Saturday, May 26, 2018

Trump outs himself on why he attacks the press - to 'discredit' and 'demean'

Wednesday, May 23, 2018, This Week featured an interesting exchange with Trump recalled by Lesley Stahl: Trump reportedly told CBS’s Lesley Stahl he attacks the press so ‘no one will believe you’

The Washington Post has documented more than 3,000 false or misleading claims President Trump has made during his time in office, but that hasn’t stopped him from frequently attacking news organizations as “fake” and “failing,” even as he apparently revels in their attention. 60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl asked Trump about his frequent press-bashing before her interview with him right after the 2016 election, she explained at the Deadline Club Awards in New York on Monday. His answer stuck with her.

Stahl’s 13 Emmys didn’t prevent Trump from attacking the press, even though there were no cameras on and it was just Stahl and her boss in Trump’s office, she explained to PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff and the audience. "I said, you know that is getting tired, why are you doing this? You’re doing it over and over and it’s boring. … He said, ‘You know why I do it? I do it to discredit you all and demean you all, so when you write negative stories about me no one will believe you.’ He said that. So put that in your head for a minute." You can watch her comments [here].

Friday, May 25, 2018

538 considers the possibilities - a 2018 Republican House and a 2020 Trump win

Regarding this year’s election, 538’s Perry Bacon asks What Happens If Republicans Keep Control Of The House And Senate?

Imagine this scenario: In November’s elections for the U.S. House, Democrats win the national House vote by a few percentage points and gain nearly 20 additional House seats,1 by both winning open seats and defeating some longtime GOP incumbents. In the Senate, Democrats pick up Nevada; win races in states President Trump carried in 2016, including in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and West Virginia; and only narrowly lose in the GOP strongholds of Indiana, Missouri and Tennessee.

That sounds like a pretty good night for Democrats. But it wouldn’t be. That scenario would leave Republicans with a majority of, say, 222–213 in the House and a 51–49 advantage in the Senate.

Don’t get me wrong — I share the view of other analysts that Democrats are favorites to win the House this fall, and that an accompanying Democratic win in the Senate is somewhat less likely. But based on the data we have now, the scenario above is certainly possible — just as possible as, say, Trump being elected president and Republicans winning both houses of Congress on Nov. 8, 2016.

That potential outcome didn’t get enough coverage in the run-up to the 2016 election. So let’s avoid repeating that mistake in 2018. How would the political world react if Republicans maintained control of Congress in November? I can’t say for sure, but here are four likely responses.

  • Renewed GOP attempts to shrink government
  • Weakening of the investigations against Trump
  • A Democratic freakout
  • A media reassessment
Trump 2020?
Scary thought!

You can track the details in Perry’s post, but one theme seems to be Trump as a 2020 candidate. Even though he remains unpopular and polling indicates that most Americans prefer Democratic control of the House, it is conceivable that Trump will run and even win. As Bacon put it, “it’s worth thinking through the repercussions of various 2018 outcomes, even relatively unlikely ones. As we all should have learned by now, unlikely isn’t the same as impossible.”

So …

Bacon also tells us When Trump Should Start Worrying About A 2020 Primary Challenger.

My take-away is that he most likely has no cause for worry. A solid majority of Republicans still like Trump ins spite of having to defend his personal scandals, reckless mouth-offs, persistent attacks on our government and institutions, and slithering toward an autocracy. But read on. Snippets follow.

Thirty-eight percent of Republicans believe President Trump should face a GOP primary challenger in the 2020 election, according to a Morning Consult/Politico poll released this week. Fifty percent said he should not; the other 12 percent did not express an opinion.

Other polls have also shown that a significant bloc of Republicans would like to see someone challenge Trump. But it’s hard to know what to make of that 38 percent number. We found a few polls that asked somewhat similar questions about past presidents,1 and there’s a bit more intraparty opposition to Trump than some others, but not much.

… Trump should be hoping he is not challenged in a primary. But will it happen anyway?

Is Trump so weak that of course another Republican should challenge him? I’m not sure. … about a third of Democrats wanted someone to challenge Bill Clinton according to a CNN poll conducted in late 1994, but no one ever did, and Clinton cruised to re-election.4 In a March 2010 CNN poll, 20 percent of Democrats wanted a candidate other than Barack Obama. He too never received a serious primary challenge and won re-election.

