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Question of the night

[ 220 ] March 5, 2016 |

After Cruz’s surprisingly strong second-place showings in LA and KY, to go along with wins in Kansas and Maine, is there any prospect that The Party starts pressuring Rubio to drop out? It’s obvious now that Rubio has no shot whatever of getting anywhere close to a plurality of delegates going into the convention, so if he stays in he’s just likely to ensure that Trump ends up with a solid plurality if not an outright majority.

Of course the problem here is that it’s far from clear whether The Party hates Trump more than Cruz, or believes that Cruz would have a better shot in the general. The other is that The Party is just a metaphor for a lot of divergent groups.

So my guess would be no, there’s no real chance of that happening.


You get what you pay for

[ 422 ] March 5, 2016 |

gilded age

March 19, 2015 American Camping Association Atlantic City, NJ $260,000.00
March 11, 2015 eBay Inc. San Jose, CA $315,000.00
February 24, 2015 Watermark Silicon Valley Conference for Women Santa Clara, CA $225,500.00
January 22, 2015 Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce Whistler, Canada $150,000.00
January 21, 2015 tinePublic Inc. Winnipeg, Canada $262,000.00
January 21, 2015 tinePublic Inc. Saskatoon, Canada $262,500.00
December 4, 2014 Massachusetts Conference for Women Boston, MA $205,500.00
October 14, 2014 San Francisco, CA $225,500.00
October 14, 2014 Qualcomm Incorporated San Diego, CA $335,000.00
October 13, 2014 Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers Colorado Springs, CO $225,500.00
October 8, 2014 Advanced Medical Technology Association (AdvaMed) Chicago, IL $265,000.00
October 7, 2014 Deutsche Bank AG New York, NY $280,000.00
October 6, 2014 Canada 2020 Ottawa, Canada $215,500.00
October 2, 2014 Commercial Real Estate Women Network Miami Beach, FL $225,500.00
September 15, 2014 Cardiovascular Research Foundation Washington, DC $275,000.00
September 4, 2014 Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd, LLP San Diego, CA $225,500.00
August 28, 2014 Nexenta System, Inc. San Francisco, CA $300,000.00
August 28, 2014 Cisco Las Vegas, NV $325,000.00
July 29, 2014 Corning, Inc. Corning, NY $225,500.00
July 26, 2014 Ameriprise Boston, MA $225,500.00
July 22, 2014 Knewton, Inc. San Francisco, CA $225,500.00
June 26, 2014 GTCR Chicago, IL $280,000.00
June 25, 2014 Biotechnology Industry Organization San Diego, CA $335,000.00
June 25, 2014 Innovation Arts and Entertainment San Francisco, CA $150,000.00
June 20, 2014 Innovation Arts and Entertainment Austin, TX $150,000.00
June 18, 2014 tinePublic Inc. Toronto, Canada $150,000.00
June 18, 2014 tinePublic Inc. Edmonton, Canada $100,000.00
June 10, 2014 United Fresh Produce Association Chicago, IL $225,000.00
June 2, 2014 International Deli-Dairy-Bakery Association Denver, CO $225,500.00
June 2, 2014 Let’s Talk Entertainment Denver, CO $265,000.00
May 6, 2014 National Council for Behavorial Healthcare Washington, DC $225,500.00
April 11, 2014 California Medical Association (via Satellite) San Diego, CA $100,000.00
April 10, 2014 Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Inc. Las Vegas, NV $225,500.00
April 10, 2014 Let’s Talk Entertainment San Jose, CA $265,000.00
April 8, 2014 Marketo, Inc. San Francisco, CA $225,500.00
April 8, 2014 World Affairs Council Portland, OR $250,500.00
March 24, 2014 Academic Partnerships Dallas, TX $225,500.00
March 18, 2014 Xerox Corporation New York, NY $225,000.00
March 18, 2014 Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal Montreal, Canada $275,000.00
