Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Clinton Foundation: There's Nothing There

I am not shocked one bit that the general intelligence of the news media and the American public is relatively low. What I find disturbing, however, is the rampant exercise of false assertions between the news media and the American public, based on poor understanding of the facts.

There are three concepts / topics to understand, in order to judge what occurred between the Clinton Foundation and Hillary's actions as Secretary of State:

18 U.S. Code § 201 -- This establishes what constitutes bribery. There are two key phrases used, "corruptly" and "official act", in relation to this topic. In order to have a finding of bribery, one must establish that two persons -- the donor and the receiver -- acted together, or "corruptly". Part of this arrangement must also incorporate an "official act", that is to say, that the receiver has the capacity to effect change in pending matters or is able to bring forth matters to be acted upon.

Quid Pro Quo -- Latin, meaning something for something. In general, this means that a transaction took place. Acting "corruptly", under 18 U.S.Code § 201, invokes a necessity of proof of a transaction.

McDonnell vs. US -- In a unanimous decision this past term, SCOTUS ruled in favor of Bob McDowell who had been convicted of receiving money for favors. In their ruling, they noted that prosecution required distinct quid pro quo.

In essence, look no further than McDonnell vs. US, to find that Hillary and the Clinton Foundation did nothing wrong. The news media purports impropriety from a link between donations and setting up of meetings with donors, or handing off a contact to someone else in the government. This is precisely the sort of stuff that was outlined as being acceptable by SCOTUS.

Rather, SCOTUS affirmed (through criticism) the requirement that quid pro quo involving an official act shall clearly be established:
"Section 201 prohibits quid pro quo corruption -- the exchange of a thing of value for an “official act.” In the Government’s view, nearly anything a public official accepts -- from a campaign contribution to lunch -- counts as a quid; and nearly anything a public official does -- from arranging a meeting to inviting a guest to an event -- counts as a quo."
Note that no one in the press has identified a quid pro quo relationship between the Foundation donations and any of the favors allegedly handed out by the SOS. No one has said, "I want this favor in exchange for this donation". Without proof of quid pro quo or that the SOS committed an official act in exchange, this case does not even rise to what occurred in McDonnell's situation.

So what do we really have here? Innuendo. Bad optics. Politics.

Funny thing, though, because every politician engages in the aforementioned activity. They regularly meet with lobbyists who pay money into their SuperPACs or donate directly to their campaigns. They regularly host campaign dinners and speak with influential donors who wish to have their voices heard on a variety of self-serving issues.

In other words, friends, there's nothing there.

Friday, August 12, 2016

November Path to Heaven?

Donald is surely not a religious man. He hath confronted bearing false witness without repentance or regret and probably still thinks there are just two Corinthians. I'm not convinced that he fears the wrath of God or understands what evil is.

Nonetheless, Donald pleaded with Evangelicals at a meeting in Orlando to get out and vote for him because winning in November was "maybe the only way I'm going to get to heaven."

Nope. Still headed to Hell.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

5 Thoughts for August 11, 2016

  1. Donald's Dangerous Speech: Donald boldly incited violence against Hillary, earlier this week. The oddest part about it was the reaction from his apologists who offered three excuses: (1) He was joking; (2) He was doing public service by warning people about the threat of violence; (3) He was encouraging people to get out and vote for him. Everyone else understood what he was trying to do. This time he went beyond embarrassing; he crossed the line into what is called stochastic terrorism. In a normal year that would automatically disqualify him, but this year, people are okay with violent speech and violent acts. Lest anyone forget, Donald actively encouraged his audience to punch a protester in the face, and one obliged.
  2. NOlympics Update: I still haven't watched a single second of the Olympics. It appears that others are following suit, too. Ratings are way down going back a decade, and attendance is very poor. Apparently, even the athletes are publicly showing their disdain for the IOC and its corruption, by calling out cheaters who were allowed to compete with barely a slap on the hand.
  3. Google Fiber in Portland: Looks like there's been a major change in course for Google, nearly two months following its acquisition of Webpass. They've filed a plan with the FCC to test wireless P2P in the 3.4 - 3.8Ghz range in multiple cities and Portland is on the list of 'potential' test locations. Its potential testing range is a 30km radius which would encompass Hillsboro, Wilsonville, Gresham and Vancouver. I'm biased in favor of wireless, as despite the flaws of WiMax have shown me, not having to wait until a company has wired your street / home / apartment means a much shorter wait and fewer dependencies. Of course, fixed P2P gigabit wireless is already here: Stephouse Networks. Stephouse offers the same 1 Gbps speed for the same price ($69), but without the wait.
  4. Long Passwords and Best Practices: I've long written here that a lot of what you've heard about what constitutes a good password, is in fact, wrong. It is not correct that complex passwords are necessarily better, if they're very short. Instead, the best defense is actually the very long password. Looks like the NIST has caught up. Unfortunately, there is another problem at work here: Breached sites where passwords are stolen. It meant that one could not safely reuse the same password, even if it were a very long password. As much as I loved using long passwords, I could not manage to memorize 77 unique, very long passwords. I use a password manager to maintain best practices.
  5. I Was Wrong About GOP and Donald: I used to think that at the very least one could say that the GOP had 'different' ideas. It turns out that I was wrong, and I was also incorrect when I said that Donald had a floor of roughly 70%. It's actually 72% and the GOP is pretty much brain dead. 72% of Republicans either believe that Obama wasn't born in the US or don't know where he was born. You can't fix dumb, ergo the GOP is nothing more than a zombie political party full of people without a hint of intelligence.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

