Saturday, October 22, 2016

Clinton's "Open Borders" Comment And Supergrids

Donald Trump has tried mightily to make Hillary Clinton pay for the excerpt of a speech she gave to a Brazilian bank that was released by WikiLeaks where she mentioned the phrase "open trade and open borders". Chris Wallace actually carried the water for Trump on this issue in the last debate where he specifically asked Hillary, "Secretary Clinton, I want to clear up your position on this issue, because in a speech you gave to a Brazilian bank, for which you were paid $225,000, we’ve learned from the WikiLeaks, that you said this, and I want to quote. 'My dream is a hemispheric common market with open trade and open borders.' So that’s the question...Is that your dream, open borders?". In fact the full text of the Wikileak document is, "My dream is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders, some time in the future with energy that is as green and sustainable as we can get it, powering growth and opportunity for every person in the hemisphere." Clinton responded to Wallace's question by pointing out the true context of the remark pertained to energy, as it most assuredly does. In any case, open borders does not necessarily equate to open immigration, which is the point that Trump and Wallace were clearly trying to make. And, as usual, the New York Times piled on Hillary with an editorial today which criticized her for not releasing the full text of her speeches and raising her phrasing again without providing the full context.

It was interesting, then, to read this article on the massive new investments in supergrids which are designed to carry energy produced by wind and solar farms across large distances, even across national borders. This year, over $8 billion dollars are being invested in these supergrids, primarily in Asia. China is leading the way as it looks to create massive wind farms in the north of the country and send that power to its populous south. But, as one of the authors of the study on supergrids points out, "[n]ational territory lines and governments are probably the biggest barrier to the widespread use of supergrids", primarily because of the individual state's fear about losing energy security. In fact, the US has been importing energy from Canada for decades. But for other countries, that fear of energy insecurity is quite real and is the main reason supergrids may initially be more common within national borders. As the author says, "Until there’s greater political will, it’s not going to take off" across borders. So perhaps Hillary actually knows what she's talking about when it comes to her vision to create open borders for energy transmission. Or this study could just be another plant by the corrupt Clinton campaign that's designed to cover her tracks for turning our country over to terrorists.

Natural Weekends - Fall Colors

Friday, October 21, 2016

Rubio Running Scared As He Backs Out Of Univision Debate

Marco Rubio has backed out of a scheduled debate on Univision with his Democratic challenger Patrick Kennedy. Rubio had insisted on the debate being held in Spanish despite having held debates in English on the network in previous campaigns. President Obama was in Florida yesterday and blasted Rubio for still supporting Donald Trump, saying, "there has to be a point where you stand for something more than just party, or more than just your own career." Rubio's seat seemed safe earlier this summer but new polls show the race is now a statistical tie with Rubio's 2-point lead well within the margin of error. Rubio tried to show his independence earlier this week by saying Republicans should not be so happy about the problems that WikiLeaks has created for Hillary Clinton as it could easily happen to them next time. But Obama brought the focus right back to where it belongs and that is Rubio's refusal to repudiate Trump, especially after Trump's refusal to respect the outcome of the election. By pulling out of this debate right now, it certainly looks like Rubio is running scared.

NASA Photos Confirm Crash Of Mars Lander

New pictures just out from NASA show the possible crash site of the Schiaparelli Mars lander that the European Space Agency lost contact with just a minute before its expected touchdown on the planet's surface. The theory is that something happened as the thrusters to slow the lander's descent to the surface were supposed to fire and the lander simply plummeted at high speed into the planet's surface. A new NASA photo shows a blackened area in the region where Schiaparelli was supposed to land that was previously unblemished, suggesting that the thruster propellant tanks remained full and exploded on impact.

The other part of this mission has, however, been successful. The Trace Gas Orbiter, which had launched Schiaparelli, has successfully entered Mars' orbit and will begin to search for microbial traces of life on Mars.

Kelly Testifies Christie Knew About Bridgegate Beforehand

Bridgegate defendant Bridget Ann Kelly testified today that, weeks before the plan went into effect, she, in fact, told Chris Christie about the plan to close four lanes on the George Washington Bridge in retribution for the failure of the mayor of Fort Lee to endorse the Governor . According to her testimony, she described the closures as a traffic study that would create traffic problems in Fort Lee and that Christie gave his approval to the plan.  She also testified that after the 9/11 memorial service, which occurred days after the traffic closures went into effect, Christie stopped by her office and asked about the study. She relied that it was causing problems in Fort Lee and Christie responded that she shouldn't worry about that and his people at the Port Authority would take care of it. Christie has repeatedly denied that he knew anything about the lane closures until weeks later, well after the "study" had ended. Kelly's testimony directly contradicts Christie's claims.

Ryan, McConnell Silence Shows Radical Nature Of The GOP

It seems incredible that both Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell have still not come out and repudiated Donald Trump's refusal to accept the outcome of our democratic election. And Democrats should hit them hard every single day until November 8th for their refusal to repudiate Trump's statement. Nancy Pelosi had it right when she said yesterday, "Silence is complicity. Evasion is unacceptable. Speaker Ryan and Senator McConnell must make it unequivocally clear that they reject Trump’s horrifying attack on our elections."

Right now, the leadership of the Republican party is complicit in an attack on one of the fundamental pillars of American democracy - the acceptance of a democratic election and the smooth transfer of power. As I wrote yesterday, the GOP has become a radical, revolutionary party that has lost sight of its civic responsibilities within a democracy and is solely interested in maintaining and expanding its own power at any expense.

