Archive

October 5th, 2016

North Carolina's governor sidles up to Trump

    Immediately after the Sept. 26 presidential debate, Hillary Clinton headed to North Carolina to take a bow. It's easy to see why. The lead in the presidential race has seesawed for months and Donald Trump has been ahead more often than not.

    In most swing states, candidates fear that Trump will be a drag on their campaigns. Witness the speed with which Republican senators up for re-election such as John McCain and Kelly Ayotte fled when asked whether they endorse their party's nominee.

    But in North Carolina, Pat McCrory, the incumbent Republican governor, is hoping Trump will give him a lift. McCrory has run as much as nine points behind his Democratic competitor, former state legislator and now the attorney general, Roy Cooper, who is so popular he ran unopposed in 2012.

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Little good has come from the EB-5 program

    Only 19 percent of Americans trust the federal government to do what's right most of the time, according to the Pew Research Center. And it's hard to blame them, given that our Congress has just extended a 25-year-old visas-for-investment immigration scheme that has accomplished essentially nothing except to foster corruption, risk national security - and subsidize real estate developers.

    The EB-5 program reserves up to 10,000 permanent residency slots each year for foreign nationals who invest in the United States. Congress enacted it in 1990 on the superficially plausible theory that trading green cards for capital would boost the economy, as a similar plan in Canada had reportedly done.

    Before 2008, however, EB-5 produced more than 1,000 investor immigrants per year only once, due to competition from Canada, bureaucratic hassles and a lack of business opportunities fitting the program's minimum requirements - $1 million invested and 10 jobs created. When admissions did go above 1,000, in 1997, the program was temporarily suspended amid concerns that fraud caused the spike.

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Is Donald Trump a one-trick pony?

    Donald Trump's strategists, shaken by his ineffective defensive posture against Hillary Clinton's deft verbal assaults in their first debate, now face an improbable task: somehow remaking his very core.

    That would require turning a candidate whose natural political weapon is an arsenal of personal abuse and factual distortions and lies into a credible political figure able to convince the nation's electorate that he can be trusted running the country.

    The first debate showed Trump to be an undisciplined, rigid and generally uninformed charlatan, driven to project and protect his self-image as an all-purpose problem-solver on a grand scale.

    Rather than again letting Donald be Donald -- which in the first debate often left him looking uncertain and snappish, compared a cool and collected Hillary -- his strategists must convince him to correct course.

    But persuading Trump to ignore the bait tossed out by Clinton might be beyond any political adviser's talents, given his supreme self-confidence and resistance to advice.

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October 4th

Syria's 'Army of Islam' says no to war with Israel

    There was a time when you could count on hard-core Sunni Islamists in the Middle East to be reliably opposed to the existence of the Jewish state. Organizations ranging from the Muslim Brotherhood to al-Qaida disagreed on everything from jurisprudence to short-term strategy, but when it came to Israel there was consensus.

    The slaughter in Syria is changing that. Take, for example, Jaish al-Islam, a Syrian coalition of rebels whose name translates conveniently to "Army of Islam." Mohammed Alloush, the political leader of the group, Wednesday told me his fighters did not seek war with Israel.

    "We have no intention to make war against anyone except for the Syrian regime," he said. "If we compare all the killing in the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Syrian regime has committed many more crimes than the whole conflict. Our aim now is to get rid of the Syrian regime," he said.

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I never worry I'll be shot in Chicago. After all, I'm white.

    For the past 18 years, I've walked regularly down Howard Street, on the far northern fringe of Chicago. It's a colorful marketplace of dollar stores, chicken shacks, West Indian restaurants, Arab-owned groceries and hip-hop sneaker shops. It's also the turf of Loyalty Over Cash, a Gangster Disciples faction that has been embroiled in a feud with the Insane Cutthroat Gangsters, another Gangster Disciples group operating a mile south. A few years ago, a drive-by gunman fired a bullet through a convenience store window, killing a customer inside. The store reopened two days later, without even covering the hole. The next week, a 16-year-old aspiring rapper was gunned down on a sidewalk at 3 in the morning. I got to the crime scene after the building engineer washed away the blood but before the TV van left.

    Even in the midst of a gang war, I had no fear of getting shot. Why? Because I'm white.

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Five myths about nuclear weapons

    Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump agreed on one thing at last week's presidential debate: Nuclear weapons are the single greatest threat to U.S. security. The candidates' concerns diverged from there. Clinton praised the controversial nuclear deal with Iran and worried about nuclear terrorism. Trump said that the U.S. nuclear arsenal is not keeping pace with Russia's. Nukes have been shrouded in myth since they were credited - improperly, many say - with ending World War II by destroying two Japanese cities. Seventy-one years later, and decades after the end of the Cold War, these weapons continue to bedevil diplomacy, discourse and the planet itself.

 

Myth No. 1

    Nuclear weapons haven't been used since Nagasaki.

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"Cruz Caves, Endorses Trump"

    Is anybody surprised at the above headline that appeared in my daily? Stronger, more important men than this failed candidate have done the same. It would have been more news worthy had this ethically challenged senator not endorsed the likewise challenged presidential candidate. The only surprise is that he did not do it sooner.

    Note, it is just in time for the early vote casting, just in case there is anyone left who can be influenced by him. He is only one in a long list of Republican "bigwigs" who vowed and declared they would never, ever support Mr. Trump should he become the candidate. Well, he did and they have supported him. Some fell all over themselves endorsing him near simultaneously with the convention vote. Others withheld their endorsements a few weeks after he became the official candidate but they are now on the bandwagon. Many don't even bother to give an excuse for such a reversal. If that is not putting party before nation, what is?

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Americans don't mind paying taxes, but they want Trump to, also

    Donald Trump handed Hillary Clinton a great political gift last week with his ill-advised interjection at their presidential debate. When she suggested that he didn't pay his federal income taxes, Trump replied, "That makes me smart." With that declaration, Trump appeared to admit that, as many suspected, he used various legal loopholes to pay no federal income tax in certain years. (Clinton paid $3,624,455, or 32.4 percent of her income, in federal taxes in 2015).

    Trump seemed to assume that Americans would admire his savvy. He's wrong. Since the federal income tax was introduced during the Civil War, U.S. citizens have grumbled about their taxes. But they've also told pollsters they think they pay about the right amount -20 percent, on average. More than half of Americans surveyed by the Pew Research Center last year said their rate was fair.

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

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

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

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

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

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Why Trump must not be president

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

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

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

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

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