Friday, July 31, 2015

Why on earth is the Fed...

...thinking about raising interest rates? 

That's the question I've been asking myself for some time now. After yesterday's GDP report, in which second quarter growth came out at the low end of expectations, at 2.3 percent, following the first quarter's tepid rate of just 0.6 percent, it can't be that the economy is overheating, right? And inflation, with the core rate running at only 1.8 percent, is still below the Fed's general 2 percent target. So what gives? Why the drumbeat for a rate hike? Given the anemic recovery and low inflation, if rates were at, say, 3 percent, wouldn't everybody be talking about a rate cut?

Yesterday, Barry Ritholtz had a piece in Bloomberg, "Pay Attention, Ignore the Fed," in which he argued that "After almost seven years, the beginning of the end of ultralow rates is here." Ritholtz maintains that employment is "robust" (arguable, if you ask me), while conceding that "even those who have been forecasting modest inflation have been wrong." And while the stock market, the economy and the financial system appear healthy, he notes that GDP, prices, home ownership, Europe and China are all cause for concern. Still, he writes (my emphasis):

On balance, the data remain far stronger than anyone in the midst of the financial crisis would have imagined at this point. And many key economic indicators are stronger than the Fed had earlier suggested would be the threshold for ending its zero-interest-rate policy.

Is that right? The recovery is "far stronger" than anyone "would have imagined" almost seven years after the financial crisis? Really?

You can parse each utterance of every Fed governor, or you can look at the data. I prefer the latter -- and it tells me interest-rate normalization will start before Christmas. 

I like that word: normalization. Mr. Ritholtz told me, via Twitter, that 0.0 percent interest rates "ain't normal." What, exactly, I wondered, would "normal" interest rates be with the economy in the shape it's in? Two percent? Three percent? Higher? Lower? And who cares what's "normal," anyway? Shouldn't we be more focused on what's appropriate?

I asked Mr. Ritholtz if the economy was really overheating. His reply:

At 0%, that's the wrong question. Should be "Are we still in an emergency that requires emergency rates?"

When I opined that "Raising rates here just sounds like balancing the budget in 1937: asking for trouble," Mr. Ritholtz directed me to another piece, "More Millennials Living With Family Despite Improved Job Market." From the article (again, my emphasis):

In spite of these positive economic trends and the growth in the 18- to 34-year-old population, there has been no uptick in the number of young adults establishing their own households. In fact, the number of young adults heading their own households is no higher in 2015 (25 million) than it was before the recession began in 2007 (25.2 million). This may have important consequences for the nation’s housing market recovery, as the growing young adult population has not fueled demand for housing units and the furnishings, telecom and cable installations and other ancillary purchases that accompany newly formed households.

And I thought, is this supposed to support his argument, or mine?

Sorry, but I just don't see any reason to take away the punch bowl at this time. Am I missing something?

Fenwick High School...

...should require no introduction to regular readers of this blog. Not only have I written extensively about the Oak Park college prep school over the years, but I've also had a number of relatives attend, including my dad (class of '37 and all-conference in basketball) and my uncle, who was in one of the very first graduating classes.

A little over a year ago I had the opportunity to sit down with head football coach Gene Nudo, above, who is about to enter his fourth season at the helm of the Friars. (You can read about it here, here, here and here.) Coach Nudo was tasked in 2012 with rebuilding Fenwick's storied program while maintaining its excellence in the classroom. (Not an easy job.) How did he do? Well, after three seasons Nudo is 25-12, qualifying for the playoffs and winning at least one postseason game in each year. In 2014 Fenwick made it all the way to the Class 7A quarterfinals. Is this the year they make it to the semis -- or beyond?

According to Coach Nudo, Fenwick "returns a young varsity team" led by junior Jake Keller, an "up and coming prospect" at quarterback. He will most likely hand off to senior returning starter Adam Williams at running back and look to pass to junior tight end Casey O'Laughlin and wide receivers Jack Henige and senior Will Lattner (another grandson of the legendary Heisman Trophy winner and Fenwick star Johnny Lattner). Anchoring the offensive line will be junior returning starter Joe Calcagno at guard.

On the other side of the ball, Ellis Taylor will be at defensive end with senior Pat Rafferty at cornerback. While Nudo expects "Aidan Maloney and Alex Pierson to solidify the secondary," it appears that the Friars may be strongest at the linebacker position with Brett Moorman, Marty Stein and senior Brian Doyle.

As usual, Fenwick will play a grueling Catholic League Green schedule with non-conference games against state runner-up Phillips and perennial 8A power Loyola Academy. Here's the full 2015 season from the school's website:

August 28: @ Phillips

September 4: Bowen
September 11: @ De La Salle
September 19: Loyola
September 25: @ DePaul Prep

October 3: Marmion
October 9: @ St. Ignatius
October 17: Montini
October 23: @ St. Francis

Looking at this schedule I could easily see Fenwick going 7-2 with possible losses to Loyola and Montini. (Although the Friars play both juggernauts at home; could they sneak up on one or both?) And while Marmion and St. Francis could also conceivably trip up the Friars, that would still make them 5-4 and playoff-eligible at the very least. Once in the postseason, of course, they'd start at 0-0 like everyone else.

Could Fenwick make it all the way to the finals in DeKalb this year? Knowing Coach Nudo, I wouldn't be at all surprised.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Don Oberdorfer, a diplomatic...

...correspondent and author, died at age 84. From his obit in the Times: 

Donald Oberdorfer Jr. was born in Atlanta on May 28, 1931. His father was an insurance agent. His mother was the former Dorothy Bayersdorfer.

Wait a minute. A man named Oberdorfer married a woman named Bayersdorfer? What are the odds?

I asked my buddy, Kevin, who just got back from Austria and speaks fluent German, what those two names could mean. His response:

I see they are last names. The dorfer part means villager. Ober means above, so it could be a villager living up in hills or some type of town elder. Bayers is from Bavaria. A Bavarian villager.

On Monday I wrote...

...that Jeb Bush would win the Republican nomination, but "Rand Paul [might] stick around a little to make it interesting (and audition for VP)." Yesterday I read in Politico that Paul may already be done. 

Wow! That was fast.

So what happened? The piece mentions "deep fundraising and organizational problems," "an underfunded and understaffed campaign beaten down by low morale," and "an undisciplined politician who wasn’t willing to do what it took to win." *

While I'm sure that's all accurate, it's also "inside baseball" that you could only learn from websites like Politico. But the piece also mentions two of Paul's signature policy stances, "a restrained foreign policy, and ... outreach to minorities," that I've been meaning to write about for some time now. And what I've wanted to write is that those are both losing issues with the Republican Party base.

