Wednesday, August 31, 2016

AZ Supreme Court OKs Prop 206 "minimum wage" for November ballot

Howard Fischer reports the Court decision in the Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required).

Arizonans will get to decide in November whether to hike the state’s minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020.

In a brief order this afternoon the Arizona Supreme Court said challengers, led by the Arizona Restaurant Association, waited too long before challenging the petitions. The court said the plain language of the statute gives foes just five days.

The justices specifically rejected arguments by attorneys for opponents that they should read the deadline for challenges to mean five business days, excluding weekends. Chief Justice Scott Bales, writing the order, said words mean what they say.

“When the Legislature wants to designate the meaning of ‘days’ in election statutes to be something other than calendar days … it has done so expressly,” he wrote.


Fox10TV reported the story yesterday with reactions from advocates and opponents.

The group backing the measure, the Arizona Healthy Working Families Initiative, said the high court decision was "another big victory for Arizona voters."

"This ruling allows us to get on with the business of getting Arizona's working families back in business," campaign chairman Tomas Robles said in a statement. "We are happy the state Supreme Court saw through the petty tactics of the Arizona Restaurant Association and cleared the way for voters to decide on an initiative designed to improve the lives of our fellow citizens."

The initiative would increase the minimum wage next year to $10 an hour and then to $12 by 2020. It also would require large employers to provide five days of sick time a year and small employers three days.

Restaurant Association President Steve Chucri wasn't immediately available for comment. But the Arizona Chamber of Commerce praised the association's efforts and pledged to fight the measure in November.

"We are prepared to make our case to voters that a 50 percent increase in the minimum wage and mandated paid leave is bad for job creators and job seekers, and that it will actually hurt the hardworking Arizonans the initiative's proponents claim to want to help," Chamber President Glenn Hamer said in a statement.

Reading between the lines: the Chamber, according to Hamer, will continue to hammer away at those living below the poverty line.

Scriber offers a solution that might be a win-win-win. McDonalds, and similar establishments, can fire half their workers so that the other half will earn the minimum wage. Then they can cut back their sales by 50%. Consumers will be forced into a healthier diet. See? Win-win-win.


Here's email announcing the Court action from Tomas Robles, Deputy Campaign Manager, Arizona Healthy Working Families.

Thanks to the hard work and dedication of volunteers and supporters across Arizona, Proposition 206 will officially be on the ballot on November 8th.

Voting yes on Prop 206 on Election Day is a vote to raise the minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020 and provide earned paid sick leave for about a million workers. Talk about a life-changer for those Arizonans who currently struggle to make ends meet and care for their families, despite working full time.

Getting on the ballot is just step one. Now, we need to spread the word to make sure our friends and neighbors know that they can vote to raise the wage and provide paid sick days to all workers on November 8th.

You can do that right now by sharing this on Facebook:

We’ll be in touch in coming weeks with more opportunities to help out. Thanks in advance for being part of this!

McCain backs reverse ransom paid to Mexico, Obama calls it a bargain

Andy Borowitz breaks the story in the New Yorker: Obama pays Mexico five billion dollars to keep Donald Trump.

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—President Barack Obama defended his decision on Wednesday to issue a payment of five billion dollars to Mexico to compel that nation to retain custody of Donald J. Trump.

The payment, which will be delivered to the Mexican government in hard American currency by Wednesday afternoon, will insure that Trump will remain in Mexico for the rest of his natural life.

“I have been assured by the government of Mexico that Mr. Trump will be well taken care of and, if he proves to be a productive member of their society, will be provided a pathway to Mexican citizenship,” Obama said.

While the transfer of funds to Mexico sparked howls of protest from some Trump supporters, it was hailed by congressional Democrats, as well as by over a hundred Republicans currently running for reëlection, including Arizona Senator John McCain.

The President bristled at the suggestion that paying Mexico to keep Trump was “reverse ransom” and an extravagant use of taxpayer money. “There is only one accurate word for this payment: a bargain,” he said.

According to one of Scriber's sources, speaking on the condition of anonymity, the cash is being transported on the same plane Donald Trump is using to fly to Mexico City this morning. Secret service agents will be on that plane to protect the cash. One of Trump's staff, also speaking anonymously, said that Trump was OK with the deal as long as he got a cut of the five billion. That same staffer quoted Trump as saying "the president gig north of the border was not working out so well because of crooked Hillary. Besides, building the wall with Mexican workers will cost less."

Sen. McCain is rumored to have added: "Now I can say that I unequivocally support Trump's decision to remain in Mexico."

VP candidate Gov. Mike Pence is said by Trump campaign staff to favor the deal so long as Chris Christie is not named as a replacement for Trump.

Update on the Clinton Foundation: How the Associated Press manufactured a scandal

I'll make this short. (Well, I'll try.) If you want the longer version, check out the report at Blog for Arizona by AZBlueMeanie, How the AP manufactured a ‘scandal’ with false reporting last week. Here are some snippets from one of his sources, the Political Animal blog at the Washington Monthly, How the AP Spun the Story About the Clinton Foundation.

... here is where the AP blew their story. In an attempt to provide an example of how this becomes an “optics” problem for Hillary Clinton, they focused much of the article on the fact that she met several times with Muhammad Yunus, a Clinton Foundation donor. In case you don’t recognize that name, he is an economist from Bangladesh who pioneered the concepts of microcredit and microfinance as a way to fight poverty, and founded Grameen Bank. For those efforts, Yunus won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006, the United States Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2010.

One has to wonder why the AP chose [the] story of Clinton’s 30+ year relationship with a Nobel Peace Prize recipient committed to combating global poverty as the one to highlight in their efforts to suggest that the Secretary of State met with people because of their donations to the Clinton Foundation. I can’t imagine a more flawed example.

It gets worse. The AP focussed on 154 donors out of over 7000. Half of 154 (who AP claimed met with Clinton) is about 1% of 7000. On top of that, there is no evidence that any of those persons who met with Clinton got anything in return.

In other words, what it comes down to is “it just plain looks bad.” That is basically what most every drummed up “scandal” against Hillary Clinton comes down to: from the perspective of the people judging her – it looks bad. Welcome to the world of optics as scandal.

But none of these arguments will make a damn bit of difference given that the media echo machine has bought into the flawed AP narrative.

So the Clintons are reduced to trying retroactive remedies such as the one suggested by Doyle McManus at the LA Times (and in yesterday morning's Daily Star editorial), One thing is certain in the Clinton Foundation scandal: Hillary didn't avoid the 'appearance' of conflict.

Granted, there’s no evidence that any Clinton Foundation donors got tangible favors in exchange for their generosity. Clinton may have been close to the mark when she said last week, “I know there’s a lot of smoke, and there’s no fire.”

But that’s still a problem. A good synonym for “smoke” in this context is “appearance” – exactly what Clinton promised to avoid.

Meanwhile, the Clintons have taken some steps to allay concerns – while insisting nothing was wrong in the first place.

Bill Clinton has announced that if his wife is elected president, he will resign from the boards of the Clinton Foundation and its affiliate, the Clinton Health Access Initiative. The Clintons’ daughter Chelsea will remain on both boards.

The Clinton Foundation will stop accepting foreign donations and corporate donations; the health initiative, which depends heavily on foreign government funds, will not.

But those limited measures won’t solve the whole problem. Donors and fundraisers will still be tempted to see the foundations as a channel for currying favor with the new president if Clinton is elected.

Here’s one modest further step recommended by Norman L. Eisen, President Obama’s former ethics officer: Clinton should sign a strong ethics agreement barring herself and her closest aides from discussing foundation business with anyone, including her husband and daughter. And she should impose tough transparency rules to guarantee that if donors get access, it’s quickly made public.

There’s nothing preventing the Clinton campaign from announcing that kind of rule now – the sooner the better.

Until then, Clinton supporters, including reluctant Bernie Sanders voters, have been reminded again of all the things they didn’t love about Hillary Clinton.

Lucky for her she’s running against Donald Trump – who has been even less transparent about his own tax returns, business dealings and foreign interests than she has.

The problem, you see, is not that Clinton gave Foundation donors special favors or even moved them to "the head of the line." The problem that McManus wants to fix is the "appearance". As long as the Clinton Foundation and Hillary Clinton share the same name, the Trumps of the world will pervert the good works of the Foundation and use them to manufacture scandals. The media represented by the AP, ever preferring lurid to lofty, will continue to provide the scandals their life blood. And I do not know what can be done about that.

If my dog could speak ...

... what would he say? Probably lots but could we understand him? Probably not, according to the Austrian-British philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein who famously wrote “If a lion could speak, we could not understand him.” The reason is both phenomenally simple and psychologically profound. Animals' perception-action worlds are quite different from our own. If you doubt that, try keeping your nose to the trail for an hour or so - while locomoting on all fours.

So how do we find out what's on the animal mind? The Washington Post has a revealing report on research done on dogs that were trained to lay down for several minutes in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner while their trainer uttered various words in various intonations.

It had already been established that dogs respond to human voices better than their wolf brethren, are able to match hundreds of objects to words and learn elements of grammar, and can be directed by human speech. But the new findings mean dogs are more like humans than was previously known: They process language using the same regions of the brain as people, according to the researchers, whose paper was published in Science.

