Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Time Of Greatest Gain


Public Still Views Trump Negatively On Many Qualities


The Economist / YouGov Poll did another of their weekly survey's between November 19th and 22nd of a random national percentage of 1,434 adults (including 1,194 registered voters). The margin of error was 3.1 points (3.2 points for registered voters). Much of the poll was on what the public thinks of Donald Trump.

He did score well on some of the adjectives used to describe him -- Hard-working (56%), Successful (63%), patriotic (50%), Tough (60%), and Smart (55%). But there were other adjectives used to describe him that were not so good at all.

A margin of 20 view him as dangerous (51%-31%). He is viewed as corrupt by a 6 point margin (42%-36%). He is not viewed as compassionate by a 27 point margin (26%-53%). He is viewed as racist by a 14 point margin (49%-35%). He is not viewed as being consistent by a 12 point margin (33%-45%). He is viewed as not being qualified by a 20 point margin (40%-60%). He is not viewed as caring about people by a 13 point margin (40%-53%). And he is not viewed as having a presidential temperament by a 16 point margin (34%-50%).

It looks to me like Trump still has a long way to go to win over the general public.

Help-Line Hijack

Political Cartoon is by Mike Stanfill at ragingpencils.com.

Trump Has No Popular Vote Or Electoral College Mandate


It has been obvious for days now that Donald Trump has no mandate when it comes to the popular vote. He actually got more than 2.3 million votes less than Hillary Clinton did. Trump only got about 46% of the popular vote.

So, how is it that Trump and his aides are calling his victory a mandate for his policies? Is it because he got 306 electoral college votes compared to 232 electoral college votes for Clinton? That's probably what they are thinking, but that doesn't work either.

Note the chart above, which lists the electoral college percentages won by every president in the 20th and 21st centuries (from information at fivethirtyeight.com). Of all the presidential elections since 1900, Trump's victory electoral college percentage is only 24th, and 22 of those ahead of him had significantly better percentages (with Truman at #23 being only slightly better). And if you include the electoral college percentages of 19th century presidential elections, then Trump's victory falls all the way to 44th.

The average electoral college victory percentage for all presidential elections is 70.9%. It is easy to say that president's getting more than 70.9% do indeed have a mandate for their policies. But a case can be made that getting 60% of the electoral votes would be a mandate -- and Trump still fails short of that lowered percentage, having gotten only 56.9% of available electoral college votes.

The idea that Donald Trump has a mandate is little more than a joke -- whether you consider the popular vote or the electoral college vote.

Tweeting Lies

Political Cartoon is by David Fitzsimmons in the Arizona Daily Star.

Warren Says Dems Must Not "Whimper, Whine, Or Grovel"

Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) took the Senate floor on Monday and gave a rousing speech in opposition to the 21st Century Cures Act -- a bill that started good, but was ruined by many amendments by Republicans to please their lobby masters (particularly Big Pharma).

It is a bad bill, and should be defeated -- but the best part of her speech came when she exhorted Democrats to not be cowed by the election results, and to stand up and fight. Here is some of what she had to say:

Republicans are taking over Congress. They are taking over the White House. But Republicans do not have majority support in this country. The majority of voters supported Democratic Senate candidates over Republicans ones, and the majority supported a Democratic Presidential candidate over a Republican one. 

The American people didn’t give Democrats majority support so we could come back to Washington and play dead. They didn’t send us here to whimper, whine, or grovel. They sent us here to say NO to efforts to sell Congress to the highest bidder. They sent us here to stand up for what’s right. Now, they are watching, waiting, and hoping - hoping we show some spine and start fighting back when Congress completely ignores the message of the American people and returns to all its same old ways.


Republicans will control this government - but they cannot hand over that control to big corporations unless Democrats roll over and allow them to do so.
It is time for Democrats - Democrats and Republicans who should be ashamed by this kind of corruption -to make it clear who exactly they work for. Does the Senate work for big pharma that hires the lobbyists and makes the campaign contributions or does the Senate work for American people who actually sent us here. 

Tweeter-In-Chief

Political Cartoon is by Adam Zyglis in The Buffalo News.

Trump Corruption Will Be "Worse Than You Can Imagine"

(Cartoon image is by David Fitzsimmons at cagle.com.)