Trump’s standing in the party now: When congressional Republicans defend controversial things Trump does or says, political analysts (myself included) often explain the logic behind the officials’ actions by noting that Trump has rock-solid support among self-identified Republican voters, close to 90 percent in some surveys. Many congressional Republicans, particularly those who are seeking re-election, have every incentive not to criticize the president, at least according to his raw approval ratings in the party.

I’m always wary of emphasizing the GOP opposition to Trump, since it had much more bark than bite in 2016 (Trump won the overwhelming majority of Republican voters despite the media attention given to the “Never Trump” bloc in the party). Even this data suggests that Trump is the heavy, heavy favorite to be the GOP nominee. But we should be watching carefully to see if Trump draws a Republican opponent next year — it’s the telltale sign of a weak incumbent president.

If Dems do not take the House in 2018, the country will go from bad to worse. And if Trump wins in 2020, the country will go from worse to much worse.

America spreads its gun mania, an infectious disease, to Mexico

As I posted yesterday, America’s love of guns is a sickness that results in 55 times more fatalities than in other developed countries. Rather than treating that sickness, America tolerates mass shootings in its K–12 schools that result in the murders of its children. In terms of the stages of grief model, our country is in acceptance, content to offer thoughts and prayers rather than to seek effective treatments for that sickness.

Yes, I do mean to characterize the nation’s love of guns as an infectious disease. Like other contagions, it respects no borders. As evidence, I offer an item from the 538’s Significant Digits email.

1 gun store
There’s only one place to officially buy guns in Mexico, and it’s on a military base. Yet gun violence is on the rise in the country. So where are the guns coming from? Mexico’s northern neighbor. An estimated 580 weapons illegally move from the U.S. to Mexico every day. Compare that to the 38 guns that the country’s sole gun store sells every day. [The Los Angeles Times]

The LA Times investigates in its report, There is only one gun store in all of Mexico. So why is gun violence soaring?.

The only gun shop in all of Mexico is behind a fortress-like wall on a heavily guarded military base.

To enter the Directorate of Arms and Munitions Sales, customers must undergo months of background checks — six documents are required — and then be frisked by uniformed soldiers.

The army-run store on the outskirts of Mexico City embodies the country’s cautious approach to firearms, and a visit here illustrates the dramatically different ways two neighboring countries view guns, legally and culturally.

Like the 2nd Amendment in the United States, Mexico’s Constitution guarantees the right to bear arms, but it also stipulates that federal law “will determine the cases, conditions, requirements and places” of gun ownership. For many Mexicans, even those who love guns, the thought of an unfettered right to owning one is perplexing.

… About 70% of guns recovered by Mexican law enforcement officials from 2011 to 2016 were originally purchased from legal gun dealers in the United States, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Most trafficked guns are purchased in the U.S. from one of the country’s more than 67,000 licensed gun dealers or at gun shows, which unlike stores often do not require buyers to present identification or submit to background checks.

Hugo Gallegos Sanchez, 32, a police officer in Mexico City, decided to purchase a handgun at the store for personal use because he was concerned about rising crime.

“You need protection,” Gallegos said.

He spent months waiting for his paperwork to be approved, but said he was happy to wait. Proper screening for gun owners is important, said Gallegos, who said he also supports Mexico’s ban on heavy assault weapons.

“A civilian shouldn’t be able to have the same power as the military,” he said.

What is the US doing to stop the spread of our disease to Mexico?

President Enrique Peña Nieto brought the issue up at a news conference with Trump shortly before the 2016 presidential election, blaming the influx of U.S. firearms for “strengthening the cartels and other criminal organizations that create violence in Mexico.” Candidates vying to replace him in Mexico’s July 1 presidential race are also using it as a rallying cry.

Instead of threatening walls, instead of threatening to militarize the border, we demand that they stop the flow of arms from the United States to Mexico,” Ricardo Anaya of the National Action Party said recently in the violence-ridden border state of Tamaulipas.

