Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Response to Colin Kaepernick

(See: Just Above Sunset: Colin Kaepernick)

Today, I came to the realization that, although I have spent not one Lincoln penny in the battleground states of Pennsylvania and Ohio, I enjoy virtually the same statistical popularity among African-Americans who live there as does Donald J. Trump. To put it another way, there is a immeasurable groundswell of no enthusiasm for both of us. We’re running neck-and-neck, and that’s with me running not at all!

And while God only knows why I’m doing so poorly among black voters, there's no wonder that Trump is. When he addresses them in the stereotypical terms learned from his youth, it has to remind you of his cringeworthy meeting with Jewish Republicans back in December, as noted by the Times of Israel’s report on the story, "Trump courts Republican Jews with offensive stereotypes”:
Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump on Thursday invoked a series of stereotypes about Jews that are often deemed offensive and even anti-Semitic — in an address to Jewish Republicans. 
“I’m a negotiator like you folks were negotiators,” the controversial candidate declared to his audience at the Republican Jewish Coalition, as he explained that he would broker a stronger nuclear deal with Iran than the one concluded earlier this year. At another point in his speech, he said: “Is there anyone in this room who doesn’t negotiate deals? Probably more than any room I’ve ever spoken.” 
His speech came at the tail end of a morning of addresses in which the other Republican candidates boasted of their pro-Israel credentials and their close ties to the US Jewish community. 
Although Trump did reiterate his tight ties with his “friend” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the audience wasn’t tolerant of the mogul’s attempts to duck a question on Jerusalem. Asked about his position on the unification of the Israeli capital, Trump refused to commit – as most Republican candidates have – to declaring the city to be the eternal capital of the Jewish state, and was greeted with boos. 
However, the audience did not offer any negative response when Trump told them, “You’re not gonna support me even though you know I’m the best thing that could ever happen to Israel. And I’ll be that.” 
He continued, evoking a stereotype about Jews, money and control, “And I know why you’re not going to support me. You’re not going to support me because I don’t want your money. Isn’t it crazy?”
(It’s because he’s very, very, very rich! Get it?)
According to AP, he added: “You want to control your own politician.”
You might assume Trump would know that, no matter what skepticism black voters have about Democrats courting their vote, they'd also be wary of just another Republican acknowledging that they all live in crime-infested slums, with their kids going to lousy schools — all which is true because of failed "Democrat" policies, of course — all which can easily solved simply by closing our borders to drug dealers and job-stealing Mexican rapists, followed by lowering taxes that, in itself, would then create millions and millions of good jobs so fast our heads would spin.

But then he blows it when he turns around and, as if no African-Americans can hear him, tells all those white voters in Pennsylvania that if he happens to lose the state, it will be because of “rigging” in “certain areas” of the state (hint: I think he meant “urban” areas!), because of certain court decisions
“You don’t have to have voter ID to now go in and vote and it’s a little bit scary.” ... 
Trump says without voter ID, “people are going to walk in, they are going to vote 10 times maybe. Who knows?”
There were rumors that, on the very day he said that, dog owners all over Pennsylvania coincidentally noticed their pups holding their ears in pain. (Okay, I just made that part up.)

But if Trump really wants to appeal to black voters, he might also want to be careful about this Colin Kaepernick story, the news conference with whom, found at that link, you really should listen to in its entirety. While I may disagree with Kaepernick's assessment of both Hillary Clinton and the Lord Jesus, I agree with his main point — police brutality has to be addressed in this country, and it is not being addressed at all, by either campaign. It’s hard not to admire both Kaepernick’s courage, and his intelligent answers to all the questions.

I imagine Trump may not realize it, but there seem to be a lot of people, and not only black people, who are taking this guy’s side — and a lot of those seem to be veterans and service members currently stationed in war zones who are sympathetic with the idea of not just fighting for a flag, but also for The Republic for Which It Stands, not to mention the actual freedoms that the country cherishes, such as freedom to express political dissent.