A few days ago, I posted that I thought the Trump administration will be the most corrupt of any presidency. It looks like Paul Krugman has a similar opinion. Here is his November 28th column in the New York Times:

Remember all the news reports suggesting, without evidence, that the Clinton Foundation’s fund-raising created conflicts of interest? Well, now the man who benefited from all that innuendo is on his way to the White House. And he’s already giving us an object lesson in what real conflicts of interest look like, as authoritarian governments around the world shower favors on his business empire.
Of course, Donald Trump could be rejecting these favors and separating himself and his family from his hotels and so on. But he isn’t. In fact, he’s openly using his position to drum up business. And his early appointments suggest that he won’t be the only player using political power to build personal wealth. Self-dealing will be the norm throughout this administration. America has just entered an era of unprecedented corruption at the top.
The question you need to ask is why this matters. Hint: It’s not the money, it’s the incentives.
True, we could be talking about a lot of money — think billions, not millions, to Mr. Trump alone (which is why his promise not to take his salary is a sick joke). But America is a very rich country, whose government spends more than $4 trillion a year, so even large-scale looting amounts to rounding error. What’s important is not the money that sticks to the fingers of the inner circle, but what they do to get that money, and the bad policy that results.
Normally, policy reflects some combination of practicality — what works? — and ideology — what fits my preconceptions? And our usual complaint is that ideology all too often overrules the evidence.
But now we’re going to see a third factor powerfully at work: What policies can officials, very much including the man at the top, personally monetize? And the effect will be disastrous.
Let’s start relatively small, with the choice of Betsy DeVos as education secretary. Ms. DeVos has some obvious affinities with Mr. Trump: Her husband is an heir to the fortune created by Amway, a company that has been accused of being a fraudulent scheme and, in 2011, paid $150 million to settle a class-action suit. But what’s really striking is her signature issue, school vouchers, in which parents are given money rather than having their children receive a public education.
At this point there’s a lot of evidence on how well school vouchers actually work, and it’s basically damning. For example, Louisiana’s extensive voucher plan unambiguously reduced student achievement. But voucher advocates won’t take no for an answer. Part of this is ideology, but it’s also true that vouchers might eventually find their way to for-profit educational institutions.
And the track record of for-profit education is truly terrible; the Obama administration has been cracking down on the scams that infest the industry. But things will be different now: For-profit education stockssoared after the election. Two, three, many Trump Universities!
Moving on, I’ve already written about the Trump infrastructure plan, which for no obvious reason involves widespread privatization of public assets. No obvious reason, that is, except the huge opportunities for cronyism and profiteering that would be opened up.
But what’s truly scary is the potential impact of corruption on foreign policy. Again, foreign governments are already trying to buy influence by adding to Mr. Trump’s personal wealth, and he is welcoming their efforts.
In case you’re wondering, yes, this is illegal, in fact unconstitutional, a clear violation of the emoluments clause. But who’s going to enforce the Constitution? Republicans in Congress? Don’t be silly.
Destruction of democratic norms aside, however, think about the tilt this de facto bribery will give to U.S. policy. What kind of regime can buy influence by enriching the president and his friends? The answer is, only a government that doesn’t adhere to the rule of law.
Think about it: Could Britain or Canada curry favor with the incoming administration by waiving regulations to promote Trump golf courses or directing business to Trump hotels? No — those nations have free presses, independent courts, and rules designed to prevent exactly that kind of improper behavior. On the other hand, someplace like Vladimir Putin’s Russia can easily funnel vast sums to the man at the top in return for, say, the withdrawal of security guarantees for the Baltic States.
One would like to hope that national security officials are explaining to Mr. Trump just how destructive it would be to let business considerations drive foreign policy. But reports say that Mr. Trump has barely met with those officials, refusing to get the briefings that are normal for a president-elect.
So how bad will the effects of Trump-era corruption be? The best guess is, worse than you can possibly imagine.

Blind Trust(ing)

Political Cartoon is by Sean Delonas at seandelonas.com.

The Fear Is Justified


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Thank You


Trump (And The Republicans) Are Wrong On Obamacare


Throughout his campaign, Donald Trump promised his supporters that he would make repealing the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) a priority once elected. And his GOP cohorts in Congress are already preparing bills to do just that. It is doubtful they could pull off a complete repeal of Obamacare, because the Democrats have enough votes in the Senate to sustain a filibuster. But it is possible that the Republicans could use budget reconciliation to defund the health care program, and that would effectively kill it.

But if they do that, they will not be fulfilling the wishes of a substantial majority of Americans. About 57% of the general public wants to keep Obamacare (14% to keep it as it is, and 43% to keep it and make changes to improve it). Only 37% want to repeal Obamacare -- 20 points less than those who want to keep it.

