Monthly Archives: August 2016

Breaking: Big Victory For Voter Rights — No Voter ID In Upcoming NC Elections

NC voter ID law will NOT be enforced in fall election after the U.S. Supreme Court denies stay request (in a 4-4 split — obviously, had Scalia lived, it would have been a loss for voting rights advocates, but he didn’t so……)

The stay was a request by Republican Gov. Pat McCrory and state officials to delay a permanent injunction blocking provisions in a 2013 voting law. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down several parts of the law last month, saying they were approved by legislators with intentional bias against black voters more likely to support Democrats.

The Supreme Court decision means voters won’t have to show one of several qualifying photo IDs when casting ballots in the presidential battleground state. Early voting also reverts to 17 days.


Media False Equivalence Watch – Example No. 35442

I’m really tired of hearing from the media that “both candidates” are wildly unpopular.  Historically unpopular.

I don’t have historical figures of previous presidential candidates for comparison, so I will assume that the assertion is technically accurate.

But look at this:


Since May 2015, Trump’s unfavorable has never gone BELOW 60% and this favorable has never gone ABOVE 40%.

In that same period of time, Clinton’s favorable AND unfavorable rating has never dipped/rose into Trump territory.

In other words, she has NEVER been as unfavorable as Trump at his BEST, and he has NEVER been as favorable as Clinton at her WORST.

Yet the press would have you think they are both equally unpopular.  Just not so.

Trump’s South Of The Border Gambit

All eyes on Trump today.

It’s a day when he is set to give his big immigration speech, which should help to clarify his muddled position.  He used to be for the wall and mass deportation, but in the past few days, he’s hinted at NOT mass deporting 11 million “illegals” (as he calls them) — which is impossible anyway.  He has suggested touchback provisions (they leave and then come right back, except we leave the “bad ones” out) or something else… everything has been suggested except what the majority of Americans are in favor of… a path to citizenship (or amnesty).  His on-TV surrogates insist — with no credibility — that Trump is not changing from his hardline position, even as he indicates that he is indeed softening.  The whole thing is an exercise in ambiguity, just enough to satisfy his base but also appear to appease people with Trumpian doubts.

That speech is tonight.

But the BIG news — one that his advisers are saying is a potential “gamechanger” — is Trump’s visit to Mexico today.  This was prepared within the last 24 hours.  President Peña Nieto of Mexico had invited both campaigns to visit.  Trump took up the offer.

I, along with many others, consider this to be high risk, high reward.  And to be honest, I’m not sure what is going on.  Trump and Nieto will meet privately and talk.  Both will say something about their meeting…. and…. that’s it?

What do is a “win” here for Trump?  Unless he comes back with a check for $200 billion earmarked for “the wall”, I don’t see what he has to gain.  Maybe some in the Trump campaign thinks it raises his stature, particularly on a day when he is giving a speech on immigration.  I don’t see how though.  Trump has been bashing Mexico for over a year. I mean, here’s the statement that literally launched Trump’s campaign — 218 words into his first speech:

“When Mexico sends their people …  They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

Trump later added:

“What can be simpler or more accurately stated? The Mexican Government is forcing their most unwanted people into the United States. They are, in many cases, criminals, drug dealers, rapists, etc.”

So, it seems, visiting Mexico would lower his stature if you believe in Trump.

Maybe the Trump campaign thinks it is like a “Nixon goes to China” thing.  Except Trump isn’t Nixon and Mexico is (unlike China in the 1970s) an ally and trade partner.  And Trump’s advisers are certainly no Kissingers.  But Trump DOES think Mexico is the enemy.

It’s just hard to see what Trump gets out of this.

More importantly, you have to wonder about Nieto’s motives.  He probably didn’t think it would work out this way.  He invited both candidates; he expected only Clinton would respond (if anybody).  That plan backfired — that’s my guess.

Still, is is happening. Nieto is very unpopular in Mexico.  Polling at 23% favorability, he is in the midst of a plagiarism and corruption scandal.  Meeting with Trump, who is also hated by Mexicans for obvious reasons, seems to be a stupid move, UNLESS Nieto has something up his sleeve.  Peña Nieto has every reason to play the tough guy and earn Trump’s wrath. Everyone in Mexico hates Trump, so standing up to him, or even embarrassing him, would be a political win.

But the same might be true of Trump. His base would certainly go wild at the prospect of Trump having a beef with the president of Mexico. The last thing they want is a cordial get together that suggests some kind of future rapprochement. And if Trump plays it right, a meeting that could be spun as an insult to America might even help him with swing voters.

Then again, maybe Trump desperately wants Peña Nieto’s respect, and wants this meeting to demonstrate that he’s not just a bomb thrower who can’t be trusted with international relations.

Because the whole endeavor is fraught with unpredictability, Josh Marshall has what seems like the most sensible take — “Can Trump Be This Stupid? Not A Trick Question”:

It’s a general rule of politics not to enter into unpredictable situations or cede control of an event or happening to someone who wants to hurt you. President Nieto definitely does not want Donald Trump to become President. He probably assumes he won’t become president, simply by reading the polls. President Nieto is himself quite unpopular at the moment. But no one is more unpopular than Donald Trump. Trump is reviled. Toadying to Trump would be extremely bad politics; standing up to him, good politics…

Remember that the central force of Trump’s political brand is dominance politics. Trump commands, people obey. Trump strikes, victims suffer. It will be extremely difficult for him to manage anything like this in the Mexican capital. He comes with a weak hand, no leverage and the look of a loser. All Peña Nieto needs to say is no.

Again, when you’re in a campaign under constant scrutiny you do your best to control every situation, reduce the risk of unpredictable, embarrassing or damaging events. You try not to cede control to others. You especially try not to cede near total control to someone who has every interest in the world in harming you. The maximal version of that ‘big thing you’re not supposed to do’ is precisely what it looks like Trump is doing.

Trump’s Razor helps here. It’s tempting to assume that there’s some angle Trump has here, some plan or understanding with Peña Nieto to make this not as silly a decision as it appears to be. I’m tempted because how could they think this was a good idea? Trump’s Razor tells us to resist this temptation. “The stupidest scenario possible that can be reconciled with the available facts.” I think that’s what we have here. It’s as stupid as it looks. Who knows? Maybe Trump will handle this deftly and it’ll be a huge success. But Trump’s Razor has yet to fail me. So I’m going to stick with it.

It is hard to know what Trump’s thinking is, or if there is any thinking at all. [UPDATE: He is apparently not bringing along his press corps, which is both unprecedented and unusual for a presidential candidate going abroad. Makes the whole trip even stranger]

If I were Peña Nieto, I would meet Trump at the airport, and with the Mexican press pool there, hand Trump one of his Mexico-made Trump shirts, shake his hand, and walk away.

In the meantime, we need to build that wall to keep Trump down there.

Anyway, you look at it — Trump wins this news cycle… perhaps he will wish otherwise.

UPDATE:  Conservative fan fiction

Tweet from former Mexican ambassador to China:

UPDATE #2:  Viewing the outrage in Mexico about this meeting, Josh Marshall is having additional thoughts.

It would be one thing if Pena Nieto had some grand and tightly organized plan to humiliate Trump. But the evidence of the last 24 hours suggests he’s winging it perhaps every bit as much as Trump himself. Having two clumsy political actors together on the same literal and figurative stage in a highly volatile situation is not one geared to good outcomes. It seems to me like you have a good chance that neither player has much of any idea what he’s doing, and Pena Nieto is already under the gun because of the furious reaction to the news that started last night.

This confrontation of panic, confusion and poor planning is magnified by a less noted factor. Organizing a foreign trip for a President or would-be president is a highly complicated affair, especially when you figure in security needs. It never gets done on a day’s notice. We’re now hearing that the US Embassy in Mexico City strongly counseled against the idea. Those folks tend to be quite apolitical and logistics focused. We can’t rule out the possibility that Trump’s entourage shows up at the wrong palace or isn’t able to make it back to Arizona in time for the speech.

Also, Trump is not bringing the press along.

I think, at the end of the day, the actual visit might just turn out to be a big nothingburger.  We won’t know what happened or what was said, allowing both Peña Nieto and Trump to spin what happened today (and its purpose) to each’s political advantage: messages that will be crushed in the next news cycle.

Good Article In NY Times About Debate Prep

The first debate is when this campaign becomes a thing.  Unlike the endless cycle of “scandals” now, the debates can really move the needle.  High stakes stuff.

The NY Times looked at the candidates’ debate prep so far.  Some highlights:

Her team is also getting advice from psychology experts to help create a personality profile of Mr. Trump to gauge how he may respond to attacks and deal with a woman as his sole adversary on the debate stage.

They are undertaking a forensic-style analysis of Mr. Trump’s performances in the Republican primary debates, cataloging strengths and weaknesses as well as trigger points that caused him to lash out in less-than-presidential ways.

As Mrs. Clinton pores over this voluminous research with her debate team, most recently for several hours on Friday, and her aides continue searching for someone who can rattle her as a Trump stand-in during mock debates, Mr. Trump is taking the opposite tack. Though he spent hours with his debate team the last two Sundays, the sessions were more freewheeling than focused, and he can barely conceal his disdain for laborious and theatrical practice sessions.

Tellingly, I suspect both would govern this way as well.  Clinton would get informed; Trump would wing it.

“I believe you can prep too much for those things,” Mr. Trump said in an interview last week. “It can be dangerous. You can sound scripted or phony — like you’re trying to be someone you’re not.”

Preparation of the issues won’t make you sound scripted and phony.  Being scripted and phony will make you sound scripted and phony.

Mrs. Clinton, a deeply competitive debater, wants to crush Mr. Trump on live television, but not with an avalanche of policy details; she is searching for ways to bait him into making blunders. Mr. Trump, a supremely confident communicator, wants viewers to see him as a truth-telling political outsider and trusts that he can box in Mrs. Clinton on her ethics and honesty.

Except he doesn’t tell the truth and he’s not very transparent himself (tax returns, tax returns, tax returns…..)

Mr. Trump’s certitude — “I know how to handle Hillary,” he said — reflects his belief that the debates will be won or lost not on policy points and mastery of details, which are Mrs. Clinton’s strengths, but on the authenticity, boldness and leadership that the nominees demonstrate onstage. Mr. Trump is certain that he holds advantages here, saying Mrs. Clinton is likely to come across as a typical politician spouting rehearsed lines.

You can be sure that Trump will be using lines from his stump speech.

Now here’s the most interesting part:

The Clinton camp believes that Mr. Trump is most insecure about his intelligence, his net worth and his image as a successful businessman, and those are the areas they are working with Mrs. Clinton to target.

Mr. Schwartz, in an interview, declined to comment about any conversations with the Clinton campaign, but he said Mr. Trump would be vulnerable if Mrs. Clinton proved to be calm, deliberate and relentless in attacking Mr. Trump’s character, volatility and readiness to be commander in chief.

I don’t know if this is a bluff or not.  I think Clinton should attack now and then, but mostly she should explain her policies (while pointing out that he has none).  That seems to me to be the best tactic.

PPP Poll Trolls Trump Voters

A new national PPP poll of likely voters puts Hillary Clinton 5 points ahead of Trump nationally, about on par with other polls of late (especially ones that follow likely, as opposed to registered, voters).

But deep down in their survey results, it seemed they planted an interesting question to Trump supports:


Well done, PPP.

UPDATE:  Speaking of the PPP poll, Trump retweeted an obvious fake tweet.


Two Little Bits of Non-Election Good News

What with Gene Wilder’s death bumming everybody out, and the constant harangue of a senseless election, here’s a couple of political things to brighten your day:

(1)  Governor LePage of Maine is considering resigning

Gov. Paul LePage raised the possibility Tuesday that he may not finish his second term, amid mounting pressure from Democrats and members of his own party to amend for his recent actions.

“I’m looking at all options,” the Republican governor said while appearing on WVOM, a Bangor talk radio station. “I think some things I’ve been asked to do are beyond my ability. I’m not going to say that I’m not going to finish it. I’m not saying that I am going to finish it.”

He later said, “If I’ve lost my ability to help Maine people, maybe it’s time to move on.”

LePage also apologized repeatedly to Rep. Drew Gattine and his family for leaving a threatening voicemail last week.

He said he plans to invite the Westbrook representative to a face-to-face meeting to talk further.

“When I was called a racist I just lost it, and there’s no excuse,” the governor said. “It’s unacceptable. It’s totally my fault.”

Don’t let the door hit you… etc etc.

UPDATE…. a tweet today:

(2)  ISIS is floundering in red tape

What appear to be internal documents from the administration of the so-called Islamic State, obtained exclusively by The Daily Beast, show the terrorist organization under strain from financial misappropriation, embezzlement, alleged infiltration by anti-ISIS spies, and bureaucratic infighting.

These documents, originally captured by a Syrian rebel group near Damascus, are stamped by official ISIS “ministries.” They show the dollar salaries ISIS paid to its jihadist fighters, at least as of a year ago, in addition to other income earmarked for those fighters’ dependents.

The information contained in the documents confirms what various ISIS defectors and deserters have disclosed previously to The Daily Beast about the inner workings of the organization.

They also yield more proof of the extraordinary amount of red tape (and somewhat comedic human frustration) involved as ISIS leaders try to regulate everything from the requisition of weapons and ammunition to the allowance of vacation time.

The entire file was shared by Maher al-Hamdan, a media spokesman for the Ahmad Abdo Brigade. This  Syrian rebel group receives ammunition and financial support from the Military Operations Command in Amman, Jordan, meaning it is backed by the United States and other Western and Arab countries party to the “Friends of Syria” coalition.

Some examples:

Consider how the unsigned letter ends: “Note: the security brothers have grievances as regards salaries during their work in the area.”

Another confiscated document in the Ahmad Abdo tranche reveals just what kind of remuneration the “brothers” were used to receiving, as of last summer when the caliphate’s economy was more bullish than it is now.

On Aug. 25, 2015, a salary table for a “mujahid” (holy warrior) salary is produced with relevant fields filled in. This particular jihadist is called Abu Muslim al-Muhajir and he belongs to the Fath Qaryatain Battalion of ISIS, in the Damascus province. His salary is listed as $50 per month, and he receives another $50 as subsidy for his one wife. This appears the extent of al-Muhajir’s dependents, but the fields left empty show that the ISIS “Islamic welfare state,” as one defector The Daily Beast put it, also encompasses one’s parents and sabaya—that is, sex slaves—as well as their children, should they have any. “Soldiers’ bonuses,” “Eid recompense,” “Fighter’s petty cash,” and “Other petty expenses” are also clearly justifiable forms of disbursement for the average mujahid.

A similarly named Abu Sulaiman al-Muhajir, a fighter in Damascus, seeks a weeklong holiday from ISIS to be spent in the eastern provinces of Deir Ezzor and Raqqa. He is granted permission, although the form takes care to observe: “All brothers should be precise about dates, otherwise, they will be questioned according the sharia law.”