And then today, there’s this surprise visit to Mexico — where, ironically, Trump has higher numbers among the Mexican people than he has among Blacks here — but which only gives truth to what he’s been saying all along: Sure enough, there are indeed some very scary people crossing the Mexican border these days!

As I write this, he’s landing, but wouldn’t it be fun if they found drugs on Trumpforce-One and had to impound it, and then made him sneak back across the border into the U.S.? Now what a great photo-op that would be!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Response to Our August Fires

Shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union, a friend of my wife’s was on a tour of Moscow and its environs with a group that got lost in one of its small cities, so they approached a traffic cop to ask directions. As they began, he interrupted and said, “One second! Come with me,” and led the group across the street. When everyone had reached the opposite side, he arrested them all for jaywalking and put them in jail for a week. It took lots of American dollars to get them out.

And what does this have to do with Donald Trump, you ask? (And you’d be right to ask that, since, these days, everything has something to do with Donald Trump.) It’s just that the way Trump treats the press reminds me of that story. 

Because he’s such a cheap bastard, he doesn’t spend his precious dollars on advertising, figuring he can get all the publicity he needs by manipulating the media to cover him for free, simply by saying something outlandishly stupid on a daily basis. So the news media, as if they have a choice, faithfully report verbatim — and often, live — on everything he says, and he then accuses them of being "crooked” and “liars”!

And technically, he’s right! If the news media passes on to the public any lie, even one that originates from Donald Trump’s mouth, then Donald Trump would be right to call them liars.

Is it a coincidence that Trump likes the way they do things in Russia, not to mention that they also seem to like him? The two could give each other lessons on how to get away with pushing people around.

But it’s actually worse than that. Here’s Fareed Zakaria, talking on CNN over the weekend with Pavel Felgenhauer, columnist for the Novaya Gazeta, a Russian newspaper, about Trump’s popularity in Russia: 
Zakaria: Explain to us Russia’s love affair with Trump. 
Felgenhauer: Well, I would say, primarily, Trump is popular here in Russia because Barrack Obama is deeply unpopular. 
So, I mean, anyone who is attacking Obama would be seen nicely by the Russian population. Obama is seen as a person who organized the sanctions after Russia took over Crimea, and these sanctions, together with the [something] price of war, cost a very badly for the Russian population. We have a shrinking economy, falling household incomes, and everyone believes, I mean not just the Kremlin but also the masses of the people, that this is all Obama’s fault. 
And Hillary Clinton is seen as a kind of surrogate, a continuation of Obama. And Trump is saying the right words, about that he is ready to maybe recognize Russian annexation of Crimea, maybe will give Russia the rest of Ukraine as a kind of dependency, as part of Russian recognized sphere of influence. So he is believed to be maybe the good guy!
Wait! What?

You heard that right! The people of Russia apparently miss the good old days of the Cold War, in which Russia and America were like two New York crime families, divvying up territory among themselves: 
Zakaria: Pavel, you talked about how Obama is unpopular because he’s been tough on Russia. But in general, is America also unpopular? My sense is that Russians have really lost any fascination that they had after the Cold War with the United States, and regard it with pretty jaundiced eyes.  
Felgenhauer: Yeah, there is no love there. America is seen as the major geopolitical enemy, the big Satan that’s trying to kind of hold Russia under, not allow Russia to rise again to its normal status of super power, and so on. 
Though, at the same time, America is also, to some extent, envied. And basically the Russian [something], the Russian elite, they would want to be with the United States on par, kind of working a world concert, over the heads of other nations, finding quid-pro-quos, agreeing, as they did during the Cold War, the two superpowers, working together, keeping a new world order. 
So America is seen as an enemy, but at the same time, as a very important partner.
Yikes? Welcome to the post-Obama world! 

