Thursday, June 30, 2016

Trump Institute sold plagiarized materials to customers

The New York Times reports on how people paid thousands of dollars to the now defunct Trump Institute for get-rich-quick materials that had been copied verbatim from a publication 10 years earlier.

I'll continue in a moment but, as a former academic researcher, I must tell you that plagiarism in the realm of research is a cardinal sin. As B. F. Skinner put it in Science and Human Behavior, "the practice of science puts an exceptionally high premium on honesty. It is characteristic of science that any lack of honesty quickly brings disaster." Plagiarism, the filching of someone else's words, is anathema.

In this campaign, Trump has been the least honest politician - ever. PolitiFact concludes "no other politician has as many statements rated so far down the dial. It’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen."

So it should not be surprising that the inherent, pathological dishonesty spills over into ventures that rely on Trump's name and fame for their success - where success is defined as bilking its customers out of their money.

Unbeknownst to customers at the time, though, even the printed materials handed out to seminar attendees were based on a lie. The Trump Institute copyrighted its publication, each page emblazoned with “Billionaire’s Road Map to Success,” and it distributed the materials to those who attended the seminars.

At least 20 pages of the Trump Institute book were copied entirely or in large part from “Real Estate Mastery System.” Even some of its hypothetical scenarios — “Seller A is asking $80,000 for a single-family residence” — were repeated verbatim. [Scriber: See the Times' report for yellow highlighter markups of an example of the plaigiarism.]

Asked about the plagiarism, which was discovered by the Democratic “super PAC” American Bridge, the editor of the Trump Institute publication, Susan G. Parker, denied responsibility and suggested that a lawyer for the Milins [owners of the institute], who provided her with background material for the book, might have been to blame.

The lawyer, Peter Hoppenfeld, who no longer represents the Milins, said Ms. Parker was most likely at fault but acknowledged forwarding her information from the Milins’ office. Reached at her home in Boca Raton, Fla., Irene Milin told a reporter, “I’m very busy,” and hung up. She did not answer subsequent calls or respond to a voice mail message.

[Alan Garten, Mr. Trump’s in-house counsel] said Mr. Trump was “obviously” not aware of the plagiarism. But even while playing down Mr. Trump’s link to the Trump Institute, calling it a “short-term licensing deal,” Mr. Garten expressed pride in the venture. “I stand by the curriculum that was taught at both Trump University and Trump Institute,” he said.

[Pride? Really?]

Ms. Parker, a lawyer and legal writer in Briarcliff Manor, N.Y., said that far from being handpicked by Mr. Trump, she had been hired to write the book after responding to a Craigslist ad. She said she never spoke to Mr. Trump, let alone received guidance from him on what to write. She said she drew on her own knowledge of real estate and a speed-reading of Mr. Trump’s books.

Ms. Parker said she did venture to one of the Trump Institute seminars — and was appalled: The speakers came off like used-car salesmen, she said, and their advice was nothing but banalities. “It was like I was in sleaze America,” she said. “It was all smoke and mirrors.”

Check out the Times' report for background on the Institute and how it operated.

VeepStakes: Kaine assumed but Warren more rational choice

Brian Beutler at the New Republic makes the case for Warren as Clinton's most "rational" choice for VP.

What Warren lacks relative to Kaine in executive experience she makes up for with a clear, consistent, and progressive ideology. President Kaine would likely be a fine president, perhaps a great one, but his slate is much blanker than Warren’s. Democrats at the elite and grassroots level know what Warren’s substantive goals are, and have responded to them enthusiastically.

Moreover, Warren really rattles Trump. And her progressive ideology should help snag Sanders' voters.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Bernie Sanders: Dems need to heed wake-up call

By this time, we all know, or should know, Sanders' main talking points. The recent "Leave" win leading to Brexit, he argues in this NY Times op-ed, is a wake-up call for Democrats heading to the election.

Surprise, surprise. Workers in Britain, many of whom have seen a decline in their standard of living while the very rich in their country have become much richer, have turned their backs on the European Union and a globalized economy that is failing them and their children.

And it’s not just the British who are suffering. That increasingly globalized economy, established and maintained by the world’s economic elite, is failing people everywhere. Incredibly, the wealthiest 62 people on this planet own as much wealth as the bottom half of the world’s population — around 3.6 billion people. The top 1 percent now owns more wealth than the whole of the bottom 99 percent. The very, very rich enjoy unimaginable luxury while billions of people endure abject poverty, unemployment, and inadequate health care, education, housing and drinking water.

Despite major increases in productivity, the median male worker in America today is making $726 dollars less than he did in 1973, while the median female worker is making $1,154 less than she did in 2007, after adjusting for inflation.

Nearly 47 million Americans live in poverty. An estimated 28 million have no health insurance, while many others are underinsured. Millions of people are struggling with outrageous levels of student debt. For perhaps the first time in modern history, our younger generation will probably have a lower standard of living than their parents. Frighteningly, millions of poorly educated Americans will have a shorter life span than the previous generation as they succumb to despair, drugs and alcohol.

We cannot continue on this path. The next president must be an agent of change.

But we do not need change based on the demagogy, bigotry and anti-immigrant sentiment that punctuated so much of the Leave campaign’s rhetoric — and is central to Donald J. Trump’s message.

The notion that Donald Trump could benefit from the same forces that gave the Leave proponents a majority in Britain should sound an alarm for the Democratic Party in the United States. Millions of American voters, like the Leave supporters, are understandably angry and frustrated by the economic forces that are destroying the middle class.

In this pivotal moment, the Democratic Party and a new Democratic president need to make clear that we stand with those who are struggling and who have been left behind. We must create national and global economies that work for all, not just a handful of billionaires.

As President Obama put it, economic inequality is the defining challenge of our time. I've blogged about this several times before; here is but one example. When the pitchforks come, and they will, we do not want to be on the tines because of our inaction.

Here's a reminder of how Nick Hanauer put it.

... I have a message for my fellow filthy rich, for all of us who live in our gated bubble worlds: Wake up, people. It won’t last.

If we don’t do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us. No society can sustain this kind of rising inequality. In fact, there is no example in human history where wealth accumulated like this and the pitchforks didn’t eventually come out. You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state. Or an uprising. There are no counterexamples. None. It’s not if, it’s when.

Hating Hillary: An analysis of the why, the when, and the who

Update: Before I get to the main topic: the Benghazi witch hunt is a bust. But it was never a true investigation. It was always about inflicting political damage on Hillary Clinton. You know, the former Secretary of State who faced down that panel of white guys who were obviously out to get her. She came across as calm and in control. They came across as sweating the small stuff. See my closing comments below.

Now on to the "Hating Hillary" topic ...

... [as President] she will disappoint us all on occasion. Who doesn’t? But I think she’s also going to surprise a lot of people. She will fear neither consensus when possible nor ass-kicking when necessary. She will safeguard us from the damage a right-wing Supreme Court would inflict on the nation. She will stand for the rights of women, LGBT Americans, and minorities. She will maintain critical global relationships, and she will react to dangerous situations with the temperament of a seasoned and experienced professional. And in a nation that didn’t even allow women to vote until 1920, she will make history by shattering the very highest glass ceiling, and in doing so forever change the way a generation of young women view their place in our Republic.

She’s going to be a fine President.

When it comes to credentials, nobody, not in this election, nobody is more qualified to be president. On this her friends and many of her adversaries agree.

... maybe it’s OK if we pause for a moment from the accusations and paranoia and just acknowledge her enormous accomplishments. In the entire history of our nation, only 6 Presidents have also served as Secretary of State. Only 3 have served both as Secretary of State and in Congress. By any objective measure Hillary Clinton is not just the most qualified candidate this season, she’s one of the most qualified people to ever seek the office. The New York Times in endorsing her stated that, “voters have the chance to choose one of the most broadly and deeply qualified presidential candidates in history.” Jonathan Bernstein at Bloomberg stated that, “she is probably the best qualified presidential candidate ever.” Even Marco Rubio, one-time choice of the GOP establishment (and tea-party love-child) stated in a Republican debate that, “If this is a resume contest, Hillary Clinton is going to be the new President of the United States.”

How do we reconcile those plaudits with "the issues people are currently using to disparage Clinton ... the issues of dishonesty, scandals, money and Wall Street"?

The above quotes are from an article by Michael Arnovitz, Thinking About Hillary — A Plea for Reason in thepolicy.us. Arnovitz covers all four issues; I will use just the honesty issue to motivate your reading of his entire article. Trust me - it's really good. (If you don't trust me, trust Pam Duchaine and Miriam Lindmeier who brought this to my attention.)

To conservatives she is a radical left-wing insurgent who has on multiple occasions been compared to Mikhail Suslov, the Soviet Kremlin’s long-time Chief of Ideology. To many progressives (you know who you are), she is a Republican fox in Democratic sheep’s clothing, a shill for Wall Street who doesn’t give a damn about the working class. The fact that these views could not possibly apply to the same person does not seem to give either side pause. Hillary haters on the right and the left seem perfectly happy to maintain their mutually incompatible delusions about why she is awful. The only thing both teams seem to share is the insistence that Hillary is a Machiavellian conspirator and implacable liar, unworthy of society’s trust.