This had already been demonstrated in studies that observed dogs, but no one had seen how it works inside the canine brain. To determine this, Attila Andics and colleagues at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest recruited 13 family dogs — mostly golden retrievers and border collies — and trained them to sit totally still for seven minutes in an fMRI scanner that measured their brain activity. (The pups were not restrained, and they “could leave the scanner at any time,” the authors assured.)

A female trainer familiar to the dogs then spoke words of praise that all their owners said they used — “that’s it,” “clever,” and “well done” — and neutral, common words such as “yet” and “if,” which the researchers believed were meaningless to the animals. Each dog heard each word in both a neutral tone and a happy, atta-boy tone.

Using the brain activity images, the researchers saw that the dogs processed the familiar words regardless of intonation, and they did so using the left hemisphere, just like humans. Tone, or the emotion behind the word, on the other hand, was analyzed in the auditory regions of the right hemisphere — just as it is in people, the study said.

Finally, the researchers saw that the dogs’ “rewards center” — which is stimulated by pleasant things such as petting and food and sex — did the brain equivalent of jumping and yelping when positive words were spoken in a positive tone.

Next time your dog does good, try saying "good boy" in a positive tone. You might be able to save some on doggie treats. It might work on spouses too.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Will Latinos use their strength in November? Si se puede!

My lead on this one is a guest opinion by Dolores Huerta in the Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required), Latino voters deciding the election? Si se puede. Here is why she is optimistic.

By any measure the numbers are there if we vote. Arizona’s changing demographics, as well as efforts to register and mobilize Latino voters in the wake of the draconian anti-immigrant SB 1070 bill and in the years following, could be helping to push the state from red to purple. Latino voters in Arizona have shown that they are willing to fight back at the ballot box against attacks on our communities. Consider this: In the 2008 election, Latino voters cast less than 12 percent of the ballots in the state. After SB 1070 was signed into law in 2010, that number shot up to almost 19 percent. The state’s Latino electorate has only grown since then, and with Trump’s anti-immigrant hate at the top of the Republican ticket, there’s plenty of reasons to show up at the polls again this year. Latino communities here in Arizona may be on the cusp of turning the tide and realizing the kind of political power we envisioned in that 1972 meeting.

Those who say it can’t be done only need to look next door to the example of California. It was never easy there, and vested interests against us were strong. In the 1994 California governor’s race, Pete Wilson campaigned on a horrific anti-immigrant measure, Proposition 187, that prevented undocumented immigrants from accessing essential services like health care and education. Even though Wilson and Prop 187 won at the ballot box that year, the GOP’s anti-immigrant hate set off a transformation of the state’s politics, with Latino political participation skyrocketing and the state ultimately shifting from red to blue. The lesson? If you push anti-immigrant and anti-Latino policies—if you push exclusion and division—and if we simply vote, you will lose out, in a big way.

It’s a lesson that Republicans don’t seem to have learned. Donald Trump has taken every opportunity to smear Latino communities, from peddling damaging stereotypes to questioning the ability of a federal judge to do his job simply because of his heritage. He is pushing his own anti-immigrant agenda and demonizing an entire community of people. And Republicans across the country are falling in line with his extreme agenda.

So here’s a warning for the Party of Trump: What happened in California won’t stay in California. It can happen right here in Arizona, and it can happen across the country. Latino voters can raise our voices against the anti-immigrant hate poisoning our politics, and we can decide an election through turning out and voting on Election Day. The words I first said in 1972 in this state still ring true today: si se puede. Yes, we can.

Civil rights leader Dolores Huerta is the co-founder of the United Farm Workers and serves on the board of People For the American Way.

Here is a comment on Huerta's opinion piece. Latinos could be "changing everything."

Conventional pollsters still consider Latinos “if-fy” voters, which is why CNN polls showing Trump in the lead in AZ, are flawed: CNN polls only “likely” voters. If Dolores is right, more AZ Latinos will be moving into the “likely” category this election season … changing everything.

Activating the Latino vote

OK, si se puede. But how?

Here's a New Yorker article on registering and getting out the Latino vote: Can Latinos swing Arizona?

In recent years, as infringements on the rights of Latinos have increased, activist groups have proliferated. In Arizona, the key event provoking this activism occurred on April 19, 2010, when the state legislature passed a bill that contained the most Draconian set of anti-immigrant measures in recent American history. The bill, which was sponsored by Russell Pearce, a state senator who represented Mesa,* codified the saturation patrols, requiring state police to check the immigration status of anyone they detained. It also prohibited undocumented immigrants from working, and criminalized the failure to carry immigration documents.

The week that the bill passed, Petra Falcon, who has worked on behalf of Latinos in Arizona for forty years, convened a “vigil team” of seven people on the lawn of the state capitol. During the day, they prayed to the Virgin of Guadalupe that Governor Jan Brewer would issue a veto. At night, they slept in tents. Even after Brewer signed the bill, the group continued their protest. That July, a federal judge ruled that some of the more controversial provisions—including those related to police patrols, employment, and identification requirements—were unlawful, and the Supreme Court eventually agreed. Falcon ended the vigil, and founded Promise Arizona.

So far, Falcon told me, the organization has registered forty-six thousand voters in Maricopa County — about a quarter of all new registrations. It has also continued the work that Falcon has done since 1992, helping Latino candidates in Arizona to get elected and supporting immigration reform. This year, Falcon has joined her voter-registration efforts with those of One Arizona, a Phoenix-based coalition of Latino registration groups. Together, they hope to register seventy-five thousand voters before the election this fall.

Waking the "sleeping giant" - and why it still sleeps

That is what the report in Cronkite news called the Latino vote, Will the Latino ‘sleeping giant’ wake and vote this November? (The report was reprinted in the Arizona Capitol Times as Latinos: Will the ‘sleeping giant’ wake and vote in November?) Here are snippets.

Andrea Montes turns 18 just weeks before the November election, and the Wisconsin resident plans to vote for the first time.

She said she had always planned to exercise that right, but an incident in April made it clear just how important it was to cast her ballot. Montes was playing in a high school soccer game when it turned ugly. Fans on the opposing team began yelling “Trump ’16” and “Build that wall” at her Latina teammates, she said.

“The candidates this election aren’t the best,” Montes said. “But I feel like if I don’t vote, it means that I’m OK with Donald Trump leading the country. And I’m not. People of color need to be voting this election.”

Organizations like Univision, Voto Latino and the Southwest Voter Registration and Education Project have tried to capitalize on the momentum, and the groups have spent months knocking on doors, sending text messages and blasting the airwaves to register Latinos. One expert said he expects a “mad frenzy” of voter registration leading up to the election.

Yet, it’s unclear whether Latinos will turn out. If they do, they have tremendous potential to affect the outcome.

The Latino population has jumped from 4 percent of the country’s population in 1965 to nearly 20 percent of the population in 2015, according to Pew Research Center. The growth has been steady and noticeable. Today, there are more than 55 million Latinos in the U.S., and an expected 27.3 million will be eligible to vote in November.

But a longstanding gap remains between Latinos who can vote and those who will. The National Association of Latino Elected Officials projects 13.1 million Latino voters will cast ballots this November, which is a 17 percent increase from the last presidential election. But it’s still less than half of the eligible voters.

During the past few presidential elections, national media began to speculate on the effect of the Latino electorate and even gave it the moniker “the sleeping giant.” But every year, despite increased potential, it seemed that giant hadn’t yet awakened.

Indicators suggest this could be the year: Latinos have registered to vote at increasing rates, and many Latino voters indicated they’re more interested in this election – motivated by issues such as the economy and immigration and by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s anti-immigration stance.

“Harsh rhetoric that has been spewed by Donald Trump, right out of the gate, comparing Mexicans to rapists and murderers, could help galvanize the Latino vote to vote against him,” said Joseph Garcia, director of the Latino policy center for the Morrison Institute for Public Policy at Arizona State University, which researches and analyzes critical issues in the state.

At the same time, several factors may keep Latinos away – or at least prevent the electorate from reaching its full potential – this November. Candidates have largely neglected this segment of the population. States have implemented new voting restrictions, creating barriers for both registration and voting. And millennials, who tend to stay away from the polls, make up nearly half the eligible Latino electorate.

You can explore those factors and what might be done about them in the Cronkite News report here.

Does Donald Trump have a terminal illness?

Just tweeted this one (Aug 29, 1:30pm).

The bogus health report (story from Daily Kos) prompts the following analogy.

Missing tax returns : Bankruptcy :: Bogus doctor report : Terminal illness

Update to the Update: Last night Rachel played some of the interview with the goofy GI doc Bornstein who wrote the ridiculous letter about Trump's health. He went on at some length about how we have elected unfit ("deranged") presidents in the past. He included the example of "Ike with polio." I'm not making it up. Mrs. Scriber heard the same thing.

BTW - he needed some support as evidenced by his wife being present. He's not getting any from the medical community.

Update: Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) reviews the weird letter and responses to it. He reports this interesting admission.

... the Washington Post noted, accurately, that “it’s clear we don’t have a particularly serious evaluation of what condition Trump’s health is in.” Given Trump’s conspiracy theories about Hillary Clinton, it’s a curious dynamic.

But let’s not overlook the fact that Bornstein also told NBC News, in reference to Hillary Clinton, “I know her physician and I know some of her health history which is really not so good.”