Take Paul's "restrained foreign policy," or "dovishness," or "isolationism," or whatever you want to call it. While the freshman senator from Kentucky made quite a splash a couple of years ago with his 13-hour filibuster against hypothetical drone strikes directed at U.S. citizens on American soil, I think he misread the response from other Republicans. And that is that Republicans would have no problem with drone strikes so long as they came from a Republican president. The problem is that President black guy from Kenya Obama just can't be trusted by the paranoid, delusional GOP base. And that, I think, is why Paul's filibuster was so popular: not so much the whole drone thing, but the fact that he stood up to Obama. Republicans love that!

The Republican Party, you have to remember, is largely based on fear. And therefore the default position will always be a muscular defense and a Dick Cheney-type national security. (Direct drone strikes at traitors in the U. S.? Have at it!)

The second issue, outreach to minorities, has focused on, among other things, criminal justice reform. From an article in the Washington Post (my emphasis):

Rand Paul has made criminal justice reform an important bullet on his political to-do list. He was one of the few white political leaders to speak out forcefully during last summer’s contentious debates around the subject after several unarmed black men and boys were killed during encounters with police officers. He has co-sponsored legislation in Congress to reform mandatory sentencing laws and to change policies that permanently stigmatize nonviolent juvenile offenders, which have disproportionately affected African Americans.

Whoa, whoa, whoa! 
Now, while everyone knows the GOP needs to reach out to blacks, Latinos and other minorities if it ever hopes to win the White House again, it's supposed to do that by selling them -- somehow -- on ideas like repealing Obamacare, or that tax cuts for rich white people will actually benefit them. (Republicans actually believe stuff like that; it's adorable, isn't it?) 

But as for what Richard Nixon used to euphemistically call, "Law and Order," there's no reason as far as they're concerned to change what they're already doing. Not to put too fine a point on it, but Republicans want to see more people in jail, not fewer (and I shouldn't have to tell you which people). As in foreign policy, like I mentioned above, Republicans are motivated on domestic issues like crime by fear. (Why do you think the NRA is so popular among the -- once again -- paranoid,  delusional base?)

So the eventual 2016 GOP nominee (probably Jeb) will be strong on defense and also strong on law and order -- you can take that to the bank. Republicans always are; think St. Ronald Reagan. 

Oh, and the party's standard-bearer will also be against immigration reform -- the base will demand it. If there's one thing that Donald Trump has done it's to highlight the division in the party between the establishment, which wants reform, and the base, which doesn't. Now, how Jeb squares that circle is anyone's guess. But you can be certain that if he gets pushed to the right on immigration like Romney he'll lose the general election; if he doesn't, the base will stay home (or vote for a third-party candidate). Hello President Hillary!

* Maybe Rand Paul just doesn't have the fire in the belly after all. (Did he miss his chance in 2012?) Maybe the ophthalmologist will just return to private life in Bowling Green, Kentucky after one term in the Senate.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Here's a little free advice...

...from a blogger in a bathrobe: When you compete with Donald Trump... see who can be more outrageous... don't look presidential; you only look silly.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Yasuo Minagawa, a famous...

...artist, died at age 69.

Whoops! My bad. A closer reading of Mr. Minagawa's obit in the Times reveals him to be an art framer, not an actual artist. Sorry.

But apparently he was quite accomplished (my emphasis):

Despite having had no formal training in frame-making, Mr. Minagawa opened a framing shop, Minagawa Art Lines, in a storefront on Kenmare Street in Lower Manhattan in 1976. He had taught himself the rudiments of his craft by taking apart and reassembling old frames.

Paula Cooper, of the Paula Cooper Gallery in Chelsea, described Mr. Minagawa as “a great craftsman who had a great eye.” He once devised an elegant solution for hanging a drawing by Robert Wilson that was so large it could not be framed, she said, by creating a very thin rod using paper and attaching it to the drawing’s back.

And if that's not enough to earn an obituary in the New York Times, Mr. Minagawa also studied law at the University of Tokyo and won a national competition in high-diving when he was 60.

The Name of the Day...

...belongs to Odd Knut Ronning, the husband of Peg Lynch, a writer and actress, who died at age 96. (At first I thought "odd" might be an adjective.)

Ms. Lynch's obit in the Times doesn't say how her spouse got that "unique" name. It also doesn't mention whether or not he was related to former Defense secretary Robert Strange McNamara.

"How Does Trump End?," asks... article in Politico over the weekend, "16 experts from across the political spectrum share their predictions." And it's a good question: does Trump’s unprecedented campaign end? Will Trump fizzle out soon, or endure for months? Will he succumb to pressure from the RNC, the GOP establishment and other candidates? Or only earn more attention as the race drags on? And is Trump ever truly “done”—or would he jump back into the race as a third party candidate?

Since I don't think anyone knows the answers to any of those questions -- including Donald Trump -- allow me to take a stab at them.

First of all, let's get the obvious out of the way: Trump will never be president of the United States, will almost certainly not be the Republican nominee and -- sorry fellow Democrats -- probably won't run as an independent either.

(Why not that last one? Because Trump is, if nothing else, a smart businessman who won't spend down his fortune on a fool's errand that wouldn't buy him even one electoral vote.)

So where does that leave us? Let's start with the first debate a week from Thursday. According to Bob Shrum:

Trump is ripe for a Bentsen-Quayle moment in the first debate. Bush, Rubio, et al—no longer reticent in the face of Trump’s pandering to the basest elements of the base, the “crazies”—are preparing the putdown right now. The question is who gets the right opening first.

Okay, fair enough. But, (A) Trump comes back with his own zinger; or, (B) he takes aim at his tormentor(s) in the following few weeks. I'm betting that Trump isn't taking the debate too seriously and isn't preparing as well as he should. But even if he gets caught flat-footed (unlikely, as he's a pretty experienced street-fighter) Trump has shown he can return fire on other candidates, dragging down their numbers.

(Also, if everyone gangs up on Trump it will (A) make him look like the frontrunner, and/or (B) elicit some sympathy from viewers. Either way, it's not a good strategy for the others.)

Shrum goes on:

But one candidate who won’t be looking for the opportunity is Cruz; he’s angling to take the reins of Trump’s buckboard of bigotry when Trump falls off and then ride it to the nomination. 

Prediction: Ted Cruz will drop out of the race before Trump.

According to Mary Matalin:

Once he gets to the debates, he will have to connect his bombastic iconoclastic antics to authentic policy prescriptions.

