Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Cruising the Web

Another Tuesday, another depressing Wednesday morning. I can still hope that for a contested convention, but we're facing the same problems of the non-Trump candidates splitting up the anti-Trump vote. In fact, any of the three other candidates would be killing Trump if they were going one-on-one. It's just not happening. I know that Cruz wants to take Rubio out in Florida, but does he really want to hand over another big cache of delegates over to Trump in the vain hope that Cruz will be able to take Trump out if they're going head to head? It could very well be that Rubio's support, shrinking as it is, would go to Kasich. It would be better to follow the plan that Romney laid out to hope that Rubio and Kasich win their home states and that, as time goes on, Trump's share of the delegate count will decrease.

Republicans who want to beat Hillary in November should start looking at the polls matching them head to head. She beats him in most of them and that is before the Democrats launch millions of dollars of ads portraying him as the devil incarnate. And you know they will. Ponder this poll result, more people say they trust Hillary than Trump. Hillary!

Do all these angry voters going for Trump realize how they're ensuring a Clinton win in the general election? Do they think that their complaints will get addressed if the Democrats retake the Senate? Do they care?

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Hillary is still going to win the nomination unless she gets indicted before the Democratic convention. But it's clear that a lot of Democrats are no more happy with their front-runner than Republicans are with theirs. Hillary Clinton put forth a big effort in Michigan, but Sanders still pulled out a victory there. Michigan Democrats just didn't like what she was selling.
In the days ahead of the primary, Clinton repeatedly hammered Sanders over his 2009 vote against a bailout for the U.S. auto industry, calculating that the line of attack would resonate in a state that's home to the country's largest car manufacturers. But by Tuesday night, some Michigan Democrats aligned with Clinton's campaign said privately they think that strategy did not work as they intended.

CNN exit polls showed that Sanders outperformed Clinton among voters who are "very worried" about the U.S. economy, 56% to 40%. Among voters who believe international trade takes away American jobs, Sanders also led Clinton, 56% to 43% — a sign that Sanders' populist economic message resonated in Michigan.

In another troubling sign for the Clinton campaign, among voters who said their most important priority in a presidential candidate is that they are honest and trustworthy, Sanders overwhelmingly outperformed Clinton, 80% to 19%.
Steven Hayward comments on Hillary's loss in Michigan.
Sanders’ upset in Michigan reminds me of the old story (which you can find Russ Roberts re-tell fully here) about the dog food company that went to all kinds of trouble to advertise a new dog food, yet somehow the marketing effort failed utterly. After reviewing all the messages and ad gimmicks, someone finally said, “Maybe the dogs don’t like it.”

Once again the Democratic establishment has cleared the field for Hillary except for an eccentric old coot from Vermont, and bestowed her with a massive campaign that generates countless sure-fire ideas for maximizing local votes, and she still can’t put it away. Maybe voters just don’t like her or her (non) message. This dog food just won’t sell.

Just as Republicans are placing hope in the FBI to recommend an indictment against Hillary, the anti-Trump wing of the party must put some faith in Eric Schneiderman, the Democratic state attorney general in New York who has filed the fraud suit against Trump on account of Trump University.
To this day, Trump denies these charges (they’re now part of his GOP opponents’ attack ads), and has done what you might expect: fight his accusers. He sued one student who was part of a class-action case for slander. And once Schneiderman filed his own fraud charges, Trump tried like hell to get it dismissed.

The case isn’t going his way.

Last week, Trump suffered a stinging (in Trump speak, yuuuge) loss: A New York judge not only refused to dismiss the case, he increased the potential liability to Trump by expanding the class of alleged victims.

He also made it easier for Schneiderman to prove his charges: The upshot of the ruling is that the AG doesn’t have to show “intent” on Trump’s part to defraud the students, just that the students were defrauded.

By the way, that slander suit was thrown out of court, with Trump ordered to pay the student’s legal bills.

During last week’s debate, Trump made it sound like the Trump U controversy is nothing more than a side show he could settle at a moment’s notice. The response I got from an official in Schneiderman’s office?

“Bulls - - t . . . why would we want to settle this? We just won.” (Two class-action suits filed against Trump by former students continue as well.)

....He has never fully answered why in God’s name a billionaire would need to start something like Trump U, much less his involvement in Trump Steaks, Trump vodka and Trump cologne. And The Donald himself indicated in a recent class-action deposition that he couldn’t identify some of the allegedly hand-picked instructors Trump U advertised.

So if Donald thinks Marco Rubio is hitting him hard with this, wait until the real action begins if he wins the GOP nomination. Schneiderman is a highly ambitious Democratic pol, with absolutely no incentive to settle a case that could make his career on a national level.

