Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Cruising the Web

I think Pence clearly won the debate, but it won't matter one bit because he's running on a ticket with Trump so few people are going to care that his running mate is more reasonable sounding. And even if people are starting to feel a bit better about the GOP ticket, Sunday night is the townhall debate and Trump will most probably appall everyone all over again.

Republicans everywhere are probably wishing that Pence was at the top of the ticket. I wonder how Trump will react to the universal conclusion that is sure to come that Pence is such a better debater than Trump while noting that Pence didn't do all that much to defend Trump. And I wonder how Pence feels about having to defend all of Trump's idiocies. He would shake his head at Kaine's attacks on Trump and then would say that it was nonsense or deny that Trump has said the things that he's actually said, but there really is no defense so all he could do was try to look calmly amused. Then he got to mischaracterize Trump's positions on Syria and Russia to pretend that Trump actually has reasonable positions. Since Trump likes flip-flopping so much, perhaps Pence could outline for him what he should really say are his stands. Pence must wake up at night wondering why he has to go out and defend that clown. And Republicans got a glimpse of what a debate could look like if Trump weren't the candidate.

Gosh, those interruptions by Tim Kaine in the debate were so annoying. It reminded me of Gore's sighing in the first 2000 debate then I heard someone say the same thing on one of the post-debate shows. The moderator could have done more to police all that interrupting. Kaine's interrupting helped Pence seem much more serious and substantive. I guess the Clinton campaign decided to reverse the interruption ration from presidential debate but I just don't think that that will play well.

Apparently, interrupting Pence with quotes from Trump was all part of the strategy.
But what also came out after the debate was that Democrats believed exposing Trump's controversial remarks to a wide audience was so important that it was worth turning some people off. So yes, maybe Kaine was over-amped. But he still got the word out, with tens of millions watching.

Two liberal reporters, the Huffington Post's Sam Stein and the Washington Post's Greg Sargent, both said as much in tweets during the debate.

"Kaine strategy: Get Trump's old comments aired to a broader audience," Stein tweeted. "Don't worry about being overly aggressive. Trump on ticket, not Pence."

"Kaine working hard to get these out there," tweeted Sargent. "1) Trump insults of Mexicans/women/Obama 2) Trump deportation plan 3) Trump tax avoidance."

After the debate, I asked Fallon about what Stein and Sargent said. Was that the idea? "I agree with that," Fallon answered.

Elaine Quijuano had decent questions, but she didn't follow up and she let the debate get away from her. It seemed that she let Kaine go on with his attacks and then would stop Pence when he'd launch an attack on Clinton.

Mike Pence provided a template for Donald Trump on how to ignore attacks and pivot to the message they want to get out while drumming Hillary for her lies and corruption. Chances that Trump will follow Pence's example: zero. The man is incapable of resisting the bait and he'll follow it forever no matter how irrelevant or self-damaging it is.

Kaine kept trying to give Hillary Clinton credit for things she had nothing to do with such as building the Iran sanctions regime that was put in place while Bush was president. Now she gets credit for stopping Iran from getting nuclear weapons. Like that is going to happen - it's just a fantasy that the Obama administration hugs to convince themselves that their deal will work. Ask Israel. And, apparently, Hillary was responsible for killing Bin Laden. Who knew?

Here is the ABC fact check on Kaine's claim that Hillary helped negotiate to "eliminate the Iranian nuclear weapons program without firing a shot."
Grade: False

Explanation: The nuclear agreement reached between six world powers and Iran last year does not completely eliminate the Iranian nuclear program. Its major achievement, as told by the Obama administration, was getting Iran to commit to reduce its stockpile of nuclear material and cease further enrichment, effectively extending the time it would take Iran to build a bomb.
And that's the most favorable description of the deal.

Gosh, I can't stand when politicians come to these debates with prepared lines that they think will catch on with the public's memory of the debate. Ever since Reagan made a few jokes in his debates that people remember to this day, every politician tries to seed their debate performance with pre-packaged lines. Hillary tried with her silly "trumped-up, trickle-down economics" and now Time Kaine tried to convince us that he and Hillary have a "you're hired" economic plan and Trump has a "you're fired" economic plan. Ugh. Here's a headline from Slate:
We Are Begging the Hillary Clinton Campaign: Stop It With These Terrible, Terrible One-Liners
And Pence just had to bring out "There you go again." Come on. Get a new line.

The funniest thing of the night was the GOP accidentally releasing their wrap-up and victory lap about the debate before the debate even began.

It shows how my standards have deteriorated. After the horrifyingly awful debate between Trump and Clinton, the much more substantive VP debate just couldn't keep my interest.

