Friday, July 22, 2016

Texas ID Ruled Discriminatory One More Time

The strict voter ID law enacted in Texas has been ruled discriminatory, violating the Voting Rights Act, by a federal appeals court. The court did not strike down the law but instructed the lower court to essentially fix it by minimizing the effect on minority voters who do not currently have a valid ID. This will probably mean allowing other forms of ID to be valid but will probably not stop a number of voter precincts from "enforcing" the law incorrectly come November. The ruling marks the fourth time in four years that the Texas voter ID law has been rule discriminatory. A statistic like that might make you wonder why the Supreme Court ruled against federal oversight of changes in electoral law under the Voting Rights Act for certain jurisdictions like Texas. The proliferation of voting rights restrictions that have been introduced and passed since that ruling in not only the states previously monitored but also in numerous others has been extraordinary. But I kind of doubt that Roberts and other justices who voted to strip those protections away have any second thoughts. It will be up to Democrats to fight this battle in the individual states and perhaps in Congress if and when they ever win the House.

Kaine Rumored As Hillary's VP Pick - A Pathetic Choice; Now Confirmed

All signs point to Tim Kaine becoming Hillary Clinton's VP with the announcement coming later today - what a pathetic choice. That is all I have to say other than I hope they are wrong.

Update: And it's official...I'll grin and bear it but she really could have made a more motivating selection. More when I have time.

NBA Pulls All-Star Game Out Of North Carolina

The NBA has pulled its 2017 All-Star game out of Charlotte, North Carolina in protest against the state's recently passed "bathroom bill". It is estimated that the withdrawal of the game will cost Charlotte and the state of North Carolina over $100 million in economic activity. And, just like those states that refuse to expand Medicaid which would help millions of Americans and not cost those states a dime, Republicans are once again prioritizing their culture war over the health and economic well-being of their own citizens. The pity is that the city of Charlotte will pay the biggest price for this decision, since it was their local ordinance that triggered the state's bathroom bill to begin with. Over 200 business leaders have signed petition to repeal the law but Governor Pat McCrory is holding firm despite being in a neck-and-neck re-election race. This decision can not help his campaign in any way. Finally, it is especially refreshing to see major sports league actually step up to the plate and refuse to associate itself with this kind of discrimination in any way.

UK Economy Contracting Rapidly As Recession Likelihood Increases

It looks like the economy over in the UK is already starting to deteriorate pretty badly after its vote to leave the EU. The Purchasing Managers Index (PMI), an indicator of future growth, fell by the greatest amount in the history of the survey and reached its lowest level since the height of the great recession in 2009. Although indicators of export activity were up due to the tremendous drop in the pound, most other indicators are showing around an annualized 1.5% reduction in growth. The probability of a recession within the next year has skyrocketed from around 10% in January to close to 40% today. The Bank of England seems to be getting prepared for a rate-cut and Theresa May, having already thrown the Cameron/Osborne austerity plan out the window, might have to consider additional fiscal stimulus to keep the economy afloat. If business is already reacting this poorly to the uncertainty caused by the Brexit vote, I doubt May has a lot more time left to postpone invoking Article 50 and starting negotiations.  May and her Brexit negotiator Davis have indicated that the separation process would not begin until next year, giving her time to possibly work something out with Scotland and Northern Ireland before negotiations actually begin. And, despite Merkel's apparent willingness to wait, there are other European leaders who would prefer to move sooner rather than later. As the UK economy slips closer to or even into recession in the next few months, the pressure on May to remove the uncertainty and begin negotiations will increase.

GOP Convention Ends With Trump's Long, Dark Speech

Well, the Republican convention finally wrapped up last night with the longest acceptance speech in at least the last half century. At least last night the speakers managed to stay on schedule so Trump could actually start his speech at peak prime time. But, as we've come to expect, some of the speakers reflected viewpoints that are out of the mainstream or in conflict with Trump's themes. Peter Thiel is a classic libertarian who in 2009 wrote that he no longer believed "that freedom and democracy are compatible". In his speech, he railed against the fake culture wars that "only distract us from our economic decline" which I'm not sure is what the cultural conservative wanted to hear and, like many others we heard, bashed Hillary over Libya, saying, "She pushed for a war in Libya, and today it’s a training ground for ISIS." Unfortunately, it is relatively easy to find the video where Trump supported taking out Gaddaffi at the time the question was being debated. Ivanka Trump then came on to provide the introduction to her father and right off the bat admitted she was basically unaffiliated with either Republicans or Democrats. The truth of the matter is that she was so unaffiliated that she could not even bother to register to vote. She followed that up with an endorsement of her father that included her belief that he was for equal pay for equal work, for childcare that's affordable and accessible, and concerned about onerous student debt, all Democratic issues that I don't remember Trump ever talking about. But it set the stage for the final act.

I have to admit I could not bear to watch the speech but I did read his prepared remarks and my first reaction was that this was the speech of a budding dictator. Lots of problems and issues were listed, many of them pure fabrication, and the only solution offered was that he would take care of it all after January 20, 2017. There were no policies or over-arching principles as to how he would solve these problems other than his greatness. He sounded very much like the new Philippines' President Dutarte who basically ran on the theme that he would take care of terrorism and corruption one way or another with more than a subtle implication that doing so would include extra-judicial procedures. Apparently Trump's angry delivery of this speech only enhanced that impression. The statistics and fear mongering about crime totally belies all statistics that violent crime in this country has dropped significantly and continues to drop. I believe a recent statistic showed that the murder rate New York City today is actually lower than it was in those golden days of the early 1960s and the overall crime rate has continued to drop during Obama's eight years. Cataloguing Trump's falsehoods is more than a full time job, but you can read about the 21 specific lies in his speech here. Despite all his anger, it seems that the pace was slow and plodding indicating Trump's problems with sticking to a teleprompter rather than just winging it. It finally ended around 11:30. It is hard to imagine how this speech helped Trump. The immigrant bashing will just consolidate the support of minority voters. The America First rhetoric on foreign policy will put off business and neo-conservative Republicans. Perhaps it will expand his strength among working class whites but that will probably be offset by the loss of college educated whites. And that demographic is just not enough to win elections anymore. But Trump has gotten this far despite all expectations. We will soon find out if his popularity extends beyond the hard-core that currently controls the Republican party.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Transcript Of Trump's Speech Has Been Released

For those of you who don't have the stomach to listen to Trump's speech tonight, you can read the official transcript here or below. That doesn't necessarily mean it will be the speech Trump will actually make as he has never been known to stick to the script. It is pretty much a law and order, America First kind of speech that identifies many of the countries problems without really offering any solutions other than they will all be fixed if and when he's elected. Hopefully, someone along the way until November will actually pin him down on how.

