Why Russia wants a Trump victory; it’s all about the money

To understand why Mr. Putin is rooting for the American billionaire, you have to follow the money – and not just Mr. Trump’s alleged links to Russian businesses.

The Kremlin, analysts here say, is running out of money fast, and needs to find a way to end the Western sanctions that were levelled against it in 2014 over its actions in Ukraine. Mr. Trump, they believe, may be the man to bring about the financial relief Moscow needs.

Not because the Kremlin is expecting he would immediately lift sanctions – though there have been reports that top Russian officials met with Mr. Trump’s adviser Carter Page to discuss just that – but because a Trump victory is expected to shatter the unity of the West and send European governments looking elsewhere for leadership in the world.

“They like to think that if Trump wins, then there is no hope for unity in the West, and if something is bad for the West, then it is good for Russia,” said Nikolai Petrov, an independent political analyst.

Two years ago, Russian troops were entering Crimea ahead of its annexation from Ukraine and the Kremlin was activating its separatist allies in the regions of Donetsk and Lugansk. At the time, Russia’s Reserve Fund – largely accumulated during Mr. Putin’s first decade in power when oil prices were frequently more than $100 (U.S.) a barrel and the domestic economy was growing – stood at nearly $90-billion.

Today, as oil prices linger below $50 a barrel and the economy contracts for a third consecutive year – all while Russia is pouring funds into Crimea, and waging war in faraway Syria – the Reserve Fund is worth just over $30-billion, having been depleted by $6-billion to cover overspending in August alone.

A draft budget submitted last week to Russia’s parliament, the Duma, called for steep cuts to health services, education and even previously sacrosanct defence spending, which has risen in past years as Mr. Putin has modernized his country’s army and deployed it abroad. Even still, Russia’s Finance Ministry expects the Reserve Fund to be completely depleted some time next year, just ahead of presidential elections in 2018, when Mr. Putin is widely expected to run for another six-year term.

There’s loud worry about the tightening finances, and talk that Mr. Putin may be forced to call an early vote to avoid having to campaign for re-election just as his government is going broke.

“Putin is demonstrating now that his time horizon is much longer than the 2018 election. That means he either needs to borrow money to finance until the [2018] election, or hold an early election,” Mr. Petrov said. Borrowing abroad is currently very difficult under the sanctions targeting Russia’s banking sector; hence the hope that a victory by Mr. Trump on Tuesday would shake up the international status quo in Russia’s favour.

Read the complete article in The Globe and Mail here.

A mural in Vilnius depicting Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photograph: Petras Malukas/AFP/Getty Images

A mural in Vilnius depicting Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photograph: Petras Malukas/AFP/Getty Images

Specter of election day violence looms as Trump spurs vigilante poll watcher

 Militia groups have called on members to be less overt in their poll monitoring on election day, by not carrying guns and attempting to blend in. Photograph: Eric Gay/AP

Militia groups have called on members to be less overt in their poll monitoring on election day, by not carrying guns and attempting to blend in. Photograph: Eric Gay/AP

Donald Trump’s claims of “large-scale” voter fraud have prompted officials across the political spectrum to warn about the dangers of vigilante poll monitors amid fears of confrontations or even violence on US election day.

As opinion polls tightened this week between Trump and Hillary Clinton ahead of Tuesday’s presidential vote, there are concerns of chaos following his claims, without serious evidence, that the election could be “rigged” and his refusal to say if he will accept the outcome.

Republican leaders in some battleground states are reporting a surge of volunteers signing up to serve as official poll watchers, and in an unprecedented move, the Trump campaign itself has since August been requesting that volunteers sign up as “election observers” to “Help Me Stop Crooked Hillary From Rigging This Election!”. Stone, meanwhile, has said he has helped recruit people to do “exit polls” to tackle voter fraud and denies .

The nation’s most prominent anti-government militia and a neo-Nazi group have also announced plans to send their members to monitor for voter fraud outside the polls.

The Democratic party has launched a series of legal challenges around the country alleging voter intimidation, and on Friday in the battleground state of Ohio a judge issued a temporary restraining order against Trump’s campaign and his unofficial adviser Roger Stone. The ruling said anyone who engaged in intimidation or harassment inside or near Ohio polling places would face contempt of court charges. (Read my post about this here.)

The Guardian revealed last month that a Republican operative, Mike Roman, notorious for stirring allegations of voter intimidation in the 2008 election, would coordinate the Trump monitor program, but the campaign has declined to provide details on the size and scale of the program and it remains unclear how many people will show up.

Voting rights advocates have focused on the potential threat posed by Trump supporters like the Ohio man who told a reporter he wanted to keep a close eye on “people who can’t speak American” at the polls.