And this claim of unabated mendacity is particularly interesting, because while it is not the oldest defamation aimed at Hillary, it is the one that most effortlessly glides across partisan lines. Indeed, for a surprisingly large percentage of the electorate, the claim that Hillary is innately dishonest is simply accepted as a given. It is an accusation and conviction so ingrained in the conversation about her that any attempt to even question it is often met with shock. And yet here’s the thing: it’s not actually true. Politifact, the Pulitzer prize-winning fact-checking project, determined for example that Hillary was actually the most truthful candidate (of either Party) in the 2016 election season. And in general Politifact has determined that Hillary is more honest than most (but not all) politicians they have tracked over the years.

Hillary is a politician, and like all politicians she is no stranger to “massaging” and/or exaggerating the truth. And yes on occasion she will let loose a whopper. But is she worse than other politicians? As I’ve already discussed, the evidence suggests that she is no worse, and actually better, than most other politicians. Internet videos like the “13 minutes of Hillary lying” appear to be mostly examples of Hillary changing her position over several decades, combined with annoying but typical political behavior. But similar videos of Donald Trump exist showing him doing an even more extreme version of the same thing. Why is he not being accused of this type of mendacity? In fact there is very little dispute that Trump has been SIGNIFICANTLY less honest on the campaign trail than Hillary. According to Politifact he is in fact the least honest candidate they’ve ever analyzed! So if the issue of honesty is really that important, why are so many people (on the right and left) holding Hillary to such an obviously different standard than Trump?

The Arnovitz answer is simple: sexism. Hillary's numbers go south when she seeks positions of power (see article for the numbers). Women are not supposed to do that, right?

This election is about many things, and one of those things is a fundamental matter of character: honesty. Trump is the least honest politician ever. Clinton is one of the most honest politicians ever.

Do read the whole of Arnovitz's article. If you are a Hillary hater, stop it! The facts are not on your side. If you are a Hillary supporter, sharpen your pencils, take notes, and make a list of talking points.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Is Sanders taking it to the limit?

If you want to know about a physical system, or a mathematical function, you ask about how it works at some limit. Sometimes the limit is patently absurd, but nevertheless you can ask the question. Hence the title of this post (shamelessly borrowing from the Eagle's song title).

The system, in this case, is Sanders' endorsement of Clinton as a function of time till the election. The measured variable is the impact on the election of Sanders' endorsement. The limit is the night before the election. We can guess that the impact of such an endorsement is nil. All deals will have been struck. All ads will have been run. All minds will have been made up.

Let's back the function off towards the present. Between now and the election, where is the point at which Sanders can force more concessions from Clinton and her advisors and be maximally effective in achieving his policy/platform aims? One possibility is the convention.

But there are folks more experienced at political systems than I who worry that Sanders' influence is on the decline even now, before the convention.

Greg Sargent at the Washington Post Plum Line makes the case by asking "What is Bernie Sanders thinking?"

That isn’t intended as snark or even as a rhetorical question. I genuinely don’t understand what Sanders thinks is going to happen if he continues to refrain from endorsing Hillary Clinton, as he did on CNN yesterday. It seems unlikely at this point that holding out in this fashion will make any real difference to the outcome of his efforts to shape the party platform at the convention.

Meanwhile, if anything, the window for Sanders’s endorsement to have made a dramatic impact in terms of media attention and rallying his supporters against Donald Trump — a goal Sanders himself has said he intends to devote himself to — may, if anything, be closing.

Sanders has won much of what he wants from the Democratic party and its platform. Thinking systemically again, as you approach a maximum, your marginal gains diminish. Oops. That is, Sanders has less and less to gain by holding out longer and longer. Sargent again puts it in political terms.

Over the weekend, Democrats on the convention’s Platform Drafting Committee announced a series of compromises that represent meaningful, serious concessions to Sanders. Dave Weigel has a good rundown: The draft language (which has not been released in full) includes a general commitment to the idea of a $15-per-hour minimum wage, a compromise commitment to some sort of “updated” Glass Steagall financial regulation and to breaking up too-big-to-fail institutions; and a full-throated commitment to ending the era of mass incarcerations. It also includes a multimillionaire surtax and support for the principle that universal health care should be a right.

On top of all that, the draft includes a commitment to expanding Social Security benefits. And that is not a small thing. The idea of expanding Social Security was long dismissed as a fringe proposal even among many Democrats until only recently. That it is now in the platform shows that Sanders’ campaign and economic worldview have had a real impact on party doctrine and priorities.

But!

... [Sanders] declined to endorse Clinton, instead saying that the burden is on her to win over his supporters. And Sanders even added this: “We are trying to say to Secretary Clinton and to the Clinton campaign, make it clear which side you are on.” The implication is that all of the obviously salutary compromises reached on the platform — which Sanders’ own supporters say is the most progressive platform in a long time — don’t actually signal “which side” she is on. Until she is actually on the right side, his endorsement will have to wait.

To my thinking, that's waging a scorched earth campaign. All or nothing at all. Burn, baby, Bern.

I understand the processes at play, but I hope Sanders understands the concept of "limit."

Sargent closes.

... it’s unclear at this point how much withholding that endorsement will actually do to accomplish what he wants to accomplish. Today Elizabeth Warren gave a rousing speech with Clinton in Ohio in which she attacked Trump in spirited, populist terms before a wildly cheering crowd. Warren is filling the space that Sanders might have inhabited — she is emerging as the leading progressive in the country who is making the case against Trump-onomics, and contrasting it sharply with the Democrats’ — and, yes, Hillary Clinton’s — economic vision. Meanwhile, this week’s Post poll found that only eight percent of Sanders supporters say they’ll back Trump, dramatically down from 20 percent last month — meaning that Sanders’ supporters may be rallying to Clinton even if Sanders himself isn’t. Events are moving on.

Obviously the Clinton team wants Sanders to endorse her, and if and when he does, it will come as a relief. And surely negotiations are ongoing between the highest levels of the Sanders and Clinton camps over how to manage that outcome, what more Sanders might be given for it, and what Sanders’s future role might look like. But it’s no longer clear that holding out will have that much of an influence on the shape of the platform in the end. And it may even risk diminishing the import of that endorsement once it happens.

Notes from the campaign trail

Quote of the day: "You know? I could do this all day." - Sen. Elizabeth Warren to an "electric" audience

CINCINNATI -- Sen. Elizabeth Warren injected new electricity into Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign Monday during a fiery rally here, delightfully ripping into Donald Trump in what will largely be viewed as a tryout for the second slot on the Democratic ticket.

Standing before a deafening crowd inside the cavernous Cincinnati Museum Center, the Massachusetts senator and progressive beacon brought a fresh burst of excitement to the campaign trail by framing Clinton as a tireless fighter for women and children while slashing her Republican opponent as a "small, insecure money grabber . . . a nasty man who will never become president of the United States."

"I'm here today because I'm with her," Warren said, turning towards Clinton on the podium, clapping her hands and pumping her firsts. "We're here to fight side by side with Hillary Clinton."

Warren looked like she was enjoying herself playing the role as validator and booster.

Amid one of her riffs against Trump, she turned away from the teleprompter briefly and mused, "You know? I could do this all day."

Above snippets from the US News and World Report which has many more good lines from Clinton and Warren.

Clinton's lead over Trump widens - and other pollsterous data

Depending on which poll you look at, she leads by 12 points or 2 points or an average of 7 points.

From the HuffPollster (Huffington Post)

A TALE OF TWO NATIONAL POLLS - HuffPollster: “Two new polls released on Sunday both show Trump on the decline from one month ago and trailing Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, by a significant margin. An ABC/Washington Post poll finds Trump trailing Clinton by a remarkable 12 points. In that poll, 51 percent of voters said they would vote for Clinton while 39 percent said they would vote for Trump. The poll shows an astonishing 14-point swing from one month ago — Trump has fallen by 7 points while Clinton has gained by the same amount. Last month, Trump had a slight edge on Clinton in the ABC/Post poll, with 46 percent to her 44 percent of the vote. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll also released Sunday finds Trump trailing Clinton by 5 points. Clinton carries 46 percent of support in this poll, while the real estate mogul takes 41 percent. The NBC/WSJ poll shows just a 2-point decline for Trump from one month ago.” [HuffPost]

NBC News has more analysis of the different results.

Our poll wasn't the only survey that was released over the weekend. Also on Sunday, the Washington Post/ABC poll showed Clinton ahead by 12 points, 51%-39%, after Trump was up by two points in May. The biggest difference between the NBC/WSJ and WaPo/ABC polls? Our poll has Democrats with a four-point party ID advantage, while the WaPo/ABC poll has Democrats with a 12-point party ID edge. So when in doubt, average them out -- and in the latest RealClearPolitics average, Clinton leads Trump by nearly seven points in a head-to-head matchup. And remember, seven points was the final margin of the 2008 Obama-McCain contest.

