Saturday, July 23, 2016

Reading / Thinking


Job Approval For President Obama Continues To Rise


The chart above (from the Gallup Poll) shows the job approval rating of President Obama. It continues to rise, and now (in his 30th quarter in office) stands at 50.9%. That's not only far better than the pathetic job approval of the Republican-controlled Congress, but it breaks a trend among modern two-term presidents. Truman, Eisenhower, Clinton, and Bush all had their numbers go down in their last year in office.

This Gallup Poll was done April 20th and July 19th of a random national sample of 45,229 adults, and has a margin of error of only 1 point.

A Brighter Future

Political Cartoon is by Andy Marlette in the Pensacola News-Journal.

Bernie Tweeted While Watching Trump's Horrible Speech


Bernie Sanders live tweeted as he watched Trump's acceptance speech. Here are some of his tweets:

Those who voted for me will not support Trump who has made bigotry and divisiveness the cornerstone of his campaign.

Trump is wrong. The real cause of instability in the Middle East was the Bush-Cheney invasion of Iraq. By the way, where is President Bush?

Trump’s economic plan: $3.2 trillion in tax breaks for millionaires, cut programs for low-income Americans.

What a hypocrite! If Trump wants to "fix" trade he can start by making his products in the US, not low-wage countries abroad.

Still waiting for a single word about covering the 28 million Americans without health insurance. I guess they don’t matter much to Trump.

Trump: “I alone can fix this.” Is this guy running for president or dictator?

Trump thinks climate change is a “hoax.” My supporters understand that we must move away from fossil fuels, not expand them.

Trump’s economic plan: let states lower the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, already a starvation wage.

Trump’s Supreme Court nominees would, like Scalia, oppose a woman’s right to choose, support Citizens United and gut the Voting Rights Act.

White Privilege

Political Cartoon is by Clay Jones at claytoonz.com.

Most Want The Next President To Have Political Experience


Donald Trump's supporters like the fact that he has no political experience. He has never been elected to any political office at any level, and has never held any public service job. But while the GOP base may consider that an advantage, most Americans don't.

A majority of 55% say they want the next president to have political experience, while only 41% want an outsider with no political experience. That's a significant 14 point gap.

Chart was made with information in a new ABC News / Washington Post Poll -- done between July 11th and 14th of a random national sample of 1,003 adults, with a margin of error of 3.5 points.

He's Their Nominee

Political Cartoon is by Jim Morin in The Miami Herald.

Donald Trump Is Temperamentally Unfit To Be President


I listened to Donald Trump's acceptance speech Thursday night, and I have to say it was one of the most frightening speeches I have ever heard from an American politician -- especially one who wants to be the president of the United States. It seems that he wants to turn the U.S. into a police state -- a police state that would continue the failed "trickle-down" economic policies of the Republican Party.

That's bad enough, but Trump simply doesn't have the temperament to be the person with his finger on the nuclear button. He is far more interested in spreading hate and division than in protecting justice and equality for all Americans.

In an article for Vox.com, Ezra Klein lists some of the traits of Trump that make him unfit to be president:

Trump is vindictive. 


So far, the unifying theme of Trump’s convention is that the leader of the opposition party should be thrown in jail. Trump didn’t like the Washington Post’s coverage of his campaign, so he barred its reporters from his rallies and threatened to use the power of the presidency to bring an antitrust suit against the Post's owner, Jeff Bezos.
He was upset that Ohio didn’t vote for him, so he sat its delegation in the cheap seats, even though the state is hosting the convention. He was angry about an interview his ex-ghostwriter gave to the New Yorker, so he sent his lawyers after him. He hates the protesters who interrupt his campaigns, so he said he would look into paying the legal feesof a supporter who sucker-punched one of them.

