Friday, December 22, 2017

Stock Market Performance: Obama vs. Trump

Trump's incessant, one-note tweets can be loathsome and tiring, but his constant reminders about the stock market hitting new highs are especially irksome. As with nearly everything Trump utters, let's try to apply a little perspective and, gulp, facts to gain a more realistic understanding.

The chart above shows that the S&P 500 bottomed at 676.53 on 3/9/2009, not long after Obama was inaugurated in 2009. Using the same time frame, the S&P 500 closed at 2364.87 on 3/9/2017 for Trump.

The total return for the S&P 500 from the 3/9/2009 low to 3/9/2017 was 311%. Since 3/9/2017, the S&P 500 has risen by 15% (through yesterday).

Trump has a LONG ways to go to match Obama's stock market performance, and yet Obama rarely said a word about the market hitting new highs during his eight years. Meanwhile, Trump blares from the rooftop....

P.S. And modify the date ranges if you must, e.g. use inauguration day to inauguration day. The message remains: Obama will look exceptionally good and Trump has quite a ways to go to take such a victory lap.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Saturday, December 02, 2017

The Flynn plea deal is just one more step towards the truth

As I often do, I watched Fox News coverage of the Michael Flynn plea deal (always must check in to see what propaganda is being fed to "the base"). And as is often the case, it's as if I'm watching a channel from another planet. A little bit of Flynn news, followed by the tax bill, Steinle verdict, Conyers, Franken, the failure of liberalism, etc. It's no wonder Obama recently said, "Those who watch Fox News and those who read the New York Times occupy completely different realities. If I watch Fox News, I wouldn’t vote for me."

Something I continue to hear on Fox is the refrain, "this latest bit of news is primarily bad for X, but still doesn't show or prove anything towards collusion with Russia." And "X" in this case is Flynn, but not long ago it was Manafort and Papadopoulos.

Rather than look at the bigger picture and how this Flynn plea fits into a progression of events leading to what will likely be a momentous conclusion, Fox News (and those on the right) prefers to compartmentalize each new revelation, judging it in isolation and framing it as "no big deal." Flynn's plea deal simply means Flynn lied and now he alone is paying the price for that misdeed, period. It says nothing about any wrongdoing by Trump, namely collusion with the Russians.

This is like watching the Super Bowl last year and at half-time stating the Patriots suck and the Falcons rule. Not so fast....

Mueller is currently fighting (and winning) battles to eventually win the war. The Flynn deal is just another step taken towards resolving the investigation. Mueller is leveraging players by obtaining their cooperation through plea deals as a means to discovery of what truly occurred, whether it be colluding with the Russians OR obstructing justice, or both. This is Law School 101 stuff.

And mind you, the fact that Flynn's deal is so lenient (plead guilty on just one count?!) given the laundry list of violations and possible criminal acts against him, it says Flynn had much to offer Mueller, which should make Trump et al VERY worried. Notice also no word of Flynn's son, who likely was saved as part of the deal -- again, emphasizing that Flynn presumably has ample significant information to hand over to Mueller. 

As they say, this is a marathon, not a race. It's why Trump has repeatedly wanted to shut down the investigation. The longer it drags on, the closer Mueller gets to the actual truth. And if Trump was not afraid about the actual truth coming out, then he would have no problem with Mueller's investigation. But he does have a problem with it, biggly.

Friday, November 24, 2017

But I thought he wasn't going to golf as much as Obama?

When it comes to the presidency, playing golf may seem like a trivial matter, but in this case it's just another example of how Trump worked the mother-of-all cons to slip into the White House.

All In with Chris Hayes recently aired a devastating extended video clip on this topic. After explaining how Trump has spent about 1/3 of his time in office at a Trump property, there is a collection of a video clips showing Trump on the campaign trail repeatedly dissing Obama for playing too much golf and how when Trump is president he would rarely, if ever, go golfing.

Fact: Trump is currently on pace to double the amount of golf Obama played. Double.

This from a loud-mouth gas bag who did not shut up about Obama playing golf, making it almost a central issue in his campaign. As shown in the video, Trump's criticism was relentless and incessant.

There is a growing laundry list of items making plain how Trump is the ultimate hypocrite. Draining the swamp (not), being a president for all (not), reduce presidential executive orders (not), investigate election fraud (not), to name a few. Oh, and play less golf than Obama (not).

If there's one thing in which Trump is truly a master, it's conning people. Trump supporters are not so much "deplorables" as they are "gullibles."