Really? Clinton's physician violated confidentiality (as in HIPAA?). This guy just dug himself deeper into the cesspool he (and Trump?) opened up.

Here are similar comments on Benen's post.

This Trumpian doctor has a very loose idea of medical ethics, IMO. Discussing another doctor's patient in public without that patient's permission sounds to me like a major no-no. And, that's assuming that he really does know something about Clinton's health, which I seriously doubt.

I wish the interviewer had asked him to name her physician and then asked if her physician was guilty of discussing confidential information...

Scriber hopes that the symptoms - in this case lies upon lies, bragg, bullying and bullshit - will be politically speaking fatal with the terminal result for Donald what he hates most: loser.

Clinton trumps Trump among Catholics

Aaron Blake at the Washington Post reports that two recent polls give the same result: Donald Trump has a massive Catholic problem.

Much has been made of Donald Trump’s problems with a few voting groups — female voters, blacks and Hispanics, and young voters, in particular. And, to be sure, they are all problems.

But relatively speaking, his biggest problem actually appears to be with a different group: Catholics.

Yes, the man who once feuded with the pope (how soon we forget that actually happened) is cratering among Catholics.

Back in 2012, GOP nominee Mitt Romney lost the Catholic vote by just 2 points, 50 percent to 48 percent. And the GOP has actually won the Catholic vote as recently as 2004 and in 5 of the last 10 11 presidential elections.

But this year Trump is doing much worse among Catholics as shown by two recent polls.

But Trump trails among Catholics by a huge margin. A new poll from the Public Religion Research Institute released this week shows him down 23 points, 55-32.

A Washington Post-ABC News poll released earlier this month painted an even worse picture for Trump’s Catholic support. He was down by 27 points, 61-34.

If you compare the difference between Romney’s margin among Catholics in 2012 and Trump’s margin among Catholics this year, the 25-point difference is tied for the biggest shift of any demographic group in the Post-ABC poll.

One against four odds don't stop Bob Burns' crusade against Corruption at the Corporation Commission

The Sierra Vista Herald tells us why Arizona Corporation Commissioner Burns won’t be ignored.

The more the Arizona Corporation Commission ignores the efforts of Bob Burns, the more it fails to appreciate the seriousness of the integrity issue that plagues the state’s regulatory body.

Burns filed subpoenas this week seeking to uncover how much, if any, money has been contributed by the state’s largest utility, Arizona Public Service, and its parent company, Pinnacle West, Inc., to the campaigns of two commissioners now serving on the commission, Robert Forese and Doug Little.

Burns is a problem who won’t go away for the ACC. This latest effort follows a previous effort to hire an independent attorney to consult the commission on the alleged “dark money” and illegal campaign activities that link former chairman Robert Stump with Forese and Little when they were seeking election in 2014.

Not that Burns is completely alone. In June, the Federal Bureau of Investigations confirmed it has opened two cases on ACC shenanigans during the 2014 election cycle. One area of interest for the agency is focusing on contributions to a former commissioner, possibly relating to that member’s son running for Secretary of State and the other looking at the election of Forese and Little.

Some may argue the effort by Burns is a desperate attempt to generate publicity as part of his current campaign to win the upcoming primary election. Two factors count against that argument: First, it comes too late to benefit Burns as a candidate, now just three days before Tuesday’s election; and secondly, so what?

Calling attention to the need for the Arizona Corporation Commission to stand up to APS and its possible role in contributing to the election of candidates is never a bad idea.

If anything, it’s disappointing that the entire board hasn’t initiated a greater effort to cleanse the commission of the appearance of impropriety that has shadowed the public regulatory board for the past two years.

Until they do, it's fair for me and others to speculate that it's more than the mere appearance of impropriety. You add Commissioner Bob Stump's phone fiasco into the mix and you get a prima facie case for illegal acts. Just speculation, now. Just sayin'.

We support the effort by Commissioner Burns to seek more information from APS and its parent company and continue our call for the ACC to clean up its act.

But Scriber thinks they won't come clean until we have a different roster of commissioners. Vote for Tom Chabin and Bill Mundell this November.

Monday, August 29, 2016

The speech Hillary should give about the Clinton Foundation

Wednesday afternoon (our time) I heard televised speeches from both presidential candidates, first from Donald Trump, and then from Hillary Clinton. I want to focus on something that Trump made frequent reference to and that Clinton spoke to not at all. That something is the Clinton Foundation. Basically, Trump blustered out the talking points from the last several days about Clinton's emails and the corrupt nature of the Clinton Foundation. (Trump's attack is just one of the right wing's assaults.)

I kept waiting for Clinton to speak in defense of the Foundation, but she did not. So, I started imagining what I would write if I were her speech writer. My story line would be something like this. We Clintons have created an organization that has done good for the health and well-being of millions of people around the globe. What have you, Donald Trump, done with your casinos and towers and reputed billions for the health and welfare of even just our own citizens?

But then I realized that I knew little about the Clinton Foundation (other than the charges of pay-to-play). And I knew even less about the Trump Foundation. I set out to learn more about those organizations so I could expand my speech and speak intelligently about those foundations.

Update: This morning's editorial in the Daily Star was one of the RedBlueAmerica series titled "Is foundation a problem for Clinton’s candidacy?" Neither author was particularly kind to the Clintons or the foundation. The editorial is one more reason to publish my project this morning.

Before I even start, I want to be clear. One part of the story now bruited about is the charge of special access to then Secretary of State Clinton supposedly granted to donors to the Clinton Foundation. (That, BTW, is the substance of the above referenced editorial.) This is the stuff of scandal spouted by Trump and others. The consensus among those journalists who have taken a serious look at these charges is that there is no evidence of criminality. Check out these articles: Paul Waldman's The latest Clinton email story just isn’t a scandal, Mark Sumner's Daily Kos article AP defends their attack on Clinton Foundation by compounding the error, and Ruth Marcus' Obliging a donor is not necessarily criminal. My intent here is to look at what the Clinton and Trump foundations aim to do, how they operate, where they get their money, and what they do with it. My main focus is on the Clinton Foundation but I will draw comparisons with the Trump Foundation to the extent possible.

What are the goals of the foundation?

The Clinton Foundation says this about itself.

We believe that the best way to unlock human potential is through the power of creative collaboration. That's why we build partnerships between businesses, NGOs, governments, and individuals everywhere to work faster, leaner, and better; to find solutions that last; and to transform lives and communities from what they are today to what they can be, tomorrow.

Everywhere we go, we're trying to work ourselves out of a job. Whether it's improving global health, increasing opportunity for girls and women, reducing childhood obesity and preventable diseases, creating economic opportunity and growth, or helping communities address the effects of climate change, we keep score by the lives that are saved or improved.

And this is from the Form 990 for 2013.

Improve global health & wellness, increase opportunities for women/girls, reduce childhood obesity, create economic opp & growth and help communities address effects of climate change.

I could not find a web site for the Donald J. Trump Foundation. Nor could I find a statement about the goals of the Trump Foundation. (Note that nothing in my research or writing is relevant to the separate foundation run by Trump's son, Eric.)

How to does the foundation operate?

The Clinton Foundation is not like other foundations in that it operates its own programs and invests relatively little in direct grants to other organizations. Here is its own statement.

The Clinton Foundation is an operating foundation. The money raised by the Foundation is spent directly on our programs, and not as grants to other charitable organizations.

The majority of the Clinton Foundation’s charitable work is performed and implemented by our staff and partners on the ground. We operate programs around the world that have a significant impact in a wide range of issue areas, including economic development, climate change, health and wellness, and participation of girls and women.

In cases where we support others in their own philanthropic endeavors, the money is used to convene these partners to develop their programs and commitments, rather than directly implement projects.

factcheck.org explored the exceptional status of the Clinton Foundation.

Simply put, despite its name, the Clinton Foundation is not a private foundation — which typically acts as a pass-through for private donations to other charitable organizations. Rather, it is a public charity. It conducts most of its charitable activities directly.

Katherina Rosqueta, the founding executive director of the Center for High Impact Philanthropy at the University of Pennsylvania, described the Clinton Foundation as an “operating foundation.”

“There is an important distinction between an operating foundation vs. a non-operating foundation,” Rosqueta told us via email. “An operating foundation implements programs so money it raises is not designed to be used exclusively for grant-making purposes. When most people hear ‘foundation’, they think exclusively of a grant-making entity. In either case, the key is to understand how well the foundation uses money — whether to implement programs or to grant out to nonprofits — [to achieve] the intended social impact (e.g., improving education, creating livelihoods, improving health, etc.).”

Judging from the tax statements (form 990), the Trump Foundation is more traditional in that it operates no programs directly but makes grants to other organizations. Thus the Trump Foundation as defined above is a non-operating foundation. That distinction - operating vs. non-operating - is important when it comes to understanding the finances of the foundations.

Where does the money come from

There are two parts to that question: how much money flows through the foundation and who donates it.

I followed the lead of factcheck.org and used the 2013 consolidated audit of the Clinton Foundation and its affiliates.

Daniel Borochoff, president and founder of CharityWatch, told us by phone that its analysis of the finances of the Clinton Foundation and its affiliates found that about 89 percent of the foundation budget is spent on programming (or “charity”), higher than the 75 percent considered the industry standard.

In order to get a fuller picture of the Clinton Foundation’s operations, he said, people need to look at the foundation’s consolidated audit, which includes the financial data on separate affiliates like the Clinton Health Access Initiative.

