Friday, July 29, 2016

Layoffs At Lloyds May Be Start Of Brexit Impact

Lloyds Bank announced that it would cut around 3,000 jobs and close around 200 branches by the end of next year.  Lloyds was already under pressure to reduce costs as it already had announced in 2014 that it would cut about 9,000 jobs by the end of 2017. So it is hard to know whether the Brexit vote had anything to do with this decision or whether Brexit provides a nice excuse for taking actions the bank had already contemplated. But the uncertainty caused by the Brexit vote and the expected cut in interest rates by the Bank Of England will only put more pressure on the bank's profits. This may just be the first salvo in a large reduction of employment at British banks. And it only reinforces my belief that the May government needs to come to a resolution with the EU sooner rather than later.

More Abuse Of Civil Forfeiture Law

Here is another example where a local police department seems to have become a law unto themselves. Civil forfeiture allows police departments to seize cash and/or property if it is in any way related to a crime. It was originally intended to be used against drug-traffickers and organized crime figures in order to seize proceeds from illegal activity. Unfortunately, police across this country have taken advantage of this law in egregious fashion, especially when they are incentivized by their state legislatures which enact laws allowing police to keep the proceeds from those seizures. There have been numerous, well-documented cases of small-town police forces basically supporting themselves by stopping citizens for the most minor or even made-up accusations in order to seize property or cash. And, in many cases, police have seized property without ever charging the owner with any crime. Indiana is one of those states where civil forfeiture is legal but the State Constitution apparently mandates that any proceeds from civil forfeiture be put into a fund to build schools. The state legislature passed a law that allowed police and prosecutors to deduct "law enforcement costs" before passing the remainder on to the school fund.

A lawsuit filed by a group trying to repeal all civil forfeiture laws alleges that the statute allowing the deduction of enforcement costs is a violation of the State Constitution. In their suit, the group also reports that Marion County, which includes the entire city of Indianapolis, has inflated law enforcement costs to such a degree that they have not contributed a single penny to the school fund since at least 2003. Prosecutors charged between $10,000 and $20,000 in costs to litigate a forfeiture case that was never contested in court. Police once charged $40,000 to have a bomb-sniffing dog sniff a suspicious package and then have it opened. And the numbers are staggering - the county averaged close to $900,000 per year in forfeiture proceeds which jumped to nearly $1.5 million in 2011. Imagine how many schools could have been built or upgraded with all that money.

Civil forfeiture is one of those laws that you can't conceive as being legal under the Fourteenth Amendment's restrictions against illegal search and seizure. And it clearly impacts the poor and minorities disproportionately as they have been shown to have much more contact with police and law enforcement and usually do not have the resources to contest the forfeiture action when it occurs. But the level of criminality by police and prosecutors in Marion County is staggering. The overcharging of costs is fraud on a massive basis and it is theft directly from the taxpayers and, more tragically, the children of Indiana. If there is any justice, not only will the statute be ruled unconstitutional but the police and prosecutors who engaged in this fraud should be charged and prosecuted.

Bridgewater Problems Should Be No Surprise

I don't think anyone in the financial industry is that surprised by the accusations of sexual harassment the Bridgewater hedge fund.  Yes, Bridgewater is full of really smart people who are incredibly driven and attracted to the meritocracy embodied in the culture. But it always smacked of being a little bit like a cult, with the constant monitoring and evaluations by your peers. It was not necessarily sinister but it is easy to see how easily it could take a turn in that direction and that employees could become intimidated and afraid. I guess what's more surprising to me is that something like this hasn't happened before this at Bridgewater.

Rubio Thinks Trump Can Learn On The Job

Marco Rubio has hit a new low in his defense of Donald Trump's rash statements at his press conference yesterday as he basically said that Trump could learn on the job. Rubio said, "...as he settles into this role as the nominee and ultimately the president, that the access to these issues is going to begin to, in some ways, kind of shape some of the policy positions given reality versus perhaps what you might read about on a blog somewhere." Well that's a ringing endorsement for Trump's preparedness for the job that should really make people want to vote for him.

You really have to wonder how long it will be before some major Republican player finally feels the need to salvage their career if not their integrity by coming out and endorsing Hillary Clinton. Yes, Romney, the Bush clan, and some others have refused to endorse Trump and said they won't vote for him. But there comes a point when you can't sit on the sidelines, especially when you're a politician. And I can guarantee that, if Trump loses and loses big, their silence will be used against them whenever they run again. And it will be even worse for the guys like Rubio who are out there actually defending Trump.

Full Text Of Hillary's Acceptance Speech

Below is the full text of Hillary Clinton's speech to the Democratic convention last night:

