Politifact, Trump tells the complete truth only 3% of the time.  Clinton tells the complete truth 23% of the time.  It isn’t even that Trump is telling a nuanced truth.  60% of the things he says don’t have a shred of truth.  These aren’t just little lies either.  19% are pants on fire whoppers.

Here’s just a sampling.

Crime is rising.  It’s not.

“I watched in Jersey City, N.J., where thousands and thousands of people were cheering” as the World Trade Center collapsed.    Trump appears to be the only person who saw this.

“Frankly, (Hillary Clinton) doesn’t do very well with women.”  She leads Trump with women by the largest margin in history.

The question has to be why some polls give Trump higher marks than Clinton on honesty when the facts simply don’t support it?

Some of it might be the fact that Clinton only recently clinched her party’s nomination.  Since that time her overall polling numbers have been going up.

But something else is going on here.

When we dig into the responses regarding Trump, what emerges is that some of those supporting Trump feel that he is more genuine that Clinton.  His willingness to speak in an unfiltered way causes them to assume that he is speaking from the heart.  Clinton on the other hand is a professional politician.  She is schooled in the sort of cautious speech that some people associate with fear of “telling it like it is”.

This is also reflected in the Trump’s assault on what he and his followers call Political Correctness.  His willingness to offend virtually every special interest group in the country for the entertainment of his white male audience wins him points for authenticity.

Perhaps this is how he actually feels.  It is also possible that he is sincerely expressing his unfiltered opinion, though that opinion appears to change based on the reaction that it generates.

IMHO nothing could be further from the truth.  His “authenticity” is an act.  It is the result of his talent as con man.  He built a following pointing out that the conservative working man has been duped by the Republican Establishment.  Trump, however, is also playing them for suckers by channeling Triumph the Insult Dog and letting them fill in the blanks based on their own fears and biases.

Those who support him, however, have such deep animus for Clinton, that they have latched onto to this difference to justify their support.  They say that he is just “Donald being Donald”.  That he doesn’t really mean all of the things that he says.  He will ultimately make “deals” that are in the best interests of the country.

Let’s look at some of those deals from the perspective of what is best for the country.

The most obvious is the Supreme Court.  Whomever is the next President will have at least two and perhaps three vacancies to fill.

Clinton will nominate liberal judges.  The result of that will likely be reversing the narrow Citizen’s United decision.  That will allow new limits to be placed on private money in elections.  Trump supposedly shares this interest.  He claims that his own personal fortune means he can’t be bought.  But the judges he has proposed nominating support the view that corporate money is free speech.

Instead Trump has promised that he will appoint judges who will overturn Roe v. Wade.  Whether or not this is even possible, packing the court based on an abortion litmus test sets a very dangerous precedent.

Clinton has put forward solid policies to both reduce the debt and improve the job prospects for the very people who are supporting Trump.  Trump has only said that he will be the best job’s president the country has ever seen.  It also came out recently that he routinely fails to pay his own workers and contractors. 

None of this information will likely alter the minds of those who already have cast their lot with Trump.  They are so deep in their denial that there is little that Trump can do between now and the election to lose their support.  The rest of the country, however, who approach their job of picking the next President more analytically will discover that the Trump campaign is a sham.  They will reject the violence, xenophobia, and cult of personality that Trump has created and select Clinton because of her policies.

Dangerous Territory

Tuesday, June 7th, 2016

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Let’s start by saying that there is no place in a democracy for violence.

It is the dark underbelly of our most cherished institution.  We are supposed to rely on our vote rather than the threat of violence in order to effect change.

That said, we have a history of political violence in this country.

The original Boston patriots were a violent group.  One of the reason the rest of the original colonies were reluctant to join the revolution was their fear that after defeating the British, the Boston militia would turn on the rest of the colonies.

The Jim Crow south was built on violence and intimidation.  A white minority imposed a social order on the black majority by taking away their votes and setting up a legal system that was rigged against them.  The latest version of that scheme was on display in Ferguson, MO.

The anti-war movement was galvanized by the Kent Massacre where unarmed students were gunned down by National Guard troops.  That single event did more than hours of news footage from Viet Nam to ultimately create the political will to end the draft and the war.

This time around, however, it is different.

MLK organized marches in the south for the specific purpose of raising awareness in the rest of the country to the institutional racism that governed the south.  The images of the peaceful protestors being attacked by police spoke far more eloquently than any speech about the injustice of racism.  Those protests also reflected a confidence in the how the country would respond when they realized what was going on.  Our government responded with civil rights legislation.