Imagine Donald Trump with the powers of the presidency. Imagine what he could do — what he would do — to those who crossed him.
Trump is a bigot.
Donald Trump kicked off his campaign calling Mexican immigrants murderers and rapists. He responded to Ted Cruz’s surge in Iowa by calling for a ban on Muslim travel. He sought to discredit a US-born judge by saying his rulings were suspect because of his "Mexican heritage." Trump’s campaign is certainly the first time in my memory that a sitting speaker of the House has had to describe something his party’s nominee said as "the textbook definition of a racist comment."
This is not a man who should be put in charge of an increasingly diverse country that needs to find allies in an increasingly diverse world.
Trump is a sexist.
Stories of Trump’s casual sexism abound, but during the campaign, it was women who questioned him who felt the full force of his misogyny. The first Republican debate, for instance, was hosted by Fox News and moderated by Megyn Kelly, Bret Baier, and Chris Wallace. Kelly wasn’t obviously tougher on Trump than her colleagues, but she was the antagonist he focused on, retweeting a follower who said she was "a bimbo" and saying she had "blood coming out of her … wherever."
After Carly Fiorina challenged him in a debate, Trump said to Rolling Stone, "Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?" After Hillary Clinton needed to take a bathroom break during a debate, Trump told the crowd, "It's too disgusting. Don't say it, it's disgusting."
It’s not just during political campaigns that this side of Trump emerges. Trump once told his friend Philip Johnson that the secret to women was "[y]ou have to treat 'em like shit."
Trump is a liar.
Trump boasts constantly that he had the judgment and foresight to oppose the Iraq War. But he didn’t. On September 11, 2002, Trump was asked by Howard Stern whether he supported the invasion of Iraq. "Yeah, I guess so," he replied. Trump has not sought to explain these comments or offer evidence of an alternative judgment he offered elsewhere. He just lies about this, and he does so often.
But that’s true for Trump across many issues. He says his health care plan will insure everyone, when it will do nothing of the kind. He says his tax plan raises taxes on the wealthy when it actually cuts them sharply. Trump has lied about his net worth, his reasons for not releasing his tax returns, and his charitable donations. He lies easily, fluently, shamelessly, constantly.
Trump is a narcissist. 
Trump’s towering self-regard worked for him as a real estate developer. His real business was licensing his name out for building, menswear, golf courses, steaks. A bit of a narcissism is necessary to become a global brand. But the trait is maladaptive in a presidential candidate.
The most recent example was the 28 minutes he spent talking about himself when he was supposed to be introducing Mike Pence, his vice presidential candidate, for the first time. The most grotesque example was when he responded to the deadliest mass shooting in American history by tweeting, "Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism."
Trump admires authoritarian dictators for their authoritarianism.
When MSNBC's Joe Scarborough asked Trump about his affection for Vladimir Putin, who "kills journalists, political opponents and invades countries," Trump replied, "He's running his country, and at least he's a leader, unlike what we have in this country."
But it’s not just Putin. Trump has praised Saddam Hussein because "he killed terrorists. He did that so good. They didn't read them the rights." He said "you've got to give [Kim Jong Un] credit. He goes in, he takes over, and he's the boss. It's incredible." It’s not just that Trump admires these authoritarians; it’s that the thing he admires about them is their authoritarianism — their ability to dispense with niceties like a free press, due process, and political opposition.
Trump is a conspiracy theorist.
Trump burst onto the scene as a leader of the absurd "birther" movement. He’s said that Bill Ayers is the real author of Barack Obama’s Dreams From My Fatherexplained that the unemployment rate in America is really over 40 percent, and suggested that both Antonin Scalia and Vince Foster were murdered.
Trump is very, very gullible.
This is related to his conspiracy theories, but Trump has a habit of believing and retweeting bad information that sounds good to him at the time.
This has led to, among other things, Trump retweeting false crime statistics, Trump retweeting Mussolini quotes from a Twitter account called Il Duce, Trump promoting a fake video claiming a protester who rushed his stage was sent by ISIS, and Trump endorsing a National Enquirer report suggesting Ted Cruz’s dad helped kill JFK. When pressed about these sundry embarrassments, Trump said, "All I know is what’s on the internet."
That’s a reasonable response from your uncle who forwards you weird email chains, but not from a presidential candidate.
Trump doesn’t apologize, and his defensiveness escalates situations.
On Monday night, it became very clear that Melania Trump’s 2016 convention speech had lifted two paragraphs from Michelle Obama’s 2008 convention speech. The error was an embarrassment, but it could have been dispatched quickly by simply admitting fault and apologizing.
Instead, the Trump campaign turned it into a multi-day story and a character issue by denying anything had happened and blaming Hillary Clinton. This is "an example of when a woman threatens Hillary Clinton, how she seeks out to demean her and take her down," said campaign chair Paul Manafort, in one of the most genuinely ridiculous comments in recent American history.