Some of the increased lead over Trump probably has to do with the movement of Sanders' supporters to Clinton.

As Hillary Clinton campaigns Monday morning with Sen. Elizabeth Warren in Cincinnati, the newest NBC/WSJ poll finds that Bernie Sanders supporters are slowly -- but surely -- coming to Clinton's side. In the poll, 45% of Sanders supporters have a positive view of the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, while 33 percent have a negative view of her (+12). That's an improvement from last month, when it was 38 percent positive/41 percent negative among Democratic primary voters backing Sanders (-3), but it's still a far cry from the 60% positive/15% negative score that Clinton supporters have of Sanders (+45) in this new poll. What's more, in the poll's horserace result showing Clinton leading Donald Trump by five points, 78% of Sanders supporters are picking Clinton, while 10% back Trump and the rest are neither/other/unsure. But in a four-way ballot -- where Clinton's lead is reduced to one point -- 63% of Sanders supporters are behind Clinton, 14% pick the Green Party's Jill Stein, 9% back Trump, and 8% are for Libertarian Johnson. Bottom line: Clinton is a stronger position with Sanders supporters than she was a month ago, but she still has a ways to go. And that helps explain Warren's appearance with Clinton as Sanders continues to hold off of an official endorsement.

Clinton's VP options

Clinton's choice of a running mate is consuming lots of media oxygen. NBC News examines likely candidates for a Clinton VP pick.

With a month to go until the Democratic National Convention, Hillary Clinton's campaign is weighing a slate of potential running mates, conducting interviews with candidates and in many cases requesting personal financial and medical information.

Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, a well-liked swing state lawmaker who was a finalist on Barack Obama's vice presidential shortlist in 2008, has emerged as an early frontrunner for the job. Also under consideration are Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown and Housing Secretary Julian Castro. But officials with knowledge of the process say that the campaign is sifting through an even longer list, pondering some outside-the-box prospects as well as more widely-circulated names like New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and Labor Secretary Tom Perez.

See more details on the list of VP options in the NBC article.

Warren is campaigning with Clinton this week, possibly indicative of the importance of Warren's appeal to the Sanders supporters.

Hillary Clinton will woo the liberal wing of her party on Monday, campaigning with a luminary of the left in an effort to consolidate Democratic support and win over Sen. Bernie Sanders’s supporters.

But Mrs. Clinton won’t be sharing a stage with the Vermont senator on this day. Instead, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) will be at the former secretary of state’s side Monday morning in Cincinnati, making the pitch for Mrs. Clinton’s progressive policies.

With the Democratic National Convention now less than a month away, Mrs. Clinton is forging ahead with the work of unifying her party. Mr. Sanders so far has declined to endorse the Democrats’ presumptive nominee. But Ms. Warren, who is viewed as a rock star by the same far-left activists who backed Mr. Sanders, is in many ways filling that void.

Since Mrs. Clinton clinched the Democratic nomination earlier this month, Ms. Warren has proved to be an enthusiastic and effective surrogate, aggressively sparring with presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump and attesting to Mrs. Clinton’s populist credentials.

The joint appearances also serve as a test of Warren's appeal to a broader audience.

But Warren’s appeal is not limited to liberals, strategists said.

” It extends to people like many Trump supporters who feel the system only works for the rich and powerful,” Democratic strategist Brad Bannon told the AP.

“Because of that, Cincinnati is a good place to test Warren’s appeal as a VP candidate who can attack Trump and win over some of his angry middle class supporters,” he added.

Meanwhile, Clinton was just endorsed by a former chief executive of Goldman Sachs.

“When it comes to the presidency, I will not vote for Donald Trump,” wrote Hank Paulson, a former George W. Bush Treasury Secretary, in an op-ed announcing his endorsement.

“I’ll be voting for Hillary Clinton, with the hope that she can bring Americans together to do the things necessary to strengthen our economy, our environment and our place in the world,” wrote Paulson.

Clinton’s ability to appeal to Paulson while not losing Warren may signal strength as her campaign edges toward the Philadelphia convention next month.

Regardless of who gets the nod for VP, that person will come under immediate attack by the GOP, according to an RNC strategy memo.

Each likely candidate is given a frame — Kaine is a "career politician" who's not liberal enough for "the Sanders wing" but too liberal for America; Warren is "a rich, liberal egoist" with "intensely liberal and uncompromising positions on taxes ... at odds with Middle America"; and Castro "could easily be portrayed as a John Edwards-esque pick, whereby someone with good looks but a thin resume is viewed as a novice on the national stage" — and [RNC research director] Shah says it will use the research "to release or pitch on background prior to the nomination, and during the first hours after the announcement is made."

Research note: In my post, Warren was mentioned nine times, Kaine and Castro two each. The rest got a single mention. Now, Scriber hopes, if only frequency of mention ruled the selection process.

Breaking: SCOTUS rules against Texas abortion law

Snippets follow from the NY Times news flash.

The Supreme Court on Monday struck down parts of a restrictive Texas law that could have reduced the number of abortion clinics in the state to about 10 from what was once a high of roughly 40.

Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote the majority opinion, joined by Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. dissented.

— The Supreme Court on Monday struck down parts of a restrictive Texas law that could have reduced the number of abortion clinics in the state to about 10 from what was once a high of roughly 40.

Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote the majority opinion, joined by Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. dissented.

One part of the law requires all clinics in the state to meet the standards for ambulatory surgical centers, including regulations concerning buildings, equipment and staffing. The other requires doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

“We conclude,” Justice Breyer wrote, “that neither of these provisions offers medical benefits sufficient to justify the burdens upon access that each imposes. Each places a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking a previability abortion, each constitutes an undue burden on abortion access, and each violates the Federal Constitution.”

More lessons from Brexit

John Nichols conveys "An Urgent Message From the UK" and urges us to "Take the Trump Threat Seriously."

His remedy: "A progressive politics that addresses the fears of voters who have been battered by austerity, globalization, and deindustrialization is absolutely necessary."

... when I watched the UK count Friday morning—and the stunned reaction of the elite commentators who are always the last to know—I thought of the American cities that have been hit by globalization, outsourcing, and deindustrialization. And I thought of Donald Trump, who has directed so many of the messages of his campaign to the people who feel they have been left behind by political leaders who peddle free-trade schemes like NAFTA, most-favored-nation trading status for China, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Trump may have looked like a fool to knowing observers on Friday, as he celebrated the Brexit vote in Scotland—seemingly unaware that the Scots had just voted by an overwhelming margin to remain in the EU (and may now choose to leave the UK and position itself as an independent and internationalist nation). But Trump is no fool; there are no coincidences with the most cynical presidential contender since Richard Nixon. Trump traveled to the UK with the intent not to speak to Scots, or to Brits, but to Americans—especially to Americans who live in the battleground states where presidential elections are decided.

Democrats should recognize this. Those who seek to stop Trump would be foolish if they failed to see the parallels between his campaign in the US and the Leave campaign in the UK. Indeed, it is with this recognition, and a response to it, that the defeat of Trump can be assured.

“I’m just greatly concerned that Donald Trump will be the nominee of a major political party in this country,” says Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, a Clinton backer who warns that “anything can happen in an election.”

Brown says he is confident about Clinton’s prospects this fall, arguing that she will stand on the right side of trade and economic issues; and it is true that she has declared her opposition to the TPP and spoken of new approaches to trade and job creation. This is a start, but it must go further; Clinton and the Democratic Party must campaign this year with an economic-populist message and an economic-populist ticket that includes a vice-presidential nominee like Brown or Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren or Congressman Keith Ellison. Democrats cannot merely oppose Trump. Democrats must be aggressive in their anti-austerity campaigning, recognizing that the support Bernie Sanders attained was a knowing and necessary cry for a new politics that speaks to all the voters who have been forgotten and left behind in an era of austerity.

That is more than the lesson that Democratic leaders should be learning from the Sanders showing in primary and caucus states. This is an urgent message from the United Kingdom that cannot be ignored by Democrats in the United States.

I think Bernie would agree: bold is better.

Election will decide US economic direction

As the _New York Times_ put it, the election offers a "stark choice" on the economy.

The contempt that Hillary Clinton and Donald J. Trump express for each other will continue to play out in vitriolic sound bites. But their profound differences on what to do about the economy and the struggling middle class are far more important.

The Clinton agenda

Mrs. Clinton’s agenda includes calls for a higher minimum wage, 12 weeks’ paid leave for chronically ill workers and parents with a newborn, more funds for job training and education, especially higher education, and a $275 billion infrastructure plan.

She would raise taxes by $1.1 trillion over the next decade, the Tax Policy Center estimates. These raises are mainly aimed at wealthier Americans and include higher capital gains taxes on assets held for longer periods, a larger estate tax for wealthy heirs, and closing some corporate loopholes and advantages enjoyed by hedge fund and private equity executives.

These increases will be offset, however, by a subsequent middle-class tax cut.

The Trump promises

Mr. Trump, in defiance of Republican orthodoxy, seems unfazed by debt. He proudly says that borrowing fueled his business ventures and has even suggested that as president, he might try to negotiate down American debt obligations.

