Category Archives: Donald Trump

We Are Not…

Democratic politicians have been going on and on of late about the United States’s, and more specifically President Trump’s, rotten response to the coronavirus.  But as I had written about New York City and the coronavirus in May, there are factors in play beyond the actions of our leadership.

We are the United States.

We are not China:

Besides being the origin of Covid, China is an authoritarian state, with government control over pretty much everything.  We yowl about how President Trump wants to get rid of the free press (not true, but that’s in issue for another day), but in China, there is no free press.  Our cell phones surveil us in the name of better advertising; their cell phones surveil them so that miscreants can be thrown in jail.  They tell us they’ve had 85,351 coronavirus cases as of this morning: that’s their story, and they’re sticking to it.  We’re up to 7.2 million: still number one, although we may be overtaken by India at just under 6 million.

We are not New Zealand:

New Zealand is an island nation, separated from the rest of the world by thousands of miles of open ocean, well aware of how they are biologically separate.  They can enforce quarantine at the border, and if cluster of cases pop up, they can apply lockdowns to suppress the infection, with an immediate goal of ending the restrictions and returning to normal.

We are not South Korea:

Korea isn’t isolated, particularly from China.  But they were able to mount an effective response to the virus.  To do this, they had an agile government and business response, and a culture that respects its government and can accept the notion of continuous, automated surveillance in the name of public health.  The result has been effective contact tracing that focuses public health efforts where they’re needed.  We were told at the outset of the emergency about Korea’s wonderful testing program.  To date, they’ve done enough tests to cover less than 5% of the population.  Our figure is over 30%.

We’re not Ghana or Liberia:

The poorer nations of Africa have done better at containing Covid than most of the richer nations of the world.   Some of them have more public health experience, having dealt with far deadlier viruses; some of them admit the use of hydroxychloroquine, which is in common use against malaria.  But a big factor is that relatively few people travel there, few enough that quarantining and contact tracing really works.

But we’re the United States:

  • We’re not an authoritarian state (yet!).  We have a free press that can report the truth, except when it’s politically incorrect.  They can report what the government says, or not, as they see fit, and shade it with derision when they see fit.  They’re also free to exaggerate and spread fear rather than enlightenment: whatever sells newspapers.
  • We’re not isolated from the rest of the world.  In normal times, thousands of travelers entered and left the United States every day.  We initially chafed at the notion of closing the borders before embracing it.  This is a big difference, because we let the virus in and let it take root, because…
  • We’re not agile.  We’ve done about as well as can be expected in making plans and ramping up testing, but we’re collectively pretty rotten about anticipating problems.  Governor Cuomo shut down New York in stages, from 13 to 22 March.  If he had done it all at once on 13 March, it would have made little difference: people were already staying at home and not going out.  (And the virus was already spreading.)  If he had done it all at once on 13 February, there might have been a difference, but there was no sense of urgency back then.  Moreover, in the absence of a ‘genuine’ emergency, any government proposal that affects people’s livelihoods will be subject to intense lobbying and complaint.
  • We’re not trusting of our government, at least many of us aren’t.  I’ve written in these pages about the apparent futility of embarking on a contact tracing effort after the virus is already in the community: it appears useful only as practice for some more nefarious form of tracking and control.  I’m sure I’m not alone.
  • We’ve decided that hydroxychloroquine is a bad idea, even though it has been recognized as effective against other coronaviruses, and has been successfully used against Covid in other parts of the world.
  • And another thing: the United States is considerably larger than New Zealand, South Korea, Ghana, or Liberia: large enough that the virus will propagate through the states at different times, at different rates, with different effects.  There is no single policy that will work everywhere.

The benefit of hindsight suggests that we might have avoided all this trouble if we had closed our borders and kept everyone else out from, perhaps, sometime in January.  But even if we had known what to do back then, and the consequences of inaction, would we have done it?

Voting… Somehow

I’ve come to believe that voting ought to be a little bit difficult.

Voting shouldn’t be an ordeal or an all-day project, but for me, voting has always meant taking time on Election Day itself to go somewhere off the beaten path, wait in line, possibly as much as an hour, and vote.  In my work, some of the controls of the machinery are designed to be purposefully difficult to operate because they would be dangerous if used without specific intent.  To me, voting is a similar endeavor: it’s serious, and not to be done lightly.

New York mailed absentee ballot applications a few weeks before this year’s primaries, with helpful instructions: you couldn’t simply vote absentee because you were afraid of Covid, but if you wrote it up as a ‘health issue’ you were good to go.  In the spring, I had not yet returned to the office, but I had been going out for a walk every day, joining my wife for grocery shopping, and heading out to job sites: a trip to the polls didn’t seem particularly frightening.

I ultimately didn’t vote.  Biden had already won the Democratic Presidential nomination, and none of the candidates in the other races were different enough from their opponents to make a vote worthwhile.  Not making a decision is, itself, a decision.

New York took a reasonable approach in sending out absentee ballot applications before the election, and giving voters an alternative to voting in person.  It represented a minor change from established law and procedure, but was appropriate under the circumstances.  However, while the Presidential race was effectively already decided by the time New York held its election, some of the other races were undecided for weeks until all the absentee ballots could be counted or their disposition resolved.

Now that we know what happened, would this be the right thing for the general election?

In one respect, it may not matter: New York is a thoroughly blue state and will go for Biden no matter what.  But the New York experience suggests that mandating national vote-by-mail, as the Democrats are proposing, is a spectacularly bad idea.

  • First, it’s an unwarranted intrusion by the Federal government on a function that is the responsibility of state and local governments.  It’s the responsibility of the states, with their knowledge of local conditions, to decide the best method for their citizens to vote.
  • Contrary to the insistence of the news media, vote-by-mail fraud does happen: in fact, the results of a local election in New Jersey were thrown out by the courts just last week.  The potential for election fraud with mail voting has historically been recognized by both parties, until the Democrats decided a couple of years ago that such a thing just didn’t happen.  For my part, it appears the Democrats are more interested in grabbing power than in good governance: I wouldn’t put it past them to try to finagle the election.
  • But the real problem with a vast shift to mail-in voting is human error and the Postal Service.  When you vote in person, the election staffer is checking the paperwork and walking you through a process so simple as to be essentially foolproof.  If you make an innocent mistake with your mail-in ballot, like forgetting to sign the accompanying paperwork, you’ve lost your vote.  (Some places will give you the opportunity to rectify such errors, but that takes time.)  And even in the best of circumstances, lost or delayed mail, or mail without postmarks, could result in more people losing their votes than the margin of a close race.  The Postal Service is an imperfect organization, and even throwing $25 billion at it, two and a half months before the general election, isn’t likely to help.