Thank you! Thank you for that amazing welcome.
And Chelsea, thank you.
I'm so proud to be your mother and so proud of the woman you've become.
Thanks for bringing Marc into our family, and Charlotte and Aidan into the world.
And Bill, that conversation we started in the law library 45 years ago is still going strong.
And I've even gotten a few words in along the way.
On Tuesday night, I was so happy to see that my Explainer-in-Chief is still on the job.
I'm also grateful to the rest of my family and the friends of a lifetime.
To all of you whose hard work brought us here tonight…
And to those of you who joined our campaign this week.
And what a remarkable week it's been.
We heard the man from Hope, Bill Clinton.
And the man of Hope, Barack Obama.
America is stronger because of President Obama's leadership, and I'm better because of his friendship.
We heard from our terrific vice president, the one-and-only Joe Biden, who spoke from his big heart about our party's commitment to working people.
First Lady Michelle Obama reminded us that our children are watching, and the president we elect is going to be their president, too.
And for those of you out there who are just getting to know Tim Kaine – you're soon going to understand why the people of Virginia keep promoting him: from city council and mayor, to Governor, and now Senator.
He'll make the whole country proud as our Vice President.
And… I want to thank Bernie Sanders.
Bernie, your campaign inspired millions of Americans, particularly the young people who threw their hearts and souls into our primary.
You've put economic and social justice issues front and center, where they belong.
And to all of your supporters here and around the country:
I want you to know, I've heard you.
Your cause is our cause.
Our country needs your ideas, energy, and passion.
That's the only way we can turn our progressive platform into real change for America.
We wrote it together – now let's go out there and make it happen together.
[pause]
My friends, we've come to Philadelphia – the birthplace of our nation – because what happened in this city 240 years ago still has something to teach us today.
We all know the story.
But we usually focus on how it turned out - and not enough on how close that story came to never being written at all.
When representatives from 13 unruly colonies met just down the road from here, some wanted to stick with the King.
Some wanted to stick it to the king, and go their own way.
The revolution hung in the balance.
Then somehow they began listening to each other … compromising … finding common purpose.
And by the time they left Philadelphia, they had begun to see themselves as one nation.
That's what made it possible to stand up to a King.
That took courage.
They had courage.
Our Founders embraced the enduring truth that we are stronger together.
America is once again at a moment of reckoning.
Powerful forces are threatening to pull us apart.
Bonds of trust and respect are fraying.
And just as with our founders, there are no guarantees.
It truly is up to us.
We have to decide whether we all will work together so we all can rise together.
Our country's motto is e pluribus unum: out of many, we are one.
Will we stay true to that motto?
Well, we heard Donald Trump's answer last week at his convention.
He wants to divide us - from the rest of the world, and from each other.
He's betting that the perils of today's world will blind us to its unlimited promise.
He's taken the Republican Party a long way...
from "Morning in America" to "Midnight in America."
He wants us to fear the future and fear each other.
Well, a great Democratic President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, came up with the perfect rebuke to Trump more than eighty years ago, during a much more perilous time.
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
Now we are clear-eyed about what our country is up against.
But we are not afraid.
We will rise to the challenge, just as we always have.
We will not build a wall.
Instead, we will build an economy where everyone who wants a good paying job can get one.
And we'll build a path to citizenship for millions of immigrants who are already contributing to our economy!
We will not ban a religion.
We will work with all Americans and our allies to fight terrorism.
There's a lot of work to do.
Too many people haven't had a pay raise since the
crash.
There's too much inequality.
Too little social mobility.
Too much paralysis in Washington.
Too many threats at home and abroad.
But just look at the strengths we bring to meet these challenges.
We have the most dynamic and diverse people in the world.
We have the most tolerant and generous young people we've ever had.
We have the most powerful military.
The most innovative entrepreneurs.
The most enduring values.Freedom and equality, justice and opportunity.
We should be so proud that these words are associated with us. That when people
hear them – they hear… America.
So don't let anyone tell you that our country is weak.
We're not.
Don't let anyone tell you we don't have what it takes.
We do.
And most of all, don't believe anyone who says: “I alone can fix it.”
Those were actually Donald Trump's words in Cleveland.
And they should set off alarm bells for all of us.
Really?
I alone can fix it?
Isn't he forgetting?
Troops on the front lines.
Police officers and fire fighters who run toward danger.
Doctors and nurses who care for us.
Teachers who change lives.
Entrepreneurs who see possibilities in every problem.
Mothers who lost children to violence and are building a movement to keep other kids safe.
He's forgetting every last one of us.
Americans don't say: “I alone can fix it.”
We say: “We'll fix it together.”
Remember: Our Founders fought a revolution and wrote a Constitution so America would never be a nation where one person had all the power.
Two hundred and forty years later, we still put our faith in each other.
Look at what happened in Dallas after the assassinations of five brave police officers.
Chief David Brown asked the community to support his force, maybe even join them.
And you know how the community responded?
Nearly 500 people applied in just 12 days.
That's how Americans answer when the call for help goes out.
[pause]
20 years ago I wrote a book called “It Takes a Village.” A lot of people looked at the title and asked, what the heck do you mean by that?
This is what I mean.
None of us can raise a family, build a business, heal a community or lift a country totally alone.
America needs every one of us to lend our energy, our talents, our ambition to making our nation better and stronger.
I believe that with all my heart.
That's why “Stronger Together” is not just a lesson from our history.
It's not just a slogan for our campaign.
It's a guiding principle for the country we've always been and the future we're going to build.
A country where the economy works for everyone, not just those at the top.
Where you can get a good job and send your kids to a good school, no matter what zip code you live in.
A country where all our children can dream, and those dreams are within reach.
Where families are strong… communities are safe…
And yes, love trumps hate.
That's the country we're fighting for.
That's the future we're working toward…
And so it is with humility. . . determination . . . and boundless confidence in America's promise… that I accept your nomination for President of the United
States!
[Pause]
Now, sometimes the people at this podium are new to the national stage.
As you know, I'm not one of those people.
I've been your First Lady. Served 8 years as a Senator from the great State of New York.
I ran for President and lost.
Then I represented all of you as Secretary of State.
But my job titles only tell you what I've done.
They don't tell you why.
The truth is, through all these years of public service, the “service” part has always come easier to me than the “public” part.
I get it that some people just don't know what to make of me.
So let me tell you.
The family I'm from . . . well, no one had their name on big buildings.
My family were builders of a different kind.
Builders in the way most American families are.
They used whatever tools they had – whatever God gave them – and whatever life in America provided – and built better lives and better futures for their kids.
My grandfather worked in the same Scranton lace mill for 50 years.
Because he believed that if he gave everything he had, his children would have a better life than he did.
And he was right.
My dad, Hugh, made it to college. He played football at Penn State and enlisted in the Navy after Pearl Harbor.
When the war was over he started his own small business, printing fabric for draperies.
I remember watching him stand for hours over silk screens.
He wanted to give my brothers and me opportunities he never had.
And he did. My mother, Dorothy, was abandoned by her parents as a young girl. She ended up on her own at 14, working as a house maid.
She was saved by the kindness of others.
Her first grade teacher saw she had nothing to eat at lunch, and brought extra food to share.
The lesson she passed on to me years later stuck with me:
No one gets through life alone.
We have to look out for each other and lift each other up.
She made sure I learned the words of our Methodist faith:
“Do all the good you can, for all the people you can, in all the ways you can, as long as ever you can.”
I went to work for the Children's Defense Fund, going door-to-door in New Bedford, Massachusetts on behalf of children with disabilities who were denied the chance
to go to school.
I remember meeting a young girl in a wheelchair on the small back porch of her house.
She told me how badly she wanted to go to school – it just didn't seem possible.
And I couldn't stop thinking of my mother and what she went through as a child.
It became clear to me that simply caring is not enough.
To drive real progress, you have to change both hearts and laws.
You need both understanding and action.
So we gathered facts. We built a coalition. And our work helped convince Congress to ensure access to education for all students with disabilities.
It's a big idea, isn't it?
Every kid with a disability has the right to go to school.
But how do you make an idea like that real? You do it step-by-step, year-by-year… sometimes even door-by-door.
And my heart just swelled when I saw Anastasia Somoza on this stage, representing millions of young people who – because of those changes to our laws – are able to get an education.
It's true... I sweat the details of policy – whether we're talking about the exact level of lead in the drinking water in Flint, Michigan, the number of mental health facilities in Iowa, or the cost of your prescription drugs.
Because it's not just a detail if it's your kid - if it's your family.
It's a big deal. And it should be a big deal to your president.
Over the last three days, you've seen some of the people who've inspired me.
People who let me into their lives, and became a part of mine.
People like Ryan Moore and Lauren Manning.
They told their stories Tuesday night.
I first met Ryan as a seven-year old.
He was wearing a full body brace that must have weighed forty pounds.
Children like Ryan kept me going when our plan for universal health care failed…and kept me working with leaders of both parties to help create the Children's Health Insurance Program that covers 8 million kids every year.
Lauren was gravely injured on 9/11.
It was the thought of her, and Debbie St. John, and John Dolan and Joe Sweeney, and all the victims and survivors, that kept me working as hard as I could in the Senate on behalf of 9/11 families, and our first responders who got sick from their time at Ground Zero.
I was still thinking of Lauren, Debbie and all the others ten years later in the White House Situation Room when President Obama made the courageous decision that finally brought Osama bin Laden to justice.
In this campaign, I've met so many people who motivate me to keep fighting for change.
And, with your help, I will carry all of your voices and stories with me to the White House.
I will be a President for Democrats, Republicans, and Independents.
For the struggling, the striving and the successful.
For those who vote for me and those who don't.
For all Americans.
[pause]
Tonight, we've reached a milestone in our nation's march toward a more perfect union:
the first time that a major party has nominated a woman for President.
Standing here as my mother's daughter, and my daughter's mother, I'm so happy this day has come.
Happy for grandmothers and little girls and everyone in between.
Happy for boys and men, too – because when any barrier falls in America, for anyone, it clears the way for everyone. When there are no ceilings, the sky's the limit.
So let's keep going, until every one of the 161 million women and girls across America has the opportunity she deserves.
Because even more important than the history we make tonight, is the history we will write together in the years ahead.
Let's begin with what we're going to do to help working people in our country get ahead and stay ahead.
Now, I don't think President Obama and Vice President Biden get the credit they deserve for saving us from the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes.
Our economy is so much stronger than when they took office. Nearly 15 million new private-sector jobs. Twenty million more Americans with health insurance. And an auto industry that just had its best year ever. That's real progress.
But none of us can be satisfied with the status quo. Not by a long shot.
We're still facing deep-seated problems that developed long before the recession and have stayed with us through the
recovery.
I've gone around our country talking to working families. And I've heard from so many of you who feel like the economy just isn't working.
Some of you are frustrated – even furious.
And you know what??? You're right.
It's not yet working the way it should.
Americans are willing to work – and work hard.
But right now, an awful lot of people feel there is less and less respect for the work they do.
And less respect for them, period.
Democrats are the party of working people.