Mr. Trump, by contrast, has offered huge tax cuts, which policy experts estimate will cost $9 trillion to $11 trillion over a decade. He also vows to end or soften many federal regulations, which he calls job killers. Look for him to focus on a pro-growth energy policy that his camp calculates would split two of Mrs. Clinton’s important constituencies: labor and environmentalists.

From Trump that would be "more fossil fuels and fewer rules." Just what we need.

George Will leaves GOP: "This is not my party"

Will's announcement was reported by the New York Times.

George F. Will, a conservative columnist and prominent Republican pundit for the past 40 years, said he has left the Republican Party because Donald J. Trump is the party’s presumptive presidential nominee.

Mr. Will revealed his decision on Friday in an interview with PJ Media. He said he had switched his party registration to unaffiliated this month, adding that Republicans should “grit their teeth” during a Hillary Clinton presidency and then hope to beat her in 2020.

Mr. Will has criticized Mr. Trump throughout his presidential run.

“Only he knows what he is hiding by being the first presidential nominee in two generations not to release his tax returns,” Mr. Will wrote in his Washington Post column on Wednesday. “It is reasonable to assume that the returns would refute many of his assertions about his net worth, his charitableness and his supposed business wizardry. They might also reveal some awkwardly small tax payments.”

Mr. Trump has returned fire, denouncing Mr. Will often on Twitter and in his speeches.

“You know he looks smart because he wears those little glasses,” he said at a rally in November. “If you take those glasses away from him, he’s a dummy.”

For another view of Will's decision, see the following letter to the editor in the Daily Star (tucson.com) this morning.

Re: the June 23 column "Republicans: Turn your back on Trump and save your party."

Once upon a time George Will was the elder statesmen of independent and reasonable discourse. At some point several years ago, when he was losing market share, he became a vitriolic partisan hack for the Republican Party. His tone began to change from above the fray and somewhat reasonable to the heated rhetoric popular among today's right wing provocateurs.

Now he wants us to view him as an independent thinker by referring to "your" Republican party, as if he has not been relentlessly attacking and undermining the President and the Democratic party to partisan advantage. Will's rhetoric has provided the fertile soil for someone like Trump to emerge and become the standard bearer of your Republican Party.

Thomas Arnold

Midtown

Still, it is remarkable that the ultra-conservative columnist and confidante to Nancy Reagan would quit the GOP over its looming pick for a presidential candidate.

Which of these does not belong? Russert, Murrow, Lewandowski, Cronkite.

WTF alert: CNN hires Trumps' fired campaign manager. Trump says "you're fired!" CNN says "you're hired!"

That would seem to belong in the cartoons this morning except that it is true. But there are conflicting reports about internal CNN reactions. The first is from pagesix.com.

"CNN is facing a near internal revolt over the Corey hiring,” said a TV insider, who described many in the newsroom as “livid.” “Female reporters and producers especially . . . They are organizing and considering publicly demanding” that Lewandowski be let go.

But that is debunked by the Washington Post story.

CNN sustained a public-relations black eye from critics and commentators last week by adding Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, to its stable of paid pundits. The basic complaint: that CNN was handing a megaphone to a man whose candidate, and whose own actions, were consistently hostile to the press, and specifically CNN, over the past year.

But the criticism doesn’t seem to have found much of a home among one interested party: CNN’s own journalists, who in interviews express guarded optimism that Lewandowski could be an asset to the network’s campaign coverage.

“I get the argument that he was a bully” to reporters before Trump fired him early last week, said a prominent staffer, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity so as not to alienate their employer. “But I also get why we hired him. There aren’t many people who know more than him about how [Trump’s] campaign thinks and works. That could be very valuable to us over the next few months.”

Pardon me, but I doubt it. Lewandowski signed an iron-clad non-disclosure agreement so he can't be saying much if anything about Trump and the campaign.

In addition, he has acknowledged that he signed a non-disclosure agreement with Trump that prevents him from disparaging the candidate or revealing proprietary information about the campaign. That agreement presumably puts some limits on what he might actually reveal to CNN’s viewers about the campaign’s inner workings over the next four months.

So what is CNN getting out of this devil's deal?

The network already has two Trump partisans in its pundit lineup, former Reagan political operative Jeffrey Lord and conservative columnist Kayleigh McEnany. But it needed another to meet the constant demand for Trump surrogates, he added. “There are many baby birds that need feeding” — that is, many programs that want a guest or a panelist to spout Trump’s views, he said.

Congress confuses pulse and purse, vows to protect Americans' right to die

I dare you, double dare you to find one of these cartoons from AZBlueMeanie that is wrong.

I double-dog dare you to find any evidence in those toons that would refute my headline.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

A sad end for an old man

David Fitzsimmons (Daily Star/tucson.com) reports on an interview with Arizona's senior senile Senator John McCain. Here are some of his conclusions.

In spite of the astonishing fact the surgeon general’s report found that reading tweets from Donald Trump can cause impaired judgment, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, Arizona’s senior senator has decided to be Trump’s McChristie out McWest.

McCain is so desperate to placate Arizona’s racist birther base he recently blamed the rise of ISIS on Obama, overlooking a minor detail called George W. Bush and the invasion of Iraq. Speaking of strategic destabilizing blunders of a historic nature, Bush owns ISIS as much as McCain owns that prime-time fool, Sarah Palin, the disloyal ditz who cartwheeled in snowshoes for Trump after he sneered that her former running mate was anything but a war hero.

McCain once filled Barry Goldwater’s substantial shoes. Today he’s lost in them, like a flea in the Grand Canyon, joining the pompous posse of Arizona’s most pathetic Petticoat Junction extras backing Trump: Jan “Brain Freeze” Brewer and Uncle Joe “Jail-Bound” Arpaio.

Anytime Trump leaks trickle-down racism or dribbles lunatic theories, McCain will be shuffling next to him with a mop and smile because Trump accomplished what the Viet Cong could not do: Donald Trump broke McCain.

It’s a sad end for an old man.

Check out Fitz's column for Q&A from the interview.

Lessons of Brexit

There are basically two complementary take-aways. One is that negative campaigning against demagoguery may backfire; that is what we've seen as Trump shrugs off even the most damning evidence of his lack of fitness for the presidency. Number two is that the Clinton campaign has to give the voters "something positive to rally behind." (That something positive may be Bernie Sanders' and Elizabeth Warren's economic messaging.)

John Cassidy at the New Yorker picks apart various explanations of the "Leave" campaign's Brexit win. He closes with a lesson for the Clinton campaign.

Looking ahead, the fate of the Remain campaign should serve as a reminder of the limits of negative campaigning—a reminder that Hillary Clinton would do well to take note of as she goes up against Donald Trump. In confronting populist demagoguery, it isn’t enough to attack its promulgators. To get people to turn out and vote in your favor, you also have to give them something positive to rally behind. The Leave campaign, for all its lies and disinformation, provided just such a lure. It claimed that liberating Britain from the shackles of the E.U. would enable it to reclaim its former glory. The Remain side argued, in effect, that while the E.U. isn’t great, Britain would be even worse off without it. That turned out to be a losing story.

Amy Davidson, also in the New Yorker, has more about what we need to learn from Brexit.

The Brexit results are a strong warning for anyone complacent about Donald Trump. Brexit didn’t happen because people in Europe listened to him; but he is a voice in a call-and-response chorus that is not going to simply dissipate. As my colleague John Cassidy wrote yesterday, there are structural economic issues that have left both Leave sympathizers and Trump voters with real grievances, and it will be disastrous if bigoted nationalists are the only ones who engage them. The political institutions are very different: we don’t worry so much here about the labyrinthine regulations put out by Brussels bureaucrats; they don’t quite have super pacs. But the word “rigged,” or its local variations, is probably the key one on both sides of the Atlantic. Both Trump and Farage and his allies have made openly racist and ethnic appeals. The European Union is a great idealistic project, and it is a tragedy that it might be torn down now. A lesson for Americans is that fortified idealistic structures can be torn down, by means of some of the same wrecking tools Trump has been willing to deploy, even if those who are considered the serious people, in a country that reminds us of our own, warn against doing so. One pattern seen in the Brexit results was a disconnect between party leaders—in all of the major parties—and their bases. Sneering is not going to save the republic.

Sounds familiar.

"The beautiful, beautiful, beautiful thing is your people have taken the country back,” Trump said toward the end of his press conference. “There’s something very, very nice about that. And they voted, and it’s been peaceful.” (This ignored the assassination, last week, of Jo Cox, a pro-Remain M.P.) “And it was strong and very contentious, and in many respects—I watched last night—it was a little bit ugly. But it’s been an amazing process to watch. It’s been a big move.”

That move is one thing that British voters can’t take back, at least in the short run. If Trump wins, our country might have a hard time taking that back, too.

I'll add a third lesson. Democratic institutions are more fragile than most people think. A mounted attack by right-wing racists, including an assassination of a pro-remain MP, was successful in persuading the old, the poor, the under-educated, that separating from the EU was a good thing, consequences be damned. Here at home, Republican supporters of Trump are dismissing warnings of the threat posed by Trump. Here are snippets from one of my earlier posts.