At this point, alas, all I can do is hope for the best, and hope and pray for a calm and fair election.  If the election goes badly—no matter who wins—it will be a worse emergency than Covid.

What Makes News Fake

I try to get a varied news diet.  I watch NBC Nightly News, read the newspaper, scan mostly conservative news feeds.  For a liberal perspective, I find audiobooks most effective: most of the day-to-day liberal media presumes that one already understands their premises, and the audiobook format discourages me from skipping over the parts I might not agree with.

I normally don’t watch the cable news channels, except when I’m at the gym.  I watch CNN or MSNBC with the sound turned off, sometimes with captions, while sweating on the treadmill.

Since I started going to the gym in 2015, it seemed that the ‘news’ on CNN and MSNBC wasn’t quite real.  NBC, in fairness, wasn’t—and isn’t–that different.  This was before Donald Trump emerged as a serious candidate for President, but has only gotten more severe since then.

Journalism is, or ought to be, like mining.  One digs out nuggets of truth, and presents them to the world.  A customer of a coal, gold, or diamond mine would be unhappy if they received something other than coal, gold, or diamonds, and the customer for journalism should have the same expectations.

But mining is, well, iffy.  One can dig and find nothing.  Real journalism is iffy, too.  It can also be difficult and expensive.  Real journalism runs the risk of getting sued or arrested for saying the wrong things about the wrong people.

Given that most of the media is run by multinational corporations worried about liability and their bottom lines, how can the iffiness be removed from journalism, so that one can deliver a consistent product with no risk of liability?

Just like gold and silver have been replaced by fiat money, so truth in journalism is being replaced by ‘truthiness:’ it’s delivered like news, feels like news, but it’s not quite the same.

President Trump, shortly after he was inaugurated, called the phenomenon ‘fake news,’ which seems a reasonable name for it.  But what makes fake news different from real journalism?

  • It’s all about the narrative:  There’s nothing wrong with narratives in and of themselves.  They’re how we go from data points, like reports of incidents, to understanding.  But in real journalism, the facts drive the narrative.  In fake news, the narrative drives the facts.   The narrative determines what facts should be emphasized and which should be disregarded.  You can marshal enough facts to support the narrative that the United States was built on slavery, but the preponderance of historical evidence suggests otherwise.
  • Is it news or is it opinion?   There isn’t an absolute boundary, and reportage is always colored to a degree by the reporter’s perspective, but it used to be clear what was news and what was opinion.  Today reporting and opinions are allowed to mix.
  • Or just tell us what to think about it:  I noted back in 2014 of an NBC news item that we were told was ‘scary’ before any of the facts were presented.  It seemed an outlier then, but not so much now.
  • Lose your sense of proportion:  If a politician who has said nasty things about President Trump says something else nasty, it isn’t really news: it’s something we’ve basically heard before.  But one can advance the narrative by presenting it as a fresh revelation.  Just keep banging the drum: as my mother used to say, “it’s repetition that teaches.”
  • And now for a commercial break:  One of my jaw-dropping experiences on the treadmill came a couple of years ago while watching CNN, when a commercial for Tom Steyer’s ‘Need to Impeach’ initiative appeared.  The viewpoint of the commercial was so consistent with the content of the news program that, other than the request for a donation (to do what?), it was hard to tell them apart.  I accept that politicians running for office will run commercials presenting their own viewpoints and positions, but this bordered on propaganda.

It’s a troubling trend.  I’ll leave it at that.

The Border Emergency

Four years ago, I wrote:

One can construct a sensible immigration policy around the notion that the borders should be open. Such a policy would necessarily include restrictions on receiving public benefits, and effective enforcement against the relative handful that are genuinely criminal or otherwise dangerous.

Alternately, one can construct a sensible immigration policy around the notion of closed borders. Such a policy would include physical border security, and an immigration bureaucracy that actually works, so that our closed borders do not interfere with legitimate travel and tourism.

The horrifying thing is that we’ve done neither, and are continuing to do neither.

I’ll amplify a bit: our laws and regulations are based on the premise that the border is secure.  It’s against the law to simply walk in without presenting yourself and your stuff to the designated officials at the border.  Yet the border itself is not secure, and most of our leadership—both Democratic and Republican—seems OK with that.

Four years later, nothing has changed, despite our being more than halfway through the term of a President who made border security his signature issue.

President Trump asserts that there is an emergency at our southern border which requires him to reallocate funding from other purposes to build a wall and take other measures to secure the border.  Meanwhile, the rest of our leadership denies there is an emergency, and further asserts that Trump is bonkers for saying otherwise.

Is there an actual emergency?  I don’t know first-hand: I don’t live there.  And whatever may be happening there, one could argue that it’s hardly an ‘emergency’ because the same conditions have prevailed for years.

But reports from the people who live at the border suggest, if not an emergency, a continuing, serious problem.  And the government’s figures show that, after reaching a low in early 2017 (perhaps in the belief that Trump might, actually, enforce the border?) illegal border crossings have surged back to where they were a few years ago.

Whatever may be happening at the border, the real emergency is in Washington.

We have a President who has, like all Presidents, a duty to faithfully execute the law.  The law, in this case, operates on the premise that the border is secure, and there is therefore an executive responsibility to secure the border.  And President Trump is simply following through on that responsibility.

The emergency is that the rest of our leadership believes that enforcing the border is stupid or immoral or… something, and seeks to thwart the President from carrying out his duty.

If you really believe the borders should be open or that Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) should be abolished, then make the effort and change the law.  If it’s really a moral issue, it’s a worthwhile project, although you won’t get results next week.

Until then, the law is what it is, and our President is bound to faithfully execute it.

After the ‘Shutdown’

I’ve been overtaken by the tail end of a project that has taken much of my time for the last several months.  My staff and I had to work nights and weekends, and through the holidays, to frantically get everything hooked up and operational, and finished the last part Friday morning.  We’ll have to do cleanup over the next few weeks, but that hopefully won’t be quite so manic.

*          *          *

The soap opera that was the government shutdown is over, for now.  President Trump will not get funding from Congress for a wall or other border security measures, for now.  It would be within the President’s power to allocate funds for the purpose by executive order, and he isn’t doing that, for now.