5 Things You Need to Know About Donald's 'Economic' Plan

  1. Tax brackets -- His new tax brackets are 12%, 25% and 33%. The current brackets are 10%, 15%, 20%, 25%, 28%, 33%, and 39.5%. Immediately, you'll notice that while he slashes the top marginal tax bracket, he has actually increased the lowest rate from 10% to 12%, and the next two lowest rates are also boosted from 15% and 20% upwards to 25%. The rich get richer while the poor get poorer! He justifies this simplification, saying, "Our current tax code is so burdensome and complex that we waste 9 billion hours a year in tax code compliance." But that's complete BS because reducing the brackets does not simplify the act of looking at the tax tables -- absent a flat tax, you still have a marginal tax that requires looking up on a table to see how much you pay, or if you're using a computer program the software automatically calculates it for you, making it no less simple than before.
  2. Stimulus Spending on Infrastructure -- Last week, Donald made it known that his plan would include a $1T infrastructure spending plan, asserting that it was on par with what Bernie Sanders proposed. I had to laugh, therefore, when one of his own 'economic' advisers -- Stephen Moore -- suggested last Friday that the 2009 ARRA was ineffectual and therefore a waste of money. Note that the stimulus bill was less than what Donald is proposing, but that's not the real kicker. You see, conservative 'economists' such as Stephen Moore have argued in the past that stimulus spending crowds out private spending, regardless of whether or not the country is in a recession. And yet, we're approaching full employment and Donald is proposing a $1T federal spending package. Such hypocrisy!
  3. Lower Corporate Tax Rate -- Donald proposes slashing the corporate tax rate from 35% to 15%. His stated goal is to eliminate inversions and increase domestic investment. This is Voodoo Econ 101, supply-side economics. According to conservatives, increasing the money supply should always increase economic activity. And yet, we have the Zero-Lower Bound (ZLB)! Corporations already have access to cheap (or free) money, and making it cheaper won't suddenly boost investment. Donald also suggests that this will help small businesses most, which is complete horse manure. According to the conservative Tax Foundation, there are more sole proprietorships than corporations, which means that income is passed through, not taxed at the corporate level. A cut in corporate taxes has zero effect on small businesses.
  4. Tax Deduction or Credit? -- Donald also pretends to help out the poor and middle class by proposing to make the 'average childcare cost' fully tax deductible. In other words, you won't pay taxes on that portion of your income that is spent on childcare. Except, the poor and lower middle class already have economic support from the federal and state government on childcare, making this deduction worthless. More importantly, if Donald cared so much for the poor and middle class, why not make it a tax credit? A tax credit is money in your hands, not a tiny deduction off the top of your owed income, after all. The reason is, that Donald doesn't know how poor and middle-class actually live.
  5. Trade Reform -- You should be wary of a guy promising to renegotiate existing (NAFTA) trade deals, when this guy has a terrible record on negotiations. The dude was so bad at negotiations, he lost money on many deals, including the most infamous debacle of his Trump Taj Mahal. Here's the problem with his boasts: Using tariffs as a leverage doesn't work nearly as well as has been implied, because tariffs work both ways, and cutting off trade in both directions results in higher consumer prices in both countries. That's the point of trade deals: To lower costs for everyone. It's not that I'm not open to renegotiating trade deals; it's that Donald has zero history as a successful negotiator, and contrary to what he says, his own actions show a terrible temperament to be a top negotiator.

It's Not a Race.

I can prove to you rather easily that the 2016 Presidential Election is not a race, which is to say that with a single bullet point I can show you that Donald can't win. But there's no fun in that, so I'll give you three.