March 13, 2014 Pharmaceutical Care Management Association Orlando, FL $225,500.00
March 13, 2014 Drug Chemical and Associated Technologies New York, NY $250,000.00
March 6, 2014 tinePublic Inc. Calgary, Canada $225,500.00
March 5, 2014 The Vancouver Board of Trade Vancouver, Canada $275,500.00
March 4, 2014 Association of Corporate Counsel – Southern California Los Angeles, CA $225,500.00
February 27, 2014 A&E Television Networks New York, NY $280,000.00
February 26, 2014 Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society Orlando, FL $225,500.00
February 17, 2014 Novo Nordisk A/S Mexico City, Mexico $125,000.00
February 6, 2014 Las Vegas, NV $225,500.00
January 27, 2014 National Automobile Dealers Association New Orleans, LA $325,500.00
January 27, 2014 Premier Health Alliance Miami, FL $225,500.00
January 6, 2014 GE Boca Raton, FL $225,500.00
November 21, 2013 U.S. Green Building Council Philadelphia, PA $225,000.00
November 18, 2013 CME Group Naples, FL $225,000.00
November 18, 2013 Press Ganey Orlando, FL $225,000.00
November 14, 2013 CB Richard Ellis, Inc. New York, NY $250,000.00
November 13, 2013 Mediacorp Canada, Inc. Toronto, Canada $225,000.00
November 9, 2013 National Association of Realtors San Francisco, CA $225,000.00
November 7, 2013 Golden Tree Asset Management New York, NY $275,000.00
November 6, 2013 Beaumont Health System Troy, MI $305,000.00
November 4, 2013 Mase Productions, Inc. Orlando, FL $225,000.00
November 4, 2013 London Drugs, Ltd. Mississauga, ON $225,000.00
October 29, 2013 The Goldman Sachs Group Tuscon, AZ $225,000.00
October 28, 2013 Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago $400,000.00
October 27, 2013 Beth El Synagogue Minneapolis, MN $225,000.00
October 24, 2013 Accenture New York, NY $225,000.00
October 24, 2013 The Goldman Sachs Group New York, NY $225,000.00
October 23, 2013 SAP Global Marketing, Inc. New York, NY $225,000.00
October 15, 2013 National Association of Convenience Stores Atlanta, GA $265,000.00
October 4, 2013 Long Island Association Long Island, NY $225,000.00
September 19, 2013 American Society of Travel Agents, Inc. Miami, FL $225,000.00
September 18, 2013 American Society for Clinical Pathology Chicago, IL $225,000.00
August 12, 2013 National Association of Chain Drug Stores Las Vegas, NV $225,000.00
August 7, 2013 Global Business Travel Association San Diego, CA $225,000.00
July 11, 2013 UBS Wealth Management New York, NY $225,000.00
June 24, 2013 American Jewish University University City, CA $225,000.00
June 24, 2013 Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and Company, LP Palos Verdes, CA $225,000.00
June 20, 2013 Boston Consulting Group, Inc. Boston, MA $225,000.00
June 20, 2013 Let’s Talk Entertainment, Inc. Toronto, Canada $250,000.00
June 17, 2013 Economic Club of Grand Rapids Grand Rapids, MI $225,000.00
June 16, 2013 Society for Human Resource Management Chicago, IL $285,000.00
June 6, 2013 Spencer Stuart New York, NY $225,000.00
June 4, 2013 The Goldman Sachs Group Palmetto Bluffs, SC $225,000.00
May 29, 2013 Sanford C. Bernstein and Co., LLC New York, NY $225,000.00
May 21, 2013 Verizon Communications, Inc. Washington, DC $225,000.00
May 16, 2013 Itau BBA USA Securities New York, NY $225,000.00
May 14, 2013 Apollo Management Holdings, LP New York, NY $225,000.00
May 8, 2013 Gap, Inc. San Francisco, CA $225,000.00
April 30, 2013 Fidelity Investments Naples, FL $225,000.00
April 24, 2013 Deutsche Bank Washington, DC $225,000.00
April 24, 2013 National Multi Housing Council Dallas, TX $225,000.00
April 18, 2013 Morgan Stanley Washington, DC $225,000.00



(1) This is disgusting.