[Gun control advocates on both sides of the border] are also concerned about a new Trump administration proposal to deregulate the export of American guns by putting the Commerce Department in charge of the application process instead of the State Department, which advocates say is better suited to weigh the possible risks of firearm sales against any benefits.

The proposed rule change, which is expected to be published in the Federal Register on Thursday, has long been sought by gun companies eager for easier access to international markets …

So the answer to that question is that the US is making it easier for the infection to spread to our southern neighbor. Our official policy is to spread our gun mania, our national disease, to other countries.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Playing Pogo with our kids' lives - When it comes to mass shootings, it's the guns, stupid.

When it comes to mass shootings at our schools, I confess I do not have a label to describe the sickness let loose in our land. But perhaps we can converge on a cause if we practice some science and eliminate alternative explanations. This is exactly what Chicago Tribune’s columnist Rex Huppke does. He takes an evidence-based look at the unlikely causes of school shootings in Santa Fe school shooting, Ritalin and the NRA’s culture of convenient excuses. (The AZ Daily Star carried the column under a different title.)

Huppke starts with a culture of violence supported by video games.

Retired Lt. Col. Oliver North, the incoming president of the National Rifle Association, said on “Fox News Sunday”: “The problem that we’ve got is we’re trying like the dickens to treat the symptom without treating the disease, and the disease in this case isn’t the Second Amendment. The disease is youngsters who are steeped in a culture of violence. …

The “our culture is causing mass shootings” argument is compelling and can sound reasonable on a visceral level. But it’s based on emotion, not reality.

According to global marketing firm Newzoo, the five countries that spend the most money on video games are: China, the United States, Japan, Germany and the United Kingdom.

Using data from 2016, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington found that the rate of violent gun deaths per 100,000 people in those countries is: 0.06 for China, 3.85 for the United States, 0.04 for Japan, 0.12 for Germany and 0.07 for the United Kingdom.

Another way to look at these numbers is that the the gun death rate in the US is 55 times greater than that in other developed countries. For every one gun death in China, Japan, Germany, and the UK, there are 55 such deaths in the US.

Violent video games are available everywhere, but America’s gun violence rate is staggeringly higher than those other top video-game-purchasing countries.

Culture, Schmulture, Ollie North.

How about other factors that might cause gun deaths in America, like losing our religious principles? Nope.

… A Pew Research Center study found that a little more than half of Americans say religion is very important in their lives. Does that indicate moral decay that would turn boys into monsters?

Look at the other countries referenced above. In China, only 3 percent say religion is very important. Japan is only 11 percent. The United Kingdom and Germany are both at 21 percent. In Canada, only 27 percent of people think religion is very important in their lives.

Our level of religiosity [50 percent] is high compared with those countries, but our gun violence problem is off the charts.

If anything, getting religion gets you shot.

Abortion? Same story.

… According to data from a study released this year by the Guttmacher Institute, the number of abortions per 1,000 women ages 15 to 49 in the United States was 13. The rate was the same in the United Kingdom. Sweden had a higher abortion rate at 18 per 1,000 women, but there were only 41 people shot to death there last year.

Violent movies? Those are shown in other countries that have minor to nonexistent gun violence problems.

These cultural factors can all be concerning in their own right, but they aren’t to blame for America’s gun violence epidemic. If they were, other countries would have the same problems.

There’s only one significant factor that separates America from places like England and Japan and Germany and Sweden: We have an illogical number of easily accessible guns.

Personally, I’d like to melt all the guns down, forge a giant steel statue of a hand making a rude gesture then place the statue directly outside the NRA’s headquarters. But I realize that’s wildly unrealistic and, truth be told, embarrassingly childish.

So let’s talk about stronger enforcement of existing gun laws, a return of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, limiting the size of gun magazines or a federal safe storage law that might help prevent cases like Santa Fe, where the teenage shooter was able to access his father’s guns.

And let’s listen to suggestions on making schools safer. When the lieutenant governor of Texas wasn’t reciting canned lines about cultural issues, he made a reasonable point about limiting the number of ways students can enter a school, allowing school officials a better chance to screen people.

