Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Tonight's Presidential Address...Yes, there's a crisis, but not the one Trump will say there is...

Tonight on all the major television networks, President Trump will speak to the nation about the crisis on the border.

It promises to be a divisive speech.

Supporters of the POTUS will mostly think he's "truth-telling" and bemoan the fact that Democrats in Congress are playing hardball.

Foes of Mr. Trump will be uber focused on the truthfulness of his remarks, which may be less than 100% truthful. Also, they'll be looking forward to the Democratic response afterwards by Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.

Here's my take on tonight's speech...

Trump is correct in saying there's a crisis at the border. Problem is, its not the one he claims it is. The claims he's made - and that been supported by Press Secretary Sarah Sanders and Vice President Mike Pence - that thousands of terrorists are pouting across the border with Mexico are false. The government's own stats don't support his claims.

Its not thousands of terrorists - it's six...

Most of the people here illegally are overstaying their visas, not scrambling across the border.

The real crisis is for the United States Border Patrol, who are understaffed and underfunded. They don't have the tools to do the job that's being asked of them. Too many illegals are coming across every week and the USBP is overwhelmed.

They need more agents, lawyers, judges, staff to manage the incoming people.

They need more facilities to properly house the people while they wait for the individual cases to be adjudicated. More money to properly provide healthcare and food

They do need more fencing and obstacles to keep people out. That may be a "wall" in some places. In other places, its the barrier with steel slits you've seen. In other cases, its drones or other structures/tactics to effectively stop the illegal entry issue.

Trump is stuck on the "wall" thing because he promised his base a bigass wall, the best ever wall during the campaign.

If Trump tones down his rhetoric this evening and puts forth a reasonable list of requests, and seems less interested in demonizing the Democrats - who do want border security too - then the Dems should work with him and make something happen to get the Federal Government open again and make meaningful improvements to the border situation.

It's beyond time for the "Best dealmaker ever" to make a deal.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Pre-Campaign Thoughts on Strategy for Democratic Party...

  With the mid-term elections behind us, it's just a matter of time before multiple democratic candidates declare their intentions on running for the nomination. It won't shock me if someone decides to contest President Trump's re-election bid from the right, but for this post, I want to just focus on the Democrats.

  Specifically, what electorate strategy should the Democratic Party embrace for 2020?

 Should they invest their time and money heavily into identity politics or focus on a far wider swath of voters, at the cost of those who fall into the first group?

Here's my premise: Trump won because he energized the turnout among white voters without college degrees. He was able to connect with a constituency that wouldn't / couldn't connect with Hillary Clinton and she damn sure didn't connect with them.

Trump wooed them and they swooned. This was a candidate they could relate to. It wasn't the stuffed shirt-ness of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. It was a guy who said shit other candidates wouldn't dream about saying. He insulted the other Republican candidates and swore sometimes for good measure.

His base LOVED it.

Keep in mind, for years - since the 1980's - the American voter has been told that you can't trust government. All they want to do is tax you back to the stone age, run your lives, stick their nose into your business and tell you what to do.  From Fox News to Right wing talk show hosts to Trump's yelps about the so-called "deep state," the message is simple to understand. You can't trust a politician - and I'm NOT a politician. I'm a businessman.

That's how Trump won...

If past is prologue, and in politics it often is, Trump's intention to run for re-election shouldn't be hard to figure out. He plans on it. Nor is the loyalty of his base hard to predict. They will be loyal, I suspect.

How loyal? Their boy has been under attack since he was sworn in. This Mueller this? Pfft., they're just out to get him. LOOK HOW LONG THIS INVESTIGATION HAS BEEN GOING ON!!! (Keep in mind, the Muller investigation has been going on for 566 days, whereas the Watergate investigation - which was far more straightforward than the current Russian hacking/collusion business has been, took longer from start to finish.)

The Democrats will be punished if they give short shrift to the middle of the country. If they focus on well established geographical liberal strongholds, they will hand the opposition a large hammer to use against them.