While having trained partisan observers inside polling places is a normal part of the voting process, “Trump has encouraged people to go on their own and check out what’s going on in polling places”, said Rick Hasen, a professor at the University of California Irvine law school and one of the country’s leading election law experts. “These are going to be untrained people hyped up on what Trump has said.

“I’m worried that there are going to be confrontations and potential violence at the polls,” he said.

An attempt to blend in

The fringe groups that have announced plans to monitor for voter fraud said their members should be dressed in plainclothes and quietly watching for illegal behavior – not engaging in confrontations.

Democrats and voting rights advocates argue that poll-watching efforts are only one part of a larger Republican effort to discourage or block racial minorities from voting – and that Republican concerns over “voter fraud” are simply a mask for a broad campaign of racial disenfranchisement. The spread of laws requiring voters to show ID at the polls, restrictions on early voting times, and poll location closures are all designed to disadvantage racial minorities who tend to vote for Democrats, advocates say.

The NAACP filed a new lawsuit against North Carolina this week alleging that black voters were being disproportionately purged from the state’s voter rolls. “This sounds like something that was put together in 1901,” a federal judge said at an emergency hearing, calling the purging process “insane”.

The judge issued an order Friday finding that the purge likely violated the National Voter Registration Act, and ordered that state elections officials “take all steps necessary to restore the voter registrations that were canceled.”

Trump’s repeated, unprecedented claims that the election has already been “rigged” against him have given new fuel to conservative claims that non-citizens are voting and that votes are being stolen on a massive scale. In a “new effort”, the National Socialist Movement, a white nationalist, neo-Nazi organization, is planning to send out hundreds of members to watch for voter fraud outside polling places in 48 states, with a focus on California, Illinois, Florida and Michigan, Butch Urban, the group’s chief of staff, said.

Members would not be wearing their uniforms or National Socialist Movement gear. “They’re going to look like everybody else that’s going in there to vote,” Urban said.

He called voter fraud “so rampant”, and said the group would have lawyers on call.

The president of one of America’s largest anti-government armed militia groups, the Oath Keepers, called on members last week to take part in undercover poll-watching under the moniker of “Operation Sabot 2016”.

In a bizarre set of instructions to the group’s reported 30,000 members – an organization of “current and formerly serving military, police, and first responders” – Stewart Rhodes, a former US army paratrooper, also encouraged members to “blend in” among voters and attempt to record evidence of widespread voter fraud.

“That may mean wearing a Bob Marley, pot leaf, tie-die [sic] peace symbol, or ‘Che’ Guevara T-Shirt, etc,” Rhodes, who declined to be interviewed, wrote in an online callout to members.

Rhodes wrote that members should not openly carry their guns – “We do NOT want open-carry (remember, again, that this is a covert operation)” – and that they should be aware of laws barring even concealed gun carrying in polling places.

*****

A rigged election? Nyah. Intimidation, blockades, delays, etc can’t possibly be considered rigging an election if you are a Republican doing it.

Read the complete article in the Guardian newspaper online here.

trumpbushgoodluck

At least comedians will have something to laugh about for the next four years if Trump gets elected.

Judge issues restraining order against Trump campaign over voter-harassment fears

 Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Reno. Photograph: Mike Segar/Reuters

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Reno. Photograph: Mike Segar/Reuters

Republicans fear Trump’s parade of insults might help cost him the election

Pointed criticism: Donald Trump should ‘focus on Hillary. No one else,’ according to former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer. Photograph: Jan Diehm

Pointed criticism: Donald Trump should ‘focus on Hillary. No one else,’ according to former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer. Photograph: Jan Diehm

What do Rosie O’Donnell, Serge Kovaleski, Megyn Kelly, John McCain, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Gonzalo Curiel, Khizr Khan and Alicia Machado have in common?

All have been on the receiving end of Donald Trump’s insults as the businessman spent more than a year pursuing futile feuds that may go a long way toward costing him the White House.

A chorus of hands slapping against Republican foreheads was almost audible each time the nominee threw off any pretence of self-discipline and lashed out, distracting onlookers from his efforts to present himself as moderate or exploit Hillary Clinton’s weaknesses. This week they are doubtless praying that he doesn’t squander the golden opportunity presented by the FBI’s investigation into a new batch of emails that may be related to Clinton’s private server.

“Trump is on the verge of blowing it,” Ari Fleischer, former White House press secretary, tweeted on 30 September. “Free advice: Focus on Hillary. No one else. Hillary is your opponent. No one else is.”

According to a running total compiled by the New York Times, Trump has insulted 279 people, places and things on Twitter alone. Republicans were ultimately forced to conclude that Trump would be Trump, a 70-year-old man who cannot change and has no intention of doing so. They will never know if staying “on message” might have left him running far closer in the polls.