Friends, delegates and fellow Americans: I humbly and gratefully accept your nomination for the presidency of the United States.
Together, we will lead our party back to the White House, and we will lead our country back to safety, prosperity, and peace. We will be a country of generosity and warmth. But we will also be a country of law and order.
Our Convention occurs at a moment of crisis for our nation. The attacks on our police, and the terrorism in our cities, threaten our very way of life. Any politician who does not grasp this danger is not fit to lead our country.
Americans watching this address tonight have seen the recent images of violence in our streets and the chaos in our communities. Many have witnessed this violence personally, some have even been its victims.
I have a message for all of you: the crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon come to an end. Beginning on January 20th 2017, safety will be restored.
The most basic duty of government is to defend the lives of its own citizens. Any government that fails to do so is a government unworthy to lead.
It is finally time for a straightforward assessment of the state of our nation.
I will present the facts plainly and honestly. We cannot afford to be so politically correct anymore.
So if you want to hear the corporate spin, the carefully-crafted lies, and the media myths the Democrats are holding their convention next week.
But here, at our convention, there will be no lies. We will honor the American people with the truth, and nothing else.
These are the facts:
Decades of progress made in bringing down crime are now being reversed by this Administration’s rollback of criminal enforcement.
Homicides last year increased by 17% in America’s fifty largest cities. That’s the largest increase in 25 years. In our nation’s capital, killings have risen by 50 percent. They are up nearly 60% in nearby Baltimore.
In the President’s hometown of Chicago, more than 2,000 have been the victims of shootings this year alone. And more than 3,600 have been killed in the Chicago area since he took office.
The number of police officers killed in the line of duty has risen by almost 50% compared to this point last year. Nearly 180,000 illegal immigrants with criminal records, ordered deported from our country, are tonight roaming free to threaten peaceful citizens.
The number of new illegal immigrant families who have crossed the border so far this year already exceeds the entire total from 2015. They are being released by the tens of thousands into our communities with no regard for the impact on public safety or resources.
One such border-crosser was released and made his way to Nebraska. There, he ended the life of an innocent young girl named Sarah Root. She was 21 years-old, and was killed the day after graduating from college with a 4.0 Grade Point Average. Her killer was then released a second time, and he is now a fugitive from the law.
I’ve met Sarah’s beautiful family. But to this Administration, their amazing daughter was just one more American life that wasn’t worth protecting. One more child to sacrifice on the altar of open borders. What about our economy?
Again, I will tell you the plain facts that have been edited out of your nightly news and your morning newspaper: Nearly Four in 10 African-American children are living in poverty, while 58% of African American youth are not employed. 2 million more Latinos are in poverty today than when the President took his oath of office less than eight years ago. Another 14 million people have left the workforce entirely.
Household incomes are down more than $4,000 since the year 2000. Our manufacturing trade deficit has reached an all-time high – nearly $800 billion in a single year. The budget is no better.
President Obama has doubled our national debt to more than $19 trillion, and growing. Yet, what do we have to show for it? Our roads and bridges are falling apart, our airports are in Third World condition, and forty-three million Americans are on food stamps.
Now let us consider the state of affairs abroad.
Not only have our citizens endured domestic disaster, but they have lived through one international humiliation after another. We all remember the images of our sailors being forced to their knees by their Iranian captors at gunpoint.
This was just prior to the signing of the Iran deal, which gave back to Iran $150 billion and gave us nothing – it will go down in history as one of the worst deals ever made. Another humiliation came when president Obama drew a red line in Syria – and the whole world knew it meant nothing.
In Libya, our consulate – the symbol of American prestige around the globe – was brought down in flames. America is far less safe – and the world is far less stable – than when Obama made the decision to put Hillary Clinton in charge of America’s foreign policy.
I am certain it is a decision he truly regrets. Her bad instincts and her bad judgment – something pointed out by Bernie Sanders – are what caused the disasters unfolding today. Let’s review the record. In 2009, pre-Hillary, ISIS was not even on the map.
Libya was cooperating. Egypt was peaceful. Iraq was seeing a reduction in violence. Iran was being choked by sanctions. Syria was under control. After four years of Hillary Clinton, what do we have? ISIS has spread across the region, and the world. Libya is in ruins, and our Ambassador and his staff were left helpless to die at the hands of savage killers. Egypt was turned over to the radical Muslim brotherhood, forcing the military to retake control. Iraq is in chaos.
Iran is on the path to nuclear weapons. Syria is engulfed in a civil war and a refugee crisis that now threatens the West. After fifteen years of wars in the Middle East, after trillions of dollars spent and thousands of lives lost, the situation is worse than it has ever been before.
This is the legacy of Hillary Clinton: death, destruction and weakness.
But Hillary Clinton’s legacy does not have to be America’s legacy. The problems we face now – poverty and violence at home, war and destruction abroad – will last only as long as we continue relying on the same politicians who created them. A change in leadership is required to change these outcomes. Tonight, I will share with you my plan of action for America.
The most important difference between our plan and that of our opponents, is that our plan will put America First. Americanism, not globalism, will be our credo. As long as we are led by politicians who will not put America First, then we can be assured that other nations will not treat America with respect. This will all change in 2017.
The American People will come first once again. My plan will begin with safety at home – which means safe neighborhoods, secure borders, and protection from terrorism. There can be no prosperity without law and order. On the economy, I will outline reforms to add millions of new jobs and trillions in new wealth that can be used to rebuild America.
A number of these reforms that I will outline tonight will be opposed by some of our nation’s most powerful special interests. That is because these interests have rigged our political and economic system for their exclusive benefit.
Big business, elite media and major donors are lining up behind the campaign of my opponent because they know she will keep our rigged system in place. They are throwing money at her because they have total control over everything she does. She is their puppet, and they pull the strings.
That is why Hillary Clinton’s message is that things will never change. My message is that things have to change – and they have to change right now. Every day I wake up determined to deliver for the people I have met all across this nation that have been neglected, ignored, and abandoned.
I have visited the laid-off factory workers, and the communities crushed by our horrible and unfair trade deals. These are the forgotten men and women of our country. People who work hard but no longer have a voice.
I have embraced crying mothers who have lost their children because our politicians put their personal agendas before the national good. I have no patience for injustice, no tolerance for government incompetence, no sympathy for leaders who fail their citizens.
When innocent people suffer, because our political system lacks the will, or the courage, or the basic decency to enforce our laws – or worse still, has sold out to some corporate lobbyist for cash – I am not able to look the other way.
And when a Secretary of State illegally stores her emails on a private server, deletes 33,000 of them so the authorities can’t see her crime, puts our country at risk, lies about it in every different form and faces no consequence – I know that corruption has reached a level like never before.
When the FBI Director says that the Secretary of State was “extremely careless” and “negligent,” in handling our classified secrets, I also know that these terms are minor compared to what she actually did. They were just used to save her from facing justice for her terrible crimes.
In fact, her single greatest accomplishment may be committing such an egregious crime and getting away with it – especially when others have paid so dearly. When that same Secretary of State rakes in millions of dollars trading access and favors to special interests and foreign powers I know the time for action has come.
I have joined the political arena so that the powerful can no longer beat up on people that cannot defend themselves. Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it. I have seen firsthand how the system is rigged against our citizens, just like it was rigged against Bernie Sanders – he never had a chance.
But his supporters will join our movement, because we will fix his biggest issue: trade. Millions of Democrats will join our movement because we are going to fix the system so it works for all Americans. In this cause, I am proud to have at my side the next Vice President of the United States: Governor Mike Pence of Indiana.
We will bring the same economic success to America that Mike brought to Indiana. He is a man of character and accomplishment. He is the right man for the job. The first task for our new Administration will be to liberate our citizens from the crime and terrorism and lawlessness that threatens their communities.
America was shocked to its core when our police officers in Dallas were brutally executed. In the days after Dallas, we have seen continued threats and violence against our law enforcement officials. Law officers have been shot or killed in recent days in Georgia, Missouri, Wisconsin, Kansas, Michigan and Tennessee.
On Sunday, more police were gunned down in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Three were killed, and four were badly injured. An attack on law enforcement is an attack on all Americans. I have a message to every last person threatening the peace on our streets and the safety of our police: when I take the oath of office next year, I will restore law and order our country.
I will work with, and appoint, the best prosecutors and law enforcement officials in the country to get the job done. In this race for the White House, I am the Law And Order candidate. The irresponsible rhetoric of our President, who has used the pulpit of the presidency to divide us by race and color, has made America a more dangerous environment for everyone.
This Administration has failed America’s inner cities. It’s failed them on education. It’s failed them on jobs. It’s failed them on crime. It’s failed them at every level.
When I am President, I will work to ensure that all of our kids are treated equally, and protected equally.
Every action I take, I will ask myself: does this make life better for young Americans in Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, Ferguson who have as much of a right to live out their dreams as any other child America?
To make life safe in America, we must also address the growing threats we face from outside America: we are going to defeat the barbarians of ISIS. Once again, France is the victim of brutal Islamic terrorism.
Men, women and children viciously mowed down. Lives ruined. Families ripped apart. A nation in mourning.