Finally, we see evidence that all is not well in the realm of takfirijurisprudence. Overlapping or intersecting fiefs of ISIS law enforcement appear to have led to frequent and annoying communications cock-ups and attendant complaints among the jihadist civil service.

Dr. Abu Sham, a judge’s clerk, finds himself forced to write to Abu al-Abbas al-Jazrawi, the vice emir of ISIS’s Department of Justice, to explain why there are so many prisoners in one ISIS-run jail in the Damascus province.

“Well, three-fourths of these prisoners were detained only for a few hours,” Dr. Sham states, a bit defensively. “Last month, [nobody] was detained for a period of one week except the last 3 persons mentioned at the end of the list. By the time of writing this letter to you, there is no one in the prison.”

As in with many administrators of overburdened state agencies, Dr. Sham seems to be the put-upon victim of a clerical oversight: “The main problem about the paper that was sent from the Diwan [department] is that it didn’t mention the release dates. As from next time we will add the release dates so this confusion won’t be repeated again.”

The idea of ISIS being buried in paperwork is pretty amusing to me.

RIP Gene Wilder

Gene Wilder, who regularly stole the show in such comedic gems as “The Producers,” “Blazing Saddles,” “Young Frankenstein,” “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” and “Stir Crazy,” died today at his home in Stamford, Conn. His nephew Jordan Walker-Pearlman said he died of complications from Alzheimer’s disease. He was 83.

He had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1989.

He had been looking frail recently


Here’s a long biography doc:

I Feel Like An Octogenarian At A Rave

The thing about this election is that nothing stays.  It seems like there are two or three breaking stories every day.  And every story, had it popped up two or three decades ago, would be occupying the national conscience for a month or so.  Now, it is like the entire country has the attention span of a moth.

And even things that should’t be election news becomes election news.  Anthony Weiner does some bad sexting again.  Which only affects him and his wife.  Except his wife is Huma Abedin, a top Clinton aide.  And that affects the economy how?  That affects national security how? (I know, I know. Trump made that leap, but that doesn’t mean the entire media establishment needs to)

I guess the good news is that when bad news comes out against Clinton — like the drip drip drip of her emails — I can relax in the knowledge that it is going to be less than 24 hours before Trump says or does something stupid and steps on his own attack.

But the dynamics are just plain weird.  WEIRD.

The Clinton “Alt-Right” Speech

Some people are saying this is the best speech of her campaign so far, as she finally takes off the gloves and calls Trump racist (in so many words)

The response has been generally good on the left, although many would point out that the GOP was basically racist, and Clinton should have called out the whole damn party.  I think that the GOP has been complicit in racism by being silent about its more extreme members who clearly cater to that disgusting sentiment.  I’m not sure that amounts to racism, but perhaps so.

After all, let’s look at a timely news item coming out of West Virginia — something embarrassing for WV’s Attorney General:

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey fired a spokeswoman Thursday, after it was revealed that she took part in a video called “The Stop White Genocide Video” that recites slogans of white supremacists.

Carrie Bowe, who was Morrisey’s assistant communications director, appears throughout the video, speaking about white genocide, a white nationalist conspiracy theory that alleges immigration and integration will cause whites to become extinct.

The YouTube video, first uploaded in December 2012 by someone with the screen name of “Johnny Mantraseed,” boasts that it was banned in 18 countries and was once removed from YouTube. It was re-posted to YouTube in 2013 and has been viewed more than 260,000 times.

Throughout the video, Bowe, who started working for Morrisey in January 2015, repeatedly states, “Anti-racist is a code word for anti-white,” a phrase coined by well-known white supremacist Bob Whitaker, who lives in Charleston, South Carolina.

She has since taken to Facebook (of course) to say she had no idea what the final video would look like, as if that somehow excuses her for saying the following on video:

“If I tell you the ongoing truth about genocide against my race, the white race, liberals and ‘respectable conservatives’ agree that I’m a Nazi that wants to kill 6 million Jews,” Bowe says.

Bowe also says white children in schools are being misled.

“Throughout elementary school, junior high, high school and college, I was told that my race, the white race, was the cause of all the world’s problems,” Bowe says in the video. “Now, many of you have jobs where minorities say things that would get you as a white person instantly fired.”

The four women ask viewers to “recite The Mantra,” a series of phrases embraced by segregationists.

“Asia for the Asians, Africa for the Africans, white countries for everybody,” another women in the video says, the first phrase of “The Mantra.”

Here’s my favorite part:

Bowe, who made $40,000 as a Morrisey aide, served as his acting press secretary in September 2015. She also helped manage his field office staff members.

Before Morrisey hired her, she was member relations director with the conservative Family Policy Council of West Virginia.

That’s the state level version of the Family Research Council.

The conservative Family Policy Council of West Virginia is asking Wheeling leaders to release any and all documentation of the proposed protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents with a Freedom of Information Act request.

The request states that any such ordinance would elevate “changeable” sexual behavior to a special level of legal protection. The Charleston-based council’s president, Allen Whitt, said this ordinance has already likely been drafted under residents’ noses, despite Mayor Glenn Elliott assuring no such legislation is anywhere near a draft, let alone fully realized.

“That is misinformation. It is untruth,” Whitt said. “Their position is to pass a city ordinance. We’ve seen this multiple times. That’s a straight up lie.”

The council describes itself as a “leading conservative policy group championing social issues,” such as religious freedom.

If you were to say there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between alt-right, the klan, and good old fashioned “family values” conservatism, I don’t think many could refute that outright.

In any event, Clinton was obviously trying to woo moderate Republicans who cannot identify with Trump’s blatant racism, so she wasn’t prepared to go that far.

And Clinton’s speech has sent Trump into a fit (“no, CLINTON is the REAL racist!”).

Unfortunately, CNN is chastising both candidates for getting into the mud.  The problem with “both sides do it” of journalistic equality is that one side actually has a basis for doing it.

Maine Governor Paul LePage (R) Doesn’t Like Being Called A Racist… But He Is

Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) left a threatening voicemail for a Democratic state lawmaker on Thursday, using obscene language and challenging the lawmaker toprove the governor is racist.

LePage believed that state Rep. Drew Gattine (D) accused him of being racist after the governor said he kept a binder full of drug traffickers arrested in Maine and that more than 90 percent of them were black or Hispanic. In an interview with the Portland Press Herald, Gattine denied he had made the claim.

In the voicemail, obtained by the Press Herald, LePage directed several obscenities toward Gattine.

“Mr. Gattine, this is Governor Paul Richard LePage. I would like to talk to you about your comments about my being a racist, you cocksucker,” LePage said. “I want to talk to you. I want you to prove that I’m a racist. I’ve spent my life helping black people and you little son-of-a-bitch, socialist cocksucker. You, I need you to, just freakin’, I want you to record this and make it public because I am after you. Thank you.”

Listen for yourself:

That’s….. not…. good.

In January, LePage said men with names like “D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty” were dealing drugs in Maine and impregnating white women. Earlier this week, he said the binder he kept proved he isn’t racist because it supported his statements about the racial makeup of the traffickers.

LePage released a statement today, saying he was angry and apologizing for his language.

“When someone calls me a racist, I take it very seriously. I didn’t know Drew Gattine from a hole in the wall until yesterday. It made me enormously angry when a TV reporter asked me for my reaction about Gattine calling me a racist. It is the absolute worst, most vile thing you can call a person,” he said. “So I called Gattine and used the worst word I could think of. I apologize for that to the people of Maine, but I make no apology for trying to end the drug epidemic that is ravaging our state.”

The governor also said that he never intended to harm Gattine.

“When I said I was going after Gattine, I meant I would do everything I could to see that he and his agenda is defeated politically. I am a history buff, and I referenced how political opponents used to call each other out in the 1820s — including Andrew Jackson, the father of the Democratic Party. Obviously, it is illegal today; it was simply a metaphor and I meant no physical harm to Gattine,” he said.

Gattine did not respond to HuffPost’s request for comment on the incident, but he told the Press Herald that LePage’s voicemail was “inappropriate and uncalled for.”

“What I said to the television reporter today is that the kind of racially charged comments the governor made are not at all helpful in solving what the real problem is,” Gattine told the Press Herald. “And that is, we have a crisis in the state of Maine of people overdosing on heroin and prescription drugs and we are not doing enough with respect to treatment and prevention.”

After leaving the voicemail, LePage publicly attacked Gattine and invited a television crew and Press Herald reporter for an interview in which he said he wished he could duel Gattine.

“When a snot-nosed little guy from Westbrook calls me a racist, now I’d like him to come up here because, tell you right now, I wish it were 1825,” he said, according to the Press Herald. “And we would have a duel, that’s how angry I am, and I would not put my gun in the air, I guarantee you, I would not be (Alexander) Hamilton. I would point it right between his eyes, because he is a snot-nosed little runt and he has not done a damn thing since he’s been in this Legislature to help move the state forward.”

LePage and Gattine have clashed on a number of issues, according to the Press Herald, including the governor’s effort to get rid of food stamps in his state.

Gattine wasn’t the only target of LePage this week. On Wednesday, he called Khizr Khan, the father of a killed American soldier, a “con artist” for criticizing GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Clinton Foundation Emails Show Praiseworthy Consideration Of Ethics

Twenty years ago, James Fallows wrote an essay for The Atlantic called “Why Americans Hate the Media.” Fallows’ thesis was illustrated today by the political media’s coverage of the release of emails associated with Hillary Clinton while secretary of state. His thesis was this: Instead of reporting the policy positions of candidates, and assessing their merits,…

Drug Price Gouging

EpiPens, made by a company called Mylan — are allergy injectors — sold two per pack — that contain epinephrine, a drug used to relax muscles. It can open the airways, and reduce swelling during a severe allergic reaction.

Over the years, the price of an EpiPen standard two-pack gradually grew to about $600. The same two-pack cost only about $100 in 2009. Meanwhile, epinephrine, which can be purchased alone, costs just a few dollars.

This isn’t new.  A House of Representatives report found in 2014 that 10 generic drugs experienced price increases just a year prior, ranging from a 420% hike to more than 8,000%.

What’s going on? EpiPen explains:

“With changes in the healthcare insurance landscape, an increasing number of people and families are enrolled in high-deductible health plans, and deductible amounts continue to rise. This shift has presented new challenges for consumers, and they are bearing more of the cost. This change to the industry is not an easy challenge to address, but we recognize the need and are committed to working with customers and payors to find solutions to meet the needs of the patients and families we serve.”

That’s sort of saying “We recognize the problem but don’t claim responsibility for it”.

It’s true that more people are stuck with a high-deductible health plan — 25% now as opposed to 4% before Obamacare. But one reason employers are moving to higher-deductible plans is because they’re reacting to rising health-insurance costs—which are climbing in part because companies like Mylan are hiking drug prices.

In any case, it might behoove Mylan to find those “solutions” quickly: Members of Congress are already calling for an investigation.

And one thing that is sure to come out?  CEO compensation.  According to filings reported by NBC News, Mylan Pharmaceuticals CEO Heather Bresch’s yearly compensation rose from $2,453,456 in 2007 to $18,931,068 last year.

New Planet Discovered Around Nearest Star

…. and it might be a habitable planet.  As astronomy news goes, this is HUGE!

The planet, called Proxima Centauri b or just Proxima b (exoplanets are given their star’s name plus a lower case letter in order of discovery, starting with “b”), orbits Proxima every 11.2 days. It has a mass of no less than 1.3 times the Earth’s, so if it’s rock and metal like Earth it’s only a bit bigger. It’s a mere 7.3 million kilometers from the star — a lot closer than Earth’s distance from the Sun of 150 million km! — but Proxima is so faint and cool it receives about two-thirds the amount of light and heat the Earth does. That means that it’s in Proxima’s habitable zone: It’s possible (more or less) that liquid water could exist on its surface.

The European Southern Observatory put this together:

The Clinton Foundation vs The Associated Press

Based on the frothy headlines, you might think the Clinton Foundation is some kind of illicit front company or sketchy offshore bank. Donald Trump wants to shut it down. The FBI has reportedly considered investigating it. A never-ending stream of once-private Hillary Clinton emails reveals donors to the foundation seeking special government favors when she was secretary of state.

In reality, the Clinton Foundation is a high-visibility charity that operates in Africa, Haiti and other downtrodden places and gets good marks for many of its programs. “Generally, they’re well respected and thought of as being effective,” says Chuck McLean, senior research fellow for GuideStar, which gathers and publishes data on nonprofits. “I haven’t heard anything like they’re squandering money or they’re ineffectual.”

Some charities draw criticism for spending too much donor money on salaries or perks for staff. The United Way once had a CEO convicted of fraud for essentially stealing the group’s money. Even the American Red Cross has been hammered for a lack of accountability over the use of $500 million donated to help Haiti after a devastating 2010 earthquake. Those sorts of allegations don’t generally surround the Clinton nonprofit, officially known as the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation.

The group’s main problem, rather, is the appearance that some wealthy donors, including corporations and foreign governments, give money to the foundation in the hope of getting favors from the U.S. government in return. And the only reason this is an issue is that, while Bill Clinton has been a private citizen since leaving the White House in 2001, his wife Hillary has been a high-ranking government official most of that time—first as a New York senator, then as America’s top diplomat. If she is elected president, donors to the Clinton Foundation could be construed as seeking influence with one of the most powerful people in the world.

It’s not unlike Virginia Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who also works for a non-profit.  Of course, she works for a non-profit conservative advocacy group, and not something like the Clinton Foundation.  You see, the Clinton Foundation isn’t really a foundation, but a public charity. Most foundations fund themselves through a large endowment, often created by a wealthy donor, which is how billionaire Bill Gates established the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The Clinton Foundation, by contrast, is funded by donations. And it spends most of the money it raises on its own programs, unlike foundations that mainly give grants to other nonprofits deemed worthy.

The Clinton Foundation has 10 different programs and a staff of nearly 500, with donations and other revenue totaling $178 million in 2014, the last year for which records are public. About 80% of spending goes toward charitable work. That’s a smaller portion than at the Carter Center, another nonprofit founded by a former president, which spends about 91% of its funds on programs. But it’s higher than at other charities.

One of the foundation’s 10 programs is the Clinton Global Initiative, which hosts an annual confab of glitterati in New York City each September. Other programs focus on reducing poverty, mitigating climate change, improving crop yields in Africa, rebuilding Haiti, and advancing the rights of girls and women around the world.

That sprawling portfolio may account for the wide range of Clinton Foundation donors and the impression among some that it’s a way for rich people everywhere to buy their way into the Clintons’ orbit. After refusing for several years, the foundation began to publish a list of its donors in 2009, when Hillary Clinton became secretary of state. Clinton vowed to dissociate herself from the foundation while at the State Department, but newly released emails show foundation officials occasionally asked Clinton’s office for favors on behalf of foundation donors. There’s no evidence Clinton herself granted any favors.