‘The straw that broke the camel’s back’

Rich Galen, once press secretary to vice-president Dan Quayle, said his patience ran out in July when the nominee claimed that Gonzalo Curiel, a judge who was born in Indiana, was biased against him in a civil case over Trump University because his parents were from Mexico.

“That was antithetical to everything I’ve worked for in public life,” Galen said.

“It looks like the actual turning point was the Miss Universe woman, which not only offended women but they told their husbands they should be offended too. It’s one thing to diss John McCain but he’s a big boy and can look after himself. When he went after a woman over an image problem, that would unite 90% of women and men and was the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

Machado won the Miss Universe pageant in 1996. Clinton brought up the largely forgotten case at the end of the first presidential debate, saying Trump had called her “Miss Piggy” and, because she is Latina, “Miss Housekeeping”. To the dismay of his party, Trump took the bait and talked about Machado for days, telling Fox News: “She gained a massive amount of weight, and it was a real problem.”

“He sees the entire universe in terms of how it affects him,” Galen said. “He simply doesn’t have the temperament to be president of the United States. He figured out what the country had been mad about; he was the wrong messenger for the right message.”

Read the complete article on The Guardian web site here.

Ivanka, Tiffany Trump and the appeal of a dynastic campaign

trumpdynasty

The Donald Trump dynasty may begin soon.

MARSHALLED on stage at the climax of a debate or rally, the Trump family can seem otherworldly, even faintly sinister. In contrast to the everyman image many politicians try to project—the guy like you, with whom you might enjoy a beer—the Republican nominee’s clan is impossibly well-clad and -coiffed. That collective image is of a piece with the paterfamilias’s implicit promise: not so much to represent the nation as to redeem it, like some baggy-suited Superman. An event on October 26th in Marietta, Georgia, which featured Ivanka Trump and her less-deployed sister Tiffany, exemplified his offsprings’ role in his appeal and his campaign.

“I love the entire family,” said Paulette, an African-American Trump fan, in the crowded, airless room inside. The Trump children were “honourable, respectful, well-educated, honest.” If they seemed remote, that was because “Donald Trump and his wives have invested a lot in them.” As for Ivanka: “I adore her.” (She wasn’t bothered by the gruesome tape: “I have five brothers and I know how men talk.”) That view of the elder Trump sister was widespread. “She represents smart women who know the issues,” said another female attendee.

The crowd broke out the now-familiar chants of “Hillary for prison”, “Lock her up”, and “We are deplorable”, interspersed with the odd rebel yell. Herman Cain, the warm-up act, delivered the standard denunciation of the media (liars) and the polls (rigged), before introducing Ivanka and Tiffany. Ivanka spoke only briefly, not mentioning the ideas for childcare credits and maternity leave that have bolstered her father’s pitch to women. Tiffany was even briefer. The crowd didn’t seem to mind. “You’re amazing,” a devotee yelled; “We love you” shouted another. Then the Trumps got down to the serious business of the afternoon, namely posing for their supporters’ selfies, before moving on to a meeting with local businesswomen.

Read the complete article on The Economist web site here.

Donald Trump accuses Republicans of vote rigging

 Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Reno, Nevada, earlier this week. Photograph: Mike Segar/Reuters

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Reno, Nevada. Photograph: Mike Segar/Reuters

Donald Trump has said repeatedly the 2016 Presidential Election is rigged, and by saying so he is accusing his own Republican party of vote rigging. How?

Each State, Territory and DC has a Secretary of State whose function during Presidential elections is to be in charge of the election in their State, Territory or District of Columbia. SoS’s are the guardians of the election.

Two key States in this election are Ohio and Florida. Both States have Republican Secretaries of State in charge of the election. In fact the number of Republican Secretaries of State is larger than Democrat Secretaries of State; Republicans = 29, Democrats = 25 (w/Puerto Rico PDP).

Mr. Trump, you’ll probably still say the election is rigged and may blame your own Republican Party for your loss in the election. But you are a businessman and you alone make decisions on running your business, which you’ve made clear many times. Like any true businessman you should also accept the responsibility for any losses in your business, and the responsibility of any loss in an election.

This is what rape culture looks like – in the words of Donald Trump

 Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event earlier this year as in daughter, Ivanka, and his wife, Melania, continue to support the foul-mouthed Republican nominee. Photograph: Carlo Allegri/Reuters

Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event earlier this year as in daughter, Ivanka, and his wife, Melania, continue to support the foul-mouthed Republican nominee. Photograph: Carlo Allegri/Reuters

Quotes from Donald Trump that objectify women as sexual objects, and that sexual objectification is simply a fact of life is part of his rape culture.

Donald Trump is a one-man textbook of such norms. Trump has helpfully provided examples of various assumptions, stock phrases, and social expectations that, together, constitute rape culture.