For instance, the New York Times reports this morning that legal experts worry that a Trump presidency represents a genuine authoritarian threat and could precipitate a real constitutional crisis. In the article, Senator John McCain gamely defended Trump, saying he did not think that a Trump presidency endangers the nation. McCain added: “We have a Congress. We have the Supreme Court. We’re not Romania.”

Meanwhile, in a radio interview earlier this week, [Senate Majority Leader] McConnell said he did not fear Trump would trample the rule of law. “He’ll have a White House counsel,” McConnell said. “There will be others who point out there’s certain things you can do and you can’t do.”

As I also pointed out, Trump shows no signs of recognizing the "certain things ... you can't do." If his record of outright lying to his supporters is scary now, think about what he might accomplish with the bully pulpit and the power of the president.

Complacency must not be in the Democratic playbook.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Sanders' influence on the Democratic platform

One of the benchmarks for how well Sanders is being heeded by the Democratic "establishment" is the policy statements in the platform. Sanders is getting a lot of his positions in that document - not all, but a lot. No one should expect any group to get 100% - it's an on-going negotiation. But Sanders' views are getting representation in the platform.

Here is the story with some examples reported by the Daily Star.

Sanders said Friday he would vote for Clinton but has so far declined to offer a full-throated endorsement of her campaign or encourage his millions of voters to back her candidacy. The Vermont senator has said he wants the platform at the summer convention to reflect his goals — and those representing him at a St. Louis hotel said they had made progress.

"We lost some but we won some," said James Zogby, a Sanders supporter on the panel. "We got some great stuff in the platform that has never been in there before." Added Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., a Sanders ally: "We've made some substantial moves forward."

The convention's full Platform Committee will consider the draft platform in Orlando, Florida, next month and it will be voted on at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in late July.

In many cases, Clinton's side gave ground to Sanders. The document calls for the expansion of Social Security and says Americans should earn at least $15 an hour, referring to the current minimum wage of $7.25 an hour as a "starvation wage," a term often used by Sanders.

Sanders has pushed for a $15-an-hour minimum wage, while Clinton has supported efforts to raise the minimum wage to that level but has said states and cities should raise the bar as high as possible.

The committee also adopted language that said it supports a variety of ways to prevent banks from gambling with taxpayers' bank deposits, "including an updated and modernized version of Glass-Steagall."

Sanders, in a statement, said he was "disappointed and dismayed" that the group voted down the measure opposing the TPP. But he was pleased with the proposals on Glass-Steagall and the death penalty — and vowed to fight on.

"Our job is to pass the most progressive platform in the history of the Democratic Party," he said.

So far Sanders' folks are doing well at that job.

On political cowardice in the face of mass murders

By Former U.S. Rep. Ron Barber (in the June 23rd Tucson Weekly)

Reprinted here in entirety.

Forty-nine murdered in Orlando, 32 murdered at Virginia Tech, 26 murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School, 14 murdered in San Bernardino, 9 murdered in Charleston and 6 murdered in Tucson.

What has been the response from Congress to these mass murders? Moments of silence, floor speeches, thoughts and prayers all come in their turn but beyond that, no action has been taken. Let's call this what it is: Political cowardice in the face of opposition from the gun lobby.

Hundreds more people were killed or wounded physically and emotionally in these and other mass shootings over the last 10 years in America. More than 32,000 people die from gunshots every year in our nation. Every time another mass shooting takes place, our elected officials run to their respective political corners and nothing gets done to prevent more gun violence. Too many of them are intimidated by the blunt force tactics of the gun lobby.

As a survivor of the Tucson shooting, I understand that behind all of these numbers are real human beings, their families and friends. I know the grief and the numbness that follows the notification that your loved one is either dead or in the hospital recovering from their wounds. Lives are changed forever and dreams are destroyed for the living as well as the dead.

We know that communities respond in unity with compassion, love and support but the pain lasts and the questions remain unanswered. Why did this happen and what are we going to do to prevent another tragedy?

We turn to those we have elected for answers but the same political theater plays out once again and we move on waiting for the next horrific shooting.

We look into the shooter's background and try to find out why anyone would commit such a savage act. The motives are many but there is one thing most of these tragedies have in common: a killer with a weapon that has magazines filled with as many as 30 or even 100 bullets ensuring the maximum amount of damage in the shortest amount of time. It is also true that many of the shooters have serious mental health issues that may have contributed to their decision to murder and maim.

Hate is a major force behind mass shootings. This is certainly true in the horror that descended on the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. It appears that the shooter chose that location because he hated people in the LGBTQ community. We must not forget that this community has faced discrimination, persecution, and murder over many decades in America. But it is a community of strong people, of activists, of national and local leaders who are pushing our country toward social justice for everyone.

What must we do to prevent more gun violence? First and foremost, we must stand with the victims, the survivors and their families.

After Orlando, it is particularly important that we stand shoulder to shoulder with the LGBTQ community, which is dealing with unspeakable loss and shock. While we have made some progress in advancing equality for LGBTQ Americans, we have much more work to do. The hateful homophobic rhetoric that was sent out this week on social media reminds us that there are still people, including so-called faith leaders, who have condemned the victims and not the perpertrator. There have also been too many highly placed elected officials who chose not to describe the victims as LGBTQ Americans. We need to call this out for what it is, bigotry.

Bold action is needed from the U.S. House and Senate. And there will be an opportunity in the days ahead to pass legislation that could begin to make a difference. The gun lobby is busy reminding members of Congress what will happen to them if they pass these bills.

I am not optimistic that the Senate will take action to increase the safety of Americans in places of worship, schools, theaters and clubs where people gather for friendship and fun. The chances are even less likely that the U.S. House will step up to its responsibilities.

This work should be a bipartisan effort but, sadly, it is not. A few courageous Republicans are willing to support commonsense legislation but for the most part the Republican Party does the bidding of the gun lobby.

But our fight goes on where ever we cast our votes. In this campaign season, we must hold candidates accountable and press them to take positions in support of legislation that could make a difference.

So what do we want?

The vast majority of Americans want comprehensive background checks, they want a ban on assault weapons and large magazines and they want to make sure that people on the terrorist watch or no-fly list cannot purchase a weapon. These are commonsense actions that would go a long way to reducing gun violence in our country.

Americans understand that we have to address the need for more readily accessible mental health services so that people can be identified, diagnosed and treated before they commit an act of violence. That said, we cannot fall into the trap that has been set by the gun lobby.

They say we don't need to further restrict access to guns by people who under current law are prohibited from possessing a gun. They simplistically put it down to a mental health problem. It is not! Less than 5 percent of people living with mental illness ever commit an act of violence. They need services as early as possible but this cannot substitute for action to ensure that people who purchase a weapon on the Internet or at a gun show go through a background check.

Former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords addressed the U.S. Senate in 2013 and the words she spoke then are even more pertinent today. She said: "It will be hard, but the time is now. You must act. Be bold. Be courageous. Americans are counting on you."

To Congress I say: Are you listening?

Ron Barber represented Arizona's Congressional District 2 in Congress from 2012 to 2014.

United States to leave European Union ...

... and other assorted Republican fantasies for your reading pleasure.

Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) reports that various Republicans see Brexit as a model for this country. That group includes such sharp tacks as Sarah Palin, Jeff Sessions, and Ted Cruz.

The parallels are not precise, but they exist. In the Brexit vote in the U.K., younger voters overwhelmingly voted “Remain,” while older voters voted “Leave.” The more education a British voter had, the more likely he or she was to want to stay in the European Union. Voters in urban areas generally backed remaining in the E.U.; voters in rural areas did not.

You probably see where I’m going with this: the demographics of the Brexit vote had some noticeable similarities to the kind of left-right divide we see in the United States. It’s contributed, as we discussed earlier, to observers drawing a nationalistic line between Brexit supporters in the U.K. and Donald Trump supporters in the U.S.

... The far-right Alabaman, arguably Trump’s closest congressional ally, issued a lengthy statement with an all-caps headline that read, “Now it’s America’s turn.” Sessions applauded Britons who cast a “strong vote … not out of fear and pique but out of love for country and pride of place.”

Former half-term Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) published a bizarre online harangue that began, “When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another. The UK knew – it was that time. And now is that time in the USA. The Brexit referendum is akin to our own Declaration of Independence. May that refreshed spirit of sovereignty spread over the pond to America’s shores!”

I swear I’m not making this up

Oddly, none of these Republicans mentioned immigration, which seems like the easiest and most obvious explanation for the Brexit results. Why not just acknowledge what it is about this vote that the right is most eager to celebrate?

For more along these lines see the Blue Meanie's post at Blog for Arizona and Jonah Goldberg's op-ed in this morning's Daily Star.

Stump dumps on Trump

There is a great scene in Back to the Future in which Michael Fox/Marty McFly lures the bully into rear-ending a truck full of manure - with the result that the bully gets covered in cows#!t. Arizona Corporation Commissioner Bob Stump just did that to Donald Trump.