But we haven't done a good enough job showing that we get what you're going through,
and that we're going to do something about it.
So I want to tell you tonight how we will empower Americans to live better lives.
My primary mission as President will be to create more opportunity and more good jobs with rising wages right here in the United States...
From my first day in office to my last!
Especially in places that for too long have been left out and left behind.
From our inner cities to our small towns, from Indian Country to Coal Country.
From communities ravaged by addiction to regions hollowed out by plant closures.
And here's what I believe.
I believe America thrives when the middle class thrives.
I believe that our economy isn't working the way it should because our democracy isn't working the way it should.
That's why we need to appoint Supreme Court justices who will get money out of politics and expand voting rights, not restrict them. And we'll pass a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United!
I believe American corporations that have gotten so much from our country should be just as patriotic in return.
Many of them are. But too many aren't.
It's wrong to take tax breaks with one hand and give out pink slips with the other.
And I believe Wall Street can never, ever be allowed to wreck Main Street again.
I believe in science. I believe that climate change is real and that we can save our planet while creating millions of good-paying clean energy jobs.
I believe that when we have millions of hardworking immigrants contributing to our economy, it would be self-defeating and inhumane to kick them out.
Comprehensive immigration reform will grow our economy and keep families together - and it's the right thing to do.
Whatever party you belong to, or if you belong to no party at all, if you share these beliefs, this is your campaign.
If you believe that companies should share profits with their workers, not pad executive bonuses, join us.
If you believe the minimum wage should be a living wage… and no one working full time should have to raise their children in poverty… join us.
If you believe that every man, woman, and child in America has the right to affordable health care…join us.
If you believe that we should say “no” to unfair trade deals... that we should stand up to China... that we should support our steelworkers and autoworkers and homegrown manufacturers…join us.
If you believe we should expand Social Security and protect a woman's right to make her own health care decisions… join us.
And yes, if you believe that your working mother, wife, sister, or daughter deserves equal pay… join us...
Let's make sure this economy works for everyone, not just those at the top.
Now, you didn't hear any of this from Donald Trump at his convention.
He spoke for 70-odd minutes – and I do mean odd.
And he offered zero solutions. But we already know he doesn't believe these things.
No wonder he doesn't like talking about his plans.
You might have noticed, I love talking about mine.
In my first 100 days, we will work with both parties to pass the biggest investment in new, good-paying jobs since World War II.
Jobs in manufacturing, clean energy, technology and innovation, small business, and infrastructure.
If we invest in infrastructure now, we'll not only create jobs today, but lay the foundation for the jobs of the future.
And we will transform the way we prepare our young people for those jobs.
Bernie Sanders and I will work together to make college tuition-free for the middle class and debt-free for all!
We will also liberate millions of people who already have student debt.
It's just not right that Donald Trump can ignore his debts, but students and families can't refinance theirs.
And here's something we don't say often enough: College is crucial, but a four-year degree should not be the only path to a good job.
We're going to help more people learn a skill or practice a trade and make a good living doing it.
We're going to give small businesses a boost. Make it easier to get credit. Way too many dreams die in the parking lots of banks.
In America, if you can dream it, you should be able to build it.
We're going to help you balance family and work. And you know what, if fighting for affordable child care and paid family leave is playing the “woman card,” then Deal Me In!
(Oh, you've heard that one?)
Now, here's the thing, we're not only going to make all these investments, we're going to pay for every single one of them.
And here's how: Wall Street, corporations, and the super-rich are going to start paying their fair share of taxes.
Not because we resent success. Because when more than 90% of the gains have gone to the top 1%, that's where the money is.
And if companies take tax breaks and then ship jobs overseas, we'll make them
pay us back. And we'll put that money to work where it belongs … creating jobs here at home!
Now I know some of you are sitting at home thinking, well that all sounds pretty good.
But how are you going to get it done? How are you going to break through the gridlock in Washington? Look at my record. I’ve worked across the aisle to pass laws and treaties and to launch new programs that help millions of people. And if you give me the chance, that’s what I’ll do as President.
But Trump, he's a businessman. He must know something about the economy.
Well, let's take a closer look.
In Atlantic City, 60 miles from here, you'll find contractors and small businesses who lost everything because Donald Trump refused to pay his bills.
People who did the work and needed the money, and didn't get it – not because he couldn't pay them, but because he wouldn't pay them.
That sales pitch he's making to be your president? Put your faith in him – and you'll win big? That's the same sales pitch he made to all those small businesses. Then Trump walked away, and left working people holding the bag.
He also talks a big game about putting America First. Please explain to me what part of America First leads him to make Trump ties in China, not Colorado.
Trump suits in Mexico, not Michigan. Trump furniture in Turkey, not Ohio. Trump picture frames in India, not Wisconsin.
Donald Trump says he wants to make America great again – well, he could start by actually making things in America again.
The choice we face is just as stark when it comes to our national security.
Anyone reading the news can see the threats and turbulence we face.
From Baghdad and Kabul, to Nice and Paris and Brussels, to San Bernardino and Orlando, we're dealing with determined enemies that must be defeated.
No wonder people are anxious and looking for reassurance. Looking for steady leadership.
You want a leader who understands we are stronger when we work with our allies around the world and care for our veterans here at home. Keeping our nation safe and honoring the people who do it will be my highest priority.
I'm proud that we put a lid on Iran's nuclear program without firing a single shot – now we have to enforce it, and keep supporting Israel's security.
I'm proud that we shaped a global climate agreement – now we have to hold every country accountable to their commitments, including ourselves.
I'm proud to stand by our allies in NATO against any threat they face, including from Russia.
I've laid out my strategy for defeating ISIS.
We will strike their sanctuaries from the air, and support local forces taking them out on the ground. We will surge our intelligence so that we detect and prevent attacks before they happen.
We will disrupt their efforts online to reach and radicalize young people in our country.
It won't be easy or quick, but make no mistake – we will prevail.
Now Donald Trump says, and this is a quote, “I know more about ISIS than the generals do….”
No, Donald, you don't.
He thinks that he knows more than our military because he claimed our armed forces are “a disaster.”
Well, I've had the privilege to work closely with our troops and our veterans for many years, including as a Senator on the Armed Services Committee.
I know how wrong he is. Our military is a national treasure.
We entrust our commander-in-chief to make the hardest decisions our nation faces.
Decisions about war and peace. Life and death.
A president should respect the men and women who risk their lives to serve our country – including the sons of Tim Kaine and Mike Pence, both Marines.
Ask yourself: Does Donald Trump have the temperament to be Commander-in-Chief?
Donald Trump can't even handle the rough-and-tumble of a presidential campaign.
He loses his cool at the slightest provocation. When he's gotten a tough question from a reporter. When he's challenged in a debate. When he sees a protestor at a rally.
Imagine him in the Oval Office facing a real crisis. A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons.
I can't put it any better than Jackie Kennedy did after the Cuban Missile Crisis. She said that what worried President Kennedy during that very dangerous time was that a war might be started – not by big men with self-control and restraint, but by little men – the ones moved by fear and pride.
America's strength doesn't come from lashing out.
Strength relies on smarts, judgment, cool resolve, and the precise and strategic application of power.
That's the kind of Commander-in-Chief I pledge to be.
And if we're serious about keeping our country safe, we also can't afford to have a President who's in the pocket of the gun lobby.
I'm not here to repeal the 2nd Amendment.
I'm not here to take away your guns.
I just don't want you to be shot by someone who shouldn't have a gun in the first place.
We should be working with responsible gun owners to pass common-sense reforms and keep guns out of the hands of criminals, terrorists and all others who would do us harm.
For decades, people have said this issue was too hard to solve and the politics were too hot to touch.
But I ask you: how can we just stand by and do nothing?
You heard, you saw, family members of people killed by gun violence.
You heard, you saw, family members of police officers killed in the line of duty because they were outgunned by criminals.
I refuse to believe we can't find common ground here.
We have to heal the divides in our country.
Not just on guns. But on race. Immigration. And more.
That starts with listening to each other. Hearing each other. Trying, as best we can, to walk in each other's shoes.
So let's put ourselves in the shoes of young black and Latino men and women who face the effects of systemic racism, and are made to feel like their lives are disposable.
Let's put ourselves in the shoes of police officers, kissing their kids and spouses goodbye every day and heading off to do a dangerous and necessary job.
We will reform our criminal justice system from end-to-end, and rebuild trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve.
We will defend all our rights – civil rights, human rights and voting rights… women's rights and workers' rights… LGBT rights and the rights of people with disabilities!
And we will stand up against mean and divisive rhetoric wherever it comes from.
For the past year, many people made the mistake of laughing off Donald Trump's comments – excusing him as an entertainer just putting on a show.
They think he couldn't possibly mean all the horrible things he says – like when he called women “pigs.” Or said that an American judge couldn't be fair because of his Mexican heritage. Or when he mocks and mimics a reporter with a disability.
Or insults prisoners of war like John McCain –a true hero and patriot who deserves our respect.
At first, I admit, I couldn't believe he meant it either.
It was just too hard to fathom – that someone who wants to lead our nation could say those things. Could be like that.
But here's the sad truth: There is no other Donald Trump...This is it.
And in the end, it comes down to what Donald Trump doesn't get: that America is great – because America is good.
So enough with the bigotry and bombast. Donald Trump's not offering real change.
He's offering empty promises. What are we offering? A bold agenda to improve the lives of people across our country - to keep you safe, to get you good jobs, and to give your kids the opportunities they deserve.
The choice is clear.
[Pause]
Every generation of Americans has come together to make our country freer, fairer, and stronger.
None of us can do it alone.
I know that at a time when so much seems to be pulling us apart, it can be hard to imagine how we'll ever pull together again.
But I'm here to tell you tonight – progress is possible.
I know because I've seen it in the lives of people across America who get knocked down and get right back up.
And I know it from my own life. More than a few times, I've had to pick myself up and get back in the game.
Like so much else, I got this from my mother. She never let me back down from any challenge. When I tried to hide from a neighborhood bully, she literally blocked the door. “Go back out there,” she said.
And she was right. You have to stand up to bullies.
You have to keep working to make things better, even when the odds are long and the opposition is fierce.
We lost my mother a few years ago. I miss her every day. And I still hear her voice urging me to keep working, keep fighting for right, no matter what.
That's what we need to do together as a nation.
Though "we may not live to see the glory," as the song from the musical Hamilton goes, "let us gladly join the fight."
Let our legacy be about "planting seeds in a garden you never get to see."
That's why we're here...not just in this hall, but on this Earth.
The Founders showed us that.
And so have many others since.
They were drawn together by love of country, and the selfless passion to build something better for all who follow.
That is the story of America. And we begin a new chapter tonight.
Yes, the world is watching what we do.
Yes, America's destiny is ours to choose.
So let's be stronger together.
Looking to the future with courage and confidence.
Building a better tomorrow for our beloved children and our beloved country.
When we do, America will be greater than ever.
Thank you and may God bless the United States of America!