Here is Donald Trump being Donald Trump:

Women are sexual objects, to be judged as such

“Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president? I mean, she’s a woman, and I’m not s’posed ta say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?” – Trump describing his then Republican primary rival Carly Fiorina in Rolling Stone, 2015

“A person who is flat-chested is very hard to be a 10.” – The Howard Stern Show, 2005

“If Hillary Clinton can’t satisfy her husband what makes her think she can satisfy America?” – Donald Trump retweeted this in 2015, later deleted

“I’d pay a lot of money [for Rosie O’ Donnell not to give me oral sex]. That’s one of the most unattractive people. She took great offense at the fact I said she better be careful or I, or one of one friends would go and pick up her wife.” – The Howard Stern Show, 2007

Young girls are sex objects in training

“I am going to be dating her [a young girl] in 10 years.” – In a 1992 video in which a 46-year-old Trump ogles a group of young girls and jokes about how he’d be “dating” one of them in 10 years.

“I’ve known Paris Hilton from the time she’s 12. Her parents are friends of mine, and, you know, the first time I saw her, she walked into the room and I said, ‘Who the hell is that?’ … Well, at 12, I wasn’t interested… They’re sort of always stuck around that 25 category.” He then went on to admit he’d watched her sex tape.” – The Howard Stern Show, 2003

Even Trump’s daughter isn’t exempted from objectification

“[Ivanka]’s got the best body.” – The Howard Stern Show, 2003

“If Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her” – The View, 2006

Objectification is actually an honour. No woman wants to be ‘unfuckable’

“Look at her…I don’t think so.” – Trump’s response to People magazine journalist Natasha Stoynoff’s claims that he sexually assaulted her during an interview.

Women are manipulative and use their bodies to control men

“I have seen women manipulate men with just a twitch of their eye – or perhaps another body part.” – Trump: The Art of the Comeback, 1997

Women can’t control their desires so men have to do it for them

“All of the women on ‘The Apprentice’ flirted with me – consciously or unconsciously. That’s to be expected.” – How To Get Rich, 2004

If you’ve got enough money or fame, women will let you do anything to them

“When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything …Grab them by the pussy … You can do anything.” – off-camera remarks on Access Hollywood, 2005

“Women find his power almost as much of a turn-on as his money.” – Donald Trump describing himself, as quoted in The Narcissist Next Door by Jeffrey Kluger

It’s just biology; men can’t help themselves from assaulting women.

“26,000 unreported sexual assults [sic] in the military-only 238 convictions. What did these geniuses expect when they put men & women together?” – Twitter, May 2013

Rape culture begets rape culture

The most pernicious thing about rape culture is that it’s self-perpetuating. Women are afraid to come forward about sexual assault because they’re worried they won’t be believed. When they do have the courage to come forward they often aren’t believed. Their characters are ripped apart; their motives are questioned; they’re told they were probably ‘asking for it.’ And so other women decide they may as well just keep quiet. If we are to learn anything from Trump’s masterclass in rape culture it’s that none of us should keep quiet.

Read the complete article on The Guardian newspaper web site.

The lies Trump told this week: from murder rates to climate change

 Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Reno, Nevada, earlier this week. Photograph: Mike Segar/Reuters

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Reno, Nevada. Photograph: Mike Segar/Reuters

Military and law enforcement personnel

“I’m proud of the fact that I’ve always treated the working people of this country with dignity and respect, especially our military and law enforcement personnel.” 11 October, interview with Fox News

Trump has not always treated members of the military and law enforcement with respect. Last year he insulted John McCain, who endured torture as a prisoner of war in Vietnam; this summer he derided the Muslim parents of a soldier who died in the Iraq war; he has called top generals “embarrassing to our country” and said they have been “reduced to rubble”; and he has repeatedly impugned the ethics of federal investigators and even public safety officers such as fire marshals.

Crime

“You look at the crime and you wonder why. And by the way, do you know, it was just announced that murder is the highest it’s been in our country in 45 years?” 11 October, Panama City, Florida

“We have the highest murder rate in this country in 45 years. More people are being murdered now than being murdered in 45 years.” 12 October, Lakeland, Florida

Trump has distorted an FBI statistic to make a false claim: in September the agency reported that murders and non-negligent manslaughter rose in the US by 10.8% in 2015, the largest single-year increase since 1971. That is not the same as saying there are more murders in the US than at any point since 1971: 15,696 murders were reported in 2015, down from 1991 and 1993 highs of 24,703 and 24,526. There were more murders in 1971 (17,780) than in 2015.

The murder rate declined 42% from 1993 to 2014, even though the population increased by a quarter.