Is she serious? There will be ten candidates on the stage for two hours. When you figure in commercials, moderator questions and candidate answers, there won't be a whole lot of time for actual policy discussion. Besides, trying to pin down Trump will be next to impossible. He'll be able to filibuster his way out of any specifics.

Back to Shrum:

Trump can be scorched in the debate; but he won’t flame out because he won’t run out of money, even if he is a few billion shy of ten. He can hold on indefinitely, and he’s not the type to recognize reality and retreat from the race. In the end, denied a nomination he can’t win, there’s a more-than-reasonable chance that he pulls a Perot and runs as an independent.

And from Joe Trippi:

Never, ever ever underestimate Trump’s staying power and ability to dominate media attention. In a field this large he could be around for a long time—potentially a lot longer than many of the other GOP candidates who have derided his chances of being their nominee. On running as a 3rd party candidate—someone should remind the GOP that Trump is a tough as nails negotiator and he would have plenty of leverage. How long? As long as he wants.

My prediction is that Scott Walker wins Iowa (and that's it -- one and done) and Jeb Bush takes New Hampshire. (Winning Iowa takes organization, which Trump doesn't have; winning New Hampshire takes credibility, which he also doesn't have.) By that point the party should rally around Jeb as the inevitable nominee and while Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and maybe Rand Paul stick around a little to make it interesting (and audition for VP), the cake will be baked. By the middle of February next year it will be clear that it's Jeb vs. Hillary.*

(What about Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee, Chris Christie, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Carly Fiorina, John Kasich, Bobby Jindal, Lindsey Graham, George Pataki and Jim Gilmore? Half of them won't last until Christmas and the other half will be gone after Iowa.)

As for Trump, once again I think he's too smart to fall for the third-party trap. But he can hold on indefinitely and dominate the media, threatening an independent bid or just harassing Jeb and Hillary until the November election. Heck, if Trump really wanted to get mischievous, he could endorse some third party candidate or even . . . Hillary. There's no telling what he might do. But go away any time soon? Don't bet on it. He's having too much fun.

* With Hillary the favorite.

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

“That was just a simulation. Nothing can prepare you for the kind of monkey bars you’ll find in an actual war zone.”

Friday, July 24, 2015

The Name of the Day...

...belongs to Nova Pilbeam, an English actress who died at age 95.

Ms. Pilbeam was named after a grandmother who had come from Nova Scotia.

That's a novel way to choose a given name. If your parents had thought that way, what would your name be? (I might have been Taylor Street Tracy.)

Not to be outdone, Ms. Pilbeam married a man by the name of Penrose Tennyson. She is survived by a daughter, Sara. (I guess someone had to have a boring name.)

Donald Trump's campaign...

...for president is often compared to that of Ross Perot's in 1992.

Perot, you may recall, was an eccentric, self-promoting, media-savvy billionaire with an outsized ego who ran for president as an independent, thwarting the plans of a Republican candidate named Bush. (Sound familiar?)

Although the Texas populist led in early polling in part by supporting veterans' issues, drawing attention to questionable trade deals and tapping into resentment toward establishment politicians, his lack of specificity on the issues ultimately doomed his effort.

When Trump criticizes politicians today who are "all talk and no action," it sounds a lot like Perot's characterization of the nation's capital back in 1992 (my emphasis):

This city has become a town filled with sound bites, shell games, handlers, media stuntmen who posture, create images, talk, shoot off Roman candles, but don't ever accomplish anything. We need deeds, not words, in this city.

Republicans are understandably terrified at the prospect of Trump running as a third-party candidate next year, siphoning off votes from the eventual GOP standard-bearer (Jeb Bush)*, but I think he's too smart for that. Running as an independent is a sucker's game, which could cost Trump a fortune and probably not result in any electoral votes. Whatever else you might say about the Donald, he's a shrewd businessman who's unlikely to throw (too much) good money after bad. My guess is that the New York real estate tycoon drops out of the Republican race sometime after the New Hampshire primary. Like everyone else in America, I just don't see him winning the GOP nomination.

But while the parallels between Trump and Perot seem obvious, I wonder if a more apt comparison might be between the famous plutocrat and another candidate for president, Jesse Jackson, in the 1980s. He was also a bombastic individual not taken seriously by the party elders. Consider this from Wikipedia:

In the Democratic Party primaries, Jackson, who had been written off by pundits as a fringe candidate with little chance at winning the nomination, surprised many when he took third place behind Senator Gary Hart and former Vice President Walter Mondale, who eventually won the nomination. Jackson garnered 3,282,431 primary votes, or 18.2 percent of the total, in 1984, and won three to five primaries and caucuses, including Louisiana, the District of Columbia, South Carolina, and one of two separate contests in Mississippi. More Virginia caucus-goers supported Jesse Jackson than any other candidate, but Walter Mondale won more Virginia delegates.

In May 1988, Jackson complained that he had won 21% of the popular vote but was awarded only 9% of the delegates. He afterwards stated that he had been handicapped by party rules. 

Imagine if I rewrote that just a little:

In the Republican Party primaries, Trump, who had been written off by pundits as a fringe candidate with little chance at winning the nomination, surprised many when he took third place behind Gov. Scott Walker and Jeb Bush, who eventually won the nomination. Trump garnered [fill in the blank] primary votes, but Jeb Bush won more delegates.

Trump later complained that he had been handicapped by party rules.

Is that so hard to picture? How about this:

In 1988, Jackson again sought the Democratic Party presidential nomination. According to a November 1987 article in The New York Times, "Most political analysts give him little chance of being nominated – partly because he is black, partly because of his unretrenched liberalism." However, his successes in the past made him a more credible candidate, and he was both better financed and better organized than in 1984. Jackson once again exceeded expectations as he more than doubled his previous results, prompting R.W. Apple of The New York Times to call 1988 "the Year of Jackson."

In early 1988, Jackson organized a rally at the former American Motors assembly plant in Kenosha, Wisconsin, approximately two weeks after new owner Chrysler announced it would close the plant by the end of the year. In his speech, Jackson spoke out against Chrysler's decision, stating "We have to put the focus on Kenosha, Wisconsin, as the place, here and now, where we draw the line to end economic violence!" and compared the workers' fight to that of the 1965 Voting Rights Movement in Selma, Alabama. As a result, the UAW Local 72 union voted to endorse his candidacy, even against the rules of the UAW.

