Category Archives: gurvey

Winners. Losers. 2020.

We’ve done it. We’ve survived Election 2018. And of course there are winners, losers, and implications for 2020. A few, in no particular order.

We the People. Tough call here. On the one hand, we won. We decided that an unconstrained government is not a good thing and we restored at least the potential for a check and balance for the next two years by putting the House of Representatives in the hands of a different party. We also turned out in record numbers for a midterm. Can we keep it up?

On the other hand, we proved once again that we are a deeply divided nation. Moderates lost to partisans. The future for bipartisanship seems as bleak as before. Race remains the greatest dividing issue. Even a geography based solution involving the dismemberment of the nation doesn’t seem practical as the divide is between urban and rural residents, not between states or regions. The election of 2018 was decided in the suburbs. 2020 may be decided there too.

Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats. Winners. Pelosi said Democrats would take back the House and they did. She even said so a full week before the election and caused a lot of panic. Now she must show that House Democrats can pass meaningful, constructive, helpful legislation that fills the people’s needs, even if the bills die in the Senate. And to quell the noise from the younger, lefter, more diverse group of Democrats who will be arriving in Washington come January, Pelosi should announce that she plans to retire at the end of her term. She will be 80 years old in 2020 and her retirement, having won the Speakership twice, will both set the stage for the next generation and deprive Donald Trump of his favorite whipping girl as he fights to win reelection. P.S.,  Chuck Schumer, loser. The odds were against him but he still left the Republicans firmly in control of the Senate.

Mitch McConnell and the Republicans. Winners. Yeah, I know, Republicans lost the House. But they added to their control of the Senate and that means two more years of placing conservative right-wing judges on the federal bench. That McConnell-led most important of all goals for the GOP may begin paying dividends within the next few months as the Mueller investigation winds down and the final indictments are returned. Still the Democrats not only flipped 29 House seats, as of this writing, they also gained 7 governor’s mansions and flipped 6 state legislative chambers. These gains will make McConnell’s job in 2020 harder.

Donald Trump. It’s a mixed bag for the man who never wanted to be president. With the House lost to the Democrats, Trump is going to find the rough waters in which he sails even stormier in the next two years. But the election unquestionably solidified Trump’s hold on the Republican Party as moderate Republicans, who ran away from him and he did not endorse, lost their seats. It is the Trump Party now. And his strategy of divisiveness, demonization, racism, disinformation and news media bashing continued to be successful. It is very clear that a significant number of Americans comprise a solid base of voters he can count on, as long as he keeps feeding them the red meat on which they thrive.

Women. Winners. More than one hundred win House elections and women increase their numbers across the board.

Young people. Ditto. Young voters turned out in record numbers. Question? Was this a one time shot or will we see them again in 2020?

Voter Suppression. Winner. It works. The election for governor of Georgia is case in point. The Republican candidate Brian Kemp is the current secretary of state, which puts him in charge of elections. They are still counting but the number of questionable actions taken to allegedly reduce turnout in areas believed to favor his Democratic opponent, Stacy Abrams, would fill a book, and probably will. Republican Kevin Kramer won a Senate seat from North Dakota after the implementation of voter ID laws that dis-proportionally disenfranchised Democratic leaning Native American voters.

Civility. Give me a break. What do you think? Loser for us, winner for them. Every election seems to be nastier than the one before. Even Fox stopped running one particularly racist and misleading national Republican ad. In my state of New Jersey, Republican challenger Bob Hugin ran a thoroughly disgusting highly misleading TV ad targeting incumbent Democrat Bob Menendez. Hugin lost. But overall the nasty ads work. Florida is the poster child for that argument. And moderate Democrats Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Claire McCaskill of Missouri all lost Senate seats to Trump supporters who hammered them in their advertising.

Maxine Waters. Huge, giant winner. Frequent target of Trump (“Low-IQ”) Waters was reelected to the House (CA43). Walter is now in line to chair the House Financial Services Committee, with the power to investigate Trump’s personal bank transactions. Her committee is also empowered to oversee the entire financial sector. And issue subpoenas. Talk about karma.

Dennis Hof. Winner. Sorry. Couldn’t help it. Republican Hof won election in the race for Nevada’s 36th Assembly District with 68 percent of the vote. Hof, a brothel owner, it’s legal in Nevada, died in October.

And so it is on to 2020. We can expect more of the same as long as Donald Trump is a candidate. But there is a chance, if we work really hard to make it so, that 2020 could be an election where events and issues outweigh personality in voters’ decisions. And there will a lot of unpredictable events happening in the next two years.

 

 

The Preachers of Hate

PittsburgMemorialThe last of eleven funerals was held today. Eleven people, shot dead in simply because they were Jewish.

