Tag Archives: donald trump

estate tax and pants on fire

Donald Trump’s pants are on fire when he talks about the estate tax, according to Politifact.

How about small businesses and farms? The center projected that only about 80 small farms and closely held businesses would pay any estate tax in 2017. That would amount to about 1 percent of all payers of the estate tax that year. And the estate tax revenue from small businesses and farms, the center said, would amount to fifteen-hundredths of 1 percent of the total paid under the estate tax in 2017.

So, getting rid of the estate tax would hardly “protect millions of small businesses and the American farmer,” as Trump put it.

Trump’s claim doesn’t hold up even if you account for small businesses and farms that would potentially benefit from elimination down the road. The number from the Tax Policy Center (80) only refers to the number of small businesses and farms that would have to pay the tax this year.

When Donald Trump opens his mouth, all I see is diarrhea coming out. His words mean nothing to me. He has no interest in even trying to find out if the things he is making up are true. Is it possible he thinks they are true because he says them? It is a sad and embarrassing time to be an American.


Today’s German lesson: lugenpresse translates literally as “lying press”, but it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to translate it as “fake news”. In fact, the German version was heard at rallies during the Trump campaign apparently. This is a bit of history on the term from the Washington Post:

A decade later [the 1920s], it had turned into an explosive and stigmatizing propaganda slogan, used to stir hatred against Jews and communists. Critics of Adolf Hitler’s regime were frequently referred to as members of the “Lügenpresse apparatus.”

Until today, the word has an anti-Semitic connotation, and it implies hatred not only against journalists but against everyone who opposes the “will of the people.” That abstract concept emerged during World War II when Hitler sought to propagate the idea that Germans were a “master race” superior to all others, especially Jews and Slavic people.

The consequences of that rhetoric — of which the term “Lügenpresse” was an important component under propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels — were horrifying. Millions of people were killed in concentration camps by the Nazis, including Jews, political opponents and homosexuals.

Trump is ignorant of history at a minimum, and I think he has fascist tendencies. But I am only now beginning to think he is using actual, thinly-veiled Nazi-inspired propaganda. It’s evil.


not the Cuban Missile Crisis

Sheldon Stern, who was a historian at the JFK library for 23 years, points out that JFK stood up to his military leaders who were hell-bent on a full-scale invasion of Cuba, while today we are hoping that our military leaders might stand up to a President’s reckless decision to unleash the military and risk nuclear war.

It is all but impossible to imagine this kind of informed, rational and mature leadership coming from the Oval Office today. If discretion and common sense are to prevail, it will require, as noted above, turning the central dynamic of the Cuban missile crisis upside down; this time, the top military figures in the administration may be forced to try to short-circuit an impulsive over-reaction by their commander-in-chief. Today, fortunately, most senior military officers are vastly more politically sophisticated and historically educated than their 1962 counterparts (who received most of their formal military education before the advent of nuclear weapons). Indeed, Mattis has edited an important book about American views of our military and McMaster is the author of a highly-regarded study of the failure of civilian and military leadership to prevent the escalation of the Vietnam War. There is room for hope.

I too hope that cooler heads will prevail, and if the coolest heads are in the military at the moment I am behind them. But if the coolest heads are the military, it is a sign that the civilian leadership has completely failed. I am not confident that it will get us out of trouble this time, and even if it does it is a scary precedent for the future. Basically we are saying it is okay for the military to step in and take over in an emergency. Nothing in our constitution is supposed to allow that, and for it to happen the President has to be extraordinarily weak and the entire rest of the civilian government has to stand by and do absolutely nothing.

National Climate Assessment – censored?

13 U.S. agencies, including NOAA, NASA and EPA, are required to produce a National Climate Assessment every four years. The thing about bureaucracy, which is sometimes good and sometimes bad, is that it grinds on somewhat disconnected from the political process. So the latest National Climate Assessment has been produced. It has to be approved by political appointees in the agencies before it can be officially released, but no matter because the New York Times has posted the key appendix here, called the U.S. Global Change Research Program: Climate Science Special Report. I’ll post a couple excerpts below:

First, a bit of the up-front matter:

The findings in this report are based on a large body of scientific, peer-reviewed research, as well as a number of other publicly available sources, including well-established and carefully evaluated observational and modeling datasets. The team of authors carefully reviewed these sources to ensure a reliable assessment of the state of scientific understanding. Each source of information was determined to meet the four parts of the IQA Guidance provided to authors: 1) utility, 2) transparency and traceability, 3) objectivity, and 4) integrity and security. Report authors assessed and synthesized information from peer-reviewed journal articles, technical reports produced by federal agencies, scientific assessments (such as IPCC 2013), reports of the National Academy of Sciences and its associated National Research Council, and various regional climate impact assessments, conference proceedings, and government statistics (such as population census and energy usage).

