Saturday, March 12, 2016

Carson endorses the Trump he knows in private . . . but not the "public Trump."

Former candidate for the Republican nomination Ben Carson has endorsed Donald Trump.   Or rather, he says he is endorsing one of "two different Donald Trumps."   He explained that there is the public Trump and a private "very cerebral" version, and it's the latter that he is endorsing.

The problem with that, Dr. Carson, is that both Trumps would occupy the Oval Office and be the Commander-in-Chief.   How would we know which one is going to show up?

That's like saying that you endorse Dr. Jekyll and we can just forget about Mr. Hyde, now that he helped get Dr. Jekyll elected.   But character pathology is not like a brain tumor you can just cut out, Dr. Carson.  Mr. Hyde would still exist and live inside the would-be president of the United States . . . in the Oval Office.


More violence at a Trump rally

At a Trump rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina on Wednesday, video footage shows a young black man being led out of the rally by men in uniforms that read "Sheriff's Office."   He was being led peacefully up the aisle when a white man in a cowboy hat walked half a row over to the aisle and suddenly punched him in the nose.   The officers wrestled the black man to the ground and then escorted him out, while telling the white man to sit down.  Some said that just before the attack, the black man had waved his middle fingers at the crowd.

The white man, identified as 78 year old John McGraw, was later charged with assault and battery.   Asked by media why he punched the man, McGraw said: "Number one, we don’t know if he’s ISIS. . . .  We don’t know who he is, but we know he’s not acting like an American. . .  The next time we see him, we might have to kill him." 

Think about it for a minute.   A young black man is peaceably being walked toward the exit, surrounded by security guards.   So why did McGraw feel he had to go out of his way to handle the situation?   His explanation is as absurd as Donald Trump himself.

Does Trump bear some responsibility for what increasingly has become violence as the norm at his rallies?   Protestors have been kicked, beaten, choked, and shoved to the ground by other attendees and by guards.  Instead of trying to calm them or denounce violence, Trump encourages them, yelling repeatedly into the mic things like, "Throw him out of here."  Trump once commented to the crowd about a protester that "I'd like to punch him in the face myself."   Another time, he called some of the crowd up to the stage to praise them for beating up a high school kid.  His campaign manager grabbed a reporter by the arm and pulled her away from asking Trump a question about affirmative action.  He used such force that she was left with bruises on her arm, pictures of which she later tweeted.   She is suing.  The Trump campaign now says she made it up, that it didn't happen;  but a fellow reporter from another news source, who knew the campaign manager by name, was a witness and wrote about the incident.   They not only promote violence but then lie about being part of it.  And Trump tries to blame it all on the protesters, even when they are being peaceful.

Does that answer the question?


PS:   After I had written this, news came in on Friday night that a Trump rally at the University of Illinois at Chicago had been postponed because of safety risks for the large numbers of protesters and Trump supporters that were already gathered for the rally.   The crowd was getting out of hand, pushing and shoving was going on, even before the rally began.   This is what Trump has created and refuses to take responsibility for.   Will he see now what he is fostering?   His continuing to claim that he is the one who "unites" people is a bit absurd.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Sanders tells the truth about the U.S.'s sordid past; Clinton smears him to cover up the truth

I'm guessing that many viewers of the Democratic debate Wednesday night didn't know much about our sordid U.S. history of intervention in other countries' governments that Sanders and Clinton argued about.   A lot of it was unfamiliar to me too -- because our official history spins the facts to make us look like the good guys.  Charles Pierce on his blog for Esquire filled in some gaps.   It's worth reading.

"Well, at least I lived long enough to hear a presidential candidate from one of the major parties refer to 'the so-called Monroe Doctrine.'  It came during the most interesting passage in the debate Wednesday night between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Rodham Clinton. Sanders was asked if he regretted having once supported the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua and having once paid some compliments to the Castro regime in Cuba. 
SANDERS:  Well, let me just answer that. What that was about was saying that the United States was wrong to try to invade Cuba, that the United States was wrong trying to support people to overthrow the Nicaraguan government, that the United States was wrong trying to overthrow in 1954, the . . . democratically elected government of Guatemala.