....The conventional wisdom is that FBI Director James Comey is the real political kingmaker in the presidential election because he’s investigating the controversy over Hillary Clinton’s e-mail. But betting on President Obama’s hand-picked FBI chief to indict the president’s preferred successor seems like a stretch.

A better bet: The odds that a smart and ambitious New York AG might leak even more damaging details of the Republican nominee’s foray into the field of higher education to help sway a close election.
You think that an ambitious Democratic politician in New York isn't thinking about making his name and career by exposing Donald Trump?

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If voters like Trump's tough talk against outsourcing, perhaps they should pay attention to what he does and not what he says.
The GOP front-runner says that, if elected, he’d get Apple to build its computers in the United States rather than in other countries. He's also sworn off Oreo cookies ever since Nabisco moved part of its productions to Mexico.

But if Trump is going to force other companies to move production to the United States, will the same rules apply to his own family business ventures? After all, many of the clothing and fashion products bearing the Trump name are not made in the U.S.

Harvard Trade and Investment Professor Robert Lawrence did a deep dive on the Trump-branded merchandise advertised on and found that products made in the U.S. are the exception and not the rule.

Most of the Trump neckties, shirts and suits are made in China, Bangladesh, or simply say “imported.” And virtually all of his daughter Ivanka Trump’s extensive clothing and accessory line for women is made outside the U.S., with many items manufactured in China.

“Of the 838 Ivanka products advertised through the site, none appear to be made exclusively in the U.S.; 628 are said to be imported and 354 made specifically in China,” Lawrence, who formerly served as a member of President Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers, writes in a column revealing his findings published on PBS.
Meanwhile, the WSJ reports on how Trump is advocating the importation of foreign-made drugs, which will include those made in Mexico.
the GOP frontrunner won’t let Mexicans into America but he’ll make an exception for Mexican drugs.

Mr. Trump released a 10-paragraph health plan last week, perhaps in response to the criticism that he has no policy details. We’ll discuss the complete outline at a later date, but one detail that leapt out for comment is his endorsement of foreign pharmaceutical importation—an idea even liberals left for dead a decade ago. His campaign promises to “remove barriers to entry into free markets,” because “allowing consumers access to imported, safe and dependable drugs from overseas will bring more options to consumers.”

Sorry, it won’t. The U.S. maintains a “closed” drug distribution network of manufacturers, suppliers and pharmacies—precisely because overseas drugs often aren’t safe and dependable. Recent years have seen a proliferation of pill mills and forgery rings that slip counterfeit or adulterated products into global supply chains. The World Health Organization estimates 10% of drugs world-wide are bogus.

In the case of Mexico, the U.S. State Department warns travellers that as many as 25% of the medications available south of the border are fake. The Los Zetas, Sinaloa and Ju├írez cartels have diversified their portfolios into deceptive pharmaceuticals. The modern “closed” U.S. system was created in 1999 because Southern California was awash with fraudulent black-market compounds smuggled from Mexico.
He'd probably respond that such a plan would help lower drug costs, but that just exposes how little he understands about the drug market.
We suppose we should be grateful to see Mr. Trump discover a trading relationship he can support, but this one wouldn’t cut drug costs. Almost nine of 10 U.S. prescriptions are already bargain-priced generics, and in free markets consumers typically decline to buy potentially life-threatening drugs of unknown origin and quality.

New drugs are price-controlled in foreign markets, but drug makers aren’t going to ramp up sales in Ireland or Mexico so their products can be diverted to the U.S. Journal contributor Scott Gottlieb also points out that the money to inspect imports—and translate the labels into English—erases any modest savings.

Mr. Trump is a business nationalist without a core philosophy of government, so his policy arc is going to be an adventure. But some of his voters might be surprised to learn that he wants to flood the U.S. with cheap Mexican goods and other dangerous foreign imports.
There is an attack ad there just waiting to be made about how Trump supports bringing in pharmaceuticals from Mexico that will endanger the health of Americans.

And here is an intriguing story from Crain's that Trump has applied and received a New York state property-tax break that is only for people who make less than $500,000 a year.
Trump's income is low enough to qualify for a New York state property-tax break that most high-rollers don't get.

It's called the STAR program, which stands for the New York State School Tax Relief Program and has been around since 1997. It offers an approximately $300 annual benefit for those who qualify. Hundreds of thousands of New York homeowners get it.

Here's where it gets interesting for Trump: To be eligible for STAR, a married couple must have annual income of $500,000 or less. One wouldn't think a guy as rich as Trump claims to be would qualify, but records filed with the city's Department of Finance show he received a $302 STAR benefit on his latest property-tax bill for his Trump Tower penthouse on Fifth Avenue.