(2) Hillary Clinton, like so many other members of the elites, must live in an almost perfectly sealed social bubble. How could someone who knew she was running for the Democratic nomination for president in 2016 — that is, in the immediate wake of Occupy Wall Street, concurrent with the publication of Capital in the 21st Century, etc. etc., and who was already rich almost beyond the comprehension of ordinary people, think that it was good idea to spend the two years before the official start of her campaign in this way?

Peggy Noonan has a theory

[ 148 ] March 4, 2016 |

noonan reagan

Well it’s not really a theory yet, but it’s trending in that direction:

Last October I wrote of the five stages of Trump, based on the Kübler-Ross stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Most of the professionals I know are stuck somewhere between four and five.

But I keep thinking of how Donald Trump got to be the very likely Republican nominee. There are many answers and reasons, but my thoughts keep revolving around the idea of protection. It is a theme that has been something of a preoccupation in this space over the years, but I think I am seeing it now grow into an overall political dynamic throughout the West.

There are the protected and the unprotected. The protected make public policy. The unprotected live in it. The unprotected are starting to push back, powerfully.

The protected are the accomplished, the secure, the successful—those who have power or access to it. They are protected from much of the roughness of the world. More to the point, they are protected from the world they have created. Again, they make public policy and have for some time.

I want to call them the elite to load the rhetorical dice, but let’s stick with the protected.

They are figures in government, politics and media. They live in nice neighborhoods, safe ones. Their families function, their kids go to good schools, they’ve got some money. All of these things tend to isolate them, or provide buffers. Some of them—in Washington it is important officials in the executive branch or on the Hill; in Brussels, significant figures in the European Union—literally have their own security details.

Because they are protected they feel they can do pretty much anything, impose any reality. They’re insulated from many of the effects of their own decisions.

Why it’s almost as if society were divided into different hierarchically-stratified groups (if we could just come up with a better name for these types of groups that would be super helpful) that have fundamentally conflicting interests.

Take a look at these hands

[ 211 ] March 4, 2016 |


Actual headline on CNN, the most trusted name in “news,” summing up last night’s “debate.”


I guess this is why they call it American exceptionalism.

Seriously we’re now making banana republics blush.

(I remember the very first time I heard of the store Banana Republic. It must have been around 1980 or so, when a catalog showed up. This was one of first times — maybe the first time — I remember having a conscious feeling of defensiveness as a Hispanic American. I was like, you can’t call a store that. I mean I know those countries are screwed up in a lot of ways but come on.)

The paranoid style, part infinity

[ 176 ] March 3, 2016 |


Randy Barnett is a Georgetown University law professor, who is well known for both his libertarian views and his insider status among DC conservatives (he was the academic point man in the battle to interpret the Affordable Care Act out of existence). He is currently one of many people on the right trying to come up with a way to stop Donald Trump. In the course of describing his plan to the National Review’s readership, he had this to say about Marco Rubio:

I have never met Marco Rubio, but shortly after he was elected to the Senate, I was lecturing in Germany to a group of European liberal students. (In Europe, “liberal” means libertarian.) I played for them a YouTube clip of Senator Rubio making a seven-minute floor speech extolling the exceptionalism of the United States as a land of opportunity. I used the clip to make two points. First, the fact that they had never heard of Rubio showed that they live in a left-wing media cocoon. Unless they cultivated reliable online sources, they would never have a complete picture about the American political scene.

It’s of course a central tenet of contemporary conservative faith that the dreaded Mainstream Media is hopelessly biased in its coverage of American politics. Still this is a bit much, given that this is somebody who is supposed to be the epitome of a Thoughtful Conservative, as opposed to say a random caller to a right-wing talk radio show.

Think about who Marco Rubio was “shortly after he was elected to the Senate,” i.e. five years ago. At that point it’s safe to say he wouldn’t have made anybody’s list of the 100 most prominent politicians in America. Heck, he might not have cracked the top 500 then. He was a 40-year-old freshman senator that nobody outside of Florida had ever heard of: I certainly couldn’t have told you who he was at that time (although I suppose I’m helping in my own small way to help spin the very left-wing media cocoon that envelops me, so res ipsa loquitur I guess.).