The campaign also tried to argue that Michelle Obama doesn’t own the English language, and that similar language was used by Twilight Sparkle, a My Little Pony (I’m serious). Finally, days later, the Trump campaign admitted there was plagiarism and blamed a miscommunication between Melania and her speechwriter.
A similar pattern played out when Trump tweeted an anti-Hillary meme that superimposed a Star of David atop a pile of money and accused Clinton of corruption. The image was obviously anti-Semitic, and the Trump campaign quickly took it down. But Trump himself went on a Twitter rampage, arguing that what was clearly a Star of David was actually just a sheriff’s star, or maybe just a regular old star, and that the campaign shouldn’t have removed the offending meme in the first place.
So far, these examples are farce, but as Tim Lee writes, this tendency in the Oval Office could lead to tragedy: "[Trump’s] behavior on the campaign trail suggests that he would be unlikely to admit mistakes and defuse tense situations. Instead, his first instinct would be to escalate every conflict in an effort to bully foreign adversaries into giving him his way. That might work in some cases. But in others — especially against powerful countries like China or Russia — the results could be disastrous."
Trump surrounds himself with sycophants. 
 It's tradition for presidential candidates to release a note from their physician testifying to their fitness to fulfill the duties of the presidency. On December 14, Donald Trump submitted his entry to this quadrennial custom.
"If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency," Dr. Harold Bornstein writes. "His blood pressure, 110/65, and laboratory test results were astonishingly excellent. … His physical strength and stamina are extraordinary."
This is … not how most doctor notes read. "Reached for comment regarding this, a spokesperson at the American Medical Association just giggled," reported the Daily Beast.
There are many positions where one might accept a pliable crony. But "personal physician" should not be one of them. The fact that Trump would entrust his health to a doctor who would sign off on a note like this should terrify his family and friends. But more than that, it should disqualify him from the presidency.
Trump has proven too lazy to learn about policy.
Trump didn’t know much about policy when the campaign started, and as far as anyone can tell, he hasn’t made any obvious effort to rectify that.
The latest and most damaging example is his interview with the New York Times, in which he said he would not automatically defend NATO countries against attack from Russia. It’s not obvious Trump meant to say that, or even knew what saying that meant, as Manafort immediately began denying Trump had ever said it. (The Times subsequently released a transcript showing that, yes, Trump had said it.)
But this is a pattern for Trump, who doesn’t bother to come up with convincing answers even to obvious questions, and definitely has not put in the time to develop a deep understanding of the issues he might face as president. As Matt Yglesias wrote, this is very much a choice Trump has made. "Trump is now the GOP nominee, and there are hundreds of professional Republican Party politicians and operatives around the country who would gladly help him become a sharper, better-informed candidate. It doesn’t happen because he can’t be bothered."
Trump has run an incompetent campaign and convention. 
 As brilliant as Trump has been in securing media attention for himself and channeling the anxieties of conservative voters, he hasn’t bothered to build a real campaign organization, and his convention has been a festival of unforced errors.
This is the context of Melania Trump’s plagiarism, of Ted Cruz’s anti-endorsement, of the night that was supposed to be about jobs and the economy but was actually about Benghazi and jailing Hillary Clinton. In isolation, these are gaffes, mistakes, bad luck. Together, though, they tell a damning story of organizational incompetence.
The most generous interpretation of this is that Trump is capable of running an effective organization, but he’s just not interested in conventions and field operations in the way he is interested in golf courses and condos. Others have certainly testified to the trouble Trump has focusing on tasks that don’t engage him. His former ghostwriter says, "He has no attention span." Unfortunately, the president actually needs to focus on all kinds of dull and unpleasant tasks.
Trump is a bully.
Trump won the Republican nomination by proving that even adults can be bullied with schoolyard taunts. There was "low-energy Jeb," and "Little Marco," and "Lyin’ Ted," and now we’ve got "Crooked Hillary." Trump made fun of Rand Paul’s looks and Chris Christie’s weight and Carly Fiorina’s face and a New York Times reporter’s physical disability.
It seems like this shouldn’t have to be said, but it’s better to be kind than cruel, and there’s a deep, instinctual cruelty in Trump — he finds people’s weak spots, their insecurities, and he exposes them in front of crowds.
Trump has regularly incited or justified violence among his supporters.
At a rally in St. Louis, Donald Trump lamented that "nobody wants to hurt each other anymore."
Yes, lamented.
The topic was protesters, and Trump's frustration was clear. "They're being politically correct the way they take them out," he sighed. "Protesters, they realize there are no consequences to protesting anymore. There used to be consequences. There are none anymore."
Earlier in the campaign, two of Trump’s supporters attacked a homeless Mexican man and told the police, "Donald Trump was right — all these illegals need to be deported." Trump’s response? "I will say that people who are following me are very passionate. They love this country and they want this country to be great again."

