Who cares about people 7000 miles away?

“Let Syria and Assad protect the Kurds and fight Turkey for their own land. I said to my Generals, why should we be fighting for Syria and Assad to protect the land of our enemy? Anyone who wants to assist Syria in protecting the Kurds is good with me, whether it is Russia, China, or Napoleon Bonaparte. I hope they all do great, we are 7,000 miles away!”

President Donald Trump, Oct. 14, 2019

trumpandstatedepartment

Is President Trump arguing that far away countries are not worth America’s attention?

  • Should the U.S. ignore the freedom seekers in Hong Kong?

Distance from Washington, D.C. to Hong Kong: 8,140 miles

DCtoHongKong

  • Should the U.S. have avoided confronting Hitler?

Distance from Washington to Berlin: 4,167 miles

DCtoBerlin

  • Should the U.S. ignore the threat posed by Russia?

Distance from Washington to Moscow: 4,857 miles

DCtoMoscow

  • Should the U.S. have allowed North Korea and the People’s Republic of China to take over South Korea?

Distance from Washington to Seoul: 6,933 miles

DCtoSeoul

  • Should the U.S. have skipped the North African campaign in WWII

Distance from Washington to Tobruk, Libya: 5,386 miles

DCtoTobruk

  • Should the U.S. abandon Israel?

Distance from Washington to Jerusalem: 5,897 miles

DCtoJurusalem

  • Should the U.S. ignore the threats posed by the People’s Republic of China? (the only one actually about 7,000 miles away)

Distance from Washington, D.C.to Beijing: 6,928.42 miles

DCtoBeijing

Remind you of anything?

America_First_Rally_flyer_April_4_1941?

 

 

Enriching the rich: Trump’s opportunity zones

Another tax break for the wealthy sold as an economy-boosting innovation that will help the poor. We deserve better.

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President Trump signs the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, including Opportunity Zone provisions,            on Dec. 22, 2017

Stand in front of the vacant building at the corner of S.W. Pacific Hwy and Dartmouth St. in Tigard and you’ll be enveloped in activity.

IOZbuildingMG_3101 copy 2

11688 Pacific Hwy, Tigard

The traffic is heavy and constant. Nearby businesses include Costco, a thriving Car Toys store, a bustling shopping center and numerous restaurants. It doesn’t look much like an under-invested, economically distressed area badly in need of economic development and job creation.

But the building on the corner, 11686 S.W. Pacific Hwy, is in one of Tigard’s three “opportunity zones.” All are tax-advantaged sites added to the tax code subsequent to President Trump signing the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act on December 22, 2017.

TigardOpportunity-Zones

Tigard’s Opportunity Zones (in dark blue)

The idea, proposed by Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), was that high-poverty areas/distressed communities would get a leg up with new investments if they were eligible for generous preferential tax treatment. The program was originally proposed in the Investing in Opportunity Act, which Sen. Scott co-sponsored with Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) earlier in 2017. The program allowed investors to reduce and defer paying capital-gains taxes if they invested in a qualified opportunity zone fund which invested in an opportunity zone.

“The rich will not be gaining at all with this plan,” the president told reporters prior to a Sept. 2017 White House meeting with the bipartisan Congressional Problem Solvers Caucus.

Areas can qualify as opportunity zones if they have been nominated for that designation by the state and certified by the Secretary of the U.S. Treasury via the Internal Revenue Service.

Investors in a zone earn a 10% tax discount on their gains after five years, then a 15% discount after seven years. If they keep their opportunity fund shares for 10 years, they can sell them without paying any taxes on the money they made from that investment.

But investors have to act fast because to get the greatest potential tax break they need to leave their money in a fund by the end of this year. Under the law, they can defer paying taxes on their initial investment only until 2026. That’s motivating many investments in projects planned well before opportunity zones were designated.

“With Opportunity Zones, we’re drawing investment into neglected and underserved communities of America so that all Americans, regardless of ZIP code, have access to the American dream,” Trump said on Dec. 12, 2018.

But things got off on the wrong foot when real estate experts got hold of the law.  “…what we were greeted with, and I don’t think it’s unfair for me to say this, were eight pages of the most poorly written statute that I’ve come across in my time covering tax policy,” said Tony Nitti, a CPA, currently a Tax Partner with RubinBrown in Aspen, CO. and a Senior Contributor to Forbes.

It took almost a year after the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act became law before the IRS published a lengthy list of proposed regulations on Oct. 19, 2018.

Then the IRS had to address more questions with a second set of 44 pages of proposed regulations on May 1, 2019.