“Fake news published by the failing New York Times”, indeed! I vowed never to forgive the New York Times for their role in the Iraq invasion debacle, but they are beginning to redeem themselves. The Trump junta seems to be getting frustrated that their Goebbels-esque propaganda isn’t just getting parrotted unopposed.

And now, I’ll just share this graphic which I found a bit shocking:


One interesting thing is you might think Florida or Georgia might be the wrong place to be, but these maps suggest they may not change as much and the rest of the country will sort of catch up to create one big Jurassic stew. Now, people live in hotter places than Florida and Georgia and manage to get along just fine. The real question is whether we can grow food under these conditions.

If you don’t believe me that this is disconnected from the political process, read this Guardian article about how the USDA has been instructed to avoid the term climate change. That is the agency responsible for our nation’s food security.

Staff at the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) have been told to avoid using the term climate change in their work, with the officials instructed to reference “weather extremes” instead…

The primary cause of human-driven climate change is also targeted, with the term “reduce greenhouse gases” blacklisted in favor of “build soil organic matter, increase nutrient use efficiency”. Meanwhile, “sequester carbon” is ruled out and replaced by “build soil organic matter”.

Reading on, I have to say it isn’t clear how high up the political chain this directive came from, or whether it is a mid-level supervisor advising staff how to stay out of political trouble. Self-censorship is still censorship though, and indicates the politicians have created a climate (no pun intended) of caution and fear for scientists. I can’t argue with building organic matter though, which would be good with or without climate change.

a “soft military coup” for the U.S.?

This New Republic article is clearly very partisan. But it points out some concerns about three active or very recently retired generals being given unprecedented power over our country.

His complete failure to grow into the job has allowed multiple power centers to emerge and vie for ascendency within the administration. It has impelled other institutional actors to essentially expropriate from Trump governing tasks that should be his exclusively. In some cases, as when he gave military leaders a free hand in fighting terrorism, he has willingly parted with these obligations. In others, as when Congress wrested discretion over Russian sanctions away from him, he has been layered over reluctantly.

But the most alarming development is the one that ironically has official Washington the most relieved: the emergence of a trio of military officers (two retired, one actively serving) as de facto caretakers of the presidency.

It is perfectly consistent to say that the growing clout of generals John Kelly (the White House chief of staff), H.R. McMaster (the national security advisor), and Jim Mattis (the defense secretary) is preferable to an alternative in which Trump shambles through his presidency unencumbered, but also dangerous in its own right, and evidence of serious institutional failure. The hope is apparently to keep Trump’s administration within certain guardrails, so that if and when it fails, he doesn’t take the country and the world off the road with him.

If there is some kind of international crisis, I think I feel more comfortable with these guys making decisions than Trump. But I don’t like the idea that we have the military in charge rather than the civilian leadership, because they are very likely to come up with military solutions to problems. I always thought Trump would be lazy and delegate a lot of his job to subordinates, but this has taken a disturbing turn. It seems unlikely that Trump would be removed from office by Congress in the next four years, so at the moment I am hoping to avoid any major geopolitical crises through luck, and that someone will convince him not to run for reelection.

America’s worst President: “does that sound familiar?”

My vote has always been for Andrew Jackson, for two reasons. First, he destabilized the financial system, ushering in a century of unnecessary chaos. Second, he mounted a truly evil genocidal campaign against ethnic minorities. To quote Donald Trump (just slightly out of context), “does that sound familiar?”

By the way, I put Truman second for dropping the bomb. Then Lyndon Johnson, for the blood on his hands in Vietnam. I would put George W. Bush in the top 5 or so for starting two aggressive, unnecessary wars and destabilizing an entire region of the globe. If Trump manages to destroy our health care system and set climate change mitigation back by a decade, he may deserve a top 5. If there is a major war or nuclear detonation on his watch, he may still earn that #1 spot.

my election prediction

I have a little election prediction spreadsheet. It takes the poll averages for swing states as reported by RealClearPolitics, generates a random number for each with a 4% standard deviation, and runs 1,000 trials in about 10 seconds. Go to Nate Silver or other online sites for a much more professional and sophisticated approach. I do this just for fun and to help me understand how the system works. So without further ado, here is how I think Tuesday night might unfold. The poll closing times are the earliest closing times in a given state according to ballotpedia, so you would expect some numbers to start tricking in at that point. I’m writing Sunday around noon, just in case there is some big development between now and Tuesday.

