Archive

October 4th, 2016

You didn't need a new Wells Fargo account. I sold you one anyway.

    It's Christmas Eve 2010 and the doors are locked, the tellers have closed their stations and the customers are gone. But I'm still at work with another Wachovia personal banker - my bank, a part of Wells Fargo - in our crappy branch-office cubicles calling friends and relatives, trying to persuade them to sign up for additional checking accounts.

    Why? The branch is only open as a courtesy and, let's face it, nobody has "open a deposit account" on their to-do list today, but I have a sales quota to meet regardless of what the calendar says. It's the same as any other day, so I proceed as if my job depends upon it. Because it does.

    I know you guys bank somewhere else, I begged my cousins over the phone as we made plans to see each other on Christmas Day, but I'm going to be a complete basket case until I can get some new accounts, trying to cajole them into signing up for accounts they didn't need.

    They wanted to know: How much is the monthly fee?

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Why Trump must not be president

    OK, let's end this comedy. No more Big Orange jokes. This madness has gone on long enough.

    It's time to stop pretending. There are not two serious contenders for president. There's one candidate, Hillary Clinton, who's not perfect, but who at least has the experience, intelligence and capacity to do the job. There's another, Donald Trump, who shouldn't even be on the ballot.

    If you don't believe it, go back and watch a rerun of the first debate. He blamed it on the microphone and the moderator, but no matter how many lame excuses he makes, Donald Trump proved once and for all why he doesn't belong on the same stage with Hillary Clinton.

    She was everything he was not. She was prepared, he was not. She was cool, he was hot. She was substantive, he was shallow. She was polite, he was rude and obnoxious. She answered questions directly, he bobbed and weaved. She told the truth. And he lied.

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The first debate was a defeat for Trump. Here's why the second could be a massacre.

    If the first step to fixing your problem is acknowledging you have a problem, Donald Trump is in some serious trouble. We're ten days from his second debate with Hillary Clinton, and while most voters and virtually every sane observer agree that Trump did poorly in the first debate, a spate of reporting suggests that his campaign, and especially Trump himself, are in a state of deep denial about what happened and what he needs to do in order to have a different outcome next time.

    But that's not all. Because of the format of the second debate, Trump stands to do even worse than he did in the first debate, and Clinton could do even better.

    I'll explain why that is in a moment, but first, let's take a quick tour around Trumpland today:

 

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Human soldiers will always cause human tragedies

    Pentagon officials proclaim repeatedly that the air campaign against the Islamic State is the "most precise in military history." Since the war began in August 2014, there have been 15,000 airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, with the United States responsible for 70 percent, which have killed 45,000 Islamic State fighters, according to a recent estimate from a U.S. commander. The Pentagon acknowledges just 55 civilian casualties, with several investigations ongoing - a ratio that is unbelievably low by recent historical standards, including when compared to counterterrorism drone strikes.

    And yet on Sept. 17, the U.S. military's vaunted precision failed. An attack that day apparently by U.S. and coalition aircraft in Syria had to be stopped when Russian officials alerted their U.S. counterparts that it was a Syrian military convoy, not an Islamic State target, which was being bombed. That convoy was not a legitimate military target under U.S. rules of engagement, making the attack on it a failure on par with inadvertently harming civilians. The U.S. military's subsequent press release declared flatly "coalition forces would not intentionally strike a known Syrian military unit."

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One theory of why Trump is hiding his tax returns

    One of the things you're supposed to do if you want to be the leader of a company - or a country - is to set a good example.

    That's why I was so appalled during the debate Monday night when Donald Trump boasted - or seemed to boast - about having paid no U.S. income taxes for the years in which his tax returns have become public record. "That makes me smart," he said.

    Actually, it doesn't make him smart. It makes him foolish. And a phony. Here's a guy wearing an American flag in his lapel, talking about how our country is heavily in debt and needs money badly, and then telling us that he's smart for not supporting the place in which we all live.

    I don't know about you, but I found it infuriating.

    If Trump were truly smart - and wasn't, as I wrote in July, someone who lacks impulse control - he'd boast about paying no taxes, then say that he would close the loophole or loopholes that allowed him do that.