More evidence the GOP tax bill is a big con job

The GOP tax plan got a triple whammy of brutal reviews

The tax bill will:
  1. Raise taxes on the majority of taxpayers.
  2. Not significantly boost economic growth.
  3. Substantially increase the federal deficit.
Yet Paul Ryan and his cast of merry minions would have us believe quite the opposite. 

It's not just Trump who can work the big con, Republicans have been pulling this three-card Monte crap for many years. In fact, Trump is the logical leader of the GOP. Together they hoist flimflam on a daily basis, deceiving and outright lying to the public. And for the most part, getting away with it.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Bizarro USA

If you just listen to Trump (and read his many tweets), you'd think the country adored him and was heading in the right direction, or at least the direction most Americans would embrace and applaud.

However, if you look at polls, it says quite the opposite.

Above are the latest polls compiled by (hardly a left-wing web site, for those who care). So let's see what they say about the current state of things....

Trump Job Approval: 40% Approve, 56% Disapprove (average of the 4 polls)

Well that's pretty clear, people disapprove of Trump by a huge 16% margin. How could this be? According to Trump, he's beloved, OR he's not getting enough love (predictably, he says both). After all, the stock market is soaring and the economy is humming, what's not to like?

Truth be told, the stock market had already tripled during Obama's time in office, so Trump has a long ways to go to surpass that figure. And the economy was doing quite nicely when Obama exited, so how much of what we're seeing with the economy isn't still just spillover from the Obama years? When do economic stats officially become Trump's?

But put another way, assuming everything is just hunky dory, then why the 16% disapproval spread? Either Americans do not believe or feel that things are so great, despite what Trump wants us to believe, OR things are in fact going well but regardless, people happen to disapprove of Trump.

Or it could be that despite economic conditions, people believe things aren't going so great for them AND they disapprove of Trump. The two polls above concerning the "Direction of Country" average to 59.5% Wrong Track vs. 33.5% Right Direction, for a whopping 26% difference siding with the country being on the wrong track.

So people disapprove of Trump by a 16% margin and they believe the country is on the wrong track by a 26% margin. Wow.

The other two remaining polls have the Democrats slightly ahead by 3% in a generic Congressional vote, and then Moore has pulled back ahead by 2% over Jones. Both of these polls are within the statistical margin of error making them not all that significant. However, I would love to see a non-Alabama-voter poll on the Alabama race, i.e. I'd love to see what the rest of the country feels about this high-profile Alabama contest. I have a feeling Moore would be well behind Jones.

What does that matter? It would be another reflection of what the entire country thinks about something, as opposed to just the state of Alabama. And again I'm willing to bet that in a national poll, Moore would be double-digits behind Jones.

But what about other subjects, how do they poll? Well let's see, the FCC announced yesterday that they plan to overturn net neutrality, where does the public fall on this topic? Americans favor net neutrality overwhelmingly. How about Obamacare? People favor the ACA. Global warming? Most Americans believe that climate change is real and is man-made. The Republican tax bill? The majority of people oppose it. The border wall? Most people do not want it.

You get the picture. On almost every issue, the majority of Americans are against what Trump (and Republicans for that matter) is for or believes. I can't recall a time when the country was so across-the-board opposite of the president. It's Bizarro USA!

How can this be called a representative democracy? The fact is it's not, or it's a deeply flawed one. Rather, today's America is a byproduct of 1) the Electoral College, an outdated mechanism that subverts the popular vote and instead indirectly elects the president, and 2) gerrymandering, where too many district maps are excessively partisan in favor of Republicans.

The Electoral College was adopted as a compromise and centered on slavery -- needless to say, it has outlived its original purpose and should have long ago been repealed. The fact that a Wyoming vote counts 3.6 times more than a California vote should be reason enough to get rid of this archaic, undemocratic system. No voter should count more than any other in a true democracy.

As for gerrymandering, just look at Michigan as an example of how bad things have become. In last November's election, Michigan voters basically split 50/50 in the state and yet Republicans sent 9 representatives to DC as opposed to just 5 for the Democrats. The SCOTUS is expected to rule on gerrymandering over the next several months, stay tuned.

But clearly it seems that we currently have a government that does not represent the beliefs or will of the majority. There's no way to MAGA as long as this condition holds.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Fox News (Sans) Election Night Coverage

Fox News coverage of last night's election was near nonexistent.