I respect the President for trying to force this issue, and I respect him for recognizing that he wasn’t getting anywhere.  What’s galling is that the Democratic leaders, Senator Schumer and House Speaker Pelosi, were in favor of better border security a few years ago, but are against it now that President Trump wants it.

It was a defeat for the President, of course, but not a ‘humiliation,’ as it was reported in the Daily News and other media yesterday.  Remember that Trump is not a politician by education or temperament.  He’s much more willing to take risks than a ‘normal’ politician, because he’s learned that, yes, risks sometimes go bad, and defeat stings, but you pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and try again.  He does not humiliate easily.

But what happens next month?

A proper way forward will require the parties to address each other with respect.  It’s hard to assess the dimensions of Trump’s respect—or lack thereof—for Schumer and Pelosi.  He’s given to making offhand tweets, but I’m not sure that means anything one way or the other.  I’m sure, however, that he recognizes the power they hold over the situation, and while he may not respect the people, he respects their positions.

On the other hand, the Democratic leadership seems to see Trump as somewhere between contemptible and beneath even contempt.  It’s not just that they voted for the other candidate in 2016: Trump is not their President.  If he can’t be removed from office (not that that won’t be a coming attraction), he can be effectively neutered by refusing to acknowledge him as President.

It’s a simple strategy, and demonstrably effective, for now.  All they have to do is stay the course.

For 2020, it will either work extremely well or extremely poorly.

Andrew Cuomo

Last Thursday we had the primary election in New York for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and some other offices.  It’s the first time that I can recall in my life that an election in the United States was moved from Tuesday.

But then, this past Tuesday was 11 September, the modern date that will live in infamy.  For me, it’s the day we learned our leadership is either stupid or evil, and to this day we’re afraid to find out which. Living well—or at least carrying on with aplomb—is the best revenge against terrorism, or stupid or evil governments.  Don’t let the bastards get you down.

Alas, I’m apparently in the minority.  11 September is supposed to be a day of moaning and interminable suffering, and not for normal things like elections.

Andrew Cuomo, son of Mario, won the primary and will be running for a third term in November.  His opponent this week was Cynthia Nixon, the actress who played Miranda Hobbes in Sex and the City. I knew it was a lost cause, but I voted for Cynthia, even though I disagree with most of her positions.  Then again, if a live turnip had been running for Governor, I would have voted for it.

It bothers me when a politician is himself the son of a politician.  (I’m sure we’ll have daughters of politicians running for office someday, and I’ll have the same objection.)  It says that talent is so thin on the ground that we have to look to the children of past leaders.  I thought hereditary government was something we fought a Revolution to get rid of.

Worse than that were his campaign commercials.  Cuomo’s campaign invective against President Trump rubbed me the wrong way.  It isn’t that I agree or disagree with his positions: I watched Cuomo’s campaign commercials and realized: I don’t like this person.  I want him to go away.

In contrast, in President Bush, we had someone who more clearly became President in 2000 as a result of electoral finagling, and who led us into a pointless war.  But other than John Kerry, whose entire platform running for President in 2004 was ‘I am not Bush,’ nobody felt the need to rail against Bush or make him the bogeyman.

Alas, Andrew Cuomo isn’t going away, and I expect that he’ll run for President in 2020.

Thwarting from Within

Lester Holt was almost breathless on Wednesday’s NBC Nightly News.  An anonymous senior White House official had written an op-ed published in the New York Times that day about how the President’s staffers were working to thwart his out-of-control initiatives.  The item was presented as an ‘unprecedented warning’ on the President’s condition.  This was followed by an unflattering snippet of President Trump denouncing the op-ed, looking especially boorish.  (But what did you expect him to say?)  Chuck Todd, NBC’s political director, seemed, on a quick listen, to go along with the message that the President is deranged.  But he actually said that the report itself was suspect, and that was the real cause for concern.

The op-ed itself is understated, compared to the overblown report on NBC.  While I wonder about the motivations of its author in writing for publication while asserting that he supports the President’s achievements, my more immediate impression was that the op-ed was dated: although it was written more recently, it reflected the situation early in the Trump administration, when the new President hadn’t yet gotten his bearings.  Donald Trump had never held any sort of elected office before becoming President, so it’s entirely reasonable to expect some learning curve.  But he—and we—got past that.

So why are we reading about circumstances from a year ago—which we could surmise from news reports at the time—now?

And why is NBC (and doubtless other media outlets) pushing the narrative that the President is going off the rails?

Yes, Virginia, there is a Deep State.

Presidents Don’t Matter

In August 2013, or so we were told at the time, the Syrian government launched a chemical attack against one of its own towns, killing by various estimates between 300 and 1700 people.  The Syrian government vehemently denied that it had done such a thing, and a UN investigation was ultimately inconclusive.

At the time, our Dear Leader, President Obama, felt the need to intervene and positively stop such attacks in the future.  But there was not the political will to invade Syria, so instead he moaned about how someone could take this problem off his hands.  The Russians were happy to oblige.

A week and a half ago, or so we were told at the time, the Syrian government launched a chemical attack against one of its own towns, killing under 100 people.  The Syrian government vehemently denied it had done such a thing.

At the time, President Trump felt the need to send a message that such behavior would not be tolerated.  He sent a bouquet of cruise missiles to destroy the airbase from which the attack was launched.  The matter was over and done with within 72 hours.  And the media started to regard Trump as an actual President, rather than a blithering idiot.

If the attack really took place as described in the media, then President Trump’s response was appropriate.  We don’t need to invade Syria, but we do need to keep our word that some things are unacceptable.

I want to believe that.  I really do.  My life would be much calmer that way.  My problem is that some things just don’t fit:

  • Why would the Syrian government do such a thing? They had supposedly cooperated with the US and the Russians to rid themselves of chemical weapons.  Using them now would throw all that away, and anger Russia, their new patron.
  • What’s the point of a chemical attack that kills under 100 people, many of them children? It won’t accomplish any rational military objective, and will only make everyone mad.

The compelling alternative is that the attack earlier this month was a put-up job, staged to frame the Syrian government.  There are others besides the Syrian government who would have far more to gain from an alleged Syrian chemical attack.

And if that’s the case, then either President Trump knows it’s a put-up job, or he doesn’t.