Narcissist

Political Cartoon is by Kevin Siers in the Charlotte Observer.

No Hero


Friday, July 22, 2016

A Lot Of Crooks


Did Ted Cruz Commit Political Suicide On Wednesday ?

This Republican convention has been a mess. On every night, there has been some kind of screw-up that seems to point out the incompetence of those running the convention (the Trump forces). On Wednesday night, it was the speech of Ted Cruz.

Trump gave all his opponents in the primaries a chance to speak at the convention -- at least the ones that wanted to be there. And all of them, if not outright endorsing Trump, at least said they would vote for him -- all but one. Ted Cruz jumped on the opportunity to speak at the convention, but made it clear in his speech that he does not endorse Trump, and might not even vote for him. He ended the speech by telling Republicans to vote their consciences (a thinly veiled jab at Trump).

The speech angered the convention-attendees, and they effectively booed Cruz off the stage. The blowback didn't stop there. Both convention delegates and many party officials attacked Cruz for his obviously anti-Trump message in a convention that was supposed to unify the party.

I think Cruz was a bit surprised at the depth of negative feelings brought against him. And he floated an excuse the next morning -- telling the Texas delegation that he could not support anyone who had insulted his wife and father. That was a rather pathetic excuse. Trump, at some time during the campaign, insulted all of his opponents -- but they all put it behind them, understanding that it was just a part of today's negative political campaigning.

I think Cruz  also understands that, but was trying to deflect some of the criticism he didn't expect. It was pretty obvious what Cruz was really trying to do with his speech -- position himself as the leading candidate for the 2020 GOP nomination. Cruz expects Trump to lost the 2016 election, and wanted to position himself as the 2020 frontrunner. But he didn't expect the huge negative blowback from his speech.

The real question now is -- has Cruz committed political suicide, or was his speech a smart move? I don't think we know the answer yet. It will depend on how the November election comes out. If Trump is blown out by Hillary Clinton, then the right-wing base of the party might see Cruz as a prophet (and flock to support him). But if Trump loses in a very close election, many in the party base are going to be looking for a scapegoat, and Wednesday's speech makes it likely that Cruz will be that goat.

