Monthly Archives: March 2017

Trump Didn’t Do That!

Obama Did.

President Donald J. Trump, known to some as “Dear Leader” for the cult attitude he inspires and to others as “President Delicate Snowflake” for his utter inability to handle criticism like an individual who’s matured past the pre-school years, loves to take credit for business deals, investments, or other successes done during President Barack Obama’s administration.

Trump, who touted his business acumen – acumen that includes numerous bankrupcties, losing $1 billion in a single year, and resounding successes such as Trump Air and Trump Steak – desperately needs to hang his hat on something.  His unconstitutional executive orders have been struck down.  The healthcare bill which he “supported 100%” polled at 17 percent and couldn’t even attract 200 Republican votes in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives in its first rendition.

With promises blocked or broken (he promised to repeal the ACA hundreds of times during the campaign; instead, he gave up after 17 days of “effort”), he needs something to tout.  So the man-child who likes to sit and pretend to drive big trucks assumes credit for the victories of his predecessor.

Here are just a few instances:

1. Ford’s Michigan Investment

trump ford investment

We’ve already dispelled this fiction, it’s worth repeating that Ford announced this deal in 2015.  Their press release.  Who was president in 2015?  Oh, right, Obama, not Trump.

2. Exxon Mobile Investment Program

Trump, who installed former Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson as his Secretary of State despite Tillerson’s utter lack of foreign policy experience and close friendship with Vladimir Putin, the war-criminal president of far-right, authoritarian Russia, bragged that his willingness to forego the environment led to Exxon investing $20 billion in the Gulf.  The White House’s statement essentially copied Exxon’s – such plagiarism seems a natural result of having likely the least able West Wing staff in modern history.  Of course, had the White House bothered to read Exxon’s statement before copying it, they would have noticed that these investments began in 2013, back when Trump was the nation’s punchline (well, he still is, but in dark humor considering he’s now also making America the nation’s laughing stock).  Oops.

3. Charter Communications Hiring

From Trump:

trump charter communication

Except that Charter Communications announced in April 2016 that if they were allowed to by Time Warner Cable, the company would hire 20,000 new workers.  Regulators approved the acquisition in spring and by summer 2016, when all thought the nation was smart enough to vote for Hillary Clinton, had started hiring its way to 20,000 jobs.

Here’s Charter’s CEO:

trump charter

4. Intel’s Arizona Factory

trump intel factory

Except Intel first announced their Arizona plant in 2011 (press release).  They just like to say these things with presidents next to them, and for obvious reasons: Praising a man like Donald Trump means that he will look upon you with infinite favor (see how Trump treats Putin versus civil rights hero John Lewis).  Should Intel ever find itself in regulatory trouble or in hopes of making a major acquisition that could challenge anti-trust laws, they’ve already curried favor with the president and could safely expect that Trump would do all he can for Intel.

5. SoftBank’s Investment

Shortly after Trump’s victory, he met with SoftBank’s CEO and together announced a $50 billion US investment that would create 50,000 jobs.  Trump felt so proud of himself he tweeted this:

trump softbank

Problem: A month before the election, when all thought Trump would lose as his “pussy grabbing” video had just seen the light of day, SoftBank announced a $100 billion technological investment fund from which analysts expected a sizable chunk to make its way to America, the world’s tech capitol.

SoftBank re-announced their plans with Trump because they want regulatory favor, detailed in this piece.  In short, Masa, the CEO, has long hoped to merge T-Mobile and Sprint.  Regulators have so far blocked such an activity for fear that it would hurt consumers by eroding competition.  Masa hopes that playing games with Trump will allow his dream to come to fruition.

Sorry, Donald, but it looks like you’re a liar!  Maybe you should try building your own legacy rather than golfing every weekend and spending all your free time violating the domestic and foreign emoluments clauses.

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donald trump healthcare

The AHCA is Donald Trump’s Fault

Will Trump voters punish him for lies about healthcare?