The damage and devastation that can be inflicted by Islamic radicals has been over and over – at the World Trade Center, at an office party in San Bernardino, at the Boston Marathon, and a military recruiting center in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Only weeks ago, in Orlando, Florida, 49 wonderful Americans were savagely murdered by an Islamic terrorist. This time, the terrorist targeted our LGBT community. As your President, I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBT citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology. To protect us from terrorism, we need to focus on three things.
We must have the best intelligence gathering operation in the world. We must abandon the failed policy of nation building and regime change that Hillary Clinton pushed in Iraq, Libya, Egypt and Syria. Instead, we must work with all of our allies who share our goal of destroying ISIS and stamping out Islamic terror.
This includes working with our greatest ally in the region, the State of Israel. Lastly, we must immediately suspend immigration from any nation that has been compromised by terrorism until such time as proven vetting mechanisms have been put in place.
My opponent has called for a radical 550% increase in Syrian refugees on top of existing massive refugee flows coming into our country under President Obama. She proposes this despite the fact that there’s no way to screen these refugees in order to find out who they are or where they come from. I only want to admit individuals into our country who will support our values and love our people.
Anyone who endorses violence, hatred or oppression is not welcome in our country and never will be.
Decades of record immigration have produced lower wages and higher unemployment for our citizens, especially for African-American and Latino workers. We are going to have an immigration system that works, but one that works for the American people.
On Monday, we heard from three parents whose children were killed by illegal immigrants Mary Ann Mendoza, Sabine Durden, and Jamiel Shaw. They are just three brave representatives of many thousands. Of all my travels in this country, nothing has affected me more deeply than the time I have spent with the mothers and fathers who have lost their children to violence spilling across our border.
These families have no special interests to represent them. There are no demonstrators to protest on their behalf. My opponent will never meet with them, or share in their pain. Instead, my opponent wants Sanctuary Cities. But where was sanctuary for Kate Steinle? Where was Sanctuary for the children of Mary Ann, Sabine and Jamiel? Where was sanctuary for all the other Americans who have been so brutally murdered, and who have suffered so horribly?
These wounded American families have been alone. But they are alone no longer. Tonight, this candidate and this whole nation stand in their corner to support them, to send them our love, and to pledge in their honor that we will save countless more families from suffering the same awful fate.
We are going to build a great border wall to stop illegal immigration, to stop the gangs and the violence, and to stop the drugs from pouring into our communities. I have been honored to receive the endorsement of America’s Border Patrol Agents, and will work directly with them to protect the integrity of our lawful immigration system.
By ending catch-and-release on the border, we will stop the cycle of human smuggling and violence. Illegal border crossings will go down. Peace will be restored. By enforcing the rules for the millions who overstay their visas, our laws will finally receive the respect they deserve.
Tonight, I want every American whose demands for immigration security have been denied – and every politician who has denied them – to listen very closely to the words I am about to say.
On January 21st of 2017, the day after I take the oath of office, Americans will finally wake up in a country where the laws of the United States are enforced. We are going to be considerate and compassionate to everyone.
But my greatest compassion will be for our own struggling citizens. My plan is the exact opposite of the radical and dangerous immigration policy of Hillary Clinton. Americans want relief from uncontrolled immigration. Communities want relief.
Yet Hillary Clinton is proposing mass amnesty, mass immigration, and mass lawlessness. Her plan will overwhelm your schools and hospitals, further reduce your jobs and wages, and make it harder for recent immigrants to escape from poverty.
I have a different vision for our workers. It begins with a new, fair trade policy that protects our jobs and stands up to countries that cheat. It’s been a signature message of my campaign from day one, and it will be a signature feature of my presidency from the moment I take the oath of office.
I have made billions of dollars in business making deals – now I’m going to make our country rich again. I am going to turn our bad trade agreements into great ones. America has lost nearly-one third of its manufacturing jobs since 1997, following the enactment of disastrous trade deals supported by Bill and Hillary Clinton.
Remember, it was Bill Clinton who signed NAFTA, one of the worst economic deals ever made by our country.
Never again.
I am going to bring our jobs back to Ohio and to America – and I am not going to let companies move to other countries, firing their employees along the way, without consequences.
My opponent, on the other hand, has supported virtually every trade agreement that has been destroying our middle class. She supported NAFTA, and she supported China’s entrance into the World Trade Organization – another one of her husband’s colossal mistakes.
She supported the job killing trade deal with South Korea. She has supported the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The TPP will not only destroy our manufacturing, but it will make America subject to the rulings of foreign governments. I pledge to never sign any trade agreement that hurts our workers, or that diminishes our freedom and independence. Instead, I will make individual deals with individual countries.
No longer will we enter into these massive deals, with many countries, that are thousands of pages long – and which no one from our country even reads or understands. We are going to enforce all trade violations, including through the use of taxes and tariffs, against any country that cheats.
This includes stopping China’s outrageous theft of intellectual property, along with their illegal product dumping, and their devastating currency manipulation. Our horrible trade agreements with China and many others, will be totally renegotiated. That includes renegotiating NAFTA to get a much better deal for America – and we’ll walk away if we don’t get the deal that we want. We are going to start building and making things again.
Next comes the reform of our tax laws, regulations and energy rules. While Hillary Clinton plans a massive tax increase, I have proposed the largest tax reduction of any candidate who has declared for the presidential race this year – Democrat or Republican. Middle-income Americans will experience profound relief, and taxes will be simplified for everyone.
America is one of the highest-taxed nations in the world. Reducing taxes will cause new companies and new jobs to come roaring back into our country. Then we are going to deal with the issue of regulation, one of the greatest job-killers of them all. Excessive regulation is costing our country as much as $2 trillion a year, and we will end it. We are going to lift the restrictions on the production of American energy. This will produce more than $20 trillion in job creating economic activity over the next four decades.
My opponent, on the other hand, wants to put the great miners and steel workers of our country out of work – that will never happen when I am President. With these new economic policies, trillions of dollars will start flowing into our country.
This new wealth will improve the quality of life for all Americans – We will build the roads, highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, and the railways of tomorrow. This, in turn, will create millions more jobs. We will rescue kids from failing schools by helping their parents send them to a safe school of their choice.
My opponent would rather protect education bureaucrats than serve American children. We will repeal and replace disastrous Obamacare. You will be able to choose your own doctor again. And we will fix TSA at the airports! We will completely rebuild our depleted military, and the countries that we protect, at a massive loss, will be asked to pay their fair share.
We will take care of our great Veterans like they have never been taken care of before. My opponent dismissed the VA scandal as being not widespread – one more sign of how out of touch she really is. We are going to ask every Department Head in government to provide a list of wasteful spending projects that we can eliminate in my first 100 days. The politicians have talked about it, I’m going to do it. We are also going to appoint justices to the United States Supreme Court who will uphold our laws and our Constitution.
The replacement for Justice Scalia will be a person of similar views and principles. This will be one of the most important issues decided by this election. My opponent wants to essentially abolish the 2nd amendment. I, on the other hand, received the early and strong endorsement of the National Rifle Association and will protect the right of all Americans to keep their families safe.
At this moment, I would like to thank the evangelical community who have been so good to me and so supportive. You have so much to contribute to our politics, yet our laws prevent you from speaking your minds from your own pulpits.
An amendment, pushed by Lyndon Johnson, many years ago, threatens religious institutions with a loss of their tax-exempt status if they openly advocate their political views.
I am going to work very hard to repeal that language and protect free speech for all Americans. We can accomplish these great things, and so much else – all we need to do is start believing in ourselves and in our country again. It is time to show the whole world that America Is Back – bigger, and better and stronger than ever before.
In this journey, I’m so lucky to have at my side my wife Melania and my wonderful children, Don, Ivanka, Eric, Tiffany, and Barron: you will always be my greatest source of pride and joy. My Dad, Fred Trump, was the smartest and hardest working man I ever knew. I wonder sometimes what he’d say if he were here to see this tonight.
It’s because of him that I learned, from my youngest age, to respect the dignity of work and the dignity of working people. He was a guy most comfortable in the company of bricklayers, carpenters, and electricians and I have a lot of that in me also. Then there’s my mother, Mary. She was strong, but also warm and fair-minded. She was a truly great mother. She was also one of the most honest and charitable people I have ever known, and a great judge of character.
To my sisters Mary Anne and Elizabeth, my brother Robert and my late brother Fred, I will always give you my love you are most special to me. I have loved my life in business.
But now, my sole and exclusive mission is to go to work for our country – to go to work for all of you. It’s time to deliver a victory for the American people. But to do that, we must break free from the petty politics of the past.
America is a nation of believers, dreamers, and strivers that is being led by a group of censors, critics, and cynics.
Remember: all of the people telling you that you can’t have the country you want, are the same people telling you that I wouldn’t be standing here tonight. No longer can we rely on those elites in media, and politics, who will say anything to keep a rigged system in place.
Instead, we must choose to Believe In America. History is watching us now.
It’s waiting to see if we will rise to the occasion, and if we will show the whole world that America is still free and independent and strong.
My opponent asks her supporters to recite a three-word loyalty pledge. It reads: “I’m With Her”. I choose to recite a different pledge.
My pledge reads: “I’M WITH YOU – THE AMERICAN PEOPLE.”
I am your voice.
So to every parent who dreams for their child, and every child who dreams for their future, I say these words to you tonight: I’m With You, and I will fight for you, and I will win for you.
To all Americans tonight, in all our cities and towns, I make this promise:
We Will Make America Strong Again.
We Will Make America Proud Again.
We Will Make America Safe Again.
And We Will Make America Great Again.