On this last point, when I grew up, we learned to fear a nuclear holocaust triggered by a misstep on the part of one or both of the world’s nuclear powers: the US and the USSR. The current generation of school children in the US has been taught to fear getting shot by another student with access to high powered rifles. In my school days, the fear of getting bombed had a real external source: Russia. In today’s schools, the fear of getting shot is caused by an internal source – what we have done and are still doing to ourselves. We are trading protection of our beloved guns against the murder of our less-loved children.

Huppke concludes: “Without a doubt, we have met the enemy and he is us.”

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Quote of the Day

Dear Creationists: You can peddle your fairy tales in our public schools if we can teach science in your Sunday schools

From David Fitzsimmons’ Facebook page.

The bankruptcy back-story on CD2 candidate Lea Marquez-Peterson

Lea Marquez-Peterson is almost everywhere a business and political social climber could possibly want to be. She is the executive director of the Greater Tucson Leadership, chairwoman of Pima County’s Small Business Commission, a member of the city’s Convention Center Commission, and past president and member of the board of the local chapter of National Association of Women Owned Business.

She is an expert, chosen for the exclusive citizen’s panel of the Regional Transportation Authority, which will determine the next countywide transportation scheme and the sales tax to pay for it. The Arizona Daily Star selected her to quiz political candidates three years ago, and she continues to be a go-to person for the Star on many matters of business. Fortune further boosted her image with an article quoting her on management styles in the publication’s May 2002 Small Business Issue.

35, she has two business degrees, a pile of awards and friends in high places.

After serving on the Greater Tucson Leadership board, Marquez-Peterson became its executive director in February. “As a leader in the Tucson community, Lea is a great match for our organization,” said Jean McKnight Guymon, then the group’s president.

The press release about that appointment asserted that Peterson “is a successful business leader.”

Those snippets reflected the common, conventional takes in 2005 about Marquez-Peterson as reported in a 2005 Tucson Weekly story.

Now, 13 years later, Marquez-Peterson is running for the US House of Representatives Arizona CD2 seat. And she still touts her creds as a savvy business woman. Here is what she claims about herself on her campaign web site.

Lea Marquez Peterson is a lifelong conservative Republican and a passionate, active community leader with a proven record of delivering results in both the private and public sectors.

Since 2009, Lea has served as President & CEO of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. She previously served as the Executive Director for Greater Tucson Leadership (GTL) from 2005 to 2009.

An entrepreneur and small business owner, Lea previously owned and operated a chain of gasoline stations & convenience stores in the Tucson region.

She goes on to list numerous awards.

Sounds good? A tough competitor in the fiscal conservative mold? A seasoned and successful Latina business woman?

Larry Bodine in this morning’s Blog for Arizona alerts us to another side of Marquez-Peterson and a different history she does not admit: GOP Congress Candidate Lea “Chapter 7” Peterson Squirms on Trump Question. There’s actually a lot more to Marquez-Peterson than is suggested by Larry’s title. He reviews an MSNBC interview and then resurrects some facts reported in the 2005 story (by Chris Limberis, Tucson Weekly) on another side of Marquez-Peterson’s “successful business.” She and her husband racked up a laundry list of financial woes, Limberis reported in Running on Empty. Touted as a business leader and expert, Lea Marquez-Peterson finds herself bankrupt with millions in debt.

… [By the time their] lawyer filed the bankruptcy notice, the couple had built up more than $3.2 million in debt and reported $104,477 in assets.

Much of that debt came from the collapse of that “chain of gasoline stations & convenience stores” and its associated loans.

… But not all of the debt was for business or education.

Some of the debt was in the form of over $64,000 in credit card debt and over $100,000 in unpaid taxes.

When I see numbers like that, I think out of control.

Marquez-Peterson and her husband also owe $32,919 in Bank of America credit card debt, $13,036 in Wells Fargo credit card debt, $8,244 on a Citibank Platinum card, and $5,889 to Bank One. One of the smallest consumer debts listed is $217 to Bill Me Later of Omaha, Neb.