  • If he knows that the attack is fake, then he has not only failed to ‘drain the swamp’ as promised, he has neatly ensconced himself as Head Alligator. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and surprisingly quickly.
  • If he doesn’t, and he was misled by our intelligence agencies, then the conspiracy theorists are right: there really is an entrenched, unelected shadow government that has the real power, and the elected officials are just window dressing.

In either case, the bottom line is that this episode has demonstrated that Presidents don’t matter.   If Hillary Clinton had won the election, I don’t see how things would have happened differently.

But beyond that, it’s been several years now, and I’m still perplexed by our official animus against Syrian President Bashar Assad.  It isn’t just chemical weapons: we’ve tolerated various stripes of tyrants against their own people in the past, because they were our allies against a larger adversary.  Saddam Hussein, a genuine evil dictator, was our bestest friend for years because he stood against the Russians.  As the leader of a secular Arab state, Assad should be a natural ally.  But he isn’t.

That, alas, is a question for another day.

No Repeal

I railed against Obamacare (officially the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) in these pages when it was enacted in 2010.

On the other hand, it really hasn’t had much of a practical impact on me and my family.  For just about all my adult life, I’ve had health insurance one way or another.  Going without is not an option: a trip to the hospital for almost anything costs tens of thousands of dollars.  Many of the features of Obamacare (equal premiums for men and women, no exclusion of pre-existing conditions, etc.) were already the law in New York.  I didn’t have a health insurance plan that I was particularly attached to, so it didn’t bother me when the insurance company changed my plan at renewal time to something compliant with the new regulations.

In fact, the only thing I really noticed was that there was a little bit of a lull in premium increases for a couple of years (and even a cut at one point, on changing plans), and then the premiums resumed their skyward march (between about 7% and 22% every year).

In one of my posts, I anticipated that health care might end up swallowing even more of the nation’s GDP than the 17% or so in 2010, but that hasn’t happened: health care as a percentage of GDP has remained steady since Obamacare was enacted.

Nevertheless, although my objections are more philosophical than practical, I still consider Obamacare the worst public policy decision of our time.  For years, the Republicans railed against it, and swore they would repeal it, given the chance.

Last week, they tried, and failed.  A bill was drawn up, then withdrawn as there were not the votes to pass it.

And now, all sides are engaged in pointless posturing.  The Democrats are crowing that they saved Obamacare from the jaws of the Republicans; President Trump is blaming everyone but himself.

But the plan to ‘repeal’ Obamacare was fouled up from the beginning:

  • House Speaker Paul Ryan went to great lengths to discuss the process by which Obamacare would be undone, but there was little discussion about what the Republicans would do. (Not coming across anything in the press, I finally had to turn to Wikipedia for a coherent explanation.)
  • As a result, the opposition was able to seize the narrative: they’re trying to take your health care away from you!
  • The most salient feature of the American Health Care Act was that it dropped the requirements for individuals to carry insurance, and for large employers to make it available to their employees. But many if not most of the people for whom this is an issue have the means and the inclination to secure their own health insurance (whether on their own or through their employers), and would do so even in the absence of a mandate.
  • The most toxic features of Obamacare, including the requirements to issue insurance regardless of pre-existing conditions and to allow children to remain on their parents’ policies until halfway to middle age, are the most politically popular, and were taken off the table by President Trump before any of the negotiations started.

Ultimately, it’s on the Republicans to present a compelling alternative to Obamacare, rather than nibbling around the edges.  Sadly, I’m not sure that’s possible.

When countries have implemented ‘socialized medicine,’ there have always been limits.  Whether they are designed into the program to begin with, or are worked out in implementation, there are necessarily limits, because the resources of even a prosperous nation are finite.  But under Obamacare, everyone has the right to health insurance that can, in theory, provide infinite benefits.  (After all, one’s health is priceless!)  This theory hasn’t been tested yet, but that will come in time.  And while Obamacare does admit administrative limitation of benefits, that hasn’t happened yet.

Consequently, the Republicans are in a position where they must compete with the theoretically infinite benefits of Obamacare.  They can’t argue that Obamacare is unsustainable, not only because the problems haven’t emerged, but because the whole Federal government, on its present course, is unsustainable.  They’re constrained to keep the elements of Obamacare most in need of change because those elements are politically popular.  And ultimately, they can’t practically propose to really repeal Obamacare, and they’re stuck with uselessly fussing with it.

At this point, we’ll have to wait until the whole enterprise keels over to try again.

Russian Hacking?

“CIA believes Russia helped Donald Trump win the White House,” read the headline in the Daily News back in December.  How did they accomplish this extraordinary feat? I wondered.  Hacked voting machines in Pennsylvania?  Mass hypnosis in Oklahoma?  Itching powder in Hillary’s bedroom?

Alas, nothing quite so dramatic:

Officials briefed on the matter told the Washington Post the assessment found that several individuals with close ties to Moscow provided anti-secrecy site WikiLeaks with thousands of hacked emails in order to boost Trump and harm Hillary Clinton’s chances.

OK, they may have a point.  We don’t know how WikiLeaks gets the documents that it publishes, and, although WikiLeaks denies it, it’s entirely possible that the trove of e-mails published in the runup to the elections came from Russia.

But in that case, whose fault is it?  The Russians, for pursuing their national interests, or Hillary, for maintaining a private e-mail server that was eminently hackable?  And the Democratic party, for not doing proper IT security?

It’s particularly interesting that nobody has suggested that the WikiLeaks e-mails are bogus.  WikiLeaks had to be stopped—so said our President—not because they were fanciful storytellers, but because their documents were real.

So the Russians influenced our election… by making available information that the government would rather we didn’t know?  Given that the information was acquired as a consequence of the carelessness and hubris of our leadership, how is this a bad thing?  Sorry, guys: the exclusionary rule (that information gained in violation of Fourth Amendment rules cannot be used in a criminal trial) doesn’t apply.  Hillary Clinton is not on criminal trial.  (Or does someone imagine that she is?)

For the moment, let’s grant the report as written.  It’s entirely plausible that (a) Russia forwarded hacked e-mails to WikiLeaks, and (b) did so to favor Trump in the election.  But does that mean that (c) in the absence of such action, Hillary would have won?

I doubt it.