“Otherwise,” he said, “you are looking at just a piece of the pie.”

The relevant data are on p. 4 of the consolidated audit which shows revenues of $230,891,017. Bear in mind that this figure is higher than the revenue for the foundation itself because it includes data for the affiliates like the Clinton Health Access Initiative.

I used the 2013 form 990 to find out about the cash flows of the Clinton and Trump foundations. I picked 2013 because it was the most recent year for which I could compare financial reports for both the Clinton Foundation and the Trump Foundation - both 990s are available at propublica.org.

The total revenue for the Clinton Foundation was $148,889,439; for the Trump foundation $569,865. One immediate conclusion from the difference in revenue (and consequently in charitable expenses) is that the Clinton Foundation is a far bigger, and presumably more impactful, operation than is the Trump Foundation.

The second question, about who donates, is provided on the Clinton Foundation's web site. Their contributors are listed by broad category of donation organized into a pull-down list: $25 million and above, 10-25 million, etc. There we find, for example, that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was one of the top contributors. The list includes both governments (e.g., Commonwealth of Australia) and individuals (e.g., Elton John Aids Foundation). I could not find a list of donors to the Trump foundation.

I'm led to believe that one reason why there is so much buzz in the media is that the Clintons were/are quite transparent about who was/is contributing to their foundation and its affiliates. What has not been reported as prominently as it should is the presence of one name under the $100,001-$250,000 category: Donald J. Trump. You know - the guy who characterizes Hillary as "crooked" and the Foundation as "corrupt." I guess Donald is comfortable supporting crooks and corruption.

Where does the money go?

Recall the distinction between operating and non-operating foundations. When that distinction is not understood, then the spending by the Clinton Foundation is mis-reported. Such was the case, in June 2015, when then candidate Carly Fiorina charged the Foundation with spending a small percentage of its revenue on charitable causes. factcheck.org set the record straight.

Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina says that “so little” of the charitable donations to the Clinton Foundation “actually go to charitable works” — a figure CARLY for America later put at about 6 percent of its annual revenues — but Fiorina is simply wrong.

Fiorina and others are referring only to the amount donated by the Clinton Foundation to outside charities, ignoring the fact that most of the Clinton Foundation’s charitable work is performed in-house. ...

Simply put, despite its name, the Clinton Foundation is not a private foundation — which typically acts as a pass-through for private donations to other charitable organizations. Rather, it is a public charity. It conducts most of its charitable activities directly.

I returned to the 2013 consolidated audit to get the big picture of the Foundation's spending. Reported expenses totaled $222,396,102. Of that $196,633,380 (88.4%) was spent on program services, i.e., funding the charitable programs operated by the Foundation. Of the remaining expenses 7.0% went for management and 4.6% went to support fundraising. Remember that a ratio of 75/25 of program expenditures to management and fundraising is "industry standard." Operating at a ratio of 88/12 the Clinton Foundation is doing far better than that.

What good comes from the Foundation's spending on "program services"?

Because of our work, more than 31,000 American schools are providing kids with healthy food choices in an effort to eradicate childhood obesity; more than 105,000 farmers in Malawi, Rwanda, and Tanzania are benefiting from climate-smart agronomic training, higher yields, and increased market access; more than 33,500 tons of greenhouse gas emissions are being reduced annually across the United States; over 450,000 people have been impacted through market opportunities created by social enterprises in Latin America, the Caribbean, and Asia; through the independent Clinton Health Access Initiative, over 11.5 million people in more than 70 countries have access to CHAI-negotiated prices for HIV/AIDS medications; an estimated 85 million people in the U.S. will be reached through strategic health partnerships developed across industry sectors at both the local and national level; and members of the Clinton Global Initiative community have made more than 3,500 Commitments to Action, which have improved the lives of over 430 million people in more than 180 countries.

The Trump Foundation appears to spread its resources fairly broadly among various causes and organizations. Grants run the whole range from a 250 dollars to over 100,000 dollars (the latter amount going to the Nicklaus Children's Health Care Foundation).

Related observations

Trump's charitable giving

Trump's own charitable giving has come under scrutiny in the last several months partly because of some promises he made to veterans groups. Here's the investigation by the Washington Post.

In May, under pressure from the news media, Donald Trump made good on a pledge he made four months earlier: He gave $1 million to a nonprofit group helping veterans’ families.

Before that, however, when was the last time that Trump had given any of his own money to a charity?

If Trump stands by his promises, such donations should be occurring all the time. In the 15 years prior to the veterans donation, Trump promised to donate earnings from a wide variety of his moneymaking enterprises: “The Apprentice.” Trump Vodka. Trump University. A book. Another book. If he had honored all those pledges, Trump’s gifts to charity would have topped $8.5 million.

But in the 15 years prior to the veterans’ gift, public records show that Trump donated about $2.8 million through a foundation set up to give his money away — less than a third of the pledged amount — and nothing since 2009. Records show Trump has given nothing to his foundation since 2008.

The rest of the story is a trail of promises broken and commitments unfulfilled. For example:

When Libyan strongman Moammar Gaddafi visited New York in 2009, Trump rented him space for a huge tent at an estate Trump owns north of the city. He said nothing about giving the proceeds to charity.

Two years later, Trump told a television interviewer, “I said when I did it, ‘I’m going to take Gaddafi’s money . . . and I’m going to give the money to charity,’ and that’s exactly what I did.”

BuzzFeed recently estimated Trump’s take from Gaddafi at $150,000. If Trump did donate the money, there is no public trace of it; he donated nothing that year to his own foundation. And this spring, Trump seemed to have forgotten his vow to give the money to charity: “I made a lot of money with Gaddafi, if you remember,” he told CBS.

Another Washington Post report has more extensive documentation.

I return to one of my lead questions: What have you, Donald Trump, done with your casinos and towers and reputed billions for the health and welfare of even just our own citizens? The answer is, relative to the Clinton Foundation, not so much.

Ratings of the foundations

factcheck.org notes that Another philanthropy watchdog, CharityWatch, a project of the American Institute of Philanthropy, gave the Clinton Foundation an “A” rating.. See more about this rating at CharityWatch.org.

This noon CNN was running one of these awful battles between surrogates for the two presidential candidates. You know - the hour long shouting match in which they talk over each other while the moderator looks baffled. One of the comments made about the Clinton Foundation was that one of the charity watchdogs, CharityNavigator, did not rate the Clinton Foundation. That is true. Here is what CharityNavigator has to say:

Why isn't this organization rated? We had previously evaluated this organization, but have since determined that this charity's atypical business model can not be accurately captured in our current rating methodology. Our removal of The Clinton Foundation from our site is neither a condemnation nor an endorsement of this charity. We reserve the right to reinstate a rating for The Clinton Foundation as soon as we identify a rating methodology that appropriately captures its business model.

What does it mean that this organization isn’t rated? It simply means that the organization doesn't meet our criteria. A lack of a rating does not indicate a positive or negative assessment by Charity Navigator.

What about the Trump Foundation? It's not rated either. Here is what Charity Navigator has to say.

Why isn't this organization rated? This organization is not eligible to be rated by Charity Navigator because it is a Private Foundation.

Private foundations receive the majority of their money from only one individual, family or corporation. This differs from the public charities that Charity Navigator evaluates. Public charities have a broad-base of support from the general public as well as variety of other funding sources. The IRS requires that private foundations file a Form 990-PF which differs from the document public charities file. This makes it impossible for us to compare the financial performance of private foundations to public charities.

What does it mean that this organization isn’t rated? It simply means that the organization doesn't meet our criteria. A lack of a rating does not indicate a positive or negative assessment by Charity Navigator.

Is the Trump Foundation breaching the firewall?

A charitable organization, registered with the IRS as a501(c)(3), must not ever engage in campaign activities. Here is the IRS statement.

To be tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, an organization must be organized and operated exclusively for exempt purposes set forth in section 501(c)(3), and none of its earnings may inure to any private shareholder or individual. In addition, it may not be an action organization, i.e., it may not attempt to influence legislation as a substantial part of its activities and it may not participate in any campaign activity for or against political candidates.

The Daily Beast reports on a watchdog group complaining about an alleged violation of that proscription by the Donald J. Trump Foundation,Watchdog Group Files Complaint With IRS Against Trump Foundation.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a complaint with the IRS alleging the mogul’s foundation violated its tax-exempt status by participating in his presidential campaign.

If the IRS audits the Trump Foundation and it is determined to have violated regulations governing nonprofits, the charitable organization could lose its tax-exempt status and the Republican nominee himself could be subject to excise taxes.

Tax-exempt organizations like the Trump Foundation—of which Trump is the president—are strictly prohibited from engaging in political activity.

[The] legal action was prompted in part by the presentation of checks to veterans charities that were paid by the foundation, which had Trump’s campaign logo and its signature slogan—“Make America Great Again”—imprinted on them.

Although the IRS prohibits charities like the Trump Foundation from engaging in political activity, the agency does not specifically define what that is. According to FEC guidelines, though, the use of a campaign slogan is a violation because it constitutes express political advocacy that “can have no other reasonable meaning than to urge the election or defeat of a candidate.”