Let me repeat that: There’s no evidence Clinton herself granted any favors.

The controversy over influence peddling obviously overshadows some of the good work the Clinton Foundation does, which often takes place in parts of the world with no American media to provide a counternarrative. Laura Seay, a professor at Colby College in Maine, recently defended the foundation in a series of tweets describing field work she did in the Democratic Republic of Congo from 2005 to 2007, when the Clinton Foundation helped fund treatments in war-torn areas for children who were HIV-positive. “I know teens & young adults who were kids then & are alive today because the Clinton Foundation saved their lives when no one else would,” she wrote.

But is there a controversy at all?  No, and here’s why.

The Associated Press has just shown us why it is important to be vigilant in how we consume the news as it is reported. They took some interesting information they gathered and spun it into something it wasn’t…scandalous. Here is their lead-in introduction:

More than half the people outside the government who met with Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state gave money – either personally or through companies or groups – to the Clinton Foundation. It’s an extraordinary proportion indicating her possible ethics challenges if elected president.

At least 85 of 154 people from private interests who met or had phone conversations scheduled with Clinton while she led the State Department donated to her family charity or pledged commitments to its international programs, according to a review of State Department calendars released so far to The Associated Press. Combined, the 85 donors contributed as much as $156 million. At least 40 donated more than $100,000 each, and 20 gave more than $1 million.

Chris Cillizza is an example of a pundit who ran with it. In reference to that intro, he writes this:

It is literally impossible to look at those two paragraphs and not raise your eyebrows. Half of all of the nongovernmental people Clinton either met with or spoke to on the phone during her four years at the State Department were donors to the Clinton Foundation! HALF.

And those 85 people donated $156 million, which, according to my calculator, breaks down to an average contribution just north of $1.8 million. (Yes, I know that not everyone gave the same amount.)

It just plain looks bad. Really bad.

Now…let me pull a couple of other quotes from what he said.

No one is alleging that the Clinton Foundation didn’t (and doesn’t) do enormous amounts of good around the world…

To be clear: I have no evidence — none — that Clinton broke any law or did anything intentionally shady…

In other words, what it comes down to is “it just plain looks bad.” That is basically what most every drummed up “scandal” against Hillary Clinton comes down to: from the perspective of the people judging her – it looks bad. Welcome to the world of optics as scandal.

One way to look at this is that the AP spun the story they wanted to tell about this information. That happens almost all the time and we often don’t notice. To clarify how that happened here, note first of all the AP headline: “Many Donors to Clinton Foundation Met With Her at State.” As the Clinton response notes, that is not true:


Yup.  Clinton Foundation has 7000 donors. Hillary met with 60 of them as Secretary of State.  That’s about 1%.

So the Associated Press spun the information in a way that got an awful lot of attention. The AP did something else to spin this tale:

The 154 did not include U.S. federal employees or foreign government representatives…

Clinton’s campaign said the AP analysis was flawed because it did not include in its calculations meetings with foreign diplomats or U.S. government officials, and the meetings AP examined covered only the first half of Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state.

That is how they came up with the numbers to say, “More than half the people outside the government who met with Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state gave money – either personally or through companies or groups – to the Clinton Foundation.”

But here is where the AP blew their story. In an attempt to provide an example of how this becomes an “optics” problem for Hillary Clinton, they focused much of the article on the fact that she met several times with Muhammad Yunus, a Clinton Foundation donor. In case you don’t recognize that name, he is an economist from Bangladesh who pioneered the concepts of microcredit and microfinance as a way to fight poverty, and founded Grameen Bank. For those efforts, Yunus won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006, the United States Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2010.

The connection the AP tries to make is that SoS Clinton met with Yunus because he was a Clinton Foundation donor. What they didn’t mention is that their relationship goes back over 30 years to the time Hillary (as first lady of Arkansas) heard about his work and brought him to her state to explore the possibility of implementing microfinance programs to assist the poor.

During the time that Clinton was Secretary of State, the government of Bangladesh was trying to discredit Yunus and remove him from leadership at Grameen Bank due to the fact that he was seen as a political threat. In case you think Clinton’s engagement on that presents and “optics” problem, consider this press release from then-Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee John Kerry.

I am deeply concerned by efforts to remove Muhammad Yunus as managing director of the Grameen Bank. The international community will watch this situation closely, and I hope that both sides can reach a compromise that maintains Grameen Bank’s autonomy and effectiveness. Institutions like the Grameen Bank make a significant contribution to Bangladesh’s development and democracy and Professor Yunus’s life-long work to reduce poverty and empower women through microloans has deservedly received world-wide attention and respect.

Since those days, the whole fascination with microfinance as a way to combat poverty has waned a bit – mostly due to for-profit banks that abused the possibilities. But it is interesting to note that President Obama’s mother, Ann Dunham Soetero, was deeply involved in promoting microfinance in Indonesia. Clinton herself made that connection on the day she started work as President Obama’s Secretary of State.

We have, with President Obama, someone who believes in development and diplomacy. Coming to the State Department yesterday sent a very strong signal. A few of you may even know, as I mentioned in my testimony before the Foreign Relations Committee, that the President’s late mother was an expert in microfinance and worked in Indonesia. I have been involved in microfinance since 1983, when I first met Muhammad Yunus and had Muhammad come to see us in Arkansas so that we could use the lessons from the Grameen Bank in our own country. I was actually looking forward to being on a panel with the President’s mother in Beijing on microfinance.

One has to wonder why the AP chose this story of Clinton’s 30+ year relationship with a Nobel Peace Prize recipient committed to combating global poverty as the one to highlight in their efforts to suggest that the Secretary of State met with people because of their donations to the Clinton Foundation. It’s a classic flawed example.

Another bad example? Melinda Gates.  As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton met with Melinda Gates, who also happened to donate to the Clinton Foundation. The AP story suggests that Hillary Clinton met with Melinda Gates BECAUSE of the donation, but is there evidence of that?  Melinda Gates is a public health philanthropist, an expert in that field.  The issue of public health and dealing with aid to foreign nations is certainly something that the State Department DOES.

The State Department doing its job seems to clearly be the story of the time “Clinton also met in June 2011 with Nancy Mahon of the MAC AIDS, the charitable arm of MAC Cosmetics, which is owned by Estee Lauder.” Was the meeting about Mahon trying to swing a plumb internship for a family member? Nope! As the story concedes, “the meeting occurred before an announcement about a State Department partnership to raise money to finance AIDS education and prevention.”

So… where’s the beef?

I am not suggesting any nefarious motives on the part of the AP reporters. But as we see so often in the media, the facts must be paired with a narrative that gives them meaning. And the narrative, unfortunately, cannot be explained in a tweet, of even in an interview that only one news show might air.

So now we’re down to the final argument, which skirts the facts and relies on innuendo and says that donors get more than just a picture with a candidate; they get a chance to make their pitch for the policies they want pursued or blocked, a pitch the rest of us don’t get to make because we don’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars or more to contribute to campaigns.

And here, I agree.  But I add that Clinton is no better, and in fact, probably less guilty than most other politicians, particularly the ones you’ve never heard about whose political careers hang in the balance and they REALLY kiss the donor asses.  I’ll let Kevin Drum cross the finish line for me:

But it’s also something I can’t get too upset about. It’s not just that everyone does this. It’s not just that everyone in American politics does this. It’s the fact that everyone, everywhere, throughout all of human history has done this. It’s just the way human societies work. I’m all in favor of trying to reduce the influence of money on politics, but I doubt there’s any way to truly make much of a dent in it. And as I’ve mentioned before, I don’t consider it one of our nation’s biggest problems anyway.

So here are several possible takes on Hillary:

  1. Powerful people all run in the same circles. They all know each other. They all ask favors from one another. Hillary is part of this circle.
  2. People who are big party donors and big policy influencers have more access to politicians than, say, you or me. On this score, Hillary is a garden variety politician.
  3. Donating to the Clinton Foundation was a well-known requirement for getting a meeting with Hillary.

I’ve simply seen no evidence of #3, and that includes the AP’s strained effort yesterday.Besides, if this were truly well known, by now someone would have come forward to spill the beans.

As for #1 and #2, I don’t doubt that they’re as true of Hillary as they are of every other politician in the country. This might be an unfortunate state of affairs, but it’s certainly no scandal. So I remain confused. If you want to criticize the role of money in politics, that’s fine. If you want to criticize the outsize influence of the connected and powerful, that’s fine. If you want to criticize Hillary Clinton for being an ordinary part of this system—as Bernie Sanders did—that’s fine. (As long as you’re not also part of that same system, of course.) But is there some kind of special scandal associated with Hillary in the State Department? I sure don’t see it.

There’s no “it” to see.

6.2 Magnitude Hits Central Italy


A 6.2-magnitude earthquake hit central Italy early Wednesday and rescuers are searching for survivors.

  • 73 people have died, according to Italian officials [UPDATE 1:45 pm EST: Now 120 dead and still rising]
  • Rescuers struggle to reach some remote towns
  • Amatrice, town at epicenter, “is no more” says mayor
  • Witness: We woke up shaking side to side in bed

Ugh! More Damn Emails!

I don’t care, but everyone else will:

The FBI uncovered nearly 15,000 more emails and materials sent to or from Hillary Clinton as part of the agency’s investigation into her use of private email at the State Department.

The documents were not among the 30,000 work-related emails turned over to the State Department by her attorneys in December 2014.

The State Department confirmed it has received “tens of thousands” of personal and work-related email materials — including the 14,900 emails found by the FBI — that it will review.

The number of emails provided by the FBI to the State Department for review is much higher than the “several thousand” that FBI Director James Comey said in July were uncovered as part of his agency’s investigation.

“We found those additional emails in a variety of ways,” Comey explained in July. “Some had been deleted over the years, and we found traces of them on devices that supported or were connected to the private e-mail domain. Others we found by reviewing the archived government e-mail accounts of people who had been government employees at the same time as Secretary Clinton … Still others we recovered from the laborious review of the millions of email fragments dumped into the slack space of the server decommissioned in 2013.”

Meanwhile, the State Department, in response to a Freedom of Information lawsuit, released call logs of top Clinton aide Cheryl Mills, whose name has been attached to efforts to get a Clinton donor placed on a government intelligence advisory board.

One of the callers, Laura Graham, the COO for the Clinton Foundation, called Mills frequently, including several times a day in some cases.

“Urgent question as it relates to security and asks to speak with you bf you meet with the PM,” Graham said in a message on Feb. 8, 2012.

Regarding Mills, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said: “Again we have seen no evidence of any behavior, any relations with the Clinton Foundation that weren’t completely above board, and in this case it’s likely that what they were dealing with during many of these calls was the immediate aftermath of the Haiti earthquake.”

The State Department committed last week to publicly releasing the Clinton emails uncovered by the FBI as part of an existing Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch.

At a status hearing Monday before U.S. District Judge James Boasberg, who is overseeing that case, the State Department presented a schedule for how it will release the emails found by the FBI.

The first group of 14,900 emails was ordered released, and a status hearing on Sept. 23 “will determine the release of the new emails and documents,” Boasberg said.

“As we have previously explained, the State Department voluntarily agreed to produce to Judicial Watch any emails sent or received by Secretary Clinton in her official capacity during her tenure as secretary of state which are contained within the material turned over by the FBI and which were not already processed for FOIA by the State Department,” Toner said in a statement issued Monday.

“We can confirm that the FBI material includes tens of thousands of nonrecord (meaning personal) and record materials that will have to be carefully appraised at State,” it read.

The FBI uncovered the documents as part of its investigation into Clinton’s use of private email at the State Department.

“State has not yet had the opportunity to complete a review of the documents to determine whether they are agency records or if they are duplicative of documents State has already produced through the Freedom of Information Act” said Toner, declining further comment.

“We are not sure what additional materials the Justice Department may have located, but if the State Department determines any of them to be work-related, then obviously we support those documents being released publicly as well,” said Brian Fallon, the press secretary for the Clinton campaign.

“As we have always said, Hillary Clinton provided the State Department with all the work-related emails she had in her possession in 2014,” he said.

At a July news conference announcing the FBI’s recommendation that no criminal charges be filed against Clinton, Comey disclosed that investigators found “several thousand work-related emails that were not in the group of 30,000 that were returned by Secretary Clinton to State in 2014.”

Three of those several thousand emails were classified at the time they were sent or received, he said.

What’s in the emails?  Nothing, I suspect.  Or maybe JUST BARELY ENOUGH to call for more hearings or something.

The goal is the same as it was throughout the 1990s.  Tar Clinton with innuendo so you can paint her (or him) as “untrustworthy”.  Wait for them to make a stupid choice (like putting emails on a private server) or a legitimate choice (like take money from rich donors for charity) and make it look ABSOLUTELY 100 TIMES WORSE THAN IT IS, and then ask for a special prosecutor.

The interesting thing is that when you ask anybody what crime Clinton has committed, they don’t have an answer.  They just “know” that she lied and that she committed some crime.

For her part, Clinton is not worried.  As soon as this story came out, she sent out a press release basically saying, “Release them”, and last night on a late night talk show, she said the emails were probably boring.

We’ll see.  But I am sick of hearing about them.  Talk about beating a dead horse.

The Washington Post has looked into this, with a front page headline saying  “Emails reveal how foundation donors got access to Clinton, State Dept. aides.”

But the article is less sure that Clinton Foundation donors to gain special access to then-Secretary of State Clinton and her close aide Huma Abedin:

The emails show that. . .the donors did not always get what they wanted, particularly when they sought anything more than a meeting. But the exchanges. . .illustrate the way the Clintons’ international network of friends and donors was able to get access to Hillary Clinton and her inner circle during her tenure running the State Department.

This, I think, is a fair statement.  But you have to ask how this is different from anybody else in Washington.  You don’t think donors to John Doe’s campaign get some access to John Doe when he is in office?

The most prominent instance of access-seeking in the new emails involves the attempt by the Crown Prince of Bahrain to get a meeting with Secretary Clinton. When it didn’t happen, Doug Band, a Clinton Foundation official (and later, Huma Abedin’s employer at Teneo) intervened.

Here is what the Post says about this case:

In June 2009, Band emailed Abedin that the prince would be in Washington for two days and was seeking a meeting with Hillary Clinton. “Good friend of ours,” he added.

Abedin responded that the prince had already requested a meeting “through normal channels” but that Clinton had been hesitant to commit.

Two days later, Abedin followed up with Band to let him know that a meeting with the prince had been set. “If u see him, let him know. We have reached out thru official channels,” she wrote to Band.

This too is a fair account of the email exchange, which you can read here.