Briefly, after he won 55% of the vote in the Michigan Democratic caucus, he was considered the frontrunner for the nomination, as he surpassed all the other candidates in total number of pledged delegates. However, Jackson's campaign suffered a significant setback less than two weeks after the UAW endorsement when he narrowly lost the Colorado primary to Michael Dukakis, and was defeated handily the following day in the Wisconsin primary by Dukakis. Jackson's showing among white voters in Wisconsin was significantly higher than in his 1984 run, but was also noticeably lower than pre-primary polling had predicted. The back-to-back victories established Dukakis as the clear Democratic frontrunner, and he went on to claim the party's nomination, but lost the general election in November.

At the conclusion of the Democratic primary season, Jackson had captured 6.9 million votes and won 11 contests; seven primaries (Alabama, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Puerto Rico and Virginia) and four caucuses (Delaware, Michigan, South Carolina and Vermont). Jackson also scored March victories in Alaska's caucuses and Texas's local conventions, despite losing the Texas primary.

Now read this, just back from "Rewrite":

In 2016, Trump sought the Republican Party presidential nomination. According to an article in The New York Times, "Most political analysts give him little chance of being nominated." However, his considerable wealth and celebrity made him a somewhat credible candidate. Trump exceeded expectations as he led in early polling, prompting [fill in the blank] to call 2016 "the Year of Trump."

In July 2015, Trump spent a few hours on the ground in Laredo, Texas, including 40 minutes touring the border with Mayor Pete Saenz and City Manager Jesus Olivares. His final event, a meeting with local officials, ended abruptly after questions from the audience grew hostile. He was mobbed everywhere he went.

The caustic language that has been Mr. Trump’s hallmark was largely absent on Thursday. He reserved his most disparaging comments for Rick Perry, the former governor and a rival for the Republican presidential nomination, saying he “did a terrible job as governor of Texas” and that he “doesn’t understand” border security.

He received a police escort as dozens of officers guided his S.U.V.s and chartered buses packed with members of the news media through downtown. Traffic was blocked and traffic lights were skipped, but the occasional protester was still able to get in view of the caravan. 

The campaign stop at the Mexican border marked a summit of sorts of Mr. Trump’s climb to the top of the Republican pack, fueled largely by harsh outbursts against illegal immigration, most notably his remark during his presidential announcement speech that Mexico was sending the United States its “rapists” and other criminals.

Mr. Trump has said that he is the only candidate capable of achieving effective border security. He visited five families in Southern California who had loved ones who were, as his campaign stated, “victims of illegal immigrants.” His efforts touched a nerve among some.

Briefly, Trump was considered the frontrunner for the Republican nomination as he dominated the airwaves in the summer of 2015. However, Trump's campaign suffered a significant setback when he narrowly lost the Iowa caucuses to Scott Walker, and was defeated handily the following month in the New Hampshire primary by Jeb Bush. Trump's showing was particularly strong among older white voters, but was also noticeably lower than pre-primary polling had predicted. The back-to-back losses by Trump established Bush as the clear Republican frontrunner, and he went on to claim the party's nomination, but lost the general election in November.

At the conclusion of the Republican primary season, Trump had captured [fill in the blank] million votes and won [fill in the blank] contests.

Whaddaya think? The comparison to Jesse Jackson might be more appropriate as I could see Trump lasting beyond Iowa and New Hampshire but still ultimately losing to Bush and passing on an independent run.

The first Republican debate is less than two weeks away. I can hardly wait!

* While it's conventional wisdom that Perot drew most of his support from Republicans, resulting in Bill Clinton's election in 1992, exit polls showed that the Texan drew evenly from both candidates. Many of his voters, in fact, would have actually stayed home had Perot not been on the ballot. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Hey Gov. Rauner...

...I thought everyone was leaving Illinois for Indiana?

According to The Wall Street Journal, "Kraft Heinz to Move Chicago-Area Headquarters to City Center" (all emphasis mine):

The new Kraft office will have an open layout spanning five floors. The move to downtown will “firmly establish our dynamic new culture, based on meritocracy, speed, efficiency and collaboration,” Mr. Mullen said in a statement. 

Other companies have been moving into Chicago and other urban spaces, in part to attract younger talent in touch with budding consumer trends—which is especially important for food companies like Kraft that have struggled to keep their brands relevant. 

Kraft opened a swanky new downtown office in spring 2014, hoping it would help recruit employees. At the time, executives said the satellite office would also make meetings easier and improve commuting for some of its Chicago-area staff, roughly a third of which lived in or near downtown. Mr. Mullen said that space would now be subleased.

Oh, and ConAgra is moving downtown, too: 

ConAgra Foods plans to leave Naperville and move its Chicago-area offices to a huge space in the Merchandise Mart, the latest example of a major employer shifting workers downtown from the suburbs. 

The Omaha, Neb.-based food giant is negotiating a 200,000-square-foot lease in the River North building, where it is expected to move workers from the western suburb, according to people familiar with its plans. 

Those deals are part of a larger recent trend in which many large corporations have either moved offices downtown from the suburbs or have created satellite offices there in part to help in recruiting younger employees who want to work in the city. The Mart was the recipient of the largest such move in decades, when phone maker Motorola Mobility in 2014 moved more than 2,000 workers to 604,000 square feet in the Mart from north suburban Libertyville.

Wayne Carson, who wrote...

...“The Letter” among other songs, died at age 72. 

According to his obit in the Times, Mr. Carson was born Wayne Carson Head and changed his name. Good idea.


In a speech yesterday, Gov. Rick Perry called out Donald Trump for being "divisive" and "a sower of discord." Trump, said Perry, "offers empty platitudes and promises," a "toxic mix of demagoguery, mean-spiritedness and nonsense."

Give me a break.

Here's an excerpt from Perry's speech (all emphasis mine). When you read it, just ask yourself, "Has this guy got balls, or what?"

The White House has been occupied by giants. But from time to time it is sought by the small-minded – divisive figures propelled by anger, and appealing to the worst instincts in the human condition.
In times of trouble, there are two types of leaders: repairers of the breach and sowers of discord.
The sower of discord foments agitation, thrives on division, scapegoats certain elements of society, and offers empty platitudes and promises. He is without substance when one scratches below the surface.
He offers a barking carnival act that can be best described as Trumpism: a toxic mix of demagoguery, mean-spiritedness and nonsense that will lead the Republican Party to perdition if pursued.
Let no one be mistaken – Donald Trump’s candidacy is a cancer on conservatism, and it must be clearly diagnosed, excised and discarded.
It cannot be pacified or ignored, for it will destroy a set of principles that has lifted more people out of poverty than any force in the history of the civilized world – the cause of conservatism.

