Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Herr Professor Trumpf Probably Never Heard Of Hayek, But I'm Sure Paul Ryan Will Try Explaining His Neoliberal Doctrine To Him


Ryan and his horde of congressional zombies have discovered hash tags and can't get enough of #BetterWay which is nothing more than a package of failed reactionary austerity plans that would utterly destroy the lives of working families. To Paul Ryan, whose intellectual development stopped in junior high school when he read his first Ayn Rand novela, #BetterWay is also the excuse for his support for as unqualified and dangerous a presidential candidate as Donald J. Trump. "He'll sign our legislation," he promises others interested in his goals for continuing the catastrophic neoliberal agenda Ryan has built his sorry career around.

George Monbiot, writing in Friday's Guardian asked a crucial question the neoliberal disaster for working families, namely, why the left has been so ineffective in fighting it. In fact, he says, the left hasn't even bothered to define what it is and what dangers are lurking behind it. "It has," he offered, "played a major role in a remarkable variety of crises: the financial meltdown of 2007‑8, the offshoring of wealth and power, of which the Panama Papers offer us merely a glimpse, the slow collapse of public health and education, resurgent child poverty, the epidemic of loneliness, the collapse of ecosystems, the rise of Donald Trump. But we respond to these crises as if they emerge in isolation, apparently unaware that they have all been either catalysed or exacerbated by the same coherent philosophy; a philosophy that has-- or had-- a name. What greater power can there be than to operate namelessly?" See how much Paul Ryan you recognize in this description:
Neoliberalism sees competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. It redefines citizens as consumers, whose democratic choices are best exercised by buying and selling, a process that rewards merit and punishes inefficiency. It maintains that “the market” delivers benefits that could never be achieved by planning.

Attempts to limit competition are treated as inimical to liberty. Tax and regulation should be minimised, public services should be privatised. The organisation of labour and collective bargaining by trade unions are portrayed as market distortions that impede the formation of a natural hierarchy of winners and losers. Inequality is recast as virtuous: a reward for utility and a generator of wealth, which trickles down to enrich everyone. Efforts to create a more equal society are both counterproductive and morally corrosive. The market ensures that everyone gets what they deserve.

We internalise and reproduce its creeds. The rich persuade themselves that they acquired their wealth through merit, ignoring the advantages-- such as education, inheritance and class-- that may have helped to secure it. The poor begin to blame themselves for their failures, even when they can do little to change their circumstances.

Never mind structural unemployment: if you don’t have a job it’s because you are unenterprising. Never mind the impossible costs of housing: if your credit card is maxed out, you’re feckless and improvident. Never mind that your children no longer have a school playing field: if they get fat, it’s your fault. In a world governed by competition, those who fall behind become defined and self-defined as losers.

...The term neoliberalism was coined at a meeting in Paris in 1938. Among the delegates were two men who came to define the ideology, Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek. Both exiles from Austria, they saw social democracy, exemplified by Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and the gradual development of Britain’s welfare state, as manifestations of a collectivism that occupied the same spectrum as nazism and communism.

In The Road to Serfdom, published in 1944, Hayek argued that government planning, by crushing individualism, would lead inexorably to totalitarian control. Like Mises’s book Bureaucracy, The Road to Serfdom was widely read. It came to the attention of some very wealthy people, who saw in the philosophy an opportunity to free themselves from regulation and tax. When, in 1947, Hayek founded the first organisation that would spread the doctrine of neoliberalism-- the Mont Pelerin Society-- it was supported financially by millionaires and their foundations.

With their help, he began to create what Daniel Stedman Jones describes in Masters of the Universe as “a kind of neoliberal international”: a transatlantic network of academics, businessmen, journalists and activists. The movement’s rich backers funded a series of thinktanks which would refine and promote the ideology. Among them were the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, the Institute of Economic Affairs, the Centre for Policy Studies and the Adam Smith Institute. They also financed academic positions and departments, particularly at the universities of Chicago and Virginia.

As it evolved, neoliberalism became more strident. Hayek’s view that governments should regulate competition to prevent monopolies from forming gave way-- among American apostles such as Milton Friedman-- to the belief that monopoly power could be seen as a reward for efficiency.

...[I]n the 1970s, when Keynesian policies began to fall apart and economic crises struck on both sides of the Atlantic, neoliberal ideas began to enter the mainstream. As Friedman remarked, “when the time came that you had to change ... there was an alternative ready there to be picked up.” With the help of sympathetic journalists and political advisers, elements of neoliberalism, especially its prescriptions for monetary policy, were adopted by Jimmy Carter’s administration in the US and Jim Callaghan’s government in Britain.

After Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan took power, the rest of the package soon followed: massive tax cuts for the rich, the crushing of trade unions, deregulation, privatisation, outsourcing and competition in public services. Through the IMF, the World Bank, the Maastricht treaty and the World Trade Organisation, neoliberal policies were imposed-- often without democratic consent-- on much of the world. Most remarkable was its adoption among parties that once belonged to the left: Labour and the Democrats, for example. As Stedman Jones notes, “it is hard to think of another utopia to have been as fully realised.”

It may seem strange that a doctrine promising choice and freedom should have been promoted with the slogan “there is no alternative.” But, as Hayek remarked on a visit to Pinochet’s Chile-- one of the first nations in which the programme was comprehensively applied-- “my personal preference leans toward a liberal dictatorship rather than toward a democratic government devoid of liberalism.” The freedom that neoliberalism offers, which sounds so beguiling when expressed in general terms, turns out to mean freedom for the pike, not for the minnows.

Freedom from trade unions and collective bargaining means the freedom to suppress wages. Freedom from regulation means the freedom to poison rivers, endanger workers, charge iniquitous rates of interest and design exotic financial instruments. Freedom from tax means freedom from the distribution of wealth that lifts people out of poverty.

As Naomi Klein documents in The Shock Doctrine, neoliberal theorists advocated the use of crises to impose unpopular policies while people were distracted: for example, in the aftermath of Pinochet’s coup, the Iraq war and Hurricane Katrina, which Friedman described as “an opportunity to radically reform the educational system” in New Orleans.

Where neoliberal policies cannot be imposed domestically, they are imposed internationally, through trade treaties incorporating “investor-state dispute settlement”: offshore tribunals in which corporations can press for the removal of social and environmental protections. When parliaments have voted to restrict sales of cigarettes, protect water supplies from mining companies, freeze energy bills or prevent pharmaceutical firms from ripping off the state, corporations have sued, often successfully. Democracy is reduced to theatre.