The Crown Prince is a major Clinton Foundation donor. According to Judicial Watch, which cites the Clinton Foundation’s webpage, in 2005 he committed to establishing the Crown Prince’s International Scholarship Program for the Clinton Global Initiative. By 2010, the program had contributed $32 million to CGI. The Kingdom of Bahrain reportedly gave between $50,000 and $100,000 to the Clinton Foundation.

Do the emails show that the Crown Prince’s donor status got him a meeting with Clinton? Not exactly. Clinton might have met with him anyway, even without Band’s intervention. And according to Abedin, Clinton never said she wouldn’t meet the guy; she just wanted to put off the decision.

That’s it.  A big nothingburger.  But enough so that biased people can spin it.

Trump Campaign Appears To Be In Disarray About His Pet Topic: Immigration

Ever since he announced his presidency, Trump has been firm about two things: (1) “We’re going to build a wall” keeping Mexicans out of the U.S. (and Mexico will pay for the wall) and (2)  “We’re going to deport all illegals so fast…..”

In fact, Trump’s stance on immigration may be the only consistent part of his campaign.

Except maybe not.  Something happened, and Trump’s planned speech on Thursday regarding immigration got postponed.

Apparently, the Trump campaign has realized that deporting 3% of people living in America by a “deportation force” (as Trump called it) would make the transportation of Jews in Hitler’s Germany look like a family vacation.  How do you move 11 million people, tearing families in half?  Well, you can’t, and Trump realizes that now (all of a sudden).

So what do we get? On O’Reilly last night Donald Trump essentially said he’d continue President Obama’s deportation policy, which supporters and immigration critics both agree does not slack on deportations one bit. Only Trump says he’d pursue Obama’s policy “perhaps with a lot more energy.”

Trump: “We’re going to obey the existing laws. Now, the existing laws are very strong … What people don’t know is that Obama got tremendous numbers of people out of the country, Bush the same thing. Lots of people were brought out of the country with the existing laws. Well, I’m gonna do the same thing.”

Except, of course, people DID know that Obama had deported lots of people.  Donald didn’t.

Newly-minted Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway tried to put the best face on it by explaining that crafting good policy takes time. “Immigration is a very complex issue and to get the solutions right, to come out with your specific plan, should not be rushed. He is taking in the wisdom of many different counselors on this issue.”

When Fox’s Megyn Kelly pressed Conway on whether Trump still plans to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the US, she said the policy is still “basically the same. First, secure the borders and actually apply and enforce the law. Secondly, you have to deport those who have committed crimes.”

Alas, this is as Trump himself was explaining, basically Obama policy: enforce the current laws and give priority to deporting those who have committed crimes and present a danger to the community.

This is unquestionably why the Thursday immigration policy speech was canceled. The campaign can’t figure what it’s policy is.  He promised to deport all the illegal aliens in one year; now he has to walk all that back and basically embrace the Obama policy.  But that degree of flip-flop is too abrasive and dramatic.  There is no way to do that gracefully, and hence, the campaign is in a bit of a fix.

UPDATE: In response to suggestions that he is toning down is deportation views, Trump disagreed and said: “They are going to be out of this country so fast your head will spin.”

Well, my head is spinning – he’s right about that.

Tantaros’ Complaint Against Fox News, O’Reilly, Ailes, and Others

What kind of a place is Fox News?  These allegations keep on coming.

Some excerpts:

[C]ommencing in February 2016, Bill O’Reilly (“O’Reilly”), whom Tantaros had considered to be a good friend and a person from whom she sought career guidance, started sexually harassing her by, inter alia, (a) asking her to come to stay with him on Long Island where it would be “very private,” and (b) telling her on more than one occasion that he could “see [her] as a wild girl,” and that he believed that she had a “wild side.” Fox News did take one action: plainly because of O’Reilly’s rumored prior sexual harassment issues and in recognition of Tantaros’s complaints, Brandi informed Cane that Tantaros would no longer be appearing on O’Reilly’s Fox News show, The O’Reilly Factor.

Ew…. and….

Perhaps the most shocking encounter of all was a Spring 2015 meeting between Tantaros and Fox News Senior Executive, Defendant William Shine (“Shine”), during which Tantaros sought relief from Ailes’s sexual harassment… In response, Shine told Tantaros that Ailes was a “very powerful man” and that Tantaros “needed to let this one go.” Yet, after Ailes was revealed to be a sexual predator and forced to resign, Shine was promoted to Co-President of Fox News. Shine’s inexplicable elevation sends the message that it will be “business as usual” at Fox News when it comes to the treatment of women

Here’s the whole thing:

Hillary And The Squeaky Clean President

The Clinton Foundation has announced that, should Hillary Clinton win, it will stop accepting donations from corporations or foreign entities.  In a normal year, this would not even be news.

But this is a Clinton candidacy, and she has been tainted with 19 years of a false narrative that she is dishonest, that she engages in pay-for-play, etc.  So this move of the Clinton Foundation, rather than being innocuous, is being presented as a way to buffer herself against criticism that she trades power for cash.  In fact, some are asking why she didn’t do this before.

And this is her problem.  Fair or not (I say “not”), Bernie Sanders emphasized real issues like collecting speaking fees from Goldman Sachs rather than fake issues from the GOP like the murder of Vince Foster.  Together, the impact is the same — Clinton was introduced to a generation that had never voted for her or her husband, as a shadowy, duplicitous insider.

Kevin Drum adds:

A little appreciated facet of Obama’s presidency is that it was almost entirely scandal free. This didn’t stop Republicans from trying to invent scandals, of course, as the endless Benghazi witch hunt proves. But none of the Obama “scandals” ever caught on. There are two potential reasons for this:

  1. They were all ridiculous.
  2. Obama has such a clean reputation that they just didn’t stick.

If you think the answer is #1, then I admire your optimistic view of Washington and the political press corps and wish you the best of luck in your future political analysis.

The real answer, plainly, is #2. Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have been the target of dozens of equally invented scandals. In Clinton’s case, the press follows them endlessly. In Obama’s case they don’t. Why? Because in Obama’s case they don’t fit a narrative. Obama has a reputation as a wonky guy who runs a tight ship and doesn’t play games. Because of this, invented nonsense will get a few days or weeks of coverage, but that’s usually it.

Clinton, needless to say, has a reputation that’s just the opposite. Mostly this is undeserved, but not entirely. That doesn’t really matter, though. What matters is that she has the reputation she does, and that means scandals fit the press narrative of who she is. So when Republicans launch attacks on her, it doesn’t much matter if there’s any substance to them. The press will play along endlessly.

Bottom line? If Hillary wants to avoid a failed presidency, she needs to be squeaky clean. That won’t stop the attacks, but at least it will blunt them. Conversely, if there’s even one scandal that has some real truth to it, it will dog her for her entire presidency.

Louisiana Flood – How Did It Happen?

You had rain like it was from a slow-moving tropical depression.  It dropped 24+ inches of rain in some places.  That is more rain than what Bakersfield, California, has seen in 5+ years, or Omaha, Nebraska in one year.

As a result, a half dozen river gauges set new record highs in southeast Louisiana.  And not just by a little bit.  Some exceeded their previous record by several feet.

This is what we get:

16 dead.

Trump Regrets Being Like He Is

In a speech last night in Charlotte, Trump said this (reading off the teleprompter):

Sometimes, in the heat of debate and speaking on a multitude of issues, you don’t choose the right words or you say the wrong thing. I have done that. And believe it or not, I regret it. And I do regret it, particularly where it may have caused personal pain. Too much is at stake for us to be consumed with these issues.

But one thing I can promise you is this: I will always tell you the truth.

Trump did not say which of his numerous controversial statements he regretted.  Was it his feuding with the parents of a slain Muslim-American soldier to suggesting “Second Amendment people” could act to stop Hillary Clinton from appointing a liberal Supreme Court?  Was it where he referred to Mexicans as rapists?  Was it making fun of a handicapped reporter?  Or comments about Megyn Kelly’s blood coming from “wherever”?  Criticism of John McCain as a loser because he was captured? Saying “How stupid are the people of Iowa?”  Encouraging his crowds to beat up protesters? His tweet of him eating from a taco bowl to show he loves the Latinos?  Was it his comments on Ted Cruz’s wife, or insinuations that Cruz’s father was involved in the JFK assassination? And so on and so on?

Well, we don’t know what it is that Trump “regrets”.  And probably will never know.

I suppose if you are pre-disposed to disliking Trump, the so-called “apology” is wholly inadequate.  You don’t apologize off a teleprompter, and you are specific about who you “caused personal pain.”  Also, most if not all of his horrible offensive statements were said more than once and/or in tweets (where you can pause and reflect about what you’re going to type).

On the other hand, if you were a Republican a little wary about what he says, maybe this is enough to get you on board.

If he is serious, he’s got to keep this up though.  Every day.  He’s got to stop the thinly-veiled racist comments.  He’s got to try to act like a President to ALL Americans, not just his rowdy crowds.  His comments in Charlotte, plus his outreach to African-Americans in the same speech was a good start, IF you were able to swallow it.

He’s also following up correctly, by visiting Louisiana which is being ravaged by floods.

Unfortunately, the Trump campaign is stepping on its own message, as Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort resigned moments ago (as I type this) in the wake of campaign shakeup and revelations about Ukraine work. Manafort had lobbied for pro-Russian Ukrainian politicians and oligarchs in the past, undercutting American public sympathy for the imprisoned rival of Ukraine’s then-president. Under the U.S. Foreign Agents Registration Act, people who lobby on behalf of foreign political leaders or political parties must provide detailed reports about their actions to the Justice Department. A violation is a felony and can result in up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 — Manafort and Gates (another Trump campaign person) failed to do that.

Also, Trump’s “regrets” come one day after hiring Breitbart New’s Steve Bannon to run the campaign, a move seen by most as Trump doubling down on being Trump. And comments last weekend by Trump himself that he won’t pivot.

So the “regret” speech is getting drowned out a little bit.

Also, I find the first sentence in the Trump quote above — “Sometimes, in the heat of debate and speaking on a multitude of issues, you don’t choose the right words or you say the wrong thing” — very intriguing.  Is sounds like he is saying, “I lashed out angrily only due to the pressure on me” — which isn’t a great case to make when asking for the nuclear codes.

So Trump hires Bannon, starts talking like a normal candidate for one night, ditches Manafort. Where does this all go?

I will say this: the Donald “I regret” Trump approach is, at this point, Trump’s only hope. He simply cannot win solely by pleasing his base.  He needs independents.  Heck, he needs REPUBLICANS.  And the only way he can get those remaining undecideds in his party and outside his party, is to pivot.  Be humble.  THAT is the Trump that the Democrats worry about.  He needs to more of what he did last night in Charlotte, but he needs to do it on a national stage. He clearly should have done that long before now (the Politico headline reads: “Regretful Trump pivots 107 days late”.  Yup).

His first ad… probably prepared before the campaign personnel changes… is the dark doom and gloom ad everyone expected.

North Carolina GOP Hoping To Set Voting Rules To Favor Republicans

On the heels of appeals court ruling that restored a week’s worth of early voting in North Carolina, the executive director of the state’s Republican Party emailed a memo to members of local elections boards urging them to push for “party line changes” that cut back on early voting hours, The News and Observer reported.

The memo, sent by NCGOP executive director Dallas Woodhouse on Sunday, said that Republican board members “should fight with all they have to promote safe and secure voting and for rules that are fair to our side.”

“Our Republican Board members should feel empowered to make legal changes to early voting plans, that are supported by Republicans,” Woodhouse wrote. “Republicans can and should make party line changes to early voting.”

Last month, a panel of judges on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a2013 law passed by the state‘s Republican legislature that cut back early voting in the state from 17 days to 10 days, ruling that it intended to discriminate against African Americans. Other voting restrictions in the law were struck down as well. The state hasasked the Supreme Court to halt parts of the ruling and allow North Carolina to keep its cutbacks to early voting, among other provisions.

The memo came as local election boards are working on schedules for early voting that take into account the appeals court decision. Per the News and Observer:

County elections boards are developing new early voting schedules in response to a federal court ruling that threw out the state’s voter ID law. In addition to revoking North Carolina’s photo ID requirement, the ruling requires counties to offer 17 days of early voting.

The voter ID law limited early voting to a 10-day period, but counties were required to offer at least the same number of voting hours as they did during the 2012 election. The court ruling eliminates that floor on hours – meaning that counties can legally provide fewer hours and fewer early voting sites than they did in the last presidential election.

Woodhouse’s memo warmed that “Democrats are mobilizing for a fight over early voting locations and times.”

“They are filling up election board meetings and demanding changes that are friendly to democrats and possibly voter fraud,” he wrote.

Among the recipients of his memo were Republican officials who sit on the three-member county boards that approve election schedules in each county. In North Carolina, the governor appoints members to the State Board of Elections which in turn appoints members to the county boards, where two members are allowed to be members of the same party and are typically recommended by the state party chair. Because North Carolina has a Republican governor, two out of the three on each board are currently Republican, according the News and Observer.

Woodhouse went on to write in the memo that cutbacks to early voting hours were necessary because the extra week allowed for same-day registration, which the appeals court decision also brought back after it was eliminated by the 2013 law.

“We believe same-day registration is ripe with voter fraud, or the opportunity to commit it,” he said. “Same-day registration is only available during early voting. We are under no obligation to offer more opportunities for voter fraud.”

UC-Irvine Law Professor Rick Hasen pointed out on his Election Law Blog that early voting is not known to increase the chances of voter fraud. Same-day registration is, however, used disproportionately by black voters.

Woodhouse railed against early voting hours on Sundays, a day that is also popular for voting among African-Americans due to the tradition of black churches’ “souls to the polls” drives.

“Many of our folks are angry and are opposed to Sunday voting for a host of reasons including respect for voter’s religious preferences, protection of our families and allowing the fine election staff a day off, rather than forcing them to work days on end without time off,” Woodhouse wrote. “Six days of voting in one week is enough. Period.”

Woodhouse also pushed elections board officials away from putting early voting sites on college campuses.

“No group of people are entitled to their own early voting site, including college students, who already have more voting options than most other citizens,” Woodhouse wrote.

Since the appeals court decision, there already has been some debate at the local level over early voting in North Carolina. Woodhouse’s own cousin, Eddie Woodhouse, the newest member of the Wake County elections board, tried unsuccessfully last week to push the board to eliminate early voting on Sunday and to remove an early voting site from North Carolina State University.

Dallas Woodhouse, the GOP executive director, defended his memo in an interview with the News and Observer.

“I’m an unabashed partisan, and we have dozens and dozens of Democracy N.C. and NAACP and other people flooding these meetings asking for partisan considerations,” he said. “Our members have a duty, I believe, to act within the law to at least consider the Republican point of view. That’s all we ask them to do.”