Donald Trump has a looooooong history of lying and deceiving those who put faith in his name.  Take, for instance, Trump University, which scammed veterans and widows with promises of imminent riches by Trump imparting his wisdom.  That lie and the deceitful and fraudulent methods by which Trump shoved his fake university down the throats of the financially susceptible led to the president settling a civil lawsuit for $25 million (despite Trump saying he “never settles“).  Or take any number of investors fleeced by Trump when he gave up on development projects after parties had already purchased condos, sure that the Trump name would leave them with a new home or investment property in what would assuredly be a glamorous building.

And yet, despite these many well-publicized and admittedly obvious instances of deception, 62 million people still voted for Donald J. Trump, many — if not most — because they believed him.  They believed Trump would fight for them and their interests.  They believed Trump would bring his alleged business acumen to the White House and through efficiency and economy in dealmaking and government, his power to make money and would enrich his supporters through beneficial policy changes.  Never mind that others with the same mistaken preconceptions  left their Trump tango in financial ruin (fool me once…).

These voters trusted Donald Trump to do one thing in particular: repeal the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.  How could they not?  Throughout the campaign, Trump promised, repeatedly, that he would repeal the ACA on his first day in office — and replace it with something much better.  (The Washington Post has a great compilation of those promises here.)  But that didn’t happen.

The American Healthcare Act (AHCA, or Trumpcare) fulfilled none of Trump’s pledges.  Here’s Trump promising “insurance for everyone” and below is the graph of the number covered by insurance had the AHCA passed.

ahca trump

Far from covering everyone, the AHCA would have increased the number without insurance by 24 million.  Yikes.

Furthermore, the plan’s burden would have fallen most heavily on those who voted for Trump.  The AHCA amounted, more or less, to wealth redistribution — but not in the typical sense.  Wealthy Americans, such as the president himself, would have received a substantial tax cut paid for by slashing Medicaid subsidies, thus taking from individuals their ability to afford healthcare.  A 64 year old with a $15,000 annual income would have spent more than half of that on healthcare premiums.  The bill would have disproportionately hurt Trump voters, a fact to which Trump himself readily admitted.  Yet he said he was “100% behind the House bill” and lobbied hard to acquire the votes needed for its passage.

The vote failed because Trump grew tired of negotiating.  How long did Trump spend working with lawmakers to arrive a compromise that would cover his voters and others in the country?  17 days.  It took 17 days for Trump to violate two major campaign promises: One, repealing the ACA, and two, replacing it with something “much, much better.”

Trump supporters believed he would be an ally in the White House; they pinned their hopes on his ability to craft deals and fight for the common man.  The result?  He backed a healthcare bill that would give himself a tax cut and his voters’ expense and then gave up in the bill when the going got tough.

Surely, after learning about the details of the AHCA and Trump’s pathetic, half-hearted attempt to push it through Congress, his voters would rebel or at least begin to lose faith in The Donald.

Nope.  Trump voters overwhelmingly blame Paul Ryan, establishment Republicans, and Democrats for the AHCA’s failure (seemingly forgetting that Trump through his name and political capital behind the doomed effort).  Even his total willingness to abandon healthcare reform does not phase them.  Trump’s popularity with the nation may be falling, but support among his base remains firmly intact.

Why do these voters continue to support a liar and a conman?  It’s hard to say.  Perhaps they’re still smitten by Trump’s demagoguery and authoritarian appeal.  Perhaps they enjoy scapegoating others in order to maintain their image of Trump as an American savior.  Perhaps they simply don’t realize that Trump’s actions throughout his real estate career and brief but tumultuous presidential tenure have shown an interest in just one person: Himself.  The rest be damned.

And so the Trump Train roars on, paused not in defeat, but plowing harder and screaming louder for the removal of those in the way of promised glory.  What lies ahead is predictable to all — Trump will fight for himself (there’s a reason he’s so interested in tax reform) and ignore the working man and woman — except his base.

We must hope that at some point, they recognize that Trump is simply a charlatan working to pad his pocketbook and bank account while thrusting the costs of his idiotic and ignorant actions on those who can bear it least.