That means whatever his annual income is, it's less than $500,000. (The state defines income for STAR purposes as federal adjusted gross income minus the taxable amount of total distributions from annuities or individual retirement accounts.) And Trump would have to have declared his New York apartment as his primary residence and sent the state a copy of his federal income-tax return in order to qualify for the $302 tax break.

"It's strange that a billionaire would apply for a $302 tax benefit and, moreover, that he would take it," said Martha Stark, a property-tax expert and former New York City finance commissioner who is now a lecturer at Baruch College.

Trump's campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, said the tax benefit was "an error on the part of the city of New York" and that Trump received the benefit over the past three years even though he hadn't asked for it since 2009, when tax authorities began checking on applicants' income. The city's Finance Department said it checks with New York state tax authorities every year to make sure applicants for the STAR benefit have income under $500,000. A spokesman for the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance said STAR recipients had to provide a social security number in 2013 as part of statewide registration program.

Of course, it's possible to be quite rich even with a low annual income. Much of Trump's wealth is in the value of the properties he owns or which bear his name thanks to licensing agreements. Still, that sort of wealth is quite different from having a lot of cash. Trump issued a financial statement last June that proclaimed his net worth to be $8.7 billion, but the statement wasn't signed by an accounting firm, so it shouldn't be taken seriously. A month after the $8.7 billion claim, he issued a press release upping the figure to "in excess of TEN BILLION DOLLARS."

"My net worth fluctuates, and it goes up and down with markets and with attitudes and with feelings, even my own feeling," Trump said in a December 2007 court deposition. In a filing last year with the Federal Election Commission, Trump disclosed $362 million in "income" for 2014, although Fortune reporter Shawn Tully recently observed that lofty figure is actually revenue and not income, which is what's left over after paying staff salaries, private-jet costs and other expenses....

By the way, according to a 2007 study by the Manhattan Institute, 75,000 New Yorkers earn more than $500,000 per year. In other words, 75,000 of Trump's neighbors earn more than he does. Which, if you think about it, is kind of rich.

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Ah, that authoritarian impulse.
Donald Trump’s rally here began with the candidate asking all attendees to raise their hands and take an oath to vote for him, while extended barriers cordoned off the press and plainclothes private intelligence officers scoured the crowd for protesters.

These new tactics, which the Trump campaign has introduced over the past week, represent refinements by Trump and his staff in their quest to control the atmosphere and message of his often unruly rallies. They come in the wake of an altercation between a photographer and a Secret Service agent at a Trump event, and at a time when the emboldened candidate has escalated confrontations with protesters, leaving his podium to stare them down at his two most recent rallies and repeatedly lamenting that his supporters cannot retaliate against them.

Trump first asked his supporters to pledge their allegiance at a weekend rally in Orlando. But the length of Saturday’s oath made it difficult for attendees to repeat it after Trump. The candidate had adjusted by Monday, when he had supporters raise their right hands and repeat a shorter oath.

Meanwhile, the Trump campaign appears to be ramping up efforts to prevent displays of dissent.

Trump continued to taunt protesters and lament the fact that he and his supporters could not retaliate against them. “Bye-bye,” Trump told one protester after strolling away from his podium to stare the demonstrator down.

....At recent rallies in Nevada and Louisiana, Trump has said that protesters — including those from Black Lives Matter at the New Orleans event — were throwing punches and lamented that his supporters would be blamed for retaliating.

A POLITICO reporter who witnessed both protests did not observe the demonstrators throwing punches. Multiple witnesses to both incidents also reported that they did not observe the protesters throwing punches. At the Nevada rally, security guards at South Point Arena in Las Vegas confirmed to POLITICO that the protester in question had not thrown punches, despite Trump’s claim.

A spokeswoman for the campaign has not responded to requests for video that might validate the candidate’s claims. In addition to protesters, Trump’s campaign has gone to increasing lengths to control members of the press in recent days.
What's one more lie for this guy?

Typical Trump tastelessness - dissing Nancy Reagan's looks with Liz Smith. Because that's all that matters to him for women.