Trump and the Republicans say they want to replace Obamacare with something better, but neither Trump nor the GOP Congress has been able to come up with a "better" plan. The pathetic ideas they have put forward would take health insurance away from millions of people, without improving either the cost or efficacy of medical care or health insurance.

They are playing with fire on Obamacare repeal, and if they go through with their plans to damage Medicare and Social Security, they will have a hard time in the elections of 2018 and 2020.

The chart above was made from information in a recent Gallup Poll -- done between November 9th and 13th of a random national sample of 1,019 adults, with a margin of error of 4 points.

Winner ?

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

Donald Trump Is Still Thin-Skinned And A Liar



The tweets above are from Donald Trump. They are in response to the recount in about three states and the fact that he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by more than 2.2 million votes. The top one was tweeted about 2:30pm on Sunday, and then four hours later he tweeted the bottom one.

In those tweets, he claims that millions of people voted illegally in the presidential election, and particularly accuses three states of allowing illegal voting -- Virginia, New Hampshire, and California. Of course, he had no evidence of any illegal voting in those states or anywhere else in the United States -- and no one expects him to be able to find any evidence in the future.

The truth is that out of the more than 126 million votes cast nationwide, only one case of illegal voting has been uncovered -- and that was a Trump supporter who voted twice. Terri Lynn Rote, a 55 year old Des Moines resident, had already voted when she voted a second time. She said she was afraid her first vote had flipped over to Clinton, so she voted again claiming the election "was rigged" (a charge made many times during the campaign by Trump). She was arrested and charged with a class D felony -- proving how difficult it is to vote illegally in the United States.

Trump's charge of millions of illegal votes being cast is rather unusual for a candidate that won the election. Is he calling into question his own election victory? That's certainly what it looks like -- and it makes me question his sanity. It simply makes no sense for the winner of any election to make spurious charges that could cause an investigation of the process that got him elected.

But whether his accusations are taken seriously or not, they do show us two things about his personality. The first is that he's still the same thin-skinned person that he was in the campaign. He cannot stand to be criticized in any way, and when he is, he will strike back (regardless of whether he has any information to back his claims or not). This is scary. What kind of trouble is he going to get this country in when a foreign leader criticizes him?

The second is that he is still a huge LIAR! He lied incessantly during his campaign, and these tweets show he is continuing that during his transition period. Why should anyone believe he will stop the lying once sworn in as president? He won't. Donald Trump is the most dishonest person ever elected president. He will lie even when the lie is obvious and the facts show him to be lying. He doesn't care. His narcissistic personality will not allow him to ever back down or admit he is wrong, and his only reaction to being criticized is to attack the person doing it with outrageous lies.

For the next four years (and let us hope it is only four years), we will have a president who cannot be trusted. Every word that comes out of his mouth must be verified before it can be believed.

Strings Attached

Political Cartoon is by Steve Sack in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

You Can Have A Tacky Trump Ornament For Only $250


If you'd like to turn your christmas holiday into a political statement, the folks at Amazon.com will be happy to help you do that. They are selling a tacky christmas tree ornament -- a replica of the campaign cap for Donald Trump (pictured above).

Personally, I can't imagine anyone wanting to hang that abomination on a perfectly good christmas tree, but I'm sure there are Trumpistas who will love it. The ornament is made of brass and decorated in gold, and sells for the huuuuuge price of $250.

The most humorous part of this ridiculous thing though is the customer reviews on the product on Amazon's website. Here are some of those reviews:

Despite ordering a more reasonable ornament, this one arrived. It. Is. Yuge. It's absolutely yuge. It's the biggest ornament. Yuge. I hung it on my tree, but it is so yuge that it has totally unbalanced my whole tree. No matter where I hang it, the tree leans waaaaaay over to the far right.

Came with an entire crate of white hood ornaments. Great bargain! Downside: My tree is now on fire.

I didn't actually order this but somehow it's on my tree anyway. I'm trying to make the best of it... at least that's what people are telling me to do. But I don't know. I'm trying, but there's suddenly swastikas painted on my other decorations, half of my presents are just dog s***, and the tree itself is on fire. But my conservative friends are telling me the fire is a good thing and I should just be united in celebrating what this ornament has to offer. They're also saying I need to leave the tree in my house for four to eight years. That doesn't sound right. Source?

Not safe if you have cats in the house.

This ornament appeared on my tree, against my own choice, and now my tree is very aggressive towards my wife. There's empty breath mint containers around the floor near the tree, and I'm discouraging female friends and family to go anywhere near the tree.