I can't think of a Republican candidate who those liberal locations would support over the eventual - regardless of who it is - democratic candidate.

The Dems likely already have the college graduate vote...

The Dems likely already have the women's vote...

The Dems likely already have the LGBT vote...

The Dems likely already have the youth vote...

The Dems likely already have the Asian vote...

The Dems likely already have the _________ (fill in the blank) vote...

Get the idea?

Trump has the male, non college graduate vote...

Trump has the evangelical vote...

Trump does well with the over 50 vote...

This sounds overly simplistic, but to me it's clear.

The Democratic Party should employ a 50 state strategy with an emphasis in the rust belt states, (PA, OH, MI, IN, WI, etc...)

Ticket wise, I've been saying for over a year that Joe Biden/Sherrod Brown would one that deserves serious consideration, PROVIDED both men want to run and would agree to such an arrangement.

Joe Biden brings over 45 years of political experience to the party. He was a long-term Senator from Delaware who served on a broad range of Committee assignment, including the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. His 8 years as President Barack Obama's Vice President allowed him to see the Federal Government operate at the highest levels. He is well respected uniquely qualified to be the next POTUS after Mr. Trump. Bridges - domestically and internationally - are in bad need of repair. In today's complex world, where trust hasn't been a strength of our current President, we need an experienced, knowledgeable hand steadying the ship. Biden has enough gravitas in Congress to reach across aisles and get away with it.

It is, in my opinion, not the time for an inexperienced younger person to rocket to the White House.

An effective partner to run with Biden would be Ohio's, Sherrod Brown. One of the most liberal Senators in the Country, Brown is known for his pro-labor, pro-working man support. A 45 year veteran of Ohio politics on both a State and Federal level, Brown has worked as Ohio State Representative from 1975 - 1982, the Ohio Secretary of State from 1983 - 1991, a member of the US House of Representative from 1993 - 2007, one of two Senators from Ohio from 2007 through today and recently won another 6 year team in the 2018 Mid-terms.

Two highly experienced, competent and electable veterans of the political scene could go a long way toward repairing the damage currently being inflicted by President Trump. The Democratic Party should strive to make it easy for independents and yes, white males without a college degree to consider voting for them in 2020. Aim right at the middle of the "Blue Wall" by courting voters in all 50 states but especially PA, IL, MI, WI, and MN. Likewise, great attention should be paid to swing states like OH, AZ, FL, NC and CO, to name a few.

A Biden / Brown ticket would have plenty of progressive positions and goals to satisfy most special interest groups across the country.

Will this ticket become a reality? The website predictit.org lists Kamala Harris as the best "bet" to win the 2020 Democratic nomination, followed closely by Bernie Sanders, Beto O'Rourke and Joe Biden.

I'll discuss the pros/cons of the above list at a later date...

Monday, November 19, 2018

Welcome to the Dark Ages - Here we go again...

"The Sleep of Reason Brings Forth Monsters"
(Fransisco Goya - est. 1798)
  I have tried hard over the last few weeks to reach out to a handful of Trump supporters - some of whom reached out to me, first - and use reason, demonstrable facts, the clearest writing I can muster, etc.. and basically all its achieved is well, not too damn much.

  I wish not to live in the Dark Ages v2.0. I will resist this with everything I can think of. It's maddening and these people are willfully or woefully ignorant.

  The believers are strong, their faith in both God and Trump is robust and its a waste of time to bring a weapon of reason to a discussion about, when it comes down to it, faith in some other-worldly power.

  It's time to say goodbye to some bigots and religious imposters. You don't get to use your faith as a shield to hide your small-mindedness, your ignorance, your cruelty, and your bigotry.

  I'm NOT sorry that America doesn't look like it did when you were a child. Lily white, no dissenting opinions, everybody speaking the King's English, etc. Everyone in their proper place.