Hillary Provided Progressive Answers On Issues That Have Long Favored The GOP

The progressive agenda has finally filtered into the mainstream of the Democratic party and Hillary Clinton's answers to the first four areas of questioning in Wednesday night's debate illustrate that clearly. The first discussion point was about the Supreme Court and Clinton's answer was a strong defense of a Court that viewed the Constitution as a living document and the importance "that we not reverse marriage equality, that we not reverse Roe v. Wade, that we stand up against Citizens United, we stand up for the rights of people in the workplace."

The discussion then segued into the Second Amendment and, basically, gun control. Clinton said she supported the Second Amendment but also pointed out that the Supreme Court had also ruled that the right to bear arms could be limited by reasonable restrictions. And she framed those restrictions as an effort to save innocent lives, pointing to Washington, DC which tried to regulate that guns be safely stored as an effort to save the live of young toddlers. The Court ruled against the District and Clinton stated clearly that she believed that was a mistake. This strategy of defending the right to bear arms but implementing restrictions to save the lives of innocents is exactly the tactic needed to combat the NRA's claim that "they will take away your guns". Clinton ended the segment by saying, "Of course we're going to protect and defend the Second Amendment. But we're going to do it in a way that tries to save some of these 33,000 lives that we lose every year."

Wallace then move on to abortion and Hillary gave a full-throated defense of abortion rights and the rejection of government interference in the decisions a woman makes. She spoke of the increasingly harsh restrictions states are placing on abortion providers and the defunding of Planned Parenthood despite its provision of a myriad of other health services as reasons Roe v. Wade must be upheld. Wallace then pursued her on partial birth abortions and here Hillary was even stronger, saying she opposed the ban "[b]ecause Roe v. Wade very clearly sets out that there can be regulations on abortion so long as the life and the health of the mother are taken into account" and the proposed ban did not do that. She later pointed to the negative consequences of government interference, referencing China where they forced abortions and Romania where they forced the mother to have the baby. She ended with, "And I can tell you: The government has no business in the decisions that women make with their families in accordance with their faith, with medical advice. And I will stand up for that right."

The conversation then moved on to immigration and Hillary was clear on her desire for comprehensive immigration reform that will allow the millions of hard-working illegals to come out of the shadows and into the legitimate economy. She promised to introduce comprehensive immigration reform in her first 100 days.

Later in the debate, the tax issue came up and Hillary declared that she would raise taxes on the wealthy in order to fund the economic projects she has in mind. "And we're going to work hard to make sure that it is, because we are going to go where the money is. Most of the gains in the last years since the Great Recession have gone to the very top. So we are going to have the wealthy pay their fair share. We're going to have corporations make a contribution greater than they are now to our country." Wallace then delved into Medicare and Social Security with an incredibly slanted question about the options we need to take to "solve the crisis". Hillary was very clear that she is looking to expand Social Security by increasing the money flowing into the fund either through a raise in the cap on Social Security or by other methods. She declared, "I will not cut benefits. I want to enhance benefits for low-income workers and for women who have been disadvantaged by the current Social Security system."

The first four questions of the debate were softballs that Republicans knocked out of the park for years while Democrats were only hitting singles at best. The Supreme Court, gun control, abortion, and immigration are all issues that Democrats have spent years waffling on. In all four cases, Hillary provided pretty strong, definitive, and progressive answers. And even on the tax question, she totally rejected trickle-down economics and showed a determination to raise taxes on the wealthy. I don't think we would have seen that a decade ago. Whether Hillary accomplishes anything on these issues is obviously in doubt. But there is no doubt that these are now the clear policies of the Democratic party.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Three Questions Cite Conservative Economic Thinking; No Questions On Climate Change

Hard to believe, but in the three debates combined, we had three questions that cited Pete Peterson's bogus outfit or the discredited Simpson-Bowles and none, zero, zilch, on climate change, the most pressing issue of our generation.

Photos of M27, The Dumbbell Nebula

The other night I was able to capture Messier 27, the Dumbbell Nebula. The photos are not great as I need more work on darks, flats, and bias frames as well as stacking. These photos are just the result of stacking 3 15-second images with a 25mm eyepiece in a Starblast 4.5 inch scope with no tracking and none of those other frames. Even so, you get a decent idea of what this planetary nebula looks like. To see a much cleaner image by a professional, you can look here. M27 was the first planetary nebula discovered by Charles Messier and it is the end point of a start like our Sun when a red giant depletes its fusionable material and releases its outer gases. Those gases are then heated by the remaining white dwarf star which allows us to see that nebula.

GOP Defies Courts To Suppress Democratic Votes

When John McCain entertained the possibility of never voting for a Supreme Court justice who would be nominated by Hillary Clinton, it became clear that the GOP is a revolutionary, reactionary party that is no longer interested in governing under the rule of law. Trump, of course, reinforces this view daily with his insistence that the election is rigged and there is massive voter fraud. Of course, the massive voter fraud that is actually occurring is the rampant disenfranchisement of minority voters in Republican states. And, in another example of the GOP's unwillingness to live under the rule of law, Republican election officials are now flouting the rulings from courts around the country in order to restrict minority voters in this election.

The Nation reports that, in Wisconsin, voters are systematically being denied IDs that would allow them to vote. For voters who do not have the full slate of documents required to get a formal voter ID card, state law says they should receive a different voting credential within six days that would still allow them to vote. Instead, those people were directed to an ID Petition Process (IDPP), but the process took six to eight weeks. The IDPP was ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge and said thee state must "promptly issue a credential valid as a voting ID to any person who enters the IDPP or who has a petition pending." Instead, voters who go to the DMV without sufficient documentation for an official voter ID are still being told that they must go through the IDPP process which will take six to eight weeks to complete. And most of the DMV offices did not have IDPP forms easily available. An ACLU representative says flat out, " Wisconsin has promised the court that voters would be able to get an ID with whatever documents they have. They’ve completely failed to live up to that promise."