Based on RealClearPolitics, if both candidates win the states they lead in right now, Hillary would win with 298 electoral votes to 240 for Trump. Nate Silver predicts 290-247, and puts the odds at 65-35. Betfair puts it at 323-215 and the odds at 80-20. My spreadsheet comes up with an electoral college average of 295-243 and odds of 85-15.

Here is one way the evening could unfold to get in the ballpark:

First, I assume Clinton and Trump have both won all the states considered relatively safe by RealClearPolitics. This means Hillary starts off with 218 and Trump with 165. Seems unfair, doesn’t it? But these are the demographics, and why the breathless media coverage of swing states is a bit misleading. If Trump is leading half the swing states on a given day, that doesn’t mean the race is anywhere near tied.

7:00 p.m. EST

  • Results start to trickle in from Florida, Georgia, Virginia and New Hampshire.
  • The night starts off with a bang for Clinton with wins in Florida and Virginia.
  • Trump gets Georgia and New Hampshire.
  • Clinton leads 247-185.

7:30 p.m. EST

  • North Carolina and Ohio
  • I’ll throw both to Trump.
  • 247-218. Getting slightly interesting.

8:00 p.m. EST

  • Pennsylvania and Michigan
  • I don’t think Trump has a realistic shot at either. They go to Clinton.
  • 283-218. It’s over!

9:00 p.m. EST

  • They split Arizona (Trum) and Colorado (Clinton).
  • 292-229

10:00 p.m. EST

  • Iowa and Nevada
  • I’ll throw both to Trump. I’ll also throw him New Mexico to look like slightly less of a loser.
  • 292-246

This is what I expect to happen. Of course, the votes get counted slowly, and we can pretend there is some suspense as they are counting votes in states that are not expected to be close. Still, I think we might all be in bed at 10 p.m. on the east coast knowing who the next President. And this is what I want to happen. Although I would enjoy some suspense on some level, rationally I know it is better not to live in interesting times.

For Trump to win, a lot of unlikely things have to fall into place, but here is a plausible scenario: Trump starts the night with a huge bang, winning Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, New Hampshire, and Ohio. Clinton gets Virginia. Trump would be up 252-218. By the way, I gave Clinton New Mexico to start off this time. Clinton wins Pennsylvania and Michigan, going up 254-252. They split Arizona and Colorado (263-263!). Trump gets Iowa and goes up 269-263. It comes down to Nevada. Right now it looks like Nevada is reasonably solid for Clinton, so it comes down to a 269-269 tie. The House of Representatives casts the deciding vote, picking Trump for President. The National Guard is deployed in some states to ensure order.

So Florida is a big deal, obviously. We knew that.

debating Trump

I don’t make a point of reading the National Review, but sometimes I do so I know what they are saying. Most of this is ridiculous, like a suggestion that Trump will get the minority vote because minorities are on welfare and they are afraid illegal immigrants will get their welfare. That’s just lies, racism, and nonsense. But I did think the article made some points about how and why it is hard to debate someone like Trump.

it is suicidal to descend into the muck to battle Trump. Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz all tried and failed, despite the fact that they had every moral justification in hitting back in like kind. Elizabeth Warren is trying to be an anti-Trump street-fighter; but her incoherent venom suggests that Harvard Law professors should stick to academic jousting in the faculty lounge. Brawlers know the rules of the street far better than establishmentarians. The Senate is not The Apprentice, and politics is not New York real estate. Ask the trash-talking Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg if she came out on top in dueling with Trump — or whether she virtually destroyed a quarter-century’s reputation in minutes and ended up no better than an elderly version of Rosie O’Donnell in a Supreme Court Justice costume. Hillary is stepping up her crude attacks on Trump. But as in the past, such hits are more likely to make the Trump mode suddenly seem normal, and to make Trump a target of those who claim they are more sober and judicious but in extremis prove no more measured than Trump himself.

Stoop to Trump’s level and you are trying to beat him at his own game, and he will shred you. Refuse to engage him and you might look weak or scared. That leaves trying to challenge his facts and logic and lack of coherence from one speech to the next. Clearly his supporters don’t care about any of these things, but maybe some swing voters are capable of logic. We will find out.