Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Trump Angry That Allies Admit He Lost the Debate

You don't have to be in the Clinton camp to recognize the obvious, i.e. that Donald Trump tanked badly in the first debate.  Even Trump allies admit that the New York businessman was trounced badly by the much better prepared Hillary Clinton.  Admitting the (obvious) truth though makes the Donald very mad.  CNN reports:  
Donald Trump is angry that his aides and advisers have conceded to reporters -- largely without attribution -- that the Republican nominee struggled in his first presidential debate.
In a conference call with surrogates Wednesday afternoon, Trump aides made clear the Republican nominee is upset that his allies publicly acknowledged they pushed him to change his preparation and tactics before his next bout with Hillary Clinton. And he wants them to stop it immediately.
The message was "not subtle," a source familiar with the call said.  
Trump wants his supporters to make an energetic defense of his performance and refuse to concede that he didn't nail it.
As if his bungled debate effort wasn't enough, Trump went on Fox and Friends the next day and criticized Miss Universe Alicia Machado for gaining weight during her reign:
During Monday night's presidential debate, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton referenced Miss Universe Alicia Machado's claim that Republican nominee Donald Trump called her "Miss Piggy" when she gained weight. Trump revisited the topic on Tuesday morning when he spoke in depth about the 1996 Miss Universe on "Fox and Friends."  
In the debate, Trump repeatedly challenged Clinton over where she had heard that, then dismissed Clinton's comment that Machado would vote for her with "OK, good."
Trump told "Fox and Friends" it was a "real problem" when Machado gained significant weight after winning the pageant he then owned. He added that Machado was "the worst we ever had. The worst. The absolute worst. She was impossible."  
"She was the winner, and she gained a massive amount of weight, and it was a real problem... not only that, her attitude," Trump said. "And Hillary went back into the years and... found the girl and talked about her like she was Mother Teresa, and it wasn't quite that way, but that's OK. Hillary has to do what she has to do."
I'm no expert on women, but I'm pretty sure that criticizing a woman for her weight gain is not a way to win female supporters.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Trump v. Clinton: What to Expect from the Debate

As the national polls suggest that the Trump-Clinton race is deadlocked, and Clinton has only a narrow lead in several key battleground states, the candidates enter into the first of three debates tonight.  It may be the most watched political event ever.  NBC anchor Lester Holt is the moderator. The one certain thing in this debate is that Holt is unlikely to make either candidate happy regardless of how he handles his duties.

What is the debate advice being parceled out to the candidates?  The common advice to most candidates  is to "loosen up and just be yourself." This may be the one time that advice doesn't apply.
 The American public despises these two candidates.  Polling shows that they are the two most unpopular candidates the major parties have ever nominated, by a wide, wide margin.  The one consistent metric in picking presidential winners for over half a century is that the candidate who is best liked, wins.

Trump and Clinton have a mission.  They first and foremost need to come across as likable, someone for whom the 15% of the voters on the fence in this election would feel comfortable voting for.  Clinton and Trump need to show a graciousness and humility neither have demonstrated thus far.

A commentator on one of the Sunday morning political shows suggested that Trump needs to show depth on the issues.  That ship long ago left the dock.  Knowing details about policy is Clinton's strong suit and Trump would be foolish to sail into those water.  If Trump is smart, which I've seen no evidence of thus far, he will focus on the big picture, change themes which are winners in this election cycle. If Clinton is smart, which I've occasionally seen evidence of, she will bait Trump and get him to go off message and attack her.

Trump has an additional challenge - he needs to look presidential, like someone people (at least those few undecided voters left) would be comfortable with in the White House.

On paper, this debate should be no contest.  Hillary Clinton is an experienced debater and excelled in that forum against Senator Bernie Sanders.  Trump, on the hand, turned in very lackluster debate performances during the Republican primaries often appearing like a wallflower who never gets asked to dance.   Several times Trump was booed by the GOP audiences when he said outrageous things that  seemed to be more about gaining attention than serious policy proposals.  No one seriously viewed Trump as a "winner" of any of the GOP debates.  The best that was often said was that he exceeded expectations.