Before we proceed, a disclosure is in order. I still think that Stump's email records should be open, public, and part of the case against the ACC and its connections with APS. But I have to be fair on this. Stump is on target when it comes to Despicable Donnie.

Here are some of the Q&A from the interview with Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required).


ACT: Imagine you’re shipwrecked, and you have to choose between two islands –

Stump: Oh, boy.

ACT: – one with Donald Trump on it and the other with a hungry hyena. Would you take your chances with Trump or with the hyena?

Stump: Well, I would choose me an island with a hyena because hyenas are edible. If I were with Donald Trump, I might fear for my life since I’m well aware of what happened to the Donner Party.


ACT: Why do you think there are so very few of you (Republicans who have publicly denounced Trump)?

Stump: I have the luxury, of course, of being term-limited. Many of my colleagues, I understand, are between a rock and a hard place. You have the issue of party loyalty, but then you have the issue of loyalty to country. When I see a candidate, no matter what his party affiliation, who appears to be a deranged thug, who revels in his vulgarity, a pathological liar who loves dictators, a fornicator, and that’s the only apt word – boy, I sound like a jerk – and surely the biggest con artist to ever run for president, then I feel, as I have to, to stay true to my principles and not keep silent.


ACT: In addition to the many descriptions you made today, you’ve called Donald Trump or referred to him as uncouth, sexist, a clown, incoherent, demagogue, deeply disturbed, and an individual with a distorted sense of manhood. What kind of a party nominates as its candidate for the country’s highest office an individual who is uncouth, sexist, clown, incoherent, demagogue, deeply disturbed, and with a distorted sense of manhood?

Stump: Well, I hope my party will rise to the occasion in Cleveland and recognize the errors of its ways, and I hope the delegates, indeed, choose someone else… The question becomes: Is Trump a symptom or a cause of what I think is a certain Kardashian culture. He certainly is a Kardashian candidate. There is a sense of frustration among Republicans that the party has betrayed them, and so, instead of reforming the party, they want to burn it to the ground. And I think much of their impulse to support Trump appears to be less due to some of his specific policy positions, and more, again, to use an operatic image, a sense of twilight of the gods. They want to burn Valhalla to the ground, and of course, Valhalla was destroyed in Wagner’s opera due to the hubris of the gods, and so it’s the hubris on the part of some Republican elected officials that have caused many Republicans to look to a man who is certainly burning the Republican Party to the ground.

Scotland's choices - and England's questions

A side effect of the Brexit vote might be Scotland voting for independence and then rejoining the EU. BBC reports on Scotland's vote to remain in EU and the possibility of a rerun on the referendum for independence.

Scotland's first minister has said a second independence referendum is "highly likely" after the UK voted to leave the EU.

Nicola Sturgeon said it was "democratically unacceptable" that Scotland faced the prospect of being taken out of the EU against its will.

She said the Scottish government would begin preparing legislation to enable another independence vote.

Scotland voted in favour of the UK staying in the EU by 62% to 38%.

A majority of voters in all 32 council areas in Scotland voted Remain.

The UK as a whole has voted to leave, by a margin of 52% to 48%, prompting UK Prime Minister David Cameron to announce he would stand down by October.

Here's more from The National about preparations for another referendum.

[Sturgeon] said a new poll is "highly likely" following the UK's vote to leave Europe despite Scotland overwhelmingly voting to stay in.

It was “democratically unacceptable” for the country to be dragged out of Europe by the rest of the UK despite the will of Scotland's majority of voters, she said.

Sturgeon, at a press call in Bute House in Edinburgh, said it was her responsibility to protect the country’s interests in Europe and she was determined to do so.

Facing a scrum of world media, she said there had been a “significant and material change in the circumstances in which Scotland voted against independence” in 2014.

"As things stand, Scotland faces the prospect of being taken out of the EU against our will," she said.

“I regard that as democratically unacceptable.“

The First Minister confirmed she was instructing legislation to begin the process of making sure the Scottish Parliament could be ready to stage a new referendum if it decides.

It was vital, she said, that a start on making arrangements begins within the three-month period leading up to Article 50 being triggered, the mechanism that would begin the official process of the UK leaving the EU within two years.

England's questions: "What is the EU?"

The Washington Post reports on Google traffic following the vote to leave the EU. (h/t Jana Eaton)

... despite the all-out attempts by either side to court voters, Britons were not only mystified by what would happen if they left the E.U.— many seemed not to even know what the European Union is.

GoogleTrends tweeted: "What is the EU?" is the second top UK question on the EU since the #EURefResults were officially announced.

The top UK question was "What does it mean to leave the EU?"

Surprise. Voters vote without knowing what they are voting on.

Donald Trump flunks statesmanship test

Quote of the Day: "Huh?" - Donald Trump in reply to a question about Brexit.

And that is what his visit to Scotland should have been about. But instead, once again Trump proved that his candidacy is nothing more than a scam, a con like his many others designed to benefit one person - Despicable Donnie.

Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) fills in the details of how poorly Trump performed in Scotland.

Earlier this month, Donald Trump was asked about the upcoming vote in the U.K. about leaving the European Union. The reporter asked, “And Brexit? Your position?” Trump replied, “Huh?”

“Brexit,” the reporter repeated. “Hmm,” Trump responded, apparently unfamiliar with the term.

With this exchange in mind, consider what the presumptive Republican presidential nominee said on Twitter this morning:

“Just arrived in Scotland. Place is going wild over the vote. They took their country back, just like we will take America back. No games!”

What Trump may not realize, or really even be able to fully understand, is that Scotland is “going wild” because Scottish voters overwhelmingly voted against leaving the E.U. Locally, people aren’t celebrating – because they see this as a disaster.

Trump proceeded to hold a press conference in Scotland, against the backdrop of one of the most important political moments in the modern history of the United Kingdom, where he spoke at great length, and in great detail, about his new golf resort. The Republican candidate boasted about refurbished holes on his course, plumbing, putting greens, and zoning considerations.

Even by the low standards of Donald J. Trump, it was among the most baffling press conferences anyone has ever seen. The entirety of Scotland is reeling; the future of the U.K. and the continent is uncertain; and an American presidential candidate arrived to deliver a testimonial about a country club and how fond he is of the design of a golf course.

Wait, it gets worse.

Read Benen's story for how bad it got. He concludes:

Look, I know Trump doesn’t know what he’s doing. I realize that he’s in over his head. I understand that the trip to Scotland was about giving one of his investments a high-profile boost, unrelated to his campaign for the nation’s highest office. But the fact remains that arriving in Scotland today, of all days, created an incredible opportunity for Trump to look and act like a president – or short of that, someone who’s at least vaguely aware of current events.

This was a test he failed so spectacularly, it’s as if Trump isn’t even trying to succeed.

The word “disqualifying” is probably thrown around a little too often, but in this case, if Trump didn’t prove this morning that he’s manifestly unprepared for the White House, honestly, what more would it take?

Friday, June 24, 2016

Surprising poll result: Clinton leads Trump in AZ

Here are results from the poll reported by the Phoenix Business Journal (h/t AZBlueMeanie).

A new statewide poll gives Hillary Clinton a surprising lead over Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential race in Arizona.

Clinton gets 46.5 percent versus 42.2 percent for Trump in 1,060-voter poll conducted by Phoenix-based OH Predictive Insights.

Another 5.8 percent said they would vote for a third-party candidate and another 5.6 percent are undecided.

Pollster Mike Noble said Clinton has a 12-point lead over Trump with women.

Trump leads Clinton by six points in the rural part of state while Clinton leads by 17 points in Tucson.

“However, when it came to Maricopa County, both candidates were virtually tied,” Noble said.

The bulk of Arizona’s population is in Maricopa County.

“It’s shocking to think that a Democratic presidential candidate would carry Arizona if the election were held today, considering that every statewide office in Arizona is held by a Republican as well as significant majorities in the Arizona House and Senate,” said Wes Gullett, a partner of OH Predictive Insight, GOP political consultant and longtime confidant to U.S. Sen. John McCain.

“Arizona should be a reliable red state,” Gullett said.

Just as Donald Trump should be a reliable Republican candidate.

Note. The Clinton-Trump difference is outside the margin of error (which is in the range 3% - 4%). But bear in mind that the difference could shift depending on what happens with the 3rd party and undecided votes.

Stephen Colbert unloads on the do-nothing U. S. Senate

Here is just one of his jabs: "Hey Senate! My dog accomplished more than you this week, when it rolled over and licked its nuts!"

See the rest at dailykos.com.

A "world class liar" buried in an avalanche of lies

Donald Trump called Hillary Clinton “a world class liar” who thinks she is “entitled” to the presidency during a speech attacking his Democratic rival Wednesday.

Steve Benen at MSNBC/MaddowBlog exposes Trump for that lie and many more.

Most of the attacks were predictable and clumsily delivered, but the most striking thing about [Wednesday] morning’s scripted address was its breathtaking dishonesty. In theory, if Clinton were as awful as Trump and Republicans claim, it should be fairly easy to deliver a speech condemning her using facts and real-world evidence.