In Ohio, Secretary of State John Husted has purged over 2 million people from the voting rolls over the last few years. And, in a study that surprised no one, the majority of those purged came were low-income minority Democratic voters. Unfortunately, a federal court has ruled that over 1 million of those purged were removed illegally. Negotiations over a settlement have apparently broken down and the state is now offering a compromise that would block from voting anyone who had been purged before 2015 and would those who were purged in 2016 and wished to vote by mail or had changed their address. Some compromise. The federal court has still yet to rule on this compromise but at this point so close to the election it is hard to see that it will matter.

In Texas, a federal judge ordered the state to relax its strict voter ID requirements and allow those without one of the seven valid forms of ID to sign an affidavit that would still allow them to vote. The judge further ordered the state to spend $2.5 million to educate the public that "the opportunity for voters who do not possess [a valid photo ID] and cannot reasonably obtain it to cast a regular ballot." Instead, Texas removed the word "reasonably" from their education materials (in violation of the court order) and subsequently threatened to prosecute voters who signed the affidavit if they could prove that they could have obtained the valid ID. Needless to say, the judge was not happy that his words were not correctly used and has ordered the state to revise all its materials.

Finally, federal courts have already ruled North Carolina's legislative maps as unconstitutional racial gerrymandering. But that still won't keep the Republican Boards of Elections from reducing early voting hours in districts across the state in an openly partisan process.

And this does not even cover other states where courts have yet to rule on some voting restrictions. In many of these states, early voting has already begun and the process is still not working correctly. And the courts are not going to be able to straighten anything out and until after the election is over. In addition, any court rulings just add to the confusion about what is or is not needed to vote which in itself reduces turnout. But more importantly, the refusal to quickly comply with court orders is yet another example of how the Republican party is destroying the norms of governance and threatening the rule of law. This has been an undercurrent in the party for many years, but it has culminated and emerged from the background with the Trump campaign. The threat to throw political opponents in jail, the denial of legitimacy of the vote, and the refusal to say whether the outcome of the election will be respected are simply the hallmarks of a reactionary, revolutionary movement that is no longer interested in the democratic process but solely in the continuation of its own power.

A "Radical, Revolutionary" Candidate And Party

Last night historian Michael Beschloss called Donald Trump's outright refusal to say he will accept the results of the election as a "radical, revolutionary" act. But it is actually the culmination of the morphing of the Republican party into a reactionary, radical, and revolutionary party. In my lifetime, the strains for this kind of anti-democratic action go back to the Communist witch-hunts and the John Birch Society of the 1950s and culminated in the nomination of Barry Goldwater who claimed "Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice;  moderation in pursuit of justice is no virtue." Of course, it all depended on whose liberty you were talking about and what kind of justice was being served. It certainly wasn't concerned about African Americans. Historians with more knowledge than I can trace this anti-democratic strain back to the origin of the country and a lot of it is driven by slavery and the concept, in various forms, of white nationalism, the most extreme example being the secession of the South and the Civil War.

Goldwater was routed by LBJ in the 1964 election but the Voting Rights Act of 1964 had accelerated the movement of the segregationists, racists, and white nationalists from the Democratic party to the Republican. In an act of enormous political courage, LBJ essentially threw that element out of the Democratic party. And he was under no illusion how that might hurt the Democratic party down the road. Nixon played to those converted and converting Republicans with his "Silent Majority" to win election in 1968 and it solidified itself inside the GOP with the election of Ronald Reagan and Lee Atwater's "Southern Strategy". But, ever since the good old days of the moderate Eisenhower administration, Republicans had never controlled the House of Representatives. That all changed when Newt Gingrich led the "Republican Revolution" which gave Republicans control of the House for the first time in 40 years and control of both branches of Congress. The party then created its own information bubble with Fox, Drudge, and Breitbart. These events signified the takeover of the Republican party by the anti-democratic forces that have always existed and the abandonment of the norms of governance that the country had known for over 200 years.

These forces led us to government shutdowns, the impeachment of a President, the illegal and indefinite detentions at Guantanamo, the use of torture in contravention of the international treaties and the rules of war, and eventually the refusal to even consider a Democratic nominee to the Supreme Court. With the nomination of Donald Trump, the Republican party openly became a racist, xenophobic, white nationalist party. Trump has floated the idea of reneging on our national debt, massive deportations, imprisoning his political enemies, and finally, last night, the refusal to abide by the democratic process.

After Ronald Reagan, Republicans always complained that the party had never really nominated a "true conservative", even when their candidate won. George H. W. Bush abandoned his "no new taxes" pledge and proved he wasn't a conservative. Bob Dole had made way too many deals with Democrats in order to get legislation passed - he was not a true conservative. George W. Bush looked to be a true conservative but he destroyed the economy, led us into two failed wars, and exploded the national debt - he was not a true conservative. John McCain had been in the Senate too long and made too many deals and, despite, his attempt to woo the base with Sarah Palin, he was not a true conservative. Mitt Romney was a moderate Mormon who was never a true conservative but they were sure he was going to win.