Indeed, that is Trump's ace-in-the-hole in his confrontation with Hillary Clinton.  In politics a debater's performance is never measured against the opponent, but rather against what the expectations are for that debater.  Everyone expects Trump to fail short on policy and not look presidential and to say outrageous things.  So if he doesn't fail as badly as is expected, suddenly he will be viewed as a winner.

Finally, the key to success in the debate might not be what happens at the debate, but what transpires afterward. Watch for the campaigns use the traditional media and social media to convince the talking heads and the public that their their candidate won.  In the first debate President Obama had with Mitt Romney in 2012, the Romney people outmaneuvered post-debate the Obama team and turned a win on points performance into a knockout.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Et tu, Ted?; Senator Cruz Gives Away His Political Soul to Endorse Trump

Yesterday, the unthinkable happened. Texas Senator Ted Cruz, the so-called principled conservative, a man who bravely stood up to the Trumpkins who wish to forever destroy the conservative movement, decided to give away his political soul and endorse for president the wholly unqualified, liberal New Yorker, Donald Trump.

I can't say Cruz "sold" his soul because, unlike Judas Iscariot, the Texas Senator did not even bother to get 30 pieces of silver for his betrayal of the conservative cause.
Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX)
Gee, let's recall what happened during the campaign

Trump suggested Ted's wife ugly, retweeting an unflattering photo of Heidi Cruz juxtaposed next to a flattering picture of Trump's own wife.  Trump threatened to "spill the beans" on Heidi Cruz.  Trump suggested that Cruz's father was involved in the Kennedy assassination.   Trump's buddies at the National Enquirer published an expose of Cruz's supposed extra-marital affairs that appear to have been completely made up.  Of course, Trump immediately intimated the story was true, saying the tabloid publication has a good reputation for factual reporting.

Cruz, on the other hand called Trump a "pathological liar," someone who is "utterly amoral" and a "serial philanderer"  Unlike with Trump's sordid attacks, Cruz's observations about Trump were backed by solid evidence.  So too is the conclusion of Cruz and other Republicans that Trump is a con man who is completely unqualified and unfit to be President.

Caleb Howe, writing for the RedState blog, nails the problem with the Cruz endorsement (though I don't endorse the shot at the candidates' ages or their looks): 
But first, we should dispense with some of the reasons fans of this decision have been offering. They, and by they I generally mean Trump voters, say he is choosing the good of the country over the good of the conservative movement. Impossible. Conservative values and policy ideas are good for the country. Trump's ideas are bad for the country. Dumping the former in favor of the latter isn't doing something good for your country.
Stopping Hillary is an admirable cause. In the abstract. But that's primary season talk. That ship has sailed. There are now and instead two Hillarys running; they both have dumb hair, they are both older than dirt, they are both pathologically incapable of honesty, and they are both big government liberals determined to destroy the conservative movement forever. If you believe, as some do, that she's even MORE destroy-happy than Trump is, then try to stop her. Many good people have made that choice.
But don't try to turn it into a virtue. That's what the monsters do. In a classic case of projection, they cast upon #NeverTrump that which they are the most guilty of. Namely, they accuse the #NeverTrumpers of sanctimony or condescension. A laughable complaint from the people who never stop piously bragging about how they are putting country first or how they are stopping the real threat, and in this Cruz is no different. Say you want to stop Hillary. Don't martyr yourself as making some big sacrifice for your country. It's gauche.
The Stop Hillary At All Cost movement is, frankly, stupid.  Donald Trump is the male version of Hillary Clinton.  He is a big government liberal, and has been a big government liberal his entire life.   The major difference between the two is not the policies they would pursue in office or their (lack of) honesty, but their competence.  I loathe Hillary Clinton, but at least she is qualified, intelligent, and has the temperament to be President.  Trump, a simpleton of a man who can be baited with a Tweet, has no business being anywhere near the White House.  I don't even want him to be allowed to visit.
I was never a big fan of Ted Cruz.  I think his caustic, take-no-prisoners approach to politics is harmful to the conservative cause.  But at least he stood consistently for conservative priinciples (though he abandoned some of them in response to Trump during the campaign).  Now he has abandoned the conservative movement all together.
Who would have thought when the going got tough for American political conservativism that the the real heroes would be people like John Kasich, Mitt Romney, and the Bushes?  