Nevertheless, the fact that a bunch of German college students hadn’t heard of this guy is supposed to be evidence of the perfidy of the MSM! For comparison’s sake, here’s the complete list of contemporary German politicians I can name:

Angela Merkel
Helmut Kohl

That’s it, and I wouldn’t want to bet that Kohl is actually still alive or anything.

Would Trump as president be significantly worse than Cruz or Rubio?

[ 259 ] March 3, 2016 |

living colour

I’m leaning toward “yes he would.”

To get a couple things out of the way first, it should go without saying that any of these outcomes would be a serious disaster, so this is roughly analogous to trying to figure out if you’d rather try to live through a major hurricane or a massive earthquake.

Also, nothing in what follows takes into account or is otherwise based on which of these candidates would be more likely to actually win. This is of course a legitimate factor in shaping one’s hopes and fears in regard to the outcome of the GOP nomination process, but I’m excluding it here.

That said, I think a Trump presidency has a significantly greater potential to be a genuine national catastrophe. This is the case even though I agree with Scott that there is likely to be little substantive difference in the sorts of bills that get signed or vetoed in any of the three hypothetical administrations, and with Rob that there’s something more than a little absurd about Max Boot et. al., wringing their hands about the prospect of a bellicose and blustery foreign policy under Trump.

Indeed, at least in regard to domestic policy, there’s certainly an argument to be made that Trump wouldn’t be as bad Cruz or Rubio, since perhaps he would actually do something to advance some elements of the economic populism he’s been touting, and he would probably be less inclined to try to gut what remains of the welfare state (ie Social Security and Medicare), since he understands such a policy is only popular with the GOP money men who fear and despise him, rather than with the people who are voting for him.

Nevertheless, a Trump presidency presents two huge risks:

(1) The social costs incurred by putting someone who campaigns as an open racist in the White House. I don’t know whether or to what extent Trump is “really” racist, but that is basically irrelevant to calculating those costs. Air raid siren racism is worse than dog whistle racism, for the same reason that open corruption is worse than the covert kind. It’s actually an important social advance that, relative to a a couple of three decades ago, covert racists now feel the need to disguise their racism, because when they don’t feel that way racism becomes more socially acceptable, just as when open bribery becomes a feature of public life its very openness makes it more socially acceptable, and therefore more common than it would otherwise be.

(2) Trump is not merely a narcissistic megalomaniac of an extreme kind: he’s a narcissistic megalomaniac who isn’t constrained by any political institutions, as even an “anti-establishment” conventional presidential candidate like Cruz or Sanders would be. He’s a true political outsider, and as such he’s much more unpredictable. Institutional socialization, and the constraints it builds up, are real. Trump presents a non-trivial risk of being the sort of politician who would actually do the sorts of things that conspiracy nuts of the Alex Jones type are always fantasizing normal politicians are about to do: declare martial law, suspend elections, seize major media outlets etc. Trump really might turn into an American version of Vladamir Putin or perhaps Juan Peron.

As dire as a Cruz or Rubio presidency might be, that’s not going to happen under them. Trump, in my view, does actually present a non-trivial existential threat to American democracy.

The economic determinants of Trumpism

[ 253 ] March 2, 2016 |


During his victory speech/press conference last night, Donald Trump featured what is likely to be the policy centerpiece of his fall campaign:

Trump’s remarks turned to the economy, and the mogul’s tone started to seem less lethargic than it was measured; even-keeled; almost presidential.

“The middle-class has really been forgotten in this country,” Trump said. “We’ve lost our manufacturing jobs. Millions and millions of jobs. Thousands and thousands of plants. We are losing so much. We can’t let it happen.”

By itself, this is just boilerplate Trump. But in his unprecedented post-victory speech press conference, the Donald refined his economic fatalism into a general election argument that should make Democrats a little nervous.

“People in the middle-income groups are making less money than they were 12 years ago,” Trump correctly observed. “And in her speech, [Hillary Clinton] said ‘they’re making less money.’ Well, she’s been there with Obama for a long period of time. Why hasn’t she done anything about it?”