I thought I placed the more reasonable blue ornament into my basket, but this one somehow arrived instead. The color was a little more orange than expected and the size much smaller. When I hung it on my tree I noticed the surrounding ornaments started to fade and turn a weird shade of white! I thought they were all made of quality, but I guess not. I need new ornaments to replace the faulty ones, and I'm hoping the blue one will be available again, considering it's still in such high demand!

Pros: My cat is scared of this ornament and won't go near the tree this year.
The model train under the tree runs on time.
Cons: It had my entire nativity scene deported.


You are going to love to hate this ornament big league. It's really really awful. That I can tell you. I mean really awful. Nothing great about it. Not great at all. Believe me.

Good God. Imagine my revulsion when I saw this loud, gaudy, worthless piece of s*** on top. And the swastikas and pointy white hoods that seem to have materialized out of nowhere. So much white, so much ugly, loud whiteness. And male. I've never seen a Christmas tree so burdened with unfocused testosterone. The ornaments are so tiny really, the tiniest. You'd think that'd be their saving grace, but they're determined to compensate for their freakish deficiencies with noise and self-assertion.
I just wanna be clear about one thing. This is not my ornament. And I will do everything I can to take it down. Probably short of violence. We'll see how bad things get. And I can't help wondering which of my idiot friends and family actually thought this tacky s*** was a good idea.


There was a vote for ornaments this year, and I swear the other ornament won (it certainly had the popular vote), but some how (hacking maybe?) this ugly thing won. I refuse to put it on my tree, but somehow, it's there, like a big orange, hairy piece of I don't know what. I've call in professionals to get rid of it, but somehow it's still there. But I have hope that all of my friends will get together and maybe do something about getting it out of my house. And the worst part is it seems to be talking, making racist and sexist remarks that aren't at all appropriate. Help!

This ornament keeps tweeting at 3 a.m., demanding apologies from the casts of various Broadway musicals. For what, I don't know. You'd think now that the Christmas season has officially arrived, the tree is up, and the stockings are hung, this ornament would finally get serious about being an ornament and doing the things an ornament ought to do--you know, stuff like hanging on the tree, looking merry and bright, and not destroying the Republic in its quest to satiate an unquenchable thirst for power. But no such luck. It just keeps tweeting and tweeting and tweeting. I'm not even sure how it manages to use a phone for such time-wasting endeavors, given how microscopic its teeny-tiny, wee little hands are.

It turns out we can't get a refund and now we're stuck with the ugly thing. We put it on the side of the tree facing the wall, but it must be bewitched or something because it keeps reappearing at the top of the tree every morning! We found our angel topper in the corner crying. We don't know what happened and she says she's afraid to tell us.

I didn't recall ordering this; I ordered something else entirely. When I removed it from the box, it gave me a cut on the hand that was quite painful due to my bisexual nature. I demand a recount, I mean a refund.

This ornament was a gift I didn't want. I put it on my tree anyway, in the back, on the bottom. The next morning I couldn't find either one of my cats. The ornament had somehow moved to the top front of the tree, as well. I threw it in the trash. Then next morning there was not one, but 10 of these ornaments on my tree. I put all 10 in my neighbors trash. Next thing I know my tree was covered in these ornaments. I give up. Looks like I have to live with this ornament for the foreseeable future. I didn't buy it. I didn't want it. But now I'm stuck with it. And I still can't find my cats.

Woke up one morning to find all the gifts that had been under the tree arranged as a wall between us and the tree. This happened right after this ornament mysteriously appeared. Also, all of my Barbie ornaments seem to be frightened.

I heard the company was coming out with a matching swastika tree topper next. Can't wait! AmeriKKKa, hell yeah!

This ornament made my tree turn white as a Klansman's sheet. Would not buy again.

Transition (An Analogy)

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

Christiane Amanpour Asks Journalists To Fight For Truth

(Photo of Christiance Amanpour speaking at the CJP is from CNN.com.)

One of the most frightening aspects of the recent presidential campaign has been Donald Trump's incessant and disingenuous attacks on the media (both print and broadcast). And sadly, since his election, Trump has continued his war on the media. This is important, because no democracy can survive without a vibrant, free, and trusted media.