  Time passes. And the organism that is the United States of America is a living and breathing organism. There is room for everybody. Stop acting like the US is some sort of private club to which only you and yours have the password to.

  It wasn't all that long ago when there were a racism and hatred toward almost every ethnic group that's ever come here. What is this? Payback?

  The hypocrisy is too much. It's been taken to a new height and a new low all at the same time.

  The constant droning of Love for Christ on too many timelines which seems to alternate with messages about hatred toward people who don't look like you, don't worship like you do and don't come from around here is offensive to me.

  If you truly think the caravan is coming to murder you, rape the women and kidnap the kids, congrats - you've been duped. It doesn't phase any of you that as soon as election day passed, the President stopped talking about it.

  But it doesn't...

  To watch the current POTUS attack a set of Gold Star parents last general election or speak offensively toward a former POW, didn't generate so much as a peep out of your kind, which is rich, given how much you feign this fake patriotism when the moment suits you.

 When the moment suits you...

  To watch this POTUS do any number of things and get a free pass on compared to the incredibly rough ride you gave the black guy before Trump. (Rounds of golf, remarks about "grabbing her by the pussy," outright lies, etc...)

  A free pass...

  I saw not a single word from any of you taking Trump to task over his idiotic comments toward a 37 year Seal, Retired Admiral William McRaven in the interview with Fox's Chris Wallace.

  This POTUS lies to you on a daily basis and like a dog, you lap it up. Every. Single. Time.

  It's pathetic. You've confused love of country with love of party or skin color or a particular faith, etc...

  You. Are. Confused.

  Welcome to the Dark Ages, friends. Hang onto your ass...

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Fact Check: Did President Obama Throw A Reporter Out Of A Press Conference?

  After the recent dust-up at President Trump's press conference a few days ago, where CNN's Jim Acosta wound up seeing his White House press credentials revoked, a video from a June 2015 made a comeback.

  In a wrong-headed case of "whataboutism", this video, from an LGBT Pride event held at the White House, and that featured President Obama being interrupted by an anti-Gay rights protester. After repeated requests by the President to stop interrupting the event, he instructed Secret Service to remove the person.

Let's clear up a few things...

1) This was not a press conference. The President was there delivering remarks about LGBT Pride Month back in June of 2015...

2) The person he had removed was not a credentialed member of the media, by rather someone who had somehow worked their way into the event and then decided to interrupt the POTUS by screaming and yelling. The person was heard yelling, "Shame on you, you shouldn’t be doing this,”

3) President Obama gave him the option of being quiet or being removed. He refused, so the President had Secret Service remove them from the room.

4) Given the hostility from the media at large toward Trump's handling of Jim Acosta and the striping of his "hard pass", it would be hard to find any media outlets that would defend Obama had he done the same thing. Which clearly, he did not.

5) Here are three different media outlets, the Associated News, the Washington Post, and Snopes:

AP NEWS coverage...

Washington Post coverage...

Snopes coverage...

Once again people with an urge to support the current President seem willing to twist, misrepresent, deceive others into either believing claims the White House or Trump Administration distributes or finding some other nonrelated story and insisting that it is something that it wasn't.

It's a pretty intense time right now in the United States and on social media. We're very polarized and too often talk past each other. That's not going to do anyone any good at all.

I'm as guilty as anyone, but every day, I try to fact check stories and claims I see on my social media platforms.

With the startup of the 2020 Presidential Election not too far away, it would help things if we just remember to slow down a tad, regardless of what side you're on (or even no side) and do a few minutes of research to find out what really happened.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Donald Trump's Accomplishments: Fact, Fiction or Otherwise?

President Trump was elected President of the United States Two Novembers ago, and what a ride it's been since then.

Love him or hate him, most people have strong feelings about our 45th President. Some think he's the guy we've been waiting for to turn Washington upside down, not be beholden to either party and "empty the swamp" as he does things that are common sense solutions for problems that others haven't been able to solve.