During this week’s debate Trump almost cited the statistic accurately, saying: “We have an increase in murder within our cities, the biggest in 45 years.” But the FBI figure is a national one, not restricted to cities.

Read more lies Trump told this week in this article from the Guardian newspaper.

The debasing of American politics

trumpeconomistelectionoct16

HOW do people learn to accept what they once found unacceptable? In 1927 Frederic Thrasher published a “natural history” of 1,313 gangs in Chicago. Each of them lived by a set of unwritten rules that had come to make sense to gang members but were still repellent to everyone else. So it is with Donald Trump and many of his supporters. By normalising attitudes that, before he came along, were publicly taboo, Mr Trump has taken a knuckle-duster to American political culture.

The recording of him boasting about grabbing women “by the pussy”, long before he was a candidate, was unpleasant enough. More worrying still has been the insistence by many Trump supporters that his behaviour was normal. So too his threat, issued in the second presidential debate, to have Hillary Clinton thrown into jail if he wins. In a more fragile democracy that sort of talk would foreshadow post-election violence. Mercifully, America is not about to riot on November 9th. But the reasons have less to do with the state’s power to enforce the letter of the law than with the unwritten rules that American democracy thrives on. It is these that Mr Trump is trampling over—and which Americans need to defend.

Once you start throwing mud in politics, it is very hard to stop. Yet, every so often, you get a glimpse of something better. When Todd Akin lost a winnable Senate seat in 2012, after haplessly trying to draw a distinction between “legitimate rape” and the not so legitimate sort, Republican candidates and political consultants took notice.

Such a realisation needs to strike home on a grand scale. Healthy politics is not gang warfare. It involves compromise, because to yield in some areas is to move forward in others. It is about antagonists settling on a plan, because to do nothing is the worst plan of all. It requires the insight that your opponent can be honourable and principled, however strongly you disagree. The 2016 election campaign has poured scorn on such ideas. All Americans are worse off as a result.

Read the complete article on The Economist web site.

The lies Trump told this week: taxes, bankruptcy and the great ‘depression’

 Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Reno, Nevada, earlier this week. Photograph: Mike Segar/Reuters

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Reno, Nevada, earlier this week. Photograph: Mike Segar/Reuters

Taxes

“I mean, honestly, I have brilliantly – I have brilliantly used those laws.” – 3 October, Pueblo, Colorado

Donald J Trump did not prepare his 1995 returns, portions of which showed a $916m loss that could have let the businessman avoid 18 years of taxes. Jack Mitnick was Trump’s accountant at the time. This week, Mitnick was asked by CNN if Trump “was brilliant in the way he used the tax code? Smart and a genius?”

“No, those returns were entirely created by us,” Mitnick replied.

He was then asked: “So what kind of involvement did he have?”

Mitnick: “Virtually zero.”

Finally, the CNN hosts asked whether Mitnick, who worked for Trump for years, had “any reason to believe that he does know how to work the tax code as much as he says he does?”

Mitnick: “Not when I dealt with him.”

Bankruptcy

Some of the biggest and strongest of companies went absolutely bankrupt. Which I never did, by the way. Are you proud of me? Would have loved to use that card, but I just didn’t want to do it.3 October, Pueblo

Trump’s father and family repeatedly bailed him out with millions in loans, one of them illegal. Trump has never personally filed for bankruptcy. Yet, his businesses have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy – which allows businesses to find ways to restructure debt and operations without being liquidated – six times in the last 25 years.

In 1991 he declared bankruptcy at his Taj Majal casino; in 1992 he declared bankruptcy at his Trump Castle casino, Trump Plaza and Plaza Hotel; in 2004 he filed for bankruptcy at Trump Hotels and Casinos Resorts; and in 2009 his Trump Entertainment Resorts declared bankruptcy.

In a primary debate last October, Trump bragged about four of those bankruptcies.

Other lies Trump told this week may be read on The Guardian newspaper site here.

How deplorable are Trump supporters?

IN HER defence, Hillary Clinton did warn that she would be “grossly generalistic” before she began. “You can put half of Trump supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables”, the Democratic nominee for president of the United States said at a fundraiser on September 9th, before classifying her opponent’s voters as “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic, you name it”. Conservative politicians and pundits pounced on the comment, comparing it with Mitt Romney’s ill-advised denigration in 2012 of 47% of American voters as “dependent” and “entitled”. Seeking to defuse the firestorm, Mrs Clinton apologised the next day—though only for having assigned a number, 50%, to the share of Mr Trump’s voters she believes are beyond salvage. She held firm on the assertion that such unsavoury characters lurk among Trumpistas in unspecified quantities.