What Syrian Refugees Are About

CNN’s Kate Bolduan is a reporter who asks tough questions and is often expressive and emphatic when she does it. Today, however, she was expressive in a very different way. While sharing a video of a five-year-old Syrian named Omran Daqneesh sitting in the back of an ambulance with blood and soot all over him, Bolduan was tasked with explaining that he and his family were pulled from the rubble that was once their house. She said that there had been an air strike — which is common, as the country has been embroiled in a violent civil war for years — but had to stop and compose herself a few times.

There is little point in describing her visceral reaction when you can watch it right here for yourself:

RIP John McLaughlin

His show, the McLaughlin Group, was a stable in political programming for three decades.

He worked right up until the end. McLaughlin was 89 years old, and the cause of death was prostate cancer that was diagnosed some time ago and that had spread. The last show he presided over was taped the Friday after the Republican Convention, and it was clear to viewers that his health was declining

It would be his last appearance.

The following week, his show was a re-run.

And this past week, the August 12 show, he did the voiceovers but was too weak to actually appear (as the opening title says).  It was the first time he missed a broadcast in 34 years.

He was a Jesuit priest, and the first Roman Catholic priest to run for political office in the U.S.  He lost.  But he later became a part of Nixon’s speechwriting team.

From its debut in 1982 “The McLaughlin Group” took on the flavor of a barroom debate, pitting a largely white, male cadre of columnists and political insiders against one another as they gave vent to views from the hard right (Mr. Novak and Mr. Buchanan) to the center-left (Morton Kondracke of The New Republic and Jack Germond of The Baltimore Sun). Ms. Clift, a Newsweek correspondent at the time, and the Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page, who is black, later joined the group as more liberal regulars.

His program, broadcast on select CBS and PBS stations, inspired a generation of pundits, although few quite adopted his self-exaggerated, blustery persona.

Regardless of the panelists’ political persuasions, Mr. McLaughlin, whose own politics leaned decidedly right, would often fire off questions and cut them off, shouting “Wronnnng!”.  He was satirized by SNL

McLaughlin died Tuesday morning (the 15th) from pancreatic cancer.


Trump Staff Shakeup — And Trump Pivots….. 360 Degrees

There was something about Trump’s rally yesterday in Michigan that was odd.  I tweeted about it.  He was reading from a teleprompter, but this wasn’t a policy speech (which is the only time he uses a teleprompter).  This was a message speech.  It was, for the most part, directed at the African-American community (although there were none in the house).  And he literally said that the problems of the inner cities were due to Obama’s immigration policies.  It was as if he was inviting the African-American community to join his cause in hating Muslims.

He had done this a few times with the LGBTQ community, pointing out that gays were killed by the Islamic terrorist in Orlando, and that “Hillary Clinton’s” Clinton Foundation had accepted money from Islamic countries that kill or torture or ban homosexuals.  Again, this was Trump inviting a traditionally non-Republican demographic into the Muslim-bashing fold.

I found it all quite odd.  It was kind of a perversion of Clinton’s campaign slogan — “Stronger. Together.”  Trump’s version says, “Together, Stronger, Against Muslims/Terrorists”.

This morning, I got confirmation of what is going on (I think):

Donald J. Trump has shaken up his presidential campaign for the second time in two months, hiring a top executive from the conservative website Breitbart News and promoting a senior adviser in an effort to right his faltering campaign.

Stephen Bannon, the executive chairman of Breitbart News LLC, will become the Republican campaign’s chief executive, and Kellyanne Conway, a senior adviser and pollster for Mr. Trump and his running mate, Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana, will become the campaign manager.

Paul Manafort, the campaign chairman, will retain his title. But the staffing change, hammered out on Sunday and set to be formally announced Wednesday morning, was seen by some as a demotion for Mr. Manafort.

The news, first reported by The Wall Street Journal, was confirmed early Wednesday by Ms. Conway in a brief interview, but she rejected the idea that the changes amounted to a shake-up and said that Mr. Manafort was not being diminished.

“It’s an expansion at a busy time in the final stretch of the campaign,” she said, adding that Mr. Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates, would remain in their roles.

“We met as the ‘core four’ today,” Ms. Conway added, referring to herself, Mr. Bannon, Mr. Manafort and Mr. Gates.

People briefed on the move said that it reflected Mr. Trump’s realization that his campaign was at a crisis point. But it indicates that the candidate — who has chafed at making the types of changes his current aides have asked for, even though he had acknowledged they would need to occur — has decided to embrace his aggressive style for the duration of the race.

There are three takeaways from this piece of news:

(1)  Trump knows he’s in trouble.  He’s trailing in national polls by an average of about seven points, per RealClearPolitics; he’s behind in almost every battleground-state poll we’ve seen, including our NBC/WSJ/Marist polls from last week; and he’s losing to Clinton in the NBC battleground map.

(2)  Trump’s turn away from Manafort is in part a reversion to how he ran his campaign in the primary with then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. Lewandowski’s mantra was ‘let Trump be Trump’ and Trump wants to get back to that type of campaign culture. The idea of a “pivot” does not work for him.  Which is too bad — Trump did in fact close in on Clinton in the polls when he was mostly following Manafort’s advice and staying on message — that is, between his attacks on Judge Gonzalo Curiel and the Khans.

(3)  Trump is doubling down on nationalism and being an outsider: No conservative news organization better reflects Trump’s nationalism and outsider status than Breitbart News, and Trump has now hired its chairman.  What Trump is trying to do, as I suggest up top is to broaden his nationalism to include non-whites, gays, etc.  That is his stategy — a populism and nationalism for ALL Americans.

By the way, the demotion of Manafort is timely:

Donald Trump’s campaign chairman helped a pro-Russian governing party in Ukraine secretly route at least $2.2 million in payments to two prominent Washington lobbying firms in 2012, and did so in a way that effectively obscured the foreign political party’s efforts to influence U.S. policy.

The revelation, provided to The Associated Press by people directly knowledgeable about the effort, comes at a time when Trump has faced criticism for his friendly overtures to Russian President Vladimir Putin. It also casts new light on the business practices of campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

Under federal law, U.S. lobbyists must declare publicly if they represent foreign leaders or their political parties and provide detailed reports about their actions to the Justice Department. A violation is a felony and can result in up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

But that’s almost irrelevant now, as Bannon — who has no actual campaign experience — comes to the fore.

Trump’s campaign and jargon was already very Breitbartian in many ways.  The hogwash about illegal aliens killing people right and left is ripped from the Breitbart headlines.  Breitbart isn’t like Newsmax — it strives for factual correctness.  But it is not above spinning conspiracy theory. “Clinton Cash” is the brainchild of Bannon. Also, a really big Palin propagandist back in the day.

Breitbart News hates Clinton. Breitbart’s tone rests in the belief that Fox News is too polite.  This is the Ann Coulter wing of the GOP. Check out a profile of Bannon from a few months ago.

Bannon is controversial even among other conservatives, including The Weekly Standard editor William Kristol, who said, “I hate the fact that it’s called Breitbart News. If they changed the name and called it Right Wing Intolerant Mean-Spirited News, that would be fine.”

Kellyanne Conway is a right-wing pollster, former adviser to Newt Gingrich, and last year headed up a Ted Cruz super-PAC. She’s a specialist on testing how ideas and language work within a campaign, a frequent TV talking head, and a free-roaming conservative meme generator.

So this is going to be more of an ugly campaign than before.

Hey, remember when Trump said he was going to hire the best people?  This is what he meant.

This is all happening on a day where the Trump campaign, for the first time, is airing ads in swing states.  Not a LOT of ads, mind you, compared to Clinton:


But some ads.

And it comes after word that Fox News sexual harrasser Roger Ailes is also advising the Trump campaign for debate prep.

So the strategy clearly isn’t to pivot, but to keep on Trumping away.  I guess the thinking is that most of America is with Trump’s base and you just have to keep getting the message out.  I guess.

I think there is some relief on the left about Trump’s decision to be Trump.  Everything that has hurt the Trump campaign has come from one thing: Trump’s mouth.  If these guys are going to let Trump be Trump, that is, I would think, a gift to Democrats everywhere. Trump’s campaign is also likely to look more extreme, which cannot help the flailing candidate in the suburban, highly educated precincts in states such as Pennsylvania, Virginia, Colorado and North Carolina where he is hemorrhaging more upscale Republican votes. Bannon’s fascination with Palin, who turned off many such voters to John McCain after he chose her as his running mate in 2008, could aggravate rather than ease this problem.

And if the theme of this latest bit of Trump court intrigue is a return to the “Let Trump be Trump” philosophy, Clinton’s operatives will only cheer. Trump being Trump is precisely what led him to this crisis point.

On the other hand, we could be seeing some huge lies and conspiracy theories regarding Hillary.  And ads that make Willie Horton ads look like children’s cartoons.

UPDATE:  Conservative jerk Ben Shapiro knows Bannon, and gives us eight need-to-knows:

1. Steve Bannon Turned Breitbart Into Trump Pravda For His Own Personal Gain. Back in March, I quit Breitbart News when it became clear to me that they had decided that loyalty to Donald Trump outweighed loyalty to their own employees, helping Trump smear one of their own reporters, Michelle Fields, by essentially calling her a liar for saying that she had been grabbed by then-Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.

2. Bannon Uses Celebrity Conservatives To Elevate His Personal Profile. Bannon began receiving conservative media attention for his documentary Generation Zero. And he began elevating his profile by latching onto Michele Bachmann with his documentary Fire From The Heartland. But he truly insinuated himself into the circles of conservative power by making a 2011 documentary about Sarah Palin, The Undefeated. His connection with Palin upped his brand in the movement significantly. He soon began appearing on Fox News with Sean Hannity fairly regularly, became personal friends with Hannity, and met Andrew Breitbart. He insinuated himself into Breitbart’s business by lending him office space, then made a documentary starring Breitbart, Occupy Unmasked. When Breitbart died, his business partner Larry Solov offered Bannon chairmanship of the company. Bannon then turned Breitbart into his personal domain…

3. Bannon Took At Least One Major Breitbart Investor For A Serious Ride. One of the main investors in Breitbart News is Robert Mercer. The Mercer family put millions of dollars into a Ted Cruz super PAC during this election cycle, even as Bannon manipulated Breitbart News into a Cruz-bashing Trump propaganda outlet. The spokesperson for the Mercer family was Kellyanne Conway, who has now been installed as Trump’s campaign manager. I have been reliably informed by sources associated with the pro-Cruz super PAC that for months, as Bannon was using Breitbart News to promote Trump, the Mercers were defending Bannon’s neutrality to other Cruz supporters worried about Breitbart’s dishonest coverage about Cruz.
4. Breitbart’s Staff Lusts After Trump Involvement. Long before the billionaire officially entered the presidential race, Bannon was close to him; in April 2014, the Trump offices described Bannon thusly: “MAJOR SUPPORTER OF MR. TRUMP.” The new team at Trump headquarters will undoubtedly include all the Breitbart staffers who openly lusted after power within the Trump campaign: Joel Pollak, the Breitbart lawyer who desperately wanted to be a Trump speechwriter, and wrote a disgusting hit piece about me personally when I left and accurately accused the website of becoming an adjunct to the campaign; Matthew Boyle, the pseudo-journalist who reportedly bragged about becoming Trump’s press secretary; Milo Yiannopoulos, the Trump-worshipping alt-right droog stooge. They’re all in with their Godking, now.

5. Under Bannon’s Leadership, Breitbart Openly Embraced The White Supremacist Alt-Right.Andrew Breitbart despised racism. Truly despised it. He used to brag regularly about helping to integrate his fraternity at Tulane University. He insisted that racial stories be treated with special care to avoid even the whiff of racism. With Bannon embracing Trump, all that changed. Now Breitbart has become the alt-right go-to website….

6. This Is Precisely The Sort of Corrupt Media Relationship Breitbart Used To Abhor. Andrew Breitbart used his memoir, Righteous Indignation, to target one thing above all else: what he called the Democrat-Media Complex. He hated the merger of the Democrats and the media, and particularly despised their lie of objectivity. Breitbart News never claimed to be objective. But until Trump won the nomination, leadership at Breitbart News maintained that they had not become a loudspeaker for Trumpism. That was obviously a lie, and one Breitbart would hate. HATE. Now, it’s clear that Breitbart News is indeed and Trumpbart News. That’s pathetic and disgusting.

7. Trump’s Campaign Strategy Could Be The Launch Of A New Media Outlet. Because Bannon’s ambitions extend to Steve Bannon, he’ll tell Trump he’s doing a fantastic job even if he isn’t. That’s how Bannon Svengalis political figures and investors – by investing them in his personal genius, then hollowing them out from the inside. There’s a reason Sarah Palin went from legitimate political figure to parody artist to Trump endorser, with Steve Bannon standing alongside her every step of the way. There’s a reason Breitbart News went from hard-charging news outlet to drooling Trump mouthpiece. Bannon emerges from all of this unscathed. So what’s next on his agenda? If Trump wins, he’s in a position of high power; if Trump loses, Bannon could head up a new media empire with Trump’s support and the involvement of new Trump supporter and ousted former Fox News head Roger Ailes. Look for Sean Hannity to be a part of any such endeavor.

8. Bannon Is A Legitimately Sinister Figure. Many former employees of Breitbart News are afraid of Steve Bannon. He is a vindictive, nasty figure, infamous for verbally abusing supposed friends and threatening enemies. Bannon is a smarter version of Trump: he’s an aggressive self-promoter who name-drops to heighten his profile and woo bigger names, and then uses those bigger names as stepping stools to his next destination. Trump may be his final destination. Or it may not. He will attempt to ruin anyone who impedes his unending ambition, and he will use anyone bigger than he is – for example, Donald Trump – to get where he wants to go. Bannon knows that in the game of thrones, you win or die. And he certainly doesn’t intend to die. He’ll kill everyone else before he goes.

The Clinton team is holding back any:

Great Perseids This Week, Weather Permitting

This year’s Perseid meteor shower may have a rare outburst on the night of Thursday, Aug. 11 into the 12th, with lots of easy-to-spot activity as the earth plows through a denser than usual part of the stream, creating as many as 200 shooting stars an hour. So even if you’re not patient enough to wait for the normal every-minute-or-so show, you’ll have an extra chance for some spectacular action at this peak time.

Deserts, mountain tops, campsites, national parks, cruise ships and rural areas offer a big advantage, because the less ambient light, the more meteors you’ll be able to see. But if the weather cooperates, even at a window in a city it’s possible to enjoy the show.

The current half-full moon  sets around midnight, so viewing will be optimal right after that. Your eyes will take a few minutes to adjust to the darkness, so don’t give up on it if at first if you don’t see much. You don’t need a telescope or binocs; in fact, that might just cramp the vast, overall experience. The meteors will cross the sky about one every minute from near the constellations of Cassiopeia and Perseus in the northeast.