Donald Trump the reality television star is a great generator of ratings. But Donald Trump the candidate is a sower of division, wrongly demonizing Mexican-Americans for political sport.
Donald Trump is the modern-day incarnation of the know-nothing movement.
He espouses nativism, not conservatism. He is negative when conservatism is inherently optimistic.
He would divide us along bloodlines, when conservatives believe our policies will work for people of all backgrounds.
I, for one, will not be silent when a candidate for the high office of president runs under the Republican banner by targeting millions of Hispanics, and our veterans, with mean-spirited vitriol.

I will not go quiet when this cancer on conservatism threatens to metastasize into a movement of mean-spirited politics that will send the Republican Party to the same place it sent the Whig Party in 1854: the graveyard.

My fellow Republicans, beware of false prophets. Do not let itching ears be tickled by messengers who appeal to anger, division and resentment.
Resentment is the poison we swallow that we hope harms another. My fellow Republicans, don’t take the poison.

Again, give me a break.

Remember four years ago, when Trump questioned President Obama's birth certificate? Somehow I don't recall Gov. Perry -- or any other Republican, for that matter -- calling him "the modern-day incarnation of the know-nothing movement."

Forgive me if I just don't remember anyone from the party of "demagoguery, mean-spiritedness and nonsense" warning against "false prophets." I guess I can't, for the life of me, recall anyone saying, "Do not let itching ears be tickled by messengers who appeal to anger, division and resentment."

No; in fact, it was quite the opposite.

John Boehner, the leader of the Republicans in Congress, when asked if he would vouch for the president's citizenship said, "It's not up to me to tell them what to think."

Even Mitt Romney, the Republican Party's candidate for president, sought Trump's endorsement.

Over and over (and over) again, the opposition party has acted positively shamefully during Obama's presidency. (Did poor, delicate John McCain, whom Trump insulted last weekend, ever correct his 2008 running mate, Sarah Palin, about "death panels"? No; he used her to campaign for reelection.)

I could go on and on -- the examples of the GOP's utter lack or responsibility are just too numerous to count.

So cut me a little slack for enjoying the show. Republicans have no one to blame but themselves for the rise of Mr. Trump and what Gov. Perry calls "Trumpism." The chickens, as they say, are coming home to roost.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Buddy Buie, a songwriter...

...and record producer who helped write the song “Stormy” and others, died at age 74.

Monday, July 20, 2015

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

Alex Rocco, who played...

...Moe Greene in The Godfather, died at age 79.

Rocco's obit in the Times links to the scene above, but I also like the one below from The Godfather Part II that gives some background on the character.

According to Wikipedia (all emphasis mine):

Moe Greene's name is a composite of real Las Vegas mobsters Moe Dalitz, or possibly Moe Sedway, and Gus Greenbaum. However, Greene's personality is based on Bugsy Siegel.

Greene's death also plays a part in the second film in the series. Greene was a childhood friend to Michael's business partner and rival Hyman Roth, and it is implied that Roth's anger over Greene's murder is one motivation for his plan to destroy Michael. 

Hyman Roth, in turn, was: 

...a Jewish investor and a business partner of Vito Corleone, and later his son Michael Corleone. He is based on Florida-based mobster Meyer Lansky and was played by Lee Strasberg in the movie.

What's interesting to me is that Roth's death scene in The Godfather, Part II was based on the assassination of Lee Harvey Oswald in 1963. This was an echo of all the conspiracy theories of John F. Kennedy's death that included the mafia.

Do I think the mob killed Kennedy? I don't know.

Jack Ruby, who shot Oswald, was born Jacob Leon Rubenstein in the Maxwell Street area of Chicago, not far from where I currently live. According to his entry in Wikipedia:

G. Robert Blakey, chief counsel for the House Select Committee on Assassinations from 1977 to 1979, sees it differently. He says: "The most plausible explanation for the murder of Oswald by Jack Ruby was that Ruby had stalked him on behalf of organized crime, trying to reach him on at least three occasions in the forty-eight hours before he silenced him forever."

Ruby was seen in the halls of the Dallas Police Headquarters on several occasions after the arrest of Lee Harvey Oswald on November 22, 1963; and newsreel footage from WFAA-TV (Dallas) and NBC shows Ruby impersonating a newspaper reporter during a press conference at Dallas Police Headquarters on the night of the assassination. District Attorney Henry Wade briefed reporters at the press conference telling them that Lee Oswald was a member of the anti-Castro Free Cuba Committee. Ruby was one of several people there who spoke up to correct Wade, saying: "Henry, that's the Fair Play for Cuba Committee," a pro-Castro organization. Some speculate that Ruby may have hoped to kill Oswald that night at the police station press conference. Ruby told the FBI, a month after his arrest for killing Oswald, that he had his loaded snub-nosed Colt Cobra .38 revolver in his right-hand pocket during the press conference.

Another motive was put forth by Frank Sheeran, allegedly a hitman for the Mafia, in a conversation he had with the then-former Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa. During the conversation, Hoffa claimed that Ruby was assigned the task of coordinating police officers who were loyal to Ruby to kill Oswald while he was in their custody. As Ruby evidently mismanaged the operation, he was given a choice to either finish the job himself or forfeit his life.

I'll let you read the rest of it and make up your own mind. As for me, every time I decide firmly, one way or the other, that the Kennedy assassination was a conspiracy or not, I change my mind. One thing I have decided, though, is that it looks so much like a conspiracy that maybe, just maybe, it wasn't. Truth, I've noticed, is often stranger than fiction.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Who is Guerin Prep?

Imagine you're a high school football player and you have the opportunity to play for a coach who spent six years in the NFL. What's more, imagine that coach played for legendary Bears' coach Mike Ditka. That's what the Guerin Gators can look forward to this season under second-year head coach Glen Kozlowski, above.

Or, as former Chicago Bears defensive end Dan Hampton put it (my emphasis):

“When you play for Coach [Mike] Ditka, it’s hard not to value the traditions of hard work, discipline and toughness. That’s what Koz brings. Koz really enjoys taking the loose pieces and molding a team. You identify the players who are committed to excellence and build something lasting. He will bring the dedication and hard-hitting spirit to Guerin and it won’t be long before they’re a playoff team.”

So who the heck is Guerin Prep, anyway?

In 1961 Holy Cross High School, an all-boys Catholic school, was founded in River Grove, just west of the city. A year later, Mother Theodore Guerin High School for girls was established down the street.

Holy Cross opened its doors with 380 boys and reached a peak of about 1,500 students in 1968. As population growth in the area leveled off, however, so did enrollment at Holy Cross. In 2004 the two neighboring schools merged under the new name Guerin College Preparatory High School, above.