Donald Bush

I call him Donald Bush, because in order to win he'd have to replicate something resembling what George Bush did (illegitimately, I might add) in 2000.
2000 Electoral College Map

2016 Hillary's Worst-Case Scenario
In the second map, this is Hillary's worst-case scenario. She still wins, ending up with 273 electoral college votes. If he can't match Bush in 2000, there's no way he can win, and his poll numbers have never matched up to Bush's 2000 win. Imagine how that map would look if you take into account the current polls.

Donald's Red State Problem

What's really going to kill Donald's candidacy is that a bunch of red states are now extremely competitive. In fact, there are more red states that are competitive than what the media is letting on. You might have heard about Arizona and Georgia, but Mississippi, South Carolina, and Texas are all solid red states (where Obama lost by double-digit points in 2012) that may be competitive when new polling comes out. That is to say, the most recent polling showed Donald with a single-point margin over Hillary, which is highly unusual for these states.

In the map below, this is the current state of the election, where the tan states are those under single-digits and possibly in play for Democrats.
Not only will Donald and the GOP have to spend time and money chasing after the 'battleground' states, but they'll now have to defend several red states.

Donald's Non-Hispanic White Problem

The Census has shown that the non-Hispanic White population is shrinking as a percentage of the total population. The US average is roughly 75%. Donald's red state problem coincides with states with lower than average non-Hispanic White percentages. By solely chasing the non-Hispanic White population, Donald has aligned himself with a losing tactic.

In Arizona, Georgia, South Carolina, and Mississippi, the most recent polls (some are months old) show that the two are in a statistical tie. Considering that the national polls have actually improved for Hillary in the week after the convention, it seems that her bounce is no mere bounce, and may be very representative of the mood of much of the country, including many red states.

And therein lies the three problems with Donald's efforts to make this a race. Under the rosiest of scenarios, he can't win because durable poll numbers show that he's too far behind in Bush's 2000 race. In the worst-case scenario that is slowly gaining ground, we're talking a massive blowout, northward of 370 electoral college votes.

Friday, August 5, 2016

5 Thoughts for August 5, 2016

  1. Moby Ambient: I've ensconced myself in Moby's release of free Long Ambient tunes. It's something along the lines of SOMA FM's Drone Zone, but far better. I've been listening to it (instead of classical) when I'm going to sleep, reading, or thinking.
  2. Lessons From Polls: Of the many things I've learned from tracking polls this year, the one that stands out the most, is that most people are unwilling to break through their cognitive bias. For instance, Donald, no matter how much he lies, insults or acts like a fool, will always have the support of at least 68% of Republicans -- an enduring floor going back through last September's polls. I have this theory that, like the sunken costs fallacy, people who've metaphorically invested in their cognitive bias, have difficulty pulling out, particularly the deeper they've invested into their bias. You might think that this 68% floor is a recent thing, but it isn't; despite all of his stupidity this past week, his current range of GOP support is between 78% - 89%. Therefore, on top of those with deep cognitive bias, we're also seeing a cultural war with the flocking of white blue collar men to the GOP even while everyone else is fleeing it.
  3. NOlympics: I'm not watching a single minute of the Olympics; I didn't even realize they were tonight, until just yesterday when the local NBC news station kept talking about it. My decision is based on three principles: (1) International sports is no longer about the sport but about the money that can be made off the athletes, and as such has become rife with corruption as decisions to award host cities is based on money; (2) The air is dirty, the water if filthy, and Dengue Fever is endemic to the region, nonetheless the IOC awarded Rio the Olympics; (3) There is rampant cheating and the IOC is deliberately looking the other way, so long as the money keeps pouring in. The Olympics is a corporate whore whose concerns over sponsorship outweigh the rights and welfare of athletes and spectators.
  4. Donald's Economic Advisor Team: 13 white men. This is basically a reflection of the singular demographic where he's winning. If you asked Donald, he'd probably tell you that his all-white economic team is proof that he's color blind. The cold, hard reality is, there probably aren't many people out there willing to stick their necks out for Donald at this point, with his rapidly sinking numbers.
  5. Portland Homeless Camping: So the Mayor finally changed his tune and realized that his plan last year to allow homeless people to camp on public streets was a complete failure. Immediately, one could see the difference, but there was a catch: Springwater Corridor. Sure, the homeless encampments around the city have disappeared, but they've gone to Springwater Corridor where the Mayor has given them a reprieve until next month. That resulted in the Hood to Coast to change a part of the route to avoid the worst of the Springwater Corridor. You know, the county has massive parcels of land for greenspace; why not allow them to camp at select parks until they can figure out how to build enough shelter beds?