But remember: meteor showers are random, so you may see several of these “shooting stars”  in a few seconds, then nothing for a few more minutes. The unexpected is part of the fun.

Is The “Second Amendment People” Comment Trump’s Worst Gaffe?

As we all know by now, Trump yesterday hinted that gun lovers could (or should? or would?) shoot Hillary Clinton and/or a Supreme Court nominee as a response to Hillary Clinton selecting judges for the Supreme Court.  Here’s the comment and campaign responses in a nutshell:

The spin from the Trump campaign is laughable.  Today, his campaign surrogates received the following talking points at 9:24 a.m. today:CpgN1kgUsAEicIv

The first point is simply “blaming the media”.

The second point spits right in the face of what everyone can see for themselves.  And as for the people in attendance?  Look at the reaction of the bearded old man sitting behind Trump (to the right of him from our standpoint).  He says, “wow”.  He knew what Trump was saying.

The third point is simply pivoting away from the subject.

As Trump’s words spread, Senator Chris Murphy, of Connecticut, where a troubled young man massacred twenty-six people at Sandy Hook Elementary School, took to Twitter. “This isn’t play,” he wrote. “Unstable people with powerful guns and an unhinged hatred for Hillary are listening to you, @realDonaldTrump.”

Gabby Giffords, an actual target of political assassination, issued the following statement via the New York Daily News:

“Donald Trump might astound Americans on a routine basis, but we must draw a bright red line between political speech and suggestions of violence. Responsible, stable individuals won’t take Trump’s rhetoric to its literal end, but his words may provide a magnet for those seeking infamy. They may provide inspiration or permission for those bent on bloodshed. What political leaders say matters to their followers. When candidates descend into coarseness and insult, our politics follow suit. When they affirm violence, we should fear that violence will follow. It must be the responsibility of all Americans – from Donald Trump himself, to his supporters, to those who remain silent or oppose him – to unambiguously condemn these remarks and the violence they insinuate. The integrity of our democracy and the decency of our nation is at stake.”

Joe Scarborough wrote that a line has been crossed and the GOP must now dump Trump.

Tom Friedman reminds us:

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin got assassinated.

His right-wing opponents just kept delegitimizing him as a “traitor” and “a Nazi” for wanting to make peace with the Palestinians and give back part of the Land of Israel. Of course, all is fair in politics, right? And they had God on their side, right? They weren’t actually telling anyone to assassinate Rabin. That would be horrible.

But there are always people down the line who don’t hear the caveats. They just hear the big message: The man is illegitimate, the man is a threat to the nation, the man is the equivalent of a Nazi war criminal. Well, you know what we do with people like that, don’t you? We kill them.

Elizabeth Warren went for, and received, the Internet Win:

Over at Breitbart News, which I won’t link to, they were a little more honest about what Trump was saying, and agreed with it:

Trump did not suggest violence. Rather, he spoke in a way that reveals he recognizes the role an armed citizenry plays as a check on tyranny. This is James Madison 101. In Federalist 46, Madison observed that Americans are exceptional because armed and the benefit of being armed is the ability to repel tyranny. Repelling a tyranny is a defensive action, not an offensive one.

So, in Breitbart’s view, a president appointing judges you don’t like is “tyranny” which American are compelled to repel using guns.  Uh, as a defense. (Not for nothing, but Federalist 46 relates to well-regulated state militias, commanded by officers, tossing off a tyrannical federal government, not armed citizen guerillas

But I digress.

IS this the worst thing Trump has ever said?  Probably not.  We probably don’t know the worst thing he has ever said.  But during the campaign?  It’s gotta be pretty high up there.  Fortunately, Bloomberg came out with results of a poll which asked people how put off they were by the various Trump statements of this campaign.  The results:


The mocking of the disabled reporter offended the most people.  Followed by the Khan statements, followed by “I alone can fix it.”

I don’t think Trump’s “Second Amendment” solution is as offensive as the disability comment, although it is clearly more dangerous and disconcerting.  I also don’t think it will move many minds.  At this point, if you can swallow everything that Trump has said so far, you can swallow anything.  Some people are just never going to come off that mark.

UPDATE:  Trump implies that he meant to do that — the controversy helps him.  Really.  He subscribes to the theory that there is no such thing as bad press.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said Tuesday night he’s benefitting from the controversy he created earlier in the day by suggesting “the Second Amendment people” might forcefully stop Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton from appointing Supreme Court justices. […]”I have to say, in terms of politics, there is few things, and I happen to think that if [the media] did even bring this up, I think it’s a good thing for me,” Trump told Sean Hannity.

“Because it’s going to tell people more about me with respect to the Second Amendment … because Hillary Clinton wants to essentially abolish the Second Amendment.”

Which is another one of Trump’s outlandish conspiracy theories that has been debunked multiple times over.

Aaaand Trump Steps In It

He was doing so well, until he started riffing.  He went a little too far from the script.

Hillary wants to abolish, essentially abolish the Second Amendment. By the way, if she gets to pick, if she gets to pick her judges — nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I dunno.

[Applause and whistles from audience.]

I think I know what the news will be for the next cycle or two.

Now, Trump will likely say he was “joking”.  But how is that funny?  Especially in a country that suffers from mass shootings?

Does joking about that make it better?

UPDATE:  Campaign responses:



Trump Says He Wants To Three Debates, But….


Words To Think About



Back in 1979, everybody was worried that Ronald Reagan was nuclear mad.  I was, although I was only a senior in high school.

But Reagan was not unshackled.  He was a hawk.  Spoke softly and carried a bug stick.  “Carried” being the operative word.

Trump isn’t a hawk.  And he doesn’t speak softly.  He can’t play brinksmanship because he doesn’t know what the brink is.  Deterrence is too nuanced for him.

PPP Puts Clinton Up In NC…. Barely

While Hillary Clinton is enjoying a 8-10 lead in Georgia, her lead locally has always been in question.  A new PPP poll just released shows it still very close in North Carolina:

PPP’s newest North Carolina poll finds Hillary Clinton leading in the state, albeit by a narrow margin, for the first time since March. She’s at 43% to 41% for Donald Trump, 7% for Gary Johnson, and 2% for Jill Stein. In a head to head contest just between Clinton and Trump, she leads 47/46.

Voters haven’t changed their feelings much about Clinton since our June poll in the state- her favorability rating was 39/55 then and it’s 40/55 now. But Trump- already unpopular- has become even more so. He’s seen a 7 point decline in his net popularity from -14 at 38/52 down to -21 at 37/58. His missteps from the last few weeks may be further damaging his reputation.

One finding from the poll that bodes particularly well for Clinton is that voters would prefer a continuation of the Obama administration to Trump’s vision for the country, 50/45. When you look at who the undecideds are in the Clinton/Trump head to head it fits what we’ve found in our other recent polls. By a 33 point margin they prefer Obama over Trump and they have a positive view of Bernie Sanders, giving him a 45/28 favorability. They hate Trump- giving him a 1/94 favorability- but they’re not much more favorable toward Clinton who comes in at 2/75. Because of the direction these folks prefer for the country it seems much more likely that they’ll end up voting Clinton than Trump- or perhaps more likely than anything else staying home. At any rate it’s more likely that they’ll build Clinton’s lead than eat into it when they come off the fence, and that’s good news for Clinton given the advantage she already has.

Donald Trump said a lot of different things last week so we polled to what share of his supporters bought into each of them:

-69% of Trump voters think that if Hillary Clinton wins the election it will be because it was rigged, to only 16% who think it would be because she got more vote than Trump. More specifically 40% of Trump voters think that ACORN (which hasn’t existed in years) will steal the election for Clinton. That shows the long staying power of GOP conspiracy theories.

-48% of Trump voters think that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton deserve the blame for Humayun Khan’s death to 16% who absolve them and 36% who aren’t sure one way or the other (Obama was in the Illinois Legislature when it happened.) Showing the extent to which Trump supporters buy into everything he says, 40% say his comments about the Khans last week were appropriate to only 22% who will grant that they were inappropriate. And 39% of Trump voters say they view the Khan family negatively, to just 11% who have a positive opinion of them.

-Even though Trump ended up admitting it didn’t exist 47% of his voters say they saw the video of Iran collecting 400 million dollars from the United States to only 46% who say they didn’t see the video. Showing the extent to which the ideas Trump floats and the coverage they get can overshadow the facts, even 25% of Clinton voters claim to have seen the nonexistent video.

-Trump said last week that Hillary Clinton is the devil, and 41% of Trump voters say they think she is indeed the devil to 42% who disagree with that sentiment and 17% who aren’t sure one way or the other.

We’ve been writing for almost a year that there’s a cult like aspect to Trump’s supporters, where they’ll go along with anything he says. Trump made some of his most outlandish claims and statements yet last week, but we continue to find that few in his support base disavow them.

The public as a whole is a different story though. A number of the things Trump has been in the news for lately have the potential to be very damaging to his campaign overall:

-Vladimir Putin has a 9/63 favorability rating with North Carolinians, and Russia as a whole comes in at 14/51. By a 49 point margin they’re less likely to vote for a candidate Russia is perceived to prefer for President, and by a 33 point margin they’re less likely to vote for a candidate seen as friendly toward Russia. This issue is not doing Trump any favors.

-58% of voters think Trump needs to release his tax returns, compared to only 31% who don’t think it’s necessary for him to. In every state we’ve polled recently we’ve found an overwhelming sentiment that he needs to release them- independents say he needs to 54/33.

-Even though Trump’s own voters might support the approach he took to the Khan family, only 19% overall think it was appropriate to 54% who think it was inappropriate.

-And after his reported comments last week only 38% of voters think Trump can be trusted with nuclear weapons, to 54% who think he can’t be trusted.

Trump is already in a hole – and none of those issues are doing him any favors in trying to get out of it.

Full results here

Let’s reflect on how stupid this state is by focusing on one paragraph above:

69% of Trump voters think that if Hillary Clinton wins the election it will be because it was rigged, to only 16% who think it would be because she got more vote than Trump. More specifically 40% of Trump voters think that ACORN (which hasn’t existed in years) will steal the election for Clinton. That shows the long staying power of GOP conspiracy theories.

Is This The End Of The Line For Judge Roy Moore?

Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore is set for a hearing at 1:30 p.m. (2:30 EST) today on charges he violated Alabama’s ethical standards for judges.

Moore is asking the Alabama Court of the Judiciary to dismiss the ethics complaint filed by the state’s Judicial Inquiry Commission. The Judicial Inquiry Commission is asking for a summary judgment against Moore and his removal, instead of moving the matter to a trial.

The JIC alleges Moore’s January 2016 order and his conduct surrounding it encouraged Alabama’s judges to disregard clear federal law.

Moore issued an order in January to Alabama’s probate judges, concerning same-sex marriage. Moore told the probate judges a ban on issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples was still in effect until the Alabama Supreme Court issued a ruling.

But Moore’s order came more than six months after the U.S. Supreme Court in its Obergefell decision had ruled state bans on same-sex marriage were unconstitutional.

In a response filed with the Alabama Court of the Judiciary, Moore’s attorneys argue he was simply following the law and established procedure in his order, not defying the Supreme Court.

A thematic deception that infuses the JIC brief is that the Chief Justice ordered the probate judges that they ‘had a duty, under Alabama law, not to issue same-sex marriage licenses,’” the filing argues. “The Chief Justice, however, did not on his own initiative direct the probate judges to follow Alabama marriage law.

“Instead he instructed them that ‘[u]ntil further decision by the Alabama Supreme Court’ they were still under a state-court injunction issued by that Court. He neither endorsed nor criticized that injunction. Because consideration of the effect of Obergefell on that injunction had been pending before the Alabama Supreme Court for six months, the Chief Justice considered it prudent to remind the probate judges that the injunction still remained in effect pending its review.”

Moore was removed from the bench as chief justice in 2003 after refusing a federal court order to remove a 10 Commandments monument from the state judicial building.

Moore was re-elected chief justice in 2012.

Local news earlier:

A very late update from

Suspended Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore will go on trial next month on judicial ethics charges after the Alabama Court of the Judiciary late Monday issued an order that denied Moore’s request to dismiss the charges.

The court, in a brief one-page order, also denied a motion by the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission that sought an order removing Moore from the bench without a trial.

Clinton Lead Still Strong Over Weekend

Halfway through law week, Donald Trump seemed to have gotten the message that his attacks on the Khans was costing him in the polls.  He tightened up.  He started reading more from a script at rallies.  He endorsed Ryan and McCain and Ayotte.

That stopped the poll plunge.  But it doesn’t look like it turned the boat around.

Today, Trump is to give a major policy speech, also known as “Trump to Awkwardly Read Off TelePrompTer Set of Positions He Does Not Care About Because They Are Not About How Great He Supposedly Is.”  He is coming out with an economic plan which, by all accounts, is pure Republicanism.  Tax breaks for the corporations and the wealthy.  Scaling back financial regulations. And it doesn’t add up (it creates huge deficits).

The plan also contains childcare tax deduction, not expanded child-related credits. That’s a bone to the middle class (and upper middle class).  The deduction won’t affect the poor because their income (and hence, their taxes) are too low for the deduction to make a difference.

And repealing the “death tax”.  Can’t be a Republican plan without that.

But it is, no question, a *plan* — and that alone makes it unusual for the Trump campaign.

Also, the nation’s focus will be on the Olympics for a while.  People get back into politics mode again on Labor Day, when we gear up for the debates.

So where are we? Clinton is still enjoying a post-convention bounce, or perhaps this is a post-Trump-gaffe plummet.  She has strong numbers in both national and state polling released this weekend:

  • A new ABC News/Washington Post national poll published on Sunday showed Clinton up 8 percentage points among registered voters. Clinton’s lead jumped 4 points compared to the previous ABC News/Washington survey, conducted before the conventions.
  • A Morning Consult poll, also published Sunday, also found Clinton up 8 points among registered voters. Clinton was up 5 percentage points in the same poll last weekend, conducted after both conventions. That is, Clinton’s post-convention surge has continued in Morning Consult’s polling.
  • Two national tracking polls which have generally shown good numbers for Trump also found Clinton building or holding onto her post-convention bounce. Clinton led by 1 percentage point in the latest USC Dornsife/LA Times survey, and by 6 points in the CVOTER International poll — both matching her largest leads from those pollsters.
  • The only poll showing any real sign of decay in Clinton’s lead is the Ipsos tracking poll, which had Clinton up 2 percentage points as of Friday, down a few points from earlier in the week. For now, it is an outlier, and most polls have Clinton’s bounce holding or expanding.

The newest state polls have been a little more mixed for Clinton, but they basically tell the same story: (Nate Silver) says she  is an 83-percent favorite to win on Nov. 8, according to their polls-only model. Their polls-plus model — which accounts for the “fundamentals,” as well as the tendency for a candidate’s numbers to temporarily rise after his or her convention — gives her a 76 percent chance.