Ailes Resigns From Fox News

It's official. Roger Ailes has resigned as head of Fox News effective immediately amid the myriad of allegations of improper sexual conduct. You have to wonder about the timing of his resignation - is he hoping that Trump's big speech tonight drives him off the front pages or that this is his one last power play to steal some headlines from Trump. Only he and the Murdochs know.

I'm not sure this is the end for Ailes' troubles either. Gretchen Carlson's suit was against him personally so I imagine it will still go forward. And, now that he has lost his position of power, you wonder how many others will finally come forward and also sue him.

House Interns Tell Story Of America

If you want an idea of how big the racial divide is in this country and how that divide aligns our politics, take a look at these two photos of Democratic and Republican interns in the House of Representatives:

Notice anything....

Another Innocent, Unarmed Black Man Shot By Police

Another innocent black man got shot by police in Miami as he was lying on the ground with his hands clearly in the air. To make matters even worse, the man was a behavioral therapist who was only trying to protect an autistic 23 year old man who had left a group home and was playing with his truck in the street. Not only was he lying on the ground with his hands in the air, he was screaming at the cops that there was no need for guns as the autistic man was only playing with his truck. And yet he was still shot in the leg, thankfully not a life-threatening wound. To add insult to injury, the therapist was handcuffed and then left in the road until an ambulance could arrive.

Of course, this incident once again indicates the incredibly poor training of the unidentified officer involved in the shooting who has been place on administrative leave according to procedure. But it also makes me think more and more that the gun lobby in this country is in some way doing the same kind of work on the American psyche that Osama bin Laden or ISIS has done. By making us ever more fearful, we overreact and begin arming ourselves even more. As we do so, the police feel more and more threatened in situations that would never have made them nervous in the past. As they become more fearful, they make more and more mistakes and it is naturally minorities who bear the brunt of those mistakes, which starts the whole cycle of violence all over again. And that's on top of the over-policing of minority communities or even overt racism in many police departments across the country. Until we manage to get the guns off the street, these kind of incidents will only increase. Thankfully, this time no one is dead.

Owen Smith To Challenge Corbyn As Labour Leader

Owen Smith has emerged as the single candidate to contest Jeremy Corbyn for the leadership of the Labour party, uniting the anti-Corbyn faction behind his candicacy. Angela Eagle had originally looked like the challenger but she dropped out and supported Smith after he won the support of the majority of Labour deputies. In much the same way as the majority of the Tory MPs opposed Brexit in opposition to the party faithful, Labour MPs oppose Corbyn's leadership while he seems to have the backing of the majority of party members. Labour has been in disarray since they joined Cameron in supporting Scotland remaining in the UK. As political strategy, it was a brilliant move by Cameron in that Labour's base of support in Scotland was immense. If Scotland left, those Labour MPs would no longer be in the UK Parliament. And if Scotland stayed, the backlash against Labour for not supporting independence would also be immense. As it happened, Scotland stayed and Labour was virtually wiped out in Scotland by the Scottish National Party in a national election that Ed Milliband and Labour had to and should have won but, thanks to Milliband's Tory-lite campaign, they didn't.

Corbyn was the elected leader by the party faithful in a clear repudiation of the Blair wing of the party and a distinct move by the party back to its leftist roots. The Brexit vote left Labour in a similar position as they were with Scotland where they obviously would have to support remaining but that would only allow Cameron to consolidate even more power and give him a mandate to enact even more devastating cuts to Britain's social welfare system. So Corbyn tried to thread the needle and provided lukewarm support to stay in the EU.  When Brexit actually won, MPs and the Blair wing blamed Corbyn rather than taking their anger out on the true culprit, Cameron. Eagle, who represented the Blair wing of the party, initially looked like the challenger to beat after Corbyn lost a no-confidence vote among Labour MPs. But Smith, who only entered government after the Blair regime's demise, outmaneuvered Eagle by running to her left and highlighting her connections to Blair and her vote for the Iraq war. Smith, a Welshman and former TV personality, is almost as left-wing as Corbyn. He supports raising the top income tax rate to 50%, supports increased infrastructure spending, and wants to change the Labour party constitution to specifically fight inequality. He has also indicated a willingness to have a second Brexit vote, but that may be moot by the time he can implement it. By his own admission, his biggest political mistake was abstaining from the vote on a controversial welfare bill in 2015.

Smith will be a much more acceptable candidate for the party faithful which is clearly to the left of many of the current Labour MPs. As an almost equally left wing candidate with youth and a fresh face, he may actually be the one to unseat Corbyn and bring some degree of unity back to the party. Lord knows, they certainly need it.

Hillary's Reported VP Choices Are Truly Underwhelming

Hillary Clinton is expected to announce her Vice Presidential pick sometime this weekend and the reports on her remaining potential choices seem to get worse and worse every day. I am in total agreement with Kos that the choice of either Tim Kaine or Tom Vilsack would be the ultimate buzzkill for progressive Democrats. Talk about boring - these two are a virtual snooze fest. And their DLC connections are just an anathema to every progressive in the party. Hillary may think she can get away with playing it safe but either of these two will pretty much guarantee that Sanders' supporters will be hard to get to the polls. I have already gone on record as saying Democrats can't afford to "waste" a sitting Senator on the VP slot, but I guess I could stomach Corey Booker, although that just give Chis Christie the chance to appoint his temporary successor. And we certainly can't afford to lose Sherrod Brown's seat in Ohio and Elizabeth Warren's voice as a progressive is way too important to have her become VP, in addition to having the same problems as Booker with a Republican governor naming her temporary replacement.  I have already gone on record as supporting Tom Perez but, according to reports, he seems to fall further and further out of contention each day.

Democrats have an odds-on shot to win back the Senate and a real chance to make some inroads into the Republican majority in the House, perhaps even squeaking out control. Polls show generic Democrats with an 8 point lead over Republicans right now and that has traditionally turned into nearly as many seats as we would need to win back the House.  Educated white males are fleeing the Trump candidacy in droves. Combine them with some motivated millennials and you could possibly have a wave election. But those opportunities will be greatly reduced with the selection of either Kaine or Vilsack. This is not the 1990s and the Democratic party has moved far left of the DLC policies of that era.  Hillary better wake up to that fact for the good of the party and the good of the country.

Christie Bridgegates His Entire State

Chris Christie continues to inflict even more damage to New Jersey's infrastructure as road repair work all over the state has stopped as a result of Christie and the legislature not being able to agree on the details of a hike in the gas tax. Over $3 billion in projects are being held up because the state's transportation fund that relies on the state's third lowest in the nation gas tax is virtually empty. In Princeton, drivers are having to deal with a single lane bridge and a major repair job on a critical connection to the Lincoln Tunnel in Hoboken has been held up. And the notoriously bad Jersey drivers are fuming - it is Bridgegate on a statewide scale. Of course, the delays in these projects will actually increase the costs to get this repair work done and if the impasse cannot be resolved by August, some projects may have to be delayed indefinitely. But the probability of resolving the dispute before then seems a little remote as Christie is spending his time working on the Trump campaign.

This crisis is in addition to Christie's even more disastrous decision early in his tenure to kill the $12.4 billion project to build a third tunnel between New Jersey and New York. The two existing tubes are over 100 years old and one tunnel that was hit especially hard by Hurricane Sandy may have to be shut down within the next couple of years due to its deterioration.  The two tunnels carry virtually all train traffic from New Jersey to New York, operate at maximum capacity continually, and are continually subject to long delays whenever a problem arises. If Christie had approved the fully funded tunnel back in 2010 instead of killing it, it is possible that the new tunnel would have been operational by 2018 and it would have created over 200,000 jobs according to the GAO. But Christie claimed that New Jersey would have been on the hook for too much of the cost and decided against it, using the money save to work on other bridge and road projects in New Jersey.

Reality eventually set in and in early 2015 Christie finally endorsed building the third tunnel, over four years after killing it. Of course, the project no longer is funded and is now expected to take about a decade. And now, having used up all the previously allocated money for the tunnel on regular road repair and the state's low gas tax no longer adequately funding the repairs that need to be made, Christie once again finds himself having to somehow reverse course. It all would have been much easier to build the third tunnel and increase the gas tax way back in 2010, but that would have hurt Christie's conservative credentials that he needed in order to run his bust of a Presidential primary campaign.

Christie already has historically low poll numbers in New Jersey with only 26% (the traditional GOP hard core) approving and 62% disapproving of his performance. And they are not likely to get any better if one of the rail tunnels has to shut down for a few weeks for emergency repairs and drivers are stuck in the already horrendous traffic because road repair work has not been completed. One day, someday, I hope Republicans come to their senses and realize how important infrastructure is to the economic vitality of a region. Christie and New Jersey may end up learning that lesson the hard way.