How Progressives for Prosperity Hopes to Revolutionize Campaigns

Leading the Push into Digital Campaigning

Traditional campaigns and outside organizations pour millions into television ads, flooding airwaves with positive and negative ads that the highest paid consultants claim sway and mobilize voters.  But campaign and political science research casts doubt on the ability for such ads to actually have a lasting effect on the electorate: Ads rarely have more than a week-long effect – sometimes, depending on campaign intensity, not even that.  Furthermore, such ads are not highly tailored.  Though campaigns claim that big data’s advent allows them to micro-target, the sheer number of individuals watching (or not watching, be it as it may) a given show at a given time renders these ads too broad in scope and with too low a return on investment.  That’s why some organizations are moving away from this traditional campaign method.

Progressives for Prosperity is one such organization.  Founded in 2012, the group has experienced a recent rebirth.  According to its data releases, the group reached more than 10 million voters in the 11 months before election day, all while spending less than $50 on paid media.  Since the election, when it’s doubled down on digital investment and technological development, that number has almost tripled.  The super PAC primarily uses Twitter to reach voters – Twitter, so their president claims, has an “active community of dedicated and passionate individuals who want to make a difference.  By providing a centralized hub for persuasion and mobilization, we can inspire widespread action and political engagement.”

The organization has no large donors.  Its funds, altogether insignificant, come directly from the grassroots.  So far, no donor has given more than $200, a point of pride for the organization as it remains one of the few super PACs that doesn’t “kowtow to the desires of its financial benefactor.”  Donated money, according to Federal Election Commission filings, goes to Twitter ads, though the organization hopes to move into Facebook soon.  Why?  Because doing so “allows us to become part of the voters’ digital lives.  Facebook and Twitter have dedicated user-bases and, through the platforms’ tools, we can micro-target voters based on any number of desired demographics.”

They have a point – Twitter and Facebook have hundreds of millions of users that use the social media sites every day.  And many are activists looking to become further involved in political activity.  Progressives for Prosperity hopes to reach more and more of those voters through its technological developments.  Coders at the group have developed tools to identify, log, and match with other available data – such as vote history and the demographics of their place of residence – with social media users, creating what they hope will be a robust data list that can then be used for persuasion and mobilization.

What’s next for the group?  They’re targeting Georgia’s upcoming special election as its first means of testing its methods and harnessing backlash to President Donald Trump.  It’s finalizing its list of district voters, readying for campaign mobilization that it hopes to “open-source” to other social media users living outside the district but hoping to make competitive a House seat in whose district Hillary Clinton lost by only one percentage point.  Whether they will be successful remains to be determined, but they have high hopes.  “We plan to reach tens of thousands of voters in the run up to the election with both persuasion and mobilization messages.  We also hope to determine a method for gauging our electoral efficacy so we can make amends and changes as we head into the 2017 gubernatorial elections.”

Even if the organization fails to flip the seat, its conclusions from the election will be quite interesting and will hopefully shed light into how campaigns and other organizations can better harness the online world to sway voters and drive them to the polls.  It’s a new world and Progressives for Prosperity hopes to lead the charge into it.

donald trump andrew jackson

Donald Trump and Andrew Jackson

Donald Trump and Andrew Jackson are a similar historical pair: Both rebelled against the “establishment” and won the presidency amidst a populist fury driven by demagogic appeals that played to illogical passions, not rational behavior.  Jackson brought only death and economic destruction — yet he’s Trump economic idol.  Will Trump make America suffer a similar fate?

Steve Bannon, the white nationalist and former Breitbart executive who’s the dominant voice in the West Wing, favorably called Trump’s inaugural address — which Bannon helped write — “very Jacksonian.”  Trump rehung Jackson’s portrait in the Oval Office (Obama, not favoring killers, had removed it).  Building off that, Trump became the first president since Ronald Reagan to visit The Hermitage, Andrew Jackson’s home, wherehe praised Jackson as a “beloved president” and one of his heroes.