The future of the Clinton Foundation

As a result of the [muddled reporting about Clinton Foundation donors][kos] by the Associated Press, there have been calls to shut down the Foundation - notably by Donald Trump. Unfortunately, by going on the defensive, the Clintons are making it tougher on themselves. By promising strict changes should Hillary become president, they opened the way for their opponent to argue that those changes should have been in place when Clinton was Secretary of State. (Never mind that there is no evidence at all of "pay-for-play."). Scriber thinks that the Clintons should have gone on the offense much sooner and using all the good done globally by the foundation as its weapon and shield. It is sad that the foundation is at risk for reductions in its scope and effectiveness just to deflect politically motivated attacks from Trump and his right-wing fellow travelers.

James Carville weighed in rather heavily in defense of the Foundation. (h/t Miriam Lindmeier)

"Somebody is going to hell" over the political attacks on the Clinton Foundation, longtime Clinton confidant James Carville declared Tuesday, denouncing the recent scrutiny and criticism of the charitable organization.

If the Clinton Foundation had decided not to accept foreign donations while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state, as it has recently announced it would do if she is elected president, Carville said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" that the "good" thing would be that the organization would not be part of the political discussion.

"The bad would be you'd be out hundreds of millions of dollars that are doing good. What the Clinton Foundation does, it takes money from rich people and gives it to poor people. Most people think that's a pretty good idea," Carville said.

Bill Clinton also announced to supporters on Monday that he would step down from his position on the foundation board if his wife wins in November and would cease fundraising activities for the organization.

Pressed on whether the Clinton Foundation should have clamped down on foreign donations before Clinton became secretary of state, Carville responded, "If you ask me as a political adviser, of course."

"If you ask me as a human being, eh, I’m not too sure. As a human being I think the foundation does an enormous amount of good. From a strictly political standpoint, yeah," Carville said, invoking his Catholic sixth-grade teacher to say, "somebody is going to hell over this. Because somebody, now I’m not saying here—or somewhere is. This is saving people’s lives."

Morning Joe did not appreciate that comment, but Carville continued.

“I wish I could say the word I want to say. I’ll just say that’s BS," Scarborough remarked. "You know the fact is if it's a great charity and it’s a five-star rated charity, guess what, other people can raise the money. It doesn't have to be Bill Clinton calling somebody up making people think, if I give him money it could help me out. If it's a great charity, it can stand on its own and other people can raise money for it. It's not a zero-sum game. It's not having Bill Clinton raise money while his wife is running for president or else we're all going to hell and little kids are going to die across the planet.”

“They’re gonna," Carville shot back. "The other thing is, Bill Clinton has more charm and people around the world have an enormous amount of faith in him. I've traveled with him. I've seen it myself. There are not many people that have the relationships and are held in the affection around the world as Bill Clinton."

And there you have it. Donald "Deadbeat" Trump wants to close down a foundation that betters the lives of millions across the globe while he uses his own foundation, illegally, to provide service to his campaign. There certainly are more serious things at stake in the 2016 election, our Republic, for example. But it would be sad to see the Clinton Foundation shut down at the certain cost of lives.

I leave this one with a thought about the Clintons' Foundation: blinded by goodness, wounded by politics.


If you detect any errors or omissions, please let me know at wsmaki@gmail.com and I will update this post with your corrections.

Trump pivots to "compassionate conartist-ism" (and other nooz)

Welcome to Monday Morning Madness. The bad news is that we must endure 72 more days before the election. The good news is we have 11 Mondays of toons from AZBlueMeanie to help us through our suffering. Stop weeping and start laughing with this morning's assortment.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Trump's weird doctor letter is weirder than you thought

Aaron Blake writes about how The strange tale of Donald Trump’s doctor letter just got stranger in the Washington Post.

Of all the problems with the letter — and there are more than a few — the biggest may be the hyperbole. Doctors are trained to be circumspect and not draw conclusions that aren't supported by facts. Bornstein's letter, quite simply, didn't sound as though it were written by a serious-minded doctor who had given it the kind of thought it warranted.

And in his interview with NBC, Bornstein seemed to confirm it wasn't.

Blake's report has links to various video clips including the NBC interview.

The letter was already arguably incomplete. As the New York Times noted, it "contained no details about his heart rate, respiratory rate, cholesterol level, past medications or family medical history."

And now, given Bornstein's comments suggesting his own letter was written under some duress — or at least, less than ideal circumstances — you can expect rising demands for a do-over, and perhaps more information about Trump's health.

That is, of course, assuming Trump decides he wants to provide it: As he's shown with his tax returns, he won't easily give in to public pressure to disclose things about himself.

What the hell is wrong with the GOP? Or wrong with Trump's base? We have as a nominee for president a serial, compulsive liar (and he's lying about Clinton's health), a charlatan who hides his tax returns, and now, likely, refusing vital information about his own health. And, yes, his own words brand him as a racist.

Before you vote, take note. Jill Stein is not the answer - she is a problem.

After an interview with Jill Stein, the Washington Post editorial board characterized her campaign as

Jill Stein’s fairy-tale candidacy. Here is their summary judgment.

GREEN PARTY presidential nominee Jill Stein argues that Americans should not vote for the lesser of two evils. Instead of voting out of fear, they should vote for the most deserving candidate. Unfortunately for Ms. Stein, even if you accepted the logic, it would not lead this year to a vote for her.

They concluded with these observations based on Stein's answers in the interview.

Ms. Stein did not exactly convey a sense of awe about how tough the presidency is. “I don’t believe that it is rocket science,” she said of administering the federal government. But that blitheness may not be surprising from a politician who cites climate change as a global emergency — and then argues the country would be no better off electing Ms. Clinton, who promises to continue Mr. Obama’s progress on warming, than Mr. Trump, who has said the whole thing is a hoax invented by the Chinese.

Jordan Weissmann (Slate.com) also reviewed Stein's policies and concluded that Jill Stein’s Ideas Are Terrible. She Is Not the Savior the Left Is Looking For.

...The bottom line is that Jill Stein is not a figure anybody should trust. She's not just an uncompromising progressive. She's a panderer who raves about subjects about which she appears to lack the vaguest understanding. She is right about one thing: There is a lot of snake oil in the system. And she's selling it.

AZBlueMeanie quotes a lot more from these sources in the Sunday Blog for Arizona Green Party candidate Jill Stein is not the choice for Progressives.

Backers of minimum-wage file financial reports. Opponents mum about spending.

It's worse. Opponents clearly are spending money on legal fees to keep Proposition 206 off of the ballot. But according to Howard Fischer's report in the Daily Star, Backers of minimum-wage increase in Arizona have raised $1.4 million, the opponents have not even filed as a political committee. This is Rule #1 in campaign finance: if more than one person forms a group to influence anything on a ballot, that group must file as a political committee with the office of the Secretary of State. But ...

... the Secretary of State’s Office said Friday that it has yet to get a spending report from foes. In fact, spokesman Matt Roberts said foes have not even filed to form a campaign committee, a legal prerequisite for spending any money for or against ballot measures.

There clearly has been some spending.

The restaurant association hired attorneys and filed suit on July 14 in a legal bid, unsuccessful to date, to have the measure removed from the November ballot. And the report due Friday is supposed to cover all expenses through Aug. 18.

Neither Steve Chucri, president of the restaurant group, nor Chiane Hewer, its spokeswoman, returned repeated calls seeking comment.

Roberts said his office has no legal opinion on whether the money spent in court over ballot measures has to be reported. But the legal expenses incurred by initiative supporters are listed, with their report saying the group paid $70,000 to the Torres Law Group to defend them in the lawsuit brought by the restaurant association.

We should not be surprised. The restaurant owners are the same bunch that is running a law suit against Prop 206 in which the main legal point is the definition of the word "day".

Trump: “My legacy has its roots in my father’s legacy”

That legacy is one of racial discrimination, the NY Times reports in ‘No Vacancies’ for Blacks: How Donald Trump Got His Start, and Was First Accused of Bias. Here are snippets.

... an investigation by The New York Times — drawing on decades-old files from the New York City Commission on Human Rights, internal Justice Department records, court documents and interviews with tenants, civil rights activists and prosecutors — uncovered a long history of racial bias at his family’s properties, in New York and beyond.

That history has taken on fresh relevance with Mr. Trump arguing that black voters should support him over Hillary Clinton, whom he has called a bigot.

Racial discrimination is but one black mark on that legacy.

In 1966, as the investigative journalist Wayne Barrett detailed in “Trump: The Greatest Show on Earth,” a New York legislative committee accused Fred Trump of using state money earmarked for middle-income housing to build a shopping center instead. One lawmaker called Mr. Trump “greedy and grasping.”

By this point, the Trump organization’s business practices were beginning to come under scrutiny from civil rights groups that had received complaints from prospective African-American tenants.

Complaints about the Trump organization’s rental policies continued to mount: By 1967, state investigators found that out of some 3,700 apartments in Trump Village, seven were occupied by African-American families.

Donald Trump said he had first heard about the lawsuit, which was filed in the fall of 1973, on his car radio.

The government had charged him, his father and their company, Trump Management Inc., with violating the Fair Housing Act.

Donald Trump ... retained Senator Joseph McCarthy’s red-baiting counsel, Roy Cohn, to defend him. Mr. Trump soon called his own news conference — to announce his countersuit against the government.

... After nearly two years of legal wrangling, the Trumps gave up and signed a consent decree.