Day 3 At GOP Convention Another Disaster

Just when you thought things might just be getting under control at the GOP convention, all hell breaks loose.  The day started with the Melania speech plagiarism story still dominating the relatively subdued (for this convention) Tuesday night session. And later in the day, a Trump Organization staffer and ghost-writer for Donald Trump came forward to admit that it was her mistake that the plagiarized passages from Michelle Obama ended up in Melania's speech. That was good enough for the gullible media and the story died down, setting the stage for Wednesday night's session which had the all-star GOP lineup - Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and VP selection Mike Pence.

But before we get to last night's drama, let's take a further look at the plagiarism story. The first question that any good reporter should ask (and apparently no one is) is why it took nearly a day and half for the speechwriter to come forward with her admission and why the campaign was denying any plagiarism took place at all during that day and a half period. As soon as the issue came up late on Monday night, it would have been very easy for the Trump campaign to determine that this woman helped with the speech and find out if she was responsible. After all, she does work for the Trump Organization - she was readily available. Secondly, since the woman claims Melania read these passages to her and then she inadvertently included them, why didn't Melania recognize that these passages were cribbed when she read the speech. Finally, the admission of this political gaffe actually was released on Trump Organization letterhead which indicates a violation of FEC rules against mixing corporate and political activity and will probably trigger another useless FEC complaint. Yes, all of these issues are relatively trivial matters but do you honestly believe that if this had happened in the Hillary Clinton campaign that the press would just accept the explanation at face value and none of these questions would be being asked. Neither do I.

On to Wednesday night's festivities which were supposed to end up with Mike Pence's introduction to the country. But first, the three amigos of Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz had the opportunity to start their campaign for the 2020 GOP nomination.  Scott Walker showed why he was forced to drop out early this year with a pretty flat presentation that basically repeated what will be his 2020 campaign theme, "America Deserves Better". Marco Rubio, as he has done with his job in the US Senate, simply mailed it in, not even bothering to show up in person but instead appeared via video. Last up before Pence was Ted Cruz and apparently the Trump campaign already knew that Cruz would not specifically endorse Trump based on the speech he had submitted for the campaign to review. Because of that, the Trump campaign responded that they would get their delegates to boo Cruz during his speech and Trump himself decided to show up on the convention floor before Cruz even finished his speech in further retaliation. But Cruz had one last middle finger for Trump, apparently going off script and urging his fellow Republicans to "vote their conscience", infuriating delegates, RNC officials, and Republican operatives. Cruz's wife had to be escorted out of the hall by security and some RNC officials had to be physically restrained from attacking Cruz after the speech. Cruz, being who he is, apparently even stuck around to revel in the chaos he created. Apparently Trump, the greatest deal-make ever, could not even get Cruz to guarantee his endorsement in return for giving him the prime time slot at the convention. So much for party unity.

And that just set the table for Mike Pence who gave a pretty standard speech that just looked boring compared to fireworks Cruz had produced. Unfortunately for Pence, the convention hadn't stayed on schedule so the remainder of his speech came after the 11pm hour and the end of prime time and by that time large numbers of delegates had actually left the convention hall. But it wouldn't have mattered what Pence did, the news was going to be all about the Cruz-Trump showdown.

In the same way that Cruz's speech has taken the spotlight away from Melania's plagiarism, it may have also helped Trump in that it overshadows a frightening interview he did with the New York Times where he not only expressed his desire to renegotiate the NAFTA agreement and his willingness to scrap it if he could not reach more favorable terms but also that he would not honor the automatic security agreement in NATO that states that an attack on one member is an attack on all members requiring those members to come to the aid of the country attacked. Trump said he would only come to a country's aid if he determined that the country had fulfilled its obligations to us, whatever that means. He questioned the wisdom of forward deployment of US forces in Europe and Asia. And he praised Turkish President Erdogan, who has just declared a state of emergency and rounded up  over 50,000 political adversaries, refusing to call for Erdogan to obey the rule of law and saying, "I give great credit to him for being able to turn that [the coup] around...When the world sees how bad the United States is and we start talking about civil liberties, I don’t think we are a very good messenger". The incredible irony of these statements lies in the fact that speaker after speaker at the convention have blasted Hillary Clinton and President Obama for hollowing out the military, making America less safe, and reducing our standing in the world. At the very same time, Trump seems from these comments to essentially want to unilaterally disarm and withdraw from the world and makes Hillary and Obama look like the greatest defenders of American power and global reputation in comparison. Needless to say, I'm sure Trump supporters will find some way to overcome this cognitive dissonance as they have done so often before. But I'm not sure our allies will be breathing any easier today after reading this.

Now it's on to day four and I'm sure lots of people will be tuning in to see just what kind of disaster befalls the convention tonight. With Trump, it is impossible to predict.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Finally An Important Bank Exec Is Arrested

It looks like Attorney General Loretta Lynch is taking a more aggressive attitude to the crimes of bankers than her predecessor Eric Holder ever did. Holder and other regulators allowed HSBC to agree to a minimal penalty under an agreement that insulated its executives from prosecution in a vast money-laundering operation that was running out of the bank.  HSBC was found to have laundered nearly $1 billion dollars for drug traffickers and processed transactions for countries like Cuba, Iran, Libya, and Sudan who were on the list of countries under sanction by the US. The violations were clear breaches of US law and HSBC knew that what they were doing was illegal. Yet the resulting agreement with HSBC was a pretty weak slap on the wrist and no executives were ever prosecuted. Holder and the Justice Department leadership overruled their own internal recommendation to go after HSBC because of fears that prosecuting the bank could lead to another global financial crisis, or, as the Times calls it, HSBC was "too big to jail". Read the whole shocking story - it is quite sickening.

Today, on the other hand, HSBC's Mark Johnson, the head of the bank's global forex trading, was arrested and charged with fraud along with a former colleague of Mr. Johnson's, Stuart Scott.  The case involves front-running customer foreign exchange trades and accuses the traders of making over $8 million in profit for the firm by doing so. This is not a huge case, at least in terms of the monetary fraud when you consider what else the global financial community was up to in the late 2000s. And HSBC and other banks have already paid huge fines and large settlements for foreign exchange market manipulation, leading to the dismissal of a large number of traders.  But it is finally nice to see at least one pretty high ranking trader get arrested for his illegal behavior.  Hopefully, this indicates a change in attitude among the prosecutors and regulators of the financial industry.

Imagine How Much Better The Economy Could Be

Tonight, I imagine we will here how bad the Obama administration has been for our economy, despite all the data showing that is clearly not the case - unemployment is down, if anything too little inflation is the problem, over 13 million jobs have been created - far more than under Bush II, and we are growing faster than anyone else in the world right now. Of course, this is typical of the post-truth party that Republicans have become where actual data has no meaning to them. But I can agree with the Republicans that Obama clearly could have done better. Take a look at this chart from Kevin Drum:

Imagine how many more people would be employed and what better shape our economy and the country's infrastructure would be in if we only could have kept total government spending flat after the Great Recession rather than letting it decline by 5%. Of course, it is Republicans who are primarily responsible for this state of affairs with their push for austerity and the resulting sequestration. But when you don't care about data or facts, you can pretty much say anything.

Garland Breaks 100 Year Old Record Waiting For Confirmation

I can't let this day go by without noting that Merrick Garland has now set the record for the longest gap between nomination and confirmation by any potential Supreme Court justice in history. The previous "record", if you want to give it that dubious distinction, was set over 100 years ago by Justice Louis Brandeis whose delay was primarily related to the fact that he would become the first Jew on the Supreme Court. Brandeis persevered and became one of the great Supreme Court justices in our history. Hopefully, Merrick Garland will do the same but he will have to have even more patience than Justice Brandeis as the Republicans continue to stonewall his nomination. Their unwillingness to do their job to advise and consent is just another indication that the Republican party has become a post-policy, post-truth party that, like their candidate, is simply not interested in governing but only exercising and expanding their power.

Trump Offers VP His Presidency With Powers Of Third World Dictator

The Trump campaign becomes ever more frightening by the hour. First, reports surfaced that Donald Trump, Jr. basically offered the Vice Presidential slot to John Kasich, saying that Kasich would be in charge of both foreign and domestic policy in the Trump administration, effectively offering him the Presidency. This would have made Kasich the most powerful VP in history, even more powerful than Dick Cheney, and we all know how well that worked out for the country. When Kasich responded with the question about what Trump do, Trump, Jr. apparently replied, "Make America great again." As the Slate article points out, this isn't the first time a senior Trump adviser has indicated that Trump really does no want to do the work of being President. Back in May, Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort admitted there were parts of the job of being President that Trump did not want to do. "He sees himself more as the chairman of the board, than even the CEO, let alone the COO," said Manafort.