Day 4 DNC Recap- Hillary Exceeds Expectations And Dems Leave Philly United

It was going to be an almost impossible job to top the incredible speeches from day 3 at the DNC. But while day 4 did not quite have the soaring rhetoric and polished delivery of some of the speeches from the night before, it did provide some powerful messages from lots of regular people, not politicians. Starting off with testimonials from the relatives of slain police officers was a great strategy and showed that Democrats understand the complexity of gun violence and racial justice. Khizr Khan, the father of a Muslim soldier who died in combat in 2004, gave the most moving speech of the evening. In his very deliberate English, he spoke of the insults that Trump has hurled at Muslims and other minorities and asked if Trump had ever read the US Constitution. He pulled a copy from his breast pocket and offered to lend it to Trump so he could read about liberty and the equal protection of the law and he then asked if Trump had ever been to Arlington National Cemetery where he would see the graves of all faiths, genders, and ethnicities who died defending this country. He then said to Trump, "You have sacrificed nothing!". That was followed by a powerful message from retired 4 star General John Allen with other military members standing behind him as he not only supported Hillary but pointedly said to Trump, "Our armed forces, will not become and instrument of torture, and will not carry out murder … To our allies, listen closely: we are with you. America will not abandon you!" Chelsea Clinton gave a composed and personal introduction to her mom and then it was time for Hillary.

Hillary does not have the oratorical power of Biden or the Obamas, but she gave one of the better speeches of her career, becoming the first woman to be nominated to the top of the ticket of a major party in the US. The theme of her speech dovetailed perfectly with her campaign slogan, "Stronger Together", saying, "Americans don't say ‘I alone can fix it.’ We say ‘we’ll fix it together.'" in a pointed dig at Trump. And she also had nice attack at Trump with, "He also talks a big game about putting America First. Please explain to me what part of America First leads him to make Trump ties in China, not Colorado. Trump suits in Mexico, not Michigan. Trump furniture in Turkey, not Ohio. Trump picture frames in India, not Wisconsin. Donald Trump says he wants to make America great again – well, he could start by actually making things in America again". She recognized the problems the country was facing and the anxiety the electorate has and she offered empathy and policies to address them. In particular, her focus on rational gun control and taking money from the 1% who have made 90% of the gains in order to pay for her programs appealed to the populist sentiment across the country. She managed to provide a message of optimism and solutions, of faith and community, of pride and patriotism, while still recognizing the problems that confront the country. Perhaps there was a little too much policy for my taste, but that is really Hillary's strength.

Hillary's speech and the entire convention was a successful attempt to seize the middle ground from Trump and the Republicans. The optimism, faith, and patriotism that have traditionally been Republican themes were captured by the Democrats at this convention and were designed to appeal to a broader electorate than the typical Democratic base. And yet the policies and solutions offered here will resonate with that base. And, despite the die-hard Bernie supporters, the Democrats left Philadelphia extraordinarily unified and motivated to defeat Donald Trump this fall. It is hard to imagine they could have done much better than they did - the four days were a resounding success for Hillary and the Democratic party.



Thursday, July 28, 2016

Trump Walks Back Hacking Comments Which Almost Makes It Worse

Donald Trump went on Fox & Friends this morning and claimed that he was being sarcastic when he said that Russia or some other foreign power should hack into Hillary Clinton's email. I didn't see one report from the press conference yesterday that indicated any reporter there believed he was being sarcastic. They certainly ran with the story as though he was being entirely serious. Of course, he's probably lying this morning about his intentions. But even if he was being entirely sarcastic, I don't think it should make anyone comfortable that the potential leader of the free world leaves the wrong impression about what he was saying. The world is too dangerous a place not to be absolutely clear about the intent of your words. Saying "just kidding!" is not an option.

Day 3 DNC Recap - Making The Case That Trump Is Not Fit To Be President

Day 3 of the DNC began with a consistent attack on gun violence and the power of the NRA with speeches by Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Gabby Giffords among others. That was followed by Rear Admiral John Hutson who really went after Trump about his comments about Russia earlier today. Leon Panetta followed that with another takedown Trump but his hawkish views and past history did not resonate with the crowd at all with his speech interrupted by "lies" and "no more wars" chants. And that set the stage for the three stars of the evening - Joe Biden, Tim Kaine and Barack Obama.

Biden gave his usual classic, passionate speech where he talked up Hillary's leadership qualities, appealed to our greatness, and denounced Trump and his divisiveness, lack of empathy, and basic cluelessness. His best line, among many, was that "we lead not only by the example of our power, but by the power of our example". Michael Bloomberg then made a searing indictment of Trump and a strong endorsement of Hillary Clinton and he had one of the best zingers of the night, saying, "I built a business, and I didn’t start it with a million-dollar check from my father." The theme of those three speakers, Panetta, Biden, and Bloomberg was to declare Trump unfit for the Presidency and they all did their job. But the old blowhard, Joe Biden, was still the star - that man knows how to give a speech!

Tim Kaine was not the most dynamic speaker but he gave a good accounting of his resume and the story of his political life. He spoke to Hillary's trust issue by saying he trusted her with his son's life who is serving overseas in the Marines and he easily weaved English and Spanish throughout his speech. But he was most effective in his attacks on Trump and how all the people who ever believe Trump always get stiffed. He was an effective attack dog but managed to do it in a pleasant and upbeat manner - a new happy warrior.

And that set the stage for President Barack Obama who simply rocked the house with one of the great speeches in modern American history. He began with an honest accounting of his administration's successes and failures. And then proceeded to give what historian Michael Beschloss called the most enthusiastic endorsement of a nominee by any outgoing President in history. He spoke to our innate optimism and shared American values and showed that Trump and the values he represents lie well outside the mainstream. And the crowd loved every minute of it. Take a look at the whole speech, it's worth it.

The evening ended with Hillary joining Obama on stage and getting a warm embrace from the current President who had made the case that she was the one to build on his legacy.

This was a great evening for Democrats with Bloomberg giving a good speech, Biden's even better, and Obama's simply the best. Bloomberg and Biden landed some serious blows on Trump and Obama came in and, in Michelle's words, "went high". In fact, the evening was almost too good as it puts an extraordinary amount of pressure on Hillary to come even close to the level of oratory that we heard last night.

Overworked Americans And Rampant Wage Theft

The Washington Center for Equitable Growth published a few graphs last month that illustrated just how much Americans are overworked. In almost every industry, at least 20% of workers are putting in over 40 hours a week and 10% of workers put in over 45 hours a week. The percentage of people in legal and management who work over 40 hours is close to 40% and 30% work more than 45 hours. But those particular groups also tend to be quite well paid. That is not the case in plenty of the other industries listed.

What's more interesting is to look at the second graph they present that shows the relationship between the hours worked and hourly wages:


As you might expect, hourly wages increase as the number of hours worked increases. But, as the report states, "after the 40-hour threshold, the return of additional hours of work – higher hourly wages – isn’t clear." This also suggests that American businesses are getting hours and hours of free labor from workers putting in over 40 hours a week. In fact, one estimate puts the total amount of wage theft in the United States at between $40 and $60 BILLION per year. As a comparison, this is two to three times the amount of money lost to robbery, burglary, larceny, and auto theft COMBINED in the United States each year. That's why the Obama's Labor Department rules on raising the salary cutoff for overtime pay is so important. It will help make sure that all those extra hours are actually compensated.

But, as we saw earlier today, wage theft involves more than just not paying for overtime. It would be nice if our government actually started to treat it like the serious crime that it really is. And is it any wonder that hard-working Americans no longer believe the system is working for them.