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Jonah Goldberg thinks that the Trump tax story may have reached "peak stupid in this election season." Well, that's a pretty high bar to pass. There has been a whole lot of stupid in this election season. But Goldberg does make some good points about how everyone seems to be quite deceptively obtuse. Besides the idea that taking advantage of what the law allows is somehow corrupt, there is also the defense that Trump's pals have been making.
The Clinton campaign’s effort to make it sound like Trump dodged his taxes is understandably dishonest and cynical (neither campaign observes any meaningful standards of honesty or decency). But the media’s reckless parroting of this nonsense, particularly on Twitter, is just embarrassing.

But the stupidity hardly ends there. Trump clearly wants his subalterns to proclaim that he’s a genius – a genius! — for avoiding paying income taxes. This is like a steroidal version of the old Steve Martin routine about how you can be a millionaire without paying taxes “First, get a million dollars.” Only in Trump’s case it goes, “First, lose a billion dollars.” Ok, I’m rounding up but you get the point. The idea that only the craftiest, cleverest, most nimble financial thinker in the world would come up with the idea of trying to write off a Net Operating Loss of a billion dollars is preposterous. The only damning thing about the Times story is that it shows what a lackluster businessman he really was. Look at the chart here to get a sense of it. The headline of my USA Today piece calls him “smart” for not paying income taxes. I didn’t write the headline. A better one would have been, “Trump would have been dumb to pay income taxes.”

Just as preposterous, however, is the notion peddled by Mark Cuban, Trump’s billionaire bĂȘte noire, that “After military service, the most patriotic thing you can do as a wealthy person is pay your taxes.” .... Paying taxes is not patriotic. It’s not unpatriotic either. It’s the frick’n law. If you don’t pay your taxes, people with guns will come to your house and take your stuff, or they’ll take you to prison, or both.

Last, ...what’s particularly annoying is that in 2012 liberals excoriated anyone who said that the “47 percent” don’t pay taxes. Liberals would shriek, “they do too! They pay sales taxes, payroll taxes, property taxes etc!” And the liberals were right — to a point (lots of people receive more from the government than they pay in, but that’s a conversation for another time). Trump pays lots of taxes, just not income taxes. Why? Because he lost a billion dollars on casinos!

Timothy L. O'Brien was a journalist who was sued for defamation by Donald Trump for writing that Trump wasn't as wealthy as he claimed. The case was dismissed, but in the process he got to see Trump's tax returns. He can't tell us what he saw in those returns, but he does have some insights that aren't part of the peak stupid Goldberg wrote about. Trump claims that he knows the tax laws better than anyone and so can reform them. O'Brien comments,
But Trump isn’t that financially sophisticated. In my interviews with him, he had trouble explaining such basic real estate concepts as “cash flow.” And in the present campaign, he has dropped alarming howlers about how he might manage federal finances as president. His eyes tend to glaze over when complex numbers come into play. Trump’s own former accountant, Jack Mitnick, told the Times that it was always Trump’s ex-wife Ivana who asked probing questions about the couple’s taxes. Trump himself, Mitnick said, was disengaged, and less detail-oriented than his father, Fred.

Trump’s accountants probably used losses on the sale or write-down of assets that Trump purchased with the $900 million in loans to help generate the enormous business loss reported on his 1995 tax return. Whatever minimal financial dexterity and tax savvy is reflected in those moves is theirs, not Trump’s.
Just what we need in our president, a guy whose eyes glaze over when talking about details. In Jim Geraghty's newsletter, he writes,
It’s obvious Donald Trump hasn’t mastered the details of foreign or domestic policy. But what topic area would you expect Trump to know a lot about? What is Trump an expert in?
Those of us who bothered to look had no problem finding a lot of Trump associates who say he’s not merely not a details guy when it comes to government policy; he’s not a details guy in much of anything.

You may not recognize the name “George Ross,” but if I say, “the bald older gentleman with glasses who sat next to Trump on The Apprentice,” I’ll bet you remember him. Here’s his assessment of his longtime friend and boss:
Consider George H. Ross, Mr. Trump’s real-estate lawyer for 30 years, who describes himself as the businessman’s “closest advisor.” In Mr. Ross’s 2006 how-to manual, “Trump-Style Negotiation: Powerful Strategies and Tactics for Mastering Every Deal,” he observes: “To my knowledge, Donald Trump has no negotiating weaknesses except maybe the fact that he doesn’t like to discuss minor details. He lacks the patience to work on unimportant paperwork, because he likes to focus on the big picture as a more productive usage of his time.”