It is frightening enough that someone running for President clearly has no interest in actually doing the job. But it is even more frightening to think that much of our foreign and domestic policy will actually be guided by a Vice Presidential candidate like Mike Pence whose positions most of the electorate does not know and those on abortion and LGBT rights are far from the mainstream.

Then, yesterday, Chris Christie, the head of Trump's transition team apparently told a closed-door session of RNC members that the campaign is already putting together a list of Obama appointees that will be essentially purged if and when Trump takes over. Christie also asked the Republican Congress to change the law that would make it easier to also fire civil servants who are currently provided more job security than appointees. Of course, this would also make easier to fire life-long bureaucrats who may reasonably object to administration policy. In addition, Christie made it clear that appointing someone who will render the EPA ineffective was a top priority. But the real kicker was his suggestion that Trump would like businesspeople to serve in government without having to give up their private sector jobs. This, of course, would allow for self-dealing on an unimaginable scale. But that pretty much has been the Trump modus operandi his entire career.

Ryan Budget Eliminates Federal Government Except Military By 2050

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has released its analysis of Paul Ryan's budget proposal and if it wasn't so frightening it would be laughable. Remember the CBO relies on the numbers and assumptions that Ryan himself provides - they just run the numbers. And the numbers show that if the Ryan budget passed, by the year 2050 there would be no money, zero, nada, nothing to fund any aspect of government other than the military budget. By 2050, the discretionary part of the budget, that is everything excluding Social Security and Medicare, would be reduced by 3.5% under Ryan's budget. And since Ryan does not want to cut the military budget, there would be nothing left to run any other agency, support infrastructure, deal with health emergencies, border control, FEMA, the EPA, or any other aspect of the discretionary part of the budget. There would literally be nothing left of the federal government except the military, Social Security, and Medicare. The fact that Ryan is still considered a policy wonk, even after his numbers are discredited time and again, just boggles the mind.

Trump Campaign Finally Finds Staffer To Take The Fall

After spending all day yesterday saying that Melania really did not plagiarize Michelle Obama, The Trump campaign has come out today saying that a staffer did, in fact, do exactly that. Meredith McGiver, an in-house staff writer at the Trump Organization, has come out and said she inadvertently included some phrases of Michelle Obama's speech in the speech that Melania Trump gave on Monday night. Apparently, Melania likes Michelle Obama and has been inspired by her words, so Melania read examples of those words to McGiver and she included them in the speech. Needless to say, McGiver's admission would have probably ended the story if it had been released early yesterday morning. But, having spent more than 24 hours denying that there was anything wrong with Melania's speech, her admission is a little harder to be believed. To my cynical mind, it looks like they had to spend a day finding some staffer who was willing to take the fall. But even if you don't share my point of view, for a campaign that is basically running on the theme that Hillary is a liar and can't be trusted, it can not be helpful to absolutely and totally deny something one day and then turn around and admit it was true the next. But Trump has gotten away with this kind of move so many times in the past, I'm pretty sure he will get away with it again this time.

GOP Convention Day 2 Barely Crossed The Low Bar Set By Day 1

Well, day 2 of the GOP convention was definitely better than day 1, but that was about as low a bar to cross as possible. And it didn't make it by much. The theme of the night was supposed to be "Make America Work Again", but there was virtually nothing about any policies or programs that might actually accomplish that. There was, however, an unceasing attack on the evils Clinton that continually prompted chants of "lock her up" and ended with Ben Carson literally saying Hillary was in league with the devil. Trump, Jr. took to the stage and, once again, used words that had already been published elsewhere, but this time it was OK because the words were actually written by the speechwriter who wrote it for him. It's pretty hard to believe that a professional speechwriter would have to recycle some his old quotes, but I guess that's what we've come to.

Even the roll call of the states, a time-honored tradition, managed to be tarnished as a number of states reported their totals for Trump, Cruz, Rubio, and others only to have the secretary record all those votes for Trump due to an RNC interpretation of the primary rules of those states. Needless to say, it doesn't quite give the roll call much meaning when whatever is reported by the state is not what is actually recorded. It was also totally unnecessary as everyone knew Trump had enough delegates to win so that it only annoyed the state delegations whose votes were overruled - a number of them actually walked out. Alaska had actually changed the rules at their state convention in order to make sure the votes to the other candidates were counted, but they were overruled by the RNC. In retaliation, the state asked that the delegation be polled which then held up proceedings by 30 or more minutes, making it difficult to keep the roster of speeches on schedule.

By the standards of day 1, I guess you could say that day 2 was a success. But it is pretty hard to see how any of the speeches made last night swayed any undecided voter - it was all just more red meat for the base.

I would just like to say how incredible it was to see Republicans associated with the Trump campaign spend the whole day denying that any part of Melania's speech was plagiarized, saying it was just a few of the same words, or the same three word phrase appeared in "My Little Pony", or Chris Christie's classic statement that 93% of the speech was original which means it wasn't plagiarism. There is no way that you can look at the two speeches and see that the train of thought and phrases in Melania's speech follows Michelle's speech almost exactly. You could have moved the sentences around and paraphrased here or there to make it conceivably original, but whoever wrote it could not even be bothered to do that. And to see people sit there and totally ignore that evidence just shows where the Republican party has gone. From climate change to gun violence, evidence is just totally ignored - they exist in what others have correctly labeled a "post-truth" world. And the basic thrust of the convention so far has simply been fear and hatred, showing the party is completely in a "post-policy" mode where they have absolutely no solutions to offer. It really is quite frightening to see that this is where a major party in the country has ended up.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

GOP Convention Starts Day 2 A Little Oddly

Did it strike anyone else as a little odd to have children from other nations of the world and dressed in their native costumes lead the GOP in the Pledge Of Allegiance. And then to follow that up with an invocation that was a Sikh prayer recited in what I believe was Punjabi by a California Republican who covered her head with a shawl before reciting the prayer as is the Sikh custom. I'm not sure these are the types of people that a majority of Trump supporters want to see in out country. In any case, the roll call is beginning and we shall see what kind of protest, if any, the anti-Trump forces can muster.

Final Nail For Ailes As Kelly Claims Sexual Harassment

This was probably the final nail in the coffin for Roger Ailes. Megyn Kelly, pretty much the star of Fox News these days, has reportedly told the outside investigators looking into the allegations against Ailes that she was sexually harassed by him in the past when she was legal correspondent in the Washington bureau about 10 years ago. According to the report, the Murdochs have given Ailes until August 1st to resign or then be fired.

The Solar Power Miracle Keeps On Growing

Here in Bridgeport, Emera Energy has added solar power to its natural gas facility and is currently producing an additional 246 kilowatts of power. This is just the latest example of the explosion of renewable energy in the last decade. Admittedly starting from a pretty low base, solar energy has increased 100-fold here in the United States in the last ten years. As installations increase exponentially, so does the reduction in price. Bloomberg New Energy Chief Michael Liebreich calls this the solar energy miracle and it is captured in one graph over at ThinkProgress:

Liebriech notes that every time the world's solar power doubles, the cost of solar panels decrease by over 25%.  We are already at the point where the costs have fallen to $40 per megawatt hour and in the last decade the world's solar capacity has increased from 5 gigawatts to over 225 gigawatts. It is expected that the US, China, and India alone will be producing over 350 gigawatts of solar power by the early 2020s. And what is called concentrated solar power, where solar energy creates steam to run turbines and which can be stored many times more cheaply that electricity, allowing energy to be produced long after the sun has gone down, is also expanding rapidly. Currently 5 gigawatts of energy is produced worldwide using this technique and the Chinese have made a large commitment to invest in this type of solar solution. You may not read much about it in the news, but the solar and renewable energy miracle is moving along at an incredible pace and its global impact will be felt far sooner than most people believe.

GOP Platform Hopes To Put Hillary In Bind By Supporting Reinstatement Of Glass-Steagall

In what the Trump campaign probably thinks is a clever move to attract Bernie Sanders' voters and perhaps put a wedge between Hillary Clinton and Wall Street donors, the Republican Party platform includes a call to reinstate the Glass-Steagall law that would separate commercial banks and securities firms. The law was actually repealed by Congress in the waning days of Bill Clinton's administration. Apparently the Trump campaign believes that they could attack Hillary from the left on this issue, possibly attracting Sanders' voters. Unfortunately, the Democratic Party platform also calls for passing a "modernized and updated" version of Glass-Steagall as well, so it won't take much for Hillary to deflect this attack. But Trump then hopes that Wall Street will sour on Hillary because she would be supporting a law that the big banks hate. It's possible that might have some effect, but when Trump has the same position, it is hard to see what advantage he actually gets.