Throughout the history of our relationship with Latin America we've operated under the so-called Monroe Doctrine, and that said the United States had the right to do anything that they wanted to do in Latin America. So I actually went to Nicaragua and I very shortly opposed the Reagan administration's efforts to overthrow that government. And I strongly opposed earlier Henry Kissinger and the—to overthrow the government of Salvador Allende in Chile. I think the United States should be working with governments around the world, not get involved in regime change. And all of these actions, by the way, in Latin America, brought forth a lot of very strong anti-American sentiments. That's what that was about.
"A few minutes later, as an addendum to an answer about her solution to Puerto Rico's crippling economic crisis, HRC pounced and pandered.
CLINTON:  And I just want to add one thing to the question you were asking Senator Sanders. I think in that same interview, he praised what he called the revolution of values in Cuba and talked about how people were working for the common good, not for themselves. I just couldn't disagree more. You know, if the values are that you oppress people, you disappear people, you imprison people or even kill people for expressing their opinions, for expressing freedom of speech, that is not the kind of revolution of values that I ever want to see anywhere.
[Back to Pierce:]  "OK, I wanted to yell, 'What about the Saudis/Chinese?' at my TV, too, and it did occur to me that HRC might want to ask her lunch buddy Henry Kissinger about his human-rights record some time. But what most struck me is the depth of the denial still about the profound costs of U.S. intervention in the affairs of our closest neighbors, and our easiest proxies, in the various Great Games. The Monroe Doctrine might have made sense when England, France, Spain, and even Portugal still had imperial ambitions. But that was a very limited space in time. By the mid-1800's, the Monroe Doctrine, and the philosophy behind it, was an excuse for land-grabbing."

Then Pierce quotes Abraham Lincoln having said:  "Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up, and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better. This is a most valuable—a most sacred right—a right, which we hope and believe, is to liberate the world."
*     *     *
There is more, but this is the gist.   Sanders is being honest about what we have done in our own hemisphere to interfere with other governments -- not just Cuba, but Guatemala, Nicaragua, Chile, and others.   Pierce again:  "[W]e backed dictator after dictator, oligarch after oligarch. We armed terrorists. We financed coups. We allowed bombings and drug smuggling. We sold missiles to the mullahs in order to finance our terrorists. Somoza. Pincochet. Batista. Rios-Montt. To paraphrase John Quincy Adams, we did not go far abroad to find monsters to support."

But, rather than join Sanders in admitting to our shameful past in front of an audience made up largely of Hispanics with ties to some of those countries, Clinton leaped at the opportunity to try to smear Sanders with what the Republicans would do if he is nominated -- attack him for being a leftist -- rather than agree with him that the United States has done harm, as well as good, in the world.

I admired Sanders for his honesty.   I agree with him on his sympathies.    And I lost another measure of respect for Hillary Clinton for taking a cheap shot of political pandering.


Thursday, March 10, 2016

Rubio: conservative in politics, moderate in temperament, optimistic in outlook

I just watched an hour-long town hall meeting with Marco Rubio, moderated by Chuck Todd on MSNBC.   Aside from disagreeing with Rubio on almost every policy issue, because he is very conservative, I found myself admiring his ability to concisely artticulate his clearly thought-out positions on issue after issue.   He was very impressive, even when you don't agree with his conclusions.   I couldn't help thinking that he should not be the one who is losing so badly, while Ted Cruz is sailing along as "the only one that can defeat Donald Trump."

Matt Lewis, a senior contributor to The Daily Caller and author of the book, Too Dumb To Fail, wrote an interesting piece last week in which he contrasted Marco Rubio's political talent and his paradoxical inability to win the Republican primary.

". . . I have long believed that Rubio is a once-in-a-generation political talent who could sell conservative philosophy to 21st-century Americans who don’t know they’re conservative yet.  He has all the ingredients that could make him a transformational political leader, in the vein of a Ronald Reagan or a John F. Kennedy. If only he could win the primary.

"He hasn’t been in Washington forever . . . and a close look at his voting record clearly demonstrates that he’s a bona fide conservative. Rubio’s ability to deliver an eloquent speech is unrivaled, and his personal biography as the son of an immigrant is an inspirational testimony about the American Dream.