The anti-war movement protested the morality of sending kids to war who didn’t have an opportunity to vote on that policy.  Our government did eventually respond.  The war ended.  The draft was abolished.  The voting age reduced.

This time around, however, the presumptive Republican nominee for the office of the President says that he is going to deport 11M people who are here illegally and restrict and monitor the activities of Muslims.

We’ve always had extreme candidates run for President.  Strom Thurmond and George Wallace are just a couple of examples of candidates who supported legalized segregation.  None of these extreme candidates ever had a chance to become president.

Trump does.

When the potential President of the United States says that he plans to forcibly deport members of your family, how are you going to react?

When the potential President of the United States says that he plans to spy on your place of worship and keep track of your activities in a database just because of your religion, how are you going to react?

If you have trust in democracy and the courts, you may plan to vote for whoever runs against this guy in the fall; send them some money, or even volunteer to work on their behalf.

If you don’t trust that in the current institutions of our government, but you do trust in the decency of the majority of people in this country, you may take to the streets to peacefully express your opinion in the hopes that other voters will understand the depth of your concern.

If you don’t trust in the current institutions of our government and distrust the basic decency of the majority of the people in this country, you may get frustrated and angry.  That anger and frustration may drive you to confront those who you feel intend to harm you.  That’s when the fabric of society starts to fray.

We enter into very dangerous territory when groups feel as though the only choice they have is to physically confront those that disagree with them.  But what other way do we have to demonstrate to the larger population that Trump and his supporters are violent?

The dangerous territory is when this violence is used to justify violence.

The dangerous territory is when those who advocate violence are able to win an election because they claim that this tactic is the only effective response to violence.

The dangerous territory is when that violence is directed as a class of people whose only sin is who their parents were or how they choose to worship.

We’ve been in dangerous territory before.  Adams passed a blatantly discriminatory Alien and Sedition act in 1798.  The country tolerated slavery for 200 years and segregation for another 100 years.  The Justice Department under Wilson tried to create a list of all German aliens (sound familiar?).  4000 were imprisoned.  There was at least one documented incident of a lynching in Illinois. FDR interred the Japanese during WWII.  We had a massive clandestine domestic spying program.  We tortured suspected terrorists and are still holding some a decade later in a prison on foreign soil without any plan to try them.

We will survive this period too, but it will require work and will likely cause wounds that will take some time to heal.

 

 

Slip Sliding Away

Sunday, May 22nd, 2016

facism

Many of those who are supporting Trump are doing so because they have lost all faith in the existing institutions, parties, and leaders to make a positive change in their lives.

What’s interesting is that, while they appear to have lost faith in existing leaders, they haven’t lost faith in the democratic process.  Otherwise, why attempt to use it to bring about change?  So in terms of a revolution, this one is still well within the bounds of our constitution and our tradition of democracy which in some ways makes it even more dangerous.

In that context then, what appears to be happening is that those working folks who have been supporting conservative causes over the past fifty years or so (stretching back to Goldwater) are finally waking up to the fact that much of what the Republican Party promised, was never delivered.  Economic reform based on tax reductions never generated the promised job or wage growth.  In fact just the opposite has occurred.  The wealthy have grown even more wealthy and powerful, while everyone else has seen their wages stagnate, their jobs become less secure, and their political power erode.  Social reform never generated the changes in abortion laws or prevented the expansion of rights for the LGBT community.  Government has not been able to slow the growth in minority and immigrant populations or their new found political power.  The government still spends a lot of money.  The debt has grown larger, on average, when Republicans controlled the White House than Democrats.  There are still structural problems with Social Security and Medicare.  The world remains an unstable place.  ISIS has replaced al Qaeda as the “great evil”.

What the Republican Party did accomplish is to erode trust in the institutions of both government, the free press, and academia.  That created an information bubble where many of those who support the conservative wing of the Republican Party live.  Being a conservative Republican became much more an exercise in faith rather than fact.

Their faith in Trump is that he is strong enough to make the changes that they so desperately want to see happen.  They are so deep in their delusion that any individual can in fact affect this sort of change, they ignore what the man is saying.   Instead they project their own individual agenda on their candidate.  This is the best example of motivated reasoning that I have ever seen, but it is also the most dangerous.  That’s because Trump only obligation is to his own agenda.

Here’s just one example of that sort of motivated reasoning.  It is an attempt to logically support an emotional decision which is at the core of motivated reasoning.  These lists generally begin – I’m voting for Trump because …..  I’ve added my comments after each assertion.

Isn’t a career politician
This is the first office he has even run for.  Minnesota voters elected Jesse Ventura as governor for many of the same reasons.  There are very few examples of successful Presidents who had no previous political experience.