From Slate:
Laura Ingraham's show began at 10, and Ingraham used the majority of her hour on segments about the armed civilian who attempted to intervene during this weekend's Texas shooting, the question of why liberals are "so offended and bothered by prayer," disgraced O.J Simpson detective Mark Fuhrman's opinions about gun control, and Trump's achievements in "confronting evil." She finally made it to Virginia at 10:50, whereupon viewers learned that Gillespie lost because he actually didn't imitate Trump enough.
This from the self-proclaimed "fair and balanced" propaganda news channel. 

I know Fox viewers live in a bubble, but weren't they even wondering what was going on? I'm fairly certain most people knew that it was election night, which typically involves results -- you know, winners and losers. And yet Fox seemingly decided, "f*ck our viewers, the dim bulbs, they don't need to know about the bad news, besides it will just upset them!"

The timing of Trump's globe-trotting trip has seemed a bit too well-timed to me. Perhaps expecting this bad news, better to get out of Dodge, thus avoiding the questions and hard reality. 

But his trip also allowed for -- wait for it -- yes, a diversion. Is it just a coincidence that Trump's speech last night started right around when most news channels would be covering the election results? Hmm.

First dominos to fall....

Last night's election results were the first dominos to fall. Granted, Luther Strange may have been the actual first falling domino, but with Republican candidates in VA and NJ being soundly defeated, hopefully the domino chain reaction continues into next November.

Will these results serve as a head-slap to the GOP, that they need to become more like Flake and Corker and breakaway from Trump? We'll see, but I remain highly skeptical. As it is, the conservative diversion apparatus is blaming the VA loss on Gillespie not cozying up enough to Trump. Nice, blame the victim. But by all accounts Gillespie did eventually steer hard right towards Trump, embracing the dog-whistle, racist tactics that Trump's base finds so appealing. All for naught.

To me, the most eye-opening result on the night was the win by transgender candidate Danica Roem. I thought it was startling not because Danica won, but rather because she beat a staunch anti-LGBT conservative, Robert Marshall, who the Washington Post describes as "a 13-term incumbent who called himself Virginia’s 'chief homophobe' and earlier this year introduced a 'bathroom bill' that died in committee."

How does a district go from putting a guy like Marshall in office for 13-terms and then do a 180-about-face and elect Danica? And she didn't just win, she trounced him, winning by a huge 9% margin! I'm both elated and confused. Did the voters suddenly wake up out of a 13-term coma and realize how wrong they were on so many issues? Does this local race speak volumes about the direction Trump has taken the country and the resounding blowback??

The next several months should be very interesting....

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Sh*t is Starting to Hit the Fan

Yesterday had to be Black Monday for the Trump administration. The indictments and guilty plea are obviously not good news for many in the White House.

And yet if you tuned into Fox News, it's as if they were reporting in a parallel universe, seemingly oblivious or in denial given the day's events. Rather than cover (won't bother saying "report fairly") the Mueller news, viewers were treated to nonstop hysterics about Hillary, Uranium One and the secret dossier (and cheeseburgers?). There was hardly a mention of Manafort or Papadopoulos. Instead, you would've thought Mueller indicted Hillary and Obama!

Never mind that the Uranium One supposed scandal has for years been known by most people in the media, and has been proven false. But what the heck, Fox decided it was at least worth trying to throw that spaghetti against the wall, it may stick. After all, their lemming viewers believe everything told to them. So the right-wing diversion apparatus (RWDA?) had this canard all cued up and ready to go for the Mueller announcement.

As for the secret dossier, snore. The big revelation was that this opposition research -- first initiated by payment to Fusion GPS by a right-wing, Republican-donor outfit, the Washington Free Beacon -- was eventually paid for by the DNC. Where is the crime? All campaigns do "oppo research" and very often it's unseemly and perhaps shady, but again both sides do it and it's been occurring for decades.

So on a historic day like yesterday, the RWDA decides to blare across the airwaves what appear to be two huge nothing-burgers (a phrase the RWDA loves to use).

Meanwhile, Team Trump is trying to distance themselves from Pappy, attempting to characterize him as a very minor player in their campaign. Oh really? When asked in the past to name a few of his foreign policy advisers, Trump has stated Papadopoulos by name, one of the first people mentioned. But this young man was some unknown minor player? Hmm, I have a feeling he had a much larger role than is being confessed.

Stay tuned as this is not a race but instead a marathon. Mueller is methodically and carefully playing his cards. We're just in the first inning.... 

By the way, I'm trying to post more on Twitter, please follow me there (as well as here):

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

What's Up with John Kelly?