Friday, September 23, 2016

Ogden on Politics is Back in Business; Don't Buy Your Domain Through Google!

My blog has returned.  Sometime during the past year, I got a new credit card and my blog's domain didn't renew automatically.  I didn't get any email on the subject, even though Google Blogger has two of my email addresses.   The domain expired on 9/20.  The company which was listed as the new owner of until 9/20/2017 is apparently some sort of holding company for the website host.

My blog is hosted through Enom which contracts with Google.  I can't go through Enom to renew though.  I have to go through Google.  And I can't go through Google Domains either. You can talk to Google Domains and Enom people via phone, but it turn out my website is hosted via Google Apps.  To communicate via phone or email with the Google Apps people you need a special code from your administrator page.  You can only get to the administrator page by entering your administrator name and password, which I never have to use for any other reason.  In frustration, I finally started guessing at the admin name and password and, eventually, guessed right.  That got me to billing and let me update the credit card information.

This reminds me a few years ago when my blog had picked up as primary email an email I rarely ever use.  I tried to change the primary email back to the one I use most often and my doing so actually deleted my website! To get my deleted website back, I had to obtain information from several years old emails that were sent to me when I first set up the blog. Fortunately, I had not deleted them.

Some advice.   Anyone who is thinking about starting a blog, and paying for a domain, do NOT do it through Google. Choose some other company, such as GoDaddy, that has representatives you can pick up the phone and talk to when you have a problem.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Trump Used Charitable Contributions to Pay His Private Businesses' Legal Expenses

The Republicans have, rightly, hammered Hillary Clinton over the Clinton Foundation raising funds from foreign leaders at the same time she was Secretary of State. That is at the very least an appearance of impropriety that should have been avoided.

Leading the attacks on the Clinton Foundation has been GOP nominee Donald Trump.  Not surprisingly, as he is on so many subjects, Donald Trump is a hypocrite. Turns out the Trump didn't just engage in an appearance of impropriety with his foundation, he apparently brazenly engaged in outright impropriety. The Washington Post today reports that Trump used foundation money, i.e. other people's charitable contributions, to pay settlements of lawsuits involving his for profit businesses:
Donald Trump spent more than a quarter-million dollars from his charitable foundation to settle lawsuits that involved the billionaire’s for-profit businesses, according to interviews and a review of legal documents.
Those cases, which together used $258,000 from Trump’s charity, were among four newly
Donald Trump
documented expenditures in which Trump may have violated laws against “self-dealing” — which prohibit nonprofit leaders from using charity money to benefit themselves or their businesses.
In one case, from 2007, Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club faced $120,000 in unpaid fines from the town of Palm Beach, Fla., resulting from a dispute over the size of a flagpole.
In a settlement, Palm Beach agreed to waive those fines — if Trump’s club made a $100,000 donation to a specific charity for veterans. Instead, Trump sent a check from the Donald J. Trump Foundation, a charity funded almost entirely by other people’s money, according to tax records.
In another case, court papers say one of Trump’s golf courses in New York agreed to settle a lawsuit by making a donation to the plaintiff’s chosen charity. A $158,000 donation was made by the Trump Foundation, according to tax records.
The other expenditures involved smaller amounts. In 2013, Trump used $5,000 from the foundation to buy advertisements touting his chain of hotels in programs for three events organized by a D.C. preservation group. And in 2014, Trump spent $10,000 of the foundation’s money for a portrait of himself bought at a charity fundraiser.
Or, rather, another portrait of himself.
Several years earlier, Trump had used $20,000 from the Trump Foundation to buy a different, six foot-tall portrait.
If the Internal Revenue Service were to find that Trump violated self-dealing rules, the agency could require him to pay penalty taxes or to reimburse the foundation for all the money it spent on his behalf. Trump is also facing scrutiny from the office of the New York attorney general, which is examining whether the foundation broke state charity laws.
More broadly, these cases also provide new evidence that Trump ran his charity in a way that may have violated U.S. tax law and gone against the moral conventions of philanthropy.
“I represent 700 nonprofits a year, and I’ve never encountered anything so brazen,” said Jeffrey Tenenbaum, who advises charities at the Venable law firm in Washington. After The Post described the details of these Trump Foundation gifts, Tenenbaum described them as “really shocking.”
“If he’s using other people’s money — run through his foundation — to satisfy his personal obligations, then that’s about as blatant an example of self-dealing [as] I’ve seen in a while,” Tenenbaum said.
Rosemary E. Fei, a lawyer in San Francisco who advises nonprofits, said both cases clearly fit the definition of self-dealing.    
 “Yes, Trump pledged as part of the settlement to make a payment to a charity, and yes, the foundation is writing a check to a charity,” Fei said. “But the obligation was Trump’s. And you can’t have a charitable foundation paying off Trump’s personal obligations. That would be classic self-dealing.”
The article includes copies of checks and other documents.  It also goes on to tell the story about one of of the legal settlements of a lawsuit filed by a golfer playing in a Trump charity tournament that promised a $1 million prize for a hole-in-one during the tournament.  The golfer got the hole-in-one. But it turns out the prize's rules required the shot to go 150 yards and the Trump course was designed so the hole would only be 147 yards.  