While observers maintain that Romney's speech was a failure and actually solidified more support for Trump since Romney is unpopular with just the sorts of voters who like Trump, Jon Gabriel applies military strategy to explain what Romney was really doing. Rubio has done the same thing. It hasn't helped Rubio in the polls, except for maybe in Virginia, but their ridicule and attacks have gotten inside his "OODA Loop."
But as anyone who has watched The Donald knows, he is an insecure and undisciplined man who can’t resist responding to any perceived slight — often in embarrassing ways. So Rubio mocked his finger size … to which the Donald assured a vast debate audience that he had a large penis. Rubio exposed the Trump University scam … to which The Donald lied about an “A” rating from the Better Business Bureau which had actually granted it a D-minus. He spent days on Twitter calling the Florida senator a “leightweight” and a “chocker,” fueling even more mockery.

Around the time Rubio was taking it to The Donald, Romney demanded that Trump release his taxes and implied that the multizillionaire was hiding a far less impressive net worth. Trump responded in a long Twitter rant with more insults and over-the-top boasts about his financial acumen. Then Mitt implied The Donald might be hiding financial mismanagement and business failures. Trump jumped on the airwaves to respond, his face red with anger as he lied about his bankruptcies and hiring foreign workers. The press couldn’t help but explain the scandals to their viewers.

Then came March 3, the morning of a crucial debate in the delegate-rich state of Michigan: The ideal time for Mitt to really rattle the GOP frontrunner. Instead of resting up or doing debate prep, Trump watched Mitt’s speech denouncing him, then hastily staged a shouty, rambling speech of his own. He called in to talk shows and spoke of Mitt “dropping to his knees” for him. He again took to Twitter, focused entirely on a man who isn’t running against him. By the time the debate began, Trump was tired, peevish, and completely off his game.

Rubio and Cruz observed this fact, reoriented, decided on new attacks, and acted with vigor.

I’m sure Mitt and Marco would be happy if their attacks on Trump had convinced his fans to abandon their hero and join one of his rivals. They would have loved to see his poll numbers plummet overnight and his frontrunner status collapse like Herman Cain’s did in the 2012 race. But that wasn’t their primary goal.

Instead, they wanted to get inside Trump’s OODA loop, put him on the defensive for the first time in this campaign, and force him into costly mistakes. And, in that, they succeeded.

Another lie exposed.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) says it received "multiple customer complaints" about Trump University and that the school had a D-minus rating in its last year in operation.

In a lengthy statement on Tuesday, the Council of Better Business Bureaus and the local BBB in metro New York sought to correct the record regarding several of GOP front-runner Donald Trump's claims about the controversial business venture.
Officials said the venture had a D-minus rating, the second-lowest possible, in 2010, around the time it closed.

"As the company appeared to be winding down, after 2013, no new complaints were reported," the BBB said in a statement. Complaints over three years old "automatically rolled off" the review, allowing the rating to rise when it was no longer in operation.

"As a result, over time, Trump University's BBB rating went to an A in July 2014, and then to an A+ in January 2015," the group said, adding Trump University has had "no rating" since September 2015.

Trump has hit back on criticisms of his former education venture, insisting that it has a good rating. He touted the A rating during a Republican debate last week after Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly noted the last publicly available rating was the D-minus from 2010.

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Ponder this harsh reality when you hear President Obama touting his plans to close Gitmo.
The number of detainees released from the Guantanamo Bay prison who have reengaged in terrorism has doubled since July 2015, according to a new report issued by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI).

The report, which is published every six months, showed that as a greater number of detainees were freed by the Obama administration, more were suspected of turning back to terrorism and taking up arms in the fight against U.S. interests.
So much for any assurances that the released prisoners won't be returning to the battlefield. And John Kerry's tsk-tsking of such decisions by the released prisoners isn't going to instill any more confidence in the administration's plan. This is what he said just a couple of weeks ago.
Here’s Kerry yesterday, appearing before the Senate Appropriations Committee to justify the State Department’s 2017 budget request. Senator Mark Kirk showed Kerry a picture of Ibrahim al Qosi, who was released from Gitmo in 2012 and sent back to Sudan, and who is now actively recruiting for Al Qaeda. Kirk expressed the opinion that the U.S. shouldn’t be releasing terrorists to terrorist nations, because the terrorists just go back to doing what they were doing before they went to Gitmo.

And the indomitable John Kerry’s response will echo throughout the halls of Eternity:

“Well, uh, Senator, he’s not supposed to be doing that.”
Apparently, Kerry and Obama haven't realized that wishful thinking does not a national security policy make.

Well, this is certainly going to dissuade Muslim immigrants to Europe to stop raping women.
A group of 400 men took to the streets of Amsterdam wearing miniskirts to show support for women’ rights following a series of mass rapes and sexual assaults on European women by Muslim immigrant men in Cologne and other European cities that took place on New Year’s Eve.
The march was organized by the youth organizations of the Green and Labor Parties. Just think of the lame thinking that went into this protest.