"The problem, it seems, is that almost all of the attributes that might make Rubio a great conservative president don’t really help him win a Republican primary. Part of the reason Rubio could be a great conservative president is that his politics are conservative, but his temperamentalfeelis more moderate. He is optimistic in a party (and during an era) when indignation is more in vogue."
*   *   *
I wouldn't go as far as Lewis in seeing him as "a transformational political leader," but he is right in pointing out Rubio's combination of conservative politics with a more moderate feel.    Certainly, if you contrast him with Ted Cruz.   Cruz is even more conservative in his politics -- but they are miles apart in the feelings that they represent and foster.    I read somewhere a description of Cruz's manner as "smarmy and oleagenous."    Right on !! 

Rubio conveys optimism about the future, if only we adopt the right policies.   Cruz conveys doom and disaster unless we listen to God and elect his chosen Cruz to be our savior.

The choice for Republicans seems obvious:   they should choose Rubio.   But has anything else in this Republican primary gone the way it should?


Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Trump, Clinton, and Sanders win primaries

On the Republican side, the big news is that Marco Rubio had another terrible, awful, not so very good night.   He came in a distant fourth in both Mississippi and Michigan, both of which Donald Trump won, by 11 and 12%.   Cruz finished a strong second in Mississippi;  and, as of 11 pm, it was still too close to call second in Michigan between Kasich and Cruz.   The only question for Rubio seems to be whether to stay in the race and risk being defeated in his own state of Florida next week..

Honestly, I don't know why Rubio has done so poorly -- and getting much worse in the last two weeks.   Was it sinking to the Trump level of insults in the last debate?   Or is it the mantra of being identified as the establishment candidate when much of the voters' anger is anti-establishment -- at least on the Republican side?   And, incidentally, the attacks on Trump by Rubio in the debate, and by the SuperPacs in tv ads, don't seem to have hurt Trump.    In fact, you could argue that it's actually hurt Rubio. 

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton had a blowout win in Mississippi, with 83% of the vote.   But it was a different story in Michigan.   Clinton was ahead 20+% in the polls, and Nate Silver gave her a 99% chance of winning.   But Sanders won a stunning upset.  He was ahead all evening by 4 to 5% -- until past 11pm when the African-American Detroit vote began to come in.   For a while, it looked like she might catch up, but with 94% of the vote in, MSNBC was able to call it a Sanders win by 2%.   Proportional division of delegates means they will get almost the same number.

But Sanders will get the momentum by coming from way behind to win against expectations.    Clinton's lead had her campaign hoping that a decisive win in Michigan would effectively end the contest, so she could turn her attention to the general election.   Instead, she's now got to worry about continuing to defeat Sanders.

His strength in Michigan comes in large part from his stronger position in opposing the big trade deals (NAFTA, TPP) and the economic inequality message.    This also bodes well for him in other big industrial states of Ohio and Pennsylvania and, later, Wisconsin.


Late addition:   Cruz won the Idaho caucuses.   Hawaii results not yet available was won by Trump.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Trump is treading far too close to fascism

I'm writing this Tuesday evening as we're waiting for the results of today's primaries that may clarify whether last week's less-than-expected support for Donald Trump was a passing thing - or whether it is weakening as the reality of the darker side of his appeal is sinking in.

Of course, my support is for either Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton in the general election.   But I have said in the past that, if it came to it, I would choose Trump over Ted Cruz.   My reasoning was based on assuming that Trump does not really believe a lot of what he says and that he would be open to compromise and deal-making, whereas Cruz is utterly committed to a hard-nosed, ultra-conservative, mean-spirited idealogy and zealotry.

That was before Trump began to channel Mussolini and Hitler as he has done recently, encouraging nativistic nationalism, violence, and white supremacy in his supporters and at his rallies.  The final straw is this new thing he does at rallies of having people raise their hands in a pledge to vote for him.   It looks way too much like the Nazi's "Heil, Hitler" salute.  Add to that the thuggish manhandling of protesters and throwing people out of his rallies. There's just too much resemblance to the early days of European fascism for me to continue to entertain the idea of a President Trump.

At the beginning, it was fun -- being outraged and amused by things he said.   But it no longer feels like a reality show or a game.   It has become far too serious now and must be taken as a serious threat to our democracy.