Using a charity funded by other people to pay his private legal bills... yes that sounds like Donald Trump.  Promising to pay $1 million for a hole-in-one while designing the course so that the hole is 3 yards short to qualify for a payout, yep that is exactly the sort of stunt Donald Trump would pull.  Is there any wonder why Trump would be audited by the IRS?  Why anyone would consider voting for such a fraud, a man who thinks he is above laws that the rest of us have to follow, is a mystery to me.

Indianapolis' Two Tax Increases to Hire More Police Officers Actually Resulted in Fewer Officers

Two times during the past several years, local politicians from both parties argued that Indianapolis should raise its local income tax to hire more police officers.  Duly alarmed by the growing murder rate and convinced of the need for more officers, residents reluctantly supported those tax increases. But as some local bloggers and other critics have argued that those tax increases would not be used to hire more police officers.  Sure enough, that is exactly what happened. In a lengthy investigative report, the Indianapolis Star reports:
Since 2007, the city of Indianapolis has raised income taxes twice in order to hire new police officers. 
The first time, city leaders promised to add 100. The next, as many as 150.
But on Sept. 1, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department had 59 fewer officers than it did before the first tax hike took effect. And yet, the city is spending 33 percent more on police — an estimated $259 million this year, including retiree pensions — than it did in 2007.
Over the years, city officials and City-County Council members have blamed troubles growing the police force on a number of factors: the recession and property tax caps, the rising costs of health care and equipment and challenges associated with attrition. And all have played a role. 
IMPD's 1,600 or so officers get paid upwards of 25 percent more today than they did nine years ago. 
Nonunion city employee pay went up around 5 percent in the same period; that's essentially a pay cut when you account for 16 percent inflation. Meanwhile, the typical Marion County household — in short, the people paying for the raises — lost even more ground. The median income here dropped 5 percent from 2007 to 2014, according to the latest Census estimates. 
When you add it all up — the rising personnel costs, inflation and the city's plummeting revenues — the 2007 tax hike wasn't even enough to pay for the officers the city already had, much less add 100 more. So when the council voted in 2014 to raise taxes again — again, promising the money would hire more officers — some of the $16 million a year it generated for IMPD is still paying the bill for nine years of contractual pay raises that the city hasn't been able to afford. 
Meanwhile, murders continue to rise. Indianapolis already has recorded 100 criminal homicides this year, putting it on pace to break 2014's record-setting 144. Nonfatal shootings are up more than 20 percent.
The Star article goes on to look at the two tax increases in particular and looks more specifically how the money has been spent.  