Mrs Clinton’s guess about the magnitude of the “deplorable” fraction of Mr Trump’s enthusiasts can still be subjected to a rough fact-check. On July 30th and August 6th, YouGov included in its weekly poll four questions about “racial resentment”, which seek to measure attitudes regarding race relations. At first glance, Mrs Clinton’s 50% estimate looks impressively accurate: 58% of respondents who said they backed Mr Trump resided in the poll’s highest quartile for combined racial-resentment scores. And at a lower threshold of offensiveness—merely distasteful rather than outright deplorable, say—91% of Mr Trump’s voters scored above the national average.

trumpclintonsupportersdeplorable

Moreover, Mrs Clinton accused Trumpistas of far more prejudices than racism alone. Regarding her charge of homophobia, 51.8% of Mr Trump’s partisans—again, just above her suggested figure of half—do support a hypothetical constitutional amendment that would allow states to ban gay marriage. But it is of course possible to support this policy for reasons other than bias against homosexuals, just as it is possible to oppose affirmative action for reasons other than bias against racial minorities.

And regardless of how close her estimate was to the statistical truth, the backlash to Mr Romney’s 47% speech should have been enough for a cautious politician like Mrs Clinton to realise that insulting precise fractions of Americans is bad politics. There is no shortage of images of indisputably deplorable behaviour among Mr Trump’s backers.

Video – Unfiltered Voices From Donald Trump’s Crowds

Read more from The Economist article here.

Trump’s National Security Pitch

Mr Trump held his own military-themed campaign events this week, blending vague promises to increase defence spending with fact-trampling claims about a dangerous world which fails to “respect” America. Quizzed on foreign policy at a forum in Virginia Beach, Mr Trump seemed to believe that North Korea will “soon” have an aircraft-carrier (which is news to Korea-watchers) but that he will “very simply” oblige China to rein in North Korea. Turning to the fight against IS, he suggested that finding common cause with Russia against Islamic extremism would be “nice” and work better than Mrs Clinton’s tough talk about President Vladimir Putin, adding: “Putin looks at her and he laughs.”

A televised forum in New York, hosted by NBC News and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, a charity, pointed up the downsides of Mrs Clinton’s extensive record. A Republican member of the audience charged that she had “corrupted” national security by mishandling e-mails at the State Department, and a Democrat asked sceptically about her “hawkish” foreign policy. Mrs Clinton’s hawkish instincts are sincere: several times as Secretary of State from 2009-13, she was readier to use force as a tool of geopolitics than was her boss, Barack Obama. Mr Trump played a strongman who is above mere details, declaring that under Mr Obama “the generals have been reduced to rubble” and that America has “the dumbest foreign policy”. Asked about praise from Mr Putin, he said the Russian president: “has very strong control over his country,” while Mr Obama runs a “divided country”—as if democracy is rather a nuisance. He vowed to rebuild a “depleted” military while being “very, very cautious” about using it. At its core, Mr Trump’s pitch is simplistic, chin-jutting, isolationism with a strong dose of wishful thinking.

Read the complete article on The Economist magazine web site here.

The Trump – Bondi affair

 Trump with Florida attorney general Pam Bondi at a campaign rally in August. Photograph: Gerald Herbert/AP

Trump with Florida attorney general Pam Bondi at a campaign rally in August. Photograph: Gerald Herbert/AP

Why is a $25,000 campaign donation Donald Trump made in September 2013 to Pam Bondi, a Republican running for re-election as Florida’s attorney general, now such a big deal?

Trump circumvented Internal Revenue Service (IRS) rules by routing the money through a charitable entity, the Donald J Trump Foundation, which is prohibited by law from making political donations. More controversially, however, Bondi’s office was at the time mulling whether to join a New York state probe into allegations that customers who paid thousands of dollars to Trump University, Trump’s for-profit education company, for a real estate investment course were ripped off. Just days after Trump’s donation arrived, Bondi dropped her investigation into the alleged fraud, citing “insufficient grounds” to proceed.

Last week’s Washington Post report that Trump had paid the IRS a $2,500 penalty for the “improper” contribution sparked renewed scrutiny, quickly followed by a “he-said, she-said” disagreement this week over whether Trump and Bondi had ever actually discussed the affair.

So if Trump paid the IRS a penalty, does he admit he did wrong?

Not at all. The fact that Trump’s charity made the unlawful donation instead of Trump himself was “just an honest mistake” according to Jeffrey McConney, senior vice-president of the Trump Organization. So, apparently, was the fact that the Trump Foundation’s tax filing for that year did not record the donation to Bondi’s group, but did claim that a $25,000 gift was made to a charity in Kansas with a similar-sounding name, even though no such donation appears to have been made. In the words of the Washington Post, “the prohibited gift was, in effect, replaced with an innocent sounding but non-existent donation”.

That’s nonsense, insists McConney, who said Trump immediately reimbursed his foundation and filed corrected paperwork with the IRS as soon as the “errors” were brought to his attention in March by the Post and the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

So has the scandal run its course?