Isn’t funded by Goldman (besides Bernie)
Big assumption here.  Trump has already said that he wants to raise $1B to run in the fall.  More specifically, Trump owns stock in Goldman.  Goldman has issued Trump a line of credit.  So technically Trump IS funded by Goldman.

Will take a stand against China before it’s too late
Obviously this begs the question of “too late for what”? But Trump’s promise to start a trade war with China and renegotiate our existing trade agreements has been rejected by most experts as naive and dangerous.

Is running on his own dime, not Super-PAC
See above.  Trump is not going to be running on his own dime.  He was able to run a low budget primary campaign because of all the free media coverage he received.  He perfected the art of dominating the media with outrageous statements.  It is unclear whether he will be able to get away with that in a two person race.  That’s because every time he says something outrageous, the press will also print a response from the campaign of the Democratic nominee.  As a result, he hired a former hedge fund manager to help him raise $1B for the fall campaign.

Has grown a business ten-fold into a third generation which is very hard
Business success does not necessarily translate in political success.  Until Trump releases more tax returns, the scale of his business success will be hard to measure.  The last successful business man to occupy the White House without previously holding an elected office was Herbert Hoover.  That didn’t turn out very well.

Admits we are in a bubble in this country that isn’t far from popping
If that were true, you would expect Trump would be shorting a bunch of stocks and investing in gold.  Trump’s investments don’t reflect that strategy.  But even if they did, the real question is what he would do to either prevent the bubble from popping or mitigate the damage from that pop.  He has demonstrated a reasonable understanding of monetary policy but clearly doesn’t understand how national debt works in a global economy.

Doesn’t drink, do drugs or smoke
He doesn’t appear to have any problems selling alcohol.  As far as drugs, he and his brother were patients of Dr. Greenberg in the 80’s who prescribed amphetamines for weight loss.  This was also documented in a controversial Trump biography by Harry Hunt.

Has a history of promoting women to high positions in his businesses
That’s true.  He also has had a reputation as a playboy.  He has been married three times.  He has admitted having extramarital affairs, and has a long history of describing women in objectified ways.

Is friendly to the LGBT community
Not sure what “friendly” means.  Confused might be a better term.  On the campaign trail, he has said he opposes marriage equality.  He did also say that he was opposed to the NC law prohibiting transgender bathroom accommodations.

Has great support from Orthodox Jewish community
This is true because the Orthodox Jewish community does not want to see the sort of two state settlement between Isreal and the Palestinians that the Democrats and most of the rest of the world support.  Sheldon Adelson has also promised Trump $100M if Trump supports Adelson’s call for moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, which would clearly put the two state solution in jeopardy.

It isn’t clear what Trump’s agenda is, other than to bolster his own over-inflated ego.

He divides the world between winners and losers.  He is the classic school yard bully who will seek to ingratiate himself to those he views as more powerful and denigrate those that he feels are weak.

The problem is that everyone eventually proves themselves to be weak.  Everyone will eventually be a loser.  What will happen to those losers if this deeply unstable man suddenly becomes the most powerful man in the world?

And what happens to his followers if he doesn’t win?  They have already demonstrated their willingness to respond violently to those who disagree with them.  We are also witness to increased unprovoked attacks against immigrants who are the scapegoats in the Trump narrative.

This is how the United States slipped into facism.  Not with a shout, but with a whimper.

The Times They Are A-Changin’

Thursday, April 28th, 2016

Come gather ’round people wherever you roam and admit that the waters round you have grown and accept it that soon you’ll be drenched to the bone.  If your time to you is worth savin’, then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone.  For the times they are a-changin’.

Come writers and critics who prophesize with your pen and keep your eyes wide the chance won’t come again and don’t speak too soon for the wheel’s still in spin and there’s no tellin’ who that it’s namin’.  For the loser now will be later to win.  For the times they are a-changin’.

Come senators, congressmen please heed the call.  Don’t stand in the doorway.  Don’t block up the hall.  For he that gets hurt will be he who has stalled.  There’s a battle outside and it is ragin’.  It’ll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls. For the times they are a-changin’.

Come mothers and fathers throughout the land and don’t criticize what you can’t understand.  Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command.  Your old road is rapidly agin’.  Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand.  For the times they are a-changin’.

The line it is drawn. The curse it is cast.  The slow one now will later be fast.  As the present now will later be past.  The order is rapidly fadin’ and the first one now will later be last.  For the times they are a-changin’.

Bob Dylan 1964

We baby-boomers LOVED this song.  It was our declaration of independence.  We are the children of the greatest generation.  But in our youth, all we could see was the hypocrisy of discrimination and the stifling effects of social conformity.  We celebrated individuality, freedom, and creativity.