Thursday, September 15, 2016

My Email Response to GOP Chairman Reince Preibus

Dear Mr. Priebus: 
Reince Priebus
I wanted to respond to your email asking Republican grass roots leaders like me to support Donald Trump. It is not going to happen. I love my country too much to back a nominee who is completely lacking in qualifications to be President and has repeatedly demonstrated zero temperament for the position. Trump is a big government liberal who has no appreciation of limited government or federalism. His comments reflect that he has no understanding or respect for our Constitution. Trump has also expressed affection for brutal dictators and indicated Americans have too much freedom to criticize public figures, like him. Those are not Republican principles. Those are not American principles.  
Mr. Priebus, you are lowering yourself and MY party with your enthusiastic backing of Donald Trump.  I would encourage you to instead focus on holding on to GOP majorities in the House and the Senate and not divert precious resources in a quixotic effort to elect such a repugnant character to the Office of the Presidency.  
On Election Day, I will NOT pass out any literature that has the name “Trump” on it. I will not lift a finger to help that embarrassment get elected. I am sure there will be hundreds of GOP grass roots workers like me. We conservatives,and those who believe in Republican values, lost the election the day Trump was nominated. Donald Trump is a stain on the grand legacy of the Republican Party and I will not support him. Ever. 
Paul K. Ogden 
Elected Republican Precinct Committeeman

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Clinton Stumbles on Health Issue While Trump Reneges On Promise to Discuss His Own Medical Exam

The Hillary Clinton presidential bus ran off the road and hit a tree this week.  Television cameras caught indisputable evidence of her failing health and the issue became no longer one just reported by right wing bloggers, but rather an issue reported by the mainstream media.  As usual with Hillary Clinton, her default position of secrecy and obfuscation caused more harm to her than the underlying
issue of her health.  Had she simply disclosed that she was trying to battling through pneumonia, she
Hillary Clilnton
could have earned the public's sympathy.  Instead she came across as unsympathetic because of the attempt to hide the issue.

The bungled issue by the Clinton campaign gave Trump a pass, at least thus far, on his own medical condition. Thus far all Trump has disclosed is a ridiculous letter signed by Dr. Harold Bornstein, a gastroenterologist by training.  The letter, supposedly written by the doctor in 5 minutes, doesn't sound like it is written by a medical doctor or any professional for that matter.  It repeatedly employs Trump-type hyperbole and exaggeration.  The letter declares that Trump's health is "astonishingly excellent" and his "physical strength and stamina are extraordinary."  Dr. Bornstein also wrote that "[i]f elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency."   When asked to justify the hyperbole, Dr. Bornstein said "I like that sentence to be quite honest with you and all the rest of them are either sick or dead."   Of course, the comment focused on the health of a presidential candidate at the time of that person's election, not that person's current health, but facts never seem very relevant to people who have boarded the Trump train.  Dr. Bornstein admits that he's jumped on that train explaining "I like Donald Trump because I think he likes me. That's the same reasoning Trump cites for his deep affection for the Russian dictator Vladimir Putin who has his political opponents killed.

Donald Trump
One doesn't have to be a genius to figure out that, given the language used, Trump was the real writer of the letter and Dr. Bornstein simply signed it.  Trump promised to disclose the results of a recent physical exam publicly on the Dr. Oz show.  But today Trump changed his mind about doing that and indicated the discussion on Dr. Oz will be a "general discussion about health and wellness, not one anchored to the fitness of one of the two major candidates for President." Does anyone doubt that if Trump was as healthy as the Dr. Bornstein letter claimed, Trump would have hesitated to discuss the issue publicly?