Well, let’s take a look at the nation’s first populist and see the Andrew Jackson qualities Trump finds so inspiring and on which he hopes to build:

  1.  Andrew Jackson owned more than 150 slaves.  They were “the source of his wealth.”
  2. He brutally expelled Native Americans from their home land — land which the United States had guaranteed to them through a variety of treaties — and forced them on the “trail of tears,” which saw mortality rates hit 20 percent.
  3. Furious at a Supreme Court decision, Jackson remarked “John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it.”  Then, completely abandoning the Constitution he swore to uphold, Jackson simply ignored the ruling.
  4. Destroyed the vision our Founders had for the constitutional Republic through his demagogic campaigns and interfering with Congress’s ability to control the legislative process.
  5. Pushed for and enacted policies that destabilized the financial system, leading to an economic calamity that destroyed the lives of the farmers from whom he drew popular support.

Andrew Jackson leaves a disastrous legacy, one of death, illegal actions, and economic gloom.  He is no hero, except to white nationalists that wish to return America to its days of a White Republic.  Should Donald Trump and Andrew Jackson have more in common than just the means of their election, America will be in for a disastrous four years.

donald trump violates the domestic emoluments clause

Donald Trump Violates the Domestic Emoluments Clause

Donald Trump’s violating a second emoluments clause

By now, we should all be familiar with the Foreign Emoluments Clause (Article 1, Section 9, Clause 8), which prevents an officer of the United States from receiving money (an emolument), in any form, from an individual, corporation, or other agent funded by a foreign government.  The clause prevents conflicts of interest that could pit the U.S. officer’s financial interest against the interests of the country he claims to represent.  Donald Trump, whose D.C. hotel has attracted thousands of dollars from foreign governments, whose New York City tower houses the Bank of China (a state corporation), and whose buildings across the world receive rent from foreign government agencies, has undoubtedly violated the Foreign Emoluments Clause.  This is impeachment worthy.  But that’s not all.  Donald Trump violates the Domestic Emoluments Clause, too.

The lesser-known Domestic Emoluments Clause (Article 2, Section 2, Clause 7), states that “The President shall, at stated Times, receive for his Services, a Compensation, which shall neither be encreased [sic] nor diminished during the Period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that Period any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them.”

In other words, the president’s compensation for his duties will not exceed the predefined presidential salary.  He cannot receive any other emoluments from the government, thus preventing government officials at the federal and state level from tapping department or local coffers to buy favor with the president.  This precludes the president from accepting, even indirectly, money that originates from the government treasury.  It would pose problems, then, if a member of the Trump administration with salary paid by the government lived in a Trump hotel and, therefore, paid Trump — who retains a financial stake in the Trump Organization — an emolument originating from the United States.

How Donald Trump Violates the Domestic Emoluments Clause

Steven Mnuchin (Secretary of the Treasury), Linda McMahon (who heads the Small Business Administration), and Gary Cohn (economic adviser) all call the Trump DC hotel home during the work week.  They are paid by the government; they use that pay to live in the Trump Hotel; Donald Trump has a financial stake in the Trump Hotel and profits from each dollar spent in the hotel.  Therefore, Trump receives an emolument from the United States above and beyond his presidential salary.

Spokespeople for those individuals contend that since they pay a “fair market rate,” there are no constitutional problems.  As Donald Trump likes to say: “Wrong!”  Emoluments exist regardless of a transaction’s purported fair market value.  The very definition of the word — its definition as understood by the Constitution’s framers — encompassed all financial transaction between two parties.

This constitutional violation is yet another example of a bourgeoning kleptocratic administration.  Trump, by failing to divest from his business interests, stands to profit immensely from his position as president.  He’s pocketed money from foreign governments and from individuals lusting to stay in his hotels and properties to, in any way, support their idol.  And now he’s profiting from taxpayer dollars given to him by members of his cabinet.