This is it. This is Trump’s best argument, the most deadly. Incomes have stagnated: “why haven’t they done anything about it?”
— Christopher Hayes (@chrislhayes) March 2, 2016

I argue that an important element of Trump’s appeal is that he is tapping into a largely inchoate but growing realization among traditional GOP and GOP-leaning voters that at bottom the Republican party is actually a conspiracy to make rich people richer:

The basic myth the right wing of The Money Party has sold to Republican voters over the past 40 years (the left wing of the party is called the Democrats) goes like this: the economy boomed in the decades immediately after World War II, and standards of living rose rapidly. But since then, too much government regulation, too many taxes, and an overly generous welfare system that has made Those People even lazier than they were before have combined to kill the American dream.

That is why ordinary Americans (aka working and middle-class white people) have bank accounts that don’t reflect the rewards they should have received for all their hard work. If not for government meddling we would have a thriving economy, just like the one we enjoyed back in the good old days.

All this is a fantastic lie, as a glance at the actual economic history of America since 1945 illustrates. (In what follows, all figures have been converted to constant, inflation-adjusted dollars).

America is a vastly wealthier country today than it was forty years ago. Furthermore, on a per-person basis, the country’s wealth has increased far more over the past four decades than it did in the thirty years immediately after World War II.

Here are the numbers: between 1945 and 1974, per capita GDP in the U.S. grew from $17,490 to $27,837. That is an impressive improvement, but it pales in comparison to what has happened since: in 2014, per capita GDP was $55,185, i.e., almost exactly double what it was in 1974. In terms of economic output, the country is twice as rich per person now as it was then.

Where has all this money gone? The answer ought to shock anyone who cares about either economic opportunity or increasing inequality. The average household income of the bottom 50% of American households was $25,475 in 1974, and $26,520 in 2014. In other words, half the population has gotten essentially none of the extra $10 trillion dollars of national wealth that the American economy has generated over the past forty years.

In other words, Trump’s appeal is not only a product of his use of racist air raid sirens and his status as a celebrity in a celebrity-mad age:

Of course, some of Trump’s appeal is based on his willingness to exploit racism and xenophobia while speaking to the economic anxieties of white middle and working class voters. But establishment politicians are making a big mistake when they under-estimate the extent to which Trump’s message – crude and bombastic as it is — that Americans were winners but are now losers, resonates with the actual life experience of so many people.

These people are angry about what has happened to them and their communities, and especially angry about the empty promises of a Republican party that is run for the almost exclusive benefit of the rich. The half of America that gets along on $40,000, or $25,000, or $10,000 per year doesn’t care about cutting capital gains taxes or getting rid of the estate tax (which already exempts the “first” $11 million of a married couple’s wealth), and it isn’t enthusiastic about slashing Social Security and Medicare either.

To the contrary, all these things are the pet projects of the Republican donor class. For forty years the GOP has managed to manipulate culture war issues and racial and ethnic animosities to hide from its base two facts: the contemporary Republican party exists to protect the economic interests of that class, and those interests don’t actually align with the economic interests of middle- and working-class Americans, even if they happen to be white and culturally conservative.

That it took a shameless foul-mouthed egomaniacal reality TV star to speak this truth in such a way that Republican voters would hear it is a sad comment on the state of our politics and culture.

Whoopsie daisy

[ 121 ] March 1, 2016 |

si cover

When the April 6, 1987 editions of Sports Illustrated hit newsstands and mailboxes across the country, Joe Carter and Cory Snyder graced the cover in front a Chief Wahoo logo with the words, “Believe it! Cleveland is the best team in the American League.”

For those not old enough to remember that famous SI cover, and arguably the most off-base prediction in sports history, such a claim by the No. 1 sports publication in America 25 years ago was equally shocking and surprising to an Indians fan base starved for a winner.

If ever the so-called SI cover jinx had merit, this was Exhibit A, or least close to it. The 1987 Indians were the magazine’s pick to win the AL pennant, and by the end of the season, the Tribe was a major-league worst 61-101.

General-admission tickets at Cleveland Municipal Stadium were $2 that season, and by the end of it, those tickets couldn’t be given away.

Nine months ago:

(pregnant pause)

Taking into account name recognition, Trump’s net favorability rating (favorable minus unfavorable) of -32 percentage points stands out for its pure terribleness at this point in the campaign. Like his unfavorable rating, it is by far the worst of the 106 presidential candidates since 1980 who are in our database.