Another paradox of neoliberalism is that universal competition relies upon universal quantification and comparison. The result is that workers, job-seekers and public services of every kind are subject to a pettifogging, stifling regime of assessment and monitoring, designed to identify the winners and punish the losers. The doctrine that Von Mises proposed would free us from the bureaucratic nightmare of central planning has instead created one.

Neoliberalism was not conceived as a self-serving racket, but it rapidly became one. Economic growth has been markedly slower in the neoliberal era (since 1980 in Britain and the US) than it was in the preceding decades; but not for the very rich. Inequality in the distribution of both income and wealth, after 60 years of decline, rose rapidly in this era, due to the smashing of trade unions, tax reductions, rising rents, privatisation and deregulation.

The privatisation or marketisation of public services such as energy, water, trains, health, education, roads and prisons has enabled corporations to set up tollbooths in front of essential assets and charge rent, either to citizens or to government, for their use. Rent is another term for unearned income. When you pay an inflated price for a train ticket, only part of the fare compensates the operators for the money they spend on fuel, wages, rolling stock and other outlays. The rest reflects the fact that they have you over a barrel.

Those who own and run the UK’s privatised or semi-privatised services make stupendous fortunes by investing little and charging much. In Russia and India, oligarchs acquired state assets through firesales. In Mexico, Carlos Slim was granted control of almost all landline and mobile phone services and soon became the world’s richest man.

Financialisation, as Andrew Sayer notes in Why We Can’t Afford the Rich, has had a similar impact. “Like rent,” he argues, “interest is ... unearned income that accrues without any effort.” As the poor become poorer and the rich become richer, the rich acquire increasing control over another crucial asset: money. Interest payments, overwhelmingly, are a transfer of money from the poor to the rich. As property prices and the withdrawal of state funding load people with debt (think of the switch from student grants to student loans), the banks and their executives clean up.

Sayer argues that the past four decades have been characterised by a transfer of wealth not only from the poor to the rich, but within the ranks of the wealthy: from those who make their money by producing new goods or services to those who make their money by controlling existing assets and harvesting rent, interest or capital gains. Earned income has been supplanted by unearned income.

Neoliberal policies are everywhere beset by market failures. Not only are the banks too big to fail, but so are the corporations now charged with delivering public services. As Tony Judt pointed out in Ill Fares the Land, Hayek forgot that vital national services cannot be allowed to collapse, which means that competition cannot run its course. Business takes the profits, the state keeps the risk.

The greater the failure, the more extreme the ideology becomes. Governments use neoliberal crises as both excuse and opportunity to cut taxes, privatise remaining public services, rip holes in the social safety net, deregulate corporations and re-regulate citizens. The self-hating state now sinks its teeth into every organ of the public sector.

Perhaps the most dangerous impact of neoliberalism is not the economic crises it has caused, but the political crisis. As the domain of the state is reduced, our ability to change the course of our lives through voting also contracts. Instead, neoliberal theory asserts, people can exercise choice through spending. But some have more to spend than others: in the great consumer or shareholder democracy, votes are not equally distributed. The result is a disempowerment of the poor and middle. As parties of the right and former left adopt similar neoliberal policies, disempowerment turns to disenfranchisement. Large numbers of people have been shed from politics.

Chris Hedges remarks that “fascist movements build their base not from the politically active but the politically inactive, the ‘losers’ who feel, often correctly, they have no voice or role to play in the political establishment.” When political debate no longer speaks to us, people become responsive instead to slogans, symbols and sensation. To the admirers of Trump, for example, facts and arguments appear irrelevant.

Judt explained that when the thick mesh of interactions between people and the state has been reduced to nothing but authority and obedience, the only remaining force that binds us is state power. The totalitarianism Hayek feared is more likely to emerge when governments, having lost the moral authority that arises from the delivery of public services, are reduced to “cajoling, threatening and ultimately coercing people to obey them.”

Like communism, neoliberalism is the God that failed. But the zombie doctrine staggers on, and one of the reasons is its anonymity... [W]hen neoliberalism fell apart in 2008 there was ... nothing. This is why the zombie walks. The left and centre have produced no new general framework of economic thought for 80 years.

A cohesive and compelling alternative isn't likely to be coming from Pelosi (let alone her "ideas and messaging man," Blue Dog Steve Israel). In fact, the New Dems and Blue Dogs are the embodiment, as much as Republican hacks like Paul Ryan, of neoLiberalism. Is there a solution? It has nothing to do with the DCCC or the corrupted and sclerotic Democratic Party establishment. But it has everything in the world to do with the next generation of Democratic leaders, from Ted Lieu, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Alan Grayson and Barbara Lee to Zephyr Teachout, Pramila Jayapal, Bao Nguyen and Jamie Raskin.

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Monday, September 26, 2016

The Hell With Fact Checkers, The Debates Should Feature A Panel Of Psychiatrists


Many in the media prepared for today's debate by doing features on how much Trump lies. People who have been paying attention for the last year-- or who have been aware of him outside of the political realm-- have long realized that virtually nothing he says is true. Before tonight, PolitiFact had investigated 259 statements he's made and found just 11 true (4%). 70% of his statements are false (and that leaves out another 15% that are half false). Look at the headline of yesterday's L.A. Times. They reported that "never in modern presidential politics has a major candidate made false statements as routinely as Trump has. Over and over, independent researchers have examined what the Republican nominee says and concluded it was not the truth-- but “pants on fire” (PolitiFact) or “four Pinocchios” (Washington Post Fact Checker). [T]he scope of Trump’s falsehoods is unprecedented, and he is dogged in refusing to stop saying things once they are proved untrue... Trump’s pattern of saying things that are provably false has no doubt contributed to his high unfavorable ratings. It also has forced journalists to grapple with how aggressive they should be in correcting candidates’ inaccurate statements, particularly in the presidential debates that start Monday.

Thomas E. Mann, a resident scholar at UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies, said Trump appears to recognize that a faction of the Republican Party has lost respect for facts, evidence and science... “He’s a salesman,” Mann said. “He’s a con man. He’s hustled people out of money that they’re owed. He’s lived off tax shelters. He’s always looking for a scheme and a con, and in that sphere, you just fall into telling lies as a matter of course.”

...Marty Kaplan, a professor of entertainment, media and society at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, has two theories on Trump’s falsehoods.

Perhaps he’s just putting on  an act, like P.T. Barnum-- a “marketer, con, snake-oil salesman who knows better, knows how to get the rubes into the tent.” Or maybe, Kaplan suggested, Trump is just “completely unconstrained by logic, rules, tradition, truth, law.”

“I’m confused,” he said, “whether the whole fact-free zone that he’s in is a strategic calculation or a kind of psychosis.”