One of the world's most respected journalists, Christiane Amanpour, recently addressed this in a speech to the Committee To Protect Journalists (CPJ) on November 22nd. This is what she had to say:

I never in a million years thought I would be up here on stage appealing for the freedom and safety of American journalists at home.
Ladies and gentlemen, I added the bits from candidate Trump as a reminder of the peril we face.
I actually hoped that once president-elect, all that that would change, and I still do.
But I was chilled when the first tweet after the election was about “professional protesters incited by the media”.
He walked back the part about the protesters but not the part about the media.
We are not there. But postcard from the world: this is how it goes with authoritarians like Sisi, Erdoğan, Putin, the Ayatollahs, Duterte, et al.
As all the international journalists we honor in this room tonight and every year know only too well:
First the media is accused of inciting, then sympathizing, then associating – until they suddenly find themselves accused of being full-fledged terrorists and subversives.
Then they end up in handcuffs, in cages, in kangaroo courts, in prison – and then who knows?
Just to say, Erdoğan has just told my Israeli colleague Ilana Dayan that he cannot understand why anyone’s protesting in America, it must mean they don’t accept – or understand – democracy! And he thinks America, like all great countries, needs a strongman to get things done!
A great America requires a great and free and safe press.
So this above all is an appeal to protect journalism itself.
Recommit to robust fact-based reporting without fear or favor – on the issues.
Don’t stand for being labelled crooked or lying or failing.
Do stand up together – for divided we will all fall.
The historian Simon Schama, in the house tonight, told me early on that this was not just another election, and we cannot treat it as one.
And he says if ever there’s a time to celebrate, honor, protect, and mobilize for press freedom and basic good journalism, it’s now.
At the start of this campaign, a network news president said this phenomenon may not be good for America but damn good for us.
During an interview on my program this summer, the film-maker and historian Ken Burns asked me: what would Edward R Murrow do?
First, like many people watching where I was overseas, I admit I was shocked by the exceptionally high bar put before one candidate and the exceptionally low bar put before the other candidate.
It appeared much of the media got itself into knots trying to differentiate between balance, objectivity, neutrality, and crucially, truth.
We cannot continue the old paradigm – let’s say like over global warming, where 99.9% of the empirical scientific evidence is given equal play with the tiny minority of deniers.
I learned long ago, covering the ethnic cleansing and genocide in Bosnia, never to equate victim with aggressor, never to create a false moral or factual equivalence, because then you are an accomplice to the most unspeakable crimes and consequences.
I believe in being truthful, not neutral. And I believe we must stop banalizing the truth.
And we have to be prepared to fight especially hard for the truth in a world where the Oxford English Dictionary just announced its word of 2016: post-truth.
We have to accept that we’ve had our lunch handed to us by the very same social media that we’ve so slavishly been devoted to.
The winning candidate did a savvy end run around us and used it to go straight to the people. Combined with the most incredible development ever – the tsunami of fake news sites – AKA lies – that somehow people could not, would not, recognize, fact-check, or disregard.
One of the main writers of these false articles – these lies – says people are getting dumber, just passing fake reports around without fact checking. We need to ask whether technology has finally outpaced our human ability to keep up.
Facebook needs to step up.
Advertisers need to boycott the lying sites.
Wael Ghonim, one of the fathers of the Arab spring, dubbed the social media revolution, now says:

The same medium that so effectively transmits a howling message of change also appears to undermine the ability to make it. Social media amplifies the human tendency to bind with one’s own kind. It tends to reduce complex social challenges to mobilizing slogans that reverberate in echo chambers of the like-minded rather than engage in persuasion, dialogue, and the reach for consensus. Hate speech and untruths appear alongside good intentions and truths.
I feel that we face an existential crisis, a threat to the very relevance and usefulness of our profession.
Now, more than ever, we need to commit to real reporting across a real nation, a real world in which journalism and democracy are in mortal peril, including by foreign powers like Russia paying to churn out and place false news, and hacking into democratic systems here and allegedly in upcoming crucial German and French elections too.
A quick anecdote from out there: in the 1997 Iranian elections, the reform candidate won and the establishment ayatollahs were caught totally off guard. One of them asked me later how I was so sure and when did I know that Khatami was going to win. I told him, as soon as I got on the ground and started talking to people! Just saying.
We must also fight against a post-values world.
And let me hit back at this elitist backlash we’re all bending over backwards to accommodate.
Since when were American values elitist values? They are not left or right values. They are not rich or poor values, not the forgotten-man values.
Like many foreigners I have learned they are universal. They are the values of every American from the humblest to the most exalted. They form the very fundamental foundation of the United States and are the basis of America’s global leadership. They are brand America. They are America’s greatest export and gift to the world.
So yes, like so many around the world, I was shocked – very few ever imagined that so many Americans conducting their sacred duty in the sanctity of the voting booth, with their secret ballot, would be angry enough to ignore the wholesale vulgarity of language, the sexual predatory behavior, the deep misogyny, the bigoted and insulting views.
Governor Mario Cuomo said you campaign in poetry and govern in prose. Perhaps the opposite will be true this time around.
If not, I will fight as a journalist – as we all must – to defend and protect the unique value system that makes these United States – and with which it seeks to influence the world.
The conservative radio host who may be the next White House press secretary says mainstream media is hostile to traditional values.
I would say it’s just the opposite. And have you read about the “Heil, victory” meeting in Washington DC this past weekend?
Why aren’t there more stories about the dangerous rise of the far right here and in Europe?
Since when did antisemitism stop being a litmus test in this country?
We must fights against normalization of the unacceptable.
A week before the heated Brexit referendum in the UK, the gorgeous, young, optimistic, idealistic, compassionate MP Jo Cox, a remainer, was shot and stabbedto death by a maniac yelling “Britain first”. She was particularly sensitive to the plight of Syrian war refugees.
At his trial, the court was told the accused had researched information on the SS and the KKK.
Just a few weeks ago, her husband, Brendan, now raising their two tiny toddlers, expanded for me on an op-ed he’d written:

Political leaders and people generally must embrace the responsibility to speak out against bigotry. Unless the center holds against the insidious creep of extremism, history shows how quickly hatred is normalized. What begins with biting your tongue for political expediency, or out of social awkwardness, soon becomes complicity with something far worse. Before you know it, it’s already too late.
So now the solutions!
Somehow, the war of attrition in this country has to end. You’ve all seen the results of this election. It’s very close. The nation is very divided, and angry.
Are we in the media going to keep whipping up that war – or are we going to take a deep breath and maybe have a reset?
It matters to us out there abroad too.
For better or for worse, this is the world’s only superpower. Culturally too.
The political example, the media example set here, are quickly emulated and rolled out across the world.
We, the media, can either contribute to a more functional system or to deepening the political dysfunction.
Which world do we want to leave our children?
In the same way, politics has been driven into poisonous partisan and paralyzing corners, where political differences are criminalized, where the zero sum game means in order for me to win, you have to be destroyed. What happened to compromise and common ground?
That same dynamic has infected powerful segments of the American media.
Like it has in Egypt and Turkey and Russia, where journalists have been pushed into political partisan corners as we see here tonight – delegitimized, accused of being enemies of the state.
Journalism itself has become weaponized. We have to stop it.
We all have a huge amount of work to do, investigating wrongdoing, holding power accountable, enabling decent government, defending basic rights, actually covering the world – Russia, Syria, North Korean nukes.
Can’t we have differences without killing each other off?
As a profession, let’s fight for what is right.
Let’s fight for our values.
Bad things do happen when good people do nothing.
In the words of the great civil rights leader, Congressman John Lewis:
“Young people and people not so young have a moral obligation and a mission and a mandate to get in good trouble.”
So let’s go out and make some.
And especially – let’s fight to remain relevant and useful.
Perhaps contemplating the long weekend ahead,
Let’s resolve not to be turkeys voting for Thanksgiving!
Happy holidays, everyone.

Infrastructure Plan ?

Political Cartoon is by Bill Schorr at cagle.com.

It's Back !


Monday, November 28, 2016

Ridiculous


Trump Administration Poised To Be The Most Corrupt Of All


As the chart above shows (from the New York Times), Donald Trump has business interest in many countries around the world, and many of those countries are critical to the interests of the United States. This might not be so bad if Trump would sell off all of those business interests before he is sworn in as the president.

Unfortunately, he has, at least so far, refused to do that. He has not placed his holdings in a blind trust (as other presidents and government officials have done in the past). Instead, he has said he will place his children in charge of those business interests, and inferred to the New York Times that he may even retain control of some or all of those business interests.

This means that every decision he makes as president could affect his own business interests, and will pose the question each time -- was Trump's action to further the best interests of the United States, or to make himself and his family even richer than they already are? The answers will be important, because what's good for the United States will not always be what is good for Trump and his family's businesses.

Unfortunately, it looks like that corruption may have already started. The Argentine newspaper La Nacion reports that when the Argentine president called Trump to congratulate him on winning the presidency, Trump asked him to clear the way for permits he needs to build a new hotel in Buenos Aires. Those permits have now been granted. Corruption? It certainly looks like it.

The definition of government corruption is to use a government held position to enrich yourself or your friends and family -- and that seems to be exactly what Trump has done (even before being sworn in). And that's not the only instance. Rumor has it that Trump made the same kind of requests when called by the leaders of Great Britain and India.

Trump's refusal to divest his business interests or put them in a true blind trust should trouble all Americans. That refusal has the Trump administration poised to become the most corrupt administration in the history of this country.