And yet one more good thing about Trump becoming president, at which time we become more like Russia, is that the American media would, once and for all, suddenly stop being such notorious liars.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Response to After Trump

(See: Just Above Sunset: After Trump)

I’m starting to think that Donald Trump is actively trying to lose this thing after all. If so, the question is, why?

Has he, as a friend of ours suggested a few months ago, thrown in with the Clintons, and been trying to engineer Hillary's victory from the very beginning?

After all, as conservative Republicans have said all along, he has a history of holding liberal positions — deficit spending on infrastructure programs, for example — and saying nice things about Hillary Clinton, and pointing out (correctly, by the way) that the economy always seems to do better under Democratic administrations. In short, he can make his place in American history, by engineering the final demise of that so-out-of-control Republican party.

Or maybe we need to go back and take a closer look at that story being pushed in late March by Stephanie Cegielski, who had been Communications Director of Trump's short-lived "Make America Great Again" Super PAC: 
Even Trump's most trusted advisors didn't expect him to fare this well. 
Almost a year ago, recruited for my public relations and public policy expertise, I sat in Trump Tower being told that the goal was to get The Donald to poll in double digits and come in second in delegate count. That was it. 
The Trump camp would have been satisfied to see him polling at 12% and taking second place to a candidate who might hold 50%. His candidacy was a protest candidacy.
But then things went tragically awry.
What was once Trump's desire to rank second place to send a message to America and to increase his power as a businessman has nightmarishly morphed into a charade that is poised to do irreparable damage to this country if we do not stop this campaign in its tracks. 
I'll say it again: Trump never intended to be the candidate. But his pride is too out of control to stop him now. … He doesn't want the White House. He just wants to be able to say that he could have run the White House. He’s achieved that already and then some.
Tired of him always talking about building a wall and having Mexico pay for it, she supported the campaign’s decision last October to shut down the Super PAC, "in order to position him as the quintessential non-politician".

So maybe Trump is just trying to cover his ass for after his inevitable loss?

But what’s odd is, while everyone seems so certain he’s going to lose on November 8th, at least Nate Silver doesn’t see that it will be a landslide, which is defined as a double-digit margin in the popular vote — Silver sees that separation, at least right now, to be only 7-8%.

Nor, if those numbers hold, will he be held down to the "one state, plus Washington DC" of both George McGovern in 1972 and Walter Mondale in 1984. In fact, right now, it looks like Trump might end up winning 21 states.

And that may be enough for the Trumpistas to survive as a viable political movement after the election is over. In fact, not just a movement, but a movement bearing arms, and knowing how to use them.

And speaking, as we were yesterday, of people believing the Second Amendment was designed by the founders as a defense against government tyranny, by the way, brings up the question of what they think their actual revolution would look like. Do they imagine themselves mowing down a company of heavily-armed IRS tax accountants, approaching their homes with intentions to take away their guns?

More likely — and I hope those in the Trump National Front realize this — it would be American soldiers! You know, as in, “Support-Our-Troops" American soldiers? Not to mention, with tanks and planes and cruise missiles and whatnot, people who swore an oath to protect the Constitution from enemies both foreign and … (wait for it) … domestic! Did you ever imagine you’d end your life as a “domestic" enemy of your country?

Although I also wonder what would happen to this movement if Trump were to announce on the day after the election that his presidential bid, as many had suspected, was all a fake campaign, maybe designed specifically to knock out any serious contender to Hillary Clinton’s chances of winning.

I’m wondering, for example, what the reaction will be of all those on the Trump Surrogate Brigade — not just all those blond women but also Rudy Giuliani — who were, on a daily basis, left to spin in the wind on CNN as they struggled to come up with some ingenious explanation for something Trump had said the day before, even after it was obvious that nobody, not even his fellow Republicans, was buying it anymore.

But will Trump pay them anyway? I can’t wait to see if Rudy Giuliani will settle for thirty-cents-on-the-dollar.