Over the weekend, Maggie Haberman and Alexander Burns compiled a list of easily refutable whoppers Trump told-- just last week! Newspaper editorials are piling up against him; virtually all of them mention he's a compulsive liar when explaining why he's patently unfit for office. So what can we expect tomorrow? How many lies will Trump tell per question? His campaign has been screaming all week that fact-checking is unfair. There's an implicit threat he could walk out if a moderator points out that he's lying.

On Sunday, Politico published a lengthy post fact-checking both candidates for a week. The headline: Donald Trump's Week Of Misrepresentations, Exaggerations And Half-Truths. At this point, his supporters are relieved when it's half-truths.
We subjected every statement made by both the Republican and Democratic candidates – in speeches, in interviews and on Twitter – to our magazine’s rigorous fact-checking process. The conclusion is inescapable: Trump’s mishandling of facts and propensity for exaggeration so greatly exceed Clinton’s as to make the comparison almost ludicrous.

Though few statements match the audacity of his statement about his role in questioning Obama’s citizenship, Trump has built a cottage industry around stretching the truth. According to Politico’s five-day analysis Trump averaged about one falsehood every three minutes and 15 seconds over nearly five hours of remarks.
But what the media doesn't do is attempt to assert a motivation or any kind of real analysis about why Trump seems incapable of being truthful. Lists of his lies are completely passé this late in the campaign. We all know he lies every time he opens his mouth. Who will be the first to explain why? Politico's silly attempt-- "he simply talks more"-- comes off more like an excuse than an analysis.

I did enjoy how Politico ended their deep look into his lies though, making it more about what the American conservative movement has turned into, than just another instance of Trump making crap up:
87. “I certainly don't think you want Candy Crowley again. ... She turned out to be wrong.” (Sept. 22, Fox and Friends interview)

Trump was referring to a dramatic moment in Candy Crowley’s moderating of the second presidential debate in 2012. President Obama said he called the Benghazi attack an act of terror the day afterward in the Rose Garden, and Mitt Romney claimed he hadn’t used the word for 14 days. “Get the transcript,” Obama said, and Crowley interjected that he was correct and Romney was mistaken. Conservatives criticized Crowley for interfering, but her live fact-check was accurate. “No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation,” Obama said on Sept. 12 in the Rose Garden.
Of course when your news universe is reading Breibart, listening to Limbaugh and watching Fox... you're in an alternative universe anyway. It looks, at this point-- at least according to the latest polling-- that half the country is now unmoored from objective reality.

These sum up the debate in two pictures. Is Trump's candidacy going to survive tonight? And now we don't just need his tax returns released; we need to see a drug test.

Trump is trying to blame his miserable performance on a defective mic. Maybe someone cut his coke with some rotgut amphetamine sulfate

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Sssshhhhh... The Debate is Starting


Samantha Bee wasn't nice to Matt Lauer in her assessment of the pre-debate thing they had a week or so ago. That's cause he sucked. Lester Holt, we're assured, is supposed to be better. We'll see in a few minutes. Ever hear of Pollfish? They're a real-time mobile survey platform and they did a flash poll yesterday (400 Americans) showing that over 30% of Americans are opting to avoid the political drama to enjoy their watching their favorite TV shows or Monday night football. And although more than have the respondents said they thought Trump would be more likely to attack Hillary than Hillary would be to attack Trump, most respondents expect that issue-by-issue Hillary will win tonight.

This morning, writing for Trump's son-in-law's paper, the New York Observer Matt Mackowiak. laid out laid out how Trump can "win" tonight: "all Trump has to do is perform above basement-level expectations... In a change year," he wrote, "Trump is the change candidate. Clinton is a lot of things, but she is not a change agent after eight years of Obama.The question for voters, particularly swing voters in battleground states, is whether Trump offers too much change. They need to know if he is an unacceptable risk." More Samantha Bee, since she seems to be able to explain just why some voters--many?-- don't already know how unacceptable Trump is:

Mackowiak included a little conventional wisdom on Trumpist short-comings-- "Trump can win this debate by not losing it. This will require discipline, self-control, patience, and calm. These are not his natural strengths. Serious, thoughtful debate prep would have benefitted him, but he appears to have been wholly unwilling to commit to it. This may prove to be a politically fatal error." But he went to town on the media's sexist expectational set-up of Hillary:
Trump likes to call himself a counterpuncher. But not every jab needs to be countered. I expect Hillary to jab and uppercut constantly. Her team appears to believe the only way she can win the debate is by invalidating Trump as a legitimate choice.

This approach has risks: She may appear too negative, too harsh, too shrill or too unlikeable. Likability is a real factor in how viewers evaluate debates. Emotions, nonverbal communications, posture, and facial gestures all play a role in how a candidate is perceived in the television era.

...Hillary must finally address legitimate questions of honesty and ethics. Will she directly, clearly, and honestly answer questions about her private email server-- why it was created, what were the risks it posed to national security, and why she deleted 33,000 emails. Will she answer allegations about selling access and favors at the State Department to wealthy Clinton Foundation donors? Will she demonstrate, over 90 minutes with no commercials, that she has the strength and stamina to be president, and finally put health questions behind her?

These are the issues she needs to put behind her to pull away from Trump.
Nate Silver's operation wanted to remind everyone before the debate starts that "eight out of 10 times, the non-incumbent party’s candidate-- that’s Trump this year-- gained in the polls after the first debate. That includes each of the last five times. There are various theories to explain this. Some people think, for instance, incumbent presidents do poorly in first debates because they’ve had four years to grow unaccustomed to being challenged so directly, or that the challenger benefits simply by being on an equal playing field with the sitting president. Those theories don’t apply this year. That said, there are other reasons to think Trump has more to gain. He is currently winning a lower percentage of self-identified Republicans than Clinton is getting Democrats, so perhaps he has more lower-hanging fruit than Clinton: More Republican voters may come home after seeing both Clinton and Trump in action." And that, historically (pre-social media), "first debates haven’t moved the polls all that much."

The Atlantic's brief interview with anthropologist Jane Goodall might be worth reading again before Trump and Hillary start duking it out. She watched his primary debates and told Fallows that "In many ways the performances of Donald Trump remind me of male chimpanzees and their dominance rituals." (Fallows suggests, "I’d start by thinking of him as a monkey with a machine gun.")

“In order to impress rivals, males seeking to rise in the dominance hierarchy perform spectacular displays: stamping, slapping the ground, dragging branches, throwing rocks. The more vigorous and imaginative the display, the faster the individual is likely to rise in the hierarchy, and the longer he is likely to maintain that position.”