The People Speak ?

Political Cartoon is by Steve Sack in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Electoral College System Denies The Equality Of Each Vote



The top two charts (from the Cook Political Report and from CNN News) show the reality of the 2016 presidential election. As the top chart shows, Hillary Clinton got over 2.2 million more votes than Donald Trump did. But as the second chart shows, Donald Trump got more electoral college votes, and that means he will be our next president.

Many (including me) question the fairness of how the U.S. elects our presidents. They believe that the person who gets the most votes should win the election. Unfortunately, that is not true in this country. In the U.S., the president is chosen by which candidate wins the majority of states and their electoral votes. Winning the most votes nationwide is meaningless -- as shown by the reults of both the 2016 and 2000 elections (when Gore got more votes nationwide than Bush did).

The two illustrations below portray the arguments on both sides of this issue -- whether we should keep or abolish the electoral college system. The cartoon image by Michael Ramirez shows the argument of those who want to keep the electoral college system. They claim that if the electoral college system is abolished, then the presidency will be determined by voters in just a few populous states -- New York, California, Texas, Florida, Ohio, Illinois, and Pennsylvania. They claim the votes from smaller states will be meaningless.

The problem with that argument is that it is simply not true, as illustrated by the bottom chart. Under the electoral college system, votes in a large state are not worth near as much as votes in a small state -- giving voters in smaller states a much bigger voice in who gets elected. For instance, a vote in Montana is worth 362% more than a vote in California.

Also, under the electoral college system, the votes of the minority in each state don't count at all -- since the electoral votes only represent the will of the majority in that state. That means millions of voters are disenfranchised by the archaic electoral college system.

This is simply unfair -- especially in a country that prides itself on one man / one vote, with each vote being equal to all other votes. If we truly believed that all votes should be equal, then we must abolish the electoral college system. That is the only way to insure that voters in all states have an equal voice in choosing the president.



Ostrich

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

Trump Is Preparing To Betray Working/Middle Class Voters


From Josh Bivins at the Economic Policy Institute:

During his campaign, President-elect Donald Trump promised that he would take the side of American workers against economic elites when evaluating policy. Yet, the policy proposals he put forth during the campaign had nothing in them that would actually help working- and middle-class Americans. Now that more plans and potential cabinet appointments are coming into focus, it looks worse than many of us thought even before the election. Across a broad range of crucial issues, the incoming Trump administration appears likely to betray the promises he made to the American middle class.


Taxes

Trump’s tax policy proposals are crystal clear about who will benefit the most—and it’s not working- or middle-class families. Despite crowing during the campaign about raising taxes on “hedge fund guys,” the tax plan Trump released raises one small tax on hedge fund guys (eliminating the so-called carried interest loophole), and then gives them a hundred times more back in the form of lower taxes everywhere else. The top 1 percent will get 47 percent of the total benefits in the Trump tax plan, while the bottom 60 percent will get just 10 percent. Worse, large numbers of working-class taxpayers will see tax increases under Trump. Yes, increases. Because that money is needed to make sure that private equity managers can see their top tax rates moved down to 15 percent.
House Speaker Paul Ryan—who many (not least Speaker Ryan himself) think will end up crafting most of the actual policy to come out of the Trump administration—has a competing tax proposal. Apparently, he thinks it’s important to give an even higher share of tax cuts to the top. The Ryan plan lavishes 76 percent of its total tax benefits onto the top 1 percent of households (the top 0.1 percent, or the top 1/1000th of households, gets more than 47 percent). In the Ryan plan, the bottom 60 percent get less than 5 percent of the total benefits.
A very large tax cut that delivers an enormous share of the benefits to the richest Americans—with an average cut of at least $1,100,000 to the richest 0.1 percent—will be one of the top priorities of both Trump and the incoming Congress. This should raise a clear red flag about just how much Trump actually cares about the bottom 90 percent.