A federal grand jury has charged 46 year-old Robert Bowers with 44 crimes including hate crimes resulting in death. Bowers has pleaded not guilty. So we’ll do the journalism thing and note that he is the “alleged” assailant and that he is considered innocent until proven guilty. We will also note that the indictment alleges that on the morning of the Sabbath, October 27, 2018, Bowers drove to the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, entered the building with multiple firearms, and opened fire. He also engaged public safety officers, wounding several before he was wounded and captured. While inside the Synagogue, Bowers made several statements indicating his desire to “kill Jews.”

It was the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history. But of course Jews have faced many millennia of persecution and oppression and even in America Jews are no strangers to anti-Semitic incidents, which an Anti-Defamation League audit found rose 57% in 2017.

Yes, Bowers is deranged and yes, most responsible Americans don’t really mean to advocate religious murder when they rant and rave about threatening “outside” forces “invading” and “replacing us.” But it is more than about time they accept responsibility for the climate their irresponsible actions create. A climate in which dastardly deeds are not only acceptable, but a logical solution to the perceived problem presented by anyone who is not like themselves.

Even without his statements at the Synagogue, Bowers’ social media footprint makes his motive clear:

Bowers

HIAS, founded as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society in 1881 to assist Jews fleeing pogroms in Russia and Eastern Europe, declares its purpose is to, “Welcome the stranger. Protect the refugee.” It is not surprising. This has been a core value for Jews for some time. See Genesis 18:1-22:24.

But what has clearly caught Bowers’ attention here is the concept of “invaders”. And we all know where that comes from:

TrumpInvaders

HIAS does help people seeking refuge in the United States. And just in case you missed that dog whistle, consider, President Trump Trump also says he ‘wouldn’t be surprised’ if an unfounded conspiracy theory about George Soros funding the caravan is true. There is no surprise in that comment either. Trump rather famously refused to condemn white supremacists when they marched in Charlottesville, Virginia, wielding flaming torches and shouting, “Jews will not replace us” ahead of deadly violence, Trump said there were some “very fine people on both sides”.

George Soros has become the whipping man and proxy for all the anti-Semitic claims of the right. Soros is not only Jewish, unlike Trump he is also really a self-made billionaire and has taken the giving pledge, promising to donate most of his wealth to worthy causes. There is no evidence that Soros is helping to fund the so-called “caravan”. But that hasn’t stopped mainstream Republicans, from Trump on down, from repeating the rumor.

Fox talking heads Laura Ingraham, Maria Bartiroma and Lou Dobbs have suggested that the migrants are getting outside funding. And Cesar Sayoc, the Florida man authorities have accused of mailing more than a dozen bombs to people who have criticized Trump, appeared to be obsessed with Soros, mentioning him dozens of times on one of his Twitter accounts.

A whole catalog of Republican elected officials have joined the anti-Semitic chorus:

McCarthyTweet

That Tweet, adding Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg, two other Jewish billionaire philanthropists who support progressive causes, came from Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader in the House of Representatives. If the GOP retains control of the House this man could be the next Speaker of the House.

And then there is the case of Radio Marti’, part of the Trump administration that broadcasts to Cuba, which reportedly aired a Spanish language program earlier this year describing Soros as a “multimillionaire Jew” and repeating some of the right wing conspiracy theories about him.

This is the climate in which demons like Bowers and Sayoc flourish. These are weak men, spurred to action by the words and examples of far stronger men dedicated to the cause of retaining power through any means necessary and exploiting the fears of others. They want us to be afraid. They need us to be afraid. So they whip up controversy over a few thousand mothers and children heading our way. They tell us that we are unable to sort out the real asylum candidates, which we are required to accept by our own law, from the handful of those who will seek to take advantage of the situation to sneak into our country. To meet a few thousand mothers and children, Trump talks about sending 15,000 regular soldiers of the United States Army, to stand in addition to the Border Patrol, National Guard and local police authorities already at the border.

CaravanNYDailyNews

Are you afraid? Don’t be. And don’t let the preachers of hate get to you. Remember the principles on which this great country was founded. Never again.

No. Just No.

I’ve had it. I’ve had it with whataboutism. I’m done with false equivalency. No more political correctness. You can take your gaslighting someplace else. I’m tired of demonizing, of disinformation, of scapegoating, of rationalization and of lying and deception of all kinds.

Thirteen pipe bombs were sent to prominent Democrats, including former presidents Obama and Clinton, and other Trump critics. That’s a fact. The FBI has arrested Cesar Sayoc, 56, and charged him with a long list of crimes in connection with the bombs. That’s a fact. They also impounded a white van, which they say was Sayoc’s, its windows covered with political images and stickers of President Trump and his critics, including pictures of some of the bomb recipients with gun sights superimposed on their images. That’s another fact.

This is the time when you would expect calming words of reassurance from the White House. The kind you would have heard from Ronald Reagan, from George Bush (both of them), from Bill Clinton and from Barack Obama. What did we get from the current occupant of the Oval Office?