Another problem that has emerged is that not all of the country’s 8,764 certified opportunity zones encompass just under-invested, economically distressed areas badly in need of economic development and job creation. Some also include areas of relative affluence that would be ripe for investment even without the new tax break.

As Samantha Jacoby, a Senior Tax Legal Analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Policies, a progressive think tank,  has warned, the opportunity zone law is “fundamentally flawed” and the “… tax benefits will flow to wealthy investors with no guarantee that the zones will help distressed communities.”

Even the Wall Street Journal recently  highlighted this problem, noting that, “a tax benefit intended to help poor areas is channeling money to places that are already relatively well-off.”

One such place in a Tigard opportunity zone is raw land at the corner of SW Dartmouth St & SW 72nd Ave.  The 1.69 acres of commercial land in an already prosperous and heavily developed area is being offered for sale for $3,300,000 by the Real Estate Investment Group.

OZDartmouthland

Because no structure is on the land to improve, it might seem like a speculator could buy this raw land, sit on it without adding anything and then sell the land after ten years tax-free.

But it’s not so simple. An owner must conduct a trade or businessand just holding raw land is not a trade or business. So the purchaser of raw land will also need to invest in substantial improvements on the property, though the owner would not be bound to as specific an amount of improvements..

It would also be quite a stretch to call 11646 S.W. Pacific Hwy, a 29,978 sq. ft. site with a vacant 11,260 sq. ft. building that’s for sale at the corner of S.W. Pacific Highway and Dartmouth St., “economically distressed.”

Marketing material for the site has highlighted that average household income was $71,601 within one mile and $89,792 within three miles in 2015. The material also points out that the site is in the middle of a bustling commercial area that includes retailers such as Costco, PetSmart. A Walmart Supercenter, WinCo Foods and Fred Meyer.

Some readers may remember when the building on the site was occupied by Magnolia Hi-Fi.  The building was constructed in 1996 and NTN Pacific, LLC bought the site from Toyama Hawaii Corp. for $3,100,000 on Jan. 7, 2004 It’s now being offered for lease or sale through Norris & Stevens, Inc.

The buyer of this property won’t automatically qualify for the opportunity zone tax benefits. Since the goal of the program is to improve distressed communities, substantial improvements will have to be made to the property within 30 months.

To be precise, the new owner will have to spend on improvements an amount at least equal to the purchase price of the building. If 60% ($1.5 million) of a $2.5 million purchase price is allocated to the building’s value and 40% ($1 million) to the land’s value, the purchaser will have to invest an additional $1.5 million on substantial improvements, such as redeveloping the building and building out spaces for incoming tenants.

One of Tigard’s stated objectives in creating opportunity zones was to spur the development of more affordable housing.  Tigard is considered a rent-burdened city with over 28 percent of residents spending over 50 percent of their income on rent/mortgages.

But it would be a mistake to assume new housing being built in Tigard’s opportunity zones will address this problem. For example, The 72nd, a 38-unit apartment building that’s under construction on S.W. 72ndAve. will be far from affordable housing.

OZhousing

The 72nd apartment complex under construction in a Tigard opportunity zone.

A 517 sq. ft. one-bathroom studio at The 72nd will start at $1263 a month; a 690 sq. ft. one-bedroom one-bathroom apartment at $1534 a month. And rents go as high as $1,776 a month for a one-bedroom one-bathroom apartment.

And then there’s the impact of the opportunity zone tax breaks on federal and state tax collections.

The new tax breaks will cost an estimated $1.6 billion in lost federal revenue over ten years, according to Congress’ Joint Committee on Taxation.

At the state level, all the tax breaks lower individuals’ and corporations’ “gross income,” as the Internal Revenue Code defines it. If states piggyback on that definition, as most do, the breaks will automatically flow through to state individual and corporate income taxes unless the state proactively “decouples” its law from the opportunity zone provisions. Without decoupling, states will miss out on collecting revenue needed to fund other priorities needed for healthy economy.

As the Oregon Center for Public Policy, a left-leaning think tank, put it, “Someone will have to pay for the subsidies going to the wealthy investors profiting from Opportunity Zones, and that someone will be schools and essential services.”

So it’s not cynicism to see the opportunity zone program as yet another misguided giveaway. As Caesar proclaims in David Staller’s adaptation of “Caesar and Cleopatra,”  “The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it.”.

Welcome to opportunity zones — tax shelters for wealthy investors and real estate developers who can put their money to work in areas the least in need of assistance, reducing state and federal tax revenues and increasing already excessive federal deficits.

Another well-intentioned program gone awry.