In any event, we have a little under three months to let this saga play out to its illogical conclusion, but I’m sure that will give the candidate himself enough time to find something else to keep us entertained, the most obvious of these that comes to mind being his dropping out of the race before election day, maybe on the pretense that he refuses to participate in a rigged election.

And especially one in which he is getting so obviously “schlonged” -- and by a girl.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Response to That Deadly Aside

(See: Just Above Sunset: That Deadly Aside)

Hey, who you going to believe, your lying’ eyes and ears, or Rudy Giuliani?

I’m pretty sure there will be college courses taught in the future, analyzing in detail exactly how the Trump campaign of 2016 tried to get away with lying right to America’s face. This morning, the spin from the Trump surrogates was that nobody in the room heard Donald Trump’s Second Amendment comment in the way you did.

What I want to know is, are all these surrogates paid to say what they say, or do they say it just for the fun of seeing if they can get away with it?

First, here’s the original Trump quote:
"If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do folks," Trump said Tuesday at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. "Although the Second Amendment folks, maybe there is. I don't know."
So once she’s elected, she gets to pick her judges, and then there’s nothing that any of us can do about it — unless, of course, you believe in what Sharron Angle once famously called “Second Amendment Remedies”, in the spirit of Thomas Jefferson urging us to have a revolution every twenty years — in which case, "maybe there is. I don't know.”

If you enjoy watching a spinner mid-spin, here’s what George Stephanopoulos got from Rudy Giuliani this morning on GMA:
Giuliani: Well, first of all, I was there. … What he said is that they should vote against her. He never used any... 
Stephanopoulos: He was talking about AFTER the election. 
Giuliani: He was talking about the election in GENERAL, he wasn’t talking just about after the election. You know how speeches go, he was talking about how they have the power to keep her out of office. That’s what he was talking about. That is what... 
Stephanopoulos: Generally. But specifically, he was saying, he was talking about, you can’t do anything after the election, except these Second Amendment people. 
Giuliani: We know Donald Trump is not particularly indirect. (Laughs) If Donald Trump is going to say something like that, he’d say something like that. I was there. I’d like the people at home to realize that the first time that any of us had any idea that was the way it was interpreted is when the Clinton spin machine interpreted it that way, spun it out to a press that is willing to hit him every day, bang-bang-bang-bang-bang, and then ask us the question. 
Stephanopoulos: But in real time, you have people like the former CIA Director Michael Hayden, raising the exact same question. 
Giuliani: It wasn’t in real time, it was after the Clinton spin machine spun it out. They spun it out within — about eight minutes. Bam! Like that! That is not what he intended. What he intended was very very simple. What he intended was that they should vote against her. With a crowd like that, if that's what they thought he meant, they'd have gone wild.
When Stephanopoulos started asking Giuliani about the reaction of the man visible over Trump’s left shoulder, whose expression seemed to indicate he shared the Clinton spin machine's interpretation, Giuliani used the opportunity to quickly change the subject:
Stephanopoulos: Well, we did see that guy sitting behind him. 
Giuliani: Oh, which brings me to the guy behind Hillary Clinton who’s the father of a person who killed 49 people, who wounded 53 people, ends up being invited to sit in a prime position behind Hillary Clinton, and you gotta ask yourself, number one, who invited him — we still don’t know — and number two, what drew him to Hillary Clinton?
Stephanopoulos: They’re saying they didn’t invite him, and she’s disavowed any of his support. 
Giuliani: But why is he such an avid supporter? What is drawing him to Hillary Clinton, holding a big sign up about what a great president she’s going to be...
Okay, let’s stop there.

Who did invite Seddique Mateen to that Clinton event? The answer seems to be, nobody did. The Clinton people say they didn’t even know he was there until they found out afterward, and Mateen himself said he showed up because it was a public rally, mentioning nothing about any invitation.

But just to make sure — English is Donald Trump’s first language, isn’t it?