Today Guerin Prep, with an enrollment of about 500, "benefits from the combined rich histories of its founding schools, and continues to instill the same values in its students. The high school sits on 23 acres at the corner of 80th and Belmont in River Grove. Nearly 20,000 students from Northwest Chicago and the surrounding suburbs have graduated from the schools in the past 50 years."

Guerin is a member of the Metro Suburban East Conference and its colors are blue, green, silver and white. The school mascot is Gary the Gator.

While the football team has struggled in recent years, Holy Cross had a great tradition and counted among its alumni two NFL veterans: Jack Degrenier ’69, who played for the New Orleans Saints, and Garrett Wolfe ’02, of the home team Chicago Bears. In 42 years of play the Crusaders had two undefeated regular seasons and eight state playoff berths. (Coincidentally, during three of those years the team was coached by a 1983 alum by the name of Virgil Gerin. What are the odds?)

After the 2013 season, in which the Gators went 2-7, Glen Kozlowski was brought in as head coach to turn the program around and return it to its former glory. 

A native of Hawaii, Kozlowski was a standout wide receiver on the 1984 Brigham Young National Championship team and was drafted by the Bears in the 11th round in 1986. During his six seasons in the NFL Kozlowski excelled on special teams and at wide receiver.

In 2002, following his professional career, Kozlowski became the head football coach at Wauconda High School. In his first two seasons the Bulldogs went 0-9, but Coach Koz eventually took the Lake County squad to the 5A quarterfinals in 2007. He then built on this success by doing the same with the 4A Warhawks of North Chicago in 2012. It was with this reputation of ending long playoff droughts that Kozlowski was hired at Guerin. Can he repeat his success with the Gators? After improving to 3-6 last year, I wouldn't bet against it.

So what do the Gators* look like this season? From a lightly-edited email from Coach Kozlowski himself:

We are returning eleven senior and seven junior starters from last year's team. Junior Richie Zacharias returns for his second season at starting quarterback. He will most likely hand off to senior Jarvis Davis, who is expected to get the bulk of carries on offense. Zacharias, meanwhile, can pass to senior Keith Franklin, who caught 12 touchdowns last year and averaged 21.7 yards per catch. 

On the other side of the ball, senior Vinnie Caeti returns at defensive end where he led the conference last year with 27 sacks. 

The Gators will have six home games this year. 

Below is the entire 2015 Guerin schedule. You really ought to check these guys out!

August 29: @ Chicago International Charter-Ellison

September 5: St. Thomas More
September 11: @ Wheaton Academy
September 19: Aurora Central Catholic
September 25: @ St. Edward

October 2: Elmwood Park
October 10: Walther Christian Academy
October 17: Ridgewood
October 23: @ Chicago Christian

BOWG prediction: Guerin will go 5-4 this year with an appearance in the playoffs. (You heard it here first.)

* It's confirmed: Guerin will return this year as the Crusaders with the old red and grey Holy Cross uniforms.

I don't normally read...

...about the latest developments out of NASA (it's pretty hard to top the moon landing when I was eleven years old back in 1969), but I have to admit this week's New Horizons mission to Pluto fascinated me. I wish I could find the actual tweet that first caught my attention, but it went something like this:

Right now, a tiny robot sent nine and a half years ago by a curious species of apes is visiting a distant planet three billion miles away. 

That's pretty amazing when you think of it like that, isn't it?

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Happy Bastille Day!

Okay, so I'm a day late -- sue me. But it's another opportunity to recommend my favorite French movie, Amelie, from 2001. It's really clever; if you haven't seen it, check it out.

The Unfortunate Name...

...of the Day coincides this morning with my first ever Bad Advice of the Day Award.

Joan Sebastian (yep, you read that right), above, a Mexican singer and songwriter, died at age 64.

Mr. Sebastian was born José Manuel Figueroa. According to his obit in the Times:

Mr. Sebastian’s Facebook page says that he changed his name to Juan Sebastian in 1977, and that he turned the “u” in “Juan” into an “o” on the advice of his sister, a numerologist.

At least Johnny Cash's character didn't deliberately choose a girl's name.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Here's a picture...

...from today's New York Times that shows a member of the Greek Presidential Guard.

Here's a closeup of that "uniform":

So here's my question: Who thought that was a good look?

From my brother... -- where else? -- Minnesota: "Minnesota is America's Top State for Business in 2015." According to CNBC (my emphasis):

Minnesota scores 1,584 out of a possible 2,500 points, ranking in the top half for all but two of our 10 categories of competitiveness. But what may be most instructive are the categories where Minnesota does not do well. Both involve cost. Indeed, the birthplace of Spam, Scotch Tape and the supercomputer marks a new first this year. Never since we began rating the states in 2007 has a high-tax, high-wage, union-friendly state made it to the top of our rankings. But Minnesota does so well in so many other areas—like education and quality of life—that its cost disadvantages fade away. 

I guess I should have already known this. Practically every day, my mother tells me how Minnesota is just about the best place in the world in every conceivable category.

Here's a cause of death...

...I had never heard of before. Roy C. Bennett, a songwriter, died at age 96. From his obit in the Times (my emphasis):

His son Neil confirmed the death, saying, when asked for the cause, that his father “just ran out of steam.”

If you have any interest... the whole "Nature vs. Nurture" question, you really should read a piece in yesterday's New York Times Magazine, "The Mixed-Up Brothers of Bogotá: After a hospital error, two pairs of Colombian identical twins were raised as two pairs of fraternal twins. This is the story of how they found one another — and of what happened next."

So which is the greater influence on a person, nature or nurture? From the article (my emphasis):

Despite periods of controversy, twins studies proliferated. Over the last 50 years, some 17,000 traits have been studied, according to a meta-­analysis led by Tinca Polderman, a Dutch researcher, and Beben Benyamin, an Australian, and published this year in the journal Nature Genetics. Researchers have claimed to divine a genetic influence in such varied traits as gun ownership, voting preferences, homosexuality, job satisfaction, coffee consumption, rule enforcement and insomnia. Virtually wherever researchers have looked, they have found that identical twins’ test results are more similar than those of fraternal twins. The studies point to the influence of genes on almost every aspect of our being (a conclusion so sweeping that it indicates, to some scientists, only that the methodology must be fatally flawed). ‘‘Everything is heritable,’’ says Eric Turkheimer, a behavioral geneticist at the University of Virginia. ‘‘The more genetically related a pair of people are, the more similar they are on any other outcome of interest’’ — whether it be personality, TV watching or political leaning. ‘‘But this can be true without there being some kind of specific mechanism that is driving it, some version of a Huntington’s-­disease gene. It is based on the complex combined effects of an unaccountable number of genes.’’