In the weeks before the election, WikiLeaks e-mail reports made the rounds of the alternative media, but didn’t get very much play in the mainstream media.  As far as Hillary herself, the e-mails didn’t really deliver any new revelations as much as confirmation of what we had already surmised.  It’s a preposterous stretch to go from ‘Russians delivered hacked e-mails to WikiLeaks’ to believing that ‘Trump won the election thanks to Russian hacking.’

In the following week, we learned:

  • The President knew about ‘Russian hacking’ several weeks before the election, but our leadership claimed that they didn’t act because they didn’t want to appear to be favoring Hillary. But there were rumblings in the news at the time, and if the President wanted to do something, prudence would dictate that he would have to do so quietly, without calling a press conference.
  • The Republicans suffered hacking attempts from the same actors, at about the same time. But the GOP is apparently better at IT security, and the hacking attempts were not successful.

I had expected this issue to go away after Trump was confirmed in the Electoral College vote on 19 December.  But it’s still with us, and today Congress will vote to ratify the Electoral College results and confirm Trump as President-elect.

Our current leadership has been briefed on this issue, and seems to believe it, even though no specifics have come out in the press.  (I guess all the specifics are deep dark secrets.)  Trump is scheduled to be briefed today, and even though he’s given to running off at the mouth on Twitter, I don’t expect that to happen this time.

We shall see….

Reaping the Whirlwind

Madam President

Shortly before the election, Newsweek went to press with an issue commemorating Hillary Clinton’s victory.  They made a business decision and took a calculated risk, and they lost.  But some of the inside front cover copy caught my attention:

…But as the tone of the election went darker and more bizarre by the day, President-Elect Hillary Clinton “went high” when her opponent and his supporters went ever lower….

Well, maybe.  Much of Hillary Clinton’s campaigning was built around the notion that she is not Donald Trump.  But, in any event, she didn’t have to run a negative campaign.  The media ran it for her.

It’s normal in politics to favor one candidate over another, and it’s normal (and appropriate) to point out a candidate’s shortcomings.  Ultimately, the voters assess the good and the bad about the candidates, and make their decision.

Donald Trump has made many insensitive remarks, some of them borderline racist.   But there is a big difference between making a racist remark and being an actual racist.  We all know people who are given to running off at the mouth and saying stupid things, but we know that they don’t mean anything by it.  (Alternately, there are some who would say that racism is America’s original sin and that we’re all racists.  But even then, there is a big difference between a mere sinner and a Ku Klux Klansman.)

The media seemed to overlook this essential difference.  Perhaps it’s that in the modern world, no story is worth telling if it can’t be told in five seconds.  Perhaps it helped to sell newspapers.

And Trump refused to play the game.  He could have walked back his statements and gotten all mumbly, and shown himself to be Just Another Useless Politician.

The media came to tell us that Trump is not just a man who runs off at the mouth, he’s a racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic bigot.

It’s normal in politics for a candidate to call his opponent nasty names.  But among politicians, there are limits: after all, you might need a favor from your opponent, or his party, in the future.  This is the first time I’ve seen the news media vilify a candidate on their own power.

In fairness, there have been radio announcers and other public figures who lost their jobs over making insensitive remarks.  It’s totally OK, when assessing candidates for office, to make a similar judgement and hold a candidate’s remarks against him.  It’s OK for a newspaper to run an editorial endorsing whatever candidate the newspaper prefers, under whatever criteria they care to use.  What isn’t OK is for a newspaper or TV network to let their editorial viewpoints color their non-editorial reporting of events.

Perhaps it makes for exciting television.  But it can backfire, not just for the news media, but for the rest of us: what happens if the ‘evil’ candidate wins?

*          *          *

In other news, South Korea has been overtaken by political protests: people are very angry at their President, who is resisting calls to resign.  It seems that Madam President in Seoul, among other things, has been sharing government secrets with a female personal advisor who has no security clearance.

And we’ve hardly heard a peep about it in the US.  I wonder why….

Popping the Bubble

Fire Hydrant

Perhaps.  But you could say the same thing about Hillary Clinton.

Last night, I was watching election returns in a restaurant with some friends in the Upper East Side.  It was a little before 9:00: early returns put Trump and Clinton about even.  We had just paid the check.

“Do I want to see the 9:00 projections?  No, I don’t.” I told the group, and left.

I headed down Second Avenue, got a Citibike, rode it across the Queensborough Bridge to Long Island City, and got a G train home.  The ride cleared my head.

But I’ve had a bellyful of this election, and I didn’t want any more.  When I got home, I finished some paperwork—studiously avoiding anything that even smelled like a news report—took a shower, and went to bed.

And now it’s 5:09 Wednesday morning, and I still don’t know who won.

But having lived through a few Presidential elections, I can tell when my preferred candidate is about to lose.  It’s not that I think Trump is a great guy.  But we need a new direction in this country, and Clinton, as far as I can tell, will continue the policies of her predecessor and keep us limping along for another few years.

I actually bought a copy of Stronger Together, the Clinton campaign book, to try and understand where she was coming from.  While the description of our problems in the first chapter is spot-on, the solutions she proposes are either vague, ineffective, or will make the problem worse.  I realized just last night that the vague policy prescriptions are a feature, not a bug: if you don’t put forward specific policies, people won’t be able to object to them.

Yesterday, I discussed the vote at some length with my son.  He voted for Clinton.  His reactions to events were almost the opposite of mine: Clinton’s private e-mail server, which hit me like a punch in the gut (she’s disrespecting her office and the American people!), seemed a bit of abstract technological trivia to him.  And Trump’s offhand remarks, which struck me as the mark of a man given to running off at the mouth, hit my son like a punch in the gut (how dare Trump even consider messing with a woman’s right to choose?).

In any case, it’s time to pop the bubble.

Trump won!

My sense of ‘a candidate about to lose’ was off this year.

There may be hope for us, after all….

Running Off at the Mouth

It’s a common occurrence during a political campaign: the candidate says something that’s a little off-message, or represents a contradiction to his past record, and is called out for it.  And the candidate goes mumbly, acknowledges his mistake, and goes forward with his message a little more muted.

Donald Trump is different.  He runs off at the mouth on a regular basis, gets called out for it, and regrets nothing.  And it seems crazy.