Now we are the ones who are, at least in part, the rapidly fading order.  Millennials finally outnumber us.  We are also rapidly becoming a diverse racial country where whites are no longer the dominant race.  For some, that is welcome.  For others it is terrifying.

These tectonic demographic shifts drive our politics in ways that aren’t always obvious to those who feel the ground shifting underneath their feet.  These shifts are, none the less, a reliable prediction of where politics are moving in the future.

In order to provide a sense of context, here is an historical example.

Republicans under Abraham Lincoln forced the south to bend to the will of the federal government and free the slaves.  Whites in the south joined the Democratic Party and newly enfranchised blacks voted Republican.  The resurgent Democratic Party forced the government to remove federal troops who had been enforcing southern reconstruction. This allowed the rise of Jim Crow laws and the end of black political power.  Those white politics continued pretty much unchanged until the 60’s,  Democrats supported civil rights legislation and again imposed a new order on the south.  Blacks had been moving away from the Republican Party for decades because that party failed to support black interests (e.g. Teddy Roosevelt’s disbanding of a black army unit).  Democrats earned black votes in response to Democratic support of civil rights legislation.  Nixon’s southern strategy completed the transition of Dixiecrats to the Republican Party.

Let’s look at some of the other important growing demographic segments to see which parties they are aligned with and why.

Hispanics, Asians, and African Americans
All of these demographics are SIGNIFICANTLY younger than the white population.  The implications are obvious.  As the white population ages, the these groups will gain more political power.

It should also be obvious to even the casual observer that all of these groups have good reasons to affiliate with the Democratic Party.  Republicans have chosen to be the party of white people.  That choice was not lost on these groups.  Both Trump and Cruz promise to deport 12M undocumented workers.  Those opposed to that are going to vote Democratic.  The Republican Party largely blames the poor in this country for their condition.  Those who oppose that view are also going to vote for Democrats.

The Cook Political Report’s David Wasserman accurately described the Republican problem.

In 1980, Ronald Reagan won 56 percent of all white voters and won election in a 44-state landslide. In 2012, GOP nominee Mitt Romney carried 59 percent of all white voters yet lost decisively. What happened? African Americans, Latinos, Asians and other non-whites — all overwhelmingly Democratic-leaning groups — rose from 12 percent of voters in 1980 to 28 percent in 2012.

Women
Regardless of how you feel about abortion, from a political perspective 54% of women are pro-choice.  Republicans are aggressively pro-life.  According to Gallup, 70% of women have an unfavorable view of Trump.  Even with Clinton’s negatives among women at 50%, she has a 20 point advantage.  If Trump continues to attack her in the run up to the presidency in the same ways that he attacked women during the primaries, it is likely that his negatives will go up and hers down.

Highly Educated Professionals
These people are naturally liberal because they value science.  Republican positions on climate change only exacerbate this Democratic advantage.

Young People
Young people are very supportive of LGBT rights and many carry massive college debt.  Republicans oppose LGBT rights and oppose any efforts to reform higher education financing.

Evangelicals
Carter woke up evangelicals.  Reagan and Schafly converted them to Republicanism.  Lately, however, evangelical leaders have moved away from the narrow social issues and embraced a larger set of concerns about helping the poor.  They remain an area of support for Republicans, but the religious zealotry of right wing conservatism has taken over from the pulpit-lead politics of previous decades.

Working Class Whites
Republicans have an advantage with low information white voters.  Trump has mobilized them because they have felt that their previous Republican votes did not deliver the change that was promised.  They are looking for someone to materially change their current tenuous condition.  Their wages have stagnated.  Their job prospects are grim.  What investments they had have not recovered from the 2008 financial collapse.  They have determined that the game is rigged against them and they want someone to blame.  This all fits well with the Republican emotional approach to politics.  The problem is that this group, while passionate, is a declining demographic and in 2016 may represent 10% of the voting population.

Conclusion
The next election will be a contentious one.  Assuming that there are no bombshells between now and November, Clinton should win with relative ease regardless of who Republicans run.  That is going to be incomprehensible for Republicans because Clinton IS in many ways the devil of their religion.  It was just as incomprehensible for them that a white country elected a black man twice, but they blamed that on Romney and McCain not being conservative enough and the government bribing 47% of the population.

The facts tell a different story.  Too many of the growing demographic groups currently have natural affiliations with Democratic policy positions for any Republican to win.  The real question is what choice the Republican faithful, in the face of yet another national failure, will make – start swimmin’ or sink like a stone.