For this reason alone, Trump has a better chance of cameoing in another “Home Alone” movie with Macaulay Culkin — or playing in the NBA Finals — than winning the Republican nomination.

Ben Carson vows to stay in the race as long as people keep sending him money

[ 72 ] February 29, 2016 |


Whoever wrote this line in the op-ed that appeared under Carson’s name at Fox News has a rather impish sense of humor:

The commoditization of the electorate is precisely what drove me into this race.

And he will not surrender his dream until the bank account of the last sucker mark American voter who is still willing to send him money has been drained to the greatest extent possible:

That’s why I’ve vowed to continue our campaign as long as we have revenue and support, until the people have decided.

The last clause of that sentence is just sort of dangling there, but again the guiding principle is clear enough.

American politics 2016

[ 47 ] February 27, 2016 |

The scenario Karl Rove outlined was bleak.

Addressing a luncheon of Republican governors and donors in Washington on Feb. 19, he warned that Donald J. Trump’s increasingly likely nomination would be catastrophic, dooming the party in November. But Mr. Rove, the master strategist of George W. Bush’s campaigns, insisted it was not too late for them to stop Mr. Trump, according to three people present.

At a meeting of Republican governors the next morning, Paul R. LePage of Maine called for action. Seated at a long boardroom table at the Willard Hotel, he erupted in frustration over the state of the 2016 race, saying Mr. Trump’s nomination would deeply wound the Republican Party. Mr. LePage urged the governors to draft an open letter “to the people,” disavowing Mr. Trump and his divisive brand of politics.

The suggestion was not taken up.

Maine Gov. Paul LePage endorsed Donald Trump for president Friday, lending the GOP front-runner the backing of another northeastern governor on the same day Chris Christie offered his support.

“I’ll be very honest. I originally said I’d like it to be a governor, but unfortunately, the American people are not going for a governor this year. So I’m going to endorse Donald Trump,” LePage said on the “Howie Carr Show,” a syndicated talk radio show based in Boston.

LePage endorsed Christie in July, but switched gears after Christie dropped out of the race. LePage’s endorsement comes mere hours after Christie endorsed Trump at a rally in Texas.

“I was Donald Trump before Donald Trump became popular. So I think I should support him since we’re one of the same cloth,” said LePage, an outspoken politician whose comments have often thrown him in the spotlight — just like Trump.

The art of the con

[ 67 ] February 27, 2016 |

con game

This two-year-old piece from the Atlantic reveals how “Trump University” was an outright bait and switch scam:

Amid the thousands of pages generated by Trump University lawsuits, one document offers a particularly revealing look into the inner workings of Trump’s would-be educational empire: a 41-page “Private & Confidential” playbook printed on Trump University letterhead.

Here are the basics: In cities such as New York, San Francisco, and Dallas, Trump University promoted free seminars as a chance to follow in Trump’s very own footsteps. One ad had Trump proclaiming, “In just 90 minutes, my hand-picked instructors will share my techniques, which took my entire career to develop. Then, just copy exactly what I’ve done and get rich.”

Guess what happens next:

The playbook, prepared for Trump University seminars in Texas in 2009, might be summed up in one word: sell. Or as the playbook puts it on page 23, “Sell, Sell, Sell!” The playbook posits a “Minimum Sales Goal” of $72,500 per seminar, meaning that the seminars leaders needed to convince at least 20 percent of attendees to sign up for three-day seminars costing $1,495.

Under the heading “Registration Goal & Procedure,” Trump U. staffers are instructed to “Welcome attendees and build a Trump-esque atmosphere,” “Disarm any uncertainty,” and “Set the hook.” The hook in this case consists of selling seminar attendees on increasingly costly additional courses, culminating in the “Trump Gold Elite” package, for a cool $34,995. Pricey, yes, but the playbook notes that the list price of the Trump Gold Elite package is $49,415, a savings to students of 29 percent. Even before Trump University students had made their first real-estate transaction, they had managed to get themselves a deal, of sorts.