But I don’t believe that Trump is approaching the campaign as a politician running for office.  He’s approaching it as something like a business deal, although a little different in the need for public involvement.  To this end:

  • There’s no such thing as bad publicity, as long as they spell your name right. During the primaries, Trump would say this or that and get free press coverage, which accomplished far more than he could through even an aggressive advertising campaign.  He was able to effectively bring his name and his ideas across the country, and present himself as a compelling alternative to the more ordinary sort of Republicans.
  • Manage your counterparty’s expectations. In negotiating a deal, besides resolving the actual terms of a deal to one’s best advantage, the smart negotiator endeavors to manage the counterparty’s expectations, so that the one’s interests are preserved and the deal will be executed smoothly.  In Trump’s case, the terms of the deal are fixed: he’s running for President.  But if he gets mealy-mouthed every time he gets called out, it will hamper his ability to be President if he should be elected.  So he regrets nothing.
  • Be prepared to walk away. In business, there is such a thing as a bad deal.  You negotiate with someone, and for whatever reason, you can’t secure a deal that advances your interests.  When that happens, there is no dishonor in abandoning the effort and walking away.  But a politician running for office is normally overtaken with the desire to win at any cost.  He will almost literally sell his soul and say whatever he believes he needs to say.  While Trump prides himself on being a winner, he isn’t going to change himself into a conventional politician: he doesn’t have the temperament for it.  And he has enough self-respect (some would say ego) not to try.

So I can’t get upset with Trump for running off at the mouth: it’s part of who he is, what he learned from a lifetime in business and not politics.  While I personally think it’s admirable, I expect that not everyone will agree.  Fortunately, there’s a ready remedy: vote for someone else.

A Really Subjective View of Atlantic City Casinos

There are two basic ways to make money in a casino: the “Circus Circus” small bettor/grind out every dollar approach and catering to the high rollers as the Aladdin (now Planet Hollywood and owned by Harrah’s) tried to do with the London Club, which had the first million-dollar chip in the gaming industry. If you are going to cater to high rollers, casino management has to be willing to live with more variance in the casino’s “win” month to month. William Bennett, former CEO of Circus Circus, took an ax to the baccarat tables after they lost too much to some high roller.

Atlantic City started as a day-tripper place because only 300 rooms were required to qualify for a casino-hotel license. For about a year, Resorts International had a lock on the casino market in Atlantic City because they were the first to open. When Atlantic City casinos first opened, and you took one of the buses that went to the casinos, you got back more than your bus fare in quarters and a free buffet coupon. In the summer of 1977, a friend of mine who looked 21 did nothing but ride the bus back and forth to Atlantic City all day to collect the extra money because he couldn’t find a summer job. By the time that I went there last in 2008, the refund had dropped to about half of your bus fare on weekdays, a third of it on weekends, and maybe $5 off the buffet. If you took the Greyhound bus out of Baltimore, Silver Spring or Washington, DC, as I have, Trump Plaza was the first casino drop-off and the last place to be picked up, which allowed people to maximize the time that they spent gambling. I learned that it is better to be picked up at the first pickup place so that I could choose my seat. The order of stops in Atlantic City was the main bus station, casino #1, and casino #2, with this order reversed on departure.

The Frontier Casino in Las Vegas had their workers strike for six and a half years, ending in 1998. This doesn’t make the failure to settle the strike at the Taj Mahal right, but it is not unprecedented. There have been books written about Donald Trump and the building and management of the Taj Mahal. For instance, three of Trump’s top managers for the Taj Mahal were killed in a helicopter crash in 1989. The dominant color in the Taj Mahal’s decoration is red, which is geared to attract the Chinese and Koreans because they think that red is lucky. I can say that the rooms in Trump Plaza were nice, but I never stayed at the Taj Mahal.

Casinos are a high fixed-cost business, and Trump overpaid for all of his properties, if you compare construction costs per square foot for comparable properties, adjusting for when they were built. He wanted the prettiest buildings, and didn’t understand gamblers, many of whom would trade lower table minimums and lower hold percentages for a pretty building. Trump Plaza sold for $20 million in 2013, and it cost $210 million to build in 1984. Trump Marina sold for $38 Million in 2011. If you look at the sales on a “per hotel room” basis. they are comparable prices.

A trend that crept into the gaming industry sometime in the 1990s was that every department had to make money. This gets to ridiculous degrees, such as allowing a pit boss to give away only ten packs of cigarettes per shift to players at one casino in Cripple Creek, CO. The longer trend of flat to declining wages affected the gaming industry, but even so, we spent more on gambling than any other leisure pursuit. Looking at the player club formulas for complimentary goods is instructive. In 2008, one had to gamble $5 on the slots to get one cent of credit toward complimentary items at Harrah’s properties. There were also efforts to increase the house edge on table games, such as paying 6:5 for a blackjack rather than 3:2. Resorts International had a deal in 2010 or so where you were paid 90% of your bet if you won on blackjack. To bet only $5, you had to put up an extra fifty cents. if you won, you’d be paid $5, but they would take the fifty cents.

Trump would have done well to do what Steve Wynn did: build a casino and sell it for a profit some years later, but this would have cost him the opportunity to continue to extract money from the company. Wynn opened the Golden Nugget casino in 1980 in Atlantic City, but sold it to Bally’s in 1987. The former Golden Nugget had three other owners/managers before it closed permanently in 2014. It is easy to ask what could have been. Had the money that was supposed to go to Atlantic City redevelopment actually been spent on redevelopment over the first 30 years or so of casino gambling in Atlantic City, it would be a far different place. Unlike Las Vegas and most other towns where casino gambling is legal, casino workers didn’t move into town(or a nearby town) to a large degree, and there was still satellite parking for them about two miles outside of town as of 2008.

Demicans

There are lots of ways to organize a world, and many of them work, at least in the short run:

  • There can be such a thing as a benevolent dictator. But they usually don’t last: they either get corrupted by power, or their successors have other plans.
  • When I traveled to Chile a few years ago, I had the sense of it as a country that had gone through the wrenching transformations we are facing now, and come out the other end. But Chile had been under a military dictatorship for over two decades.
  • Soviet Communism had a pretty good run: for a time, they were our only real rival on the world stage. But Soviet Communism carried the seeds of its own destruction, in their belief in educating—really educating—the populace.  After a couple of generations, people realized that they didn’t want to be Communists any more.

But all of that is beside the point now: our leadership knows the one, the only, and the proper and correct way forward.  They’ve been to college, studied real hard, and unearthed the Awesome Nugget of Eternal Truth.  The news media knows and understands the Awesome Nugget as well, but knowing which side their bread is buttered on, won’t explain it out loud.