As is customary, it did not include an admission of guilt. But it did include pages of stipulations intended to ensure the desegregation of Trump properties.

Also as is now customary in his unique universe, Trump declared victory.

“In the end the government couldn’t prove its case, and we ended up making a minor settlement without admitting any guilt,” he wrote in “The Art of the Deal.”

Only this was not quite the end.

A few years later, the government accused the Trumps of violating the consent decree. “We believe that an underlying pattern of discrimination continues to exist in the Trump Management organization,” a Justice Department lawyer wrote to Mr. Cohn in 1978.

Once again, the government marshaled numerous examples of blacks being denied Trump apartments. But this time, it also identified a pattern of racial steering.

But in the end, Trump hung in and dodged another governmental action.

The Trumps effectively wore the government down. The original consent decree expired before the Justice Department had accumulated enough evidence to press its new case.

This is the guy who wants to preside over that same government. To do what, exactly? To further enrich himself?

Reminds me of how Trump dealt with the small business contractors for his casinos. They ended up settling for pennies on the dollars owed because Trump just wore them down.

And that's The Art of the Steal.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Hanging Donald out to dry

Hillary Clinton gave a dynamite speech on Wednesday exposing Donald Trump as a would-be emperor with snow white clothes. (That's one way, my way, of calling Trump a racist.) She cited his own words, words disparaging African-Americans, for example.

Who rose to Trump's defense? Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) calls our attention to the answer: not the Republican leaders. The silence of no defense was deafening. Even leaders of the political party now headed by Trump know, as they certainly should by now, that Clinton spoke truth to politics.

There’s been plenty of speculation in recent weeks about the possibility of Republican Party officials cutting their losses and giving up on Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy. Whether or not the chatter leads to action remains to be seen, but the possibility remains quite real.

Yesterday, for example, Hillary Clinton delivered a pretty brutal indictment of Trump and his role as the standard bearer for racists, xenophobes, and the extremist, paranoid fringe. It was the kind of speech that, ordinarily, Republicans would respond to by defending their party’s presidential nominee. Except in this case, as NBC News’ Chuck Todd noted this morning, GOP leaders said nothing.

“Hillary Clinton called the Republican nominee [Donald Trump] a racist, and all these Republicans … not a word. No Republicans outside the campaign said, ‘How dare you, Hillary Clinton, call the Republican nominee a racist.’ The sound of silence among mainstream Republican elected officials yesterday is stunning.”

It is, indeed. Part of the value in being in a political party is benefiting from institutional support when under fire. But instead of having Trump’s back, Republicans reminded the political world again yesterday that they’re content to hang the presidential hopeful out to dry.

RNC spokesperson Sean Spicer appeared on MSNBC earlier, and host Stephanie Ruhle asked the Republican if there was anything Hillary said that was untrue. Spicer didn’t answer directly.

Actually, he didn't answer it at all - in spite of persistent repeats of the question by Ruhle. Here is the video clip of Ruhle's interview with Spicer.

"Hanging Trump out to dry" is one metaphor for the reluctance, or inability, of Republican leaders to defend Trump. Another would be "rats leaving a sinking ship." Andy Borowitz (The Borowitz Report) tells us that Mike Pence jumped ship and ran away from the campaign bus, but campaign officials recaptured Pence.

News that Pence had vanished touched off a panic in Indiana, where residents feared that he might return to resume his political career.

After forty-five minutes of searching, however, campaign officials located a bedraggled and dazed Pence walking along Virginia State Route 287, where the Republican Vice-Presidential nominee was attempting unsuccessfully to hitch a ride.

A confrontation that Trump aides characterized as “tense” ensued, after which a sobbing Pence returned to the bus.

The rest of the story: UT Austin protest against concealed carry on campus

"Cocks not Glocks" is the name of the student movement against the Texas law permitting concealed handguns on college campuses. The Nation reports on how the movement was created and by whom in "Why Thousands of Texas Students Carried Dildos to Class This Week." Here are some tidbits.

“If you’re uncomfortable with dildos, how do you think I feel about your gun?” student protester Rosie Zander shouted to the crowd gathered on the west side of the UT tower.

The protesters—dildos in hand, on backpacks, strapped to waists, suction-cupped to foreheads—gathered to listen to local progressive leaders, like Austin City Council member Kathie Tovo and Democratic candidate for state representative Gina Hinojosa, as well as members from Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and Cocks Not Glocks leaders Jessica Jin and Ana López.

Jin, a UT alum working for a tech startup in San Francisco, had her work cut out for her as soon as her plane touched down in Austin this week. She teamed up with allies to promote the event, making videos with dramatic Shakespearean monologues and jazz bands whose sets were decked out in dildos swinging from the ceiling. Days before classes started, she got word that the The Daily Show would be sending a correspondent to cover the event. She had more than 4,000 sex toys sitting in boxes crowding the apartments of her co-organizers, waiting to be distributed before Wednesday.

To deal with the latter, Jin, López, and co-organizer Kailey Moore held a dildo distribution rally the day before classes began. They liquidated their sex toy stock, all donated by companies based everywhere from Austin to Singapore, in 23 minutes.

Having lived through the tumultuous early 70s in Berkeley, I can appreciate this as superb political theatre. But go beyond the humor. If you read the entire Nation article, and you should, you will see that this is a serious push-back against the idiocy of guns in classrooms.

Clinton's speech exposes Trump's alt-right take-over of the GOP

Here is just one of the juicier parts of her fiery speech.

Trump likes to say he only hires the “best people.” But he’s had to fire so many campaign managers it’s like an episode of the Apprentice.

The latest shake-up was designed to – quote – “Let Trump be Trump.” To do that, he hired Stephen Bannon, the head of a right-wing website called Breitbart.com, as campaign CEO.

To give you a flavor of his work, here are a few headlines they’ve published:

“Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy.”

“Would You Rather Your Child Had Feminism or Cancer?”

“Gabby Giffords: The Gun Control Movement’s Human Shield”

“Hoist It High And Proud: The Confederate Flag Proclaims A Glorious Heritage.”

That one came shortly after the Charleston massacre, when Democrats and Republicans alike were doing everything they could to heal racial divides. Breitbart tried to enflame them further.

Just imagine – Donald Trump reading that and thinking: “this is what I need more of in my campaign.”

She was fired up last night. Here is the full text at Huff Post.

More about Trump's secret voters

On-line or automated voice polls hurt Clinton but do not help Trump. This is exactly counter to what one would expect if there was some group of secret supporters ashamed to admit that they will vote for Trump. If anything, the undecided voters break for Clinton when pushed in a live phone interview. Here's the story from HuffPollster's email.

POLLING MODE AFFECTS CLINTON’S NUMBERS, NOT TRUMP’S - HuffPollster: “In telephone polls conducted by live interviewers, Clinton averages an 11-point lead over Trump in the HuffPost Pollster average. She’s approaching 50 percent, whereas Trump is struggling below 40 percent. These polls are averaging only 5.5 percent undecided and 4.4 percent for other candidates. Polls conducted either online or using automated voice technology over the telephone, without a real person on the other end of the line, tell a different story. In these polls, Clinton averages just under 44 percent support, a 5-point drop from the live telephone polls, while Trump loses less than 1 percentage point, still sitting at about 38 percent. That 5 percent who supported Clinton in live telephone polls, but not in these other polls, seems to have gone to the ‘undecided’ column. In online and automated phone polls, undecideds increase by 5 percent, growing to over 10 percent of voters….Since it’s Clinton’s support that increases when undecideds are pushed in live telephone surveys, the polls indicate that undecided voters tend to lean more in Clinton’s direction.” [HuffPost]

UT Austin students are making sex more normal than guns.

Texas promotes gun culture on campus by its law on concealed carry on campus. Some students are fighting back ... with sex toys. Here's a link to the NY Times video.

Activists at the University of Texas protested a law allowing concealed handguns on campuses by carrying sex toys - to "fight absurdity with absurdity." This video contains explicit language and visuals.

RNC stops pouring money into Trump, pours martinis instead

Apparently believing that Trump does not have a shot, the RNC is investing in shots of liquor instead. Andy Borowitz at the New Yorker breaks the news.

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Calling it “the best use of our resources at this time,” the Republican National Committee has decided to pull money originally earmarked for Trump campaign ads and spend it on alcohol instead.

“With about seventy days to go until the election, we had to consider what was the optimal way for us to get through those seventy days,” [RNC Chair Reince Priebus] said. “We are confident that we have found that way.”

“It’s questionable whether the ads we were thinking of buying for Trump would work,” Harland Dorrinson, the Pennsylvania G.O.P. chairman, said. “We received the first shipment of alcohol this afternoon, and I can tell you that it’s already working.”

For more details check out Andy's report.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

"The unraveling of the American mind"

Today's Daily Star editorial is by Leonard Pitts Jr. who contends that "conservatives have wrecked the very idea of objective, knowable fact."

Last week, a prominent conservative pundit [Charlie Sykes] conceded a point yours truly and countless others have been making for a long time.

Namely, that in their constant assaults on mainstream news media, conservatives have wrecked the very idea of objective, knowable fact.

In effect, they broke reality. And Donald Trump came oozing out of the ruins.

But more important than the ascendancy of know-nothing Trumpism, we are faced with paralysis in our daily discourse and a generation, at least, of young Americans for whom "ignorance, intransigence and incoherence" is the new normal.