The playbook also features instructions on setting the room temperature and the mood music (“For the Love of Money” by the O’Jays; no courses in irony were available apparently) in the hotel conference rooms where “Trump University” had its evanescent existence.

Once seminar attendees were comfortably (but not too comfortably) seated in the no-hotter-than-68-degree meeting room, the lights dimmed and an introductory video featuring Donald Trump began. The video marked the closest any Trump University student would get to Donald Trump. None of the school’s courses, not even those in the pricey Trump Gold Elite level, featured an appearance by the flesh-and-blood Donald Trump.

That didn’t stop Trump University instructors from hinting that Trump might drop by one of the school’s seminars. According to New York State’s lawsuit, Trump U. classes often began with the promise that Trump “is going to be in town,” “often drops by,” or “might show up.” However, Trump never materialized. As consolation, attendees sometimes were offered the opportunity to have their photo taken next to a life-size cardboard cutout of Donald Trump.

At the conclusion of the Trump introductory video, a guest speaker took to the podium and launched into his real-estate presentation. Trump University advertised that its instructors were “hand-picked” by Trump himself, but the state of New York’s complaint asserts that Trump had no role in selecting teachers. “Many instructors came to Trump University from jobs having little to do with real estate investments,” the complaint reads, “and some came to Trump University shortly after their real estate investing caused them to go into bankruptcy.”

The playbook says almost nothing about the guest speaker presentations, the ostensible reason why people showed up to the seminar in the first place. Instead, the playbook focuses on the seminars’ real purpose: to browbeat attendees into purchasing expensive Trump University course packages.

Trump’s “people” who set up this classic ripoff were well aware that he and they were at best walking the often ragged line between the legal scamming of the naive and desperate and civil and criminal fraud:

Every university has admission standards and Trump University was no exception. The playbook spells out the one essential qualification in caps: “ALL PAYMENTS MUST BE RECEIVED IN FULL.” Basically, anyone with a valid credit card was “admitted” to Trump University. . .

Even though Trump University is facing two multi-million dollar fraud lawsuits, Donald Trump continues to defend his educational efforts, calling Trump University “a terrific school that did a fantastic job.” But if Trump had read his school’s own playbook, he might have foreseen the likely outcome of running a university with comically lax standards. At one point, the playbook advises Trump staffers: “If a district attorney arrives on the scene, contact the appropriate media spokesperson immediately.”

A few notes:

(1) The only moral or practical difference between Trump University and a fraud factory such as Corinthian Colleges (which Marco Rubio tried his best to protect two years ago) is the difference between a shorter and a longer con.

(2) The evidence that Trump is actually good at making money, as opposed to self-promotion, is scant. The nature of contemporary capitalism is such that, for a person who starts out with an enormous fortune, making that fortune many times larger over the course of an investment “career” is about as difficult as falling off a log. Trump could have increased his wealth twenty times over in nominal terms, and five-fold in constant dollars, since the mid-1970s simply by passive investment in market-tracking equities funds. Has he done better than that? I doubt it: for one thing if he had, he would have put the evidence up in neon already.

I also doubt that “Trump University” was primarily about making money, as opposed to stroking this despicable man’s insatiable ego. Trump inherited something in the nine figures and basically couldn’t avoid turning that into ten figures without trying to. The money he made off this particular scam was surely trivial in that context. It was an exercise in narcissism, which of course is exactly what his presidential campaign is about.

(3) All of which is to say that the key to understanding Trump is to see him as a classic American type: the con artist who lives to “score” by ripping people off. The money side is almost incidental: again, Trump isn’t stupid, and despite his immense ego he must realize he could have made just as much or more money in more socially respectable ways. But then everybody wouldn’t know his name.

(4) Helmut Norpoth sounds like a made-up name, plus from the story it also seems as if his “predictive” model was actually invented a few months ago and retro-fitted onto previous outcomes (how that counts as “prediction” is probably a question you can get answered at Trump University), but this guy is a political scientist, so there’s a 3.34% chance this might be meaningful.

Bully for you

[ 177 ] February 26, 2016 |

trump christie

Hey, look over there, the party is deciding!

As the kids say, what is this I don’t even . . .

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