And so, whether Democratic or Republican, our leaders subscribe to the same basic tenets:

  • Big government: Since the United States is the world’s most powerful nation, it stands to reason that we should have the most powerful government.
  • Big surveillance: And our big government has its first responsibility to protect us from the evil terrorists.
  • America the global hegemon: And of course, we have the absolute right, if not duty, to throw our weight around the world.  All in the name of freedom, of course, and protecting ourselves from the terrorists.
  • Entitlements forever: It isn’t just that Social Security is the third rail of American politics: contemplating cuts to entitlements would be an admission that we aren’t the nation we used to be.
  • Free trade: The market works most efficiently when it is unconstrained by artificial rules like borders.  So let’s not have any.
  • Open borders: And while we’re having open borders for things, why not people too?  Immigrants do wonderful things for our country: we should be glad to have as many as want to arrive here.  (Having not studied the Awesome Nugget myself, I’m not sure how that’s supposed to work, but I’m sure that’s my own shortcoming.)
  • Fiat money: Money is an abstraction, and deficits don’t matter, if we have a big enough rug under which they can be swept.  Fiscal responsibility is a quaint virtue from another time, like waiting until you get married to move in together.  Tying ourselves to a known scarce commodity (like gold or silver) is a relic of the past, and unnecessarily limits our ability to implement our plans.
  • Too big to fail: Our big government lives in symbiosis with big business.  Just as it would be disastrous if government itself were to fail, it would be almost as bad for a Citibank or a General Motors to fail.   The effects would not be confined to that one firm, and would spread through the economy, to catastrophic effect.  So we won’t let that happen.
  • The Constitution as a dead letter: We can’t say this one out loud: after all, the President’s oath of office still calls for him to ‘preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution.’  But the Constitution is really a quaint anachronism, not suitable for a modern superpower.
  • Climate Change: Whether it’s real or not doesn’t matter: without an overarching ‘emergency,’ how else could we advance the rest of our agenda?

Now an individual politician, running for office, might rail against a couple of these points: whatever works to get him elected.  Once in office, however, he will follow the program.

This, then, is the Demican party platform.  You may think of other elements, but I think I’ve covered the basics.

Now, in fact, the two ‘radical’ candidates for President, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, have in fact accepted most of these tenets as gospel.  Each has only really challenged a couple of them.

What makes them dangerous is that, having amassed a following by challenging the Demicans, they might actually follow through if elected.

Mixed Bag

“Donald Trump is not a gentleman,” remarked my wife the other day.  She’s right, but then again, neither is Ted Cruz.  The two of the got embroiled in what seemed a bar fight over pictures of the candidates’ wives.  (I’m not going to fill in the details here: if the whole soggy saga gets lost to posterity, it can only be an improvement!)  At this point, I may end up voting for Bernie Sanders as the only candidate who (a) acts like a responsible adult, and (b) isn’t dead on the vine.

  • One might vote for Hillary Clinton because she’s a woman, or because she presents herself as the logical continuation of the Obama administration. But Clinton, sadly, embodies everything that we love to hate about male politicians, and many people, myself included, believe that Obama is the worst President in modern times.  Moreover, she across as stale and tired in her speeches.  Even if I were on the fence and willing to consider her as a candidate, she needs to present herself as someone who actually wants the job.
  • John Kasich probably has the best head for figures of any of the candidates, and is the most likely to actually fix our problems. Alas, unless he can get people’s attention, his candidacy will go nowhere.  But that seems to be the plan.  I can almost imagine some Republican Party guy making the pitch: “We want you to run for President.  But realize that you won’t be the nominee: we just want you to be there to take momentum away from any oddballs that might show up.”  I’d have told the Party guy to fuck off, but that’s just me.

*          *          *

I initially had nothing useful to say about last Tuesday’s terrorist attacks in Brussels.  But as news reports came out that the perpetrators were already known to the intelligence services, but that the Belgians were somehow unable to stop them, I began to wonder.  Apparently, what we’re supposed to do is let the potential terrorists into our midst, then maintain a police state to monitor what they’re doing and jump on them just as they’re about to attack.  Wouldn’t it be far simpler and cheaper not to let the potential terrorists into the country in the first place?

*          *          *

And for that reason, I can’t get upset with President Obama for not aborting his trip to Cuba to address the Brussels attacks.  When he woke up in the morning, the attacks were already a fait accompli.  It wasn’t like 11 September, when the United States was actually under attack while President Bush continued his visit to a Texas kindergarten.  (On that day it would have been so simple to say, “I’m very sorry, but something has happened that requires my immediate attention.  I have to go.”)  But this time, the deed was done: the Belgians have emergency services that can clean up the mess: all that’s left for our President is to utter the usual rot about how we stand with the victims.

What was creepy about the Cuba visit, however, was the President’s decision to have himself and his entourage photographed in the shadow of the Che Guevara mural in Revolution Square.  The Cubans had planned something different, but the President had everyone move so that Che was in the background.

For many years, I though the Cuban embargo was pointless and stupid, but it’s probably not practical for us to simply admit that.  But that isn’t what I think is happening now.  We’re reopening relations with Cuba not because we acknowledge that the embargo hasn’t accomplished anything useful, but because Cuba and the United States are converging.

“But Cuba is a totalitarian surveillance state!” I hear you cry.

And what are we becoming?

The Vast Two-Winged Conspiracy

I didn’t want to write another Donald Trump piece, but recent events have been too compelling.

Last Friday, a Trump rally in Chicago had to be cancelled because it was overrun with protestors and became a civil disturbance.  Yesterday, the Daily News issued yet another editorial remarking that ‘Trump must be stopped.’

It’s the nature of politics that one is ‘for’ one’s preferred candidate, and ‘against’ the other guy.  But there is a big difference between ‘I’m against X,’ and ‘X must be stopped.’  To say that someone ‘must be stopped’ is to call for some extra-political force to smite one’s opponent.  That isn’t politics: it is, at best, a bar fight.

So now, in addition to the Republican establishment calling for ‘Trump to be stopped,’ we now have left-wing agitators trying to stop Trump, literally.  The convergence is unsettling.  It’s not just a left- or right-wing conspiracy anymore: it’s a two-winged, capable-of-flying-around-on-its-own-power conspiracy.

But I still don’t understand what’s actually evil about Trump.  I can understand why one may not like him, or might want someone else to be President, but that’s not the same as saying Trump is evil.