 

 

The Democratic presidential candidates and Oregon: they could care less

Digital advertising is one of the key elements of the campaigns of Democrats running for their party’s 2020 presidential nomination. Data show that some candidates are shouting, while others are barely whispering.

According to Acronym, a progressive non-profit that tracks political digital spending, the candidates are paying Facebook and Google millions for digital ads, but spending in Oregon is barely a blip, .

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is the biggest spender so far.  She has spent $1,688,706 on digital ads (Facebook: $1,218,206; Google: $470,500) since launching her campaign.

WarrenLaunch

Senator Elizabeth Warren speaks during her presidential candidacy announcement event at the Everett Mills in Lawrence, MA on February 9, 2019.

The second biggest spender on Facebook and Google digital ads is Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA). She has spent $1,640,339 (Facebook: $1.2 million; Google: $438,000).

Altogether, the Democratic candidates have spent $12,805,165 on Facebook and Google digital ads since launching their individual campaigns.

digitalspending

Yes, President Trump has spent $9,080,994, outspending every Democratic candidate.

What states have been targeted with all that money?

If you look at the top five states targeted by each of the candidates with Facebook ads, California takes the lead. It’s one of the top five targets of 15 candidates. Then there’s Iowa, which has its caucuses on Feb. 3, 2020.  It’s in the top five lists of nine candidates. Next is Texas, one of the top five states of eight candidates.

Even though New Hampshire has its primary early on Feb. 11, 2020, it’s only in the top five spending list for Facebook ads of three Democratic candidates: Pete Buttigieg, John DeLaney; and Tulsi Gabbard.

Then there’s Oregon. Oregon’s not in the top five list of any of the Democratic candidates and it’s only in the top ten list of two, Bernie Sanders and Julian Castro. But even Sanders has applied only 3.3% ($41,502) of his Facebook spending to Oregon and Castro only 2% ($8,379).

The lack of digital attention to Oregon may well be because the state’s primary isn’t until May 19, 2020, real late in the game, and it has only 52 delegates. If a candidate is trying to harvest a lot of delegates, focusing on the states with earlier primaries, including Super Tuesday, March 3, when 1433 delegates will be at stake, makes more sense.

Sorry, Oregon. You just don’t matter.

 

Addendum, May 5, 2019

The Democratic National Committee announced in late April that 2020 presidential candidates will each need to hit 130,000 donors to qualify for the third and fourth televised debates in the fall. Vice According to the Columbia Journalism Review, Vice News’s David Uberti reported that the high threshold may force longshot contenders to spend more on Facebook ads than they get back in donations—limiting their resources for more traditional forms of campaigning. In all, political ad spending is expected to near the $10-billion mark in 2020, up from $6.3 billion in 2016. The Wall Street Journal’s Alexandra Bruell has the figures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trump’s seven words: Who you gonna believe?

Ghostbusters-2-01-4

It’s not easy being right.

The Washington Post reported on Dec. 6 that, “The Trump administration has informed multiple divisions within the Department of Health and Human Services that they should avoid using certain words or phrases in official documents being drafted for next year’s budget.”

According to the Post, officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were told seven words or phrases were prohibited in budget documents: “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based.”

I’ve no doubt the two reporters who wrote the Post’s story, Lena H. Sun and Juliet Eipperin, were roundly celebrated for the scoop by their colleagues in the newsroom. It’s also likely that the Post was pleased to see its story picked up by multiple other major and minor newspaper, television and social media outlets.

I thought it was fascinating, too, partly because it tied in with all the current discussion about the misuse of words and the 1984 parallels.

“We’re becoming Venezuela, where doctors are warned not to diagnose a patient as suffering from ‘malnutrition’, likely because it would highlight the widespread hunger in the country where, according to a horrific story in the New York Times, starving children are regularly brought to hospital emergency rooms,” I wrote in a post on my blog.

But was the Washington Post’s story true?

On Dec. 18, National Review, a conservative publication said emphatically, “No”.

In a story titled, “No, HHS Did Not ‘Ban Words’,” Yuval Levin, the editor of National Affairs, a quarterly journal of essays on domestic policy and politics, forcefully challenged the Post’s version of events.

Levin, after talking with some HHS officials, argued that the budget office at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) sent divisions of the department a style guide to use in their budget-proposal language and “congressional justification” documents for the coming year. That style guide set out some words to be avoided, Levin said, because they are frequently misused or regularly overused in departmental documents. “The style guide does not prohibit the use of these terms, but it says they should be used only when alternatives (which it proposes in some cases) cannot be,” Levin wrote.