For years, conservatives within the Republican thought they knew what kind of conservative the party wanted - a tax-cutting, budget-cutting, strong on defense, law and order candidate. But they were wrong. What the base of the party really wanted was a white nationalist of the first order who would thrown the immigrants out of the country and promise to return America back to the days before LBJ, democracy be damned. This is what the base of the party meant by a "true conservative". And that is how the party has become a "radical, revolutionary" party.

This will be the last election where whites represent a majority in the country. By the next election, whites will be less than 50% of the population. The Trump campaign is a primal scream, the last gasp from a segment of the country that is seeing its place of privilege disappear once and for all. Like Trump's refusal to accept the outcome of the election, his followers will also be dangerous and their anger will be heard. I fear for the days ahead.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

First Reactions To Last Debate

This was probably Trump's best debate so far but he totally undermined the whole evening by refusing to say he will accept the result of the election. He was more restrained but still interjected and interrupted and made faces that distracted from his better focus on the issues he needed to press. But his answers were still packed with verifiable lies. Hillary was detail-oriented and stayed relatively positive and Presidential. And she constantly focused on her support for families and children. Most of the questions dealt with areas that have already been covered before and where we knew both candidates' positions pretty well.

But the headlines from tonight's debate will be Trump's refusal to accept the results of the election. And Wallace pressed him on the issue twice and still Trump refused. Any chance that Trump had to stop his slide or even make inroads will be totally overshadowed by his refusal to accept the results of a democratic election. I doubt this will change the direction of the Presidential contest. But it will put even more pressure on down-ballot Republicans to repudiate Trump which puts them in an even greater bind. If the repudiate Trump, they will lose the rabid Trump supporters; if they don't, they will lose those moderate suburban voters that they need to win re-election. 

Now we can wait for the Twitter blast. More later.

Live Blogging The Final Presidential Debate

OK, here we go. Against my better instincts and my desire to watch the Dodgers-Cub game, I am going to live blog the last (thankfully) Presidential debate. For Hillary Clinton, the goal will be to take the high road, talk about her positive policies, and try to keep looking Presidential. Everyone knows that Trump needs to hammer Clinton on trade and immigration and stay on message but, in the same breath, no one believes he can do it. And even if he does, it is probably too late in the game to have the impact he needs.

First question is about the Supreme Court, originalism vs. living document. Clinton leads off with what country we want to be and the Court needs to stand on the side of the people, for women, LGBT communication, against Citizens United, for marriage equality and Roe v. Wade. Want Court to stand up to powerful. Wants Senate to do their job. Trump responds by criticizing Justice Ginsburg, stand up for the 2nd amendment which is under siege, be pro-life, and will interpret that Constitution the way the Founders intended. Follow pursues 2nd amendment. Clinton supports 2nd amendment but want to keep guns from people should not have them via background checks and reasonable restrictions. Discussion devolves into details of a DC case to restrict guns. Clinton wants people to come together to safeguard 2nd amendment but restrict guns in a way to save lives. Trump is happy to have NRA endorsement and says Chicago has incredible gun violence. We move on to abortion. Trump refuses to answer whether he wants Roe v. Wade overturned but it will happen because he will appoint pro-life justices. Hillary, of course, supports Roe v Wade and points to restrictions. Points out that Trump advocated punishing women who have abortions. Asked why she supported late-term abortions, she responds that it is the life and health of the mother need to be taken into account. Trump says that Hillary supports being able to rip the baby out of the womb up until the day before birth. Hillary goes back to the health issue.

9:20 - On to immigration. Trump says Hillary wants to give amnesty and points to those killed by illegal immigrants; Hillary wants open borders and goes back to his fictional ICE endorsement. Points to heroin and drug problems. He will build the all. He will get the drug lords and get them out. Once the border is secured, he will decide what to do with the illegals that are left. Hillary does not want families ripped apart and notes Trump says that every undocumented immigrant will be deported. This would require a massive police and legal effort. Wants to deport violent criminals. Gives Trump a dig about going to Mexico and not even talking about the wall, saying he choked. Trump responds by saying Hillary wanted the wall but she never gets anything done. He will build the wall. Hillary wants to bring undocumented workers into the formal economy and goes after Trump for using undocumented workers to build Trump Tower. Trump says that Obama has already deported millions. Wallace asks Trump about her "open borders" comment from WikiLeaks. Clinton says that the full quote shows she was talking about open border for electricity transmissions. Pivots to Russian hacking and asks Trump to admit Russians were doing this. Trump reiterates Hillary wants open borders, she will let in Syrians and she won't say "radical Islamic terrorism". Putin has no respect for Clinton. Clinton says she will not be a Putin puppet. Trump insists we don't know whose hacking us. Clinton says our top officials agree Russian was responsible for hacking and Wallace backs her up. Trump says Putin outsmarted Hillary and Obama everywhere. Clinton goes after Trump over his wish to expand nuclear powers and then hits Trump about not being trusted to have the nuclear codes. Trump claims that everyone is ripping us off on defense. Trump says Hillary is a liar. Hillary says Trump will rip up our alliances.