Free Trade For Workers, Protectionism For Elites

Dean Baker makes an important point in talking about "free trade" these days. As he says, the trade deals over the last couple of decades have not really been about trade per se but more about providing protections for certain segments of the US economy, primarily in the form of patent and copyright protections. And the beneficiaries have specifically been the pharmaceutical, software, and entertainment industries. The protections, or essentially tariffs, raise the price of goods and services significantly and redistribute income upward to the executives and shareholders in these industries. These protections go hand-in-hand with the protections provided our medical, legal, and other high-skill industries that use licensing accreditation to limit any competition from abroad. The only area where true "free trade" and a "borderless" economy exists in our country is in the manufacturing and other low skill industries where workers constantly have to compete with lower wage foreign workers. It's no wonder those workers are furious with the elites who are able to live under the protections that they long ago stripped from working class.

Unionized School Districts Have Better Teachers

Teachers unions get a really hard time these days from both politicians and taxpayers. The unions are resented for being able to provide great retirement benefits that used to be the norm for all workers but are no longer available to most of us. And they get bashed for inefficiency and excessive overhead but that is probably more to do with political malfunction and the failure of the local school boards as opposed to the unions themselves. And they have also been accused of protecting bad teachers at the expense of our children. But a recent report by the National Bureau of Economic Research shows that unionized school districts actually dismiss more poor teachers and retain higher quality teachers than non-unionized districts. Eunice Han, the study's author, says, "Highly unionized districts dismiss more bad teachers because it costs more to keep them. Using three different kinds of survey data from the National Center for Education Statistics, I confirmed that unionized districts dismiss more low-quality teachers than those with weak unions or no unions. Unionized districts also retain more high-quality teachers relative to district with weak unionism. No matter how and when I measured unionism I found that unions lowered teacher attrition."

Of course, this study has implications not only for those states that are restricting the collective bargaining power of teachers unions but also for the charter school movement. Of course, neither restricting bargaining power or the charter school movement have much to do with actually teaching our children. They are methods to reduce the power of unions, reduce teachers' salaries, and privatize the public sphere. But this study shows that, if you really care about the education your children are getting, you should want a strong teachers union in your school.

Dems And GOP Do NOT Have Similar Problems With Race

I really have to seriously disagree with this Kevin Drum post that Democrats and Republicans have mirror image problems on race. It is the usual media false equivalence on steroids. I would agree with conservative Avik Roy when he says, "conservatism has become, and has been for some time, much more about white identity politics than it has been about conservative political philosophy." And I also agree with Drum when he states, "The problem for Republicans is simple to describe: it's not that their leaders are racist, but that they've long tolerated racism in their ranks". But he then goes on to say that the Democrats' problem is that, by bashing this white nationalism and calling out racism when you see it, it immediately turns off those white working class voters and dooms the Democratic economic message from ever getting through to them. To say that calling out racism is a "problem" is almost beyond the pale. And perhaps if Republican leaders didn't tolerate that racism, Democrats wouldn't have to call them out on it so often.

But more than that, Republicans call for the deportation of millions of immigrants, propose monitoring mosques and subjecting Muslims to loyalty oaths, offer economic policies that hurt that white working class and enrich the 1%, and, as he says, tolerate and encourage the racism within their party, either implicitly or explicitly. Democrats, on the other hand, fight to increase the minimum wage which will help the white working class directly and indirectly, attempt, against Republican opposition, to provide affordable health insurance that will also benefit the white working class, try to get the government investment in areas that have been abandoned economically, and I have yet to hear one word from the dais of the Democratic convention that painted the white working class with the broad brush of racism. Drum is absolutely right in his analysis of the Republican problem on race. But I believe he has it totally backward when it comes to the Democrats. It's not that the white nationalists tune out the Democratic economic message because they believe Democrats are calling them racists. It's that the white nationalists tune out the because of their racism. Does Drum honestly believe that Democrats would be able to sway a large bloc of white nationalists to their economic message by essentially dropping the matter of race altogether. I certainly don't. For the white nationalists and a segment of the white working class, it is all about tribal politics.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Fed Drops Concern About Employment And Near Term Risks In July Statement

The Federal Reserve Open Market Committee just released its statement from their meeting this week. The two big takeaways from this statement are their belief in the strengthening of the labor market after the serious blip in May's data and the belief that the near-term risks to the economy have diminished, indicative of the lack of serious contagion related to Brexit. Sadly, this probably makes a possible September rate hike more likely but not necessarily probable. There will still be plenty of data to look at between now and the September meeting that could sway the decision in either direction. It was a little disappointing to see that one member, Esther George, actually preferred to raise rates at this meeting. I'm sure that, barring any major economic changes, there will be a few more joining her in September.

Lottery Winner Makes "Bad" Investment

I'm not sure that this is the kind of entrepreneurial spirit America is really looking for. A Georgia man decided to "invest" his $3 million lottery winnings in a crystal-meth trafficking ring. Needless to say, it did not end well. Perhaps he never made it through to the final season of "Breaking Bad". Only in America.

Nexus Of Trump's Tax Returns And Russian Money Will Remain Huge Story

The nexus between Donald Trump's connections to Russian money and his refusal to release his tax returns is going to be a "huuuuge" issue for the foreseeable future, as the Donald is wont to say. Yesterday, even President Obama fanned the flames when he commented on all the favorable press that Trump gets in Russia and then responded when asked if he believed Russia would try to influence the election, saying, "anything’s possible." Trump continually refuses to answer the very simple question of whether Trump or any of his businesses have outstanding loans with Russian individuals or Russian banks. His response so far has been to say that he has no business interests in Russia. But that is not the question being asked. Rather, the real question is whether Russia has business interests with Trump or his businesses. And he refuses to answer that. The fact that he isn't just flat out lying as he usually does but is merely dodging the questions make it even more curious. His son already admitted back in 2008 that "Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets". He also flatly refuses to release his tax returns, a stance that was reiterated by his campaign manager Paul Manafort this morning, using the excuse that he is being audited by the IRS. But the IRS has said repeatedly that there is nothing about the audit process that prohibits Trump from releasing those returns.

Trump seems to have compounded his problems with a press conference earlier today where he once again refused to release his taxes because he is under audit and again dodged the question whether Russian money has interests in him or his businesses by saying "there's nothing in Russia" with respect to his businesses. He then encouraged Russian or any other foreign country to either hack Hillary Clinton's email and/or release any other emails of hers that they have already hacked. He once again refused to stand firm when asked if he would defend the Baltics if Russia attacked as the NATO treaty requires and he further went on to suggest that he would look at whether to recognize Crimea as Russian territory.

Needless to say, encouraging foreign governments to actively interfere in US elections is probably not a good idea. The Clinton campaign quickly responded with a statement saying, "This has to be the first time that a major presidential candidate has actively encouraged a foreign power to conduct espionage against his political opponent. That's not hyperbole, those are just the facts. This has gone from being a matter of curiosity, and a matter of politics, to being a national security issue."

Trump has lived in the New York media market forever and he knows how to play the game about staying on the front page, even if it's bad press. The question is whether he thinks this tempest about Russian and his taxes will steal some press from the DNC convention or whether all this smoke indicates that there is a fire in there somewhere. Considering his refusal to release his taxes is a stance he took long before the convention and his simple refusal to answer the question about Russian investments in the Trump "empire", I have got to believe there is something there.

It will be interesting to see how the Republican establishment, especially the foreign policy establishment, reacts to this latest repudiation of the consensus US foreign policy. As far as Democrats go, they need to continually pound away on his refusal to release his taxes - they cannot let that issue pass.

O'Reilly Reassures Us That Slaves Who Built White House Were Treated Well

Apparently there was some distress and disbelief among the right wing with Michelle Obama's comment in her speech on Monday night that the White House was a "house that was built by slaves." Of course, it would only seem plausible that a large neo-Classical building being constructed in the late 1790s and early 1800s in what is still considered part of the South would have used some slave labor to construct it. And historical records actually do show that slaves did in fact help build the White House although other workers were naturally also involved. Shockingly, Bill O'Reilly came to Michelle's defense providing the full clarification that I guess he felt was needed. "Slaves that worked there were well fed and had decent lodgings provided by the government, which stopped hiring slave labor in 1802. However, the feds did not forbid subcontractors from using slave labor," O'Reilly said. "So, Michelle Obama is essentially correct in citing slaves as builders of the White House, but there were others working as well." I'm glad Bill could reassure us that the slaves were well fed and had OK lodgings. But it doesn't quite take away from the fact that they were still slaves.

