Archive

October 9th, 2016

Trump's greed helped ruin Atlantic City. The rest of the country could be next

    At 5:59 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 10 - the Trump Taj Mahal, once Donald Trump's greatest real estate hope, will shutter its doors. Nearly 3,000 people will lose their jobs, their pensions and possibly their homes.

    Last week, I watched as Trump was nearly held accountable at the first presidential debate for laying the groundwork for this city-wide catastrophe. I watched Hillary Clinton take him to task for reneging on hundreds of contracts with local laborers. But the Donald just pursed his lips and shrugged, saying that was what "our country should do, too."

    I am watching people rally around a man who thinks that what America needs is to cheat itself.

    For an Atlantic City native like me, it's a bitter pill to swallow. My parents both worked in the casinos; my mom was assigned seniority number 13 of the 500 cocktail waitresses hired to staff the Taj when it opened in 1990. Throughout my childhood, Trump was a blowhard bogeyman figure, a name synonymous with aggressively claiming credit for any success in the vicinity, and bailing when things go wrong.

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Mike Pence is what you get when you add a veneer of seriousness to Donald Trump

    When Mike Pence was selected as Donald Trump's running mate, the descriptions followed a familiar pattern: "a sober, conservative legislator" (The Atlantic), "a seasoned politician who could help bring together disparate blocs of the Republican coalition" (The Washington Post) and "the best choice Trump could have made" (the political blog FiveThirtyEight).

    On Tuesday, after the vice-presidential debate, the pattern continued: The National Review deemed him "more serious, more mature, more knowledgeable, more his own man, more presidential" than his opponent, Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Virginia. On MSNBC, Chris Matthews said that Pence "came across as a grown-up." Overseas, the French newspaper Le Monde ran the headline that Pence "rekindled the Republican flame."

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I don't like Hillary Clinton or the Democratic Party. I'm voting for them anyway.

    Imagine: You spend weeks wondering if your spouse is cheating on you. You ask him about it, and he denies it. Then one day, you find his emails clearly showing that he has been cheating. You confront him, and he shrugs it off. You see no remorse in him. If anything, you see contempt. You start entertaining dark thoughts in your suffering. One night while you're fighting, an intruder breaks into your house. The intruder points a gun at both of you and threatens to hurt you and your children. Do you keep fighting your spouse, or do you try to figure out how both of you and the children can make it out alive?

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Who’s Sorry Now? The Country

    I don’t know about you, but I’m totally exhausted by the public’s obsession with the vice-presidential debate. Everywhere I go, people are babbling about Mike Pence and Tim Kaine! Who knew it would be so electric? The world can’t stop talking about Veep Vitriole.

    OK, I made that up. I’m sorry. Nobody is talking about the vice-presidential debate at all. This was really just a sneaky way to introduce the subject of apologies.

    It came up in the debate, during an argument over who had the most “insult-driven campaign.” Pence saw an opening to mention that Hillary Clinton had once described half of Donald Trump’s followers as a racist, sexist, homophobic “basket of deplorables.” Kaine retorted that at least Clinton had apologized.

    Which is true. Clinton said she regretted being “grossly generalistic, and that’s never a good idea.” It would have worked if she had not prefaced her original “deplorables” remark — made at a private fundraising event — with, “To just be grossly generalistic …”

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U.S. corporate-tax reform is just around the corner

    For all the partisan squabbling in this bizarre election year, a consensus has emerged in one important area: The U.S. corporate-tax system is broken.

    No matter who wins on Nov. 8, there's surprising agreement that change is coming. To get ready, think tanks are pumping out reform proposals, tax experts are updating their research and Congress is holding hearings.

    Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have plans. But the one most popular among politicians and scholars is by House Speaker Paul Ryan, who is offering a type of consumption tax to fix a multitude of problems with the existing code. His plan, however, could destabilize U.S. financial markets, especially the bond market. It may also violate the U.S.'s trade commitments.

    The ease with which multinational corporations avoid taxes is just one of many problems with the existing tax code. The top U.S. rate of 35 percent, the highest in the industrialized world, pushes companies to game the system. A good example is Apple's sweetheart deal with Ireland, in which Apple created "stateless income" and paid an effective tax rate of 0.005 percent.