In her book My Life With the Chimpanzees, Goodall told the story of “Mike,” a chimp who maintained his dominance by kicking a series of kerosene cans ahead of him as he moved down a road, creating confusion and noise that made his rivals flee and cower. She told me she would be thinking of Mike as she watched the upcoming debates.

For his article, Fallows spoke with experts who had some debate advice for Hillary:
Stuart Stevens, who prepared Mitt Romney to dominate Barack Obama in their first 2012 debate, said that she should launch the direct attack that Trump’s primary opponents were too slow to use. “He is a ridiculous person who doesn’t know anything, which she can expose,” he told me. “She can say, ‘Mr. Trump says he supports the Bill of Rights-- by the way, how many are there? He represents the party of Lincoln. By the way, when did he serve?’ You have to go right in there and demonstrate the utter ridiculousness of everything he says.”

Samuel L. Popkin, a political scientist at UC San Diego who has been part of the debate-prep team for many Democratic politicians, recommended a version of what Chris Matthews did with his abortion questions. “She can ask him about his policy of renegotiating the national debt,” he told me. “Then she comes right back, boom, ‘If you say that as president, you’ve just caused a worldwide stock-market crash.’ She doesn’t want to bog down into details. But she can show the specific, crucial details that pull everything else down.”

Most people I spoke with recommended a picador-like mocking approach, designed not to confront Trump directly but to cumulatively provoke him into an outburst. About his physical endowments, he is not so much thin-skinned as skinless, as Marco Rubio demonstrated-- but no one I spoke with thought this a wise path for Clinton to follow. Instead she could mock him on his other point of greatest sensitivity: that he may be a fake billionaire and phony business success. From history’s perspective, the most damaging moment for Trump from the Democratic convention was when Khizr Khan spoke about the death of his son, Captain Humayun Khan. For Trump himself, I would imagine it was the moment when Michael Bloomberg, unquestionably richer than he is, said, “I’m a New Yorker, and New Yorkers know a con when we see one.” When Comedy Central hosted a roast of Trump five years ago, he didn’t seem to object to jokes about his hair, about his weight, even about his lecherous remarks regarding his daughter Ivanka. The one subject he nixed, according to Aaron Lee, a writer for the roast, was “any joke that suggests Trump is not actually as wealthy as he claims to be.” So this is a scab Hillary Clinton should deftly pick.

watching for this tonight?

Donald Trump will almost certainly insult her directly, about her own crookedness and about the sins of her husband. This was the heart of his strategy during the primary debates-- “I call him ‘Little Marco’ ”; “More energy tonight. I like that” to Bush-- and is his instinct. She will answer those quickly and firmly-- “My husband and I have been through a lot, as the world well knows. But after 41 years, we are still together”-- and then move back to whatever policy point she wants to make. One way to describe this strategy is Martin O’Malley’s. “She has to be direct and tough right back to him, but then quickly pivot to what matters for the country,” he said. “It’s not enough just to disqualify this guy, since he’s survived remarks that in other times have been automatically disqualifying. She also needs to say what the election is about.”

Another way to describe this strategy is to use a phrase from Michelle Obama’s convention speech: When they go low, we go high.

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Gerrymandering Creates Corrine Browns, Debbie Wasserman Schultzes and Robert Pittengers


Corrine Brown-- a two-and-half decade win-win for the Florida Republicans

Just a tad over two years ago, we looked at 24 year congressional veteran Corrine Brown' and her grotesquely gerrymandered district. I described FL-05 as one that "twists and turns down from the African American neighborhoods of Jacksonville-- that aren't even contiguous-- along a narrow strip a mile or two wide along Rt 17 (which then disappears into Ted Yoho's district and through some sparsely populated rural areas until finally finding Palatka in the east and African-American neighborhoods of Gainesville in the west before chugging down into Sanford and Pine Hills in the Orlando metropolitan area." Much like Wasserman Schultz did, Brown used her position in the state legislature to work with the Republicans to create a seat that served her own purposes-- never having to worry about being defeated-- as well as theirs-- getting thousands and thousands of black Democrats out of neighboring districts that would be safer for Republicans.
Obama won the district both times with 73%. With a PVI of D+21 this district defines "safe." Republicans have trouble winning R+1 districts and they don't try-- not ever, not anywhere, when a district is D+6 or above. Brown is screaming and threatening to go to the Supreme Court because Judge Terry Lewis ordered the legislature to remove Sanford from her district, which might take her down from a D+21 to a D+19, depending on other factors. Republicans didn't bother running candidates against her in 2004, 2006 and 2008 and last year, when there was a Republican running with no support (and a campaign war chest of $19,941 against Brown's $613,190), Brown won with 71%. "We will go all the way to the United States Supreme Court," she thundered, "dealing with making sure that African Americans are not disenfranchised."

Give me a break. Instead of making deals with Republicans in states to create marginally red districts by agreeing to have ethnically-cleansed districts, Democrats like Brown could spread around some of her Democratic voters, still keep a deep blue district that she would never lose, and help the Democrats defeat John Mica, Dan Webster and Ron DeSantis. Marcia Fudge should know better, even if Corrine Brown can't see beyond her own careerism.
Since then, a court ruling forced her district into more rational boundaries-- east/west from Jacksonville to Tallahassee, instead of north/south, still safely Democratic and very friendly territory for an African-American Representative... except not Brown. Facing 24 criminal charges related to swindling people with a charity/personal slush fund-- not on a Trumpian level, but bad enough-- she was soundly defeated by conservaDem Al Lawson in her primary, 39,261 (48%) to 32,157 (39%), despite having outspent Lawson $465,720 to $134,206. Yesterday Fusion ran what could be the premise for a powerful film on a corrupt political system: The Rise And Fall Of Corrine Brown and had the insight into subtitling it, "The brash Florida congresswoman’s career begs the question: Do 'majority-minority' districts empower voters of color… or ghettoize them to benefit conservatives?"
Brown’s dramatic rise and fall highlights the dilemmas of “majority-minority” congressional districts-- political boundaries drawn to group voters of color together. On one hand, such districts have increased opportunities for minority representation in the House. On the other hand, they’ve been used by white majorities, primarily Republicans, to increase power in surrounding districts, effectively sidelining minorities so that the GOP can maintain control of Congress.

The recent push to broaden her district’s demographics, Brown said, amounted to racial discrimination. “It is clear that you all think that slavery still exists, and we can just take those slaves and put them in one area and forget about the people who didn’t have representation for 129 years,” she told reporters during the redistricting fight in 2015-- even though putting African Americans in one area was precisely what Brown had helped do in the 90s, and precisely what the new redistricting sought to correct.