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How the Clinton-Trump Race Got Close

    Monday’s presidential debate was a blowout, surely the most one-sided confrontation in American political history. Hillary Clinton was knowledgeable, unflappable and — dare we say it? — likable. Donald Trump was ignorant, thin-skinned and boorish.

    Yet on the eve of the debate, polls showed a close race. How was that possible?

    After all, the candidates we saw Monday night were the same people they’ve been all along. Clinton’s grace and even humor under pressure were fully apparent during last year’s Benghazi hearing. Trump’s whiny braggadocio has been obvious every time he opens his mouth without reading from a teleprompter.

    So how could someone like Trump have been in striking position for the White House? (He may still be there, since we have yet to see what effect the debate had on the polls.)

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Donald Trump's long-shot opportunity in the Old Dominion

    A raft of new polling data on the state of the presidential race in Virginia shows Democrat Hillary Clinton still in the lead. But Republican Donald Trump may yet be able to close the gap before Election Day.

    Both the Quinnipiac and Roanoke College polls released last week show the race has gotten closer in Virginia, with Clinton's post convention bounce now gone. A Wason Center poll released Monday showed Clinton still ahead, but below 40 percent in a three-way race in which Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson is included.

    By all public indications, Clinton's campaign thinks it has the state locked down. But Trump has the most room to grow. Unfortunately for him, it's among Republicans who just can't stomach his candidacy.

    The CBS/YouGov poll shows Trump with just 73 percent of Republicans backing his candidacy. In 2012, Mitt Romney got 94 percent of the GOP vote. In 2008, Sen. John McCain got 92 percent.

    The last time a Republican carried Virginia was 2004, when Republican George W. Bush defeated Democrat John Kerry by 8 points, and did so with 95 percent of the GOP vote.

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Clinton would be wise to rebuke Howard Dean

    Here's another test for the Democratic Party: How firmly can it reject the irresponsible accusation by former Democratic National Committee Chair Howard Dean that Donald Trump was sniffling during the debate because he was using cocaine?

    Dean tweeted out his claim on Monday night, and then stuck with it on Tuesday.

    More is at stake here than one might think.

    The temptation to embrace or tolerate irresponsible attacks is a constant for all political parties. And, contrary to what many liberals believe these days, there's nothing about conservatives that makes them uniquely susceptible to conspiracy-mongering. Go back a decade or so, and you'll find plenty of liberals and leftists who trafficked in conspiracy theories about voting machines, just to cite one example.

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October 3rd

That Seventh-Grade Bully Is Running for President

    Donald Trump displayed an excellent version of the stern squint in the presidential debate. Many of us men are familiar with this expression, because we practice it at age 13 in the hope that it will impress girls. It doesn’t, and we grow out of it — most of us, anyway.

    Hillary Clinton wears a patient smile, the expression of every woman who has calmly suppressed irritation while being harangued by a boor on topics he knows nothing about. Sadly, women never have the opportunity to retire this expression because it is constantly needed, or so my wife tells me.

    What is thrilling is that Trump’s boorishness may be catching up to him.

    Trump has advocated policies that are confused or senseless — deporting 11 million unauthorized immigrants en masse, banning Muslims from entering the country, undermining NATO, slashing taxes on billionaires while raising them on single parents, capitulating to Russia on Crimea — yet these don’t get him into deep political trouble. Instead, his vulnerability seems to be something more elemental: He’s a jerk.

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You can't strip dancers of the right to bare all

    Strippers have constitutional rights too -- or at least that's the claim of three New Orleans women challenging a Louisiana law that requires exotic dancers to be 21 to expose their breasts or buttocks. It may sound absurd, but the legal argument is pretty powerful. The law facially discriminates on the basis of sex, and arguably infringes on that classic First Amendment right to express yourself by dancing without clothes.

    According to its proponents, the Louisiana law, signed in June, was aimed at reducing sex trafficking by preventing women ages 18 to 21 from stripping. Presumably the idea is that women younger than 21 are especially vulnerable to trafficking. But the chain of logic isn't all that clear, because trafficking doesn't necessarily stop at 21. One state senator said that if you have to be 21 to drink in a Louisiana strip club, you should have to be 21 to take off your clothes. That doesn't really follow, either.

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