9:37 The economy. Wants to grow the middle class. Clean energy, small businesses, raise the minimum wage, equal pay for equal work, college debt free. Will go after the wealthy who have made most of the recent gains. Her plan will create 10 million new jobs. Trumps plan will cost jobs and raise the debt. Trump claims Clinton will double your taxes. Goes back to why we are protecting rich countries like Japan, Germany, and Saudi Arabia when they are so rich. Will renegotiate trade deals like NAFTA or terminate it. Will cut taxes massively and businesses will hire people. Clinton says Trump's plan gives three times more in tax cuts to the rich than Bush. She will not raise taxes on incomes under $250,000 and will not raise the debt. Wallace says the Obama stimulus has created the slowest GDP growth (a totally bogus question, btw) and is Clinton's just more Obama stimulus. Clinton says we need to invest from the middle out and not from the top down. Wallace says Trump's numbers don't add up. Trump responds that India is growing at 8% and China is growing at 7%. Says latest jobs report was terrible (it wasn't); we're losing jobs and back to NAFTA. Says Hillary supports TPP and she lied about it. Clinton says she is against TPP. Donald is the only one on the stage who has sent jobs overseas and has given jobs to Chinese steelmakers instead of US ones. Trump asks why she didn't get this done earlier. Talks about $6 billion missing from State Department. Hillary says the $6 billion has been debunked. Goes through her accomplishments and compares her public service with his business career. Trump responds he built a great company and if we could run our country the way he runs his company it would be great. Says Hillary created ISIS.

9:52 Presidential character. Wallace talks about the women who have accused Trump of sexual harassment. Trump claims that the women's stories have been debunked and blames Hillary for them coming forward. Totally denies everything. Says they either want fame or Hillary got them to do it. Claims Clinton campaign is inciting violence at his rallies. Hillary goes after Trump for saying that the women were not good looking enough for him to have abused. Trump even denies that. Clinton says that Trump enjoys belittling women. Wants the country to celebrate our diversity and it is up to all of us to make that true. Trump says nobody has more respect than he does. He then segues into her destruction of 33,000 emails and said he doesn't know what happened to the FBI and then says Hillary has lied to everyone including the FBI. Clinton says Trump never apologizing for anything reciting his mocking a disabled reporter, the Khans, John McCain, Judge Curiel. This is a pattern of divisiveness and that is not what America is about. Trump says Hillary incites violence and then says he would love to talk about  something else. Wallace moves on to the Clinton Foundation. Hillary has said that everything she did was cleared by the State Department and is happy to talk about the wonderful things the Clinton Foundation has done. Trump says the Clinton Foundation is a criminal enterprises. Wants Clinton to give back the money from countries who abuse gays and women. Trump was in Haiti, actually Little Haiti in Miami, and says they hate the Clintons. Clinton defends Foundation's work in Haiti. Trump says his Foundation gives 100% to charity. Wallace says that some of the Trump Foundation money went to pay some of his legal fees. Trump says it went to a charity. Hillary breaks in to point out that Trump has not released his tax returns and have not paid taxes and then blames Hillary for leaving these tax loopholes for him to exploit. If you don't like what I did, you should have changed the law.

10:06 Trump refuses to say he will accept the result of the election; says he will look at it afterward. Goes into media bias and millions of people who are on the rolls who shouldn't be; says Hillary shouldn't be even allowed to run because she is criminal. Wallace presses him and Trump says he will keep us in suspense. Hillary chimes in to say that whenever Trump loses he always says the system is rigged against him - the Iowa caucuses to the Emmys. She quotes Obama as saying that all Trump's whining shows he is not up to the job. Trump talks about the conspiracy between the Justice Dept and the FBI in exonerating Hillary on the emails.

10:11 Middle East issues. Hillary will not put American troops on the ground, talk about an intelligence surge to focus on ISIS and protect us at home; wants no-fly and safe zones in Syria. Trump says we lost Mosul because Hillary gave it away. Then goes back to the idea that we have given up the element of surprise by announcing we are attacking Mosul. The only reason we are attacking Mosul so that Hillary will look good for the election. NAFTA was the stupidest deal of all time until just now when it is the Iranian nuclear deal, and Iran will now take over Iraq. Clinton goes after Trump for saying he didn't support Iraq war. Trump denies that once again.  Clinton points out that Mosul is in Sunni territory. Trump says Podesta and Sanders both said Clinton had poor judgement and Trump agrees. Clinton says to look at who Sanders is supporting.

10:19 Aleppo. Wallace says Trump said Aleppo has fallen when it hasn't and Russians are fighting ISIS when they aren't.  Says Aleppo is a disaster, Hillary underestimate Assad, and we don't know who the Syrian rebels are. This is why the great migration is occurring and they are ISIS aligned and are flooding into our country. Wallace asks Hillary about no-fly zone and will it will lead to a war between Russia and the US. Hillary says that we will have to negotiate with Russians on no-fly zone. Will vet all refugees for terrorist tendencies. Trump says Hillary says she will defeat ISIS but she created ISIS. Putin has outplayed us - no one can believe how stupid are leadership is.

10:25 Debt to GDP; Pete Peterson group says Hillary will increase ratio to 87% and Trump's plan will increase it 105%. Trump says that won't happen because he will create jobs and the people who make trade deals are political hacks and he will great this great economic machine. Hillary says Trump has always criticized what government has done, citing an ad Trump took out in the 1980s under Reagan saying we were terrible and losing all our jobs; says her plan will not add a penny to the debt. Trump says he disagreed with Reagan about Trump. Wallace cites Pete Peterson about the need to save Medicare and Social Security and asks about a grand bargain. Trump says we need to repeal and replace Obamacare and he will grow the economy so SS and Medicare will be fine. Clinton says she will raise payroll cap to raise more money for SS and will not cut benefits. Says Obamacare reduces stress on Medicare and repealing it would make Medicare situation even worse.

Final statement. Hillary wants to reach out to all Americans to pull them together to rebuild America. She will stand up for families and children. Trump says she's raising the money from the people she wants to control; we need to rebuild the military; law and order; inner cities are a disaster; he will do more for minorities; Hillary is all talk. We can't take four more years of Obama.

