Saturday, March 5, 2016

No, Donald, you can't just "un-say" things

Donald Trump, now that he seems more and more the inevitable Republican nominee, is trying to do what I predicted:   pivot to a more mainstream position.   What I didn't predict is that he now wants everyone to just pretend he didn't say all those awful things.

He's also hinting that some of those extreme positions, such as deporting immigrants and making Mexico pay for his "great, big, beautiful wall" were just opening bids in a negotiation.

Actually, I think he's wanting to be taken as a serious candidate now.

Sorry, Donald, that's not the way it works.   In real life, as opposed to tv reality shows, you can't just un-say thingsThere are consequences.   Adults understand this.

Another thing, in case no one has told you this.   The president can't fire Congress . . . or the Supreme Court either.

Grow up, dude.


What to do about The Donald?

The Republican Party has collectively created a monster -- and now they don't know what to do to get rid of it.  Years of pandering to the baser emotions of fear and prejudice in their base voters, and creating expectations that they could not fulfil, is what led to this point.

Now, the base has turned against their own party leaders in feeling angry and betrayed.   Donald Trump is the one they are turning to to give them what they want:   a strong man who promises to "make America great again."   His success in the business world makes them think he can do the same for the country.

The problem, as pointed out by the Fox News moderators and by Marco Rubio in Thursday night's debate, is that Trump's promises are also empty.   He either has no intention of sticking to them (he's now hinting that some are "negotiating bids") or else they are based on false assumptions and errors in fact.

One example, as pointed out by moderator Chris Wallace, is Trump's claim that he will save $300 billion in Medicare prescription drug costs by negotiating with drug companies.   He came armed with facts on a slide:   Medicare only spends $78 billion on its drug program.   So there's no way to save $300 billion, nearly four times what they actually spend.

Marco Rubio and moderator Megyn Kelly together -- he with anecdotal stories from victims and she with cold facts -- put Trump on the spot about the con game he ran with his Trump University.   First of all, it had no credentials as a university and later had to change the name after this was challenged.   Second, the class action law suit in court now, brought by 5,000 former students who claim they were victims of fraud, is far from the "simple civil case" that he could easily settle, as he claims.  In an appeals court ruling that went against Trump in a related case, the judge stated that Trump's university scheme bore resemblance to the fraudulent scheme for which Bernie Madoff was convicted and is spending time in jail.

But do Trump's base voters care?  To many of them, this is more evidence of the establishment trying to defeat him because he is challenging them.    I'm not sure that's true for others though.   Some of his evangelical base will be turned off by his dishonesty.   His blue collar worker base may be turned off by his defrauding the "little guys" who wanted to learn his secrets of success in Trump U.   And things like learning that his Trump clothing line is made overseas, and that he hires foreign workers for his exclusive resort, may also make him seem like a hypocrit.

Numerically, at this point, the only hope to keep him from being the Republican nominee is for the combination of Kasich, Rubio, and Cruz to stay in the race, holding on to their smaller but collective delegates until the convention -- and thus denying him a majority.   And then fighting it out and emerging from the convention with another candidate.

At this point, it should be Kasich, based on his adult performance in the debate and his experience in government.   Let's see how he does in next Tuesday's Michigan primary and then in his own Ohio primary a week later.

In my opinion, going after Trump with the facts about his past dealings, as Wallace and Kelly did (that's right -- Fox News hosts)is the way to try to stop him -- not with crude jokes about the size of body parts.   That only diminished Rubio for descending to Trump's level.   It didn't hurt Trump.   But maybe the facts might.


Friday, March 4, 2016

Romney on Trump: "His promises are worthless."

Mitt Romney got the political world's attention for a few minutes Thursday morning when he gave what he had announced would be a "major speech" on the state of the 2016 canpaign.   It was, in fact, an attempt to stop Donald Trump. 
"Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud. . . .  His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University. He's playing the American public for suckers: He gets a free ride to the White House, and all we get is a lousy hat."

Romney added that Trump's "domestic policies would lead to recession. His foreign policies would make America and the world less safe. He has neither the temperament nor the judgment to be president. And his personal qualities would mean that America would cease to be a shining city on a hill." 

The question is whether this attack from Romney will hurt Trump -- or even help him solidify his support from the growing crowd of people who are as angry at the Republican establishment as they are at the Democrats.   Romney is certainly one of that group who has failed to do what the Trump backers want:  "Take back our country and make it great again."   Romney had his chance and failed.   So who is he to criticize Trump? [Other than the fact that he is right, of course, in what he says about Trump.]