What we're seeing now is the emergence at his rallies, and Trump's encouragement, of white supremacists, racists, and others who really want a fascist dictator.    Trump may not himself believe he is encouraging a fascistic movement, but he is urging it on by his actions.

So I am now completely against taking any chances that Donald Trump could become president.   That doesn't make me like Ted Cruz any more.   And I still think we will end up with a Democratic president.    But I'm done with laughing or scoffing at TrumpI am now 100% opposed.

Let's see what happens in Michigan, Mississippi, Idaho, and Hawaii.


The Supreme women: Kagan, Sotomayor, and RBG

Huffington Post legal affairs reporter, Christian Farias, wrote:
"For the first time in history, the U.S. Supreme Court heard a major abortion rights case with three women on the bench."
                                        Photo by Allison Shelley/Getty Images

The case is a challenge to the Texas law requiring abortion clinics to be outfitted like hospital surgical facilities and for the doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles.  These regulations would force the closing of all but 10 clinics in the entire state of Texas,  restricting access for millions of women.

Farias wrote:  "Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan all played an outsized role in the hearing . . . . But it was Ginsburg, the court's matriarch, who seemed the most invested in the nearly 85-minute session on Wednesday. She asked the first and last questions of both sides . . . but saved her most pointed darts by far for the Lone Star state's Solicitor Scott Keller

"'As I understand it, . . . .  [an early­-stage abortion] is among the most safe, the least-risk procedures. . . .  So what was . . . the problem that the legislature was responding to that it needed to improve the facilities for women's health?'"

Keller had no better answer than that the lawmakers "acted to improve abortion safety," which he defended as a legitimate interest allowed under the Constitution.

"Ginsburg and her female colleagues were far from convinced. When Keller pointed to the biggest, most populous cities in the great state of Texas -- where clinics are complying with the law -- as proof that the procedure would remain available elsewhere if the court upheld the law, Ginsburg took him to task for what is likely the state's weakest argument.

"Well, how many women are located over 100 miles from the nearest clinic?" she asked.

"That's when the slow and painful unraveling of Keller began. He conceded that '25 percent' of women -- by which he meant roughly 1.5 million -- do. To him that was no harm . . . . He reasoned that some women could always go to nearby New Mexico, which doesn't have the same restrictions on abortion clinics as Texas.

"'That's odd that you point to the New Mexico facility,' Ginsburg shot back.  'If your argument is right, then New Mexico is not an available way out for Texas, because Texas says to protect our women, we need these things.'  Instead, she said, the state proposed to 'send them off' to New Mexico, whose clinics are not subject to any of Texas' health-conscious regulations.'

"Ginsburg has a big stake in this fight. . . .  Her younger companions on the bench echoed some of these sentiments. . . .  'What's the need' for the law, Sotomayor wondered, that 'the slightest health improvement is enough to impose on hundreds of thousands of women' . . . the burden of traveling hundreds of miles to reach an abortion provider. Kagan piled on with facts and figures on how Texas women today are farther from a clinic than they were prior to H.B.2's passage."
*   *   *
A day later, in a related article, also by Christian Farias, news was reported that the Supreme Court had blocked a similar Lousiana law from going into effect while the appeal is pursued through the court.   The law would result in the closing of all but one of Lousiana's abortion facilities.

A decision on the Texas case is not expected before June;   but, in blocking a similar Louisiana case from going into effect, the Court may be signalling the fate of the Texas case.  After all, according to usual procedure, they would have just taken their preliminary vote on the Texas case, in the process of deciding who writes the majority opinion.   If, immediately following that, they voted to halt the almost identical Louisiana law from going into effect pending appeal, there's good reason to think it reflects their thinking on Texas.

With Justice Scalia's death, a 4 to 4 tie vote would leave in place both the Texas and the Louisiana laws, since that was the decision of the lower court from which they were appealedIn both cases, SCOTUS overturning these laws would require a 5 to 3 decision -- with Kennedy, most likely, joining these three women and Justice Breyer.    Blocking the Louisiana law from going into effect pending appeal just might be the signal that is what will happen.


Monday, March 7, 2016

Voters fed up with the GOP name-calling?

Here's some evidence suggesting that the Thursday night debate name-calling squabbles between Donald Trump and Marco Rubio hurt them both, and that Ted Cruz was the beneficiary, at least in the Louisiana primary, where we have this before/after data.