An so it ends.

Trump Debate Invitees Just Meat For The Base

You never know what Donald Trump will do at any time, especially during a debate. That's why I likened watching these debates to the final 25 laps of a NASCAR race at Talladega - you're just waiting for the big wreck. And apparently campaign CEO Steve Bannon, former head of Breitbart News, is encouraging Trump to go all in tonight. When it comes to the issues, he would rather talk about his positions because he really doesn't have any. He will spend most of the time focusing entirely on Clinton by harping on the email server, Benghazi!, the Clinton Foundation, her supposed failed record, and corruption, once again highlighting Bill Clinton's infidelities. To that end, Trump has apparently invited to the debate supporters of those who survived and died at Benghazi. And the campaign has also invited a woman who came forward today in an exclusive interview with Breitbart News to say she was sexually assaulted by Bill Clinton in 1980. Their final invitee is the estranged half-brother of President Obama. I doubt that any of these invitees will be featured in the debate very much but they are all meat for the alt-right base - Benghazi, Bill Clinton's infidelities, and the birther myth. The fact that Obama's half-brother and another Bill Clinton accuser are there perhaps misses the point that it is Hillary Clinton on the ballot.

Could Democratic Control Of House Actually Keep GOP From Breaking Apart

I've already written about the coming split between conservatives and the alt-right, white nationalists within the Republican party. And I've also stated that, even if the Republicans hold the House, Paul Ryan will not retain his post as Speaker of the House in the next Congress, whether he wants the job or not. Martin Longman over at Washington Monthly spins an interesting theory of how the GOP will split apart if they manage to retain the House with a much slimmer majority. His idea is that the Freedom Caucus will never allow Ryan to stay as Speaker but, just as happened two years ago, they will also not be able to agree on exactly who should replace him. Even if the GOP could agree on a new Speaker, they will never be able to pass appropriation bills that Clinton will sign and will eventually run up against the debt ceiling again. And, in order not to default on the national debt, "sane" Republican House members will agree to raise the debt ceiling with help from Democrats. And, just as happened to Boehner, that will be the end for whomever the new Speaker would be. Into this leadership vacuum, Longman surmises, Nancy Pelosi can go to the remaining group of sane, moderate Republicans and agree to support a compromise Republican Speaker in exchange for a repeal of the Hastert rule that no legislation can move forward without the approval of the majority of the Republican caucus. In essence, the House would be run by a "governing coalition" of establishment Republicans and Democrats. And this would result of the splintering off of the Freedom Caucus and the formation of a Trumpian alt-right, white nationalist party which would actually be larger than the establishment Republican party.

It is an interesting theory and it seems perfectly conceivable. But I would like to look at the flip side which would be the scenario if Democrats actually win the House and control the Senate. Hopefully Democrats will realized they only have a two-year window to get anything they want done accomplished. The 2018 election in the Senate will be difficult and Democrats will probably lose some marginal House seats and the majority. For Republicans, every member of the House will be paralyzed by the fear of an attack from the right. They will do everything in their power to obstruct Clinton and the Democrats, both in the House and the Senate. And they will be united in that obstruction. And every Democratic accomplishment will actually force even more condemnation from Republicans. So, rather than splintering apart, the Clinton presidency and their own minority status will actually works as a force to keep the GOP united. What happens after 2018 may be a different story, but, for the next two years, the GOP will be totally united in their opposition to the Clinton agenda, perhaps delaying the inevitable day of reckoning for the Republican party.

Like All Women, Hillary Has Always Had To Win Big

The media seems to be demanding another big win from Hillary Clinton in the debate tonight or else, somehow, Donald Trump will be able to creep back into this race. The Huffington Post posits that Hillary needs to win the election by a landslide so that Trump's claim about vote-rigging will be thoroughly debunked. Of course, I'm betting that it doesn't matter how big a margin Trump loses by, he will still claim fraud and the core of his supporters, the 35 to 40 percent of the electorate, will go right along with him. But the larger point I'd like to make is that Hillary Clinton comes from that generation of women who have faced this type of problem for their entire careers. These women ALWAYS had to be far superior to their males counterparts in order to advance in whatever careers they chose. Being just mediocre was never going to be good enough. While things are certainly a lot better these days, I'm sure most women know that this is still somewhat true today. And so it is now for Hillary Clinton. Just becoming the first female President isn't a big enough hurdle. She must win by an enormous margin just to ensure her election will be considered legitimate. As Donald Trump would say, "SAD!"

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Paul Ryan's Run As Speaker May Be Nearing Its End