Here we all thought John Kelly was the sane one in the White House, the parental keeper of boy Trump. And then Kelly holds that press conference, attempting to defend, or at least explain, what Trump did during the phone call to the Gold Star widow. Ugh.

Kelly rambles on in his press conference in a very heartfelt manner, but ultimately lies about Rep. Wilson and calls her an "empty barrel" for good measure.

Huh? Did anyone expect to hear that? From the supposed adult in the White House?

I'm left making excuses for Kelly. Is he becoming like Trump, gradually taking on Donald's worst qualities due to being cooped up with a sociopath for so long? Or is it some form of Stockholm syndrome? With Kelly feigning alliance with Trump by lying and insulting, hoping to stay in his good graces and not get fired -- thus able to continue to protect our country from a madman??

Or is Kelly actually more like Trump than we'd like to admit, a crass liar?

Sadly, this is where we're at as a country, where we have to second-guess the WH Chief of Staff because the president is a lunatic. Where we go to bed at night hoping that people other than the president himself will keep us safe.

Could the Founding Fathers ever have imagined this?

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Trump's childish, bullying actions could cause a nuclear war, according to experts

Just great. Nuclear war started by tweets from an orange fool.

In today's NY Times:
Veterans of diplomacy and national security and specialists on North Korea fear that, whatever their intended result, Mr. Trump’s increasingly bellicose threats and public insults of the famously thin-skinned Mr. Kim could cause the United States to careen into a nuclear confrontation driven by personal animosity and bravado.
“It does matter, because you don’t want to get to a situation where North Korea fundamentally miscalculates that an attack is coming,” said Sue Mi Terry, a former intelligence and National Security Council specialist who is now a senior adviser for Korea at Bower Group Asia. “It could lead us to stumble into a war that nobody wants.”
And while his bombast may be a thrill to Mr. Trump’s core supporters, there is evidence that the broader American public does not trust the president to deal with North Korea, and is deeply opposed to the kind of pre-emptive military strike he has seemed eager to threaten.
Some senior administration officials acknowledge privately that Mr. Trump’s rhetoric on North Korea is not helpful, although they question whether it will alter the discussion, given how far Mr. Kim has come in his quest to develop a nuclear weapon that could reach the United States.
The three current and retired generals advising Mr. Trump — Jim Mattis, the defense secretary; Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, his national security adviser; and John F. Kelly, his chief of staff — as well as Rex W. Tillerson, the secretary of state, have all chosen their words on North Korea more carefully, emphasizing the role of diplomacy and the grave stakes of any military confrontation.
“All three of the generals fully realize the carnage that would result from a war on the Korean Peninsula,” James G. Stavridis, the former NATO commander and current dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, said on Sunday.
“Knowing each of them personally, I am certain they are counseling operational caution, measured public commentary and building a coalition approach to dealing with Kim Jong-un,” Mr. Stavridis, a retired admiral, said in an email. “But controlling President Trump seems incredibly difficult. Let’s hope they are not engaged in mission impossible, because the stakes are so high.”
Christopher R. Hill, a former ambassador to South Korea who served Republican and Democratic presidents, argued that the comments could badly undercut Mr. Trump’s ability to find a peaceful solution to the dispute, playing into Mr. Kim’s characterization of the United States as an evil nation bent on North Korea’s destruction and relieving pressure on the Chinese to do more to curb Pyongyang.
“The comments give the world the sense that he is increasingly unhinged and unreliable,” said Mr. Hill, the dean of the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver.
Mr. Hill, who as envoy to South Korea under George W. Bush was the last American to hold formal talks with the government in Pyongyang, said he and Condoleezza Rice, then the secretary of state, routinely advised Mr. Bush to “avoid the personal invectives,” because “they never help.”
“My sense from four years of those talks is that getting personal is not helpful,” Mr. Hill said. “Who could be telling Trump otherwise?”
Yet current and former senior officials said it was clear that Mr. Trump would continue his brinkmanship, particularly his belligerent tweets, no matter what his advisers do or say. One former administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal policy workings, said nobody, including Mr. Kelly, could control the president’s social media utterances, despite what his military advisers thought about them.
The tweets most likely have forced Mr. Mattis and Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as other national security officials, to spend a significant amount of time on the phone reassuring counterparts about Mr. Trump’s intentions.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Thoughts about Charlottesville and our "president"

Fairly recently I had an apartment in Charlottesville for 21 months, I got to know the town very well. After the protests and violence, some have asked me, "aren't you glad you got out of there?" That reaction to what occurred in Charlottesville told me that people did not fully understand the situation, at least not initially.