Chart from Aaron Bycoffe, reproduced along with data below from @NateSilver538.  Numbers are not polls but actual votes that were cast in early voting, compared with votes that were cast on election day, which came two days after the debate.   The two sets of votes were, of course, combined for the actual final count.

Early vote          Candidate        Election Day

    46.7%                 Trump                41.4%
    22.9%                   Cruz                   37.8%    
    20.1%                  Rubio                   11.2%
       3.7%                 Kasich                   6.4%

The drop in Rubio's vote was far greater than Trump's, suggesting that Rubio voters didn't like Rubio descending to Trump's level of name-calling and talking over his opponent;  but that Trump's core supporters don't mind his doing it.  The surge in Cruz's votes from before to after debate voters is striking (+15%).   Or, if you want to look at it in terms of percent increase, Kasich's increase was actually a higher percent increase than Cruz's (73% vs 65).

In terms of significance going forward, combining Cruz's surge to a strong second place finish in Louisiana with his blow-out wins in Kansas and Maine and his close second in Kentucky, it was a terrific day for Ted Cruz, with Rubio the big loser.   What does this do to the #NeverTrump movement?    Obviously, Rubio is not the answer.  And the consensus had been that Trump would be preferable to Cruz.   But that was before we knew as much as we now do about Trump's shady business dealings.

Another factor to consider is that Cruz is not favored by the election calendar coming up (Michigan, Ohio, Florida) where "very conservatives" are less a factor.  But then how do you explain Cruz's success in Maine?    If Kasich does well in Michigan and wins his home state Ohio, then it may become a three-way race between Trump, Cruz, and Kasich.   Rubio will probably stay in through Florida anyway.   And what if Rubio pulls out a win there, with a winner-take-all-delegates in the biggest swing state?   The problem is that Rubio is behind in the Florida polls, and his bad day on Saturday won't help.

I also think that the sharp, fact-based confrontations of Trump by the debate moderators, Chris Wallace and Megyn Kelly, must have had some negative effect on Trump's numbers.  The biggest numerical factor in the data above, however, is less a decline in Trump's numbers but a shift of voters from Rubio to Cruz, with a few going to Kasich

Aside from the momentous meaning of the outcome in November (see ShrinkRap, Mar 4, "A new worry"), this is a fascinating political process to watch unfolding.


Sunday, March 6, 2016

A new worry . . . if Democrats lose in November

If the Democrats do not win the presidency in November, they will also be unlikely to retake control of the Senate.   Think about what that would mean.

1.  They would lose the executive branch.
2.  They would have no control of either house of congress.
3.  This would solidify conservative control of SCOTUS for decades.
4.  Republicans would keep control  of the majority of governorships and state legislatures.

I was startled to hear an NPR commentator warn that this election is more perilous for the Democratic Party than it is for the Republican Party.   But I'm afraid that's right.

Gov. Howard Dean has been warning us for years that we needed to continue the 50 state strategy he pursued when he was head of the DNC.   But the party has not listened -- and it's only gotten worse with Debbie Wasserman-Schultz in charge at DNC.   She seems to have focused everything on paving the path to the White House for Hillary Clinton, like having few debates and scheduling them at insanely wrong time slots.


Gov. Deal finally did something I approve

I have been very critical of Georgia's Governor Nathan Deal on numerous occasions:  his refusal to expand Medicaid, his shady ethical dealings and attempts to manipulate the ethics commission, trying to take over control of education away from the School Board, and his shameless anti-gay pandering in his first gubernatorial campaign.   His promotion of business in Georgia could be a good thing -- except that he can always find room to cut taxes for them or to give all kinds of financial advantage to attract business but can't find a similar amount of money to expand Medicaid for 400,000 Georgians because . . . "Obamacare."

 But, if I complain when I disagree with him, I should be willing to praise him when he does something good.  On Friday, he did something good by coming out strongly against the "religious freedom bill" as it was passed by the Georgia Senate and awaits consideration of the Senate version by the House.  When pressed, he said he would veto it if it reached his desk in its present form.

I would like it even better if he had done it simply because opposing discrimination is the right thing to do;   but, even though he clearly did it only because of the backlash and lobbying from the business communityhe still did it.   And I thank him for that.