It seems to be the vogue to compare Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler, or at least to raise the thought before abruptly backing off.  But let’s do the comparison:

Adolf Hitler was a pathetic loser in real life until he discovered politics.  Donald Trump has had his ups and downs, but, on balance, has been a big, big winner.

Hitler targeted the Jews because it was convenient, and advanced his agenda, even though Jewish people had nothing to do with Germany’s troubles at the time.  Trump is identifying the Mexicans and Muslims as our adversaries because they either really are our adversaries, or there is a reasonable association.

In fairness to the Mexicans, the actual movement of individual Mexicans across the southern border has been going on for over a century, and, on the grand scale of things, isn’t a major national security problem.  But that doesn’t mean the border shouldn’t be secured, as more dangerous things and people than impoverished Mexicans can cross a porous border.  And since Mexico would necessarily be on the other side of a fortified border, it’s a reasonable simplification to say that Mexico is the problem.

As far as the Muslims, imagine that the couple alleged to be responsible for last December’s San Bernadino attack were overly pious Christians, taking up assault rifles against people for not going to church every Sunday and for listening to rock music.  The notion of Christians shooting up a workplace in the name of their religion is ludicrous, in part because Christian scripture doesn’t admit such behavior.

But Islamic scripture is different.

Moreover, throughout our history, we have chosen to restrict immigration when we deemed it in the national interest.  We don’t have the moral obligation to bring the refugees of the world to our shores, and, in particular, don’t have the obligation to provide such refugees government help.  When ‘The New Colossus’ (‘…give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…’) was set into the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, we were not a welfare state.  The bargain was that we would let you in, and you would then have the opportunity to work for a living.

In another time, we wouldn’t have to be concerned that an Islamic terrorist might slip through as a refugee.  A century ago, we expected that immigrants would assimilate to American culture.  They could hang on to their cuisine and many of their traditions, but they were expected to drive on the right side of the road and respect our laws and our Constitution.  And if someone wanted to resort to violence, others would try to talk him out of it, and if that failed, report the matter to the authorities.

But individuals have to take part in this process.  Alas, we’ve become afraid to call someone out for fear of offending him, or appearing to be Islamophobic or whatever.  While it is possible to leave this matter to the government, in order to try to protect us, the government will necessarily have to turn into a police state.

Or the government can do the simpler, less intrusive thing, and not admit Muslims as refugees.

Yes, Trump is petulant, and he’s thin-skinned.  But so is our Dear Leader.

Yes, Trump is an elitist.  But so are all the other candidates: he’s just more open about it.

Yes, Trump is a fraud and a liar.  But Trump is unlike the other candidates in that he has had to suffer the consequences of his actions.  He’s been sued and gone bankrupt… and recovered.

No, Trump will not ‘make America great again.’  No President can, single-handedly.

The bottom line: Trump is a rotten candidate for President, just like all the others.  But he isn’t evil.

And if you believe that Trump ‘must be stopped,’ check your premises.  You’ll find something is seriously wrong.

Donald Trump

Donald Trump burst on the political scene last summer, declaring himself a candidate for President and telling us that he would get Mexico to build a fence on our southern border, because:

When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.

On one level, it was ludicrous: Mexico (i.e. the Mexican government) doesn’t send anyone to the US, except a handful of diplomatic personnel.  The influx of Mexicans represents ordinary people, both good and bad.  (In fact, net migration from Mexico has almost zeroed out in recent years: the US economy has been so rotten that many Mexicans have found better opportunities at home.)  And it strains the imagination to conceive of the means by which Trump would force Mexico to pay for the wall.

But it resonated with many people, including me, because it seems clear that our current leadership is not serious about securing the border, and one of the essential attributes of a place that wants to call itself a ‘country’ is that it has a functioning border.

And Trump has gone on, since then, gaining popularity to the point where he is the leading contender for the Republican Presidential nomination.  It’s been interesting:

  • There was a minor dustup a few months ago when Trump did not did not rebuke a questioner for asserting that President Obama is a Muslim. In fairness, Trump, as a Republican, is a member of the opposition, and doesn’t have a duty to correct what may be a mistaken impression of our President.  But beyond that, a person’s religion is not just the sort of building he visits to pray, or the day he does it: it’s a set of values in one’s soul.  Our Dear Leader has made any number of speeches extolling Islam and deprecating Christianity: judge for yourself.
  • Shortly after, while we were considering admitting Syrian refugees, Trump proposed that we halt all legal admission of Muslims (even for business or tourism!) to the US. That would be, perhaps, a step too far, but far better than admitting tens or hundreds of thousands of refugees.  Contrary to our Dear Leader’s assertions of ‘who we are as a people,’ historically we have restricted entry to the US, either generally or selectively, when we believed that such was in our national interest.  And we have no moral obligation to take refugees from war-torn areas, even where we are one of the belligerents: war is supposed to be a temporary condition, and peace is supposed to return… eventually.  (Alas, our Dear Leader is taking refugees by executive order, and the Republicans, to their eternal discredit, agreed to fund the effort.)
  • In the earlier debates, Trump and Ted Cruz seemed to be, if not allies, at least sharing common views. But more recently, now that Cruz is doing better in the polls, Trump has questioned whether Cruz, born in Canada to a US citizen mother, is eligible to be President.

It is this last point that seems most telling about Trump.  Underneath it all, there are no principles: he does and says whatever advances his interests at the moment.  Cruz was an ally, until he started doing better in the polls and became a threat, and then he wasn’t.

Trump is also one of the croniest of the crony capitalists, having made much of his money by playing local governments to get tax abatements and the like for his projects.  And some of his remarks as a real estate developer give pause.  He remarked that Fifth Avenue in Midtown should be given over to luxury retail, and stores addressing a more modest audience should be elsewhere.  (Alas, I can’t put my hand on the exact quote.)  Fifth Avenue (a stone’s throw from my office) is successful as a commercial venue because it has something for everyone.  It isn’t Rodeo Drive, and I hope it never will be.  There are parts of Manhattan that are given over to luxury retail.  I don’t go there: they’re boring.

Still, Trump is willing to name the elephant in the room that nobody else will dare discuss, and the policy directions that he has discussed so far are at least pointed in the right direction.  And it is for that reason that he is the candidate that, right now, I dislike the least.

Alas, even if he should be elected, I’m sure that, in short order, he’ll turn into just another politician.

Still, one can at least hope.