Wage Theft Right Under Noses Of US Senate

This story pretty much encapsulates the abuse of low wage workers by big business with the willing acquiescence of our representatives and government. Apparently workers in the Senate cafeteria were having their job descriptions manipulated and were forced to work off the clock simply to line the pockets of the companies that were contracted to provide cafeteria services to the United States Senate. That's right, employees' wages were being stolen right inside the US Capitol. An investigation by the Labor Department found that nearly 650 employees were robbed of around $1 million dollars in wages by these firms. That works out to nearly $1,500 per employee who was shorted and I'm pretty sure that every one of those workers could have put that money to good use rather than see it go into the pockets of the shareholders and executives of the firms that employed them. As Joseph Geevarghese, the director of the group that filed the complaint that led to the investigation, said, "If federal contractors believe they can get away with breaking federal laws right under the nose of lawmakers, imagine what they’re doing all across the U.S., where workers don’t have access to power and access to the media." Imagine indeed. Incredibly, the Labor Department has said it is only considering to bar the firms involved from getting future federal contracts. Considering?! If we do not find some way to punish these companies for abuse like this, how we can we ever expect this kind of behavior to stop.

DNC Day 2 - Unanimous Nomination And A Human Face To Hillary

Democrats made history last night when they made Hillary Clinton the first female nominee of a major party in our country's history. The roll-call of the states ended with Vermont which cast its votes and then turned the microphone over to Bernie Sanders who proposed that the convention make the nomination of Hillary Clinton unanimous. The motion passed in a euphoric acclamation. About 150 die-hard Sanders' delegates walked out but that only represented about 8% of Bernie's delegates and 3% of all the delegates gathered in Philadelphia. And Sanders' strong endorsement of Clinton with his words last night and this morning and his actions tonight will bring even more of his voters around in the end.

The rest of the evening was spent trying to a more humanizing face on Hillary, the more introverted of the two Clintons. The Mothers of the Black Lives Matter Movement all gave emotional speeches on what it was like to lose their children to police and gun violence. Various beneficiaries of Hillary's policies and causes spoke of how Hillary became their friends and remained friends until this day, all of it far away from the media spotlight. I thought these testimonials, especially those of the survivors and responders of 9/11, were incredible potent witnesses for her. Among those testimonials was one from Rep. Joseph Crowley of Queens who lost his cousin at 9/11. He recounted her fight to get funds to help New York recover and her fight for the health and safety of first responders in the years after. But his most devastating lines were, "But let me ask you something. Where was Donald Trump in the days, and months, and years after 9/11? He didn’t stand at the Pile. He didn’t lobby Congress for help. He didn’t fight for the first responders. Nope. He cashed in. Collecting $150,000 in federal funds intended to help small businesses recover — even though days after the attack Trump said his properties were not affected. Hillary sought these funds to help local mom and pop shops get back on their feet. Donald Trump sought a payday for his empire. It was one of our nation’s darkest days, but to Trump, it was just another chance to make a quick buck." It was a powerful testimonial to Hillary and an epic takedown of Trump and I imagine that this theme will be repeated in the months ahead.

Madeleine Albright gave a good speech about Hillary's accomplishments as Secretary of State as well as pointing out that Trump has already weakened America's standing in the world with his rash statements questioning our alliances and his intolerant remarks about Muslims and immigrants.

That cleared the way for Bill Clinton, the Big Dog, for the keynote speech of the evening. He gave a somewhat rambling account of meeting and marrying Hillary and their life together. He managed to weave a story of her various accomplishments as a "change-maker" while being a wife and a mother. The list of her efforts to help the underserved and the underprivileged was lengthy and his description of the life they were living before they became famous also connected with the audience. He did a pretty good job of providing the personal background to Hillary while emphasizing her life-long commitment to getting things done to improve people's lives. He wrapped it up by contrasting the "cartoon" image of Hillary the RNC provided versus the real one that delegates heard throughout the night. It probably wasn't the best speech Bill Clinton ever gave, but it did do the job it was meant to do.

All in all, it was a pretty successful night, starting with the unanimous nomination by acclamation and ending with Hillary recognizing the history making moment for all the women and little girls that her nomination brings.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Radioactive Device Stolen And Then Found In Bridgeport

A radioactive testing device was stolen from a car earlier today in Bridgeport. The device, a nuclear density gauge used to measure the compaction of soil for road construction projects, was stolen around 7am this morning in a burglary that certainly seemed like the perpetrator knew what he was looking for.  Fortunately, late this afternoon, the device was found in a Bridgeport pawn shop and a person was in custody for the theft. Officials say that improper use of the device could have exposed the user to unsafe levels of radioactivity.

Questions Whether Trump's Refusal To Release Tax Returns Linked To Russian Connections

The questions about Trump's connections to Putin and Russian oligarchs continues to gain steam as pundits decry the leaked DNC emails as a clear intrusion by Putin into the US election and George Will of all people connects the story with Trump's refusal to release his tax returns, saying, "perhaps one more reason why we're not seeing his tax returns - because he is deeply involved in dealing with Russian oligarchs and others".  I continue to believe that the press needs to continually hound Trump about not releasing his tax returns. It is unthinkable that in this day and age he can get away without his finances being thoroughly vetted by the press and the electorate. And I also get the sense that this story will not go away quietly.

Common Ancestor Of Complex Life Lived Near Underwater Volcanic Vents

There is a fascinating story in the Science section of the New York Times about the origins of complex life. A recent study created a genetic portrait of an organism that looks to be the common ancestor to the two earliest domains of life - bacteria and archaea (bacteria with a different metabolism than regular bacteria). The 355 common genes of that ancestor "pointed quite precisely to an organism that lived in the conditions found in deep sea vents, the gassy, metal-laden, intensely hot plumes caused by seawater interacting with magma erupting through the ocean floor", according to the study. Apparently, this ancestor organism names LUCA, an acronym for Last Universal Common Ancestor, was able to internalize the energy producing features of what is called a "proton gradient" that occurs near these volcanic vents where energy is produced by the interaction of the proton rich water near the vents and the proton-poor water further away. Read the whole story to perhaps get a better idea than my description or also read a book that posited this theory called The Vital Question by Nick Lane for an even deeper discussion (thanks to Kevin Drum at Mother Jones for provided that book).

In any case, this certainly has major implications for life beyond our planet as we are beginning to discover that volcanic activity that could produce similar or different kinds of a proton gradient is much more prevalent than previously thought on planets and moons in our solar system and that would similarly be the case for planets and moons circling other stars in the universe.

The Beginning Of The End For Roger Federer?

Roger Federer announced today that he will be out for the remainder of the 2016 season as he focuses on extensive rehabilitation of his knee after surgery earlier this year and generally letting his body and, especially his back, have time to recover. Federer will miss his chance to win the Olympic tennis singles title, virtually the only title he has not won, although he did win an Olympic doubles crown with fellow countryman Stan Wrawrinka. He will also miss the US Open later this summer. Federer ended his amazing streak of 65 consecutive Grand Slam appearances in the spring when he pulled out of the French Open. Before that, he hadn't missed a Grand Slam event since 1999, when he did not qualify for the US Open. Consistently ranked among the best players of all time, holding a record 17 Grand Slam singles titles, and recognized as a true gentleman in the game, Federer indicated that he still had the desire to play for another few years on the ATP tour and that he and his doctors agreed that taking this time off would be his best chance to achieve that. I'm guessing that Federer would have shut down for the season after his knee surgery but wanted to give it a go in order to win at Wimbledon which he realized was his best opportunity for another title. He lost a 5 set thriller to Milos Raonic in the semifinals.  Here's hoping the great Fed makes a full recovery so that we can see his grace and artistry on display once again at next year's Australian Open.

Bernie Lays Some Truth On California Dissenters

Chris Hayes reported yesterday that the majority of the boos and heckling that went on during the first night of the DNC convention came from about 30 or so delegates in the California delegation. So this morning, Bernie Sanders himself went to the delegation and laid some good old Brooklyn/Vermont truth on them, saying, "It is easy to boo, but it’s harder to look your kids in the face who would be living under Donald Trump." This virtually confirms that Bernie is seriously on-board with making sure Hillary is elected.

Ailes Scandal Grows - Yet Another Murdoch Scandal

Speaking of rogue companies, let's not forget the scandal over at Fox News which has been overshadowed in the news by the two national conventions. Apparently, at least 25 women have now come forward to speak to the outside lawyers hired to investigate the charges of sexual harassment against Roger Ailes. In addition, there are rumors that perhaps a dozen more women are also prepared to recount their harassment by Ailes and others within the organization. Yesterday, two other Fox News executives who were loyal to Ailes were also fired but sources inside the company report that they were not directly implicated in any inappropriate sexual activity. According to Gabriel Sherman, who was interviewed on NPR's Fresh Air today, what they did have in common was that they were apparently vastly overpaid for the positions they were currently holding, which certainly raises the question of what exactly they were being paid for.   Forcing women to wear miniskirts on the job, interviews where candidates are asked to pose and twirl like beauty contestants, and outright propositioning of sex for increased pay or better job opportunities all appear to commonplace at Fox News. Clearly, there was a culture of sexual harassment throughout the entire organization, starting from the top and filtering down.