Why avoid certain terms? “The common practice of substituting the term “vulnerable” for “poor”, for example, has a long history of annoying some Republicans on Capitol Hill, and presumably that accounts for the instruction to avoid it in congressional-justification documents,” Levin said. In other words, he said, it wasn’t that retrograde Republicans in the Trump administration ordered career CDC officials not to use these terms but that career CDC officials assumed retrograde Republicans would be triggered by such words and, in an effort to avoid having such Republicans cut their budgets, reasoned they might be best avoided.”

“If all of that is correct… it does make for an interesting story,” Levin said. “But it’s not nearly as interesting as the Washington Post made it seem, and it doesn’t point to quite the same lessons either. In fact, it probably tells us more about the attitudes and assumptions of the career officials in various HHS offices than about the political appointees of the administration they are now supposed to be working for.”

So, slightly modifying the Ghostbusters line, “Who you gonna believe?”

With all the attention being given to so-called “fake news,” it’s becoming harder to know what’s true and what’s not. Sure, there are carefully planted tweets and Facebook posts that are clearly false, items posted not to inform but to sway public opinion. But what about all the stories by so-called legitimate media sources that, when closely examined, seem to some to be more an effort to advance an ideological agenda

The Post and the New York Times, for example, have come under fire from critics arguing that they are increasingly functioning as public relations arms of the Democratic National Committee. Equally, Fox News is routinely accused of just the opposite.

“Since its 1996 launch, Fox has become a central hub of the conservative movement’s well-oiled media machine,” says FAIR, a group that criticizes media bias from a progressive viewpoint. “Together with the GOP organization and its satellite think tanks and advocacy groups, this network of fiercely partisan outlets—such as the Washington Times, the Wall Street Journal editorial page and conservative talk-radio shows like Rush Limbaugh’s—forms a highly effective right-wing echo chamber.”

Perhaps we are just returning to the beginning.

The first newspaper produced in North America was Publick Occurrences, Both Foreign and Domestick, published on September 25, 1690, by Boston printer Benjamin Harris. The colonial government objected to Harris’s negative tone regarding British rule and the newspaper was banned after one issue.

Subsequent newspapers printed during the colonial period were highly opinionated, generally arguing one political point of view or aggressively pushing the ideas of whatever party subsidized the paper.

Mitchell Stephens, a New York University journalism professor and the author of History of News, said the purpose of newspapers “changed to the political and polemical after 1765—around the time of the Stamp Act-as tensions snowballed.”

 

“As the century began, the fledgling colonial press tested its wings,” James Breig, a newspaper editor, wrote in the Colonial Williamsburg Journal. “A bolder journalism opened on the eve of the Revolution. And, as the century closed with the birth of the United States, a rancorously partisan and rambunctious press emerged.”

It looks like it’s back.

Trump’s Folly: the deliberate decline of the U.S. Department of State

crumblingdepartmentofstate

“All diplomacy is a continuation of war by other means,” said Zhou Enlai, the first Premier of the People’s Republic of China.

President Trump seems to be leading America toward the reverse, where a series of ad hoc decisions, rather than a well thought out foreign policy, and decimation of the U.S. Department of State, may lead to catastrophe.

Dean Acheson, United States Secretary of State in the administration of President Harry S. Truman from 1949 to 1953, pointed out that the successful organization of power is achieved only by the harmonious merging of economic, fiscal, military, foreign, and weapons development policies.

The same principles apply today.

Effective foreign policy requires the application of talent across the board. You need the soprano, contralto, tenor, baritone and bass, the full chorus.

“In the world of policy realism, … effective diplomacy usually involves all four aspects: artful and encouraging language; the use of economic and non-economic sanctions as leverage to shift the opponent’s cost-benefit calculation; the delicate deployment of “or else” threats that credibly back up the diplomat’s commitment to resolve the matter, one way or the other; all backed up and informed by careful, all-source intelligence, Peter D. Feaver is a professor of political science and public policy at Duke University, argued in Foreign Policy.

I’ve worked in Congress on foreign policy issues and with the Department of State on treaty negotiations, and I’ve been privileged to know many of the talented people there. I believe strongly that in a rapidly changing and challenging international environment, it is essential that the United States have a strong, trusted Department of State with an experienced staff.

But Trump and his Secretary of State, Rex W. Tillerson, appear to be functioning as a two-man foreign policy band, destroying the department, pulling it down piece by piece, turning it into rubble.

trumpandstatedepartment

“I’m the only one that matters” in setting U.S. foreign policy, President Trump said to Fox News’ Laura Ingraham on Nov. 2, 2017

Tillerson has frozen most hiring and recently offered buyouts to seasoned career diplomats and civil servants in hopes of pushing nearly 2,000 of them by October 2018, according to the New York Times. His aides have fired some diplomats and gotten others to resign by refusing them the assignments they wanted or taking away their duties altogether.