Unlike matters related to her health, Hillary Clinton has disclosed publicly her tax returns.  In doing so she is following the tradition every presidential candidate has followed for decades.  Trump though tis breaking that tradition.  While initially promising to disclose his tax records, Trump has reneged on that promise claiming that he is under audit and therefore can't release the tax returns. (Of course, an audit doesn't stop the release of tax records.)  Trump's campaign, however, can't or won'teven  produce the IRS record notifying him of the audit and they won't release tax forms from the years before the audit.  It could well be that Trump's tax forms will demonstrate that Trump pays little, if any taxes, and claims of his great wealth (which would produce substantial income that would have to be reported) simply are not true.  Or the forms could show that Trump has received substantial business loans from the Russian investors and even government officials.  

Voters have a right to know potential financial conflicts of interest that might be revealed on tax forms. They also have a right to know the medical condition of those running for President.  Disclosure of tax forms and medical records should be a requirement of running for President.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Both Indiana State Superintendent Candidates Oppose A-F Grading System for Schools

The Indiana Business Journal reports:

Opponents of assigning A-F letter grades to Indiana schools have reason to be optimistic: When voters go to the polls this fall to decide who should run the state’s top education office, both candidates will be people who believe that one grade isn’t enough to reflect
Jennifer McCormick
the work of an entire school or district.
The current superintendent of public instruction, Democrat Glenda Ritz, and her Republican challenger, Jennifer McCormick, a superintendent in Yorktown, both say they think slapping a school with an A or an F is overly harsh—and far too simplistic at a time when educating children is a complex task, affected by many variables. 
“I want to eliminate the A, B, C, D, F, and have a category assignment in our accountability system that actually reflects school improvement,” Ritz said, although she can’t make that decision unilaterally without state board or lawmakers’ approval. 
I have always thought there needed to be two grades, one for performance and one for improvement.  But to eliminate the grading system entirely...well that would be a step too far and hopefully one our lawmakers won't take.   Parents are entitled to information about the quality of the school to which they send their children.  An A-F grade provides that information in an easily understandable format.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Is Donald Trump Using Campaign Contributions to Enrich Himself and His Family?

Campaign reporting of the presidential candidates has a tendency to focus on which candidate is raising the most money.  Reporting generally overlooks the spending side.  You can raise a ton of money as a candidate, but if it is foolishly spent it is as if that money is not being raised at all.

That brings me to the confusing spectacle that is the 2016 election.  After a slow start, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is, during many months, matching or coming close to matching the fundraising prowess of Democrat Hillary Clinton.  Even during the months he falls short, Trump still
raises tens of millions of dollars.

We know how Hillary Clinton is spending her money.  You see the TV commercials.  She has scores of field offices in every battleground states and offices in states that aren't battlegrounds.  What about The Donald?  Trump has ONE campaign office in the critical battleground tate of Florida.  In 2012, Republican Mitt Romney was criticized for not having enough presence in the Sunshine State.  Romney had 43 offices in Florida that year.

Maybe Trump is burning through the money running TV commercials to build himself up and Hillary Clinton down?  No, that doesn't appear to be the case.  Trump's advertising has been virtually silent all summer as he ceded the airwaves to Hillary Clinton.  The former Secretary of State has used the opportunity to drive down Trump's negatives by running ads that use Trump's own words to show he lacks the temperament for office.  Of course, Trump has done, for free, much of that work for Clinton by making outrageous statements that only his most fervent supporters would find acceptable for a person running for President.

Could it be, just possibly, that Donald Trump is running for President, not to actually win, but to enrich himself and his family?  Consider the evidence thus far. When donors instead of Trump himself was paying rent for campaign offices at the Trump Tower, he had the rent quintupled...even though he had fewer staff were employed at those offices.  Further, a review of Trump campaign expenditures shows that 20% of the money spent by the campaign going to businesses that have "Trump" in the name.  Here is a sample of expenditures made through May.

My guess is this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Trump using other people's money to enrich himself.  If you know Trump's career, you know that's what he has done all of his life.