The result has been nothing less than the unraveling of the American mind.

We have become a nation of junk history, junk science, junk fact, junk logic, junk thought, a nation where not knowing things is no longer a bar to high office and may even be an advantage, a nation where it is necessary to debate whether a birth certificate is really a birth certificate and Donald Trump followers think the election will be “rigged.”

Nor are bizarre conspiracy theories limited to the right. As anyone who has ever argued the supposed link between vaccines and autism can attest, they have infiltrated the left, too.

This, then, is the legacy of modern conservatism: a nation where left and right have no real ability to communicate across the issues that divide because, in a fundamental sense, they have no language in common.

We cannot confront our most pressing problems because we cannot even discuss them.

Don’t forget: We’ve now had a generation of young people come of age with ignorance, intransigence and incoherence as their daily norm. The damage from that is profound and will not be easily fixed. It took us years to get here.

It will take years more to find our way home.

Secret Strength: Voters for Trump ashamed to admit it?

Sure. They should be. But there is no evidence to suggest that some surreptitious supporters will tip the scales for Trump.

Greg Sargent (Washingon Post/Plum Line) ridicules the ashamed voter theory: The Trump campaign has a secret plan to get out the secret pro-Trump vote. In secret states.

For some time now, Donald Trump’s advisers have sought to explain why he’s trailing Hillary Clinton in the polls by arguing that there’s a sizable group of people out there who will vote for him on election day but are too embarrassed to admit this to pollsters. Putting aside what that would say about Trump even if it were true, professional pollsters have treated the idea with skepticism.

But now new senior Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway has taken this theory to a new level in an interview with a British TV station. The interview has quite a few nuggets that are worth dwelling on, not simply for their entertainment value, but for the real insights they offer into how the Trump campaign views the race right now.

CNN has a transcript of the interview. The first claim features Conway explaining why there is this hidden Trump vote in a way I have not seen before:

“It’s become socially desirable — especially if you’re a college-educated person in the United States of America — to say that you’re against Donald Trump.

“The hidden Trump vote in this country is a very significant proposition,” she said.

Conway is certainly on the mark with respect to the college-educated voter but not for the reason she stated.

... when she says college educated voters support him but don’t want to admit it, she probably knows that in reality, we’re talking about college educated whites who need to be persuaded not just that supporting Trump is socially acceptable, but that Trump isn’t actually an unhinged hatemonger. These voters have to be won back, and probably won’t be in the numbers Trump needs, because he has branded himself indelibly among them with his mass deportations, Mexican wall, ban on Muslims, battle with the Khan family, and nonstop depravity and abusiveness.

It gets better when Conway is pressed by her interviewer on the dimensions of this secret pro-Trump vote:

“Have you been able to put a number on” those particular voters, asked Matt Frei, the interviewer.

“Yes,” Conway replied.

“What do you think it is?”

“I can’t discuss it.”

“Oh, come on,” Frei interjected.

But Conway declined. “No, it’s a project we’re doing internally. I call it the undercover Trump voter, but it’s real.”

No, it is not.

Here's the view from HuffPolster (via email).

TRUMP’S CAMPAIGN MANAGER TURNS TO POLL TRUTHERISM - Igor Bobic: “Polling on the 2016 presidential race undercounts secret Donald Trump voters, the businessman’s newly minted campaign manager argued this week during an interview with the U.K.’s Channel 4. Kellyanne Conway, a respected pollster with decades of experience in Republican politics, dismissed polls showing Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton comfortably in the lead by claiming they ‘cherry-picked polling numbers that are put out there by media outlets that are also bent on his destruction.’ ‘Donald Trump performs consistently better in online polling where a human being is not talking to another human being about what he or she may do in the election,’ Conway maintained in the interview that aired Wednesday…. Of the most recent 20 surveys of the race, not a single one shows him ahead ....as HuffPost’s Sam Stein and Ariel Edwards-Levy reported earlier this month, pollsters for both parties say there is little evidence to suggest that Trump voters are being seriously undercounted.” [HuffPost]

Perhaps Conway is too ashamed to admit that Trump is running behind and so has to resort to Trumpiness.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Clinton emails and the foundation: Media gets suckered again by right-wing conspiracy theorists

There was no pay-for-play - Clinton staffers routed contact request through channels. The Clintons are not rich because of their foundation - an enterprise devoted to helping provide health and education to people around the globe. But you wouldn't know this from the mainstream media. AZBlueMeanie has the details of all this and more in his post at Blog for Arizona.

BTW: despite all this buzz, voters still trust Clinton more than Trump. This is from the HuffPollster daily email.

VOTERS TRUST CLINTON MORE THAN TRUMP ON MAJOR ISSUES - Samantha Neal: “More voters trust Hillary Clinton than Donald Trump on nearly every key issue ― a feat not achieved by any candidate in recent elections, according to polling data aggregated by The Huffington Post. Trump trails Clinton in voter trust on each of the issues that typically rank highest in people’s minds when evaluating a presidential candidate ― the economy, immigration, terrorism, national security, foreign policy, social issues and criminal justice...Improving national security and tackling terrorism are central tenets of Trump’s campaign, and are issues that both Bush and McCain won by decisive margins during their electoral bids. In this election, however, Clinton leads Trump on the issue by an average of 2.1 percentage points.” [HuffPost]

Addendum: Heather Digby Parton at salon.com writes about the recurring conspiracy theories trumped up (sorry) by the right-wing Judicial Watch. Here is a nugget about the right-wing activities targeting the Clintons in the 90s.

... For instance, this 1999 article by Jill Abramson and Don Van Natta in the New York Times laid out the previously untold story story of the small group of conservative lawyers who concocted the Paula Jones lawsuit and were instrumental in pushing the Monica Lewinsky matter, among other things. As it happens one of those lawyers was a fellow named George Conway, who was not yet married to Kellyanne Fitzpatrick, who is now Donald Trump’s latest campaign manager. The Drudge Report drove much of the scandal, and George Conway was believed to have been Drudge’s main source, most memorably the story about President Clinton’s alleged “distinguishing characteristic ...

Makes you wonder. Did KellyAnne learn the Way of the Con from now husband George?

You are not paranoid if they really are out to get you.

Are conservatives from Mars, liberals from Venus?

Maybe, but if so the planetary spread does not cause political differences -- and the two might not even be correlated.

That's the conclusion reached by Maria Konnikova writing at the New Yorker about linkages between personality and politics: Politics and Personality: Most of What You Read is Malarkey.

For many political psychologists, it seems abundantly clear that traits and politics go together. There’s evidence that many aspects of personality develop quite early in life and have a genetic component, but we don’t become actively political until we are older. So it’s sensible to assume that the one might have some bearing on the other. But most of the work on the subject in the past decades has consisted merely of scientists conducting surveys and observing correlations. Few researchers have ever asked whether what they’re seeing actually implies causality or if the correlations are even meaningful. (The fact that correlation does not equal causation has been amply illustrated by a self-styled correlation debunker, Tyler Vigen; a recent visit to his eponymous Web site shows a 0.998 regional correlation between U.S. spending on science and technology and suicides by hanging, strangulation, and suffocation.) And so, almost a decade ago, Brad Verhulst, a behavioral geneticist now at Virginia Commonwealth University, asked himself just that: Is the personality-politics link truly causal? A relationship between personality and political leanings is “a completely reasonable thing to expect,” he told me when we spoke recently. He wanted to use his knowledge as a geneticist to explore the causal linkage that he was certain would be there.

The short of it is that the behavioral genetics research - studies with twins vs. siblings - showed no causal linkages between political affiliation and personality. In one of the studies, twins and siblings were tested and then retested 10 years later.

... They found that personality did shift over time—not by huge amounts, but perceptibly. People could become more or less extroverted, more agreeable or conscientious, or any number of things. Political attitudes were slightly more stable, among both the adolescents and the adults: people who were conservative tended to stay conservative. And, most important, changes in personality did not predict changes in politics. “We conclude that both personality traits and political attitudes are independently part of one’s psychological architecture,” the authors write.

So why do we persist in believing that there are correlations, even causal linkages, between personality and politics? Even when what we desperately want to believe is not so.

... At least in the U.S., the party you believe in plays a big role in how you conceive of yourself. It feels good to think that your party is smarter, and that the smarts are what drive people to your party. It also feels good to say that the other guys are psychos. “ ‘It’s spurious, there’s no causal relationship,’ ” Verhulst says. “That could be pretty depressing for people who’ve invested a lot of time in this.” Here’s what won’t make a good headline: “Small and Spurious Correlation Shown to Have Been Backward, but It Doesn’t Matter That Much, Because the Point of the Paper Was That There Is No Underlying Causation After All.”

Social psychology touches on our most cherished beliefs about how the world should operate. We are more than happy to accept the counterintuitive—as long as it doesn’t conflict with our central notions of what ought to be. And, when it comes to politics, it can be awfully difficult to put your desires aside and to acknowledge that the world is a much messier place, where open-minded people might be conservative and liberals may well be conscientious. “People get passionate when they’re talking about these things,” Verhulst points out. “It would be nice if it was less passionate, but political values really do have a profound impact on our daily lives, as do the personality traits we have. They are fundamentally striking at what it means to be human.” And so levelheadedness remains difficult. Here’s a headline you’re not so likely to see: “Conservatives Are from Earth, Liberals Are from Earth, and Scientists Aren’t Really Sure About How They End Up That Way.”