Meanwhile, just 10 of the top 44 political positions in the department have been filled, and for most of the vacancies, Mr Tillerson has not nominated anyone.

With North Korea’s belligerent behavior a major U.S. concern, Trump hasn’t yet nominated an assistant secretary for East Asia or an ambassador to South Korea. With all the troubles in Syria, Turkey, Egypt, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, there have been no confirmations of Trump nominees to be ambassadors to any of these countries and there is no confirmed assistant secretary for Near Eastern Affairs at the Department of State.

With Robert Mugabe having been effectively deposed as President of Zimbabwe and a new president installed in his place, there is also no confirmed assistant secretary for African affairs.

On Nov. 15, 2017 , Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) sent a blistering letter to Tillerson criticizing him and the Trump administration for “…questionable management practices at the Department of State; the attitudes of some in the Administration on the value of diplomacy; declining morale, recruitment and retention; the lack of experienced leadership to further the strength and longevity of our nation’s diplomatic corps; and reports of American diplomacy becoming less effective…”

Another letter, this one written by Ambassador Barbara Stephenson, President of the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) for the December 2017 Foreign Service Journal, asserted “there is simply no denying the warning signs that point to mounting threats to our institution—and to the global leadership that depends on us.”

“Were the U.S. military to face such a decapitation of its leadership ranks, I would expect a public outcry,” Stephenson wrote. “The rapid loss of so many senior officers has a serious, immediate, and tangible effect on the capacity of the United States to shape world events.”

Another issue that should be of great concern, but doesn’t get much media coverage, is that the number of applicants taking the difficult Foreign Service test used to identify promising Foreign Service candidates has declined drastically.

According to Stephenson, “…more than 17,000 people applied to take the Foreign Service Officer Test last year…What does it tell us, then, that we are on track to have fewer than half as many people take the Foreign Service Officer Test this year?” The State Department has challenged Stephenson’s numbers, saying the number that actually sat for the test in 2015 was 14,480, compared to 9,519 that took the test this year. That’s a 34 percent drop.

Whoever is right, without a constant flow of new blood, the Department of State will wither.

Maybe that’s Trump’s hope. If it is, it’s seriously misguided.

As Stephenson wrote, “Where is the mandate to pull the Foreign Service team from the field and forfeit the game to our adversaries?”

 

 

 

The media as the resistance

NYTIMES

Jill Abramson, a former executive editor of the New York Times, has a few things to say about the paper’s coverage of President Trump. In a Columbia Journalism Review piece, she warns that the paper needs to be careful not to “create the appearance of a pile-on… that needlessly inflame Trump loyalists.”

“Precisely because of its influence, the Times’s tone and sense of proportion in covering the president must be pitch perfect,” Abramson says. She notes statements by the paper’s current Executive Editor Dean Baquet, “Our role is not to be the opposition to Donald Trump,” and by David Sanger, a Washington correspondent for the Times, that it would be “the biggest single mistake . . . to let ourselves become the resistance to the government.”

To put it mildly, I’m far from a Trump loyalist, but I’ve seen the Times’ blatant bias in its coverage of Trump’s recent package of immigration proposals.

“White House Makes Hard-Line Demands for Any ‘Dreamers’ Deal”, the NY Times screamed on Oct. 8.

DACA PROTEST

The paper went on to say Trump’s “demands” threaten a bipartisan solution.

“WASHINGTON — The White House on Sunday delivered to Congress a long list of hard-line immigration measures that President Trump is demanding in exchange for any deal to protect the young undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers, imperiling a fledgling bipartisan push to reach a legislative solution.”

The Washington Post blared on the same day:
“Trump administration releases hard-line immigration principles, threatening deal on ‘dreamers’ “

RealClear Politics fell in line, too. “ “An array of hard-line immigration priorities the White House outlined to Congress Sunday were quickly rejected by Democrats as complete non-starters, jeopardizing the chances of striking a deal to shield hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants.

 The Boston Globe, the L.A. Times, USA Today and multiple other news outlets piled on with the same “hard-line” cliché.

 Wait a minute. Why are Trump’s proposals “hard-line” and not the Democrats demands?

A little history is in order.

When President Obama announced his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals   (DACA) program in the Rose Garden on June 15, 2012, it hardly reflected a middle-of-the-road consensus. If anything, it represented hard-line hard-left thinking, but the media didn’t describe it that way.