That Donald Trump violates the Domestic Emoluments Clause is yet another reason to urge impeachment.  Donald J. Trump has disgraced the letter and spirit of the Constitution and must be immediately removed from office.  Call your representatives and senators and urge them to begin the impeachment process.

trump joint address

Deceit and Demagoguery in Trump’s Address to Congress

President Donald J. Trump’s address to the joint session of Congress reeked of demagoguery and deceit, the two defining characteristics of his rise to power.  Through the speech, Trump appealed to base, bestial emotions, preying on tribal instincts to pit his base – the white working class – against those with different backgrounds and skin colors.  His emphasis on “radical Islamic terrorism,” perhaps the most emphatic phrase he uttered, broke with Barack Obama and George Bush’s administration as well as the wishes of his national security adviser, Lt. General H.R. McMaster.  Steve Bannon’s rhetorical triumph centers the terrorism debate on Islam rather than other issues surrounding individual decisions to renounce humanity and risks alienating valuable Muslim allies.  There’s a reason Obama, Bush, and countless national security officials eschew the label.  (Such phrasing also runs into immediate conflict with Trump’s denunciation of antisemitism that headed the speech – antisemitism, when acted upon, is terrorism and yet its perpetrators are not labelled “radical Christian terrorists”).

Furthermore, Trump, who began his campaign by labelling a large percentage of a subset of immigrants “rapists,” devoted a portion of his address to vilifying illegal immigrants by spotlighting some of their crimes.  Such blatant race-based demagoguery — Trump clearly sought to increase favor for his ineffectual border wall and ramped-up deportations by strengthening the implicit connection between illegal immigration and deadly crime – is the 1988 Willie Horton campaign ad in speech form.  It also renounced statistics.  Immigrants, legal and illegal, tend to have lower rates of crime than the native-born population.  That is lost on Trump (or, he doesn’t care).

Deceit, too, defined the speech.  Misleading the public on the economic and criminal consequences of (illegal) immigration fell far short of Trump’s biggest moment of deceit: His portrayal of the botched Navy Seal raid in Yemen.  Trump, who earlier in that day blamed his generals for the failed raid, told Congress that the raid yielded crucial information about al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).  He then spoke directly to the widow of Ryan Owens, a Seal killed in the raid, and complemented her and Owens’ valor and bravery; after a long and deserved applause for the widow, Trump remarked how Owens smiled down from heaven because he “broke a record” for sustained applause.  Such disrespect for the hero – most, Navy Seals especially, have not even a fraction of Trump’s astounding vanity – becomes more abhorrent as one reads about the raid.  Administration officials admit that information seized is not “actionable” or “vital”; Trump reportedly authorized the raid without having read intelligence reports.  He chose not to remain in the Situation Room during its occurrence.  And yet Trump, who so clearly botched his first counterterrorism effort, stood at the dais and lied to Congress and the American people about the raid.  He lied to a widow and then used her as a prop in his speech.

Demagoguery and deceit should have no role in American politics, especially not in the White House.  And yet those two words so perfectly describe Trump and his admittedly authoritarian appeal.  America deserves a better leader – Trump, lest he want to further erode the presidency and our standing in the world, should change his behavior, immediately.

tulsi gabbard email

Tulsi Gabbard: Not a Liberal

Primary-Challenge Tulsi Gabbard

Tulsi Gabbard is not a liberal, not a progressive, and not worthy of respect.  Though she inserted herself into the national political discourse by her high-profile split from the DNC and endorsement of Bernie Sanders, her populism – a child a Donald Trump’s demagoguery – that yields untenable economic positions and a frightening affinity for war-criminals should worry us all.  Like Trump, she refuses to condemn Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad.  She voted against a House resolution chastising the dictator for his crimes and, most recently, undermined U.S. foreign policy by secretly visiting the war-criminal and, after being shown Syria by two men from a political party with a fascist history, Gabbard determined the man who dropped chemical bombs on his own people should remain in power.  Gabbard supports a brutal authoritarian – what proclaimed progressive can look into the eyes of a refugee and say “I stand with your oppressor?”