Instead, as Slate’s Jamelle Bouie put it, Trump leaned on “an avalanche of falsehoods.”

It’s hard to even know where to start; the lie-to-sentence ratio approached one to one. Trump said he opposed the war in Iraq before the 2003 invasion, which isn’t true. He said Clinton’s email server was hacked, which isn’t true. Trump said Clinton wants “totally open borders” and an end to “virtually all immigration enforcement,” which isn’t even close to being true.

Trump lied about Syrian refugees. He lied about the loan he received to start his business. He lied about U.S. tax rates. He lied about Benghazi (more than once). He lied about the Clinton Foundation. He lied about gifts Clinton received during her tenure as Secretary of State.

And really, this is just a sampling. If there had been a machine in the room that buzzed every time Trump said something untrue, the thing would have caught fire by the time the candidate wrapped up his remarks.

So the thing is: the "world class liar" is Despicable Deadbeat Donnie Trump.

And here is one more lie.

Trump headed off today to Scotland to tout a golf course he bought (also reported by Steve Benen).

... when Donald Trump’s campaign said the presumptive GOP nominee would travel to Scotland ahead of the Republican convention, it was only natural to assume Trump was headed abroad to bolster his foreign policy credentials.

But not so. He scheduled no meetings at all with anybody related to foreign affairs.

The [New York] Times report added that Trump’s business interests “still drive his behavior, and his schedule. He has planned two days in Scotland, with no meetings with government or political leaders scheduled.” The Republican’s itinerary “reads like a public relations junket crossed with a golf vacation,” complete with “a ceremonial ribbon cutting.”

If the Scottish golf course were a wildly successful venture, Trump could at least point to this as evidence of his prowess as an international businessman.

The problem, as the Washington Post reported yesterday, is that the entire venture has been a bit of a disaster.

[T]o many people in Scotland, his course here has been a failure. Over the past decade, Trump has battled with homeowners, elbowed his way through the planning process, shattered relationships with elected leaders and sued the Scottish government. On top of that, he has yet to fulfill the lofty promises he made.

Sound familar? Remember the reason for the "Deadbeat" label? To refresh your memory here is a post on how Deadbeat Donnie does not pay his bills and another on his pillaging of Atlantic City.

Trump has also reported to Scottish authorities that he lost millions of dollars on the project – even as he claims on U.S. presidential disclosure forms that the course has been highly profitable.

So Trump is lying about his golf course to someone. He's lying either to Scotland or the United States.

In early May, Trump, in an entirely serious way, pointed to his role in the Miss Universe beauty pageant as evidence of his international experience. Unfortunately for the GOP candidate, his Scottish golf course is his other piece of evidence, and it’s a failure.

Benen winds up:

By some measures, [Wednesday] morning’s ridiculous tirade should have been a disqualifying moment for Trump: it served as powerful evidence that the candidate is so disconnected from reality, he hardly understands what the truth is.

The problem is that his supporters appear to be equally indifferent to the truth.

Trump in Scotland mouths off about BRexit vote, Trump happy about British pound dive

The UK voted to leave the EU, 52 to 48. The BBC reports Trump's reaction.

Mr Trump was asked about the EU referendum result, which saw Leave beat Remain by 52% to 48%, shortly after he touched down at Turnberry in a helicopter.

The US billionaire answered: said: "I think it's a great thing that's happened. It's an amazing vote, very historic.

"People are angry all over the world. They're angry over borders, they're angry over people coming into the country and taking over and nobody even knows who they are.

"They're angry about many, many things in the UK, the US and many other places. This will not be the last."

That's the world according to Trump.

But Trump was not there for statesmanly business. He was there to shore up his failing golf course. And he was all too happy about the British pound tanking (quote from YouTube).

Reuters reports that world stocks took a big hit.

World stocks saw more than $2 trillion wiped off their value on Friday as Britain's vote to leave the European Union triggered 5-10 percent falls across Europe's biggest bourses and a record plunge for sterling.

Such a body blow to global confidence could prevent the Federal Reserve from raising interest rates as planned this year, and might even provoke a new round of emergency policy easing from all the major central banks.

Risk assets were scorched as investors fled to the traditional safe-harbors of top-rated government debt, Japanese yen and gold.

Almost $1 trillion had been lost from European share prices ahead of what is expected to be a nearly 4 percent fall on Wall Street when it opens later.

British pound on the skids ...

The British pound dived by 18 U.S. cents at one point, easily the biggest fall in living memory, to hit its lowest since 1985. The euro in turn slid 3 percent to $1.1050 EUR= as investors feared for its very future.

... and Cameron set to resign.

Having campaigned to keep the country in the EU, British Prime Minister David Cameron announced he would step down.

From the NY Times:

"Not long after the vote tally was completed, Prime Minister David Cameron, who led the campaign to remain in the bloc, appeared in front of No. 10 Downing Street to announce that he planned to step down by October, saying the country deserved a leader committed to carrying out the will of the people."

And what kind of leader would that be? That is scary.

Scotland may revisit UK vote (Reuters)

More angst came as Scotland's first minister said the option of another vote for her country to split from the UK -- rejected by Scottish voters two years ago -- was now firmly on the table.

And more shaking is to come when the US markets open today.

Ya think Trump will explain why all this is a good thing?

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Why Paul Ryan is the most over-rated intellect on Capitol Hill

ThinkProgress.com takes a very hard and harsh look at Ryan's policy proposals.

... Speaker Ryan’s reputation for wonkitude is not deserved. Indeed, his proposals typical follow a familiar pattern — a pattern Ryan repeated on Wednesday with a package of health reforms Jonathan Cohn and Jeffrey Young described as a plan to “replace 20 million people’s health insurance with 37 pages of talking points.” Ryan offers sweeping, ambitious ideas that would radically transform the fundamentals of America’s social contract. Then, when genuine policy wonks point out that Ryan’s numbers don’t add up, or that his ideas would have absurd consequences, Ryan often responds with a new proposal that is just like the first — only vaguer.

If details enable Ryan’s opponents to discredit his ideas, then Ryan defends himself by refusing to offer details. As Tara Culp-Ressler notes, Ryan’s latest set of health care proposals “doesn’t include information about exactly how many people would be covered, exactly how much the proposal would cost, or exactly how much assistance Americans would receive in the form of tax credits to help them buy insurance.”

Paul Ryan’s ambition, in other words, is matched only by his innumeracy. He builds cathedrals to dyscalculia, and fills them with a worshipful press corps. But his is a false faith, resting upon ideas that do not withstand scrutiny.

Here are two examples.

Privatize (Communize) Social Security

[George W. Bush intended] to partially privatize Social Security — a proposal that proved wildly unpopular and that never became law.

Yet, despite this idea’s unpopularity, a junior congressman named Paul Ryan believed that he’d amassed even more capital than a recently elected President of the United States. Ryan’s plan to privatize Social Security was so ambitious it made the Bush White House blush. President Bush’s director of strategic initiatives, Peter Wehner, labeled the plan “irresponsible.”

The Ryan Social Security plan would have allowed the average worker to shift about half of their contributions to Social Security into a private account, or about 6.4 percent of their earnings. These funds would then be invested into a mix of stocks and bonds until the worker retired, at which point the money in this account would be used to purchase an annuity.

...

It turns out that, if you take 6.4 percent of every worker’s paycheck who participates in this program, you wind up with a whole lot of money. In fact, you wind up with so much money that, if you invest these funds in stocks and bonds, the sheer mass of these investments will eventually push all other investors out of the market. As Dylan Matthews explains, under Ryan’s Social Security plan, “investments in the stock and bond markets would skyrocket such that by 2050, every single stock or bond in the United States would be owned by a Social Security account. This would mean that the portfolio managers at the Social Security Administration would more or less control the entire means of production in the United States.”

Paul Ryan set out to inject more capitalism into America’s core entitlement program, and he wound up proposing a plan that would literally transform the United States into a communist nation. ...

Destroy Medicare

The core of Ryan’s Medicare [2011] proposal is a plan to eliminate traditional Medicare, a government-run health insurance program for seniors, and replace it with a voucher that seniors can use to help purchase a private health plan. Though Ryan’s proposal would have delayed implementation of the plan by 10 years, the immediate impact of the plan, once it did take effect, would have been to massively increase out-of-pocket costs for American seniors ...

By 2022, the healthcare expenditure by a 65-year old would double, said the Congressional Budget Office. (See the ThinkProgress report for a graphic version.)

... Ryan’s latest health care package is at war with itself. It rails against top-down decrees from Washington, all while imposing a structure on states that would effectively neuter their insurance laws. And it’s only the latest in a comedy of errors that includes a proposal to phase out Medicare and an accidental effort to nationalize the means of production. Nor are these the only examples of Ryan’s allergic response to math — we haven’t even discussed the multi-trillion dollar “magic asterisk” Ryan relies upon to pay for his tax proposals.

The conclusion:

It’s time to stop treating this man like he’s a policy wonk. Or even like he knows anything at all about how America’s policy infrastructure works.