Wall Street

Trump has also promised to end crony capitalism and “drain the swamp,” which might sound to most Americans like he wants to take on Wall Street. If by “take on” you mean “give them everything they want,” then this sounds about right. He has been forthright about repealing Dodd-Frank, which as passed in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis to rein in the risk of big banks and prevent the need for future bailouts. There are criticisms to be made of Dodd-Frank, but the Trump criticism is that it’s just too tough on banks.
This view is shared by the men mentioned as potential Treasury secretaries in the Trump administration. One name is Jamie Dimon, whose investment bank JPMorgan Chase received a 2008 bailout. In recent years JPMorgan traders have been found guilty of rigging foreign exchange markets. And yet Dimon claims that “banks are under assault” by regulators and that such oversight is essentially un-American.
Another name that’s been floated for Treasury secretary is Anthony Scaramucci, who thinks that there has been an “irrational demonization of Wall Street over the past 8 years,” and that Wall Street is “filled with integrity.” As for the financial crash of 2008, Scaramucci is clear who is to blame—mostly not Wall Street. The culprit who needs more blame cast upon them, he says, is “frankly, Main Street. Many people overreached in their homes because there was easy money and easy credit.” He hopes the “nonsense” that Wall Street bears primary responsibility for the 2008 financial crash ends with the Trump administration. And he makes it clear that his personal opinion is that Dodd-Frank restricts banking risk excessively (making banking “too, too safe”) and should be repealed.
Finally, the frontrunner for Treasury seems to be Steve Mnuchin, a Goldman Sachs alum who distinguished himself during the financial crash by buying up the crashed California bank IndyMac, renaming it, and then being found by regulators to have run “unsafe” and “unsound” foreclosure practices as he seized people’s homes.
If you want an administration where apologists for Wall Street behavior are in charge of regulating banks, then the next four years looks great. If you were hoping for an administration that would be on your side against the banks, then less so.

Medicare and Medicaid

Americans value Medicare and Medicaid very highly, and rightly so. Millions rely on these programs for health care during tough times (Medicaid) and in retirement (Medicare), and about 40 percent of long-term care in the country is provided by Medicaid. During the campaign, Trump made clear promises to protect these programs from budget cuts. The question going forward, however, is did we elect President Donald Trump or President Paul Ryan?
Ryan has wanted to voucherize Medicare and radically cut Medicaid for years. He tries to dress up his plans in technocratic language and frame them as “reforms,” but, they’re cuts, period. One would think that the more than 60 times the House has voted to repeal the Medicaid expansions that are part of the Affordable Care Act would provide sufficient proof of this.
It may be that Trump really does not want to cut these programs. But the question is whether or not he’s attentive and shrewd enough to stop congressional Republicans from doing so.

Russian-Backed Strong Man Dictator

Political Cartoon is by Lalo Alcaraz.

The Singular Evil Of Our Time


Sunday, November 27, 2016

For Evil To Triumph


My Thoughts On The Passing Of Fidel Castro

(Photo of Fidel Castro in from the Los Angeles Times.)

At the age of 90, Fidel Castro has died. His brother (and current Cuban leader) Raul announced his death on Friday.

Castro was someone who invoked strong feelings around the world. The leaders of many countries praised him -- because he always stood up to the United States, opposed racial inequality (including apartheid in South Africa long before the U.S. did), and sent doctors and teachers to many countries around the world to help lift them up. The view from most politicians in the U.S. is different. They are calling him a tyrant, a despot, and many other negative things.

So, who was Fidel Castro? Was he the savior of Cuba and a shining hope for the Third World, or was he the incarnation of evil? Probably both -- and neither.

Those who hated him point to his history of repressing opponents in Cuba, even to the point of putting them in prison or putting them to death. It is undeniable that happened. It is also undeniable that many U.S. politicians who eagerly demonize Castro are themselves engaged in trying to deny equal rights and opportunities to their own citizens (including the most precious right -- the right to vote).

But that's not the whole story. He also overthrew a corrupt government that denied basic rights to the Cuban people, and provided all Cubans with food, housing, free quality medical care, and a free public education (resulting in the highest literacy rate in the Americas) -- things that many U.S. politicians are still denying (or trying to take back) from their own citizens.

The truth is that, like politicians in the U.S. and around the world, Castro was a mixture of good and bad. He did some very good things for the Cuban people (and people in other countries), and he did some very bad things.

I think President Obama gave the most reasoned reaction to Castro's death, saying:

"We know that this moment fills Cubans — in Cuba and in the United States — with powerful emotions, recalling the countless ways in which Fidel Castro altered the course of individual lives, families, and of the Cuban nation. History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him."

Fidel Castro said of himself:

“Judgment is spoken by the eternal court of history. Condemn me, it does not matter. History will absolve me.”

Both are right. History will be the judge of Fidel Castro -- as it is for all revolutionaries, leaders, and politicians.

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Unfortunately, Donald Trump's reaction to Castro's death shows he is much more bully than diplomat. He has threatened to undo all the progress that President Obama has made to normalize relations with Cuba unless the Cuban government gives in to his demands. This is foolish. He will learn, like all other presidents since 1959 did, that the Cuban people will not be bullied.