But Brown’s power-- and by extension, that of her African-American constituents-- had always been limited by House Republicans; the majority-minority districting that had boosted her for a quarter-century also gave the GOP a lasting majority. Although Florida’s voters were split about 50/50 between Republicans and Democrats in 1992, the GOP took 13 of the 23 House seats in the 1992 cycle, leaving just 10 for Democrats.

Today, the disparity is even starker: There are 17 Florida Republican reps in the House, and still just 10 Democrats. This was very much by design.

The 1990 census showed that Florida’s population had boomed since a decade prior. The state got to add four congressional districts to its representation in Washington. Democrats controlled both chambers of Florida’s state legislature, which was in charge of the redistricting process, but couldn’t agree how to divvy up voters into new districts.

Miguel DeGrandy, a Miami attorney, was a GOP state representative back in 1992. He remembers how his Cuban American caucus of seven Republicans reached out to the black caucus with a very clear message-- and an overture to join forces: “Your community is being shafted. Our community is being shafted."

DeGrandy says that in drawing maps that laid out boundaries of Congressional districts, Democrats-- who had been in power in Tallahassee since Reconstruction-- used black communities by breaking them up into multiple districts and using them to boost electoral chances for white Democratic candidates, a practice known as “cracking.”

“The Democrats had had a patronizing approach,” he says. They assumed blacks would vote Democratic, essentially telling them, “Trust us-- we’ll take care of you.“

Working with the NAACP, DeGrandy became a plaintiff in a lawsuit against Florida, citing the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, which required that minorities have the opportunity to elect candidates of their choice. They argued that the state had an obligation to link together minority communities in districts to harness their collective power.

Federal judges ultimately agreed and created three heavily black “majority-minority” districts-- two in South Florida, plus District 3: a sprawling, horseshoe-shaped zone that stretched hundreds of miles to include historically black neighborhoods in 14 counties, from Jacksonville to Orlando to Gainesville. That one went to Corrine Brown.

The GOP came out looking generous. Jet magazine wrote that the “amazing breakthrough resulted not from any design of liberal Democratic leaders who control more than 90% of the U.S. Black vote, but from the late GOP chairman Lee Atwater, a White South Carolinian, who quarterbacked the new congressional redistricting effort in the South to atone for his past actions.”

Democrats “were caught flat-footed,” DeGrandy says. “They thought it was going to be business as usual. They underestimated our legal resources, our legal strategies. They also underestimated public opinion.”

Political scientists say you can draw a straight line from the growth of “majority-minority” districts to the nearly unbroken Republican stranglehold on Congress. “When a majority-minority district is created, the additional minority voters must be taken from somewhere, and that somewhere is the surrounding districts,” Grant M. Hayden, a voting-rights professor at Southern Methodist University’s law school, wrote in 2004.

This “packing” of minority voters leads to a phenomenon in the outside districts that redistricting experts have called “bleaching”[a]: those polities become whiter and more consistently conservative, or at least competitive for Republicans.

These developments stick progressives with a dilemma, Hayden writes, “by forcing them to choose between additional minority officeholders and additional Democrats, between descriptive representation and substantive representation.”

...[R]edistricting reform could never pass through a safe Republican majority in the state Legislature. So the Fair Districts team put the issue directly in front of Florida voters. In 2010, as the Tea Party wave swept America and Floridians voted in historic numbers for Republicans, they also overwhelmingly-- and a little ironically-- approved two state constitutional amendments barring legislators from drawing up new districts to favor a political party or an incumbent.

Republican critics like DeGrandy argue the hugely popular Fair Districts amendments were a “Democrat-sponsored” agenda, but “they were very intelligent in how they how went through the process.”

Corrine Brown, though, saw the move as a threat to the political livelihood she had built over two and a half decades. From 2011 to 2016, while still in Congress, she fought the Fair Districts plan tooth and nail-- in concert with Republicans and conservative corporate donors, and against the ACLU and civil rights groups. Changing her district would represent a “giant step backward to our state's Jim Crow days,” she argued.

African American rights leaders disagreed. "I like Corrine," Leon Russell, an NAACP leader, told the St. Petersburg Times in 2011, "but I wish she hadn't done this. I don't think you should frustrate the process purely on basis of your self-interest, no matter who you are."

Brown’s legal challenges ultimately came to nothing. In July 2015, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that her gerrymandered district violated the Fair Districts amendments and demanded that it be redrawn. It was converted to a more compact east-west shape that runs from Jacksonville to Tallahassee.

...On her blog, Brown conceded her loss with characteristic feistiness. “We fought a battle with one arm tied behind our backs. You know they’ve been after me for years,” she wrote. “We are a strong people. We’re descendants of people who survived the Middle Passage. We have survived centuries of abuse. We are strong. We are still standing.”
This kind of racial gerrymandering isn't, of course, just about Florida or Corrine Brown or her issues. There 809,958 people living in Charlotte, North Carolina. Almost 300,000 of them are African American. Because their city has been gerrymandered up to serve the interests of career politicians rather than the people who live there, listen to what one of the crackpot racist congressmen, Robert Pittenger (R), representing Charlotte had to say after the murder of a black resident by the police and the ensuing demonstrations:

Charlotte is 45.1% white and 54.9% non-white. But Pittenger has nothing to worry about. North Carolina's racist Republican legislature drew his district to be 73.8% white. Mecklenburg County has just about enough people now (over a million) for 2 congressmen of it's own. Instead it's divvied up among 3 districts, one overwhelmingly minority, the 12th, and two that are safely Republican, the 8th and Pittenger's 9th.

The 12th is very much like Brown's old 5th district in Florida. It twists and turns from Charlotte's urban core through Salisbury and Lexington (with sizable African-American populations) before forking off to the northwest to take in Winston-Salem's black neighborhoods and to the northeast to take in High Point and Greensboro's black neighborhoods. Look at this mess:

Without districts like NC-12, there wouldn't be extremist congressmen like Robert Pittenger, or at least there wouldn't be for more than one term. And by the way, in 2012 Obama won NC-12 with 250,719 votes (79%) to Romney's 66,291 (21%). Pittenger's 9th district gave Romney a comfortable 215,861 votes (56%) to 163,883 (43%) while Richard Hudson's 8th district gave Romney a 178,977 (58%) to 126,065 (41%) win. The 3 districts combined gave Obama 540,027 votes and Romney 461,129 votes.