Arguably the most intriguing branch of twins research involves a small and unusual class of research subjects: identical twins who were reared apart. Thomas Bouchard Jr., a psychologist at the University of Minnesota, began studying them in 1979, when he first learned of Jim and Jim, two Ohio men reunited that year at age 39. They not only looked remarkably similar, but had also vacationed on the same Florida beach, married women with the same first name, divorced those women and married second wives who also shared the same name, smoked the same brand of cigarette and built miniature furniture for fun. Similar in personality as well as in vocal intonation, they seemed to have been wholly formed from conception, impervious to the effects of parenting, siblings or geography. Bouchard went on to research more than 80 identical-­twin pairs reared apart, comparing them with identical twins reared together, fraternal twins reared together and fraternal twins reared apart. He found that in almost every instance, the identical twins, whether reared together or reared apart, were more similar to each other than their fraternal counterparts were for traits like personality and, more controversial, intelligence. One unexpected finding in his research suggested that the effect of a pair’s shared environment — say, their parents — had little bearing on personality. Genes and unique experiences — a semester abroad, an important friend — were more influential.

So that's it then; it's all settled. Just as I suspected: nature trumps nurture. Right? Not so fast.

As pure science, the study of twins reared apart has troubled some researchers. Those twins either self-­select and step forward or become known to researchers through media reports — which are less inclined to cover identical twins who do not look remarkably alike, who did not marry and divorce women of the same name or choose the same obscure hobby. Identical twins who do not look remarkably alike, of course, are also less likely to be spotted and reunited in the first place. And few studies of twins, whether reared apart or reared together, have included twins from extremely different backgrounds.

‘‘Every study will have its critics,’’ says Nancy Segal, a professor at California State University, Fullerton, who worked with Bouchard from 1982 to 1991. ‘‘But studying twins reared apart separates genetic and environmental effects on behavior better than any research design I know.’’

Segal has been studying Chinese twins (fraternal and identical pairs reared together and reared apart) since 2003. In several books about twins, Segal has merged science with human-­interest tales, walking readers through statistical evidence but also highlighting anecdotal details: the identical twins reared apart who each showed up for research wearing seven rings, or the reared-­apart sisters who rubbed their noses the same way and called it ‘‘squidging.’’

At the moment that a sperm penetrates an egg, that single-­cell zygote is what is known as totipotent: It is pure potential. It has in it the makings of an eyebrow’s curve, a heart’s thick muscle, a neuron’s electrochemical power; it has in it the finicky instructional manual that will direct the building of the body’s every fiber and the regulation of those fibers. But that one cell splits into two, and instantly, lights begin to go out, potential dims. In order for that one cell to become a tiny bit of flesh in a heart, and not the hair of an eyebrow, one or more of its genetic signaling pathways must shut down. The result is differentiation, a steady process of elimination that allows complex biological universes to be built. Every time a group of cells divides, each one becomes more like one thing, less like another.

By the time that embryo is five or six days old, which is when a majority of fateful twin splits occur, some of those cells, by chance, go to one twin and some to the other. This means that the expression of some genes in one of those future twins is already, in subtle ways, likely to be different from the expression of genes in the other future twin, theorizes Harvey Kliman, the director of the reproductive and placental research unit at the Yale School of Medicine. From the moment that most identical twins separate, they may well have different epigenetics, a term that refers to the way genes are read and expressed, depending on environment. They are already different products of their environment, the environment being whatever uterine conditions rendered them separate beings in the first place.

The casual observer is fascinated by how similar identical twins are, but some geneticists are more interested in identifying all the reasons they might differ, sometimes in significant ways. Why might one identical twin be gay or transgender and not the other? Why do identical twins, born with the same DNA, sometimes die of different diseases at different times in their lives? Their environments must be different, but which aspect of their environment is the one that took their biology in a different direction? Smoking, stress, obesity — those are some of the factors that researchers have been able to link to specific changes in the expression of specific genes. They expect, in time, to find hundreds, possibly thousands, of others.

The meta-­analysis published this spring in Nature Genetics, which examined 50 years of studies of twins, arrived at a conclusion about the impact of heredity and environment on human beings’ lives. On average, the researchers found, any particular trait or disease in an individual is about 50 percent influenced by environment and 50 percent influenced by genes. But that simple ratio does not capture our complicated systems of genetic circuitry, the way our genes steadily interact with the environment, switching on, switching off, depending on the stimulus, sometimes with lasting results that will continue on in our genome, passed to the next generation. How an individual’s genes respond to that environment — how they are expressed — creates what scientists call an epigenetic profile.

So, getting back to those two sets of twins in Colombia:

Before starting her research, Segal would not have been surprised if each young man tested similarly to his identical twin, despite their different environments. But her preliminary results, she said, show that on a number of traits, the identical twins were less alike than she initially anticipated. ‘‘I came away with a real respect for the effect of an extremely different environment,’’ Segal said.

The debate continues.

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

Saturday, July 11, 2015

The other Name of the Day...

...belongs to Virginia Kice of ICE.

Ms. Kice is the Western Regional Communications Director at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The Name of the Day...

...belongs to Jeremy Boreing, the executive director of Friends of Abe.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Gov. Bruce Rauner promised...

...recently "to rip the economic guts out of Indiana."

Yikes! Did he really say that? Yep; according to the Chicago Tribune (all emphasis mine):

"Believe me, I am going to rip — try to rip the economic guts out of Indiana," Rauner said. "I am one of the baddest, you know, enemies anybody can have. And when I set a goal, we do it. I don't care what the headline is. I want the results. And we're coming after Indiana big time. But you know what, we're going to do it on our terms, the right way."

Wow! I wouldn't want to mess with that guy.

But maybe the private equity tycoon should "care what the headline is" after all. Here's one he may have missed, "Indiana's economic development report card is mixed":

Indiana has built an exceptionally friendly business climate but continues to lag badly behind other states in some critical components needed to build a dynamic and creative culture, according to a report from the Indiana Chamber.

An Indiana Vision 2025 Report Card produced by the Chamber shows Indiana is No. 1 in the nation when it comes to regulatory freedom but ranked 47th when it comes to entrepreneurial activity.

Instead of beating up on poor ol' Indiana, maybe Gov. Rauner should turn his attention to a different Midwestern state, like -- oh, I don't know -- Minnesota:

Even though Minnesota's top income tax rate is the 4th-highest in the country, it has the 5th-lowest unemployment rate in the country at 3.6 percent. According to 2012-2013 U.S. census figures, Minnesotans had a median income that was $10,000 larger than the U.S. average, and their median income is still $8,000 more than the U.S. average today.