At a Trump campaign rally in Wisconsin, his supporters chanted "Paul Ryan sucks" in a display of anger at the Republican establishment and a reflection of the dissolution of the years of remarkable unanimity within the Republican party. Kevin Drum wrote an article the other day basically saying that, if Republicans hold the House, the future of the next four years will be in Paul Ryan's hands. I'm guessing Drum still has some belief that Ryan is a pragmatic conservative who will be willing to make deals. I am less convinced of that view. But I doubt that Ryan will hold the key to the next four years anyway. The chances that he will retain his leadership of the House Republican caucus are probably pretty slim and that assumes he even bothers to run again for that position. I have always believed that Ryan has his sights on the presidency and, in the probable post-election GOP civil war, it may be easier to do that when he is simply a legislator rather than trying to mediate the war in the Republican House. According to one Republican House member, "If we lose 15, it’ll be tough for Paul Ryan, especially if we do an omnibus in December." Meaning that if the GOP loses 15 seats in the November election and Ryan agrees to an omnibus spending bill to keep the government open during the lame duck session of Congress, his chances of retaining his post as Speaker are pretty slim. In addition, even if the GOP retains control of the House, their majority will be greatly reduced. In 2014, there were over 30 members who objected to Ryan's leadership but ended up with Ryan because they could not agree on alternative. Most of those members will be back, having won re-election in safe Republican districts, and they will only be concerned about a challenge from their right. That will limit the next Speaker's ability to make any deals with the Clinton administration. And Trump will be openly be blaming Ryan and the establishment for their lack of support in his defeat. Trump's campaign CEO, Steve Bannon, has made no secret of his wish to destroy Ryan. If Ryan ran for re-election as Speaker and lost, his standing with the media and within the GOP would be shot. For him, discretion may be the better part of valor. By abandoning his role as Speaker, Ryan can lay low while the civil war within the GOP shakes out. In a few years, he can re-emerge to lead what's left of the Republican party and lay the groundwork for his presidential run.

CPI Rises Above Fed Target, Giving Ammo To Hawks

I've already stated that I think even a December interest rate hike is not a certainty but today's release of the Consumer Price Index will probably give the hawks some more ammunition. The median CPI and the trimmed-mean CPI both rose last month to a 2.1% annual rate which is above the Fed's target of 2%. I'm sure we can hear about an overheating economy and runaway inflation from the Fed hawks over the next few weeks as they posture for the December rate hike. Among the actual voting member of the FOMC, however, it appears that the consensus is to see whether they can still bring more people back into the working force before they start raising rates. There's still plenty more data to see before the December meeting, leaving the committee members plenty of time to jawbone for their preferred outcome.

ISIS Is On The Run

Apparently Donald Trump's theory that invoking the words "radical Islamic terrorists" is the critical way to deal with the problem of terrorism actually has something to it. While he has been ranting about ISIS taking over the world, the organization is quickly collapsing. It has lost vast swaths of territory in both Iraq and Syria over the last few months and now the Iraqi army has begun a major offensive to retake Mosul, ISIS' last remaining stronghold in Iraq. In Syria, the important town of Dabiq has also been retaken from ISIS by Syrian rebels. The town is especially important because Dabiq is prophesized to be the final battleground between Muslims and non-believers that will take place at the end of the world. The loss of a majority, or even the totality, of its areas of control is a huge blow for ISIS propaganda and recruitment. It had made a big point of pointing to the land it controlled as the "new Caliphate" but that looks like it will soon be gone. And there are signs of internal dissension within the organization. One of the top aides to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was executed along with over 50 others in a reported coup that planned to turn Mosul over to the Iraqis. This does not mean that ISIS will cease to be a potent terrorist organization. Even though the ISIS-inspired terrorist attacks in Europe were actually an indication of the weakness of the organization, it still shows the potential destruction that ISIS can create. But it is a far weaker threat than it was two years ago and it will only get weaker as they areas they control shrink.

Trump's Corruption At Highest Levels Denied By All Involved

Donald Trump grabbed on to a heavily redacted document that has been released by the FBI which seemed to indicate that an official in the State Department tried to get a specific email's classification changed and offered to expand the number of countries the FBI could place agents in as a quid pro quo. For Trump, this is the smoking gun that indicates corruption "at the highest levels" and feeds in to his latest theme that this election is "rigged". Unfortunately for Trump and his supporters, both the FBI and the State Department deny any quid pro quo. In fact, it was the FBI agent who raised the issue about expanding the number of countries that FBI agents could be placed. Additionally, the classification of the email in question was not changed and there was no expansion of countries for the FBI. So, as a result of this conversation, absolutely nothing changed. There I also no indication that Hillary Clinton was involved in any way with this email classification dispute. But you can bet Trump will run with this for the next few days.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Another NY Times Story That Finds No Wrongdoing Of A Clinton Associate

The New York Times can not let Trump's descent into the "rigged" election madness go without some sort of counterpoint.  So on the front page today, underneath the headline "Public Rattled As Campaign Turns Coarse" with the subheadline "Talk Of Sexual Abuse Fuels Voters' Anger" (gee, I wonder whose responsible for all the coarse talk about sexual abuse), it has another obligatory story on Cheryl Mills, Hillary Clinton's chief of staff at the State Department, as she transitioned from her prior position to the private sector. Once again, the story creates lots of innuendo but shows that Mills followed the rules every step of the way. Yes, I think we all abhor the revolving door between government and the private sector and even Democrats would love mothing more than to find some way to restrict it. But everything the story described was both legal and even questionable activities were cleared by a State Department ethics review.

You have to wonder why the Times continues to write these stories that show no wrongdoing but describe the typical situations when people move from the public sphere to the private sector and sometimes back again. It might all be a bit unseemly, but it is all legal. It would be nice if they focused this kind of scrutiny on the regulators who actually have an incredible potential effect on the companies they currently regulate and then subsequently join. To give them the extreme benefit of the doubt, perhaps the Times is just offering us a preview of what Republicans will be focusing on for the next four years. Somehow, I doubt that is the Times' intention.

John McCain Says GOP Will Block Any Clinton SCOTUS Nominee

I see that John McCain has confirmed fears that I voiced way back when Republicans decided they would not even give Merrick Garland a hearing and that is that the GOP will do the same to any Supreme Court nominee Hillary Clinton would make. Said McCain, "I promise you that we will be united against any Supreme Court nominee that Hillary Clinton, if she were president, would put up. I promise you. This is where we need the majority." He later walked back that remark but it certainly reflects the feelings of many within his party.