Others think he's the Devil in disguise. A fast-talking bullshit artist who knew just what tone to take and how to talk to the voters (well, a certain slice of the voters) to build a big enough constituency to win the presidency over one of the most dreadful presidential candidates this county has seen in a long while, Hillary Clinton.

The two-year mark is a good time to take stock and apply fair measurement to the man who has utterly changed how Presidents behave while in office.

A week or so ago, a Facebook friend posted the following picture, that he captioned with the following.  "Just facts, not rhetoric."

Thirteen claims of examples of accomplishments Mr. Trump has achieved in his first two years in office. Let's look at each objectively and see if the claim is Fact or Fiction or something in between the two.

1) GDP Growth at 4.2%: It's true the GDP Rate in the United States was, in fact, 4.2% in the 2nd quarter. Just 2.2% the quarter prior, GDP almost doubled. Since then, it has fallen back to 3.5%. As a comparison, the GDP rate was 4.2% or higher three times during the Obama Administration. Mr. Trump made some bold claims during his campaign, including "a GDP annual growth rate of 4%. That did not happen in 2017.  With a growth rate YTD for 2018 of 2.75, it'll require a tremendous, "never seen in recent times" performance in our 4th quarter to do it in 2018. There is no basis on which to build a case that Trump deserves as much or let alone more credit than his predecessor does. Misleading at best.

2) Unemployment Rate at 3.7%: It's true that the Country's unemployment rate is 3.7%, which is very, very good. However, perspective is important. We can go back and look at the slope of the unemployment rate in 2013 and see a very strong, downward sloping month to month trend of falling unemployment data. The "eyeball test" suggests that Mr. Trump is continuing the rate of improvement that Mr. Obama had before him. It's important to also remember that When Obama took office in early 2009, the unemployment rate was already bad and climbing to above 10%. 

The data clearly shows that Mr. Obama had eight years of improvement compared to Mr. Trump's almost two years of continued improvement while in office. It's dishonest to suggest that Mr. Trump was the one who fixed the unemployment issue in the Country. He has successfully continued the long trend of improvement that Mr. Obama began eight years ago...

3) Record low Black unemployment: It's true that Black unemployment reached an all-time low back in June when it dipped below 7%. That's a good thing, of course. However, similar to overall unemployment, it's important to see the bigger picture. 

Looking closely at the image, you can first, the overall measurements of black unemployment dating back to the George W. Bush administration.  In the middle of the image, you can see where the Obama presidency began as well as when the Trump presidency began. Like overall unemployment, Mr. Trump has continued the improvement began earlier - again much earlier - by Mr. Obama. 

4) Record low Hispanic unemployment: Once more, we see a record low for unemployment related to a particular group. The 4.7% rate of Hispanic unemployment reported in October 2018 is the lowest on record. Yes, like the two previous kinds of unemployment we've reviewed, this too happened on President Trump's watch. That's a fact. And, also like the two previous areas we've looked at, Hispanic unemployment has been dropping for quite a while, traceable back to the tail-end of the GW Bush presidency. The success in October began back in 2010...the data shows steady growth over multiple years:

Trump deserves approval for the continuance of the previous job growth policies across overall, Black and Hispanic unemployment sectors. I find it a stretch and highly misleading to suggest that Trump is responsible for the current healthy unemployment rates we enjoy today in the United States. While the Facebook post doesn't allege that, it's a common meme that Mr. Trump fixed something Mr. Obama hadn't. Fact, but highly rhetorical in nature to the point of being misleading.

5) ISIS decimated: On April 12, 2018, President Trump tweeted the following, "...the United States, under my Administration, has done a great job of ridding the region of ISIS. Where is our “Thank you America?” It is fact that during the Trump presidency, the United States, with the aid of other countries, inflicted significant losses upon ISIS. Per Vox, "There’s real truth here. The amount of territory controlled by ISIS declined by 60 percent between January and October 2017, according to a count by IHS Markit, a strategic intelligence firm. The group lost control over both Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, and Raqqa, which served as the de facto capital of ISIS’s so-called caliphate; it now no longer controls a major populated city in either country." 