This despite the fact Republicans vigorously denounced the move as an abuse of executive power. The action is “a politically-motivated power grab that does nothing to further the debate but instead adds additional confusion and uncertainty to our broken immigration system,” said Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)

And when Obama said in 2014 that he intended to expand DACA so more people would be eligible, 26 states with Republican governors went to court to stop him. Resistance broke out as well when Obama took executive action to grant deferred action status to illegal immigrants who had lived in the United States since 2010 and had children who were either American citizens or lawful permanent residents.

In both cases, courts blocked Obama’s actions and in June 2017 the Trump Administration officially rescinded the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans order.

In other words, Obama’s actions were pretty hard-line. But the media didn’t describe them that way.

Trump’s current package of immigration proposals includes a dozen proposals grouped into three broad areas — border security, interior enforcement and merit-based immigration. Key elements are:

  • Build a southern border wall and close legal loopholes that enable illegal immigration and swell the court backlog.
  • Enforce our immigration laws and return visa overstays.
  • Merit-based immigration system. Establish reforms that protect American workers and promote financial success.

The Democrat’s reaction? Immediate, unqualified, harsh, hard-line dead-on-arrival rejection of Trump’s plan. “This list goes so far beyond what is reasonable,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer  and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. “This proposal fails to represent any attempt at compromise.”

Why do the media label Trump’s proposals “hard-line”, but not apply the negative appellation to the Democrat’s outright rejection of them and insistence on their positions? Why aren’t the opening positions of both sides simply described as starting points for negotiation? Then we can decide what we think of them.

That would be more responsible than the major media becoming the resistance.

“What Happened” to Hillary?

Hillary-Clinton-Signs-Copies-Of-Her-New-Book-What-Happened-In-NYC.jpeg.CROP.promo-xlarge2

In Hillary Clinton’s new book, What Happened, Hillary:

  • Lets readers know, in no uncertain terms, that she is a monument to perseverance.
  • Claims to be a paragon of virtue who never stooped to bad behavior. “I couldn’t—and wouldn’t—compete to stoke people’s rage and resentment,” she writes.
  • Engages in what the New York Times describes as “a score-settling jubilee,” criticizing Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, Barack Obama, Russians, racists, Julian Assange, misogynists, James B. Comey, the media, James B. Comey, Vladimir Putin, James B. Comey and others. “If not for the dramatic intervention of the FBI director in the final days,” she says, “we would have won the White House.”
  • Blames Barack Obama for not alerting the nation to the danger posed by Trump. “I do wonder sometimes about what would have happened if President Obama had made a televised address to the nation in the fall of 2016 warning that our democracy was under attack,” she wrote.
  • Takes a swipe at Joe Biden’s presidential ambitions, saying Barack Obama “…made it clear that he believed that I was our party’s best chance to hold the White House and keep our progress going, and he wanted me to move quickly to prepare to run.” The New York Times has characterized this comment as “…a grim reminder of the worst we’ve read about Clinton: She needs a separate storage unit to hold her grudges — and her sets of tiny knives.”
  • Criticizes Today Show host Matt Lauer for grilling her so aggressively about her controversial email practices during a NBC presidential debate that she was “ticked off” and “almost physically sick”.
  • Figures Donald Trump invited her and Bill to his 2005 wedding to Melania Trump because “he wanted as much star power as he could get.”
  • Insists Bernie Sanders is not a real Democrat
  • Was  “incredibly uncomfortable” to be stalked on stage by Trump during a presidential debate.
  • Claims she suffered disproportionately from charges of untrustworthiness or inauthenticity simply because she was a woman, not because of any of her behavior during her long career.
  • Blames voter suppression in swing states for her loss.
  • Never, ever, in a million years thought she could lose to Donald Trump, an inferior opponent across the board, from intelligence to political savvy and understanding of the American people.

As Vanity Fair put it, “…this book shows her to be just like Hillary Clinton, only more so, meaning that you’ll love it or hate it or feel however you already felt about its author.”

There. Now you don’t have to buy the book.

$17 Million Democrat Dollars Down The Drain: The #Ossoff Election

Democratic Candidate For Georgia's 6th District Leading In Polls On Election Day

Oh well. Never mind.

Democrats across the country opened their wallets in support of Jon Ossoff, a Democratic candidate for Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District. Their goal, secure more than 50 percent of the April 18 special election vote, avoid a runoff and win a seat that Republicans have held since 1979.

All together Democrats donated $8.3 million to Ossoff’s campaign in the first quarter of 2017. On top of that, Center for Public Integrity’s Rachel Wilson has reported that super PACs, nonprofits and other groups independent of any candidate’s campaign spent another $9 million on the Georgia 6th race.