Another huge mistake in GA legislature

My disagreements with the direction of the Georgia legislature and the governor are legion.   Among the worst, and the ones I care most about, are the misnamed religious freedom bill, the open gun carry on college campuses, and the refusal to expand Medicaid using federal funds.   The excuse that we can't afford to expand Medicaid is the most egregious and hypocritical.

The facts have been pointed out again and again (billions of federal dollars coming into the state, 70,000 new jobs, health care for 400,000, saving rural hospitals that are closing, etc.) -- and the facts just don't make a dent in the Republicans' stubborn refusal to accept anything Obama.

But now they are about to pour salt into that wound.   Holding tight to their mantra that the state simply cannot afford the small cost to the state for such huge benefits, they are now on the verge of passing a cut in state taxes that is "roughly equivalent to that needed to fund Medicaid expansion, according to AJC columnist Jay Booker.

"We don't have enough money to improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of our own peoplewe do have enough money to finance a tax cut that will largely benefit wealthier Georgians. . . ."

Bookman then explains that the tax cut is set up to happen automatically, based on how the economy is doing;  but it also means that, because it's set up as a constitutional amendment, it would continue in effect unless another constitutional amendment is passed.

"SR 756 must now go to the House, where it must receive a two-thirds vote to pass.  If that happens, it will appear on the ballot in November [as a constitutional amendment, it will require only a simply majority from the voters].  Its proponents are counting on voters not comprehending its real impact, and based on what we're seeing in the larger political sphere these days, that expectation is probably valid," Bookman writes.

This is reprehensible.  It's all part of a larger plan to shift state revenue sources from income tax to sales taxes, which puts the burden on lower income people who spend a larger portion of their smaller incomes on necessities.   Once again, it's government by the special interests, for the benefit of the wealthy.


Thursday, March 3, 2016

Grassley: They're "politicizing" our politicizing

Yesterday, I suggested that the Republican presidential campaign has taken us "through the looking glass" into Alice in Wonderland territory.    I should have saved that label for this:

Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA) is now blaming the Democrats for politicizing the Republicans' refusal to hold hearings on an Obama nominee to replace Justice Scalia

Excuse me ?!!    Republicans are suspending the Constitution for political purposes . . . and yet it's the Democrats who are playing politics by calling them on it?

Surely, we have fallen down the rabbit hole, where up is down and down is up.  Black is white, and the White Rabbit in the top hat and bow tie just wrinkled his nose and sipped his tea.


Why Bernie Sanders "won" Super Tuesday

Cenk Uygur is host of the The Young Turks, a progressive internet news show.   He is a graduate of the Wharton School of Business and the Columbia University Law School and appears often on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and other network news shows.   It's not surprising that he sounds like a Bernie Sanders supporter.

Granting that is his standing, I was still a little surprised at what a positive Bernie spin he put on the Super Tuesday Democratic primary results.   Here's what he wrote
*   *   *
"Why Bernie Sanders Won Super Tuesday"

                                                                 photo by Associated Press
"Bernie won Super Tuesday! Let me explain why.

"Going into tonight it was unclear what was going to happen because the polling was so shoddy in some states, especially Colorado and Minnesota. Those two states are so important because of what they mean for the future.

"It turns out that Hillary Clinton won all of the states she was supposed to win -- and a narrow victory in Massachusetts (remember she won Mass. by 15 points against Obama and still lost the primary in 2008). But Bernie Sanders had resounding wins in CO & MN. Those two states are much more indicative of the states that are coming in the rest of the primary schedule.

"All of these Southern states were Hillary Clinton's best states (by the way, also irrelevant places to have strength in for the general election). She's used up most of her ammo and doesn't even know what kind of trouble she's in. Right before the voting, she pivoted toward the right again in anticipation of the general election. Big mistake. She can't help herself; she lives and breaths arrogance. 

"Tonight could have been the knock out punch if Clinton had won CO and MN. But she didn't! She lost them big. Now, [Sanders] has a $40 million war chest and favorable map in front of him. Feel the Bern!

"Time is on Bernie's side. The more he runs, the more people find out about him. Everyone already knows Clinton. She's gaining no new voters. Every day he gains ground. So, now he lives to fight many other days. She is in a race against time and she didn't close the door tonight. . . .