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The vice-presidential debate deteriorates into a messy brawl

    Tim Kaine's strategy in Tuesday night's vice presidential debate was to go after Donald Trump frontally, over and over again, and to challenge Mike Pence to defend his running mate. Pence's strategy was to evade defending Trump, shake his head, pretend Trump hadn't said the things that Trump said -- and then move on to attacks against Hillary Clinton.

    Kaine was feisty, a lawyer eager to prosecute his case. Pence was polished, his deep voice recalling his talk show host past. Kaine was eager to challenge and sometimes interrupt Pence. Pence wanted certain issues -- Trump's failure to release his income tax returns, for example -- to go away. Kaine seemed fully comfortable turning back Pence's attacks on Clinton. Pence loyally defended Trump where he could, but he acted as if he were reluctant to walk away from the debate owning all of Trump's record.

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The Stumpf Banking System

    “Stumpf” is a German adjective for someone who’s obtuse, slow on the uptake, imperceptive, or to put it bluntly, stupid.

    Ironically, it also happens to be the surname of Wells Fargo’s CEO, who’s now mired in the most shameful banking scandal yet. For seven years or so, John Stumpf has presided over a venal bank policy, pressuring Wells Fargo’s retailing employees into systematically stealing from particularly vulnerable, low-income customers of the bank.

    During this time, he padded his own fortune with more than $100 million in personal pay. When this mass rip-off was recently exposed, Stumpf — the big boss getting the big bucks to be in charge — pleaded ignorance.

    In an act of what Senator Elizabeth Warren called “gutless leadership,” he publicly blamed the corrupt corporate culture on thousands of the bank’s low-level employees.

    But the chief wasn’t the only stumpf at Wells Fargo. Where were its board members, who are empowered and duty-bound to set, monitor, and assure ethical corporate behavior from the top down?

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October 8th

Hacking isn't the voting system's biggest problem

    Donald Trump keeps saying that the U.S. presidential election is rigged. Unlikely as this is, the perception of a hacked vote may be more dangerous than the reality.

    Last week, a Homeland Security Department official revealed that hackers had been poking around in the voter registration systems of more than 20 states. An earlier FBI memo disclosed ongoing investigations of breaches involving voter databases in Arizona and Illinois. All this suggests that hackers may be searching for a way to access election management systems -- computers that run the software to create ballots and tabulate votes.

    At the Intelligence and National Security Summit last month, FBI Director James Comey reassured the audience of the integrity of the country's electoral system: "The beauty of the American voting system is that it's diverse among the 50 states and it's clunky as heck." Clunky is rarely a confidence-inspiring term. A Ford Pinto is also clunky as heck. It's certainly insulated from internet hackers, but many other things can go wrong as a result of its clunkiness.

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The Blot on Obama’s Legacy

    Our excuse for failing to respond to mass atrocities used to be that we didn’t fully appreciate the horrors until it was too late. “If only we had known,” became one refrain, along with, “Never again!”

    In Syria, we are deprived of that excuse: We have a daily window into war crimes. If you’re on Twitter, follow a 7-year-old girl in Aleppo, Bana al-Abed, @alabedbana, who with her mom’s help is tweeting the carnage around her.

    One tweet shows a video clip of Bana looking out the window and plugging her ears as bombs drop. “I am very afraid I will die tonight,” she worried in imperfect English. “This bombs will kill me now.”

    “This is my friend house bombed,” Bana tweeted with a photo. “She’s killed. I miss her so much.”

    Her mother, Fatemah, an English teacher who has been teaching Bana English for several years, chimes in as well.

    “Sleeping as you can hear the bombs fall,” Fatemah tweeted. “I will tweet tomorrow if we are alive.”

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Team Trump rebukes Hillary Clinton, sounds like a defense

    I grabbed my ear lobe and jiggled it in disbelief of the words I was hearing from former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani's mouth.

    Giuliani, a surrogate for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, was responding to a very good question from NBC's "Meet the Press" host Chuck Todd on Sunday morning.

    Todd wanted to know whether Giuliani's own history of marital infidelity disqualified him to be "the right person" to lead the Trump campaign's latest tactic: criticizing Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's response to her husband then-president Bill Clinton's sexual behavior with a White House intern named Monica Lewinsky.

    "You have your own infidelities, sir," Todd reminded the former mayor.

    "Everybody does," Giuliani casually responded. "You know, I'm a Roman Catholic, and I confess those things to my priest."

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