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First Nations Sign Trans-Continental Treaty to Fight Tar Sands Oil


A sample of pipeline projects affecting Indigenous communities across North America. Graphic courtesy of the Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion (source; click to enlarge)

by Gaius Publius

I consider this momentous. The indigenous peoples of northern North America (called "First Nations" for the obvious reason) — ocean to ocean, in the U.S. and in Canada — have banded together to sign a treaty to oppose the transport of absolutely filthy (literally; there's arsenic in that stuff) tar sands oil from Alberta to any port or refinery.

The reason this is momentous lies beyond the issue of just protecting the environment, which it does, or the climate, which it most certainly also does. A treaty of this magnitude itself is momentous.

Indigenous people are called First Nations because they are, in fact, nations, sovereign peoples, with legal national standing in both countries. Yes, they've been mightily and continuously abused, partly because of their history, partly because of their decimated numbers and living conditions. But it's been more than a century since they've been united in any sense.

This, for example, is the Great Sioux Nation at the time of their first contact with whites in the 1700s:

A history of the Iroquois Confederacy can be found here. Historically though, none of these confederacies, leagues or nations has spanned the continent. Until now. This treaty, trans-continental, cross-border, is the first. And again, it is a treaty between nations.

As I said, monumental in its implications. Via Elizabeth McSheffrey, writing at the Canadian National Observer (my occasional emphasis):
First Nations across North America sign treaty alliance against the oilsands

The thunderous pounding of Indigenous drums echoed in the air on Thursday as more than 50 Indigenous nations across North America rallied together to sign a historic, pan-continental treaty alliance against oilsands expansion in their traditional territory.

The collaboration, formalized at simultaneous ceremonies in Quebec and B.C., aims to block all proposed pipeline, tanker, and rail projects affecting First Nations land and water, including TransCanada's Energy East pipeline, Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain expansion, Enbridge's Line 3 pipeline, and Enbridge Northern Gateway.
About the treaty:
The document, called the Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion, commits its signatories to assist one another when called upon in the battle against oilsands expansion, and to work in partnership to move society towards more sustainable lifestyles. By aligning themselves with other Indigenous nations across Canada and the northern U.S., participants hope to ensure that dangerous projects are not able to "escape" by using alternative routes.

“We have the right and the responsibility to stop these major threats to our lands, our waters and our peoples,” said Kanesatake Grand Chief Serge Simon. “For example, from Quebec, we will work with our First Nation allies in B.C. to make sure that the Kinder Morgan pipeline does not pass, and we know they’ll help us do the same against Energy East.”

It comes not only from a legal and cultural responsibility to protect their land, water, air, and climate from harm, said Grand Chief Derek Nepinak of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, but a desire to safeguard a future for all peoples, Indigenous and non-Indigenous as well.
Of course:
The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers however, Canada's largest oil and gas lobby group, said the Treaty Alliance will not change the way its members do business with Indigenous communities. 
But you expected that. The holders of (destructive) great wealth aren't going to surrender until they're forced to.

The Text of the Treaty

The treaty itself reads as follows:
"Therefore, our Nations hereby join together under the present treaty to officially prohibit and to agree to collectively challenge and resist the use of our respective territories and coasts in connection with the expansion of the production of the Alberta Tar Sands, including for the transport of such expanded production, whether by pipeline, rail or tanker.

"As sovereign Indigenous Nations, we enter this treaty pursuant to our inherent legal authority and responsibility to protect our respective territories from threats to our lands, waters, air and climate, but we do so knowing full well that it is in the best interest of all peoples, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to put a stop to the threat of Tar Sands expansion.

We wish to work in collaboration with all peoples and all governments in building a more equitable and sustainable future, one that will produce healthier and more prosperous communities across Turtle Island and beyond, as well as preserve and protect our peoples’ way of life."
"As sovereign nations, we enter this treaty pursuant to our inherent legal authority to protect our territories from threats to our lands, waters, air and climate..." Iraq invaded Kuwait in part because of Kuwaiti slant-drilling from the Kuwaiti side of the border into Iraqi oil fields. That is, actions on one side of a border that have destructive effects on another side are cause for retaliation, as the Cuban Missile Crisis makes clear.

If an oil pipeline that does not enter First Nations territory, nevertheless endangers water that flows into First Nations territory via nasty (and nearly inevitable) oil spills and pipeline leaks, that's cause for them to be concerned — as nations.

Bottom line — I'm absolutely certain they're serious, which means much added force to the fight, and we should should thank them for that. This escalates the war between the people who suffer in an oil-soaked world and the men and women who extract great wealth from it. It also brings interesting legal implications to the fight, since First Nations are indeed nations, adding even more weight to court cases in which they're likely to be involved.

A day to celebrate, as I see it.


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Christie Still Hasn't Been Arrested... However, Slowly But Surely The Law Is Closing In On Him


Chris Christie isn't on trial yet. But the testimony on the first day, Friday, of the trial of Bridget Kelly, Christie's former deputy chief of staff and of former Port Authority Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni, indicates that Christie-- who has two years left in his term-- will likely face trial and impeachment by the state legislature. Testimony from former Christie crony David Wildstein-- who already pleaded guilty to 2 federal counts of conspiracy as part of a plea deal for his cooperation-- indicates that Christie was the mastermind behind the plot to shut down the George Washington Bridge as an exercise in political retribution against the mayor of Fort Lee.

Wildstein and Christie went to Livingston High School together and both were campaign volunteers for GOP politicians. In 1985, when he was 23, Wildstein, whose family is very wealthy, was elected to Livingston's town council and subsequently served as mayor, where his abrasive style and right-wing extremism ended his electoral aspirations. Afterwards he surreptitiously ran a blog, under the pseudonym Wally Edge, PoliticsNJ.com-- financed by Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner. The blog is widely credited with having helped launch Christie's political career. When he became governor, Christie invented a make-believe, highly paid job at the Port Authority for Wildstein, his second highest-level Port Authority appointment after Bill Baroni (the guy on trial now). Wildstein had no job description but he functioned as Christie's spy and enforcer on the agency. Over the weekend, the Wall Street Journal's trial coverage painted a picture placing Christie at the heart of a corrupt, self-serving system.
At the instruction of Chris Christie, the Port Authority systematically allocated grants, vehicles and steel from the Twin Towers to Democratic elected officials from whom New Jersey’s Republican governor sought endorsements for his 2013 campaign, a former Port Authority official testified Friday.

David Wildstein, a cooperating witness in the trial of two ex-Christie aides accused of creating a traffic jam as political payback, said he had received instruction from the governor’s office to use the “Port Authority goody bag” in this way.

“The Port Authority was asked to play a role in helping the governor’s office secure certain endorsements,” Mr. Wildstein said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Lee Cortes asked who gave this instruction.