And let's not also forget that this is not the first outrageous scandal at a Murdoch-owned entity. The 2005-2007 phone-hacking scandal in the United Kingdom led to the jailing of one employee and the resignation of the editor of the News Of The World, a Murdoch-owned entity. Although that appeared to be the end of the scandal, it actually erupted again in 2011 due to a number of civil lawsuits and further investigation. As it turned out, the paper had been conducting phone hacking on a nearly industrial scale and engaged in numerous other illegal activities such as bribing the police. The resulting investigation led to the arrest of over 90 people and charges leveled against 16, virtually all of them employees of Murdoch-controlled entities.

I am not a big fan of the NCAA, but they do have the power to administer a so-called "death penalty" on university sports programs that are continual violators of NCAA rules, having famously done so to the SMU football program. I really think that we might need a similar sort of power to deal with these companies that continue to violate the law. Yes, occasionally some employees are fired or jailed, but the company often continues in its illegal behavior. Shutting down the company for one year might actually get companies to cease the behavior before it begins.

Uber Again Refuses To Play By The Rules

I have already registered my disdain for the gig economy and, especially, Uber. Their modus-operandi is to simply go into an area or region that they think will be profitable, violate the law, and then wait to see how long it takes authorities to try and stop them, fighting every step along the way. Uber and Lyft have been banned in multiple municipalities around the world for their illegal ride-sharing operations. Uber has been reported at trying to dig up dirt about reporters who have not given them favorable press. And now it has been reprimanded by a judge for its investigation into a respected conservationist who sued the company for price-fixing as well as, incredibly, his lawyer. The investigation was specifically designed to find any derogatory information on either the client or his legal counsel that could be used to either intimidate them or prejudice the legal proceedings. Federal District Court Judge Jed Rakoff said, "Litigation is a truth-seeking exercise in which counsel, although acting as zealous advocates for their clients, are required to play by the rules", adding that, "The court cannot help but be troubled by this whole dismal incident." But that's pretty much the point - Uber never plays by the rules.

DNC Day 1 Recap - A Strong Call For Unity

The Democratic National Convention opened yesterday amid controversy and anger and ended on a full-throated call for unity from heavyweights in the Democratic party. The email leaks from the DNC that showed some rather pathetic efforts to sway voters against Bernie Sanders, including a reprehensible suggestion (that was not acted on) to use his religion against him in certain states, infuriated Sanders' supporters and forced DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz to relinquish her post after the election. But a morning meeting with her own Florida delegation made it clear that her position was untenable as she was almost literally booed off out of the room not only by the Sanders' delegates but also by Clinton delegates who outnumbered Sanders' nearly two to one in that delegation. Within minutes, Wasserman Schultz was out as DNC chair and her profile during the convention will be non-existent. This was followed by a campaign rally outside the convention hall where Bernie Sanders was actually heckled by his own supporters as he tried to rally his troops for Hillary, a response that seemed to catch even Sanders by surprise. Sanders later sent out a text message pleading with his supporters not to engage in any kind of protest on the convention floor. And all this happened before the convention really even started.

In an attempt to quell the anger of Sanders' supporters and delegates, the order of speeches was flipped as Sanders took the keynote slot and the originally scheduled keynote speaker took Sanders' slot. But, as the convention opened, there was clearly a vocal minority of delegates who were still angry and booed whenever Hillary's name was mentioned. It is important to note that this group was even a minority of Sander's delegates but they were still disruptive and a clear sign of that Hilary has not been able to bring all Sanders' supporters into the fold. Cory Booker, Senator from New Jersey, gave a stem-winder of a speech reminiscent of Obama's 2004 convention address and he even he was heckled at times during his speech, totally inappropriate behavior that will further alienate African-American voters from Sanders and his campaign. Al Franken and Sarah Silverman did a little comedy routine but finally Silverman, a die-hard Bernie fan, told the protesters, "Can I just say to the Bernie or bust people, you're being ridiculous." That helped tone the protests down somewhat.

Michelle Obama followed with what was generally recognized as the best speech of the night and probably one of the better convention speeches ever given. Focusing on her children and the children of America, she simultaneously not only subtly undermined her husband's critics but also made the case for Hillary Clinton as the ultimate public servant and natural successor to the Obama Presidency. The highlight of her speech was the comment, "When they go low, we go high", drawing a thunderous ovation from the crowd.

Elizabeth Warren had the misfortune of following that incredible speech but still gave a ringing endorsement of Hillary as well as delivering some sharp attacks on Donald Trump, detailing "what kind of man" he was.

That left the floor to Bernie Sanders whose speech talked about continuing the "political revolution" that he has started and repeatedly made the point that supporting Hillary was the way to help continue that revolution. He raised the many issues in his campaign where he and Hillary had reached agreement and stressed that Trump was not acceptable. There was no doubt that this was a strong and full endorsement of Hillary Clinton for President.

So, a day that had begun in anger, chaos, and disruption ended with a strong united front for the Democratic party.  Yes, the press will focus on the small group of Sanders' supporters who still find Hillary unacceptable but they are a clear minority even with that group. Polls show that over two-thirds of Sander's voters are already planning to vote for Hillary and that will likely grow even larger as time goes on. There are certainly many die-hard Sander's supporters, some who still believe that Sanders can win the nomination with some sort of miracle on the night of the nomination, but, as Paul Waldman point out, many of these die-hard Bernie supporters are new Democrats in the sense that they are new voters who have been brought into the process by Sanders' revolution. Another thing to remember is the Democratic party is always "not unified" because it is a much more diverse party. The number of minority voters who spoke just in the first day at the DNC was probably significantly more than those that attended and spoke at the entire RNC.

The press is doing its usual false equivalency in stressing the "disarray" among Democrats. I heard it on NPR last night and you can see it in today's headline in the NY Times. But it is just that, a false equivalence. The major challenger to the nominated candidate did not get on stage and say, "vote your conscience". Rather, he said vote for Hillary. The full lineup of Democratic political heavyweights all solidly endorsed Clinton. Tellingly, the NY Times also has a story on page A13 detailing the fact that there are so many A-list speakers who want to address the convention and endorse Hillary that the convention does not have enough prime-time speaking slots for all of them. Compare that to the Republican convention and the difference is striking - there were no Scott Baios there last night; there are not dozens of party lawmakers who are skipping this convention because they have "other things to do". This is clearly NOT a party in disarray and riven with divisions. In fact, it is probably more unified than ever.

Warren and Sanders represent the progressive wing of the Democratic party. Sander's pointedly noted in his speech that the Democratic platform was probably the most progressive it has ever been. Both at least appear to be willing to get out and continue to campaign for Hillary long after the convention is over. And both seem to recognize that the progressive movement will advance only if Hillary wins the election. Sanders' more rabid supporters will hopefully come to that realization as well. If progressives want to destroy all the progress that has been made in the last few years by not supporting Hillary forcefully, they will rue the day. We have already endured the disaster of George W. Bush because progressives decided to vote for Nader. We can not afford to endure Trump because progressives vote for Jill Stein or don't vote at all. If that happens, Democrats will never let progressives see the light of day for a very long time.

One last note, if you want to see how Hillary Clinton deals with a crisis, take a look at yesterday. Debbie Wasserman Schultz was sent packing and Sanders was given the keynote speaking slot. Elizabeth Warren showed her dedication by dropping out of the keynote slot with no complaint. And Clinton's floor managers made no attempt to muzzle the Sanders' hecklers, letting them vent their anger which dissipated over the course of the day and evening. Compare that to Trump who rammed through the rules over objections and whose delegates were highly abusive to those that disagreed with Trump. Two distinct leadership styles were on display. We'll soon find out which one the American people prefer.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Trump's Admiration For Putin May Be More Complex Than Realized

There is a lot of buzz today about the connections between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin and his Russian money. It does appear that the emails about the Democratic National Committee that were leaked apparently came from a Russian source that has been connected to the Russian government in the past in a clear attempt to harm Democrats on the eve of their national convention. In addition, apparently the only issue the Trump campaign actually insisted upon in the GOP platform was making sure that it did not include providing arms and support to Ukraine in its fight against Russian incursion, a position that is totally at odds with the mainstream GOP position. Trump's statements about NATO have also shown that there is no guarantee that the US will come to the aid of a NATO ally in case of attack as is expressly written in the NATO charter, further encouraging Putin to try to extend his sphere of influence in the Baltics and elsewhere and essentially taking us back to the Cold War. Josh Marshall has also documented how Russian money helped save Trump after his bankruptcy and business failures.