Because the only way Trump’s after-the-fact explanation would work would be to assume he’s too stupid to understand English syntax. Either Trump was too stupid to know what he said, or his interpreters, such as Rudy Giuliani, are themselves all too stupid to know what he said. Or maybe they weren’t listening, which is understandable. I know I have a hard time listening to the guy.

But why, in the real world of live television, do we even need interpreters anyway? We all saw and heard him ourselves and we don’t need anyone, afterwards, all with these puzzling smiles on their faces, to tell us what he really meant.

In fact, as Clinton supporter Bakari Sellers pointed out this morning on CNN, something to the effect of, Isn’t it curious to see a candidate who’s built this huge following based on his courage to “say what he means”, being trailed by an army of apologists who’s job it is to do nothing but claim that what he just said isn’t really what he meant to say?

Sort of like the guys with the shovels who follow the elephants down Main Street whenever the zoo comes to town.

I think I’m starting to fade. Can’t keep looking up Nate Silver like this, day after day. I’m starting to wish it were November 9th.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Response to The Dismal Gambit

(See: Just Above Sunset: The Dismal Gambit)

You might be forgiven for thinking Donald Trump himself, having graduated with a degree in economics from Wharton, could be called an “economist", but according to Wikipedia, "A generally accepted interpretation in academia is that an economist is one who has attained a Ph.D. in economics, teaches economic science, and has published literature in a field of economics.” Trump has no such doctorate degree, nor even a masters; tellingly, his Wharton economics degree is a BS.

But another member of Trump's new “Economic Advisory Council”, often referred to as an economist but also without a doctorate (although he, at least, has a masters in economics, from George Mason University), is Stephen Moore, chief economist at the Heritage Foundation.

Moore’s interesting history in economics includes ten years as a fellow at the Libertarian think-tank, Cato Institute, and a stint as senior economist under Dick Armey on the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee, where Moore, according to Forbes, helped create the “FairTax” proposal, which, had it ever gotten out of committee, promised to effectively replace all federal taxes with a consumption tax — with supporters contending that it would decrease tax burdens, and critics agreeing, but claiming it would just shift those burdens from the rich to the middle class.

Moore is also a buddy of Arthur Laffer, who’s drawing on a napkin of what was later laughingly named the “Laffer Curve” became the prime illustration of how tax cuts should pay for themselves, a concept that has been since roundly debunked.

In 1999, Moore co-founded the “Club for Growth”, a political action committee of which, he said, "We want to be seen as the tax cut enforcer in the [Republican] party”, but was ousted from the presidency by the board in 2004 after saying snotty things in the press about president George W Bush, among other people.

And then, there’s this:
In a 2014 Kansas City Star opinion piece entitled "What's the matter with Paul Krugman?”, Moore responded to Krugman’s opinion piece entitled "Charlatans, Cranks and Kansas." In his piece, Moore claimed that job creation had been superior in low-taxation states during the five years following the recession ending June 2009. After substantial factual errors were uncovered in Moore's opinion piece, the Kansas City Star indicated that it would no longer print Moore's work without "thorough fact-checking."
Basically, Moore claimed in the article that "No-income-tax Texas gained 1 million jobs over the last five years. Oops", when it actually gained less than half-a-million, and that "Florida gained hundreds of thousands of jobs while New York lost jobs. Oops", when, in truth, as the newspaper put it, "Over that time ... Florida lost 461,500 and New York gained 75,900."


But wait! There’s more!
Jonathan Chait, in his New York magazine column, in response to Moore's February 15, 2015 Washington Times column on Obamacare, stated "Perhaps the most revealing aspect of Moore’s column is the fact that, five years after its passage, the chief economist of the most influential conservative think tank in the United States lacks even a passing familiarity with its fiscal objectives".
So yeah, you could hardly expect any presidential candidate as controversial and exciting as Donald Trump to have nothing but boring old competent fuddy-duddies any less ditzy than himself in his top circle of economic advisors. Where would be the fun in that?