I decided to write the following email to several of my friends, sending it Sunday evening:

A couple of points:

1) Charlottesville ("Cville") is a liberal and progressive small city, surrounded by much right-wing, Republican districts. What we saw this weekend was NOT the residents of Charlottesville (although I'm sure many Cville residents comprised the anti-Nazi protesters). The white supremacist, neo-Nazi protesters were from 
outside Cville and frankly outside Virginia. Example: the Nazi murderer who drove the car into the crowd was from OHIO, not Virginia.

2) The town of Charlottesville voted to have the Robert E. Lee statue removed, something that many believe was LONG overdue. But that was the business of the citizens of Charlottesville. Why were there people from outside Cville, and even outside Virginia, that decided to show up to protest the decision that the people of Cville voted on? I just love how Republicans are all for "states rights", keeping it "local,' and yet in this case, when Cville residents voted to remove this statue, "outside forces" decided to show up and express their unhappiness.... The fact is leaders of several white supremacist & neo-Nazi hate groups planned for weeks if not months to make this protest a big event, a splashy media spectacle to gain national attention. It worked.

3) As for the University of Virginia (UVA), the university "allowed" the parade of the white supremacists on Friday evening, which many wondered why? I wouldn't say UVA allowed it, but rather UVA is a public institution, not private, and they can't necessarily stop people from walking on their campus. You know, that pesty Constitution, Bill of Rights, free speech, etc. But the president of UVA did issue a strong statement as she condemned these people and what they stood for. That said it's still very bad optics for UVA as people don't make the distinction (including the media) and blur things together, believing that UVA all but endorsed the white supremacist parade -- not true!

4) It's really sad. My son asked me, "Dad, if we had moved to Charlottesville, would we now want to leave?" I had to explain to him much of what I wrote above, how Charlottesville is not to be blamed for this travesty, how they actually voted to do the right thing, remove a symbol of pro-slavery, and as a result outside hate groups decided to target Charlottesville as a symbol of hate. This protest was in the works for many weeks, months, it was not spur-of-the-moment. Many hate groups, white supremacists, neo-Nazis and KKK members all coordinated and decided they would take a "stand" with Charlottesville, make Cville the example for not removing Lee statues (note: many other towns and cities across USA have voted to remove Robert Lee statues, but these hate groups decided Cville would be their "final"  line in the sand).
In fact, I said to my son, if Cville decided to do nothing, to NOT vote to remove the statue, that would be worse as it would be the wrong thing, to allow a pro-slavery symbol to stand AND to be silent about it. Yes, there would then have been no protests and violence, BUT that's giving in to the hate groups, keeping wrong in place, as they would like for it to be and remain.

Of course, what's ultimately worse about this weekend is our president's response. As Trump did during his 2016 campaign, he did his usual "dog whistle" crap to "condemning" white supremacist, neo-Nazi hate groups. Meaning he didn't condemn them. Instead, he decided to condemn EVERYONE, with his now infamous comment, there is blame to go around "on many sides" -- REALLY?!!  it's just a coincidence that the side that decided to drive a car into a crowd was the white supremacist, neo-Nazi side?? And Trump does not decide to SPECIFICALLY condemn these hate groups BY NAME??!! No, of course not, since they make up a big part of his base!! Hell, without them, he would not have become president (since he actually lost the popular vote by 3 million votes).

And please don't tell me he's out today with a clarification, PLEASE!!!! It doesn't matter, too late!! AS PRESIDENT, WHAT MATTERS IS NOT JUST WHAT YOU SAY BUT WHEN. Trump's strong specific condemnation should have come immediately following the incident, NOT 24 or 48 hours later, after he was harshly criticized by nearly everyone on the planet. I mean, for Ted Cruz to look presidential versus Trump, that's saying something!!! But more importantly, these hate groups already got their wink-wink from Trump, their unspoken gesture of approval with the "on many sides" reference. They know that whatever Trump says later is just forced sentiment that Trump had to do to cave to media pressure. But they all know what Trump and his administration truly felt based on his initial words. There's no correcting that now with "further clarification" or with Mike Pence saying whatever 24 hours later. And I laughed when I saw Ivanka's tweet, trying to take heat off daddy -- just imagine if Chelsea tweeted for a president Hillary!!  Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, etc. would have a field day!!!

KEY QUESTION: if Trump doesn't have the very basic wisdom and presidential awareness to appropriately handle this awful incident in Charlottesville, how can we expect him to handle the much more complex North Korea situation??!!!!