Mr. Ross admires Mr. Trump, but he thinks this indifference is a fairly lethal weakness. Bad negotiators share an “inability to focus on the details,” he explains elsewhere in the book. “Trust me when I say the devil is in the details.” Then he adds: “You want to be the expert on the topic under negotiation” (his italics). Mr. Ross even advises readers who wind up across the negotiating table with “someone who thinks like Donald Trump” to offer to bore his subordinate with the minutiae. “This gives you complete control over the documentation process and who will make the day-to-day decisions. You have uncovered the real deal maker for your transaction—and it’s not the boss.”
Or let’s take a look at Trumped!: The Inside Story of the Real Donald Trump-His Cunning Rise and Spectacular Fall, written at the height of Trump’s financial problems in the early 1990s:

We had discovered during the renovations at Trump Plaza that Donald’s expertise in construction was nowhere near the level his reputation led us to expect. Now the [Trump] Castle’s management was about to learn the same lesson. And his attention span was so limited that it was impossible to discuss problems with him in any detail. Nor did he anticipate them on his own; he never got involved to that degree. . .

Left to his and Ivana’s devices, the suites and the marina met with cost overruns in the tens of millions of dollars. Donald was looking at a final price tag of more than $100 million for the construction and renovations.
Once the construction was underway and it was too late to stop it, he was furious that he had agreed to such exorbitant costs. So he blamed Ivana — “mother***ing” her all the time . . . ‘I can’t believe she’s so f***ing stupid.’”
The difficulties of getting Trump to prepare for the debate seem a lot clearer, hm?
It's a good question. What is Trump an expert in? All he seems to know are the lines and slogans he hears on talk radio. I've often marveled on what Barack Obama doesn't seem to know. Donald Trump would be anything but an improvement in the background knowledge he'd bring to the job.

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Another example of how the Obama administration has twisted and evaded the law to protect Hillary Clinton.
Political operatives within the Obama administration wrongly punished conservative legal group Judicial Watch, stripping it of “media” status and trying to force it to pay higher fees for its open records requests, the General Services Administration inspector general said in a letter released Thursday.

The GSA botched several high-profile open records requests, delaying them for months while political appointees got involved, Inspector General Carol F. Ochoa said. The findings were released while the administration was facing charges of slow-walking open records requests for Hillary Clinton’s emails, as well as other requests.

In the case of Judicial Watch, the order to strip it of media status came from political operatives with long ties to Democratic causes — and even from the White House.

The inspector general said the decision came at the behest of Gregory Mecher, a former Democratic campaign fundraiser who at the time was liaison to the White House. He is married to Jen Psaki, a longtime spokeswoman with the Obama administration and its election campaigns.
Ms. Ochoa said stripping Judicial Watch of media status violated several agency policies and things got worse when the GSA denied an appeal by the group.

The same person who ruled on the initial request also ruled on the appeal, “contrary to GSA procedures,” the inspector general said.
I just taught the Freedom of Information Act in my classes. I've always thought it was something wonderful that the public can get access to our government's records. To see this administration twist the law just to protect Hillary is quite disgusting.

The Trump campaign spin is just laughable. I bet they don't even believe what they're saying.
"Mr. Trump is very good at focusing on debate prep. He is looking forward to the next debate and I think Hillary Clinton is going to have her work cut out for her again. We did well in our last debate," David Bossie, Trump's deputy campaign manager, told reporters in the spin room following the vice presidential debate.

"Donald Trump was effective in the [first] debate," Bossie added. "He is not a career politician and that's really what showed."

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Justice Breyer seems quite taken with the robbery of Kim Kardashian's jewelry.
Supreme CourtJustice Stephen Breyer talked about Kim Kardashian West’s Paris jewelry robbery during oral arguments on a bank fraud case in court Tuesday.

Justice Breyer made the comments early into the oral arguments of Lawrence Eugene Shaw v. United States, in which a California man convicted of stealing more than $300,000 from a Taiwanese businessman’s bank account claims that he didn’t commit bank fraud.

Mr. Shaw wants his conviction overturned because Bank of America was insured and did not lose any money in the scam, the New York Daily News reported.

“Even Kardashian’s thief, if there is one, believes that all that jewelry is insured,” Justice Breyer said. “Indeed over-insured. So it’s not theft?”
The idea that fraud doesn't occur if the victim is insured seems like a really crazy idea.

Does Michelle Obama know whom she's campaigning for?
At a Hillary Clinton campaign rally Tuesday in Charlotte, North Carolina, First Lady Michelle Obama delivered a fiery speech, taking direct aim at Clinton’s opponent, Donald Trump. “We need someone who’s honest and plays by the rules,”
Er, Mrs. Obama, Hillary Clinton is the last person who qualifies as "someone who is honest and plays by the rules."