So this all looks good.  And…. hello…. what’s this?

Evan McMullin, the former chief policy director for the House Republican Conference, will launch an independent presidential bid, according to his campaign website. Several media outlets reported his bid early on Monday morning. “In a year where Americans have lost faith in the candidates of both major parties, it’s time for a generation of new leadership to step up,” McMullin said in a statement to ABC. “It’s never too late to do the right thing, and America deserves much better than either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton can offer us. I humbly offer myself as a leader who can give millions of disaffected Americans a conservative choice for President.”

Better for America, the group that is allegedly facilitating McMullin’s run,“will likely have to sue to get on the ballot” in some states.

On Monday, MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough said on Twitter that McMullin has “the backing of key $$ contributors in the Republican Party,” citing sources. Nate Hodson, a spokesman for the House Republican Conference, released a statement, saying, “the House Republican Conference has zero knowledge of his intentions.” An aide added that McMullin no longer works for the conference.

Well, at least NeverTrump Republicans have a place to put their vote.  I’m not sure he’ll be a big factor unless he really gets serious money in campaign contributions.  But if he does, it only works to Hillary’s benefit. Trump would be smart to NOT EVEN MENTION the guy right now.

UPDATE:  Here’s Trumps *prepared* remarks:

High Level CIA Guy Endorses Clinton In Devastating NYT Op-Ed

Michael J. Morell, long-time CIA professional who was acting director and deputy director of the agency from 2010 to 2013, wrote a NYT op-ed endorsing Clinton. He has served under 3 Republican and 3 Democratic administrations and has voted for both parties. He praises Clinton….

I never saw her bring politics into the Situation Room. In fact, I saw the opposite. When some wanted to delay the Bin Laden raid by one day because the White House Correspondents Dinner might be disrupted, she said, “Screw the White House Correspondents Dinner.”

…. and then really sticks it to Trump:

In sharp contrast to Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Trump has no experience on national security. Even more important, the character traits he has exhibited during the primary season suggest he would be a poor, even dangerous, commander in chief.

These traits include his obvious need for self-aggrandizement, his overreaction to perceived slights, his tendency to make decisions based on intuition, his refusal to change his views based on new information, his routine carelessness with the facts, his unwillingness to listen to others and his lack of respect for the rule of law.

The dangers that flow from Mr. Trump’s character are not just risks that would emerge if he became president. It is already damaging our national security.

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia was a career intelligence officer, trained to identify vulnerabilities in an individual and to exploit them. That is exactly what he did early in the primaries. Mr. Putin played upon Mr. Trump’s vulnerabilities by complimenting him. He responded just as Mr. Putin had calculated.

Mr. Putin is a great leader, Mr. Trump says, ignoring that he has killed and jailed journalists and political opponents, has invaded two of his neighbors and is driving his economy to ruin. Mr. Trump has also taken policy positions consistent with Russian, not American, interests — endorsing Russian espionage against the United States, supporting Russia’s annexation of Crimea and giving a green light to a possible Russian invasion of the Baltic States.

In the intelligence business, we would say that Mr. Putin had recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.

Calling Trump an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation isn’t hyperbole.

Clinton is seizing on this:

New Polls Confirm Trump Downfall

Fox News has Clinton up nationally over Trump 49-39 among registered voters (+10 points).

The internals are also bad for Trump:

It’s a draw on “terrorism and national security,” as the candidates receive 47 percent apiece. In May, Trump led Clinton by 12 points on doing a better job on “terrorism” (52-40 percent).

Equal numbers of voters say the economy and terrorism are the most important issues facing the country today (22 percent each). Education is the only other one to receive double-digit mentions (11 percent). Here’s the rest of the list: race relations (9 percent), the federal deficit (5 percent), health care (5 percent), climate change (4 percent), immigration (3 percent), foreign policy (3 percent), and drug addiction (2 percent).

Clinton beats Trump by wide margins on education (+23 points), and on the lower priority concerns: climate change (+31 points), race relations (+28 points), drug addiction (+19 points), foreign policy (+16 points), and health care (+11 points). She also has the advantage on one of Trump’s signature issues — immigration (+7 points).

Who would do better picking the next Supreme Court justice? That’s a hot topic this election. Voters trust Clinton over Trump by eight points. They also think she’s more likely to “preserve and protect the U.S. Constitution” (+7 points).

Trump beats Clinton on the issues of the economy (+5 points) and the deficit (+5 points), which explains why Trump is trying to stay on message about the economy and the deficit.

The McClatchy-Marist poll this week has Clinton up nationally over Trump 48-33 among registered voters (+15 points).  When Johnson and Stein are thrown into the mix, it is +10 points.

Again, there are bad internals.

Clinton beats Trump with whites 41-39.  That’s bad when you consider that Romney had white voters by 20 points, and still lost the election. Also:

Clinton wins moderates, 50-27 percent. She is far ahead with black voters, 93-2 percent, and with Latinos, 55-26 percent.

More encouraging for Clinton, 57 percent of her backers say their vote is for her, while 40 percent say it’s largely an anti-Trump vote.


Most of Trump’s backers – 57 percent – say their vote is against Clinton, while only 36 percent called it a pro-Trump decision.

On issue after issue, Clinton ranked ahead of Trump. She’s up by 8 when asked who can best handle the war on terror. She’s ahead 21 on immigration, 14 on gun violence, 14 on trade and 4 on creating jobs, which had been one of Trump’s strengths.

And the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll has Clinton up nationally over Trump 47-38 among registered voters (+9 points).

Internals also strong for Clinton:

Clinton enjoys a significant advantage among women (51 percent to Trump’s 35 percent), African Americans (91 percent to 1 percent), all non-white voters (69 percent to 17 percent), young voters (46 percent to 34 percent), and white voters with a college degree (47 percent to 40 percent).

Let’s stop there, and reflect on that 1 percent.  Ok, done.  Going on….

Trump leads among white voters (45 percent to Clinton’s 40 percent), seniors (46 percent to 43 percent), independents (36 percent to 32 percent) and white voters without a college degree (49 percent to 36 percent).

The two candidates are running nearly even among men, at 43 percent for Clinton and 42 percent for Trump.


Asked which candidate would be better at dealing with economy, voters still give the advantage to Trump, with 46 percent selecting the Republican as the best candidate for economic matters and 42 percent picking Clinton. But in June, Clinton suffered a 10-point deficit to Trump on the same question, 47 percent to 37 percent.

The candidates are also now statistically tied on the question of which one would better handle terrorism and homeland security, compared to a five-point advantage for Trump in June.

Clinton has also improved her scores against Trump on dealing with immigration (49 percent for Clinton compared to 39 percent for Trump), having the ability to handle a crisis (51 percent to 33 percent) and having the ability to unite the country. (43 percent to 26 percent.)

Respondents also chose Clinton as the better candidate when it comes to “caring about people like me” (45 percent to 29 percent.)

All in all, terrible for Trump.

The state polls that came out yesterday are even more bleak.

Clinton leads Trump by 6 in the pivotal swing state of Florida

Clinton leads Trump by 8 in the pivotal swing state of Pennsylvania

Clinton also leads Trump by 17 in New Hampshire and by 9 in Michigan.

ALL OF THIS gives us this map from — their “polls-only” forecast:


What works in Trump’s favor?  The fact that it is August 5.  This thing starts to get real on Labor Day.  The Olympic are going to get people to focus elsewhere, and perhaps Donald Trump can reboot.

Has The Trump Ship Been Righted? Or Is It Too Late?

Yesterday, it seems that Trump (and everybody else) got past the Khan story, and much of what was discussed was the “intervention” story, wherein GOP leaders (or maybe Trump’s staff) sit down with Trump and get him to pivot to the general election instead of going full-blown tinfoil hat.

Intervention or not, Trump held to rallies yesterday and a couple of local news interviews which veered closer to sanity than anything else Trump has said or done int the past couple days.

Today, with more polls coming in, we get a real clear idea of the post-convention damage.

Last night, we got a preview, with a Fox News poll putting Clinton up by 10 points.

Worse for Trump were some state polls that came in this morning.  Clinton up 9 in Michigan.  Clinton up 15 in the small swing state of New Hampshire.  And Clinton up 11 in the important swing state of Pennsylvania (among likely voters).

Those are bad numbers.  They show that if the election was held today, it would be a Clinton blowout.

BUT…. the election isn’t being held today.

Now, most believe there is an equilibrium, a point where, absent significant events (like a debate or convention or scandal or major faux pas), one candidate resides in relation to another.  Many have floated that equilibrium as +5 Clinton, nationally.  That sounds about right to me.  So I expect Clinton’s lead to come down a little, assuming nothing happens in the interim.

But maybe that equilibrium point has changed.  As new numbers come in today, we’ll see.

UPDATE — And her come the bad numbers.

Another big swing state….

Sidenote: Both the NH and Pennsylvania polls show that Trump’s slide down hurts the GOP senators of those states running for re-election.

Was Mrs. Trump An “Illegal”?

Nude photos of Mrs. Trump, recently published in the New York Post, raised some questions regarding her immigration status at one time, before she married Donald Trump.  If true, Trump may have literally married an undocumented worker who lied to enter the country under false pretenses and then failed to disclose that lie when later getting a green card and eventually gaining U.S. citizenship.

Poltico catches us up:

While Trump and her husband, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, have said she came to the United States legally, her own statements suggest she first came to the country on a short-term visa that would not have authorized her to work as a model. Trump has also said she came to New York in 1996, but the nude photo shoot places her in the United States in 1995, as does a biography published in February by Slovenian journalists.

The inconsistencies come on top of reports by CBS News and GQ Magazine that Trump falsely claimed to have obtained a college degree in Slovenia but could be more politically damaging because her husband has made opposition to illegal immigration the foundation of his presidential run.

Representatives of the Trump campaign and the Trump Organization did not address detailed questions about the timing and circumstances of Melania Trump’s arrival in the country, but campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks responded to the emailed questions by stating, “Melania followed all applicable laws and is now a proud citizen of the United States.”

Oh, well if the Trump campaign says it, it must be true.

In a January profile in Harper’s Bazaar, Trump said she would return home from New York to renew her visa every few months. “It never crossed my mind to stay here without papers. That is just the person you are,” she said. “You follow the rules. You follow the law. Every few months you need to fly back to Europe and stamp your visa. After a few visas, I applied for a green card and got it in 2001.”

In a February interview with Mika Brzezinski of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Trump repeated that characterization of her early years in the United States. “I never thought to stay here without papers. I had visa. I travel every few months back to the country to Slovenia to stamp the visa. I came back. I applied for the green card. I applied for the citizenship later on.”

The Trump campaign and Trump Organization representatives did not address questions about the type of visa Trump first used to enter the country, but it has been widely reported that she came here on an H-1B work visa. Writer Mickey Rapkin, who interviewed Melania for a May profile in the luxury lifestyle magazine DuJour, said she confirmed as much to him. “When I interviewed Melania, I mentioned that she’d come to New York on that H-1B visa, and she nodded in agreement,” Rapkin wrote in an email to POLITICO.

Trump’s tale of returning to Europe for periodic visa renewals is inconsistent with her holding an H-1B visa at all times she was living in New York — even if it was the lesser-known H-1B visa specifically designed for models — said multiple immigration attorneys and experts. An H-1B visa can be valid for three years and can be extended up to six years — sometimes longer — and would not require renewals in Europe every few months. If, as she has said, Trump came to New York in 1996 and obtained a green card in 2001, she likely would not have had to return to Europe even once to renew an H-1B.

Instead, Trump’s description of her periodic renewals in Europe are more consistent with someone traveling on a B-1 Temporary Business Visitor or B-2 Tourist Visa, which typically last only up to six months and do not permit employment.

If someone were to enter the United States on one of those visas with the intention of working, it could constitute visa fraud, according to Andrew Greenfield, a partner at the Washington office of Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy, a firm that specializes in immigration law.

Does this matter now?  Apparently so:

Visa fraud would call into question a green card application and subsequent citizenship application, said immigration lawyers — thus raising questions about Melania Trump’s legal status, even today, despite her marriage to a U.S. citizen.

I don’t think we have heard the last of this.

UPDATE:  As I was writing this….

That’s nice, but it doesn’t address what she was doing in 1995.

Trump and Nukes

This should sober you up.

This morning on Morning Joe, Joe Scarborough relates a story where Trump repeatedly asked a security expert why we couldn’t use nukes.  This is sobering (good part starts at 1 minute mark):

Here’s some commentary on it from a conservative national security commentator and analyst, Jeb Bush’s security advisor, John Noonan:

How Bad Are Things For Trump?

Catastrophic.  Jennifer Rubin at The Washington Post summarizes the past two weeks:

Within the past two weeks, the Republicans held a dreadfully negative convention that made Donald Trump and the GOP look worse in the eyes of voters. During that convention, Trump attacked the home-state governor; the Republican National Committee strong-armed the rules committee to run over Sen. Mike Lee (Utah) and other dissenters; Melania Trump’s speech turned out to be plagiarized; and the No. 2 finisher in the primary got booed off stage for refusing to back the nominee. And that was better for Republicans than the week that followed.

The Democratic convention, which easily could have been confused with a GOP convention from the 1980s, pretty much united the party and presented it as the grown-up, inclusive, patriotic and sane party. While the Dems were meeting, Trump was inviting Russia to practice its brand of cyberwarfare on the United States and insisting Vladimir Putin could be our pal. Most important, Democrats introduced the parents of Capt. Humayun Khan to the country, thereby unhinging Trump.

Trump thereupon spent more days than he did in Cleveland attacking the Gold Star parents. (On Tuesday, he said he regretted nothing.) Over the weekend, he suggested that either Crimea isn’t part of Ukraine or he was unaware Russia is in more than Crimea. Tuesday (we’re only up to Tuesday!), he said he wished he had a Purple Heart too, told Americans not to invest in the stock market, said strong women don’t get sexually harassed and refused to back three GOP incumbent congressmen. Oh, and he says he knows the election is being rigged because he just “hears things” (the whispers of imaginary friends maybe?) and can “feel it.”

I’ve probably forgotten a few more blunders, but we may have witnessed the worst two-week stretch of any presidential candidate ever. Trump has now managed to raise the issue of his own mental stability. He has undercut the argument that he is capable of been guided or restrained by advisers or Congress. And he has demonstrated how inept a manager he is. (Clinton has about $98 million of prepaid TV ad time; Trump has about $1 million.) It is fair to say that if he is this out-of-control and unhinged in an election, he’d be a basket case in the Oval Office.

It is important to look at the totality of Trump’s actions not only in the past two weeks but over the course of these many months — his habitual lying (for one thing, about his willingness to release his tax returns), unremitting ignorance, racist comments about a federal judge and gutter-dwelling campaign designed to appeal to hate and fear. What we have seen in two weeks is not new, but rather a highly condensed excerpt of the sort of campaign he’s been running all along.