Unlikely. Huffington Post disclosed late Tuesday that Trump subsequently allowed Bondi to use his sumptuous Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach for a $3,000-a-head re-election fundraiser in March 2014, just months after she dropped the fraud probe. The new revelation raises further questions over whether Trump was thanking Bondi, and could weaken his own line of attack against Clinton over the sourcing of her own campaign donations.

Read the complete article on The Guardian website here.

Trump campaign chief is registered to vote in Florida at unoccupied home

The vacant house under which Stephen Bannon is registered to vote in Florida. Photograph: Richard Luscombe for the Guardian

The vacant house under which Stephen Bannon is registered to vote in Florida. Photograph: Richard Luscombe for the Guardian

Donald Trump’s new presidential campaign chief is registered to vote in a key swing state at an empty house where he does not live, in an apparent breach of election laws.

Stephen Bannon, the chief executive of Trump’s election campaign, has an active voter registration at the house in Miami-Dade County, Florida, which is vacant and due to be demolished to make way for a new development.

“I have emptied the property,” Luis Guevara, the owner of the house, which is in the Coconut Grove section of the city, said in an interview. “Nobody lives there … we are going to make a construction there.” Neighbors said the property had been abandoned for several months.

Bannon, 62, formerly rented the house for use by his ex-wife, Diane Clohesy, but did not live there himself. Clohesy, a Tea Party activist, moved out of the house earlier this year and has her own irregular voting registration arrangement. According to public records, Bannon and Clohesy divorced seven years ago.

Bannon previously rented another house for Clohesy in Miami from 2013 to 2015 and assigned his voter registration to the property during that period. But a source with direct knowledge of the rental agreement for this house said Bannon did not live there either, and that Bannon and Clohesy were not in a relationship.

Bannon, Clohesy and Trump’s campaign repeatedly declined to answer detailed questions about Bannon’s voting arrangements. Jason Miller, a Trump campaign spokesman, eventually said in an email: “Mr Bannon moved to another location in Florida.” Miller declined to answer further questions.

Bannon is executive chairman of the rightwing website Breitbart News, which has for years aggressively claimed that voter fraud is rife among minorities and in Democratic-leaning areas. The allegation has been repeated forcefully on the campaign trail by Trump, who has predicted the election will be “rigged” and warned supporters that victory could be fraudulently “taken away from us”.

But it is not clear that Bannon is actually entitled to vote in Florida, one of the most important prizes for Trump and Hillary Clinton in their quest for the 270 electoral votes they need to secure the White House in November’s general election.

Details of the apparent breach of election laws by Trump’s campaign chief came as it was revealed that Bannon was once charged with misdemeanor domestic violence after a violent argument with his first wife. Court documents first obtained by Politico describe how, in 1996, his wife was left with red marks on her neck and wrist after the New Year’s Day argument at their home in Santa Monica, California, which began when she woke early to feed their twin daughters and he “got upset at her for making noise”.

The case was closed after Bannon’s ex-wife failed to appear in court to testify to the accusations. Five months later, she filed to dissolve their marriage. In a police report of the 1996 altercation, she described three or four previous arguments that “became physical”.

Bannon, who only recently came into the Trump camp in a move to reset the ailing campaign, is now under fresh scrutiny over his right to vote.

Under Florida law, voters must be legal residents of the state and of the county where they register to vote. Guidelines from the Florida department of state say that Florida courts and state authorities have defined legal residency as the place “where a person mentally intends to make his or her permanent residence”.

Wilfully submitting false information on a Florida voter registration – or helping someone to do so – is a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

Election officials in Miami-Dade make clear to prospective voters that they are required to actually live in the county and to use their home address in election paperwork. “You must reside in Miami-Dade County,” their website states. It adds: “When you register to vote, an actual residence address is required by law.” A county spokeswoman did not respond to questions relating to Bannon’s situation.

Three neighbors said the house where Bannon is currently registered to vote had been abandoned for three months. When the Guardian visited the property on Thursday a large window in the front aspect was missing. A soiled curtain was blowing through it. The driveway was a mess of tree branches and mud.

Bannon never appeared at the house, according to the neighbors. One of them, Joseph Plummer Jr, who lives next door, said Clohesy lived at the house until earlier this year and that a man of Latino appearance in his 20s was the only male ever seen there. Asked whether a man of Bannon’s description stayed at the house, Plummer said: “No, that was not that individual, not at all.”
Read more at The Guardian newspaper site here…. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/aug/26/steve-bannon-florida-registered-vote-donald-trump

Spinning Hillary: a history of America and Russia’s mutual meddling

A mural in Vilnius depicting Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photograph: Petras Malukas/AFP/Getty Images

A mural in Vilnius depicting Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photograph: Petras Malukas/AFP/Getty Images

A Guardian article writes – Donald Trump once again shocked Americans when he appeared to call on Russia to hack and release Hillary Clinton’s emails from the personal server she used while she was secretary of state.