Vox continues, however, "Yet Trump’s comment implies that nearly all of the ISIS-held territory was liberated in the past year. This isn’t true. In fact, it’s not clear that Trump deserves much credit for these developments — if any. His counter-ISIS strategy has, for the most part, been a continuation of the one the Obama administration began back in 2014, which had already been steadily chipping away at the group’s territory."

“Whatever successes the Trump administration is claiming against ISIS are actually a product of the Obama administration’s approach,” says Jennifer Cafarella, the senior intelligence planner at the Institute for the Study of War."

Decimated is a powerful sounding word which means destroyed. In two columns from August of 2018, citing two reports - one from the United Nations and the other from Mr. Trump's own Defense Department - the facts indicate that ISIS is far from decimated and is and will remain a highly dangerous threat not only in the Middle East but around the world.

According to the Defense Department's report, upwards of thirty thousand ISIS back fighters were still active in Iraq and Syria. The United Nations report from June 2018, reports the same findings in terms of ISIS manpower in the two countries.

Bottom line: ISIS has lost most of the ground it had gained but still possesses a highly dangerous and capable military force of approximately 30,000 troops. With numbers that high, given the volatility of the are they are trying to remain a force in, they do not appear to be "decimated." Not a fact...

6) North Korea denuclearizing: I can find no source that alleges that North Korea has begun to denuclearize its weapon program. North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Un is on record as saying he'wants to be rid of his nuclear weapons program by the end of President Trump's first term, but nothing concrete has apparently happened as of this date. With no evidence yet  - this can't be viewed as a fact. Intentions do not equal results. In time, we'll know more...

7) Improved trade deals: Using the "right-of-center" Forbes Magazine, they break down President Trumps trade deals into three sections. South Korea, China, and the European Union.  

South Korea - A weak arrangement that, in the end, may not even be approved by the South Korean government...

China - Lots of talk and back-slapping, but "There are not even any talks currently underway." Whatever the future may hold, the deal-making to date seems to have been a failure, despite initial self-congratulation."

European Union - "Little more than an agreement to talk about talking."

Bottom line: How they are "improved" isn't known yet... so, hardly a fact...

8) American Hostages released: It is a factual statement that "hostages have been released during the Trump presidency." Some higher profile than others, almost 20 Americans were either kidnapped outright or being detained for various reasons and then were released since Trump took office. In the last month, American US Pastor Andrew Brunson was released by Turkey after negotiations with American officials...Yes, a Fact...

9) Improved immigration security: Let's look at the two main components of Trump's immigration policy. The building of a wall and any policy changes he's implemented since taking office. 

One of the major pieces of Trump's Presidential campaign, "Build that wall!" became and remains a rallying cry at his rallies across the country. Despite claims by Mr. Trump that "We've started building the wall" (April 3rd, 2018, remarks with Baltic leaders), construction on the "wall" has not begun. 

What has happened is the repair and construction of older pieces of the already existing wall and obstructive impediments in Calexico, that were planned as far back as 2009, well before Mr. Trump took office. Congress has appropriated $1.57 million dollars for border security, but that is expressly forbidden to be used for the building of a "new wall." 

Looking at policy changes, the President has been more productive. From the controversial "Travel ban" that been rejected by at least one court, resulting in revised and softer language in the second attempt, to an increase in border arrests, which then led to the separating of children from their illegal immigrant parents at the border - which then led to horrific stories of children being detained in less than desirable conditions, etc. All the while numerous studies, including this one from March of this year, see the violent crime rate from illegal immigrants as "less than" the level Mr. Trump insinuates it is. 

Bottom line: Trump is being deceptive at best when it comes to the issue of the wall and policy-wise, while he's implemented some changes that seem less than directly related to any improvements in this area. It's False that Trump has improved immigration security...