But Ossoff didn’t exceed 50 percent. Now Ossoff, a 30-year-old documentary filmmaker and former congressional staffer, will have to run in a 2-way race against just one Republican candidate in June. The likelihood is his Republican opponent will coast to a win.

So much for the Democrats’ hoped for repudiation of President Trump.

As for Ossoff. Oh well. Never mind.

DeFazio and Schrader: are they vulnerable in 2018?

What are they smoking?

That was my first thought when I learned Republicans think Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR) will be vulnerable in 2018.

The National Republican Congressional Committee’s Chairman Steve Stivers announced on Feb. 8 that DeFazio and Schrader would be among the party’s initial 36 offensive targets in the House of Representatives for the 2018 midterm elections.

defaziovulnerable

Rep. Peter DeFazio

The Committee’s goal is to keep Republicans in control of the House

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Rep. Kurt Schrader

so they can pursue their agenda in areas such as healthcare reform, a stronger national defense, and job growth.

DeFazio has represented Oregon’s 4th Congressional District since 1987. The district, in the southwest portion of Oregon, includes Coos, Curry, Douglas, Lane, and Linn counties and parts of Benton and Josephine counties.

oregon4thdistrict

Oregon’s 4th District

In his first race, DeFazio won with 54.3 percent of the vote. He won his next 16 races with comfortable leads, with a high of 85.8 percent in 1990 and a low of 54.6 percent in 2010. After a 2011 re-districting gave Democrat-heavy Corvallis to the 4th district, DeFazio won 59.1- 39 percent.

Democrats figured the Corvallis shift guaranteed DeFazio a permanent seat and his seat did seem safe when he won in 2014 with 58.6 percent and in 2016 with 55.5 percent.

Further hurting Republicans has been their failure to put up a strong opponent.

With a weak bench, the Republicans have run the same man, Art Robinson, against DeFazio in each of the past four elections. You’d think they would have learned. The first time, 2010, Robinson lost by 10 points, the second time by 20, the third by 21, the fourth by almost 16.

So, is DeFazio really vulnerable as the National Republican Congressional Committee believes? Maybe.

Consider how Donald Trump did in DeFazio’s district.

Trump handily defeated Hillary Clinton in Coos, Curry, Douglas, Linn and Josephine counties. In Douglas county, Trump racked up 64.6 percent of the vote versus Clinton’s 26.3 percent.

Hillary carried only two liberal enclaves, Lane County, home of the University of Oregon, and part of Benton County, home of Oregon State University, but that was enough.

In the end, Hillary barely carried the 4th District with just 46.1 percent of the vote versus Trump’s 46 percent, a margin of just 554 votes.

That suggests the Republican problem is their candidate and his/her messaging, not the dominance of Democrats.

If the Republicans could recruit a strong moderate candidate able to make persuasive arguments, DeFazio could be in trouble.

As for Schrader, he has represented Oregon’s 5th Congressional District since 2008. The district, in the northwestern portion of Oregon, includes Lincoln, Marion, Polk, and Tillamook counties as well as portions of Benton, Clackamas, and Multnomah counties.

5thdistrictschrader

Oregon’s 5th District

In his first race, Schrader won with 54 percent of the vote. He won his subsequent races with 51.3 percent, 54 percent, 53.7 percent, and 53.5 percent. In 2011, the Oregon State Legislature approved a new map of congressional districts based on updated population information from the 2010 census, but it hasn’t had a meaningful impact on Schrader.

In 2016, Trump took Marion, Polk and Tillamook counties. Clinton carried Lincoln, Benton, Clackamas, and Multnomah counties, winning heavily populated Multnomah 73.3 to 17 percent. In the end, Clinton carried the 5th District with 48.3 percent of the vote versus Trump’s 44.1 percent.

Schrader’s winning margins to date have been consistent and comfortable, but not breathtaking. They would likely have been higher without the presence of multiple other party candidates in the general elections, who have been draining principally liberal votes. In 2016, for example, the Pacific Green Party took 3.4 percent of the votes. In 2014, three other parties captured a total of 6.7 percent of the vote.

Although voter registration trends aren’t consistently matching actual election trends, Schrader’s district is becoming increasingly Democratic, though also more non-affiliated.

In Nov. 2012, there were 158,885 registered Democrats, 148,464 Republicans and 89,539 non-affiliated voters in the district. By Nov. 2016, it had shifted to 176,868 registered Democrats, 155,430 registered Republicans and 135,233 non-affiliated voters.