Bob Dole's Sad Swan Song

Pretty sad to see Bob Dole pretty much disgrace himself in the interview I just saw with Andrea Mitchell. He pretty much accused Bill Clinton of setting up the fix the clear Hillary when he visited with Loretta Lynch and he didn't seemed bothered by any of Trump's noxious rhetoric except when Trump was attacking Governor Martinez of New Mexico. A pretty pathetic end to what had been a relatively illustrious career.

Day One Of GOP Convention Is Total Disaster - Fear, Hate, And Plagiarism

It was a truly surreal first day at the Republican National Convention. It started off with Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort calling Ohio Governor John Kasich an embarrassment for not endorsing Donald Trump. This was probably not the best idea as Ohio is a swing state and no Republican has ever won the Presidency without carrying the state. So it might be helpful to your campaign to make sure you do not antagonize the relatively popular governor of that state.

This was followed by the RNC apparently ignoring its own rules when the combination of Ted Cruz supporters and the StopTrump movement submitted petitions from nine states, two more than the required seven, to demand a roll call vote on approving the rules for the convention. After a significant delay in which the chairman of the convention at that time, Senator John Barrasso, actually left the podium, the RNC and Trump campaign seemingly managed to convince three of those delegations to withdraw their petitions, allowing the rules to be enacted simply by voice vote, although, as far as I can discern, no evidence of that was ever produced. Everyone knew that the petitioners were going to fail - they simply wanted a roll call vote so their objections could be heard and recorded. But the Trump campaign obviously felt a roll-call vote would highlight the divisions in the party and decided not to allow it. This created a furious reaction from the anti-Trump forces, with Ken Cuccinelli saying the RNC simply "cheated" and former Senator Gordon Humphrey saying delegates were acting like "brownshirts" and "fascists". Cuccinelli claimed that the Iowa delegation was threatened with losing its "first in the nation" primary status if they did not withdraw their petition, but the delegation subsequently denied that claim. And that was just the afternoon session.

The evening session was almost Orwellian in its darkness and fear and hatred. It began with the benediction by pastor Mark Burns that included "we got to be united, because our enemy is not other Republicans -but is Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party." He continued, "that we together can defeat the liberal Democratic party, to keep us divided and not united. Because we are the United States of America, and we are the conservative party under God." Highlights of what followed were Rick Perry giving a speech that barely mentioned Trump while his campaign web site was still touting the fact that Trump was no a true conservative; a couple of speakers about Benghazi! who reiterated the thoroughly debunked claim about a "stand-down" order; a soap star who believes that Obama is a Muslim from the Middle East; a county sheriff who was dressed like a four star general who quoted Martin Luther King and then, not 30 seconds later, accused the Occupy Movement and Black Lives Matter, both of which by and large used the very same non-violent tactics as King, of being anarchists; he pounded away about how unsafe Americans are while actual crime statistics show we are safer than we have been in decades; Rudy Giuliani and other fear-mongers who painted this as not just an election but an apocalyptic battle that must fought and won; said Giuliani, "There's no next election. This is it. There is no more time for us left to revive our great country." Finally, a real retired general came out and basically said Hillary should be locked up which is probably the first time we've heard that at a convention in a century or so.

This then paved the way for Donald Trump to briefly (for Donald) introduce his wife Melania for the highlight speech of the evening. In any other world, Melania's story would be uplifting, an immigrant who came to the US and made it. Of course, the story basically runs counter to the policies of the Trump campaign and its supporters. And she apparently gave a magnificent speech, (although I have to admit I had given up watching long before), that hit all the right notes and probably made some inroads with women that Trump has alienated. Unfortunately, a number of reporters thought they had heard some of her exact words somewhere before and a little bit of checking on the internet showed that they were lifted almost verbatim from a speech Michelle Obama gave at the 2007 Democratic convention. Here is Melania:
From a young age my parents impressed on me the values that you work hard for what you want in life. That your work is your bond and you do what you say and keep your promise. That you treat people with respect. They taught and showed me values and morals in their daily life. That is a lesson that I continue to pass along to our son, and we need to pass those lessons on to the many generations to follow because we want our children in this nation to know that the only limit to your achievements is the strength of your dreams and your willingness to work for them. I am fortunate for my heritage but also for where it brought me today.
And here is Michelle:
And Barack and I were raised with so many of the same values: that you work hard for what you want in life; that your word is your bond and you do what you say you're going to do; that you treat people with dignity and respect, even if you don't know them, and even if you don't agree with them. And Barack and I set out to build lives guided by these values, and to pass them on to the next generation. Because we want our children — and all children in this nation — to know that the only limit to the height of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work for them.
Oops! And what's even worse, she is stealing words from Michelle Obama! Of course, within a couple of hours, this plagiarism overshadowed not only Melania's speech but also (perhaps fortunately for the GOP) everything that came before. Of course, Melania had already told the press that she had written the speech largely on her own but it really is up to the campaign staff to vet what she was going to say and that clearly did not happen.

Now the obvious move would be to blame some campaign staffer/speechwriter for inserting these words and fire them. But this is the Trump campaign. After denying that any plagiarism had taken place late last night, this morning campaign chair Paul Manafort came out this morning and basically threw Melania under the bus, telling Charlie Rose on CBS, "She knew what she was doing."
I'm not really sure that throwing the candidate's spouse under the bus is good for your long term employment prospects. Combine that with the insult to Kasich and Ohio, you really have to wonder how much longer Manafort can survive. And, if he goes, you have to wonder who would be suicidal enough to take his job.

I just want to emphasize that the level of disconnect between reality and many of the early speakers in the evening was truly frightening. Despite the continued message of law and order throughout the night, it is readily apparent that usual norms of social behavior no longer applied to many of the speakers and Trump supporters. From strong-arming the rules through on a voice vote, to an opening benediction that declared half of America as enemies, to the lies about Benghazi and crime, to the apocalyptic view of this election, and ending with Melania's plagiarism, the contempt for the societal norms that they claimed to support was on full display. And this was just day one...

Monday, July 18, 2016

Future Low Inflation Begs For Expansionary Fiscal Policy

Following on top of the most recent positive unemployment report, it also appears that the latest inflation figures are at or near the Fed target of 2%.  The numbers released on Friday show that the mean Consumer Price Index (CPI) is running at an annual rate of 2.2% and the trimmed-mean CPI came at a 1.9% annual rate. The CPI for urban consumers is up to 2.6% and the CPI less food and energy also rose to 2.1% annualized. Core CPI was up to 2.3% but, as Dean Baker points out, that number falls to 1.4% when the costs of shelter are excluded, highlighting rising rents driven by housing shortages.

On the other hand, yields on sovereign bonds all over the world are falling into negative territory, signaling markets believe that these record low interest rates will be with us for year to come. Germany's recently issued 10 year bond auctioned at a negative yield, joining Switzerland and Japan with that dubious distinction in the last year.  What this means is that investors are actually loaning money to Germany and PAYING for the "privilege" to do that. Investors will get less money back than they loaned if they hold the bonds to maturity.  There are a number of reasons for this insanity - investors think bond prices may rise further, driving yields further into negative territory, and they can sell at a profit; many funds are required to have a certain percentage of their holding in safe and liquid sovereign bonds so they have no choice; and with the rampant global uncertainty, there just not that many safe investment options out there.

These two conflicting indicators, higher current inflation but lower inflation expectations, present a real conundrum for the Fed. Thankfully, they can wait for another month or two of data to see if any specific trend develops before they have to make any decisions about changing interest rates. Even so,  I wouldn't expect any decisions until after the election this fall.

While the Fed is dealing with monetary policy, you would think that fiscal policy makers might want to think about the implications of these negative yields. When people are actually paying you to take their money, you might want to think about doing something with that money. Rather than focusing on destructive austerity as fiscal policy makers have done since 2010, they might want to invest in growing their economies. In fact, in the wake of the Brexit vote in the UK, Theresa May has already replaced George Osborne and indicated that the days of austerity are over. And with centrist European governments under stress from both the left and the right, you have to wonder how long austerity can last in Europe.