Some interesting predictions about technological impacts happening now

This introduction is from Robert Goldman's Facebook page via Rye Bread's email.

In 1998, Kodak had 170,000 employees and sold 85% of all photo paper worldwide. Within just a few years, their business model disappeared and they went bankrupt. What happened to Kodak will happen in a lot of industries in the next 10 years - and most people won't see it coming. Did you think in 1998 that 3 years later you would never take pictures on film again?

Yet digital cameras were invented in 1975. The first ones only had 10,000 pixels, but followed Moore's law. So as with all exponential technologies, it was a disappointment for a long time, before it became way superior and got mainstream in only a few short years. It will now happen with Artificial Intelligence, health, autonomous and electric cars, education, 3D printing, agriculture and jobs. Welcome to the 4th Industrial Revolution. Welcome to the Exponential Age.

Software will disrupt most traditional industries in the next 5-10 years.

Uber is just a software tool, they don't own any cars, and are now the biggest taxi company in the world.

Airbnb is now the biggest hotel company in the world, although they don't own any properties.

Goldman covers lots of ground and his Facebook post is a good read. Consider using 3D printing to build a computer on wheels - the new truly "auto" mobile. Cheap self-driving cars, lots of them, means no longer a need for all the cars we now have on the roads. Why have your own car? You can call one up on your smart phone. We're almost there.

Somewhere along the line this was added to Goldman's original post. Looks like it might have come from khanacademy.org.

Every child can use Khan academy for everything a child learns at school in First World countries. We have already released our software in Indonesia and will release it in Arabic, Suaheli and Chinese this Summer, because I see an enormous potential. We will give the English app for free, so that children in Africa can become fluent in English within half a year.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Clinton's health: New right-wing conspiracy theory backfires

Donald Trump's ghost writer, Tony Schwartz, observed "Something I saw early on w/ Trump: most negative things he says about others are actually describing him. Read his tweets with that in mind."

We would do well to remember that in the face of the latest conspiracy theory touted by the right-wing, particularly (1) those accusations by Trump about Clinton's health (themselves based on flimsy evidence), and (2) the confusing and seemingly bogus attestation about Trump's own health.

I am only going to take on a small slice of this, because AZBlueMeanie has a complete chronology at Blog for Arizona this morning. I'm going to focus on the letter from Trump's doctor about his health - and on the doctor himself.

First, consider the news broken last week by Rachel Maddow, namely that Trump's doctor has been padding his resume (story in the Washington Examiner).

Donald Trump's long-time doctor, Harold N. Bornstein, has been calling himself a Fellow of the American College of Gastroenterology, but a new report late Thursday indicates Trump's physician has not been a member of that group for more than 20 years yet still uses the title.

MSNBC host Rachel Maddow stated the network received a tip from a viewer Wednesday that Bornstein's December letter regarding Trump's health had a flaw in it.

"The letters after the Trump doctor's name — there's his name. It says, M.D. for medical doctor and then it says, FACG, which stands for fellow of the American College of Gastroenterology," Maddow said.

"So we called them, and they said, 'yeah, that's right.' They said, quote, 'Dr. Bornstein joined the ACG in 1981. He was a fellow. When his membership lapsed in 1995.' He hasn't been affiliated with the ACG since that year. Given that, we asked if that means he should stop identifying himself the way he does, putting FACG after his name. They told us this: 'People who are no longer members of the organization would be expected to stop using FACG or any other reference to membership in the organization as they are no longer members.'"

So this guy is misrepresenting himself. In professional circles, it ranks right up there with plagiarism. The bottom line: Bornstein turned deadbeat on paying his dues to his own professional organization but continued to flash his now invalid credential anyway.

Even more damning are the observations by Kurt Eichenwald in Newsweek, Donald Trump tests positive for everything, according to his own doctor. (h/t Blue Meanie)

First, to counter everything Trump says about Clinton's health.

On July 28, 2015, the Clinton campaign released a typical medical letter from an internist, whom she has seen since 2001—Lisa Bardack, director of internal medicine, Mount Sinai Health System at CareMount Medical. The letter is a typical medical history, and begins with the usual summary of a full physical, calling her a “healthy 67-year-old female.” It lists medical issues and the findings of testing. The tests, it says, were negative, meaning they showed no problems. To use the medical terminology, it is an unremarkable document.

Later in 2015, the Trump campaign released a letter supposedly from Trump's physician.

On December 4, 2015, the Trump campaign released…something.

It purports to be a medical letter, but it is one of the most ridiculous documents ever to emerge in any political campaign. First, the letterhead is in the same font as the letter, which appears to have been created using Microsoft Word. The signature from the doctor is several inches past the signature line—the result you might get if the document had been signed as a blank and filled in later. The letterhead includes a Gmail address—something doctors tell me is extremely unusual, since doctors do not want patients contacting them directly by email as a substitute for scheduling an appointment.

There is also a website listed, but if you follow the URL (haroldbornsteinmd.com), sometimes it takes you to cdn.freefarcy.com, a blank page that asks if you want to upload an update to a Flash program onto your computer (the domain name, freefarcy.com, is still for sale. No, I can’t explain that.) If you decline, it does so anyway and, based on the response of the security system on my computer, the “program” on the doctor’s supposed website is a virus. (Other times it takes you to a generic medical website. No, I can't explain that either.)

We could stop right here and conclude that the letter is a complete fraud, either written by someone without much if any knowledge of medicine or by a medical professional who is incompetent and botched the fabrication.

Then, there is the doctor who allegedly signed this document. His name is Harold N. Bornstein, and he is a gastroenterologist. This kind of physician is a specialist who treats the digestive tract. This is not an internist, who is trained specifically in providing full histories and physicals of patients. The letter signed by Dr. Bornstein, who did not return an email from Newsweek seeking comment, says that he has treated Trump since 1980. However, it mentions no history of the gastrointestinal problem that led the Republican candidate for president to seek out his help. In fact, the letter says Trump has had no significant medical problems. So why has he been seeing a gastroenterologist for over 35 years?

Unlike the Clinton letter, it does not contain a full medical history for Trump. The letter also has problems with sentence structure and major typographical errors, such as the opening line, “To Whom My Concern.” Most amusing, it says that his medical examination of Trump has “only positive results.” In medical terms, if the test is positive, it confirms the existence of disease. Is this doctor saying Trump has every medical ailment that could be found in examination? Does he not know the meaning of the word? Or, as I suspect, was the letter written by someone in the Trump campaign?

Anyone reading the letter can make a good guess about who that person might be. It says results were “extraordinarily excellent.” (Not a medical term.) It says, “His physical strength and stamina are extraordinary.” (Again, not a medical term.) Then, in the most hilarious, Trump-esque line of all, it says, “If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest person ever elected to the presidency.” In other words, this letter purports to show that a doctor has assessed the health of 43 people he has never examined, including the four who are still alive.

Now, if conservative conspiracy theorists want to play a “the candidate could have health problems” game, let’s do that. The letter from the Trump campaign mentions nothing about family history, as any normal letter assessing someone’s medical condition would. (Clinton’s does.) Family history is critical in understanding possible diseases that may emerge, particularly those with a genetic link. Trump’s father, Fred Trump, died from complications of late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. That condition, which is the most common form of Alzheimer’s, emerges in people in their mid-60s or later. Trump is 70.

There is a genetic component to the disease. Risk increases when a person has a particular type of apolipoprotein E (APOE) gene on the 19th chromosome. The type of APOE gene a person has is testable. Has Dr. Bornstein, the gastroenterologist, tested for it? If not, why not? Is that why Trump has avoided seeing an internist, since they would conduct such a test? Such a test might reveal that Trump is unfit for office since dementia, unlike epilepsy, could damage a president’s ability to think coherently.

Moreover, people have been suggesting that they may have seen symptoms of Alzheimer’s in Trump’s behavior. Yes, I am using Trump argument style of “people say,” but I’m going to help you identify the people. Type “Trump and Alzheimer’s” into Google and lots of articles and online comments pop up pointing out behaviors of Trump’s that are consistent with Alzheimer’s: meandering speech, poor self-control, not properly responding to questions that are asked, erratic behavior.

See? I can generate conspiracy theories too. Please understand, I’m not saying Trump has Alzheimer’s. I’m just showing how easy it is to take a few facts and line them up to play the “I’m only asking questions” game. So if conservatives want to keep pushing their “Clinton’s health” conspiracy theory, even though they have a full assessment of her medical status from her doctor, then I’m going to keep demanding that Trump release a letter from a real internist that has real medical tests and results for Alzheimer’s. I’m not going to let kids with epilepsy be told they can’t be president of the United States or anything else they want simply so a bunch of liars can score political points. The case that there may be medical problems with Trump, given the nonsense of his medical letter and his poor family history, is much stronger than that against Clinton. It’s time for Trump and the conservative media to drop this line of attack, one that harms innocent people. Or get ready to answer questions that “people are asking” about what horrible things Trump is hiding about his health.

Let's push the latter questions, and along the way, note that this is classic Trump - more bluster and bullshit and manufacturing "facts." Now we need to see if the new campaign manager, KelleyAnne Conway, will seek the Way of the Con.