"Now is the time to get in the way" - John Lewis

The House Dems staged a sit-in on gun control bills. Here are snippets from the report at thinkprogress.com on the sit-in led by Rep. John Lewis.

House Representative John Lewis (D-GA) is no stranger to protest. As a leader during the Civil Rights Movement while he was still a young man, he organized sit-ins to protest segregation and marched to Selma to demand the vote. Today Lewis is demanding another vote — on gun control.

Led by Lewis, Democratic members of Congress occupied the House floor on Wednesday, staging a sit-in on the House floor to demand action on gun control. House Speaker Paul Ryan, in response, ordered the House break for lunch, shutting off the cameras and effectively closing the session to press.

And denying the public information about the sit-in. It didn't work. Members of the sit-in used social media to provide a feed to C-Span.

If Ryan wants an orderly chamber, he should open up the procedures and have the vote on gun control. Mr. Ryan, what's in your wallet?

Lewis also said that the members don’t have any intention of leaving any time soon.

"Too many — too many of our children, too many of our sisters and brothers, our mothers and fathers, our friends, our cousins are dying by guns, and we have to do something about it. We cannot wait. We cannot afford to take a break and go home,” Lewis said. “We should stay here until we pass the bills.”

Pima County Supervisor Ally Miller loose with the law, walks out on meeting

I thought it's about time to check in on our favorite county supervisor. The hoop-la over one of her staffer's activities has grown into a serious matter of press access to her public records. She's dragging her feet on providing them, and the ones that are showing up are redacted - you guessed it - by her.

The record on this case has gotten large but it is worth a read. Dylan Smith at TucsonSentinel.com provides us with comprehensive coverage. Here are a couple of examples.

Forced to acknowledge that she has not revealed records of public business she conducts using her personal accounts, Supervisor Ally Miller quickly left a Pima County Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday, even as officials continued to discuss her month-long stonewalling of reporters' questions about ex-staffer Timothy DesJarlais' bizarre sham news website.

Her acquiescence in the face of strong questioning by the other supervisors was a tacit admission that her earlier response to TucsonSentinel.com's request for records was based on a falsehood.

The Board voted 4-0, with Miller absent, for county staff to "immediately" respond to requests for records —some of which were made more than four weeks ago. The Board also stated that any individual not complying with the expedited full release of public documents would be "acting in their own private capacity" — which would mean that the deep pockets of the county would not back their legal defense.

Miller has slow-walked records requests from TucsonSentinel.com and other news organizations, and only within the last week finally provided documents — which were tardy, incomplete and blacked-out in a slipshod manner. And she has not yet provided any of the documents requested relating to her personal email address and Facebook account — where she is known to conduct much of her business as a supervisor.

There is a lesson here for elected officials. You can screw with some of the press some of the time, but not all of the press all of the time.

Clinton picks up national security endorsements

The latest endorsement comes from a former national security advisor.

Brent Scowcroft, a national security adviser to former Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush, endorsed Democrat Hillary Clinton's campaign for the White House on Wednesday.

Citing her experience as a senator, first lady and secretary of state, Scowcroft said Clinton shares his belief "that America must remain the world's indispensable leader."

"She appreciates that it is essential to maintain our strong military advantage, but that force must only be used as a last resort," he said in a statement. "I believe Hillary Clinton has the wisdom and experience to lead our country at this critical time."

The endorsement comes a week after Richard Armitage, who was deputy secretary of state in George W. Bush's administration, said he would back Clinton over presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump.

Above is from TPM. Read the full endorsement at the TPM report.

Trump faults Clinton for her religion, adds Methodists to his ban on Muslims

Not really, but the first part is true. TalkingPointsMemo reports on Trump's introduction of religion into the presidential campaign - and Clinton's response.

Hillary Clinton pointedly nodded at her Methodist faith at a Wednesday rally, one day after Donald Trump said there was “nothing out there” about her religious beliefs.

“We have a responsibility to lift each other up. As we Methodists like to say, do all the good you can to all the people you can in all the ways you can,” Clinton told a noisy crowd in Raleigh, North Carolina.

While Clinton has mentioned her religious beliefs several times during the 2016 race, Trump told evangelical leaders at meeting Tuesday in Manhattan that there was no on-the-record evidence of her faith.

The business mogul, a Presbyterian, has made inroads with the evangelical community despite a few missteps. During a visit to Jerry Falwell, Jr.’s Liberty University, Trump mistakenly referred to the Second Corinthians Bible verse as “Two Corinthians.” He also was confused by the communion plate at a church service in Iowa earlier this year, pulling out bills because he thought it was time for the offering.

I wonder if he pulled bills out of the offering plate.

Now, I am quite sure that there is "nothing out there" on my own religious beliefs. Will Despicable Donnie send his Faith Fauxlice after me? Or you?

See how silly (and un-constitutional) it is to even hint at some religious litmus test for qualification for the presidency.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Vice President Elizabeth Warren?

What a juicy thought. And, possibly, a very real possibility.

Other than for Warren's media war against Trump, she has a desirably political characteristic: "Between the left and the center-left, Warren is the missing link." She could help unify the party and fold in Bernie supporters.

I'm not as skeptical as some about having two women on the ticket, especially if Warren can be let loose with her views about economic inequality and the concentration of wealth and power.

Putting Warren on the ticket would come at some cost, how much cannot be determined now. "On Monday, Politico reported that unnamed Wall Street Democratic donors did not believe that Clinton would pick Warren, and might withhold their contributions if she did." On the other hand, I'll bet Warren's presence on the ticket would rake in cash from new places (like Bernie's many supporters).

Vetting is happening now.

My source is Benjamin Wallace-Wells at the New Yorker. Check out his piece for more background on the Warren-as-VP possibility.

BTW, from the Wallace-Wells piece: "... Clinton is often said to prize loyalty. Even during her appearance with Maddow, Warren made only a narrow case on Clinton’s behalf. The senator kept calling the nominee a partisan “fighter” but did not vouch for her as a champion of working families or praise her commitment to progressive ideals. It isn’t hard to see how Clinton and her advisers might perceive Warren’s ideological commitments and prominence as a potential problem ..."

However, here is a Warren fund-raising letter on behalf of Clinton.

I haven’t been in the Senate for long, but I’ve learned: If you don’t fight, you can’t win. And I’ll be honest, when things get tough, too often our side just folds and gives up.

But not Hillary Clinton. For 25 years, she’s been on the receiving end of attack after attack. She didn’t whimper. She didn’t whine. She’s always fought back with grace and determination – and no matter how many punches she took, each time she came out fighting stronger.

...

Hillary is a fighter. Throughout this campaign, she has said she’ll hold Wall Street accountable, raise the minimum wage, protect and expand Social Security, and help students graduate from college without being buried in debt. She’ll fight for women’s rights and LGBT rights and immigrant rights and civil rights. That’s Hillary’s agenda, and it is a progressive agenda.

We need a candidate who fights for the right values -- and who isn’t afraid to fight back against right-wing lunatics trying to undermine progress in our country. Because let’s be honest, the Republicans have nominated the looniest of the right-wing lunatics to become our country’s next Commander-in-Chief.

Donald Trump is a man who built his campaign on racism, sexism, and xenophobia. A man who got rich while declaring bankruptcy, skipping out on what he owed to others, and scamming people. A man who is a small, insecure, moneygrubbing bully who doesn’t care who gets hurt, so long as he makes a buck off it. A man who should never, ever be allowed to set foot in the White House.

So here’s the deal: Hillary is smart as a whip, and she’s a tough cookie. She can take Donald Trump’s attacks and nasty name-calling. ...

That's more than a "narrow case."

Hillary Clinton Can Pick Any Veep She Pleases

Brian Beutler (New Republic) argues that Clinton is in a position of strength due to her organization and finances, so: "... her decision will tell us more than usual about what kind of president she wants to be." Will she select someone friendly to Wall Street or will she select someone progressive that will help her lead the Democratic party more leftward.

Clinton will either select a Wall Street-friendly running mate or she won’t, but these donors are acting as if she’s running for her old Senate seat from New York rather than the presidency. If the fact that the Clinton campaign is coasting with about $40 million cash on hand—while her opponent, Donald Trump, struggles to stay afloat with less than $2 million—doesn’t take the teeth out of this threat, then the fact that the alternative to a Clinton-Warren ticket would be President Donald Trump certainly should.

Clinton wouldn’t be taking too much for granted by ignoring Wall Street’s panicky, thin-skinned, anti-Warren offensive. But the relative strength of her own campaign—her field operation, her lead in the polls, her fundraising apparatus—will put Clinton’s vice presidential choice in klieg lights for different reasons.

If Clinton does select Warren, or another progressive, like Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, political junkies will undoubtedly interpret it as a strategic decision to keep movement progressives in the Democratic fold—or, in Brown’s case, to tighten the Democratic Party’s hold on a crucial swing state. But it would actually be an indication that Clinton approves of the party’s ideological drift since the end of her husband’s presidency, and wants her presidency to boost its momentum in that direction.