His comments came as allegations swirled that Russian authorities had hacked the Democratic National Committee’s emails in an attempt to sabotage Clinton.

This isn’t even the first time the US and Russia have interfered in each other’s presidential campaigns. In a little-known quirk of post-cold war history, the 1996 re-election campaign of Putin’s mentor, Boris Yeltsin, was secretly managed by three American political consultants who on more than one occasion allegedly received direct assistance from Bill Clinton’s White House.

There’s even a movie about it.

The 2003 comedy film Spinning Boris dramatises the true story of three American consultants who were hired to manage Yeltsin’s 1996 re-election campaign. The film stars Liev Schreiber as Joe Shumate, a Republican data analysis expert, Jeff Goldblum as George Gorton (who later became the campaign manager for Arnold Schwarzenegger), and Anthony LaPaglia as Richard “Dick” Dresner, a highly skilled political consultant who in the early 1980s helped elect Bill Clinton governor of Arkansas.

Indeed, Spinning Boris, while ostensibly a film about the Russian presidential election, is actually about how in a globalised world, unshielded by Iron curtains, it should come as no surprise that Russia and the United States have a vested interest in one another’s political elections and, to quote a Russian expression, dirty politics “has no nationality”.

For this reason, the continued outrage over Donald Trump’s ties to Russia rings hollow to anyone willing to recognise some fundamental truths about the way foreign policy really works. Outside intervention in domestic politics is as old as politics itself. Maybe Putin does want Trump to be President, maybe he doesn’t. The only real question is – who’s going to play them in the movie?

Read the complete article on The Guardian web site here.

The Economist magazine article on the dividing of America has this to say:

America is shrouded in a most unAmerican pessimism. The gloom touches race relations, which—after the shooting of white police officers by a black sniper in Dallas, and Black Lives Matter protests against police violence, followed by arrests, in several cities—seem to get ever worse. It also hangs over the economy. Politicians of the left and right argue that American capitalism fails ordinary people because it has been rigged by a cabal of self-serving elitists. The mood is one of anger and frustration.

America has problems, but this picture is a caricature of a country that, on most measures, is more prosperous, more peaceful and less racist than ever before. The real threat is from the man who has done most to stoke national rage, and who will, in Cleveland, accept the Republican Party’s nomination to run for president. Win or lose in November, Donald Trump has the power to reshape America so that it becomes more like the dysfunctional and declining place he claims it to be.

Reshaping politics

The damage would be greatest were he to win the presidency. His threats to tear up trade agreements and force American firms to bring jobs back home might prove empty. He might not be able to build his wall on the border with Mexico or deport the 11m foreigners currently in the United States who have no legal right to be there. But even if he failed to keep these campaign promises, he has, by making them, already damaged America’s reputation in the world. And breaking them would make his supporters angrier still.

The most worrying aspect of a Trump presidency, though, is that a person with his poor self-control and flawed temperament would have to make snap decisions on national security—with the world’s most powerful army, navy and air force at his command and nuclear-launch codes at his disposal.

Betting markets put the chance of a Trump victory at around three in ten—similar to the odds they gave for Britain voting to leave the European Union. Less obvious, but more likely, is the damage Mr Trump will do even if he loses. He has already broken the bounds of permissible political discourse with his remarks about Mexicans, Muslims, women, dictators and his political rivals. It may be impossible to put them back in place once he is gone. And history suggests that candidates who seize control of a party on a prospectus at odds with that party’s traditional values tend eventually to reshape it (see article). Barry Goldwater achieved this feat for the Republicans: though he lost 44 states in 1964, just a few elections later the party was running on his platform. George McGovern, who fared even worse than Goldwater, losing 49 states in 1972, remoulded the Democratic Party in a similar fashion.

One lesson of Mr Trump’s success to date is that the Republicans’ old combination of shrink-the-state flintiness and social conservatism is less popular with primary voters than Trumpism, a blend of populism and nativism delivered with a sure, 21st-century touch for reality television and social media. His nomination could prove a dead end for the Republican Party. Or it could point towards the party’s future.

When contemplating a protest vote in favour of tearing up the system, which is what Mr Trump’s candidacy has come to represent, some voters may ask themselves what they have to lose. (That, after all, is the logic that drove many Britons to vote for Brexit on June 23rd.) But America in 2016 is peaceful, prosperous and, despite recent news, more racially harmonious than at any point in its history. So the answer is: an awful lot.

Read the complete article on The Economist here.