Republicans have stopped being a national party and are now essentially a party that is actively supporting revolution. Their nominee claims the electoral system is "rigged" and calls for extra-judicial jailings of political opponents, their leaders are actively ignoring court orders regarding voting rights, and, in all levels of government, they refuse to refuse to fulfill their elected roles under the constitution. In any other democracy in any other country, the GOP would be considered an "outlaw" party. But somehow the media still treats the party as a respectable alternative for Americans.

The GOP Base And A Rigged Election

As Donald Trump goes all in on the idea that the election is rigged so that he will lose (Trump - "The election is absolutely being rigged by the dishonest and distorted media pushing Crooked Hillary - but also at many polling places - SAD"), his surrogates add to the spurious claim (Giuliani - "I've found very few situations where Republicans cheat...They don't control the inner cities the way Democrats do. Maybe if Republicans controlled the inner cities, they'd do as much cheating as Democrats...I'm sorry. Dead people generally vote for Democrats rather than Republicans."), and down-ballot Republicans desperately try to distance themselves from those comments without renouncing their support for Trump (Ryan - "Our democracy relies on confidence in election results and the speaker is fully confident the states will carry out this election with integrity."), it is important to remember a number important facts.

There is not a shred of evidence of any significant in-person voter fraud anywhere. In fact, the only actual evidence of an attempt to "rig"' this election is the interference of the Russian government in a clear attempt to get Trump elected. The hacking of Democrat's email and the slow, drip-drip leaking of those hacked emails at important points earlier in the campaign and the daily releases here at the end of the campaign is clearly designed to defeat Hillary Clinton. Secondly, there is only one party that has committed itself to making it more difficult for legal citizens to vote and that is the Republican party. Massive purges of voter rolls that somehow scrub legal voters, voter ID laws, and restrictive early voting periods are solely designed by Republicans to eliminate Democratic votes. And finally, the only recent election that has ever been "stolen" was the 2000 election when the Supreme Court handed the Presidency to the Republicans in Bush v. Gore, which was probably the worst decision since the Dred Scott decision 150 years ago. And, I might add, Democrats lived with that decision. So the idea that elections are "rigged" against Republicans is simply laughable on its face.

I continue to go back to the theory promulgated by Samuel Goldman, that there is around 30-40% of the country, "whites, generally older, generally less educated, although of course with exemptions for all of those generalization" that is large enough to think of itself as a majority but in actuality is just small enough to be a minority. And the idea that they are not the majority is just unthinkable and leads us to the unwavering support for a seriously flawed candidate (to be kind) like Trump and the belief that his loss has to represent a stolen election.

Does Theresa May Really Have A Plan?

It sometimes seems as though Theresa May is more concerned about an internal challenge for within her own Conservative party than actually finding the best way for Britain to navigate its disastrous exit from the European Union. At the recent Conservative Party Congress, May clearly stated her negotiating position would be to demand a "hard" Brexit, allowing Britain to have a total break with the EU while still maintaining access to that common market. The remarks basically tipped the UK's hand in its negotiations with the EU and ignores the reality that it will be Europe dictating the terms of Britain's separation, not the other way around. But the speech probably solidified her credentials within a core of the Conservative party who are suspicious of May, who personally opposed Brexit, going soft on the details of the separation. For more moderate, business-oriented Conservatives, her position was probably not what they wanted to hear. But, having already declared her negotiating position, May insists that she will not ask Parliament to vote on Article 50, the step that will formally begin the negotiations for exit, saying that she can not conduct the negotiations with "running commentary" from Parliament. This use of the "royal prerogative" is currently being challenged in court and the results of that case could force a Parliamentary vote. That would open up a big can of worms for the government as there are many competing viewpoints within not only the Conservative party but Parliament as a whole over the best negotiating position for Britain to take. But, whether Parliament votes or not, Europe holds all the cards in the Brexit negotiations, a critical point that Conservatives either do not recognize or willfully ignores.

On the domestic front, May seems to think that running the country is similar to running a cabinet department. She recently told the NHS that it would be getting no new money in the next budget to be released later this fall. Rather, she advised, the agency should fill its 22 billion pound budget gap by making cuts similar to the ones she made when she ran the Home Office. Again, this somewhat defies reality. The Home Office can cut staff that would slow down the process for obtaining visas and immigrant status which would create additional inconvenience but nothing more. Closing a hospital or cutting medical staff, on the other hand, could have a life or death impact for some people. In addition, the demands for core NHS services are rising at around a 3% rate annually. That is certainly much different than any growing demands on the Home Office. It is hard to believe May can sustain this position, especially considering Brexit supporters (falsely) claimed that it would free up billions of pounds that could be used to support the NHS.

Finally, just to show how out of touch some members of the Conservative party really are, there is apparently a push to re-commission the royal yacht Britannia. So, as the financial community starts to move jobs to the continent in order to maintain access to the EU, the British pound sinks, business lives with indefinite uncertainty, and the NHS struggles with greater demand and a growing deficit, the Conservative party wants to spend money for a royal yacht because that will certainly revive the glory of the Empire. Yes, in the great scheme of things, the money for a royal yacht will be a drop in the bucket, but it certainly puts the Conservative party priorities right out front - the symbols of a time long passed are more important than the country's struggles today. And that pretty well defines the attitude of all those who supported Brexit.

As the columnist for the Financial Times says, "There’s no plan. Each panic-inducing remark gets toned down. May as well ask your cat."