10) Cutting aid to hostile nations: Trump has adopted an "America First" approach and put the word out on the international stage that if your country is not acting as a "friend" would toward the United States, any foreign aid you've been getting, may be in jeopardy of getting cut off. Trump has reduced aid to a handful of countries with a mixed reception around the world. The perception seems to be that America is no longer spreading its wealth around with the same virtuous motivations it used to, which over time, will have consequences... That said, it is a fact Trump has cut aid to some nations...

11) Fewer people on food stamps: On August 2nd, 2018, at a campaign rally in Wilkes-Barre, PA, Mr. Trump said, "More than 3.5 million Americans have been lifted off food stamps—something that you haven’t seen in decades.” It is Fact that a lot of people have left the food stamp program since Trump came in office. However, like the unemployment claims, he's continued a trend that goes back to the Obama Administration. As this chart shows, the decline in the number of people on food stamps or SNAP Benefits began early in 2013. 

Bottom line: Fact, but highly rhetorical in nature to the point of being misleading.

12) Jobs being created: Are "jobs being created?" Absolutely, they are. However, like unemployment rates and food stamps, it's a bit misleading to give too much credit. Trump's numbers, by any measure - to be fair - have been very solid. But they are consistent with the trajectory that began back in the Obama Administration. Trump's job growth is running behind Obama's so far and his campaign pledge "the best jobs President God ever created" seems unrealistic. If he continues his current pace, he'll surpass both Obama and President Reagan, but fall well short of the job growth Bill Clinton achieved in his time in office. Bottom line: Fact, but highly rhetorical in nature to the point of being misleading.

13) Manufacturing resurgence: There seems to be little dispute that U.S. Manufacturing has prospered under the Trump Administration. This chart sums it up very nicely:

There is ample evidence of robust performance indicators within the manufacturing sector. From Zachs .com, "U.S. manufacturing sector has been witnessing resurgence under the Trump administration since last year, shrugging off its lengthy spell of weak productivity and sluggish growth. Under Trump’s presidency, the manufacturing sector is flying high as manufacturers have increased capital spending and hiring driven by massive tax overhaul, deregulatory measures, strong domestic economy, and robust business sentiment." 

Bottom Line: Fact

14) Reduced regulation: Another popular component of Trump's campaign was a pledge to gut regulations. While its one thing to unwind an Executive Order from a prior President, writing new ones isn't exactly popular these days. Writing and passing new ones into law, even with a full control of both houses of Congress - is also hard and time-consuming. An area where progress has been made, of a sort, is in the internal enforcement of the standing regulations. The biggest targets have been Energy and Environmental regulations, but almost no department hasn't been affected by the movement. There is great concern about the long-term effects of these policy decisions and look for several policy and tone reversals to be a popular talking point of any Democratic campaign for those seeking Mr. Trump's job in 2020. Bottom line: Fact

Summary: The poster was presented as "Just facts, not rhetoric." Given fair consideration, I've tried to fairly assess each of these 14 claims on the facts. Utilizing upwards of 16 different sources, I've avoided over-representing a single media viewpoint. Where I've been able to call a claim a fact, I have. If a claim has been technically true but it's either misleading or deceptive in how the claim is being viewed, I've attached a caveat to it. In the cases where I could find no evidence to support it, I've judged it to be False. Over time, some of these claims may move into a different judgment.

The post itself is certainly not "just facts." I hope readers, as well as the orginal poster, will understand why it's not a 100% factual poster and that it's important to apply critical thinking skills to any poster like this that we find on social media. Take the time to fact check content like this. There's no downside to taking a few minutes to verify something. Worst case might be you understand the issue a little more deeply, that's all. Best case, you may discover that a source you previously trusted has posted misleading content and be wary of anything like that you see in the future. Alternately, you may discover that something you thought to be false was, in fact, true.

The more informed we are, the better. Period!