TrumpBombTweet

That’s right. Trump blames “Bomb stuff” for distracting from his political message. Yes of course the alleged bomb sender Sayoc is a nut job. But this is not the same as the case of James Hodgkinson, shot and killed by police after he opened fire on Congressional Republicans practicing for a charity baseball game. Hodgkinson wounded four including House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana, who  nearly died.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders immediately claimed an equivalence. But it doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. Hodgkinson once volunteered for Independent Senator Bernie Sanders during his campaign for the Democratic nomination for president in 2016. But there is no record of Senator Sanders urging violence on his supporters and the Senator, upon learning of the loose connection, took to the Senate floor saying, “I have just been informed that the alleged shooter at the Republican baseball practice is someone who apparently volunteered on my presidential campaign. I am sickened by this despicable act. Let me be as clear as I can be, violence of any kind is unacceptable in our society and I condemn this action in the strongest possible terms.”

Trump, on the other hand, has a long history of exhorting his supporters to, well, just read the quotes yourself:

TrumpQuotes

Of course Trump didn’t send the clearly deranged Sayoc out to cause mayhem. But he created the climate which can trigger an unstable person to act. In this he is aided by conservative media led as always by Fox. I have never seen anything like the Fox channels which, with apologies to Shepard Smith, spend most their on-air hours serving as Trump mouthpieces. Here’s Lou Dobbs of the Fox Business Channel:

DobbsTweet

Also on Fox, Geraldo Rivera said the bombs may have been sent by “someone who wanted to embarrass President Trump, somebody who wanted to affect American political life. It could have been a Russian invention.”

Conservative radio was all over the conspiracy theory. Rush Limbaugh suggested a “Democratic operative” may have sent the bombs. “Republicans,” he said, “just don’t do this kind of thing.” Michael Savage said there was a “high probability that the whole thing had been set up as a false flag to gain sympathy for the Democrats.”  And from conservative commentator Anne Coulter:

CoulterTweet

It’s time to get a grip. Deranged people do deranged things. But if you promote violence through a steady stream of exhortations to commit violent acts, conspiracy theories and lies, you have some responsibility when others put your words into deeds.

The best summation of this entire escapade I’ve heard comes from John Oliver, the host of HBO’s “Last Week with John Oliver”, who I find to be one of the most astute political commentators of our age. Oliver said:

“OK, I’ve got it: So Obama flew to Florida, mailed a bomb to himself in Washington, then flew back just in time to avoid it—all to frame this guy,” said Oliver, pointing to a photo of the bombing suspect. “Now, I’m not saying that that man’s theory doesn’t have any holes in it, but at least we can all agree: He really outsmarted Geraldo Rivera.”

I say amen.

Constitution Day

We celebrate September 17 as Constitution Day, marking the day in 1787 when delegates to the Constitutional Convention signed the Constitution of the United States in Philadelphia.

I remember when I first studied this great document. You couldn’t graduate from the eighth grade in the Chicago Public Schools without passing an exam on the Constitutions of the United States and the State of Illinois. In class of O’Keeffe Elementary I was fascinated by the text and the little we learned of the history. And I have remained impressed today, after much more detailed study in college and graduate school, and as I teach First Amendment law to young journalists.

Continue reading…

Financial Market Reporting, Part 9: Exchange Traded Funds

In my recent post on mutual funds, I noted that John Bogle disrupted that industry with Vanguard, a mutual fund company that specialized in low cost index funds designed to mimic rather than outperform major market indexes. The other mutual fund companies responded with their own index funds, and there is intense competition between them

Mutual fund shares vs. ETFs

Exchange Traded Funds, ETFs, are another refinement of the fund category. They will certainly figure into your reporting on the fund asset class because they are by some measures the most popular of all exchange traded securities.

For my primer on ETFs, see businessjournalism.org.

Trump and the Employment Report, fact and fiction, Pt. 2

Numbers are funny things. Even though they appear to be absolute, a clever manipulator can twist them to make pretty much any point he wants to make. Take President Trump’s statement from February: “Ninety-four million Americans are out of the labor force.” It might seem preposterous but it is correct, as the great sage Obi-Wan-Kenobi once said, “from a certain point of view.”

It is the number you get if you take the total U.S. population 16-years of age and older and subtract the people the BLS says are in the labor force. That number includes everyone who is retired, and most high-school, college, graduate or vocational school student. It also includes the disabled, homemakers, some self-employed and those living off their investments.

My guide to reporting the employment report continues at businessjournalism.org….

Trump and the Employment Report, fact and fiction, Pt. 1

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released its Employment Situation Report for February on March 10, showing a healthy 235,000 gain in payroll employment. Asked what President Trump thought about the numbers, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said, “I talked to the president prior to this, and he said to quote him very clearly,” Spicer said. “They may have been phony in the past, but it’s very real now.”

Many of the reporters present laughed. I cringed.

Over the years on public television’s Nightly Business Report, I filed countless “numbers” pieces. The monthly employment reports were most closely watched. For better or worse these reports often had an immediate financial market moving impact, making them lead stories for a market driven broadcast.

I cringed because I believe attempts to undermine the credibility of these reports do a great disservice.

Continues at businessjournalism.org….

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