By late 2013, Minnesota's private sector job growth exceeded pre-recession levels, and the state's economy was the 5th fastest-growing in the United States. Forbes even ranked Minnesota the 9th-best state for business (Scott Walker's "Open For Business" Wisconsin came in at a distant #32 on the same list). Despite the fearmongering over businesses fleeing from Dayton's tax cuts, 6,230 more Minnesotans filed in the top income tax bracket in 2013, just one year after Dayton's tax increases went through. As of January 2015, Minnesota has a $1 billion budget surplus, and Gov. Dayton has pledged to reinvest more than one third of that money into public schools. And according to Gallup, Minnesota's economic confidence is higher than any other state.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Republicans have been...

...desperately searching for an heir to Ronald Reagan ever since the Gipper retired to his Santa Barbara ranch back in 1988. Although many have tried, so far no one has come close to connecting with voters like the 40th president. But I think the GOP has finally found its man.

Watch some of the video above and tell me that Donald Trump isn't Saint Ronald reincarnated, right down to his -- as President Gerald Ford used to put it -- premature orange hair.

Just like Reagan, the Donald's world is very simple and all of America's problems are easy to solve -- if only our government's "stupid" leaders would just get out of the way.

In that Q & A session in New Hampshire, Trump even begins by -- can you believe it? -- slamming Jimmy Carter! I've noticed that, like Reagan, Trump tells the same stories over and over and over, citing figures he either "read somewhere" or using "facts" he appears to have just made up on the fly. A tough talker (Republicans love swagger), Trump singles out China, Mexico and Japan for some reason (did they bar him from opening a hotel in Tokyo or something?) as our current international scapegoats instead of Reagan's bogeyman, the Soviet Union, and on occasion, some random South American "tinhorn dictator."

Also, like Reagan, the famous real estate mogul talks about the "old days" when our country was "strong and respected." (Republicans love the word "strong.") He appeals to his audience's basest fears and emotions by making vague promises to be "bold" (another big Republican word; just ask Scott Walker), knocks moderates like Mitt Romney, pledges to grow the economy (of course), slash regulations, negotiate from strength (there's that word "strong" again), defeat ISIS by bombing the hell out of their oil (as if no one in the State or Defense Departments had thought of that), build a wall along our southern border (and have Mexico pay for it somehow) and, naturally, have a "total commitment to the Second Amendment."

Trump, again like Reagan, sat out his generation's war but is "very big" on defense and veterans and promises to spend even more on defense (even though the U. S. already spends more than the next ten countries combined).

Finally, like the Gipper, Trump will just plain Make America Great Again. 

Think I'm wrong? Yesterday, Peter Wehner had a piece in the New York Times, "President Donald Trump? Just Say No," in which he pointed out (my emphasis):

For starters, Mr. Trump, though he claims to be a conservative, is nothing of the sort. He’s barely even a Republican. For most of the last decade, he was a registered Democrat. It wasn’t that long ago that most of his political contributions went to Democrats, including Senators Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton. Before he discovered his Republican roots, Mr. Trump favored a single-payer health care system and proposed a large “net worth tax” on wealthy individuals. He once declared himself “strongly pro-choice” and favored drug legalization. He is a vehement protectionist. Earlier this year he even accused Republicans running for president of “attacking” Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Why would conservatives find him the least bit appealing?

(Reagan was, of course, a New Deal Democrat at one time and was originally pro-choice as governor of California.)

Mr. Trump has no coherent governing philosophy. All he has is an attitude, and a crude one at that. As his announcement speech and subsequent statements have made clear, his command of the issues is superficial, his presentation often rambling and demagogic.

(Who does that remind you of?)

At the heart of Donald Trump’s candidacy is folie de grandeur. Mr. Trump will build a fence on the southern border — and get Mexico to pay for it. He’s got a “foolproof” plan to defeat the Islamic State “very quickly,” but when asked what it is, he told Fox’s Greta Van Susteren, “I’m not gonna tell you what it is tonight.” He’ll have a “great relationship” with Vladimir V. Putin while also keeping Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. His policy views on China consist mostly of bluster (“Oh, would China be in trouble. The poor Chinese.”). Mr. Trump is eager to tell us that “there’s nobody bigger and better at the military than I am.” He also gets things done “better than anybody.” And he will be “the greatest jobs president that God ever created.”

Again, I ask, is this guy Reagan, or what?

As I wrote yesterday, don't underestimate Donald Trump. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

If you're not taking Donald Trump...

...seriously (at least as a candidate for the Republican nomination), watch a little of this Q&A session from Iowa a few weeks ago. Doesn't Trump remind you -- just a little -- of a certain B movie actor who made it all the way to the White House?*

Now, don't get me wrong: I don't think the Donald will ever be elected president of the United States. And I don't think he'll get the GOP nomination either. (I still think Hillary beats Jeb in 2016.)

But anyone who underestimates this guy does so at his own peril. Last I checked, Donald Trump was leading the Republican field, according to the Huffington Post. Trump will be in the first debate next month (and could steal the show) and could very easily finish second or third in Iowa or New Hampshire. (Why not? Pat Robertson and Steve Forbes placed second in Iowa in 1988 and 2000, respectively, and Pat Buchanan won the New Hampshire primary in 1996.) At the very least, the New York real estate tycoon is going to cause major headaches for the other GOP candidates and the leaders of the party.

Watch that video above. Trump speaks very clearly and in a voice people can understand. He connects with his audience and -- just like St. Reagan -- tickles every one of their basic emotions. Oh, and let's be clear about one thing: Trump doesn't say anything that the average Republican voter isn't already thinking. Just like the Gipper, Trump is the Republican id personified.

To repeat: the Republican Party is not going to nominate Donald Trump for president in 2016. (My guess is that he'll drop out before the Iowa caucuses -- running for president is just too much trouble.) And if Trump should truly "catch fire" the party bigwigs would do everything in their power to stop him (and succeed). But if you think I'm overstating Trump's appeal and potential for trouble-making, just harken back to that other billionaire who ran for president back in 1992 and received nearly one in every five votes cast in the general election.

The pundits in Washington would have you believe that Donald Trump is nothing more than this year's Herman Cain or Michele Bachmann -- a flash in the pan who will quickly fizzle out. (Or at least they hope so.) But I think they're wrong. The more attention (and respect from voters) Trump gets, the more his ego will demand. Like Ross Perot in 1992, Trump has a ton of dough and could have a major impact on the 2016 election.

* And do you remember how positively giddy the Democrats were when it looked like Ronald Reagan would be the Republican nominee in 1980?