As Dan Drezner correctly points out, none of this is proof of anything but it is all certainly suggestive and would certainly bear further scrutiny. And the press should also do its duty in pressing Trump hard on these questions, especially his NATO comments and the GOP platform re Ukraine. And, politically, what's good for the goose is good for the gander and the Clinton campaign should do its most to keep increase the visibility of questions around the Trump-Putin relationship.

Wasserman-Schultz Booed By Own Florida Delegation At DNC

The Democratic convention got off to a rocky start as disgraced DNC chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz got booed at morning breakfast meeting of Democrats from her home state of Florida. Her continued use of the DNC to thwart Bernie Sanders and boost Hillary Clinton finally blew up when emails were leaked showing a disgraceful attempt to try to use Sanders' Jewish heritage against him in certain states, a truly disgraceful and despicable act that deserved more than just her resignation as DNC chair.


Virginia Voting Rights Battle Continues

On Friday, the Virginia State Supreme Court ruled that Governor Terry McAuliffe did not have the legal authority to issue  a blanket order to restore voting rights to convicted felons in the state. McAuliffe's order would have effected over 200,000 felons, over 7% of the voting population in that state. The ruling only restricted McAuliffe's use of a blanket order but not the legal right of felons to vote after serving their terms. McAuliffe has vowed to restore the voting rights of those felons by reviewing and renewing their rights on a case-by-case basis, which the Court indicated was a legal procedure. Needless to say, it was Virginia Republicans who sued to stop McAuliffe's blanket order, calling it a blatant political move to get Democratic votes. To them, apparently, the ideal of voting rights only exists if you don't vote for a Democrat.

Kaine Is A Safe, Yet Uninspiring, Choice As VP

As is her wont, Hillary Clinton made the safe choice in picking Tim Kaine from Virginia as her running mate. Kaine is probably slightly more liberal than the moderate Democrat impression that most people have of him, having taken on the tobacco lobby and the NRA in his stint as Governor of Virginia, and is a solid, establishment politician. His fluency in Spanish can only help the ticket and, if the Democratic ticket wins in November, the Virginia seat he holds will still remain in Democratic hands at least for the short term as Governor Terry McAuliffe will get to appoint a replacement who will serve until a special election sometime in 2017.

But, in some sense, all of Kaine's strengths are his weakness. As an establishment figure he will not excite the base, especially Sanders' voters and the millennials Hillary needs to come out and vote for her. His close ties to Wall Street will be exploited by Trump and will disappoint progressives as will his prior support for trade deals. And today's accusations of accepting gifts from companies with business with the state when he was Governor of Virginia will play into Trump's theme of a "rigged" system and make Kaine look like another business-as-usual type of politician. Apparently, he was a bit more passionate than advertised in the first joint appearance with Clinton in Miami and Clinton and Kaine are both going to need to be passionate, as a boring but detailed campaign will just not cut it this year. But he was selected as a steady, responsible guy who could step in and do the job if necessary, supposedly highlighting a contrast with the GOP ticket. And he is still popular in Virginia which could be a crucial swing state.

I guess my biggest complaint with the selection is that it is so safe. I truly feel that if Hillary had chosen a firebrand who could electrify the base and bring along the Sanders and millennial voters, Democrats would really have a chance to not only take over the Senate but make big gains, if not take control, in the House. I just don't see Kaine expanding that playing field in really any serious way. That alone, is why his choice is such a disappointment.

Stopping Trump

The outlines of Donald Trump's campaign came into pretty clear focus with his acceptance speech to the Republican National Convention last week.  He will clearly be running on a law and order theme, curtailing immigration, especially of Muslims, fighting for working Americans by renegotiating or scrapping trade deals, and spending less money on the military by either shrinking our defense posture or somehow getting our allies to pay for more of it. In addition, he will offer a few more liberal proposals like re-instating Glass-Steagall that will combine with his trade stance to try to peel off some Bernie Sander's supporters. Regardless of how we may feel about the feasibility or wisdom of these measures, they are bound to appeal to a broad swath of the American electorate. In fact, the most recent post-convention poll shows that Trump got a significant bounce coming out of the convention and now holds a 3 point lead nationally in one poll. That is to be expected, of course, and the first meaningful poll about the election will actually come early next week after the Democratic convention. But, despite the clear flaws with Trump himself, we should not kid ourselves about the popularity of those four themes he presented.

We may consider Trump to be a laughable buffoon but in his race for the presidency he is a dangerous demagogue and it will take a concerted effort to make sure he is defeated. It is not enough to highlight his constant lies, daily flip-flopping, and outrageous, unconstitutional ideas. It is not enough to point out that his "facts" are not true, that illegal immigration is a trickle, that crime is down sharply, that trade deals actually make us richer, and that our withdrawal from the world will make us less safe. Denying these issues will not help defeat Trump and only empowers his faithful into believing that he is the only one who sees the problem. No, these issues have to be acknowledged and addressed head on with a degree of understanding an a great deal of passion.

For Democrats, that means admitting these issues of concern for Trump voters are valid and empathizing with their feeling while not giving into their bigotry. It means expressing passion in response to their anger and highlighting specific policies that will actually improve their situation. For Hillary, this will be quite difficult as it appears that she has decided to run on expanding her base of minority voters and trying to peel off as many moderate Republicans who find Trump abhorrent as possible. This will make it hard to fight Trump on the immigration issue. But she could hammer away at the GOP's refusal to consider immigration reform which would have stepped up border enforcement as part of the deal. She is also in a tough spot on the trade issue but she can possible fight that battle by admitting the fruits of these trade deals have gone to the CEOs and shareholders of major companies rather than to the American worker and vow to rectify that. This can solidify her support with Sander's voters and at least show Trump supporters she recognizes the problem. On the military issue, Clinton will have plenty of support from the neocons in the Republican party. And she can highlight all the wasteful military programs that Congress keep on funding, even over the objections of the services themselves, simply as an employment program.  She cannot treat Trump with kid gloves either, treating him as a respected opponent. She must attack hard. Not only will that show her passion but it will also get under Trump's skin and cause him to overreact as he always does, highlighting his lack of temperament. None of this will be easy for Hillary as her positions are so thoroughly known but it is important for her to at least acknowledge the concerns that Trump voters have with empathy and passion. As I say, this will not be easy but that, of course, is why demagogues are so hard to defeat.

The press also has its own responsibilities. They have been huge enablers of Trump throughout the primary season and continually let him get away with actions that they would not stand for with any other candidate. They must continually press him to release his taxes. The must confront him on every single lie and flip-flop. They must pin him down on the specifics of his various policy proposals. They cannot continue to treat him as a popular but fringe candidate. If Trump bans them from his campaign, they must go after him even harder for trying to muzzle the press. It is nice to see that a paper like the Washington Post has already come out strongly against Trump, properly identifying the reasons he is unfit to be President. But one editorial or one newspaper will not be enough. The press needs to pound these points home to the electorate day after day and hold Trump truly accountable for his words and his actions.

Lastly, Republicans actually have a job to do to save this country from Trump, as Trump is largely of their own making.  The wasteful war in Iraq sucked trillions of dollars out of our economy and, at the same time, spawned even more terrorist threats. An immigration reform deal was there for the taking but GOP presidential politics prevented that from happening. Sequestration instead of stimulus cost America untold thousands of jobs and slowed our recovery from the Great Recession drastically. The continued GOP obstruction to virtually every Obama proposal led to the gridlock that created even more frustration. The empty promises, like repealing Obamacare, and accusing him of using the executive orders like a dictator further fanned the flames. On virtually every one of Trump's issues, there was a deal to be had if the Republicans had only been willing. And having made those deals, they could point to policies that had addressed those concerns and Trump would not have become the factor he is today. It is good to see people like Ben Sasse, Senator from Nebraska, refusing to support Trump. And having Michael Bloomberg actually endorse Hillary Clinton will also help tremendously. But there need to be many more like them, a few courageous politicians who will actually stand up to their party and say no to Trump. It is understandable that GOP leaders like McConnell and Ryan are in a difficult position, but their stand of "I don't agree with everything but I still support Trump" is just not tolerable. They are kidding themselves if they think they could control Trump if he wins. The Bushes and Romney need to come out and clearly state that Trump is not acceptable and they need to not do it just once and fade away but fight against him all the way to November. And for those Republicans who just can't pull the lever for Hillary, go and vote for Gary Johnson and the Libertarian Party. But, if the Republican party wants to survive beyond this election, its own leaders are going to have to fight for its survival by forcefully and continually saying Trump is not acceptable as their standard bearer and as President.