"March 8th is huge because whoever wins Michigan has momentum going into March 15th -- the real Super Tuesday (FL, OH, IL, NC and MO). That's Colossal Tuesday. And maybe the Ides of March for Hillary Clinton."
*   *   *
That's the optimistic spin for Sanders.   Meanwhile, Hillary is pivoting toward taking on Trump . . . and measuring for the drapes in her old bedroom at the White House.   Uyger has some good points.   Best not to give up yet.

Besides, take a look at the pledged delegate count:   Clinton 487, Sanders 321.   Of course, she also has a lot of super delegates supporting her, but they can change that support as some did in 2008.   So it's not yet quite the landslide, insurmountable lead the Clinton camp wants to claim.


Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Is Mitt Romney going to run? Carson out.

Mitt Romney has scheduled "a major speech" on the presidential race on Thursday at 11:30 am.  This has sparked a buzz of speculation that he's going to announce that he's jumping into the race himself.

Meanwhile, Ben Carson has not exactly "suspended" his campaign, but he has said that he does not "see a political path forward."    And he will not participate in the debate on Thursday night. 

I think we've gone "through the looking glass," as things get "curiouser and curiouser."

Super Tuesday wins for Clinton, Trump

It was a big night for Hillary Clinton and for Donald Trump, both winning lots of states and delegates.    Bernie Sanders won four states:  Vermont, Oklahoma, Colorado, and Minnesota.  He lost Massachusetts by only 2% points -- actually not a bad night for him, although not enough to threaten Hillary.  Ted Cruz did enough to stay in the race, winning Texas and Oklahoma.   Kasich surprised everyone by his strong second place in Vermont.   He will stay in through Ohio, but has said he will drop out if he fails to win his home state, Ohio where he is currently governor.

All in all, Rubio probably had the worst night, vis a vis expectations, coming in third in most states except for his win in Minnesota and strong second place in Virginia.   He needed to do better than that.   His home state of Florida is now absolutely crucial for him to win on March 15, and as of now he's behind Trump in the polls.

The bottom line, however, is that nobody is likely to be dropping out after the Super Tuesday showing.   Only Carson failed to win something.  Carson is a sort of special case.   He also has a loyal following that keeps him going, seemingly unconnected to his chances of winning.   He apparently makes a lot of book appearances and book sales to keep people inspired and supporting


GA legislature flirting with disaster in so-called religious freedom bill

The Georgia Senate has passed a so-called religious liberty bill that started out as a simple bill to protect religious clergy from having to perform weddings for same-sex couples.  It is completely unnecessary, as described below;  but it at least did not do any harm, since it only codified what is already the law from the SCOTUS decision of marriage equality.

But that wasn't enough for the anti-gay senators.   They added language that made it perfectly legal for businesses to refuse their services based on anything that they felt violated the owner's particular religious beliefs.   Further, they made it so that the state could not take the offending business to court for discrimination.

The House has not yet taken up the Senate bill, and there's still hope that wiser political heads will keep it from passing, as they did a similar bill last year.  Here is a letter I sent to the editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on the subject.   I'm waiting to hear whether they will publish it. 

Letter to the Editor
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
March 1, 2016

RE:   Letter "Legislation would protect pastors"

    A March 1 lette
r writer mistakenly believes that the "religious freedom bill" is needed to protect pastors from being forced to perform same-sex weddings.   Nothing could be further from the truth.

    The Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage in all states specifically upholds the First Amendment rights of religious organizations and individuals to follow their beliefs about marriage (see Obergefell v. Hodges, section IV).   No religious clergy will be forced to perform wedding ceremonies that conflict with their faith.

    The court opinion also states that it concerns only civil marriage, not religious marriage.   Therefore, the so-called religious freedom bill is completely unnecessary for that purpose and can only be seen as an attempt to arouse public concern about pastors' freedom as a cover for legalizing discriminatory practices in the business community.

    Let's be clear.   It is not the business community that wants this bill, as their massive lobbying efforts have made clear.

Ralph Roughton

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The flip side of rats jumping off a sinking ship . . . look who's endorsing Trump

Yes, rats jump off a sinking ship, they say.   But it looks here like the political low-lifes are rushing to jump ON what they think will be the winning ship:   Donald Trump for president.

He has been endorsed by:   Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), former Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK), Gov. Paul LePage (R-ME), former Gov. Jan Brewer (R-AZ), Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), and former Grand Dragon of the KKK and one-time presidential candidate David Duke, plus a slew of white supremacy groups.

Know who these people are?