Is Schrader as vulnerable as the National Republican Congressional Committee believes? I don’t think so. Even though he’s been in Congress fewer terms than DeFazio, his district is likely safer for a Democrat, and becoming more so.

How about DeFazio?

I know, he’s been in office for 30 years and just keeps rolling along, seemingly invincible. But I think he’s more vulnerable than he looks. He hasn’t so much been winning as the Republicans have been losing with uninspiring, ideologically rigid candidates.

My advice to the National Republican Congressional Committee. Don’t divide your limited resources in an effort to capture both seats. Instead, focus on finding a strong moderate candidate to run against DeFazio in 2018, building a war chest sufficient for a credible race and running a sophisticated campaign.

Dennis Richardson showed a Republican can win in Oregon. If the right things fall in place, the 4th District could be next.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trump’s Immigration Order: Fact Checking The Fact Checker

4-pinnochios

There’s little question that President Trump thoroughly botched the rollout of his immigration order on Jan. 27. But so-called fact checkers don’t need to try to tip the scales even further.

“My policy is similar to what President Obama did in 2011 when he banned visas for refugees from Iraq for six months,” Trump said on Jan. 29.

Some background.

Following the arrest of two Iraqis in Kentucky in May 2011 for terrorism, Obama pledged to re-examine the records of 58,000 Iraqis who had been settled in the United States and the administration imposed more extensive background checks on Iraqi refugees.

“As a result of the Kentucky case, the State Department stopped processing Iraq refugees for six months in 2011, federal officials told ABC News — even for many who had heroically helped U.S. forces as interpreters and intelligence assets,” ABC News reported. ABC said that as a result of the visa pause, an “Iraqi who had aided American troops was assassinated before his refugee application could be processed, because of the immigration delays.”

At a congressional hearing, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said a hold had been placed on Iraqi visa applications “…until they could be more stringently vetted to ensure that we’re not letting into the U.S. people who would do Americans harm.”

The Economist reported, “Immigration authorities soon began rechecking all Iraqi refugees in America, reportedly comparing fingerprints and other records with military and intelligence documents in dusty archives. About 1,000 soon-to-be immigrants in Iraq were told that they would not be allowed to board flights already booked. Some were removed from planes. Thousands more Iraqi applicants had to restart the immigration process, because their security clearances expired when the programme stalled.”

The result? The pace of visa approvals slowed to a crawl, the Los Angeles Times reported in 2011, telling of an Iraqi who had served as an interpreter for the U.S. military and was unable to secure a visa to the U.S. “…Thousands of former interpreters have been cast adrift, threatened by insurgents as they wait for the federal bureaucracy to act,” The Times reported.

Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler initially argued that since Obama didn’t announce an actual ban on Iraqi visa applications, but “danced around” the question, what Obama did bore no resemblance to Trump’s order. Kessler said further that Trump’s policy wasn’t the same because because Obama’s policy didn’t prevent green card holders from traveling to the United States (though the Trump administration has since made it clear that green card holders are not affected by Trump’s Executive Order).

So Kessler said the assertion that Trump’s policy was similar to Obama’s action in 2011 “was worthy of at least Two Pinocchios”. The Washington Post explains what this means as follows:

 Two Pinocchios

Significant omissions and/or exaggerations. Some factual error may be involved but not necessarily. A politician can create a false, misleading impression by playing with words and using legalistic language that means little to ordinary people. (Similar to “half true.”)

More disturbing, Kessler later updated his rating to Three Pinochios” in light of new information”.

The Washington Post explains what this means as follows:

Three Pinocchios

Significant factual error and/or obvious contradictions. This gets into the realm of “mostly false.” But it could include statements which are technically correct (such as based on official government data) but are so taken out of context as to be very misleading.

Kessler said his revised rating was based on statements by two former Obama Administration officials, as though they should be the final word. One of those officials said there was no ban on Iraqi refugee admissions under Obama because although there were processing delays, but here was was no single month during which no Iraqis arrived in the U.S.

Another former Obama Administration official said there may have been “a lower level of Iraqi resettlement” for a period, “there was never a point during that period in which Iraqi resettlement was stopped, or banned.”

Kessler also reiterated that Trump’s order was different because Obama’s policy did not prevent green-card holders from traveling to the United States. (Again, Trump’s order did not do this either)

Fact check? I don’t think so.

It would have made more sense for Kessler to simply say “In my opinion…” rather than try to disguise himself as an unbiased truth-teller.

The fact is that although Obama did not announce a ban on visa applications by Iraqis, the impact was essentially the same. To say otherwise is a dishonest portrayal of reality and as disingenuous as can be.