Four Marquez-Peterson companies–American Retail Corp., the Marquez-Peterson Group, Marquez-Peterson II and Valle Verde Partners–owe the Internal Revenue Service a total of $93,978, according to the bankruptcy file. The IRS had filed nine liens against Marquez-Peterson and her husband. The city, according to documents at the Pima County Recorder’s Office, filed liens for back sales taxes totaling more than $13,000..

She hasn’t given up some of her necessities, like the cell phone and BlackBerry ($150 a month, according to bankruptcy papers).

You can find out more about Marquez-Peterson’s bankruptcy in the Tucson Weekly report and Larry Bodine has a succinct breakdown of the 3.2 million.

Getting back to the MSNBC interview that triggered Marquez-Peterson’s “squirms” …

“Thank you for having me,” she opened to Kaisie Hunt on May 20. And some would judge the subsequent answers as being had. Following are reactions from Larry Bodine.

She played dumb when it came to Trump’s pardon of convicted ex-sheriff Joe Arpaio. “I really don’t have a position on President Trump’s pardoning of Sheriff Joe.”

[Hey, hey, Lea! Jailor Joe] Arpaio was convicted of criminal contempt of court for refusing to obey court orders to stop his immigration roundups based on racially profiling Hispanic people.

… She defended Trump’s calling immigrants as “animals,” because she said he was referring to gang members from Mexico.

[On the other hand] She said she’d likely support a discharge effort in House of Representatives to force a vote on legislation to support Dreamers.

You can view the interview here and read Larry Bodine’s post here.

Unfortunately, none of this is going to matter. Commenter “Liza” responded to Larry’s post:

She’s the leader of the GOP pack in fundraising having raised $502,028 with $427,582 cash on hand as of 03/31/2018. I suspect she’ll be the GOP nominee, no one else has any money.

I wonder if her donors know about the $3.2 million Chapter 7 story. Or perhaps they don’t care. In the age of Trump it’s OK to go broke as long as it’s with other people’s money.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

No end in sight - Texas decides gun rights are worth a pile of dead kids

What's wrong with this picture
What's wrong with this picture?

This morning’s Daily Star carried this AP report on the Santa Fe school shooting: School shooting may not bring change to gun-loving Texas. Check that. The AP meant to say “School shootings will never bring change to gun-loving Texas.” The subtitle should have read “Thoughts and prayers from Texas governor are ineffective in stopping killing of Texas kids.”

Get it? That’s “What’s wrong with this picture.”

Here are snippets.

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas has more than 1.2 million licensed handgun owners who can openly carry their weapons in public. The state hosted the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting two weeks ago. And until Monday, the governor’s re-election website was raffling off a shotgun.

Guns are so hard-wired into Texas culture that last week’s deadly rampage at Santa Fe High School is considered unlikely to result in any significant restrictions on access to weapons in the Lone Star State.

Abbott and Texas Republicans have embraced a steady relaxation of gun laws in recent years. Since 2013, Texas has reduced the cost and hours of training needed to be licensed to carry a handgun, allowed “open carry” for handgun license holders, and allowed concealed handguns in college classrooms and dorms.

In 2015, Abbott tweeted he was “embarrassed” that Texas lagged behind California in gun sales. In 2017, he bragged about his accuracy with a pistol at a shooting range. In a speech to the NRA convention in Dallas, Abbott said, “The problem is not guns. The problem is hearts without God. It is homes without discipline and communities without values.”

On Monday, Abbott’s re-election campaign scaled back its shotgun raffle in the wake of the Santa Fe shooting, replacing it with a raffle for a $250 gift certificate. A photograph of the governor aiming a shotgun was removed.

As a journalistic exercise, try rewriting the above snippets substituting “United States” for “Texas” and “President” for “Governor.”

Then think about what always precedes a school shooting …

It’s the thoughts and prayers that always follow the last shooting and thus are predictive of the next school shooting. lf we stop with the thoughts and prayers already and substitute some serious gun control we just might reduce the number of kids killed.

That won’t happen. Why not, you might ask. Texas is the clearest example today of the cancer that eats away at the moral heart of America. Retitled, “School shootings will never bring change to gun-loving America.” Our country has decided that so-called gun rights are worth a pile of dead kids.

And check that. American gun rights, we have decided, are worth piles of dead kids. And there is no end in sight.