Chris Christie has a long list of shady deals as governor of New Jersey:  (1)  When he became governor, he cancelled construction on a long overdue, much needed tunnel into Manhattan and diverted the money to fill holes in his budget due to his ballyhooed tax cuts and make him look fiscally responsible.  (2) During his years as governor, the state's credit rating has been lowered eight times.  (3)  There was some shifty thing about funding for the state pension plan being diverted for other uses.  (4)  The whole Bridgegate/Port Authority corruption that his closest aides carried out that no one thinks he was innocent in.  (5)  He sold out NJ taxpayers' interests when he made a deal with Exxon to settle for peanuts against the $8.9 billion dollars that it actually will cost to clean up the toxic waste damage caused by Exxon.   Someone who can pull off these deals is not going to give away a shockingly improbable endorsement for nothing.   Endorsing Trump, just weeks after he is on film saying Trump is not qualified to be president, is making Christie look like a fool -- and therefore has to be worth a lot.   So you can bet these two deal-makers struck a deal that gave Christie what he wanted -- most likely Attorney General.

Sarah Palin has become a caricature of herself and, if possible, seems even loonier than when she was a VP candidate.   Even Fox News parted ways with her as a commentator.   Two comments dominated news of her endorsement speech:  (1) its incoherence;  some called it a word salad.  (2) her attention-grabbing jacket, which looked like "a disco porcupine."   She gets news attention now from things like her family being involved in a drunken brawl at a party they crashed and daughter Bristol, who once had a job preaching against unwed teen pregnancy, now pregnant herself for the second time from a second man she is not married to.

Paul LePage is the irrascible, outrageous, current Republican governor of Maine.   He makes headlines for things like racist slurs (claiming drug dealers come into Maine to get their white girls pregnant), encouraging people to shoot drug dealers, suggesting they should bring back the guillotine, making sexist remarks like saying women can't be trusted with money, and wanting to publish names and addresses of people on welfare.  Lawmakers are trying to impeach him for abuse of power for threatening to withhold funds from a school to influence their choice of superintendent.    Just one week before he endorsed Trump, LePage told fellow Republican governors that Trump's nomination would harm the party and that they should distance themselves from himThen one week later, he reversed himself, telling a radio host:  "I was Donald Trump before Donald Trump became popular, so I think I should support him since we're one of the same cloth."

Jan Brewer was Republican governor of Arizona from 2009 to 2015.   She gained notoriety when she signed a very repressive anti-immigrant law that made it a crime to be in Arizona without carrying registration documents.  It also authorized strong measures against hiring, sheltering, or transporting illegal aliens.   Brewer believed in strict enforcement of borders, including the building of a fence;  and she diverted federal money intended for education to border securityShe made national news from her meeting with President Obama where a press photograph showed her shaking her finger in his face.  The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington named Brewer as one of the Worst Governors in America.    

Jefferson Beauregard Sessions has been a federal prosecutor and Attorney General of Alabama.   He has been in the U.S. Senate for 20 years, ranked by the National Journal as the fifth most conservative senator and voting reliably to block any Obama legislation and both of his Supreme Court nominees.  He is especially supportive of Trump's remarks on immigration.  Of course, he was one of the first to proclaim that Obama should not nominate a replacement for Justice Scalia but "let the American people speak" in the November election.    Ronald Reagan nominated him for a U.S. District Court, but he was not confirmed, probably due to his blatant racist attitudes.    Several Justice Department lawyers testified that he had called the NAACP and the ACLU "un-American" and "Communist-inspired" organizations that "forced civil rights down the throats of people."  He admitted in the hearing that he may have said that, but that "I am often loose with my tongue . . . but I meant no harm by it."    The committee voted 10-8 against the nomination.   Sessions is now on the Judiciary Committee that rejected his nomination 28 years ago.

David Duke is the best known white nationalist, antisemitic, conspiracy theorist.  He was once Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.   He has run unsuccessfully for governor of Louisiana, and for senator and president of the U.S.   He is also a felon, having pleaded guilty to defrauding supporters in fund raising.     After initial reports of his endorsing Trump, he later clarified his remark, saying that, although Trump is the best of the candidates, Trump's support for Israel is a deal-breaker for him.    Nevetheless, he did tell his radio listeners that voting for anyone besides Donald Trump "is really treason to your heritage." 

So this is the crop of Trump endorsers who have made the news so far.  Of course there will be others and maybe some of them will be, shall we say, somewhat more admirable.