“Asked initially by Mr. Stepien,” Mr. Wildstein said, referring to Christie aide Bill Stepien. There were others, he added.

“What others?” Mr. Cortes asked.

“Gov. Christie,” Mr. Wildstein replied.

...While Friday was the first day Mr. Wildstein appeared in court, his presence has loomed throughout the first week of the trial. Defense attorneys, quoting witness interviews, have called Mr. Wildstein “maniacal,” “a miserable prick” and an “asshole,” among other labels. During opening statements, one defense attorney suggested the government had “made a deal with the devil.”

Federal prosecutors have noted that while Mr. Wildstein has lied before, his incentive to tell the truth is strong because prosecutors will write a letter to the judge with a sentencing recommendation.

Mr. Wildstein faces up to 15 years in prison.

In court on Friday, Mr. Wildstein outlined a systematic and organized plan to use Port Authority resources to support Mr. Christie’s re-election bid. The Port Authority provided valuable resources that the governor “wanted to get credit for,” he said.

These resources included steel from the former Twin Towers, flags flown at Ground Zero, World Trade Center tours, vehicles, patronage positions and grants, according to Mr. Wildstein. “The governor’s office was always to be the deliverer of good news,” he added.

In a May 2011 email shown in court, Mr. Wildstein wrote to Ms. Kelly, mentioning the “Port Authority goody bag.”

“I like goody bags!” Ms. Kelly replied. “I appreciate it.”

In his testimony Friday, Mr. Wildstein also discussed his relationship with Mr. Baroni, whom he described as “one of the closest friends I’ve ever had.”

At the Port Authority, Mr. Wildstein, whose title was director of interstate capital projects, functioned as Mr. Baroni’s chief of staff, he said. But because Mr. Baroni liked to be “the good cop,” Mr. Wildstein acted as the bad cop-- “being very aggressive, making sure that things got done,” he said.

The two men primarily represented the interests of New Jersey and Mr. Christie, operating according to what they called “the one constituent rule,” he said. They first discussed this rule in 2010, he said, at a Starbucks in New York City.

“The only person who mattered was Gov. Christie,” Mr. Wildstein said on Friday. “He was the one constituent. If it was good for Gov. Christie it was good for us. If it was not good for Gov. Christie, then it was not good for us.”

Mr. Wildstein’s testimony also offered a window into business practices at the governor’s office and the Port Authority. Mr. Wildstein said numerous people in the governor’s office told him to use his personal email address because such communications were considered “not discoverable” to public-records requests, he said.
So... when will New Jersey's legislature start impeachment proceedings against Christie-- who was already viewed negatively by 68% of New Jersey citizens before the new spate of revelations. According to WNBC one Assembly committee chairman the chances are probably 50-50 that the assembly would pursue impeachment and that "obstruction of justice" would be an obvious charge against Christie.  
The decision on impeachment will be up to Democratic Speaker Vincent Prieto and if he gives the go-ahead, the Assembly Judiciary Committee would begin the process.

It takes a majority of the 80-member Assembly to vote articles of impeachment.

If it passes the Democrat-controlled body [the Dems hold 52 of the 80 seats but many of the assemblymen are controlled by corrupt party bosses close to and in business with Christie], the trial would be in the Senate, where two-thirds of senators would be needed to convict. Although Democrats hold a majority in the Senate, they would need three Republican senators to join them if all Democrats vote to convict.
Friday, the NY Times also broaching the impeachment question, reported that "obstruction of justice means that an individual 'purposely obstructs, impairs or perverts the administration of law or other governmental function or prevents or attempts to prevent a public servant from lawfully performing an official function by means of flight, intimidation, force, violence, or physical interference or obstacle, or by means of any independently unlawful act.' ... [A]n impeachment trial could mean that considerations outside the scope of the focus of this federal trial could be examined, including whether Christie and his administration used quid pro quo governmental incentives to compel more than 60 Democrat elected officials to endorse him; if the scheme of retribution extended beyond Fort Lee’s borders; and whether Christie and his staff lied or withheld evidence in a state taxpayer-funded investigation of the scandal. If Christie were convicted-- an admittedly unlikely political outcome-- it would remove him from office and preclude him from serving in any public office for the state, but such a prohibition would not apply to any potential federal position, including a cabinet post in a potential Trump administration."

Last week, The Observer predicted that the intensifying scandal will make it even harder for the GOP to hold onto the governor's mansion, a laughable understatement. "Short on resources and resigned to campaigning with the shadow of Christie’s record-low approval ratings over its head, the state Republican party’s best hope could be for the governor to step down early. That move would see Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno, who has already announced her bid for the 2017 gubernatorial election, take Christie’s place in the event of Christie’s resignation or a successful impeachment."
Montclair State University political scientist Brigid Harrison said that Guadagno, and Republicans as a whole, will have a tough row to hoe whether Christie stays or goes. She believes there is an outside chance that Democratic lawmakers might pursue impeachment.

“If in fact the governor knew during Bridgegate what was occurring, it certainly could be considered an impeachable offense according to the constitution,” she said. “It’s a much different gubernatorial race than with Christie in office.

“You have a Republican governor who has record low approval ratings, and one would think that they’re only going to plummet further in light of the revelations during the trial. You have a Republican party that has really been decimated in terms of both its war chest and its ability to raise money. And also, importantly the governor has really failed to develop a bench.”

Guadagno would have to distinguish herself from the rest of Christie’s Republican coalition in Trenton in just 18 months. Harrison called that a tall order for a woman who has been frequently relegated to ceremonial appearances during Christie’s time out of state. Other potential Republican hopefuls like Assemblyman Jack Ciatarelli (R-16) and Assembly Minority Jon Bramnick (R-21), she said, would also need to forge new images.
As Seton Hall University’s Matt Hale told The Observer, "Christie has so damaged the Republican brand in the state that I don’t think any Republican can get elected." New Jersey Politics, Inc-- the bipartisan, boss-run political machine that runs the state-- understands that and is trying to decide if it will get behind reliable Democratic hack Steve Sweeney (Norcross' state Senate president) or self-funding Goldman Sachs crook Philip Murphy. Progressives may have to chose between former Congressman Rush Holt and Jersey City's reformist mayor Steven Fulop.

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Sunday, September 25, 2016

Will Trump's Handlers Successfully Persuade Him Not To Throw His Spaghetti On The Wall Before The Debate Ends?


Trump likes to reassure his dumbell fans that he's in the fraternity of top business leaders. But he's a joke in the business world and, as the Wall Street Journal pointed out Friday, not a single Fortune 100 CEO is backing him, or at least not contributing to his campaign. Nearly a third of them gave to Romney's campaign and during the primary quite a few gave to Bush and Rubio to try to save America from Trump. So far 11 have contributed to Hillary's campaign.