Cruz made a bold political move with his Wednesday speech. We'll have to wait and see whether that bold move was a smart one or a stupid one.

(NOTE -- The caricature of Tex Cruz above is by DonkeyHotey.)

(Cartoon image is by John Branch at branchtoon.com.)

Running Backwards

Political Cartoon is by Clay Bennett in the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Could You Vote For These Presidential Candidates ?


The chart above is from a recent YouGov Poll -- done between July 15th and 17th of a random national sample of 1,300 adults, and has a margin of error of 4.3 points.

I thought the survey was interesting because it didn't ask who the respondents support for president, but instead it asked who they could consider voting for or never vote for. Make of it what you will.

Note that only one presidential candidate is not upside-down in these numbers. Hillary Clinton is the only candidate to have more people say they could vote for her than say they would not vote for her -- and the only candidate to have at least 50% saying they could vote for her.

Possessed

Political Cartoon is by Pat Bagley in the Salt Lake Tribune.

Issues Supported Or Opposed By A Majority Of Americans


This chart was made from results of a new YouGov Poll -- done between July 15th and 17th of a random national sample of 1300 adults, with a 4.3 point margin of error.

YouGov questioned the poll's respondents on a variety of issues. Only six of those issues received the support or opposition of at least 50% of the voters. About 50% opposed an amendment barring same-sex marriage, 50% supported stricter gun laws, 64% supported legal abortion in most cases, 51% supported raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, 65% supported raising taxes on the rich, and 69% believe the economic system in this country is unfair.

All of those issues have one thing in common -- they are the views of the Democratic Party and Democratic candidates, and they are all views opposed by the Republican Party and Republican candidates.

Other issues, whether Democratic or Republican positions, could not reach the 50% level of support or opposition -- such as free college tuition, single-payer health insurance, building a border wall, or free trade agreements.

Expanding The Campaign Of Hate

Political Cartoon is by Rob Rogers in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Polite (A Poem)

(This cartoon image is by Jim Morin in The Miami Herald.)

The following is a poem by my friend Brian McLaughlin.

a polite society
violence on the rise
the more we are armed
more meet their demise

they want open carry
claim it's a right
what it really does
is bring the public more fright

how can we tell
if they're a good guy or bad
more death on the streets
more families grow sad

but we're told
it ain't the guns
it's just fools
havin' fun

then they fight regulation
that the constitution has called for
making the streets that more dangerous
and blood runs up the score

but it's really not about guns
it is stupid people
and there's no cure for stupid
when the NRA is their steeple

Human-Like ?

Political Cartoon is by Mike Luckovich in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Where The Blame Lies


Thursday, July 21, 2016

Liberalism / Conservatism


Conservative Court Overturns Texas Voter ID Law

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, one of the most conservative appeals courts in the United States (where 10 justices were appointed by a Republican), has overturned the odious Texas Voter ID law. They ruled that the law violated the Voting Rights Act by discriminating against Blacks and Hispanics.

The case has been in the courts for several years now. In 2014, a San Antonio district judge ruled the law invalid. The state of Texas appealed to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, and a three judge panel of that court upheld the district judge's ruling. Texas then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court did not make a ruling. Instead, they sent the case back to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals for a decision by that full court. The full 5th Circuit court issued their ruling yesterday. But they did not say what should be done since the law was found to be discriminatory. They sent the case back to the district judge in San Antonio to formulate a remedy before the November election.It is not known what that remedy will be. It could be anything from tossing out the requirement for a picture ID to allowing a voter without ID to sign an affidavit and vote.

Texas could once again appeal to the Supreme Court, but they are not likely to get what they want from the eight-member court. The most likely result would be a 4 to 4 tie, which would just uphold the 5th Circuit court's decision.

It's been a long fight, but it looks like the Republican effort to suppress voting in Texas has finally been defeated.