Here in the US, there are billions of dollars that could be spent on updating and improving our nation's infrastructure. One of the biggest reasons for the dynamic US economy in the post World War II era was the creation of the nation's highway system under President Eisenhower, an incredible investment that still pays dividends for our country today. Other options would also include spending on policies that are proven to help increase employment, like job training.  A new study shows that properly focused job training can allow trainees to earn $2,000 more than those that did not participate. And there are plenty of other similar projects out there. The deficit scolds will continue to tell us that "we can't afford it", but a faster growing economy will actually REDUCE our debt-to-GDP ratio especially when interest rates stay at such ridiculously low level. OF course, this is a non-starter in our current Congress but we can at least hope things change with the election this fall.

Chaos As Rules Are Adopted At Republican Convention

The Stop-Trump movement makes its last stand at the RNC today as they demanded that delegates be free to vote their conscience. The vote on the rules was rushed through and the demand by at least nine delegations for a roll call vote was denied even though only though threshold for a vote was only seven states. Former Senator Gordon Humphrey tried to make a point of order and parliamentary inquiry to demand a roll call vote and claimed he was shouted down by what he described as "brownshirts. They may not be fascists but they act like it." The Colorado delegation has walked out and Senator Mike Lee of Utah was incredulous that the chairman of the convention simply walked off the stage during this brouhaha. Former Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli accused the RNC of ignoring the rules and simply said, "they cheated".

This comes on top of Paul Manafort saying earlier this morning that John Kasich, the governor of Ohio, is "embarrassing his state" by refusing to endorse Trump. Since no Republican has ever won the Presidency without carrying the state of Ohio, perhaps it is not a wise idea to diss the governor of that state. But it is typical of the Trump campaign.

Murdochs Decide Ailes Must Go

It was pretty clear that the Murdochs and News Corporation were going to have to deal with Roger Ailes sooner rather than later. The two sons, James and Lachlan, come from a generation where Ailes' behavior can simply not be tolerated, even if Fox News accounts for a large percentage of the corporations profits. And it appears they have made the decision that Ailes will have to go - either gracefully by resigning or more forcefully by being fired. The only question that apparently remains is whether it will be after the Republican National Convention or sometime before that. An additional factor that is also probably driving the decision is a recognition that Fox News is going to need to change in order to succeed going forward - its viewership is declining as its demographic continues to age. After they take on Fox News, perhaps the Murdoch sons can move on to cleaning up the Wall Street Journal. Well, we can dream...

9/11 Report's Classified Pages Released Showing Numerous Saudi Connections

In a classic move to reduce media exposure, the government finally released late Friday afternoon the remaining 28 pages from the 9/11 Commission's report that had been classified for the last 14 years. The documents appear to show that Saudi government and related officials here in the United States had numerous contacts with a number of the hijackers, and, in the most damning case, provided two of the hijackers with substantial assistance after their arrival in Southern California in 2000. Omar al-Bayoumi, a suspected Saudi intelligence officer, was reported to have met hijackers al-Mahdhar and al-Hazmi publicly shortly after al-Bayoumi attended a meeting at the Saudi Consulate. al-Bayoumi apparently had a no-show job with a company associated with the Saudi Defense Ministry that originally "paid" him about $465 per month but that number jumped to $3700 per month immediately after the two hijackers arrived and remained over $3000 until he left the country in August, 2011. al-Bayoumi apparently also paid the security and first month's rent for the two hijackers and asked an associate to help them get driver's licenses and find a flight school. In addition, he was reported to have made over 100 calls to Saudi officials between January and May of 2000.

The findings were based on the Commission's review of CIA and FBI files and the details relied largely on informants from those agencies who, admittedly, are not necessarily reliable. And, just because the hijackers had contact with Saudi representatives does not mean that the Saudi government planned or had foreknowledge of the attacks. But you would think that since these hijackers had entered the country to engage in a brutal terrorist attack, they would be staying as far away as possible from anyone with a government affiliation, Saudi or otherwise. You can read the whole report here. Kudos should go especially to Kristen Breitweiser and the 9/11 families for keeping relentless pressure on the government to release these documents.

Regrexit Update

Now that Theresa May has become the new Prime Minister, we can at least see some baby steps  toward Britain's exit from the EU. And, as is usual when Britain has a foreign policy crisis, it is turning to its former colonies for help. The beleaguered Malcolm Turnbull in Australia discussed a free trade deal between the two countries when he spoke to May last week, and she welcomed the idea. And Trade Secretary Liam Fox began what he called "fruitful" negotiations over a similar trade agreement with Canada. These two announcements at least give the appearance of an effort to find new trading partners after exiting the EU, although they will come nowhere near replacing the reduction in trade that would come if Britain lost access to the European market.

Meanwhile, in a statement that is sure to annoy the Europeans, Brexit negotiator David Davis declared that any rush of immigrants entering Britain just before the official exit from the EU may not be entitled to protection and subsequently deported.  "We may have to say that the right to indefinite leave to remain protection only applies before a certain date," he said. Statements like this, however, are likely to spur even more immigrants to come to Britain right now in order to make sure they are not deported later. And how Davis' proposed change would be implemented legally is also hard to see, especially before Article 50 has been invoked.

Finally, on that very issue, Theresa May visited Scotland and met with Nicola Sturgeon and indicated that she will delay invoking Article 50 until some kind of agreement could be worked out with Scotland about staying in the EU. Sturgeon said she remained "open and flexible" to any options, one of which apparently might include Scotland remaining in the UK and remaining in the EU at the same time. It is very hard to see how that might be achieved but, in any case, it surely delays any invocation of Article 50 in the near future and that is certain to annoy the Europeans even  more. And it probably won't help the uncertainty that British businesses currently feel as well. This also seemingly contradicts Davis' statement that Article 50 should be invoked before the end of this year, although, it must be said, that comment was made before he was appointed to the cabinet.

Sadly, there still seems to be no real plan for going forward. May and Davis continue to make statements that indicate they think they can thread the needle in negotiating with Scotland and Northern Ireland that would somehow allow those two countries to remain in the EU while also being part of the UK. And they continue to peddle what I think is the fantasy that Britain can still have access to the European markets while limiting its immigration. As I have said many times before, I think these decisions will have to be made sooner rather than later. I just don't see the Europeans and the UK business community putting up with another 9-12 months of uncertainty.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

NBC Blows Story Of Tragic Death Of 3 Police Officers In Baton Rouge

In the prior post, I ripped NBC Sports and now I'll rip NBC News which broke into the British Open coverage with the story that 3 police officers had been "ambushed" and killed in Baton Rouge. In fact, witnesses report that a gun battle was already going on well before any police officers ever reached the scene. The situation in Baton Rouge is tragic enough. But you'd think a major news organization would make sure it confirmed the details of an "ambush", knowing that would further inflame racial tensions, before they ran the story.

Stenson Wins British Open In Record Breaking Performance

Poor Phil Mickelson! He manages to play smart golf, shunning the glory shot that has doomed him in the past, shoots a final round 65, the second best round of the day, to come in at 17 under par for the tournament - and he loses. Henrik Stenson played one of the most magnificent final rounds at a major in the history of golf, shooting an all-time record-tying 8 under par 63, to finish 20 under par, besting Phil by 3 strokes.

The day had begun with Mickelson and Stenson set for a head-to-head confrontation as the two of them had at least a five stroke lead over the rest of the field. So it was pretty much a match play situation from the get-go. Usually, the British Open is more about who can last the longest against the course and the conditions. But today the wind was down and these two golfers took full advantage. And what phenomenal play it was, as both players see-sawed back and forth for the lead and matched each other birdie for birdie. It wasn't until Stenson drained a 50-foot birdie putt on the 15th hole that any player had a lead of more than one stroke. And when Mickelson's eagle putt on the 16th somehow managed not go in and Stenson then drained his own birdie on that hole, it was pretty much all over. Stenson capped his incredible round by making a back-door birdie on the final hole to shoot his 63 and win by 3. Stenson had 10 birdies on the day and his two bogeys were both three-putts. Other than the first, there wasn't any hole where his drive or second shot ever brought bogie into play - that's how exceptional he was from tee to green. And, to think he could have shot 61 without those three-putts - simply incredible. It was simply one of the most exceptional final rounds at a major in golfing history.

One final note, it really seemed like the NBC crew was pulling just a little bit too hard for Phil, but that may just be me. But it was pretty shocking that they waited until the 17th hole to mention that Stenson was only one birdie away from tying the all-time record for low final round in a major, considering the record was set by Johnny Miller who was doing the broadcast. And I think we had to wait until the Phil Mickelson interview to be reminded (by Phil) that Stenson had 10 birdies on the day. In any case, it was one of the great final round duels in major golf history and the fantastic play of both of these players far overshadowed whatever the broadcast was lacking.

Congratulations Henrik!