I suspect that the endorsement Trump got from Cruz Friday isn't going to sway any CEOs. (Remember when Trump brayed that he wouldn't accept a Cruz endorsement? Today he says he's honored to have it. Maybe he promised Cruz's crackpot father a pardon for the JFK assassination in return for the endorsement.)

The latest polls aren't going his way. The national Marist poll McClatchy sponsored shows Clinton continuing to build a lead against him. She's leads him 48-41% in a head-on contest and 45-39% in a 4-way race including Gary Johnson and Jill Stein. The AP's poll by GfK showed a similar lead for Clinton-- 41-35% of likely voters in a 4-way match-up. Shouldn't she be ahead of him 70-30%? She's not my idea of a good candidate but he really is the worst thing ever-- unthinkable. Newsweek's Kurt Eichenwald gave a more serious demonstration of Trump's disengagement with truth and objective reality. He wrote that Trump either committed perjury (in court, under oath) or blatantly lied in one of the most dramatic moments of the primary debates. "There are two records," he wrote, "one, a previously undisclosed deposition of the Republican nominee testifying under oath, and the second a transcript/video of a Republican presidential debate. In them, Trump tells contradictory versions of the same story with the clashing accounts tailored to provide what he wanted people to believe when he was speaking."
In the lie we are examining here, Trump either committed a felony or proved himself willing to deceive his followers whenever it suits him.

Trump told the public version of this story last year, during the second Republican presidential debate.

Trump had been boasting for weeks at his rallies that he knew the political system better than anyone, because he had essentially bought off politicians for decades by giving them campaign contributions when he wanted something. He also proclaimed that only he—as an outsider who had participated in such corruption of American democracy at a high level-- could clean it up. During the September 2015 debate, one of Trump’s rivals, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, verified Trump’s claim, saying the billionaire had tried to buy him off with favors and contributions when he was Florida’s governor.

"The one guy that had some special interests that I know of that tried to get me to change my views on something-- that was generous and gave me money—was Donald Trump,” Bush said. “He wanted casino gambling in Florida."

Trump interrupted Bush:

Trump: I didn’t...

Bush: Yes, you did.

Trump: Totally false.

Bush: You wanted it, and you didn’t get it, because I was opposed to...

Trump: I would have gotten it.

Bush: Casino gambling before...

Trump: I promise, I would have gotten it.

Bush: During and after. I’m not going to be bought by anybody.

Trump: I promise, if I wanted it, I would have gotten it.

Bush: No way. Believe me.

Trump: I know my people.

Bush: Not even possible.

Trump: I know my people.

If Trump was telling the truth that night, so be it. But if he was lying, what was his purpose? His “If I wanted it, I would have gotten it,” line may be a hint. Contrary to his many vague stories on the campaign trail about being a cash-doling political puppet master, this story has a name, a specific goal and ends in failure. If Bush was telling the truth, then Trump would have had to admit he lost a round and, as he assured the audience, that would not have happened. When he wants something, he gets it.

But that wasn’t the point he needed to make in 2007. The deposition was part of a lawsuit he’d filed against Richard Fields, who Trump had hired to manage the expansion of his casino business into Florida. In the suit, Trump claimed that Fields had quit and taken all of the information he obtained while working for Trump to another company. Under oath, Trump said he did want to get into casino gambling in Florida but didn’t because he had been cheated by Fields.

A lawyer asked Trump, “Did you yourself do anything to obtain any of the details with respect to the Florida gaming environment, what approvals were needed and so forth?”

Trump: A little bit.

Lawyer: What did you do?

Trump: I actually spoke with Governor-Elect Bush; I had a big fundraiser for Governor-Elect Bush…and I think it was his most successful fundraiser, the most successful that he had had up until that point, that was in Trump Tower in New York on Fifth Avenue.

Lawyer: When was that?

Trump: Sometime prior to his election.

Lawyer: You knew that Governor Bush, Jeb Bush at that time, was opposed to expansion of gaming in Florida, didn't you?

Trump: I thought that he could be convinced otherwise.

Lawyer: But you didn't change his mind about his anti-gaming stance, did you?

Trump: Well, I never really had that much of an opportunity because Fields resigned, telling me you could never get what we wanted done, only to do it for another company.

One of these stories is a lie-- a detailed, self-serving fabrication. But unlike the mountain of other lies he has told, this time the character trait that leads to Trump’s mendacity is on full display: He makes things up when he doesn’t want to admit he lost.

Assume the story he told at the debate is the lie. Even though Bush’s story reinforced what Trump was saying at rallies-- he had played the “cash for outcomes” political game for years-- he could not admit he had tried to do the same in Florida because he could not bring himself to say that he had lost. Instead, he looked America in the eye and lied. And then he felt compelled to stack on another boast: His people are so wonderful that they would have gotten casino gambling in Florida, regardless of Bush’s opposition-- if Trump had wanted it.

Now consider the other option, that Trump committed perjury in the 2007 testimony. There, he admitted pushing for casino gambling in Florida, but said he would have gotten what he wanted if he hadn’t been tricked by Fields. The rationale for the perjurious testimony is simple-- Trump wants money from a man who stopped working for him and, once again, the story lets him deny he is anything less than perfect.
"Is the Republican nominee," Eichenwald concluded, "a perjurer or just a liar? Obviously both-- and serially. Tony Schwartz, the Art of the Deal ghostwriter who now regrets he made Trump nationally famous, explained to the NY Times' Michael Barbaro how Hillary can beat Trump Monday in the debate.

Trump has a tiny little attention span, smaller than his hands. "He couldn’t tolerate doing interviews. He just couldn’t stay focused for more than a few minutes at a time. And think about this... it was when he was talking about himself, which is his favorite subject."
“What I would hope is that she doesn’t go the same route she did with Matt Lauer when he started coming at her relentlessly, which was to revert to her knowledge, to revert to her ability to produce a hundred facts in a short period of time,” he says. “Because this debate is going to turn not a bit on the issues. It’s going to turn on emotion, it’s going to turn on which candidate makes all of us feel safer and which candidate makes us feel less safe. And the one who wins that contest wins the debate-- and probably wins the election.”

...“I think of Trump as a toddler sitting in a high chair,” [columnist Frank] Bruni says. “And his advisers are saying ‘Donald, you must get through the meal without throwing your spaghetti on the wall.’ So the question is, will they successfully persuade him not to throw his spaghetti on the wall before the debate ends?”

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