Take a look at what’s happened in the last 24 hours:

  • In a Washington Post interview, Trump declined to endorse House Speaker Paul Ryan against his primary challenger
  • He reiterated that he hasn’t endorsed Sen. John McCain and said the onetime prisoner of war “has not done a good job for the vets”
  • He slapped out at Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte, saying “she has given me zero support”
  • He suggested that Americans should pull their 401(k) funds out of the stock market
  • He said he’s “always wanted” to receive a Purple Heart but that having one gifted to him by a supporter was “much easier”
  • He said that the handling of sexual harassment has “got to be up to the individual”
  • He held an impromptu press conference complaining that the Columbus (OH) Fire Marshall was against him because they limited the rally size to 1000 people when, as it turns out, documents reveal that his campaign had agreed to limit the rally size to 1000
  • He accused Khizr Khan of being “bothered” by his plan to keep terrorists out of the country, and said that he had no regrets about his clash with the family
  • He appeared to feud with a crying baby during a rally
  • He reiterated that “if the election is rigged, I would not be surprised”
  • The sitting president of the United States publicly called Trump “unfit to serve” and urged Republicans to withdraw their support for him.
  • Trump spokesman Katrina Pierson suggested that Obama and Clinton are to blame for the death of Humayan Khan, who died in 2004, when neither were in the executive branch at the time
  • An ally of Paul Manafort told John Harwood at CNBC that the campaign chairman is “mailing it in,” leaving the rest of the staff “suicidal.”
  • Sitting GOP congressman Richard Hanna, HP head Meg Whitman and former Christie aide Maria Comella all said they plan to vote for Hillary Clinton
  • The Washington Post released a transcript of its full interview with Trump, indicating among other things that he paused five times to watch TV coverage in the middle of the sit-down
  • A GOP source told NBC’s Katy Tur that Reince Priebus is “apoplectic” over Trump’s refusal to endorse Ryan and is making calls to the campaign to express his “extreme displeasure”

Anyone of these things would derail any other campaign in any other year.  These are things that just happened since yesterday morning.

The polls have Clinton five to nine points ahead nationally, and I suspect that is still just the DNC bounce, and doesn’t weigh in the past 48 hours.  Arizona, which a Democrat has won only once in the last 64 years, is now a swing state.

So where are we today?  Well….

ABC News has learned that senior party officials are so frustrated — and confused — by Donald Trump‘s erratic behavior that they are exploring how to replace him on the ballot if he drops out.

So how would it work?

First, Trump would have to voluntarily exit the race. Officials say there is no mechanism for forcing him to withdraw his nomination. (Trump has not given any indications that he no longer wants to be his party’s nominee.)

Then it would be up to the 168 members of the Republican National Committee to choose a successor, though the process is complicated.

One Republican legal expert has advised party officials that, for practical reasons, Trump would have to drop out by early September to give the party enough time to choose his replacement and get the next nominee’s name on the ballot in enough states to win.

It looks like there is going to be an intervention:

Key Republicans close to Donald Trump’s orbit are plotting an intervention with the candidate after a disastrous 48 hours led some influential voices in the party to question whether Trump can stay at the top of the Republican ticket without catastrophic consequences for his campaign and the GOP at large.

Republican National Committee head Reince Priebus, former Republican New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich are among the Trump endorsers hoping to talk the real estate mogul into a dramatic reset of his campaign in the coming days, sources tell NBC News.

Here is what the RNC’s bylaws say about filling a vacancy on a presidential ticket:

Rule No. 9: Filling Vacancies in Nominations

(a) The Republican National Committee is hereby authorized and empowered to fill any and all vacancies which may occur by reason of death, declination or otherwise of the Republican candidate for president of the United States or the Republican candidate for vice president of the United States, as nominated by the national convention, or the Republican National Committee may reconvene the national convention for the purpose of filling any such vacancies.

(b) In voting under this rule, the Republican National Committee members representing any state shall be entitled to cast the same number of votes as said state was entitled to cast at the national convention.

(c) In the event that the members of the Republican National Committee from any state shall not be in agreement in the casting of votes hereunder, the votes of such state shall be divided equally, including fractional votes, among the members of the Republican National Committee present or voting by proxy.

(d) No candidate shall be chosen to fill any such vacancy except upon receiving a majority of the votes entitled to be cast in the election.

Is Trump going to voluntarily quit?

Well, clearly he has narcissistic personality disorder.  People are not even debating that now.  And so, I suspect, the answer is no.

Confirmed by….

This too also:

And the hits keep on coming.  His big cheerleader, Newt Gingrich is trying to put a happy face on it:

The election at this point is similar to “The Apprentice,” except he’s the apprentice, he’s not the boss. He doesn’t get to say ‘you’re fired.’ The American people get to say, ‘you’re fired.’ So he’s really got to take a deep breath. I think he has the potential to win the election

The “potential”?

This is an insane election.


Well, what would you expect them to say?

Should Miss Teen USA Forfeit Her Crown?

As 18-year-old Texan Karlie Hay celebrated being crowned Miss Teen USA 2016 last Saturday, social media users began circulating tweets containing the N-word that were linked to an account bearing her name. The offending tweets were posted in 2013 and 2014.


That Twitter account is now private and locked, but Hay issued an apology early Sunday morning on her public Miss Texas Teen Twitter account – although her statement didn’t specifically acknowledge the racial slurs.

“A few years ago, I used language that is inexcusable, and I sincerely apologize for my actions,” Hay wrote. “At the time, due to a number of personal struggles, I was in a place that is not representative of who I am now.

“Through hard work, education, maturity and thanks in large part to the sisterhood that I have come to know through pageants, I am proud to say that I am today a better person. I am honored to hold this title and I will use the Miss Teen USA platform to promote messages of confidence, inclusion and perseverance.”

This did not admit the direct question — did she use those words on social media?

The Miss Universe Organization responded to the backlash in a statement to ABC 13.

“As Karlie stated, she was in a different place in her life and made a serious mistake she regrets and for which she sincerely apologizes,” the statement read. The organization condemned Hay’s language but showed its support for Hay by saying it is “committed to supporting her continued growth.”

This did not satisfy those on social media, nor does it satisfy me.

Actions have consequences.  Life lesson number one.

Also, the Internet never forgets.  Life lesson number two for the modern times.

You want to be a role model for teens?  Then you take the fall so at least THIS younger generation learns, Miss Hay.

Just give it to one of the other finalists.  It’s not like anyone is going to tell the difference.


50 Years Ago Today

Fifty years ago today, Charles Whitman, a 25-year-old engineering student and former Marine armed with a small arsenal of weapons, killed 13 people and wounded over 30 more during a shooting rampage atop the University of Texas Tower in Austin. The episode casts a long and complicated shadow. It is considered by some to have marked the beginning of the era of mass shootings; for others, the armed civilians who engaged Whitman that day suggest one way to limit the scope of such attacks.

As survivors and mourners gather to mark the anniversary on Monday, a campus-carry law that allows firearms in university buildings in Texas will also go into effect.


Post-DNC: Is There A Bounce?

Of course there is.

It’s only been a few days, and only three polls are out containing JUST data gathered after the end of the Democratic National Convention.  But there are all good.

PPP has Clinton +5 (includes Johnson), Morning Consult has Clinton +3; CBS has Clinton +6 (with Johnson added, +5).

PPP measured likely voters, the other two measured registered voters.

Nate Silver:

Before we continue, a quick note or two about terminology. When we refer to a candidate’s “bounce,” we mean the net gain in her standing in the polls, including changes to her opponent’s vote share. For example, if the previous XYZ News poll had it Clinton 42 percent, Trump 40 percent, and their new poll has it Clinton 44, Trump 39, we’d call that a 3-point bounce for Clinton, since Clinton gained 2 percentage points and Trump lost 1 point.1

Also, when evaluating the gains a candidate has made, it’s important to note when the previous poll was conducted. Based on our models, Clinton led by 6 to 7 percentage points throughout most of June, but her lead dissipated to around 3 percentage points by mid- to late July, just before the conventions. Then, after the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Trump pulled into an approximate tie with Clinton. It’s those post-RNC polls that make for the best comparison when describing Clinton’s bounce.

So far, however, the post-convention polls have been strong enough for Clinton that there isn’t a lot of need to worry about semantics. They suggest that she possibly holds a lead over Trump in the mid- to high single digits, instead of being tied with him.

What’s remarkable is that Trump seems to have gone down as much as Clinton has gone up.

Here is a Gallup poll released today.  It isn’t a Trump v. Clinton poll, but it asked if the DNC/RNC convention made you more/less likely to vote for the Democratic/Republican presidential candidate.  The results are telling.


If you look, it shows that — for the first time since this has been polled — Republicans were LESS likely to vote for their presidential candidate (Trump) after watching the RNC.

That is off-the-charts bad news.

Trump Tries To Bluff His Way Through Foreign Policy

In an interview on ABC’s “This Week” that aired Sunday, Trump asserted that Russian President Vladimir Putin was not going to invade Ukraine, where pro-Russian rebels — and some Russian special forces — have been operating for several years despite Putin’s reluctance to acknowledge any role.

“He’s not going into Ukraine, just so you understand. He’s not going to go to Ukraine,” Trump said.

“Well, he’s already there, isn’t he?” Stephanopoulos replied.

Trump responded by simultaneously criticizing the US’s decision not to intervene to stop the annexation of Crimea, a former Ukrainian territory seized by Russia in 2014, and noting that many citizens of Crimea were allegedly supportive of Russia’s decision to invade.

“Well, he’s there in a certain way, but I’m not there. You have Obama there,” Trump said. “And frankly that part of the world is mess, under Obama. With all the strength that you’re talking about, and with all the power of NATO, and all of this, in the mean time, [Putin] takes Crimea.”

He added: “You know the people of Crimea, from what I’ve heard, would rather be with Russia than where they were, and you have to look at that also.”

Earlier in the interview, the real-estate magnate shrugged off his campaign’s influence in removing a provision of the Republican Party platform that would’ve advocated providing arms to Ukraine to defend itself from Russian aggression.

“I was not involved in that. I’d have to take a look at it, but I was not involved in that,” Trump said of the decision to alter the platform.

Trump tries to clarify things this morning, but still didn’t get it.

The United States considers Crimea to be a region of the Ukraine.  It’s not a separate thing!

Nnnnnoo. That’s not what you said. It’s on video.

Of course, the bigger news of all this may not be Trump’s ignorance about Ukraine/Crimea, but the odd fact the somebody in the Trump campaign caused the GOP to change its party platform with respect to Russia/Ukraine.  Trump denies it; his campaign manager Paul Manfort denies it.  But GOP delegates insist it was the Trump campaign.  And Manafort’s connections to the Ukraine are, as they say, yuge.

The Wrath of Khan

Although most of the networks and even the cable news channels did not carry the moving speech of Khizr Khan (the father of the Muslim-American soldier killed in Iraq), I’m sure they wish they did.  Mr. Khan and his wife were all over the news channels all weekend, and on Morning Joe this morning, doing what they did at the DNC convention, calling out Trump for his lack of sacrifice.  This weekend, they also called on House Majority Leader Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to repudiate Trump’s attacks on Khan and Muslim-Americans.

Trump, for his part, made things worse by going on This Week with George Stephanopolis and explaining all the sacrifices he has made.

It is really appalling that Trump considers being successful at things to be a “sacrifice”.  Scary and appalling.  No wonder a group of Gold Star families has also issued a statement demanding an apology from Trump.

Ryan and John McCain and VP candidate Mike Pence have all issued statements honoring Mr. and Mrs. Khan and their loss, and leaving it at that.  So did McConnell and Bush and most other prominent Republicans

Trump cannot seem to do that, which is why it dominated the entire weekend, and could go on for a few more days.  Josh Marshall is correct when he writes:

Any political operative or communications professional, indeed anyone with some moral imagination and common sense would know how to handle this situation. Assuming you wanted to maintain the policies blocking Muslim immigration, you would simply say: “I grieve for the Khans’ loss and I very much respect their opinion and their courage. But I believe the policy I have outlined is necessary for our national security for the following reasons …”

Simple. Wouldn’t solve the original offenses that lead to their speech against Trump. But it would cut off more damaging engagement and at least suggest (whether or not it were true) that Trump is a man of empathy who believes that harsh policies are necessary.

You will never win a fight savaging the parents of a dead soldier. So it’s a fight you simply don’t engage in. A smart terrible person would get this and say something along the lines of the quote I noted above. Trump doesn’t seem terribly bright. But this isn’t about intelligence as we test it with logic puzzles. Realizing that this would be the only way to respond requires a level of self-awareness a narcissist lacks and a degree of impulse control Trump simply does not have. Empathy or any moral consciousness would get you there too. But remember, we’re focusing here on the difference between a smart terrible person and a dumb terrible person both of which lack those qualities.

When Khizr Khan and his wife Ghazala appeared at the Democratic convention they attacked and shamed Trump. He no doubt experienced it that way and the chorus of approbation the Khans received from virtually every part of the political spectrum deepened his sense of humiliation and loss of status and standing. As I’ve noted in so many contexts, the need to assert dominance is at the root of all of Trump’s actions. His whole way of understanding the world is one made up of dominators and the dominated. There’s no infinite grey middle ground, where most of us live the vast majority of our human relationships. That’s why even those who are conspicuously loyal are routinely humiliated in public. In that schema, Trump simply had no choice but to lash out, to rebalance the equation of dominance in his favor. It’s an impulse that goes beyond reason or any deliberation. That’s what left so many would-be or maybe allies flabbergasted at how or why he would have walked straight into such a buzzsaw of outrage.

For a narcissist like Trump, the rage and emotional disequilibrium of being dominated, humiliated is simply too much to bear. He must lash out. What he said in one of his tweets responding to the Khans is perhaps the most telling. “I was viciously attacked by Mr. Khan at the Democratic Convention. Am I not allowed to respond?” The use of the adverb “viciously” is a good tell that Trump is a narcissist. But setting that aside, most people would know that the answer is “No, you’re not.” Certainly you’re not allowed to respond in the sense of attacking back. Their son died serving the country. You don’t get to attack them.

Perhaps it boils down to something much simpler.  Trump lacks empathy.  He can see his own loss (someone going after his reputation), but cannot fathom others’ loss (a son dying).  Or at least he cannot place them on the same scale.

This makes him a sociopath.  Technically and literally, by the DSM-V, a sociopath.  It is utterly frightening how close this man is to running the country (even if he is not).

Trump is fueling the fire this morning, by tweeting

A Trump campaign surrogate is going even further:


It’s getting to the point where endorsement of Trump carries huge political risk.  I’m sure many in the GOP know that, and are very nervous about it.  That’s why you see so many condemn Trump.  But they still endorse him.  That’s going to leave a mark I expect.